Here Comes Lafayette’s Hermione — Voyage 2015

hermoinebannerTwenty years ago, a small group of enthusiasts conceived a plan to build a replica of the French frigate, l’Hermione, the ship which carried the Marquis de Lafayette, to America in 1780 with the news of French support for the American revolution. The new l’Hermoine has now successfully completed two months of sea trials and in April 2015 will sail across the Atlantic and visit 12 ports on the US East Coast and Canada.

On Saturday, I was fortunate to attend a presentation by Miles Young, President of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America (FOH-LA) and Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather.  He described the planned voyage, as well as the education & outreach programs being developed to support the arrival of the ship. The programs are intended to highlight the too often overlooked French contribution to the American Revolution.

From the Voyage2015 web page: Via numerous partnerships, FOH also plans to create an educational “laboratory in the water” and extend it into classroom, museum, and digital education for inter-disciplinary learning: in History, Languages and Literature, Art, Historic Reconstruction and what American educators call STEM (“Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”) wherein the ship itself is the object and gateway back into French-American history.

Here is the proposed itinerary for l’Hermione visit:

June 2015

  • From June 5 to June 7 : Yorktown, VA
  • June 9: Mt Vernon, VA (ship at anchor)
  • June 10 and June 11: Alexandria, VA
  • From June 15 to June 17: Annapolis, MD
  • From June 19 to June 21: Baltimore, MD
  • From June 25 to June 28: Philadelphia, PA — with Tall Ships America

July 2015

  • From July 2 to July 4: New York, NY — with Tall Ships America
  • July 6 and July 7: Greenport, NY— with Tall Ships America
  • July 8 and July 9: Newport — with Tall Ships America
  • July 11 and July 12: Boston, MA
  • July 14 and July 15: Castine, ME
  • July 18: Lunenburg, NS, Canada (Lunenburg, Nova Scotia)


Here Comes Lafayette’s Hermione — Voyage 2015 — 13 Comments

  1. In French speech and writing, the name of a ship is always preceded by a definite article (le, la or l’) but for some ships the article is part of the name, while for other ships it is not. There is no reliable rule of thumb to as to whether the article is part of the name or not. Yet knowing the answer for a given ship is important when establishing alphabetical lists or when typesetting. The issue is also relevant when the vessel is talked or written about in a foreign language: if the article is part of the name, it should be kept and not dropped. The present blog entry is about “l’Hermione”, not about “Hermione” or “the Hermione”.

    The frigate’s name board on the stern reads L’HERMIONE.

    The confusion is pervasive in French (and so foreign writers can be forgiven ignoring the French article). For any given French vessel, one cannot rely on printed mentions unless they were edited by the ship-owners (and even they can be sloppy!). The only way to be sure is to read the ship’s name board or to see its official papers of registry.

    French typesetting practice does not set ship names in italics as is the English and American custom, but puts them between double-chevron brackets. As this comment box does not enable italics, I shall follow the French custom.

    The French naval schooner «Belle Poule» is referred to, in French, as “la «Belle Poule», not «la Belle Poule». You have the bisquine (3-masted luggers) «la Cancalaise» and «la Granvillaise», the Baltimore schooner type square topsail schooner «la Recouvrance», the lugger «Eulalie» (“la chaloupe «Eulalie»” or “l’«Eulalie»”).

    For Frenchmen, the article gender can be another bugbear, when it is not par of the name. When it is part of the name, it is accords with the gender of the name. When it is not, it should be in accordance with the gender of the vessel’s type, even when the type is not mentioned (and most times speakers and writers do not know what the type is!).

    Thus, “Le trois-mâts goélette «Marité»”, usually just written down as “le «Marité»”, which completely counterintuitive as Marité is the diminutive of the very feminine name Marie-Thérèse (actually, in this case, a portmanteau name made up from the names of the original owner’s two daughters Marie and Thérèse). Thus also the transatlantic passenger liner “le «France»” (short for “le paquebot «France») – the country is “la France”…

    “Belle Poule” (“Pretty chick”, chick applying to a girl) is mentioned above as “la «Belle Poule»” not because “Belle Poule” is feminine, but because is “la goélette «Belle Poule»” “goélette” (schooner) is a feminine word.

    Having to placing a masculine article in front of a feminine, or a feminine article in front of a masculine name is disturbing to French ears. The situation is usually avoided by giving names with the same gender as the type. Thus, French ships of the line (“vaisseau”, masc.) always had masculine names and frigates (“frégate”, fem.) always had feminine names.

    As you surely know, “le” is the masculine definite article, “la” the feminine definite article, and the elided article “l'” replaces “le” or “la” in front of a word starting with a vowel or the letter H. There is an a peculiarity in the French case use convention for articles that are part of a ship’s name. One would think that a ship name being a proper noun or a proper name, the initial L should always be in upper case. The L in the “marquis de La Fayette” is always upper case even in the middle of a sentence, but for ship names with an integral article, the L is only upper-case if at the start of a sentence, and is lower-case if the name appears in the middle of a sentence. Thus, “«L’Hermione» partira pour l’Amérique en 2015” and “L’équipage de «l’Hermione» comprendra 200 volontaires”.

    Just to conclude this boring blurb with one more boring piece of trivia:
    In traditional French typesetting style, you would print « L’Hermione », with a space between the chevrons and the name (or quoted material – those double angled-brackets are French quote marks). Some publisher house styles and/or authors prefer the practice I have used above. I find it visually more pleasing and, when typing on a PC, it avoids having orphaned » at the start of the next line, obliging backspacing and replacing the space-bar space and a Ctrl-Shift-Space hard space, keeping the quote mark on the same line as the last word within the quote marks.
    For ship names in French publications, I have noticed an increasing use of Anglo-style italics replacing the clumsy quote marks. Quote marks are still required when italics are not on offer.

  2. Thanks Erik. Very interesting.

    I think the problem arises in mixing the French and English versions of the name. The latest brochure, for example, always refers to the ship directly as l’Hermione, while the organization that produced the brochure is the “Friends of Hermione-LaFayette in America” and the brochure title is “Lafayette’s Hermione Voyage 2015.” Likewise the new website refers to the ship in the blog post titles as Hermione or the Hermione while most of the text refers to the ship as l’Hermione.

    What is the Hermione Project?


    We all seem to be straddling French and English versions of the ship’s name. I have gone back and corrected the post to refer to the ship as l’Hermione, though have retained the italics.

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  5. I’m looking for the planned events for the visit of the L’Hermione to Boston in July (11-12). Do you know where I can find a listing of the events?

  6. What is this strange and anachronistic tricolor flag ? …VIVE LE ROY !

  7. Will there be ability to purchase tickets to visit L’Hermione in port in NYC on July1-3.

  8. Could someone ask if it is possible to post the article from Wooden Boat magazine to the internet as a public service to provide access for the American general public without having to subscribe to the magazine? It is the best piece in English I’ve found and I’d like to refer it to many friends, but am not able to download it from Wooden Boat without having to subscribe. Thanks,

  9. Why don’t you have a list of events and hours for the visit to Boston on this Friday and Saturday?

  10. We have not posted a list as we have not seen any such list posted by the Hermione-2015 organization. If anyone in Boston or elsewhere has the the schedule, we would be happy to post it.

  11. Bonjour,
    Je suis actuellement en vacances chez ma fille ã Halifax, je voudrais savoir quel est le programme pour l’escale du 18/07 à Lunebourg. Est-ce qu’il y aura une possibilité de visiter l’Hermio
    e car je n’ai pas pu le faire à Bordeaux (trop de monde). Merci, amicalement.

  12. (Désolé pour les pauvres transaltion.) Malheureusement, tout ce que je sais est que l’Hermione est prévue pour être en Lunenberg le 18 Juillet, mais il semble y avoir rien de prévu et une sources dit que le navire ne sera pas ouvert au public. Il semble qu’elle sera ouvert aux visites publiques le 23 Juillet onthe îles de St Pierre et Miquelon. Vous pouvez les contacter directement.