Biography of Jaques Cartier

Jaques Cartier was born in 1491, in Saint Malo (a port on the North West coast of Brittany). He was born into a respectable family, and became a respected mariner. He married Mary Catherine des Granches who also came from a highly respected family.

Cartier was introduced to the King of France, Francis I, by the bishop of Saint Malo. Cartier had been on voyages to New Foundland and Brazil. The King seemed rather impressed with Cartier. So the King gave Cartier a commission to explore North America, with the goal of finding a passage to Asia. Cartier departed for his first voyage on April 20th 1534, under his newly granted charter. During this first voyage Cartier explored the West Coast of New Foundland, and what became the Canadian Maritime Providences. He also explored the Mouth of the St. Lawrence River. He traded with some Native Americans, and took two of them back with him to France, when returned there in September 1534.

Cartier left for his second voyage on May 19th 1535. On this voyage he sailed up the St. Lawrence River as far as the Native American village of Hochelaga (the site of present day Montreal). Cartier could travel no further, since rapids blocked his way. He was convinced that just beyond the rapids lay China. Cartier returned downriver, but it was too late to return to France. So Cartier and his men spent the winter near the Mouth of the St. Charles River, near what became Quebec. His men came down with scurvy, but were cured by Indian medicine. Cartier returned to France on July 15, 1536. He had not reached China, but returned with a cargo that made his voyage very profitable.

Cartier made a third voyage to North America in 1541-42. This time he made no attempt to find a passage to the Orient. Rather he chose to explore the land near the St. Charles River further and set up a permanent settlement. Relations with the Natives were not as friendly as during his previous visits. The Natives attacked Cartier’s men during this exploration, as they attempted to set up a settlement at the site of present day Charelsbourg Royal.

Cartier returned to France in June 1542. The settlement founded was abandoned a year later. From that point on, Cartier led a quiet life in Saint Malo until his death in 1557.