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ST0005-40 48 H x 50 L x 18 W (CM) 0.00


The exact launch date of the Flagship of the French Fleet, SOLEIL ROYAL with its 104 cannons, is a matter of dispute. Many historians say 1690 whilst others are of the opinion that she was engaged in combat in the Mediterranean Sea as early as the 1670's. In May 1692 Anne-Hilarion de Cotentin, Count of Tourville and Marshal of France, who was captain of the SOLEIL ROYAL at the same time, achieved his hour of glory. On the 12th of May he sailed from Brest with a formation of 45 ships and on May 29th, approximately 21 nautical miles north-east of the headland of Barfleur, he was confronted by the English and Dutch fleets with a combined strength of 97 vessels. After a bloody battle lasting 12 hours it was the British and Dutch who took refuge in flight after suffering heavy losses. Thereafter three of the French fleet, including the SOLEIL ROYAL, was hauled up onto the beach at Cherbourg for repairs. They were thus a defenceless target for the Dutch and British when the latter attacked on 2nd and 3rd of June 1692 and set fire to the ships. The loss of 18 warships, especially the flagship SOLEIL ROYAL, was a serious setback. However, to speak of the "catastrophe de la Hohue" as anglophile authors are inclined to do, is something of an exaggeration, since by the following year the Count of Tourville was at sea again and defeated 59 English ships at Cape St. Vincent on 27th June 1698. Furthermore, he ensured that France remained England's most feared enemy at sea for more than a century.