The French domination of Menorca

Only 7 years of domination and a well-founded people


For a short period of time, only 7 years, Menorca was under French domination between 1756 and 1763.


It was the year 1756 and just after the 7 Years' War between France and England had begun, a powerful France faced with a weakened England decided to attack the island of Menorca.


On April 8, 1756, 12,000 soldiers under Admiral Richelieu landed in Ciutadella, the former capital, just as the 300 soldiers of the British garrison in the city from the east had moved to Mahón.


This is how the French admiral met no resistance upon his arrival in Ciutadella and was able to disembark and move by land to the vicinity of Castillo de San Felipe in what is now Es Castell.


This castle protected the mouth of the imposing port of Mahón, the coveted refuge for the European naval powers of the time.


San Felipe was built years ago by the Spanish crown after two attacks by the feared Turkish pirate Barba Roja in an attempt to keep the Port of Mahón safe, a very strategic place in Europe at the time.


Richelieu arrived at the gates of the castle of San Felipe and besieged it, the 2500 soldiers who were inside defended the fort until May 29 of the same year when they were forced to capitulate, after witnessing a naval battle at its gates between a French and a British squadron.


Days before, two squadrons had departed, the first from Toulon in France under the command of the French admiral Galissomière, composed of 12 warships armed with between 50 and 80 cannons, in order to support Richelieu in the siege of Menorca.

The second, under the command of Admiral Byng, departed from Gibraltar with similar characteristics although with a slight inferiority in armaments.

On May 20 the two squadrons engaged in a cannon combat off the port of Mahón, Admiral Byng, an expert sailor, formed his ships in line against the French.


Having an advantageous position, he decided that his ships would surround the French squadron, but the poor transmission of orders disorganized his fleet and the impacts on his ships made him decide to surrender the ships.


The fort of San Felipe signed its surrender on June 29 of the same year.


Although bloody, the battle was brief and neither of the two squadrons lost any ships, Byng after forming a council of war to some of his officers for not properly attending to his orders sailed again for Gibraltar.


Despite his support in England, Byng was imprisoned on his return and executed on March 14, 1757 when the court considered that he had not fought to the end, the court ruling that he had not complied with the orders to defend the island of Menorca to the end.


France then dominated Menorca for the next 7 years, in which the beautiful and quiet village of Sant Lluis in the south-east of Menorca, founded in honour of the French King Louis XV, was founded.


Despite France's brief stay in Menorca, there are many influences that he left, such as the legend of the invention of Mahonnaise sauce, sometimes attributed to Admiral Richelieau's cook who is said to have invented this sauce for the celebration of victory.

Although it is now firmly believed that this sauce was already in common use by the inhabitants of Menorca before the arrival of the French.


Already in 1763, after the Peace of Paris, France would return Menorca to the British.


Laws, stories, facts and more surround the future of the Port of Mahón, a port that has been valued by many nations for its large dimensions, the 2nd largest natural port in the world after Pearl Harbour in Hawaii.


With the Don Joan, our catamaran with underwater vision, we will travel its waters to discover and tell you the secrets of our beautiful port and thus share our history with vosotr@s.


Every day, with several frequencies, our experienced crew sets sail for the mouth of the port and then in the open sea to contemplate the underwater life of the sea of Menorca.

4 underwater viewing rooms will show you that despite everything that happens on the surface, the sea and its inhabitants live oblivious to everything.

We are waiting for you on board!