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Facts about Jacques Cartier for Kids

Jacques Cartier was a French explorer who was famous for being the first European to explore Canada. However, he’s most well-known for discovering the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, claiming it as his territory, naming Quebec City after his government sponsor, and starting a colony there.

In 1534 Cartier set out from France on a journey with two ships and over 100 crew members to find a new trade route to Asia to avoid navigating around Africa. Two years later, he returned, with one surviving ship and only 18 living crew members who had scurvy.

On his return, King Francis I of France granted Jacques Cartier the exclusive right to trade in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Jacques Cartier was appointed Governor of Quebec City in 1541. He governed well for 15 years, but in 1545 his ex-wife Agnes Sorel sent him to France, where she accused him of adultery. However, he was convicted and sentenced to death – he was spared when his sponsor Queen Claude found out about the accusations and threatened her daughter with dire consequences if she did not pardon Cartier.

He died in 1557, aged 79, after ruling for 16 years in Quebec City.

Quick Facts

  • Jacques Cartier was a French explorer of Breton origin who claimed what is now Canada for France.
  • He was the first European to describe and map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, which he named “The Country of Canadas,” after the Iroquois names for the two big settlements he saw at Stadacona (Quebec City) and Hochelaga (Montreal Island).
  • Its frequent appearance recognizes his good name in Saint-Malo in baptismal registers as godfather or witness.
  • In 1534, the year the Duchy of Brittany was formally united with France in the Edict of Union, Cartier was introduced to King Francis I by Jean le Veneur, bishop of Saint-Malo and abbot of Mont-Saint-Michel, at the Manoir de Brion.
  • The king had previously invited the Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano to explore the eastern coast of North America on behalf of France in 1524.
  • Le Veneur cited voyages to Newfoundland and Brazil as proof of Cartier’s ability to “lead ships to the discovery of new lands in the New World.”
  • Cartier’s first two encounters with aboriginal peoples in Canada on the north side of Chaleur Bay, most likely the Mi’kmaq, were brief; some trading occurred.
  • His third encounter took place on the shores of Gaspé Bay with a party of St.
  • Lawrence Iroquoians, where on July 24, he planted a 10-meter cross bearing the words “Long Live the King of France” and took possession of the territory in the name of the king.
  • The native’s captain, at last, agreed that they could be taken under the condition that they return with European goods to trade.
  • Jacques Cartier set sail for a second voyage on May 19 of the following year with three ships, 110 men, and the two natives.
  • So certain was Cartier that the river was the Northwest Passage and that the rapids were all that was preventing him from sailing to China, that the rapids and the town that eventually grew up near them came to be named after the French word for China, La Chine: the Lachine Rapids and the town of Lachine, Quebec.
  • From mid-November 1535 to mid-April 1536, the French fleet lay frozen solid at the mouth of the St. Charles River, under the Rock of Quebec.
  • The Frenchmen washed with the Indian remedy, using a whole tree in less than a week, with such positive results that Cartier proclaimed the amazing discovery as a Godsend and a miracle.
  • Ready to return to France in early May 1536, Cartier decided to take Chief Donnacona to France to tell the tale of a country further north personally, called the “Kingdom of Saguenay,” said to be full of gold, rubies, and other treasures.
  • Anchoring at Stadacona, Cartier again met the Iroquoians but found their “show of joy” and their numbers worrisome and decided not to build his settlement there.
  • The convicts and other colonists were landed, the cattle that had survived three months aboard the ship were turned loose, the earth was broken for a kitchen garden, and seeds of cabbage, turnip, and lettuce were planted.
  • The men also began collecting what they believed to be diamonds and gold, but which upon return to France were discovered to be merely quartz crystals and iron pyrites, respectively — which gave rise to a French expression: “faux come to Les diamants du Canada” (“As false as Canadian diamonds”).
  • The name is derived from the Huron-Iroquois word “Kanata,” or village, incorrectly interpreted as the native term for the newly discovered land.
  • Thereafter the name Canada was used to designate the small French colony on these shores. The French colonists were called Canadiens until the mid-nineteenth century when the name started to be applied to the loyalist colonies on the Great Lakes and later to all of British North America.
  • The colony was built where the Cap-Rouge river runs into the St.
  • Lawrence River and is based on the discovery of burnt wooden timber remains that have been dated to the mid-16th century, and a fragment of a decorative Istoriato plate manufactured in Faenza, Italy, between 1540 and 1550, that could only have belonged to a member of the French aristocracy in the colony.