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
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
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
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
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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