Hélène Boullé Signs a Pre-Nup: Ile-Sainte-Hélène (now Jean-Drapeau)

On 27 December 1610, Hélène Boullé unexpectedly signed a pre-nuptial agreement with the explorer and inveterate gardener, Samuel de Champlain. She was twelve and in the confusion following the assassination of Henri IV she and the other Protestants of France were without a royal protector. So too were Champlain’s ventures in Canada. The marriage was completed in the January and she immediately converted to her husband’s Catholic faith; he collected a capital infusion of six thousand livres in the form of her dowry.

The pre-nuptial agreement below was witnessed by Savignon, a Huron a boy from Mont-Royal in the care of the Champlain whose presence in Paris was as unexpected as events in the houses of Boullé and Bourbon. He and Champlain returned as soon as the ice permitted in March 1611. Hélène followed ten years later.  Little record of her four years in Quebec survives other than that she and her mirror were admired by the Huron.

On her return she managed Champlain’s affairs, suing the de Caen brothers in 1627 who saw no advantage New France other than the monopoly of the fur trade or in paying Champlain’s wages as governor. That year Richelieu repealed the Edict of Nantes, wound up the mixed faith Compagnie de Caen and replaced it with the entirely Catholic Compagnie de Cent-Associés for the colonization as well as exploitation of the New France leaving Champlain as the colonial head.

In 1635, contradicting his pre-nuptial agreement, Champlain left his estate to the church of Notre-Dame at Quebec. It was cousin, not Hélène who contested and so her foundation of the Ursuline convent at Meaux was delayed. She died there in 1654.

Before Nicolas Chocquillet and Loys Aragon, notaries and notary-record-keepers of the King our sovereign Lord in his Châtelet of Paris, subscribing, were present in their persons Messire Nicolas Boullé, Secretary of the King’s Chamber, residing at Paris, in the street and parish of St. Germain l’Auxerrois, and Margueritte Alix, his wife, by him authorized in this party, in the name of the contracting for and representing Heleyne Boullé, their daughter, upon this present, and with her consent, of the one part, and noble man Samuel de Champlain, Lord of the said place, Captain in ordinary in the Navy, residing in the town of Brouage, province of Saintonge, son of the late Anthoine de Complain, in his lifetime Captain in the Navy, and of Dame Marguerite Le Roy, his father and mother, the said Sieur de Champlain being at present in this city of Paris, lodging in the rue Tirechappe of the said parish of St. Germain l’Auxerrois, for himself and in his name, on the other part, which parties of their own free will in the presence, and with the advice and consent of Messires Pierre du Gas, gentleman in ordinary of the King’s Chamber, and his Lieutentant-General in France, Governor for his Majesty’s service of Pons in Saintonge, friend, honourable Lucas Le Gendre, merchantt citizen of the town of Rouen, also friend, honourable Hercules Rouer, citizen of Paris, also friend, Marcel Chesnu, merchant citizen of Paris, Messire Jehan Roeruau, Secretary of the said Sieur de Mont, friends of the future husband, and of honorerble François Le Saige, Apothecary of the King’s Stable, kinsman and friend, Jehan Ravenal, Lord of Merrois, Pierre Noel, Lord of Cosigne, friend, Messier Anthoine de Murat, King’s Councillor and Almoner, friend, Anthoine Maryé, master barber surgeon at Paris, kinsman and friend, Gennevieve Le Saige, wife of Messire Simon Alix, uncle on the maternal side of the said Heleyne Boullé, have acknowledged and confessed that they have made, did make and make between them in good faith the contract, marriage preliminaries, gifts, settlements, promises and covenants which follow, by reason of the future marriage of the said Samuel de Champlain and Heleyne Boullé, who have promised and do promise to take each other in lawful wedlock within the briefest space of time possible and that shall be decided upon between them, their relatives and friends, if God and our Holy mother Church thereto consent, with the goods and rights belonging to them, which they promise to bring to each other to be mutual and common between them, according to the usage and custom of Paris, which marriage nevertheless it has been agreed, in consideration of the tender age of the said Heleine Boullé, shall not be carried out and effected until two years elapsed and completed from this day, unless it be deemed advisable and be decided between them, their relations and friends, to proceed earlier to the completion of the said marriage. In favour of which the said Boullé and his wife promise and bind themselves jointly and severally to deliver and  pay to the said future husband and wife as an advance heritage on the future inheritances coming through the said Boullé from her said father and mother, the sum of six thousand lives in ready money of Tours on the day preceding the nuptials. And therefore the said future husband has endowed and endows the said future with with the sum of eighteen hundred lives tournois as a settled jointure, to be paid in one payment to the said beneficiary, to be had and taken by her as soon as the jointure shall take effect, upon all and several the goods, moveable and immovable, present and to come, of the said future husband, which he has to this intent wholly bound, obligated and hypothecated, does obligate and hypothecate by these presents to furnish and provide, and which settled jointure the said future wife shall enjoy according to the usage and custom of Paris; and it has been agreed that the survivor of the said marriage shall receive and take as a specific legacy, and before any division is made of the goods of their common property, and apart from his or her share, the sum of six hundred livres tounois to wit: the said future husband for his apparel, arms and horses, and the said future wife for her apparel, rings and jewels, according to the valuation which shall be made in the inventory and without any public announcement thereupon, or the said sum in ready money, at the choice and option of the said survivor, provided at the time of the dissolution of the said marriage there be no child or children living, born and begotten from the said marriage. And the said future husband, recognizing and considering the extreme youth of the said Heleinne Boullé, and from the affection and friendship he bears her, wills and intends, after the consummation of the said marriage, to provide for her and to give her the means of living and of maintaining herself after his decease, and should he be forestalled by death during his voyages at sea, and elsewhere, where he is employed on the King’s service, in consideration of this and in the event, as has been said, of his death, the future husband will and intends  that the said future wife shall enjoy during her lifetime all and severally the goods, moveable and immovable, present and to come, wheresoever situated and located, and which may belong to the said future husband, either by purchase, inheritance, gift or otherwise, provided there be no child or children then living, born and begotten from the said marriage. … Done and executed at Paris in the house of the said Boullé and his wife, situated in Paris in the said street and parish of St Germain, at the sign of the Mirror, after noon in year 1610, Monday the twenty-seventh day of December; and the said future husband and wife and the others named above have signed the draft of these presents, which remains in the keeping of Arragon, one of the undersigned notaries. Signed, Chocquillet and Arragon

Consulted for this post

Marie­-Emmanuel Chabot, O.S.U., “BOULLÉ, HÉLÈNE, named de Saint­ Augustin (Champlain),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 16, 2014,

The Works of Samuel de Champlain, ed. H. P. Biggar (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1925)

Henri Bourde de la Rogerie, Hélène Boullé : femme de Samuel de Champlain (Rennes: Imprimerie centrale de Rennes, 1938)

Robert Le Blant, “La famille Boullé, 1586-1639”, Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française, 17.1, 1963, p. 55-69.

Robert Le Blant, “Le testament de Samuel Champlain, 17 novembre 1635”, Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française, 17. 2, 1963, p. 269-286.

Robert Le Blant, “Le Blant, Le triste veuvage d’Hélène Boullé”, Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française, 18.3, 1964, p. 425-437

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