Réné Duguay-Trouin

a.k.a. Rene Duguay-Trouin

French Privateer, Lieutenant-Général
des armées navales du roi (admiral),
& Commander in the Order of Saint-Louis.
   

Born: June 10th, 1673

Died: September 27th, 1736


Originally aspiring to join the church, Réné Duguay-Trouin spent much of his young life studying for this purpose at Rennes and Caen. However, when war broke out between England and Holland in 1689 he cast aside his higher callings and opted to join the fight.

At the age of 16 he joined the navy aboard the Trinité, a vessel of 28 guns, under the command of Captain Legoux, on the December 16 th, 1690. During the first three months his commitment to this new course in life was tested by a violent tempest, an imminent shipwreck, the boarding of an English ship, and the threatened destruction of his own vessel by fire.

The Trinité also saw some fierce combat, including a bloody battle with an English fleet comprised of five merchant vessels. The Trinité eventually captured the François Samuel and Seven Stars of Scotland. Duguay-Trouin displayed such bravery that he was given the command of the Danycan, a corsair of 14 guns, soon after he turned 18.

On June 6th, 1692 the King handed him command of a forty-gun ship, the Hermine. It was with this new, more powerful vessel that he captured five ships at the entrance of the Channel, as well as capturing and burning two more English ships in the river Limerick.

In 1694 his vessel of 40 guns was captured by the English, and Duguay-Trouin was taken prisoner. He was confined to an iron room within the castle of Plymouth until, according to his own account, he was able to engineer his escape and make his way back to Saint-Malo with the help of a local shop woman and her lover (a French refugee in the English service).

Once free of England and accompanied by Lieutenant Nicolas Thomas, surgeon L'hermite, Pierre Legendre and his former quartermaster, he made his way to Brittany and then returned to Saint-Malo.

He was granted the command of a new vessel of 48 guns, which he used to quickly resume his attacks upon English shipping along the Irish coast. In 1696 he made such an impressive capture of Dutch vessels that the King of France immediately rewarded him with a commission as capitaine de frigate (commander) in the royal navy.

Duguay-Trouin spent much of the next two years (1704-1705) desolating the coasts of England.

In 1706 he was raised to the rank of captain of a vessel of the line.

On October 21, 1707, together with Claude de Forbin he won a great victory against an English convoy in the Battle at the Lizard. For his actions, he awarded the title of chevalier of the order of St Louis.

Of course, the most impressive achievement of his career would have to be the capture in of Rio Janeiro in 1711. At the time, the city was believed to be impregnable and defended by seven ships of the line and over 3200 men. In spite of the defense he was able to take the city by force and even held the governor for ransom. Investors in the venture doubled their money, and eventually led to Duguay-Trouin's promotions to chef d'escadre (Commodore) in 1715, and later to Lieutenant général de la Marine (Admiral) in 1728.

In 1731 he was given the commanded of a squadron defending French commerce based out of his home port of Saint-Malo, and then later from Brest, the fleet for the East and eventually Toulon harbor.

The riches that Duguay-Trouin acquired from his earlier conquests having long since been exhausted by his wild and extravagant lifestyle, he was finally left destitute and eventually forced to write to King Louis XIV from his deathbed begging the King to support his family after his passing.

Admiral Réné Duguay-Trouin died on the 27th of September, 1736.


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