Berthier Louis Alexandre (1753 - 1815) Marshal of France, Prince of Neuchâtel and Wagram


Louis Alexandre Berthier
(1753 - 1815)
Marshal of France
Prince of Neuchâtel and Wagram
Large Huntsman
National museum of Versailles and Trianons

Shade of the Napoleon, most essential of the marshals, more filled, also more reprimanded. Always at the sides of the Emperor, Berthier includes, writes and transmits to the bodies of battle all the commands and all the thoughts of his Master.

Berthier, wire of an engineer in the armies of the king, between very early in a royal school of military engineering. At 13 years he is an already engineer-geographer, to 17, he is an officer.

He is useful during the war of American independence. Of return in 1789, he is named major-General of the national guard of Versailles. Thus he helps the two aunts of Louis XVI to flee and protects the royal family at the time of days of October. Relieved in the fall of monarchy in August 1792, he will be reinstated three years later, head of staff of Kellermann.

Bonaparte, that he meets in March 1796, appreciates this man, which hesitates not to himself throw with head of his man during the fight, as with battle of Lodi, the 10 May 1796, but knows also read a card and give some command. Berthier «knew well the card, heard well the part of recognition, looked after himself the execution of command, was broken to present with simplicity the movement the more composed of an army », says of him Bonaparte in April 1796, at the time of his catch of command with Army of Italy. He makes him head of staff . In 1798, Berthier occupies Rome and announces the starting of the Roman Republic.

Credit at the time of the day of the 18-Brumaire, he receives the ministry of the War from the very start of the Consulate. He organizes the new departments of Piemont and negotiates peace with Spain. With the advent of the Empire, in 1804, Napoleon covers his honors and titles: marshal, large huntsman, large-eagle of the Legion of Honor, general major of the Grande Armée, prince of Neufchâtel and of Vallengin in March 1806, vice-constable...

Prince of Wagram in August 1809, he signs from now on simply «Alexandre»and receives a million two hundred and fifty five thousand pounds of annual rent. Napoleon scorns his passion in love for Mrs. Visconti, met in Italy, and marries him in 1808 the princess Marie-Elizabeth, niece of king of Bavière, of which he will have three children.

Berthier is for the Emperor more than one valiant soldier; he is a faithful friend and obeying whose capacities of organization are invaluable to the Emperor. Head of staff of Grande Armée in Russia, in Germany, in France, it's him which transmit the commands of Napoleon, take care with their good execution, supervise the supply and the service additional, collect the information, etc. He entirely reorganizes the service of staff.

He controls sometimes the forces armed on a theatre with operation, as in Spain in 1808 or Bavaria in 1809. But these commands are only temporary, and he does not take part that very seldom in the design of the plans of battle, awaiting the directives of Napoleon.

His command of the French forces in 1809, at the time of the beginnings of the campaign of Austria appears even disastrous: applying to the letter the directives that the Emperor sends of Paris, he does not take any initiative on the ground, being likely to put in danger the dispersed Army corps. He attracts himself the lightnings of Napoleon, but arrives, once in the presence of the Emperor, to catch up with his errors during the battle of Wagram (July 5-6, 1809).

In all circumstances, even when the Emperor asks after him near him in middle of the night - once even at seventeen recoveries! - Berthier makes a point of being impeccably worn. The Emperor considers him, the regard and the essential judge. It is him which is sent to require the hand of the Marie-Louise archduchess, in February 1810, and which accompanies him in Paris. But he also reprimandes him.

At the time of the campaign of Russia in 1812, while the French Armies are on the point of attacking the Russians of Koutousov at Borodino, Berthier and the Emperor are scrambled in connection with the strategy to follow. Berthier, punished, will not lunch any more at the table of the Emperor before the input in Moscow. But when Napoleon leaves the army to join Paris, Berthier begs him to take him along with him. Berthier will remain in Germany during the whole of the campaign of 1813, where he will continue in his role of head of staff of the armies.

At the time of the campaign of France, it is always Berthier which will ensure this role at Empereur.Two days after abdication, he asks to his Master the authorization to go to Paris, promising to return the following day. As soon as he left the part, Napoleon noted: «He will not return». Indeed, Berthier made his choice: he is presented in front of Louis XVIII in Compiegne to formulate his rallying to monarchy. He becomes Pair of France in June 1814.

When Napoleon announces his return to him, Berthier does not reply to his letter. He follows the king to Ghent during the Hundred Days then regains his castle of Bamberg. There, he finds death at the bottom of a window. Accident? commits suicide?crime? The circumstances of his death are not elucidated.