On today’s date in 1620, Samuel de Champlain was appointed lieutenant to Henry II, Duke of Montmorency.
Born into a family of French mariners in 1574, Champlain began exploring North America in 1603 and eventually climbed to the top of society on this side of the pond. He went to New France in 1620, when he was appointed lieutenant to the duke of Montmorency, and spent the rest of his life improving the territory rather than exploring it.
On March 1, 1632, he was appointed New France’s first ever governor.
Champlain died on Christmas Day, 1635, in Québec. By the time of his death, the first Québécois settlers were beginning to arrive in New France. More than 100 years later, in 1763, France ceded New France (excluding the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon) to Great Britain and Spain at the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Seven Years’ War.
2014 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.
Though there is no known confirmed portrait of Champlain, the coin’s design presents the French explorer as he is frequently portrayed in artistic depictions—with long dark hair, a long moustache and a trimmed beard and sporting a feathered cap, jacket and pantaloons of the era. In his right hand, Champlain carries his astrolabe, famously thought to have been lost on a portage through the Calumet rapids near Cobden, Ont.—though this story has been largely discredited. In his left, he holds a notebook that’s believed to have held his maps and drawings.
Behind the portrait is Champlain’s birch-bark canoe, which is replete with supplies and paddles. His back turned to the waterway and distant tree-lined shore behind him. A First Nations guide stands to his left with his own supply-filled canoe, holding a paddle in his right hand. His long hair sports two feathers, and he wears a buckskin loincloth, footwear and arm straps.