Unicorn (ship)

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"The Unicorn"
Unicorn (ship).png
The Unicorn, from The Secret of the Unicorn, set in 1676.
Appearances The Secret of the Unicorn (1943)
Red Rackham's Treasure (1944)

The Unicorn (French: La Licorne) is a fictional 17th-century three-masted armed Royal Navy vessel appearing in The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. The ship plays a leading role in both The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure, published in 1943 and 1944, respectively. The Unicorn also appears in the 2011 film adaptation The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.

Hergé's Unicorn design was inspired by Le Brillant built in 1690 at Le Havre, France. Hergé used the services of a local model maker to find an appropriate historical French ship and then customize it to meet Hergé's historical needs.[1][2][3]

The Secret of the Unicorn was partially set in 1676. The Unicorn sailed under the Union Jack and was commanded by Sir Francis Haddock, an ancestor of Captain Haddock.[a] In Hergé's original French version, as well as in many international versions, la Licorne flew the French flag for the French Navy under King Louis XIV and was commanded by Chevalier François de Hadoque.

In the plot of The Secret of the Unicorn, the Unicorn was seized and captured by a group of pirates led by Red Rackham. The pirates boarded, and they hoisted a red pennant—no life would be spared. During the battle, Sir Francis was hit and lost consciousness. Later, the members of the Unicorn crew still alive were killed or thrown overboard. Sir Francis regained consciousness, finding himself tied to the mainmast. The pirate ship was damaged and sinking, so Red Rackham moved his treasure on board the Unicorn. The ship then sailed towards an uninhabited island. When anchored near the shore of the island, Sir Francis managed to free himself and went below deck to the gunpowder stores. Whilst there, he encountered Rackham for the final time, killing him in a swordfight. Before leaving the ship and escaping in a small boat, he was able to set fire to the gunpowder by means of a slow-burning fuse, causing the ship (with Rackham's drunken crew still aboard) to explode and sink.


  1. ^ In English history, during the reign of Charles I of England, the British Royal Navy had a ship of the line called HMS Unicorn[4] which was, coincidentally, commanded by a Captain Haddock.[5]


  1. ^ Amis de Hergé magazine, June 1989. The address to obtain the plans for the ship, along with other information was published in the article.
  2. ^ "The Unicorn". francetv.fr. Retrieved 3 January 2008. [dead link]
  3. ^ The model-maker whom Hergé approached to help create the "Licorne" was Gerard Liger-Belair, a Frenchman who owned and operated a hobby store in Brussels at the time. Thanks to his knowledge, expertise, interest in old ships, and his model ship building experience, Liger-Belair was able to create the ideal ship that Hergé required. A special 2-in-1 edition of "Red Rackham's Treasure" and "The Secret of The Unicorn" was published, featuring the original blueprints of the "Licorne", as drawn by Gerard Liger-Belair, and other details about the making of these two Tintin adventures.[citation needed]
  4. ^ ^ J. D. Davies, ‘Haddock, Sir Richard (c.1629–1715)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008.
  5. ^ p.158 Lavery, Brian (2003) The Ship of the Line - Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650-1850. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.