Mahé de La Bourdonnais

La Bourdonnais was born on 11 February 1699 in Saint-MaloBrittany. He went to sea when a boy, and in 1718 entered the service of the French East India Company as a lieutenant. In 1724 he was promoted captain, and displayed such bravery in the capture of Mahé off theMalabar Coast that the name of the town was added to his own. For two years he was in the service of the Portuguese Viceroy of Goa, but in 1735 he returned to French service as governor of the Île de France (Mauritius) and the Île de Bourbon (Réunion). His first five years’ administration of the islands was vigorous and successful. A visit to France in 1740 was interrupted by the outbreak of hostilities with Great Britain, and La Bourdonnais was put at the head of a fleet in Indian waters.

Statue in Saint-DenisRéunion

He saved Mahé, relieved General Dupleix at Pondicherry, defeated Lord Peyton (d.1749), and in 1746 participated in the Siege of Madras. He quarrelled with Dupleix over the conduct of affairs inIndia, and his anger was increased on his return to the Île de France, when he found that Dupleix had appointed a successor as governor. He set sail on a Dutch vessel to present his case at court, and was captured by the British, but allowed to return to France on parole. Instead of securing a settlement of his quarrel with Dupleix, he was arrested (1748) on a charge of gubernatorialspeculation and maladministration, and secretly imprisoned for over two years in the Bastille. He was tried in 1751 and acquitted, but his health was broken by the imprisonment and by chagrin at the loss of his property. To the last he made unjust accusations against Dupleix. He died at Paris on 10 November 1753. The French government gave his widow a pension of 2400 livres.

Several places were named after him, including Mahé (Seychelles)Mahébourg (Mauritius) and two streets in PondicherryLabourdonnais street and Mahé de Labourdonnais streetPort Louis,Mauritius has a hotel which bears his name, the Labourdonnais Waterfront Hotel.

La Bourdonnais left memoirs which were published by his grandson, a celebrated chess player, Count Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1795–1840). He also wrote Traité de la mâture des vaisseaux (Paris, 1723).

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