SONS OF THE UNICORN
By Jacques Lemieux
SONS OF THE UNICORN
By Jacques Lemieux
Up to recently, there were two important unknowns surrounding the two first Lemieux’s to settle in America. For one,Pierre disappeared somewhere between 1661 and 1662, in a shipwreck, according to oral family tradition and to the opinion of some historians. But there is still no concrete proof to confirm that belief. On the other hand, Gabriel has voluntarily all through his life tried to hide any information about the circumstances of his birth.
In his marriage contract, August 11, 1658 with Marguerite Leboeuf before public notary Audouart, he presents himself as the son of Louis Lemieux and Marie Luguan, widow of Pierre. If so, he could be Pierre`s brother, sharing the same mother.
Gabriel also lied repeatedly about his age. In the 1666 census, he says he is forty years old, which would mean he was born in 1626. In the 1681 census, he’s 67 years old! Which would mean he was born in 1614, his death was in 1700, he was reported to be 80! In fact none of those assertions are correct. He couldn’t be born in 1614, year of Pierre I and Marie’s wedding, nor in 1615 when Jean was born, in 1616 when Pierre II was born or in 1629 when Marie, the last child of Pierre Iand Marie Luguan, was born and baptized in Rouen.
The unveiling of this mystery is now done, due to long and thorough research by Madame Anne Osselin in Rouen and Jacques Lemieux. Gabriel’s secret has now come out! His birth certificate has been found!
"This Wednesday, tenth day of April 1630, was baptized the son of Anne Le Cornu, before Jean le Cornu, her father, said Anne having had carnal relation, on the verbal promise of marriage with Thomas Le Mieux, now deceased, the infant being named Gabriel by Anne le Cornu, widow of Jean le Parent, aunt of said Anne, mother of the child, and by Guillaume Baniguot, father of the second wife of said Jean le Cornu, godfather.''
(St-Etienne la Grande Église, BMR 116, 158-1, ADSM NE 2026, 1589-1615)
So Gabriel was born in 1630, the son of Thomas, Pierre brother, who died before Gabriel’s birth, and of Anne le Cornu, daughter of Jehan le Cornu playing cards craftsman (maître-cartier). So he is Pierre ’s cousin. To better understand the chain of events surrounding Gabriel’s story, one must go back to the historical events of that era and the customs of old Rouen.
ROUEN, THE PORT CITY
In the XVth, XVIth and XVIIth centuries, Rouen was already an important seaport involved in international trade. It required a diversity of professional and technical manpower to support its commercial activities. That manpower was highly corporatist, each profession or craft having its own closely controlled guild. Membership in a guild was almost hereditary, sons being trained by their father and helped by them to meet the entrance requirements. Another way, a lot more pleasant, was to marry into a guild or corporation by marrying the daughter of a corporate member. Gilles, the father of Pierre I and of Thomas, chose this avenue, marrying Ysabeau Ango of one of the richest and most powerful trader families in Rouen. Pierre himself entered the cooper trade under the guidance of his father-in-law, Jean Luguan. Thomas, then, could not hope to go the same way, at least in a near future. Actually, at that time, he was attracted more to arts and wanted to become a “cartier”, a playing card craftsman. Card games had been introduced in France from the Orient by the Crusaders and became quite popular during the long Hundred-year war. Since the cards were hand-painted in those days, the “cartier” craft often ensured glory and fortune and even a reputation at the international level. But Thomas had an extra interest in card making since his girl friend, Anne le Cornu, was the daughter of an already well-known card craftsman, who already owned a prestigious trademark and belonged to a certain nobility. Again another Lemieux was on his way to enter a guild through marriage. By accident, or on purpose, who knows, Anne found herself pregnant before the marriage had been held. But fate would prevent them from becoming husband and wife. The plague was a recurrent phenomenon in Europe, beginning in the XIVth century. Port cities were particularly vulnerable, bringing in infected rats from foreign ports. So Rouen was a prime candidate for epidemics. And one of those hit the port city from 1619 to 1632. Port activities were closed down for a while and many families chose the safest way to avoid the plague. They moved out of the city, far into the less polluted countryside. That was the avenue chosen by Pierre I and Marie Luguan from 1617 to 1624. Then they moved back to Rouen, as the epidemic seemed to be over.
Unfortunately, is wasn’t so. In 1629, both Pierre, his mother Ysabeau and his brother Thomas died, so now we had Marie Luguan, widow of Pierre, left with a young baby, Marie. Her stepmother Ysabeau Ango and her stepbrother Thomas were also both dead. And there was young Anne le Cornu with a little Lemieux on the way and whose mother had also died in 1620. It is not clear yet who in the family took care of Anne and her son, Gabriel, in the early years. It could have been “Aunt Florence” in Pont-Audemer or Marie Luguan who remarried to Louis , her husband`s cousin! One thing is sure; at 17, he was present at Pierre wedding in Quebec in 1647. It is possible that he may have come over to New France with Pierre, his cousin, in 1643, at the age of 13.
WHAT ABOUT THE LE CORNU FAMILY ?
For the descendants of Gabriel, it is worth taking a few moments to expound on the story of the le Cornu family. This family included many branches and seemed to originate in Bosc-Roger and to be descended from Robert le Cornu, squire, lord of Espreville. At this stage of our research, here is the lineage for the moment. The heirs of Robert le Cornu and of his priest brother, Messire Jehan, would be Philippe, dead without any descendant and Robin, who is not mentioned as heir, which would mean he also left no descendants. Remain, early in the XVIth century, Martin, Robin l’aîné, Colin et Robin le jeune. But who was the father of Robert, father of Jehan, father of Anne, the fiancée, is not yet known. No doubt Madame Anne Osselin will eventually find some answers.
An interesting find is that of the seals used by the Cornu family since 1580. They are described in the Livre de copies des scels of 1650. With minor variations, the seal includes the following elements: a black oval frame with red border; within that frame a gold bordered blue drape in the shape of an escutcheon with indentations, on which sits a white unicorn holding a red apple between its forelegs; the whole topped with a gold crown. The motto around the oval reads: " Tout venin la Licorne déjetant " and on the bottom rim the name Pierre le Cornu is inscribed.
The unicorn was a fabulous animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse, the hind legs of a stag, the tail of a lion and a single horn in the middle of the forehead. In the Middle Ages it was a symbol of purity. It’s twisted horn, similar to the narval tooth, was belived in those days to detect the presence of venom or poison when dipped into a liquid,hence the motto: “All venom the Unicorn detects “
The descendants of Gabriel can rightly and proudly call themselves the“Sons of the Unicorn”.
September 1999 Trans. Guy Lemieux