- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology»
- History of Europe
A crime from history. How the murder of The Duke of Enghien confirms the evil reputation of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Duke of Enghien. Victim of the Napoleon Bonaparte's Vengefulness.
"Civilian deaths are impossible to accurately estimate. Whilst military deaths are invariably put at between 2.5 million and 3.5 million, civilian death tolls vary from 750,000 to 3 million. Thus estimates of total dead, both military and civilian, can reasonably range from 3,250,000 to 6,500,000".
The above figure was taken from The wikipedia article on the casualties of the Napoleonic wars between 1803 and 1815. I am printing them here because I have read several articles by people praising Napoleon Bonaparte, as if he were a person that should be looked up to. Many words are wasted making heroes of the most unworthy of creatures, but few people in history are as unworthy of adulation as this dictator who brought ruin to his country, and devastation to a complete continent.
But I do not propose to write on the subject of Bonaparte's wars, in order to strip the facade of heroism from his stinking memory, but rather to relate the story of one honourable man who became a victim of the murderous malevalence of the corsican gangster.
I speak, of course of Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien, who was kidnapped and then murdered on the orders of Bonaparte in March 1804.
Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien was part of of the French Royal Family. He was a member of the Conde Family, a lineage that had given great service to France for many generations. At the outbreak of The French Revolution in 1789 he emigrated with his father and his grandfather. He fought for the royalist cause in the revolutionary wars which started in 1792. He was distinguished for his bravery in that conflict.
After the peace of Lunéville (February 1801), he married privately Charlotte de Rohan, niece of the Cardinal de Rohan, and took up his residence at Ettenheim in Baden, near the Rhine. He was, by all accounts, a devoted husband.
Murder most foul.
How this particular crime from history was committed.
Early in 1804, the Corsican, then First Consul of France, heard news which seemed to connect the young duke with the Cadoudal-Pichegru conspiracy then being tracked by the French police. Reports were received that the duke was in company with Charles François Dumouriez,( a leading opponent of the regime,) and had made secret journeys into France. This was false; the acquaintance was Thumry, a harmless old man, and the duke had no dealings with either Cadoudal or Pichegru. Bonaparte gave orders for the seizure of the duke.
French dragoons crossed the Rhine and surrounded the house of The Duke. He was captured and brought to the Château de Vincennes near Paris where a military style tribunal was hastily convened to try him.
Bonaparte had meanwhile discovered the truth of the case, that The duke was innocent of the charges being preferred.
But instead of freeing him to return to his family, which would have been the honourable thing to do, the charges were hastily changed to that of having borne arms against France in the late war, and having the intention of taking up arms again in the future.
So we have now the spectacle, of a representative of the legitimate authority being charged by a usurping criminal with fighting for the defence of his country. The fact that the unfortunate Duke was living in quiet retirement being neither here or there.
The Duke, of course was convicted, and he was shot in the moat of the chateau, near a grave that had previously been prepared.
He didn't totally die in vain however. When the details of what happened started to circulate around Europe, such was the revulsion at the actions of the dictator, that any residual respect he might have had from fair minded people evaporated, and it only served to unite those who opposed him. One of the more cynical commentators said about the murder of the duke, that "it was worse than a crime. it was a mistake".
Nevertheless Bonaparte never expressed any regrets about his actions at any time. In his memoirs, written in St Helena, he said that he would have done the same thing again had the opportunity presented itself..
Such are the delusions that cloud the conciences of evil men.