BÉGON DE LA COUR, CLAUDE-MICHEL, officer in the colonial regular troops, governor of Trois-Rivières; b. 15 March 1683 at Martinique, son of Michel Bégon de La Picardière and Madeleine Druillon, and brother of Intendant Michel Bégon; d. 30 April 1748 at Montreal, where he was buried on 1 May.
Descended from one of the most influential robe families in the Marine administration, Claude-Michel began his career in 1697 as a midshipman at Rochefort, where his father was intendant. He was promoted sub-lieutenant in the navy on l Jan. 1703. Nine years later he was appointed a half-pay captain in the colonial regular troops in Canada, to which he went with his brother Michel, the new intendant. In 1713 he became a full captain with a company of troops in the Montreal garrison and, in 1714, he was promoted naval lieutenant. Since there were no barracks at Montreal, he was billeted at the house of Étienne Rocbert de La Morandière, the king’s storekeeper. In classic story-book fashion, he fell in love with Rocbert’s daughter, Marie-Élisabeth. His brother and the Bégon family in France were horrified when he announced his intention to marry this low-born Canadian, whom they referred to as the “iroquoise.” But despite their objections the marriage took place in December 1718 and two children issued from it; Marie-Catherine-Élisabeth, who married Honoré Michel de Villebois de La Rouvillière, the commissary at Montreal, in 1737, and Claude-Michel-Jérôme, who became a naval officer in France. Claude-Michel was named a chevalier de Saint-Louis in 1718, and in 1722 Governor Philippe de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil described him as a “very good officer . . . extremely steady.”
Although Bégon’s career advanced, it did so only by Canadian standards, and there is reason to suspect that his marriage permanently prevented his having a career in France. If he chose to marry a Canadian, his powerful relatives may well have reasoned, then he could remain in Canada. It may be in recognition of this situation that he signed over certain of his assets in France to his brother Michel and to his other siblings prior to Michel’s departure from Quebec in 1726. He was promoted that year to town major of Quebec and Governor Beauharnois selected him to head a detachment sent to expel the English from their new Fort Oswego (Chouaguen) on Lake Ontario. After a lengthy palaver with the English commander, Evert Banker (Bancker), and the Oswego Iroquois, he returned unsuccessful.
Bégon travelled to France in 1730, where he obtained an 800-livre pension as knight of the order of Saint-Louis. In 1731, after recommendations from Beauharnois and Intendant Hocquart* describing him as an excellent officer and drawing attention to his many battle wounds, he became king’s lieutenant at Trois-Rivières. He held the same rank at Montreal as of 1 April 1733. In 1743, on the eve of the War of the Austrian Succession, he was named governor of Trois-Rivières. He served there throughout the war but was too old by then to take part in active campaigning. He died in 1748, and a year later Mme Bégon moved to Rochefort where she continued the fascinating correspondence with her son-in-law, Michel, that has given her a special place in Canadian history.
AN, Col., B, 55–79; C11A, 54–89; D2C, 222/1, p.46 (PAC transcripts). Lettres au cher fits: correspondance d’Élisabeth Bégon avec son gendre (1748–1753), Nicole Deschamps, édit. (Coll. Reconnaissances, Montréal, 1972). Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, I, 151. Yvonne Bezard, Fonctionnaires maritimes et coloniaux sous Louis XIV: les Bégon (Paris, 1932). Benjamin Sulte, “Les gouverneurs des Trois-Rivières,” BRH, II (1896), 71.