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Jacques-René de Brisay Denonville, Marquis de Denonville, was the governor-general of New France between 1685 and 1689.
Denonville was born at Denonville, France, December 10, 1637. In 1668, Denonville married Catherine Courtin, daughter of Germain Courtin, Seigneur de Tanqueux, Beauval, Moncel, etc., and of Catherine Laffemas. They had two daughters.
He was an officer in the royal army attaining the rank of colonel of a regiment of dragoons prior to his colonial service.
He was appointed governor-general of New France in 1685 and arrived with his family at Québec on August 1, 1685. His main issue while governor-general was the renewal of the Beaver Wars with the Iroquois who were backed and supplied by the English. To counter the English threat, Denonville at once ordered de Troyes? to attack posts of the Hudson's Bay Company?. De Troyes eventually captured all of them. In the Great Lakes region, Denonville needed to strengthen and maintain the French-Indian alliance in order to make aggressive war on the Senecas and other Iroquois. Once in New France, however, Denonville discovered that he did not have sufficient troops or Indian warriors for the task and requested soldiers from the King. The following spring, Louis sent 800 naval recruits under the command of the Chevalier de Vaudreuil? to assist. Hundreds of Ottawa, Huron, Miami, and Illinois warriors also joined Denonville at Fort Frontenac? in early June 1687. Then with about 2000 French soldiers and Indian warriors, Denonville advanced into Seneca territory where he destroyed many villages and nearly destroyed them as nation. But the other nations of the Iroquois, in response, increased their attacks against the French and their Indian allies throughout 1688 and 1689. In response to continued Iroquois aggression, Denonville adopted a policy (for which he was later criticized) of removing all Iroquois prisoners to France as galley slaves.
Aside from his preoccupation with the military situation in New France, Denonville was the first governor to address health and social issues of the colony. He started a school of navigation in Quebec and rigorously enforced fair dealings in the fur trade, a policy which earned him rebuke from traders both at Montreal and in the field.
The renewed war against the Iroquois did not go well for New France. Despite taking precautions to strengthen the colony's defenses, disease and sickness struck hundreds of French soldiers. Over 10% of the entire population of New France died of ills during 1688. With these losses and continued raids by the Iroquois, Denonville was forced to abandon the forward forts, especially Fort Frontenac? which was burned to the ground by the retreating troops. By this time Denonville realized that a diplomatic solution was probably the only way out for New France, but his diplomatic efforts to the Iroquois were undermined by both the English and the Huron. New York Governor Thomas Dongan constantly incited the Iroquois to violence against the French. Denonville tried to calm things through peace negotiations with the Iroquois, but the treachery Huron chief Kondiaronk? foiled his plans. Also the Governor of New England Sir Edmund Andros began a border dispute with Denonville resulting in the English attack on Fort Saint-Castin (1688). With these conflicts and also as a result of the Glorious Revolution, England and France found themselves again at war in a conflict known as King William's War?.
In August 1689, the Iroquois mounted a massive counter-attack against New France. About 1500 warriors attacked settlements around Montreal in the La Chine Massacre?, killing over 200 settlers. The La Chine Massacre forced Louis to recall Denonville to France and replace him with Comte de Frontenac. Denonville, despite his military training and leadership and despite his desire to do right by the colony and end the Iroquois threat, was regarded as being wholly inept at dealing with the English & Indian attacks either through military force or diplomacy.
While Denonville's colonial administration may not have been successful at meeting France's imperial goals, Denonville himself was still a respected part of the French aristocracy. Upon his return to France, Louis XIV and Minister of the Marine Seignelay promoted Denonville to major-general and allowed him to continue his military career. In 1690, he was appointed deputy-governor first to Philip, Duc d’Anjou, and then in 1693 to Charles de France, Duc de Berry. The Marquis died at his château in Denonville, France, September 22, 1710, and was buried in his château's chapel.
Marsh, James. "Jacques-René de Brisay Denonville, Marquis de." The Canadian Encyclopedia Historica-Dominion, 2011.
Dionne, Narcisse. "Seigneur and Marquis de Denonville." The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 4 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908).
Eccles, W. J., "Brisay de Denonville, Jacques-René de, Marquis de Denonville", Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2000).
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