“The Founding of Lorient” by S.M. O’Connor

People have lived in the region of Lorient for at least 3,000 years, but the village seaport of Lorient as such was founded as a company town in 1675 by the Compagnie Français des Indes Orientales (French Company of East India, commonly referred to in the English language as the French East India Company or French East Indies Company), hence the name.  [The French East India Company was the equivalent to the (British) East India Company, which undermined the Mughal Empire and laid the foundation for the British Empire of India.]  On September 1, 1664, Louis XIV (1638-1715), King of France and Navarre (1643-1715), gave royal charters for two companies that would have monopolies on French trade with distant place: the (French) East India Company and the (French) West Indies Company.[1]  It is not true that his advisor, Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683), Controller-General of Finances (1665-1683) and Secretary of State for the Navy (1668-1683), founded the Compagnie des Indes Orientales as Philippe Barbour stated in the travel guidebook Brittany,[2] but Colbert did issue propaganda on behalf of both of these companies.[3]  [He also reformed the taxes and tariffs, built up the French Royal Navy, and promoted colonization of New France.[4]]  In 1666, by royal decree, Louis XIV gave land at Port-Louis for the headquarters of the East India Company.  Lorient began as a subsidiary port of Port-Louis.  The directors of the East India Company lived in Port-Louis while the workers lived in huts in the southern section of Lorient.  As the 18th Century progressed, Lorient evolved from a company town to a fortress-city where the French Royal Navy built warships.  The population remained small but it became increasingly important to the point that Louis XVI exchanged another fief for the lordship of Lorient so he would have complete control of the city government without having to use one of his vassals as an intermediary.  The name Lorient is not example of Breton Gaelic.  Rather it is a corruption of the French phrase L’Orient, as in “the Orient.”

Port-Tudy, the port of St.-Tudy, the largest community on the sparely populated island of Groix, has been in operation since the 10th Century.  The community is named after Saint Tudinus – also known as Saint Tegwin, Saint Thego, and Saint Tudy – a Breton saint who founded monasteries in the Breton départment of Finistère and Cornwall.[5] [The Fifth Republic of France is a unitary state, which means provincial and municipal governments only have legal powers delegated by the central government.  Brittany and other provinces are called administrative regions.  The French Revolutionaries subdivided the Ancien Régime[6] provinces (which were mainly duchies with a few principalities and some large counties that were not inside duchies for good measure) into départments that were named after geographical features like mountains and rivers.  The départment of Morbihan, of which Lorient and Groix are a part, was named after Mor bihan, which is Breton for “little sea,” the little sea in question being the Golfe du Morbihan.[7]  Today, the departments fill roughly the role in French political life that counties do in the U.S.A.  They are above the communes (municipalities) such as Lorient and Groix and below the administrative regions.]  Before members of the House of Rohan acquired the whole island of Groix in 1384, it was divided into two estates: Primiture (the eastern side of the island) and Piwisi (the western side of the island).[8]  The men of the island were seamen who frequently left the island as fishermen or as sailors in the French Royal Navy, while their womenfolk farmed the land.[9]

The Kerentrech neighborhood of Lorient began as a village on a bank of the Scorff River called Ker an trec’h (village of ford) that overlooked a place to ford the Scorff River (much as Rockford, Illinois would later be so named because it was founded at a convenient place to ford the Rock River).  By far the oldest building in Lorient, the Gothic-style La chapelle Saint-Christophe (The Chapel of St. Christopher Chapel), was built in the 15th Century at the behest of the Princes of Guéméné, a cadet branch of the House of Rohan. This princely family resided at Tréfaven Castle, which is also on the Scorff River.  [From pictures I have seen, this appears to be a castle keep rather than a full castle with a curtain wall.]  It is likely that all of the things in Lorient named after the Rohans were named after this cadet branch of the House of Rohan rather than the main line.  For most of its existence, this church building was just a chapel but from 1792 (during the French Revolution) until Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle (Our Lady of Good News) opened in 1854, it was a parish church.  The building was restored in 1936 and again in 1956.

In the early 17th Century, Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis (1585-1642), 1st Duke of Richelieu persuaded Louis XIII (1601-1643), King of France and Navarre (1610-1643), that what is now called the Rade de Lorient (Bay of Lorient) was strategically important and should be defended with a fortress, which was built by Spaniards (during a time when Spain was allied to the Catholic League during the French Wars of Religion).[10]  Don Juan del Aquila landed at the River Blavet with 10,000 men, built Port-Blavet, and stayed there for eight years.[11]  According to Barbour, Port-Louis was named in honor of King Louis XIII.[12]   However, according to the Archives of Lorient, in 1618, Port-Blavet was renamed Port-Louis (in full Saint-Louis de Lorient, which would mean it was named after King Louis IX, the only king of France to be a canonized saint).[13]  In 1640, the Compagnie de Madagascar was present in Port-Louis.  In 1653, the Franciscan community of St. Catherine moved to Port-Louis.  After Louis XIV gave a charter to the Compagnie Français des Indes Orientales, Port-Louis became its base of operations.[14]

Louis XIV’s land grant included the moors of Faouëdic (sometimes spelt Féandik), the peninsula on the right bank of the Scorff River, in front of the promontory that separates the Scorff River from the Blavet River.  The hill of Faouëdic, sometimes referred to as the “mountain” of Faouëdic, protected the town from harsh winds. The Company of East India erected a windmill on the hill for a Company-owned bakery in 1677.

In 1667, locals referred to the company as “the Oriental,” as indicated by the baptismal record of Pierre Guissard.  His mother was Marie Charière and his father was Germain Guissard, who worked at “the Oriental,” according to the baptismal register.  The first large ship built at Port-Louis was the 1,000-ton Sun of the Orient, built by the Dutch shipwright Anton Looman, which departed Port-Louis on March 6, 1671.  Pierre-Louis Phélypeaux (1643-1727), Comte de Ponchartrain (Count of Ponchartrain), had barracks and quays (also known as wharves) built at Port-Louis, in 1672.[15]  On January 11, 1675, a director of the East India Company, David Grenier, gave a contract for the construction of a stone chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph in the Enclos du Port of Port-Louis.  It was forty-four feet long, twenty feet wide, and eighteen feet tall and was in use from 1675 to 1835.  The architect was Jean-Louis Trouillard.  This same architect also designed the Récollects chapel in Port-Louis.

In the late 17th Century, the Dutch and British attacked Groix several times to disrupt trade.[16]  Around the middle of the 18th Century, the French military finally built fortifications to protect the island.[17]

Someone realized the marshland on the other side of the Blavet River from Port-Louis could be developed into a larger port than Port-Louis, and L’Orient came into being.[18]  By 1698, Port-Louis operations at Port-Louis had grown sufficiently that Pierre-Louis Phélypeaux’s son, Jérôme Phélypeaux de Ponchartrain (1674-1747), Comte de Ponchartrain, requested that palisades be erected between the shipyards of the French Crown and the shipyards of the French East India Company.  Spices, tea, silks, lacquer, porcelain, and ebony flowed into France through Lorient, enriching the French East India Company and ship-owners.  On March 1, 1699, plans by an engineer named Traverse for a royal arsenal and a city at Lorient were dispatched to Louis XIV.  [In English, an arsenal, also known an armory, is a place where arms or made.  In the French maritime context, an arsenal is a shipyard where shipwrights build warships.]  A little over two months later, on May 20th, Ponchartrain, who by then had succeeded his father as Secretary of State of the Navy and Secretary of State of the Maison du Roi (Royal Household), sent word that the Sun King gave his consent for the plans to be implemented.

Lorient was safer to use during the Franco-Dutch War (1672-1678) than Le Havre (which the English call New Haven) in Normandy.  The Company also transferred offices from Port-Louis to Lorient.  French privateers from Saint-Malo also used the seaport.  In 1690, the French Royal Navy built a naval base at Lorient at the behest of Colbert’s son, Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1651-1690), Marquis de Seignelay (1683-1690), the Secretary of the Navy (1683-1690).  Meanwhile workshops were built at Port-Louis to maintain squadrons of French warships.  By December 31, 1700, Lorient had 3,000 inhabitants. On January 30, 1706, Louis XIV ordered that two warships under construction at Lorient, be named the Redoubtable and the Bourbon.  Redoubtable was to be armed with somewhere between sixty and seventy guns and the Bourbon was to be armed with fifty guns.  On May 1, 1707, Director of Fortifications Isaac Robelin (1631-1709) and engineer Pierre de Langlade presented their Plan of Lorient, but it was often ignored by builders.  On January 1, 1705, Louis XIV made the Sieur de Rodon (Lord of Rodon) inspector of French Royal Navy food at Lorient and Port-Louis.  On January 1, 1706, Louis XIV named Sieur Monnier Harbor Master of Lorient and Port-Louis.

In the first half of the 18th Century, Lorient transformed from a village with thatched roof buildings into a walled city with stone buildings and paved roads.  On August 27, 1702, Poierre Dondel, Lord of Faouëdic, donated for the good of the people who lived both inside and outside the fortress land and stones for the construction of a parish at Ploemeur, including a church, a presbytery (which American Catholics would call a rectory),[19] and a cemetery, provided that the road to the Faouëdic mill was repaired.  The structural work of the new church was completed in August of 1704.  On December 28, 1704, the parish priest, Thomas Murphy, buried Jacques Tilly, a worker in the port who became the first person to be buried in the cemetery.  On March 19, 1705, a priest celebrated Mass at the Saint-Louis church in Ploemeur for the first time.  On March 29, 1705, registers for baptisms (also known as christenings), weddings, and funerals opened.  However, the new church would not be completed for over a century due to lack of funds. Over the night of December 29th/30th, 1705, a hurricane tore the roof and the ceiling off the church nave and destroyed many houses. In June of 1707, the nave and choir of the church were repaired, but they remained in the open air.  The rectory had yet to be built.

In 1704, the Commissioner and Provost of the French Royal Navy, Jean Le Vasseur Sieur de Merville, built a house at Merville outside Lorient.  That same year, Charles de Clairabault became the resident officer of the French East India Company in Lorient.  He represented the interests of the French East India Company in Lorient and represented Lorient to the French Crown.  On November 10, 1705, François-Louis Rousselet (1637-1716), Marquis de Châteaurenault, Marshal of France and Governor of Brittany, approved the plan for the defense of Lorient drafted by engineer Isaac Robelin.  On January 1, 1707, the Prince of Guémené gained the right to have everyone who baked bread in the whole parish of Ploemeur, and especially in Lorient, who did not have a right to use the ovens owned by the French Crown or the French East India Company, to use his oven on the rue Traversière (Street Flute or as we would say, Flute Street).  However, the Prince of Guémené never exercised this right.  On March 20, 1708, Robelin traced the line of the city’s future ramparts.

On February 18, 1709, Fraçois d’Argouges, Bishop of Vannes,[20] created a new parish, Saint-Louis de Lorient.  Again, this would be a reference to Saint Louis IX. He used boundaries from a report issued on March 20, 1708, which left people in the suburbs of Lorient in the parish of Ploemeur.  On March 1, 1709, Bishop d’Argouges confirmed by letters patent, in the name of Louis XIV, that the curé (curate, the parish priest)[21] would have an annual salary of 600 livres.

On May 1, 1709, a weekly market was created in Lorient.  On August 12, 1707, a complaint was brought against the miller of Lorient that he was mixing sand with flour.  Between 1709 and 1730, the population of Lorient surged from 6,000 residents to 14,000 residents.  In November of 1710, the Prince of Guémené authorized the establishment of a jurisdiction in Lorient, completely detached from the old law-court of La Roche-moisan, entrusted to the magistrates of Pont-Scorff.  On January 11, 1711, the Parliament of Brittany registered letters patent for this new Lorient jurisdiction. In 1711, Lorient gained a fire brigade.

On the night of October 19th/20th, 1710, Giuseppe Grapallo, a Genoese sailor broke into a church in Lorient to steal two monstrances, which French Catholics call ciboriums, and hid them in the marshes of Kergroise (Village of the Cross).  He was soon captured and tried on December 5, 1710.  On January 23, 2011, Giuseppe Grappalo was sentenced to be burnt alive for his sacrilegious crime.  He appealed. The missing ciboriums were recovered.  He was hanged and his body was burnt on February 5, 1711.  On February 11, 1711, Grappalo was cremated and his ashes were dispersed at Esprémesnil (above the Bôve).  The curé of Saint-Louis Parish, Le Livec, asked the Bishop of Vannes to have a cross erected where the ciboriums had been buried. By order of Louis XIV, an expiatory monument was built on the site where the ciboriums had been buried.  On February 25, 1711, Pontchartrain dispatched to Claiambault the Latin and French inscriptions for the monument prepared by the Academy of Sciences.  A third copper plate with a Breton inscription was later added to the monument.  On February 27, 1711, the Cross of Truth at La Perrière in Colin was raised on land that belonged to the Oratorian community at Nantes.  Called the Cross of Truth and the Cross of La Perrière, it is pyramidal in shape, with slight curves, and is surmounted by a cross.  On November 5, 1711, Fr. Le Livec resigned as curé of Saint-Louis Parish, citing “reasons of health and extraordinary expenses for the poor.”

On June 12, 1713, the judges of the new Pont-Scorff jurisdiction presided over their first hearing in a room provided by Jean Le Vasseur Sieur de Merville, Provost of the French Royal Navy, because the Prince of Guémené did not provide premises.  On July 8, 1713, Jean Le Vasseur Sieur de Merville refused to provide the judges with access to the same room, and they had to prevail upon master surgeon Antoine Gourgeard de la Fontaine to accommodate them until the Prince of Guémené provided them with a building on the rue de l’Hôpital (Street of the Hospital, or as we would say, Hospital Street, which is now Jules Le Grand Street).

Fires were a frequent problem in the early history of Lorient. On February 24, 1714, fire consumed twenty-five houses or huts inside the ramparts.  On March 7, 1714, Louis XIV accepted Pierre Langlade’s proposal that erection of houses not of masonry construction be prohibited.  Thenceforth, new houses would have to align with the Plan of Lorient, be of masonry construction, and have slates and tiles.  On July 24, 1715, L’Aimable, a seventy-four-gun ship, burnt in the port of the French East India Company.

In 1719, there were 204 huts within the ramparts on the site of the Hotel Grabriel and Place d’Armes.  The Company erected a second mill on the hill of Faouëdic to make bread and sea biscuits which were consumed in great quantities by port workers and sailors.

The Compagnie des Indes absorbed the Compagnie Français des Indes Orientales, and all other such chartered trading companies, in 1719, with the result that it had a monopoly on French colonial trade with Asia, Africa, and the Americas, but this company lasted for less than two years.[22]  This organization is identified as the Compagnie Perpétuelle des Indes (Perpetual Company of India) in some sources, including Barbour.[23]  On June 17, 1719, the King’s Council of State created the Perpetual Company of India.  On June 28, 1719, the French Royal Navy departed Lorient for Port-Louis, where it had a reduced presence.

Barbour recounted, “The more ambitious and successful Compagnie des Indes exercised sovereignty over its trading posts, dispensing justice, minting coinage, and making treaties.  It also saw to the colonization of the Ile de France and the Ile de Bourbon (now Mauritius and La Réunion.).”[24]

On January 2, 1720, at an assembly of Saint-Louis parishioners, Edouard de Rigby, knight of the Military Order of Saint-Louis and Saint-Pierre de Rome, Captain of the King, and General Manager of the New East India Company at Lorient, asked for the funds to complete construction of the Saint-Louis parish church.  In 1720, the second curé of Saint-Louis Parish, Jean Vincent died.  He was replaced by Fr. François Cohalan, who held the office until his death on October 28, 1760.

Legally, on January 31, 1720, the Perpetual Company of India received the old Royal Arsenal and stores of the old French East India Company.  As a practical matter, on February 10, 1720, M. de Rigby received from Clairambault all of the buildings of the French Royal Navy, the port, the stores, and the keys to Tréfaven Castle, which had served as a munitions depot since 1700.  On June 2, 1720, an expedition of colonists departed for Louisiana.

The Perpetual Company was entangled in the monetary plots of John Law (1671-1729), a Scottish economist in the employ of the French Crown who advocated the Mississippi scheme for French colonization of North America, and fell apart in the French financial downturn of 1720.[25]  Reorganized as the Compagnie Français des Indes (French Company of India or French Company of the East Indies), it lasted from 1720 to 1789.[26]

On October 1, 1721, a royal decree issued in the name of Louis XV (1710-1774), King of France and Navarre (1715-1774), created a Lorient port guard constituted by a 100-man infantry company.  In 1724, the new East India Company planted a botanical garden so Lorient would be less dependent on outside sources for medicinal plants.  Just as the British East India Company had a private army, the French East India Company had a private company.  In 1727, Louis XV declared that deserters from the French East India Company would be treated the same way as deserters from the French Royal Army.

On April 10, 1728, the Prince of Guémené took possession of the former house of M. de Rigby, who had been Director of Law’s East India Company, to serve as a law-court.  M. de Rigby had spent time in the Bastille and died in the East in 1723.

In 1728, Jeanne-Claire Droneau (1704-1782), whose father was a Lorient alderman and French East India Company cashier, founded the House of Mercy. This was a congregation of laywomen who tended to the poor.  On May 23, 1731, the Congregational Church opened on rue de Bretagne (Brittany Street), which is now rue de Port (Port Street).  For most of this Protestant church’s existence, if not all of it, the preachers were Welsh Calvinist Methodists.[27]  Welsh is so close to Breton that a Welsh-speaking person can quickly learn to speak, read, and write Breton.[28]  This church was closed by 1882.[29]

In 1731, Jeanne-Claire Droneau acquired the property of Hôpital de la Misericorde (Mercy Hospital).  In 1740, she gave the hospital to the municipal government, but she was director until 1758, when a chaplain succeeded her.  Mercy Hospital was renamed Hôtel-Dieu (Hostel of God).  A chapel was added.  Only people with no income could go there.  The townsfolk wanted a full-blown hospital, but the King’s Council of State would only authorize a hospice.  By 1759, the hospital was cramped and the municipal government purchased adjacent land and houses to build additions.  Three years later, Mercy Hospital had a laboratory, room for 260 patients, and a staff that included two surgeons, a chaplain, and seven sisters.  This was Lorient’s hospital until Bodélio Hospital opened in 1906.

According to Barbour, between 1720 and 1790, the East India Company dispatched 156 ships from Lorient that transported approximately 43,000 slaves across the Atlantic, about one-tenth as many slave ships as left Nantes.[30]  In 1732, the French East India Company transferred its sales headquarters from the Breton capital city of Nantes to Lorient.  New buildings were designed by the French architect Jacques Gabriel (1667-1742), father of King Louis XV’s favorite architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel (1698-1742). From 1734 onward, merchants would come directly to Lorient every October to purchase porcelain, cotton, silk, etc.

In 1735, the engineer Thomas Dumains drafted the second Plan of Lorient, an intramural plan (within the city walls) for the alignment of streets and proposed fortifications that would enclose Lorient on the side exposed to land invasion.  Gervais Guillois, principal contractor and Louis Saint-Pierre, East India Company architect and municipal engineer, completed the second Plan of Lorient.  On May 3, 1735, the King’s Council of State ordered that in the future the inhabitants of Lorient would have to construct buildings in accordance with the second Plan of Lorient.

Slums were demolished.  A parade ground was built for troops.  A watchtower, built in 1737, dominated the town.  The East India Company built sales pavilions from 1740 to 1742.

On September 12, 1736, Étienne Pérault received the appointment as the first mayor of Lorient.  He would hold this office until he resigned on May 11, 1762.  On December 29, 1736, Mayor Étienne Pérault was sworn in to office, as were Laurens André de Montigny as the Crown Prosecutor, and Michel Droneau as Clerk, before Charles Bréart de Boisanger, the Seneschal of Hennebont. A few days later, on January 3, 1737, all the townsfolk witnessed Boisanger install Pérault, de Montigny, and Droneau in office.  Nearly a full year later, on January 1, 1738, innkeeper François Bobot became the first postmaster of Lorient.  In June of 1738, Louis XV gave Lorient a city charter. On August 11, 1738, the Parliament of Brittany registered the Royal Charter of Lorient.  Lorient annexed one of its suburbs, the village of Carnel.  That same year, Lorient hosted the largest trade fair in Europe.  In 1740, the Steward of Brittany authorized Lorient to borrow money to finance improvement of the docks.

In 1744, construction of city walls began and the city gained a coat of arms.  The fortress-city of Lorient had a perimeter of thirty-one hectares.  The first trading docks were also built at Faouëdic were also built at this time.  On the 6th and 7th of October of 1746, an English force commanded by Admiral Richard Lestock raided the town during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) in order to disrupt French trade in the Indies.  The two-day-long siege resulted in the deaths of five men and one woman, and in ten other people being wounded.  Just as Lorient was on the brink of capitulation, the English force broke off the attack.  Later in October, a silver icon of the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Victory was sculpted.  The Intendent of Brittany approved a religious procession on December 2, 1746, and the Bishop of Vannes gave his consent on February 23, 1747.  The first Our Lady of Victory procession took place on October 8, 1747.

On January 22, 1748, Louis the Strat, a bomber in the employ of the East India Company, and François Bremon, a gunsmith, may have become the first murder victims in Lorient.  They were both murdered by rifle fire around nine o’clock at night, but at different places in the city.

On October 18, 1749, lawyer who sat in the Parliament of Brittany, Pierre Kerlero de Kersily, received an appointment as seneschal of Lorient.  As such, he was representative of the Prince of Guémené, and had to reside in Lorient.  In 1751, a lightning strike caused a fire that destroyed the watchtower, so it had to be rebuilt.

As a result of the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), the British gained control of New France in North America; the French colony on Gorée, which is an island off the coast of modern Senegal; and the French colonies or outposts in India. Spain lost Florida to Great Britain.  However, the French Bourbons ceded Louisiana to the Spanish Bourbons to keep it out of British hands and the British restored two colonies seized in the war – Cuba and the Philippines – to Spain.  Desire for revenge prompted the Bourbon kings of France and Spain to back thirteen breakaway British colonies in North America in their war for independence.  The loss of so many colonies and trading posts had devastating consequences for the French Crown and French East India Company.  On June 5, 1755, Joseph-François Dupleix (1697-1763), former Governor-General of French India, and his wife, arrived in Lorient, along with ten domestic slaves, one Black maid, and her two children.  They had fled Pondicherry, the French East India Company’s capital on the Indian Subcontinent, on October 10, 1754.  On December 26, 1757, a group of fifteen French East India Company soldiers attacked passers-by with bayonets for no apparent reason. One victim, carpenter Charles Le Mocaer, died outside Saint-Louis Church.  On January 11, 1764, Emmanuel-Armand de Vignerot du Plessis-Richelieu (1720-1788), duc d’Aiguillon (1750-1788), Governor of Brittany (1753-1770) visited Lorient to make note of changes he felt the city needed.  On August 24, 1765, the Prince of Guémené yielded two banks of the Fouëdic to Lorient.  The quay (also known as a wharf) of Aiguillon was built in 1766.  On August 13, 1769, the French East India Company lost its monopoly on French trade with the East Indies, due to the influence of the physiocrats.[31]  The East India Company went bankrupt in 1769.  Lorient evolved from a company town into an industrial and military city.  On April 1, 1769, Lorient acquired a police department.

The collapse of the company was a severe blow to the city’s fortunes, but in 1770 the French Crown acquired the company’s infrastructure to build a larger naval base and arsenal.  The French Crown compelled the French East India Company to transfer its assets to the Crown in return for the Crown paying off the Company’s debts. On April 4, 1770, Louis XV ordered Bernard de Cluny, Intendant of the Navy at Brest, to go to Lorient.  There, he would receive from East India Company representative Monsieur de la Vigne-Buisson, ownership of Port Lorient and the East India Company ships in it, and associated buildings and artillery pieces.  On April 26, 1770, Lorient became a naval port again.  The French Royal Navy took possession of Tréfaven Castle and the island of Saint-Michel.

On June 4, 1770, a rhinoceros arrived in Lorient aboard the ship Duke of Praslin.  The animal had been acquired for Louis XV’s royal menagerie in 1769 by Chevalier, Governor of Chandernagor.  The animal had to wait in Lorient for two-and-a-half months while an ox cart was prepared.  Not coincidentally, François Marie Bruno D’agay, Intendent of Brittany, visited Lorient on June 11, 1770.  The rhino finally arrived at Versailles on September 11, 1770.  An elephant bound for the royal menagerie at Versailles arrived at Lorient on December 14, 1772.  Acquired by the East India Company for Louis XV, he remained at Lorient until July 21, 1773.

On December 18, 1773, Mayor Michel Ferrand departed Lorient to visit the Paris headquarters of the East India Company, and never returned.  He died there on March 1, 1774.  François Esnoul Deschâteles was installed as the new mayor on August 18, 1774.

In 1775, the streets of Lorient’s suburbs began to be paved.  On July 15, 1775, the municipal government won approval to borrow money for construction of wharves, a reservoir, and fountains.  On January 3, 1777, the King’s Council of State authorized Lorient to sell property that had been a gift from the Prince de Guéméné on April 24, 1763, land on which New Town and the quays of the commercial port were built.  On May 17, 1777, a reception was held in Lorient to honor Charles Philippe de Bourbon (1757-1836), Count of Artois, the grandson of the late Louis XV and younger brother of Louis XVI (1754-1793), King of France and Navarre (1774-1793).  No one could know it then, but in a few years, French society would be racked by upheaval.  The French Revolution would entail the regicide of his brother, the murder of his sister-in-law, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) and the death in prison of his nephew, Prince Louis-Charles (1785-1795),[32] as well as the deaths of over 900 Swiss guards and additional servants and male courtiers.  After the First Republic of France (married by the September Massacres and the Reign of Terror), and rise and fall of the First French Empire under Napoleon I, and the reign of another brother, Louis XVIII (1755-1824), as King of France (1814-1824), Charles would rule France briefly as Charles X from 1824 to 1830.  On December 11, 1777, Lorient honored the Prince de Rohan and Prince de Guémené.  On March 11, 1778, the Duke of Lauzun sold the property of his barony Châtel in Brittany, which included Lorient, to Henri Louis Marie de Rohan, Prince of Guémené. On April 7, 1778, Prince Jules de Rohan paid 30,000 livres to have a slip built named after himself.  On April 19, 1779, the Duke of Lauzun arrived in Lorient from North America.

At the request of Claire Droneau, a chapel was added to the Hôtel-Dieu in 1771.  In 1774, for the second time in a century, a lightning strike caused a fire that consumed the watchtower.  Two years later, a new watchtower was built with a lightning rod.  It was designed by architect Philippe Guillois.  Watchmen were able to see approaching ships and also keep an eye out for smugglers at the island of Groix.  A naval dockyard was built in 1778.

French privateers active during the American War of Independence used the seaport as well.  In the 1770s, the Royal Arsenal de Lorient was one of four arsenals capable of building ships of the line for the French Royal Navy.  In 1782, Guillois designed a new chapel for Hôtel-Dieu.  It had a limestone façade on a granite base with a large oculus and a pediment with denticles.  It looked more like an ancient Rome temple and a Roman Catholic church.

On January 17, 1782, Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier (1757-1834), Marquis de La Fayette (1759-1834), and Louis Marc (1756-1804), Viscount de Noailles, arrived from Boston.  They landed aboard the Alliance, a thirty-six-gun frigate, which was the flagship of Continental Navy, commanded by Captain John Barry (1745-1803), the Father of the American Navy.  On June 28, 1783, the King’s Council of State created a department in Lorient to service packet ships that went back and forth between Lorient and New York City to convey mail between the Kingdom of France and the fledgling United States.  On May 14, 1784, the King’s Council of State set aside a free port at Lorient for American products.  On June 30, 1784, the Marquis de La Fayette departed Lorient aboard The New York Courier at the invitation of General George Washington (1732-1794), Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, and arrived in New York City on August 4, 1784.

On March 11, 1786, the Parliament of Brittany asked Lorient to take measures to help the poorest people in town because of the drought of 1785 that had impacted Brittany.  That same year, on August 24, 1786, Lorient became a royal domain. King Louis XVI gave the Principality of Dombes to the Prince of Guémené in return for the lordship of Lorient (which included the right to appoint judges there).  On December 17, 1786, the transatlantic mail line shifted from Lorient to Le Havre, Normandy which is closer to Paris.


[1] Victor-Lucien Tapié, “Jean-Baptiste Colbert,” in Encyclopædia Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Baptiste-Colbert) Accessed 05/23/18

[2] Barbour, p. 347

[3] Victor-Lucien Tapié, “Jean-Baptiste Colbert,” in Encyclopædia Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Baptiste-Colbert) Accessed 05/23/18

[4] Victor-Lucien Tapié, “Jean-Baptiste Colbert,” in Encyclopædia Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Baptiste-Colbert) Accessed 05/23/18

[5] Philippe Barbour, Brittany. Updated by Robert Harneis.  London: Cadogan Guides (1998, 2000, 2005), p. 350

[6] The French Revolutionaries referred to the old order before the French Revolution (1789-1799), that is to say the socio-political regime and society of the Kingdoms of France and Navarre under the House of Valois and House of Bourbon, as the Ancien Regime, if not French society across the whole of French history, from the time the Franks conquered Gaul until 1789: the Frankish kingdoms under the Merovingians and the Carolingians, and France under the Capetians, the House of Valois, and the House of Bourbon.

[7] Philippe Barbour, Brittany. Updated by Robert Harneis.  London: Cadogan Guides (1998, 2000, 2005), p. 341

[8] Barbour,  p. 350

[9] Barbour, p. 350

[10] Barbour, p. 346

[11] René Estienne, “Harbor Enclosure History,” Archives of Lorient

[12] Barbour, p. 346

[13] Yes, this is the same Saint Louis for whom the city of St. Louis, Missouri, and its suburb of East St. Louis, Illinois are named.  San Luis Obispo in California is also named after Saint Louis IX.

[14] Barbour, p. 346

[15] Pierre-Louis Phélypeaux was Controller-General of Finances, Secretary of State of the Navy, and Secretary of State of the Miason du Roi (the Royal Household).  Louis XIV rewarded him with three separate titles of nobility.  In 1667, Louis Phélypeaux became Marquis de Phélypeaux, in 1687 he became Comte de Maurepas, and in 1699 he became Comte de Pontchartrain.

[16] Barbour, p. 350

[17] Barbour, p. 350

[18] Barbour, p. 346

[19] In the U.S.A., the Protestant equivalent of a rectory is called a parsonage.

[20] Vannes is a city in the départment of Morbihan that is over 2,000 years old.  Its name is derived from the Veneti, a seafaring Celtic tribe whom Julius Caesar conquered.  The Cathédrale Saint-Pierre de Vannes (Cathedral of Saint Peter of Vannes), also known as Vannes Cathedral, is the mother church of the diocese.  Due to additions and remodeling projects, it is amalgamation of Romanesque, Gothic, and Gothic Revival (also known as neo-Gothic) styles.  Isabella of Scotland, also known as Isabel Stewart, is buried there.  A Scottish princess, she was the daughter of King James I of Scotland, the sister of King James II of Scotland, and consort of Fransez I (known to the French as François I), Duke of Brittany.

[21] American Catholics would call the chief priest or sole priest in a parish the pastor, much as many Protestant denominations call the chief clergyman or sole clergyman the pastor.  Another word for the parish priest (or chief priest if he has assistants) is rector.  Hence, the use of the word rectory for the official residence of a parish priest.

[22] “French East India Company.” Encyclopædia Britannica

(https://www.britannica.com/topic/French-East-India-Company) Accessed 05/24/18

[23] Barbour, p. 348

[24] Barbour, p. 348

[25] “French East India Company.” Encyclopædia Britannica

(https://www.britannica.com/topic/French-East-India-Company) Accessed 05/24/18

[26] “French East India Company.” Encyclopædia Britannica

(https://www.britannica.com/topic/French-East-India-Company) Accessed 05/24/18

[27] The Seventy-eighth Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society. London: Spottiswoode & Company (1882), p. 23

[28] Ibid

[29] Ibid

[30] Barbour, p. 347

[31] “French East India Company.” Encyclopædia Britannica

(https://www.britannica.com/topic/French-East-India-Company) Accessed 05/24/18

[32] Conservatives reckoned him to be King Louis XVII from the moment his father died until his own death.

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