France: Hope and Glory, Pride and Prejudice
It is impossible to overlay British or any other European naval culture on to the French navy, but it is vital to understand how the cultures were different, why they differed, and why that mattered. This chapter draws attention to officers’ backgrounds, which were more diverse than previously assumed, as well as how officers’ education created an intellectually homogenous body. It emphasizes how gentlemen became seamen and how the monarchy, needing more and more officers for a growing navy, broke the nobility’s exclusive hold on commissions. French naval officers’ skills improved markedly over the century, particularly in the American War, and a new vision for the French navy was developed by the monarchy just before the Revolution destroyed both.