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List of ships of the line of France

This is a list of French battlefleet warships of the period 1640–1861:
Sections naming the Head of State are provided as chronological references.

Note that throughout this article the term "-pounder" refers to French pre-metric units of weight, which were almost 8% greater than UK/US units of the same name; every other maritime power likewise established its own system of weights and each country's 'pound' was different from that of every other nation. Similarly French pre-metric units of length (pieds and pouces) were 6.575% longer than equivalent UK/US units of measurement; the pre-metric French foot was equivalent to 324.8394 mm, whereas the UK/US foot equaled 304.8 mm. These differences should be taken into account in any calculations based on the units given below.

French Navy
(Marine Nationale)
Naval Ensign of France
Motto: Honneur, Patrie, Valeur, Discipline
(“Honour, Homeland, Valour, Discipline”)
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Maritime Prefect
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Ranks in the French Navy
History
History of the French Navy
Future of the French Navy
Ensigns and pennants
Historic ships
Historic fleets
Awards
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Legion of Honour
Ribbons

Contents

Francis I (1515 to 1547)

Louis XIII (1610 to 1643)

The first seven years of this reign were under the Regency of Marie de Médicis, the consort of Henri IV – Louis XIII's father, who had been assassinated in 1610. Following the Siege of Saint-Martin-de-Ré and the Siege of La Rochelle, and in line with his general efforts to enhance the prestige and status of France in Europe, the Cardinal de Richelieu had a number of warships purchased from Holland, and eventually built in France by Holland-instructed French engineers. The largest of these early ships of the line, such as the famous 72-gun Couronne launched in 1638, would mount a number of guns comparable to later units of the 18th and 19th century, but the brunt of these ships would mount between 20 and 40 guns. The artillery was also comparatively lighter: the Couronne mounted 18-pounder long guns on her main battery, where any of the numerous 74-gun ships of the line that formed the backbone of the Navy from the late 18th century would mount 36-pounder long guns and 18-pounders would become common on frigates.

Ships of the Line ("vaisseaux")

Louis XIV (1643 to 1715)

Naval parade organised by Maurepas

The first eight years of this reign were under the Regency of Anne of Austria, the consort of Louis XIII, while French politics were dominated by Cardinal Jules Mazarin, who served as Chief Minister from 1642, and Louis XIV did not achieve personal rule until the death of Cardinal Mazarin in March 1661.

The French rating system was initially created in 1669, but a more complete structure was introduced in 1671; earlier vessels are shown under the rating they were given in 1671 – in the case of vessels deleted prior to 1671, these are included according to the rate they would have been given in 1671 had they not been deleted. Under this system, French major warships were from 1671 divided into five ranks or "Rangs" (the initial system of 1669 had only four ranks); ships of the line (vaisseaux) were divided into the highest three ranks.

The original rating system was thoroughly reformed under Colbert's administration two years later, on 24 June 1671, and the overwhelming majority of French warships underwent name changes at that date; vessels are listed below under their original name at time of launching or acquisition, even if they subsequently were better known by the name they were given later.

Vessels of the Fourth and Fifth Ranks were categorised as frigates (frégates) of the 1st Order and 2nd Order respectively; light frigates (frégates légères) and even smaller vessels were excluded from the rating system. All these will be found listed under the article on French sail frigates.

First Rank Ships ("vaisseaux de Premier Rang")

From 1670, the First Rank was defined as ships of the line carrying more than 70 carriage guns; in 1690 this was redefined as ships carrying more than 80 guns. All First Rates from 1689 were three-decked vessels, i.e. carrying three complete gundecks, usually plus a few smaller carriage guns mounted on the gaillards (i.e. the quarter deck, forecastle and poop deck). Some ships built before 1689 were three-decked while others - while nominally three-deckers, had only a partially-armed third deck (in lieu of a forecastle and quarter deck) with no guns in the waist.

Second Rank Ships ("vaisseaux de Deuxième Rang")

From 1670, the Second Rank was defined as ships of the line carrying from 56 up to 70 carriage guns; in 1683 this was redefined as ships carrying from 64 to 74 guns, and by 1710 even 64-gun ships had been reduced to the Third Rate. Most Second Rank ships were two-decked vessels, i.e. carrying two complete gundecks, usually plus a few smaller carriage guns mounted on the gaillards; however, the Second Rank initially also included thirteen smaller three-deckers launched up until 1682, after which all three-deckers were First Rates; these three-deckers are listed below before the two-deckers.

Three decked ships:

Two decked ships:

Third Rank Ships ("vaisseaux de Troisième Rang")

From 1670, the Third Rank was defined as ships of the line carrying from 40 up to 50 carriage guns; in 1671 this was redefined as ships carrying from 48 to 60 guns. During the first decade of the 18th century, the remaining Second Rank ships with 64 or fewer guns were down-graded (without change of armament) to Third Rank. All Third Rank ships were two-decked vessels, i.e. carrying two complete gundecks, usually plus a few smaller carriage guns mounted on the gaillards.

Fourth Rank Ships ("vaisseaux de Quatrième Rang")

From 1670, the French Quatrième Rang consisted of vessels with two complete batteries ("two-deckers") armed with from 30 to 40 guns. From 1671, this was redefined as vessels armed with from 36 to 46 guns, and those vessels with fewer than 36 guns were re-classed as Fifth Rank ships; in 1683 this was revised again to include only two-decked ships with from 40 to 46 guns. These ships were also described as frigates (frégates) of the 1st Order, and appear also in the appropriate article.

Beaufort Class (2 ships)

Poli Class (2 ships)

Parfaite Class (2 ships)

Atalante Class (2 ships)

Captured or otherwise acquired from foreign navies

Louis XV (1715 to 1774)

The first eight years of this reign were under the Regency of Philippe of Orléans, Duke of Chartres, the nephew of Louis XIV. While the five Rangs theoretically remained in existence, the construction by 1715 had crystallised around a number of distinct types, based on the number of carriage guns which they carried.

First Rates ("vaisseaux de Premier Rang") of the Louis XV era

Few three-decker ships were built during this reign, only four being completed during the sixty years.

First Rates of the Louis XV era
Decorations of Royal Louis (1743) 
Model of the fictitious ship Sans-Pareil that defined the type of Royal Louis (1758) 
Ville de Paris in Rochefort, 1764 
Scale model of Bretagne, on display at Brest naval museum 

80-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 80") of the Louis XV era

Large two-deckers, these served usually as fleet flagships.

74-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 74") of the Louis XV era

These formed overwhelmingly the core of the French battlefleet throughout the 18th century. Initially these carried just 26 guns in their first (lower deck) battery and 28 guns in their second (upper deck) battery, with 16 guns on the gaillards - the total of 74 guns being achieved by having 4 small guns (4-pounders) on the 'dunette' (poop). From the Terrible (of 1739) onwards, the lengthened hulls of new ships meant that they could mount an extra pair of guns on the lower deck and another extra pair on the uppdeck deck; the 4 small guns on the dunette were henceforth abolished.

César class

64-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 64") of the Louis XV era

Saint Michel class
Mars class
Lys class
Content class
Hardi class
Protée class
Illustre class
Vaillant class
Altier class


Sphinx class, design by Salinoc
Sainte Anne class


Artésien class of five ships to design by Joseph-Louis Ollivier

Three French East India Company ships were purchased by the Navy in April 1770

Indien class

Two further ships were built at Brest in the early 1770s

Finally, two 64-gun ships were begun under Louis XV, but were not launched until some years later.

Two-deckers of 60 guns ("vaisseaux de 60") of the Louis XV era

Two-deckers of 50 guns ("vaisseaux de 50") of the Louis XV era

Bordelois class: group of four ships designed by Antoine Groignard and built at Bordeaux by Léon-Michel Guignace

Small two-deckers of 42 – 48 guns ("vaisseaux de 40 à 48") of the Louis XV era

Captured or otherwise acquired from foreign navies in the Louis XV era

Louis XVI (1774 to 1792)

First Rates ("vaisseaux de Premier Rang") of the Louis XVI era

110-gun three-decker group of 1780. Three different constructeurs designed these ships; the first two were by François-Guillaume Clairain-Deslauriers and Léon-Michel Guignace respectively, while the Toulon pair were by Joseph-Marie-Blaise Coulomb. Typically each carried 30 x 36pdr guns on the lower deck, 32 x 24pdr guns on the middle deck, 32 x 12pdr guns on the upper deck, and 16 x 8pdr guns on the gaillards, although this armament varied from time to time.

First Rates of the Louis XVI era
Royal-Louis as Républicain grounded on Mingant rock. Drawing by Pierre Ozanne
Colour engraving of Terrible, 18th century 


Océan class (sometimes called "États de Bourgogne class" or "Dauphin Royal class") – Three-deckers of 118 guns (usually called 120-gun), designed by Jacques-Noël Sané. Each carried 32 x 36pdr guns on the lower deck, 34 x 24pdr guns on the middle deck, 34 x 12pdr guns on the upper deck, and 18 x 8pdr guns on the gaillards.

Océan class ships of the Louis XVI era
1/48th scale model of Commerce de Marseille on display at Marseille maritime museum 
Orient, ex-Dauphin-Royal, exploding at the Battle of the Nile 

80-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 80") of the Louis XVI era

Tonnant class (1787 onwards) – Following his standard design for 74-gun ships (see Téméraire class below), Jacques-Noël Sané then produced a standard design for an 80-gun ship, to which 8 ships were eventually built.

74-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 74") of the Louis XVI era

Two ships which were begun before 1774 were completed later; see 'Fendant (1776) and Destin (1777) under 1715–1774 section above.

Scipion class (1778 onwards) – Designed by Francois-Guillaume Clairin-Deslauriers

Annibal class (1778 onwards) – Designed by Jacques-Noël Sané

Magnanime class (1779 onwards) – Designed by Jean-Denis Chevillard

Argonaute class (1781) – Designed by François-Guillaume Clairin-Deslauriers.

Pégase class (1781 onwards) – Designed by Antoine Groignard.

Centaure class (1782 onwards) – Designed by Joseph-Marie-Blaise Coulomb, all built at Toulon.

Téméraire class (1782 onwards) – numerically the largest class of battleships ever built to a single design. Designed by Jacques-Noël Sané, 97 vessels, each of 74 guns, were laid down between 1782 and 1813. The first 31 of these, launched before the execution of Louis XVI:-

64-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 64") of the Louis XVI era

Captured or otherwise acquired from other navies in the Louis XVI era

First Republic (1792 to 1804)

The Republic was proclaimed on 21 September 1792 (although Louis XVI was not executed until 21 January 1793). The period was divided into the Convention (until 26 October 1795, during which effective power was exercised by the Committee of Public Safety), the Directory until 9 November 1799 (the Directorate was a "Cabinet" of five members),and finally the Consulate until the proclamation of the Empire on 18 May 1804.

First Rates ("vaisseaux de Premier Rang") of the First Republic

Dauphin Royal class (continued)

118-gun ships of the First Republic
Vengeur in 1806, as Impérial, at the Battle of San Domingo 

80-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 80") of the First Republic

Tonnant class (continued)

80-gun ships of the First Republic
Formidable in the Action of 13 July 1801 
Capture of the Guillaume Tell, by Robert Dodd 
Franklin as HMS Canopus 
Capture of HMS Swiftsure by Indivisible and Dix-Août 

74-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 74") of the First Republic

Téméraire class (continued)

Cassard class
This design by Jacques-Noël Sané was enlarged from the Téméraire Class in order to mount an upper deck battery of 24pdrs compared with the 18pdrs of the earlier class.

Cassard-class ships of the First Republic
Vétéran escaping into the shallow waters of Concarneau harbour. Painting by Michel Bouquet, on display at Brest Fine arts museum. 

Captured or otherwise acquired from foreign navies during the First Republic

First Empire (1804 to 1815)

Napoléon Bonaparte was proclaimed Emperor on 18 May 1804 and ruled until he abdicated on 6 April 1814. The Empire was restored during the Hundred Days from 20 March to 22 June 1815; this section of the article includes all ships of the line launched from May 1804 to June 1815.

118-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 118") of the First Empire

Later Dauphin Royal class (118-gun ships, continued)

118-gun ships of the First Empire
Portrait of Wagram, by François Roux 
Montebello photographed around 1850 

110-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 110") of the First Empire

Commerce de Paris class, design by Jacques-Noël Sané, shortened from his 118-gun design by removing one pair of guns from each deck.

110-gun ships of the First Empire
Portrait of Commerce de Paris under construction, by Antoine Roux

90-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 90") of the First Empire

This group comprised two small three-deckers built at Rotterdam from 1799 for the Batavian Navy, and annexed to France when the Dutch state was absorbed by the French Empire in 1810. Both were reclassed as 80-gun ships in April 1811.

Chattam class 90-gun ships designed by P. Glavimans.

80-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 80") of the First Empire

Bucentaure class 80-gun ships designed by Jacques-Noël Sané, a modification of the 80-ship Tonnant class listed above. 21 ships were launched to this design, of which 16 were afloat by the end of 1814

80-gun ships of the First Empire
Named Vessels at the Battle of Trafalgar, William Lionel Wyllie. Leftmost ship in the foreground is Neptune, shown alongside the French Redoutable 
Portrait of Robuste, by Antoine Roux 
Portrait of Conquérant, by François Roux 

74-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 74") of the First Empire

Téméraire class (continued)

Téméraire class ships of the First Empire
Scale model of Achille on display at the Musée national de la Marine in Paris. 
Régulus under attack by British fireships, during the evening of 11 August 1809. Drawing by Louis-Philippe Crépin
Recruit fighting Hautpoult on 15 April 1809. 
Detail of the model of Triomphant, part of the Trianon model collection, on display at the Musée national de la Marine in Paris. 
Fight of Romulus against HMS Boyne and HMS Caledonia, by Vincent Courdouan (1848) 
The Battle of Navarino on 20 October 1827; Scipion is shown in the centre, entangled with a fireship 
The wreck of Superbe at Paros on 15 December 1833 
Hercule, by then renamed Provence, during the Invasion of Algiers in 1830, by Lebreton. 

Pluton class – A revised design for Téméraire class, by Jacques-Noël Sané, described officially as "the small model" specially introduced to be constructed at shipyards outside France itself (the first pair were built at Toulon) where they lacked the depth of water required to launch 74s of the Téméraire Class.

Four further ships begun at Venice to this design were never launched – Montenotte, Arcole, Lombardo and Semmering; all were broken up on the stocks by the Austrian occupiers.

Pluton class ships of the First Empire
Portrait of Borée on 12 April 1807, by Antoine Roux 
1/40th scale model of Rivoli fitted with seacamels

Captured or otherwise acquired from foreign navies 1805–1810

Restored French Monarchy (1815–1848)

The Bourbon dynasty was restored (following Napoleon's "Hundred Days") under Louis XVIII in June 1815. He died 16 September 1824 and was succeeded by his brother Charles X who abdicated on 2 August 1830. Louis-Philippe reigned from 9 August 1830 until overthrown on 24 February 1848. The Second French Republic was established briefly from 1848 (until 1852).
This section of the article includes all ships of the line launched from July 1815 to February 1848.

118-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 118") of the Restoration

Later Dauphin Royal class (continued) Later units of the 118-gun type, begun during the First Empire, were completed at various dates over the next few decades.

118-gun ships of the Restoration
Souverain as a colonial infantry barracks in Toulon harbour around 1877 
Explosion of Trocadéro. Drawing by Antoine Morel-Fatio
Friedland in tow of a steamer near Constantinople 

80-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 80") of the Restoration

Bucentaure class (continued)

80-gun ships of the Restoration
Loss of a longboat of Algésiras in a storm, 9 August 1831. 

74-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 74") of the Restoration

Téméraire class (continued)

74-gun ships of the Restoration
Duc de Berry razeed into the frigate Minerve 

90-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 90") of the Restoration

Suffren class, of the Commission de Paris

90-gun ships of the Restoration
1/20th scale model of Suffren, on display at the Musée national de la Marine 
Inflexible as a boys' school, photographed after 1860 

100-gun ships ("vaisseaux de 100") of the Restoration

Hercule class, of the Commission de Paris

100-gun ships of the Restoration
1/40th-scale model of the 100-gun Hercule on display at the Musée national de la Marine
Scale model of Tage on display at the Musée National de la Marine in Paris 
Loss of Henri IV 

120-gun ship of the Restoration

Other ships of the Restoration

Second Republic (1848 to 1852) and Second Empire (1852 to 1870)

Prince Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (the nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte) became President in December 1848 following the abdication in February 1848 of Louis-Philippe; he subsequently became Emperor Napoléon III on 2 December 1852 and ruled until he was deposed and the Third Republic was proclaimed on 4 September 1870.

Océan-class ships of the line

Two further units of the Océan class were built to an altered design, with a thumblehome reduced by 20 centimetres, increasing space available on the upper decks. The design later inspired an aborted Bretagne class which, furthered altered to incorporate the "swift battleship" concept of the Napoléon class, would yield the 130-gun Bretagne, the ultimate wooden capital ship of the French Navy.

118-gun ships of the Second Republic and Second Empire
Photograph of Ville de Paris, circa 1854 
Engraving by Louis Lebreton showing Louis XIV as a naval school 

Hercule class ships of the line (further ships of this class)

The ships of the Hercule class, designed to be 100-gun sailing ships of the line, were modified and transformed into 90-gun steam ships of the line

118-gun ships of the Second Republic and Second Empire
Scale model of Tage on display at the Musée National de la Marine in Paris 
Austerlitz in 1854, drawing by Louis Le Breton 
1/75th-scale model of Prince Jérôme, on display at the Swiss Museum of Transport
Photograph of Eylau as a hulk in Toulon (foreground) 

Suffren class ships of the line (further ships of this class)

The ships of the Suffren class, designed to be 90-gun sailing ships of the line, were modified and transformed into 80-gun steam ships of the line

Suffren class ships of the Second Republic and Second Empire
Portrait of Alexandre as a gunnery school ship, her engine removed after 1873. by François Roux. 

Tourville class ships of the line

The Tourville class was built along the line of razeed Océan-class three-deckers, giving them good stability and carrying capacity, but poor manoeuverability for their size.

Napoléon class screw ships of the line

Designed by Henri Dupuy de Lôme as "swift ships of the line", the Napoléon class was the first to be designed from the conception to be steam battleships. Originally 3rd class, later redesignated as 2nd class.

Algésiras sub-class

Ville de Nantes sub-class

Napoléon class screw ships of the line
Napoléon, first steam battleship in history 

Bretagne class screw ships of the line

Capital ship designed on the same principles as the swift ships of the line of the Napoléon class

Bretagne class screw ships of the line

See also

Notes, citations, and references

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e f Note that in 1837 the surviving 80-gun ships were re-armed and re-designated as 86-gun ships (with 14 x 12-pounder guns and 10 x 36-pounder carronades on the gaillards).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Note that in 1837 the surviving 74-gun ships were re-armed and re-designated as 80-gun ships.

Citations

  1. ^ Roche, vol.1, p.337
  2. ^ Vaisseaux de 100 à voiles, la Flotte de Napoléon III 1850 - 1870
  3. ^ Roche, vol. 1, p. 450

References

External links