Canon de 4 de Vallière

Canon de 4 de Vallière

Canon de 4 de Vallière (Le Pénétrant), Les Invalides
Place of origin France
Service history
Used by France
Production history
Designer Florent-Jean de Vallière
Designed 1732
Manufacturer J. Gor, Commissaire des Fontes
Weight 650 kg
Barrel length 240 cm

Shell 2 kg ball (4 French pounds)
Caliber 84 mm
Rate of fire 1 or 2 shots per minute

The Canon de 4 de Vallière was a type of cannon designed by the French officer Florent-Jean de Vallière ( 1667-1759), Director-General of the Battalions and Schools of the Artillery.

The cannon was a result of the Royal Ordonnance of October 7, 1732, enacted to reorganize and standardize the King's artillery[1]

Whereas numerous formats and designs had been in place in the French army, De Vallière standardized the French sizes in artillery pieces, by allowing only for the production of 24, 12, 8 and 4 pound guns, mortars of 13 and 9 inches, and stone-throwing mortars of 16 inches.[1] The 24-pdr was the largest caliber available to French artillery in this system.

The cannon used core drilling of the bore of cannons founded in one piece of bronze, a method developed at that time by Jean Maritz, which allowed for much higher precision of the bore shape and surface, and therefore higher shooting efficiency.

As with other de Valliere guns, the 4-pdr was also highly decorated and contained numerous designs and inscriptions.

Front part

Starting with the front part, the gun had a sight design at it extremity. The followed the name of the gun (here Le Pénétrant). Then, a Latin phrase "Ultima Ratio Regum", initially introduced by Louis XIV, and rather descriptive of the role of the gun: "The Last Argument of the King". Under that appears the name "Louis Charles de Bourbon, comte d'Eu, duc d'Aumale", the Grand Maître de l'artillerie de France (Grand Master of the Artillery of France), followed by a royal emblem. In the middle of the cannon are trunnions, used to position the gun in place and elevate or depress it. On top of the trunnions are dolphin-shaped ornaments, which are used in lifting the gun.[2]

Back part

The back part consists in, sometimes, an inscription showing the weight of the cannonball (for example a "4" for a 4-pounder), followed by a Latin inscription "Nec pluribus impar", meaning that the King is "Not unequal to many (suns)". This is followed by the royal crest of the Bourbon dynasty. At the bottom of the gun, the location and date of manufacture are inscribed, and finally the name and title of the founder (in the example "Fondu par J. Gor, Commissaire des Fontes").[2] The breech is decorated with an animal face showing the rating of the gun ("Face in a sunburst" for a 4-pounder).

Operational activity

"The surrender at Saratoga" shows General Daniel Morgan in front of a de Vallière 4-pounder.
US Army personnel with a de Vallière 4-pounder in the 60s.

Numerous de Valliere guns were used in the American War of Independence, especially the smaller 4-pdr field guns. The guns were shipped from France, and the field carriages provided for in the US. These guns played an important role in such battles as the Battle of Saratoga,[2] or the Siege of Yorktown.

See also

Media related to Canon de 4 de Vallière at Wikimedia Commons


  1. 1 2 A Dictionary of Military History and the Art of War By André Corvisier, p.837
  2. 1 2 3 Springfield Armory
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