Perched atop a promontory overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, control of Quebec City was destined to be key to any European power that wanted to control Canada. The French first established it as a colony in 1608, and centered the colony of New France on Quebec City. They heavily fortified the city against a series of British assaults, but the city finally fell in 1759 after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. From then on Canada would pass from the French Empire to the British.
Despite the Conquest, the unique French-Canadian culture centered in Quebec City has survived and thrived. Old Quebec is one of the best preserved heritage areas in the Americas, and is the only walled city in North America.
We acknowledge that Quebec City is located on lands that are the traditional unceded territory of the Huron-Wendat people.
Then and Now Photos
The Battle of Sainte-Foy
National Gallery of Canada
This painting depicts the Battle of Sainte Foy, an important battle fought on the same site as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in the spring following that decisive battle. After the French defeat at the Plains of Abraham and the British seizure of Quebec City, the French regrouped over the winter and attacked the city on April 28, 1760.
The battle was far bloodier than the Plains of Abraham, and was actually a major French victory. Unfortunately for the French commander Francois Gaston de Levis, the defeated British were able to retreat in good order inside the walls of Quebec. Levis laid siege to the city, but were unable to storm the city before the British navy sent supplies and reinforcements in May. Levis was forced to retreat to Montreal, where he surrendered to an overwhelming British force in 1760, leaving the British the uncontested rulers of Quebec
The Fall of Quebec
McCord Museum M970.67.11
This painting was created two years after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Conquest of Quebec. We're looking across the Place d"Armes towards the Recollect Friars Church on the left. Look closely and you can see the walls of the buildings are perforated by cannonfire, and their interiors gutted by fire. This was the work of General Wolfe's artillery in the three month siege leading up to the battle. The troops drilling in the square are British regulars.
McCord Museum MP-0000.1452.102
The Wolfe-Montcalm Monument is the oldest monument in Quebec City. Unveiled in 1828, it commemorates the bravery of both the French and English commanders at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. That battle is one of the only ones in recorded history were both commanders were killed. As a war memorial, it's also extremely rare in that it commemorates both victor and vanquished.
Cote de la Montagne
McCord Museum VIEW-1284.1
Looking down Cote de la Montagne towards the Lower Town.
Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec P560,S1,P647
A view of the city taken from the R & O Navigation Company Quay during winter time.
McCord Museum VIEW-2692
A man takes a break from filling his sleigh with snow. He's clearing out Sous-le-Cap, is one of the oldest streets in North America, and also the narrowest.
The Father of New France
McCord Museum MP-1989.28.74
Just ahead of you and to the right is the Place Royale, the exact spot of l'Habitation, the first permanent European settlement in Canada. The buildings no longer survive, but you can see plaques marking out the original area.
The settlement was established by the legendary French soldier, cartographer, and explorer, Samuel de Champlain. On July 3, 1608, he landed on this spot and quickly built a post where the French could trade furs with the Montagnais Indigenous, who controlled this region at that time.
There was no sign of the Stadaconiens that Cartier encountered. At some point since his departure 65 years before, their village had been abandoned--perhaps because of disease or wars with neighbouring Indigenous peoples. By the 1620s Champlain's tireless efforts had put the settlement on a firm footing, and it became known as New France.
McCord Museum MP-19184.108.40.206
The Royal Navy dreadnought HMS Indomintable at anchor for the 300th anniversary celebrations of the founding of Quebec City.
Old Meets New
McCord Museum MP-19220.127.116.11
Two ships from very different eras meet in the harbour as part of the celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City. The ship in the foreground is a replica of Samuel de Champlain's ship Don de Dieu, or Gift of God. The ship is remembered in Quebec City's motto "Don de Dieu feray valoir, which means "I shall put God's gift to good use." The ship in the background is the hyper-modern battlecruiser HMS Indomitable. Battlecruisers like HMS Indomitable were essentially lightly armoured high speed battleships. The Indomitable played a major role in the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
Culture of New France
McCord Museum MP-1918.104.22.168
A parade marking the 300th anniversary of the founding of Quebec. The occasion was the largest celebration the city had ever seen, including weeks of parades, festivals, and reenactments, and were attended by the soon-to-be-crowned British monarch George V. As we can see, the participants are wearing 17th Century period costume, the kind worn by the early colonists of New France.
Gate to the Citadel
McCord Museum MP-0000.1165.1
A couple and their driver pose for a photo in front of the entrance to the citadel.
McCord Museum VIEW-8003
The building on the left is the City Hall of Quebec City, completed in 1896. The city hall is the seat of the municipal government, which was only actually founded in 1796, after the French era. The curious fact that Quebec City did not have a municipal government when it was a French colony was a deliberate decision by Louis XIV, and sheds some light on the highly centralized government he established in the Royal Colony in 1663.
St. Louis Gate
McCord Museum VIEW-5687
Looking towards the St. Louis Gate on the city's eastern walls. The building on the left was the Garrison's Club.