SORBIER DE VILLARS, FRANÇOIS, priest, superior, and vicar general; b. 8 Feb. 1720 in the former diocese of Uzès (dept of Gard), France; d. 29 Nov. 1788 in Paris.
François Sorbier de Villars, who had done part of his studies with the Sulpicians in Paris, was sent to Canada in 1744 by the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères. He arrived in Quebec at the beginning of October and was soon regarded by the members of the seminary as “an excellent acquisition.” In the spring of 1746 he was appointed a director of the seminary; the following January he succeeded François-Elzéar Vallier* as bursar; then in November 1749 he became assistant to the procurator, Joseph-André-Mathurin Jacrau. The next spring the seminary in Paris recalled Christophe de Lalane, the superior of the Séminaire de Quebec, and appointed Sorbier de Villars to replace him. Villars remained in office until 1756, when he too was recalled; his prestige and knowledge of the facts had led to his being chosen to present before the king’s council of state the Séminaire de Quebec’s case against the chapter concerning the parish of Quebec [see René-Jean Allenou* de Lavillangevin; Jean-Félix Récher*].
Villars arrived in Paris on 6 Jan. 1757. Theoretically he was to remain only two years, but the war of the conquest changed his expectations and he never returned to Canada. Before he left, his colleagues in Quebec had entrusted him with a procuration to administer the seminary’s possessions and interests in France. Until his death Villars was to remain the temporal procurator and the true moral guide of the Séminaire de Quebec, sending letters and accounts punctually, even during the military regime, when Governor Murray had kept a close watch on correspondence to make sure that Paris was not intervening in the affairs of Quebec. A similar relationship was established between Villars and the Ursulines of Quebec; he had been their chaplain from 1747 until 1755 and helped them on numerous occasions. Bishop Briand, who had appointed him his vicar general in Paris on 17 Oct. 1777, said that he had “laboured hard for the diocese of Quebec with the bishops of France and other seigneurs whom he knew.”
On 6 April 1757 Sorbier de Villars, whose zeal and competence were recognized, was appointed a member of the board of directors of the seminary in Paris. He became its secretary in 1761, procurator in 1763, superior in 1766 and 1769, assistant to the superior in 1772, and once more procurator from 1783 until his death. His last letter, dated 2 May 1788, discloses that he was the beneficiary of the priory of Fontmoron in the diocese of Poitiers and that he had just given up this benefice with a lifetime pension from the king in its place. He died of an attack of gout on 29 Nov. 1788. His death brought about a change in the relations between the seminary in Paris and the Séminaire de Québec; the fraternal ties they had enjoyed became simple bonds of friendship, which dissolved after the Revolution and were not renewed for a long period.
[The ASQ holds some documents in the hand of François Sorbier de Villars: a description of the capture of Fort Chouaguen (Oswego) with a summary of booty taken (Lettres, R, 16); a list of British officers taken prisoner (Polygraphie, VII, 98); a copy of a letter to the commandant of Fort Edward (Fort Edward, N.Y.) (Polygraphie, VII, 39); and two manuscripts, “Observations utiles et curieuses touchant les forts, lacs et rivières du Canada” (1756, 10 pp.) (Polygraphie, VII, 123) and “Observations sur le Canada, routes fluviales, distances, etc.” (Polygraphie, IX, 30). h.p.]
ASQ, C 21, 17 oct. 1744; Évêques, 145; Lettres, P, 124; T, 156; mss, 12, f.29; 13, 9 août 1789; Polygraphie, XVIII, 5, 6, 18, 50. Burke, Les ursulines de Québec (1866–78), II, 258–63; III, 188–94. A.-H. Gosselin, L’Église du Canada après la Conquête, I; L’Église du Canada jusqu’à la Conquête, III. Adrien Launay, Mémorial de la Société des Missions étrangères (2v., Paris, 1912–16), II, 631.