COROLÈRE, JEAN, drummer in the grenadier and gunner company of the colonial regular troops, executioner for Canada; b. c. 1731 in the village of Kerquisinoir (?) in the diocese of Quimper, France, son of Christophe Corolère and Marie Dorollaire (?); it is not known when or in what circumstances he died.
Jean Corolère probably came to New France as a “recruit” in the colonial regular troops. He was one of the first drummers in the grenadier and gunner company, formed in Canada in the autumn of 1750.
On 26 Jan. 1751 Corolère, who was living in the barracks of the Saint-Jean gate, went “to have a drink” in Laforme’s tavern. There he was insulted by some soldiers from his company, one of whom, a certain Coffre, he challenged to a duel. The combat took place the same evening in the suburb of Saint-Jean. The adversaries clashed swords for only a few minutes, for at the second exchange Corolère wounded Coffre in a finger of his right hand. As blood had been shed, the drummer’s honour was saved; the duellists then put up their swords and went to drink together at Laforme’s. The news of the duel reached the ears of the judicial authorities, who hastened to issue warrants for the arrest of the culprits. But only the drummer Corolère could be seized; the soldier Coffre had fled. On 30 Jan. 1751 the lieutenant general of the provost court of Quebec, Francois Daine, opened the inquiry into the suit for duelling brought against Jean Corolère and the fugitive Coffre. On 6 March 1751 the lieutenant general declared that the charge of contumacy against Coffre had been thoroughly investigated and ordered that a further inquiry of one month’s duration be carried out against him and Corolère, during which time Corolère “would remain in prison.” But on 6 April the king’s attorney general of the Conseil Supérieur, Joseph Perthuis*, appealed against the leniency of this judgement as being contrary to article vi of Louis XV’s edict against duelling, which required that a decision be delivered against the duellist “only after further inquiry” which could not “be of less than one year.” Finally, on 2 June 1751, the Conseil Supérieur revised the judgement of the provost court of Quebec and sentenced Coffre, as well as Corolère, to a year in prison, “during which time a further inquiry will be made.”
During his imprisonment in the “royal prisons” in Quebec Corolère’s cell was next to that of Françoise Laurent, daughter of the drum-major of Montreal, Guillaume-Antoine Laurent. On 26 Oct. 1750 the young servant, who was 20 years old, had been found guilty by the lieutenant general of the royal jurisdiction of Montreal, Jacques-Joseph Guiton de Monrepos, of stealing clothes from her employers, the Pommereaus, and had been sentenced to be hanged. This sentence had been confirmed on 12 March 1751 by the Conseil Supérieur, which had however “stayed the execution because of the lack of an executioner.” The colony’s hangman, Jean-Baptiste Duclos, dit Saint-Front, had in fact died on 28 Dec. 1750, and the authorities had not yet found a successor for him. It was thus that Françoise Laurent became acquainted with Corolère, who was to save her from the gallows. Except for letters of annulment, remission, or pardon, the only way at the time for someone under sentence of death to escape hanging was, for a man, to become a hangman, or, for a woman, to marry an executioner. The young criminal decided therefore to ensnare Corolère so completely that he would be ready to do anything to marry her, even serve as hangman, a role considered dishonourable at the period. After some months as his neighbour she had achieved her ends. Accordingly, on 17 Aug. 1751, Jean Corolère presented to the Conseil Supérieur “a written document” in which he entreated “the Court to accept him as executioner.” The councillors granted his request and released him from the obligation of “remaining in prison” for the ten months or so that he had to complete. The very next day the new executioner presented a second request. He besought the councillors “to grant him in marriage the person named Françoise Laurent,” so that he might “settle down solidly” in the colony. The wedding of Jean Corolère and Françoise Laurent was celebrated on 19 Aug. 1751 in the chapel of the intendant’s palace.
The executioner Corolère exercised his functions for an unknown period of time; after 29 April 1752 all trace of him and his wife is lost.
AJQ, Registre d’état civil, Notre-Dame de Québec, 19 août 1751. AN, Col., C11A, 95, ff.66–67. ANQ, NF, Coll. de pièces jud. et not., 1646; NF, Registres de la Prévôté de Québec, LXXXVI, 46v–47; NF, Registres du Cons. sup., registre criminel, 1730–1759, ff.107v, 120f., 122, 126v. Bornier, Conférences des ord. de Louis XIV, II, 416. Lachance, Le bourreau au Canada.