A Princess’s favour and revenge.

Jules de Canouville and the Emperor’s Sable.


de Canouville, 1810, from a recent sale at Osenat.

 Recreating an ADC.

Two years ago I was asked to form a part of a small group of individuals who were attempting to recreate elements of the Imperial staff units that surrounded Napoleon. This was a hugely ambitious undertaking for all concerned, and against the odds a credible result was achieved. The story of what happened to this wonderful project is for another day, although you can see the results here,

http://www.rueil-tv.com/video/presentation-du-2eme-jubile-imperial/ and elsewhere on the web.

My assigned part was to recreate the costume of one of the aides de camp to Berthier, Major-general of the Grande Armee, and effectively Napoleon’s second in command. But who were these men? Spoilt personal assistants of the Imperial HQ with extravagant heron feather caps? Or hard-riding messengers, whose tattered corpses littered the Imperial battlefields?

Bertier’s Dandies.


ADC to Berthier in petit tenue for gala, court etc. From Soldats Napoleoniens.


Berthier’s aides de camp were selected as much for their aristocratic pedigree and social connections as for their military prowess with the predictable result that the rest of the army considered them the absolute personification of boudoir warriors- pampered dandies all! The reality was somewhat different from the army’s jaundiced view of these elegantly coated warriors. Of the twenty two who served as Berthier’s ADC over the period of his Marshalate eight died on service and another four were grieviously wounded and retired. Hardly the attrition rate of a rear echelon elite. There were compensations for the danger of service with Berthier, one of these was the superb uniform, designed by the artist-soldier Lejeune, himself one of Berthier’s earliest ADCs. The other reward was the access to Napoleon’s inner circle and court attendant on being constantly with the Emperor’s right hand man. In this respect Berthier’s dandies excelled, claiming the hearts of the ladies of the Imperial household to devastating effect. One of their number, de Flahaut, was the lover of Queen Hortense, Napoleon’s adopted daughter and wife of his brother, Louis. Another, de Canouville, with whom we are more particularly concerned today, was one of the group who claimed the attentions of Napoleon’s sister, Pauline, the Princess Borghese. The attentions of an Imperial Princess could be a mixed blessing, as we shall see.

De Canouville, ADC sans pareil?

 While operating with the recreation of the Imperial Headquarters at Ruill-Malmaison on the occasion of the 2nd Imperial Jubilee in 2014, my attention was brought to a miniature of de Canouville for sale by the auction house Osenat.

Marbot’s tale.

It reminded me of an interesting story of love and intrigue told by the ever popular memorialist Marbot. The story begins in 1811 when Marbot, also an ADC, to a general, is in Spain,

‘Here Massena received several despatches from Berthier, nearly all two months old; which shows what a mistake Napoleon had made in thinking that from Paris he could direct the movements of an army in Portugal. These despatches reached the commander in chief in a manner which, up til then, had been unknown in the French army. Prince Berthier had entrusted them to his aide de camp, M.de Canouville, but that young officer, who was one of the beaux of the army, seeing the difficulty of reaching Massena’s army, was satisfied with depositing them at Ciudad Rodrigo, and returned to Paris. Now Paris was the very place from which, on account of a notorious freak on his part, he was desired to keep away. The story is as follows: it carries us back to the time when General Bonaparte was commanding the Army of Italy, and several ladies of his family joined him at Milan. One of them married one of his most attached generals, and as, in the fashion of the time, she used, when riding, to wear a hussar pelisse over her habit, Bonaparte gave her one, handsomely furred and with diamond buttons. Some years afterwards, this lady, having lost her first husband, married a foreign prince. In the spring of 1811, the Emperor, when reviewing the guard in the Place de Carrousel, noticed among Berthier’s staff, Canouville, wearing the pelisse which he had formerly given to his kinswoman, the identity of which was established by the fur and the diamonds. Napoleon recognised them, and displayed much annoyance. The lady, it was said, was severely reprimanded, and one hour later the imprudent captain received an order to bear dispatches to Massena, who was enjoined in them to keep that officer with him for an unstated time. Canouville had his suspicions, and, as I have just related, took advantage of the chance which prevented him from entering Portugal. But hardly had he got back to Paris, when he was packed off again to the Peninsula, where he arrived very much ashamed at his discomfiture. The conversation of this modern Lauzun amused us, as he gave us the latest news of what had been taking place in the Paris drawing-rooms during our absence, and we laughed much at the contrast between his elegant costume and the dilapidations of our uniforms after a year’s campaigning. Canouville, who at first was much astonished by his rapid transition from Parisian boudoirs to a bivouac among the rocks of Portugal, soon resigned himself to the change. He was a man of good wit, and courage, and in the following year fell bravely in the battle of Moskowa’.

 But Marbot always spins a story, right…?


This is a wonderful and evocative story, but Marbot was writing many years after the event, and his memoirs famously include close descriptions of events he cannot possibly have been present to observe. In fact the phrase, ‘remembering with advantage’ was coined to describe Marbot’s cavalier treatment of events in his personal career. The story also features in other memoirs of the period. Some have clearly copied one another, but there are three other versions which bear analysis as possibly having a different, and superior root to that of Marbot. First, let us look at a version that makes much more sense than Marbot’s, not least by removing the pelisse, that in Marbot’s version must have been at least thirteen years old! Instead, the next version concentrates on the sable fur that constitutes the trim of a hussar pelisse. The memorialist is the Duchess d’Abrantes, who comes with her own set of baggage, as her audience was that of the restored Bourbon monarchy, who were thirsty for stories of indiscretion and scandal from the erstwhile Imperial court.


The Duchess of Abrantes (Madame Junot)’s tale.


‘Though the Emperor, of course, had it in his power to form the staff of the Prince of Neufchatel (Berthier), by any appointments he might think proper to make, yet it is certain that among the young aides de camp of the major-general, there were very few who had the good fortune to please Napoleon; and the more they were distinguished for their personal appearance, and agreeable manners, the more he seemed to dislike them. MM Jules de Canouville, Fritz Courtales, Alexandre de Geradin, Achille de Septeuil, Sopranzi, Ferreri, Lecoulteaux-Cauteleux, Flahaut, and several other elegant young officers, who composed Berthier’s staff, appeared to come under the Emperor’s anathema. It is certain that his prejudice against Jules de Canouville, was not diminished when he discovered that the young aide de camp was an especial favourite of one of the Imperial Princesses. This afforded a fair ground of displeasure, and the anger of the lion was not easily soothed.

It happened that the Emperor Alexander sent to Napoleon a present of some splendid sable skins; those costly skins which the Samoiedes offer as their tribute to the Czar. Their value is immense, and their beauty exquisite. The Emperor sent some of these furs to all the Princesses of the Imperial family, and knowing the taste for the luxuries of dress, which distinguished the friend of M. de Canouville, he selected for her the finest skins in the whole collection. M de Canouville had just ordered a splendid hussar uniform, and the princess thought the sable would do admirably to trim the pelisse. It was cut accordingly into stripes, and sent to the tailor. The uniform was completed, and sent home in readiness for a grand review in the court of the Tuileries. The young officer put it on, and mounted on a fine English horse, attended the review. There happened to be something, either in the equipment of himself or his horse which was not conformable with the prescribed regulations. M de Canouville caught the scrutinising glance of the Emperor, who scanned him from head to foot, and immediately recognised the sable skin. ‘Who is that officer?’ he angrily enquired of those nearest him. When the review was ended, he said to Berthier, ‘Why do you keep all these butterfly aide de camp fluttering around you? Why are they idling here when the cannon is roaring abroad? Let M. de Canouville be sent off this evening to Spain. There are, I think, some dispatches for the Prince of Essling. Let him be the bearer of them.’ Berthier bowed and bit his nails. He was in a painful state of perplexity, for the princess had several times earnestly petitioned that M. de Canouville might not be sent abroad. Nevertheless, Berthier could not venture to say a word in behalf of his aide de camp; and M de Canouville immediately received his instructions. There was no alternative, and the handsome young aide de camp was obliged to quit Paris that very evening, which was Shrove Tuesday, 1811. M de Canouville in despair flew to the Prince of Neufchatel. ‘I can do nothing for you,’ said Berthier, ‘the Emperor’s orders must be obeyed. What tempted you to make yourself so conspicuous at the review? Set off! Set off! And I would advise you to depart before midnight, rather than after.’

Poor Jules, finding there was no hope of any respite, hastened to take leave of the princess, whom he found in a flood of tears. Duroc, who had just left her, had been the bearer of a terrible note from the Emperor. After a short scene of mutual regret and consolation, Jules departed with the promise that he would use all possible speed, and endeavour to be back in a fortnight’.


What did the pelisse look like then?


Recreated pelisse of Colonel, ADC de Berthier, with grey astrakhan.


The Duchess introduces some new elements to the story. Here the sable fur is a present from the Tzar used to create a pelisse for Canouville. Again, the Emperor’s attention is attracted at a review where it is implied he notices the fur is non regulation. In fact, the fur of the pelisse for ADC de Berthier was originally intended to be black astrakhan, and very quickly changed to grey. Lejeune records it thus,

‘..la pelisse en drap noir, plus tard d’astrakan gris,’

and Marbot also notes the accession of this style, when describing his own pelisse in 1807,

‘I commissioned him to get the trimming of black astrakhan taken from my pelisse, and have it replaced by grey, this having recently been adopted by Prince Berthier’s aides de camp, who set the fashion in the army. Up to now, I was the only one of Augureau’s officers who had grey astrakhan’.

Since a review would require the ADCs of Berthier to wear their pelisse ‘jetee’ on the left shoulder, a non-regulation fur, such as sable, which is supposed to be very dark, almost black, could be expected to catch the Imperial eye. The Duchess also mentions Canouville’s English horse, and the horse is the cause of Canouville’s misfortune in the next typically gossipy account of Constant, valet of Napoleon, who also supplies more history on the sables, and claims to have transmitted one from the Emperor to Pauline.


Constant’s version.


‘There was an exchange of presents between these illustrious sovereigns. Alexander made the Emperor a present of three superb pelisses of martin-sable, one of which the Emperor gave to his sister Pauline, another to the Princess de Ponte-Corvo; and the third he had lined with green velvet and ornamented with gold lace, and it was this cloak which he wore in Russia. The history of the one which I carried from him to the Princess Pauline is singular enough to be related here, although it may have been already told.

The Princess Pauline showed much pleasure in receiving the Emperor’s present, and enjoyed displaying her cloak for the admiration of the household. One day, when she was in the midst of a circle of ladies, to whom she was dilating on the quality and excellence of this fur, M. de Canouville arrived, and the princess asked his opinion of the present she had received from the Emperor. The handsome colonel not appearing as much struck with admiration as she expected, she was somewhat picqued, and exclaimed, ‘What, monsieur, you do not think it exquisite?’ ‘No, madame.’ ‘In order to punish you I wish you to keep this cloak; I give it to you, and require you to wear it; I wish it, you understand.’ It is probable that there had been some disagreement between her Imperial highness and her protégé, and the princess had seized the first means of establishing peace; but however that may be, M. de Canouville needed little entreaty, and the rich fur was carried to his house. A few days after, while the Emperor was holding a review on the Place de Carrousel, M. de Canouville appeared on an unruly horse, which he had great difficulty in controlling. This caused some confusion, and attracted his Majesty’s attention, who, glancing at M. de Canouville, saw the cloak which he had given his sister metamorphosed into a hussar’s cape. The Emperor had great difficulty in controlling his anger. ‘M. de Canouville,’ he cried, in a voice like thunder, ‘your horse is too young, and his blood is too warm; you will go and cool it in Russia.’ Three days after M. de Canouville had left Paris’.

So far, so good, and at least Constant was witness to the pelisse fur arriving and being transmitted to Pauline. So the story of the Emperor’s gift of sable fur to his sister being misused, starts to be more credible than Marbot’s pelisse covered in diamonds. Conceivably Marbot is mixing up his stories of extravagant court garb- there is a credible account in Lejeune’s (ADC to Berthier) memoirs where he describes the Austrian Prince Esterhazy wearing a hussar uniform with diamond buttons. But that’s another story. Luckily, there is another version, by someone who was actually present in Spain, General Thiebault, to whom de Canouville reported in Salamanca. Not only was he personally witness to the latter part of the tale, but he says that he had de Canouville’s version repeatedly and at tedious length from the young ADC’s mouth. In fact, he clearly thought very little of de Canouville.


General Thiebault’s version.


‘One evening, just as I was finishing my game of chess with the Duchess, a servant announced M. de Canouville. An instant of silence testified to our astonishment and our curiosity; after which a piteous voice besought food and admission for a poor worn-out and famished traveller. Then as a face worthy of the voice came through the doorway, that face, which was indeed that of Jules de Canouville, was greeted with a general shout of laughter. With an instinctive movement everyone rose and went towards him, with exclamations appropriate to the doleful get-up of this dandy of the court, this most fashionable of the young men of the day, to the mud with which he was covered, to the disorder of his dress, to his beard, which nowadays would be too short, but at that time was regarded as untidy. After the first outburst and many repetitions of his name, after disconnected words uttered at random, everybody having ejaculated in his own way and in different keys, ‘Canouville!- you! I- he! Is it possible?- how?-why?’ it became possible to frame a sentence, and a dialogue on the whole as comic as the entrance was succeeded by something resembling a conversation. After having told us that he was the bearer of despatches for the Prince of Essling, with orders to discover an army which in Paris was supposed to be lost, he came to the real motive for his journey, and repeated to us twenty times what he declared he could not tell anybody once, what everybody knew, what he was on fire to tell us. Being aide de camp to the Prince of Neufchatel, he had recently become the lover of Pauline Bonaparte, Princess Borghese. In order to put a stop to the intrigue the Emperor had had this duty entrusted to him with orders to start at once, and the crazy fellow, in order to get back quickly, had galloped without respite or rest. While he related the details of his adventure he mingled them with alases and sighs fit, as the duchess said, to blow the candles out.

Nothing equally melancholy could have been more comical or more lively. His supper was another comedy, for complaining all the while that he was being left to starve, he did not hear or did not notice when his meal was announced, and at the table, where he took his position like a man ready to eat up everything, he went on talking and forgot to eat. At midnight I wanted to retire, but he begged me not to go without him, and it was striking one when I succeeded in getting him to adjourn the meeting. At the duchess’s door such of the party as had remained til then separated; I thought that he would also take his leave and make his way to wherever he was staying, but he stopped, and resuming his lamentable voice there in the middle of the road, said to me, ‘General, would you have the heart to desert an unhappy young man?’ ‘Surely not,’ I replied; ‘and if you do not breakfast or dine with the duchess, I am sure I hope that you will look upon my table as your own.’ ‘But for tonight?’ ‘For tonight? Why you’re going back to bed and sleep.’ ‘What bed?’ ‘Why hang it, the bed at your lodging.’ ‘I haven’t got any lodging.’ ‘What, didn’t you get a lodging when you arrived?’ ‘No, general, and if you desert me I don’t know what will become of me,’ and roaring with laughter, I took him along to my house.

There we had another display. When I ordered my servant to get a bed made for him in my sitting-room, he went on, ‘General, you are so kind.’ ‘Well?’ ‘Well, I am too unhappy to sleep alone.’ ‘Oh, indeed; you don’t want to sleep with me?’ ‘No general, but pray have a bed made for me in your room.’ And I did so. Instead of going to bed, I had to hear the whole story of his happiness and his misfortunes, a panegyric of the excellent qualities and the charms of the princess, and the confession of his passion for her. The poor lad had lost everything, his heart and head alike; with the exception of a few minutes my night was equally lost, but one does not often have a more amusing one. However, I did get to bed, and finally to sleep. As for him, when I woke up he had gone out; by eight in the morning he had presented himself at the duchess’s , and had her woke up to get a letter from her to the duke. She sent answer that he was mad; indeed, I had given him the day before all the reasons to show that as communication from the Army of Portugal was interrupted it would be no use for him to continue his journey, and that he must wait for a more propitious moment to discharge his errand.

After he left the duchess, I saw him again; he wanted to push on at least as far as Ciudad Rodrigo or Almeida, but I made him see that even if he got there, which appeared impossible without an escort- and with that I had no excuse for furnishing him- he would nonetheless be cut off from the Army oif Portugal; while if, contrary to all probability, a column of that army succeeded sooner or later in cutting its way through to those towns, it would not go away without communicating with me and receiving my orders and dispatches, so that there would be nothing to be gained for his errand by leaving Salamanca. ‘But in that case,’ he returned, ‘what would be the good of my remaining here? My dispatches will go just as well with yours as by themselves. And what impropriety would there be in my handing them to you?’ ‘I should not receive them.’ ‘And if I left them on your desk?’ ‘Well, I should have to have them taken up. But you would not get any receipt for them; you would remain responsible for them, and I should report the matter.’

No one could imagine what these simpletons after Berthier’s sort were, charming young people, all in good style and possessed of some fortune, in some cases of sufficient distinction and position to attain to anything, and of whom none ever played any part unless in ladies’ boudoirs. Canouville was one of the most agreeable of them. He got more and more excited til he persuaded himself that he would be bearing an important piece of news if he went to Paris and said that it was impossible to communicate, although I represented to him that twenty of my dispatches had informed, and were still informing, the Prince of Neufchatel of the fact. Although I repeated it to him that it was ridiculous to ride 600 or 700 leagues in order to get a blowing up and perhaps something worse, he declared that for him an hour passed at Paris was worth a whole lifetime. Finding this a sublime reply and reason, he departed on the strength of them, crossed all the north of Spain without taking a single man to escort him, reached Paris at night, was run down at once, and forced to decamp at daybreak. Three weeks had not passed when he came back very melancholy, and begged me to give him back his dispatches’.

So where did the pelisse story originate?

Thiebault, although using the opportunity to pay off Berthier and mock his ADCs, is a witness of de Canouville’s banishment. Curiously he omits the entire pelisse incident and also that of the misbehaving horse, simply observing that de Canouville was under the Emperor’s disfavour for his intrigue with Pauline. So is there any truth in the story of the pelisse? Well, there are some grounds for thinking the story was spread by de Canouville himself. In fact he had previous form for trying to boast of an intimate acquaintance, and discomfort a woman by displaying a gift inappropriately. Witness these memories of time spent with de Canouville in 1807 by a young German man of letters, Varnhagen von Ense. His rather unflattering portrait of Canouville chimes with that of Thiebault. After Tilsit, de canouville had been quartered in Nennhausen at the émigré Fouque’s countryhouse. There he met the young Varnhagen von Ense who in his memoirs refers to him in detail,

‘Neumann and I lived with Fouqué in our usual way, dealing with our most amicable and literary affairs, and actually stayed just with him, barely caring about anything else, which was going on. Apart from the many regular inhabitants of the house Fouqué’s stepsons, the two striplings Gustav and Wilhelm von Rochow, were visiting as well as a brother of the already mentioned Ernst von Pfuel, who many years later would take the good Clara von Rochow as his second wife. There was also a valiant officer and former comrade Fouqué’s, the Rittmeister von Welk, who had been in the war until the bitter end, but now after peace had been made had no place in Preußen anymore and planned, since he was from Saxonia, to retire to his home in the vicinity of Meißen. But the most important guest determined by his person and his relations to play the main role was the French Husars Officer who was billeted with his squadron to the manor. His name was Jules von Canouville and he was of ancient noble origin, which benefitted him not only in Nennhausen but also in the new empire which was carried by freedom and equality still. He was a fervent champion of Napoleon’s cause and put all his ambition and hopes into it. Withal he was a handsome lad of brash briskness and reckless wantonness. We excused many of a rudeness of his, since we understood that he longed to be with the ladies at the radiant court of Paris instead of this desolate manor in the middle of nowhere and bewailed it as some kind of disgrace, that he, and adjutant to Berthier left with the regiment for so long where there was nothing to do. He expressed his desire through an impatience which kept him distant from the people around him, but was natural for somebody in his situation. Appreciation and gratitude didn’t seem to be virtues of his, otherwise he wouldn’t have embarrassed Lady Fouqué with his disregard that often who had shown her interest in the handsome young lad quite openly. We despised Lady Fouqué’s regard for the brash jackanapes very much; we avoided her as much as possible and when it came to be her birthday, when all the manor was celebrating with presents and compliments, we stayed away until midday, and when everybody had taken their seats around the table already, we showed up, took our places without saying a word and later on refrained from congratulating her. We even felt quite a Schadenfreude, when one evening Canouville presented to the whole household a golden necklace of which he claimed that he had found it and wanted to identify the owner. Since Lady Fouqué was unable to deny that it was her necklace, which she never wore and about its losing and finding everybody was quite confused, she didn’t show an owner’s joy over being presented with some lost property but more the bitter annoyance like somebody who had been confronted with a rejected present. Such malice on Canouville’s behalf seemed quite reasonable, if ever such a connection had existed. We didn’t begrudge the Frenchman for his success in any way, and kept him in such low regards as he kept us, but got along with him ok. Regarding the fact that we received letters from Vertus and St. Menehould and even expected a friend from there, he even expressed his sympathies. Berhardi’s dream about me getting into an argument with the French billeted troops remained unfulfilled. But their presence made us grow weary of our stay much quicker, and we were quite relieved when Chamisso’s arrival allowed us determine the day of our departure. Our friend brought news, opinions and moods of imperial France from home, of which we were not very fond and he himself even though he was agitated and biased by some of these impressions, turned his back on the French activities willingly, to immerse himself completely in a life full of German poetry and science, being content as long as it was admitted to him to glorify his fellow countrymen as they deserved it as soldiers of an army used to winning. In Fouqué, Chamisso and Canouville we found three Frenchmen from three most different eras and three most different areas, a refugee, an emigrant and an emperor’s soldier, whose collective nature obviously spanned all the rifts which had come between them through world and time. After a short time together, since the season became more and more pressing each day, Chamisso and I grabbed our hiking poles, were escorted by Neumann, who would go back to Berlin a few days later, and Fouqué halfway to Rathenau, and reached in Perleberg the road to Hamburg in a two day march, where we took a stage coach to finish our journey since we were tired of the hardship of a journey on foot in this area and at this time of year’.

Volume One, 1785-1810 Denkwurdigkeiten des eignen Lebens, Varnhagen von Ense, Berlin, 1922

Translation for Ben Townsend by sword master Daniel Faustmann 2014, thanks, Daniel!


Was this effete behaviour really fashionable or attractive?


Some further light can be shed on the character of de Canouville in an anecdote recorded by Kuhn, the foremost biographer of Pauline, Princess Borghese. Kuhn accessed many of the papers of the protagonists, and in detailing the rather lengthy list of the Princess’s conquests he eventually makes his way round to de Canouville,

‘In the meantime Friedrich (de Canouville’s immediate predecessor in the Princess’s favour) had quitted Paris; on her recommendation, he had been appointed by Murat a Lieutenant in the Neapolitan Light Horse. Into his shoes now stepped, to begin with, Canouville, who openly flaunted his triumph and won great renown thereby. When Pauline had occasion to send for the dentist, Bousquet, in order to undergo a treatment by him, Canouville lay upon the sofa in an elegant dressing gown and watched his movements with Argus eyes. ‘Be very careful’, he enjoined on Bousquet. ‘I love my Pauletta’s teeth above everything and I shall hold you responsible for anything that goes wrong.’ The dentist took Canouville for Prince Borghese, who had gone back home not long before. He reassured him and when he had finished his work and went into the antechamber where Pauline’s ladies in waiting and chamberlains were talking together he told them in moving terms how tenderly and anxiously the Prince had been watching him. ‘His concern was something quite unusual,’ he declared. ‘It was difficult for me to set his mind at rest regarding the little operation. I shall gladly make it know in Paris what I have seen here. It is really a cheering thing to witness such examples of wedded tenderness in circles in which it is so rarely to be met with.’

p.170 Pauline Bonaparte, Joachim Kuhn, London, 1937.


When did this all happen?

In Kuhn we can track the events around the pelisse incident. At the end of September 1810, Pauline went to Fontainebleu to see something of the Emperor. Canouville also found his way to Fontainebleu, in the suite of Berthier, whose ADC he was. On the 22nd October he was raised to the rank of Baron- probably through her influence. On the 9th November an unexpected blow struck Canouville. The Emperor ordered Berthier to send an ADC officer to Portugal. Berthier allotted the mission to Canouville, to whom the emperor’s instructions pointed. Kuhn then details de Canouville’s first journey to Spain, interrupted at Salamanca by Thiebault. His version of the story is much as above detailing the first mission to Salamanca and return, without the pelisse segment. He also includes an account of the second journay to Spain, with some interesting new information. It appears that de Canouville was not the only one of Berthier’s aides de camp to enjoy Pauline’s confidence. This rather justifies Thiebault’s assertion that Berthier’s staff were fit ‘to rank as a harem equal to satisfying the whims of ten sultanas.’

In fact it’s fair to say that at this time Pauline was going through one of the periods when she was almost universally generous with her favours.

‘On arriving in Salamanca for the second time he met there a comrade from Berthier’s staff who also had fallen into disfavour with Napoleon and who also had suffered on account of Pauline, Captain Septeuil, of the cavalry. Septeuil had happened to attract Pauline after Canouville had left Paris, but he had repelled her advances because he loved Madame de Barral who had long been alienated in her affections from her much older husband and who had not remained unaffected by the dangerously heated atmosphere of Pauline’s surroundings. Pauline noticed that Septeuil held aloof from her and that Madame de Barral allowed him to worship her. The sequel is thus recorded in the unpublished papers of Beauchamp:’ Pauline contrives by means of bribes that the two meet in a hotel; she comes upon Barral at a masked ball and shows him his wife with Septeuil. It was four in the morning. On leaving the carriage she gives Barral her hand, while calling out to madame de Barral: ‘Vous etes une coquina, madame!’ She then goes to Bonaparte and causes him to send Septeuil to Spain.’

Beauchamp’s unpublished papers in National Library Paris, quoted by Kuhn.


Battle of Moskova, 1812. Centre is an ADC to Berthier in winter campaign dress. The figure to the left in the extravagant bonnet is Murat. Painting by Lejeune another ADC Berthier, in Versailles.


The aftermath: a Princess’s favour and revenge.

Princess Borghese as Venus Victrix

If these things really did occur, it must have been in the last days of January or the first two days of February 1811, for Napoleon’s order to Berthier to send Septeuil to Spain with three of his youngest ADC officers and there to keep them until there should be something important to announce is still extant. It is dated the 2nd February 1811. The results of this order were tragic for Septeuil. He managed, together with Canouville, to break his way through to Massena and it was while serving on Massena’s staff that he took part in the sanguinary fight of Fuentes d’Onoro, during which a cannon ball killed his mount under him and tore open his leg. It had to be amputated and Septeuil’s military career was at an end. In spite of Pauline and in spite of his injury Madame de Barral remained true to him; she resigned her position at Pauline’s court and some years later succeeded in getting a divorce. As soon as she was free she married Septeuil and experienced many years of pure happiness by his side, though he was not such an ideal husband as she had imagined and although he caused her many hours of anxiety through his passion for gambling.

Pauline troubled little over the mischief she had caused in the case of Canouville and Septeuil. ‘A good dancer the less,’ was her jesting comment when she heard of Septeuil’s calamity. A comment that prompts the thought that among the Princess’s many fine qualities, kindness was not to be found. Canouville was also wounded at Fuentes and then took leave in France. By November 1811 he was again in trouble with the princess and her Imperial brother,

‘..so much so that he drew down on himself another of Napoleon’s bans. Early on the morning of 24th November the Emperor ordered Berthier to send Canouville ‘before nine o clock in the morning’, to Danzig, where he would find employment as squadron leader in the 2nd chasseurs a cheval. ‘You will send his commission, which you will receive from the Minister of War, after him to Wesel. I have signed the decree that confirms his appointment. As a result of this he ceases to be your adjutant. You will give him orders not to return to Paris, not even with an order from the Minister, unless he has an order from you.’

Kuhn, p.179

After joining the grand Imperial expedition to Russia in June 1812 Canouville died on the 7th Sept at the battle of Moskowa. According to Marbot, their mutual friend Saluzzo found him and discovered on his breast Pauline’s portrait in miniature. The miniature was delivered to Marshal and King Murat to return to the Princess. One has to wonder how many more of Berthier’s staff were carrying the same miniature.


Account of Service for de Canouville.

CANOUVILLE Armand Jules Elisabeth de (1785-1812)

Born 9th May 1785 at Paris, son of Alexandre Marie Charles Antoine de Canouville.

Created aide de camp of Berthier on 30th March 1807 until 16 April 1807, on which date following promotion he was appointed to the 2nd hussars, transferred again to staff as aide de camp de Berthier on 19th September 1808 until 24 th November 1811, when he passed into the 2nd regiment of chasseurs à cheval.

Made sous-lieutenant le 23rd October 1802, lieutenant on 30th September 1806, captain the 30th July 1807, chef d’escadron the 19th July 1810.

Baron d’Empire on 22nd October 1810.

He participated in the campaigns of 1805, of 1806 in Prussia, in Spain and in Germany in 1808 and 1809, and in Russia 1812.