Episode 264: In Montreal, Quebec on the evening of April 10, 1734, a fire broke out in the home of Madame de Francheville on Rue Saint-Paul and quickly spread throughout the city. Raging for hours, it destroyed over 46 buildings, primarily residential homes, and the Hôtel-Dieu, a hospital that provided medical care to soldiers and people who were too poor to care for at home. There were rumours that Madame de Francheville’s Portuguese-born black enslaved woman, Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique, started the fire as an act of rebellion on learning she was to be sold and sent away from her lover, a white man and salt trafficker named Claude Thibault. Angélique was arrested and subsequently tortured until she confessed to setting the fire. She was then convicted of arson and hanged on June 21, 1734. The fire significantly impacted Montreal’s development and created new building codes and fire prevention measures. The event remains integral to Montreal’s cultural and historical heritage and yet another dark spot in Canada’s history. Some have called Angélique a heroine, others a scapegoat. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is lost to time.
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