chapter  4
13 Pages

The French Navy From Louis XV to Napoleon I

What Role, and by What Means?
WithPatrick Villiers

At the outset of the eighteenth century, France found itself with a colonial empire that seemed almost superfluous. Progressively, however, this empire and the essential wealth that it generated came to define the very purpose of the navy which was necessary to protect it. This association was felt as much by ministers of state, as by naval officers, or by merchants of the many ports of the realm. With the Revolution, however, and the near complete disappearance of the French colonial empire, a new vision was required that successive governments failed to provide. Great reconstruction efforts and grand administrative reforms were underfunded and could only mask the lack of any real maritime thinking. As a result, the navy defaulted to a reliance on limited commerce raiding.