Noteworthy History of Florida, Located in the West Indies, Including the Three Voyages Made There by Certain Captains and French Pilots


Before the establishment of colonies in Canada early in the 16th century, France made several unsuccessful attempts to found settlements in Canada, Brazil, and Florida. The second voyage of exploration by Jacques Cartier (1491‒1557), in 1535‒36, gave birth to the idea of a colonial settlement across the Atlantic. In 1541 King Francis I named Jean-François de la Roque de Roberval (circa 1501‒circa 1560), from the western province of Saintonge, lieutenant general of Canada. Guided by Cartier, Roberval established a small fort on the Saint Lawrence River, but scurvy and the rigors of winter led to the death of 50 colonists and in the spring of 1543 Roberval decided to repatriate his little colony to France. Between 1555 and 1565 France attempted to establish colonies in two more southerly regions of the New World, in Brazil and in part of the present-day U.S. state of Florida. In 1555 Nicolas Durand de Villegagnon (1510‒71), vice admiral of Brittany, ordered the construction of a fort on an islet in the Bay of Guanabara (Rio de Janeiro), which was to serve the base for a projected colony called France Antarctique. The small colony, weakened by dissensions between Catholics and Protestants, was defeated by a Portuguese flotilla in 1560. In April 1564 a second expedition, under the command of René Goulaine de Laudonnière, departed Le Havre with three ships carrying 300 soldiers and tradesmen. The French established themselves on the River of May (Saint John’s River, Florida), where they constructed Fort Caroline. Troubled by internal quarrels, famine, and heightened tensions with the Timucua Indians, the colony was near abandonment when a third colonizing expedition arrived in August 1565. This last expedition, led by Jean Ribault, included seven ships and 600 colonists. Many of the settlers were Huguenots, or French Protestants. The influx of people and supplies from France was insufficient to save French Florida. In September 1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (1519–74), at the head of an armada of ten ships and acting on orders from King Philip II of Spain, massacred most of the Huguenots on the grounds that they were heretics. Histoire notable de la Floride (Noteworthy history of Florida), first published in 1586, is an account by Laudonnière of the French expeditions to the New World in this period. Presented here is an edition published in Paris in 1853.

Last updated: November 20, 2015