CAËN, ÉMERY DE, captain in the service of the Compagnie de Caën, commandant of Quebec 1624–26 and 1632–33; son of Ézéchiel de Caën and Marie Sores (Sors or Soré); baptized at Rouen 21 April 1603.
Merchant, bourgeois, and shipowner, Ézéchiel de Caën was engaged from the beginning of the 17th century in the American and East Indies trade. In 1613 he was associated with the Compagnie des Marchands de Rouen et de Saint-Malo in the trade with Canada; he took part in an expedition to the Sunda Isles in 1616 and in an expedition to the East Indies in 1619. He was a partner in the commercial enterprise carried on by his nephew Guillaume de Caën and his son Émery in New France.
In company with his cousin Guillaume de Caën, who had just received the monopoly of the fur trade in New France, Émery de Caën arrived at Quebec in 1621, to succour the colony and at the same time to begin the fur trade. After that he returned each year with the Company’s ships. From 1624 to 1626 he was in command at Quebec, in Samuel de Champlain’s absence. When he came to Canada in 1629 to bring supplies to Quebec and to load on board the furs which Guillaume de Caën had left there, he encountered the Kirkes and was defeated. He reappeared in New France in 1631 to direct the fur trade, which belonged that year to Guillaume de Caën, but the English refused him any liberty to carry on trade; on 22 August, on board the Don-de-Dieu before Quebec, he drew up a formal protestation and returned to France.
When in 1632 Guillaume de Caën was entrusted by Richelieu with organizing the handing-back of Quebec, Émery de Caën was named commandant of Quebec on 4 March and sent to New France. Accompanied by his lieutenant, Du Plessis-Bochart and the Jesuit Paul Le Jeune, he arrived at Quebec and on 29 June he called upon the English to withdraw. They continued their trading, however, to the detriment of the Company. On 6 July Émery de Caën presented his credentials; the English put him off for a week. Finally on 13 July they handed over the fort and left. Émery de Caën then governed the colony from the summer of 1632 till the spring of 1633. On 22 May he handed the keys of the fort over to Du Plessis-Bochart, who the next day restored them to Champlain. Émery de Caën then left the country, never again to return.
During his two periods of office as commandant of Quebec, and especially during the second one, Émery de Caën did not deserve the severe condemnation or the scornful judgement which he incurred in certain quarters. The documents reveal a leader who was perfectly in sympathy with the missionaries and the Indians; in 1632 he visited the Jesuits readily. For a long time people wondered whether he was Catholic or Protestant. The investigations carried out by the genealogist Archange Godbout have established that Émery, son of the Catholic Ézéchiel de Caën, was born a Catholic and was a Catholic during his lifetime. It is understandable why Richelieu sent him to New France, whereas the Protestant Guillaume de Caën was set aside.
For the bibliography concerning Émery de Caën, see that for Guillaume de Caën.