Ernest Marc Louis de Gonzague Doudart de Lagrée (31 March 1823 – 12 March 1868) was born in Saint-Vincent-de-Mercuze near Grenoble.
He was educated at the Jesuit College in Chambery but showed an early strong desire to serve France. Despite the tempting offers made to him to keep him in Savoy, he entered the École Polytechnic where, on 1 October 1845, he graduated as a first class marine student.
He became an ensign in 1847 and was appointed lieutenant of a vessel of choice on 8 March 1854. In this regard, he commanded the low battery of the ship Friedland during combat on 17 October under the walls of Sebastopol and received for his brilliant services during the Crimean campaign the Cross of the Knight of the Legion of Honour.
He then performed with distinction his command of the sloop Ranger, along the shores of the Mediterranean. An affliction of the larynx, which originated in his childhood, obliged him as a result of this campaign, to leave active service, in order to follow special treatment. Barely convalescent, he went to Cochinchin, where he soon played a most intelligent and useful role.
Appointed captain of a frigate on 2 December 1864, as recognition of his services in the negotiations on the establishment of the Protectorate of Cambodia, he wanted to complete the task the to which he had devoted himself, and he accepted, at the beginning of 1866, the direction of the voyage which was to cost him his life.
Garnier, Vol I: Preface, I & II
Two portraits exist of this intrepid Dauphinois: one as a young sailor, the other as a mature man marked ‘explorer’. The latter perfectly illustrates the role of diplomat he was officially designated to play with the king of Cambodia.
Lagrée was also an entomologist. His collection of exotic insects was bequeathed to the Museum of Natural History of Paris.