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 Hable) de 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.