Roberval Sent to Canada

On January 15, the story was told of how King Francis I downgraded Jacques Cartier and made the Marquis de Roberval viceroy of New France.   Roberval did not leave for Canada until April 16, 1542.  He had three ships, and several hundred colonists, some of whom were useful, but most were hardened convicts who were taken on board in chains.

It was a terrible winter in Quebec.  There was a scarcity of food and the convicts were difficult to control.  There were fights and thefts, and Roberval had to hang one of the men, keep others in chains and even flog some of the women.  Many of the party died of scurvy.  Roberval went back to France soon after the ice broke in the river and he and Cartier had to appear before a court of enquiry.  Eventually, the king forgave them for their quarrel.

There is a legend about Roberval’s voyage to Canada that may be true.  His niece, Marguerite, was in one of the ships and fell in love with one of the men.  There was so much talk about their behaviour that Roberval put Marguerite ashore on an island off Newfoundland, called the Isle of Demons.  It was

English: Polar bears in Churchill, Canada.
Polar bears in Churchill, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

avoided by ships because it was supposed to have been inhabited by evil spirits.

Roberval left Marguerite and her old nurse Bastienne on the island, with four muskets and a supply of gunpowder.  Marguerite’s lover jumped off the ship and swam ashore to join them.  Eventually they had a baby, but all of them died except Marguerite who lived alone for two years.  It is said that she shot three polar bears and was never afraid of the demons who screamed at her through the strong winds.

One day, a fishing vessel was brave enough to sail close to the island and its crew was amazed to see a woman waving to them.  She was dressed in skins.  They took her off the island and sailed back to France where she told her fantastic story.

Interesting story, isn’t it? Well, you probably want to read more about this. So a few places you might want to check out is National Adult Literacy Database (while you’re there, I recommend taking a look around; they have some great stuff there); and Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online; and the Canadian Encyclopedia; a new blog I just found that’s interesting is Pauline’s Pirates & Privateers; and then there’s Wikipedia. Would you rather hold a physical book in your hands, I recommend The Legend of Marguerite and 100 More Canadian Heroines: Famous and Forgotten Faces.


  1. TK, Good one, I will definitely check this out especially the Legend. Thank you for posting women’s story. We should have more Canadian heroines.


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