François-Xavier de Montmorency-Laval was born into a wealthy aristocratic family in northeast France. Educated by Jesuits, he briefly studied in Paris before giving up his hefty patrimony to join the Church, and was ordained a priest in 1647 at the age of 24. When ten years later the Pope needed someone to oversee the spiritual development of New France, the Jesuits proposed Laval, who before long was made a bishop and sent to Québec. During his incumbency, from 1659 to 1688, Laval secured more power than the governor and intendant put together, and any officer dispatched from France found himself on the next boat home if Laval did not care for him. Ill health, brought about by his religious fervour denying him blankets and proper food, caused his early retirement. But, unhappy with his successor, Bishop de St-Valier, he continued to exert a stubborn influence on the running of the colony well into his dotage. Death finally came in 1708 after his feet froze on the stone floor of the chapel during his morning prayer session.

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