The Bizarre Hilarity of Canadian History

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Growing up in America, my favourite thing about history class was that the clock had a seconds hand that ticked constantly, so you could actually see time passing. Little did I know, all the REAL history was stuffed up there in Canada.

So 400 years ago, this guy Charles LaTour and and his Daddy leave France and come to Acadia (that bit that sticks out over Maine), because the King is doing his damnedest to send enough French people to Canada that they can hold their own against the Dastardly English. (I’m sure this will work!)

So LaTour and his Daddy settle into life at the settlement of Port Royale, where LaTour’s cousin is in charge. When his cousin dies, his obvious sucessor as Lord and Master of Port Royale and all of Acadia is LaTour. It’s not an easy job, mind you. LaTour has to defend his land from the Dastardly English, the Dutch, the Basques, and best of all – THE FRENCH, who wander over regularly from the other side of the river to raid and pillage.

So LaTour sends Daddy to France with letters asking for supplies and weapons to Cardinal Richelieu, who’s kind of like a Prime Minister, except, you know, incredibly Catholic. (And evil. And in a silly red hat.) Unfortunately, Daddy is too busy marrying a pretty young window, stealing his stepson’s inheritance, and hanging out in debtor’s prison, to do much in the way of impressing the Cardinal, and LaTour gets nothing.

When Daddy gets out of prison, he gets on a French ship bound for Canada, which is carrying supplies – but not for LaTour, of course – a Scottish poet captures the ship, steals everything, and takes Daddy prisoner.

(I KNOW! A SCOTTISH POET! CANADA!)

LaTour sits anxiously in the six foot deep snow waiting for supplies and men, and who shows up? Three years later? Daddy! With supplies! For LaTour! From SCOTLAND, people.

He’s like, “Son! I have wonderful news! We’ve joined the Scottish!”

And LaTour is like, “Oh, for God’s sake. You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Daddy flounces off in a flouncy huff to live with the disappointed Scottish in their little settlement. (This arrangement disintegrates within a couple of years when the Scots throw Daddy out. LaTour buys Daddy and his THIRD pretty young wife a nice house far far away. Soooo far away. Man. Daddy’s in his sixties, penniless, scatterbrained, and homeless, and he’s on his THIRD young, pretty wife? Daddy must have learned some poetry from the Scots.)

Anyway. Cardinal Richelieu, finally realizing that the Scots are a real threat to Port Royale sends a fleet of ships, headed by Chevalier De Resilly, to conquer the Scots. And conquer they do in an almost entirely bloodless surrender – in fact, Resilly proves to be such an effective leader that Richelieu makes him Lieutenant General of all of France’s colonies in Canada, granting him joint custody with LaTour.

Richelieu commands LaTour to start advertising for more settlers, and LaTour places advertisements like, “Come to Port Royale! There are Rainbow Unicorns prancing in every street! The sun constantly shines! There are palm trees, and Ladies in hula skirts!”

But the French are not so easily fooled and in the end, he gets, like, 9 people and a bunch of eager Catholic missionaries. A couple of blissful years pass. Resilly is well loved, and he and LaTour are the best of friends. But then, Resilly dies unexpectedly of natural causes.

Enter…

Charles De Maneau Dulnay.

TERRIFYING VIOLIN MUSIC!

MALIGN ECHOING LAUGHTER!

Dulnay is appointed Resilly’s successor. He moves into Port Royale, and immediately starts doing things like throwing people into dungeons and chaining them up with fifty pounds of weight on their feet and leaves them there to DIE OF MISERY after they try, like, slightly fiddling with the lumber export laws.

Dulnay, ignoring the dungeon screams, marries a quiet little woman named Jean, who immediately starts churning out babies while he struts around telling everyone what to do.

By 1639, aware that things are not going that well, Richelieu sends an admonishing letter to LaTour and Dulnay demanding that they get along. Except he includes an addendum to the custody agreement, which puts LaTour’s headquarters smack in the middle of Dulnay’s land and vice versa, which as you can imagine helps a lot.

LaTour decides he needs to begin a baby empire just like Dulnay who by now has, like, 17 children, so he sends off for a mail-order bride from France. And he lucks out. Boy, does he luck out. Francoise Marie Jacqueline is strong, and fierce, but mostly? She’s smart. When she arrives in Acadia, LaTour takes her to meet Dulnay. Relations between the two men have been uneasy, but not outright war. Not yet.

So LaTour and Francoise show up in their boat at Port Royale, and ask leave to land. The servants are like – “Ummm, Dulnay’s not here. Also he hates you and says not to let you in. Umm… sorry.”

LaTour sits in his boat getting angrier and angrier, but eventually just before dawn he decides to leave.

But! What’s in the mouth of the bay at Port Royale? DULNAY! IN A SHIP!

TERRIFYING VIOLIN MUSIC!

MALIGN ECHOING LAUGHTER!

Dulnay claims later that LaTour was, like, SUPER MAD and LaTour fired the first shot but he’s always saying stuff like that and Dulnay kills a bunch of LaTour’s guys and takes LaTour and Francoise hostage, like welcome to Canada Francoise, aren’t you glad you came?

The ever-present Catholic missionaries play mediator and negotiate the release of the couple. Then Dulnay goes running to Cardinal Richelieu screaming that LaTour is, like, THE WORST, and he should have to go to his room without dinner. The Cardinal is like, “You boys, all I ask is that you share a damned country without fighting JUST THIS ONCE, if you knew how hard I have to work in order to keep you fed and clothed, you’d leave me alone to torture defenseless peasants,” and then he sides with Dulnay.

I know! Just like when your mom wouldn’t believe you that your brother ate the apple pie, not you!

And he revokes the comission of governer from LaTour! And appoints Dulnay Holy Supreme Emporer of Canada! (whatever, it was some title like that) and the Cardinal is like – “Anyone caught helping LaTour in any way – and I mean, letting him LICK a CRUMB off your BOOT will be arrested, and tortured.”

And he has a flier to that effect posted everywhere in Paris and Acadia.

Then he sends two guys with a flier to LaTour’s court. LaTour reads the flier and turns bright red and rips it up and throws the two guys who brought it in the dungeon and screams about the injustice of it all and YEARS LATER he could still quote verbatim from the flier.

(Hey, Francoise… um… Canada, yeah… can I get you some TimBits, or…)

So. Francoise goes to France to plead LaTour’s case, and because she’s strong and smart and fierce she actually has some success. She comes back to Canada with a warship in tow.

The battle between Dulnay and LaTour drags on and on and on and on and on and on and ON and it’s the BATTLE THAT NEVER ENDS, it just goes on and on my friend – until finally, FINALLY, LaTour sneaks past Dulnay’s warship blockade in the middle of the night and runs off to Boston to beg their aid.

And Dulnay? Doesn’t even know he’s gone.

Meanwhile, it’s winter.

Canadian winter.

1600s Canadian winter.

THE HOWLING WIND IS HOWLING IS WHAT I’M SAYING.

And at LaTour’s fort, the war with Dulnay has ruined all trade. There’s no money, there’s no food. And THEN, the eight Catholic missionaries start to get upset.

Remember the Catholic missionaries? Okay, so Francoise is a Protesant. Exactly. Francoise starts trying to convert everyone in the fort. (Again, this is according to Dulnay who also says that she “spoke insolently to the Reverend Fathers, acting as one posessed by a demon, and in scandelous disrespect of the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman legion”. Which probably means that what she said was something like, “You know, learning to read someday would be pretty neat!”)

The Catholics are so mad that they stomp off in a big huff. They stomp all the way to Port Royale and knock at the door and are all, “Helllllp! There’s only 45 people at LaTour’s fort and LaTour isn’t even THERE and there’s no money! We’re eating salted rat toes for dinner and that scary lady is trying to MAKE US BE PROTESTANTS! HEEEEEELLLLLP!”

And Dulnay is like, “Oh, DO COME IN. Come in, come in, come IN.”

So. After cossetting them and feeding them and giving them soft feather beds to sleep in, Dulnay sends the missionaries back. When Francoise sees them at the door, she lets them in with a glad welcome. They’re surrounded by the 45 soldiers who remained at the fort and the Catholics are like, “Hey! Guess what! You know, over at Dulnay’s, they have FOOD there!”

And the soldiers are all, “REALLY?”

And the Catholics are like, “Yes! And none of the women know how to read!”

And the soldiers are all, “WOWIE KAPOWIE!”

And just as half the soldiers are about to completely desert, Francoise throws the Catholics out and slams the door short.

Dulnay creates a blockade at the mouth of the harbour.

TERRIFYING VIOLIN MUSIC!

MALIGN ECHOING LAUGHTER!

When Charles, all unknowing, sends food and encouraging letters to the fort, Dulnay intercepts them all, cackling madly, and THEN, he sails right up to the fort and calls for surrender.

Far from surrendering, Francoise and her men rush to the ramparts and scream insults like, “You evil reptilian kitten eater from another planet!” (politics haven’t changed much in Canada) and she fires the cannons and she raises the Red Flag of Defiance. OF DEFIANCE, PEOPLE!

For three days and three nights, Dulnay bombards the fort with cannons and finally the soldiers have got to sleep and they leave this guy Vandre in charge to sound the alarm.

Now, the next thing that happens is that Dulnay gets his men inside the fort. And I’m not accusing Vandre of anything here, but PEOPLE, he had ONE JOB and that was to SOUND THE ALARM and he did NOT SOUND THE ALARM.

Francoise realizes that the game is over and she says, “I will yield to you, but only if you let these brave soldiers live.”

Dulnay is like, “Oh, of course. Of course, sweetheart,” (MALIGN ECHOING LAUGHTER) and then he screams, “HANG THEM! HANG THEM ALL! Oh – except that lovely Vandre fellow. I do quite like him.”

Dulnay slaughters the soldiers one by one, forcing Francoise to watch. Francoise lives for another three weeks, then dies. No one knows why. Dulnay does the first nice thing in his horrible life when he sends her son off to France in the care of his nanny.

After Francoise dies, even her enemies acknowledge her strength and courage.

And… where’s LaTour?

Still in Boston. Still trying to raise funds. And it isn’t until TWO MONTHS after Francoise’s death, after his son had been sent to France, after Dulnay had won absolutely everything, that LaTour finds out what’s happened.

He’s 52. He’s penniless, homeless, desperately sad, and he relies on the kindness of his friends. After he’s recovered enough to begin working again, one of his friends agrees to loan him a ship.

And guess what LaTour does?

No, seriously. Guess. Guess.

LATOUR STEALS THE SHIP! HE DOES!

(We have learned much from the Scottish Poets of the world.)

He shoots one of the crew! He leaves them on an icebound shore and wanders off to Quebec! He lives there happily for years, he starts trading fur, he’s treated with honour and respect, he’s really happy.

And what happened to Dulnay? Well, many years after the battle, Dulnay is riding around in a canoe with a servant. The canoe is overturned and the servant reaches the shore, but Dulnay dies. Legend has it that he was dragged underwater by the weight of his armour, (which I totally picture as being made of gold and, coated with the tears of newborn puppies) while the servant, who Dulnay was in the habit of beating horrifically, stood on the shore and watched impassively.

“Oh, dear. I don’t seem to be able to reach you. I’m trying, but… nope. Sorry.”

(If you swim in that lake today, you can still hear Dulnay’s gurgling laughter.)

And you think that’s the end, don’t you. Don’t you!

Poor Francoise is dead, LaTour’s in Quebec living the high life, and Dulnay got his just desserts.

But! And! AND!

Dulnay has left his widow in heavy debt. Jean and her 17 children are in dire straights, and when LaTour hears about this he runs off to France, gets himself REINSTATED as the governor of Acadia by the new Queen, and comes back to Port Royale, where he PROPOSES to Dulnay’s widow.

YES. YES HE DOES. (CANADA!)

And she says? “I do,” and then immediately gives birth.

They get married, and LaTour, who has surely lived the most charmed life of anyone ever, lives happily at Port Royale for the rest of his life, being the governor, with his hated enemy’s widow by his side and all their children – or, the ones he bothered to keep track of, anyway.

(No one knows what happened to Francoise’s son. I like to think that he lived a very quiet life in some tiny French village, a sturdy peasant with a little, like, vegetable selling business and daughters who he taught to read.)

By all accounts, Jean and LaTour are perfectly content together. But can you imagine the arguments those two must have had?

She would sigh, and LaTour would be like, “Ahh, what is wrong, my delicious golden crumpet?”

She would say, “Nothing. Nothing, cherie.”

“My little puffed up pigeon! Tell your love what is wrong.”

“It’s just… my sweet… Sometimes I wish you were more like -”

“SACRE BLEU, THIS? THIS AGAIN, EH?”

“You KNOW I adore you, but your… your GENTLE nature sometimes keeps you from being like -”

“LIKE DULNAY, RIGHT? RIGHT?”

“Sometimes, a little bit of… of aggression is -”

“So maybe I should just go visit the neighbours and force Madame Lefevre to watch while I SLAUGHTER THE SERVANTS, HUH? WOULD THAT BE SEXY ENOUGH FOR YOU?”

“Ah, well, my ONLY love, as far as I know Monsieur Lefevre is not living it up in Boston, dancing in ballrooms while Madame Lefevre DIES OF DESPAIR, so you might actually have some -”

“I know what to do to win your favour, my little Venus Flytrap, I’ll get my riding crop and maybe we’ll train the PUPPY, huh? Pucker up, baby, I’m about to pull the wings off this defenseless little BUTTERFLY…”

(fade out)

And that, my friends, is Canadian history.