Robert Giffard de Moncel

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Robert Giffard de Moncel
Born 1587
Mortagne (Perche), France
Died 1668
Beauport, New France
Occupation surgeon, apothecary, colonist, seigneur, businessman
Spouse(s) Marie Regnouard
Children 2 sons, 4 daughters
Parent(s) Guillaume Giffard and Louise Viron

Robert Giffard de Moncel (1587–1668) was a French surgeon and apothecary who became a prestigious colonist and businessman and eventually a nobleman of the French colony in North America, New France.

As a naval surgeon, Giffard made several voyages to Quebec between 1621 and 1627. He is known to have had a cabin in the woods outside of the colony in the latter year.

On a return voyage in 1628, he was captured by the English adventurer Sir David Kirke and lost considerable equipment for colonization. Giffard returned to France. Kirke later captured and held Quebec until its return to the French in 1632.

From settler to nobility[edit]

In 1634, Giffard was granted one of the first seigneuries in New France and he returned to the colony accompanied by his wife and two children. The colony - with Samuel de Champlain still as Governor - was continuing to experience a lack of immigration. Giffard's grant of a league of land along the Beauport and St. Lawrence rivers was in exchange for his commitment to bring other settlers. His recruitment efforts in Perche, a French Province, yielded other notable pioneers Jean Guyon du Boisson, Zacharie Cloutier, Noël Langlois, Jean Juchereau de Maur and Marin Boucher, all from the Norman Perche. This series of settlers came to be called the Percheron Immigration,[1] as this region provided the greatest number of new colonists.

In 1636, the marriage contract for Robert Drouin and Cloutier's daughter Anne was signed in Giffard's house, at one time the oldest house in Canada. This is the earliest marriage contract in Canada's archives.

In 1637, he was involved in a conflict with the Iroquois near Trois-Rivières.

By 1640, he became the first doctor of the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec—the first hospital in Canada and in North America north of Mexico—an apothecary and even “doctor in ordinary” to the king, a purely honorary but prestigious title.

In 1645, Giffard helped found the newly established trading company, Communauté des Habitants, which was open to all inhabitants in principle but which only the wealthiest colonists could join in practice.

1658 letter granting nobility to Giffard.

In 1646, Giffard obtained an explicit order from the governor of the colony, Charles de Montmagny, that ended a nine-year dispute with Guyon and Cloutier in Giffard's favour. Since their arrival in the colony, the two tenants had refused to provide foi et hommage (fealty and homage) to Giffard, as was his right as seigneur. This was an early case of New World resistance to Old World systems of governance. Refusing to accept him as their superior, they did not stake their lands or pay him annual taxes. Such cases of censitaire refractoriness filled the time of the courts for the duration of the seigneurial system, both during the French regime and under the English.

By 1658, his service were recognized by the granting of two more seigneuries, being named to the king's new council of Quebec and being granted one of the first letters of nobility granted to a resident of Canada.

Giffard died in Beauport in 1668. The Bishop presided over his funeral and his tomb is within the hospital.


In 1912, a neighbourhood of Beauport, Quebec was named after Giffard and he is commemorated by a monument there.

In 1935, Quebec City named a street Robert-Giffard Avenue.

In 1976, the provincial mental health hospital took the name the Centre hospitalier Robert Giffard, continuing an association with mental health. In 1845, Giffard's manor house begins being used as an asylum accommodating 23 mental health patients.


  1. ^ "Percheron Immigration". Retrieved May 25, 2015. 


See also[edit]

Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, grandson of Giffard