Mocked in Canada, ignored in France, the memory of Champlain suffers through historic year





French explorer Samuel de Champlain - already getting a rough ride in the Canadian media on the 400th anniversary of his establishment of a trading post in Quebec City - doesn't get much respect in his native country either.

Those few French citizens who have heard of the man, sometimes dubbed Canada's founder, don't even consider him the most important native of Brouage, this historic fortified city that draws 400,000 visitors a year.
That title goes to Marie Mancini, King Louis XIV's first true love.

Legend has it that the so-called Sun King, who would be forced to marry Maria Theresa of Spain in 1660 for political reasons, walked up the stone steps to the ramparts surrounding Brouage and wept so powerfully over the forced termination of their romance that a river of tears flowed down the steps.
"The French people prefer this story because it's a lovers' story," explained Loic Guitton, manager of historic sites here that include the Maison Champlain, a $3.3-million museum built in 2004 - jointly funded by the Canadian and local French regional government - in order to heighten the explorer's profile.


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