The Kirke Brothers

Painting showing the arrival of Samuel de Cham...
Painting showing the arrival of Samuel de Champlain on the future site of Quebec City, 1608 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In these days when efforts are being made to bring about church unity, it is interesting to look back on the bitterness that existed for many years.

When Champlain persuaded the Duke of Montmorency to help him, the Duke reorganized the Company of New France and gave the brothers Guillaume and Eméry de Caën a monopoly.  They were Huguenots (Protestants) and their appointment caused a terrific row.  They were supposed to support six Récollet priests in Quebec.  Instead they left them to starve and brought out Protestant workmen  who jeered at the priests and sang heretical hymns that shocked the Catholics!

Strained feelings between England and France eventually led to war.  This was unfortunate for Champlain.  The Company of New France tried very hard in 1628 to send ships for fishing, and four others laden with merchandise.

A Scottish trader at Dieppe, notified his sons, David and Lewis Kirke Jr.  They obtained Charles I”s permission to equip three armed ships to capture the supplies going to Champlain. The Kirke brothers intercepted the French convoy between Gaspé and Tadoussac.

According to history, there was a fierce battle for twelve hours, but no one was killed on the English side and only two on the French.  The fighting could not have been very serious!  The French ships were captured, however, and the Kirke brothers took the supplies and 600 prisoners.  As a result, Champlain, who had 100 people to feed, was left without supplies for a year.

Most of the settlers had to leave Quebec and live with the Native Indians to survive. On July 19, 1629, the year after the capture of the supply ships, the Kirke brothers arrived back in Quebec.  Champlain had only sixteen men in the garrison, but he tried to bluff the Kirkes into believing that he could blow their ships out of the water.  They weren’t fooled; they entered Quebec easily and raised the British flag.  Quebec was captured by Britain 130 years before Wolfe’s campaign. There was a catch.  The Kirkes took Champlain to England, but had to release him because the war had ended!  Quebec was returned to France and back went Champlain!

Want to read more? Well, I suggest visiting Place Royale, and then a quick stop at Canadian Military History Gateway. I also recommend Dictionary of Canadian Biography. That will at least get your started on your journey.


  1. David Kirke also operated a successful plantation here, just south of St. John’s until he was arrested for being a ‘loyalist’. After that, Lady Kirke & sons kept the family business running.


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