The story behind Rue de la Belle-Angélique

Street Views:

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Photo: Shirley Nadeau

Maison Péan on Rue Saint-Louis in Old Quebec was the home of La Belle Angélique in the mid-18th century. It is now divided into residences for officers of the Canadian Armed Forces. The famous elm tree with the cannonball in its roots is just beside the house at the corner of Rue du Corps-de-Garde.

Normally, Bill Cox prepares the weekly “Street Views” column, but because I have an unusual connection to the person after whom this new street in Charlesbourg is named, I felt I had to write a “view” of this particular one.  
“La Belle” Angélique Renaud d’Avène des Méloizes (1722-1792) was born in Quebec City and was a student at the Ursuline Convent School. Famous for her beauty, charm and wit, she married Michel-Jean-Hugues de Péan in 1746. As an officer and adjutant, Péan became the right-hand man of François Bigot, Intendant of New France from 1748 to 1760. The Intendant was one of the two most powerful men in New France. 
Although she was married to Péan, Angélique supposedly had an affair with Intendant Bigot. She is thought to have influenced politics during his tenure, for which she has been compared with Madame de Pompadour. 
Bigot, Angélique and her husband were forced to return to France shortly after the British Conquest. Along with Péan, Bigot and Joseph-Michel Cadet, Angélique was indicted in France for having contributed to France’s loss of Canada to Britain in 1760, during the Seven Years War. 
William Kirby made Angélique de Méloizes the heroine of his famous novel, The Golden Dog (first published in 1877, revised and republished in 1896), in which fiction takes over from historical truth.  
Now here’s where my personal connection comes in... From 1995 to 2001, my husband and I lived in Maison Péan, the house in Old Quebec where Angélique and her husband once lived, and where the Intendant Bigot was a frequent visitor. 
Maison Péan is a large stone house on Rue Saint-Louis at the corner of Rue du Corps-de-Garde, where the famous elm tree with the cannon ball in its roots is located. The building is now divided into two large residences for officers of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families. The section we occupied had 15 rooms on three levels and 55,000 square feet of living space. The deed to the property, owned by the Government of Canada since 1760, is purported to read “Acquired by Conquest.” 
I must say, of all the residences I lived in during my husband’s lengthy naval career, I have never lived in an older or more storied house than Maison Péan. If I close my eyes I can just see La Belle Angélique, exquisitely dressed for another soirée scandaleuse, flanked by her loyal husband Monsieur Péan and the Intendant, in what for a time was my living room.  
Rue de la Belle-Angélique, a newly-opened street in Charlesbourg, is situated between the Chemin du Château-Bigot and the Rivière des Commissaires, not far from Avenue du Bourg-Royal. The name was chosen by the Commission de Toponymie du Québec (the office that approves street and place names in the province) as one of 12 coups de coeur (favourites) among the 1,675 names it made official in 2016. 
Sources: Ville de Québec Toponymy, Wikipedia and Dictionary of Canadian Biography. 
Angélique des Méloizes, known as “La Belle Angélique,” was the wife of Michel-Jean-Hugues de Péan and the supposed mistress of the governor of New France, Intendant Bigot, from 1748 to 1760.
Photo: Wikipedia Commons