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The Fire, Saturday, April 10, 1734

Saturday, April 10, 1734. It was an unusually mild spring day. The people who had attended evening prayer were beginning to make their way home. Among them was Thérèse de Couagne, widow of François Poulin de Francheville and the owner of Angélique, a Black slave.

On rue Saint-Paul, under the watchful eye of the sentry posted in front of the Hôtel-Dieu, two young girls were at play in the muddy street. In front of the hospital, a young panis slave named Manon watched the two children as she visited with Angélique, who was awaiting the return of her mistress. Some feet away, Marguerite César dit Lagardelette leaned out her open window.

At seven the sentry sounded the alarm: “Fire!” and immediately the hospital bell began to ring, soon followed by those in other churches and chapels throughout the city. A fire had erupted on the south side of rue Saint-Paul, and was spreading east of rue Saint-Joseph (rue Saint-Sulpice).

The knight Boisberthelot de Beaucours, along with the naval superintendent, Honoré Michel de Villebois de Larouvillière, and law enforcement officers went into action. However, the fire was so intense that the men could not come close to it. The streets, already difficult to negotiate due to the thaw, soon became impassable. Many people with their belongings sought refuge at the Hôtel-Dieu, but the fire soon made its way across rue Saint-Paul and set the hospital ablaze. In the general panic, and despite the presence of soldiers, people arriving from the suburbs began to take items from the convent and the houses of the merchants.

In less than three hours, the fire levelled the Hôtel-Dieu, destroyed 45 houses and left hundreds of people in the street. The fire quickly spread along rue Saint-Paul, driven by the strong wind blowing from the west.

Early the following morning, anger was felt throughout the city. A rumour was spreading that Angélique had set the fire in the attic of her mistress’ house, aided by her white lover, Claude Thibault.

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