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Jean II d'Estrées, (Soleure (Switzerland) 1624 - Paris May 19, 1707), was a Marshal of France, and an important naval commander of Louis XIV.

Jean d'Estrées was born in a noble family from Picardie. His aunt was Gabrielle d'Estrée, lover of King Henry IV of France.


In the Army

Like his father François Annibal d'Estrées, also Marshal of France, Jean pursued a military career from a very young age. He became a colonel at 23, a maréchal de camp at 25 and a lieutenant general at 33.

He fought in the Battle of Lens (1648) under the grand Condé. After that he fought under Turenne in Lorraine in 1652 - 1653 and then in Flanders. He was made prisoner at Valenciennes in 1656.

He was loyal to the Royal family during the Fronde.

In the Navy

In 1668 he joined the new French Navy on demand of his friend Colbert. There his patron was the Duke de Beaufort. He rose through the ranks very fast, thanks to the influence of his family name, becoming Marshal of France in 1681. This wasn't justified, as D'Estrées had no naval experience and furthermore he had a detestable character which alienated his subordinates.

His first campaign was in the Caribbean, where he would come back four times more, becoming the French naval specialist in the region.

During the Franco-Dutch War, he was put in command of the French fleet which would fight alongside the English fleet against the Dutch. He participated on board the Saint Philippe in the Battle of Solebay in 1672 and the next year on the la Reine, in the Battle of Schooneveld and the Battle of Texel.

None of these battles were won and he was blamed for his hesitant attitude.

In 1676 and 1677, he succeeded in conquering Gorée, Cayenne and Tobago, destroying the Dutch fleet based there.

Las Aves Disaster

These successes were overshadowed by the disaster of the Las Aves Archipelago where his entire fleet of 17 ships was sunk.

In 1678, Admiral d'Estrées and his fleet of 17 vessels, including several hired buccaneers, was dispatched on a mission to conquer the Dutch-occupied islands of Bonaire and Curacao. d'Estrées' fleet past the Los Roques Archipelago towards Bonaire. A small fleet of Dutch boats, seeking to defend themselves from the French attack, set sail from Curacao destined for Las Aves. Once assembled on the archipelago, the Dutch maneuvered their ships into the heart of Las Aves' lagoon. As night fell, lanterns were lit. Simulating the lights of a town, the Dutch sailors hoped to convince the French that they had reached Bonaire. In so doing, they could attract the French galleons onto the reef. The Admiral headed his flagship, the 70-gun le Terrible - straight for the trap and directly towards the coral reef, against the advice of his subordinates, who suspected the danger. By the time the breakers were spotted, it was too late. Le Terrible couldn't avoid the reef. d’Estrées fired guns to warn off the rest of the fleet, but the crews of the other ships thought he was under attack by the Dutch and rushed to his aid. One by one, the rest of the vessels in the fleet struck the reef and sank. 500 sailors drowned.

This error of navigation is unique in maritime history, but the nephew of Gabrielle d'Estrées was untouchable. Louis XIV and Seignelay kept giving him their confidence.

Between 1685 and 1688, he fought in the Mediterranean Sea against the North-Africans, bombarding Tripoli and Algiers.

He died in Paris in 1707. Together with Tourville, he can be considered as the most important Admiral of Louis XIV.

His son Victor Marie d'Estrées also made a career in the Navy and became Marshal of France.




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