Free Genealogy Forms
Family Group Chart
New Genealogy Data
Family Tree Search
Genealogy Books For Sale
British Isles Genealogy
FREE Web Site Hosting at
Marguerite De Roberval
The story I am about to relate may be of no
historical significance, but it furnishes an illustration of the
courage and endurance of the women who first visited these shores.
It will be remembered that the third voyage of Cartier, in 1541, was
made under Sieur de Roberval, whom Francis the First appointed the
first Viceroy of Canada. He was a wealthy French noble of a most
determined and cruel disposition. His niece, Marguerite de Roberval,
was a member of his household. She was a bright young girl, full of
the spirit of adventure of the age, and such a favorite with her
uncle that he consented to her accompanying him upon the voyage.
Like many another maiden in like circumstances, Marguerite had for
some time, unknown to her uncle, been receiving the attention of a
poor young cavalier whose love was not unrequited. He could not bear
the thought of being separated from his sweetheart, so he managed to
enlist as a volunteer with Roberval, and sailed in the same ship
with him and his niece. In the course of the voyage the lovers'
secret was discovered, and Roberval's affection for his niece gave
way to a vengeance cruel and in-human. Off the coast of Newfoundland
was an island called the Isle of Demons, supposed to be the abode of
evil spirits. Turning a deaf ear to the supplications of the
frightened girl, the cruel monster deposited her upon this lonely
shore with no other companion to share her solitude than an old
nurse. With scant provisions, four guns, and a limited supply of
ammunition, he left her to her fate. Her lover was powerless to stay
the hand of Roberval, and as the ship was getting under way again,
strapping his gun and a quantity of ammunition to his back, he
leaped into the sea and with sturdy strokes soon rejoined the
In vain they hoped and prayed that their pitiable plight might move
the stony heart of the Governor. He never returned. Marguerite and
her lover went through the form of marriage as best they could
without the aid of a priest. Did ever a couple begin housekeeping
under such trying circumstances? They built themselves a rude hut.
The wild fowl and fish furnished their table, and from the skins of
wild animals they provided them-selves with clothing to resist the
cold of the approaching winter.
In the following summer Marguerite became a mother and devoted most
of her time to caring for her baby. Her husband had hoped that the
cruel uncle would return to relieve their suffering, and the bitter
disappointment he experienced crushed his spirit. Grieving over the
suffering of his loving wife, he sickened and died. The baby did not
long survive him, and the faithful old nurse also succumbed. In the
lonely forest this brave young woman knelt beside the graves she had
made with her own hands and prayed for strength and courage to bear'
up under her heavy burden. Only a few months before, she was the
moving spirit in the castle of the "little King of Vimeu," as her
uncle was called, and no luxury was denied her. She was his favorite
and had often accompanied him upon his hunting expeditions, where
fortunately she had become an expert with the arquebuse. His love
had changed to hatred. The gayety of the Court was now replaced by
the dreadful solitude of this lonely isle. Want and privation,
discomfort and fear now con-fronted her, and the three fresh mounds,
bathed with her scalding tears, warned her that she, too, was likely
very soon to join the only human beings who had shared her misery.
Then there would be no tender hands to caress her in her last hours.
She did not yield to these despairing thoughts, but deter-mined to
meet her fate with a bold front. For eighteen long and dreary months
she wandered about the shores straining her eyes for a glimpse of a
sail. Three or four times relief seemed at hand as a white speck
appearing upon the horizon soon disclosed the dimensions of a ship,
only to melt away again, leaving her more lonely than before. The
third winter was almost upon her when she again espied a welcome
sail. How was she to lure the ship to this dreaded shore the
supposed home of mischief-making demons? Mustering all her strength
for one final effort, she sacrificed her little store of fuel that
she had painfully gathered from the forest and built a huge fire, in
the hope that the smoke would attract the attention of the
strangers. Nearer and nearer came the boat, a fisherman's barque.
With frantic gestures she signaled for help. The fishermen drew near
enough to descry a lonely figure, clad in skins of wild animals,
wildly gesticulating as she ran along the shore. In doubt as to
whether this was a human being or a dreaded spirit, they concluded
to solve the mystery and land upon the island, and thus was
Marguerite rescued from her perilous situation and shortly
afterwards was returned to France after an absence of nearly three
Do the annals of any history furnish a more pathetic or a more
impressive tale than this? The courage that will lead battalions to
the cannon's mouth might well waver when con-fronted with the
terrors of the awful exile of this brave young girl. The strength
that will carry hardened soldiers through a protracted battle would
in most instances succumb to the long months of solitary suffering
such as was endured by Marguerite de Roberval.
* Some historians regard this narrative of Marguerite de
Roberval as pure fiction, but as careful an investigator as Parkman does not
hesitate to accept the story as one of the actual events of our early history.
Heroines of Canadian History, By W. S.