CRISAFY, ANTOINE DE, Marquis de CRISAFY, officer in the colonial regular troops, governor of Trois-Rivières, knight of the order of Saint-Louis; b. at Messina (Sicily), son of Mathieu de Crisafy and Françoise de Grimaldi; buried 6 May 1709 at Trois-Rivières.
Antoine de Crisafy had acquired the rank of lieutenant-colonel and commanded an infantry regiment in the army of the Duc de Vivonne, marshal of France, when Sicily revolted against the Spaniards. He was “disabled in one arm” at the capture of Descalette. He had prevailed upon his younger brother, Thomas*, a knight of Malta, to join the revolt, and they both had to flee their native island; this cost them the confiscation of all their assets, which were considerable. They went to the principality of Monaco, which belonged to the Grimaldi family and where they had estates.
According to certain authors the Crisafy brothers were cast into the Bastille in 1683 (no doubt as the result of a brawl), and were soon released on condition that they agreed to serve in the colonies. We know that they were appointed to lead two of the seven companies that Louis XIV sent to New France in 1684 at Governor Le Febvre* de La Barre’s request. The captaincies granted to the two brothers bear the date of 3 April of that year. Four companies, theirs among them, landed at Quebec on 24 September, at about the same time as the governor was returning from his pathetic expedition against the Iroquois.
It was under Brisay de Denonville’s governorship that the Crisafys first gave evidence of their technical training and bravery. These officers, who came originally from a country where cold is unknown, adapted themselves to the harsh Canadian climate, even though their health deteriorated as a result. In 1686 they accompanied the governor on an expedition against the Senecas. Denonville held them in high esteem, and informed the minister that “of the officers of the colonial regular troops there are none capable of commanding a post of 100 men, unless it be the Crisafys, who are more sensible than anybody else; that he cannot praise too highly the two brothers, who are diligent and well-deserving; that talent is necessary to command at Niagara, where the best [officer] is not very good.” The Marquis de Rompré, a company captain, was offended at this preference on the governor’s part, claiming that he was the most senior sub-lieutenant. However, the companies of the Crisafy brothers had been formed before his, and this chronological priority, reinforced by their real competence, prevailed. The Marquis de Rompré went back to France, and the Crisafys continued to give proof of their valour and experience. Until the death of Thomas on 29 Feb. 1696, the complimentary remarks made by authorities of the court and of the colony referred to both of them.
Antoine distinguished himself particularly in 1692, when Governor Callière entrusted him with the command of the troops at Sault-Saint-Louis. By using guile he succeeded in thwarting the attempts of 800 Iroquois who had made plans to destroy the French colony. After this exploit Callière’s friendship for Crisafy never faltered. In 1696, at the time of Buade* de Frontenac’s expedition against the Iroquois, Crisafy, with Captain Blaise Des Bergères, was made responsible for guarding the recently constructed fort of Onondaga, where the boats, supplies, and ammunition required for the expedition were located.
Following his 13 years of devoted service to the French colony in America, and on the recommendation of Frontenac and Callière, the court created for him the post of king’s lieutenant at Montreal. His appointment was dated 15 March 1697 and signed by Frontenac on 26 October. In May 1698 he was made a knight of the order of Saint-Louis. The king, in a letter of 19 June addressed to Rigaud de Vaudreuil, authorized the latter to invest Crisafy, at the same time as Frontenac and Callière. On 30 October of the same year the Sulpicians, as seigneurs of Montreal, made Crisafy a land grant, in the form of a noble fief, without rights of justice, at Côte-des-Neiges.
As a result of the powers which he possessed as king’s lieutenant, Crisafy became acting governor of Montreal when Callière replaced Frontenac as governor general in 1699. According to Le Roy de La Potherie, it was even thought that he might obtain the post, and his appointment was expected. However, Vaudreuil was chosen and Callière had Crisafy appointed king’s lieutenant at Quebec, replacing François Provost, who was appointed governor of Trois-Rivières. He thus became one of the principal figures in New France, and was drawn into the bickerings over precedence and abuses of authority-the contagious disease endemic in high administrative circles. Traces of his ridiculous disagreements with Intendant Bochart de Champigny, Claude de Ramezay, his successor at Montreal, and François Provost, his predecessor, are recorded in official correspondence. He even created his own “prie-Dieu incident,” by stationing on one side of his chair in the church of the Recollets three lackeys, and on the other three soldiers from the Château Saint-Louis. These various incidents unfortunately tarnished his not inconsiderable reputation as a military strategist.
François Provost having died on 1 June 1702, Crisafy obtained the post of governor of Trois-Rivières, exactly a year later. His immediate neighbourhood consisted of 32 houses in the upper town, that is to say within the walls, and 17 houses outside the walls. It was the smallest of the three governments, but Crisafy seems to have made the best of it, for he took part in almost all the social and religious activities, and he seems to have won the esteem of those under his jurisdiction. He died while in office, and was buried on 6 May 1709 in the parish church.
On 17 Feb. 1700, while he was king’s lieutenant at Quebec, Crisafy had married Marie-Claire Ruette d’Auteuil, who was 15 years old and was the daughter of the attorney general. The young wife accompanied her husband to Trois-Rivières, but, having a sickly constitution, she had to return to Quebec on her mother’s advice, and died there on 9 Oct. 1705. After Marie-Claire’s death difficulties about the estate arose between Ruette d’Auteuil and his son-in-law. Both accepted the arbitration of the Marquis de Vaudreuil and of Cadillac [Laumet] to settle the dispute. Crisafy ended his life in most respectable fashion, in the manor-house he occupied as governor of Trois-Rivières, and in the company of his faithful servant Émery Jarry.
The notary Pottier drew up a detailed inventory of the possessions of this picturesque career soldier, who left no relative in this country.
AJQ, Greffe de Florent de La Cetière, 29 mars 1706. AJTR, Greffe de J.-B. Pottier, 26 nov. 1706. AN, Col., B, 20. Charlevoix, Histoire (1744), II, 95–97, 125, 170. P.-G. Roy, Inv. coll. pièces jud. et not., I, 204. Fauteux, Les chevaliers de Saint-Louis. P.-G. Roy, Les officiers d’état-major. J.-B.-A. Ferland, Cours d’histoire du Canada (1534–1759) (1re éd., 2v., Québec, 1861–65), II, 274–82. Jouve, Les Franciscains et le Canada: aux Trois-Rivières. Lionel Groulx, “Le Gallicanisme au Canada sous Louis XIV,” RHAF, I (1947), 68. Jean Leclerc, “Denonville et ses captifs iroquois,” RHAF, XIV (1960), 548. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Le Marquis de Crisafy, seigneur de la Côte-des-Neiges,” BRH, XL (1934), 431–32. Benjamin Suite, “M. de Galiffet,” BRH, V (1899), 348.