LAUSON DE CHARNY, CHARLES DE, acting governor of New France, priest, official, vicar general, ecclesiastical superior of the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec; b. c. 1629 probably in Paris, son of Jean de Lauson, governor of New France, and of Marie Gaudar; d. sometime after 1689 in France.
The Lauson family, whose ancestors were from Poitou, had established themselves in Paris. The surname given to Charles came to him from a great-grandfather, the seigneur of Charny, in the Department of the Yonne. Jean de Lauson had acquired immense estates in New France; but it was done for the advantage of the three sons whom he summoned to come and join him, and who did in fact marry and settle in the country, with the intention of remaining there. Charles came last, on 1 July 1652, on a ship that ran aground on the Île aux Coudres. When he arrived his father gave him the title of grand master of the waters and forests, a title more high-sounding than meaningful in a colony still in its infancy. Shortly afterwards he ceded to him his share (one-eighth) of the Beaupré seigneury and of the Charny and Lirec fiefs on the Île d’Orléans.
On 12 Aug. 1652, barely six weeks after his arrival, Charles de Lauson married at Quebec Louise Giffard, aged 13 years, daughter of Robert Giffard, the seigneur of Beauport. Father Jérôme Lalemant pronounced the nuptial blessing, in the presence of M. Guillemot, dit Du Plessis-Kerbodot, governor of Trois-Rivières, and of M. Le Vieux de Hauteville, lieutenant-general of the seneschal’s court.
In June 1656 Jean de Lauson, wearied of administration, returned to France, leaving as acting governor his son Charles. The latter bore the title of administrator or “commandant of New France” until 20 August of the following year, when he received a commission as governor from the king, pending the arrival of M. Voyer* d’Argenson who was designated for this post. Subsequently he styled himself “Charles de Lauson, chevalier, seigneur of Charny, governor and lieutenant-general for the king in New France,” with the “powers, authorities, and rights with which it has pleased the king to honour us.” But he himself, on 26 Aug. 1657 (RSCT, 3d ser., XXVI (1932), sect.i, 9), delegated the office of temporary administrator to the former governor Louis d’Ailleboust, and sailed for France.
His young wife had died at the Hôtel-Dieu on 30 Oct. 1656, two weeks after giving him a daughter. Out of respect for the Lauson family and for that of Giffard, which had just given the Hôtel-Dieu its first Canadian nun, the deceased had been buried in the vault of the monastery as she had requested. For the repose of his wife’s soul, M. de Lauson de Charny asked that each year the office for the dead and a high mass be celebrated at the Hôtel-Dieu, in return for a grant of land on the Lauzon shore [of the St. Lawrence] which at that time had “an annual revenue of 200 livres, because of the eel fishing which was very plentiful.”
Having put out his daughter to nurse, the acting governor left Quebec on 18 Sept. 1657 bound for France, where he entered orders. His appointment on 24 Feb. 1657 as first prefect of the congregation that the Jesuits had just founded at Quebec had already been an acknowledgement of his piety. M. de Lauson de Charny became a priest on 12 April 1659, and his first action was to come straight back to Canada. He made the crossing with the new vicar apostolic, Bishop Laval*, who reached Quebec on 16 June 1659. On 27 September the new priest was appointed official (ecclesiastical judge). The next year he became vicar general and accompanied the bishop on his pastoral visit to Trois-Rivières and Montreal. He lived at the Jesuit college from his arrival until the spring of 1664, when he went to live at the seminary with the bishop and the other secular priests. Officially, however, he was never a member of the Quebec seminary. On 15 July 1664 he became the ecclesiastical superior of the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec, where he exercised his ministry with great zeal.
While serving the diocese, he continued to manage his fiefs and even those of his family. After the death of his brother, the grand seneschal Jean de Lauson, who was killed by the Iroquois on 22 June 1661, he had to assume the guardianship of the latter’s children who were under age and concern himself with the seigneury of Lauson, which was a part of the estate. M. de Lauson senior died on 16 Feb. 1666 in Paris, and the abbé had to sail on 17 October to go and settle the affairs of his family, which possessed extensive property. In addition Bishop Laval, by an enactment dated 21 October, made him responsible, in France, for watching over the interests of the Hôtel-Dieu of Montreal. M. de Lauson de Charny was back again by 1668.
Before leaving to become a priest he had already sold his share in the Beaupré and Île d’Orléans seigneuries to Julien Fortin, dit Bellefontaine. With the sale of his arriere-fief to Bishop Laval he divested himself of his last piece of land in New France. In the autumn of 1671 he returned to France for good. We know the two main reasons for his leaving. The first resulted from his position as vicar general, which involved him in the friction between Bishop Laval and the civil authorities; the second concerned the future of his daughter, born in 1656, who wanted to become a nun. The sisters of the Hôtel-Dieu had had her as a boarder since the age of six and appreciated her fine qualities, but despite the assurance that she would receive 12,000 livres as a dowry, they refused to accept the condition laid down by her father: that she should be given a special menu because of her delicate constitution. In view of this, M. de Lauson de Charny took her off to France, with one of her cousins, and both girls became nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu of La Rochelle. The abbé lived at the Jesuit college in that town until his death, which occurred sometime after 1689.
AJQ, Greffe de Romain Becquet, 2 sept. 1666. ASQ, Album Gaspé, p.121; Carton Plante, 60; Fonds Verreau, Saberdache rouge, L, p.196ff.; MSS, 17, Documents relatifs à Mgr de Laval, p.125; Polygraphie, III, 14; XIX, 12. Juchereau, Annales (Jamet), passim. Amédée-E. Gosselin, “Notes et documents concernant les gouverneurs d’Ailleboust, de Lauzon et de Lauzon-Charny,” RSCT, 3d ser., XXVI (1932), sect.i, 83–96. J.-E. Roy, Histoire de la seigneurie de Lauzon, I.
Revisions based on:
Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Québec, CE301-S1, 12 août 1652.