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PIERRE CHARLES JEAN BAPTISTE SILVESTR...

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 85 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PIERRE CHARLES JEAN BAPTISTE SILVESTRE VILLENEUVE (1763-r8o6), French admiral, was born at Valensoles in Provence on the 31st of December 1763. He entered the French royal navy as a " garde du Pavillon." Although he belonged to the corps of " noble " officers, who were the object of peculiar animosity to the Jacobins, he escaped the fate of the majority of his comrades, which was to be massacred, or driven into exile. He sympathized sincerely with the general aims of the Revolution, and had a full share of the Provencal fluency which enabled him to make a timely and impressive display of " civic " sentiments. In the dearth of trained officers he rose with what for the French navy was exceptional rapidity, though it would have caused no surprise in England in the case of an officer who had good interest. He was named post-captain in 1793, and rear-admiral in 1796. At the close of the year he was appointed to take part in the unsuccessful expedition to Ireland which reached Bantry Bay, but the ships which were to have come to Brest from Toulon with him arrived too late, and were forced to take refuge at L'Orient. He accompanied the expedition to Egypt, with his flag in the " Guillaume Tell " (86). She was the third ship from the rear of the French line at the battle of the Nile, and escaped from the general destruction in company with the " Genereux " (78). Villeneuve reached Malta on the 23rd of August. His conduct was severely blamed, and he defended himself by a specious letter to his colleague Blanquet-Duchayla on the 12th of November 'Soo, when he had returned to Paris. At the time, Napoleon approved of his action. In a letter written to him on the 21st of August 1798, three weeks after the battle, Napoleon says that the only reproach Villeneuve had to make against himself was that he had not retreated sooner, since the position taken by the French commander-inchief had been forced and surrounded. When, however, the emperor after his fall dictated his account of the expedition to Egypt to General Bertrand at St Helena, he attributed the defeat at the Nile largely to the " bad conduct of Admiral Villeneuve." In the interval Villeneuve had failed in the execution of the complicated scheme for the invasion of England in r8o5. Napoleon must still have believed in the admiral's capacity and good fortune, a qualification for which he had a great regard, when he selected him to succeed Latouche Treville upon his death at Toulon in August 1804. The duty of the Toulon squadron was to draw Nelson to the West Indies, return rapidly, and in combination with other French and Spanish ships, to enter the Channel with an overwhelming force. It is quite obvious that Villeneuve had from the first no confidence in the success of an operation requiring for its execution an amazing combination of good luck and efficiency on the part of the squadrons concerned. He knew that the French were net efficient, and that their Spanish allies were in a far worse state than themselves. It required a very tart order from Napoleon to drive him out of Paris in October 1804. He took the command in November. On the 17th of January 1805 he left Toulon for the first time, but was driven back by a squall which dismasted some of his awkwardly handled ships. On the 3rd of March he was out again, and this time he headed Nelson by some weeks on a cruise to the West Indies. But Villeneuve's success so far had not removed his fears. Though on taking up his command he had issued an order of the day in which he spoke boldly enough of the purpose of his cruise, and his de-termination to adhere to it, he was racked by fears of what might happen to the force entrusted to his care. For the details of the campaign see TRAFALGAR. In so far as the biography of Villeneuve is concerned, his behaviour during these trying months cannot escape condemnation. He had undertaken to carry out a plan of which he did not approve. Since he had not declined the task altogether, it was clearly his duty to execute his orders at all hazards. If he was defeated, as he almost certainly would have been, he could have left the responsibility for the disaster to rest on the shoulders of Napoleon who assigned him the task. But Villeneuve could not free him-self from the conviction that it was his business to save his fleet even if he ruined the emperor's plan of invasion. Thus after he returned to- Europe and fought his confused action with Sir R. Calder off Ferrol on the 22nd of July 1805, he first hesitated, and then, in spite of vehement orders to come on, turned south to Cadiz. Napoleon's habit of suggesting alternative courses to his lieutenants gave him a vague appearance of excuse for making for that port. But it was one which only a very weak man would have availed himself of, for all his instructions ought to have been read subject to the standing injunction to come on to the Channel—and in turning south to Cadiz, he was going in the opposite direction. His decision to leave Cadiz and give battle in October r8o5, which led directly to the battle of Trafalgar, cannot be justified even on his own principles. He foresaw defeat to be inevitable, and yet he went out solely because he learnt from the Minister of Marine that another officer had been sent to supersede him. In fact.he ran to meet the very destruction he had tried to avoid. No worse fate would have befallen him in the Channel than came upon him at Trafalgar, but it might have been incurred in a manly attempt to obey his orders. It was provoked in a spasm of wounded vanity. At Trafalgar he showed personal courage, but the helpless incapacity of the allies to manoeuvre gave him no opportunity to influence the course of the battle. He was taken as a prisoner to England, but was soon released. Shortly after landing in France he committed suicide in an inn at Rennes, on the 22nd of April 18o6. Among the other improbable crimes attributed to Napoleon by the fear and hatred of Europe, was the murder of Villeneuve, but there is not the faintest reason to doubt that the admiral died by his own hand. The correspondence of Napoleon contains many references to Villeneuve. Accounts of the naval operations in which he was concerned will be found in James's Naval History. Troude, in his Batailles navales de la France, vol. iii., publishes several of his letters and orders of the day. (D. H.) VILLENEUVE-LES-AVIGNON, a town of south-eastern France, in the department of Gard on the right bank of the Rhone opposite Avignon, with which it is connected by a suspension bridge. Pop. (1906) 2582. Villeneuve preserves many remains of its medieval importance. The church of Notre Dame, dating from the 14th century, contains a rich marble altar and remarkable pictures. The hospice, once a Franciscan convent, part of which is occupied by a museum of pictures and antiquities, has a chapel in which is the fine tomb of Innocent VI. (d. 1362). The church and other remains of the Carthusian monastery of Val-de-Benediction, founded in 1356 by Innocent VI., are now used for habitation and other secular purposes. A gateway and a rotunda, built as shelter for a fountain, both dating from about 167o, are of architectural note. On the Mont Andaon, a hill to the north-east of the town, stands the Fort of St Andre (14th century), which is entered by an imposing fortified gateway and contains a Romanesque chapel and remains of the abbey of St Andre. The other buildings ofinterest include several old mansions once belonging to cardinals and nobles, and a tower, the Tour de Philippe le Bel, built in the 14th century, which guarded the western extremity of the Pont St Benezet (see AVIGNON). In the 6th century the Benedictine abbey of St Andre was founded on Mount Andaon, and the village which grew up round it took its name. In the 13th century the monks, acting in concert with the crown, established a baslide, or " new town," which came to be called Villeneuve. The town was the resort of the French cardinals during the sojourn of the popes at Avignon, and its importance, due largely to its numerous religious establishments, did not decline till the Revolution. VILLENEUVE-SUR-LOT, a town of south-western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Lot-et-Garonne, 22 M. N. by E. of Agen on a branch line of the Orleans railway. Pop. (1906) town, 6978; commune, 13,540. Villeneuve is divided into two unequal portions by the river Lot, which here runs between high banks. The chief quarter stands on the right bank and is united to the quarter on the left bank by a bridge of the 13th century, the principal arch of which, constructed in the reign of Louis XIII. in place of two older arches, has a span of 118 ft. and a height of 59 ft. On the left bank portions of the 13th century ramparts, altered and surmounted by machicolations in the 15th century, remain, and high square towers rise above the gates to the north-east and south-west, known respectively as the Porte de Paris and Porte de Pujols. On the right bank boulevards have for the most part taken the place of the ramparts. Arcades of the 13th century surround the Place La Fayette, and old houses of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries are to be seen in various parts of the town. The church of St Etienne is in late Gothic style. On the left bank of the Lot, 2 M. S.S.W. of Villeneuve, are the 13th-century walls of Pujols. The buildings of the ancient abbey of Eysses, about a mile to the N.E., which are mainly of the 17th century, serve as a departmental prison and penitentiary settlement. The principal hospital, the hospice St Cyr, is a handsome building standing in beautiful gardens. Villeneuve has a sub-prefecture, tribunals of first instance and of commerce and communal colleges for both sexes. It is an important agricultural centre and has a very large trade in plums (prunes d'ente) and in the produce of the market gardens which surround it, as well as in cattle, horses and wine. The preparation of preserved plums and the tinning of peas and beans occupy many hands; there are also manufactures of boots and shoes and tin boxes. The important mill of Gajac stands on the bank of the Lot a little above the town. Villeneuve was founded in 1254 by Alphonse, count of Poitiers, brother of Louis IX., on the site of the town of Gajac, which had been deserted during the Albigensian crusade.
End of Article: PIERRE CHARLES JEAN BAPTISTE SILVESTRE VILLENEUVE (1763-r8o6)
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