The Cassard Expedition

The Cassard Expedition was a sea voyage led by French Navy Captain Jacques Cassard in 1712, during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1715).

On December 2, 1711, Cassard received command of a squadron of three ships of the line and five frigates from the king. Departing in early March 1712 from the port of Toulon with a fleet of eight ships, 3,000 seamen, and 1,200 soldiers, he embarked on an expedition with the initial seizure and destruction of the Portuguese capitol on the Island of Santiago, Cape Verde. Afterwards he crossed the Atlantic and over the course of 27 months Cassard raided English, Dutch and Portuguese Caribbean colonies.

Captain Cassard (Wearing the Order) and the Badge of the Order of St. Louis

He raided and ransomed in addition to the Cape Verde islands, the colonies of Saint Eustice, Curacao, Montserrat, Antigua, Suriname, Berbice, and Essequibo many of them wealthy sugar-producing colonies, whose economies were based on slave labor.

In many of the places he landed, officials paid a ransom to avoid pillage; this was not always successful, as Cassard sometimes ignored the terms of the agreements he made. At the end of its expedition, Cassard's squadron returned to France with prizes in the form of cash, goods, and enslaved Africans worth between nine and ten million French livres. Cassard's exploits won him the Royal and Military Order of St. Louis, a dynastic order of chivalry, established on April 5, 1693 as a reward for exceptional military officers of the Catholic faith.

The gold and enamel Order is in the form of a four armed, double-pointed, white enamel Maltese Cross with its arms connected by fleur-de-lis was awarded in three classes: Grand Cross, Commander, and Knight. The planchet of the Knight of the Order of St. Louis consists of a portrait of a standing St. Louis with open arms cloaked in ermine against a red enamel background, surrounded by the motto LUD M IN 1693, short for LUDOVICUS MAGNUS INSTITUIT 1693, on blue enamel. The reverse features a sword laid over a white enamel sash interlaced with a laurel crown on red enamel, with the inscription, BELLI VIRTUTIS PRAEM, short for BELLICAE VIRTUTIS PRAEMIUM on blue enamel.

Knight's Badge of the Order of St. Louis circa. 1790

Knights wore the badge suspended from a red ribbon on the breast, Commanders wore a red sash over the right shoulder and recipients of the Grand Cross wore the sash as well as a star on the left breast. The general assembly of the Order was held annually at the residence of the King on August 25, the feast day of Saint Louis.

Until the death of Louis XIV, the medal was awarded to outstanding officers only, but it gradually came to be an award that most officers would receive during their career. On January 1 1791, during the French Revolution a decree changed the name to Military Decoration. It was subsequently withdrawn on October 15, 1792.

One of the first acts of Louis XVIII to reinstate the Order of Saint Louis, using it to award officers of the Royal and Imperial armies alike. In 1830 the new king, Louis-Phillipe abolished the order, which was never reinstated. Many fine examples are available in the collector's market.

Although officially abolished by the government authorities of the July Revolution in 1830, following the French Revolution, its activities carried on as a dynastic order of the former sovereign royal family. As such, it is still recognized by the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry.

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