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Queers in History: Pierre André de Suffren de Saint Tropez (July 17, 1729 – December 8, 1788)

Pierre-André de Suffren de Saint Tropez has been called the greatest French naval commander of the eighteenth century. In 1778 and 1779 he commanded part of the squadron supporting the US patriots off the coast of North America and in the West Indies. He led the line in the action with Admiral John Byron off Grenada, and his ship, the Fantasque, lost sixty-two men.

In 1780 he was captain of Zèle, in the combined French and Spanish fleets that captured a great English convoy in the Atlantic. He sailed from Brest on March 22, 1781, on the mission that was to put him in the first rank of sea commanders. On April 16 he found the English expedition, under the command of Commodore George Johnstone, at anchor in Porto Praya, Cape Verde Islands. Both squadrons were en route to the Cape of Good Hope—the British to take it from the Dutch, the French aiming to help defend it and French possessions in the Indian Ocean. Suffren attacked at once, in what became known as the Battle of Porto Praya. Some of the French ships weren’t ready for action, so Suffren had to withdraw, but nevertheless it was a French victory, as Suffren was able to beat Johnstone to the Cape and warn the Dutch before continuing to Mauritius.

Suffren was well known for the loving attention he gave to the sailors under his command, including special provisions for food and medical care. His men returned the affection. The Admiral was always surrounded by handsome young sailors, known as “Suffren’s mignons.” He encouraged same-sex unions on board his ships and enjoyed matching up older sailors with younger ones, declaring that “men married to each other will behave the best in combat. They will help each other. They are always in good spirits.” His ideas harkened back to the Greek ideal of unit cohesion exemplified in the famous “Army of Lovers” led by EPAMINONDAS.

Stern, Keith (2009-09-01). Queers in History: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Historical Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals (Kindle Locations 11431-11445). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

Further Readings:

Admiral Satan: The Life and Campaigns of Suffren, Scourge of the Royal Navy by Roderick Cavaliero
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: I. B. Tauris (June 15, 1994)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 185043686X
ISBN-13: 978-1850436867
Amazon: Admiral Satan: The Life and Campaigns of Suffren, Scourge of the Royal Navy

Nelson admired him. Marie-Antoinette counted him among France's national heroes. The exiled Napoleon sighed for what might have been had his own navy been commanded by someone of like calibre. His lascar sailors feared him as much as they admired him, and nicknamed him 'Admiral Satan'. In an age of remarkable characters, Pierre-Andre de Suffren Saint Tropez, the Bailli de Suffren, was one of the most remarkable: eccentric, irascible, slovenly, gluttonous, possessed of furious energy and lust for battle. He was also the most daring, innovative tactician in France's pre-revolutionary navy." "Suffren began his naval career in the service of the Knights of Malta, protecting the Order's shipping against the corsairs of the Barbary coast. Then began the long, slow climb through the ranks of the pre-revolutionary French navy, during which he saw action in the West Indies, ran the blockade during the American war of independence, and was twice taken prisoner by the British, whom he hated ever after." "When at last he achieved independent command, this hatred fuelled his determination to beat the British in the Indian Ocean. At stake was France's alliance with Haidar Ali, the shrewd and battle-scarred Nawab of Mysore, and hence control of southern India. Suffren brought all his tactical brilliance and radical innovation to bear: his opponent, the indomitable Admiral Sir Edward Hughes, was no less determined, and the resulting campaign was as fierce as it was evenly balanced, ending only with the declaration of peace in 1783. Suffren returned to France, to be feted and feasted by nobility and populace alike. He ended his life there, having acquired honours and avoirdupois in more or less equal measure." "Roderick Cavaliero's is the first English-language biography of this extraordinary man. It is a vivid portrait of an individual and his world, with sharply drawn descriptions of people, places and events - and, of course, the sea battles, with their mingled excitement and danger. Above all, Suffren himself comes to life, with his immense vitality, his volcanic rages, his eccentricities and his matchless understanding of war in his chosen element, the sea.

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Tags: gay classics, leader: pierre andre de suffren de saint, queers in history
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