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Fran in France: Champlain the Spy

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Journalist Fran Stoddard is in France this week with a group from Burlington City Arts, to celebrate the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial. She sent this report yesterday, from St. Malo, the "city of pirates." Click here for her earlier posts.

Sunday, May 23

I want to add a bit more about Champlain's life before he ventured to North America and set about a life’s passion to create settlement in New France.

Champlain sailed with his uncle on a ship from St. Malo that was escorting the Spanish fleet back to Spain. And there he got on a Spanish ship headed for the Caribbean, surreptitiously collecting information to report back to the king. He presumably did this bit of spying on Spanish procedures and port details quite well and gained the favor of the king.

Some have even speculated that since Champlain was able to gain the audience of the king so easily throughout Henri IV's reign, that Champlain may have been one of Henri's many alleged illegitimate children. Our trip historian, Andre Senecal, thinks that’s hogwash, but it does raise an eyebrow. Historians Senecal and David Hackett Fischer — author of the biography "Champlain's Dream," — also note that he expressed his disgust of the poor treatment of the native population by the Spanish, possibly formulating his quite different approach to natives in the St Lawrence Valley.

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