Jean Bart (21 October 1651 – 27 April 1702) was a French naval commander and privateer. His birth name was most probably Jan Baert. He almost certainly spoke Dutch, at that time the native language in the region of his birth.
Born in Dunkirk as the son of a fisherman, Bart served when young in the Dutch navy under De Ruyter.
When war broke out between Louis XIV and the United Provinces in 1672, he entered the French service, as one of the Dunkirk Privateers. He gained great distinction in the Mediterranean, where he held an irregular sort of commission, unable due to his low birth to receive a command in the navy. He had such success, however, that he became a lieutenant in 1679. He rose rapidly to the rank of captain and then to that of admiral.
He achieved his greatest successes during the Nine Years' War (1688 - 1697).
In 1689, in the beginning of this war he was captured by the English, together with Claude de Forbin, and taken to Plymouth. But 3 days later, they succeeded in escaping to Brittany in a rowboat, together with 20 other sailors.
In 1691 he slipped through the blockade of Dunkirk, terrorizing the allied merchant fleet and burning a Scottish castle and four villages.
In 1694 he achieved his greatest success in the Action of 29 June 1694, when he captured a huge convoy of Dutch grain ships, saving Paris from starvation.
He married the 16-year-old Nicole Gontier on 3 February 1676. They had four children before Nicole died in 1682. )Their oldest son, François-Cornil (17 June 1676- ?), became vice-admiral.)
Then he married Jacoba Tugghe on 13 October 1689. They had ten children. He signed his marriage contract, which is still on file in Dunkirk, with the name "Jan Baert".
Jean Bart died of pleurisy and is buried in the Eglise Saint-Eloi in Dunkirk.
Many anecdotes tell of the courage and bluntness of the 2.04 m tall, uncultivated sailor, who became a popular hero of the French Navy. He captured a total of 386 ships and also sank or burned a great number more. The town of Dunkirk has honoured his memory by erecting a statue and by naming a public square after him.
In World War II, 70% of Dunkirk was destroyed, but the statue survived.
More than 27 ships of the French Navy, over a period of 200 years, have borne the name Jean Bart.
The dates of Jean Bart's life on the stamp are incorrect.
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