Cartier's Third Voyage to Canada

In June 1536, Jacques Cartier sailed out to France. After a three-week Atlantic crossing, on July 15, 1536, the sailors arrived in Saint-Malo: the second, 14-month voyage, was completed.

To France, Cartier brought along the Iroquois Chief Donnacona so that he could personally tell the story of a country farther north, known among the Indians as the “Kingdom of Saguenay.” It was reportedly full of gold, diamonds, rubies, and other precious stones and metals. The third voyage thus was inevitable.

On October 17, 1540, Francis I, the king of France, ordered Cartier to go back to Canada and to launch a colonization project. However, on January 15, 1541, the navigator was supplanted by Jean-Francois de La Rocque de Roberval, appointed the commander of the expedition with Cartier as his subordinate.

Roberval gave permission to Cartier to sail on ahead with five ships. On May 23, 1541, Jacques Cartier departed Saint-Malo on his third voyage to Canada. This time, the main goal was to find the “Kingdom of Saguenay” and to establish a permanent settlement in Canada. Cartier arrived at Stadacone and met his old acquaintances the Iroquoians. Nevertheless, he decided not to settle there. His choice was the present-day Cap-Rouge, in Quebec City. There, a fortified settlement was established and named Charlesbourg-Royal. Two forts were built for its protection.

The colonists planted seeds of cabbage, turnip, and lettuce. At the site, the French collected what they believed were diamonds and gold. On September 2, 1541, two ships were dispatched to France with these minerals. Unfortunately, upon return to France, it was discovered that those stones were merely quartz crystals and iron pyrites. On September 7, 1540, Cartier left for a reconnaissance trip in search of the “Saguenay.” He reached Hochelaga, but bad weather and the rapids prevented him from continuing up to the Ottawa River, and he returned to Charlesbourg-Royal.

No records exist about the winter of 1541-1542, but it seems the Iroquois attacked and killed more than 30 Frenchmen before the colonists could retreat to the fortifications. Jacques Cartier was certain that, without help from France, he could not protect the settlement for the next year. The explorer left for France to get help in June 1542.

Along the Newfoundland coast, the expedition encountered Roberval who insisted that Cartier should accompany him back to Saguenay. Certain that his ships contained a wealth of gold and diamonds, Cartier, however, decided to sail off one night. He arrived in France in October 1642. Roberval took command at Charlesbourg-Royal, but the settlement was abandoned in 1543.

It seems, in 2006, Canadian archaeologists had discovered the precise location of Cartier’s lost first colony of Charlesbourg-Royal.

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