Michel Dubocage, captain of the Dauphine

The discovery of a maritime declaration reporting the loss of the royal frigate Dauphine provided archaeologists with the name of the ship's captain: Michel Dubocage. The son of Marie Dufresnil and Nicolas Dubocage (also a ship's captain), Michel Dubocage was born in Le Havre on 28 January 1676. The king saw in Dubocage a man who was "loyal, skilled and experienced in both war and navigation." On 1 January 1692, he commissioned Dubocage, who was not yet sixteen years old, a frigate lieutenant.
Dubocage fades from sight after this, but we can imagine that he sailed on the king's behalf on a regular basis. He probably took part in the various naval combats that marked the War of the Grand Alliance (1688–1697), particularly the major battle at La Hougue. At eighteen, he was captain of a Dunkirk raider, Le Sauvage, and then, in 1704, captain of the doomed Dauphine, a royal frigate dedicated to commerce raiding. Cleared of any suspicion of incompetence after the loss of the ship, Michel Dubocage was selected in 1707 to take part, as captain of the Découverte, in an expedition to the Pacific by four Dunkirk ships. It was during this voyage that he discovered, on Good Friday, 3 April 1711, Clipperton Island. "At two o'clock in the afternoon, I myself discovered a large rock beneath the extension of the mainsail… we found that the rock was at the southern point of an extremely flat island… that we dubbed Ile de la Passion." (AN, Marine, 4JJ47, ship's log of Michel Dubocage).
His fortune made, late in life Dubocage became a benefactor of the city of Le Havre, which he rescued from famine in 1725 and 1726. He died in 1727 and was buried in the choir of the church at Bléville.

Multimedia

© Musées Historiques de la ville du Havre / Laurent Bréard
Portrait of Michel, Joseph Dubocage de Bléville. Oil on canvas. Circa 1690–1705. Inv. G 54.465.
© Musées Historiques de la ville du Havre / Laurent Bréard
Statuette of Dubocage de Bléville. Ceramic, China. First quarter of the 18th century. Inv. G 54.475 Legs Holker.
Photo Franck Pineranda. © MCC / DRASSM
Chinese statuette created in Amoy, China (plaster, wood and paper). It depicts Michel Dubocage wearing a curled wig and dressed in European-style clothing. Circa 1711–1712.
Archives Municipales du Havre
Birth record for Michel Joseph Dubocage, fated 29 January 1676, in the register for the Notre-Dame du Havre church. Registre paroissial GG47
Teddy Seguin (Adramar) © Archives Départementales d'Ille et Vilaine
Signature of Michel Dubocage at the bottom of the report of the wreck of the Dauphine (1704), at Saint-Malo. He was 28 years old at the time (AD35,9B517, folio 80R (detail).

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