RUETTE D’AUTEUIL, DENIS-JOSEPH, attorney-general of the Conseil Souverain at Quebec, 1674–79; b. 1617, son of Jean Ruette and Catherine Esnault, ennobled 16 Jan. 1643 by Louis XIII, emigrated to New France in 1648 or 1649, obtained a seigneury at Sillery, and established residence in Quebec; d. 27 Nov. 1679 at the Hôtel-Dieu, Quebec, and was buried there the next day.
D’Auteuil was one of the original members of the Conseil Souverain, being appointed on 18 Sept. 1663. The following September, however, he, along with Louis Rouer de Villeray, Jean Juchereau de La Ferté, and Jean Bourdon, was arbitrarily dismissed from office by the governor, Saffray de Mézy, for allegedly conspiring to thwart the governor’s plan to introduce reforms in the local government at Quebec. Subsequently, Prouville de Tracy, lieutenant-general over all the French possessions in North America, strongly recommended that d’Auteuil be appointed attorney-general to succeed the late Jean Bourdon, but the minister rejected this recommendation. On 10 Sept. 1674, d’Auteuil again had a seat at the council table, serving as a substitute judge during the trials of François-Marie Perrot and the Abbé de Fénelon [see Salignac]. Three weeks later he received a commission from the king, dated 29 May 1674, appointing him attorney-general, which angered Buade de Frontenac. The latter informed the minister that d’Auteuil was incompetent and under the influence of the Jesuits. Frontenac, however, had no recourse but to allow the registration of d’Auteuil’s commission by the Conseil Souverain on 3 October.
In 1679 a violent conflict erupted between the governor and the Conseil Souverain. Frontenac insisted that he, rather than the intendant, must preside over the meetings of the council and be termed chief and president. D’Auteuil gave it as his opinion that this action was contrary to the king’s Déclaration of 1675 and the council concurred. When the council members adamantly refused to bow to his will, Frontenac banished d’Auteuil and two of the councillors from Quebec and ordered them to cross to France to account to the king for their insubordination. D’Auteuil, however, was a very sick man, suffering from a serious lung ailment, and Frontenac was persuaded to rescind his order so that d’Auteuil might be spared the sea journey. He died at Quebec on 27 November, likely the same day the ships sailed for France.
D’Auteuil’s marriage, on 18 Nov. 1647 in Paris, to Claire-Françoise Clément Du Vuault, daughter of Jean Clément Du Vuault de Monceaux, was not a happy one. The young couple was accompanied to Quebec by Claire-Françoise’s mother, Anne Gasnier. Twice widowed in France, she became the second wife of Jean Bourdon in 1655. D’Auteuil and his wife lived on their seigneury at Sillery and in a rented house in Quebec. Their first child, a girl, was born at Sillery on 2 June 1652; the next four died in infancy; and the fifth was François-Madeleine-Fortuné*. Mme d’Auteuil, however, deserted her husband on two occasions. In 1650 she eloped with Charles Cadieu during the absence of her husband and her mother in France. Cadieu was subsequently imprisoned for his part in this adventure and Mme d’Auteuil was confined, in the care of the seigneur of Beauport, Robert Giffard, by order of the colonial authorities, until her husband’s return to Quebec in 1651. In 1657, she obtained a separation of property and crossed to France, where she remained until her death in 1674. François-Madeleine-Fortuné was born during the voyage and baptized on 17 Jan. 1658 in Paris. Before her death, Mme d’Auteuil disinherited her young son.
In 1660 Ruette d’Auteuil crossed to France, again with his mother-in-law. He failed to persuade his wife to return with him to New France, but he brought his son back to Quebec. Here he brought up the boy to assume the duties of attorney-general after his, d’Auteuil’s, death, an appointment which was made by the intendant, with the sanction of the Conseil Souverain, despite the strong opposition of Frontenac. The following year, after a careful study of all the facts in the earlier dispute, Louis XIV upheld the contentions of the late attorney-general, rebuked Frontenac severely, and confirmed d’Auteuil’s son in office.
There can be no doubt that Ruette d’Auteuil, a dying man, had shown considerable courage in defying Frontenac as he did and that his actions contributed to a strengthening of the council’s authority by freeing it from the arbitrary domination of the governor.
JR (Thwaites), passim. Jug. et délib., I, contains transcripts of the proceedings of the council. On d’Autueil’s career as a member of the Conseil Souverain see: Cahall, The Sovereign Council of New France. W. J. Eccles, Canada under Louis XIV 1663–1701 (Canadian Centenary ser., III, Toronto, 1964); Frontenac. Faillon, Histoire de la colonie française, III. P.-G. Roy, La Ville de Québec, I, contains some references to d’Auteuil.
Revisions based on:
Arch. Nationales (Paris, Fontainebleau et Pierrefitte-sur-Seine), Y//186, f.111. Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Québec, CE301-S1, 28 nov. 1679.