Sunday, 14 September 2008


Victor-Eugène Sardanapalus Bouillon-Cantinat,
13th Marquis de Sangfroid (1775- 1866)
Col. 22e Regt. de ligne
General de Brigade, 8th Div. 1813

"The great-grandson of the illustrious Louis-Baptiste Sardanapalus Bouillon-Cantinat, 10th Marquis de Sangfroid, Comte de Roue and the Prince Ecclesiastical of the Bishopric of St. Vignobles, hero of Dettingen, Fontenoy, Laffert and Dobrudsha.

The Revolution was hard on the Bouillon-Cantinat family, with several of its members destined to end their eventful lives at a fatal appointment with Mme. la Guillotine, where they died bravely in the spirit of their ancestors. Among them was the 12th Marquis de Sangfroid, thus leaving his teenaged son, Victor-Eugène, to inherit the family title.

Being quick-minded and in possession of an independent spirit, Victor-Eugène had been entered into a military career at an early age, as a subaltern in the Regt. de Touraine. He had the good fortune in being stationed in Antibes at the time of the revolution, far from the scenes of bloodletting in Paris. Given his amiable nature, considerable youth, and the fact that he was able to draw on the family fiscal assets to help secure his relative anonymity, he managed successfully to avoid the fate of his less fortunate (and less tactful) relatives during the worst excesses of la Terreur.

They say the fruit never falls far from the tree; and although perhaps not as religiously devout as his forefathers, certainly
Victor-Eugène shared many of their characteristics. Letters of the time suggest that as a youth, he soon made a name for himself through his bravery, good humour, generosity and love of cards, in which he had the misfortune- and good sense- to lose when engaged in games of chance with those of influence in the new regime.

He certainly possessed
a lust for adventure, for pretty girls, and above all, for the wines of the famous family vineyards of St. Vignobles. All activities that have long been the hallmark of the male line of the Bouillon-Cantinats. Nevertheless, the young Marquis was proving himself to be of a practical turn of mind, and in matters of politics and guile was considerably more phlegmatic than his heredity would have predicted.

By the time of the Consulate, he had demonstrated considerable aptitude for the military calling, and displayed professionalism and a genuine patriotic fervour. He was assisted in his career through the good offices and favour shown to him by his patron and mentor, the celebrated General Etienne-Marie-Antoine Champion de Nansouty and through his family connections with the famous Minister of State, M. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord.

And he had need of such highly-placed patrons, as being of
aristocratic birth he found himself being frequently held back from the promotion he so clearly deserved. This was a result of the distrust and machinations on the part of a number of officers of humble origins who now held places of high rank in the administration of the time. Certainly, it was no great secret that some of these jealous luminaries of the Empire coveted their own share of the extensive Bouillon-Cantinat hereditary lands very much indeed...

However, Victor-Eugène's shrewd sense of political- and personal- survival ensured that he was able to retain, recover, and even expand much of the Bouillon-Cantinat estates through the days of the First Empire and beyond. This despite- and indeed, perhaps, because of- the turmoil of the years. And undoubtedly, his considerable talents on the field of battle gained him enormous political credit with the authorities of the time.

His services to the Emperor against the Austrians, Russians, and later the Spanish, earned him a fine reputation both as a competent tactician and as a brave leader of men, serving in Napoleon's Grande Armee in most of its major campaigns from 1805 to 1809. In that year at Ratisbon he received a severe cannister wound to his right arm which healed badly. When he eventually returned to active service in 1811, he was given orders to report to the army in the Iberian peninsula.

He spent some considerable length of time
in Spain, first with Massena's Army of Portugal and later with Suchet in the south. In the reorganization of the Grande Armee that took place after the disastrous Russian campaign, Napoleon turned to his veterans in Spain; the Marquis was appointed Colonel of the 22e Regt. de ligne and assigned first to Mainz for refitting the regiment, and from there on to Saxony. By late 1813 and the campaign of Leipzig, he found himself given command of a brigade in General Souham's 8th Division.

In many a battle and siege, through actions big and small, the 13th Marquis de Sangfroid served his Emperor as faithfully as his forefathers did the kings of France in the ancien regime.

What remained a secret to his comrades in La Grande Armee was that throughout those tumultuous times, and despite his unflinching service to the Bonapartist regime, he retained his Royalist sympathies. After the wars he became well known for his close friendships with royalty and the scions of various noble houses throughout Europe. But as a child of his times, he knew his first duty was to La Belle France."

M. Georges du P. Debroullier; "What Higher Master than Honour? A History of the House of Bouillon-Cantinat" Pierre Declat & Cie. St. Vignobles, 1902

No comments: