Pierre-Charles Villeneuve

French Admiral

Admiral Cuthbert CollingwoodJoining the French navy in 1778, Pierre-Charles Villeneuve served in the West Indies and around French waters before setting off on the expedition to Egypt.

In 1796 he became a rear-admiral. At the Battle of the Nile, his vessel survived the British assault but, instead of being praised, Villeneuve found himself criticised.

On his return to France, Villeneuve was captured in Malta when the British took the island, but was released soon afterwards.

In 1804, and now a vice-admiral, Villeneuve was ordered to take his fleet out and draw the Royal Navy away from its home waters to allow for an invasion. The plan was to then double back and reinforce the invasion fleet.

Villeneuve successfully evaded Britain's Admiral Horatio Nelson, but then headed for the safety of Cadiz rather than continue his mission.

Under extreme pressure from Napoleon Bonaparte, and about to be removed from command, Villeneuve and his fleet left Cadiz and ran straight into Nelson off Cape Trafalgar.

With his ships destroyed, Villeneuve surrendered and was sent to Britain but later freed on parole.

Despairing over the loss at Trafalgar, Villeneuve returned to France in a poor state of mind and killed himself by pushing a knife through his heart.


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