On October 17, 1540, King Francis ordered the navigator Jacques Cartier to return to Canada to lend weight to a colonization project of which he would be “captain general”. However, January 15, 1541 saw Cartier supplanted by Jean-François de La Rocque de Roberval, a Hugenot courtier and friend of the king named as the first Lieutenant General of New France. Roberval was to lead the expedition, with Cartier as his chief navigator. While Roberval waited for artillery and supplies, he gave permission to Cartier to sail on ahead with his 5 ships.
On May 23, 1541, Cartier departed Saint-Malo on his third voyage with five ships and about 400 assorted convicts and others who were to be the first settlers. This time, any thought of finding a passage to the Orient was forgotten. The goals were now to find the “Kingdom of Saguenay” and its riches, and to establish a permanent settlement along the St. Lawrence River.
Anchoring at Stadacona, Cartier again met the Iroquois, but found their “show of joy” and their numbers worrisome, and decided not to build his settlement there. Sailing a few miles up-river to a spot he had previously observed, he decided to settle on the site of present-day Cap Rouge, Quebec. The convicts and other colonists were landed, the cattle that had survived three months aboard ship were turned loose, earth was broken for a kitchen garden, and seeds of cabbage, turnip, and lettuce were planted. A fortified settlement was thus created and was named Charlebourg Royale. Another fort was also built on the cliff overlooking the settlement, for added protection.
The men also began collecting what they believed to be diamonds and gold, but which upon return to France were discovered to be merely quartz crystals and pyrite, respectively, which gave rise to a French expression: “faux comme les diamants du Canada” (“As false as Canadian diamonds”). Two of the ships were sent on their journey home with some of these minerals on September 2.
Having set tasks for everyone, Cartier left with the longboats for a reconnaissance in search of “Saguenay” on September 7. Having reached Hochelaga, he was prevented by bad weather and the numerous rapids from continuing up to the Outaouais (Ottawa) River.
Returning to Charlesbourg-Royal, Cartier found the situation ominous. The Iroquois no longer made friendly visits or peddled fish and game, but prowled about in a sinister manner.
No records exist about the winter of 1541–1542 and the information must be gleaned from the few details provided by returning sailors.
It seems the natives attacked and killed about 35 settlers before the Frenchmen could retreat behind their fortifications. Even though scurvy was cured through the native remedy, the impression left is of a general misery, and of Cartier’s growing conviction that he had insufficient manpower either to protect his base or to go in search of the Saguenay Kingdom.
Cartier left for France in early June 1542, encountering Roberval and his ships along the Newfoundland coast. Despite Roberval’s insistence that he accompany him back to Saguenay, Cartier slipped off under the cover of darkness and continued on to France, still convinced his vessels contained a wealth of gold and diamonds. He arrived there in October, in what proved to be his last voyage. Meanwhile, Roberval took command at Charlesbourg-Royal, but it was abandoned in 1543 after disease, foul weather and hostile natives drove the would-be settlers to despair.
Cartier spent the rest of his life in Saint-Malo and his nearby estate, where he often was useful as an interpreter in Portuguese. He died at age 65 on September 1, 1557 during an epidemic, possibly typhus, though many sources list his cause of death as unknown. Cartier is interred in St. Vincent’s Cathedral.
No permanent European settlements were made in Canada before 1605, when Samuel de Champlain founded Port Royal in present day Victoria Beach just outside of Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia.
Having already located the entrance to the St. Lawrence on his first voyage, he now opened up the greatest waterway for the European penetration of North America.
He produced an intelligent estimate of the resources of Canada, both natural and human, albeit with a considerable exaggeration of its mineral wealth. While some of his actions toward the St. Lawrence Iroquoians were dishonourable, he did try at times to establish friendship with them and other native peoples living along the St. Lawrence River—an indispensable preliminary to French settlement in their lands.
Cartier was the first to document the name Canada to designate the territory on the shores of the St-Lawrence River. The name is derived from the Huron-Iroquois word “kanata”, or village, which was incorrectly interpreted as the native term for the newly discovered land.
Cartier used the name to describe Stadacona, the surrounding land and the river itself. And Cartier named “Canadiens” the inhabitants he had seen there.
Thereafter the name Canada was used to designate the small French colony on these shores, and the French colonists were called Canadiens, until the mid-nineteenth century, when the name started to be applied to the loyalist colonies on the Great Lakes and later to all of British North America.
In this way Cartier is not strictly the European discoverer of Canada as this country is understood today, a vast federation stretching ”a mare usque ad mari’ (from sea to sea).
Eastern parts had previously been visited by the Norse, as well as Basque, Galician and Breton fishermen, and perhaps the Corte-Real brothers and John Cabot (in addition of course to the Natives who first inhabited the territory).
Cartier’s particular contribution to the discovery of Canada is as the first European to penetrate the continent, and more precisely the interior eastern region along the St. Lawrence River. His explorations consolidated France’s claim of the territory that would later be colonized as New France, and his third voyage produced the first documented European attempt at settling North America since that of Lucas Vasquez de Aylon in 1526–27.
Cartier’s professional abilities can be easily ascertained. Considering that Cartier made three voyages of exploration in dangerous and hitherto unknown waters without losing a ship, and that he entered and departed some 50 undiscovered harbours without serious mishap, he may be considered one of the most conscientious explorers of the period.
Cartier was also one of the first to formally acknowledge that the New World was a separate land mass from Europe/Asia.
Rediscovery of Cartier’s first Settlement
On August 18, 2006, Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced that Canadian archaeologists had discovered the precise location of Cartier’s lost first colony of Charlesbourg-Royal.
The colony was built where the Cap Rouge river runs into the St. Lawrence River and is based on the discovery of burnt wooden timber remains that have been dated to the mid-16th century, and a fragment of a decorative Istoriato plate manufactured in Faenza, Italy, between 1540 and 1550, that could only have belonged to a member of the French aristocracy in the colony.
Most probably this was the Sieur de Roberval, who replaced Cartier as the leader of the settlement.
This colony was the first known European settlement in modern day Canada since the c.1000 AD L’Anse aux Meadows Viking village in northern Newfoundland. Its rediscovery has been hailed by archaeologists as the most important find in Canada since the L’Anse aux Meadows rediscovery.
As we mentioned earlier, no permanent European settlements were made in Canada until 1605, when Samuel de Champlain founded Port Royal in present day Victoria Beach just outside of Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia and then Quebec City in 1608.
Here is a brief teaser about Samuel de Champlain, one of the most important explorers of Canada, before or after…
Samuel de Champlain born Samuel Champlain; August 13, 1574 – December 25, 1635., “The Father of New France”, was a French navigator, cartographer, draughtsman, soldier, explorer, geographer, ethnologist, diplomat, and chronicler.
He founded New France and Quebec City on July 3, 1608. He is important to Canadian history because he made the first accurate map of the coast and he helped establish the settlements.
Born into a family of mariners, Champlain, while still a young man, began exploring North American in 1603 and from 1604 to 1607 he participated in the exploration and settlement of the first permanent European settlement north of Florida, Port Royal in Acadia present day Nova Scotia in 1605. Then, in 1608, he established the French settlement that is now Quebec City.
Champlain was the first European to explore and describe the Great Lakes and published maps of his journeys and accounts of what he learned from the natives and the French living among the Natives.
He formed relationships with local Montagnais and Innu and later with others farther west along the Ottawa River, Lake Nipissing and Georgian Bay and with the Algonquin and Huron, with whom he agreed to provide assistance in their wars against the Iroquois.