Lucknow’s French Connection : René-Marie Madec
Volume: 12, No: 05 ; May-2018
René-Marie Madec (February 7, 1736 – 1784), called Medoc in Anglo-Indian writings, was a French adventurer in India.
Madec was born in Quimper in northwestern France to poor parents. Little is known about his childhood in Quimper and at most we can imagine that the boy dreamt of adventures at sea. His father decided that his son will be a sailor and at the age of 9 he makes his first boat trip on a Bordeaux coaster that carries wine. He was absent for 4 months.
His father obliged him, on his return, to take courses in hydrography and navigation. He hoped that one day his son will be able to join as an officer, the East and East India Battalion. But the young Madec is not attracted by these courses and dreamt of moving away from his family and living his life.
He was only 11 years old when he makes his second big trip aboard “La Valeur”, a slave ship that transported slaves from Senegal to Santo Domingo.
At the age of 15, around 1750, he embarks, without warning his parents, on “the Auguste” for a long journey of 6 months that will take him from Lorient to Pondicherry, French trading post in India.
René was captivated by what he saw in Pondicherry, the atmosphere that reigns in this French counter. He easily got used to the crowd and appreciated the kindness of the Tamils. He was impressed by Dupleix’s home. (Tell something about the place).
He returned to Quimper but stayed there for only 8 months. He thought of only one thing, to return to the Coromandel coast.
In 1752, he embarked on “Le Lys” and found Pondicherry. He enlisted as a cadet in Dupleix’s troops. Being taken prisoner by the British, Madec agreed to enlist in the British troops in the Bengal army, where he met Claude Martin and both became good friends.
Deserting with some of his companions shortly before the Battle of Buxar (1764), he became military instructor to various native princes, organizing successively the forces of Nawab of Awadh, and of the Jats and Rohillas.
He was welcomed by Nawab of Awadh, Shuja-ud-Daula at Gentil’s request. Highly influenced by local traditions and customs, he wears the traditional outfit of a long tunic, baggy trousers and a turban. In contact with Indians he learns their language.
At 28, Madec becomes a true warlord. It is an army of 1,500 fighters including a hundred Europeans. Fortune begins to smile at the young Breton who, a few months later, marries Marie-Anne Barbette, the daughter of one of Prince Shuja’s councilors.
He became a key military advisor to Shuja-ud-Daula and in 1772 he took service under the Great Moghul Shah Alam II, who gave him the title of Nawab, reserved to the highest dignitaries of the sultan’s court. There he gained a high level of respect and trust and earned himself a sizeable fortune.
Before leaving Hindustan, he returned to Pondicherry one last time and assisted the French in the siege of Pondicherry in 1778. He became King of the Deccan, defender of the Indies for the King of France and he accumulated great wealth.
After the capitulation of Pondicherry, in 1779, he returned to France with a considerable fortune. This earned him a reputation in France as well. The King appointed him Colonel and named him Chevalier de Saint Louis. He then settled in Quimper.