Monday, July 15, 2013
Monarchist Profile: The Marquis de Bouille
In 1758 the marquis was sent with his regiment to Germany during the Seven Years War (that is the French and Indian War to those in North America) and soon gained notice for his courage, quick eye and devotion to duty. During this offensive against the Prussians and the British/Hanoverians the marquis particularly distinguished himself at the battle of Gruenberg on March 21, 1761. He played a key part in this stunning French victory which saw the Prussians and their allies defeated, thousands of men and 18 regimental standards captured and which forced the Duke of Brunswick to lift the siege of Cassel. Because of his actions in the fight, he was chosen to take the captured flags, prized war trophies, back to Paris to lay before the King. Louis XV was immensely pleased and gave the marquis a brevet promotion to colonel and command of a regiment of his own. However, it was only a few years later that he was made governor of Guadeloupe where he earned high praise from the Governor-General of the French West Indies who recommended him for his own job.
When the war was over the Marquis de Bouille returned to France where King Louis XVI decorated him with the Order of the Holy Spirit for his many achievements. He was also very warmly received in Great Britain when he visited the island a short time later. The British respected him as a gallant and worthy opponent and appreciated his fairness and kind treatment of British prisoners-of-war. It was a mark of the humane and selfless nature of the marquis who also refused to take any compensation from the King of France for his military expenses during the war. Although the cost was immense, he paid for everything on his own and never took money from the state, knowing full well how cash-strapped the French government was. It was also a point of honor for him that he fought for his King and his beloved France out of sacred duty and not for pay. His chivalry and generosity were often remarked upon by all those who knew him. These attributes, along with his love of country and sincere devotion to his monarch make him stand out as an example of what an ideal French aristocrat was supposed to be.
The marquis deployed his troops in an effort to protect the route the King and Royal Family would take, claiming to be standing guard over the road because of an incoming money transfer. Unfortunately, while he had been able to be selective with his top officers, not all of his troops were trustworthy and he simply did not have enough men he could absolutely rely on. The public became suspicious about the cavalry being deployed and rumors began to fly. Sadly, the result was that the Royal Family was found out and arrested at Varennes by the revolutionaries. The treasonous mob was enraged and the marquis could no longer remain in France and went into exile in Pillnitz, near Dresden, Germany where Austrian, Prussian and other forces opposed to the French Revolution were gathering. As a senior French army commander with a high reputation there were many countries that offered him high rank in their own armies but the marquis was reluctant to serve anyone other than the King of France to whom was always his first loyalty. Ultimately he did serve as an advisor to King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia and took part in the early campaigns against revolutionary France, none of which, as we know, were entirely successful. He was offered command of the French royalists in the Vendee but refused the position, believing (rightly as it turned out) that the people, poorly armed and untrained, would be slaughtered. Nonetheless, he moved to England and continued to give the benefit of his military advice to the allied cause in the ongoing war against revolutionary France. It was extremely painful to him as a man who sincerely loved France and he was deeply torn by being forced into the camp of foreign countries fighting against his homeland. His depressed state was noticed by many but he carried on as best he could, faithful to his King and country to the very end. The Marquis de Bouille died in London on November 14, 1800 as one of the true heroes of the revolutionary period, a loyal subject of his King and a devoted son of France in war and peace.