Une coupure de presse en anglais du 31 août 1870 sur la mort de Charles de Flahaut
CHAN 565 AP 19 . dossier 17 . Pièce 81
THE LATE COUNT FLAHAUT
The grave has just closed on one of the celebrities of the great Napoleon’s war. On the 31st of August died at Paris Augustus Charles Joseph Flahaut de la Billarderie, Senator of France and Grand Chancellor of the legion of Honour, – a man distinguished alike both in war and diplomacy, as born aristocrat of the ancient noblesse of France, who was old enough to remember the day when his father was guillotined at Arras in 1793, when Joseph Lebon was Revolutionary Commissioner in that town.
His mother, Mademoiselle de Filleul, was married in 1784 to the Count of Flahaut, a member of the very old and honourable family in Picardy. In 1785 their son Augustus was born, but when the blow which cut off the head of the family fell in 1793, Madame de Flahaut fled to England with her child, where, having lost all ather means of support, she maintained them both by a series of novels, distinguished, as a French authority says, « par le charme du style, une profonde sensibilité et des observations de moeurs aussi fines que piquantes. » Il will be sufficient to mention Adèle de Senanges, ou les Lettres de Lord Sydenham, as her best work, with the remark that the morals of her Lord Sydenham were not at all these of the nobleman whom we all of us remember under that title. There can be no doubt that the mother of the Count of Flahaut was a women of great spirit and character, and that her son, like most sons, was more indebted to his mother than to his father for the instruction and example which enabled him in after years to play so conspicuous a part in the world.
In 1796 the mother and her son repaired to Hambourg, where she still pursued her literary labours. In 1798 she returned to Paris, and in 1802 married her second husband, the Portuguese Diplomatist de Souza-Botelho, a man of literary taste, and the editor of the Lusiad of Camoens. We now pass from the history of her mother to that of the son.
From his earliest youth he had chosen the profession of arms, and when only 15 entered a troop of volunteer horse raised in 1800 to accompany Napoleon as First Consul to Italy. It was at the battle of Marengo that the young Flahaut made his first essay in arms. He also served in the war of Portugal, where he attracted the attention of Murat. We next hear of him at Austerlitz, and again later in the Spanish campaigns of the Empire. Promoted to the rank of captain in the 13th Regiment of Hussars, he especially distinguished himself at the battle of Friedland, and was named a few days after Officer of The Legion of Honour. Severely wounded at the passage of the Ens in 1809, he reached the rank of colonel in that campaign.
These distinctions had been bestowed on him while still aide-de-camp to Murat, but in 1809 he passed from the Staff of his old commander to that of Berthier, who also made him his aide-de-camp. This was just after the battle of Wagram, for his service in which bloody field Berthier bestowed on him the empty tittle of Baron of the Empire. But it was in the Russain campaign that Colonel de Flahaut was destined especially to distinguish himself. He was one of the Emperor’s aides-de-camp throughout the campaign. Foremost in all the combats of the advance, conspicuous in the battle of Smolensko, where, on the 12th of August, Napoleon defeated the Russians under Barclay de Tolly and Bagration, and half the town became a prey to the flames, and covering himself with laurels on the bloody field of Borodino, Colonel Flahaut was not the last in the disastrous retrait. He used to say that he had lost 17 horses between Moscow and the Niemen, fortunate, as most will think, in having so many horses to lose. But after all the perils of that campaign he arrived safe and sound in Germany, and soon found his way to the Emperor in Paris. In 1813 he was made a General of Brigade and named one of the Emperor’s Adjutants. From this time forth Napoleon always distinguished him by marks of his peculiar favour. On the 10th of March, 1813, he selected him to meet the King of Saxony, and to conduct him to yhis capital. His gallant conduct at the battle of Dresden gained him the rank of General of Division. At Leipsic he was again reckoned among the bravest of the brave, and Napoleon gave him the tittle of Count on the field of battle. After taking part in the battle of Hanau, where the great Napoleon beat his treacherous allies, the Bavarians, in a way which his Nephew has not been destined to emulate in the campaign of 1870, Count Flahaut returned with the Emperor to France, and clung to his Imperial patron to the last. Napoleon made him on the 13th of February, 1814, the bearer of a message to the Allied Sovereigns at Lusignan, in which he proposed a suspension of arms, whioch was not granted, the first condition of the Emperor being exactly like that now proposed by the Revolutionary Govenment in Paris to the King of Prussia – the withdrawal of the allied troops across the Rhine. In all those combats of February and March, 1814, Count Flahaut was most distinguished. He was present when the great master of the art of war alternately beat each of the Allied Generals, rapidly passing from the Seine to the Marne as strategy required it. At last, when the Emperor, overwhelmed by the numbers rather than by the generalship of his adversaries, was forced to abdicate, Count Flahaut resisted all the enticements of the Bourbons to enter their service. He had served the Emperor, and would serve no one else. When Napoleon returned from Elba Count Flahaut hastened to offer his sword to his old master. The Emperor showed the reliance he placed in him sending him with important despatches to Vienne for Prince Talleyrand ; but, however ably Count Flahaut might have executed that command, he was not destined to fulfit it, for he was arrested at Stuttgart, and had to return to France from a mission which had borne no fruit. Not-withstanding this failure, Napoleon still showered nonours on him. On the 2d of June he made him a Peer of France. It need hardly be said that o soldier of such fame and merit followed the Emperor to the campaign of 1815. He was specially intrusted with the responsible task of reforming the army which had flocked ti the Emperor’s standards. On this occasion Count Flahaut fulfilled this duty far better than Marshal Leboeuf discharged the same duty to Napoleon III. How well he reformed the old soldiers and raw recruits into fighting regimenys let the campaign which followed tell. At Fleurus, and at Waterloo Count Flahaut was present in the thickest of the fight. When the day was lost he was one of those who bore the Emperor off the fatal field and accompanied him in his flight. After Waterloo he returned to his place in the Chamber of Peers, and in vain strove ti turn the course of events in a way favourable to the interests of the Emperor and his family. Nothing could equal, in short, the moral courage which he exhibited on the occasion. Finding these efforts unavailing, on the 1st of July he took command of a corps of cavalry which the Provisional Government intrusted to his orders. In a word, Count Flahaut was one of the few who remained faithfull to the Emperor to the very last.
It could not, of course, be supposed that a man so distinguished, and who had identified himself so completely with the fortunes of the Emperor, should be regarded with anything but hostility by the Bourbons on their second return. Accordingly, it is not surprising to find that the name of Count Flahaut was one of the first entered on the list of those proscribed by the new dynasty. But the Emperor Napoleon was not Count Flahaut,’ only friend. He had endeared himself to many, and to none more that the Prince Talleyrand, whose cold nature rose to something like enthusiasm while pleading the cause of his friend. The result was that, at the instance o the Prince, Count Flahaut’s name was erased from the black list, and was not to be found, to the astonishment of many, in the famous Ordinance of Proscription, dated July 24, 1815. At the same time, however, he received the warning that foreign air raight be good both for his prospects and his health. Obedient to the oint, he retired first to Switzerland and then to England. This foreign journey may be said to have been the turning point in the fortunes of Count Flahaut. After all, the Bourbons were his best friends when they adviced him to change his native air. The young General, who had seen so many campaigns, and who combined the rank of the ancient noblesse of France with the most heroic exploits in the bloodiest campaigns then known, was a welcome guest in English society. Distinguished in arms, his presence was noble and his manners perfect. Few could resist such a combination of attractions. No wonder, then, that the gallant sytanger wooed and won Miss Elphinstone, the fair heiress of Lord Keith, the distinguished Admiral, thus adding her wealth and charms to his awn distinctions and glory. It is well known that the course of true love never run smooth, and there were difficulties at first, we believe, raised to the match ; but whatever those difficulties may have been they were finally surmounted, and the gallant adventurer bore off one of England’s wealthiest heiresses as his bride when he returned to Paris. Srange and romantic alliances were among the first fruits of the Thirty Years’Peace, and it was not among the least striking freaks of fortune that the soldier of Moscow, Dresden, and Waterloo should be established in a Scotch castle, and contribute to keep up that singular connexion which has so log subsisted between North Britain and France.
Count Flahaut revisited his country several times during the period of the Restoration. But the outbreak of thr Revolution of July recalled him to the service of the State. He resumed his seat in the Chamber of Peers, and filled the post of Ambassador at Berlin for six months during 1831. The Orleans family soon received him into their favour, and he was chosen to accompany the young Duke of Orleans to the siege of Antwerp. As he had served the great Napoleon chiefly by his sword, though even that keen observed had, as we have seen, detected the diplomatic talent which lay hid under the uniform of a General of Division, so ut was as a diplomatist that Count Flahaut was destined to serve King Louis-Philippe. It was a time when a good adress and firm character were more than ever required in the foreign missions of France, and in 1841 the Kinf’s choice fell on Count Flahaut for the difficult post of Ambassador at Vienna. We may conclude that Count Flahaut fulfilled his onerous duties entirely to the satisfaction of the King, for we find that he remained at Vienna till 1848, and, in fact, was only recalled by the outbreak of the Revolution in February of that year.
The unrunly inauguraion of the new Revolution was not at all to the taste of Count Flahaut, and at first he held himself in the back ground, but as soon as there was a prospect that Louis Napoleon might be first President and the Emperor, his old love for the Imperial Dynasty returned, and after the coup d’état of 1851 Count Flahaut was one of the first to place himself at the disposal of the President. Long before, he had been one of the most intimate friends of Queen Hortense, who is said to have composed for him her popular air, « Partant pour la Syrie ». With that strong personnal feeling which Louis-Napoleon always showed for the faithful adherents of his House it was natural that Count Flahaut should be received into great favour at the new Imperial Court.Immediately after the coup d’état Count Flahaut was appointed a member of the Consultative Commission. In 1853, he was made a Senator of the Empire. In 1854 he became a member of the Commission appointed to edit the works of the First Napoleon. Later still, in 1860, he was appointed Ambassador in this country, where the splendid hospitality displayed by him and Lady Keith and Nairn will long be remembered. It was said at the time that the Emperor’s choice wavered between Count Flahaut and Count Morny. We think there can be no doubt that the Emperor chose the rignt man, so far as English society was concerned. While we all rejoiced at the coming of Count Flahaut, there was not one among us who regretted the absence of Count Morny. On the 28th of January, 1964, Count Flahaut was named by the Emperor Napoleon the third Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honour, at the Palace of which Order, i, the Rue de Lille, Count Flahaut expired last week, full of honours and years.
If he was unhappy in his birth at a time when, as soon as he was of years to remember anything, he saw his father dragged off to the scaffold by a revolutionary tribunal, he has at least been happy in his death ; for he was spared the bitterness of witnessing the extinction of that Napoleon dynasty which he had served so faithfully through evil and good repute. Once in his boyhood he mignt just have heard that the Prussians had made their way into France as far as Valmy, thence to be driven back in disastrous defeat. Twice in later years it had been his hard fate to see those very Prussians lording it in Paris. But he has been spared the misery of seeing the Prussians for the third time before the walls of Paris, and his eyes at least will not behold what was so wonderfully averted in 1815, the dismemberment of France. Few men have led so varied and at the same time so honourable and stainless alife. We all remember his noble bearing and stately presence, the charm of his conversation, and the winning accents of his adress. A soldier of fortune, and yet a most finished gentleman, even the first Empire produced few such characters – so brave, and yet so discreet ; so amiable, and yet so trustworthy. He was the most illustrious – in fact, we may say he was the only – survivor of that wonderful period which embraces the Consulate and the Empire, and he not only survived it, but had filled a prominent place in its annals. He witnessed not merely as a spectator but as an actor those tremendous struggles which shook Europe to her foundations, and he was not the least in those days when there were giants in the land. It was well said at the time he was selected to fill the vacant Chancellorship so long filled by another veteran, the Marshal d’Ornano, that there were persons who figured as heroes in works of fiction whose history had less of the romantic init than that of the new Chancellor of the Legion of Honour. Be that as it may, it is quite true that seldom in our century has a character so full of adventurous spirit, and at the same time so wise and prudent, passed away from the world as that of the late Count de Flahaut.