Levant Fleet

The Levant Fleet (French: Flotte du Levant) was the designation under the Ancien Regime for the naval vessels of the Royal French Navy in the Mediterranean. The fleet carried out operations such as asserting naval supremacy and protecting convoys. Its counterpart was the Flotte du Ponant, which saw service in the English Channel and in the Atlantic Ocean.

Levant Fleet
Royal Louis-Maitre Rodolphe 1667 img 3092.jpg
Royal Louis, flagship of the Levant Fleet under Louis XIV[1]
Active1689–1792
CountryRoyal Standard of the King of France.svgKingdom of France
BranchFlag of the Kingdom of France (1814-1830).svgRoyal French Navy
TypeNaval fleet
RoleNaval operations in the Mediterranean
Garrison/HQArsenal of Toulon
Arsenal of Galères
EngagementsFranco-Dutch War
Nine Years' War
War of the Spanish Succession
War of the Austrian Succession
Seven Years' War
American War of Independence

ArsenalsEdit

At first based in Fréjus, from the beginning of the 17th century the fleet was based at two specialized arsenals:

FlagshipsEdit

 
The stern of Louis XIV's Réale.
 
General view of the port of Toulon in the middle of the 18th century.

The fleet's flagship was traditionally the Réale, flying the flag of général des galères [fr] (a grand-officer of the crown of France), as seen at the Musée national de la Marine.

The flagship was always the most powerful ship present in Toulon. Under Louis XIV this was the either 110-gun Royal Louis constructed in 1667 and destroyed in 1690[2] or her successor, also named Royal Louis, constructed in 1692.[3] The gun decks of these vessels were painted red, upper decks in blue, picked out with gilding. Under Louis XVI the flagships were the 110-gun Majestueux constructed in 1780[4] and then the 118-gun Océan-class Commerce de Marseille constructed in 1788.

Vice admiralsEdit

The command of the Levant and the Ponant fleets were entrusted on 12 November 1669 to two vice-admirals. The first vice-admiral of the Levant was Anne Hilarion de Costentin, Comte de Tourville, designated as such in 1669. Louis XIV had intended to appoint Abraham Duquesne to share the post, but he died in 1688, and the Comte de Tourville continued in the post until 1701.

Name Portrait Tenure Note
Anne Hilarion de Costentin,
Comte de Tourville
(1624–1701)
  1669–1701 Heraldry
 
 
Tenure at age 45 until 1701
François Louis de Rousselet, Marquis de Châteaurenault
(1637–1716)
  1701–1716  
 
Tenure at age 63 until 1716
Alain Emmanuel de Coëtlogon
(1646–1730)
  1716–1730  
 
Tenure at age 70 until 1730
Charles de Sainte-Maure, Marquis d'Augé [fr]
Marquis d'Augé
(1655–1744)
- 1730–1744  
Tenure at age 75 until 1744
Gaspard de Goussé de La Roche-Allard [fr]
(1664–1745)
- 1745-1745 Tenure at age 81 and died one week later
Vincent de Salaberry de Benneville [fr]
(1663–1750)
- 1750 Tenure at age 86
Pierre de Blouet de Camilly [fr]
(1666–1753)
  1751–1753 Tenure at age 85 until 1753
Jean-André Barrailh [fr]
(1672–1762)
- 1753–1762 Tenure at age 82 until 1762
Emmanuel-Auguste de Cahideuc, Comte Dubois de la Motte
Count Dubois de la Motte
(1683–1764)
- 1762–1764  
Tenure at age 79 until 1764
Claude Louis d'Espinchal, Marquis de Massiac
(1686–1770)
- 1764–1770 Tenure at age 78 until 1770
Anne Antoine, Comte d'Aché de Maubeuf
(1701–1780)
- 1770–1780 Tenure at age 69 until 1780
Charles-Alexandre Morel, Comte d'Aubigny [fr]
Count d'Aubigny
(1699–1781)
- (1780–1781)  
Tenure at age 81 until 1781
Aymar Joseph de Roquefeuil et du Bousquet
Count of Roquefeuil and du Bousquet
(1714–1782)
  1781–1782  
Tenure at age 67 until 1782
Henri-François de La Rochefoucauld [fr]
(1716–1784)
- 1782–1784 Tenure at age 64 until 1784
Louis-Armand-Constantin de Rohan,
Prince de Montbazon
(1732–1794)
- 1784–1792 Tenure at age 52 until 1792

Although Tourville commanded the fleet during the battles of the reign of Louis XIV, his successors were too old to have likely served at sea. In practice, the squadrons at sea were under officers with the rank of Lieutenant général des Armées navales.

AdministrationEdit

The Fleet of the Levant was renamed the "Mediterranean Squadron" (escadre de la Méditerranée, fr:Escadre de la Méditerranée) after the French Revolution. The fleet was successively almost annihilated during the Siege of Toulon in 1793 and during the battles of the Nile in 1798 and Trafalgar in 1805.

The term "Fleet of the Levant" was temporary readopted after the French Restoration and the July Monarchy.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Par maître Rodolphe, in Histoire de la Marine française illustrée, Larousse, 1934.
  2. ^ Royal-Louis (1668), the first of the 15 Royal-Louis was destroyed in 1690.
  3. ^ Royal-Louis 1692, the second of the 15 Royal-Louis was disarmed in 1716 and destroyed in 1727.
  4. ^ Majestueux was renamed Républicain (Republican) in 1797; destroyed in 1808.

BibliographyEdit

  • Rémi Monaque, Une histoire de la marine de guerre française, Paris, éditions Perrin, 2016, total pages 526 ISBN 978-2-262-03715-4
  • Michel Vergé-Franceschi, La marine française au XVIII, guerres, administration, exploration, Regards sur l'histoire, Paris, SEDES editions, 1996, total pages 451 ISBN 2-7181-9503-7.
  • Michel Vergé-Franceschi, Toulon: port royal, 1481–1789, Tallandier, 2002 – 329 pages