|Journal of American French Genealogical Society
Gillette Banne, cont.
|"The second phase of the punishment was the exposure on the wheel. The criminal's body was carried to a small carriage wheel which had been prepared by removing the hub or nave. It was then placed horizontally on a pivot. The executioner, after having bent the criminals thighs underneath, in such a fashion that the heels would touch the back of hishead, tied him to the rim of the wheel. The condemned remained exposed in this fashion for a specified amount of time.
"It was often indicated by a clause or proviso that the condemned would be secretely strangled as soon as he was placed on the wheel. To this end, a winch was affixed at the top of the scaffold from which a rope ran down, circled around the victim's neck, and ran up again to the winch. With the help of levers operated by two men, the rope rolled aroung the winch, tightened and strangled the victim.
"Jacques Bertault was fortunate that he had faced a group of men on the Sovereign Council who were merciful. He was sentenced to be hanged first, therefore the torture was purely symbolic.
"Isabelle had to watch this medieval brutality as part of her punishment. She cried and she sobbed. It tore at her heart to see her father's body mangled and mutilated. He had been very strict and he had forced her to marry Latouche, but at the same time, he had been kind to her. She knew that he had loved her and she had loved him too. She wished Latouche were alive. It was not worth it. But her husband was dead and now was the present. The clock could not be turned back. Her father was gone and now she must bid a last farewell to her mother, her beloved mother, with whom she had been so close and had shared so much. She cried, 'Maman, maman, do you have to leave me. What will I do? I need you.' The tears streamed down her face. She remembered how her mother had always protected her and cared for her. She rememberd how her mother had listened to her problems, oh so attentively, and had always been so sympathetic to her situation. She
remembered the warmth and the touch of her mother's arms around her. It seemed her mother had always been there when she needed her. As she wiped the tears away, she saw them putting that rough rope, that awful noose, around her mother's throat. How could this have happened, she thought. She blamed herself for complaining too much and wondered why she had not suffered silently. She felt guilty. She was losing the most wonderful friend she ever had and it was her fault.. She wiped her tear filled eyes once more and looked up onto the scaffold. She shrieked in pain, 'Maman, maman!' But it was over; her mother was dead. During the trial, Isabelle had to say she wished she were dead. She had meant it when she had said it, but today she wished it more than ever before. She felt empty, alone and abandoned."
|It's easy to judge the Bertaults and perhaps feel that they got what they deserved, but their story is indicative of the times. Not that everyone was driven to such drastic measures, but in an age of arranged marriages, often between children and older men, it was rare to find domestic bliss. Jacques was certainly not the first man to drag his daughter kicking and screaming to the altar, and certainly not the first to encourage them to stay in a loveless marriage.
Did Gillette engineer and perpetrate a crime? Of course she did; but her motif was not greed or jealouy, but months of built up anger as she had to stand helplessly by, while her young daughter (who was still only thirteen at the time of the executions) was neglected and abused. How many other parents finding themselves in similar situations, swore such revenge?
There is another important element in this story that deserves mention. History has not been kind to the Iroquois Nation, calling them brutal savages and the Jesuits have left many written accounts about the torture imposed by this fierce army.
|The illustration to the left is from Father Garnier's Les Mouers des Savages to show Iroquois tortures. However, they were merely delivering their own brand of justice, that was no better or worse than any found in Europe at the time. No one wants to be burned alive, but no one wants their limbs broken on a wheel; be pulled apart by horses or stretched on "The Boot". Garnier also mentions the native practice of dancing with enemy scalps on sticks. Afterall, Europeans were 'civilized' enough to display the entire head on a pike or their broken bodies on a wheel in a public place.|
|The Next Generation|
|Jacques Bertault II - Was born on November 25, 1654 and died in 1665 at Trois-Rivieres.
Marguerite Bertault - Was born on December 21, 1655 at Trois-Rivieres and died on November 21, 1687 in Boucherville. She married Denis Veronneau and had five children.
Suzanne Bertault - Was born on December 18, 1657 in Trois-Rivieres and died on May 02, 1739 in Vercheres. She married Jean Hiesse but he died soon after. She then married Jacques Brunel, with whom she had ten children.
Elisabeth Isabelle Bertault - Was born on January 22, 1658 and died on March 18, 1736 at Repentigny. After her first ill-fated marriage and execution of her parents, she did marry twice more. The first to Noel Laurence, a miller and Private in Regiment de Carignan-Sallieres; with whom she had eight children. Noel died on November 04, 1687 and the following year Elisabeth married Jean-Baptiste Pilon. The couple had five children.
Jeanne Bertault - Was born on March 26, 1660 at Trois-Rivieres. She was married three times: first to Vincent Verdon, then Mathurin Richard who was killed by the Iroquois and finally Nicolas Vinet.
Nicolas Bertault - Was born on February 26, 1661 and died soon after his parents' execution.
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