1557 Utrech Du Rosne

Quand chef Pérouse n’osera sa tunique,
Sens au couvert tout nud s’expolier: 
Seront prins sept, faict aristocratique,
Le père et fils mors par poincte au colier.

Charles A. Ward went way out of line in order to link this quatrain awkwardly to Henri III.  Whereas the geographical Pérouse is Perugia in Italy, the historical Pérouse could be either Alphonse de la Pérouse, the anarchist who praised the primitive and barbarous, or else the expedition leader Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse (Lapérouse) who was virtually a disciple of Captain Cook. (He has even been described in ‘The Fame of Lapérouse’ by Ernest Scott as a figurative ‘son of James Cook’.)

This skilful navigator Commandant La Pérouse (on a voyage to Kamchatka that also took in Alaska and the South Seas Islands) disappeared after leaving Australia with 2 ships but insufficient foodstuff. His personal fate is unknown. Some time before he had lost 12 men, including the captain of his second vessel, during a skirmish with hostile savages on an island (having praised how noble and friendly some indigenous people were that he had encountered on a previous island).

Line 1, OF ‘osera’ from ‘oser’ denotes bravado, audacity or licence but ‘osera’ could also describe the alluvial ooze distributed by a torrent. OF ‘tunique’ is a dress-tunic, often displaying religious or military rank, the word being derived from Roman robes of office.

OF ‘ne’ was a negative, no, not, but could be an emphatic construct much like “none but the monarch does do this” whilst the similar-looking OF ‘ni’ is a degree of denial, or/nor, as in “neither the monarch could nor does”. The separation of uses does not seem strictly applied.

Line 2. A ‘sen’ was a South East Asian cash-coin* but Ward replaces it with ‘sans’ whilst most translate it better as ‘sense’ which may be extended beyond the physical to embrace consciousness, sensitivity, discrimination, understanding. OF ‘couvert’ is from the verb ‘couvrir’, to cover, which can have a variety of applications including trees canopying a forest. OF ‘nud’ is from ‘nuer’, describing a harmonious assortment that features branching colours, or else from OF ‘nu’ meaning without clothes or armaments or wearing just trousers or nightshirt or else ‘of little or no value’. OF ‘expolier’ is to rob somebody by deception or force (but OF ‘exfolier’ is a plant losing its leaves).

*These came with reverse motifs often taken from religious symbols or cultivated commodities; a rising sun or concentric seashell or a sheaf of bamboo. The word ‘sen’ in Vietnamese means the lotus, an aquatic plant similar to the water-lily and a major symbol of Buddhism.

The first couplet,
Quand chef Perouse n’osera sa tunique,
Sens au couvert tout nud s’expolier:

In the first line is Nostredame describing the otherwise unrecorded last moments of ‘de La Pérouse’, perhaps a muddy death? In the second line is he describing a finely embroidered ‘dress tunic’ such as great men wore with branching rich-coloured designs upon stiff, high neck collars?

The second couplet,
Seront prins sept, faict aristocratique,
Le père et fils mors par poincte au colier.

OF ‘prins’ is from ‘prendre, to take, but here may intimate ‘princeps’, an old Roman word for ‘in premier position’. (The antique French for prince was prince!) OF ‘sept’ is the quantity 7, the seventh month and so on. Numerically it is not September, the seventh month in the obsolete Roman calendar, as that is now the Gregorian ninth month.


OF ‘faict’ is not necessarily ‘fait’ as in ‘deed’ or ‘do’ or ‘make’. It could be nearer to the Anglo-Saxon f-word as ‘faice’ is from the verb ‘fesser’. OF ‘fesse’ can mean many things from physical love to the superficial and speedy reading of a book. It has a main meaning of corporal punishment by beating on ‘les fesses’. In this context, ‘faict aristocratique’ might mean ‘aristocrats small in valour’ or may even intend ‘unaristocratic’. OF ‘mors’ is the equestrian piece of harness known as a bit, whilst ‘mors/mordre’ (sometimes mistaken for ‘mort’) means bite. OF ‘poincte’ is most possibly ‘point’ but could also be puncture. OF ‘colier’ could be the designation for an upper vestment or intends ‘collier’, an animal harness/yoke, or else the verb ‘coller’ meaning to hold steady or ‘button down’.

As sometimes occurs with the Nostradamus quatrains this couplet doesn’t seem quite matched to the first couplet, suffering an unconvincing grammatical link, and this one reads a lot like some brutish humiliations recorded during the French Revolution.

Translation 1:
When Pérouse dare not parade his dress-tunic,
Understanding to cover it up, all ornamentation is snatched away by force:
There will be seven principals, fake aristocrats,
Father and son with studs pointing through their high collars.

In March 1778 the famous explorer and navigator La Pérouse indicated that he would be back in France by December. After leaving Botany Bay he disappeared with his crew and two ships. (Father and son ships? Tied up together whilst sheltering from a tropical storm?) The shipwrecks were found, centuries later, North of Vanuatu (aka the New Hebrides uniquely shared between Britain and France) and just off the Solomon Islands. (Line 4 contains the letters of the name Solomon/Suleiman, by the way.) Did the crews get to shore?

Translation 2:
When Commandant Lapérouse doth tunic muddy,
Sen to cover all, branches lacking leaves:
Then seven aristocrats will be taken,
The father and son yoked with mouth-bits at points.

A 1797 pamphlet ‘Fragmens du Dernier Voyage de la Pérouse may have been the work of Pére Receveur (d.1788, Botany Bay) a sometime science observer on this major expedition around the Pacific (the official volumes of which, issued by the Revolutionary Government, are still being consulted today). Curiously, the title Pére is available from Line 1 and the name Receveur from line 2.

If La Pérouse had made it home, France could have claimed Australia.

Translation 3:
When the uniformed leader La Pérouse braves it out,
To cover the nodes (Fr.’nœuds’) in every direction, and gets violently stripped of all that is his:
Seven will be taken,
A father and son will be harnessed, unaristocratically, cheek-by-jowel.

Following the loss of Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse, France’s rival Britain went on to plant the Union Jack on all seven continents and was to populate Australia as the Mother Country. (This rivalry was very real. In 1791 a Tasmanian channel was named for his self by the French Admiral Citizen Dentrecasteux – whose surname is jumbled into the letters of the first three lines of the quatrain, surprisingly.)

Whichever way we may struggle to interpret this Nostradamus Quatrain V 67, it certainly contains some novel detail over what was for hundreds of years a mysterious disappearance, blamed at the time on the British, of the great explorer La Pérouse.