An Introduction to Privateering History

Privateer History: A General Overview

What is a Privateer?

Privateers were ships that were privately owned and  commisioned by a government to make reprisals, gain reparation to the crown for specific offenses in time of peace, or to prey upon the enemy in time time of war. In short, a privateer was a private warship. The officers and crew of such a privateer often could keep a large part or all of the money from the captured vessels, depending upon their licence.

The first privateers acted only on a commissioned licence authorizing a particular ship or group to take action against the king's enemies. These early licences were granted to specific ships or groups of individuals to seize the king’s enemies at sea in return for splitting the proceeds. This licence or commision was later recognised under the Law of Nations and is generally known as a "Letter of Marque and Reprisal".

One of the principle clauses of a Letter of Marque is specifically naming the country whose vessels can be legally captured. The Letter of Marque by its terms required privateers to bring captured vessels and their cargoes before admiralty courts of their own or allied countries for condemnation. The rules and customs of prize law applied by the courts decided whether the Letter of Marque was valid and current, and whether the captured vessel or its cargo in fact belonged to the enemy (which was not always easy when flying false flags was common practice), and if so the prize and its cargo were "condemned" - to be sold at auction with the proceeds divided among the privateer's owner and crew. A prize court's formal condemnation was required to transfer title; otherwise the vessel's previous owners might well reclaim her on her next voyage, and seek damages for the confiscated cargo from the crown.

A Privateer was required by the terms of their Letters of Marque to obey the laws of war, honor treaty obligations (avoid attacking neutrals) and in particular treat captives as courteously, kindly and as safely as they could. If they failed to live up to their obligations the Admiralty Courts could and did revoke the Letter of Marque, refuse to award prize money, forfeit bonds, even award tort (personal injury) damages as against the privateer's officers and crew. In fact, a privateer always risked being tried and hung as a pirate.

A Letter of Marque and Reprisal in effect converted a private merchant vessel into a naval auxiliary. A commissioned privateer enjoyed the protection of the laws of war. If captured, the crew was entitled to honorable treatment as prisoners of war, while without the license they were deemed mere pirates "at war with all the world,"  and as such were criminals doomed to be hanged.

However, a Letter of Marque did not completely safeguard a privateer from prosecution even when ships of certain countries were excluded from attacks. When a privateer was captured by a hostile nation he/she was often charged with being a pirate and swiftly executed. Furthermore,  when countries made peace and a privateer failed to get the news in time he could be prosecuted if he continued to attack ships of the now "friendly" nation. Sometimes a privateer was such a long time away from home or the colonies that he only heard news of a peace treatKnight On The Golden Hindey when he returned home from his privateering enterprise. For example, in 1580 when Sir Francis Drake returned from his voyage around the world, he refused to go ashore, unsure if Queen Elizabeth was still in in power. He was afraid he might be tried and hung as a pirate for attacking Spanish shipping. Instead, he sent his men to send word to his wife Mary and the mayor of Portsmouth that he had arrived back in England. They later contacted the Queen, and she later came on board his ship the Golden Hinde and knighted him for his efforts.

In the case of civil war, the legitimacy of the Letter of Marque could be difficult to intrepret, and depending who was the head of state, the privateer risked being tried and hung as a pirate. 

An English court, for instance, refused to recognize the Letters of Marque issued by rebellious Ireland under James II, and hanged eight privateer captains as pirates. Seventy-nine years later during the American Civil War, the Union charged officers and crew of the Confederate privateer Savannah with piracy, calling their Letter of Marque invalid since the Union refused to acknowledge the breakaway Confederacy as a sovereign nation. The case resulted in a hung jury, and after Confederate President Jefferson Davis threatened to retaliate by hanging one Union officer for each executed Confederate privateer, the Union relented and thereafter treated Confederate privateersmen honorably as prisoners of war.

 

The 'Cinque Ports' - The rise of the merchant navy/privateer:
In the middle-ages, in most kingdoms of the time, ruling monarchs had no "standing fleet" for several reasons: primarily because the cost of maintaining a fleet was expensive, and ships did not last long. Initially, the King's navy was small in size, and the first ships in the fleet belonged to baron/merchant captains or were hired/leased by the King from various knight orders to support the realm. The merchant fleet was used primarily to ferry knights, supplies and pilgrims to the Holy Lands, conduct merchant trade, and protect the realm from attack from foreign invaders.

In the event of war, the king increased the size of the navy through licenses given to barons and merchant traders, and their ships were converted from trade vessels to privately commisioned war vessels (man-o-war) in the service of the King's navy.

In Europe, the roots of privateering licences are generally attributed to Henry III. Although, earlier in 1050, Edward the Confessor had regularised the arrangements by designating five ports, known as the "Cinque Ports", whose obligations were to provide provisions, ships and men when the king needed them; to patrol and control the fisheries in the North Sea and to convey king and court overseas when required. In return these towns received various privileges: freedom from dues and tallies on goods going in and out; the right to keep salvage; the right to search other ships and virtual carte blanche at sea - legalised piracy really.

There were (and still are) also privileges at court during the Coronation and on other state occasions. The original confederation of Cinque Ports comprised of Hastings, Dover, Hythe, Romney and Sandwich. Later, two more ports , Rye and Winchelsea, were added by 1270 and by the end 13th century,  Sandwich reached the top of its importance as the main port in England.

As a result, King Henry III formally recognized the confederation of the Cinque Ports, and passed a proclamation or "letter of patent" which gave total control and freedom to the Governors of the Cinque Ports for maritime trade and defense of the ports. At the time, the wine trade from France to England was very lucrative, as the English wine was often considered inferior, and as a result, large amounts of wine was shipped between France and England.

The wine trade was a focal point for commerce in Winchelsea, and a primary source of income to the barons, the various Knight Orders, such as the Knight Templars, and the privateers. One prominant family in Whincelsea that particularly stands out are "The Alards", both numerically and in terms of their wealth and local importance. Sometimes described as an ancient Saxon family (on the dubious assumption the surname derives from Aethelwald) with branches, by the thirteenth century, in Sussex and Kent, it is hard to know if the many men with this surname – sometimes rendered as Athelard or Adelard – were necessarily kin or simply descended from different men with the Christian name of Alard (which was not uncommon in Flanders and parts of France).

However, the family appears to have been prominent in Winchelsea for some time. James, son of Alard, is evidenced holding property in the vicinity in 1196.

In 1225 Winchelsea's William son of Alard, twice received royal letters of protection in the context of planned sea voyages,  and one of them to accompany a force led to Gascony by the king's brother. In 1226, one of the first examples of the Letter Of Marque was given to Roger Alard, commander of the fleet from the Henry III, the king  of England, for the purpose of trading wine in Galscony. The letter patent allowed them free passage, protection and the rights to commandeer supplies and services  as they deemed necessary in France without fear of legal retribution:

"De protectione magne navis et galiantm cuntium cum ca in Wasconiam. Rex magistris galiarum de Baiona, salutem. Sciatis nos sus cepisse in protectionem et defensioneni nostram navem Rogeri Alard de Bristoll, que vocatur Galopine, in eundo versus Wasconiam pro vinis et rebus et sale et mercandisis emendis, et inde versus Angliam redeundo cum eisdem vinis et rebus et sale et mercandisis. Et ideo vobis mandamus quod illis qui predictam navem ducunt in eundo versus partes predictas pro vinis etc. etc versus Angliam per vos transitum faciendo, nullum faciatis etc. In cujus etc. duraturas usquein unum annum a die Sancti Johannis Baptiste anno etc. x. Test eme ipso, apud Wintoniam, xix die Junii, anno eodem, coram justiciario. Eodem modo scribitur magistris galiarum de Baiona pro eodem Rogero Alard de nave que vocatur Alarde, usque ad eundena terminum.Teste ut supra. Eodem modo scribitur eisdem magistris pro eodem Rogero de nave que vocatur la Patrike, usque ad eundera terminum. Teste ut supra, coram justiciario. Eodem modo scribitur magistris magne navis et navis que vocatur la Cardinale et omnibus ballivis et fidelibus etc. de predictis tribus navibus, videlicet, Galopine, Alarde, et Patcrike, in eundo etc. ut supra, et usque ad predicturn terminum. Teste ut supra, coram justiciario."

[Henry III, C.Rolls: vol 2, p.41]

A rough english translation of the document:

"Concerning the protection of the great ship in South East France [Bayonne] sailing by way of Wasconiam [Bordeaux/Glascony]

Greetings to the King's Pilots [Ship Masters] in the South-East of France [Bayonne].

Know that we order [comandeer/capture] your services in accordance with our legal rights for the protection and safety our ship named The Gallopine, commanded by Rogeri Alard of Bristoll sailing toward the direction of Wasconiam [Bordeaux/Glascony] in order to trade wine and goods and salt; and thenceforce from that place together sailing toward the direction of England [eastern England] returning on each occasion together under the command of the very same also bringing wine and goods and salt to both buy and sell.

And for that reason, by trespassing against you the aformentioned parties commanded by the previously named, sailing to regions previously mentioned for wine etc. to England [eastern England] no one commits a crime etc. in accordance with the law. In whereof etc. continuously for a period of up to one year from the tenth anniversary of the day of the festival of the blessed Saint John the Baptist etc.

Under witness I write this rule[letter] in person at the house of Withonian on the 19th Day of June in the same year witnessed before the Judge.

Presently writ this very same rule [letter] to the ship pilots [masters] of south-east France [Bayonne], concerning this matter in Baiona [Bayonne] on behalf of Rogero Alard of the ship named Alarde the same rights and privledges previously mentioned witnessed above.

Presently writ this very same rule [letter] to the ship pilots [masters] on behalf of Rogero of the ship named The Patrike the same rights and privledges previously mentioned witnessed above and by the judge.

Presently writ this very same rule[letter] to the ship pilots [masters] of the great ship called Le Cardinale and to all fathiful and devoted bailiffs etc. in accordance with the aforementioned three ships namely The Galopine, Alarde and The Patrike in accordance with sailing etc. to the above area witnessed above and by the judge."

These ships were large, and documents indicated that they were used more for the transport, than for warfare. One of the ships, the Le Cardinale, was captured from the Portuguese apparently for the breech of a blockade. It is expressedly described in the above document as one of the King's great galleys or ships. Another ship often referred as a great galley, is the Queen. While these ships belonged to the King, they were often "rented" or lent rather than layed up in "ordinary".

In 1225, it is recorded that one templar, "Friar Thomas of the Temple, obtained letters of safe conduct, [a letter of patent] to take the King's ship the Cardinale wherever so he should be directed; and a similar authority was given to him to bring the King's great ship from Bordeaux with wine."

[Sir Nicholas H, Nicholas, CMG. A History of the Royal Navy from the Earliest Times to the Wars of The French Revolution, London: 1847 p.222]

Often, the cinque ports mercantile/privateer activites crossed the line into what some would consider piracy. However, the barons and privateers were generally honorable men, who rarely skirted outside the law, instead they used the legal system to their advantage. Originally armed with Letters Of Marque, these "merchant traders" engaged in a type of privateering, for the purpose of trading under licence from the King, altough it does appear that sometimes they crossed the line completely, as this petition describing the actions of Stephen Alard, the Admiral of the Cinque Ports in 1235 states:

"Mandate to the barons of the Cinque Ports, on complaint before the king by Richard son of Bandolf, Ralph de Mesnyl, man of William Wymund the provost of Barbene, Barnabas son of Richard son of Randolf and Philip Bulemer of Barbene, that their ships in passing with wines and other victual by the port of Mulet on the coast of Brittany, weretaken by Hamo de Crevequer, John his brother, William Beaufiz, Stephen Alard, Henry Alard, John Alard, Nicholas de la Carette, Richard Wymund, Henry Jacob', and all their men in them having been violently thrown out, the ships were kept by them, notwithstanding the king's letters of safe-conduct which some of them had and shewed, and which these men snatched out of their hands and kept; to restore to them the said ships, the wines, goods and merchandise seized, letters of Ralph de Mesnil, obtained from him by their violence, whereby he promised them 40 pounds Tournois for the delivery of a ship and goods of William Wymund, his lord, and the letters of safe-conduct whether of men of the king's power or others, and not to do or suffer any further damage or injury to be done to them.

[Henry III, 1235, C. Rolls, vol. 3, p. 99]

It should also be mentioned, that unlike in the later years of the 18th century, and perhaps similar as it is viewed by Hollywood today, a "pirate" or rover was viewed as more of a folk hero, a "robin-hood" of these seas.; a somewhat noble "swashbuckler" taking from the rich and giving to the poor. The sea rover, generally had the bulk of the people's sympathy, and "provided that he was satisfied with taking merchandise only -- was thought to be but little the worse of those that had no wealth to lose; it was a fundamental idea of democracy, old and as inherent as wealth and poverty: 'if you have nothing, take something from those who have plenty'"

[Sir Nicholas H, Nicholas, CMG. A History of the Royal Navy from the Earliest Times to the Wars of The French Revolution, London: 1847]

The Privateers were also notorious for  supporting the monarchy, but at times rebelled or resisted attempts by the various heads of states to control them, and could side with a particular interest group or a rebellion during a civil war against the state.

This was especially true when the actions of the kingdom interefered with their trade or interests and/or a King acted in what the barons and privateers judged to be an "unjustly" or corrupt manner. Yet despite actions which could be conveyed as piracy, because of the liberties given to the ports - the King often pardoned or dimissed these activities because of the services that the merchant navy provided. The King was often careful to preserve their autonomy, as long as they are protecting the kingdom from enemies, and the ships are turned over in good order when requested.

An interesting example of this is Reginald Alard Senior, who was one of the Winchelsea captains commissioned in 1267 to patrol the English Channel in on the lookout for the piratic squadron of Henry le Pessuner, one the king's enemies, and distinguished himself during Edward I's conquest of Wales.

Either Reginald Senior or Reginald Junior (no distinction being made in the record, nor can we be certain of the precise relationship between the two men) was given a royal safe-conduct in 1285 to go on a trading voyage in his ship called La Vache. Yet,  this same Reginald Alard, who, with fellow Winchelsea man William de Bourne, was arrested for some unspecified offence by the seneschal of Ponthieu;  but they managed to escape from prison, obliging the king to pay a large sum to compensate and smooth over the matter (although the king pardoned them in 1289).

Ironically, his relative, Gervase Alard  was apparently in better favour with King Edward, as he awarded a particularly distinguished title as the first naval admiral of England.

Privateer History - Cont'd.

The 16th and 17th Centuries - Privateering's Golden Era

From its humble beginnings in the 13th century, privateering grew with the discovery of the New World in the 15th century. It really began to flourish during the 16th and 17th centuries which was a fascinating period in maritime history.

The power of the empires in this era was based on control of the seas rather than control of the land. Mercantile companies and private ship-owner captains became the backbone of many economies during this era. The trader-merchant owner/operator ships formed the "Wall Street" of the Europe. A man's or nation's fortune was based on what happened at sea. As new technologies allowed long and accurate sea voyages, the New World colonies were seized by the Spanish. In Europe, while Spain was trying to spread their power in the New World and exploit its treasures, the English, French and Dutch struggled to catch up with Spain. While the Spanish plundered the immeasurable wealth from the Native Indians, England and France sponsored Privateers to attack the Spanish ships that were transporting treasures from the New World back home.

By the late 17th century, Spain was no longer the unrivaled sea power. Other nations like France and England overtook Spain and expanded their fleets; and international sea-born trade became very popular. During this time, it was important to have a large fleet for not only trade, but for making sure that imperial colonies could be defended.

In order to protect the assets of a nation, and capture the assets of an enemy nation (like a modern day embargo) a large marine force was needed. It was determined that a fleet of private ship owner/captains proved to be the most effective and cost effeciant method of accomplishing this feat, especially during a time of war. It was cheaper and more cost effective, and the standing navy could be used to defend the "home" while the privateer could engage in defending interests abroad. These private warships consisted of individual Privateers who would indeed prove themselves worthy of defending a nation.

This promise of quick riches and nobility, struck a chord with the young gentlemen of the time. Indeed, by going to sea a young man could amass a small fortune and obtain wealth in a relatively short time period. In contrast to a peasant toiling for long periods working the land, or a lengthy apprenticeship in the mercantile trades, a member of a successful privateering crew could suddenly find himself wealthy enough to call himself a "gentleman". It was not unheard of for an unknown commoner to rise through the ranks and eventually be granted a peerage, although this was very rare.

Beyond the money, there was also the excitement and admiration of going to sea. A sailor back from a long voyage was looked upon with awe. He had been to strange lands and had met strange people. He had the courage to face enemy ships, and had tales of battle and victory. He had eaten foods that had never been seen before and looked upon beasts thought to exist only in the imagination. A farmer never had anything exciting to tell, but the sailor could keep the simple country-folk entranced for hours, never mind his penchant for stretching the truth.

Privateers & Pirates: Is there really a difference?

Privateers were not pirates. Pirates were generally considered lawless criminals who operated stateless vessels who attacked anyone's ships in peace or war, and followed their own unique customs and rules which generally bore only a loose resemblance to the elaborately regulated world of privateering. Many would argue that the difference is very slight indeed, as a privateer with a letter of marque, operating under license from one kingdom or nation, may be considered a pirate by another. The distinction is even further blurred, when outlaw privateers aligned with rogue political and religious rebellions and uprisings; and while not sanctioned or given license by a particular state or nation, formed coalitions and opposition forces against brutal regiemes in order to protest what was considered unfair treatment of the citizens by it's government. Indeed, there are those who argue that some pirates are outlaw heroes, resembling a sea going version of the legendary "Robin Hood" or "Zorro" . In fact, some pirates have committed acts of treason against a state, but have later been pardoned with honours.

In the earliest years of shipping, piracy was legitimatized in part by the rules of the Admiralty. In fact, it was reasonable to capture a cargo or ship, provided that reparations would be made to the individual or the state who lost the cargo. As long as payment was made for the loss of goods, and there was little or no loss of life, it wasn't necessarily considered an illegal act. In those early days, what distinguished an act of piracy as criminal behaviour was not the loss of material goods, but the loss of human life - for example, if sailors were killed without being given a chance for mercy or quarter.

The rules of the admiralty and rights at sea in Europe is generally summed up in the The Liber Niger Admiralitatis, or Black Book of the Admiralty. Once thought lost,  it contains details on the appointment and office of admiral, the conduct of cases in the High Court of Admiralty, and a section on the examination and punishment of offenders, and includes the Laws of Oléron, a code of maritime law thought to have been compiled in the thirteenth century under English royal authority, initially to govern the Gascon trade which passed by the island of Oléron, off the west coast of France.

The origins of the book are vague, but it appears to have been laid out by Richard the Lionhearted or his mother around the 13th century.

Privateers primarily operated only in wartime or against a common enemy and only against enemy shipping, they did not pillage their own nation's vessels and operated under strict rules and regulations outlined by Admiralty law. They were, in many ways, in the same business as the navy which likewise paid its sailors and officers from the proceeds of captured ships.

One of the most commonly quoted and famous examples of privateers in action was the English fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588. Queen Elizabeth I's privateers were known as "Sea Dogs". The best known of these was Francis Drake, whom she called "her pirate", other famous "Sea Dogs" included John Hawkins and Thomas Cavendish. Drake's adventures brought Elizabeth great wealth, and he was knighted in 1581. Almost all of the sea dogs were granted knighthood at some point in their careers as Elizabeth I, deemed privateering of greater importance than colonization. It may be one of the reasons why Raleigh's ships didn't return to the Roanoke Colony in the New World as planned, and what became of the Lost Colony of Roanoke remains a mystery to this day.

England wasn't the only nation to support privateering, the kings of France, and the Barbary States also supported their privateers, known as "corsairs". The Spanish had their "cosairos", the Dutch referred to privateers as "freebooters" (vrijbuiterij).

Privateers were both male and female. Although, most Privateers were male, some famous Privateer woman include: Jeanne de Montfort ("The Flame"), Jane de Belleville, and Jeanne de Clisson ("The Lioness of Brittany") who operated in 1343 against the French. Grace O'Malley ( Granuaile) was an Irish pirate/privateer who operated off the coast of Ireland and defended the Gaelic way of life against the British from 1550-1603. Although deemed by the British to be a pirate, she was pardoned by Queen Elizabeth I, once she had the chance to explain her position and the plight of the Irish to the court . In exchange for the pardon, she vowed to fight the Queen's enemies.

Privateers demonstrably considered their realm worth defending.  In that, they were volunteers. But they were more than volunteers. They provided the means to protect their nation out of their own pockets. The United States of America used privateers to gain independance from Britain in 1776.

Privateering was eventually abolished by most European nations in 1856 Declaration of Paris. Although, Spain and the United States did not sign the declaration and continued to use privateers to augment their navies. By 1908, Spain and the United State would also recognize the declaration.

However, even today, Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution states, "Congress shall have power...to grant letters of Marque and Reprisal." A Letter of Marque and Reprisal was then the legal distinction between a privateer and a pirate. They authorized owners of privately owned warships to make war on the enemies of America.

It is true that some privateers turned to piracy during times of peace. They would prey upon neutral or enemy ships but rarely ships of their own country. This was highly frowned upon by the monarchy and there were severe penalties for any privateer that crossed the line to piracy. For example, Captain William Kidd originally a privateer,  was hanged in 1701 for piracy because he could not produce a letter of marque. Most honourable privateers took up fishing and merchant trading during the slow times,  and were often involved in exploring new trade routes and attempts at colonization.
 

Privateer History - French Corsairs

French Corsairs - Early History

K

nown as corsairs, French privateers plagued English & Spanish shipping for several centuries. The French considered “la course,” their word for privateering, a family business where sons followed in their fathers’ footsteps. The word "corsair" comes directly from the French word corsaire which is derived from the Latin cursus, meaning "course", as in a journey or expedition. The French word corsaire may also come as a mispronunciation of the Arabic word "corsanni", which means pirate.

For the most part, in France, corsairs were not considered pirates but privateers working for the King of France attacking the ships of France’s enemies. While in France they did not need to fear punishment for piracy such as being hanged or beheaded as they were granted a licence as combatants, known as a Lettre de Marque or Lettre de Course. This document legitimized their actions to the French justice system and also was supposed to give them the status of a war prisoner in case they were ever captured, although this was not always the case.

In theory, the corsair was ordered to attack only the ships of enemy countries, theoretically respecting "neutrals" and their own nation's ships. If they did not respect this rule, then they were to be treated as a pirate and hanged. The corsairs' activities also provided the King with revenue as the license required them to hand over one quarter and sometimes even one third of the booty. However, in common with privateers of other nationalities, they were often considered pirates by their foreign opponents, and could be hanged as pirates if captured by the foreigners they preyed on.

Because corsairs gained a swashbuckling reputation, the word "corsair" is also used generically as a more romantic or flamboyant way of referring to privateers, or even to pirates.

In France, privateering gained its roots in about the 12th century. With the main goal being to compensate the crown for the economic problems in periods of war; and to appease the ship owners who did not accept that war was an obstacle to their trade.

Jean de Châtillon, a bishop, in 1144 gave the town of Saint-Malo the status of rights of asylum which encouraged all manner of thieves, rogues, and outcasts to move there. Located in the north of Brittany, St Malo was named after Father MacLaw, a Welsh monk and bishop who fled Wales to Brittany in 538. This 44-acre fortified city became very famous in 1590 when its inhabitants declared it an independent republic. Their motto was "Neither French nor Breton, but a Corsair am I". This status did not last more than four years but that was long enough for St Malo’s residents to earn a strong reputation as rebels, and indeed from the 12th century onwards, St. Malo was a haven for the French “cosaire”.

The Treaty Of Tordesillas - The Rise Of The French Corsairs

Despite its early roots, privateering in France did not flourish until the end of the 15th century. It’s growth was primarily sparked by the Treaty of Tordesillas, signed on the 7th of June 1494, which declared that lands lying beyond the Atlantic Ocean, whether discovered in the past or the future, were to be shared uniquely between Spain and Portugal.

In addition, Pope Alexander VI gave his approval in a papal bull. This treaty did not receive the agreement of France or England and they were all the more offended by it, because soon after its establishment, the Spanish refused to allow any other nation to trade with their American colonies.

Francois 1The exclusion of King François I of France from the Treaty of Tordesillas quite clearly reaffirmed that the two Iberian kingdoms did not intend to share their treasures with anybody. As a result, the king of France, François I, banded together a group of corsairs, which included, Giovanni da Verrazzano, Jean (Fluery) Florin aka "The Florentino" and Jean d'Ango. They were nicknamed, "Gueux de la mer" meaning "Sea Tramps" or "Sea beggars" in English and were co-funded by the Dutch. In 1521, French privateers began a series of attacks of Spanish vessels returning from the West Indies. It was in such circumstances as this that both France and England allowed their corsairs to attack Spanish vessels in Europe and the West Indies, with the justification that they had letters giving official permission from their government, although these papers were sometimes false. Indeed, sometimes the politicians actively encouraged such ventures.

The activities of the Corsairs were so profitable that the Marine Minister used this in his strategy to make money, and it became part of the budget of the French treasury. The Corsairs’ activities weakened France’s enemies; indeed, the English trade losses were very important from 1688 until 1717.

The relationship between the Corsairs and the State changed not only depending on who was in power; but as well as the relationship between the state and the church. Indeed, privateering in France was initially fuelled by religious turmoil – and persecution beginning with the Protestant Reformation.

The Protestant Reformation & Rise Of The Huguenots

The Protestant Reformation, also known as the Protestant Revolt or the Reformation, was the European Christian reform movement that established Protestantism as a constituent branch of contemporary Christianity. It was led by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to ("protested") the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Catholic Church, led to the creation of new national Protestant churches. The Catholics responded with a Counter-Reformation, led by the Jesuit order, which reclaimed large parts of Europe, such as Poland.

Protestantism also spread into France, where the Protestants were nicknamed "Huguenots", and this eventually led to decades of civil warfare, where “corsairs” frequently switched sides, at first for and then later against the state as the Huegonots formed a “rebellion” or “confederation” calling for religious and politial reform in France.

Huguenot CrestA term used originally in derision, Huguenot has indefinite origins. Various theories have been promoted. Some have proposed that the nickname may have been a French corruption of the German word Eidgenosse, meaning "a Confederate", perhaps in combination with a reference to the religious leader and politician Besançon Hugues (died 1532). Geneva was John Calvin's adopted home and the center of the Calvinist movement. In Geneva, Hugues was the leader of the "Confederate Party", so called because it favoured an alliance between the city-state of Geneva and the Swiss Confederation. This theory of origin has support from the alleged fact that the label Huguenot was first applied in France to those conspirators (all of them aristocratic members of the Reformed Church) involved in the Amboise plot of 1560: a foiled attempt to transfer power in France from the influential House of Guise. The move would have had the side effect of fostering relations with the Swiss. Thus, Hugues plus Eidgenosse became Huguenot, a nickname associating the Protestant cause with politics unpopular in France

Like the first hypothesis, several others account for the name as being derived from German as well as French.  Roche writes in his book The Days of the Upright, A History of the Huguenots that "Huguenot" is "a combination of a Flemish and a German word. In the Flemish corner of France, Bible students who gathered in each other's houses to study secretly were called Huis Genooten ('housemates') while on the Swiss and German borders they were termed Eid Genossen, or 'oath fellows,' that is, persons bound to each other by an oath. Gallicized into 'Huguenot', often used deprecatingly, the word became, during two and a half centuries of terror and triumph, a badge of enduring honor and courage."

Some disagree with dual linguistic origins, arguing that for the word to have spread into common use in France, it must have originated in the French language. The "Hugues hypothesis" argues that the name can be accounted for by connection with Hugues Capet king of France, who reigned long before the Reform times. He was regarded by the Gallicans and protestants as a noble man who respected people's dignity and lives. Frank Puaux suggests, with similar connotations, a clever pun on the old French word for a covenanter (a signatory to a contract).Janet Gray and other supporters of the theory suggest that the name huguenote would be roughly equivalent to little Hugos, or those who want Hugo.

In this last connection, the name could suggest the derogatory inference of superstitious worship; popular fancy held that Huguon, the gate of King Hugo, was haunted by the ghost of le roi Huguet (regarded by Roman Catholics as an infamous scoundrel) and other spirits, who instead of being in purgatory came back to harm the living at night. It was in this place in Tours that the prétendus réformés ("these supposedly 'reformed'") habitually gathered at night, both for political purposes, and for prayer and singing the psalms.

Similarly, this origin is reiteratied by Reguier de la Plancha (d. 1560) in De l'Estat de France who offers the following explanation as to the origin:

"The origin of the name is curious; it is not from the German Eidegenossen as has been supposed... The name huguenand was given to those of the religion during the affair of Amboyse, and they were to retail it ever since. I'll say a word about it to settle the doubts of those who have strayed in seeking its origin. The superstition of our ancestors, to within twenty or thirty years thereabouts, was such that in almost all the towns in the kingdom they had a notion that certain spirits underwent their Purgatory in this world after death, and that they went about the town during the night, striking and outraging many people whom they found in the streets. But the light of the Gospel has made them vanish, and teaches us that these spirits were street-strollers and ruffians. At Paris the spirit was called le moine bourré; at Orleans, le mulet odet; at Blois le loup garon; at Tours, le Roy Huguet; and so on in other places. Now, it happens that those whom they called Lutherans were at that time so narrowly watched during the day that they were forced to wait till night to assemble, for the purpose of praying to God, for preaching and receiving the Holy Sacrament; so that although they d'd frighten nor hurt anybody, the priests, through mockery, made them the successors of those spirits which roam the night; and thus that name being quite common in the mouth of the populace, to designate the evangelical huguenands in the country of Tourraine and Amboyse, it became in vogue after that enterprise."

In any event, Huguenots became known for their harsh criticisms of doctrine and worship in the Catholic Church from which they had broken away, in particular the sacramental rituals of the Church and what they viewed as an obsession with death and the dead. They believed that the ritual, images, saints, pilgrimages, prayers, and hierarchy of the Catholic Church did not help anyone toward redemption. They saw Christian life as something to be expressed as a life of simple faith in God, relying upon God for salvation, and not upon the Church's sacraments or rituals, while obeying Biblical law.

Like other religious reformers of the time, they felt that the Catholic Church needed radical cleansing of its impurities, and that the Pope ruled the Church as if it was a worldly kingdom, which sat in mocking tyranny over the things of God, and was ultimately doomed. Rhetoric like this became fiercer as events unfolded, and eventually stirred up a reaction in the Catholic establishment.

The Catholic Church in France opposed the Huguenots, and there were incidents of attacks on Huguenot preachers and congregants as they attempted to meet for worship The height of this persecution was the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre when 5,000 to 30,000 were killed. The Huguenots, retaliating against the French Catholics, frequently took up arms, even forcibly taking a few Catholic cities.

The Huguenots took part in anti-Catholic movements in England during the reign of Henry VIII. They were hired by Henry VIII to suppress various Catholic orders in England. They were responsible for confiscation of many of the Catholic Church's possessions at the time on behalf of the king acting as “corsairs” for England.

Huguenots faced persecution from the outset of the Reformation and due to the fact that he was not personally interested in religious reform, Francis I (1515–47) initially maintained an attitude of tolerance, arising from his interest in the humanist movement. This changed in 1534 with the Affair of the Placards. In this act, Protestants denounced the mass in placards that appeared across France, even reaching the royal apartments. The issue of religious faith having now been thrown into the arena of politics, prompted  Francois to view the movement as a threat to the kingdom's stability.

This led to the first major phase of anti-Protestant persecution in France, in which the Chambre Ardente ("Burning Chamber") was established within the Parlement of Paris to deal with the rise in prosecutions for heresy. Several thousand French Protestants fled the country during this time, most notably John Calvin, who settled in Geneva.

Calvin continued to take an interest in the religious affairs of his native land and, from his base in Geneva, beyond the reach of the French king, regularly trained pastors to lead congregations in France. Despite heavy persecution by Henry II, the Reformed Church of France, largely Calvinist in direction, made steady progress across large sections of the nation, in the urban bourgeoisie and parts of the aristocracy, appealing to people alienated by the obduracy and the complacency of the Catholic establishment.

French Protestantism, though its appeal increased under persecution, came to acquire a distinctly political character, made all the more obvious by the noble conversions of the 1550s. This had the effect of creating the preconditions for a series of destructive and intermittent conflicts, known as the Wars of Religion. The civil wars were helped along by the sudden death of Henry II in 1559, which saw the beginning of a prolonged period of weakness for the French crown. Atrocity and outrage became the defining characteristic of the time, illustrated at its most intense in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of August 1572, when the Roman Catholic party annihilated between 30,000 and 100,000 Huguenots across France. These Hugeuenots formed “corsair” divisions waging a sea battle against the Iberian states, the seat of the Catholic power.

In France, the height of the Huguenots power came in the 16th century, when the Huguenots became organized as a definitive political movement. Protestant preachers rallied a considerable army and a formidable cavalry, which came under the leadership of Admiral Gaspard de Coligny. Henry of Navarre and the House of Bourbon allied with the Huguenots, adding wealth and holdings to the Protestant strength. At its height, they controlled sixty fortified cities and posed a serious threat to the Catholic crown and Paris over the next three decades. The Corsairs were given license by other states such as England under Henry VIII, to attack Spanish and Catholic strongholds.
 

Privateer History Cont'd - French Corsairs

The Formation of "Gueux de la mer" or “Sea Beggars”: A Heroic Order

Print entitled "Horribles_cruautes_des_Huguenot_en_France_16th_century"In fact, the Roman Catholic church attempted a series of propaganda campaigns, to tarnish the image of the Huguenot “Corsair“ as a marauding and lawless pirate. But in actuality, the Huguenot Corsairs were governed by a serious of licenses issued by sympathetic protestant states – such as the Netherlands, and England.

The sea beggars were comprised of adventurers, pirates and patriots (= those fighting against the Spanish and Roman Catholic Rule). At sea they proved to be even more successful than on land, though not unbeatable.

For several years their bases of operation included the ports of Emden (on the coast of the Dutch Province Friesland), La Rochelle (on the coast of France) and Dover (on the coast of England). The “Gueux de la mer” attacked vessels of almost any Catholic State as well as fishing villages and towns. In views of the local people, they were modern day heroes, rebelling against what was seen as a corrupt church, and for retribution against the crimes committed against the people over previous centuries by the Roman Catholic Inquisition. In the people’s eyes they were equated with the legendary knight orders such as the “Poor Knights Of Solomon” or “Knights Templars” who were also persecuted and burned at the stake in France by the King and the Pope. The Huguenots commonly were referred to as “poor” and “tramps” or beggars. At sea, they earned the nickname, “Sea Beggars”, and were seen as a heroic order, fighting for both God and the people’s rights.

In fact, one of the common symbols of the Huguenots, known as the "Huguenot Cross" came into existance not long after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The Huguenot Cross came into general use amongst Huguenots as confirmation of the wearer's faith.

Huguenot CrossThe cross itself was designed in the form of a Maltese cross: four isosceles triangles meeting at the centre. Each triangle has, at the periphery, two rounded points at the corners. These points are regarded as signifying the eight Beatitudes of Matthew 5: 3-10. Suspended from the lower triangle by a ring of gold is a pendant dove with spreaded wings in downward flight, signifying the Holy Spirit. In times of persecution a pearl, symbolizing a teardrop, replaced the dove.

The four arms of the Maltese cross are sometimes regarded as the heraldic form of the four petals of the Lily of France (golden yellow irises, signifying the Mother Country of France) which grows in the south of France. The lily is also the symbol of purity. The arms symbolize the four Gospels.

It has as its predecessor the badge of the Hospitaler Knights of St John of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights of Malta, a religious and Crusader order founded in Jerusalem in the 7th century AD. In 1308 they occupied the island of Rhodes after the collapse of the Crusader states and the abolition of the Knights Templars, and in 1530 formed the order of the Knights of Malta after Rhodes was surrendered to the Ottoman Turks. They lived for 4 centuries on the island of Malta, hence the name Maltese Cross for the central part. (The Maltese Cross is generally associated with fire and is the symbol of protection of fire fighters in many countries).

These fierce Huguenot privateers were under the command of a succession of daring and sometimes reckless leaders. The best-known of whom is William de la Marck, Lord of Lumey, and under his command the Huguenots became known as "Sea Beggars", "Gueux de mer" in French, or "Watergeuzen" in Dutch.

In the last half of the 1560s the “Sea Beggars” were formed into an effective and organized fighting force against Spain. In 1569 William of Orange, who had now openly placed himself at the head of the party of revolt, and granted letters of marque to a number of vessels manned by crews of desperadoes drawn from all nationalities. Eighteen ships received letters of marque, which were equipped by Louis of Nassau in the French Huguenot port of La Rochelle, which they continued to use as a base. By the end of 1569, about 84 Sea Beggars ships were in action.

In the late 17th century, many Huguenots fled to England, the Netherlands, Prussia, Switzerland, and the overseas colonies. A significant community in France remained in the Cévennes region. A separate Protestant community, of the Lutheran faith, existed in the newly conquered province of Alsace, its status not affected by the Edict of Fontainebleau.

By the end of the 17th century, roughly 200,000 Huguenots had been driven from France during a series of religious persecutions. They relocated primarily in protestant nations: England, Switzerland, the Dutch Republic, the German Electorate of Prussia, the German Palatinate, and elsewhere in Northern Europe, as well as to what is now South Africa and to North America.

Huguenot ship-owners, among others, became heavily involved in privateering, soon to be joined by their Anglican counterparts on the other side of the Channel. Their reasons for doing so were probably mercenary, but also and especially religious : we must remember that this was heightened during the period of the religious wars. What the Spanish really feared was that the French Huguenots should also form colonies in their territory in the New World.

Indeed, in 1565, under the orders of Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the Spanish had already destroyed the colony in Florida which had been founded by J.Ribault and René de Laudonière and they had slaughtered all the inhabitants not because they were French but because they were Lutherans.

Similarly, when they captured corsairs, the Spanish would treat them as heretics rather than ordinary prisoners : this is why they were sent to the gallows, the punishment normally allotted to such a crime in Spain.

In the West Indies, the corsairs attacked not only vessels carrying rich cargoes, but also Spanish towns situated on the coast or on the islands. Between 1536 and 1568, 152 ships were captured in the Caribbean and 37 between Spain, the Canary Islands and the Azores (although not all of them by Huguenots). It is interesting to note that the corsairs carried smuggled goods on their ships which were later sold to the inhabitants of the Spanish towns in the West Indies, shortly to be followed by more attacks on Spanish vessels!

Amongst the towns which were attacked, we can mention the following : in 1543, Carthaginia (Colombia), by a joint force of 300 French and English corsairs. In 1534, Santiago de Cuba was ransacked by Jacques de Sores, using 3 boats and 300 men. He did the same the following year in Santa Maria (Cuba). In July, in the company of the Norman François de Clerc, he seized Havana, where he burned the churches and seized an enormous booty. François de Clerc had been given the first official privateer's licence, allowing him to capture vessels in America.

Seafarers lived a life of great freedom : this is one of the reasons why they soon joined the Reform Movement. In fact, there were so many of them that Jean le Frère said in 1584 that nearly all seafaring men in France were protestant, especially those who came from Normandy, notated as the most expert of them all.

Admiral Gaspard de Coligny was the main organiser of the Huguenot privateering war against Spain between 1562-1572, and had two main aspects :

The first aspect concerned the wars between Spain and France: Protestants became involved in the founding of colonies and sought to bring down Spain by attacking her vessels. Coligny organized the expedition of a colony of Huguenots to Brazil, under the leadership of his friend and navy colleague, Vice-Admiral Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon, who established the colony of France Antarctique in Rio de Janeiro, in 1555. Coligny also was the leading patron for the failed French colony of Fort Caroline in Spanish Florida led by Jean Ribault in 1562.

The other aspect concerned the financing of the Protestant cause during the religious wars in France, led by Jeanne d'Albret and the Protestant princes.

 
The Peace Of Westphalia: An end to an era

 As the 17th century came to an end the rules concerning the French Corsairs became stricter, and state control over privateers became more prevalent. This was particularly due to the fact that the religious wars had came to end with The Peace of Westphalia which was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October of 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. It put an end to unlimited and unrestricted use of letters of marque, in essence it was the beginning of the end for privateers in Europe.

The Peace of Westphalia treaties involved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III of the House of Habsburg, the Kingdoms of Spain, France, Sweden, the Dutch Republic, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and sovereigns of the Free imperial cities.

The treaties resulted from the first modern diplomatic congress, thereby initiating a new system of political order in central Europe, later called Westphalian sovereignty, based upon the concept of a sovereign state governed by a sovereign. In the event, the treaties’ regulations became integral to the constitutional law of the Holy Roman Empire.
The main tenets of the Peace of Westphalia were:

  • All parties would recognize the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, in which each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state, the options being Catholicism, Lutheranism, and now Calvinism (the principle of cuius regio, eius religio)
     
  • Christians living in principalities where their denomination was not the established church were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will.
     
  • General recognition of the exclusive sovereignty of each party over its lands, people, and agents abroad, and each and several responsibility for the warlike acts of any of its citizens or agents. Issuance of unrestricted letters of marque and reprisal to privateers was forbidden.

In addition, there were several long territorial disputes that were settled, and the power taken by Ferdinand III in contravention of the Holy Roman Empire's constitution was stripped and returned to the rulers of the Imperial States. This rectification allowed the rulers of the Imperial States to independently decide their religious worship. Protestants and Catholics were redefined as equal before the law, and Calvinism was given legal recognition.

The Holy See was very displeased at the settlement, with Pope Innocent X reportedly calling it "null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time".

The treaties did not entirely restore the peace throughout Europe, however. France and Spain remained at war for the next eleven years, making peace only in the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659.

At the end of the 17th century there was a brief resurgence in French Privateering in the New World Colonies.
 
The French "Sea Wolves":Rogue Cosairs in the Americas
 

The Queen Anne's War (1702–1713), was the North American theater of the War of the Spanish Succession was known in the English colonies, and was the second in a series of French and Indian Wars fought between France and England (later Great Britain) in North America for control of the continent. The War of the Spanish Succession was primarily fought in Europe but, in addition to the two main combatants, the war also involved numerous Native American tribes allied with each nation, and Spain, which was allied with France.

The war was fought on three fronts:

1. Spanish Florida and the English Province of Carolina were each subjected to attacks from the other, and the English engaged the French based at Mobile in what was essentially a proxy war involving primarily allied Indians on both sides. The southern war, although it did not result in significant territorial changes, had the effect of nearly wiping out the Indian population of Spanish Florida, including parts of present-day southern Georgia, and destroying Spain's network of missions in the area.

2. The English colonies of New England fought with French and Indian forces based in Acadia and Canada. Quebec was repeatedly targeted (but never successfully reached) by British expeditions, and the Acadian capital Port Royal was taken in 1710. The French and Indians executed raids against targets in Massachusetts (including present-day Maine), most famously raiding Deerfield in 1704.

3. In Newfoundland, English colonists based at St. John's disputed control of the island with the French based at Plaisance. Most of the conflict consisted of economically destructive raids against the other side's settlements. The French successfully captured St. John's in 1709, but the British quickly reoccupied it after the French abandoned it.

The French primarly established their presence along the Canadian coastline, known as Acadia, from here it was possible for the corsairs to launch raids against English, and Spanish shipping.        

 Map Of French Corsairs In The New World 1702         
French Corsairs In The New World During The Queen Anne's War (1702)

Acadia, through its entire 150 years existence, between 1605 and 1755, was a continuing source of aggravation to the New Englanders. The incursions of the Indian raiding parties led by French officers with the resulting death and property damages was bad enough; but the shipping merchants of New England were upset on a separate count - too many of their ocean cargoes coming over from Europe and up from the Caribbean were being taken on the high seas by French "sea wolves": "For certainly we are in a state of war with the pirates ... Those great rogues and enemies to all mankind ..."

This situation was aggravated in that the authorities in the English colonies had no legal power to deal with these pirates; after capture they had to be transported to England for trial. Governor Nicholson of Virginia sent 97 over, and, of them, only 26 in England were put to death for piracies.

The lack of regulations which France gave to her colonies drove the Acadians to support these French Privateers, known as "sea-wolves" There were only three communities of any size in peninsular Nova Scotia at this time (c.1700) and these three contained most all of the population of Acadia, they were: Port Royal (Annapolis Royal), Les Mines (Grand Pré), and Beaubassin (Chignecto). All three of these places were havens for privateers (pirates to the English) who cruised down along the New England coast. The French authorities at Port Royal, due to France's neglect, were only too willing to make these sea-going desperadoes into patriots, and were only too willing to act as a fence and pay for the ill-begotten goods carried in the holds of these privateers.

While using Port Royal as their base, they would also cruise down in the Carribbean, attacking English settlements and later Dutch settlements and colonies in South America.

Besides the coast of New England, French privateers made their base along the coast of Lousiana in New Orleans, Mobile and Biloxi, and launched incurisons against Flordia, and the British Province of Carolina.

As well, one of the most important important destinations was the Guyana, which was inhabited by the Arawak and Carib tribes of Native Americans. Although Christopher Columbus sighted Guyana during his third voyage (in 1498), the Dutch were the first to establish colonies: Essequibo (1616), Berbice (1627), and Demerara (1752).

In Guyana, the slave trade proved to be very lucrative between the Dutch settlements and France. The slaves were forcibly brought to Guyana under harsh conditions in the early 17th century in order to provide free labour for the development of the local economy and production of goods for export to Europe. Escaped slaves formed their own settlements known as Maroon communities.

French corsaires had jumped into the Atlantic African slave trade in the early 16th century, a century before the first Yankee set sail for Africa. Nearly 200 ships bound for Sierra Leone sailed from three Norman ports between 1540 and 1578. A Portuguese renegade, sailing under the French flag as Jean Alphonse, was one of the pioneers of the "triangle trade" between Africa, the New World and Europe.

The French government sought to promote plantation economies in its West Indies colonies. With capital, credit, technology -- and slaves -- borrowed from the Dutch, these islands began to thrive as sugar export centers. The Dutch established the first successful French sugar mill in 1655. By 1670, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Christopher had 300 sugar estates.

Realizing slaves were the key to this, a monopoly Compagnie des Indes Occidentales, largely financed by the state, was organized in 1664. A French fleet took many factories from the Dutch in Gorée and the Senegambia in the 1670s. In 1672, the French government offered a bounty of 10 livres per slave transported to the French West Indies. This spurred the formation of a second monopoly company, Compagnie du Sénégal, founded in 1673. By 1679 it had 21 ships in operation.

  Port Royal - Nest of Spoilers
  
The three most famous French privateers at the time were Morpain, Castin, and Baptiste. In the year 1692, Baptiste is recorded to have taken nine vessels in six months. In 1694, Baptiste, in a big, bright fighting vessel, which he had brought back with him from a visit to France, took five prizes off the coast of New England. In 1695, another lesser known privateer, Francois Guion, took three vessels in June when their escorting frigate went up on "a rock south of Grand Manan." With the Treaty of Ryswick signed in 1702, privateering became less wide-spread. This lull, more a truce than a peace, lasted only to 1709. The French privateers who had been pent up and ready to go back to business, in 1709, sank 35 New England bound merchant ships! In the official correspondence of New England, mention is made of the French Corsairs, "Port Royall, that Nest of Spoilers so near to us."

Despite the occasional resurgences in the colonies, by the early 18th century, French state sanctified privateering was indeed in decline especially in Europe. In 1706 the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht effectively put an end to the French corsair raids in the Caribbean, where the ‘Guerre de Course’ as the French called it, took a huge toll on the Spanish Treasure Fleet's efforts to ship the gold and silver from Peru to Santo Domingo and La Havana and then on to Spain.

For a short time, during the American Revolution and for a couple years following the French Revolution in the 1790’s, French privateers became a menace to British and American shipping in the western Atlantic and the Caribbean, resulting in the Quasi-War, a brief conflict between France and the United States, fought largely at sea, and to the Royal Navy's procuring Bermuda sloops to combat the French privateers.

The French privateers also experienced a brief resurgence in helping the United States in the war of 1812, against British shipping.

However, by 1815, privateering had practically disappeared in France. The slave trade had ended officially in 1834, and privateering officially was abolished legally in 1856, during a meeting in Paris where every nation was present (except Spain, Mexico and United States).

Eustace The Monk

Famous French Corsairs:

Eustace The Monk - (c. 1170 – 24 August 1217)

One of the first and most notable French "corsairs”, was Eustace The Monk, who served England and later France during the First Barons’ War.

The Romance of Eustace the Monk, originally written in the Picard dialect in 1284, is a verse drama which tells the story of one of the 13th century’s most colourful characters. The episodic tale of Eustace’s adventures is clearly fictional, but Eustace really did exist, and his history is quite extraordinary.

Eustace’s fictional account, written in classic picaresque style, has sections with titles such as ‘Eustace disguises himself as a mackerel seller’ and ‘Eustace pretends to be a bird’, but the final pay-off line probably approaches the real truth about the monkish anti-hero. As Eustace meets his gruesome end, the unknown author of the romance writes: ‘No one can live for a long time who has bad intentions all his days.’

The actual Eustace, was the son of ‘Baduins Buskes’, a peer of Boulogne, who is ofren referred to as “i.chevaliers de Boulenois”.

In early accounts of Eustace’s life it is reported that he studied the black arts, so successfully in Toledo, that no one in France could equal him. While most likely more of an exaggeration than the truth, the chronicler of the Histoire des Ducs de Normandie in Eustace’s own day claimed, “No one would believe the marvels he accomplished, nor those which happened to him many times.”

He is generally described as a Benedictine monk in the Abbey of Samer, and the anonymous Chronicle of Laon, speaks of Eustace as from “a black monk becoming a demoniac”. While most likely the accounts of his dark life as a demonic “Black Monk” is purely apocryphal, it is known that he gained a reputation for using bad language and gambling.

It appears that his shift toward the "darkside" began about 1190, when Eustace’s father was murdered. Matthew Paris and several other chroniclers state that Eustace left the monastery to demand justice from the Count of Boulogne against the murder of his father and to pursue Hainfrois de Heresinghen, the alleged murderer.

The two men ultimately fought a duel, but they both took the less than courageous precaution of nominated champions to represent them. Hainfrois’ man won the day, and as a result his master, the alleged murder was declared innocent.

Eustace, after losing the appeal, went into the service of Count Renaud de Dammartin, of Boulogne, in the capacity of seneschal. It is believed, that Hainfrois de Hersinghen, who had slain Eustace’s father, convinced the Count at length to turn against Eustace. The two quarrelled and, Count Renaud de Dammartin, accused of mishandling his stewardship.

Eustace appealed his plight to a court of peers, and claimed his innocence, but eventually he took fright and fled. Thereupon, the count delcared that his flight was an admission of guilt and seized his property, declared him an outlaw and burned his fields; Eustace in return swore that this wrong would cost  the Count “ten thousands marks”.

Eustace had fled into the Forest of Boulonnais and began to wage a war of revenge against the Count. He engaged in a series of Guerrilla like attacks against the count in retribution, in a "Robin Hood" like manner. 

When the Count eventually allied himself with France, Eustace feared persecution and retribution by the state, and left for England, to join the service of King John.

John gave Eustace command of thirty ships at the start of his assignment. This employment involved Eustace and his brothers raiding the Normandy coast and establishing bases in the Channel Islands (he and his men held Castle Cornet in Guernsey for a considerable period) as an English privateer.

“John very early in his reign asserted the dominion of England over the sea, by enacting, that if any of the commanders of his fleets should meet with ships of a foreign nation at sea, the matters of which refused to strike the royal flag, such ships, if taken, should be deemed lawful prizes, even though they belonged to a state in amity with England”

[The Naval History Of Britain; from the earliest times to the rise of parliament in 1779. Vol. 1 By Frederic Hervey. (1779) P.89]

According to the Histoire des Ducs de Normandie, Eustace had done so well that John granted him the Channel islands, and a “palais” and plot of land in Winchelsea.

But Eustace the Monk, wasn’t satisified just with the rewards from the Normandy raids, and he began to set his sights on both sides, raiding not only the French shipping but English coastal villages, and King John briefly outlawed him, but soon afterwards issued a pardon because he needed his services.

Although John needed Eustaces’ help, in 1212,Eustace's old enemy Renaud de Dammartin, broke with the king of France and allied himself with John and in doing so turned John's mind against Eustace. This forced Eustace to flee to France, and a passage from the Annals of Dunstaple (1212) reads:

“… There came… the count of Bloulogne. And the king Of France took all the ships of England which came to his land; and therefore the king of England took many towns of the of the Cinque Ports. And then Eustace, the pirate, called the Monk, fled from us to the king of France with five galleys because the count of Boulogne laid snares for him.” Annales Monastici, iii. 34

The first barons’ war was a civil war that broke out in England in 1215 over the failure of King John to honour the terms of the Magna Carta. The Barons of the Cinque-Ports offered the throne to Prince Louis, son of Philip II Augustus of France. Eustace supported the rebel barons and under a French license, ferried Prince Louis of France across the Channel to help them in 1216.

King John died in October 1216, and with his death the rebels lost much of their support, as the supporters of the nine year old Henry III gained ground. Henry III, was a king at only ten years of age, and as such, the Earle of Pembroke was appointed regent during the kings minority. The Earl fought a decisive battle against the rebellion and forced the retreat of Louis of France to London. Louis needed reinforcements and new supplies in his London stronghold, and the French made several abortive attempts to re-supply him, as one account describes: “one night the French came before Dover where they were to proceed at anchor; and on the morrow when they thought to proceed to the mouth of the Thames, a storm arose with a rough sea and drove them back upon Bolougne and Flanders and caused them great distress”

The French fleet was finally able to sail in fair weather from Calais on St Bartholomew's Day (August 24) 1217, led by Eustace the Monk and Robert de Courtenai. Though the ships were equipped by Eustace the Monk, command of the knights and soldiers was held by Robert of Courtenai.

Eustace's own vessel, the Great Ship of Bayonne led the French squadron, and on it was loaded a treasure destined for Louis from his father Phillip. Ironically, Robert de Courtenai held the top command while Eustace served as his deputy. Ralph de la Tourniele and William des Barres were third and fourth in command, respectively. All told, there were 36 knights on the flagship. The next three troopships were commanded by Mikius de Harnes, William V of Saint-Omer, and the Mayor of Boulogne. Altogether, the first four ships, including the flagship, contained between 100 and 125 knights. Men-at-arms manned the remaining six troopships. There were 70 smaller vessels which carried supplies. All eleven troopships were overloaded, particularly the flagship which carried a large trebuchet and horses destined for Prince Louis.

Serving as Louis’ admiral, Eustace is described as being as formidable foe, being “endowed with a diabolical ingenuity in working havoc among his former friends the English.” Eustace the Monk, is renowned for leading the French navy, in the Battle Of Sandwich, in 1217. The conflict is notable as it involves the first known example of English sailing tactics being used in a large scale naval battle.

Due to the delays experienced by the French in sailing from Calais, the English had been given time to prepare for the invasion, assembling a fleet of about forty sail from the Cinque Ports, under the command of Hubert de Burgh, governor of Dover-castle in Sandwich, Kent.

Eustace eventually met the English off the coast of Sandwich. Not only were they outnumbered, the English ships were generally smaller than the French, except for a substantial cog (ship) provided by the Earl of Pembroke, who was persuaded to stay ashore. But, the English on this occasion, supplied their defect in number of ships and men, by superior address, and a more skilful management of their force.

The English, who had recovered Sandwich from Louis' forces, determined to let the French armada pass by before attacking. When the French sailed past Sandwich, de Burgh's fleet issued from the port after the French fleet, which sailed in close order toward the Thames estuary,  and held the windward position at first. De Burgh's ship, which was in the lead, lunged at the French in a feint attack, but veered away when threatened. Against the advice of his admiral Eustace, the overconfident Robert of Courtenay ordered the French to attack and pursuit De Burgh. As the French shortened sail, the English ships gained the windward position and attacked. Meanwhile, de Burgh's flagship sailed independently to attack the French from the rear, eventually capturing two French vessels. The main thrust of the English fleet first attacked the French transports, and by gaining wind of them, ran them down, and sunk the vessels with all on board; whilst, with their long bows, they galled the enemy in their ships of war. To prevent the French from boarding them, they strewed large quantities of lime upon their decks, and with the wind blowing fresh, it carried full force in the faces of their enemies who were blinded not able to maintain the fight.

Early in the battle, the French flagship had engaged Richard Fitz-John's ship. As more English ships came up, they joined the fight against the flagship, while the other French ships maintained their tight formation, but failed to assist their flagship that was now being besieged.

Pembroke's cog and Fitz-John's ship grappled Eustace's flagship, one on each side. After a one-sided melee, Robert of Courtenai and the French knights were captured for ransom, while the French sailors and common soldiers were massacred. Eustace, dragged from his hiding place in the bilge, offered to pay 10,000 marks as ransom. Though his very high price was tempting, Fitz-John and the other English leaders considered Eustace a turncoat and a pirate because of his previous employment by King John, in the service of England. Marked for execution by the enraged English, Eustace was tied down and a man named Stephen Crabbe struck off his head with one blow.

The French fleet was soundly defeated, and with their flagship taken, the French fleet headed back to Calais. Encouraged, the English attacked, using ramming, grappling, and rigging-cutting to disable the enemy vessels. The nine surviving troopships got away, but most of the smaller vessels fell prey to the English mariners. As few as 15 ships escaped from the rampaging English. The French troopships owed their deliverance to their train of supply vessels because the English turned aside to plunder the smaller craft. The French sailors were slaughtered or thrown into the Channel, except for two or three men on each captured vessel who were spared.

The defeat at sea was decisive, for Louis was then immediately besieged in London, whilst the English fleet blocked up the Thames. In this situation reduced to extremity, he entered a treaty with the earl of Pembroke, where he renounced all his rights to the kingdom of England.

Jean De Ango or Jean d'Ango (1480 - 1551)

jean D'angoJean De Ango, or Jean D'Ango was a native of Dieppe, born about 1480, his father was a man of small means and engaged in merchant seamanship. Jean D'Ango took over his father's business, and ventured into the spice trade with Africa and India. In doing this, he was one of the first French corsairs to challenge the monopoly of Spain and Portugal. He also helped found a small company in France, known as, "The Compagnie des Indes Orientales" or East India Company, which later became a series of companies in various countries, such as the English East India Co., and the famous Dutch East India Co. Jean D'Ango was often referred to as the "Medici of Dieppe"; the boldness of his enterprises, the energy and independence of his character, the splendour of his luxury and expenditure, his ardent and elightened passion for art have shed around him a brilliant lustre which seems to rival that of his King, and friend, Francois I.

He eventually controlled a fleet of about 70 ships. In his early years, Jean De Ango, flirted on the verge of piracy, and the early accounts of his exploits seem to be difficult to trace for this reason, as the French have tried to convey a positive image. There are however some incidents that have remained recorded. For instance, at the end of March 1514, Jean Ango, together with Richard Heron, Christopher Price and Mathieu Doublet, equipped a Norman ship which was captained by a certain Jacques Maheut.

In April, the Norman ship was on the coast of Zeeland. It met a ship from Lübeck, a free-city, on the coast of Germany that was known as, "the Queen of the Hanseatic League". The ship, loaded with corn, rye and beer was seized by Ango's corsairs and led to Dieppe. The captain of the captured ship, Mathieu Cosse, made a claim in front of Chiffreville Jehan, the Lieutenant admiral in Dieppe, and alleged in his defense that the Lübeck ship had already paid taxes (customs excise) to France for the goods. His appeal succeeded and the confiscated goods were estimated and and a fine was imposed. It is interesting because coinage or money in the 16th century was usually known by its picture or some other visual characteristic, and not its monetary value. It did not have an actual value printed on it, as we commonly do today. The basic unit of coinage in France at this time was the or "écu d'or" or more commonly "Gold Crown". It's value relative to the money of account has fluctuated throughout the century, and was struck by Louis XI (1461-1483) to Francis I (1515-1547). The account describes that Jean D'Ango was charged a fine of twenty gold crowns (écus d'or), Christopher Price, twenty gold lions (lyons d'or), Doublet and Heron were charged with ten and four gold crowns with an image of a sun(écus d'or au soleil)respectively, and one coin with a crowned shield (écu couronné) each. It could be assumed that monetarily these coins are in decreasing values.

  

Lyons d'or (Gold Lion)

 Lyons D'or The Golden Lion is a coin with the image of a gold lion at the feet of the king of France seated. The first gold lions were first issued in 1338 under the reign of Philip VI. Other coins, minted in Flanders and Brabant in the fifteenth century are also called "Golden Lion".

  

 

 écus d'or (Gold Crown)

Ecu d'orThe  first minting of the Gold crown began in 1336. It was called so becasue it depicted the kings shield. Its value relative to the money of account has fluctuated throughout the century, and was struck by Louis XI (1461-1483) to Francis I (1515-1547).

 

 

In 1531, after John III of Portugal had confiscated one of his ships, D'Ango got the French king's permission to respond. With a letter of marque, he harassed the Portuguese fleet in the Atlantic, and even threatened to block the port of Lisbon. The Portuguese king finally agreed to pay reparations.

Ango was an intimate friend of king Francis I. In 1521 he was styled Viscount of Dieppe, and in 1533, after the king had visited him in his mansion in Normandy, captain of Dieppe.

Jean d'Sngo controlled a fleet of privateers, most notably, in 1524 he equipped the Dauphine, in which Giovanni da Verrazzano explored the east coast of North America and discovered the site of what is now New York City. Also, Jean and Raoul Parmentier in 1529 reached the coast of Sumatra in two of Ango’s ships, the Pensée and the Sacre.

When John III of Portugal confiscated one of his ships which carried plunder from captured vessels, Ango received the French king's permission to respond. Acting under a letter of marque issued on 26 July 1530, he harassed the Portuguese fleet in the Atlantic, and even threatened to block the port of Lisbon. On 15 August 1531, the Portuguese king agreed to pay reparations of 60,000 ducats in return for Ango's agreement to stop his actions and surrender the letter of marque.

In 1537, Jean d'Ango's fleets captured nine ships carrying silver from Peru. These hauls were taken near the Azores. But their extraordinary richness encouraged French captains to invade the Caribbean itself during the 1530s.

Between the years of 1535 and 1547, some sixty-six Spanish ships were captured by French corsairs. On the king’s death, Ango became a victim of rivals and was imprisoned by the reigning French monach, King Henry II Of France for a time in 1549 on a charge of official misconduct, by failing to pay taxes on proceeds from privateering exploits.

Jean D'Ango, passed away of natural death in 1551, rich and respected in Dieppe, where he left to bourgeois descendants a castle in Normandy

Giovanni da Verrazzano / Verrazano (Juan Florin) (1485-1527)

Giovanni VerrazanoGiovanni da Verrazzano was born in a little town situated in the Val di Greve, near Florence, in 1485. His father was Piero Andrea, the son of Bernardo of Verrazzano,--the latter Bernardo having belonged to the magistracy of the priors in 1406. Verrazzano then moved from Florence to Normandy and in order to prove his desire to integrate to his new surroundings, he changed his name to make it more French. Thus, he became known in France as, Jehan de Verrazane.

A man of many identities: Jean Fleury, Juan Florin, Jean Florin and the Florentine:
 
It appears that Verazzano may have sailed under the guise of many different aliases. 
 
Scholars have heatedly debated whether Giovanni de Verrazzano / Verrazano also sailed under another alias of Jean Florin/Juan Florin or  Florentin, or simply, the Florentine--the French corsair. Furthermore, in some historical records he is occasionally refrerred to as Juan Florin of Dieppe.
 
The first mention of the "Florin" or "Florinus" presumeably as an alias for Verrazano was stated by Peter Martyr, Dec. v. c. 8. Epistola 771 (ed. 1671) in a letter. In this letter which is dated at Valladolid 19th November 1522, Martyr writes: "Anuo quippe superiore Florinus quidam Gallus pirata navim unam ab Hispaniola venientem, auro ad sommam octoginta millium dragmarum, unionum vero libris octuolibus sexcentis & ruborum saecari duobus millibus rapuit." 
 
Murphy, Buckingham Smith, Hobbs, Brevoort, Fiske, Avery and others have identified the navigator Giovanni da Verrazano with a corsair named Jean Florin or Florentin (the Florentine), who operated against Spanish and Portuguese treasure ships during these years. In the 18th century, on the authority of Andres Gonzalez Barcia, in his "Ensayo Cronologico, etc." (Madrid, 1723), Juan Florin was identified with Verrazano. Modern authors have hotly contested the identification of researchers, and  Prospero Peragallo and William F.E Morley provide a convincing argument that this seems to be a simple matter of confusion of personalities.
 
While little is known about Verrazzano prior to about 1520,  it is often asserted in the French annals that he visited the northern coast of America as early as 1508, in his early twenties on Thomas Aubert’s famous voyage to Newfoundland, but no bonafide account of this voyage exists. 
 

The Spanish trade route from Europe to the new lands.
These proved easy pickings for the corsairs, as Spanish caravels and cogs were not well suited for sea-battle.

 
 
He became famous in the 1520s when valuable commerce had grown up between Spain and her conquests in the West Indies, and large amounts in gold, pearls, sugar, hides and other articles were sent home. A ship, on her way from Hispaniola, was captured by him, and had on board eighty thousand ducats in gold, six hundred pounds in weight(eight ounces to the pound), of pearls and two thousand arrobas, of twenty-five pounds each, of sugar.
 
In the following year, he took possession of seven vessels bound from Cadiz to the Canary islands, with emigrants, but being overtaken off the point of Gando, by vessels sent in pursuit, he was compelled to relinquish his prizes. [Footnote: Don Bartholome Garcia del Castillo in Noticias de la historia de las islas de Canaria, by Don Joseph de Viera y Clavijo. (Madrid 1772-84).]
 
In November, 1522, a vessel arrived in Spain which had been sent from Mexico, by the conquistador with the emperor's share of the tribute money collected in that country, in the special charge of Captain Alonzo Davila and Antonio Quinones, with other articles of value. Fearing capture by the French corsairs, this vessel had sailed by the way of the Azores, and left the treasure, at the island of Santa Maria, and proceeded on without it, in order that a proper force might be sent to that island to bring it safely to Spain.
 
Three caravels were dispatched from Seville, Spain to Santa Maria, under the command of Captain Alonzo Davila , and arrived there on the 15th of May 1523. Davila and Quinones immediately embarked with the treasure, sailing directly to Spain.
 
Meanwhile, Verrazano, Jean Fluery and Jean d'Ango proceeded with six vessels towards Cape St. Vincent, for the purpose of intercepting them, which he succeeded in doing. After a sharp encounter, in which Captain Quinones was killed, they captured two of them, one of which Captain Davila was taken with the gold, and the other valuable articles. The third caravel escaped, and arrived in Spain, with a tiger and various articles of rich manufacture, which had belonged to Montezuma.
 
One of the most interesting treasures captured by D'ango and the corsairs, is an obsidian mirror that is now housed in a Paris Musuem.  Obsidian mirrors were adopted by Mesoamerican rulers as objects of power and divination, granting them a medium through which they could look into the future and connect with the realm of the gods. The so-called “Inca Mirror,” is housed in the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.  it is described as “one of the most important pieces in the [Paris] museum." It is said to come from Montezuma’s treasure, and to have been part of the cargo of a vessel belonging to Cortez. The Paris mirror was already documented in that museum’s collection in 1742.
 
Verrazano took his prizes into Rochelle. The value of the treasure and articles taken was estimated at more than six hundred thousand ducats, or approximately one and a half million dollars.
 
Alfonso Davila in a letter to the Spanish emperor, describes the loss (Translated from the original in the Archivo de Indias at Seville):
 
I. LETTER OF ALONSO DAVILA TO THE EMPEROR CHARLES V, RELATING TO THE  CAPTURE OF THE TREASURE SENT FROM MEXICO BY CORTES. 
VERY HIGH AND VERY POWERFUL CATHOLIC LORD KING: 
 
Captain Domingo Alonso, who was commander of the three caravels that sailed as guard on the coast of Andalusia, gave a cedula to Antonio Quinones and myself at the Island of Azores, in which Your Majesty was pleased to state to us that, from the news of our fear of the French who were said to run the coast, we had remained at the island of Santa Maria until your Highness should direct what might be for the royal service, in so doing we had acted well; that to secure the gold and articles we had brought, the three caravels were sent to us under that captain; and we were enjoined to embark in them at once and come with every thing to the city of Seville, to the House of Contratacion, and the officers who by the royal command reside there, for which favor we kiss your feet and hands.
 
The caravels arrived the xvth of May, and directly in fulfilment of the order we embarked, sailing for the Portuguese coast, which the pilots deemed the safer course, and coming within ten leagues of Cape St.Vincent, six armed French ships ran out upon us. We fought them from two caravels, until we were overpowered, when everything eminently valuable on the way to Your Majesty was lost; the other caravel not being disposed to fight escaped to carry the news; and but for that perhaps the captain might better have staid with his additional force aid our defence than to carry back such tidings. Quinones died, and I am a prisoner at Rochelle in France. 
 
I should desire to come, would they but let me, to kiss your royal feet, and give acomplete history of all; for I lost everything I possessed in the service of Your Majesty, and have wished that my life had been as well. I entreat that privileges begranted to the residents and inhabitants of New Spain and that you will consider services to have been rendered, since that people have loyally done their duty to this moment, and will ever do as true vassals.
 
I beseech that Your Majesty be pleased to order good protection placed on the coastof Andalusia for the ships coming from the Indies; for now all the French, flushed as they are, desire to take positions whence they may commit mischief. Let it be an armament that can act offensively, and which will not flee, but seek out the enemy
 
I entreat, prisoner and lost as I am, yet desiring still to die in the royal service, that Your Highness will so favor me, that if any ship should be sent to New Spain, an order be directed to Hernando Cortes, requiring that the Indians I have there deposited in the name of Your Majesty be not taken, but that they be bestowed on me for the period that is your pleasure. 
 
Our Lord augment the imperial state of Your Royal Majesty to the extent your royal person may require. From Rochela of France, the XVIth day of June of M. d. XXIIJ years. 
 
Of Y.C.Ca. Ma. the loyal vassal who kisses your very royal feet and hands, 
 
ALONSO DAVILA. 
 
 
Soon after this point in history what happens to Verrazano remains a mystery. Some historians argue that he embarked on several voyages of discovery. He is apparently meditating an expedition against the Portuguese possessions in Brazil, upon the pretext of discovering other countries in the east. The mention of this project is positive, and becomes curious and interesting in the history of his life, as it affords the only authentic evidence extant of any suggestion of a voyage of discovery, contemplated by him towards Cathay. 
 
The design, if ever really entertained, appears however to have fallen through and was abandoned; nevertheless, it may have been the foundation of the story of the alleged voyage of discovery. It is related by Francisco d'Andrade, in his Chronicle of John III, the then reigning king of Portugal. After referring to the death of Magellan, as an event which removed a cause of difference between the crowns of Portugal and Castile, which grew out of the famous expedition of that navigator, Andrade mentions Verrazano while commenting on the state of affairs between the crowns of France and Portugal:
 

"At that time, the king was told by some Portuguese, doing business in France, that one Joao Varezano, a Florentine, offered himself to Francis, to discover other kingdoms in the East, which the Portuguese had not found, and that in the ports of Normandy a fleet was being made ready under the favor of the admirals of the coast,and the dissimulation of Francis, to colonize the land of Santa Cruz, called Brazil, discovered and laid down by the Portuguese in the second voyage to India. This, and the complaints every where made of the injuries inflicted by French corsairs, rendered the early attention of the king necessary."

It was well understood that the power of Philip II depended upon his New World treasure, and his treasure upon his control of the sea. "The Emperor can carry on war against me only by means of the riches which he draws from the West Indies," cried Francis I when Verrazano brought home some treasure taken from Spanish ships in Western waters.

The time when these preparations were being made by Verrazzano is more definitely fixed by a dispatch of Silveira to the king, from Paris on the 25th of April 1523, in which he states that "Verazano" had not yet left for Cathay and that this whole story of an intended voyage of discovery was proposed for the purpose of concealing the real object of the preparations which were going on in Normandy. Namely,  of seizing the treasure which had been sent from Mexico, by Cortes to the emperor, of the successful  accomplishment of which we have previously described.
 
It is generally assumed preparations for an expeditionary voyage did not occur until the end of 1523, in a ship called the Dauphine. Verrazno set out from Dieppe late in 1523 with four ships, but that a storm forced him to find a haven in Brittany with only the Normanda and the Dauphine. Most of what we know during this time is based on a letter known as "The Verrazano Letter", which written by Jean Florin to François I in 1524. The "Verrazano Letter", upon which all the arguments center, is known to exist in two or three copies, but no original. These are copies of a letter which Verrazano wrote to King Francois I of France, dated July 8, 1524, and copies of which he sent to various friends. One copy was printed in 1556, a second found and published in 1841 and the third was first published in 1909.
 

A section of the "Verrazano Map" by Hieronimo Verrazano, circa 1529.
Courtesy of the Vatican Photo Library (Foto Biblioteca Vaticana), Vatican City.

 
There also exists as evidence of the voyage a chart known as the "Verrazano Map." The map was made by the navigator’s brother, Hieronimo, about 1529. The map traces the coast line between Florida and Labrador and bears an inscription stating that this land was discovered by Giovanni di Verrazano, of Florence, by the order and command of the Most Christian King of France. It now resides at the library in the Vatican.

In this account, on Jan. 17, 1524, Verrazano with 50 men and provisions sufficient for eight months, arms and naval stores, set sail in the "Dauphine" from the Fortunate Islands – with objective to reach Cathay (China) by a westward route.

After sailing westward for about 49 days (March 1524), Verrazano and his crew reached the American coast, probably not far from Cape Fear or present day Wilmington, N.C. He thus became the first European to explore this part of the American coast. He exclaimed, "A newe land never before seen by any man, either auncient (sic) or moderne."
 
After making a brief landing on the Carolina coast, the "Dauphine" proceeded northward, ever looking for a water route to China. He is attributed to discovering the current state of New York, which he named La Nouvelle Angoulême. And further described the coasts of the Americas which he named the Arcadie and the Francescane  as well as the Île Rhodes, currently known as  Rhodes Island
 
As the voyage continued northward to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Verrazano from time to time and place to place would send men ashore to look over the countryside and the natives. After Verrazano had sailed as far north as Newfoundland, he set sail for France, reaching Dieepe early in July, 1524. It was from here that he wrote his famous letter which is the earliest description known to exist of the shores of the United States.
 
It is suspected, Verrazano made two more voyages and in 1527 his men mutinied and ordered him to return to France, but Verrazano, using their incompetence in navigation, nonetheless reached Brazil, cut logwood (a red dye wood then named Brazil wood - this is the origin of the name Brazil) and his backers made good profit from it.
 
What happened to Verranzano next is a matter of speculation, but the official account is that in 1528 he again crossed the Atlantic (exploration and the cutting of logwood being the joint goals of the expedition), landing in Florida, then following the chain of the lesser Antilles. On one of the islands (probably Guadeloupe) his habit of anchoring away from the shore became fatal. Giovanni was going ashore in a boat to greet the natives, wading the last part while the boat, with his brother, remained at sea. Unfortunately, the natives were not a friendly tribe that wanted to trade, but cannibalistic Caribs. They expertly killed Giovanni and ate him while still fresh, under the eyes of his brother. The ship was too far away to give gunfire support.

 

In this account, on Jan. 17, 1524, Verrazano with 50 men and provisions sufficient for eight months, arms and naval stores, set sail in the "Dauphine" from the Fortunate Islands – with objective to reach Cathay (China) by a westward route.
 
After sailing westward for about 49 days (March 1524), Verrazano and his crew reached the American coast, probably not far from Cape Fear or present day Wilmington, N.C. He thus became the first European to explore this part of the American coast. He exclaimed, "A newe land never before seen by any man, either auncient (sic) or moderne."
 
After making a brief landing on the Carolina coast, the "Dauphine" proceeded northward, ever looking for a water route to China. He is attributed to discovering the current state of New York, which he named La Nouvelle Angoulême. And further described the coasts of the Americas which he named the Arcadie and the Francescane  as well as the Île Rhodes, currently known as  Rhodes Island
 
 As the voyage continued northward to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Verrazano from time to time and place to place would send men ashore to look over the countryside and the natives. After Verrazano had sailed as far north as Newfoundland, he set sail for France, reaching Dieepe early in July, 1524. It was from here that he wrote his famous letter which is the earliest description known to exist of the shores of the United States.
 
It is suspected, Verrazano made two more voyages and in 1527 his men mutinied and ordered him to return to France, but Verrazano, using their incompetence in navigation, nonetheless reached Brazil, cut logwood (a red dye wood then named Brazil wood, this is the origin of the name Brazil) and his backers made good profit from it.
 
What happened to Verranzano next is a matter of speculation, but the official account is that in 1528 he again crossed the Atlantic (exploration and the cutting of logwood being the joint goals of the expedition), landing in Florida, then following the chain of the lesser Antilles. On one of the islands (probably Guadeloupe) his habit of anchoring away from the shore became fatal. Giovanni was going ashore in a boat to greet the natives, wading the last part while the boat, with his brother, remained at sea. Unfortunately, the natives were not a friendly tribe that wanted to trade, but cannibalistic Caribs. They expertly killed Giovanni and ate him while still fresh, under the eyes of his brother. The ship was too far away to give gunfire support.
 
Another account does not have him making the voyage in 1528, but instead he is once again collaborating with Jean d'Ango. A letter from Chabot, as admiral of France, states he should furnish two galleons, Jean d'Ango one ship, and Verrazano two pilots besides himself, and that the three persons here named should with Guillaume Preudhomme, general of Normandy, Pierre Despinolles and Jacques Boursier, in different specified amounts each, make up the sum of twenty thousand pounds in Tours currency for the expenses, on joint account, of a voyage to the Indies for spices,--the admiral and Ango, however, to have one-fourth of all the merchandise returned, for the use of the vessels, and Verrazano to have one-sixth of the remaining three-fourths, for his compensation and that of his two pilots. The contract contained another provision, that if any booty should be taken on the sea from the Moors, or other enemies of the faith and the king, the admiral should first take a tenth of it and the remainder should be divided as stipulated in regard to the merchandise, except such part as should, upon advisement, be given to the crew. The admiral was to have letters patent expedited from the king for permission to make the voyage. This paper has no date, but as it was made by Chabot, in his official capacity, as admiral of France, it could not have been earlier than March 1526 .
 
     It is known that he communicated to persons in England a map of his discoveries, and a document found at Rouen in 1876 proves that he executed a power of attorney to his brother, Geronimo (Jerasme de Verasenne), 11 May, 1526, before sailing to the East Indies, by virtue of an agreement with Admiral Philippe Chabot and the famous merchant of Dieppe, Jean Ango.
 
Friday the Eleventh of May, 1526.
 
Jehan de Varasenne, nobleman, captain of the ships equipped to go on the voyage to the Indies, has made, named, ordained, constituted and instituted his attorney, and certain special commissioners that is to say, Jerosme de Varasenne his brother and heir and Zanobis de Rousselay, to sue and especially to receive all which to the said principal is, shall be, may and may become due by any person and for any cause or causes whatsoever as regards what is thus due as well by reason of the said voyage to the Indies as otherwise; and also his disagreements and law suits to treat compound and settle by such prices, means and conditions as the said Jerosme and de Rousselay shall be able to do, and to receive and receipt for and discharge according as the case may be, and generally to pledge, hold and bind chattels and lands.
 
Present mol Gales and Nicolas Doublet.
 
JANUS VERRAZANUS.
 
On the same leaf:
 
Saturday the Twelfth day of May, 1526. Messire Jehan de Varasenne, nobleman, captain of the ships equipped to go on the voyage to the Indies acknowledged that he had appointed, constituted and instituted Adam Godeffroy citizen of Rouen, to whom be has given and gives by these presents power and authority to act for the said de Varrasenne [FOOTNOTE: The words "in his quality of captain of the said ships" are here erased in the original, and they have added in the margin these; "and for the said Godeffroy."] in one of the said ships named the barque of Fescamp of the burthen of ninety tons or thereabouts, of which the master is, after God, Pierre Cauvay, the which ship to employ in trading and traffic for the said Varrasenne in all things for the said voyage of the Indies as by the said de Varrassenne shall be directed by articles and memoranda under his sign manual to the said Godeffroy. And for doing this the said de Varrasenne has promised to pay to the said Godeffroy for his trouble and time and attention in doing and fulfilling the said articles and memoranda according to his ability in making the said voyage of the said barque, the sum of five hundred pounds Tours currency, and this sum to pay on the return from the said voyage, to do which the said de Varrasenne has bound and binds all his chattels and lands, and to take them by execution immediately on the said return. And in like manner the said Godeffroy has undertaken to make the said voyage and duly and loyally to serve the said de Varrasenne, and to carry out according to his power the said articles and memoranda which thus shall be given by the said de Varrasenne.
 
And it is without prejudice of the goods, funds and merchandise which the said Godeffroy shall have and might place on the said ships to make the said voyage, which he and his shall have carried away with them, for their profit, besides the said sum of five hundred pounds Tours currency for the said voyage. And to keep this, each for himself, both parties bind themselves, their chattels and lands.
 
Present Jehan Desvaulx and Robert Bouton.
 
While the apparent intention was a voyage to the Indies, there is every reason to believe that was not the real object of the parties to this agreement. One of the stipulations between them was for a division, of booty, showing an intention to make captures on the sea. Who were the enemies of the king from whom it was to be taken is not stated. But, by the treaty of Madrid, in January 1526, peace existed between France and Spain, and any expedition from one of them against the commerce of the other, was clearly piratical. Neither did war exist at this time, between France and Portugal. It appears that both the Spaniards and the Portuguese, were searching for Verrazano at the time, when the former may have succeeded in capturing him, in September or October 1527.
 
It is theorized, he had not sailed to the Indies in 1528 but must have instead have made himself obnoxious to those nations, by fresh depredations upon their vessels, he became known to the Spanish as,  El Francés. Bernal Diaz, gives an account of his capture and execution, states that he was actually so engaged.
 
It appears from the letters of the judge who superintended his execution that he was then encountered by six Biscayan galleons and ships, and after battle, captured by Martín Perez de Irízar and taken by him to Cadiz, with his crew, consisting of one hundred and twenty or thirty persons, besides several gentlemen adventurers, Verrazano offered his captors thirty thousand ducats to be released, but in vain. He was sent under guard with the adventurers to Madrid, but was overtaken on the way at Colmenar near Puerto del Pico, villages between Salamanca and Toledo, by the judge of Cadiz with an order made by the emperor at Lerma on the 13th of October 1527, by virtue of which he was there put to death in November of that year (Translated from the original in the Archivo general in Sijoncas Astado: Legajo 18, fol. 845.):
 
"LETTER OF THE JUDGE OF CADIZ IN ANSWER TO A ROYAL MISSIVE, STATING BY WHOM JUAN FLORIN WAS CAPTURED, AND HIS EXECUTION."
 
Sacred Caesarean Catholic Majesty:
 
The Licentiate Giles, Resident Judge in the City of Cadiz, in compliance with what your Majesty required by your cedula that it should be stated who captured Juan Florin and his accomplices, answers that Martin Yricar, Antonio de Cumaya, Juan Martinez de Aricabalo, Martin Perez de Leabnr, Saba de Ysasa, Juan de Galarza, Captains of their galleons and ships, with their people, were those who captured Juan Florin in the manner that they will relate, and brought him to the Bay of Cadiz.
 
I went directly to their galleons, and to my requirement they answered that they would keep him in safety, that they desired all for your service; and this notwithstanding that the said Juan Florin promised them thirty thousand ducats to be released. The captains of the fleet of Portugal who were cruising at sea in quest of him at the same place in which he was taken also offered ten thousand ducats for him that they might take him to their king, and other offers were made, none of which they would accept, but, unitedly, with the sheriff of that city, took him to Your Majesty, like good and loyal servants. And when they arrived at Puerto del Pico, finding Your Majesty had commanded that he and his said accomplices should be given up to me at once, they delivered and I executed the law upon them.
 
Those captains have sustained much injury and have been at much cost, as I am witness. They arrived with their ships broken, the sails ruined,  and the forecastles carried away. They had spent much in munition and powder, and for the sustenance of those French before they delivered them to me. When they arrived in the bay they were greatly reduced and hungered, having exhausted their stores by giving to the French. Much would it be for the service of Your Majesty that those Captains should be satisfied for their losses and rewarded which I have promised them, as Your Highness desired by your cedula, that others seeing how they are honored may be encouraged in the royal service.
 
Thus much I entreat that Your Majesty will order done for the loyalty I know those captains tear to your service, and because they are persons by whom you may he much served.
 
S. C. C. M. I kiss the sacred feet of your Highness.
LICENCLADO GILES.
 
A third account claims he went to England where he offered his services to Henry VIII.
 
Today, A bronze statue, set up in 1910, by his admiring fellow countrymen, facing the mouth of the great river on whose east bank the metropolis of the United States has grown, proclaims their conviction that Giovanni da Verrazano, and not Henry Hudson, was its discoverer. He is the namesake of New York City's Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

 

Guillaume Le Testu de Le Havre (1509?-1573)

 
Guillaume Le Testu de Le Havre
 

Guillaume Le Testu also known as "Têtu", was born at Le Havre in Normandy. He was of French nationality, and according to Robert Richard, came from a line of three generations of Testu's that operated out of the Grand Quay of Le Havre as ship captains and pilots along the Atlantic coast, and in the Spanish Main between 1550-1640.
 
Although his exact birthdate is unknown, it is presumed to be between 1509-1512 based on the fact that in his "Cosmographie Universelle", published in 1556, he stated that he was born in the first decade of the 16th century. In any event, Le Testu claims that he is a native of Le Havre de Grace, and was born near the outer harbour. This may provide an argument for a later date for his birth, as the port of "Le Havre de Grace" did not exist under that name until after 1517.
 
Historians often debate as to whether Le Havre was a completely new town, or whether it was an extension of the pre-existing Harfleur (the former Gallic town of Caracotinum Cauchois, which is now a suburb of the town). The history of the town lends itself to a chapel known as Notre-Dame-de-Grâce ("Our Lady of Grace"), which  existed at the site before the city was established, and the denomination lent its name to the port, to be called Le Havre (or Le Hablede Grâce ("the harbor of grace") in 1517. It was intended to be a replacement for the existing one at Harfleur, as well as for Honfleur and Caudebec, which had all silted up. It was officially baptised Ville Françoise-de-Grâce, in honor of the king, Francois I (which appears to have become 'shortened' to Le Hâvre de Grâce). 
 
Le Testu studied studied navigation at Dieppe, eventually becoming a pilot of a ship on an exploratory mission to Brazil in 1551. Le Testu accompanied a fellow cartographer, a franciscan friar named André Thevet, a native of Angouleme. Together, they charted as far as the Rio de la Plata. His ship, the Salamandre, reached as far south as 26° latitude, past present-day Rio de Janeiro, to the northern tip of an island in the entrance to the Bay of Babitonga. A small settlement was started, which is known today as "São Francisco do Sul", although at the time they referred to it as "French New Haven". 
 
In late December, he became involved in a firefight with two Portuguese ships near Trinidad and sustained heavy damage to his ship, although he was successful in mapping much of the South American coastline by the time of his return to Dieppe in July 1552.
 
Nicolas Durand sieur de Villegagnon - Leader of New France

In 1555, Le Testu returned to Brazil in a colonizing expedition with Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, and Nicolas Durand sieur de Villegagnon. Villegagnon was a nephew of Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, Grand Master of the Order of Malta. He was later the commander of the Knights of Malta. Villegagnon's initial plan was to help the Huguenots establish a colony in the New World.

 

Nicholas de Villegagnon (1510-1571)
 
In addition to a Huguenot stronghold, Villegagnon also wanted  to secure a permanent base in Brazil in order to explore and harvest Brazilwood, which then was a very valuable source of a beautiful scarlet dye used by the merchants of Rouen. It was also a good quality hard wood used for construction (the wood gave the name to what was to become the country of Brazil), and to explore precious metals and stones, which the Europeans believed to exist in abundance in the land.
 
The Brazilian logging operation is evidenced by carved wood panels kept at the Museum of Antiquities in Rouen. The panels show the various operations in Brazil: logging, barking, transportation to boarding points on the coast, transport by boat and then unloading to vessels anchored near the shore.
 

A depiction of a French logging operation in Brazil from
Andres Thevet's "La Cosmographie Universelle" (1575)

 
 
Villegagnon convinced King Henry II, to back the attempt to build a "France Antarctique", and was provided funding of 10,000 livres. In addition,  he was also able to secure funding from the ship owners, and merchants in Dieppe, including Jean d'Ango.
 
Due to lack of volunteers for the mission, Villegagnon went through the prisons of northern France, and promised freedom to those that would join him. In 1555, he was able to put together a small fleet of two large ships, one small supply vessel, and 600 soldiers and colonists. They were mainly comprised of  French Huguenots and Swiss Calvinists who sought to escape Catholic persecution in Europe. Villegagnon himself was protected by a small personal guard composed of eight Scots. The expedition also included an indigenous Tabajara native, who was fluent in the Tupi language to act as an interpreter. In order to not arouse the attention of the Portuguese ambassador in France, Villegagnon spread a rumor that an expedition was bound for the coast of Guinea.
 
The ships left Le Havre De Grace on 12 July, 1555 but weather conditions forced them to return twice the port of Dieppe. Finally, on August 14, the ships set sail toward South America, and after three months' voyage, on November 10th, the fleet anchored in the Bay of Guanabara, to avoid the coast that was already occupied by the Tupi tribes.
 
Andre Thevet
André Thévet (1516-1590)
 
André Thévet, a colleague and fellow cosmographer, who travelled with Guillaume Le Testu, wrote an extraordinary account of the details of the voyages between 1555-1556, the native inhabitants and the French settlement. His work entitled  "Les singularitez de la France antarctique" was published in 1557, and is considered one of the founding narratives of American ethnography. The story of the journey provides only a thin thread to André Thévet, and seeks above all to provide general information from the perspective of "cosmographer" that is to say, the geographer looking down on its object. His narrative not only describes the French settlement but offers a detailed first-hand account of the Tupi tribes of the Brazillian coast. He described their ways of applying makeup, eating, and methods of warfare. He also wrote about their beliefs, myths and customs. In addition, he gave an accurate description of the wildlife and the plants used by the native people at the time, such as: wild boar, deer, sweet potatoes, petun (tobacco), manioc (cassava) root, cashews and pineapples. Claude Lévi-Strauss, who was a renowned French anthropologist,  has described Thévet's work as the "principal (...)  knowledge of the lost tribes of the coast of South America."
 
The Tupi natives were powerful warriors who often fought against the other tribes of the region or even amongst themselves, because there was not a unified Tupi identity or nation. Despite the fact that they were a single ethnic group that spoke a common language, the Tupi were divided into several tribes which were constantly engaged in war with one another. In these wars, the Tupi normally tried to capture their enemies to later kill them in cannibalistic rituals, instead of just killing them in battle. Cannibalism was part of their ritual after a war,and the warriors captured from other Tupi tribes were eaten as they believed they were absorbing their strength. 
 
Ritual Cannabalism - Andres Thevet
Tupi ritual cannablism, as described by André Thévet,
in "Les singularitez de la France antarctique", 1557
 
Another problem for the French settlers, were the Portugese, who had been colonizing the coasts of Brazil since the beginning of the 16th century. Fortunately for the French, the Portugese had made enemies of the principal Tupi tribes, and the French, despite being afraid of the Tupi's cannibalistic rites, soon became allies.
 
The French, decided on an island site, called "French Island" for which to start a colony. The island was referred to as Serigipe by the Tupi tribes of the region, and is near the mouth of the large Guanabara Bay. Today, it is known as Villegagnon Island. The island was rocky and almost barren, but served Villegaignon's purpose of being near the shore, while at the same time achieving a good defensive position against attacks from sea and land. Almost immediately, houses were built on the ground, men, weapons, ammunition and tools were landed. The settlers learned native methods of hunting, and how to make preparations from the local fauna. André Thévet, in Les singularitez de la France antarctique,  refers to the settlers as Canadie or Canadiens, and sketches some of the first images of early French Canadien settlers on the American continent.
 
comeces Canadies chasset le Cert & autres besstes sassuages
"Canadiens start to chase deer and other wild beasts"
as described by André Thévet, in "Les singularitez de la France antarctique", 1557
 
 
The early French Huguenot settlers known as, "Canadiens", learned from the Tupi how to spear wild boar and game and smoke it on a wooden platform resting on sticks over a sacred fire. The French word "boucan" came from a Tupi word meaning "a rack used for roasting or for storing things, or a rack-like platform supporting a house." The related term buccaneer is also derived from the Arawak word buccan, a wooden frame for smoking meat. Thus, the French word boucane and the name boucanier was given to  hunters who used such frames to smoke meat. It became such a common practice in the New World, that the French Huguenots in the Caribbean became known collectively as Buccaneers.
 
Petun Cigar Smoking Tupi
"Tupi warrior smoking a Petun (tobacco) Cigar" as described by André Thévet,
in "Les singularitez de la France antarctique", 1557

 
 
André Thévet is also the first to document the use of the Tobacco plant, which is called Petun, by the Tupi. Petun was the original word for Tobacco in French. When Thévet returns to France in 1557, he brings with him a strain of tobacco, for cultivation at his home at Anglouleme.  However, even though André Thévet was the first to cultivate tobacco in Europe, the credit is generally given to Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Lisbon, who brought back a strain in 1559, for Catherine de'Medicini and the French court. The plant then became known as Nicotiana.
 
It is interesting to note that the strain of seed that Thévet brought back from Brazil was Nicotania tobacum, the type of tobacco almost universally used today. Nicot's seed, Nicotania rustica, which originally came from Florida, is primarly grown in Turkey today.
 
Despite the difficulties facing the European workforce, a fortification was built in three months with the help of the Tupi people. Although, Fort Coligny had five batteries pointing toward the sea after a few months, the indigenous workforce grew tired of the rewards that they had received from the French, and became very aware of the excess of work that were providing, knowing that the French avoided the heavier tasks. They began to show some signs of discontent with the rule of the French settlers. In addition, the colonists also became tired of the hardships incurred on the island.
 
 
French Antartique - 1555 - French Island - Chart Of Brazil

Map of Antarctic France circa 1555 (Rio de Janeiro), based on the trips of 

Villegagnon, Guillaume Le Testu, Andres Thevet  and Jean de Leri to Brazil in 1557 and 1558.

 
Villegagnon, in response decided to rule with strict discipline and began limiting long incursions on the mainland, primarly to avoid prolonged contact between the French settlers, and the native population. While Villegagnon wanted strong relationships with the Tupi tribes, he found that it often happened that the sailors and even the colonists, adjusting to "wild" life, abandoned their religion and adopted the native rites and traditions. Villegagnon also began to demand that French sailors and colonists who had relations with native woman, be married under a French notary, and live on the island. 
 
Discipline amongst the colony soon became an obvious problem, as discontent grew amongst the settlers and many took advantage of the passage of commercial vessels to return to France. Villegagnon was also still in conflict with his allies, the Tupi, about the cannibalism that they practiced. The iron discipline imposed by Villegagnon, accompanied by strife, threatened the balance of the French establishment.
 
Within three months of establishing the colony, Villegagnon wrote a report on the situation, requesting reinforcements, and supplies from the King, and it was sent back with Le Testu to Le Havre.  
 
On 14  February  1556, just two days after the departure of Guillaume Le Testu and Andrew Thevet for France came the first revolt of the "France Antarctique". Thirty conspirators, headed by a French Settler that was forced to marry a Tupi native woman, planned the assassination of Villegagnon, who was defended by only eight Scottish Guards.
 
Their plan was to enlist the help of a sympathetic guardsman, who they beleived was dissatisfied with this situation by promising him a large sum of money. However, the guard only feinting to gain their confidence, told Nicolas Barré, a former French pilot, and aide to Villegagnon.
 
The conspiracy, now denounced, was severely repressed. The leader escaped, two conspirators were tried by the Council of the colony and hanged, and others received lesser sentences. This struck a dischord amongst the settlers, and many went to live in the woods with the Indians, some were married by force, others rebelled and were punished under penalty of death.
 
The colony gradually split, part of the Huguenots were exiled to the continent by Villegagnon, they preferred to find a better site than to endure the rigors of what they saw as a tyrannical, "King of America". Thus, a fortress called Henryville, is created on the mainland facing the island. 
 
By April 1556, Le Testu arrived in Le Havre with the report. Meanwhile, the religious war between Catholics and Protestants in France had intensified, Coligny had converted to Protestantism. Villegagon, at the time, who was closely aligned with the doctrines of Calvinism, wanted to establish the colony in Brazil, as a refuge for French Protestants. He had sent a letter along with Le Testu and Thevet asking for Calvinist (protestant) pastors for the colony, and also to study the possibility of transferring to Brazil, thousands of persecuted Protestants in France.
 
A new expedition was set up with two pastors on board, Pierre Richer, of about fifty years of age, and Guillaume Chartier, a young student of theology at Geneva. Besides these two, also part of the expedition was a shoemaker/theoligist, Jean de Lery - who would later write an account of his voyage - and nine others including Guillaume Le Testu. The expedition was funded by Coligny and Villegagnon and left Le Havre on 19  November, 1556 . The expedition also included three hundred settlers, including five girls who were to be married in Brazil. 
 
The three ships, were not able to re-supply, with food or fresh water in the Canary islands, as they were occupied by the Spanish. Instead, to obtain the necessary provisions to complete the voyage, they turned to piracy and privateering by storming the Spanish and Portuguese vessels. Water and food were strictly rationed to minimize incursions against enemy shipping. The journey was made successful by the strict discipline of the passengers. 
 
It was during these trips, that it is most likely that Le Testu began writing one his most import works, his "Cosmographie Universelle". 

 

 

The "Cosmographie Universelle" atlas was dedicated to his mentor and patron Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, who had become leader of the Huguenots only three years earlier. This manuscript, consists of 56 maps, that was pieced together using a collection of charts from French, Spanish and Portuguese sources supplied by Coligny and drawn by Le Testu. He presented it to King Henry II, and was appointed as a position as an official Royal Pilot.

Le Testu's atlas included a curious odditity - it showed a southern continent which had not yet been discovered at the time, stating: "not imaginary even though no one has found it." His atlas also clearly outlines the Baja penninsula, and the Pacific Ocean, Canada, and even Alaska.
 
The expedition finally  arrived at Villeganon Island, Guanabara Bay, on 7 March, 1557. Although disappointed with the content of this reinforcement, Villegagnon greeted the newcomers with kindness. However, in a letter to Calvin on March 31st 1557, he expressed his difficulties and concerns.
 
When the Calvinist ministers returned to France in early 1558 , Villegagnon had only 80 men, Scottish and French. In 1559, having to face charges levied against his leadership, Villegagnon returned to France to be justified. He left his nephew, Bois-le-Compte, at the head of the colony.
 
Villegaignon arrived in France, by the end of 1559, disgusted with the infighting between Catholics and Protestants in the small colony. He was particularily concerned about the Calvinist doctorines regarding the Eucharist. He had left the colony under the command of his nephew Bois-le-Comte, endeavouring to obtain more funds and ships for the colony. The internal fight against the Calvinists however made colonial adventures less of a priority for the Crown. After the colony fell to the Portuguese, Villegagnon finally agreed to give up his claims to France Antarctique after receiving 30,000 écus from the Portuguese Crown.
 
Villegaganon eventually reversed his stance on Calvinism, and  He became actively involved against the Protestants, and participated in the repression of the Amboise conspiracy. From 1568, Villegagnon became the representative of the Order of Malta at the French Court. The next year, in 1569, he published in Paris a new controversy about the eucharist, entitled De Consecratione, mystico sacrificio et duplici Christi oblatione. Villegagnon became Commander of the Order of Malta Commandery in Beauvais, where he died on 9 January 1571.
 
In his book, Brazil, A Land of the Future, Austrian writer Stefan Zweig describes the colorful character of Villegaignon:
 
...Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon, half pirate, half scientist, a dubious but attractive figure, is a typical product of the Renaissance (...) He has been brilliant in war and a dilettante in the arts. He has been praised by Ronsard and feared by the Court, because his character is incalculable. Hating any regular occupation, despising the most enviable positions and the highest honours, his volatile spirit prefers to be free to indulge unhampered its fantastic moods. The Huguenots believe he is a Catholic and the Catholics believe he's a Huguenot. Nobody knows which side he is serving, and he himself probably doesn't know much more than that he wants to do something big, something different from anyone else, something wild and daring, something romantic and extraordinary.
 
After the failed attempt of the French Colony headed by Villegagnon in Brazil, Guillaume Le Testu returned to France at the end of 1559. It has been assumed that he may have left for Africa and North America to particpate in the triangular trade was developing at the time between Africa, the New World colonies, and Europe. It has also been suggested that he was also scouting a new northern location for a French Huguenot colony.
 
Triangle trade
The "Triangle Of Trade"
 
Using observations he made during these voyages, and the information he obtained from other explorers, in 1566 he redrew a map of the world that marked significant improvements on his original portolan of 1556 - particularly in regards to the legendary southern continent.  
 
In 1566, he publish "Mappemonde en deux hémisphères", a chart that he intended to show accurate latitude and longitude of the world. His maps are also some of the first to show the coast of Canada, with some of its subjects.
 
You can view his  "Mappemonde en deux hémisphères" here:
 
 
Of course, Le Testu also made company with others in and about Isle of Tortuga while in the Carribbean (Tortue /Tortoise - En Francais) before it was a pirate haven - and much of his information came from other pilots and captains. Although it can be seen that the French Corsairs did visit it frequently prior to 1600, including Captain Testu, it wasn't the Tortuga of pirate fame quite yet:
 
"Seuls les épigones d'Ango (Guillaume Le Testu, Leclerc Jambe-de-Bois, Jean Bontemps, Menjouyn de La Cabane, etc.) continuent à opérer dans le golfe du Mexique et la mer des Antilles , en particulier à partir de l'île de la Tortue"
 
Very Rough translation:" Only the Captains of Jean D'Ango's fleet (Guillaume Testu, Leclerc Leg-of-Wood, Jean Bontemps, Menjouyn of the Hut, etc.) continue to operate in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, in particular starting from the island of Tortuga.
 
During the 1500's France was in turmoil over religion. France had been Catholic for centuries and in the 1520's Lutheranism entered the country. By 1534 Lutheranism threatened Catholicism and the crown adopted a policy of rooting it out, by force if necessary. Calvin (also a Frenchman), an outspoken man of protestant ideas whose ideas were expressed as Calvinism and by 1540 he had gained quite a bit of support for his cause. In the 1550's many of the Noblemen, being on the side of the Protesants fought against the the local churches and established the church. By this time France had effectively been split into two religious parties, the Catholics and the Calvinist (who were, by this time called the Huguenots). The tensions between the parties escalated until fighting broke out in the spring of 1562.
 
The war was temporarily ended in 1563 when the Edict of Amboise was issued. It gave limited right of worship to the Huguenots. This was a deversion set up by the crown while they tried to gain support from the people. This was only temporary for the Catholics were about to enlist the aid of Spain in their cause. In 1567 warfare broke out again due to the fear of an alliance with Spain. It was during this time that Le Testu raided for the Huguenot side. He raided throughout 1567 and 1568 until he was captured by the Catholics.
 

Filippo ("Phillipe") Strozzi (1541 – July 27, 1582)
 
Filippo ("Phillippe") Strozzi pleaded with Catherine de Medici, the Queen of France, to have Le Testu released from the Spanish.  Finally, in June 1571, Charles IX wrote to his cousin King Philip II of Spain asking for his release.
 

After being imprisoned for nearly four years, a report of the secretary shows his release on Jan. 30, 1572. However, his actions were not entirely altruistic, as Filippo ("Phillippe") Strozzi, saw that Le Testu was an accomplished navigator (most likely because of his map given to the King) showing the "imaginary continants", and sent him to chart the Carribbean and southern waters, and hoped to honor him with "great recognition". 
 
Outfitted by Filippo Strozzi, Le Testu became captain of an 80 ton warship, "Le Havre" with about 70 men in his crew. Le Testu's fame in privateer/pirate history came when Sir Francis Drake encountered Le Testu in February, 1573 off Panama.  In desperate want of fresh water as his men were suffering from dysentry, Captain Le Testu approached Drake. Drake at once sent a boat aboard with a cask or two of drink, and some fresh meat, and an order "willing him to follow us to the next port, where he should have both water and victuals." 
 
As soon as they had brought their ships to anchor, the French captain sent Drake "a case of pistols, and a fair gilt scimitar (given to him from Henry II for the Atlas and once belonging to Filippo Strozzi)" as a gift on behalf of Coligny, and in return the English Captain exchanged a chain of gold supporting a small tablet of enamel.
 
Having exchanged gifts, according to the custom of the sea, Captain Testû (Le Tesu) came aboard Drake's ship, and told him that he was a Huguenot privateer, who had been in France at the time of the Massacre of St Bartholomew, and the murder of Coligny, "and divers others murders." It is said, he had "thought those Frenchmen the happiest which were farthest from France," and had, therefore, put to sea to escape from persecution.
 
As a French Privateer, he was now cruising off the Spanish Main, "a Man of War as it were.." He had heard much of Drake's spoils upon the coast, and "desired to know" how he too might win a little Spanish gold. Apparently, upon hearing that Drake was in the Carribbean, he had been searching for him for almost five weeks. He asked Drake to take him into partnership, so that they might share the next adventure, offering his ship, a fine craft of more than eighty tons, manned by seventy men and boys and more importantly his navigational knowledge. 
 
Drake in need of an experienced navigator, agreed to use him as pilot. The two large "corsairs" as the French would put it sealed their manner with a "provisional Entente Cordiale" against the common enemy, the "Iberian conquistador" - Spain.
 
Just why Le Testu was cruising around Panama has often been a matter of debate amongst scholars. Spanish reports of the time stated that the French were planning a large expedition for 1572. Many historians beleive his story and accept that he was cruising on his own to pillage and plunder (like Drake) backed by Venician financiers (Strozzi et al). However, it is more likely that the French were more interested in exploration as their primary motive in order to beat the Spanish to the discovery of Austraila and the nothern pacific coast. The plunder from the Carribbean and the southern Pacific coast would help to further finance a longer expedition to the legendary "southern continent" of Austrailia and perhaps a trip up to the Pacific Northwest. A journey that was to be accomplished, nearly two hundred years later under the command of an English captain, James Cook.
 
Despite having similar motives, the English crew did not entirely trust the French, and preferred the local Cimaroons as allies. In the end, it was Testu's knowledge as a pilot, along with the size of his ship, and crew that were decisive factors in winning them over:

"Though we had seen him in some jealousy and distrust, for all his pretence; because we considered more the strength he had than the good-will he might bear us: yet upon consultation among ourselves, "Whether it were fit to receive him or not?" we resolved to take him and twenty of his men, to serve with our Captain for halves. In such sort as we needed not doubt of their forces, being but twenty; nor be hurt by their portions, being no greater than ours: and yet gratify them in their earnest suit, and serve our own purpose, which without more help we could very hardly have achieved. Indeed, he had 70 men, and we now but 31; his ship was above 80 tons, and our frigate not 20, or pinnace nothing near 10 tons. Yet our Captain thought this proportionable, in consideration that not numbers of men, but quality of their judgements and knowledge, were to be the principal actors herein: and the French ship could do not service, or stand in any stead to this enterprise which we intended, and had agreed upon before, both touching the time when it should take beginning, and the place where we should meet, namely, at Rio Francisco."

Le Testu certainly was an experienced navigator, and Drake, who was thirty years his younger, valued the advice and counsel of Testu.  It was Captain Testu that had a theory that one could round the tip of South America, through an easier passage than the Straits of Magellan, by sailing further south. Indeed, from Testu's charts, Drake was later able to find this passage and it became known as Drake's passage, and was the primary route for rounding South America until the opening of the Panama Canal.
 
Once the Captain's  and crews had agreed to the cordiale, after resting for a few days which allowed the French to recover from their dysentry, the joint French, English and Cimaroon forces, sailed for Rio Francisco on the coast of Brazil to capture a mule train loaded with gold and silver, travelling between Panama to Nombre de Dios. 

An account is as follows: 

And then bore to Rio Francisco, where both Captains landed (31st March) with such force as aforesaid, and charged them that had the charge of the pinnaces to be there the fourth day next following without any fail. And thus knowing that the carriages [mule loads] went now daily from Panama to Nombre de Dios; we proceeded in covert through the woods, towards the highway that leadeth between them.

It is five leagues accounted by sea, between Rio Francisco and Nombre de Dios; but that way which we march by land, we found it above seven leagues. We marched as in our former journey to Panama, both for order and silence; to the great wonder of the French Captain and company, who protested they knew not by any means how to recover the pinnaces, if the Cimaroons (to whom what our Captain commanded was a law; though they little regarded the French, as having no trust in them) should leave us: our Captain assured him, "There was no cause of doubt of them, of whom he had had such former trial."

Once they were about a mile from the main Mule train route, they settled in for the night, listening to carpenters working on ships in Nombre de Dios, as during the day it was too hot for them to accomplish much.
 
On April 1st, a mule train came up the road and the combined forces launched their attack:

"We putting ourselves in readiness, went down near the way to hear the bells; where we stayed not long, but we saw of what metal they were made; and took such hold on the heads of the foremost and hindmost mules, that all the rest stayed and lay down, as their manner is.

These three Recuas were guarded with forty-five soldiers or thereabouts, fifteen to each Recua, which caused some exchange of bullets and arrows for a time; in which conflict the French Captain was sore wounded with hail-shot in the belly, and one Cimaroon was slain: but in the end, these soldiers thought it the best way to leave their mules with us, and to seek for more help abroad.

In which meantime we took some pain to ease some of the mules which were heaviest loaden of their carriage. And because we ourselves were somewhat weary, we were contented with a few bars and quoits of gold, as we could well carry: burying about fifteen tons of silver, partly in the burrows which the great land crabs had made in the earth, and partly under old trees which were fallen thereabout, and partly in the sand and gravel of a river, not very deep of water.

Thus when about this business, we had spent some two hours, and had disposed of all our matters, and were ready to march back the very self-same way that we came, we heard both horse and foot coming as it seemed to the mules: for they never followed us, after we were once entered the woods, where the French Captain by reason of his wound, not able to travel farther, stayed, in hope that some rest would recover him better strength."

The attack, was a success, and Le Testu's portion of the booty was reported to be around £20,000. However, during the skirmish, he was seriously wounded in the stomach from hail shot. Instead of continuing with Drake, he choose to rest in the woods until he was able to travel, and was left on the road with two of his men staying behind with him. The rest of the party continued on to meet the scheduled rendezvous with their fleet. Unfortunately, as they approached the rendevous point, as they looked out oevr the sea, instead of the English pinnaces, they discovered a Spanish fleet waiting for them instead.
 
Drake was forced to construct a raft and sail out to an island roughly three leagues offshore, where he contacted his own ships. This was no easy task, as an eyewitness recounts:
 

The raft was fitted and fast bound; a sail of a biscuit sack prepared; an oar was shaped out of a young tree to serve instead of a rudder, to direct their course before the wind.

At his departure he comforted the company, by promising, that "If it pleased GOD, he should put his foot in safety aboard his frigate, he would, GOD willing, by one means or other get them all aboard, in despite of all the Spaniards in the Indies!"

In this manner pulling off to the sea, he sailed some three leagues, sitting up to the waist continually in water, and at every surge of the wave to the arm-pits, for the space of six hours, upon this raft: what with the parching of the sun and what with the beating of the salt water, they had all of them their skins much fretted away.

At length GOD gave them the sight of two pinnaces turning towards them with much wind; but with far greater joy to them than could easily conjecture, and did cheerfully declare to those three with him, that "they were our pinnaces! and that all was safe, so that there was no cause of fear!"

But see, the pinnaces not seeing this raft, nor suspecting any such matter, by reason of the wind and night growing on, were forced to run into a cover behind the point, to take succour, for that night: which our Captain seeing, and gathering (because they came not forth again), that they would anchor there, put his raft ashore, and ran by land about the point, where he found them; who, upon sight of him, made as much haste as they could to take him and his company aboard.

 
Safely aboard with his crew once more, Drake organised another expedition to recover Captain Testu, and the rest of the buried silver. His men would not allow him to take a part in this final adventure, so John Oxenham, and Thomas Sherwell, were placed in command.
 
Drake accompanied them as far as the Francisco River, taking an oar in one of the pinnaces which conveyed them. As they rowed lightly up the stream, the reeds were thrust aside, and one of Captain Testu's two comrades came staggering out, and fell upon his knees. In a broken voice he thanked God that ever Drake was born to deliver him thus, after he had given up all hope.
 
He told them that he had been surprised by the Spaniards half-an-hour after he had taken up his post beside his wounded captain. As the Spaniards came upon them, he took to his heels, followed by his mate. He had been carrying a lot of pillage, but as he ran he threw it all away, including a box of jewels, which caught his mate's eye as it fell in the grass. "His fellow took it up, and burdened himself so sore that he could make no speed," so that the Spaniards soon overtook him, and carried him away with Captain Testu. It was reported that the French privateer, Captain Testu was soon beheaded and his head taken back to Nombre de Dios where it was prominately displayed in the marketplace.
 
The information provided by Testu proved invaluable to Drake who later was able to reach passage between the extreme Southern point of the American continent and the Antarctic, and launch a famous expedition several years later up the Pacific Coast to as far north at the Arctic. This story became immortalized by William Davenant, in opera "The History Of Sir Francis Drake" (1659).
 

Girard Le Testu (15?? - 1583)- Son of Guillaume le Testu

Guillaume Le Testu had a son Girard. Girard le Testu, was also a captain/pilot and sailed with a group of anglo-french corsairs. There is very little documentation about the early days of Girard le Testu, but there is an account of him engaged in the "triangle of trade" bringing goods from Safi, Morroco to the Channels islands, where he was attacked by Dutch privateers and taken to Vlissingen only a few short years after his fathers death:

channel islands - 1891 Map

The Mignonne, a ship of 100 tons, commanded by Girard le Testu, had loaded at Safi [Morrocco] and the Cape of Guay: 4 pipes, 21 puncheons and 6 barrels of molasses, 4 puncheons and a barrel of capers, 250 boxes of sugar and three bales of ostrich feathers. They had sailed to the Channel islands, off the point of the Casquets, on September 15, 1575. Their ship was met by a flyboat with a commission from the Prince of Orange, and the frigate  "Zealander" ordered Le Testu to dip his colours [bring the flag], but our captain did not understand their language. Despite the disparity of forces, he took pains to resist them. The ensuing battle was hard and continued until after "Le Testu and several of his crew were seriously wounded, offended, and even killed.". Defeated, and unable to defend themselves, the ship was captured and taken to Vlissingen [Flushing].
 
"Dipping the colors" is a naval tradition and was codified in 1594 when the European powers agreed that only the Pope and King of Spain could continue to fly their colors when their ships encountered one another on the open seas. Ships of all other nations yielded precedence to these two and lowered (dipped) their colors in salute. With the rise of Great Britain as the preeminent seagoing power, British men-of-war refused to dip their colors to any ship -- the American navy followed suit. Today, no nation's navy initiates this salute.

Not much is heard again from Girard le Testu, until he became part of a mercenary fleet with a mission to protect the Azores island group from the Spanish. The Azores Islands were the only portion of the Portuguese overseas empire to resist the rule of the Spanish King, Phillip II. They were under the guidance, leadership, and command  of António, Prior of Crato.

 

 

António, Prior of Crato - Claimant to the throne of Portugal

 
António, Prior of Crato was born in Lisbon, the illegitimate son of Prince Louis, Duke of Beja (1506–1555) and Violante Gomes. Some scholars argue that in fact his parents were later married, perhaps at Évora. His mother was long accused of being a Sephardic Jewess or a "new Christian" reffered to by the Spanish as a "converso",(a forced convert of Jewish or Muslim origin), but, in fact, she was a member of the minor Portuguese nobility, the daughter of Pedro Gomes from Évora.
 
She died a nun at Santarém on 16 July 1568. Through his father, he was the grandson of King Manuel I of Portugal (1495–1521), but due to his illegitimate status, however, his claim to the Portugese throne was considered invalid. Nonetheless, his father had also been Prior of Crato, which meant that he was able to marry without a pope's dispensation; so, the issue of young António's legitimacy is somewhat muddied. 
 
António was educated in Coimbra, and he was placed in the Knights Order of St. John , where he may have also had contact with Villegagnon. He received the wealthy priory of Crato as an endowment. In 1571, he was named governor of the Portuguese fortification at Tangier in Morocco.
 
However, little is known of his life until 1578. In that year, he accompanied King Sebastian of Portugal (1557–1578) in his invasion of Morocco, and he was taken prisoner by the Moors at the Battle of Ksar El Kebir, the same battle where the young king of Portugal was slain.
António is said to have secured his release on easy terms by concocting a story in order to convince his captors that he was a "poor" warrior monk of little means. It is said, that when he was asked the meaning of the cross of St. John that he wore on his doublet, he replied that it was the sign of a small benefice which he held from the Pope, something he would lose if he were not back in Portugal by 1 January 1579. His captor, believing him to be a poor man, allowed his release upon payment of a small ransom.
 
As King Sebastian had no immediate heirs, this event prompted a dynastic crisis in Portugal, with internal and external battles between several pretenders to the Portuguese throne; in addition, because Sebastian's body was never found, several impostors emerged over the next several years claiming to be the young king, further confusing the situation
 
On his return to Portugal in 1579, António laid claim to the throne. But his pretension was opposed, and António’s uncle Henry, the cardinal archbishop of Évora and only surviving brother of King John III of Portugal (1521–1557), became the new monarch. The cardinal was old and the last legitimate male representative of the royal line. In January 1580, when the Cortes were assembled in Almeirim (where the rightful heir of the Portuguese throne was decided), old Cardinal-King Henry died without having designated a successor. The regency of the kingdom was assumed by a governing junta composed of five members. By this time, the Portuguese throne was contested by several claimants. Among these were Catherine, Duchess of Braganza; her eleven-year-old nephew, Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma; King Philip II of Spain; and António, the Prior of Crato. The Duchess was named the legitimate heir later, after her descendants obtained the throne in 1640 (through King John IV of Portugal); in 1580, though, she was but one of several possible heirs. According to feudal custom, her late older sister's Italian son Ranuccio was the closest heir, followed by the Duchess herself and, only after both, King Philip, for he descended from Manuel I through a female line.
 
As for António, although he was King Manuel I's grandson in a direct male line, he was illegitimate, without proof of his parents marriage. António, relying upon popular hostility to the Spanish rule of King Phillip II, he presented himself as an alternative candidate to the Spanish King. He endeavoured to prove that his father and mother were married after his birth, but no evidence of the marriage could be found (and whether such a marriage ever took place is still debated today).
 
António's claim, inferior to Philip II’s and the Duchess of Braganza’s, was not supported by the nobles or gentry; his partisans were drawn instead from the inferior clergy, the peasantry, and artisans. Philip ensured the success of his claim to the Portuguese crown by using gold from the Americas to bribe the upper classes of Portugal; these aristocrats and rich believed that a personal union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns would be highly profitable for Portugal (whose economy was then failing), which would maintain formal independence as well as autonomous administration in both Europe and its empire).
 
António tried to win the common people to his cause, leveraging the diffuse anti-Spanish Portuguese identity and comparing the current situation to the one of the 1383-1385 crisis. Then, just as in 1580, the king of Castile invoked arguments of blood nature to inherit the Portuguese throne; and like in 1580, the Master of Aviz (John), illegitimate son of King Peter I of Portugal, claimed his rights to the throne that ended in victory in the Battle of Aljubarrota and in the Cortes of Coimbra in 1385.
 
Antonio proclaims himself king
 
On July 24, 1580, beleiving in the "grassroots"  power of the people, and the religious turmoil between the Protestants and Catholics,  António proclaimed himself King of Portugal in Santarém which was followed by popular acclamation in several locations of the country. However, he governed in continental Portugal for only 20 days. His rule on the Portugese mainland culminated in his defeat in the Battle of Alcântara by the Spanish armies who were led by Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba, on behalf of King Phillip. on August 25.
 
In early 1581, he fled to France carrying with him the crown jewels, including many valuable diamonds. He was well received by Catherine de' Medici, the Queen of France, who had a claim of her own to the Crown of Portugal. She looked upon him as a convenient instrument to be used against Philip II. By promising to cede the Portuguese colony of Brazil to her and the sale of some of his jewels, António secured support to fit out a fleet manned by Portuguese exiles, French and English adventurers.
 
In fact, Queen Elizabeth I of England favoured him for much the same reasons as Catherine de' Medici did. While not providing direct support in this mission for fear of starting a war with the Spanish, she eventually supported him much later, in 1589, after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Antonio accompanied an English expedition, under the command of Francis Drake and John Norreys, to the coast of Spain and Portugal. The force consisted partly of the Queen's ships, and in part by privateers who joined in search of booty. 
 
Outfitted with a small fleet of volunteer privateers, Huguenots and merchant adventurers, he set sail for Terceira Island, in the Azores, where he established an opposition government that lasted until 1583. From his Azores base, attempting to rule Portugal in exhile, he even minted a coin — a typical act of sovereignty and royalty. Because of that, many scholars consider him the last monarch of the House of Aviz (instead of Cardinal-King Henry) and the 18th King of Portugal. From this island base, he attempted to govern Portugal.
 
Unfortunately for António, his government on Terceira Island was only recognized in the Azores. On the continent and in the Madeira Islands, power was exercised by Philip II, who was recognized as official king the following year by the Portuguese Cortes of Tomar. 
 
António conducted a popular resistance movement opposed to the recognition of a foreign king by attacking and plundering Spanish treasure ships, and intefering with Spanish commerce in the "triangle of trade". He was supported by a number of French adventurers under Filippo di Piero ("phillipe") Strozzi, a Florentine exile in the service of France, as well as Portuguese patriots, some of whom came to the Azores to assist him directly.
 
 

Ancient Map Of The Azores
 
 
The Battle of Salga Bay & The Battle For The Azores
 
In response, King Phillip tried to quash António's opposition movement by sending a commander to Angra offering a peaceful amnesty to the seven islands if they would surrender. However, his messenger met with a very hostile reception at Angra. Therefore, King Philip began to prepare afleet at Lisbon to subdue the seven islands, but beforehand another Spanish commander was sent out to escort the incoming treasure fleet and make one last attempt at getting the islands surrender peacefully.
 
The Captain, Pedro Valdés, was ordered to deliver a new offer of pardon, but on no account to begin hostilities until the necessary force was assembled in Lisbon. However, after receiving the same reply as the previous envoy, Valdés decided to attempt an assault on Angra. This first clash between Antonio and  the forces of King Phillip, became known as the Battle of Salga. 
 
A Spanish fleet of ten warships, commanded by Pedro Valdez, bombarded Angra on 5 July 1581, and then began investigating the coast of the island in search of the best landing places for troops.
 
At dawn on 25 July, the first ships loaded with Spanish troops anchored in Salga Bay, about twelve kilometres east of Angra's harbour in the village of Vila de São Sebastião. A coastwatcher, stationed at the cape called Ponta do Coelho, gave the alarm, but by the time the first Portuguese forces arrived about one thousand Castilians (Spanish) had already landed and had started to sack the surrounding villages.
 
In this phase of the fighting, according to local accounts of the action, a leading role was played by a young and very beautiful woman named Brianda Pereira. She upon finding her house burned to the ground, and  her husband captured, rallied the women of the town at the local church, and instigated an attack on the Spanish invasion with simple farm implements.
 
There was and still exists, the farm or house of Bartholomew Lawrence, a wealthy farmer who lived there with his wife Brianda Pereira, who was quite noble and beautiful girl, of whom he had children. It seems that her beauty was in the days preceding the Castilians object of curiosity, because it was the first booty which they wanted was to plunder his house. Fortunately this new "Lucrezia" escaped the hands of the proud "Tarquins" [King Tarquin was a proud and unjust king of Rome], and was carrying a prisoner to her husband, who had been badly wounded, and a son, and upon finding themselves [the Spanish] already masters of the house, and all that was therein, looted, destroyed and seizures at will all the furniture, and entering the burning house, she dropped down to collect what fresh wheat that was still stored safely in the floor. . 
 
By midmorning, the Spaniards were sweeping the coast with their artillery, and the fighting was fierce. About midday, in the heat of battle, an Augustinian monk named Friar Pedro, who was taking an active part in the struggle, and  Brianda Periera who had gathered  the women at the church of St. John, for the defense of Anga, thought of the strategy of driving half-wild bulls against the Spaniards so as to scatter them. Over a thousand head of cattle were quickly gathered and, by means of shouts and musket shots, driven against the enemy positions.  Valdes landing-force of 600 men was met with a savage welcome from the local Portugese; the half-wild bulls of the island were driven into Spanish and they were cut to pieces as they fled to the ships.
 
The disconcerted Spaniards fell back and were pursued to the shore, where almost all of them lost their lives in the fighting or drowned while trying to reach their boats. This unconventional victory, the Battle of Salga Bay, proved that António could count on a good deal of local support. The Spanish were forced to retreat to the island of São Miguel, which had an allegiance to the King of Spain, Phillip II.
 

Battle Of Salga Bay:
The Spanish are diven by the bulls into the sea
 
Meanwhile, while Valdes retreated, António set sail to get re-inforcments, at first reaching Calais and then proceeding to England. He approached the Enlish monarchy for help, and Francis Walsingham, the Queen's secretary of state and Cecil Burghley, the Queen's treasurer, favoured the sending of an expedition to the Azores: the Count of Vimioso even made an agreement with Drake and Hawkings, but Queen Elizabeth was unwilling to make war on Philip, and António then returned to France for support.
 
Catherine of Medici, the Queen of France agreed to lay aside her own claim to the Portuguese throne (based on the marriage of Afonso III to the Countess of Boulogne) in favour of supporting António. A fleet was organized by the French King, and enlisted the help of a contingent of French, English, Dutch, and Portugese volunteers and mercenary noblemen, such as Filippo Strozzi, Girard le Testu and the Count of Brissac
 
 
Girard Le Testu and the French Fleet
 
Girard Le Testu, and the rest of the French volunteer mercanary (privateer) fleet, then began to set forth on an expedition to the Azores led by Filippo ("Phillipe") Strozzi, who was the same nobleman that nearly ten years earlier had backed all of his fathers' (Guillaume Le Testu) expeditions.
 
On June 1582, Girard Le Testu de La Havre, set sail with António de Cato's and  Filippo Stozzi's French mercenary fleet from Belle-Isle (Belle-Île) off the coast of Brittany,  with the intent to subdue the two islands of São Miguel and Santa Maria and to capture the treasure fleet which would probably put in at the Azores. It was the largest French force sent overseas before the age of Louis XIV.
 
However, upon learning that Strozzi had sailed, the Spanish ordered Álvaro de Bazán, Marquis of Santa Cruz to set sail with a fleet to intercept him in  the Azores. The Spanish fleet had less ships but were larger in size and arms than Strozzi and had about an equal number of men. He arrived too late to prevent the French from landing on São Miguel, but in time to save the capital, Ponta Delgada.
 
After an indecisive gunfight on 24 July 1582, the fleets met two days later in a fierce, close battle south of the island of São Miguel. The morning of the battle, there was a great calm across the sea. By midday, a very favourable breeze began to blow that gave the French the military advantage.
 
The vanguard of the French navy was led by the flagship, commanded by General Filippo Strozzi, and the Count of Vimioso, followed by the galleon, Le Charles, commanded by Girard le Testu, and the rear Admiral of the fleet was the Count de Brissac, who was in command of three English galleons. The rest of the French fleet consisted of various other smaller vessels arranged in many rows. António de cato himself, remained on Terceira Island.
 
At the forefront of the Spanish Fleet was the Galley Urca St. Peter, commanded by Bobadilla; behind this was the ship of the Admiral, Álvaro de Bazán, named the São Martinho (St. Martin). He led the vessel of D. Cristobal de Eraso, an old captain, a hardened at sea from commanding large fleets of galleons during his career in the Indies. He was followed by the Galleon San Mateo (São Mateus), commanded by General Lopo Figueroa.
 
The French fleet initially had the advantage of the wind and attacked the Spanish rear with superior forces but that gave the Spanish commander the opportunity to gain the wind for the Spanish vanguard which in its turn attacked the French. The Spanish were outnumbered two to one, and the brunt of the French attack focused on the Portuguese-built Spanish galleon San Mateo.
 
Although surrounded, battered by artillery, and boarded by several French ships, her sailors held their ground and repulsed all attacks. They then took the fight to the enemy, boarding and capturing two French vessels before the battle ended. Several French ships took flight. Álvaro de Bazán began the action by arranging the Spanish fleet in a line abreast. This was the traditional tactic typically employed by the Spanish galleys, which carried its few cannon in the bow.
 
Álvaro de Bazán in his Portuguese-built flagship São Martinho (St. Martin) sought out Strozzi's ship amid the smoke and chaos and, having found her, pounded her with gunfire until she was close to sinking. The ships artillery and arquebuses' fired at each other continually and eventually the ships grappled together. In all, the ships were locked in combat and the fighting lasted for more than five hours.
 
Flllipo Strozzi, having made a memorable stand, was wounded by shot of musketry under the knee, and being overwhelmed by fatigue and watching his ship about to sink, attempted to evade capture by trying to escape in a jollyboat. Unfortunately, Strozzi unsuccessful in his efforts, was captured, arrested and brought about to the quarterdeck of the São Martinho. Álvaro de Bazán collected a few men together and ordered a  Spanish solider to wound him with his sword. Immediately after being struck, Álvaro de Bazán, looked at Strozzi with coldness and contempt, and ordered him thrown overboard, despite that he was still breathing.
 
In all, there was about 80 knights, 30 captains, and 300 French sailors captured by the Spanish, amongst them were Girard le Testu, the Count of Vimioso, and the Count de Brissac. As soon as Strozzi's ship was captured, much of the rest of the French fleet fled. In all, about ten French ships were sunk by the Spanish fleet, several were wrecked on the shores, and it is reported that seventeen ships fled. During the battle, António de Cato remained safely on Terceira Island.
 
On 1 August 1582, the French prisoners were escorted  to the public gallows in Vila Franca, on the island of São Miguel, by the Spanish field commander Francisco de Bobadilla, with four companies of soldiers. He loudly read a sentence that condemned the prisoners to death, as disturbers of the peace between France and Castile (Spain). The ruling, signed by Alvaro de Bazan, ordered all of the French nobles beheaded and the others hanged, except those who have not reached the age of 18 years.
 
This sentence seemed very cruel to all, so some of the Spanish soldiers and captains came forward to plead to Alvaro de Bazan for mercy, and suggested that he make an exemption for the French prisoners by sparing their lives as prisoners of war. Alvaro de Bazan responded by saying that he was only executing the mandates of the King of France, that being at peace with Castile would not allow his subjects to act as armed pirates attacking the Spaniards.
 
The sentence was fulfilled and about 78 French noblemen, including Girard le Testu, Count de Brissac, and the Count of Vimioso were beheaded, and in addition many hundreds of French soldiers and sailors were hung.
 
These executions were made with a great slowness and rawness, and extended throughout the day. The decapitated bodies were piled up at the Churchyard of Vila Franca. However, about seventeen or eighteen of the sailors were hung in the islet of Vila Franca de Campo, leaving the bodies to rot on the gallows as a warning to others, who my oppose the Spanish.
 
In the end, the improvised French mercanary fleet had been insufficient to challenge the Spanish in the Atlantic triangle. While the exact magnitude of French losses is uncertain,  they were heavy and decisive and allowed Spain to have total complete control of the seas.
 
Antonio de Cato was quickly defeated and was forced to retreat to France, when in 1583 a Spanish fleet with about 16,000 men systematically conquered the Azores. The invasion fleet  was comprised five large sailing warships, 31 armed merchantment, two galleasses, 12 galleys and 48 small vessels. This was the largest force any European power had sent out in the Atlantic up until then, and it indicates both the rising Spanish ability to organise large sailing battle fleets and the importance of the Azores in their strategy to control the Atlantic.
 

Guillaume le Testu de la Havre II - Son of Girard le Testu - grandson of Guillaume le Testu I ("Têtu")

 
Girard le Testu, had a son that also became a pilot from Le Havre. He was named after his grandfather, Guillaume le Testu.  While not much is known about his early life, he appears in ship and port records off the shores of Newfoundland about 1601, in command of the Fluer de Lys. There are several ship records that indicates that He came to Quebec and the Atlantic coast from Le Havre,  in 1608, 1610, 1611, and he was successively captain of the Fleur de Lys, the Trinité and the Nativité. In 1608, he makes a voyage to New France to aid Samuel de Champlain, in the settlement of Quebec.
 
Samuel De Champlain - Leader Of the French Colony of Quebec
 
Samuel De Champlain, was an explorer and leader of a new French colony and had been driving his men very hard to establish the settlement of Quebec. It was his vision that it would be the centre of New France in the new world. Champlain wrote that he was born at Brouage in the province of Saintonge (now Charente-Maritime), France. His birth date has been estimated as sometime between 1567 and 1580. 
 
Although, Champlain wrote four substantial books about his activities in the New World, comprised of nearly 1308 printed pages, 5 folding maps, 22 small maps and 14 illustrations, he never mentioned the date of his birth, his parents, his education, his early life, his career in Henry IV’s household, army and naval exploits  or anything personal of any consequence. Not once did he record the name of his wife, Hélène Boullé, to whom he was married for twenty-five years except to refer to her on a couple of occasions as ma famille.
 
Whether or not Samuel Champlain, had a vision to build a settlement similar the former "French Antartique"  and establish a "Huguenot" colony for French Protestants to escape religious persecution in France is uncertain. Without a doubt, it was a tumultous time in terms of religious politics, and for the colony to succeed,it would need backing from Catholic states.
 
In addition, the defeat of the French mercenary navy in the Azores was still fresh, and to declare New France as "safe-haven" from the rule of the Catholic church would be detrimental to the settlement. The Roman Catholic Church, at this time, did not allow Huguenots to immigrate to New France. As a result, no official French colony was established in Canada, meaning a village, until after 1600- or so they claimed.  The reality is that no Protestants or Jews were to be allowed into New France according to official proclamations. To complicate matters, France was no longer an enemy of Spain.
 
There has been much speculation on whether Champlain was born a Huguenot, and was indeed "secretly" a Protestant,  In every existing document in which he is mentioned, or mentions himself, he appears as a convinced and dedicated Catholic - however his affiliations and actions suggest differently.
 
His birth was in Brouage, probably in the mid 1570s when it was Huguenot, and his first name Samuel, was a Protestant name, which may suggest a Huguenot connection,  but there were also Catholics living in Brouage during the years when it was Huguenot and Huguenots in the years it was Catholic.
 
As for his given name, Samuel, there are at least two Catholic Saint Samuels. Although mainly used by Huguenots, the name Samuel could have been an acceptable name to some Catholics, perhaps signifying a birth date on the feast day of the Saint. Of the men to whom Champlain was responsible early in his Canadian career - Aymar de Chaste and Du Pont Gravé were Catholics, and Pierre Du Gua de Mons was a Huguenot. All three had been early supporters of Henri IV, who was born a Huguenot in 1553 and switched to Catholicism nearly forty years later (1595), demonstrating that religion did not matter as much as complete loyalty to the king.
 
King Henri IV maintained the circumstances for which all of these Huguenots and foreign Protestants traded freely across the Atlantic out of French ports. He was the Protestant leader, Henri of Navarre, who joined the Catholic Church in 1593 in order to win the French throne as Henri IV. It is less well known that, until his death in 1610, he maintained friendly relations with most of the Protestant countries of northern Europe.
 
On 10 January 1604 a patent was issued in his name for two English vessels, the Castor and Pollux and her pinnace, the Pollux and Castor, to explore the North American coast as far north as Cape Breton. Financed mainly in London, they sailed under French captains with mixed Anglo-French corsair crews.
 
A French East India Company was formed in 1604, and called upon Dutch mariners and shipping merchants,  many who were recruited in the Netherlands by Peter Lintgens. King Henri made a courteous request to the Estates of Holland in 1607 to assist Dugua de Mons by preventing Dutchmen from trading in the St Lawrence River and addressed them as his "his very dear and good friends, allies and confederates (tres chers et bons amys, alliez et confederez)."
 
In 1608, Henri IV was still interested in forming a Franco-Dutch trading company. In 1609 he threw open the trade of North America to French merchants in general, and it appears that his government raised little or no objection to the many Huguenot and foreign merchants in French cities who took part in the North America.
 
In 1595, Champlain was employed in King Henri's royal army. Champlain is a 'fourrier' - an officer responsible for lodging troops in Brittany, France. Like the King of France, it's likely that Champlain has converted to Catholicism at this time.
 
By 1598, Champlain heads to Port-Louis to meet up with his uncle, Guillaume Allene, one of France's best seamen. They head for Spain and by the summer arrive in Cadiz, Spain's main Atlantic port. There he joins a Spanish armada heading to the West Indies, but he leaves his uncle behind. It is assumed that from 1598-1600, Champlain tours the Spanish Caribbean. During that time it is presumed he is working for the King of France, Henry IV. When he returns, to Paris, he reports to the King and is put on the royal payroll. His report is called A Brief Discourse of the Most Remarkable Things that Samuel Champlain of Brouage Reconnoitered in the West Indies. Three known copies of the report exist, all of which are different and none of which are written in Champlain's handwriting.
 
The court hears of other journeys to New France where a huge waterway exists going into the interior of the continent. Could this be a western route to China? Champlain is asked to sail to New France and investigate. Between 1603-1608, Champlain makes several voyages to the New France. In the spring of 1608, Champlain sails for New France again. On July 3, he finds a flat stretch of shoreline overlooked by a cliff on the St. Lawrence River. He chooses this spot to establish a trading post, the origins of Québec City. Champlain heads inland to assess the territory's commercial value.
 
On December 17, 1610, Champlain married the twelve year old Hélène Boullé, who was a Huguenot from a Huguenot family. Since the marriage could not be consummated until she was of age, Hélène took instruction, albeit reluctantly, and converted to Catholicism by the time she was fourteen. It is likely that this was an arranged marriage. She fled (in 1613) when she came of age and had to be apprehended.
 
Champlain had at least three men who seem to have had some influence on him in his youth -  his uncle Guillaume Allene, the geographer/engineer Charles Leber sieur du Carlo and a bit later in his life, François Gravé Du Pont. We know nothing about Champlain’s relationship to his father, if any, because he never mentioned him, nor did anyone else. We must assume however, that in view of the father’s position of "cappitaine and pilottes", that he most likely learned the "family business" from his father. 
 
The only known relative of Champlain, was his uncle by marriage, Guillaume Allene,  and was a Huguenot corsair early in his career.
 
Guillaume Allene - Champlain's Corsair Uncle
 
Guillaume Allene, Champlain’s uncle by marriage, and also known as "le Capitaine Provençal", is one relative of Champlain’s which information is widely available. In Spanish documents he is called Guillermo Elena or Capitán Provenzano. A native of Marseille, son of Anthoine Allenne and Gassin Andriou, Guillaume married Guillemette Gousse daughter of Nycolas Gousse and Collette François, in La Rochelle on November 17, 1563. At the time of their marriage, Allene was a master pilot (maistre pilote) and both he and his wife were Huguenot. Through the 1560s and 1570s he was listed as a marchand et bourgeois in La Rochelle, participating on voyages along the coast of Africa, South America and to Newfoundland. In 1569 he received a commission (lettres de marque) from the Huguenot Queen of Navarre, Jeanne d’Albert, mother of Henri IV, while she and her son were in La Rochelle seeking refuge from the Catholic army, to sail as a corsair out of La Rochelle against Spanish and Dutch shipping.
 
In 1570, He was captain of a ship, called L'Adventure, and with a letter of marque, had a mandate to "make war with enemies of religion" (Spanish and Dutch). He formed a rapport with some of the best Hueguenot corasairs at the time, and in 1572, in an alliance with Guy Mermerin des villates, he is given command of one of the largest ships in the Huguenot fleet, the Prince, rated at 300 tons. By the summer, with an apparent reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants, and with the re-appointment of the Admiral Gapsard Coligny to the royal court,  Gillaume Allene moves on to other ventures. It is rumoured that he is part of French expedition to the New World, and he began to concentrate on the business aspects of shipping, primarily focusing on the "triangle of trade" by the late 1570's. He continued in the shipping business for the rest of his career.
 

Champlain - Huguenot or not?

Champlain’s birth during the 1570s when Brouage was Huguenot, his given name Samuel, his uncle who was an active Huguenot corsair, his allegiance to Henri IV the "Huguenot" King and his marriage into a Huguenot family are all suggestive of a Huguenot origin/supporter. If he was baptized a Huguenot in Brouage it may have been between 1572 and 1577, the only years that a Protestant pastor, Nicolas Folion (dit La Vallée), who lived in the town.
 

The Settlement of New France - Quebec
 
In 1608, Champlain well understood the advantages of founding his city on a spot naturally fortified and where he could readily defend himself against the attack of an enemy, whose approach he expected sooner or later.
 
The first foes, however, whom Champlain had to encounter were not the Indians, but his own countrymen, members of his crew who under various pretexts sought to kill their chief in a coup d'etat and give the command of the settlement to the Basques.
 
Jean Duval, the king's locksmith, turned against Champlain, and associated with him three vicious sailors to whom he promised a part of the reward which had been offered for this treason. The conspirators agreed that Champlain needed to be killed, but they could not decide on how to do it. They met together in the dark, and debated whether they should poison him, blow him up with a grenado, or sound an alarm and shoot him from an ambush as her emerged from his quarters. Once Champlain was dead they planned to take over the colony, and seek an alliance with the Basque fisherman or even Spain. The conspirators agreed to preserve secrecy, and fixed the night of the fourth day for the assassination of their chief
 
The day before the assasination Guillaume le Testu, captain and a pilot of a barque, came from Tadoussac loaded with fresh supplies for the new colony. Champlain had been driving the men very hard, and the food had been very bad, and the supplies were seen as welcome relief.
 
Guillaume le Testu Saves Champlain
 
Le Testu, brought aboard his barque Antoine Natel, another locksmith and artisian for a cordial visit. Natel, who was at heart opposed to the cowardly plot, and over a few drinks reveals to Guillaume le Testu the dark scheme to assasinate Champlain.
 
Captain Le Testu promptly rowed ashore to alert Samuel Champlain of the plot, and found him at work in his beloved garden, which he had been laying out. The two men walked alone in the outlying woods, whereby Champlain and Le Testu quickly sketched out a counter-plot. Natel was sent for, and trembling in fear revealed the full details of the plot to Champlain. In exchange, Natel was given a full pardon for his efforts.
 
Champlain, sent a young seamen with two bottles of wine, and directed him to invite the four ringleaders onto Le Testu's ship, to share it with him in the crews quarters, as it being a present from his fellows at Tadoussac.
The conspirators, suspected nothing and agreed to come, not unwilling to make up for a shortness of rations. AT nightfall, the four roqed out to the barque.
 
Champlain, on shore stood watch, and presently followed them, Testu met him as he approached the ship. In the company of Le Testu's loyal crew, the two made their way quietly forward to the low-deck cabin where the men were roystering. When the consiprator's lowered the glasses to see who intruders were, they were confronted by the muzzles of loaded muskets, held in stern and capable hands.
 
The astonished quartet was trapped, they were bound and left on-board under the watch of Le Testu's loyal crew. Champlain, and Captain Le Testu, and a few men went ashore. It was now ten o'clock and pitch dark. Standing in the shadows were Captain Le Testu, and some of his men all heavily armed, their weapons glinted faintly in the twilight.  Champlain summoned together everyone in the colony, and he told the colonists that Duval and the other conspirators had been captured, and were clapped in irons. He then gave an ultimatum - giving each man a choice: A pardon if they told the truth, and death if they did not. Every man confessed and testified against the ringleaders.
 
They next day, he took the conspirators depositions in writing, and Champlain had the men sent to Tadoussac, where he sought the assistance of his long-time friend François Gravé Du Pont, who had better resources in keeping them under a watchful guard. François Gravé Du Pont was a little startled and idignant at the news, he felt it would have been better to have them shot then and there immediately in front of a firing squad. However, Champlain preferred a more judicial and judicious route, he wanted the first criminal proceedings in the New World to be orderly, and beyond criticism.
 
Both Champlian and  François Gravé Du Pont went back to their duties at hand for a couple months. He then had the prisoners brought back to face trail in Quebec. In September,  He convened a tribunal of four officers: Champlain himself, Guillaume Le Testu, François Gravé Du Pont, and the surgeon, Bonnerme. The trial was conducted with military precision. The accused men were presented with the witnesses against them, and made a full confession.
 
Jean Duval  was sentenced to be hanged, in Quebec, while the three others were sent back to France for sentencing by the Lieutenant-General. On September 18th, Jean Duval the first person in Canada to be publicly hanged, in a little enclosure in Quebec. His head was put up on a pike in a conspicuous place.  
 
Guillaume Le Testu II is presumed continued trading and fortifying the New Colony. There is very little in the records after about 1614.