French Empire > Martinique


Golden Age of Piracy - Chapter Decoration


Martinique is an island that is part of the French Windward Islands and was first sighted by the Europeans under Christopher Columbus in 1493. He later returned to the island on June 15th, 1502 and claimed it for the Spanish Empire however, they never built a settlement there like much of the territory they claimed. The island was claimed for the French by the governor of the island of French Saint Kitts named Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc on 15 September 1635 after being ousted from the island by the British.

Pierre and his group of 150 French settlers claimed the island in then name of King Louis XIII and the French Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique meaning Company of the American Islands. They built the first settlement on the island known as Fort Saint-Pierre which would later become the city of Saint Pierre. When Governor D'Esnambuc died in 1636 he passed down rule to his nephew Jacques Dyel du Parquet.

French Empire - Martinique Map

Martinique Map - (1681)

Many of the French settlers were the huguenots who wanted to escape religious persecution in mainland Europe. The huguenots were Protestants who were currently at war with the Catholic Church and mostly lived independently of the French king until 1685. This is when Louis XIV issued his Edict of Revocation

Buccaneering Era


Martinique owes its name to Christopher Columbus, who sighted the island in 1493, and finally landed on 15 June 1502. The island was then called "Jouanacaëra-Matinino", which came from a mythical island described by the Tainos of Hispaniola. According to historian Sydney Daney, the island was called "Jouanacaëra" by the Caribs, which would mean "the island of iguanas". After Columbus' initial discovery, the name then evolved into Madinina ("Island of Flowers"), Madiana, and Matinite. When Columbus returned to the island in 1502, he rechristened the island as Martinica. Finally, through the influence of the neighboring island of Dominica (La Dominique), it came to be known as Martinique.

Native Revolts

Throughout the history of the island there were many conflicts with the native population known as the Caribs. The natives attempted to forcefully remove the French settlers from their cities because they did not quite agree with the whole idea of claiming land in the name of divine kings across the ocean. However, the French were successful in defeating the natives and forced them to retreat to an enclave on the Caravelle Peninsula known as the Capesterre.

The Carib people would a major revolt in 1658 which would be met with complete war by Governor Charles Houël du Petit Pré who killed many of the Carib, enslaved others and expelled the rest. Some of the Carib people were able to flee to the islands of Dominica or Saint Vincent and the French let them be.

French Empire - Martinique Map

Martinique Map - Le Rouge (1742)

From September 1686 to early 1688, the French crown used Martinique as a threat and a dumping ground for mainland Huguenots who refused to reconvert to Catholicism. Over 1,000 Huguenots were transported to Martinique during this period, usually under miserable and crowded ship conditions that caused many of them to die en route. Those that survived the trip were distributed to the island planters as Engagés (Indentured servants) under the system of serf peonage that prevailed in the French Antilles at the time. As many of the planters on Martinique were themselves Huguenot, and who were sharing in the suffering under the harsh strictures of the Revocation, they began plotting to emigrate from Martinique with many of their recently arrived brethren. Many of them were encouraged by their Catholic brethren who looked forward to the departure of the heretics and seizing their property for themselves. By 1688, nearly all of Martinique's French Protestant population had escaped to the British American colonies or Protestant countries back home. The policy decimated the population of Martinique and the rest of the French Antilles and set back their colonization by decades, causing the French king to relax his policies in the islands yet leaving the islands susceptible to British occupation over the next century.[5]

Post Spanish Succession Period

The Battle of Martinique between British and French fleets in 1779 Martinique was occupied several times by the British including once during the Seven Years' War and twice during the Napoleonic Wars. Britain controlled the island almost continuously from 1794–1815, when it was traded back to France at the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars.[6] Martinique has remained a French possession since then.

Map of Martinique - Covens en Mortier (1742)

Governors of Martinique

Term Incumbent Notes French Suzerainty French colony (under the Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique) 1635 Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc, Governor 1635 to 1636 Jacques Du Pont, Governor 1636 to 1646 Jacques Dyel du Parquet, Governor 1st time February 1646 to January 1647 Jérôme du Sarrat, sieur de La Pierrière, interim Governor 1647 to 1650 Jacques Dyel du Parquet, Governor 2nd time Granted to the Dyel du Parquet family 1650 to 1658 Jacques Dyel du Parquet, Governor 2nd time 1658 to 1659 Marie Bonnard du Parquet, Governor ♀ 1659 to October 1662 Adrien Dyel du Parquet, sieur de Vaudroques, Governor 1662 to 1663 Médéric Roole, sieur de Gourselas, Governor 1663 to 1664 Adrien Jacques Dyel du Parquet, sieur de Clermont, Governor Under the Compagnie des Indes Occidentales 1664 to 1665 Adrien Jacques Dyel du Parquet, sieur de Clermont, Governor February 1665 to December 1667 Robert le Frichot des Friches, sieur de Clodoré, Governor 1667 to 1672 François Roole de Laubière, acting Governor December 1672 to 1674 Antoine André de Sainte-Marthe de Lalande, chevalier de Sainte-Marthe, Governor French crown colony 1674 to December 1679 Antoine André de Sainte-Marthe de Lalande, chevalier de Sainte-Marthe, Governor 1680 to 1687 Jacques de Chambly, Governor 1687 to 1689 Charles de Peychpeyrou-Comminges de Guitaut, chevalier de Guitaud, Governor February 1689 to 31 March 1689 Claude de Roux de Saint-Laurent, chevalier de Saint-Laurent, interim Governor 1689 to June 1711 Nicolas de Gabaret, Governor 1711 to 1716 Jean-Pierre de Charitte, Governor Did not take up post 1716 Abraham de Bellebat, marquis du Quesne, Governor 7 January 1717 to 23 May 1717 Antoine d'Arcy, sieur de La Varenne, Governor 1717(?) to 1720 Florimond Hurault de Montigny, Governor 1720 to 1727 Jacques Charles de Bochard de Noray de Champigny, Governor 1728 to March 1742 Jean François Louis de Brach, Governor 1742 to 1744 André Martin, sieur de Pointesable, Governor 1744 to 12 May 1750 Charles de Tubières de Pastel de Levoy de Grimoire, marquis de Caylus, Governor 1750 to 1752 Maximin, marquis de Bompar, Governor Acting to 1752 1752 to 1757 Alexandre Rouillé de Rocourt, Governor May 1757 to 7 February 1761 François Beauharnais de Beaumont, marquis de La Ferté Beauharnais, Governor February 1761 to February 1762 Louis Le Vassor de La Touche sieur de Tréville, Governor

French Empire

French West Indies

French Settlements


Primary Sources

Secondary Sources