Charles Henry of Nassau-Siegen

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Charles Henry of Nassau-Siegen (Senarpont, January 5, 1743 - Tynna, April 10, 1808) was a French-German adventurer and sailer, who became Admiral of the Russian Imperial Navy.

Charles Henry's family and title was disputed. His father, Maximilien Guillaume Adolphe (died 1748), was in 1756 posthumously recognized by French law to be an illegitimate son of Emmanuel Ignatius of Nassau-Siegen, himself the youngest son of John Francis Desideratus of Nassau-Siegen.[1] This gave Charles Henry the right under French law to style himself "Prince of Nassau-Siegen", but this was never accepted by the House of Nassau-Siegen.

Charles Henry entered the French Navy at the age of 15, but led a dissolute life as a gambler at the royal courts of Vienna, Warsaw, Madrid and Versailles.
Probably to escape his creditors, he joined the 1766 expedition of Louis Antoine de Bougainville to explore the South Pacific Ocean. On this expedition, he was able to develop his diplomatic skills in establishing contacts with the natives. For instance, in 1768 he was able to convince King Ereti of Tahiti of the peaceful intentions of the French.

After his return to France in 1769, he entered the French, Spanish and Russian army.
In 1779, he tried unsuccessfully to take the British island of Jersey. He also participated in Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779-1783), for which he was made a Spanish Grande First Class.
In 1783, Tsarina Catherine the Great made hime vice-admiral, and in 1788 he crushed a superior Turkish fleet in the Battle of Ochakov, which enabled the Russians to conquer the city.
During the Russo-Swedish War (1788–1790), he won the First Battle of Svensksund against the Swedes in 1789 and again in 1790 during the Battle of Björkösund. But on July 10, 1790 Nassau-Siegen suffered a disastrous defeat in the Second Battle of Svensksund, in which he lost one third of his fleet and 7400 men.

Despite this defeat, Nassau-Siegen was promoted to Admiral by the tsarina. He never recovered from the defeat and left Russia in 1792 for the Rhine, to fight the French Revolution. But after the Peace of Amiens in 1802, he returned to France, where he solicited without success a position in Napoleon's army. He returned to Russian, to die in his estate in Tynna in 1808.
He had married in 1780 Polish Countess Karolina Gozdzka (1747-1807), but had no issue.



  1. ^ Emmanuel Ignatius of Nassau-Siegen (died 1735) was married to Charlotte de Mailly-Nesle (died 1769). The mother of Charles Henry was Amicie de Monchy (died 1752).