Charles Hector, comte d'Estaing
Jean Baptiste Charles Henri Hector, comte d'Estaing (24 November 1729 – 28 April 1794) was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 general, and admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

. He began his service as a soldier in the War of the Austrian Succession
War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession  – including King George's War in North America, the Anglo-Spanish War of Jenkins' Ear, and two of the three Silesian wars – involved most of the powers of Europe over the question of Maria Theresa's succession to the realms of the House of Habsburg.The...

, briefly spending time as a prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 of the British during the Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

. Naval exploits during the latter war prompted him to change branches of service, and he transferred to the French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...


Following France's entry into the American War of Independence in 1778, he led a fleet to aid the American rebels. He participated in a failed Franco-American siege of Newport, Rhode Island
Battle of Rhode Island
The Battle of Rhode Island, also known as the Battle of Quaker Hill and the Siege of Newport, took place on August 29, 1778. Continental Army and militia forces under the command of General John Sullivan were withdrawing to the northern part of Aquidneck Island after abandoning their siege of...

 in 1778 and the equally unsuccessful 1779 Siege of Savannah
Siege of Savannah
The Siege of Savannah or the Second Battle of Savannah was an encounter of the American Revolutionary War in 1779. The year before, the city of Savannah, Georgia, had been captured by a British expeditionary corps under Lieutenant-Colonel Archibald Campbell. The siege itself consisted of a joint...

 before returning to France in 1780. His difficulties working with American counterparts are cited among the reasons these operations failed.

Although he sympathized with revolutionaries during the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, he held a personal loyalty to the French royal family. Because of this he came under suspicion, and was executed by guillotine
The guillotine is a device used for carrying out :executions by decapitation. It consists of a tall upright frame from which an angled blade is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the head from the body...

 in the Reign of Terror
Reign of Terror
The Reign of Terror , also known simply as The Terror , was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of...


Early years

He was born on 24 November 1729 at the Château de Ravel
Château de Ravel
The Château de Ravel is a castle situated in the commune of Ravel, in the département of Puy-de-Dôme, France.The castle of Revel was begun by Bernard de Revel, noted in 1171. Purchased by Philip III of France in 1283, it was given by Philip IV to his future chancellor, Pierre Flotte...

 in Auvergne
Auvergne (province)
Auvergne was a historic province in south central France. It was originally the feudal domain of the Counts of Auvergne. It is now the geographical and cultural area that corresponds to the former province....

 to Charles-François, the Marquis de Saillant and Marie-Henriette Colbert de Maulevrier, a descendant of Jean-Baptiste Colbert
Jean-Baptiste Colbert
Jean-Baptiste Colbert was a French politician who served as the Minister of Finances of France from 1665 to 1683 under the rule of King Louis XIV. His relentless hard work and thrift made him an esteemed minister. He achieved a reputation for his work of improving the state of French manufacturing...

. His father was a lieutenant general in the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 from a family with a long history of service to the French crown. The young d'Estaing was educated alongside Louis, the Dauphin (father of the future Louis XVI
Louis XVI of France
Louis XVI was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792, before being executed in 1793....

), who was born at about the same time. D'Estaing thus became close friends with the Dauphin and served in his retinue.

In May 1738 he joined the musketeer
A musketeer was an early modern type of infantry soldier equipped with a musket. Musketeers were an important part of early modern armies, particularly in Europe. They sometimes could fight on horseback, like a dragoon or a cavalryman...

s, and rose through the ranks, eventually joining the Regiment de Rouergue as a lieutenant in 1746. That same year he married Marie-Sophie, granddaughter of the celebrated Marshal Château-Renault
François Louis de Rousselet, Marquis de Châteaurenault
François Louis de Rousselet, marquis de Châteaurenault was a French vice-admiral, maréchal, and nobleman....

. His regiment was also called to serve in the War of the Austrian Succession
War of the Austrian Succession
The War of the Austrian Succession  – including King George's War in North America, the Anglo-Spanish War of Jenkins' Ear, and two of the three Silesian wars – involved most of the powers of Europe over the question of Maria Theresa's succession to the realms of the House of Habsburg.The...

. D'Estaing served as aide-de-camp to Marshal Saxe throughout the Flanders
County of Flanders
The County of Flanders was one of the territories constituting the Low Countries. The county existed from 862 to 1795. It was one of the original secular fiefs of France and for centuries was one of the most affluent regions in Europe....

 campaigns of 1746-48. During these years he was promoted to colonel in command of Regiment de Rouergue, and was wounded at the 1748 Siege of Maastricht
Siege of Maastricht (1748)
The Siege of Maastricht took place in April-May 1748 during the War of the Austrian Succession. A French force under the overall command of Maurice de Saxe besieged and captured the Dutch barrier fortress of Maastricht in the final few months of the campaign in the Low Countries. After a relatively...


Following the war King Louis XV
Louis XV of France
Louis XV was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1 September 1715 until his death. He succeeded his great-grandfather at the age of five, his first cousin Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, served as Regent of the kingdom until Louis's majority in 1723...

 embarked on a program to modernize his army on the successful model of Frederick the Great's Prussian
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

 army. D'Estaing became one of the leading reformers, and after a few years, the Regiment de Rouergue was viewed "as a model of the infantry". Seeking to gain experience in diplomacy, he accompanied the French ambassador to England for a time.

Seven Years' War in India

When hostilities broke out
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War is the common American name for the war between Great Britain and France in North America from 1754 to 1763. In 1756, the war erupted into the world-wide conflict known as the Seven Years' War and thus came to be regarded as the North American theater of that war...

 between the British and French colonies in North America, d'Estaing considered joining the forces of Louis-Joseph de Montcalm
Louis-Joseph de Montcalm
Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Saint-Veran was a French soldier best known as the commander of the forces in North America during the Seven Years' War .Montcalm was born near Nîmes in France to a noble family, and entered military service...

 that sailed in 1755, but his family dissuaded him from doing so. When an expedition to the East Indies
East Indies
East Indies is a term used by Europeans from the 16th century onwards to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania, including the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines...

 was organized, he applied to participate without consulting his family. His participation was ensured when he was offered a back-dated promotion to brigadier-general, provided he could transfer command of his regiment to someone else, which he did. In early January 1757, shortly before embarking, d'Estaing was awarded the Order of Saint Louis
Order of Saint Louis
The Royal and Military Order of Saint Louis was a military Order of Chivalry founded on 5 April 1693 by Louis XIV and named after Saint Louis . It was intended as a reward for exceptional officers, and is notable as the first decoration that could be granted to non-nobles...


Lally's campaigns

After a lengthy journey, the fleet of the comte d'Aché, carrying the expeditionary forces whose land commander was the count de Lally
Thomas Arthur, comte de Lally
Thomas Arthur, comte de Lally, baron de Tollendal was a French General of Irish Jacobite ancestry. He commanded French forces in India during the Seven Years War. After a failed attempt to capture Madras he lost the Battle of Wandiwash to British forces under Eyre Coote and then was forced to...

, arrived off British-occupied Cuddalore
Cuddalore is a fast growing industrial city and headquarter of Cuddalore district in the Tamil Nadu state of southern India. Located south of Pondicherry on the coast of Bay of Bengal, Cuddalore has a large number of industries which employ a great deal of the city's population.Cuddalore is known...

 in southern India on 28 April 1758. Lally disembarked his troops, established a blockade around the town, and then traveled to Pondicherry to organize the delivery of siege equipment. On 4 May French forces occupied the town and partially blockaded Fort St. David. The siege equipment was delayed in its arrival, but the garrison was eventually compelled to surrender after 17 days of siege operations. D'Estaing commanded Lally's left, overseeing the approaches and placing of batteries. He continued to serve under Lally in his campaigns against the British in southern India. He opposed Lally's decision to lift the siege of Tanjore (the only one in Lally's war council to do so) following the British seizure of Karikal. When Lally began to besiege Madras
Siege of Madras
The Siege of Madras was a siege of Madras, British India, between December 1758 and February 1759 by French forces under the command of Lally during the Seven Year's War. The British garrison was able to hold out until it was relieved. The British fired 26,554 cannon balls and more than 200,000...

 in December 1758, d'Estaing's division was positioned in the center of the French line. When the British made a sortie against that sector, d'Estaing advanced alone to reconnoiter their movements. He was surrounded by British troops, unhorsed, and twice wounded by bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

 before surrendering.

D'Estaing was taken into Madras, where he was confined by the order of Governor George Pigot. Pigot offered to release him on parole
Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole . Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their...

, but d'Estaing refused, preferring instead to be exchanged so that he could resume fighting. The arrival of a British fleet off Madras in February 1759 convinced d'Estaing to accept the offer of parole, which was conditioned on his not fighting against the British in the East Indies. In May 1759 he sailed for Île-de-France (present-day Mauritius
Mauritius , officially the Republic of Mauritius is an island nation off the southeast coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, about east of Madagascar...


French East India Company service

While d'Estaing was at Île-de-France, word arrived of a prisoner exchange agreement between France and Britain. D'Estaing, however, was excluded from this agreement because he had been paroled before its date. While requests were forwarded to India to negotiate his inclusion in the cartel, d'Estaing decided to enter the service of the French East India Company
French East India Company
The French East India Company was a commercial enterprise, founded in 1664 to compete with the British and Dutch East India companies in colonial India....

, leading a naval expedition to gather resources for Île-de-France. D'Estaing thought he would finesse his parole status by declaring himself to be a "spectator" in case the force came into conflict with the British or their allies, permitting his second in command to lead such operations.

In command of a two vessel company fleet (the 50-gun Condé and the frigate l'Expédition), d'Estaing sailed for the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...

 in September 1759. From an Arab convoy captured at the end of the month he learnt of a British ship at Muscat
Muscat, Oman
Muscat is the capital of Oman. It is also the seat of government and largest city in the Governorate of Muscat. As of 2008, the population of the Muscat metropolitan area was 1,090,797. The metropolitan area spans approximately and includes six provinces called wilayats...

. In a daring commando operation, 50 of Condé men entered the well-fortified harbour and boarded the ship, taking it without resistance. In their haste to depart, the men cut lines necessary for towing the ship, and alarm was eventually raised in the port. A swarm of small boats was driven off by precision fire from Condé, allowing a new line to be attached to the prize so that she could be towed out of the harbour. He then destroyed the British factory
Factory (trading post)
Factory was the English term for the trading posts system originally established by Europeans in foreign territories, first within different states of medieval Europe, and later in their colonial possessions...

 at Bandar-Abbas, before sailing for Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

. While en route he detached his accumulated prize ships, sending them to Île-de-France. D'Estaing's success was notable: in three months he had acquired significant prizes at the expense of only five casualties (although he also lost 28 men to smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...


After a slow crossing (retarded by calms and contrary winds), d'Estaing's fleet reached the coast of Sumatra in early February 1760. There he captured the British factory at Natal, which he eventually turned over to the Dutch, and then sailed for the British outpost at Tappanooly (present-day Tapian Nauli). Its commander put up stiff resistance, fleeing into the hills when it was clear the French would be victorious. D'Estaing consequently decided to destroy the fortifications rather than hunt down the British. He next sailed for Padang
Padang, Indonesia
Padang is the capital and largest city of West Sumatra, Indonesia. It is located on the western coast of Sumatra at . It has an area of and a population of over 833,000 people at the 2010 Census.-History:...

, a major Dutch settlement, where he supplemented his forces with local recruits and resupplied. He then sailed for Bencoolen, the main British settlement on Sumatra. The town was defended by Fort Marlborough and a garrison of 500 Europeans and local sepoy
A sepoy was formerly the designation given to an Indian soldier in the service of a European power. In the modern Indian Army, Pakistan Army and Bangladesh Army it remains in use for the rank of private soldier.-Etymology and Historical usage:...

s, with the potential to raise over 1,000 additional Malay militia. Although these forces were alerted to the French arrival by a ship that d'Estaing chased into the harbour, the first broadside directed at the fort panicked its defenders, who fled into the surrounding jungle. D'Estaing spent a day in pursuit of some of these troops. He then used Fort Marlborough as a base to subdue the remaining lesser British settlements on the west side of Sumatra. He returned to Île-de-France ten months after his departure.

Ordered back to France, he boarded a westbound company ship. Just off the French coast the ship was captured by British patrols. He was imprisoned at Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

, charged with violating his parole, before being granted limited freedom from a house in London. He was able to successfully defend himself against the charges, and was allowed to return to France. Upon his arrival he found waiting a commission as field marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

, the reward for his service in the East Indies.

Governor of the Leeward Islands

In the early months of 1762 France made preparations for a major expedition against Portuguese
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 territories in South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

. Promoted to lieutenant general of the army on July 25, 1762, he was also given the rank of chef d'escadre
Chef d'escadre
In the ancien Régime French Navy, the rank of chef d'escadre was equivalent to the present-day rank of rear admiral. It was replaced in 1791 by the rank of "contre-amiral" ....

 (rear admiral) in the French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

 in recognition for his exploits, a rank lesser than that he held in the army. In order to clarify his command role in the expedition, the king formally removed him from the army and gave him the rank of lieutenant general in the navy. The expedition was called off when preliminary peace terms were agreed.

In 1764 King Louis appointed d'Estaing governor general of the French Leeward Islands
Leeward Islands
The Leeward Islands are a group of islands in the West Indies. They are the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. As a group they start east of Puerto Rico and reach southward to Dominica. They are situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean...

, a post he held until 1766. Based principally in Saint-Domingue
The labour for these plantations was provided by an estimated 790,000 African slaves . Between 1764 and 1771, the average annual importation of slaves varied between 10,000-15,000; by 1786 it was about 28,000, and from 1787 onward, the colony received more than 40,000 slaves a year...

 (present-day Haiti
Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

), he recruited Acadians, who had been expelled from their homeland by the British during the war, to settle there. These efforts were largely unsuccessful, with many settlers dying of disease, and others seeking to resettle elsewhere because of the climate and poor land.

Home service

D'Estaing returned to France in 1767. At this time he was called upon to deal with the formal separation from his wife, which they had agreed to in writing in 1756, before his departure for India. The division of their properties was somewhat contentious, leading to court proceedings and appeals that ultimately failed to actually divide their estates.

In 1772 d'Estaing was appointed naval inspector and governor at Brest
Brest, France
Brest is a city in the Finistère department in Brittany in northwestern France. Located in a sheltered position not far from the western tip of the Breton peninsula, and the western extremity of metropolitan France, Brest is an important harbour and the second French military port after Toulon...

, the country's principal Atlantic naval station. In 1777 he was promoted to vice admiral of the Asian and American seas (vice-amiral des mers d'Asie et d'Amérique).

American War of Independence

At the entry of France into the American War of Independence in 1778, he left Toulon
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

 in command of a fleet of twelve ships of the line
Ship of the line
A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside guns to bear...

 and fourteen frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

s with the intention of assisting the American colonies against Great Britain. He sailed on 13 April, and, between the 11th and the 22nd of July, blockaded the smaller British fleet of Lord Howe
Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe
Admiral of the Fleet Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe KG was a British naval officer, notable in particular for his service during the American War of Independence and French Revolutionary Wars. He was the brother of William Howe and George Howe.Howe joined the navy at the age of thirteen and served...

 at Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook
Sandy Hook is a barrier spit along the Atlantic coast of New JerseySandy Hook may also refer to:-Places:United States* Sandy Hook , a village in the town of Newtown, Connecticut* Sandy Hook, Kentucky, a city in Elliott County...

, the entrance to New York harbour
New York Harbor
New York Harbor refers to the waterways of the estuary near the mouth of the Hudson River that empty into New York Bay. It is one of the largest natural harbors in the world. Although the U.S. Board of Geographic Names does not use the term, New York Harbor has important historical, governmental,...

. D'Estaing did not enter the harbour because his largest ships were believe to be unable to clear the bay's bar.


In cooperation with the American generals, he planned an attack on Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport is a city on Aquidneck Island in Newport County, Rhode Island, United States, about south of Providence. Known as a New England summer resort and for the famous Newport Mansions, it is the home of Salve Regina University and Naval Station Newport which houses the United States Naval War...

, preparatory to which he compelled the British to destroy some war vessels that were in the harbor. Before the concerted attack could take place, he put to sea against the British fleet, under Admiral Howe. Owing to a violent storm, which arose suddenly and compelled the two fleets to separate before engaging in battle, many of his vessels were so shattered that he found it necessary to put into Boston for repairs. While being in Newport he was assisted by captain Caleb Gardner
Caleb Gardner
Caleb Gardner, sea-captain, born in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1739: died there, 24 December 1806. Living near the harbor and owning a boat, he was in boyhood familiar with the waters and islands of Narragansett Bay, and as a young man became a sea-captain, sailing his own ship to China, to the East...

 against the British forces. He then sailed for the West Indies on 4 November. After a failed attempt
Battle of St. Lucia
The Battle of St. Lucia or the Battle of the Cul de Sac was a naval battle fought off the island of St. Lucia in the West Indies during the American War of Independence on 15 December 1778, between the British Royal Navy and the French Navy.-Background:...

 to retake St Lucia from Admiral Barrington
Samuel Barrington
Rear Admiral Samuel Barrington RN was a British admiral.Samuel was the fourth son of John Shute Barrington, 1st Viscount Barrington of Beckett Hall at Shrivenham in Berkshire...

, he captured St. Vincent and Grenada.

On 6 July 1779, he fought the Battle of Grenada
Battle of Grenada
The Battle of Grenada took place on 6 July 1779 during the American War of Independence in the West Indies between the British Royal Navy and the French Navy.-Origins:...

 against Admiral Byron
John Byron
Vice Admiral The Hon. John Byron, RN was a Royal Navy officer. He was known as Foul-weather Jack because of his frequent bad luck with weather.-Early career:...

, who retired to St. Kitts. Though superior in force, d'Estaing would not attack the British in the roadstead but set sail to attack Savannah.

Siege of Savannah

The siege consisted of a joint Franco
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 attempt to retake Savannah from 16 September 1779 to 18 October 1779, with d'Estaing in overall command of the combined forces. After weeks of fruitless bombardment, on 9 October 1779, a major assault against the British siege works failed. During the attack, Polish Count Kazimierz Pułaski, fighting on the American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 side, was mortally wounded. With the failure of the joint American-French attack, the siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

 failed, and the British remained in control of coastal Georgia
Province of Georgia
The Province of Georgia was one of the Southern colonies in British America. It was the last of the thirteen original colonies established by Great Britain in what later became the United States...


Return to France

He returned to France in 1780 on crutches, but he fell into disfavour at the court, and was strongly criticised by his subordinates. Friends of Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 jokingly suggested that the French court at Versailles
Versailles , a city renowned for its château, the Palace of Versailles, was the de facto capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. It is now a wealthy suburb of Paris and remains an important administrative and judicial centre...

 should provide America with the names of other gifted admirals. In 1781 the French sent a fleet under de Grasse
François Joseph Paul de Grasse
Lieutenant Général des Armées Navales François-Joseph Paul, marquis de Grasse Tilly, comte de Grasse was a French admiral. He is best known for his command of the French fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake, which led directly to the British surrender at Yorktown...

, along with an expeditionary force
Expédition Particulière
Expédition Particulière was the code name given by the French government for the plan to sail French land forces to North America to support the American rebel forces against Britain in the American Revolutionary War. In English they were known as the Special Expedition.The expedition of 5,000...

, which enjoyed more success and was credited with contributing to the surrender of the British army at Yorktown
Siege of Yorktown
The Siege of Yorktown, Battle of Yorktown, or Surrender of Yorktown in 1781 was a decisive victory by a combined assault of American forces led by General George Washington and French forces led by the Comte de Rochambeau over a British Army commanded by Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis...

 in 1781. Three years later, however, d'Estaing was placed at the head of the Franco-Spanish fleet assembled before Cádiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

, but the peace was signed and no operations took place.

After the American war, his chief attention was devoted to politics. He was first made a grandee of Spain and, in 1787, he was elected to the Assembly of Notables
Assembly of Notables
The Assembly of Notables was a group of notables invited by the King of France to consult on matters of state.-History:Assemblies of Notables had met in 1583, 1596–97, 1617, 1626, 1787, and 1788. Like the Estates General, they served a consultative purpose only...

. When the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 broke out, he supported the revolutionary cause. In 1789, he was appointed to the National Guard at Versailles and, in 1792, he was chosen admiral by the National Assembly
National Assembly (French Revolution)
During the French Revolution, the National Assembly , which existed from June 17 to July 9, 1789, was a transitional body between the Estates-General and the National Constituent Assembly.-Background:...

. Though in favour of national reform, he remained loyal to the royal family, and, in the trial of Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette ; 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I....

 in 1793, bore testimony in her favour. On this account, and because of certain friendly letters which had passed between him and the queen, he was himself brought to trial, charged with being a reactionary. He was sent to the guillotine
The guillotine is a device used for carrying out :executions by decapitation. It consists of a tall upright frame from which an angled blade is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the head from the body...

on 28 April 1794. Before his execution, he wrote "After my head falls off, send it to the British, they will pay a good deal for it!"

In his moments of leisure, he wrote a poem, Le Rêve (1755), a tragedy Les Thermopyles (1789) and a book on the colonies.

Citations and notes

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