—Most high, most powerful, most invincible and victorious prince Louis the Great, by the grace of God, king of France and of Navarre, fourteenth of this name, take possession of this country of Louisiana, seas harbours, ports, bays, adjacent straights and all of the nations, peoples, provinces, city’s towns, villages, mines, minerals, fish, streams, rivers, within the length and breadth of the aforementioned Louisiana***
As I was on a trip to New Orleans, I thought I would pick up a French historical novel about the City and thus came across this ‘Mouth of the Mississipy’ by Duchon-Doris in my local lending library. The story is set in the first years of the eighteenth century as the d’Iberville brothers from New France have been sent to form a settlement by King Louis XIV, the vast region of Louisiana having been claimed for king Louis in an earlier expedition by Cavelier de La Salle in the 1680s whose speech at the moment of claiming it is given in the opening quote.
The expeditions take place during a time of religious rivalry between the Roman church and the Reformed church and rivalry within the camps between the Jésuites, who by the purists are accused of making concessions with the faith in order to get if adopted in far flung lands, and one of these purist groups, the “Missions étrangères” backed by Madame de Maintenon.
In this story, Guillaume de Lauteret expecting to become the Paris prosecutor finds his fiancée’s mother arrested under order of the king but with no explanation. In trying to discover the truth they learn that the father of Delphine, his fiancée, had been involved in an expedition to Louisiana where he had until recently be supposed dead, as they then learn:
—Listen to me, he said. I’ll be quick. There are always two versions to a story. In the first, your father is dead. He killed by Mr. Cavelier de La Salle in 1687 after an ugly quarrel. He was tried and executed immediately afterwards by the survivors of the expedition. In this version, your mother is imprisoned.
—In the second version, seventeen years later, when the Sire d’Iberville is leading a new expedition to the mouth of the Mississippi , in the name of the king, the settlers are attacked by a man who kills five of them and is recognised by M de La Salle’s old aumônier as your father.***
So begins the story that will lead them on an adventurous expedition to Louisiana with the d’Ibervilles looking to discover the truth about Delphine’s family. A pleasant story mostly read in the plane.
First Published in French as “L’embouchure du Mississipy” in 2004 by Julliard
*** My translation