Prosecuting the sacred and secular in Seventeenth-Century Ville-Marie

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University of New Brunswick


This study closely examines three judicial trials from the sénéchausée of Ville-Marie: the 1678 case against Anne Lamarque for breaking tavern laws, another trial involving Anne Lamarque in 1682 in which she was accused of adultery, abortion, and witchcraft, and the 1689 case of Madeleine LeBlanc which started as a complaint against her employers for torturing her, but became an investigation against Jean Boudor and Réné Godefroy for blasphemy. The original intent of this study was to examine certain cases from the 1680s which were unresolved; why did the court of Montréal appear so ineffective in cases involving witchcraft and blasphemy accusations? How did this failure to prosecute those who were accused of these crimes contribute to the royalization of Ville Marie’s courts in 1693? In attempting to answer these questions, I pursued not only a deep inquiry of the cases themselves, but an extensive network analysis of the individuals involved in these trials, expecting to find individuals who have been conventionally linked to the early history of Ville-Marie – merchants, missionaries, filles du roi. What I actually found was a large colonial population with families that were well-established in New France, who were second or third generation colonists in the Saint-Lawrence river valley, and whose ancestors had oftentimes migrated from France as a part of large family networks. These networks feature prominent women who played a role in forging strong interfamily kin networks, and many were protestant in origin. In fact, the protestant origins of many of these networks far outweighs the evidence for Huguenot colonization of New France presented in past historiography. This study uses these three specific trials as a window into the power held by Huguenot family networks, the women within these networks, and the root causes of the failure to prosecute sacred crimes in the Ville-Marie court.