Abraham Duquesne - Encyclopedia

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ABRAHAM DUQUESNE, MARQUIS (1610-1688), French naval officer, was born at Dieppe in 1610. Born in a stirring seaport, the son of a distinguished naval officer, he naturally adopted the profession of a sailor. He spent his youth in the merchant service, and obtained his first distinction in naval warfare by the capture of the island of Lerins from the Spaniards in May 1637. About the same time his father was killed in an engagement with the Spaniards, and the news raised his hatred of the national enemy to the pitch of a personal and bitter animosity. For the next five years he sought every opportunity of inflicting defeat and humiliation on the Spanish navy, and he distinguished himself by his bravery in the engagement at Guetaria (1638), the expedition to Corunna (1639), and in battles at Tarragona (1641), Barcelona (1643), and the Cabo de Gata.

The French navy being left unemployed during the minority of Louis XIV., Duquesne obtained leave to offer his services to the king of Sweden, who gave him a commission as vice-admiral in 1643. In this capacity he defeated the Danish fleet near Gothenburg and thus raised the siege of the city. The Danes returned to the struggle with increased forces under the command of King Christian in person, but they were again defeated - their admiral being killed and his ship taken. Peace having been concluded between Sweden and Denmark in 1645, Duquesne returned to France. The revolt at Bordeaux, supported as it was by material aid from Spain, gave him the opportunity of at once serving his country and gratifying his long-cherished hatred of the Spaniards. In 1650 he fitted out at his own expense a squadron with which he blockaded the mouth of the Gironde, and compelled the city to surrender. For this service he was promoted in rank, and received a gift of the castle and isle of Indre, near Nantes. Peace with Spain was concluded in 1659, and for some years afterwards Duquesne was occupied in endeavours to suppress piracy in the Mediterranean. On the revolt of Messina from Spain, he was sent to support the insurgents, and had to encounter the united fleets of Spain and Holland under the command of the celebrated Admiral de Ruyter. After several battles, in which the advantage was generally on the side of the French, a decisive engagement took place near Catania, on the 20th of April 1676, when the Dutch fleet was totally routed and de Ruyter mortally wounded. The greater part of the defeated fleet was afterwards burned in the harbour of Palermo, where it had taken refuge, and the French thus secured the undisputed command of the Mediterranean. For this important service Duquesne received a letter of thanks from Louis XIV., together with the title of marquis and the estate of Bouchet. His last achievements were the bombardment of Algiers (1682-1683), in order to effect the deliverance of the Christian captives, and the bombardment of Genoa in 1684. He retired from service in 1684, on the ground of age and ill-health. It is probable also that he foresaw the revocation of the edict of Nantes, which took place in the following year. He died in Paris on the 2nd of February 1688.

See Jal, Abraham Duquesne, et la marine de son temps (1873).

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