A French 18th-century Revolutionary War replica ship, named “Hermione,” set sail yesterday from France en route to Boston on its official maiden voyage. The Guardian reports that the replica of the original navy frigate, valued at $27 million, made a “glamorous exit” that included an official presidential send off.
French president François Hollande visited the replica ship and made a celebratory speech made available on YouTube by the Daily Mail.
“The Hermione is a luminous episode of our history. She is a champion of universal values, freedom and courage and of the friendship between France and the United States. What we have here is a boat, a sailboat, built like a cathedral, an inverted cathedral. It is a masterpiece, a collective work of art which brought together so many different craftsman: carpenters, painters, wood carvers, sail makers, blacksmiths, sculptures, whose crafts had been forgotten, had sometimes disappeared. Thanks to L’ Hermione, they got back to work.”
Hermione is a replica of the ship that carried France’s Marquis de Lafayette across the same route to help American colonists in their war of independence. The ship symbolizes a historic moment that binds France and the United States of America.
As noted in the Guardian, “The two countries sealed their friendship almost a century after Lafayette’s voyage with the 1876 inauguration of the Statue of Liberty at the entrance to New York harbour, a gift from the French people to commemorate the centenary of the declaration of independence.”
Lafayette crossed the Atlantic on the original Hermione in 1780 to alert George Washington, commander of the American army fighting against British imperial rule, that France was sending an army to help.
The replica fired its cannons as it sailed up the French river Charente yesterday to the military shipyards of Rochefort, where both vessels were built. As shown in the YouTube video below, the replica Hermione’s maiden voyage send-off was one worthy of such a legendary ship, and included a flotilla of companion vessels, a large crowd, and fireworks in addition to the presidential speech.
The new Hermione has been under construction since 1997. The valuable replica warship will head for Yorktown, Virginia, where Lafayette and his forces played a critical part in a decisive battle against the British.
The Marquis de Lafayette was a French aristocrat who served in George Washington’s army. Hermione’s trip 235 years ago brought Lafayette back to the colonies with news that the French were sending men and ships to help fight the British.
CBS News refers to the Hermione as a “spectacular example” of a replica warship. The stunning ship is over 200 feet long with 16,000 square feet of sail. It’s been built using the same materials and a lot of the same methods as the original. Money from both sides of the Atlantic funded the project, and it took 17 years and 3,000 oak trees to build impressive warship.
The replica Hermione has a crew of 80. Most of the crew on the warship are volunteers and most are from France. There are a few proud American crew members on the ship, including Woody Wiest.
“One of the things about a ship like this is that you get people from all around the world coming and sailing. And when you put people side by side onboard a ship they’re puking together, they’re cleaning the toilets together, they’re really bonding. It makes for a very close and open relationship between people and it lasts forever.”
The replica Hermione’s trip to the U.S. is expected to last about four weeks. The ship will visit port cities from Virginia to Maine beginning in June.
[Image via Xavier Leoty/ Getty Images]