Acadian Opera Anyone?

Replica of Champlain's habitation at the Port-...
Replica of Champlain’s habitation at the Port-Royal National Historic Site of Canada, Nova-Scotia, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Someone should write an opera about the rivalry in Acadia between Charles La Tour and D’Aulnay de Charnisay.  It would have a dramatic and surprising finale.

Charles La Tour was one of the first Europeans to settle in Acadia.  He was such a diplomat or villain — it really just depends on who is describing him —  that he was given a monopoly of the fur trade along the Saint John River by the King of France, and was made a Baronet of Nova Scotia by the King of England. Nobody could be sure which side he was on.

D’Aulnay de Charnisay, a close relative of Cardinal Richelieu, was given Port Royal, while also controlling a good deal of Nova Scotia.  He used his influence at court to try to have La Tour put out of business, but was unsuccessful.

On  April 13, 1645, while La Tour was away, Charnisay attacked Fort La Tour.  Mme La Tour was in charge of the fort and organized a heroic defence. She was described as being “an Amazon of a woman” but very beautiful. Although there were only fifty men to defend the fort, they held back the larger Charnisay force until a traitor let Charnisay’s men into the enclosure.

There was a fierce battle but Mme La Tour finally surrendered on a promise by Charnisay that the lives of the garrison would be spared.  Instead, he spared only one, a man who volunteered to act as the executioner of his comrades. Mme La Tour was forced to stand with a halter around her neck and watch the execution of her men, one by one.  She died soon after that, some say of a broken heart.

Charnisay then had his date with destiny.  He was drowned when his canoe overturned.  There is a story (but not confirmed), that one of the Indians made sure he drowned by holding his head under water!

Then followed the amazing finale.  Charles La Tour sailed across the bay to Port Royal and married Charnisay’s widow.  Of course, it was a good business arrangement.  It ended the dispute over property rights, and, in the words of the marriage contract “served to restore the peace and tranquillity of the country, and concord and unity between the two families.”

As you can imagine, there is a lot “out there” about this whole incident — and with more details. So here are a few places to click for more: In no particular order, try going to St. John, New Brunswick ; then, The C ; and Histor!ca ; If you want to see drawings and paintings depicting this event, I suggest Google‘s Images; There are interesting articles at Blupete.com about Charles La Tour; there is a very nice .pdf to read at Licensed to Learn about early Acadia ; there’s a Wikipedia entry about the battle of 1645; Do you want to read a book? Try Fortune & La Tour .

11 comments

  1. Instead of Madame Butterfly let us call it Madame La Tour. So much bravado and sadness. I can only imagine the aria, it’s starting to break my heart. I love opera.

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    • Thank you! 🙂 the snow finally quit last night, and the drizzle seems to be melting the snow covering. Thank you for the visit and comment, and I wish you a happy weekend as well! L)

      Like

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