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  • Colonial Allure: Normal Homoeroticism and Sodomy in French and Timucuan Encounters in Sixteenth-Century Florida
  • Heather Martel (bio)

At first normally homoerotic, the sixteenth-century attempt by French Protestants to seduce the Timucuan kings of Florida into friendly alliances turned sodomitical. Commanders of the first three French voyages to Florida, Jean Ribaut and René Laudonnière, consciously eroticized their goal of assimilating and enculturating the Timucua through romantic friendships based on gift exchanges with Timucuan men, particularly Timucuan kings. The French approach to these kings was explicitly one of “allurement” in which they planned to seduce Timucuan leaders into love and friendship, which might foster a successful French colony in the region. Observations of Timucuan “sodomites,” “hermaphrodites,” and “idolators” signaled the penetrability of the Timucua who could be seduced and Christianized through French “allure.” The Timucua resisted this seduction, however, and used their own counterallurement to earn the sympathy of the French leader Laudonnière instead.

The French forged a strong alliance with the Timucuan king Saturiwa against Spain and their indigenous allies among the Timucua. Published accounts of this alliance, such as that of Jacques Le Moyne and Theodor de Bry in Americae (The Americas), however, cast aspersions on Laudonnière’s leadership. They believed his heretical misalliance with the Timucua had brought on the wrath of God, who unleashed the Spanish upon the French, killing every Protestant they could find with a vengeance. As if to warn future Protestant colonizers against repeating this mistake, publisher and artist Theodor de Bry constructed a visually compelling cautionary tale of a Protestant colony falling under the spell of an influential and corrupting indigenous culture. In blaming Laudonnière’s weak leadership and frail faith, de Bry represented this colonial encounter as the story of Laudonnière’s fateful seduction by King Saturiwa. [End Page 34]

The French Huguenots explored and attempted to settle Florida between 1562 and 1565 in three voyages under the patronage of Huguenot admiral Gaspard de Coligny, the twelve-year-old King Charles IX of France, and the regent, who was Charles’s mother, Catherine de Médicis. Admiral Coligny convinced Charles IX and Catherine de Médicis that a Huguenot colony would be a solution to tensions between French Protestants and Catholics who had become accustomed to battling each other in the Wars of Religion. Not only would it be an outlet for men “incapable of adapting to a peaceful life” who might cause trouble in their communities in France, but this voluntary exile to a Protestant-dominated colony would also provide a place for the wealth and numbers of the Huguenot sect, a branch of Calvinist Protestantism. Coligny, who was seeking alliances with Dutch and English Protestants, also intended to establish a colony in a militarily “strategic” location from which to “cripple the movement” of Spanish trade and thus limit economic support for its Catholic enterprise.1

In the first voyage, captained by Jean Ribaut, friendly negotiations with the Timucua began successfully. Though this first colony failed and the colonists returned home, the second voyage, under René Goulain de Laudonnière, who had participated in Ribaut’s first venture, was reportedly welcomed by the Timucua. Laudonnière and his crew of predominantly French Protestant soldiers, artisans, and laborers, including the artist Jacques Le Moyne, established Fort Caroline on land within King Saturiwa’s territory.2 The French befriended local Timucuan leaders through exchanges of gifts and negotiations of a military alliance. Despite a promising start, Fort Caroline’s success was threatened by hunger and disrupted by mutinies within the year. A delayed third voyage by Ribaut left the colonists hungry and dependent on their Timucuan allies, some of whom began to economically exploit the French demand for food. Frustrated, Laudonnière and the colonists took one Timucuan king, Outina, captive and held him hostage for food. Their neighbor, King Saturiwa, then provided them with food in hopes of acquiring this captive king, his enemy, and thus ending his life.3 When Ribaut finally arrived with orders to take over for Laudonnière, Spanish troops led by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés had already located and surprised Fort Caroline, killing every French “Lutheran” except for...


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