When French merchant and explorer Pierre Du Gua de Monts and his cartographer, Samuel de Champlain, first established a settlement in what is now Nova Scotia in 1605, they named it Port-Royal after France’s King Henry IV, the sponsor of their voyage.
Henry IV reigned from 1589 to 1610 and was known as the evergreen gallant because of his hundreds of mistresses who were willing to overlook his body odour, a combination of “sweat, stables, feet, and garlic.” It was even rumoured that Champlain had been one of his numerous illegitimate children.
“Good King Henry” is said to have been the first leader of a country to promise a “chicken in every pot”: “If God keeps me, I will make sure that no peasant in my realm will lack the means to have a chicken in the pot on Sunday.” Despite his tremendous personal charm, he had to fight his way to the throne during the French Wars of Religion.
French Roman Catholics were unwilling to accept a Protestant on the throne, so Henry IV, a Huguenot, converted to Catholicism, reputedly declaring, “Paris is worth a mass.” He had a successful reign until his untimely murder in 1610 by a knife-wielding religious fanatic who was “prey to visions.”
Meanwhile, in Canada, Henry’s Port-Royal was destroyed by English forces in 1613. Almost twenty years later, the French relocated the community to a spot about eight kilometres upstream from the original site and made it the capital of Acadia. But with the British conquest of Acadia in 1710, Port-Royal and the surrounding county received a new royal name, Annapolis Royal, after Britain’s Queen Anne (who reigned from 1702 to 1714).
The British queen was rather different from the French king in that she was apparently faithful both to her husband — Prince George of Denmark — and to her Anglican religion. While she loved the good life — large meals, drinking, card playing, and opera — this was tempered by a painful gout condition that left her crippled toward the end of her life.
Anne had seventeen pregnancies, but not a single child lived past the age of eleven. The death of her last surviving child prompted the passing of the Act of Settlement, which left the throne to the Queen’s German cousins, the House of Hanover.
Queen Anne’s Annapolis Royal remained a highly contested location. The French, the Acadians, and their Indigenous allies attempted to retake the village several times, and American privateers raided Annapolis Royal during the American Revolution. The town served as Nova Scotia’s capital until the founding of Halifax in 1749.