The reasons why Jeanne decided to marry Jean Baptiste Francois Deschamps de la Bouteillerie and why he waited 20 years to marry again are lost to history. I’ve asked around for opinions and have come up with some explanations.
Possible reasons for Deschamps’ long celibacy range from guilt and grief over losing his wife to the inability to find someone appropriate, to his tenuous financial situation that made supporting a new family difficult. Or perhaps he was too busy building the seigneurie and had no time to find and pursue a mate. There is also the possibility that he might have had a secret love, although that idea has been dismissed fairly quickly. Rivière Ouelle was so small a place and the Catholic religion so strong, that such an illicit relationship was probably not tenable.
If I had wanted to write a romance novel, I could imagine a wonderful love story between Jeanne and Deschamps. Assuming the distinct possibility that Jean Baptiste and Jeanne had indeed arrived from France on the same ship, they could have met on board. Perhaps Jeanne had some training as a nurse and had been called up to help minister to a crew member or even Deschamps himself with an injury. Deschamps could have taken notice of her, but any attraction that might have been ignited would have been quickly extinguished because of the class differences at the time. When they met again in 1679, upon Jeanne’s arrival in Rivière Ouelle with Robert, they were both married. After Jean-Francois’s wife died in 1681, Jeanne was still married. But finally, when Robert died, they could marry. They just had to wait a respectable amount of time.
Coming down from the clouds, I can also imagine a more practical explanation. Over the years, as Robert’s and Jeanne’s farm grew and they became more prosperous and as the passage of time in Canada broke down class barriers, they might all have settled into a life as neighbors and good friends. Thus, at the end of 1699, Jeanne and Deschamps were two old friends, now both without a spouse, facing lonely years ahead and deciding they didn’t want to face growing old alone. It’s also possible that he was ill and needed someone to take care of him.
Who knows? I can only speculate. They left no letters, and he is not mentioned in her will.
My distant cousin, historian Ulric Levesque, has offered an even more logical, and definitely less romantic, theory around their decision to marry although it doesn’t really explain Jean-Baptiste’s long-term bachelorhood. According to Ulric, when Jean-Baptiste sold his manor in the spring of 1692 to the church to be used as a home for the priest, he needed a place to live. There is no evidence that he built another manor. Given his somewhat tenuous financial situation, he could have moved into the house that had come with the major land purchase made by Jeanne and Robert 1692, shortly after he sold his home to the church. He could have lived there with Francois-Robert, the oldest of the Levesque sons who at 19 might have been ready to move out of the family home where he was living with his parents and two brothers into his own space. By 1701, however, Francois-Robert was 21 and had found a woman to marry. They needed a home of their own. Jean-Baptiste could have moved into the little cabin that had been Robert’s first home, but perhaps Jeanne’s home was a more appealing place to live. There was not a lot of empty housing, as there is now. However, moving in with Jeanne required that they marry – in the 17th century at least.