DOUBLET, FRANÇOIS, apothecary, shipowner; b. 1619 or 1620 at Honfleur (Normandy), son of François Doublet, a merchant, and of Marguerite Auber; d. before 1678.
François Doublet concerned himself with sea-borne trade, and about 1659 he was in partnership with a Dieppe shipowner, Pierre Gellée; they traded in goods imported from Canada, especially cod, whale-oil, bearskins, and beaver pelts. In 1662 he decided to become a shipowner himself, and to turn his attention towards Canada. The Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France granted him, 19 Jan. 1663, the Îles de la Madeleine, de Saint-Jean (today Prince Edward Island), des Oiseaux, and de Brion, so that he could develop colonization and fisheries there. But, 10 years earlier, these islands had been made over to Nicolas Denys, and furthermore, a group of Basques had just finished settling in the Îles de la Madeleine.
After obtaining in Holland a ship of 300 tons, which was given the name Saint-Michel, François Doublet acquired two other small vessels. Before setting out, he formed a partnership with Philippe Gaignard on 23 April 1663, in order to exploit the Îles de la Madeleine. The ships put to sea towards the end of April 1663, carrying, in addition to the crews, 25 men who were to become the first settlers on the islands. The crossing was rather long, and marked by a number of incidents; for instance, as soon as they were on the high seas they discovered on board one of the ships a seven-year-old boy, Jean-François, François Doublet’s son, who was later to become a privateer of some repute. The majority of the details that we have concerning this first voyage come from the account written by his son.
Towards mid-May, the expedition reached the Île de Brion, where some 20 Basques were found, living in a wooden house. During the rest of the summer, some dwellings and a store were built, and the men went hunting and fishing. Doublet returned to France in the autumn, leaving some 20 of his men to spend the winter on the islands. The following spring, he found the island completely abandoned by his associates, and the buildings started the previous summer already in ruins. Doublet was therefore obliged to go back to France, dissolve the partnership formed the winter before, and sell his ships.
That same year, having planned his return to New France, he boarded a ship at Le Havre which sailed for Quebec, where he landed 2 Oct. 1664. This time he came as a commissioner instructed “to sink a shaft into a lead mine which had recently been discovered on the shores of Gaspé.” This new adventure was not much more successful, since by the end of the summer of 1665 the total quantity of lead ore extracted did not exceed four or five tons. Doublet then came back to Quebec, where his son Jean-François was studying under the Jesuits. On 21 July of the same year, in his capacity as head clerk of the Compagnie des Indes occidentales at Gaspé, he obtained from the Marquis de Tracy [see Prouville] an authorization “to trade in pelts for and on behalf of the gentlemen of the said company along the coasts of Canada, Acadia, Newfoundland and elsewhere.” He apparently spent two further years in New France, and his presence is noted at Fort Richelieu in 1665 and 1666.
In 1668 Doublet was back at Honfleur, and he seems to have spent the rest of his career in the service of a society of merchants who were carrying on trade along the coasts of Africa. He appears to have died before 1678.
On 1 Feb. 1643 François Doublet had married Madeleine Fontaine, Jacques Fontaine’s daughter, by whom he had 16 children; the best known of them, Jean-François, “a privateer and lieutenant on a frigate . . . occupies a distinguished place in the naval history of Normandy.”
Some have asserted that the Îles de la Madeleine owe their name to François Doublet, who is thought to have called them after his wife. It is more probable, however, that the name of these islands comes from the appellation “La Magdelene,” given by Champlain to Amherst Island on his map of 1632.
BM, Add. MS 14034, f.66 (concession of the Magdalen Islands in 1663). Correspondance de Talon, APQ Rapport, 1930–31, 22. [Jean Doublet], Journal du corsaire Jean Doublet de Honfleur, lieutenant de frégate sous Louis XIV, éd. Charles Bréard (Paris, 1884), 5–7, 27, 281–83. Mémoires des commissaires, I, 154; II, 521, 524–27; and Memorials of the English and French commissaries, I, 208–9, 736, 739. Ord. comm. (P.-G. Roy), I, 24–25. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, II, 94. Charles Bréard, Le vieux Honfleur et ses marins: biographies et récits maritimes (Rouen, 1897), 86–92. “Les disparus: Jean-François Doublet,” BRH, XXXIII (1927), 206. La Morandière, Hist. de la pêche française de la morue, I, 373.