Marie-Josèphe Angélique

It’s season seven! This year we’re investigating the question How Do You Solve A Problem Like Marie Antoinette? Marie Antoinette was famously executed during the French Revolution. To understand how that happened means understanding the French Revolution, which means understanding the spirit of revolution that occurred around the world in the 18th century. This is why the first part of season seven is sub-titled Age of Revolution.

Things kick off with the story of Marie-Josephe Angelique, an enslaved Black Portuguese woman who may or may not have burned down Montreal in 1734.


The Hanging of Angélique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montréal by Afua Cooper


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Vulgar History Podcast

Marie-Josèphe Angélique

May15, 2024

Ann Foster:
Hello and welcome to Vulgar History, a feminist women’s history comedy podcast. My name is Ann Foster and welcome to Season 7, Part 1! How Do You Solve A Problem Like Marie Antoinette? And I say Part 1 because over the next 15 weeks, including this week, we’re going to be doing the first part of this lengthy journée that we’re going on. So, I wanted to prepare you for this journée that is this season. You might expect us to dive right into life in Versailles or looking at the French Revolution we’re talking about the whole, “Let them eat cake,” scenario. But we’re starting out broader than that. 

In fact, the whole season, we’re going broader than that by which I mean, looking at the stars! For all my astrology girlies, the last time Pluto was in Aquarius was in the late 18th century, AKA the 1700s which was a time of major cultural change. The energy, revolution is breaking out everywhere; the American Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, the French Revolution. This was also a time and an era of the late 1700s with lots of unexpected and strange weather patterns; wildly hot summers, snow in June, incredibly cold winters, the coldest winter in 300 years at one point, there was solar eclipse. 

The more that I read about the era in which Marie Antoinette lived, the more I saw similarities to our world right now. More than ever, people all around the world are affected by things that happen in other countries and Marie Antoinette’s world was similar and the same way that if you were going to talk about one person living in today’s world it’s like, well what are the effects of so many other cultures and countries and history and politics? Everything is so connected. So, Marie Antoinette’s life ended during the French Revolution, spoiler, if you didn’t know that. The French Revolution itself was inspired by other revolutionary revolutions that were happening in other places, the Haitian Revolution, it was also connected with the American Revolution and there’s also lots of revolutions that people, smaller scale ones that maybe weren’t as successful. Some peoples’ lives themselves are revolutionary. Just the time, this energy, it really reminds me of these days and right now. 

Basically, the major, best-known revolutions, for instance, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, people anywhere being colonized by the British or the French felt the impact of these battles and these wars, not just the people who were actually on the front lines fighting but also the people who were farmers and the people living on the streets and stuff. Prices of things were affected by all these battles. Often when these revolutions we’re talking about are talked about it’s looking at who were the leaders and what were their philosophies and what were the battles? Stuff like that. If you’re familiar with this podcast or if you’re not, welcome, I’m not into battle history, I’m not into the history of the very well-known white men who are most often discussed because those stories, you can hear them anywhere. There are so many excellent podcasts that tell those stories. I am interested in looking at the stories of people who are less looked at but who were affected by these decisions other people were making, the way that I and you out there listening, are affected by the big decisions being made by today’s leaders. 

So, if you’re like “Yes, great. Ann, that’s great but why aren’t you talking about Versailles and the famous mistresses, and all the kings called Louis and the Habsburgs and everything this week, or in the next 15 weeks?” To which I say, [Hepburn meows] Hepburn is here, my cat. If you don’t know, she likes to be on the podcast too. Eventually, I’m going to get into that. We’re going to get to it. Marie Antoinette’s story is bigger than just the palaces she was living in, or who were her specific friends or her siblings, or the French royal family. We’re going to talk about that, but her story is so much bigger. To understand her story, we need to understand what was happening all around the world. 

So, when Marie Antoinette is looked at or discussed, often people talk about her style, her fashion, her lifestyle, and then also how her life was cut short, how she was executed as a victim of the French Revolution and at the same time there were lots of other people whose lives were short and ended tragically because this was a time where poor people, marginalized people, working-class people, were living through this time of great inequality – I’m talking about them then but also kind of now –where the rich people were so unbelievably rich, people like Marie Antoinette, her life was separate and different from a lot of people but she’s not the only person who ended up dying in tragic circumstances. But this was also a time where the foundations of society were being challenged, it was a time of rage and fury but also optimism and hopefulness that maybe the way this society was structured, maybe the poor people, the marginalized people, maybe there would be a way that they could get more power, get more opportunities. Also, the revolutions of this era that we’re going to be looking at over the next 15 weeks, weren’t just the major ones that succeeded. 

So, Season 7 Part 1: we’re looking at people from all walks of life, none of them royal, who lived various kinds of revolutionary lives as we begin to answer the question that we’re going to be looking at for a very long time so get ready: How do you solve a problem like Marie Antoinette? So, in these next 15 weeks, some of the episodes I’ll be hosting myself; I know that lots of people will be excited to hear that. I’ve had a lot of guest episodes and I do get feedback that people like to hear just me talking episodes and rest assured, rest assured, some of the episodes coming up were just me talking, I talk so much that it ends up being a two or even a three-part episode. Some of the other episodes I’ve got amazing experts to come on to help better explore the topics being discussed. 

So, over the next 15 weeks, Season 7 Part 1, we’re going to be looking at people in various different countries including but not limited to America, New Zealand, and Ireland. Not France! Which is where I really want to let you know this is a Marie Antoinette season but kind of in the same way Beyoncé said about her amazing album that I’ve been listening to nonstop for weeks now, Act II: Cowboy Carter, she said, and not to compare me to Beyoncé or this season to that amazing, ground-breaking album but she said, “It’s not a country album, it’s a Beyoncé album.” So, for this I’ll say, it’s not a Marie Antoinette season as much as it’s a Vulgar History season and Marie Antoinette is kind of the patron saint that connects everything all together. And so, all the stories we’re looking at initially may seem, at first glance, disconnected or unrelated to Marie Antoinette and her story, each person is connected to her in ways that we’re going to discuss in each episode. So, we’re starting off in the country where I live, Canada, and we’re going to be looking at one of the most revolutionary figures in Canadian history, Marie-Josèphe Angélique.


So, I really want to shout out my main reference, my main source for this episode which is a book called The Hanging of Angélique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montréal by Afua Cooper. This is, I don’t want to tell you the end, I mean the book is called The Hanging of Angélique, the Burning of Old Montreal, you know a few things that are going to happen in this story. So, there’s the question of: Did Angélique commit this arson or not? And Afua Cooper spent, I think 15 years she says in this book, researching this, looking at so many documents and all kinds of things and she came to the conclusion that Angélique did commit this arson that we’re going to talk about, spoiler. So, because this is my main resource and because I really trust in the work that Afua Cooper has done, that is going to be my take on this as well. There are people who think that she didn’t do it and I respect that point of view, but my main source is coming from a point of “She did do it,” so that’s where this podcast is going to come from. 

So, I’m going to be quoting from this book throughout, it’s a fantastic book. I really recommend reading it to really sit with this story, there’s so much context that she gets into in the book that I won’t have time to talk about in this podcast but it’s so good. I also got some other information because I wanted to see how this story has been written about in other points of view and also some updates, some things that happened since the book was written. So, I got information from Wikipedia, and these links are all in the show notes, from a Global News article, the and then also an article about a film about her from which I’ll talk about later.

So, to get into this story, we’ll do some place-setting. So, a few weeks ago, I had the episode about Thanadelthur, the woman from Northern Canada and we talked in there about the fur trade and things like that. We’ve also talked recently, we had the episode about Matoaka AKA Pocahontas talking about English colonization in North America. So, this is, we’re looking at French colonization in what was then and what is still now called Montreal, a city in what is modern-day Quebec in Canada. So, just to set a context for this place and time and how did this all come to happen. 

The area known today as Montreal has been inhabited by Indigenous people for something like 8,000 years, the oldest known artifact found there was about 4,000 years old. “By around 1,000 AD, nomadic Iroquoians and other peoples around the Great Lakes began to adopt an agricultural lifestyle.” So maize, AKA corn, some more settled lifestyles. We’ve seen this a lot with the places that people settle all around the world, Egypt and places, there is a river, the Saint Lawrence River. Wherever there’s a river there’s fertile land and that’s where you can grow stuff so that’s where societies tend to build up. “Fishing and hunting in nearby forests supported a full diet. By the 14th century, people had built fortified villages. The first European to reach the area,” in the history of colonization, there was first, in terms of European, I’m going to say “successful colonization,” there were Europeans who came and visited and left but the first people who kind of came and stayed, that’s like Christopher Columbus in what is now Haiti, that region, Hernán Cortés went to Mexico. So, the English and the French got in on this whole situation and they were going more up north because that’s where the Spanish weren’t. 

The first European to reach the area was in 1535. 70 years later, Samuel de Champlain arrived, and he decided to establish a fur trading post at Place Royale on the island of Montreal. And this is the history of Montreal and this region and this story, it’s fur trading. There’s not gold here like there was in Mexico or somewhere but the fur was really important. Actually, I don’t know, I’m an old person, but when I went to school, the Canadian history we learned was very fur trade-based. I don’t know if that’s still the history you’re learning but when you learn the history of Canada it’s about the fur trade because that’s what was going on. We talked in the Thanadelthur episode about the Hudson’s Bay Company and stuff, this whole, what is now Canada was really… It wasn’t like “Let’s start colonies and escape religious persecution like the Puritans in New England,” it was more like, “Let’s send over some businesspeople and some trappers and let’s do some fur and let’s do some commerce,” and that’s what’s going on. 

Anyway, Samuel de Champlain established a fur trading post but the Mohawk, based mostly in present-day New York, successfully defended their hunting grounds and kicked him out. So, it was not until 1639 that the French created a permanent settlement on the Island of Montreal, started by a tax collector called Jérôme le Royer de la Dauversière. So, once this settlement kind of was there, got going, missionaries and a few French colonists set up a mission named Ville-Marie as part of a project to create a colony dedicated to the Virgin Mary. So, Ville-Marie was repeatedly attacked by the Mohawk, French men were recruited to bolster this failing colony. So, this would become a centre for the fur trade. Basically, the French and Iroquois Wars threatened the survival of Ville-Marie until a peace treaty was signed in 1701. We’re getting closer to when our story takes place. With this Great Peace treaty, Montreal and the surrounding areas could develop without fear of being raided by the Iroquois. 

So, by 1716, the French people had grown to just over 4,000 people, French people, while the Native population was just over 1,000. Migrants came from all different parts of France, a lot of them came from rural areas, not a lot from the larger cities because I guess people in the larger cities in France were like, “We’re good, why would we leave?” And so, these migrants came from different groups, the French migrants, the largest of which were indentured servants, so people who kind of had to work a certain period of time to achieve their freedom. So, they were on a contract to… It’s not exactly the same as slavery and it’s not exactly the same as being imprisoned, but it’s just kind of like, you’re on a contract that you can’t ever leave. You’re on contract to do this work for whatever. 

Due to the importance of Montreal to what was now being known as New France (because there’s also Quebec and some other places) fortifications started to be built, they started to build a wall around the city to give invaders out. In 1721, a fire devastated the settlement and the guy in charge passed an ordinance that called for several things. One of them was like, “Please stop using wooden shingles on your rooves,” because when you have wooden shingles and a fire starts, the buildings were close together the fire would spread really quickly. There was also a rule that if a fire started, everybody had to grab a ladder and some buckets and come and help fight the fire. This is going to… Just remember that because there’s going to be another fire and did the people follow these rules? We’ll see. So, that’s what’s happening. That’s the setting of this whole saga. 

And then we get into our main character who is Marie-Josèphe Angélique who I’m going to call Angélique because in the book by Afua Cooper, that’s what she calls her. A lot of what we know about Angélique comes from her own words from later trial transcript. She explained that she had been born in Portugal, and she was probably born around 1705. And if I consult my increasingly long spreadsheet of people we’ve ever talked about on this podcast just to appreciate who was around when… So like, Thanadelthur was born probably around the same time, the late 1600s, early 1700s. Mary Toft in England who pretended to give birth to rabbits, born 1701. Empress Elisabeth of Russia born 1709. So, those are some people who are kind of around at the same time. 

Marie-Josèphe Angélique, born in Portugal. So, probably in Madeira, which was a possession of Portugal in the Atlantic, an island. So, Portugal, let’s talk about Portugal, was the first European country to engage in the chattel slave trade in Africa. Portugal really made slavery of African Black people happen, Portugal was big in this game. So, in Madeira, “enslaved labour was used primarily in domestic agriculture, which was tied to the sugar plantation system.” And one of the reasons why Portugal got all in on chattel slavery was because when the Spanish first conquistadored the Americas, the genocide of the Indigenous people there meant that the Spanish people had a need for more enslaved labour because the Indigenous people were all being killed. So, ownership of Black slaves was extremely prevalent. A historian named AC Saunders said, “Except for beggars, people, Portuguese people of all classes from labourers to kings owned Black slaves.” We’ve talked in this podcast before about the marginalizations and the way that Muslim people and Jewish people in Spain and Portugal had a lot of prejudices against them, and a lot of laws telling them what they couldn’t do. But in this case, even Muslim and Jewish people were able to own Black slaves. That was what was happening. 

So, women like Angélique, the sorts of work that they would be called upon to do in their enslavement would be midwives, wetnurses, hairdressers, laundresses, water sellers, coal vendors. And I just want to emphasize that in this era and time and place where there is a lot of enslaved people, there was resistance from them at the time. So, people fighting back, people trying to escape slavery, some enslaved men whose job was to oversee olive groves and vineyards, they would do things like burn the olive groves and vineyards. If their job was to keep sheep and cattle from trampling the planted fields for agriculture, they would release the sheep and cattle so that the fields could be trampled. These things happened so often that the government tried to ban enslaved Black people from working those jobs because so often did they resist in this way. 

Slaved women, it was not unheard of for them to talk back or insult their white owners, which we know because there were criminal records filed against Black female street vendors who did exactly this. We talked about this in… A while back I had an interview on this podcast with Nikki M. Taylor about her book Brooding Over Bloody Revenge: Enslaved Women’s Lethal Resistance, so that’s a nonfiction book and that’s actually what got me thinking about Marie-Josèphe Angélique because she mentions her briefly in this book. So, in that book, she’s talking about the resistance of enslaved Black women against the people who owned them through things like this, talking back but also by murdering their owners and things like that. 

So, this story, the story of Marie-Josèphe Angélique, is very much a part of the resistance that Black slaves would manifest against their owners. So, in this setting where slavery was happening, anytime an enslaved woman had a child, the child would inherit the status of the mother, e.g. an enslaved person. So, chances are this is how Angélique wound up in this life situation. 

So, she grew up in Portugal, probably in Madeira, and at some point as a young woman, she wound up in Flanders, which was at that point a Dutch-speaking country. So, perhaps her Portuguese owner sold her to somebody else or perhaps the Portuguese owner moved to Flanders but when she got there, she was sold to Nichus Block, a Flemish man. So, the connection between Portugal and Flanders all centres on a city… New podcast listeners might not know but I have feelings about Antwerp. Antwerp is a city that I once visited as a child and as my name is Ann, my family lovingly yet annoyingly made numerous jokes about Antwerp and I, Ann was a twerp and I hold that against the city of Antwerp and will for the rest of my life. Whenever Antwerp comes up in a story, I’m just like, “Augh! Antwerp again.” But it comes up a lot because it was this hub of trade. So, there was a lot of warehouses I guess. So, Portuguese trade would go through Antwerp to get to the other places where it was going. Flemish merchants distributed the Portuguese colonial products, the stuff that the Portuguese were getting from their colonies, the Flemish merchants would distribute those to the rest of Europe. 

So, Angélique was there in Flanders for a while and then Nichus Block her owner, wound up in New England, probably because of this same trade economy for merchant reasons. We don’t know how long she worked with him or where they lived but we do know when she was around 20 years old, he sold her to a man whose name was François Poulin de Francheville. So, what we know about Angélique, and we do know quite a bit, I mean, the records are there, Afua Cooper really pulled them together to make a narrative, but we know from later court transcripts of her explaining her thoughts and her feelings, she missed Portugal. Portugal was where she had been happiest, that was what she considered her home. Everything she experienced in the New World, she associated with misery and sorrow. Her goal and dream was to escape, to take a ship back to Portugal and to be there again. 

Which brings us to a brief explanation of the concept of slavery in Canada. So, this is also something that I’m you know, relearning, reteaching myself because Canada has done a… It’s not a concerted PR job necessarily but Canada has the reputation of being a nice place full of nice people and I think the fact that during the mid-19th century, escaped Black slaves were brought north to Canada for freedom. We talked about this a bit in the episode where we talked about Mary Ann Shadd Cary because slavery was abolished in Canada before it was abolished in the US. So, when I as a younger person heard about slavery in relation to Canada it was just in relation to, “Oh, we didn’t have that here, this is where enslaved people could go to be free,” comma, incorrect. Well, it is correct because slavery ended in Canada before it did in the US that people did come here in the 18th century, but Canada, like New France, it was founded by English and French people where slavery was done and so people came over her and they owned enslaved people. Slavery was an institutionalized practice in Canada for over 200 years. 

Unlike the US where the economy was based on enslavement like with the plantation model in the South and stuff, Canada was a society with slaves. Again, if you listen to that episode about Nikki M. Taylor about her book, she’s talking also about in the Northern US and what slavery was like there, which is similar to what it was like in New France as well, which is more like people working around the house, people watching the children, people tending the fields. So, it’s not this huge plantation with hundreds or thousands of enslaved people. Slavery just looked different here but there was still slavery going on and it was all terrible. I’m not going to say one kind of slavery is better or worse than the other, it’s all terrible. I will say that just looking at the story of Angélique, you see that one of the special challenges, I guess, of being in the situation she was in is that you’re living in the same house as your owners. So, you’re living under their roof, they can watch you every minute of every day, micromanaging what you’re doing, and you’re also vulnerable to things like sexual assault by your owners. That’s the context of what this life was like for her. 

And so, again, similar to what happened with the Spanish colonies, the ongoing genocide against Indigenous people, led the white colonists to look elsewhere for people to enslave. Although there were enslaved Indigenous people as well and there are some of them who are going to come up with this story. So, in order to develop the French colonies as quickly as the French wanted to, they needed a labour force, they needed larger people to build and stuff and ideally, people they wouldn’t have to pay, e.g., enslaved people. So, they acquired, the colonists of New France acquired enslaved African workers in various ways and brought them there. 

At this time, there’s a big connection between this story and France because it’s very connected; French law was the same as what the laws were in New France. In France, there was a legal code called the Code noir which regulated slavery in the West Indies. So, this was never technically made law in Canada, but the slave owners of New France applied Code Noir as needed and Code Noir dictated that enslaved people were declared moveable so they were treated as possessions, “They could be traded and moved like livestock, furniture, and trade goods.” The Code noir also mandated that enslaved people be baptized and instructed in the Catholic faith. At the point that the Code Noir came out the king in France was Louis XIV, who gave his full consent to Black slavery in Canada, not that they needed his permission because they’d already been doing this but he’s like, “God bless, do this. Sure.” 

So, there were ways that enslaved people could be freed. Basically, their owners could declare through the formal process of manumission, they could be freed by their owners and sometimes owners would do this if the owner died, they’re like, “When I die, my enslaved people or person can be freed.” Some people did that sometimes. So, this was a thing that the enslaved people, if they saw that happening for other people, then that could be maybe a goal for themselves as well.

In Montreal, there was an increasing amount of enslaved Black people and just by virtue of the fact that it was kind of a smallish place, they’d be walking around doing errands, running into each other. So, they would talk and chat and learn about what other people were up to. The amount of notices in newspapers which is a thing Afua Cooper looks at a lot in her book is like, newspaper notices about, “This escaped enslaved person,” it indicated that this was a common occurrence, people were escaping regularly, or trying to escape. So, if there’s kind of, if you’re talking to the other enslaved people, you would hear about their plots and how did they do it and what were their plans and maybe that would give you ideas of plans for yourself. 

So, I’m going to quote from Afua Cooper’s book: 

When Angélique arrived in Montreal, it was a place where white subordinated Black, men had power over women, and those of high rank wielded authority over the less fortunate. Angélique was disadvantaged on all three counts of race, gender, and social status. She chafed under such oppression and had little respect for this world in which she found herself. Alienated from it, she would attempt to destroy it.

So, this was all a lot of set up and now we’re getting to Angélique literally burning it all down. So, her new owners, the Francheville couple. François is the husband, the wife is called Thérèse, and they were bourgeois, what we would call today, bougie. So, they weren’t aristocrats, they weren’t lower classes, in fact, they were merchants, which was an emerging, it’s this fur trade city. So, François was one of Montreal’s leading merchants and Thérèse was the daughter of another important merchant so they’re just like merchant royalty power couple. So, François, his business was in the fur trade, and he also owned a farm in the suburbs outside of Montreal, where he grew some crops that he sold. He also had a vast estate in nearby Trois-Rivières. 

They lived in a two-storey stone house on Rue Saint Paul which is the merchant quarter of the town. So, this is the area where people like them who are merchants, their business was there and then they lived, maybe above. People lived and worked all in the same place. He was like third generation New France, his grandfather had immigrated from France and worked in the fur trade, François’s father did that and then he inherited this as well and this is probably part of why he was so successful, the family had been in the fur trade for quite a while. So, less than a year after they married, they had a daughter named Marie-Angélique. The daughter died after a few months and no more children were born to them after that. At the time that Angélique joined their household, and she was in her twenties at this point, she was the only enslaved Black member of the household. There were paid domestic workers and there were two Indigenous enslaved people. 

So, I guess because of the Code Noir, she was baptized at this time, when they owned her as Marie-Josèphe Angélique. This is when she got the name by which we know her. This was a name Afua Cooper describes as “A popular name given to enslaved women.” So, this was kind of the name you gave. She was working for them for five years before she was baptized, which was interesting. Also interesting, she was around two months pregnant at the time of the baptism. We know this because she had a full-term baby seven months later. So, why did they wait to baptize her until then? It must be related to her pregnancy. So, her son was named Eustache and she named as the father of the child, Jacques César who was an enslaved Black man. Who knows what the context was of that. Were they having a consensual sexual relationship with each other or did François force them together because any children that she gave birth to would become enslaved to him and this was his way of trying to get some more enslaved people for himself. Anyway, Eustache lived for just one month before he died. One year later, [Hepburn meows] she gave birth again to twins named Louis and Marie-Françoise. Louis lived for two days, and Marie-Françoise lived for five months. This time, the father is listed as “Unknown” was it Jacques César again? Potentially was the father François de Francheville, her owner? I mean, we don’t know who the father was of these twins but they both died as well. 

We do know that by 1733, the relationship between Angélique and Jacques César had ended because there was a new man on the scene and she was now in a consensual romantic relationship with, Claude Thibault who was an indentured servant. So, Claude was white, he was from France, he was a former soldier who was hired by François, indentured, the contract thing, for three years. He had to work for him for three years. He was from France near the Swiss border and he and Angélique became lovers. So, she might have already known him, like, before he was hired to work in the same house as her because he was a soldier there. And their house, where she lived with the Franchevilles, was right across the street from the Hôtel-Dieu, which was a hospital run by nuns, and she is known to have gone there to visit patients to, I don’t know, just to cheer them up or whatever. So, she might have met him when he was a patient there. Also, she had free time. We know that she walked around, she would sometimes hang out, and talk with the soldiers so she might have known him as a soldier. 

Anyway, Thibault was kind of the ideal partner for her because he also gave no fucks. He was not a loyal or hardworking worker for Francheville, he was really mad about being in this contract, he spent most of his time scheming how to break the contract and head back to France. And so, he and Angélique– Obviously, she just wanted to get back to Portugal, so they just started plotting a way to escape together. 

So, as a former soldier, he knew about the terrain around the town so he would know, “This is a route we could take. This is what it would look like.” And because he was a white man and she was a Black woman, if they were seen outside of town together, he could pretend, “She’s enslaved to me.” It would be more suspicious for her to escape by herself because a Black woman wasn’t ever really travelling by herself but with him, they would kinda… maybe they could get away with it. So, they’re just scheming and in the midst of all this, François, the owner, died during a smallpox epidemic. Because he and Thérèse had no surviving children, Thérèse was his heir, so she inherited the business, the home, everything. And because her father had been a merchant as well, she knew about merchant biz so, she took over all that sort of stuff. 

A few weeks after he died, Angélique went to Thérèse to ask for permission to leave Montreal and to be manumitted, to leave slavery. And the way she asked this so quickly perhaps implies that François had promised her this and she was following up on it. Also at the same time, Claude Thibault was coming to the end of his three-year contract working for the Franchevilles and he was presumably planning to go back to France so it makes sense that she would ask to leave so they could head back to Europe together. Thérèse denied this request. Thérèse is an asshole, just so you know. Previously, even when her husband had been alive, she used to regularly whip Angélique, she was terrible to her and it seems like after François died, Thérèse became even more aggressive toward her, which Afua Cooper suggests is maybe to do with maybe François had been regularly assaulting Angélique and maybe Thérèse was jealous about it now that François was dead, she could really act on those feelings. But Angélique, once she was refused to be freed, used her words as a weapon because that’s what she had. 

Afua Cooper describes this as Angélique “Going on a small reign of terror in the household.” She talked back to Thérèse, she threatened to kill her by setting her on fire, she argued with the other servants in the household, also threatening to burn them. In fact, Angélique made life so unbearable for one of the paid servants, a woman named Marie-Louise Poirier that Marie-Louise quit her job, [chuckles] she just couldn’t deal with it anymore. An example of the stuff that got between them and made them argue was stuff like Angélique was, allegedly, drinking brandy that belonged to Thérèse and going out after dark when she wasn’t supposed to. Marie-Louise tried to stop her and Angélique said, “If Angélique ever went up in Portugal and there were any French people there, Angélique would burn them all like dogs. They weren’t worth anything.” So, she hated New France, she hated France, she hated the French, and most of anything, she hated Thérèse, her owner. 

So, at this point, Marie-Louise was like, “I’m leaving this toxic work environment, goodbye.” And Thérèse was like, “Actually, I’ll tell you a secret which is that I’m actually planning to sell Angélique in the spring.” At this point, it was late December at which point she’s like, “Marie-Louise, if you could hold on until the spring, I’ll hire you back once Angélique is gone.” The reason why she couldn’t sell Angélique right away was because the river, the Canadian winter. It was December, everything was frozen, boats couldn’t come or go. There was no way for her to get rid of Angélique until the river melted. Meanwhile, Claude Thibault was also disobedient and insolent. 

Thérèse just couldn’t control either of them, much as she seemingly tried to. So, in fact, Thérèse made arrangements to sell Angélique to a guy in Quebec, the sale price was 600 pounds of gunpowder and Angélique found out about this from one of the other servants or enslaved people or just, it’s a small town, they’re all living in a house together, she found out and tensions escalated even more between her and everybody else to the point where Thérèse was afraid of living under the same roof as Angélique and Claude, she was afraid they were going to murder her. I think correct fear, they are going to. So, just to have somebody else in the house, she had her young niece, Marguerite, come to live with her, who was, like, a 5-year-old girl. So, that was December. 

Now we’re in early February, Thérèse removed Angélique and Claude from the house just because she was so afraid of having them there. Her specific fear was that Angélique was going to burn down the house with her in it. So, Angélique and Claude were sent to live with Thérèse’s brother-in-law who had been given instructions to keep Claude employed and to keep Angélique there until the ice on the river melted at which time she’ll be put on a boat to her new owner in Quebec. Angélique told a woman that if Thérèse sold her, she would make Thérèse burn, “I would make her repent. I would make her burn.” The woman was like, “Uhh, Angélique, you’ll be hanged if you do that.“ And Angélique laughed and said “That would not bother her in the least.”

So, at the new house with the brother-in-law, Angélique warned Claude not to agree to be hired for a job because if he did, then he would be indentured again, and he wouldn’t be able to escape with her. Even the servants there knew about the plan, that they were just waiting for the ice to melt to be able to send Angélique to Quebec and she’s just like, “Fuck this.” So, within 12 hours of arriving at the brother-in-law’s house, Angélique’s bed, clothes, and blanket were found to be on fire. Other people in the house put out the fire and Angélique begged one of the other servants, “Don’t tell the owner about this. It’s cool, don’t let him know about me, the person constantly setting things on fire, don’t tell him that I clearly set this fire.” So, they didn’t get in trouble for this because the fire was put out pretty quickly and then one night later, Angélique and Claude took off. They stole three deer skins on their way and before they left, Claude apparently told another servant he was going to Quebec and Angélique was going to Europe. 

This was not a spontaneous decision. They had nearly fled, even before, back when they were at Thérèse’s house, not the brother-in-law’s house, but Claude wanted to wait for Thérèse to return from a trip because she owed him some wages and he wanted that money. But during the time they were waiting to escape, he had hid some loaves of bread in a barn across the river in anticipation of them needing food for when they left. So, this is kind of the opposite, Thérèse was waiting for the river to melt so she could send Angélique away, but Angélique and Claude were waiting for the river to freeze enough that they could escape by walking on the frozen river. Indeed, when they left the brother-in-law’s house, the Saint Lawrence River was frozen solid so they just walked across the river and made their way to a place called Chambly and from there, they hoped to reach a port, probably in New York City, this was a route that was popular with fur traders. And then from New York City, Angélique would hope to catch passage back to Portugal. Perhaps in New England, she had some contacts from her time living there earlier that maybe would help her with this, would have been her plan. 

This journée from Montreal to Chambly was about 60 miles in Canadian winter, in the 18th century. So, a challenging route to take but really speaks to how desperate she was and how much she wanted to escape. As soon as they took off, meanwhile, in Montreal, a manhunt was on for their capture, and they were caught after two weeks. They were still in Chambly. They hadn’t been able to leave there because everything was too frozen, they couldn’t get on from there. And they were caught partially because their footprints in the snow could be followed.

Claude was put in prison. Intriguingly, Angélique was returned to Thérèse, and she wasn’t whipped or punished, the reason was because Thérèse was still holding her until the river melted and Angélique could be sold to the guy in Quebec. So, upon her return, a labourer who was in the house, also employed by Thérèse was like, “Angélique, you’re really bad, you shouldn’t have run away. If you’re not careful, Thérèse is going to sell you.” And Angélique allegedly replied, “The devil of whores, if she sells me, she will repent.” And he asked, “What would you do?” And Angélique allegedly said, “We’re not saying what we will trouble to do, the snow will clear away, the earth will be uncovered, and the tracks will no longer be visible.” He described her as talking with rage and fury and what she seems to be implying here, or what he was implying that she was implying was basically, as soon as she was caught, she was already planning to escape again but this time she knew to wait until there was less snow. 

Another woman who she spoke to asked if Angélique had been beaten for running away and Angélique said, “Nope, Thérèse is not bad at all. I will pay her back well.” So, Claude was in prison because of the escape attempt, Angélique visited him regularly, bringing him food and presumably scheming their next escape attempt. Thérèse found out she was doing this and told her to stop. I mean, to no one’s surprise – I’m not surprised and you’re not surprised – Angélique kept visiting him, kept bringing him meals, and they kept making a scheme. 

So, Claude was released on April 8th after five weeks in prison and right away the plan he and Angélique had clearly been figuring out during their visits was set into action. So, the day he was released, Claude went to Thérèse to collect his remaining wages and his belongings and she… We know what we know about her but also understandably, yelled at him. She was like, “Never come back to this house!” and she revealed to him at this point that Angélique had been sold to a man who would likely then sell her to a slave plantation in the West Indies. So, this is kind of confirming the sale of Angélique but also, I mean, so she said to never come back to this house again but obviously he did because no one listens to Thérèse and Claude and Angélique give no fucks. So, he visited her, Angélique, repeatedly over the next two days when Thérèse wasn’t at home and meanwhile, the third character in this story, the river, the ice was thawing, boats could soon leave for Quebec.

As a former soldier, Claude knew the routes in and out of Montreal and so for this escape attempt, he planned they would leave the same way again, via Chambly, which would take them near a fort where he’d previously served so he was familiar with the terrain and maybe he had some friends there or something. 

And this brings us to Saturday, April 10, 1734, the day of the fire. So, before heading out for noon mass, and the church, the Notre-Dame cathedral, which I believe is still in Montreal, was just a block away from where they lived in the merchant quarter. So, their house, the Franchevilles, across the street is the hospital, one block away, this church. Thérèse went to the church all the time. So, she was going to noon mass and before heading out she had yet another yelling argument with Angélique. Angélique threatened to burn down the house with her in it, she also allegedly insulted French people in general, [laughs] which she did often. Thérèse went for mass and the people left in the house were Angélique, Thérèse’s niece Marguerite, this little 5-year-old girl, and two little girl friends of Marguerite, Charlotte and Amable. After Thérèse left, Claude came by, spoke to Angélique in the kitchen and then left again. 

After the mass ended, Thérèse returned home. Angélique went on an errand to a nearby house, stopping to chat with a woman named Marie-Manon who was that house’s enslaved Indigenous woman. The two women watched Thérèse who was across the street or just over the way, who was laughing with a friend and Angélique allegedly said, “Thérèse is laughing now but soon she will not be laughing as she will not be sleeping in her house tonight.” Angélique said so many incriminating things. A lot of this comes up later, we’re getting to the trial where there were so many witnesses and they all… There’s a lot of overlap in what they said Angélique said. Even if they were exaggerating what they said she said, it’s like, she clearly said a lot of anti-French things and spoke often about wanting to burn things down. Angélique also, in this afternoon there was a woman walking down the street who was a domestic worker, and she was like, “Hey Angélique, are you going for a walk? Are you still living with Thérèse? I thought you were living with the brother-in-law now.” And Angélique replied, “I don’t have time to go for a walk,” and she said, “I am still living with Thérèse, but I won’t be for long.” 

Evening fell. Thérèse went to Notre-Dame church again for evening prayers and then out of the darkest night, a voice was heard to yell, “Fire! Fire!” So, Marguerite Cesar, who lived across the street from the Franchevilles next to the hospital, went to her window, she’s like, “Who is yelling, ‘Fire! Fire!?’ She saw Angélique dash from the Francheville house yelling “Fire! Fire!” The three little girls were also in the street screaming “Fire!” Angélique ran to her next-door neighbour yelling, “Fire!” She and the guy came back to the Francheville home, they got buckets of water and they headed in the direction– So, it’s a two-storey house, upstairs there’s like a storage attic and there’s also Angélique’s room, kind of sharing a space and that seemed to be where the fire was coming from. So, he was like, “The fire is coming from under the ceiling in this attic area, I need to get a ladder to reach it. Angélique, can you get a ladder?” And she’s like, “Nope, this house doesn’t have a ladder actually,” despite the fact that from the previous fire, there had been a rule that every household had to have buckets and ladders. 

Anyway, the fire was spreading really rapidly from the Francheville’s house to this guy’s house so he just peaced out to try and go save his own house because remember the thing about, with the previous fire, there was a rule like, don’t have wooden houses, don’t have wooden shingles? No one listened to that. They all still had wooden shingles and the houses were really close to each other, so the fire started spreading quite quickly. 

So, the troops, because there’s military there, were dispatched to come and fight the fire. The entire town had been alerted, so “the flames were spreading from this house to other houses along Rue Saint Paul.” The fire spread across the street. It was also really windy, so the fire was spreading because of the wood shingles but also just the wind, it’s probably how it got across the street, so the hospital caught on fire, the convent attached to the hospital caught on fire, the convent attached to the hospital caught on fire, but the nuns were able to get out to safety. They had an outdoor garden and that’s where refugees started to gather in this outdoor garden, because it was outdoors it wasn’t on fire because there wasn’t a roof. So, the fire continued to spread down Rue Saint Paul onto the side streets over to the houses on Rue Notre-Dame, just spreading everywhere. 

So, remember there was that rule that if there was a fire, all able-bodied people had to come with their ladders and buckets and come to fight the fire. So, along with the troops who were fighting the fire, many of the able-bodied citizens came, as was required by law to try and fight the fire but the fire was spreading so rapidly they were like, “Changed my mind,” and then many abandoned their efforts to go to their own home to try and save their own personal possessions instead. 

So, about half the houses in this area were stone and the other half were wood, and the wooden houses were burning obviously and then also, it’s like April. So, you’re listening to this, it’s May but it was just April and it’s the sort of climate, I think it still is in Montreal and in many parts of Canada, where the winter takes a long time to melt and there’s a long period where it’s just kind of slush and mud and then if it’s cold overnight then the slush freezes. So, just the mud and the slush and the fact that this was a colonial, 18th-century town, there’s not, like, pavement, I don’t think. So, the soldiers weren’t able to move around very quickly to fight the fire just because the ground was so slushy. 

“Less than three hours from the start of the fire, 46 buildings including the hospital were ruined,” burned down. “Almost the entire merchant sector was destroyed,” and as I mentioned before, the merchants would live and work in the same building. So, it’s not just their own personal stuff was burned but all their goods, their furs and stuff that they had to sell, so their livelihood was also destroyed. No one died because of this fire though, and some of that credit is due to everybody being on the ball and fleeing quickly but also the troops, even while the able-bodied people stopped fighting the fire, the troops kept going so they helped, I guess, put out the fire as quickly as possible. 

One former soldier who didn’t help fight the fire, Claude Thibault, who was seen sitting in the outdoor garden of the convent with the other refugees and the nuns had brought everyone food and blankets and were taking care of them and Claude was there just munching away eating his food. And a guy came and was like, “Claude, why aren’t you helping fight the fire? You’re an able-bodied person/former soldier.” And Claude was like, “I’ve had a long day and I’m tired and hungry,” and he just ate his food and that’s the last we’re going to have Claude in this story because he fled Montreal and was never seen again. Although… JK, one more thing that Claude did. So, after the fire, maybe before he was eating his food, Angélique and Claude were seen together helping to move some of Thérèse’s property to the open garden at the hospital. As they were doing this, Thérèse confronted Angélique saying, “Bitch, you set the fire,” and Angélique said, “Madame, however nasty I might be, I’m not wretched enough to commit an act of that sort.” So, she and Claude were seen together moving the belongings and then Claude ate his meal and was like, “I’m too tired to fight the fire,” and then he peaced out. That’s the end of Claude. 

So, lots of people in the courtyard. 46 homes were destroyed, there’s just a lot of people, it’s a big courtyard and everyone is gossiping like, “What do you think happened? This was clearly arson, this was not an accident. Someone set this fire, who do you think set this fire?” And literally everyone was like, “Perhaps Angélique? The woman whose been constantly threatening to set this house on fire.” Angélique was there among them, and she overheard that this was being said and she said, “I would not be so stupid as to do that.” 

And then, this is a bananas turn that I was like, ”What?” Suddenly a drummer came down the street banging his drum. Behind him, the town crier. Who did the town crier work for? Not sure. But the town crier is just a guy with an opinion at this point and he just was like, “Ho-ye! Ho-ye! Town crier here. I’m here to announce… You want to know who set the fire? It was that bitch Angélique.” He just announced that but it’s not like the police had investigated. No one had charged her, the town crier just felt like yelling that at everybody and everyone was like, “Yeah, we know. We assumed that as well.” And Angélique said she would, “Not be such a fool as to set fire to her own house,” and she just stayed in the courtyard with everyone else sharing food and drink. She found a spot for herself, the nuns wrapped her in a green blanket, and she went to sleep. 

And this is the part where, like, Claude left, why didn’t she? Afua Cooper theorizes that at the point where she would have escaped was around the time the town crier came by to be like, “Angélique did this.” So, people sort of had an eye on her, they would have noticed if she left. But also, the city, Montreal, walls, heavily guarded, she couldn’t just leave. Although the wall, not quite finished, so Claude, this is probably how he escaped, he knew there were some gaps in the wall that he got out of. If she had planned to burn down the house and then escape, that was foiled by the fact that they clocked it as her being responsible immediately, so she just went to sleep in this courtyard. 

So, before dawn even broke, the police started investigating and everyone they spoke to was like, “We’re pretty sure Angélique set this fire.” So, they went and found her, she was still in the courtyard wrapped in her blanket. They suspected that she and Claude had done it together but because he was nowhere to be found and they had to blame somebody, they turned on her. She was taken into custody, stayed in jail for one day, and then one day later, two days after the fire, April 12th, criminal proceedings against her began. The speed of this is not similar to contemporary criminal justice system. But an investigation/trial began because even though everyone said she had done it, she couldn’t be condemned without a trial. The way that the court system worked in France, which is what they’re implementing in New France as well, it was the thing where it’s the presumption of guilt, so it’s up to you to prove that you’re innocent. So, she kind of had no chance. 

This is where I’ll say that after reading Afua Cooper’s book, I am of the camp that I believe that she set the fire. When you see how many people say, “Oh, she talked about wanting to burn the house constantly. I saw her do all these suspicious things, she probably burned down the house.” It is possible somebody else set the fire. I will say, the fire started next to her bedroom, and she was seen going up there at the time the fire was set. So, there is obviously, it’s like what we talked about earlier; she’s a Black, enslaved woman, triple marginalization, she’s the lowest rung in this society so of course that would be a person who could maybe be a scapegoat, but everybody said her. People weren’t suspecting other enslaved Black women. Everyone said her so at least, she was so well known as a person… So, was she a scapegoat for somebody else’s thing that they did? Possibly. But to me, unlikely. 

At this point Louis XIV, the king, had forbidden lawyers from practicing in New France, don’t know why. So, this meant that Angélique had to defend herself in this court system in which there was a presumption of guilt. So, I mean, good luck but this seems pretty impossible for her. She didn’t give up though. So, she was transported to the courthouse, and she was being charged with arson, which was considered a capital crime meaning it was punishable by death. If death was not recommended, the other options would be things like severe physical punishment, long-term imprisonment or banishment. But also bear in mind that the people who were investigating this were among the people who had lost all their houses and possessions, so they were not objective and they’re also kind of out for vengeance against the person who they saw as having set fire to literally the entire city. 

So, the trial guidelines I guess only required the testimony of two witnesses. By the time this ended, they brought in 24 different people, including the 5-year-old girls and everybody had all these examples of extremely suspicious things Angélique had done or said, often right before the fire. Before she started yelling “Fire! Fire! Fire!” she was seen going up to the attic then coming downstairs and she’s kind of walking up and down the street kind of looking at the house as though she was waiting for it to actually catch on fire so she could yell “Fire! Fire! Fire!” There was a thing where the little girls who were there, she prevented them from yelling “Fire!” earlier because she wanted it to spread, perhaps? Potentially. Everything she did was incredibly suspicious and up to the fact that she’d been constantly telling people, “I’m going to burn that bitch. I’m going to burn my house.” She had a real fire compulsion and maybe she was thinking back to, in Portugal, how the enslaved Black men had burned down the vineyards and stuff. She was just like, “That’s what I’m going to do too.” Anyway, she had a real fire fixation. 

So, she was questioned numerous times and she always maintained her innocence. One of the questions they asked her was, “What did you know about being sold?” And she said, “I had heard that they were going to send me to the West Indies for what I had done by escaping with Claude for New England. Thérèse said I was too mischievous, and she did not want to deal with me anymore and that I was always quarrelling with her servant, that I was always creating a commotion in the house.” When asked if she had threatened Thérèse, Angélique said, “I never threatened her with any such thing. Whenever my mistress mistreated me, which was not very often, I would become angry and leave the house, but I never said anything close to what you are asking me.” And they were giving examples of like, “Did you say she was a dog that you wanted to burn? That you were going to destroy her life?” She’s like, “No I did not.” 

So anyway, she was sent back to prison, more testimonies were sought by more witnesses so people like brother-in-law, the enslaved people and servants. After they talked to 19 witnesses of the eventual 24, Angélique was brought in again. This is like, weeks are passing. Angélique was brought in again for more questioning and they were like, “Talk to us about the scenario where the bed and the blanket were burning in brother-in-law’s house.” And she said, ”My blanket caught fire because it touched the furnace. A servant awakened me. Claude’s blanket also caught on fire because he was sleeping close to the fireplace. That’s all.” As she questioned over and over again, some details of her story changed, which I think anyone’s would, whether you were lying or not. If you were being questioned almost daily over a series of several weeks and you’re being fed bread and water and living in this tiny prison cell and you know you’re going to be executed at the end of this it’s like, yeah. So, the lawyers were sometimes like, “Ha-ha! Before you said this and now you said this!” And she’s just like, “Okay. But I’m confused.” 

So, after all the 24 witnesses had been talked to, the next part of the trial, and I like this part and think, bring this back to trials now, is where she gets to face-to-face tell off all the witnesses because again, she doesn’t have a lawyer because you’re not allowed to have lawyers in France or in New France. So, she just got to have all the witnesses in front of her and then she could just kind of like, tell them off. The vibe to me is like a Bravo housewives reunion sort of opportunity. 

So, the Indigenous enslaved woman, Marie-Manon, the one who had related to the court the story about how Angélique had said, “She’s laughing now but she won’t be laughing soon when I burn her house down.” Marie-Manon was like, “Yeah, that’s what you said to me Angélique.” Angélique said to Marie-Manon, “You are a miserable liar and a vile person.” She got to face off with former servant Marie-Louise, the one who had quit after Angélique kept trying to sneak out after dark, the one who had in her testimony, Marie-Louise was the one who had brought up that Angélique had said she wanted “All Frenchman burned like dogs.” Angélique said, “I never said that, but I did say that the French weren’t worth anything. Yes, I did say that,” she says in a court of French people deciding her life. She just gave no fucks, Angélique. She just… Make this a movie, you know? 

Anyway, she continued to deny her guilt so the judge kept calling more and more witnesses and requestioning the same ones to try and prove her guilt, because without a guilty confession, although there was a presumption of guilt, he just felt like he couldn’t find her guilty unless there were even more witnesses. Afua Cooper in her book wrote, “There is no doubt that Angélique was a determined and feisty woman, even manipulative.” Part of why they kept questioning her is because the judge wanted her to implicate Claude and so, a possible defence she could have had was, “Oh, Claude was behind it and he made me do everything,” but she never threw him under the bus. In fact, the judge wanted to demonstrate that actually she was manipulating Claude, she had been the mastermind behind everything because he wasn’t there, so they had to make it seem like she was behind everything. Then in another sort of make this a TV show, Thérèse was brought into jail to confront Angélique, I guess to try and get her to confess. Obviously, that didn’t work. 

Months passed, the fire was April 10th, the trial started April 12th, it’s now June 4th and finally, the judge is ready to give a sentence. So, the trial had gone on for nearly two months. Angélique was found guilty, her sentence was “to be tortured until she gave up the name of her accomplice,” Claude, “then to have her hand cut off, and then be thrown alive into a fire.” Just a reminder that the people offering this sentence had basically all lost their homes, furniture, livelihoods in the fire she had set so again, they’re not objective here. But this is sort of a standard sentence for a capital punishment in France or New France and the detail about being thrown alive into a fire, this was an especially Catholic thing because it’s like if you burned alive, then it’s something about, you can’t get into heaven so they’re also sentencing her to go to Hell forever. 

Usually in France and New France, execution happened the same day the sentence was delivered but that did not happen here because surprise twist. The king’s prosecutor announced his intention to appeal the case, which is weird because he was the prosecutor, and he was the one who had been mounting the case against her and now he wanted to appeal the sentence? Anyway. So, now she had to go to Quebec to present her appeal because that’s where that happened. So, it took about a week for Angélique and entourage, everyone, to get to Quebec. It was June, the river was unfrozen, people were able to travel again. 

So, on June 12th she was brought to the highest court of the land, led by the most powerful men in the colony who, you know, just to note this, all owned Black enslaved people, so they were very powerful, and they were pro-slavery, anti-her. So, they decided a new punishment. Instead of hand cut off, thrown in a fire, she would still be tortured to name her accomplice then she’d have to wear this big white baggy shirt with nothing inside of it, “have a rope put around her neck, and then holding a glowing torch,” like a literal torch, electricity not a thing, “holding a glowing torch weighing not more than two pounds, she would be brought to the greatest church in Montreal where she would have to confess and atone for her sins then be led to a place in public,” where special gallows had been put up and then she would be hanged. “After was hanged, her body would be set on fire and her ashes thrown to the wind,” which is a lengthy sentence to say but I guess less severe. So, there’s not the hand cut off, there’s not the burning alive, so I guess she would still get to heaven potentially? And they’re like, “Great, that’s your new sentence.” 

So, then she’s sent back to Montreal, again, this time in a canoe with various other people going down the river. One of the other people in the canoe with her was a guy named Mathieu Leveillé who I need to tell you about because he was also an enslaved person. 

So, Mathieu Leveillé was the torturer/executioner of New France. One year prior, the governor of New France was like, “I can’t get anyone to stay in this job of torturer/executioner. Nobody wants this job, this sucks.” So, he obtained, or I guess purchased, from the Caribbean island of Martinique, an enslaved Black man/convicted murderer, Mathieu Leveillé and they were like, “Mathieu, here’s the deal. You can either be executed or you can take the job of executioner in New France,” and he’s like, “I choose executioner.” So, he never really adapted to life in Canada. I don’t know Mathieu, he was from the Caribbean, I don’t know if he’d been born there or was from Africa but either way, he never adapted to the cold temperatures and things in Canada and in fact, two years after all of this, he died of pneumonia. He was only in Quebec for three years and did his job and this is probably the best-known part of his job he did because he was the torturer/executioner of Angélique. 

So, the date of her execution was set for June 21st and that morning, she was subjected to… Remember part of her sentence was that she would be tortured until she gives up her accomplice. So, that happened. Mathieu was brought in to torture her. It was a legs-based torture that I won’t get into, but it meant that she couldn’t walk afterwards. Once again, they asked her to confess. At first, she was like, “No one helped me, I did not set the fire.” But then the torture commenced, and she gave in and said, “Yes, I did set the fire,” but she didn’t name anyone as an accomplice. They kept torturing her and she wouldn’t give up anyone else’s names which is like, either she’s protecting Claude or Claude really didn’t do it, or she doesn’t know that they want her to say Claude, but she never said anyone’s name. or she’s like “Fuck you, you want me to say an accomplice, I will die before I do that,” and she does. She doesn’t die now. Anyway, she didn’t give up Claude as an accomplice. 

Then she was given last rights by a priest and was put in the white shirt which was a big, baggy shirt that hung down to her knees and because she wasn’t able to walk because her legs had been wrecked in the torture she was put in a garbage cart type thing and then they gave her this torch to hold and they headed to Notre-Dame Cathedral to confess and ask, to beg God for forgiveness, which she did. And then they took her in her cart with her torch down to where the special gallows had been put. 

So, the justices in Quebec really wanted this to be public, they wanted everyone to be able to see this happen because people were out for blood. She had burned down the city. A lot of people were really mad at her, and they wanted to watch her suffer. So, the gallows had been set up actually just on the street outside of where Thérèse’s house had once stood, so the setting of the fire. It was on a Monday, which was a day when people did not work; I’m not sure what that is about but let’s bring that back. So, just everyone was either lined up on the street watching her and the cart go to the church and then to the gallows or they’re at the gallows watching it. Mathieu oversaw the hanging, so she was hanged. This is when she dies. She was 29 years old. 

Her body, after she was hanged, the corpse stayed hanging for two hours so that people could come and see it and then as per the instructions, she was cut down and thrown in a pyre and her ashes were thrown to the wind. So, that’s sort of Vulgar History thing where we talk about what are people’s tombs. How are they remembered? Nothing. Her ashes were just thrown to the wind because this was not a person who the city of Montreal wanted to commemorate at that time.

So, here is just to sort of sum up everything and my understanding that Angélique did do this arson. Here’s what Afua Cooper writes towards the end of her book: 

Angélique had good reason to set the fire and her motive was revenge. Angélique was an abused slave who was bent on fighting back. She detested the French in general, her mistress in particular, and wished them all dead. She was a slave, but she had no respect for and fear of her mistress in particular and white society in general. Mentally, she was beyond the control of those who exercised authority over her. She had decided she was going to take fate into her own hands by burning down her house of bondage. 

The Black slave woman from Portugal, whose body was an item of commerce in the hands of whites passed from master to master, from port to port, she whose name changed so many times over the course of her short life, whose body was whipped by Madame Francheville and perhaps used by Sir Francheville, would have her revenge. She would roast, burn, and grill them and so to do to them what they had been doing to her all her days, with determination, she blew hard on the coals in the crossbeams, and they burst into flames. 

So, in terms of what happens next, I will just note that the 1734 fire did lead to new and more effective fire prevention regulations in Montreal and maybe everybody would start paying attention to the regulations they were supposed to have been doing anyway of not using wood and having a ladder and buckets and coming out to fight fires, et cetera. I think they also did some stuff with the roads. They improved the roads to make it easier to get to and from so that people could come and fight fires more quickly. 

We’re going to get to the score and everything but in terms of significance, remember this. Afua Cooper suggests that the transcript of Marie-Josèphe Angélique’s trial constitutes the first slave narrative in North America. So, this is from 1734 and the trial transcript includes a lot of what she said and a lot of what she says is like, “I was born in Portugal, this is my life story, this is what I did.” Other than this, 1734 trial transcript, the first recognized slave narrative was published in 1760, this was called A Narrative of the Uncommon Sufferings and Surprising Deliverance of Briton Hammon, a Negro Man. So, that’s 26 years later. The trial transcripts were not written by her, but they were related by her, and they show her words and her story. Afua Cooper says, “The trial documents must be read as the first piece of Black literature, written and oral, that we have in Canada.” Afua Cooper further on, just to clarify the importance and the significance of the way that Angélique spoke during the trial and what we see of her personality coming out of this quote from Afua Cooper, “When Angélique faced the judges of New France, she demanded her place in history and she made visible the enslaved as a thinking, feeling, intelligent, and complex human.” 

So, in terms of recognizing her, remembering her and embracing her story, in 1995 a playwright named Lorena Gale wrote a play called Angélique which was based on transcripts of the tribunal. This was published as a book as well. In 2006, a plaque was erected on Saint Thérèse street in Old Montreal and the plaque was erected not far from the site of Angélique’s death/also where the fire was. This ceremony was presided over by then Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, she is still an alive person, she is a Black woman, she came to Canada as a refugee from Haiti, so I think there’s another sort of context of her being the one to preside over this ceremony honouring Angélique’s life and story. In 2012, actually, on February 23, 2012, which is the international day for the remembrance of the slave trade and its abolition, the public square across from Montreal City Hall was named Place Marie-Josèphe Angélique in her honour. So, Dan Philip, the head of the Black Coalition of Quebec said that “Publicly admitting Angélique’s existence, that slavery ever existed in Montreal helps erode the myth that Canada’s history was shaped exclusively by the British and the French.” In 2016, a short film entitled C’est Moi by Howard J. Davis explored the history of Angélique set against the anniversary of Montreal’s founding. 

So, we’re going to score Marie-Josèphe Angélique on the Fredegund Memorial Scandaliciousness Scale. There’s also going to be a special, we’re going to do another scoring-type situation for her in one second. But first, where does she fit into this, the pantheon of people we’ve talked about on this show? 

The first category is Scandaliciousness, which is a straight-up 10. Marie-Josèphe Angélique, even if 10% of the things she said, that people said she said during the trial were true, she was an audacious bitch. She was just like, “Fuck you. I hate you. I hate you. I hate France, I hate the French. I’m going to burn you all down.” And then she did, she burned down Montreal. She ran away, she tried to run away, she… 10. Straight up 10 for Scandaliciousness, for sure. 

Scheminess, I feel like, her schemes were not always good, but they were effective. Honestly, I’m going to give her a 10 for Scheminess because she was always scheming; she wanted to get back to Portugal, she wanted to destroy everyone who… all of society. I want to find that quote again from Afua Cooper, I thought that that was so… yeah. “She had little respect for this world in which she found herself. Alienated from it, she would attempt to destroy it.” There was a part where somebody said, “If you burn down your mistress, you might get hanged,” and she was like, “Good. Bring it on.” The scheminess, the nihilism. Iconic. 

Significance is interesting. So, I went on a trip to Montreal a few years ago, before I had read this book. I knew about Marie-Josèphe Angélique but I’m not an experienced traveller, I should have researched stuff better, but I was like, when I’m there, I presume I’m going to run into some sort of monument about her and I didn’t because I was looking for a statue or something. What there is, is a plaque and then there’s this park named after her. So, I like that significance and I like that she’s being recognized because at first when I went to Montreal and I didn’t see anything obvious I thought, “Of course, they don’t want to recognize her, she burned down the city.” 

That’s an interesting thing as well, I think it’s in the Afua Cooper book too that other countries like Australia and like the United States have a history of celebrating mavericks and rebels and people who buck the trend and Canada doesn’t really celebrate people in the same way, that sort of individuality, it’s not part of the Canadian national identity. So, for a long time, Marie-Josèphe Angélique wasn’t really celebrated or talked about, I think because as a culture and there’s lots of cultures that came together to be what is now Canada, but in general, the idea that is presented of Canada is kind of like, I don’t know, like a kind of socialist thing where people look out for each other and it’s like, “We’re all team players.” So, trying to fit a story like this into our national narrative, it’s harder. 

I find her incredibly significant; she burned down Montreal and that improved fire regulations and maybe prevented other fires in the future. But also, just representative of the enslaved Black population of Canada. Her story is significant also as the first recorded slave narrative. Honestly – and this is what you get when it’s an Ann-only episode and there’s not a guest to mitigate what I’m about to say – but I’m going to say 10. I’m going to say 10 for Significance for Marie-Josèphe Angélique. 

The Sexism Bonus, this is where we see how much did sexism get in her way. And for her, as it is with a lot of people from marginalized identities when we’re looking at this scale, the sexism is so intertwined with the racism and the xenophobia, so she had these children, did she consent to it? Did she want to be having these children with Jacques César? I don’t know. Other enslaved people were in similar situations in the sense that they had no control over where they went or what they were doing, they were being sent here or there. I think the sexism was certainly part of her story, but I think a lot of, if an enslaved Black man would have done the same thing, I think he would have been treated equivalently badly, I think he would have also been arrested and found guilty. I don’t think her being a woman softened things. I think it made it worse in the sense of perhaps the sexual stuff that happened to her. I’m going to say straight-up just like, there was a lot of cultural forces up against her, sexism being one of them so I’m going to give her a 5 for that.

This gives her a total score of 35 which in the pantheon of everybody… Mary Ann Shadd Cary, also a notable Black woman from Canadian history, also has a 35. I like that they have a similar number. If we’re talking about figures from Black history we’ve talked about on this show, Njinga of Angola has a 36. So, they’re all… Yeah, I like that those three kind of have a similar score. 

So, because this is Vulgar History Season 7, How Do You Solve A Problem like Marie Antoinette, Part 1: Age of Revolution, I want to bring everything back to Marie Antoinette because, you know, this story is just like, what does this story have to do with Marie Antoinette? Well, her name is Marie, she did speak French. But just to connect, like I explained at the beginning, what we’re doing with this series is we’re starting very broad and then we’re getting closer and closer in, eventually to Marie Antoinette herself. But just, the cultural forces that were out there in the world. And so, what Marie-Josèphe Angélique did, it’s not a revolution in the sense of a bunch of people who upset the status quo but it’s a revolutionary spirit and this helps to sort of… the way that because of increased mobility, because of trade including chattel slave trade, people in different countries were interacting more with people from different cultures than they had before and how does that affect the way that culture develops? 

So, if we’re looking at this section, which I call Nothing But Net, which we’re looking at, how many degrees of separation is this person from Marie Antoinette herself? And here’s the connection that I found. So, the buildings, like Montreal itself had been designed by a man named Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, who was the Chief Engineer of Louis XV. He was the person who designed a lot of the structures in New France. So, he designed them, after the first fire he was like, “Let’s improve them this way, maybe not use shingles.” After this fire happened, right after the fire happened, he was in New France and he went there and was looking around to figure out, “How can I better design this city?” So, he was there breathing the same air as Marie-Josèphe Angélique looking at the remains of the fire she had set. So, he was Louis XV’s chief engineer of New France, he knew Louis XV and the royal family. Louis XV was the father of Louis XVI, Louis XVI was Marie Antoinette’s husband. So, that is four degrees of separation between Marie-Josèphe Angélique and Marie Antoinette.


So, we’re in Season 7 Part 1. In the next 15 weeks we’re going to be looking at all kinds of different people and I’m going to be posting all over the place. So, if you want to keep up with what other people are thinking about these episodes or these people, or what images I’m sharing of all the different things, I am on Instagram @VulgarHistoryPod, that’s the main place I am. Also, I have a Patreon where I’m going to be posting. 

Every week, if you become a paid member of the Patreon which is at, for $1/month you get early, ad-free access to all the episodes. For $5 or more, you get early, ad-free access to all the episodes as well as bonus episodes, and whichever tier you’re on, there are chats there. There’s an open chat for everybody at the $1/month level on Patreon, you can get it on the website or also on the Patreon app. Then there are special chats for people at the $5/month or more level and there’s also Discord that you’ll get information to join if you join the Patreon at the $5 or more a month level. I’m so interested in hearing what everybody thinks about everything we’re going to be talking about this season, especially because we will be spending some time in North America and I know that there are some listeners in the United States, for instance, who have long wanted to hear your history discussed and I’m going to do it in my own Canadian tits-out manner. 

I also have a Substack if you want to follow me everywhere in all the places online. My Substack is called “Vulgar History À La Carte” and it’s more of like a sister project to this podcast, it’s not like, “Here’s a newsletter about literally what the podcast was this week,” it’s just showing other writing that I’m doing, that I have done about other topics at the moment on Substack. So, I have a weekly newsletter that goes out and at the moment we’re looking at the women of Tudor history. At the moment when you’re listening to this, we’re talking about the Grey sisters; Jane Grey, Katherine Grey, Mary Grey. If you really want to dive into them, I did a whole season about How to Lose A Queen in Nine Days: The Jane Grey story. 

I also want to mention, Marie Antoinette is known for her glamour, her beauty, her beautiful jewellery and I have a brand partner that I’m so happy to be partners with which is Common Era Jewellery. This is a 100% women-owned business that creates beautiful jewellery pieces, pendants and rings inspired by history. A lot of the pieces are inspired by women from history, they have a whole collection called Difficult Women which is looking at people whose reputations sometimes aren’t the greatest but often that’s just because they sort of stood up and were doing things in a way that society was not cool with. On this podcast, we call that being tits-out; in Common Era, she’s classier and she calls that the Difficult Women Collection. So, they have people featured in that collection like Cleopatra is there, Agrippina is there, Anne Boleyn is there but also figures from mythology like Medusa and Aphrodite. For all my sapphics there’s Sappho piece as well. Anyway, all these pieces are available in solid gold as well as in more affordable gold vermeil and Vulgar History listeners can always get 15% off all items from Common Era by going to or using code ‘VULGAR’ at checkout. 

If you want to vibe with this podcast in a visual way, if you want possessions that remind you of some of the in-jokes from this podcast and that sort of thing, I do have merch available at, that takes you to the Tee Public store which is great for Americans, the shipping is more expensive elsewhere. So if you’re elsewhere, I also have a Redbubble shop which is As of yet, I don’t know what the merch is going to be for Season 7 Part 1 and that’s where you all come into it because honestly, the best ideas I’ve gotten for merch for Vulgar History come from you, from things that you pull out of an episode that you like hearing or just an in-joke that you’ve noticed has developed or just a phrase or anything. So, just let me know. All the ways you can contact me, Instagram, those various chats on Patreon and on Discord… yeah, or you can also email me, there’s a form at where you can send me a message, or you can email me at If you’re in Montreal and you see any of the Marie-Josèphe Angélique things, the park or the plaque, take a picture and let me know. I love to see tits-out brigades paying their respects to these different places. 

And yeah, next week we’re going to be here, we’re going to be looking at the next story is maybe the cl– I don’t know, I was going to say it’s the closest, like, Marie Antoinette is mentioned but she doesn’t actually… Mm, I mean you’ll see what I mean next week. Anyway, we’re going to be going to Vienna we’re going to be popping into Europe to see a music-based story and I’m really excited for you to hear that and I’m really excited to finally have this season going. Until next week, keep your pants on and your tits out.

Vulgar History is hosted, written, and researched by Ann Foster and edited by Cristina Lumague.

Transcribed by Aveline Malek at


The Hanging of Angélique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montréal by Afua Cooper


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