It is, for sure, one of the largest and most powerful warships of the Baroque. Without a doubt, it is also the most beautiful decorated of the boats of the time, it was sublime. We are talking about the French warship that was part of the Navy of King Louis XIV during the 17th century. We are writing this post to learn about the history of the Soleil Royal, the Gallic ship of the line with 104 guns arranged in a battery on three levels, flagship of Admiral Tourville. The emblem of the ‘Soleil’ had been chosen by the French monarch as his personal symbol.
The history of the Soleil Royal begins with its construction in Brest (France) between 1668 and 1670. Who was in charge of carrying it out? The engineer Laurent Hubac, who takes two years to finish. It is launched in 1669, but unfortunately it lays unused in the port of Brest for years. At first, Soleil Royal does not enters into combat at all.
As we have already mentioned, its decoration is spectacular. The person in charge of this is Antoine Coysevox, a sculptor who creates all the decorations on the ship, including those on the gun embrasures. This plastic artist from the court of Louis XIV is also responsible for the impressive and still existing ornaments of the Palace of Versailles.
SOLEIL ROYAL HISTORY: NINE YEARS’ WAR
The history of the Soleil Royal continues, does not stop. Subsequently, the Soleil Royal is commissioned with 112 guns and 1,200 men on board when the Nine Years’ War in 1688. Also, called War of the Great Alliance, War of the Palatinate and War of the League of Augsburg.
The King decides at first to send all his ships prepared to sail and for battle. However, seeing himself in inferior conditions, he also orders to send the useful ships, even if they are moored to the dock, as is the case of our Soleil Royal. So this vessel departs from the port of Brest on June 22, 1690.
Then, Tourville commands the French ship, a highly respected officer in the Navy. The Soleil Royal remains waiting for a favorable wind to go to the Isle of Wight. There, the English fleet remains anchored after sending two French ships on a reconnaissance mission. On July 10, 1690, the Battle of Béveziers (Beachy Head) broke out with the surprise factor of the French attacking the Anglo-Saxons. After its victory, France seizes control of the English Channel.
The role in history of the Soleil Royal is fundamental as the flagship of the Escadre du Ponant (Squadron of the West) leading the French naval formation on the squad center. It is said that it is a good sailboat, it sails optimally, and its firepower is lethal.
THE FRENCH WARSHIP AT THE BATTLE OF BARFLEUR
Once its naval warfare began, the Soleil Royal became a French war emblem. Now with 104 guns, the French ship leaves the port of Brest on May 12, 1692 leading a fleet with 44 more ships. It may seem that there are many. However, on May 29, the French ships encountered the incredible Anglo-Dutch naval force. 97 powerful warships await the French in the Battle of Barfleur.
The crossfire starts! The Soleil Royal and its companions, being vastly outnumbered, decide to attack the enemies. After an arduous fight, it is forced to flee because of the serious damage suffered. Its crew is depleted by half and can barely sail. For this reason, the Soleil Royal and the ships Triomphant and Admirable are forced to anchor in Cherbourg to be repaired. They cannot reach the port of Brest, further away than the one mentioned.
END OF THE SOLEIL ROYAL AT THE BATTLE OF CHERBOURG
The history of the Soleil Royal ends at the Battle of Cherbourg. While docked at the Pointe du Hommet, the French warship is attacked by 17 ships which it repels with its artillery fire. The problem is that the stern of the ship catches fire and spreads the rest on the ship of the line.
With the help of the population of Cherbourg, only one survivor can be rescued from the around 883 – or even more – crew. The end of the history of the Soleil Royal, it remains near the arsenal of the port. Of course, its legacy continues throughout the seas and world naval history. A detailed 1:40 scale model from 1839 of the hull and sculptures of the Soleil Royal is currently on display at the Musée National de la Marine in Paris.
For our part, from Artesanía Latina, we are pleased to bring you this beautiful and faithful miniature replica in wood at 1:72 scale of the Soleil Royal (22904) that you can build with your own hands. For more in-depth information, there is another post on our blog that talks exclusively about the model. If you are an expert modeller and need a challenge at your level and with such beauty… Our Soleil Royal model is for you!