Soleil Royal (Royal Sun)
was a French 104-gun ship of the line, flagship of Admiral
She was built in Brest between 1668 and 1670 by engineer Laurent
Hubac, was launched in 1669, and stayed unused in Brest harbour
for years. She was recommissioned with 112 guns and 1200 men
when the Nine Years' War broke out in 1688 as the flagship of
the escadre du Ponant (squadron of the Ponant).
She was said to be a good sailing ship and her decorations were
amongst the most beautiful and elaborate of all baroque
flagships. The emblem of the "sun" had been chosen by Louis XIV
as his personal symbol.
Battle of Beachy Head
Soleil Royal was
recommissioned with 112 guns and 1200 men when the Nine Years'
War broke out. She departed Brest on 22 June 1690 as flagship of
Anne Hilarion de Tourville. She spent three days in
Camaret-sur-Mer waiting for favourable wind before sailing to
Isle of Wight where the English fleet was thought to be
anchored. Two ships sent in reconnaissance located the English
anchored at Beachy Head.
The Battle of Beachy Head (known in French as "Bataille de
Béveziers") began in the morning of the 10 July 1690 when the
French surprised the English ships anchored. Soleil Royal led
the centre of the French formation.
Battle of Barfleur
In 1692, on the 12th of May, now carrying 104 guns, she left
Brest, leading a 45-vessel fleet; on the 29th, the squadron met
a 97-ship strong English and Dutch fleet in the Battle of
Barfleur. In spite of their numerical inferiority, the French
attacked but were forced to flee after a large-scale battle
resulting in heavy damage to both sides. The Soleil Royal was
too severely damaged to return to Brest, and was beached in
Cherbourg for repairs, along with the Admirable and Triomphant.
Battle of La Hougue and the end of the Soleil Royal
During the night of the 2nd and 3 June, at the Pointe du Hommet,
she was attacked by 17 ships, which she managed to repel with
artillery fire. However, a fireship set her stern on fire and
the fire soon reached the powder rooms. Although the population
of Cherbourg came to rescue, there was only one survivor among
the 883 (or even 950)-strong crew.
The remains of the Soleil Royal now lie buried beneath a parking
space next to the Arsenal.