French frigate Sémillante (1792)

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The Sémillante ("Shiny") was a 32-gun frigate of the French Navy, lead ship of her class.

Active service

In 1798, she took part in the Expédition d'Irlande, and notably the Battle of Tory Island.

On 9 April 1799, Sémillante, along with Vengeance and Cornélie, encountered and fought HMS San Fiorenzo and HMS Amelia off Belle Île[1].

In 1804, she was transferred to Île de France to engage in commerce raiding. She captured the Honourable East India Company’s ships Fame and James Drumond.

Semillante and the frigate Atalante were sailing in a squadron under the command of Contre-Admiral Charles-Alexandre Durand Linois with the 74-gun fourth rate ship of the line Marengo.[2] They fought one notable engagement, at the Battle of Pulo Aura on 15 February 1804. Linois attacked the Honourable East India Company's (HEIC) China Fleet, a large convoy of well-armed merchant ships carrying cargo worth £8 million. Although the entire British fleet consisted of merchantmen, escorted by the HEIC's tiny gun-brig Ganges, Linois failed to press the attack. Instead, he withdrew with the convoy at his mercy, invoking the anger of Napoleon when the news reached France.

On 15 September 1804, under Léonard Motard, together with Marengo and Atalanta, Semillante participated in the Battle of Vizagapatam. During the battle the three French ships engaged the sole British warship, the 50-gun HMS Centurion. Semillante also captured the East Indiaman Prince Charlotte. The French squadron panicked a second East Indiaman, the Barnaby, to run aground.[3]. Despite his overwhelming superiority in firepower, Linois then withdrew his squadron, leaving Centurion to survive.

On 3 December, along with Berceau, Sémillante destroyed and captured seven British merchantmen off Paolo-Bay.

On 8 June 1806, she captured the East Indiamen Acteon, Warren Hastings and Active. On 11 November, the encountered HMS Sceptre and HMS Cornwallis; a battle broke out on 13 November, which resulted in the retreat of the British ships.

Between 15 March and 18 March 1808, she fought a running battle with HMS Terpsichore, and escaped to Île de France. Seriously damaged, her armament was removed on 10 July.

In September Robert Surcouf purchased Sémillante, after his own ship Revenant had been requisitioned for the defence of the island. He renamed her Charles and sailed with her to Saint-Malo laden with the spoils of his campaign.


In December 1809, the British captured her. Too old and damaged to be brought into British service, she was broken up[4].


  1. The Naval History of Great Britain, 1793 - 1820, Volumes II and IV, by William James, R. Bentley, London, 1837.
  2. Woodman, p. 172
  3. Histoire de Deux Marins Bretons
  4. Die Geschichte der französischen Fregatte SEMILLANTE (36) von 1791 bis 1809
Career (France) French Navy Ensign French Navy Ensign
Name: Sémillante
Builder: Lorient
Laid down: December 1790
Launched: 25 November 1791
In service: May 1792

Sold in 1808

renamed Charles
General characteristics
Class and type: Sémillante class frigate
Tons burthen: 600 tonnes
Length: 45.5 metres
Beam: 11.5 metres
Draught: 5.5 metres
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Ship

32 guns