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From: Xenia <>
Subject: Re: Question: 1672 Execution of Jacques Bertault & Gilette Banne
Date: Sun, 25 Apr 1999 17:54:40 -0600 (MDT)


Patrick, Somehow or somewhere I have misplaced my file on the couple but
the case is well-documented in the judgements of the tribunal council who
presided over the case.

Here are some details from my research on this case:
> They were convicted of the poisoning murder of their son-in-law, Julien
> LaTouche.

The attempt to poison him failed and he was actually murdered by a
beating with a pick-axe. Gilette, the mother-in-law of Julien, had tried
to poison him with soup made from a poisonous plant (thought perhaps to
have been hemlock) but the soup failed to even make La Touche ill though
he ate heartily. Gilette confessed later that she may not have made it
strong enough but speculation is that she did not use the right plant or
the right part of the plant - hemlock needles are not poisonous but the
roots are.

Later Julien came to their barn and after a dispute, Gilette picked up a
pick-axe and hit him with it. Jacques took the pick-axe from his wife and
hit Julien several times until he was dead. Jacques is the one who
delivered the final blow.

Isabelle helped her father drag her husband's body to the river
(Trois Rivieres) but it was later recovered by the authorities and given a
proper church burial at the condemned couple's expense. In addition the
couple was fined so that they would pay for prayers by the Recollet
fathers for the repose of the victim's soul and the court costs which
included the care and feeding of the three of them in the prison for the
three months from the time of their arrest to their execution, and the
salaries of the judges, scribe, bailiffs and executor. The remainder of
their estate was to go towards the care of the two minor Bertault
children, Jeanne and Nicolas, who were placed in the guardianship of the
church.

> Both were stripped except for a shift of some kind and forced to kneel
> before Quebec's parish church with ropes around their necks and burning
> torches in their hands and "to beg for God's and the King's
> forgiveness".

All three were sentenced to dress in a plain chemise (loose long
shirt), have cords (nooses) around their necks, carry burning torches and
pray for forgiveness of God (Church) and the King (State).

> They were taken to the main square of the Upper city, and Bertault was
> strangled on a croix St-Andre (an X-shaped cross), but was spared having
> his limbs also broken beforehand (they were broken AFTER his death),
> while his wife was condemned to watch her husband's death and then
> submit to the same punishment, less the broken limbs (as if that were a
> comfort).

The three were originally arrested at Trois Rivieres where they lived
(I have copies of the arrest papers) but were sent to the higher
courts at Quebec city for the final trial and sentencing. Though all three
were led through the streets by the executioner to the public square in
Quebec's "haute ville" (upper town) in which a scaffold had been
constructed with a Cross of St. Andre upon it, it was only
Jacques who was to be tied to the cross and have his bones broken.

Women were not subjected to this punishment "because of decency due to
their sex".

The Cross of St. Andre is the name given to the flat oblique cross shaped
structure (so a slanted X) on which the criminal was tied naked except for
the chemise. His legs and arms were placed through grooves in the
wood. The chemise was raised at the sleeves and the hem up to the thigh in
order to tie each joint to the cross. The head of the convicted was
placed facing upward on a stone. The executioner then struck a swift
blow to the right arm of the prisoner with a metal pipe (one and a half
inches in diameter with a ball on one end that served as a handle) and
then the prisoner was strangled. After the person was dead, a further blow
to the other arm and each of the legs was delivered. Then three more blows
were given on the chest. These eleven blows were sufficient to carry out
the decree that blows were to be delivered until every bone in the body
was broken. The spine was not counted as it was impossible to break it as
it was protected by the back of the cross.

> Their daughter, Isabelle, was also judged guilty of the murder but
> spared the gallows due to her age (13 1/2), but (along with a fine that
> she and her parents were assessed), was forced not just to witness but
> to assist in the execution of her parents.

The fine was against the parents as detailed above and to be taken from
their estate. I do not know if Isabelle had any assets and I do not recall
her being fined.

Elisabeth Therese (Isabelle) was born on January 22, 1659 and married
Julien (who was born in 1640) on August 12, 1672. Julien was murdered on
May 15, 1672 and her parents were executed for his murder on June 9, 1672.

In the first judgement all three were condemned to die. The case was
appealed for mercy for all three parties but the parents' appeal was
denied. The final judgement states that because of Isabelle's age and the
"passive" nature of her involvement (she stood by and made no effort to
save her husband and later helped her father drag the body to the river
but she did not attempt to kill him nor take direct action to cause his
death). The original documents talk about her being spared due to her
"tender condition" which some have taken to mean she was pregnant. There
was a female infant named LaTouche born a few months later. However,
records that would prove she was the daughter of Isabelle and Julien have
not been found. Also apparently Isabelle testified she did not have
relations with her husband and that was one of the reasons he beat her.
For most tender condition is translated as "tender age" or "tender years".

Isabelle's punishment was to watch the torture and death of her parents
while she stood on the scaffold with a noose around her neck. Gilette also
was standing on the platform with a noose around her neck as the
punishment was meted out to her husband. Both watched Jacques being
tied to the cross, hit with ball, being strangled to death and then the
further ten blows delivered to his body.

After watching this, it was Gilette's turn. She was strangled by the noose
around her neck as the scaffold beneath her feet was dropped. Isabelle
watched the death of both parents with a cord (noose) around her own neck
while standing on the same scaffolding but unlike her mother, the
platform beneath her feet was not dropped. Though she was set "free", she
probably was the subject of public scorn for the rest of her life.

Following his execution, Jacques was further sentenced to have his body
tied to a wheel and placed on public display at Cap aux Diamants (Cape
of Diamonds) "to remain and serve as an example". It is not stated how
long his body remained there.

> Isabelle remarried less than a year after her parents' execution, had
> six children, then remarried again and had five more offspring by her
> second marriage, but one wonders what scars she carried.

This was actually her second and third marriage as her first had been to
Julien.

Isabelle had little choice but to marry as she was left without means of
support as far as can be determined. However, she did manage to
wait a year and 5 months after the execution of her parents. They were executed
on June 9, 1672 and Isabelle's marriage to Noel Laurence was on November
6, 1673 in Boucherville.

Like Julien LaTouche, Noel had been a Carignan-Salieres' soldier
arriving in 1665 and remaining in New France when the troops were
disbanded in 1668. Noel had married Marie Limoges in Trois Rivieres on
November 3, 1667. There is no record of any children being born to Noel
and Marie. If there had been young children left without a mother at
Marie's death it might have been a reason for Noel to marry quickly
accepting a "branded" woman as his wife. It is not known why he
would have married her other than there were more men than
marriagable women.

Anyway Noel and Isabelle had 6 children in fourteen years. Noel
died two days before the couple's fourteen anniversary (died Nov. 4, 1687).
His youngest child was 6 months old at the time.

Four months after her second husband's death, Isabelle married again. No
doubt this was to assure the support of herself and her 6 children. Again
why Jean-Baptiste Pilon dit LaFortune married her on March 1, 1688 at
Repentigny is unknown. They had 5 children, the last of which was born in
1700. I do not have Isabelle's death date.

Isabelle was nearly married before her first marriage to Julien. On
February 14, 1669 a couple of weeks after celebrating her 10th birthday a
contract was signed before Notary Ameau stating her intention to marry
Charles Denart dit LaPlume. The contract was annulled on August 1, 1670
without the marriage taking place. The testimony at the trial was that the
contract with Denart and the later marriage were arranged by Jacques on
his daughter's behalf. The daughter protested and the mother sided with
her daughter but to no avail. Jacques ensured all his daughter's were
married at a young age. The eldest daughter, Marguerite, married Denis
Veronneau on Jan. 6, 1668 at Trois Rivieres when age 13 (born 1655) and
Suzanne married Jean Heise on Sept. 24, 1671 also at T.R. when she was 14
(born 1657). Only daughter Jeanne who was 12 at the time of her parents'
death and turned over to the care of the Church married at the ripe age of
20 (Vincent Verdon on Sept. 1, 1680).

The Bertaults had two sons. Jacques Jr. was born in 1654 but died before
the 1666 census. The youngest child, Nicolas, was born in 1662 and at age
ten was the prime witness to testify against his parents and sister.

Two neighbours who had been passing the barn on the day of the murder also
testified against the Bertaults. They said they heard Julien scream
"Stop! Stop! You are killing me." Later they said they saw Jacques and his
daughter throwing something in the river. When Julien was not to be found,
the neighbours confronted Jacques in the barn and witnessed the blood
spread all around. Jacques told them he had just butchered a cow. However,
when they could find no evidence of Julien's whereabouts, they reported
the suspected crime to the authorities.

> My questions are thus:

> Are there any records of the murder case itself? It seems they were
> obviously guilty of killing Julien LaTouche, but was a reason for their
> act ever sought? Did they kill him for money, or because their daughter
> did not want to remain married to him, or were they defending their
> daughter from a bestial spouse? Was this an unusual case, and was the
> execution particularly newsworthy in its time?

The Bertaults accused Julien of being a drunk, beating his wife (their
daughter) and not properly providing for her support. He was lazy,
according to them, could not make a proper living, spent what he did make
on alcohol and, as a result, Isabelle was constantly having to be fed and
clothed by her parents.

Historically it was an unusual case - both then and now. It was not common
for a woman to be executed and in fact, Gilette Baune was the first
"white" female to be executed in Canada. Also this was the first couple to die
together for murder though it was not the first double execution. The
first double hanging in New France had occured some years earlier but
involved two men.

An excellent book if you read French is "Les crimes et les chatiments au
Canada Francais du XVIIe au XXe Siecle" by Raymond Boyer. He describes
the punishments detailed above and also covers the acts and convictions of
the criminals of 17th to 20th century French Canada.

I hope to write a book on this case which is why I have so many details.
If anyone can provide more (with documentation as there is much myth and
mystery surrounding this case), I would certainly appreciate it.

a bientot,

Xenia Stanford ()
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