Scandal, intrigue, murder. More than 350 years ago, Jean Serreau killed a man who had made advances on his wife, Marguerite Boyleau.* The scene of the crime was on the l’Isle D’Orléans, Nouvelle-France (an island on the St. Lawrence River near Quebec). Taking control, Serreau fled to France to beg for the King’s pardon by way of a letter of grace (also known as a letter of remission). The letter of grace records the explanation of the events as told by Jean Serreau to a royal notary. In the post 19 June 2023, the author of this site offers an explanation of a letter of grace and the steps that are involved in the request for such.
In all the documents and websites visited while researching, the author of MyManyMothers.com never found a complete translation of the letter of grace for Jean Serreau. Therefore, the author engaged the services of Evan Wilson, Ph.D., English Language and Literature, Letters, Medieval Studies, genealogists and historical researcher, in March 2023 to translate and transcribe the letter of grace. Dr. Wilson’s transcription in French is on the left and the translation in English is on the right. follows.
|au dos: Remission pour Jean Serreau dit St. Aubin, habitué en Canada du mois de Fenvrier [?] 1666
Louis, par la grâce de Dieu, Roy de France et de Navarre, de tout présent et à venir, salut. Nous avons recu l’humble supplication de Jean Sereau, Sieur de St. Aubin, natif de notre province de Poitou, ^[habitué en Canada] s’y faisant sa résidence en l’Isle D’Orléans, contenant qu’aïant [i.e. aïent?] passé depuis environ
[different hand] 200 Lettre en Oréance [?] sur le Sr. de la Barre commandant les vaisseaux destiné à aller aux Antilles 22 mai 1666
|on the back: Remission for Jean Serreau dit St. Aubin, resident of Canada, from the month of February 1666
Louis, by grace of God, King of France and of Navarre, of all present and to come, greeting. We have received the humble supplication of Jean Serreau, Lord of St. Aubin, native of our province of Poitou, ^[resident? of Canada] making his residence on the Isle of Orléans, there about five years ago on our Isles of America with Marguerite Boileau, his wife. They had dwelled there and had lived with as much union and harmony as one could wish in a marriage, until roughly one year ago, having perceived that a certain Jean Terme, of Swiss origin, also an inhabitant of the said isles, was hanging around and visiting the said Boileau, his wife, in an overly familiar way. He had taken some offense at this, and as this frequentation increased with each passing day and she began to be the subject of public scandal, he had fairly asked the said Terme not to hang about his house anymore or to frequent his said wife. And even though he [Terme] and the said Boileau made this promise, nonetheless, he [Terme] did not cease to resume his earlier habits with her, such that eight or ten days later, the supplicant found them together again in indecent and improper postures A new anger rose up in him. And as he was on the point of leaving her, he was prevented by a priest who stopped by at the time, who, by his prayers and by the new promise made by the said Boileau to no longer see the said Terme, under any circumstances, convinced the supplicant to forget everything and to get his wife away for some amount of time, which the said supplicant did; but having placed her two [leagues?] from there, at the place called Hanvile, the said Terme returned often to visit her in the house of a near neighbor, where the said supplicant found them together by an unexpected meeting. About which his said wife, having shown anger that the visits of the said Terme were disagreeable to him [her husband], she again asked him [her husband] to remove her further and, against his will, to send her to a place near Québec about five leagues distant from there, where, having remained there some time and given birth, she asked the said supplicant to agree that she should return to France to attempt to gain some property and assistance from her parents for her maintenance and the maintenance of her children, to which the said supplicant consented, and obtained permission to leave from the Sieur de Tracy, our commandant in the said land, to depart. The said Terme came once again into the said house where the said Boileau was, and going together to the shore/beach, where they remained two days, the said supplicant unfortunately encountered them, and at first could not stop himself from slapping his said wife several times, at which the said Terme, getting angry, took up a sword in his hands and threatened many times to kill him, which he would have undoubtedly done had the supplicant not (there being no weapon) saved himself by running away. The said Terme, taking advantage of that flight, having learned that the said supplicant had followed his said wife to the place called Rutac, [Terme] soon arrived there, after many insults and threats to kill him [Serreau] if he further opposed the friendship he had for his wife. As he [Terme] was ready to execute his damnable plan, having his sword once again in his hand, the said supplicant, to guard his life, made use in this extremity of a stick that he had in his hand, of which, having struck a blow, he [Terme] died then and there, and even though the said deed happened thusly and no one could impute anything [improper] to the said supplicant, who did not act by premeditation, but because of the aggression of the said Terme, repeated two or three times, who brought his misfortune upon himself, nevertheless, fearing the severity of justice and to be caught one day, he returned to France, and has made recourse to our goodness and clemency and has very humbly supplicated us to accord him our letters of grace, remission, pardon, and abolition, and from offense [?], to which we are favorable. Let us make known that, wishing to prefer mercy to the harshness of justice, given also that in every other instance, the said supplicant has always comported himself well and honorably, without having committed any other act worthy of reproof, we have quitted, remitted, pardoned, extinguished, and abolished to the said supplicant, and from our particular graces and royal authority, we do quit, remit, pardon, extinguish, and abolish by these present seals from our hand the said deed and case, as they are described above, with [from?] such pain, fine, and punishment, whether corporal, criminal, or civil, from whatever can be incurred towards us and justice, setting at nought all appeals from below [??], banishment blemish, sentence, or judgment that could ensue, and from our very ample grace we have returned and restored him, and do now return and restore him in good favor and reputation in the nation in his goods not otherwise [?] confiscated, prior satisfaction made to the victim if this has not been done and escheat there [?], imposing perpetual silence about this matter on our procureur général and surrogate[s] present and to come, and to all others. Giving this command to our friends and those faithful to us, the people holding our sovereign counsel of Canada, established in Quebec, that they have this document registered and enact [?] its contents and treat the said supplicant openly, peacefully and perpetually, ceasing and making cease all troubles and obstacles against it, and at the expense of the supplicant, to present to you this document to endorse it within one year, on pain of losing its force, for this is our desire and, so that it can be a solid and lasting matter for all time, we have placed our seal on this document, without prejudice in other things to our rights and those of others. Given at St. Germaine-en-Laye, etc., in the month of February, 1666 AD and the 23rd year of our reign.
200 Letter in Oréance [?] on Sr. de la Barre commanding the vessels destined to go to the Antilles May 22, 1666
*In previous posts, Marguerite’s name was spelled as “Marguerite Boileau,” but the author has since seen images of original documents with Marguerite’s signature, and she spelled her name “Marguerite Boyleau.” Thus, Marguerite’s spelling of her own name as it was in 1667 will be used going forward.
What information does the letter of grace provide?
- Jean Serreau dit St. Aubin had been in Canada for about 5 years (thus arriving around 1661).
- He was a resident of Canada living on the Isle of Orléans and that the letter was prepared in February 1666.
- Jean was a native of Poitou, France.
- Jean Serreau was married to Marguerite Boyleau.
- Sometime in 1665, Jean Terme, a Swiss native, living in the area of Jean Serreau and his wife, began paying inappropriate attention to Marguerite.
- Jean Serreau was offended by the attention Jean Terme was giving his wife.
- Marguerite was the subject of public scandal.
- Serreau asked Terme not to visit his wife.
- Terme continued to visit Marguerite and they were found in an indecent manner.
- Serreau was angry and planned to leave his wife, but a priest intervened.
- Marguerite promised to no longer see Terme and she was sent away.
- Terme ignored the promise and visited Marguerite where she was staying.
- Serreau came upon the two and was very angry. Marguerite asked her husband to move her further away.
- After giving birth to their son Pierre, Marguerite requested her husband to allow her to go to France to gain assistance from her parents.
- Serreau obtained permission from Sieur de Tracy, commandant of Canada, for Marguerite to return to France.
- Before Marguerite was able to leave for France, Terme visited once again and the two may have been together for two days.
- Serreau found the two together and in his anger, slapped his wife several times.
- Terme became angry and with a sword in his hand, threatened to kill Serreau several times.
- Since Serreau did not have a weapon, he ran.
- Terme followed and insulted and threatened to kill Serreau if Serreau continued to oppose the friendship Terme had with Serreau’s wife.
- Terme had a sword in his hand and would have used it against Serreau, except that Serreau found a baton of some sort and hit Terme with it, killing Terme.
- Serreau claims Terme died instantly.
- Serreau said he did not act with premeditation but acted because of Terme’s aggression.
- Serreau feared the severity of justice because of his own actions and ran to France to humbly ask for clemency from the King.
- The notary stated Serreau had always acted honorably in every other instance.
- The King granted a pardon and restored him to good favor and reputation.
- The King commanded the Sovereign Counsel of Canada to treat the supplicant peacefully and without trouble.
- Serreau had to submit the document to the Sovereign Counsel of Canada for endorsement within one year, which he did.
 The letter of grace was transcribed sometime between 1800s and 1900s, probably from an original 1667 clerk’s record and included in the archives, France. Ministère des Affaires étrangères : Mémoires et documents, Amérique – 12568, digital image 1292-1300 of 1495, Candiana. Additionally, a digital image of the 1667 document at BANQ can be viewed at Lettres de rémission et pardon accordées par le Roi à Jean Serreau, sieur de Saint-Aubin, résidant en l’île d’Orléans, pour avoir tué d’un coup de bâton Jean Terme, Suisse de nation, aussi résidant en l’île d’Orléans, lequel hantait et visitait trop familièrement Marguerite Boileau, femme dudit Jean Serreau, sieur de Saint-Aubin, 1er février 1666 – 28 février 1666, BAnQ Québec, Fonds Conseil souverain, (03Q,TP1,S36,P60).
 https://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.lac_reel_c12568/1292; images 1292-1300.
 Sic—the earlier copy of the letter, accessible at https://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/archives/52327/3372176 , appears to read “doffances” or similar, which I interpret as perhaps “d’offenses,” from offenses. However, the reading proposed here does not seem satisfying.
 image. 1298 is a duplicate of image. 1297.
 Marguerite Boyleau witnessed her sister’s marriage contract—Marie Boyleau to Isaac Delavant – Gilles Rageot, 1666-1691, BAnQ Québec, Fonds Cour supérieure. District judiciaire de Québec. Greffes de notaires, (03Q,CN301,S238), image 221 of 1224, (https://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/4083917?docref=fTlHdVHMgUqNXidfw1OJ5A : viewed 14 January 2024).