Eustachius Benedictus (Eustache Benoît) de Lannoy (also spelt "Lennoy" and sometimes called 'Captain De Lannoy') ( 1715 - June 1, 1777, Udayagiri Fort) was a Flemish naval commander of the Dutch East India Company, who was sent by the company to help establish a trading post at Colachel, Southern India, but was defeated at the Battle of Colachel by the Travancore army under Maharaja Marthanda Varma in 1741, and subsequently became a valiant and successful commander of the same foreign army that had defeated him. His role as military commander of the Travancore army was instrumental in the later military successes and exploits of Travancore under Marthanda Varma.
Depiction at Padmanabhapuram Palace of De Lannoy's Surrender at the Battle of Colachel.
1 Battle of Colachel
2 Appointment as Travancore army commander
3 Forts built under De Lennoy’s supervision
4 Life at Udayagiri and later years
5 Relevant places of interest
Battle of Colachel
In August 1741, De Lannoy arrived at the port of Colachel, near the southern tip of India, as commander of a naval fleet, sent by the Dutch East India Company, or Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), with the objective of establishing a trading post for the company at Colachel. The company which was the world’s first joint-stock company and the largest multinational company at the time was a very rich corporation and had its own naval fleet to protect its trade and maritime establishments.
The company was interested in acquiring and monopolizing the trade of pepper and other spices, which was sold in the European markets at exorbitant prices from the Kingdom of Kayamkulam. Earlier negotiations with the Travancore government under the king Maharaja Marthanda Varma had proved futile, and it was thus decided to use military pressure to subdue the king since Marthanda Varma who was favorable to the British was bent on annexing Kayamkulam and thereby endangering the Dutch monopoly on pepper. It was with these intentions that a powerful Dutch naval force was dispatched from the nearest Dutch settlement of Galle in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka).
Once the Dutchmen arrived at Colachel they came ashore and initially took over the lands from Colachel to the Travancore capital, Padmanabhapuram, but were soon overpowered by Travancore army reinforcements that came from the north of the country. Captain De Lannoy’s military contingent was superior in that, it had firearms and was better equipped, but was no match to the tactics and aggressiveness used by the Travancore forces at the Battle of Colachel. This battle is important as it marked the decline of Dutch influence in India. Future European powers learnt from this defeat by hiring Indian soldiers into their armies.
Captain De Lannoy and twenty-four other Dutchmen were taken prisoner, while the rest of the Dutchmen either retreated to their ships or were killed. Among the prisoners was Donadi, De lannoy’s lieutenant.
Appointment as Travancore army commander
While in prison, he was offered a conditional pardon and release by the king, Maharaja Marthanda Varma, whereby he was to train and modernize the Travancore army, which De Lannoy and his men readily accepted.
De Lannoy organized the Travancore army on European lines, introduced gun-powder and firearms, hitherto not used in the kingdom, and increased the regiments and improved defence fortifications. In the process, he earned the trust of the king, who put him in command of the entire Travancore armed forces.
De Lannoy was a skilled military strategist, and together with the tactics of the Dewan of Travancore, Ramayyan Dalawa, and the king, Maharaja Marthanda Varma, the combined skills of the threesome proved very effective in the future military exploitations and annexations of rival kingdoms in the neighbourhood. The statesmanship of king Marthanda Varma, De Lannoy’s military strategy and Ramayyan Dalawa’s tactics were instrumental in the defeat and annexation of Attingal, Quilon, Kayankulam, Panthalam, Ambalapuzha, Edapalli, Thekkanpur and Vadakkanpur with Travancore.
Donadi, De Lannoy’s Dutch naval lieutenant was also made a senior military officer in the Travancore military.