Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte

Last updated
Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte
Toussaint-Guillaume, comte de La Motte-Piquet (1720-1791).jpg
Portrait of La Motte-Piquet by Jean-Pierre Franque
Born(1720-07-01)1 July 1720
Rennes, France
Died10 June 1791(1791-06-10) (aged 70)
Brest, France
AllegianceRoyal Standard of the King of France.svg  Kingdom of France
Service/branchFlag of the Kingdom of France (1814-1830).svg  French Navy
Years of service1735-1787
Rank Lieutenant général des armées navales
Commands held
Awards Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Louis

Count Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte [Note 1] , also known as La Motte-Picquet (born 1 November 1720 in Rennes; died 10 June 1791 in Brest) was a French Navy officer and admiral. Over a career spanning 50 years, he served under Louis XV and Louis XVI and took part in 34 campaigns. [1] He fought in the Seven Years' War and in the Naval battles of the American Revolutionary War, earning the ranks of Commandeur in the Order of Saint Louis in 1780, and of Grand Cross in 1784. He died during the French Revolution.



Early life

La Motte-Picquet joined the Gardes de la Marine in Brest on 11 July 1735, [2] then aged 15. Two years later, he served on the frigate Vénus in a campaign against the Barbary corsairs of Salé. [3] On 1 january 1743, he rose to sous-brigadier des gardes de la marine, and then to aide d'artillerie on 10 December, after serving in two campaigns in the English Channel and off Ireland [4] on Mercure, under Dubois de La Motte, in a squadron under comte de Roquefeuil [2] .

In January 1745 , after nine campaigns off Morrocco, in the Baltic Sea and in the Carribean, [2] he transfered on the frigate Renommée, under Captain Guy François de Kersaint [3] . On 6 February 1745, Renommée departed Brest to fery despatches to Louisbourg, then blockaded by the British. [2] Taking advantage of the fog and the ice that hindered the British cruisers, the frigate managed to anchor at Baie des Castors, where she still had to fight off several smaller British ships.

On 16 June 1746, on her third trip from Canada, Renommée met a British squadron under Admiral George Anson. [3] In the ensuing battle, Kersaint was gravely wounded and La Motte-Picquet took command, managing to escape to Port-Louis. La Motte-Picquet himself had his cheek cut away by a cannonball. [5]

On 24 February 1784, La Motte-Picquet departed Brest as first officer on the 24-gun frigate Cumberland , under Captain Mézédern, bound for Ile de France and Ile Bourbon. After calling A Coruña, Cumberland encountered a British 36-gun frigate, leading to an inconclusive battle where she lost 25 killed or wounded. After a 122-day travel, Cumberland reached Bourbon, and then Ile de France. From there, she departed for a cruise off India on 20 October 1748. [6] .

Peace being restored in October 1748 with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, La Motte-Picquet cruised in the Carribean, in the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. In 1754, he rose to the rank of Lieutenant de Vaisseau.

Seven Years' War

In 1755, La Motte-Picquet earned his first command. In October 1756, he was made a Knight in the Order of Saint-Louis. [5]

In 1757, La Motte-Picquet was part of the staff of the 74-gun Diadème, under Captain Rosily-Méros, part of the squadron under Dubois de La Motte tasked to challenge the British off Québec. In 1758, he fought off Fort de Portzic in Brest Roads, and had to report his actions before the Secretary of State for the Navy Arnouville. [Note 2] .

In 1760, he was on convoy escort duty between Brest and Rochefort. In 1762, he was promoted to Captain and appointed to Diadème.

After the Peace of Paris in 1763, La Motte-Picquet served in squadrons under Admiral d'Orvilliers and Duchaffaut. In September 1763, he was given command of the 32-gun frigate Malicieuse to undertake a 6-month cruise off Canada. [7]

In the next years, he conducted several raids against the Barbary corsairs of Salé. In 1772, commanding the 16-gun corvette Cerf-Volant, [8] he distinguished himself in a training squadron under Orvilliers. [9]

In 1776, he was given command of the 64-gun ship of the line Solitaire, with Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans as a notable participant.

American Revolutionary War

1898 painting by Edward Moran, depicting Robuste firing her nine-gun salute for the US flag on USS Ranger. First Recognition of the American Flag by a Foreign Government.jpg
1898 painting by Edward Moran, depicting Robuste firing her nine-gun salute for the US flag on USS Ranger.

In June 1777, Lamotte-Picquet commanded the 74-gun Robuste. [10] On 14 February 1778, he fired a nine-gun salute for USS Ranger, marking the first time a foreign warship recognised the US flag. [11]

In 1778, as a Squadron Commander, he took part in the Battle of Ouessant on the Saint-Esprit, and then cruised the English seas. During one month, he captured thirteen ships.

During the American Revolutionary War, Picquet de la Motte distinguished himself as a member of Admiral d'Estaing's squadron in Martinique, during the Battle of Grenada, and the Siege of Savannah.

The 1779 "Combat de la Martinique", by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy. Battle martinique 1779 img 9388.jpg
The 1779 "Combat de la Martinique", by Auguste-Louis de Rossel de Cercy.

On 18 December 1779, he attacked a British squadron under the command of Admiral Hyde Parker that was attempting to blockade a French convoy off Martinique; in the ensuing Battle of Martinique, La Motte-Picquet so impressed Hyde Parker that he sent him a letter of congratulation:

The conduct of your Excellency in the affair of the 18th of this month fully justifies the reputation which you enjoy among us, and I assure you that I could not witness without envy the skill you showed on that occasion. Our enmity is transient, depending upon our masters; but your merit has stamped upon my heart the greatest admiration for yourself. [12]

In 1781, as commander of a nine-vessel squadron that included three frigates, Picquet de la Motte intercepted the fleet of Admiral Rodney en route from St. Eustatius which the British had captured in February 1781. Picquet de la Motte captured 26 British ships, along with Rodney's plunder in the amount of 5 million sterling. Soon afterwards he was promoted to Lieutenant General of the Naval Armies.


After fifty-two years of service and severe attacks of gout in his later years, La Motte-Piquet died on 11 June 1791 in Brest, aged 70. He was buried in the local graveyard.


Burst of Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte by Isidore-Hippolyte Brion, on display at the Musee National de la Marine. Lamotte-Picquet mg 6968-gradient.jpg
Burst of Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte by Isidore-Hippolyte Brion, on display at the Musée National de la Marine.

Five ships of the French Navy have been named La Motte-Picquet in his honour, the most recent being the F70-Type frigate Lamotte-Picquet, still in service as of 2020.

There is a street in the 7th arrondissement of Paris named after him, l'Avenue de la Motte-Picquet. The Paris metro station La Motte-Picquet – Grenelle is located on the avenue, on the border of the 7th and 15th arrondissements of Paris.

See also

Notes and References

Related Research Articles

Louis Thomas Villaret de Joyeuse French admiral

Louis-Thomas Villaret de Joyeuse was a French admiral.

Jean-Baptiste Perrée French admiral

Jean-Baptiste Perrée was a French Navy officer and Rear-admiral.

French ship <i>Redoutable</i> (1791) French 74-gun ship of the line, notable for her role in the battle of Trafalgar

The Redoutable was a Téméraire class 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy. She took part in the battles of the French Revolutionary Wars in the Brest squadron, served in the Caribbean in 1803, and duelled with HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar, killing Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson during the action. She sank in the storm that followed the battle.

Louis-René Levassor de Latouche Tréville French naval commander

Louis-René Madelaine Le Vassor, comte de La Touche-Tréville was a French Vice-admiral. He fought in the American War of Independence and became a prominent figure of the French Revolutionary Wars and of the Napoleonic wars.

Jean-Marthe-Adrien lHermite French admiral

Jean-Marthe-Adrien L'Hermite was a French sea captain and rear admiral, notable for his involvement in the Glorious First of June and his expedition into the Atlantic in 1805.

Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume French admiral

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

Pierre-Alexandre-Laurent Forfait French engineer, hydrographer and Minister of the Navy

Pierre-Alexandre-Laurent Forfait was a French engineer, hydrographer and politician, and Minister of the Navy.

Jean-Baptiste Philibert Willaumez French admiral

Jean-Baptiste Philibert Willaumez was a French sailor, Navy officer, and admiral of the First French Empire.

Pierre Jean Van Stabel French admiral

Pierre Jean Van Stabel was a French naval officer and rear-admiral, famous for his role in the Bataille du 13 prairial an 2.

French ship <i>Saint-Esprit</i> (1765)

The Saint-Esprit was an 80-gun ship of the line of the French Navy, lead ship of her class. She was funded by a don des vaisseaux donation from the Order of the Holy Spirit, and named in its honour.

Jean François Renaudin French admiral

Jean François Renaudin was a French Navy officer and Rear-Admiral. He is mostly known for captaining the Vengeur du Peuple at the Third Battle of Ushant.

Pierre François Étienne Bouvet de Maisonneuve French Navy officer and privateer

Pierre-François-Henri-Étienne Bouvet de Maisonneuve was a French Navy officer and privateer.

Jean-François Tartu was a French Navy officer, and hero of the French Revolution.

Action of 28 June 1803 marked the opening shots of the Blockade of Saint-Domingue

The Action of 28 June 1803 marked the opening shots of the Blockade of Saint-Domingue after the collapse of the Treaty of Amiens and the outbreak of the War of the Third Coalition in May 1803.

Louis-Jean-Nicolas Lejoille French Navy officer

Louis-Jean-Nicolas Lejoille was a French Navy officer and captain.

Christophe-Paulin de La Poix de Fréminville French officer, scientist, archeologist and writer

Christophe-Paulin de La Poix, chevalier de Fréminville was a French Navy Commander, naturalist, and archeologist.

Andromaque was a 32-gun Nymphe-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.

Théobald-René, Comte de Kergariou-Locmaria was a French Navy officer and Royalist émigré.

Cumberland was a 24-gun frigate of the French Navy, originally the East Indiaman Duke of Cumberland.


  1. Vergé-Franceschi, p. 830
  2. 1 2 3 4 Levot, p. 127
  3. 1 2 3 Hennequin, p.361
  4. Levot, p. 280
  5. 1 2 Hennequin, p. 362
  6. Levot, p. 128
  7. Hennequin, p.363
  8. Roche, p. 105
  9. ( Taillemite 2002 , p. 296-297).
  10. Roche, vol.1, p.384
  11. "Centre d'études stratégiques de la Marine - CESM". Retrieved 2020-02-15.
  12. pp.129-130 Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence by Alfred T. Mahan (1912)


  1. In the 18th century, spelling could vary and the name is sometimes spelt "Piquet" and "La Mothe"
  2. Lettre du 9 août 1758, au Ministre de la marine : "Il serait bien facheux pour moy, après 24 ans de services, dans lesquels je n'ay jamais donné la moindre prise sur ma conduite, qu'une occasion… qui, j'ose le dire, me fait honneur… vous laissât quelques mauvaises impressions sur mon compte …"