Thursday, December 2, 2010

Napoleon’s Devoted Aide-de-camp

General Philippe de Segur.
He was born in Paris on November 4, 1780 into a family of a military man, whose father, in turn, served as the Defence Minister under King Louis XVI of France. Philippe’s father, Louis de Segur, was sent in the early 1780s as the Minister Plenipotentiary to St.Petersburg, where he became Russian Empress Catherine II’s favourite, and wrote some comedies for her theatre. She appreciated his gallantry and quick wittedness, something that added significantly to some of his plays gaining popularity in Russia and beyond at the time. Louis de Segur could not even imagine that his son will also arrive in Russia in the not-so-distant future to try and fulfil his military mission.

In the late 1790s, Philippe de Segur served as a freelance correspondent with a Paris-based newspaper, which also saw a publication of his literary pieces from time to time. An about-face in his career took place in the wake of Napoleon coming to power in France in 1804, an event that prompted Philippe to start piling praise on the country’s new Emperor, whom he called “a charismatic person and renowned military commander”.  “I must be by Napoleon’s side,” Philippe used to tell his relatives and friends in wishful thinking that finally came true. He enlisted in the cavalry in 1800, and forthwith obtained a commission thanks to his brilliant personal record.  He served with General Macdonald in the Grisons in 1800-1801, which witnessed him being wounded and then taken prisoner. Afterwards, he was freed by the French forces, and took part in an array of military campaigns in the early 1800s. By the influence of Colonel Duroc at the time, he was attached to the personal staff of Napoleon, who quickly appreciated the young officer’s zeal. His brilliant conduct in the cavalry charge at Somosierra in 1808 won him the grade of colonel, and, later, general of brigade-turned-Napoleon’s personal aide-de-camp. 


Mrs. Rudd said...

In one of those amusing coincidences in history, Philippe's nephew's future father-in-law (General Rostopchine) was the man who is said to have ordered the burning of Moscow, sending Napoleon - and Philippe - back to France in defeat.

elena maria vidal said...

I didn't know that, how interesting!