KOENIG (König, von König), EDMOND-VICTOR DE, Baron von KOENIG, army officer, physician, and teacher; b. 1753 in Osterwieck (German Democratic Republic), son of Edmund von König, Baron von König, and Louise-Émilie Rudolfi; m. first c. 1782 Marie-Louise Jean, probably at Quebec; m. secondly 24 May 1819 Marie-Céleste Guichard, dit Bourguignon, in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Lower Canada; d. 17 July 1833 in L’Islet, Lower Canada.
Edmond-Victor de Koenig belonged to an important Prussian family. His father was elector of the duchy of Brunswick and a cavalry colonel. Like two of his brothers, Edmond-Victor was led early to follow in his father’s footsteps and take up a military career. He had joined the army by the age of 12 or 13. When the American colonies revolted in 1775, the British government had recourse to German troops. It was under these circumstances that Koenig arrived at Quebec in 1776 as a lieutenant in the forces under Major-General Friedrich Adolph Riedesel. During the war he suffered a gunshot wound in his right arm at Stillwater, N.Y. On 21 July 1783, when the war was over, he obtained his discharge from the army.
Realizing that there would be few opportunities for promotion in Europe, Koenig decided to settle at Quebec. For several months he tried without success to find a job, and finally, discouraged and at the end of his means, he considered returning to his native land. He changed his mind, however, and around 1786 decided to try his luck as a country doctor. It was in this period that he is believed to have renounced the Lutheran faith in favour of Catholicism. He stayed in the region of Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies and Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (La Pocatière) for a time, and then settled for good at L’Islet.
Koenig was in an extremely precarious financial position. To support a family which by 1803 included eight children he had to go into debt. An inventory of his belongings that year shows the wretchedness of his situation. He owned no personal or landed property, had assets worth less than 2,000 livres, and debts totalling 1,650 livres. In 1799 Koenig tried to recover the inheritances that he had come into in Europe. Despite persistent efforts, he apparently received only part of the large sums bequeathed him. The matter had, not been settled even by 1840, seven years after his death.
Koenig also sought help from the government on the basis of his service record but his efforts were fruitless until 1800, when he was granted 2,400 acres. A decade later, as a reward for his years in the army, Governor Sir James Henry Craig* had him appointed teacher at L’Islet in the school set up under the 1801 act that created the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning. This “small job” brought him £60 annually until 1822. After that he received a pension as a retired teacher until 10 Oct. 1831. Lack of funds then forced the Royal Institution to do away with this payment. An inquiry conducted in 1820 indicates how the school, which Koenig held in his home, operated. Teaching was free and in French, but the number of pupils nevertheless fluctuated constantly. The catechism was the subject to which greatest attention was given. As method, Koenig used the monitorial system developed by Joseph Lancaster*.
Like many of his compatriots Edmond-Victor de Koenig had quickly fitted into the French-speaking population. It is uncertain that he accomplished much, however. He lived in constant poverty. Moreover, his competence as a doctor and a schoolteacher is questionable. He was never licensed as a doctor, and his appointment as a teacher was a reward rather than a recognition of his talents. Moreover, he suffered the crowning blow for a schoolteacher: his own children did not even know how to sign their names. Their astonished European cousins found it difficult to conceive that things could have come to such a pass.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 22 sept. 1783, 17 janv. 1785; CE2-3, 1er févr. 1798, 4 sept. 1802, 19 juill. 1833; CE2-18, 24 mai 1819; CE2-25, 23 janv. 1786, 20 janv. 1787, 23 nov. 1793; CE3-12, 21 août 1786; 15 janv., 22 nov. 1788; 7 nov. 1790; CN1-188, 27 juill. 1827; CN1-224, 20 nov. 1789; CN1-230, 26 août 1816, 23–24 juill. 1817; CN2-7, 9 août 1799, 12–13 mai 1803; CN2-12, 17 janv. 1820, 26 juin 1830; CN2-48, 21 déc. 1818; 15 mai 1819; 7 févr., 26 mars 1821; 13 sept., 28 oct., 9 nov. 1822; 13 déc. 1825; 31 déc. 1827; 22 déc. 1828; 26 janv. 1829; 15 avril 1831; 28 févr. 1833; 5 août 1835; CN3-11, 12 nov. 1782. BL, Add. mss 21735: 593; 21812: 200; 21879: 132. PAC, RG 1, L3L: 94259–62; RG 4, A3, 2; RG 31, C1, 1831, L’Islet. PRO, WO 17/1570 (mfm. at PAC). L.C., House of Assembly, Journals, 1810–11, app.B. L.-P. Audet, Le système scolaire, 3: 140; 4: 120, 126, 217, 252, 254, 258. Maurice Koenig, “La famille Koenig en Canada; un baron allemand allié à deux families canadiennes-françaises, “SGCF Mémoires, 16 (1965): 269–70. P.-G. Roy, “Le baron Edmond-Victor von Koenig,” BRH, 23 (1917): 316–18.