David Kirke and His Brothers (˜ 1597–˜ 1654)

1628–1632

David Kirke was born around 1597 in Dieppe, France, to a family of merchants. He was the eldest of the five sons—followed by Lewis, Thomas, John and James—of Jarvis Kirke, a wealthy trader who conducted business in France and England.

When war broke out between France and England in 1627, King Charles I commissioned David and his brothers to conquer Canada in the name of England. In 1628, the Kirke Brothers made an unsuccessful attempt to take Québec City. The following year, backed by the Company of Adventurers to Canada and better prepared, the Kirkes reappeared on the St. Lawrence River. Incapable of bearing the siege any longer, Champlain surrendered and was forced to leave Québec, which was occupied by the Kirkes until 1632. The signing of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1632 forced the Kirkes to restore Québec to the French. David Kirke later became governor of Newfoundland and continued to serve the English Crown in this capacity. In the end, Kirke was imprisoned for various reasons and accusations, and died around 1654 while serving his sentence.

When news of the events that took place from 1628 to 1632 reached France, the French-born Kirke brothers were burned in effigy because their actions were considered treason. Years later, the Kirkes were naturalized as English citizens and knighted in recognition of their exploits that led to the occupation of Québec.

SUGGESTED READING

Allaire, B. “L’occupation de Québec par les frères Kirke,” in R. Litalien and Denis Vaugeois (ed.), Champlain. La naissance de l’Amérique française, Québec, Septentrion and Nouveau Monde éditions, 2004, pp. 245–257.

Moir, J.S. “Kirke, David,”  “Kirke, Lewis” and “Kirke, Thomas,” Dictionnaire biographique du Canada, V. I: “De l’an 1000 à 1700,” Québec, Les Presses de l’Université Laval, 1967, pp. 416–420.