“The King’s Daughters”

The term, “The King’s Daughters” is a phrase that has connotations of delight…

Who would not want to be the king’s daughter? Think about what it would be like to have a father who was the most powerful person in the land. Think of the perks and the privileges that would come along with being the daughter of the king. Think of all the people who would speak highly of you, and show you respect for no other reason than the fact that you are a princess, that you are, the king’s daughter…

But that was not always the case.

In the late 1660’s France was vying with England for the “New World.” The English had taken a significant share of the Eastern shores of what would become the United Sates. But France was intent on trying to make Canada (then called New France) to prosper. Now there was a lot of adventurous young men over there, but there was very few women.

At its start, this New France was a man’s world: the province of soldiers, fur trappers, and priests, and in its beginnings this new world had little to offer women. But in time, as this French colony settled down and became more agricultural, it also needed more women.  Even as late as the mid-17th century, there was a severe imbalance in “New France” between single men and women.

So in order to make New France to prosper, women were needed. Thus the King decided to send hardy, young women to the colony. For a period of seven years, the King of France sent at his personal expense, several thousand young women, the majority of whom, came from the Paris area or the diocese of Rouen.

To be fair, there were a few came from the upper class, but most of these women were poor, abandoned, with no future in France, and little hope for a happy life. They were recruited predominantly from between the ages of 12 and 25, and many had to supply a letter of reference from their parish priest as to their character before they would be chosen for emigration to the New World. A girl might have been from an elite family that had lost its fortune, or from a large family with children to “spare.” Officials usually matched women of higher birth with officers or gentlemen living in the colony, sometimes in the hopes that the nobles would marry these young women and would be encouraged to stay in Canada rather than return to France. To help these poor women the King not only paid their expenses, but also bestowed upon each one of them a dowry of between 50 and 300 livres.

“The 100 girls sent over by the king this year have only just arrived,” wrote Mother Marie de L’Incarnation, on October 29, 1665, “and already they are almost all accommodated. He will send another 200 next year, and even more in the years following, in proportion to the need. He will also send men to marry withstanding those who are in the army. Truly, it is an amazing thing to see how the country is becoming populated and multiplying.”

The program was a great success, and the women took well to the new country. It is recorded that many raised large families of between 11 and 18 children, and perhaps Canada largely became an established success simply due to the hardiness and industry of these brave young women.

But what did these women really have in common?

Two things. First, for the most part, they were poor and without a future. Second, they owed their lives and their future happiness to the generosity of the king.

Is that not just like those of us who are called to the Gospel in Christ Jesus? We may come from all walks of life, yet, we are bound together by two things, our total spiritual poverty, and the generosity and bounty of our great king, Jesus Christ.

Listen to what the King says…

“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” –Jeremiah 29:11

Yes, I look forward to meeting you “King’s Daughters” in the “New World.” Heaven would not be the same without you.

Grace and peace.

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