LAVAUD, Charles Francois
King's Commissioner for the French Settlement at Akaroa.
Charles Francois Lavaud was born on 23 March 1798 at Lorient, France. He was the son of a Bordelaise naval officer who had suffered during the St. Domingo revolt, and a Breton mother. In 1810 he joined the French Navy and served on the Nymphe during the Java campaign (1810–11). He was a midshipman on the Tourville, gained his ensigncy in 1819 and his lieutenancy in 1825. Between 1817 and 1824 he visited the West Indies and the South Seas. During the Greek War of Independence (1827) he served on the Junon, and, from 1829 till 1838, made hydrographic surveys off Newfoundland. In 1839, after a short period in the Ministry of Marine in Paris, Lavaud was given command of L'Aube and instructed to proceed to New Zealand as Commissaire du Roi to prepare for the reception of the French colonists whom the Nanto-Bordelaise Company were sending to Akaroa. He arrived at the Bay of Islands on 10 June 1840 to find that Hobson had already proclaimed British sovereignty. Although he was not prepared to recognise Hobson's position as Lieutenant-Governor, Lavaud discussed his mission with him and with Pompallier and De Thierry. In order to safeguard British rights of sovereignty, Hobson dispatched the Britomart to Akaroa to establish British civil authority. Thus, when Lavaud arrived there on 15 August 1840, he found a Magistrate's Court already in existence. (This is the origin of the legend, “the race for Akaroa”.) Very wisely, he decided to cooperate with Robinson, the Magistrate, until such time as their respective Governments had settled the question of sovereignty, and, after the French colonists arrived, he assisted him to maintain order in the settlement. In January 1843 Lavaud was recalled to France, where his tactful handling of the situation at Akaroa earned him the Legion of Honour.
From 1846 till 1850 Lavaud was Governor of the French establishments in Oceania and commander of the naval station there. He returned to France in the latter year and was promoted to the rank of Contre Amiral (Rear-Admiral) on 11 June 1853. He became a Grand Officer in the Legion of Honour on 6 August 1860 and was posted to the reserve on 25 March 1860. Lavaud died on 11 March 1878.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
Crown Colony Government in New Zealand, McLintock, A. H. (1958); The French at Akaroa, Buick, T. L. (1928); L'Expansion Francais dans le Pacifique, 1800–1842, Faivre, J-P. (1953).