You might have noticed in the last post that Anne Leodet was listed as widow of Jean Nepveu in the 1666 census. She was also listed as the widow of Jean Nepveu on the Sillery map of 1663 in Marcel Trudel’s Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent. But Peter Gagne’s The Filles a Marier and the PRDH both note that Anne Leodet’s marriage to Jean Nepveu was annulled due to a bigamy conviction. So was she part of a bigamist relationship or not?
My confusion rests on the use of the word “widow.” Today, the word is reserved for women whose spouses have died. Was the word “widow” used more broadly in the seventeenth century? Or was it that they, like us, have no alternative that could be used to label a betrayed woman. Maybe “widow” was all they had to explain Leodet’s situation (woman given title to her former husband’s land.)
Curiously, Anne Leodet was not the only one in her community to have marriage troubles. The lord of the manor, Denis-Joseph Ruette D’Auteuil, also had a complicated married life. He married Claire-Françoise Clément Du Vuault who ran off with Charles Cadieu while he was away in France in 1650. Some say that she eloped with Cadieu, elsewhere it is suggested that Cadieu kidnapped her. Either way, in 1657, Du Vuault managed to obtain a separation of property, left for France, and never returned. The 1666 census is silent on the matter. D’Auteuil is listed as head of household with his son and six servants, but not a peep is made about his wife or what her absence meant for his social identity.
This second situation confirms the existence of language issues in formal documents for me (what label do you use for an abandoned husband?) And it also makes me think that the historical record is difficult to decipher for other reasons too. There was probably some level of damage control going on. People had reputations and livelihoods at stake. Those that persisted (or maybe their descendants) might have worked hard to spin the story into a more favorable light.
Does anybody have any idea of how to figure out if the bigamy incident is real or not?
For more on D’Auteuil and Du Vuault, look here for the elopement story, and here for the kidnapping story (the dates are off by a decade here but I think that is a typo.) Neither story provides much detail but together they go to show that multiple interpretations exist for the same bits of fact.