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Sergal La Soleil Royale
Length 40" Height 38" Scale 1:77

The legend: Named in honor of the Sun King, Louis XIV, Le Soleil Royal was one of the most powerful ships of her day. As the flagship of the revitalized French Navy brought into being by Minister of Marine jean-Baptiste Colbert, she sumptuously decorated with wooden carvings depicting a variety of motives emblematic of the French monarch. The hull was painted a royal blue highlighted by the wales, strakes, and additional embellishments in gold.

Details of the first decade of Le Soleil Royal's Service are obscure, but after her refit in 1689, she flew the flag of Vice Admiral Anne-Hilarion de Contentin, Comte de Tourville, Admiral of the French fleet. In March 1689 , a French fleet helped James II land in Ireland in the first of several efforts to regain his throne. In July 1690, Tourville led a fleet of seventy ships out of Brest and on July 10, he met a combined English and Dutch force of fifty-seven ships off Beachy Head. Ordered to engage the enemy against a larger fleet, Admiral Arthur Herbert, Lord Torrington lost eight ships while the French lost none in a victory.

On May 20, 1692 Tourville met an Anglo-Dutch fleet of eighty-eight ships off Pointe de Barfleur. Touville prevented his fleet from being encircled by increasing the distance between the ships. In the battle Le Soleil Royal was so badly damaged that Tourville was forced to transfer his flag to Ambiteux the next day. Ten French ships slipped away, but Le Soleil Royal, Admirable, and Conquerant were forced into Cherbourg where they ran aground and were destroyed by English fireships.

The Reality: Soleil Royal (Royal Sun) was a French 104-gun ship of the line, flagship of Admiral Tourville. She was built in Brest between 1668 and 1670 by engineer Laurent Hubac, was launched in 1669, and stayed unused in Brest harbour for years. She was recommissioned with 112 guns and 1200 men when the Nine Years' War broke out in 1688 as the flagship of the escadre du Ponant (squadron of the Ponant). She was said to be a good sailing ship and her decorations were amongst the most beautiful and elaborate of all baroque flagships. The emblem of the "sun" had been chosen by Louis XIV as his personal symbol.

During the night of June2 and 3rd, 1692 after being beached for repairs at the Pointe du Hommet, she was attacked by 17 ships, which she managed to repel with artillery fire. However, a fireship set her stern on fire and the fire soon reached the powder rooms. Although the population of Cherbourg came to rescue, there was only one survivor among the 883 strong crew. The remains of the Soleil Royal now lie buried beneath a parking space next to the Arsenal. Click HERE for more information. Click HERE for more information

Sergal La Soleil Royale