DCB/DBC Mobile beta


New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

BERTHIER, ISAAC, called Alexandre after 1665, captain in the Régiment de l’Allier and often called captain in the Carignan regiment, seigneur; b. c. 1638 at Bergerac (department of Dordogne), in the bishopric of Périgueux, son of Pierre Berthier and Marguerite Bariac; m. 11 Oct. 1672 Marie Legardeur de Tilly at Quebec, and they had three children; d. probably in 1708 at his seigneury of Bellechasse.

We have little information about Isaac Berthier before his arrival in New France. His promotion in the army was rapid, for he landed at Quebec on 30 June 1665 at the head of his own company. At that time he was with the troops brought from the West Indies by Prouville* de Tracy.

A few months after his arrival Isaac Berthier, who was a Huguenot, embraced the Roman Catholic faith. On that occasion he probably changed his first name and adopted that of Alexandre, which has led some historians to believe that there were two men called Captain Berthier in Canada. One may well doubt this. The only two references to Isaac Berthier are from 1665: as a witness in a marriage contract drawn up on 12 August at Quebec, and in the register of abjurations of the archbishopric of Quebec, dated 8 October. After that we lose all trace of the name. As for Alexandre Berthier, the name appears for the first time on 1 May 1666, in the “Registre des confirmations” of the archbishopric of Quebec. In his correspondence with the minister Colbert, Jean Talon* speaks only of the “Sieur Berthier.” Had there been more than one Captain Berthier, the intendant would not have omitted to specify whether Isaac or Alexandre was meant. However, the certificate of Alexandre junior’s marriage at Notre-Dame de Québec on 4 Oct. 1702 provides us with the best proof: in it we read that Alexandre senior is a “former captain in the regiment de l’aliers,” the regiment to which Isaac Berthier belonged. Hence we are presumably concerned with one and the same person.

After being billeted with his men at Quebec during the winter of 1665–66, Captain Berthier was appointed commandant of Fort de l’Assomption (Saint-Jean, Quebec) and then named with Pierre de Saurel* to command the rear-guard of the troops during Prouville de Tracy’s 1666 expedition against the Mohawk. He returned to France with the soldiers of the Carignan regiment, and came back to Canada in 1670. On 11 Oct. 1672, in the parish church of Notre-Dame de Québec, he married Marie Legardeur de Tilly, daughter of Charles* and sister of Catherine who had married Pierre de Saurel in 1668. Eighteen days later he received from Talon the Bellechasse seigneury (Berthier-en-bas), and the following year he bought the seigneury of the Sieur Hugues Randin* (Berthier-en-haut or Villemur), which was considerably enlarged by a subsequent land grant. Meanwhile he had taken part in two expeditions against the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee).

After 1674 Alexandre Berthier devoted himself particularly to agriculture and the settlement of his seigneuries. The data of the 1681 census show that he was the most prominent farmer on the Villemur fief. That year Buade* de Frontenac pointed out in a report that Berthier and several associates had “five canoes and ten men engaged in fur-trading in the woods.” Some while later, he went to live on his seigneury of Berthier-en-bas, and as captain of the militia of that seigneury he led his own company at the time of Brisay de Denonville’s expedition against the Seneca in 1687.

Although he was not from among the colony’s elite, Alexandre Berthier enjoyed a certain esteem, since the authorities invited him to the assemblies of notables. At the 1678 meeting organized by Frontenac to discuss the brandy trade, Berthier and his brother-in-law Pierre de Saurel both declared themselves in favour of such trading. As a seigneur, Berthier also took part in the council of war in Quebec in 1682. It is therefore not surprising that Governor-General Le Febvre* de La Barre considered proposing him for the post of governor of Montreal in 1683.

Alexandre Berthier probably died at the end of 1708 at Berthier-en-bas. Five years earlier he had bequeathed all his possessions to his daughter-in-law, Marie-Françoise Viennay-Pachot, Alexandre junior’s widow; at his death he also left her with the burden of a 24-year-old lawsuit that he had brought against the seigneuress of Rivière-du-Sud (Montmagny, Quebec), Geneviève Després, over the boundaries of their seigneuries.

Ulric Lévesque

AJQ, Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 3 juin 1699, 18 juin 1704. AQ, NF, Cahiers d’intendance, I, 6, ff.238–43; 7, ff.310–19. Caron, “Inventaire de documents,” APQ Rapport, 1939–40, 207. “Correspondance de Frontenac (1672–82),” APQ Rapport, 1926–27, 123. “Correspondance échangée entre la cour de France et l’Intendant Talon pendant ses deux administrations dans la Nouvelle-France,” APQ Rapport, 1930–31, 39, 45, 61. Découvertes et établissements des Français (Margry), I, 407f. Jug. et délib. JR (Thwaites), L, 140; LXII, 156. Recensement du Canada, 1681 (Sulte). A. Roy, Inv. greffes not., XVIII, 347f.; XIX, 121. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, II, 179–83, 187–89; Inv. ord. int., I, 38, 68f.

Bonnault, “Le Canada militaire,” 275, 333. Regis Roy et Malchelosse, Le régiment de Carignan. Sulte, Mélanges historiques (Malchelosse), VIII. M. Berneval, “Régiment de l’Allier,” NF, V (1930), 316. “La famille Berthier,” BRH, XX (1914), 379f. Amédée Gosselin, “Les deux capitaines Berthier,” BRH, IX (1903), 310f. S.-A. Moreau, “Le capitaine Berthier,” BRH, IX (1903), 273f. P.-G. Roy, “Les deux capitaines Berthier,” BRH, IX (1903), 56–58; “La mort de M. de Berthier,” BRH, XXII (1916), 209–10; “La seigneune de Bellechasse ou Berthier,” BRH, XXVII (1921), 65–74. Régis Roy, “Isaac et Alexandre Berthier, capitaines au régiment de Carignan,” RSCT, 3d ser., VII (1913), sect.i, 125–37. H. Têtu, “Les abjurations a Québec en 1665,” BRH, XI (1905), 26.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Ulric Lévesque, “BERTHIER, ISAAC (Alexandre),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 4, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/berthier_isaac_2E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/berthier_isaac_2E.html
Author of Article:   Ulric Lévesque
Title of Article:   BERTHIER, ISAAC (Alexandre)
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1969
Year of revision:   2023
Access Date:   December 4, 2023