Jacques-Donatien Le Rey de Chaumont

Portrait of Jacques-Donatien Le Rey de Chaumont

As a powerful aristocratic force in the court at Versailles and with sympathy toward the American cause, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont acted as a bridge between King Louis XVI and American representatives like Benjamin Franklin. He even developed a close relationship with the eccentric Franklin, allowing the American to live in his estate in Passy for many years. In addition to being a supportive voice that swayed the French government to aid the Patriots, Le Ray provided a great deal of his own funding to arm, supply and clothe the fledgling Continental army. He also helped equip and manage the combined French and American naval fleet. In addition, he ordered that a merchant vessel be transformed into a warship, which he gifted to the Americans as the USS Bonhomme Richard. Unfortunately, Le Ray would suffer immensely from the financial burden of his generosity.