ANDRÉ DE LEIGNE, LOUISE-CATHERINE (Hertel de Rouville), b. 1709 at Havre-de-Grâce (Le Havre, France), daughter of Pierre André de Leigne and Claude Fredin; d. 16 Jan. 1766 at Trois-Rivières.
Louise-Catherine André de Leigne was one of those women whose name has remained engraved upon people’s memories, not because of warrior exploits against Indians or English, but rather for amorous adventures. She arrived in New France in 1718 and was a member of fashionable Quebec society, where she rapidly attracted attention. Her father held the important office of lieutenant general for civil and criminal affairs of the provost court of Quebec, and it seems the young girl had all the charms necessary for attracting penniless young officers, by whom she was continually courted. She much preferred their company to that of richer suitors whom her father favoured.
In 1734 M. de Leigne decided to deal rigorously with his daughter and forced her to give serious thought to her future. Through Governor Beauharnois and Intendant Hocquart* he had her put on board a ship sailing for France, where she would – so her father thought – quickly forget her impossible young suitors and acquire the good sense to accept a suitable marriage, one to her father’s liking.
During the first night on board the Renommée, which was still in the port of Quebec, the lady disguised herself as a man and succeeded in fleeing, aided by two of her suitors. The next day the frivolous creature changed her mind and returned to the ship. Her absence lasted only a year; in 1735 she was back in Quebec, to her father’s great despair, and she found refuge in the home of her brother-in-law, councillor Nicolas Lanoullier de Boisclerc.
The beauteous Louise-Catherine did not bring herself to public notice again until 1741. She was now 32, and she was successful in winning the heart of a young officer, René-Ovide Hertel* de Rouville, 11 years her junior. They were married in Quebec on 20 May 1741, without having obtained the consent of the groom’s widowed mother. On 29 May the latter contested the validity of the marriage before the Conseil Supérieur, and on 12 June the court decided in her favour by declaring the marriage invalid. But four months later, when he had reached his majority, young Hertel was able to marry Louise-Catherine in all tranquillity. The wedding was held in the presence of the two families on 22 October.
The Hertels went to live at Trois-Rivières, and of their marriage five children were born. Because of ill health Mme Hertel was unable, after the capitulation of Montreal in 1760, to follow her husband to France where, almost ruined, he was looking for employment. In 1763 he returned to Trois-Rivières and carried on the small business which Mme Hertel had set up to make a living during the sombre years of her husband’s absence. She lived for only three more years.
Louise-Catherine André de Leigne “was one of the prettiest women of her time . . . her manners, her upbringing, her virtues greatly surpassed the other advantages with which Nature had endowed her.” It was in these terms that her son, Jean-Baptiste-Melchior Hertel* de Rouville, rendered homage to her in 1813.
jug. et délib., 1777–1760, IV, 22, 24. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Robert La Roque de Roquebrune, “Une canadienne du XVIIIe siècle: mademoiselle de Leigne,” Nova Francia, II (1926–27), 57–66.