Nicolas Durand de
Marne, France, 1510 –
Beauvais, 9 January
1571) was a French naval officer (vice-admiral of Brittany) who
attempted to help the Huguenots in France
Drawing of the Island of
Villegaignon, in Rio de Janeiro
A notable public figure in his time, Villegaignon was a mixture of
soldier, scientist, explorer, adventurer and entrepreneur.
pirates in the Mediterranean and participated in several wars.
commanded the French naval fleet that took Mary Stuart
, then five years old, to
France, since she was promised to marry the Dauphin of France
In his book, "Brazil, A
Land of the Future
", Austrian writer Stefan Zweig
describes well the colorful
character of Villegaignon:
Villegaignon became an important historical
figure in his failed dream to build a "France Antarctique", by invading
present-day Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil in 1555 with
a fleet of two ships and 600 soldiers and colonists, mainly French
Huguenots and Swiss Calvinists who sought to escape Catholic
persecution in Europe.
He wanted also
to secure a permanent base in Brazil in order to explore brazil wood
, then a very valuable source of red
and hard wood for construction (which gave
the name to what was to become Brazil), and to explore precious metals
, which the Europeans believed to exist
in abundance in the land.
number of battles against the Portuguese, the French colonists were defeated by Estácio de Sá, a nephew of the third
Portuguese Governor-General of Brazil, Mem de Sá, in 20 January 1567.
Villegaignon had already returned to France, in 1557, disgusted
with the infighting between Catholics and Protestants in the small
embraced the Catholic faith in France and died on 9 January 1571 in