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Valéry (Shipping company, France)

Last modified: 2004-10-02 by
Keywords: valery | letters: vef (black) |
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[Valery house flag 1]by Ivan Sache

[Valery house flag 2]by Ivan Sache


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Presentation of Valéry

The three brothers Jean-Mathieu, Joseph and Jean Valéry founded in 1835 the company Joseph et Frères Valéry, which operated four sailing ships. In November 1840, the company opened a line between Bastia (Corsica) and Leghorn (Italy), served by a steamship. In 1843, a similar line was opened between Bastia and Marseilles and Toulon. SS Bonaparte, built in 1845 in La Ciotat for Valéry, was the first ship with an iron screw in Marseilles.
In 1851, the company was granted the postal service of Corsica, operated since 1845 by a state ship. Due to its development, the company bought several ships in Nantes, La Ciotat and Greenock (Scotland).

When Joseph, son of Jean-Mathieu, joined the company in 1854, it was renamed Valéry Frères et Fils. On 23 February 1860, MS Louise missed the entrance of the port of Bastia and sunk on rocks, causing the death of 58, including 28 Italian artists invited to give a show in Bastia. In May 1870, Valéry was granted the postal service with Northern Africa, after the Messageries Maritimes had refused to extend their contract. The company also had scheduled lines with Algiers, Oran, Bone (Annaba) and Tunis. To face the competition with Fraissinet for the African lines, Valéry improved its service and attempted to extend it to Morocco, the Middle-East, Madagascar and New Caledonia.
Valéry lost the Algerian postal contract, which was granted to the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique in 1880. After unsuccessful attempts to serve Reunion and Mauritius, Valéry decided in December 1880 to sell most of its fleet to the Transat, including the eight liners bought in 1872 for the African lines.

In March 1883, F. Morelli, a former employee of Valéry, reorganized the remains of the fleet as the Compagnie Insulaire de Navigation. The new company operated 11 ships formerly own by Valéry, two second-hand ships and two new ones, serving Italy and Spain and, for a while, the postal contract with Corsica. In 1885, an attempt to open a line to Haiti failed. The company was sold off in 1891.

Source: Paul Bois. Armements marseillais - Compagnies de navigation et navires à vapeur (1831-1988), published by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Marseille-Provence [boi03].

Ivan Sache, 15 February 2004

The 1870 contract caused a problem in Britain. Valéry chartered the steamer Princess Royal, from Messers Langlands & Son of Glasgow, to operate the service. She was given a French captain and crew, but had an English certificated master and engineer on board to look after the owner's interests. The French Government insisted that she operated the mail service under the French flag, and gave her a special licence to do so. However the British consul in Marseilles would not allow the vessel, British owned and registered, to sail flying French colours.

The owners appealed to the Board of Trade for dispensation to fly the French flag. The Board of Trade asked the Admiralty to issue a warrant allowing this. The Admiralty replied that they had no objection to a British ship flying the national colours of another country, but had no power to issue a warrant permitting it. On 19 July 1871 the Foreign Office sent a despatch instructing the consul not to prevent the vessel from sailing.

On consideration the Board of Trade decided that under British municipal law a British ship flying French colours was subject to the same liabilities and entitled to the same privileges as a British vessel flying British colours, but that under international law it was not.
"It is simply impossible that a vessel, British according to British law, voluntarily assuming, in the eyes of all maritime nations, the character of a French ship, can lay claim to all the immunities of a British ship sailing under British colours. Supposing for instance, that a vessel belonging to a nation at war with France were to fire a signal to bring her to, and, sailing on, were to fire into her, is it reasonable to suppose that the British government could demand any apology or reparation? I think, speaking generally, that as regards international law, the Princess Royal cannot in all respects claim the protection and assistance of a British consul in the same way as British vessels carrying the British flag."

In September Valéry chartered the steamer Malvina, from the London & Edinburgh Shipping Company, Leith, for the same purpose. The owners wrote to the Admiralty request permission to operate the ship under French colours, but were told that the Admiralty had no power to authorise the wearing of any other national colour than those sanctioned and required by Act of Parliament. [National Archives (PRO) Box MT 9/59, file 5722]

David Prothero, 18 February 2004


Description of the flags of Valéry

Valéry has two house flags, both white with a thin red stripe in top and bottom of the flag. The flags differ by the black writing on the white stripe, either VEF or CIE VALERY & FILS.

Source: Paul Bois. Armements marseillais - Compagnies de navigation et navires à vapeur (1831-1988), published by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Marseille-Provence [boi03].

Ivan Sache, 15 February 2004

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