Memorable Manitobans: Louis Nathal de Plainval [Louis Frasse, Viscomte de Plainval] (1841-1890)
Soldier, policeman, theatrical entrepreneur.
He was born in southern France. He belonged to a noble French family. Early in life he entered the French army as a subaltern, and soon rose to the rank of Captain. In common with most French officers of the day he was a duellist, and as a result of such an encounter he was compelled to leave France. He arrived in Montreal in 1869.
He came west in 1870 as a member of the Red River Expedition. He was a sergeant in the Second Battalion Quebec Rifles. When the volunteers were recalled from Fort Garry he remained in the Settlement and was made Chief of the Manitoba Provincial Police, succeeding Captain Villiers. Being an accomplished musician, vocalist and actor, he took charge of all the early-day entertainment in Winnipeg.
Upon the request of Donald A. Smith he prepared a plan for the organization, equipment and distribution of a mounted constabulary for the West and submitted it to Prime Minister John A. Macdonald. When the provincial police were disbanded and the North-West Mounted Police organized in 1873 he expected to receive the appointment as Superintendent of the Force. It was believed in some sections that Lord Dufferin had promised him the position. When Colonel French received the appointment de Plainval left Winnipeg in anger and went to St. Louis. There he formed the Natal English Opera Company, which played with success in many parts of the United States.
de Plainval returned to Winnipeg in 1879, en tour, and performed several light operas, such as The Chimes of Normandy. Several of his plays were successful, notably Monbars, which he wrote for Robert B. Mantell. He married his leading lady, the well-known operatic soprano, Louise Lester.
In 1890 he contracted pneumonia and died in the French Hospital at New York City.
“Louis De Plainval,” Manitoba Free Press, 6 January 1890, page 4.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 10 February 2016
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