Monday, August 20, 2012

Monarchist Profile: Augustin-Joseph de Mailly

Augustin-Joseph Comte de Mailly, marquis d’Haucourt and baron of Saint-Amand was born on April 5, 1708 in Villaines-sous-Luce into a very old noble family. Always close to the monarchy he served as a page boy to the King when he was very young and decided on a military career early in life. In 1726 he began his service as a musketeer before transferring to the gendarmerie and rose rapidly in rank. In 1743 he was promoted to brigadier general, in 1745 to marechal de camp and in 1748 to lieutenant general. The following year he was appointed inspector general of cavalry and dragoons and later director-general of all the armies of France. He fought with the Chevalier de Belle-Isle in the War of Austrian Succession and helped fend off Provence from invasion. He gave valuable service at the battles of Pavia, Piacenza and Tidon. In 1749 he was made governor of Roussillon and in this capacity held to more precisely define the Franco-Spanish border, though, like many elites of his time he was a member of the Freemasons and played a large part in the advancement of Freemasonry in Catalan. He also greatly developed the area of Roussillon with the building of factories, hospitals, churches, a military academy and a restoration of the local university.

When King Louis XVI succeeded to the French throne, he wished to restore French naval power and foreign trade. Toward that end, the Comte de Mailly oversaw the construction of a new port to be a center of trade with far corners of the world and a base for warships to defend against the Barbary pirates. This was Port-Vendres which Mailly wanted to incorporate all of his “Enlightenment” ideas to be what has been described as a model “Masonic” city (as horrible as that sounds) and, of course, it included the first great monument to King Louis XVI. Unfortunately, it was not all great achievements for Comte de Mailly. His feuding with Marshal de Noailles resulted in his command being revoked in 1753 and the following month Jean-Baptiste de Machault Arnouville persuaded the King to have him exiled. Part of this involved his mistress and her husband speaking out against the King and this pair was also expelled.

However, this did not dampen the loyalty or patriotism of the count and when the Seven Years War broke out he rejoined the army to lead French troops in the campaign in Germany. He was badly wounded by a sword blow to the head at the battle of Hastenbeck in 1757 which left him unconscious. He was then captured and held prisoner by his fellow “Enlightenment” enthusiast King Frederick the Great, the two becoming good friends. After two years as a “guest” of the Prussians he was released and returned home something of a war hero. He went on to lead other, more successful campaigns, and the past unpleasantness was forgotten. The end of hostilities brought an end to his military career but he was once again placed in command of Roussillon and in 1771 was given command of the French forces guarding the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean coast. The count received a number of honors for his services, including the Order of the Holy Spirit and in 1783 the King awarded him the supreme rank of Marshal of France. He had reached the pinnacle of military accomplishment and his civilian work was also recognized by his admittance to the Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts of Amiens.

In many ways, the old Marshal was typical of many of the French aristocracy of his time, a firm believer in the old order but one who liked to dabble in what were, frankly, dangerous ideas. When the Revolution began to come to a boil he was horrified by the very idea of a France where the nobility and clergy were to be effectively kicked off the national stage, and the King as well were he to make any trouble. Because he was so opposed to the new direction France was taking, some advised him to emigrate but this he adamantly refused to do, having shed his blood and shed the blood of others in defense of France, he would never abandon it. Although he was quite advanced in age by this time, good loyal men were hard to find and in 1790 King Louis XVI appointed him to command one of the four new armies organized by the National Assembly. However, when the Assembly demanded that the old Marshal take an oath to defend the principles of their new regime he refused and instead offered his resignation.

As ever the faithful old soldier, loyal to his King, when the Marshal heard that King Louis and Queen Marie Antoinette were being threatened at the Tuileries Palace, he went there immediately to defend their personal safety himself if necessary. The King was touched by this display of loyalty and he appointed Mailly to command his royal guard, the Swiss guard, and it was he who was in command the next fateful day, August 10, 1792, when the mobs attacked and stormed the Tuileries. Unfortunately, the King had held back his troops from taking necessary precautions out of his loathing to shed the blood of his own subjects. The result was that the palace was overrun and the brave Swiss guards were massacred. The Marshal himself only escaped the same fate with outside help but he did not remain at liberty for long. He was quickly denounced by the revolutionaries only a few days later and sent to l’Abbaye prison. Had he not been known as such a champion of the “Enlightenment” and had liberal friends then in relatively high places he likely would have met his demise in the September massacres. As it was, he was released and returned with his family to his estate near Abbeville. Yet, with the Revolution turning more radical and bloodthirsty by the day, again, he did not remain at liberty for long. He was again arrested, with his family and was finally sent to the guillotine at Arras on March 25, 1794 at the age of 87. His last words before his execution, shouted out, were, “I remain faithful to my king, as my ancestors have always been”.


  1. The Comte was sent to the guillotine at age 87! The fact that anyone would live to that age in the 18th century and the heartless evil men who would send a man that age to his death. What vile men these leaders of the revolution. Where was simple humanity and decency?

    1. Hard to find in those days and then exclusively among the victims. Age certainly made no difference to the revolutionaries, from sending an aged Marshal of France to the guillotine to starving the poor little Dauphin to death. It was pure evil run rampant, just as evil as anything seen in the death camps of the 40's.


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