Belle Poule (“Beautiful Hen”, although “poule” can also mean a young girl) may seem a surprising name for a ship, but there have been several other vessels with the same name: a 30-gun frigate in 1765, another with 40 guns in 1802, and yet another with 60 guns in 1834. The latter was famous for having brought back Napoleon’s ashes from St. Helena in 1840.
The Belle Poule that is visiting Bordeaux is a topsail schooner that was built in 1932, in Fécamp (Normandy), that belongs to the French Navy. It is built on the model of the Icelandic schooners, known their particularly resilient hulls, which until 1935 was used for fishing cod off the coast of Iceland. With her sister-ship, the Etoile, she was used by the Free French Forces in Portsmouth during the Second World War. This explains why she flies a French flag with the Cross of Lorraine, the latter was a symbol for the Alsace region’s fight against the German swastika. Now based in Brest, the Belle Poule participates in the training of the officers and pilot officers, as well as students from the French Navy’s various training courses.
Paimpol topsail schooner
How to recognize her
The French flag is likely to be flying and the crew will of course be in the uniform of the French Navy.
Did you know that...
The origin of Belle Poule’s name goes back almost 500 years! In the sixteenth century, a young girl, Paule Viguier, famous for her radiant beauty, was chosen to hand over the keys of the city to the visiting King Francis I. Charmed by her grace, the sovereign dubbed her "La Belle Paule", or in Occitan, Bella Paula, pronounced Bella Paoula. Such was her popularity that a French privateer named his ship after her, so that she could accompany him on his voyages. And so began a long series vessels named the Belle Poule…