Francois Le Clerc

a.k.a. Francis Le Clerc, Francois LeClerc

French Corsair

Born: Unknown

Died: 1563

Originally from Normandy, Francois Le Clerc was a French Corsair who was a fierce and cunning leader, and often was the first to board an enemy vessel during an attack. It was this brazen style that eventually caused him to lose his leg and severely damage an arm while fighting with English forces at Guernsey in 1549. Although many pirates would have had their careers ended by such an injury, Le Clerc refused to retire and instead expanded the scope of his rage by financing the voyages and attacks of other captains as well.

Despite his wounds, Le Clerc led major raids against the Spanish, who nicknamed him Pie de Palo (Peg Leg). In 1553, he assumed overall command of seven pirate craft as well as three royal warships, the latter commanded by himself, Jacques Sores, and Robert Blondel.

This strong fleet raided San German in Puerto Rico and methodically looted the ports of Hispaniola from south to north, stealing hides and cannon as they went. Richer booty was taken on the return voyage as the corsairs savagely plundered Las Palmas on Grand Canary Island and captured a Genoese Carrack.

Le Clerc returned to the West Indies in 1554 with eight large ships and 300 soldiers. It was most likely this force that took Santiago de Cuba by surprise, occupied it for a month, and left with 80,000 pesos in booty. They devastated Cuba’s first capital so completely that it remained a stricken struggling place, soon completely eclipsed by Havana.

In April 1562, Protestants in several Norman cities rebelled against their Roman Catholic King and Queen Elizabeth I dispatched English troops, who occupied Le Havre until June 1563. Le Clerc joined the English invaders and ravished French shipping. In March 1563, he asked for a large pension as a reward for his treachery. Wounded in his pride when Queen Elizabeth turned down his request, he sailed for the Azores and was killed hunting Spanish treasure ships.

Interesting Trivia on Francois Le Clerc:

  • Francois Le Clerc was the first European to settle in St. Lucia and it was from it's small Pigeon Island, attacked passing Spanish vessels

  • Francois Le Clerc was ennobled for bravery in battle in 1551

  • If he had any religious beliefs, Francois Le Clerc was probably was a Catholic based upon the fact that he, unlike other raiders like Sores or Sir Francis Drake, did not desecrate churches when he raided Spanish cities.

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