LA COURT DE PRÉ-RAVILLON ET DE GRANPRÉ, French armateur, who by himself, or by means of his seamen, discovered for the Bretons the walrus-fishery in the Magdalen Islands (Îles de la Madeleine), under the name of Ramea (Ramée); fl. 1591.
Knowledge of the 1591 voyage comes chiefly from an account written in English by an anonymous member, perhaps the master, of the Bonaventure set out with a consort by “Monsieur de La court Pre Ravillon and Grand Pre” of Saint-Malo (Hakluyt, Principal navigations (1903–5), VIII, 150–54) and from a letter by Thomas James (ibid., VIII, 155, see also 156–57). James speaks of two small ships which came and went to Ramea, in connection with the capture, near the Scilly Isles, of the Bonaventure by the Bristol privateer Pleasure, which brought the prize back to Bristol with her cargo. The capture is referred to in BM, Lansdowne MS 67, ff.146, 190, and Harleian MS 598, f. 15v., the last describing her as “on Leaguer prize Laden with trayne oyell, feshydes and teeth,” her forty tons of oil, with walrus hides and tusks being officially worth £793 10s. (not more than half their real value). The sister ship of the Bonaventure seems to have reached Saint-Malo safely. The anonymous account makes it clear that La Court’s two ships set out with “the fleet that went to Canada,” i.e. to the St. Lawrence, probably to Tadoussac. The Soudil and the Charles with which the Bonaventure kept company were also ships in that fleet. La Court may have been in the Bonaventure’s consort as the author of the narrative refers to “my Masters” as being on board her (Hakluyt, VIII, 152).
The Bonaventure was at Cape Ray (“Cape de Rey”) 6 May 1591, Bird Rocks (Isles of Aponas) 7 May; circled the Magdalens (the writer’s “Ramea,” used for the group as we today use “Magdalens”), keeping between Duoron (likely Entry Island) and Amherst Island, and entering Pleasant Bay and Basque Harbour (Harbour of the Isle Ramea) between Amherst Island and Grindstone Island (Hupp) where the walrus were taken.
La Court himself remains a mystery. He is not identified by his names in the Saint-Malo parish registers, yet Lord Burghley notes that the Bonaventure belonged to “Frenchmen of St Mallows” (BM, Lansdowne MS 67, f.146). He may have been a sea-captain, a merchant, or merely a financier. La Roncière, however, states that he was empowered to set out his ships by Jacques Noël, one of the heirs of Jacques Cartier’s Canadian rights. Pierre Bergeron, in his Traicté de la navigation, though he uses mainly the documents printed by Hakluyt, adds that La Court touched at Saint-Pierre on his way out (he may be developing a phrase in Hakluyt rather than using an independent source).
The Bonaventure was sold in Bristol, but it is possible that her owners recovered her and that she, with her consort, may have come to the Magdalens again. There was at least one Breton ship there in 1593 and more than two in 1597 [see Richard Fisher and Charles Leigh], so that La Court’s penetration of the Basque monopoly of the Gulf of St. Lawrence fisheries established a profitable trade for Breton seamen and merchants.
BN, MS Fr. 15452, 15454. BM, Harley MS 598; Lansdowne MS 67. P. Bergeron, Traicté de la navigation (Paris, 1630), 122. Hakluyt, Principal navigations (1903–5), VIII, 150–57. La Roncière, Histoire de la marine française, IV, 314.