The French regime

The French regime

In 1608, Samuel de Champlain ordered construction of the first building that would serve to defend the Habitation, Québec City's small trading post. Early on, Champlain was aware that danger lay in wait. The Kirke brothers, working for the British, laid siege to the colony in 1629. A second Habitation was being built but had not yet been completed. On the brink of famine, Québec City surrendered and France recovered the outpost only three years later.

France sent little support to the colonial authorities and the military presence in the colony was very weak. In 1623, the Québec City garrison housed only 12 permanent soldiers, a situation that did not improve in the decades that followed. Despite the arrival of 1300 soldiers with the Carignan-Salières Regiment in 1665 to fight in the Franco-Iroquois wars, only 27 soldiers belonged to the Québec City garrison in 1683.

From the 1660s on, New France's leaders feared further attacks from European rivals. Intendant Jean Talon suggested fortifying the heights of Cap Diamant but his idea was dismissed. Governor Frontenac, who shared Talon’s fears, asked that a wall be erected to close off the city...another proposal that France rejected, believing a European invasion to be highly unlikely.

Alerted by the fall of Port-Royal in Acadia, Frontenac ordered a new palisade to be built. Completed in a record six weeks, it became Québec City's first wall! When Admiral William Phips' fleet arrived from Boston to besiege the city in July 1690, Québec successfully fought off the attack despite its meagre defence system. In the years that followed, the Royal Battery and Cap-Diamant Redoubt were built using funds allocated by Louis XIV. France was beginning to realize how vulnerable its colony was.

When engineer Chaussegros de Léry arrived in Québec City in 1716, he realized immediately that the city's fortifications were inadequate. He proposed a new wall and construction of a citadel atop Cap Diamant. Québec City refused to finance his projects since its coffers were virtually empty. When Louisbourg fell in June 1745, emergency work was authorized. Despite the considerable sums devoted to fortifying the city, the work remained incomplete until the arrival of the British in 1759.