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French Galley la Reale de France
1694

La Réale ("the royal") was a galley of the French Navy, and the flagship of the galleys of France under Louis XIV. It was termed an galère extraordinaire, "extraordinary galley" since it had a larger crew than normal fleet galleys. The term Réale, in France, is reserved for the general of the galleys and flies the royal ensign which distinguishes it from the others. This ensign is square in shape and red in colour, with golden fleurs-de-lys.

No large all galley battles were fought after the gigantic clash at Lepanto in 1571, and galleys were mostly used as cruisers or for supporting sailing warships as a rearguard in fleet actions, similar to the duties performed by frigates outside of the Mediterranean. They could assist damaged ships out of the line, but generally only in very calm weather, as was the case at the battle of Malaga in 1704.

The largest galley fleets in the 17th century were operated by the two major Mediterranean powers, France and Spain. France had by the 1650s become the most powerful state in Europe, and expanded its galley forces under the rule of the absolutist "Sun King" Louis XIV. In the 1690s the French Galley Corps reached its all-time peak with more than 50 vessels manned by over 15,000 men and officers.

The Reale de France was 187 feet long with a beam of 35 feet. The ship was manned by 384 oarsman, 45 officers and 110 solders.


 French Galley la Reale de France 1694

The painting Réale Returning to Port is by an unknown artist.

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