CANVASES, CARATS AND CURIOSITIES

A Rare and Royal Treasure

2 minute read

The great French kings of the Bourbon Dynasty embody the royal notions of extravagance and absolute power unlike any others that came before them. These legendary monarchs evoke strength, stability and the ideals of the Enlightenment – as well as the gilt and grandeur of the Rococo style. It was the age of legends, the glittering, lavish reigns of these well-known rulers.  The grand era was epitomized by the reign of King Louis XIV, also known as the “Sun King”, who personified the idea of the absolute monarch. To his successor and great-grandson, Louis XV – or Louis the Beloved – he passed a legacy of personality and power unlike any seen before.

This exceptionally rare silver gilt sword was presented by the French King Louis XIV to Alain Porée, Captain of the Corsairs, for his role in defending Saint-Malo against the English in 1693.

This exceptionally rare silver gilt sword was presented by the French King Louis XIV to Alain Porée, Captain of the Corsairs, for his role in defending Saint-Malo against the English in 1693.

It was more than just opulence that defined these monarchs. Both of their reigns were marked by internal and foreign affairs that strengthened the monarchy and vastly changed the character and temperament of the state of France.  Often times, these kings utilized privateers, or corsairs, to succeed in their foreign campaigns and conflicts.

The guard of this sword, adorned on one side with the King’s portrait and the other with the visage of Porée, illustrates the regard in which Louis XIV held his faithful subject.

The guard of this sword, adorned on one side with the King’s portrait and the other with the visage of Porée, illustrates the regard in which Louis XIV held his faithful subject.

The traditional role of the French corsair has largely been forgotten, replaced with fantastical stories of pirates capturing their booty. Yet, the practice of hiring privateers in the fight for naval domination extends back to the 13th century.  It was in the 15th century that the practice was adopted in France, and the occupation was thus dubbed a “corsair.” While piracy was illegal, these corsairs were at the hand of the French monarchs. Acting like a private contractor, they were granted an individual license, a Letter of Marque, by the French monarch to attack enemies, granting them permission to raid enemy ships and keep a percentage of the spoils. In short, the corsair had full consent and support of the government, and the very best were even funded by the French monarchs themselves.

Of all the corsairs in history, Alain Porée is among the most legendary. Destined to take to the sea from a young age, Porée managed countless successful naval campaigns. It is no surprise that he was highly regarded by both Kings Louis XIV and Louis XV for his domination at sea.

The important sword is accompanied by documentation from the Musée de Saint-Malo and the ancestors of Alain Porée.

The important sword is accompanied by documentation from the Musée de Saint-Malo and the ancestors of Alain Porée.

As the tradition of the time, Kings bestowed honors upon their favored subjects – titles, medals and promotions were given. To the very best, Kings presented grand swords, which were considered among the highest honors one could receive. Rarely was this honor bestowed upon a corsair. Alain Porée, however, was distinguished by a royal presentation sword from both King Louis XIV and Louis XV. Over the centuries, only four documented swords were ever given to a corsair by the French monarchy. For Porée to receive two is remarkable.

Because few other things in the art and antiques world get the heart racing quite like provenance, these swords are an absolute tour de force in historical antiquities. Decorated with motifs of the French crown on the guard and blade, these swords symbolize both Porée’s legendary command and the supreme power of the French monarchs.

FROM THE SAME AUTHOR

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