Philippe d'Auvergne

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Philippe d'Auvergne
Prince de Bouillon
Philippe d'Auvergne Prince de Bouillon.jpg
Born (1754-11-13)13 November 1754
Jersey, Channel Islands
Died 18 September 1816(1816-09-18) (aged 61)
London, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1775 – 1849
Rank Vice Admiral

Philippe d'Auvergne (13 November 1754 – 18 September 1816) was a British naval officer and the adopted son of Godefroy de La Tour d'Auvergne the Duc de Bouillon. He chose a career in the Royal Navy that spanned a period of history where Great Britain was at the centre of wars and empire building and took him from Boston and the War of Independence to espionage with French Royalists; prisoner of war to shipwrecked; all this whilst hoping to become the Duc de Bouillon.

Early life[edit]

Philippe D'Auvergne was born in Jersey. His mother Elizabeth, the daughter of Philip Le Geyt, died giving birth to him. His father, Charles, was an ex-British Army officer, aide-de-camp to various Governors, and an advisor to British Cabinet Committees. His younger half brother Corbet James D'Auvergne (born 1767), also joined the Royal Navy. Corbet D'Auvergne was also associated with Jane Austen.[1]

D'Auvergne was educated in Jersey, then England and France. He was fluent in French and English and had a mathematical mind, later to be used in various scientific studies and research.

D'Auvergne spent his youth[2] sailing around the coast of Jersey.


D'Auvergne joined the Royal Navy, and was gazetted as a midshipman in 1770. He was trained aboard the Royal Yacht HMS Mary, under the command of Captain John Campbell. The Royal Yacht was used as a training vessel, for picked men. This was far easier than the usual training on a man-of-war. Accounts of Philippe's life[3] put this down to Earl Howe, later Vice Admiral of England and First Lord of the Admiralty. Howe had befriended Charles d'Auvergne, whilst commanding the flotilla stationed at Jersey during 1756.

Philippe's next vessel was HMS Flora, where he is reported as meeting Empress Catherine of Russia; and on a return trip was influenced by a French scientific team at Copenhagen. Throughout this time Philippe studied mathematics and tried to solve the problem of time keeping and barometric pressure at sea.[4]

Arctic Expedition[edit]

During 1773, the Admiralty commissioned an expedition to the Arctic, to further science and knowledge. Two sloops were refitted for the expedition and on 4 June 1773[5] the Carcass and Racehorse set sail for the North.

The muster roll for Racehorse lists Philippe d'Auvergne as a midshipman.[6] Onboard Carcass was a 15 year old midshipman, named Horatio Nelson.

The expedition failed to find the Northwest Passage, but they had sailed further north than any previous expedition, approximately 80' 48" N and 20' E, a position just north of Svalbard. This and the scientific experiments carried out meant the expedition was a seen as a success.[7]

During 1774 d'Auvergne continued his scientific education and also prepared sketches for the journal Voyage towards the North Pole by Captain Constantine Phipps, 2nd Baron Mulgrave.[8]

American War of Independence[edit]

By 1775 d'Auvergne was assigned to HMS Asia,[9] and he is recorded as discharging to HMS Kingfisher on 27 August 1775. Asia was assigned to the fleet at Boston Harbour, to support British forces against the American militia.

D'Auvergne, still a midshipman, was ordered to take charge of one of the boats carrying soldiers to attack Lexington. Paul Revere had already warned the Yankees of the attack, resulting in the British force of 800 being reduced by 73 dead and 185 injured by the pursuing American militia.

D'Auvergne continued to command boats carrying troops around Boston and on 17 June 1775 after transporting troops, watched the ensuing Battle of Bunker Hill. He was onboard one of the ships that bombarded and burnt Falmouth.

D'Auvergne was next assigned to HMS Preston, under the command of Admiral Shuldham, commander of the fleet in Boston Harbour. The Admiral was impressed with this young acting Lieutenant and d'Auvergne was commissioned as a Lieutenant on 2 June 1777.

On 25 October 1777 d'Auvergne captured the Delaware with a company of Grenadiers;[10] and on 27 May 1778 landed a party of marines at Fogland Ferry, successfully destroying the guard house.[11]

By 9 March 1778 d'Auvergne had command of Alarm, an eight gun galley.[12]

By late 1778 France and Spain had signed a treaty of alliance with the American colonies. When French frigates entered Rhode Island, d'Auvergne carried out his written orders and scuttled Kingfisher and another galley.[11] The court martial of d'Auvergne for the loss of his vessel is reported as being aboard HMS Royal Oak, 28 September 1778. The court martial apparently acquitted d'Auvergne, though no evidence can be found to support this.

Prisoner of War[edit]

After returning to England, d'Auvergne was assigned to HMS Arethusa as First Lieutenant. On 18 March 1779 Arethusa fought the French vessel Aigrette for two hours off Ushant, but during the engagement a larger French line of battle ship was spotted and Arethusa broke off. In the dim light she struck a rock off the coast of Molène. Of the 200 crew, 13 escaped, apparently never to be seen again, and the remainder were taken prisoner, and interned in Carhaix, Brittany.

Duke of Bouillon[edit]

D'Auvergne was given parole, and accepted an invitation to a small self-contained principality in what is now Luxembourg. This was the Duchy of Bouillon. It was Duke Godefroy de La Tour d'Auvergne who secured his parole, looking to find an heir. The Duke's only surviving son, Jacques Leopold, was seriously disabled and unable to father an heir to the throne. The Duke's idea was to adopt, and he set about finding an heir.

One choice for an heir was a Breton soldier, Theophile Malo Corret, who was an illegitimate half brother to Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne , the Marshal of France. Theophile was from Carhaix and mentioned that Philippe d'Auvergne was being held prisoner. The Duke invited Philippe to stay during his parole. D'Auvergne's fluent French, and his adventures in the Royal Navy, made him the perfect choice for the Duke. The Duke then hired genealogists to link the Jersey Auvergne's with the French principality.

Further naval duties[edit]

D'Auvergne was exchanged with French prisoners of war and returned to England by June 1780, when he was appointed to HMS Lark. During March 1781 Lark sailed as part of an invasion fleet against the Cape of Good Hope under the command of Commodore George Johnston. They were sent to punish the Dutch for their alliance with the French.

On the 16 April 1781 the fleet stopped at Porto Praya to take on water and fresh supplies. While the British fleet was at anchor the French fleet, sent to help the Dutch, entered the harbour and attacked the British. After an inconclusive battle the French broke off. After a brief pursuit, Commodore Johnstone chose to stay and make repairs to the damaged ships, enabling the French fleet to reach the Cape first.


The British fleet failed to land at the Cape, but they did capture five Dutch East Indiamen in the "battle" of Saldanha Bay before heading back to England. During this expedition d'Auvergne made a report to Commodore Johnstone of the intelligence that Active had gathered from her capture on 1 July of the Dutch East Indiaman Heldwoltenlade, which had left Saldanha on 28 June, intelligence that led to the capture of the Dutch ships. Johnstone described d'Auvergne as a "very promising young officer".[13]

D'Auvergne took command of HMS Rattlesnake, allowing the former captain of Rattlesnake to return to London on Lark. Rattlesnake and Jupiter were sent to survey Trindade and Martim Vaz, to establish the islands suitability for a base for outward-bound Indiamen. The islands are volcanic with nothing but turtle doves and land crabs.[14] On the evening of 21 October 1781, whilst anchored off the islands, Rattlesnake was run ashore during a heavy storm. Five sailors were picked up by Jupiter, but the remainder were left marooned. They remained on the island until 27 December 1782, when HMS Bristol, escorting East Indiamen, rescued the 30 survivors.[15] D'Auvergne and the surviving crew were taken to Madras, India. Again a report of a Court Martial cannot be confirmed.

In India[edit]

Whilst in India D'Auvergne met Muhammed Ali Khan Wallajah, the Nawab of Arcot. Muhammed had gone into debt helping the British against the French. This caused the British East India Company to claim most of his state, claiming an annual income from the Nawab. The Nawab asked d'Auvergne to make a petition to the King to reclaim his state. D'Auvergne, on his return, made the petition [16] on his return in 1783. The petition was successful and the state returned to the Nawab.

It was reported that D'Auvergne married whilst in India, but the India Office Records held by the British Library have no record of a marriage. Although there is a marriage of a Philip d'Auvergne to an Anne Lowrie in 1800, the individual in question was a captain in the army.[Note 1]

On his return to England d'Auvergne was promoted to Post-captain, but the peace with France meant demobilization.

Between 1784 and 1787 d'Auvergne spent time travelling and escorted John Townsend son of Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney on a Grand Tour.

D'Auvergne also obtained an honorary degree and elected Fellow of the Royal Society on the 11 June 1786,[17] and by 1787 he was appointed a Revenue officer in Jersey, on board HMS Narcissus.

The Duke du Bouillon had now found a way to connect the families, using the reported arrival of the d'Auvergne family in the Channel Islands during the 13th century. In the 14th century Thiébaut d'Auvergne obtained a grant of land in Jersey and the family remained there until the 18th century.

In 1787 the adoption was agreed by King George and notices were published in the London Gazette. D'Auvergne was now known as the Prince of Bouillon, and would be Duke of Bouillon if Jacques Léopold de La Tour d'Auvergne died without issue. With this new title came an offer of French naturalisation, d'Auvergne rejected this offer, stating he would never betray his sovereign.[18]

During this period he also assisted Channel Island merchants in securing convoys for their shipping.[19]

Administrateur des Secours Accordes aux Emigrés (Administrator of Relief Grants to Emigres)[edit]

In 1793, at the beginning of the French Revolution, the Governor of Jersey Alexander Lindsay had opened communications between England and the Royalists. Lindsay was then transferred to Jamaica in 1794.

By 1794, after a petition from the Defence Committee of the Islands, and a letter from d'Auvergne to the Admiralty, he was appointed as commander of the floating battery Nonsuch and Senior of Officer of Gunboats. Several gunboats formed his flotilla: Repulse, Lion, Scorpion, Tiger and Eagle. The ships were not purpose-built men of war, but rather small former Dutch hoys converted to gun-vessels. The crew were mainly from Jersey, as Englishmen did not want to serve on them, there being little opportunity for prize money. Merchants and locals on Jersey provided the money to defray the extra costs to support the flotilla. The vessels were not effective and the Navy withdrew them, selling most. Nonesuch was paid off in December 1794, but the Navy replaced her with the 16-gun floating battery Bravo, which the Navy re-rated as a 28-gun sixth-rate frigate to increase d'Auvergne's salary as her commander and commander of the flotilla. To replace the hoys, d'Auvergne received the services of the hired armed vessels Daphne, Royalist, and Aristocrat.[Note 2]

With this responsibility d'Auvergne was asked, in September 1794, to assume the role Alexander Lindsay had started. A manuscript memorial to the War Office, held by the Library in Jersey, shows his duties as:

  • To command a division of armed vessels to cover the Islands.
  • Open communications with the continent, to obtain information on hostile enemy movements.
  • Maintain communications with the insurgents in Western Provinces.
  • To distribute succours (sic; assistance) to the lay French emigrants in the Islands.

The communications with the French Royalists was maintained by a network of spies, and insurgents whilst smuggling arms, ammunition and supplies across the short stretch of water to the French mainland. d'Auvergne also occupied himself with the French Royalists who had flocked to Jersey.

Not only was d'Auvergne involved in the administration of French Emigres and passing intelligence to London, he also supported the attempted invasion at Quiberon. British and émigré forces landed at Quiberon to support the Chouans and the French Royalist and Catholic Armies on 21 July 1795.

The invading force was led by General Comte Joseph de Puisaye. Puisaye was under the command of Comte D'Artois of the House of Bourbon, whilst his second in command, Louis Charles d'Hervilly, was under the command of Louis XVIII, of the House of Orleans.

The invasion started well, the forces landed without incident and they had the element of surprise, but d'Hervilly produced a letter to take command of the force. This fight for command, Puisaye won eventually, allowed the French Republican forces to counterattack and the Royalist forces were forced to retreat.

An intercepted report stated that all the men from Quiberon (approximately 750 men) were executed at Auray, these were mainly nobles of Louis XVIII.[20] A chapel now stands on the site, known as Champ des Martyrs.

General Puisaye was accused of desertion.

Neither d'Auvergne nor the Comte de Puisaye seem to have trusted each other,[21] with Puisaye trying to avoid Jersey, and deliver directly to London. d'Auvergne continued to ask Henry Dundas if he should send arms to Puisaye. After Puisaye returned to Jersey he retired from the military and headed for Canada.

Claims to the Throne of Bouillon[edit]

1st claim to throne of Bouillon[edit]

The Prince's Tower, d'Auvergne's gothic residence, as depicted by Philip John Ouless in 1855

D'Auvergne lost the command of Jersey with the peace with France. His role was a wartime role, with peace came a Captain's half pay. He now spent his time in his house and gardens on Jersey, even opening the gardens to the public. His library contained 4,000 volumes, from scientific to classic, to French history. From 1792 he developed a neo-Gothic construction at La Hougue Bie known as the Prince's Tower. The mediaevalist architecture of the tower (originally to be called La Tour d'Auvergne as a symbolic motif of his adopted family name) supported both his claims to ancestry and his interest in fashionable architecture of the day.[22]

His promotions raised him to Vice Admiral of the Red.

In Bouillon the French had annexed the Duchy of Bouillon in 1795, and Duke Godefroy III, died in 1794, his son Jacques Leopold La Tour d'Auvergne inherited the title of Duke. Jacques Leopold died on the 3 March 1802 without issue, and Philippe d'Auvergne used the full title and dignity of Duke after this date.

After the Peace of Amiens on 25 March 1802, d'Auvergne headed to Paris to fight a claim by another apparent heir, but on his arrival, the French police, knowing of his actions in Jersey, dragged him from his hotel without any charge, or any explanation and threw him in jail. Correspondence from Mr Merry, Ambassador in Paris, complains of the French authorities actions and states that d'Auvergne was held for five days, and when released was given only 24 hours to leave France, a near impossibility at that time.[23] Questions were raised in Parliament, but no further action was taken as they did not wish to upset the latest peace.[24]

D'Auvergne returned to Jersey. By 1802 the émigrés had been given a way to return home, as Napoleon Bonaparte had taken control of France, and granted the émigrés amnesty. Many signed the declaration offered and returned.

D'Auvergne continued to collect intelligence from France, including the buildup of forces at Brest, where Bonaparte was massing a force to assist the Irish in their fight against the British.

D'Auvergne's ring of spies was diminishing as either they were captured, or signed Napoleon's declaration.

Some of the spies continued to travel across the sea to France, and one was Noel Prigent, experienced in landing in France; he had journeyed across the sea over 150 times. In 1807 d'Auvergne was informed of the Chouans wanting to rise and rebel again, so Prigent and companions were sent to France to gain intelligence. On their arrival they found no signs of a possible uprising or even anyone willing to assist them. All the usual safe houses were closed to them. Prigent and his companions spent a number of weeks travelling around Brittany and living in ditches, and after a number of failed attempts to return to Jersey, one of the companions, Bouchard, gave himself up to the French. Bouchard then led the Secret Police to Prigent and his companions. As soon as Prigent was captured, he gave up every detail he knew about the correspondence, including landing places, codes and safe houses used by d'Auvergne's spies.

Bouchard then agreed to return to Jersey and persuade d'Auvergne that he was sent by Prigent. D'Auvergne welcomed him and sent Bouchard back to France with letters to General Puisaye, and further correspondence to Prigent. Bouchard had asked that Comte Vaucouleurs be despatched to France, and shortly afterwards he left for the French coast. He was arrested as soon as he landed. Armand de Chateaubriand followed in September 1808, but it was apparent that everyone was behind Napoleon. No-one would support Chateaubriand, and after a couple of failed attempts to return to Jersey, Chateaubriand was arrested and along with 10 other émigrés was shot. The efforts of Bouchard and Prigent to save their own lives also failed, as they were shot on Bonaparte's orders. Even the Comte d'Artois was indicating he should have sole control of the correspondence.[25] Any hope of a new Royalist revolution was never going to materialise. D'Auvergne stood down from his role in 1812, possibly due to ill health, possibly aware of the next period of peace.

In 1814 the Comte d'Artois of the House of Bourbon, was proclaimed King Louis XVIII, and agreed to support d'Auvergne's claim to the Duchy of Bouillon, for all the support he had given to the Royalists over the last 20 years.

2nd claim to the throne of Bouillon[edit]

The Treaty of Paris left the Congress of Vienna to rewrite the map of Europe, and a decision was made to form a buffer state, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along the border of France. This meant there was no place for an independent principality.

Further complications came in the form of another claimant to the throne, Prince Charles de Rohan, a grandson of a step-sister of the old Duke. Things looked good as d'Auvergne had the backing of Lord Castlereagh, and the Congress had rejected a similar case.

With the return of Bonaparte and all Europe watching Waterloo, the Congress decided the King of the Netherlands should rule on the case, and left the ruling to the arbitrators and the King. Philippe d'Auvergne marched to war with a small regiment formed in the colours of Bouillon and whilst away Congress decided to uphold the claim by Rohan, the blood relation.


Philippe d'Auvergne returned to London, bankrupt, owing £12,000 in Jersey alone. He committed suicide at Holmes' Hotel, London, on 18 September 1816; he was buried in St. Margaret's Church, Westminster.

An inventory of his house and library from the auction of his estate are held by the Jersey Archives. The Dukedom of Bouillon remained in upheaval until 1825 when it was divided between Duke of Bourbon, Prince of Tremouille and Princess of Poix.

Philippe d'Auvergne died with the titles:

  • Monsignor His Serene Highness Philippe d'Auvergne, by the Grace of God and the will of his people, Duc de Bouillon.
  • Vicomte de Turenne.
  • Duc d'Albert and de Chateau Thierry.
  • Comte d'Auvergne.
  • Comte d'Évreux et du bas Armagnac.
  • Baron de la Tour, Oliergues, Maringues and Montgacon, Peer of France.

Most of these titles died with him.


D'Auvergne fathered three illegitimate children by Mary Hepburn of St. Helier, Jersey, to whom he gave his name: Mary Ann Charlotte (b. 1794), married in 1815 to Sir Henry Prescott, later Admiral; Anne Elizabeth (b. 1800), married to Admiral John Aplin; and Philip, who died a midshipman in Colombo in 1815.[1]

Notes, references & bibliography[edit]

  1. ^ Philippe d'Auvergne was in Jersey at this time.
  2. ^ The commander of Aristocrat was Lieutenant Corbet James d'Auvergne.
  1. ^ a b "Captain Corbet James D’Auvergne and Jane Austen". Jane Austen Forum. 2010. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Balleine, (1973)
  3. ^ Kirke, (1904)
  4. ^ Philippe D'Auvergne, An Account of the New Improved Sea-compasses (1789)
  5. ^ The National Archives (United Kingdom): The Racehorse, Captain's Log Book: ADM 51/757 and the Racehorse Master's Log Book: ADM 52/1416
  6. ^ The National Archives (United Kingdom): HMS Racehorse Muster and Paybook ADM 36/7490
  7. ^ Baron Constantine John Phipps, Voyage towards the North Pole; and Sir Albert Hastings Markham, Northward Ho.
  8. ^ Kirke, (1904) pp.30-31
  9. ^ The National Archives (United Kingdom): Ship's Paybooks: ADM 34/4
  10. ^ The National Archives (United Kingdom): Colonial Office Correspondence, CO 5/94
  11. ^ a b The National Archives (United Kingdom): Colonial Office Correspondence, CO 5/96
  12. ^ The National Archives (United Kingdom) Colonial Office Correspondence, CO 5/127
  13. ^ The New Annual Register, Or General Repository of History ..., (1781), Vol. 2, p.89.
  14. ^ Noted when Edmund Halley placed a Union Jack on the islands in 1700.
  15. ^ The National Archives (United Kingdom) Log Book, ADM 51/137
  16. ^ A petition of the claim is held by the Société Jersiaise
  17. ^ "Fellows of the Royal Society". Royal Society. 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  18. ^ In records held by Société Jersiaise.
  19. ^ The National Archives (United Kingdom) Foreign Office correspondence: FO 95
  20. ^ The National Archives (United Kingdom) Foreign Office correspondence: FO 95/605/19
  21. ^ The National Archives (United Kingdom) War Office correspondence: WO 1/921
  22. ^ Patton, Rodwell, Finch (1999). La Hougue Bie, Jersey. Jersey: Société Jersiaise. ISBN 0901897299. 
  23. ^ The National Archives (United Kingdom) Foreign Office correspondence: FO 27/64
  24. ^ Parliamentary Papers Online (subscription website)
  25. ^ The National Archives (United Kingdom) War Office correspondence: WO 1/922
  • Balleine, George Reginald (1973) The tragedy of Philip d'Auvergne, Vice-Admiral in the Royal Navy and last duke of Bouillon. (Chichester: Phillimore).
  • Chalon, Renier-Hubert-Ghislain (1860) Le dernier duc de Bouillon. (Bruxelles: E. Devroye)
  • Davies, Kenneth Gordon. Documents of the American Revolution 1770-1783, (Colonial Office Series), Irish University Press (1972-1981)
  • Kirke, Henry (1904) From the Gun Room to the Throne.
  • "Temps passé: Philippe d'Auvergne". 4 December 2008. 
  • "D'Auvergne, Philippe (d.1816) Prince de Bouillon". National Archives. 2012. 

External links[edit]