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. Adorned with portraits of King Louis XIV and Alain Porée on the guard, this is one of two Royal swords presented to the legendary corsair by a French King; the second was awarded to him in 1730 by Louis XV. Considered an exceptional honor, these two presentation swords are only two of four such swords the French monarchs ever presented to a corsair. One of these, awarded to Pierre Anguier in 1745, is currently held in the Musée National de la Marine in Paris, while the whereabouts of the other, given to the corsair Duguay-Trouin in 1694, is unknown and presumed lost.
The presentation of a Royal sword was considered the highest honor, particularly for those individuals who were not considered direct personnel of the monarchy. Kings typically bestowed titles, medals or promotions upon their favored subjects, making this exceptional sword a rare insigne d’honneur (mark of honor). Further distinguishing Porée’s achievements, Louis XIV also gifted him with a Royal portrait enriched with diamonds in 1696.
Alain Porée was born in the port city of Saint-Malo, a city known as the cité corsair, or the “home of the corsairs.” Destined to take to the sea, Porée’s own grandfather, Jean Porée, was a corsair of legend, having successfully commanded 23 vessels at the Siege of La Rochelle in 1628. great reputation, and the Porée family was one of the oldest notable families of Saint-Malo. Porée joined in his grandfather’s legacy; only 15 years old at the time of his first voyage, Porée was a corsair of repute by the age of 24. His triumphs at sea would eventually earn him a place among the nobility in 1711 as the Conseiller-Secretaire to the king, though he remained first and foremost a corsair until his death in 1730.
Though they were not considered official naval personnel, corsairs were authorized to raid the ships of any nation at war with France, all in the name of the French monarchs. Seized cargo, which was then sold at auction, was a lucrative business for the corsairs and the French monarchs, and the most successful corsairs were highly prized by their Kings. 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. Lavishly engraved with floral motifs and Royal fleur-de-lis throughout the hilt, and further inscribed with the Royal Coat of Arms, the sword’s exceptional craftsmanship is befitting a royal gift.
The extraordinary construction of Porée’s sword is comparable to the Cent Suisses swords and the Gardes de la Porte (King’s guard) swords from the same period. Most of these swords are held in important public museums, and few private examples are known to still exist. That our corsair presentation sword, which is much rarer, exhibits this same quality is truly remarkable.
The important sword is accompanied by documentation from the Musée de Saint-Malo and the ancestors of Alain Porée.
Bears mark SHF for the sword Samuel Hoppe Freres of Solingen, sword makers who restored the blade in the first half of the 19th century.
Case: 4 1/2" high x 6 1/2" deep x 40 1/2" length
Sword: 37 1/2" length
Blade: 31" length
With the family of Alain Porée by descent until 1999
Private Collection, Paris
M.S. Rau Antiques, 2016