A British Vessel is now a French Pirate Ship!

The Etoile du Roy of St Malo


June 2012


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The sight of a 47 metre long, three masted, pirate ship  moored in St Malo Harbour is nothing unusual for the "locals" but does intrigue passengers on the ferry entering St Malo! The picture on the right was taken from the deck of the Condor Express.


The Etoile du Roy, meaning the King's Star, is a private charter ship available for events which can include cocktails and dinners as well as conferences, seminars or family celebrations.  It is however possible to go onboard and explore the vessel when it is moored in the  harbour during July and August and school holidays.

The vessel is similar to the type of frigate used by the Corsairs of St Malo and is armed with 20 smooth bore cannons. These frigates were scout ships and message carriers rather than battle ships but were however used to assist in attacking commercial vessels - hence the cannons.  In reality, L'Etoile du Roy was on the British register and is a replica of a British vessel! 

Initially called Grand Turk, the ship was built in Mamaris, Turkey in 1996 to be used for the ITV series Hornblower and the construction was inspired by HMS Blandford of 1741, a British frigate involved in the Battle of Trafalgar. The Grand Turk participated in the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar celebrations of 28 June 2005. The then Grand Turk stood in for the HMS Victory at the International Fleet Review at Portsmouth. In the Hornblower TV series she was a stand in for the HMS Indefatigable. She also appeared as the French vessel "Papillon" in the same series!

Apart from the Hornblower TV series of 1998 to 2003, the vessel was used in the Granada production of Longitude in 2000, Monsieur N, directed by Antoine Decaune in 2003, and the BBC programme "To the Ends of the Earth" Tightrope Pictures in 2005.

In 2010 the Grand Turk was purchased by Étoile Marine Croisières, a company owned by Bob Escoffier and was renamed l’Étoile du Roy. The company also own other traditional ships called Étoile de France, Étoile Molène, Étoile Polaire, Naire Maove and in partnership with the SOPAB, the Brest La Recouvrance.  The Grand Turk, now L'Etoile du Roy left her mooring of ten years in Whitby at 4:00am on 16 March 2010 to sail to Saint Malo in France.

L'Etoile du Roy can welcome 350 people when in port and 120 at sea, weighs 310 tons and is the second biggest traditional vessel in France. Her rigging is 35.6 metres high and there are 790 square meters of sails. She is built of iroko wood, mahogany and some pine.  However she is equipped with modern equipment including two 400 horsepower Kelvin TAS8 engines enabling a speed of 8.5 knots, a bow thruster  60 horsepower and four Ford 110, 80, 70 and 35 kVA generators as well as windlass and hydraulic winches. The engines consume 1850 litres of fuel per day.

When she is actually in port, the pirate vessel is open to the public during school holidays and throughout the summer months of July and August. The cost for a visit is very reasonable at 6 € for an adult, 3€ for a child and the family charge for two adults and three children is 15€. A guided visit costs slightly more.  She is moored at the Quai Duguay-Trouin in St. Malo.

Read about the Corsairs of St Malo by clicking here.


L'Etoile du Roy sailing into St Malo

The Etoile du Roy when commissioned for a promotional  event at Le Barrage de la Rance at Le Richardais near Dinard

L'Etoile moored at the Barrage near Dinard