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, who was the daughter of Nicolas Boullé, a wealthy secretary to King Louis XIII.

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

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 Dec. 27, 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.”


In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint featured Champlain on the third coin of its “Great Explorers” series.

The $200 pure gold Proof coin features Champlain alongside a First Nations guide as they disembark from canoes on the Ontario shoreline. It was designed by Glen Green and has a limited mintage of 2,000 coins.

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 that side of the pond. He went to New France in 1620, when he was appointed as lieutenant to the Duke of Montmorency. More than a decade later, he was named New France’s first-ever governor.

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

More than 100 years later – in 1763 – France ceded New France (excluding the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon) to Great Britain and Spain in the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Seven Years’ War.

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