Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Murder of the Duc d'Enghien

Louis-Antoine, Duc d'Enghien, the last heir of the house of Bourbon-Condé, was one of the most appealing among the exiled French princes in the days of Napoleonic rule. After the attempt upon Napoleon's life by a group of misguided royalists, as discussed in my review of For the King by Catherine Delors, the Corsican dictator sought to prevent any further plots by making an example of a member of the royal family. The Duc was kidnapped from his home beyond the French border and shot. Talleyrand referred to the murder as being a blunder on Naploeon's part, since the Duc was generally held in high esteem by friends and foes alike. Nevertheless, it seems that Talleyrand was involved in the efforts to capture the prince. According to an article in the "Napoleon Series":
On 10 March Napoleon held a council, attended by Talleyrand, Fouché, Cambacérès, Lebrun and Régnier in which it was decided to send a force into Baden for the purpose of seizing the duc d'Enghien. He had told his brother Joseph, "I am a target alike for the followers of the Bourbons and for the Jacobins." When urged to moderation in dealing with those wanting to overthrow the regime, Napoleon replied: "Am I a dog, to be hounded down and killed in street...while my murders are to be regarded as sacrosanct?" To Cambacérès, who opposed d'Enghien's arrest, Napoleon said, "I would have you know that I refuse to spare those who are sending out assassins against me." Napoleon added, "You have grown very stingy with Bourbon blood." Then, according to Talleyrand biographer Jean Orieux, "On the tenth and eleventh of March, 1804, Talleyrand sent notes to the baron of Edeisheim, Baden-Baden's minister in Paris, advising him that the duc d'Enghien was on Badenese soil and would be arrested and forcibly removed by French troops."

....D'Enghien was seized in his home on the night of Wednesday, 14 March, at 5 a.m. He spent the 16th in the fortress of Strasbourg and was sent by post-chaise to Paris, under the name of Plessis, on the night of the 17th. D'Enghien's papers were handed to Napoleon on the 19th, along with a report by Charlot which read, "The Duc d'Enghien has assured me that Dumouriez has not come to Ettenheim; that, however, it is possible that he had been charged to bring him instructions from England, but that he had not received them, because it was beneath his rank to have anything to do with such men." Though the papers contained no evidence of d'Enghien's complicity in the plot to murder Napoleon, the papers did show that the Prince had offered to serve with British forces, that he was in the pay of the British, that d'Enghien was involved in the paying of British pensions to other émigrés in the area, and that he had made preparations to enter France the moment the Austrians declared war.

D'Enghien arrived at the barrière de la Villette at about 3 p.m. and was taken to Vincennes where the court-martial was to be held. Two of the Prince's ancestors had been imprisoned there: Henri de Condé had been imprisoned in 1627 by Richelieu and "le Grand Condé" in 1650 by Mazarin. Reportedly a grave had already been dug, but, according to Savary, the grave had been dug between the time of the sentence and its execution.

Savary, who commanded the Gendarmerie d'Elite, had been sent to Biville on the coast of Normandy to await the arrival of a Bourbon Prince aboard a British naval cutter. The landing didn't take place; either because of the weather or because the proper signals for a landing were not sent. After two fruitless months, Savary arrived back in Paris and went to Malmaison to report his failure. Napoleon ordered him to go first to Murat with orders and then to Vincennes. Savary wrote in his memoirs, "If I had been absent two days longer I should now have nothing to say upon the death of the Duc d'Enghien, and it would be absurd to suppose that it depended upon my return. Thus far I had remained a stranger to everything that had just taken place..." Upon arrival at Murat's house, according to de Polnay, "Murat told Savary that a military tribunal would judge Enghien, and he, Savary, was to guard the Prince, and see to the judgment being executed without delay."
According to Murat's biographer, he was not happy with this assignment. Cole writes that Murat, on receiving his orders, turned "to his private secretary, Agar, he burst out: 'Bonaparte is trying to bespatter my coat but he will not succeed.' He hurriedly dressed and then went to confront his brother-in-law. It was a violent interview. Bonaparte, 'his cheeks sunken and livid, his eyes hard, his complexion pale and blotchy, his appearance saturnine and frightening', eventually brought it to an abrupt end: 'If you don't carry out my orders, I'll send you back to your mountains in the Quercy,' he said, and dismissed him."

On Tuesday, 20 March, the following resolution was made: "The ci-devant duc d'Enghien, accused of bearing arms against the republic, of having been and being still in the pay of England and of being a party to conspiracies directed against the internal and external security of the republic, will be brought before a military commission composed of seven members, appointed by the governor-general of Paris, Murat, which will meet in Vincennes." The Senate had previously suspended trial by jury in cases of assassination attempts against the First Consul. The law of 25 Brumaire, an III, tit. 5, sect. 1, art. 7, also provided that "émigrés who have borne arms against France shall be arrested, whether in France or in any hostile or conquered country, and judged within twenty-four hours..." In any case, the standard procedure in the case of death sentences by court martial was, according to de Polnay again, that the sentence would be carried out within twenty-four hours.

Dautancourt, a major of the gendarmerie, interrogated d'Enghien at the Château of Vincennes. The court-martial was presided over by General  Pierre-Augustin Hulin, a hero of the fall of the Bastille, consisting of five colonels, Bazancourt, Ravier, Barrois, Guiton, Rabbé, and Dautancourt. The court-martial was held in the great hall of the chateau. According to de Polnay, quoting Savary, "The Court Martial was composed of the colonels of the different regiments forming the garrison of Paris, decent officers who had 'no extravagant opinion', yet 'as well as all France were indignant at a project to assassinate the First Consul, and were persuaded that Georges [Cadoudal] acted under the direction of the Duc d'Enghien.'"

Napoleon drew up the list of questions to be put to the Prince. D'Enghien told of his desire to fight against France and his acceptance of money from Britain, France's enemy. D'Enghien stated, "My birth and my opinions will always make me the enemy of your government." D'Enghien told the court, "I had requested from England a commission in her army, and received for answer that she could not grant it, but that I should remain on the Rhine, where I should shortly have a part to play..." The Prince admitted to and was found guilty of being an "émigré in the pay of England and of bearing arms against France." Both of these were capital offenses.

According to de Polnay, "Barrois and Bazancourt suggested imprisonment, the others too, but after two hours of deliberation they unanimously decided on the death sentence because of the Prince's declaration that it was his duty to his rank and blood to serve against the French Government. It did not occur to a single member of the Court Martial that they were not competent to judge a man brought by force from a foreign country." D'Enghien was sentenced to be shot by a firing squad. Savary, unwilling to postpone the execution of the sentence, told the court, according to Hulin, "Messieurs, your business is over, mine begins". Soldiers took d'Enghien and stood him in fosse of the fortress of Vincennes and at 3 a.m. 21 March 1804 had the Prince shot by a firing squad. The last prince of the house of Condé was dead.

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May said...

This was terrible. If I remember correctly, WAR AND PEACE opens with a discussion of the Duc of Enghien's murder. And, more recently, I recall that Princess Henriette of Belgium, when providing background to Marie-Amelie's journal extracts, repeatedly refers to this incident, always in tones of horror(Henriette evidently didn't approve of Napoleon, at all).

elena maria vidal said...

Yes! There were a lot of people who did not approve of Napoleon at all, including his own mother!

lara77 said...

Napoleon never had any qualms about killing and murder; I would certainly not have wanted to be him on his death bed. The murder of the Duc d'Enghien; though a horror to friends and foes alike was just another body for Napoleon to step over. Napoleon, with all his trappings and style of Emperor was always at heart a common man with no class or breeding. The murder of d'Enghien proved it once more!