OTD: 40-year-old Samuel Champlain signs marriage contract with 12-year-old Hélène Boullé

On today’s date in 1610, Samuel de Champlain, 40, signed a marriage contract with 12-year-old Hélène Boullé, daughter of Nicolas Boullé, a wealthy secretary to King Louis XIII.

According to David Hackett Fischer’s 2009 biography, Champlain’s Dream, Boullé’s father was “a man of the high bourgeoisie in Paris, with a job at the very heart of the royal regime.”

Boullé offered a dowry of 6,000 livres, of which 4,500 was given at beginning of the marriage. Champlain agreed to pay 1,800 livres a year to support his wife when he was out of the country.

“She was so young that all of the contracting parties agreed that the marriage could not be consummated for two years,” writes Fischer. “Hélène would continue to live in her parents home through that period and move to her husband’s home when she was fourteen.”

The contract, which was arranged on today’s date—Dec. 27—in 1610, required Boullé and Champlain to “take each other in lawful wedlock within the briefest space of time possible.”

The wedding would take place in Paris three days later, on Dec. 30, 1610, and was well attended by all accounts; however, the bride was described as being “bitterly unhappy.”

“Even at the age of twelve, this spirited and headstrong young person was in a fury about her fate,” writes Fischer. “Champlain showed no apparent concern for the feelings of the child who was forced to marry him against her will.”

$200 GOLD CHAMPLAIN COIN

In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint featured Champlain on the third coin of its Great Explorers series. The pure gold Proof coin with a face value of $200 features Champlain alongside a First Nations guide as they disembark from canoes on the Ontario shoreline. The coin was designed by Glen Green and has a limited mintage of 2,000.

Champlain died on Christmas Day, 1635, in Québec. By the time of his death, the first Québécois settlers were beginning to arrive in the area.

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