CLAIRAMBAULT D’AIGREMONT, FRANÇOIS, naval commissary in Canada; baptized 26 March 1659 at Nuits-sur-Armançon (department of Yonne); d. a bachelor 1 Dec. 1728 at Quebec.
Claude Clairambault, François’ father, was first a merchant, and then became a judge and royal notary at Nuits. François was a first cousin of Nicolas Clairambault (1643–1730), chief clerk of the Marine, of Charles Clairambault (1645–1720), commissary-general of the Marine, and of Pierre Clairambault (1651–1740), the famous genealogist of the king’s orders. The Clairambaults, who had been established at Séboncourt (department of Aisne), may have emigrated to the region of Nuits-sur-Armançon around 1630. The name Aigremont came from a small farm situated in the parish of Étivey in the canton of Noyers (Yonne), which by 1666 had fallen into ruin. The Clairambaults were not therefore originally from Franche-Comté, as P.-G. Roy thought.
We do not know very much about the early part of François’ career. He seems to have been involved for some time in the tax-farms of the Domaine d’Occident, and on 15 May 1685 Louis XIV bestowed on him the estates without claimants which were available at Saint-Domingue and on the Îles d’Amérique. Thanks no doubt to family influence, he entered the service of the Marine at Dunkirk as an “inspector,” at a date which cannot be exactly ascertained. On 26 Nov. 1683 the intendant at Dunkirk, Jean-Baptiste Patoulet*, wrote to the minister in praise of Aigremont, “who has worked here for some years with extraordinary diligence and wisdom, coupled with well-tried loyalty.” On 1 July 1684 he became Patoulet’s secretary. In a petition of 1716 he was to claim that he had worked “for three years in the offices of the Marine during M. de Seignelay’s time”; he did not specify at what period, probably around 1685. On 1 July 1690 we find him serving as secretary to Seignelay’s relative Louvigny d’Orgemont, who was intendant of the Marine at Le Havre. He held this position until 1 June 1701, when he received a commission as naval commissary in Canada, where he was to replace Tantouin de La Touche; he landed at Quebec from the Seine on 4 Sept. 1701. He was reported at that time to be a “very upright and capable man and a steady worker.” But the following year the king made the office of commissary a venal one, and Clairambault found himself called upon to purchase an appointment in order to be continued in office. He who never ceased to complain that he had been born without possessions could not raise the 30,000 livres required, and he gave vent to some bitterness when he declared “that he found it hard, after 20 years of uninterrupted and unselfish service, to have been sent so far to obtain a position only to be allowed to enjoy it for so short a time.”
Intendant François de Beauharnois* de La Chaussaye, who appreciated him, arranged matters by taking him on as a secretary with a supplementary salary of 400 livres, and in 1703 appointed him his subdelegate at Montreal, so that there was scarcely any change in his duties.
Quite clearly Clairambault was highly esteemed. In 1705 Pontchartrain recommended him to Intendant Jacques Raudot, and in 1707 an important mark of confidence was conferred on him when he was given the mission of inspecting the trading posts in the interior, “to examine,” the minister wrote to him, “what trade is done there, and to ascertain exactly the state in which these posts are, and whether those who are in command there are not engaging in illicit trading . . . you must investigate on the spot the usefulness or otherwise of each post . . . because according to what you write His Majesty will decide to maintain the useful ones and abandon the others.”
Clairambault left Montreal on 5 June 1708, and carried out his mission with care. He summed up his conclusions in a long report dated 14 Nov. 1708, which received the approval of the minister. “His Majesty has found so much good faith in it that he has decided to follow the opinions expressed.” When Raudot went back to France he entrusted the intendancy to Clairambault in the interim, and the latter held the office for nearly a year (November 1711–October 1712). Bégon*, Raudot’s successor, wrote that “the knowledge and views of the Sieur d’Aigremont will be very helpful”; consequently, at the end of 1712, he appointed him comptroller of the Marine, instructed him to salvage the wreckage of the English fleet lost in the St Lawrence, and requested a gratuity for him. But the coffers of the kingdom were empty, and all the unfortunate comptroller received was a letter from the minister assuring him that he was “very happy with the way in which you are serving in Canada.”
As the acquiring of commissaryships by purchase was abolished in 1716, Clairambault asked to be reinstated in his rank, and this request was enthusiastically supported by Rigaud de Vaudreuil and Bégon, who once again praised his rectitude and his ability. He therefore received another commission on 17 Feb. 1717. In 1724, again on the recommendation of Vaudreuil and Bégon, he was granted an increase in pay of 600 livres. But the end of his career was saddened by the fire which burned down the intendant’s palace at Quebec on 28 Dec. 1725, and in which he lost all he owned – little enough in any case – about 4,000 livres in furniture, silver, and clothes. The administrators asked for an indemnity on his behalf, but apparently did not obtain it. In 1728 Intendant Claude-Thomas Dupuy was recalled, and Clairambault was again put in charge in the interim. On 12 October he gave judgement against the intendant, sentencing him to pay various sums owing to the king’s treasury. On 20 October he put his name to an ordinance concerning the beaver trade. He died the same year, and was buried on 4 December in the cathedral of Quebec.
Clairambault, wrote the governor general, Charles de Beauharnois* de La Boische, was “universally regretted . . . his unselfishness was so great during his lifetime that when he died there was not enough money to bury him.” Rarely has an official been the object of such a chorus of praise, given without the slightest reservation.
Archives de la Côte d’Or (Dijon), C 2885, 307. Archives d’Yonne (Auxerre), B, suppl. 225. AN, Col., B, 22, f.275v; 23, ff.103v., 235; 27, f.30; 29, ff.89, 126; 30, ff.131, 169; 33, f.367v; 34, f.322; 35, f.306; 36, f.405; 37, f.141v; C11A, 18, f.42; 19, ff.98, 223, 225; 20, ff.75v, 121, 217, 218; 21, f.104v; 22, f.206v; 29, f.26; 31, f.172; 32, ff.10, 222v; 33, ff.15v, 113, 131v, 260; 34, ff.104, 322; 35, f.232; 36, ff.27, 170; 45, f.70; 46, ff.6, 20, 189, 425; 49, ff.147, 532; 50; E, 82; Marine, C2, 55; Minutier, XCV, 41. BN, MS, Cabinet des titres, dossiers bleus, 189, 4919f. Charland, “Notre-Dame de Québec: le nécrologe de la crypte,” 181. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. P.-G. Roy, “Les commissaires ordinaires de la marine en la Nouvelle-France,” BRH, XXIV (1918), 53; “François Clairambault d’Aigremont,” BRH, XII (1906), 114–18; “Jean-Baptiste de Silly,” BRH, XXII (1916), 313.