Known as "Île Royale" to the French, the island also saw active settlement by France. After the French ceded their colonies on Newfoundland and the Acadian mainland to the British by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the French relocated the population of Plaisance, Newfoundland, to Île Royale and the French garrison was established in the central eastern part at Sainte Anne.
As the harbour at Sainte Anne experienced icing problems, it was decided to construct a much larger fortification at Louisbourg to improve defences at the entrance to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and to defend France's fishing fleet on the Grand Banks. The French also built the Louisbourg Lighthouse in 1734, the first lighthouse in Canada and one of the first in North America. In addition to Cape Breton Island, the French colony of Île Royale also included Île Saint-Jean, today called Prince Edward Island.
Siege of Louisbourg (1758)
Louisbourg itself was one of the most important commercial and military centres in New France. Although Louisbourg was captured by New Englanders with British naval assistance in 1745 and by the British again in 1758, Île Royale remained formally part of New France until it was ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Britain merged the island with its adjacent colony of Nova Scotia (present day peninsular Nova Scotia and New Brunswick).
Some of the first British-sanctioned settlers on the island following the Seven Years' War were Irish, although upon settlement they merged with local French communities to form a culture rich in music and tradition. From 1763 to 1784, the island was administratively part of the colony of Nova Scotia and was governed from Halifax.
The first permanently settled Scottish community on Cape Breton Island was Judique, settled in 1775 by Michael Mor MacDonald. He spent his first winter using his upside-down boat for shelter, which is reflected in the architecture of the village's Community Centre. He composed a song about the area called "O's alainn an t-aite", or "Fair is the Place."