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Encyclopedia > Robert Surcouf
Statue of Robert Surcouf in Saint-Malo.

Robert Surcouf (December 17738 July 1827) was a famous French corsair. During his legendary career, he captured 47 ships and was renowned for his gallantry and chivalry, earning the nickname of Roi des Corsaires ("King of Corsairs"). , coutresy of http://www. ... , coutresy of http://www. ... Categories: France geography stubs | Communes of Ille-et-Vilaine ... 1773 was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... July 8 is the 189th day of the year (190th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1827 (MDCCCXXVII) was a common year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian Calendar (or a common year starting on Wednesday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... Look up corsair in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...



Surcouf was born in December 1773 in Saint-Malo, a fortified town in Brittany, traditionally a corsair stronghold. He attended a religious school and was educated by the Jesuits. At 13, he escaped his teachers and stole a small craft to prove his ability to sail; he was subsequently caught in a tempest and had to be rescued. Categories: France geography stubs | Communes of Ille-et-Vilaine ... Historical province of Brittany, showing the main areas with their name in Breton language The traditional flag of Brittany (the Gwenn-ha-du), formerly a Breton nationalist symbol but today used as a general civic flag in the region. ... The Society of Jesus (Latin: Societas Iesu), commonly known as the Jesuits, is a Roman Catholic religious order. ...

At age 15, he enlisted on a merchantman to India.

French Revolution

Between 1789 and 1791, he participated in slave trade between Mozambique and Madagascar. In 1792 he came back to Saint-Malo and discovered the political changes France had undergone in the wake of the French Revolution. He sailed to Isle de France (present-day Mauritius) in August on a commercial brig, and was informed on his arrival of the outbreak of war against Britain. Isle de France was threatened by two vessels (54-gun and 60-gun) commanded by Commodore Osborn. Surcouf was made a second officer of the frigate Cybèle, which, with another frigate and a brig, and with less than half their firepower, engaged and repelled the attackers. Surcouf was one of the heroes of the day. The French Revolution (1789–1815) was a period of political and social upheaval in the political history of France and Europe as a whole, during which the French governmental structure, previously an absolute monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and Catholic clergy, underwent radical change to forms based on... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Brigantine. ...

Captain of the Emilie

He was made a captain in Isle de France, and expressed his ambition to wage corsair warfare against Great Britain. However, the Convention frowned at privateers, and it was difficult to obtain a letter of marque. This article is about a legislative body and constitutional convention during the French Revolution. ... Letter of marque of the First French Empire given to captain Antoine Bollo, via the ship owner Dominique Malfino from Gena, owner of the Furet, 15-tonne privateer. ...

On 3 June 1794, Surcouf sailed with the 4-gun ship La Créole, with a complement of 30 men, with orders to bring rice to Mauritius, and encountered three English ships escorted by the 26-gun Triton; he used a technicality to engage combat in self-defence, by not flying his colours until the English ships requested them by firing a warning shot (a naval convention of the time), which Surcouf later reported to consider an aggression. After a brief gunnery exchange, the British ships lowered their flag and were brought back to Mauritius, with their cargo of rice and maize. Surcouf was welcomed as a saviour in the famished Port Louis. The capture was declared legal, but in the absence of a letter of marque, the authorities retained the entire cargo (a portion of which normally goes to the corsair). June 3 is the 154th day of the year (155th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Species Oryza glaberrima Oryza sativa Brown basmati rice Terrace of paddy fields in Yunnan Province, southern China. ... “Corn” redirects here. ... The arms of Port Louis Port Louis banking district, and the main avenue leading to the Government House (seen in the background) Port Louis (pronounced locally as paw-louee) is the capital of Mauritius. ...

Following a dispute with the governor of Isle de France, Surcouf sailed to France to receive his letter of marque. He returned to sea in Nantes in August 1798, as captain of the 18-gun Clarisse, with 105 men. He captured four ships in the South Atlantic, and two others near Sumatra in February 1799. On 11 November, the 20-gun Auspicious was captured, with a cargo worth in excess of one million francs. Surcouf later had to flee before the 56-gun frigate Sybille, throwing eight guns overboard to out-sail the British warship. He captured a British brig and an American merchantman before returning to Isle de France. Letter of marque of the First French Empire given to captain Antoine Bollo, via the ship owner Dominique Malfino from Gena, owner of the Furet, 15-tonne privateer. ... Traditional city flag City coat of arms Motto: (Latin: Shall Neptune favour the traveller) Location Coordinates Time Zone CET (GMT +1) Administration Country Region Pays de la Loire Department Loire-Atlantique (44) Mayor Jean-Marc Ayrault  (PS) (since 1989) City Statistics Land area¹ 65. ... November 11 is the 315th day of the year (316th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar, with 50 days remaining. ...

Captain of the Confiance

capture of the Kent by the Confiance
capture of the Kent by the Confiance

In May, 1800, Surcouf took command of La Confiance, a fine and fast 18-gun ship from Bordeaux undergoing repairs in Isle de France. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1000x740, 198 KB) Fight between the French Confiance (Robert Surcouf) and the HMS Kent. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1000x740, 198 KB) Fight between the French Confiance (Robert Surcouf) and the HMS Kent. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ...

Beginning in March, he led a brilliant campaign which resulted in the capture of nine British ships. On the 7 October, 1800, in the Bay of Bengal, La Confiance met the 38-gun Kent, a 1200-ton East Indiaman with 400 men and a company of naval riflemen. Despite being outnumbered three to one, the French managed to seize control of the Kent. He became a living legend in France and, in England, a public enemy whose capture was valued at 5 millions francs, although he was noted for the discipline of his crew and his humane treatment of prisoners. October 7 is the 280th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (281st in leap years). ... An East Indiaman was a ship belonging to the British East India Company. ...


On 13 April 1801, though chased by British warships, he arrived in La Rochelle. He settled in Saint-Malo, married, and spent six years in retirement, as a businessman. April 13 is the 103rd day of the year (104th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... La Rochelle is a city and commune of western France, and a seaport on the Atlantic Ocean (population 78,000 in 2004). ... Categories: France geography stubs | Communes of Ille-et-Vilaine ...

In 1803, at the breaking of the Treaty of Amiens, First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte personally offered him the title of captain and command of a frigate squadron in the Indian Ocean. Surcouf, however, refused, for two reasons: first, he would not have been allowed to operate as independently as he desired; and second, he believed that the war against England should be waged with economic means (i.e. by attacking its merchant navy) rather than direct naval assault. His arguments did not fall on deaf ears; in 1805, Napoleon chose a blockade against England rather than direct confrontation, and allowed privateers to operate with relative impunity. Surcouf left in good terms, and was made officer of the Légion d'Honneur on 18 July 1804. The Treaty of Amiens was signed on March 25, 1802 (Germinal 4, year X in the French Revolutionary Calendar) by Joseph Bonaparte and the Marquis Cornwallis as a Definitive Treaty of Peace between France and the United Kingdom. ... Bonaparte as general Napoleon Bonaparte ( 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a general of the French Revolution and was the ruler of France as First Consul (Premier Consul) of the French Republic from November 11, 1799 to May 18, 1804, then as Emperor of the French (Empereur des... Captain is a nautical term, an organizational title, and a rank in various uniformed organizations. ... A blockade is any effort to prevent supplies, troops, information or aid from reaching an opposing force. ... Chiang Kai-sheks Légion dhonneur. ... July 18 is the 199th day (200th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with 166 days remaining. ...

In January 1814, Surcouf was made a colonel in the National Guard of Saint-Malo. However, he took no part in the Hundred Days as a chief of Legion. After the war, he returned to Saint-Malo, rich and with the title of baron, and became a merchant ship-owner, establishing business with Terre-Neuve, the Caribbean, Africa and the Indian Ocean. The Hundred Days (French Cent-Jours) or the Waterloo Campaign commonly refers to the period between 20 March 1815, the date on which Napoleon Bonaparte arrived in Paris after his return from Elba, and 8 July 1815, the date of the restoration of King Louis XVIII. The phrase Cent jours... Baron is a specific title of nobility or a more generic feudal qualification. ... Newfoundland (French: Terre-Neuve; Irish: Talamh an Éisc; Latin: Terra Nova) is a large island off the north-east coast of North America, and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. ... “West Indian” redirects here. ... A world map showing the continent of Africa Africa is the worlds second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. ...

In 1817, he fought against twelve Prussian officers with a cue stick because they had insulted an old man in a bar; he managed to hold them long enough to challenge them all to duels. He subsequently defeated eleven of the officers, one by one, leaving the last and youngest alive "to tell the tale". A cue stick or simply cue, is an item of sporting equipment essential to the games of billiards, pool and snooker. ...

He died on 8 July 1827, and was carried to his grave by sea on a flotilla of over 50 sailboats. July 8 is the 189th day of the year (190th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

Robert Surcouf has few living descendants who include his Great Grand daughters Solange Surcouf and Evelyne Surcouf. Solange Surcouf had two sons Armel d'Aste-Surcouf (residing in France) and Ronan d'Aste-Surcouf (deceased). Armel d'Aste-Surcouf has a daughter, Vittoria d'Aste-Surcouf who currently resides in the United States.

Evelyne Marie Surcouf whom had two sons, Robert V. Surcouf and Eric Surcouf. Robert V. Surcouf has a daughter, Erin Surcouf and Eric Surcouf has a daughter, Tessa Surcouf, all of whom currently reside in the United States.


In 1804, Surcouf went into business as ship-owner, and equipped 14 privateers in the Indian Ocean (among them his brother Nicolas Surcouf and his cousin Joseph Potier). Their achievements, however, were somewhat less impressive than Surcouf's own: four of the corsairs were captured by British warships, and 5 campaigns turned a deficit.

Captain of the Revenant

In 1807, a British vessel captured Nicolas Surcouf. On 2 March, Surcouf returned to sea on a specially-built three-mast, the 20-gun Revenant. Le Revenant was constructed under special directives by Surcouf himself, with a completely coppered hull, and a remarkable (for the time) top speed of 12 knots. March 2 is the 61st day of the year (62nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

Surcouf arrived at Isle de France in June, defeating the British blockade and capturing several ships on the journey. During the subsequent campaign, which was to be his last, Surcouf captured 16 British ships, partly because British ships tended to lower their flag as soon as they identified their opponent. He returned to Isle de France in February 1808 . He then decided to stay on the island, leaving the campaign to his second-in-command (and cousin) Joseph Potier. In two campaigns, the latter captured about 20 ships, including the large 34-gun Portuguese Conceçao.

The governor of Isle de France, General Charles Decaen, seized the Revenant for the defence of the island. After a heated argument with Decaen, Surcouf acquired the frigate La Sémillante, renamed it Le Charles, and sailed it back to France. In the meantime, Decaen had confiscated all Surcouf's possessions in the Indian Ocean. In October 1808, the Revenant (renamed Iena), was captured by a British warship and renamed Victor. She would be re-taken two years later by the frigate Bellone, under captain Duperré and kept the Victor name.

On 4 February 1809, Le Charles arrived in France with an 8-million franc cargo. Surcouf was received by Napoleon and made Baron d'Empire, and his possessions were returned to him. February 4 is the 35th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ...

In August 1810, Surcouf's Revenant took part in the Battle of Grand Port in Isle de France (Mauritius). It was to be Bonaparte's only naval victory over the British and inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The British came back a few months later with an overwhelming force and took over the island. Combatants France Great Britain Commanders Guy-Victor Duperré Jacques Félix Emmanuel Hamelin Sir Samuel Pym Strength 5 ships 4 ships Casualties some ships damaged 2 ships lost (HMS Sirius, HMS Magicienne) 2 captured (HMS Néréide, HMS Iphigenia The naval Battle of Grand Port took place on 20...

Captain of the Renard

In 1812, the corsair launched his last ship, Le Renard. She was a single-mast, 70-tonne cutter, with 10 carronades and 4 canons, crewed by 46 men. On 9 September beginning at five o'clock and lasting through the night, Le Renard successfully engaged the British vessel Alphea. She was armed with 16 cannons, and over 80 elite British sailors. Combat was intense and bloody until at three o'clock in the morning, when the Alphea took two direct hits from Le Renard to (presumably) the powder magazine, which caused the ship to explode. There were no reported survivors; Surcouf returned to France with only 13 able-bodied men. An American-looking gaff cutter with a genoa jib set This French yawl has a gaff topsail set. ... 24-pounder carronade (140 mm) 68-pounder British naval carronade The carronade was a short smoothbore, cast iron cannon, developed for the Royal Navy by the Carron Company, an ironworks in Falkirk, Scotland, UK used from the 1770s to the 1860s. ... September 9 is the 252nd day of the year (253rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...


As a privateer, Surcouf used tactics to compensate being out-gunned by larger British ships: he would use small, fast ships to make the huge ships think he was either too little of a threat to consider firing at, a vessel on the verge of sinking or a fishing vessel. Even if the ships did fire at him, his ships were often too fast for the British behemoths to bead. Below deck, elite marines waited until the order was given to board. When the men sprung forth, the British ship cannons could not depress enough to fire directly on the French ship.


  • Discussing with a British officer:
"You French fight for money, while we British fight for honour."
"A man fights for what he lacks the most!"
  • On spotting the much more powerful Kent:
"The reward will only be fatter!"
  • Construction of his grand terrace at his residence.
Through Surcouf's actions he brought incredible wealth to St. Malo. It was said that Napoleon
himself borrowed from the city's treasury to pay for his campaigns. Surcouf naturally had
amassed a great deal of wealth in his escapades and wanted to make a terrace out of coins. He
went to the Emperor himself and requested permission. Of course all currency had Napoleon's
face on it and he disapproved of people treading over his visage. The great corsaire then
clarified his plan with;

"No my lord, they will not be treading upon your face."

The large terrace was constructed with the coins stacked and then laid sideways so that the
thin edge acted as the surface on which people walked.


  • The phrase "A man fights for what he lacks the most!" is spoken by "Captain Red" in Roman Polanski's film Pirates.
  • The manoeuvre consisting in setting up a decoy a night by planting a lantern on a small boat was executed by Surcouf to successfully escape the British frigate HMS Sybille. In Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, a British ship (ironically enough) escapes a French privateer using this same trick.
  • Surcouf happened to be a descendant of Duguay-Trouin on the side of his mother.
  • See French ship Surcouf for ships name in the honour of Surcouf

Roman Polanski (born Raymond Liebling, August 18, 1933 in Paris) is an Academy Award-winning Franco-Polish film director, writer, actor and producer. ... Pirates is an adventure/comedy film written by Gérard Brach, John Brownjohn, and Roman Polanski. ... Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a 2003 film directed by Peter Weir and starring Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey, with Paul Bettany as Stephen Maturin. ... René Trouin, Sieur du Gué, usually called Réné Duguay-Trouin, (Saint Malo, 10 June 1673 -- 1736) was a famous French privateer, Lieutenant-Général des armées navales du roi (admiral) and Commander in the Order of Saint-Louis. ... Five ships of the French Navy have been named in honour of the 19th century privateer Robert Surcouf: A mixed propeller 531-ton dispatch boat (1858–1885) A 1850-ton steam-powered cruiser (1889–1921) The famous 3300-ton World War II submarine Surcouf (1929–1942) A T47-type fleet...

External links

  • Robert Surcouf (in French)
  • Robert Surcouf (in French)

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