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The Struggle for Canada

Gallery 1: Early Canada ⟶ Transatlantic Rivals ⟶ 150 Years of Conflict

A century and a half of rivalry between France and Britain culminated in the British conquest of Canada.

Commercial and political competition between the great powers often led to war, in Europe and around the world.

Between 1600 and 1750, France and Britain were at war five times, with countless small skirmishes in between. Northeastern North America was one battleground in this global conflict.

Warfare took many forms, from pitched land and sea battles to guerrilla raids on outlying forts and settlements. Although rarely the cause of war between the two powers, colonists and First Peoples participated, willingly or not.


Kebeca Liberata

In 1690, the French repelled British colonists from New England who were trying to capture Québec City. This medal’s Latin inscription reads: FRANCIA IN NOVO ORBE VICTRIX / KEBECA LIBERATA / M.DC.XC (“France Victorious in the New World — Quebec Liberated 1690”).

The Four Kings of Canada

Some Indigenous people tried to use the rivalry between Britain and France to their own advantage. In 1710, three Haudenosaunee and one Mohican leader travelled to London to meet Queen Anne. They wanted British support to drive the French from North America.

Although some Haudenosaunee have disputed the delegation’s legitimacy, the arrival of the “Four Kings of Canada” caused a sensation in the British capital. To mark the visit, the Queen commissioned John Verelst to paint these portraits of her allies.

“We have been as a strong wall for the security of the Queen’s children, even to the loss of our best men.”
Speech of the Four Kings of Canada to Queen Anne, 1710

Conflict in the Fur Trade

Rival fur traders turned to violence to acquire markets and eliminate competition. In 1690, Canadien privateer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville captured the Hudson’s Bay Company post on the Severn River after its English garrison had burned and abandoned it. In 1759, French forces burned the company’s post at Henley House.


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Photo at top of page:
Henley House, Ontario, about 1759
CMH, D-9159