JOYBERT DE SOULANGES ET DE MARSON, LOUISE-ÉLISABETH DE (Rigaud, Marquise de Vaudreuil) (she signed Louise Élisabeth de Joybert before her marriage and Joybert de Vaudreuil afterwards), wife of Philippe de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil, governor of New France; mother of 11 children including , last governor of New France and the first native-born Canadian to hold that office, and François-Pierre*, governor of Montreal from 1757 to 1760; under-governess of the children of the Duc de Berry; born at Jemseg in Acadia, 18 Aug. 1673; d. in Paris in January 1740.
She was the daughter of Pierre de Joybert* de Soulanges et de Marson, officer in the Carignan-Salières regiment and afterwards a seigneur and administrator in Acadia. Her mother was Marie-Françoise Chartier, daughter of Louis-Théandre Chartier* de Lotbinière, lieutenant general of the provost’s court at Quebec. When Joybert died in 1678 his widow moved to Quebec with her son and daughter. Her husband had left her practically penniless but she was fortunately rescued by the government which granted her a pension of 300 livres.
Louise-Élisabeth was educated at the Ursuline convent in Quebec. On 21 Nov. 1690, in that city, she married Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, the commander of the Canadian troops. According to the marriage contract, a dowry of 12,000 livres was guaranteed to the bride and a sum of 5,000 livres was presented to the groom by his mother-in-law. Because of this marriage, there was some hesitation about naming Vaudreuil governor of New France in 1703. It was feared that his colonial ties and his wife’s numerous Canadian relatives would make it difficult for him to rule impartially.
In 1709 Madame de Vaudreuil sailed for France aboard the Bellone, despite the hazards of war-time navigation and the scant safety a merchantman of 120 tons provided. The many difficulties her husband was then experiencing in his public and his private life apparently explain her precipitate departure. The War of the Spanish Succession was entering a crucial stage, and more soldiers and equipment were needed in the colony to resist a possible English attack. The governor’s relations with the intendants, Jacques and Antoine-Denis Raudot had deteriorated, and their criticism of his administration could dispose the minister unfavourably towards him. Then there were lawsuits over the Vaudreuil estates in Languedoc, and sons whose careers required looking after. For all these reasons Vaudreuil needed someone at Versailles to take charge of his interests and to explain and defend his policy to the minister. In view of the active social role played by women in New France, the choice of his wife to fill this position is not surprising.
Madame de Vaudreuil was most successful at Versailles. She soon won the friendship of Jérôme de Pontchartrain, the minister of Marine, and this powerful figure thereafter took a personal interest in the fortunes of her family. The Marquise was appointed under-governess of the children of the Duc de Berry, the third son of the Grand Dauphin, in 1712. In that same year her husband was made commander of the order of Saint-Louis. Her sons won promotions in the army and the navy. She also made clever political use of her influence by recommending various Canadians for appointments and advancement. In this manner she surrounded herself and her husband with a network of clients. Finally, she was allowed to examine the complaints Pontchartrain received against Vaudreuil and was thus able to identify the latter’s enemies and to uncover plots and intrigues against him.
Old foes watched with helpless anger while she consolidated the governor’s position. “She controls all the positions in Canada,” wrote Ruette d’Auteuil, Vaudreuil’s old bête noire. “She writes magnificent letters from all sorts of places to the seaports about the power she can exert over him [Pontchartrain] for their benefit or detriment; she offers her protection, she threatens to use her influence; what is even more certain . . . is that she causes great fear and imposes silence on most of those who could speak against her husband.” Denis Riverin, another malcontent, moaned: “At present everything is in a wretched state; a mere woman is in control, to the same extent when she is absent as when she is here.”
The Marquise came back to the colony in 1721. Her circumstances had greatly changed since that day in 1709 when she had set out for France as an obscure colonial. She returned as a great lady voyaging aboard the king’s vessel in the comfort of the captain’s quarters’, with two of her daughters, their governess, and a chambermaid. Her character also had changed during those years. Those who had known her earlier had praised her modesty. According to the bishop of Quebec, she now wore the air of a person of importance and power.
She returned to France briefly in 1723 when a new minister, Jean-Frédéric de Maurepas, replaced the council of Marine which had administered the colonies since the death of Louis XIV. Apparently she wanted to make certain that the fortunes of her family would not suffer from this change of régime. She was back in the colony the following year but returned to France permanently in the fall of 1725, shortly after the death of her husband.
Madame de Vaudreuil took up residence in Paris where she was reunited with her mother and three of her sons. Her husband had left little money but the government granted her a pension of 3,000 livres and also paid her a rent of 1,500 livres for the use of her house in Montreal. With this income and additional revenues derived from the Vaudreuil estates in Languedoc, she appears to have lived in modest comfort with her two unmarried daughters. She remained in touch with her Canadian friends and continued to take an active interest in the careers of her sons. She died in January 1740 after a brief illness.
She was an intelligent and extremely ambitious person who devoted her best energies to furthering the fortunes of her family. To her belongs a good part of the credit for the successful careers of Vaudreuil and his sons.
Archives de la Haute-Garonne (Toulouse), Commune de Revel, BB.13 (administration communale). AJQ, Greffe de François Genaple, 19 nov. 1690. AN, Col., B, 27, 32, 34, 44, 55; C11A 21–49; D2D, carton 1; Marine, B1, B2, C7. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1942–43; 1946–47. Juchereau, Annales (Jamet), 346, 399f. “Lettres et mémoires de F.-M.-F. Ruette d’Auteuil,” APQ Rapport, 1922–23, 50. [Louis de Rouvroy de Saint-Simon], Mémoires complets et authentiques du duc de Saint-Simon sur le siècle de Louis XIV et la Régence (21v., Paris, 1929), X, 399. Guy Frégault, Le grand marquis, Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil et la Louisiane (Montréal, 1952). F. M. Hammang, The Marquis de Vaudreuil, New France at the beginning of the eighteenth century (Bruges, 1938). P.-G. Roy, La famille de Rigaud de Vaudreuil (Lévis, 1938); La ville de Québec, II, 24f. Les Ursulines de Québec (1863–1866), I, 484. Guy Frégault, “Un cadet de Gascogne: Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil,” RHAF, V(1951–52), 15–44; “Politique et politiciens au début du XVIIIe siècle,” Ecrits du Canada français (Montréal), XI (1961), 91–208. Henri Têtu, “Le chapitre de la cathédrale de Québec et ses délégués en France (1723–1773),” BRH, XVI (1910), 194, 232, 269f.