World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

David Kirke

Champlain leaves Quebec as a prisoner aboard Kirke's ship, after a bloodless siege in 1629. Image by Charles William Jefferys, 1942.

Sir David Kirke (c. 1597 – 1654) was an adventurer, colonizer and governor for the king of England. He is best known for his successful capture of New France in 1629 during the Thirty Years' War, and his subsequent Governorship of lands in Newfoundland. A favourite of Charles I of England, the fall of the crown during the English Civil War led to Kirke's downfall. It is believed he died in prison.


  • Early life 1
  • Quebec campaign 2
  • Governor of Newfoundland 3
  • Arrest and death 4
  • Sara Kirke 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

David Kirke was the son of Gervase (Jarvis) Kirke, a wealthy London-based merchant,[1] and Elizabeth Goudon, a French Huguenot woman.[2] He was raised in Dieppe, in Normandy.[3]:42 David was the eldest of five sons, followed by Lewis, Thomas, John and James.[4]

Quebec campaign

In 1627 Kirke's father and several London merchants formed the Company of Adventurers to Canada to develop trade and settlement for profit on the St. Lawrence River.[5] Made up of private investors, it was chartered by the Crown as a means of extending English influence in exploration and colonial development. When the 30 Years War broke out later that year, the Company financed an expedition, which was commissioned by Charles I of England, to displace the French from “Canida.” The French had settlements along the Saint Lawrence River.[5]

Accompanied by his brothers Lewis, Thomas, John, and James (sometimes recorded as Jarvis), David Kirke set off with three ships, probably in company with a fleet bringing settlers to Newfoundland on the Avalon Peninsula. The force sailed up the Saint Lawrence River to Tadoussac.

Kirke seized a supply ship going to Quebec City and sent Basque fishermen as emissaries to the leader Samuel de Champlain to demand the surrender of the fortress town. Champlain rejected the demand because he was expecting relief from France, and Kirke decided against an attack. Kirke's ships turned back for England, but en-route they encountered the French supply fleet of four vessels under Admiral Claude Roquemont de Brison. The English captured the French ships after a short engagement. As the Kirke brothers were born and raised in France, their actions were considered treason there. The Kirke brothers were burned in effigy in Paris when the news of the French defeat reached the capital.[5] In England the Kirke brothers were granted a canton as an augmentation to their existing coats of arms (each properly differenced) by Clarenceux King of Arms on 1 December 1631. The design of the canton was based on the arms of the defeated Admiral Roquemont.[3]:108, 209-211

A second English invasion fleet, of six ships and three pinnaces, left Gravesend in March 1629 with Jacques Michel, a deserter from Champlain, to act as pilot on the St. Lawrence River. Champlain sent a party from Quebec, whose residents were on the point of starvation, to meet an expected relief fleet under Émery de Caën. Unknown to Champlain, de Caën was also bringing word that peace had been declared in April in Europe by the Treaty of Susa. Although Champlain's party met de Caën in the Gulf, they were captured by the English on their way upriver to Quebec. Kirke, now aware of the desperate conditions at Quebec, sent his brothers Lewis and Thomas to demand surrender. Having no alternative, Champlain surrendered on 19 July 1629.[5]

Impressed with the achievement, the Company of Adventurers applied to the Crown for letters patent to give them the sole right to trade and settle in Canada along the St. Lawrence. Sir William Alexander complained that such a patent would infringe upon the land granted to him under the Great Seal of Scotland in February 1627. The two groups compromised by joining forces; Alexander would establish an Anglo-Scottish colony at Tadoussac, holding all the land within 10 leagues on both sides of the river, while the Company would have the right to free trade and use of the harbours.[5]

However, Champlain argued that the English seizing of the lands was illegal as the war had already ended; he worked to have the lands returned to France. As part of the ongoing negotiations of their exit from the Anglo-French War, in 1632 the English king Charles agreed to return the lands in exchange for Louis XIII paying his wife's dowry. These terms were signed into law with the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The lands in Quebec and Acadia were returned to the French Company of One Hundred Associates.[5]

As a consolation, Kirke was knighted in 1633.[6]

Governor of Newfoundland

Kirke is believed to have visited Ferryland, as he published a report on the island of Newfoundland in 1635.[6] Kirke was impressed by the island's fisheries, and in 1637 he asked King Charles for a land grant. In November 1637 Kirke and his partners were granted a

  • Biography: "David Kirke", Government House The Governorship of Newfoundland and Labrador]
  • Biography: "David Kirke", Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online]

External links

  1. ^ Herald's Visitation of the City of London 1 Dec 1631 (British Museum Add. MS 5533)
  2. ^ Marquis, Thomas Guthrie. The Jesuit Missions: A Chronicle of the Cross in the Wilderness (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1964) 18.
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ "David Kirke and His Brothers (1597–1654)", Place Royal, Musée de la Civilisation
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "KIRKE, SIR DAVID, adventurer, trader, colonizer, leader of the expedition that captured Quebec in 1629, and later governor of Newfoundland", Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Sir David Kirke and the Newfoundland Plantation", Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage
  7. ^ a b c "The Arms, Seals, and Emblems of Newfoundland and Labrador", Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage
  8. ^ a b c "Sir David Kirke, Governor of Newfoundland, 1638-1651", Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage
  9. ^ a b c Charlotte Gray, The Museum Called Canada: 25 Rooms of Wonder, Random House, 2004
  10. ^ a b "John Treworgie, Governor of Newfoundland, 1653-1660", Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage
  11. ^ a b "TREWORGIE (Treworgy, Trewerghey), JOHN, merchant, colonizer, governor of Newfoundland", Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
  12. ^ Fish into Wine. The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century by Peter E Pope. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, 2004


Preceded by:
William Hill
Governor of Newfoundland
Followed by:
John Treworgie

The Coat of Arms granted to Kirke was lost during the civil war. During the aftermath of World War I, the Imperial War Graves Commission in Europe asked what arms should mark the graves of soldiers from Newfoundland. During the subsequent investigations, the Arms were rediscovered. In 1928 they were adopted as the official Coat of Arms of Newfoundland and Labrador.[7][9]

[6] Lady Sara Kirke managed the Pool Plantation at Ferryland throughout this period. Between 1651 and her retirement in 1679, Sara and her sons developed a number of plantations at Ferryland and

[6] Lady Kirke and her children were still in Ferryland in 1673 when a Dutch fleet sacked and burned the settlement during the

[5] The

Sara Kirke

He never returned to Newfoundland. [11] Treworgie maintained that Kirke's possessions had been returned to his wife, but was found guilty in a first trial. A personal plea to [5] The next year he and two other commissioners were arrested by James Kirke for holding position of lands rightfully owned by the Kirkes, and an unpaid debt of £1,100.[10] Treworgie was granted governorship of Newfoundland in 1653; he was already in Ferryland (apparently never having left after 1651).

In 1651 a team of six commissioners, led by Maryland merchant [10] His lands were acquired by the Commonwealth. Found not guilty, Kirke re-purchased the title to his lands in 1653. His wife, Lady Sara Kirke, returned to Newfoundland to oversee his business and reclaim his property. But Cecil Calvert brought new charges against Kirke over the title of the lands around Ferryland.[8] Kirke is thought to have died in the original Southwark jail, The Clink, as early as January 1654, while awaiting trial.[5]

The war ended in 1651, and the Kirkes, as royalists, were on the losing side. Although the merchants' complaints were put aside during the war, they were revived at the end of the war. The Kirkes were no longer protected by the crown.[8]

Arrest and death

These actions aroused strong animosity from the West Country merchants. The planters and migratory fishermen agreed that Kirke was reserving the best fishing rooms for himself and his friends. In addition, he was accused of opening taverns, which were disruptive to the settlers' work. But before these charges could be investigated, in 1642 the English Civil War broke out between the king and parliament.[5]

Kirke was granted the rights to "the sole trade of the Newfoundland, the Fishing excepted."[6] The latter clause resulted in considerable trouble. At the time the Grand Banks of Newfoundland were being fished by many European nations, and Kirke's 5% tax gave the advantage to the English. A number of West Country merchants thrived on the fish trade. Represented in London by Kirke, Barkeley and Company (with several of his brothers at the helm), Kirke used his land rights to support the fish trade, in conflict with the charter terms. By 1638 strong ties between Ferryland and Dartmouth, Devon had already been set up. Kirke brought the entire trade network south of St. John's under a growing family commercial empire.[6]

Kirke seized the governor's mansion, then occupied by Hill. In January 1638, the king also granted Kirke a coat of arms, “For the greater honour and splendour of that Countrey and the people therein inhabiting … to be used in all such cases as Armes are wont to be by other nations and Countries.”[7] In 1639, Kirke renamed the colony the Pool Plantation.[9] Over the next several years, Kirke erected forts at Ferryland, St. John’s, and Bay de Verde. He collected tolls from all fishing vessels.[6]

Kirke was installed as the Proprietary Governor, and arrived in 1638 with 100 colonists. The original governorship of the Avalon Peninsula had passed to Baltimore's son, Cecilius (Cecil) Calvert, who had installed William Hill as governor.

[8] The charter of this grant had stipulations designed to reduce conflict with migratory fishermen; there was to be no settlement within six miles of the shore, fishing rooms were not to be occupied before the arrival of the summer fishing crews, and a five per cent tax was to be collected on all fish products taken by foreigners.[7]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.