Article by: Lorraine Freeman
"Her faith so deep and her righteousness are a beauty to be held.
Ah... she is a tender creature,
Always attentive to her duty.
I have the privilege of knowing that her love is unfailing.
When she loves, she loves through and through.
Her gaze beckons on me."
Marguerite was born January 15th, 1861 at White Horse Plains (St. Francois Xavier) to Marie Malaterre and Jean Baptiste Monet dit Bellumeur. Marguerite's mother and father were from Metis hunting families. Marguerite spent her childhood at Fort Ellis (St. Lazare, Manitoba). Her family later moved to Montana when the Buffalo herds grew scarce.
When she was twenty years old, (1881), Marguerite was introduced to Louis Riel by her father; Louis who was quite taken with the young lady, would later ask for her hand. They were married by "custom of the country." The prairie marriage was preformed in March of 1882, at Carroll, Montana, by Father Damiani-a Jesuit from St. Peter's Mission, Montana.
Marguerite had her first child, a handsome son named Jean Riel, who had the eyes of his mother, on May 9th, 1882. Their second child, Marie Angelique, a pretty blonde little girl, was born September 17th, 1883.
Marguerite was known to be soft spoken, quiet, patient and is also said to have been petite and quite attractive. She took on the all responsibility of a plains wife: Gathering fire wood, cooking, cleaning and struggling on very little money and food. She was alone most of the time with her children, while Louis was fighting for rights of their people. Louis had a most devoted wife who worshipped him but feared the harm that could befall their family at the hands of his enemies.
In June 1884, Marguerite, Jean and Angelique accompanied Louis to Batoche, Saskatchewan, in spite of the looming conflict. She was at her husband's side during the battle of 1885 until Riel surrendered May 15th, to Middleton's scouts. Cold and hungry. Marguerite and her children hid in caves near Batoche while awaiting word from Louis. Instead Louis' brother Joseph appeared and took Marguerite and her children to live with Riel's mother in St. Boniface, MB.
Weakened by the events of Batoche and her husband's imprisonment, premature birth and death of her third child added to her grief. Marguerite's suffering continued with Louis' execution for his involvement in the Red River Resistance of 1869. When in May, 1886 she died of tuberculosis the final blow was dealt to a greatly diminished existence. She was buried beside her beloved Louis Riel in St. Boniface.
Marie Angelique died of diphtheria in 1897 just before she was to turn fourteen years old.
Jean married Laura Casault, a daughter of a Québec family. Jean died July 31st, at the age of twenty-six from injuries resulting from a buggy accident. Jean and Laura had no children.
Reference books: Maggie Siggins, "Riel, a Life of Revolution", Joseph Howard "Strange Empire"
Photos courtesy of the National Archives of Canada