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La Ville de Paris

Nominal Guns90BWAS-1714
NationalityRoyaume de France
OperatorMarine Royale
Keel Laid Down1757NNF-1715
First Commissioned5.1764BWAS-1714
How acquiredPurpose builtBWAS-1714
ShipyardRochefort Dockyard - Rochefort BWAS-1714
François-Guillaume Clairain des LauriersFrench
Naval Sailor
Ship Builder
Service 1738-1768
CategorySecond RateBWAS-1714
National RatePremier RangBWAS-1714
Ship TypeShip of the LineBWAS-1714
Sailing RigShip RiggedBWAS-1714


DimensionMeasurementTypeMetric EquivalentBWAS-1714
Length of Gundeck185' 7 ½"Imperial Feet56.4007 
Length of Keel153' 0"Imperial Feet46.6344 
Breadth53' 8 ½"Imperial Feet16.1671 
Depth in Hold22' 2"Imperial Feet6.731 
Burthen2,347 5294Tons BM 
DimensionMeasurementTypeMetric EquivalentNNF-1715
Length of Gundeck177' 0"French Feet (Pied du Roi)57.4896 (188′ 7″ Imperial)
Length of Keel144' 0"French Feet (Pied du Roi)46.7712 (153′ 5″ Imperial)
Breadth48' 6"French Feet (Pied du Roi)15.6107 (51′ 2″ Imperial)
Depth in Hold23' 0"French Feet (Pied du Roi)7.4704 (24′ 6″ Imperial)


1764Broadside Weight = 1092 French Livre (1178.4864 lbs 534.534 kg)NNF-1715
Lower Gun Deck30 French 36-Pounder
Middle Gun Deck32 French 24-Pounder
Upper Gun Deck28 French 12-Pounder

1779Broadside Weight = 1146 French Livre (1236.7632 lbs 560.967 kg)FWAS1626
Lower Gun Deck30 French 36-Pounder
Middle Gun Deck32 French 24-Pounder
Upper Gun Deck32 French 12-Pounder
Quarterdeck4 French 6-Pounder
Forecastle6 French 6-Pounder

Crew Complement

Date# of MenNotesSource
5.17641,0966 officers, 1090 menNNF-1715

4 Ship Commanders

1778Chef d'Escadre
Charles - Henri Hector d'EstaingFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1759-1793
1779Capitaine de Vaisseau
François-Pierre Huon de KermadecFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1744-1756
1781Capitaine de Pavillon
Antoine Cresp de Saint-CézaireFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1781
1781 - 12.4.1782Capitaine de VaisseauE-WIKI

3 Flag Officers

1778Chef d'EscadreE-WIKI22.3.1781 - 19.4.1782Lieutenant-Général des Armées Navales
François-Joseph Paul de Grasse (Seigneur de Tilly)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1722-1788
5.1781 - 12.4.1782Capitaine de Vaisseau, Major d'Escadre
Pierre-René-Marie de Vaugiraud (Comte de Rosnay)French
Naval Sailor
Service 1755-1809

4 Commissioned Officers

13.5.1764 - 20.6.1764Lieutenant de Vaisseauref:17231780Lieutenant de Vaisseau
Guy Pierre de CoëtnemprenFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1778-1812
1780 - 12.4.1782Lieutenant de Vaisseau
Gérard Louis de BrachFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1757-1786
, rank ?? not listed
1781 - 1782Lieutenant de Vaisseau
Jean-Louis de Trédern de LezerecFrench
Naval Sailor
Service 1757-1790

2 Warrant Officers

1781Enseigne de Vaisseauref:6311781 - 3.1782Enseigne de Vaisseau, no month endref:673

Service History

27.7.17781st Battle of Ushant
1779Refitted as a 104 gun First RateFWAS1626
29.4.1781Battle of Fort Royal
5.9.1781Battle of the Chesapeake
25.1.1782Battle of Saint Kitts
12.4.1782Battle of the Saintes


Previous comments on this page

Posted by F.F. on Tuesday 24th of January 2023 18:11

Here is how William Clowes (The Royal Navy, A History from the Earliest Times to the Present, volume III, 1898, pp. 335, 415, and 496) depicts the Ville-de-Paris:
«104 guns
Lenght of Gun Deck 185' 7½"
Lenght of Keel 153'
Beam 53' 8½"
Depth [of hold] 22' 2"
Burthen in Tons 2347 [more accurately: 2347.56]
Where, and by whom Built *Taken from the French.»
In 1778 (off Ushant):
«Ville de Paris. | 100 | Comte de Guichen (chef d’esc.).»
In 1782:
«The Ville de Paris, to which Troude attributes 104 guns. She was considered the biggest and finest ship of her day.»

In 1782, the Ville-de-Paris (2348 tons burthen, a displacement some 3900 or 4000t) was for sure larger than the largest British ship (the Victory, 2162 tons burthen, a displacement of some 3500 or 3600t—cf. The Royal Navy, p. 335). Yet she was far from being the biggest ship in the world. Whereas the fourth Royal-Louis (116 guns, some 2700 tons burthen, and a displacement of maybe some 4900t) had already been dismantled, several French 110-gun three-deckers (the Bretagne, the Majestueux, the Royal-Louis [the fifth one], the Invincible and the Terrible, all from 2525 to 2610 tons burthen, and from nearly 4600t to over 4700t) and two Spanish three deckers (the Santísima Trinidad, then measuring some 2300 tons in burthen, and the 112-gun Purísima Concepción, 2457 tons burthen, both from 4500 to over 4700t) were far larger. Even a few two-deckers were almost as large as she was, or a bit larger than her (the French 80-gun ships the Saint-Esprit, the Languedoc, the Couronne, the Auguste and the Triomphant).

The reason why she compared in size to the late French 80-gun line-of-battle ships is in the circumstances in which she was built. François-Guillaume Clairin-Deslauriers designed the Impétueux as a 80-gun two-decker. He had already designed one, the Duc-de-Bourgogne, launched in 1751 and bearing 18-pounders on her upper deck. The Impétueux, built in Rochefort, was larger, having to bear 24-pounders on that deck, just as any of the new French ships of 80. But the French State after the defeats endured in 1759 had to rely on donators, the two main ones being the states of Brittany and the town of Paris, having each given one million francs or livres (£ 46,750), enough to build a three-decker, which the donators wanted to be done, because of the prestige attached to such ships. Although reluctant to have three-deckers, the French Navy agreed. The Bretagne [Brittany], the second largest ship in the world (2545 tons burthen) after the Royal-Louis, 116, was then ordered, drawn, built and launched. And Clairin-Deslauriers broadened the Impétueux, the new name of which being the Ville-de-Paris [town of Paris], to make her bearing her guns high and her sails well, despite having one deck added. He couldn't increase her depth, for want of water depth in Rochefort. Thus the proportions and the carene shape of the Ville-de-Paris were unusual, her lenght-to-beam ratio being a rather low one, and her hull having a flattened bottom. Launched in 1764, she was considered as a powerful and thick-sided man-of-war, carrying a good sail, and her guns well out of water, but, unlike most of Clairin-Deslauriers' ships, not a fine sailer, and, in fact, a leewardly ship.

She had 90 or 92 guns when launched, and received up to 104 guns a couple of years before her end.

Her part in the unconclusive fight off Ushant, on July, the 27ᵗʰ, 1778, is famous in French naval history, for there her leewardlyness put her in a dangerous place. Here is a piece of popular literature about her fight on that day (Jules Lecomte, Combat d'Ouessant. 1778. In: La France maritime, tome 2, 1837, pp. 218-219):
«That line-of-battle ship, flat-bottomed in her midship-frame, having slightly drifted from the line, the Foudroyant cut her off windward, and came on one side shelling her, whereas on the other one the Victory, which three batteries carried one hundred guns, opened [the fire of] crushing broadsides onto her; in that dreadful situation, the Ville de Paris, far from ceasing fire under that hail of cannon-balls, of bullets and of grap-shot, which hurricane crossed itself and swirled on her, replied on both sides which such a vigour to that double attack, that both assaillants, almost disabled, after a half-hour of action, were compelled to give up the fight.»
(«Ce vaisseau d'un gabari[t] aplati des fonds, ayant légèrement dérivé de la ligne, le Foudroyant le coupa au vent, et vint le canonner d'un bord, tandis que de l'autre la Victoire, dont les trois batteries portaient cent canons, ouvrait sur lui ses écrasantes bordées; dans cette position terrible, la Ville de Paris, loin de cesser son feu sous cette grêle de boulets, de balles et de mitrailles dont l'ouragan se croisait et tourbillonnait sur elle, répondit des deux bords avec tant d'énergie à cette double attaque, que les deux assaillan[t]s, presque désemparés, après une demi-heure d'action, furent forcés de renoncer au combat.»)

Off Ushant, according to John Charnock (Biographia Navalis, volume V, 1797, pp. 325, 339 and 342), together the Foudroyant (under John Jervis; 1979 tons burthen, 80 gun two-decker, taken from the French in 1758; killed: 5; wound: 18) and the Victory (Keppel's flagship; 2162 tons burthen, 100-gun three-decker, launched in 1765; killed: 11; wound: 24) lost a bit more than ⅑ of the losses supported by the 30 British ships of the line during the whole battle (killed: 133; wound: 373). Keppel said that, after that battle, « The Victory herſelf was not in condition to tack », « her damages were conſiderable », and that « The Victory never went more than two knots, was under her double reefed top-ſails and fore-ſails, much ſhattered ».

In 1782, the leewardliness of the Ville-de-Paris was to endanger her once more, but the manœuvre of other French men-of-wae, following their flagship to help her, had no other consequence than adding their own surrender to hers.

Why did Clowes write that the Ville de Paris, then the smallest three-decker existing in both the French and Spanish Navy, and a leewardly ship, «was considered the biggest and finest ship of her day?» The most likely answer is a confusion between the Ville-de-Paris, taken in 1782 and then the largest ship ever on the British Navy's lists, and the Commerce-de-Marseille, taken in 1793, and then the largest ship ever seen in a British port—for dozens of years. And in fact, just as her two sister-ships then afloat, the largest ship in the world, and a very fine sailer.

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