French brig Inconstant (1811)

Last updated
Retour de lIle dElbe-Garneray-IMG 2247.jpg
Retour de l'Île d'Elbe, showing Zéphir and Inconstant, by Jean-François Garneray
Flag of France.svg  France
Ordered: 6 April 1809
Builder: Jean-Baptiste Merestier, Leghorn
Laid down: 11 July 1809
Launched: 28 November 1811
General characteristics [1]
Class and type:Sylphe-class brig
Displacement: 190/374 tons (French)
Length: 29.23 m (95.9 ft) (overall); 26.31 m (86.3 ft)
Beam: 8.45 m (27.7 ft)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Brig
  • 1811: 98
  • 1813:100-159 [2]
  • 1814:60 [2]

Inconstant was a Sylphe-class brig, one of 32, launched in 1811 for the French Navy. In 1815, Napoleon used her to escape from exile on Elba. In the 1820s she took part in the war with Spain and later served on the Brazil station. She also served on the French Guiana station. She was broken up at Brest in December 1843.

French Navy Maritime arm of the French Armed Forces

The French Navy, informally "La Royale", is the maritime arm of the French Armed Forces. Dating back to 1624, the French Navy is one of the world's oldest naval forces. It has participated in conflicts around the globe and played a key part in establishing the French colonial empire.

Napoleon 18th/19th-century French monarch, military and political leader

Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.

Elba Mediterranean island near Italy

Elba is a Mediterranean island in Tuscany, Italy, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the coastal town of Piombino, and the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago. It is also part of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park, and the third largest island in Italy, after Sicily and Sardinia. It is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea about 50 kilometres (30 mi) east of the French island of Corsica.



Inconstant was built to plans by Jacques-Noël Sané, with Jean-Baptiste Marestier supervising construction. [2] The contract for her construction was signed with St André in April 1809, but was cancelled on 28 January 1810 when she was only 924ths complete. The Navy then completed Inconstant's construction.

Jacques-Noël Sané French naval engineer

Jacques-Noël Sané was a French naval engineer. He was the conceptor of standardised designs for ships of the line and frigates fielded by the French Navy in the 1780s, which served during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars and in some cases remained in service into the 1860s. Captured ships of his design were commissioned in the Royal Navy and even copied.

Early service

Between 11 November and 29 December 1811 Inconstant was at Livorno, under the command of lieutenant de vaisseau Cornette de Venancourt. [3] then between 27 August and 11 September 1812 she was at Porto Ercole and Portoferraio. [4] She was at Portoferraio on 26 September 1813. [5] On 18 January 1814 she was again at Livorno. [6]

Porto Ercole Frazione in Tuscany, Italy

Porto Ercole is an Italian town located in the municipality of Monte Argentario, in the Province of Grosseto, Tuscany. It is one of the two major towns that form the township, along with Porto Santo Stefano. Its name means "Port Hercules".

Portoferraio Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Portoferraio is a town and comune in the province of Livorno, on the edge of the eponymous harbour of the island of Elba. It is the island's largest city. Because of its terrain, many of its buildings are situated on the slopes of a tiny hill bordered on three sides by the sea.

Napoleon and the Elban Navy

Following the Treaty of Fontainebleau, the victorious allies exiled Emperor Napoleon I to Elba after his forced abdication in 1814. He arrived at Portoferraio on 30 May 1814. He was allowed to keep a personal guard of six hundred men and a small navy.

Treaty of Fontainebleau (1814) 1814 treaty that exiled Napoleon to Elba

The Treaty of Fontainebleau was an agreement established in Fontainebleau, France, on 11 April 1814 between Napoleon I and representatives from the Austrian Empire, Russia and Prussia. The treaty was signed at Paris on 11 April by the plenipotentiaries of both sides and ratified by Napoleon on 13 April. With this treaty, the allies ended Napoleon's rule as emperor of France and sent him into exile on Elba.

Inconstant left Toulon on 24 April 1814 to carry Napoleon from St Tropez to Elba, but at Napoleon's insistence, that task fell to the frigate HMS Undaunted. Still, Inconstant sailed to Elba on 25 May 1814 and three days later she was enrolled in his navy. Her role was to maintain his communications with Leghorn.

HMS <i>Undaunted</i> (1807)

HMS Undaunted was a Lively-class fifth-rate 38-gun sailing frigate of the British Royal Navy, built during the Napoleonic Wars, which conveyed Napoleon to his first exile on the island of Elba in early 1814.

For most of her time with Napoleon, Inconstant was under the command of Lieutenant François-Louis Taillade. [7] She transported Napoleon and 40 troops for the re-occupation and fortification of the islands of Pianosa and Palmaiola. [8] In addition to transporting passengers and mail between Elba and Italy, with her crew augmented by 50 soldiers, she cruised against Barbery pirates. [9] On 6 January 1815 a gale drove Inconstant on shore. She was gotten off, with much difficulty five days later, only to have another storm again drive her ashore, this time causing even more damage. [10] [Note 1] Napoleon temporarily relieved Taillade of command, replacing him with a man named Jean François Chautard. [12] Taillade returned to (shared) command in time for Napoleon's departure from Elba. [13]

Pianosa island in the Tuscan Archipelago, Italy


Palmaiola island

Palmaiola is an islet placed in the middle of Piombino Channel, at 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from Elba and 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) from Piombino; it is part of the comune of Rio Marina and is wholly owned by the State.

On 26 February 1815, Napoleon used Inconstant to escape from exile in Elba. [1] [14] Between 26 February and 1 March 1815 she ferried Napoleon and his generals between Elba and Golfe Juan.

After Napoleon's defeat in the Hundred Days, The French navy reintegrated Inconstant in March 1815. Dryade escorted her to Toulon on 24 May. [1]

Return to French naval service

The French navy rebuilt Inconstant at Toulon between September 1822 and her relaunching on 14 March 1823. [15]

She then took part in the Spanish expedition in 1823, which restored the monarchy in Spain and put an end to the Trienio Liberal. Inconstant notably recaptured the merchantman Nativité, from Marseilles, on 26 June. [15]

Between 7 April 1823 and 26 November, Inconstant was at Toulon, and then sailed on a mission to Brazil. She was under the command of lieutenant de vaisseau Dupetit Thouars. [16]

Inconstant was on the Brazil station from 10 December 1823 to 6 March 1826. [15] In August 1824 Inconstant sailed from Rio de Janeiro to Sâo Salvador and then to Pernambuco, where she took up station. By this time Dupetit Thouars had received promotion to capitaine de frégate. [17] By 2 June 1825 Inconstant was back at Rio de Janeiro. [18]

She returned from Brazil and then was at the École navale (Naval School) from 1827 to 1829. From 1 February 1829 to 9 January 1832 Inconstant was on a cruise that took her from Brest to Newfoundland and Brazil. She then underwent a refit in 1834. [15]

Inconstant left Saint Louis, Senegal on 6 February 1835 for France, ferrying officers of Africain. On 8 December 1835 Inconstant departed Brest, bound for Cayenne. She grounded in the Amazon River on 10 January 1836 but managed to refloat herself. [15]

Inconstant was stationed at French Guiana from 1838 to 1840. [15]


Inconstant was condemned on 17 August 1842. She was broken up in dry dock № 6 at Brest, starting on 4 December 1843. [15]

Notes, citations and references


  1. Inconstant had been painted yellow and grey in 1814, and was repainted in black and white in February 1815 as in Garneray's painting, the "Retour de l'Île d'Elbe". [2] This occurred during her repair and was intended to make her look more like a British brig. [11]


  1. 1 2 3 Winfield and Roberts (2015), p.218.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Demerliac (2004), №866, p.114.
  3. Fonds Marine, p.438.
  4. Fonds Marine, p.461.
  5. Fonds Marine, p.480.
  6. Fonds Marine, p.493.
  7. Gruyer (1906), p.82.
  8. Gruyer (1906), pp.109-11.
  9. Gruer (1906), pp.156-7.
  10. Gruyer (1906), pp.156-7.
  11. Gruyer (1906), p. 217.
  12. Gruyer (1906), pp.197-8.
  13. Gruyer (1906), p.230.
  14. "Postscript". Liverpool Mercury etc (195). Liverpool. 24 March 1815.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Roche (2005), p.253.
  16. Fonds Marine, p.579.
  17. Fonds Marine, p.591.
  18. Fonds Marine, p.607.


Related Research Articles

<i>Océan</i>-class ship of the line

The Océan-class ships of the line were a series of 118-gun three-decker ships of the line of the French Navy, designed by engineer Jacques-Noël Sané. Fifteen were completed from 1788 on, with the last one entering service in 1854; a sixteenth was never completed, and four more were never laid down.

Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume French admiral

Count Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume was a French Navy officer and Vice-admiral.

Antoine-Jean-Marie Thévenard French admiral

Antoine Jean Marie Thévenard was a French politician and vice admiral. He served in the French ruling regimes of Louis XVI, those of the Revolution, Napoleon I and Louis XVIII, and is buried at the Panthéon de Paris. His son Antoine-René Thévenard, capitaine de vaisseau, was killed at the Battle of Aboukir whilst commanding the 74-gun Aquilon.

Perdrix was a corvette of the French Royal Navy, launched in 1784. The British captured her off Antigua in 1795 and she served briefly in the Royal Navy in the West Indies, where she captured a French privateer, before being broken up in 1798.

French frigate <i>Melpomène</i> (1812)

Melpomène was a 44-gun frigate of the French Navy, designed by Sané. She was launched in 1812. In 1815 HMS Rivoli captured her. The Royal Navy never commissioned Melpomène and in 1821 sold her for breaking up.

Créole was a 40-gun frigate of the French Navy, a one-off design by Jacques-Augustin Lamothe. The French Navy loaned her to a privateer in 1797. Later, she served in the Brest squadron, took part in Ganteaume's expeditions of 1801 to Egypt, and was involved in the French acquisition of Santo Domingo and briefly detained Toussaint Louverture before he was brought to France. The 74-gun ships HMS Vanguard and HMS Cumberland captured her Santo Domingo on 30 June 1803. The Royal Navy took her into service but she foundered soon afterwards during an attempt to sail to Britain; her crew were rescued.

French ship <i>Génois</i> (1805)

Génois was a Téméraire class 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy, of the sub-type of Borée and Pluton.

The Hazard was an 18-gun brig of the French Navy, lead ship of her class.

Junon was a 40-gun Minerve class frigate of the French Navy.

The Action of 18 June 1799 was a naval engagement of the French Revolutionary Wars fought off Toulon in the wake of the Mediterranean campaign of 1798. A frigate squadron under Rear-admiral Perrée, returning to Toulon from Syria, met a 30-ship British fleet under Lord Keith. Three ships of the line and two frigates detached from the British squadron, and a 28-hour running battle ensued. When the British ships overhauled them, the French frigates and brigs had no choice but to surrender, given their opponents' overwhelming strength.

Poulette was a French Coquette-class corvette built to a design by Joseph-Marie-Blaise Coulomb and launched in March 1781. She served the French navy until 1793 when the British captured her at Toulon in 1793. She served briefly in the Royal Navy, including at the battle of Genoa in 1795, until she was burned in October 1796 to prevent her falling into French hands.

Principality of Elba

The Principality of Elba was a non-hereditary monarchy established by the Treaty of Fontainebleau of 11 April 1814. It lasted less than a year, and its only head was Napoleon.

The Mouche No. 2-class schooner-avisos were a class of twenty-eight 1-gun dispatch or advice boats of the French Navy, all built between 1808 and 1810. Jean Baudry designed the vessels based on the draught of the Villaret. Baudry may have been the builder on the schooners launched at Bayonne.

Brave, launched at Le Havre in 1793, was the name vessel of a two-vessel class of brig-rigged canonnières, i.e., gun-brigs. The French Navy renamed her Arrogante in May 1795. The Royal Navy captured her on 23 or 24 April 1798. The British Royal Navy took her into service as HMS Arrogante, but renamed her HMS Insolent some four months later. She was sold in June 1818.

The French brig Nisus was a Palinure-class brig of the French Navy, launched in 1805. The Royal Navy captured Nisus at Guadeloupe in 1809. The British took her into service as HMS Guadaloupe, and sold her in November 1814.

French frigate <i>Proserpine</i> (1809)

HMS Proserpine was a 44-gun Amphion-class frigate of the Royal Navy. The French Navy captured her off Toulon about a year after her commissioning and took her into service as Proserpine. She served in various capacities such as a frigate, troopship, hospital ship, and prison hulk until 1865.

Pierre-Henri Philibert

Pierre-Henri Philibert was a French Navy officer.

Colibri was a brig launched in 1802 for the French Navy. Between 14 and 16 August Colibri cruised the Atlantic as she sailed to Cadiz. She was under the command of enseigne de vaisseau Jourdain.

The French ship Généreux was the Portuguese merchantman Ovidor Pereira that Entreprenant captured in 1809. The French navy took her into service as Généreux. In 1814 her name became Loire. She was decommissioned at Brest in July 1838 and struck from the lists in August before being broken up.