Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve was born on 15 February 1612 (new style) into the aristocracy in Neuville-sur-Vanne in Champagne, France.
He served in the Dutch war at the age of thirteen. Attracted to Canada by reading the Jesuit "Relations", he was proposed by Father Jérome Lalemant to command the company sent by Royer de la Dauversiere to found Ville-Marie on the Island of Montreal, which had been ceded by ex-Governor Lauzon for an annual rent of ten pounds of fish.
The future foundress of the Hôtel-Dieu, Jeanne Mance, joined the party. Governor Montmagny strove to prevent this seemingly foolhardy enterprise and retained the colonists at Sillery during the winter of 1641-42. Maisonneuve, who in the fall of 1641 had gone to take possession of the island, landed there with his followers on 17 May, 1642. The Jesuit Vimont said the first Mass, and the Blessed Sacrament remained exposed all day with a phial containing fireflies as a sanctuary lamp. The settlement was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin under the name of Ville-Marie. Situated at the point of convergence of the chief waterways, the colony was kept constantly on the alert by dread of the Iroquois. To guard against surprise and secure mutual assistance, Maisonneuve later commanded that all workers outside the fort should muster and disband at the sound of the bell. At sixty leagues' distance from Quebec and thirty from Trois Riveres, the nearest fort, the position was most perilous, constantly demanding heroic courage. Yet Maisonneuve was to remain twenty-five years at his post. When, in 1644, 200 Iroquois attacked the island, he encountered the enemy with only 30 men.
Overpowered by numbers, he retreated successfully after killing the chief.
At the expiration of Montmagny's term of office, the governor-generalship was offered by Louis XIV to Maisonneuve, who thought fit to decline. He encouraged colonization by facilitating well-assorted marriages, attracted allies by his liberality, and, while inspiring the Iroquois with terror, he gained their confidence and saved from torture many French captives. As a magistrate he judged with equity and impartiality. In 1653 he returned from a voyage to France with Marguerite Bourgeoys, foundress of the Congregation of Notre Dame. A troop of soldiers arrived with them. After a third voyage, he brought with him the first Sulpicians who came to Canada (1659). In 1660 he authorized the heroic venture of Dollard and his sixteen companions, which saved New France from destruction. Maisonneuve's action showed itself particularly in the organization of defence. Though he seldom fought, his presence was felt everywhere planning and ordering. His character was a blending of reserve, calmness, and foresight, and, at the same time, of spontaneousness, initiative, and intrepidity. He saw to the military training of his followers and was the first to conceive the utility of flying camps to keep the Indians at a distance. In imitation of the ancient military orders, he founded a corps called the "Militia of the Holy Family", which maintained for many years the security of Montreal. He likewise favoured agriculture, commerce, and education, and was like a father to the colony, attending equally to its spiritual and temporal wants.
Dieu le Roy!