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The Napoleon Series > Biographies > Biographies

The Charges

The Verdict

The Execution

More Description of the Execution

Newspaper Accounts of the Trial and Execution of General Charles Angelique Huchet, Comte de Labedoyere: 15 - 24 August 1815

By Susan Howard

These articles are taken from the archives of the The Times of London of 1815. They are mainly translations from the French newspapers with some private correspondence and leader articles. The articles were printed uncensored, though possibly shortened. There are places where the translation is clumsy: they were usually translated and printed within 24 hours of the papers being received from France. Some of the print quality is poor and I have had to guess at some words; where I have been unable to do this, I have marked them [illegible]. I have preserved the archaic punctuation and inconsistent spelling but have altered the layout to make it easier to read - the original was compressed into narrow columns. Any notes of mine are in italics in square brackets: all other italics are in the text.

The Times: 15th August 1815

The Court-martial upon Colonel Labedoyere will assemble tomorrow. General Bordesoult presides,and Captain Viotti will act as Judge Advocate.


[The following is the article which occasioned the suppression of the Paris paper called the Independent, by order of the Minister of Police, Fouche.]

"The arrest of M. Labedoyere� is described as an event which must be followed by his immediate trial and even his condemnation.

"Some journalists, regardless of the situation in which a man suspected, accused and imprisoned, is placed, seem to wish to outrun the march of justice, and to communicate their hateful passions to men who are bound to be the unalterable organs of the law. It may therefore be allowable to make, on these delicate and important questions, whence the charge at issue originates, some impartial observations connected with the public welfare, and the political interests of the King, the nation, and the Allied Powers.

First Observation. - However great may appear, or really be the crime attributed to M. Labedoyere, namely, the having abandoned his legitimate King to range himself under the colours of an usurper, that crime became within eight days common to all the civil and military authorities, who from necessity, seduction, or persuasion, followed the same course. A great part of the nation and the army consecrated by assent the unforeseen revolution which took place, and the result of which only a small number of wise and clear sighted men calculated with precision.

"According to Grotius, when the number of criminals is infinite, a full and entire amnesty becomes legitimate and necessary, and clemency is inspired by justice.

"It is not in a moral point of view, which never permits us to tolerate the violation of principles and the infraction of duties, but under a political point of view, when a man has millions for his accomplices, that a justification exists.

Second Observation. - The old and faithful servants of the King can perceive in the act of Colonel Labedoyere, who joined Napoleon with his regiment, only a criminal rebellion, unworthy of pardon, a treason long meditated and prepared against the Sovereign and the Country.

"But let them imagine themselves for a moment in the situation of the accused. Still young, he had never served except under the colours of Napoleon. he had known Louis XVIII, only ten months. This first Sovereign, whose abdication appeared to him only a sacrifice dictated by necessity, re-appeared suddenly before him. A habit contracted during fifteen years of considering the Emperor, whom all the Monarch of Europe had acknowledged, as his legitimate chief, resumed all its force. It awakened affections which had been but ill extinguished. The illusion of the military glory - of the former power of the Prince, rendered in the eyes of some of his partisans greater by his misfortunes and exile, acted on an ardent and elevated imagination, which easily fancies the dictates of duty to be obeyed, even at the very moment in which the most sacred of duties are trampled on.

"It must be confessed, that the multiplied vicissitudes of our revolutions, and frequent changes of government have shaken, and have sometimes had the effect during these 25 years, of rendering doubtful in France the notions of morality on the legitimacy of Princes and the fidelity of subjects.

"Led away by false ideas. M. Labedoyere disturbed a possession of eleven months to respect a prior possession which had existed for fifteen years. Prejudices, opinions, and habits, ideas well or ill-founded, which have been received, and which time has strengthened, are not changed in a day.

"Doubtless M. Labedoyere is inexcusable for having taken, and then violated his oath of obedience. That is his real crime: but that crime we repeat has been generally committed. The first example of its breach was not given by M. Labedoyere, for Napoleon had already advanced forty miles on the French territory before he arived at the point where the regiment, commanded by M. Labedoyere, joined him.

Third Observation. - The King's Ordinances direct, that the lists of the persons accused of conspiracy and treason shall be previously submitted to the two Chambers, not to try them (for Representative and Legislative Chambers cannot exercise judicial functions), but to refer to the Tribunals such of the individuals inscribed on these lists, as it may be the duty of the nation specially to accuse."

[I do not have the report of the trial itself]

The Verdict




Yesterday morning, at eight o'clock, the Court of Revision, to which the sentence on Colonel Labedoyere was referred, in order to its being confirmed or annulled, assembled.

The new counsel of the prisoner were M. de Joly and M. Mauguin.

The court, consisting of the Baron de Couchy, Marechal-de-Camp, two Colonels, two captains, and M. Ricard, commmissaire-Ordonnateur, ordered all the papers connected with the proceedings to be read. The reporting Judge stated, that having considered thedocuments, it did not appear to him that the objections to the proceedings were sufficiently serious to afford grounds for annulling the judgement.

M. Mauguin, in a pleading of two hours, stated various objections, founded chiefly on the incompetence of the court martial of the first division in general, and of the second Court in particular, and on several omissions in point of form.

"I do not endeavour," said he, "to exculpate my client from all that is imputed to him. Placed in one of those extraordinary situations which are happily rare in the history of nations and of Kings, the Monarch had to choose betweeen pardon and justice. This choice has been made, and Colonel Labedoyere has been brought before you."

In examining whether the Court-martial had regular cognizance of the case, under the King's Ordinance of the 21st of August, he did not dissemble that he was touching upon a very delicate question. He brought to recollection, that the Court of Appeal of Rennes had dared to declare, that Imperial decrees, bearing on measures of general interest, were not obligatory. That declaration had indeed been annulled by the Court of Cassation, but only in virtue of an equivocal article of the Constitution of the year 8, which contained oblique dispositions, favourable to despotism. According to the view of M. Mauguin, the natural judges of the accused were those of the 7th Divisison. He had been transferred to the 1st Division because there was no Court- Martial formed at Grenoble; but the King alone had not the right of making this transfer. It required an order from the judges of the Courtof Cassation, and perhaps even a law enacted by the three branches of the legislative authority.

Even supposing the King could legally refer the case of the accused to the Permanent Council of War, why did the Governor of the division fix on the 2d court Martial instead of the 1st. Was it not the former which the Ordinance, by the vague manner in which it was expressed, seemed to indicate.

Proceeding to consider the questions of form, M. Mauguin endeavoured to establish:-

1. That the 2d council of War had contravened the law, by not specifying in the minutes of its proceeding the place in which its session was held.

2. That the examination of the witnesses had not been regular. The judgement did not state that they had been heard separately. They had not been required to make oath, but merely a simple promise to tell truth. they had not declared whether they were relations or connections of the accused.

3. The prisoner's defence was incomplete. Public notoriety proved that he had been interrupted in the middle of his speech. He was not allowed to justify his intentions, though tribunals for the investigation of crimes are obliged to examine, not merely the fact, but the intention by which it is rendered criminal.

4. It was refused to call witnesses in exculpation.

The President interrupted the Counsel, and asked, whther the accused had cited or designated any witnesses by name.

M. Mauguin admitted, that his client had not designated any, then continuing his objections, he insisted "that there was no identity between the individual brought before the Council under the name of Charles Angelique Francois de Labedoyere, and the prisoner, to whom the names of Charles Angelique had only been given."

An interesting part of the discussion turned on the question whether the Ordinance of the 6th of March could be applied. The rigourous terms of that Ordinance appeared to be mitigated by that of the 23rd, and particularly by the Proclamation made by the King at Cambrai, dated the 27th of June [see below 2], on his entering France. in that Proclamation the King declared his intention to deliver to the tribunals only the authors and instigators of the horrible plot which had brought back Buonaparte. The counsel had made a vague use of the word treason and rebellion. it should have been distinctly proved that Colonel Labedoyere was an author or instigator of the plot.

M. Ricard, King's attorney, replied to these objections in their order.

There was no incompetence in the second Court sitting at Paris. A formal law gave the War Minister the right when there was no Court-martial in one division, to place the accused before such other Court as he should judge proper.

With respect to the reference of the case to the second instead of the first court, the Governor, Count Maison, had the right of making that substitution. The other alleged grounds of objection did not appear to him sufficient to annul the proceedings. he consequently concluded by moving the court to confirm the judgement.

At noon the court withdrew to the Hall of Deliberation, and at one o'clock pronounced the following judgement:-

"Considering that the second Court was competent; that the proceedings have been regularly conducted, and the law rightly applied, declares unanimously that the said judgement is confirmed, and that it shall have its full and entire execution."

The criminal underwent his sentence at half past six o'clock; he was conveyed to the plain of Grenelle by a numerous detachment of gendarmerie. Having reached the place of execution, he knelt and received the benediction of the confessor who accompanied him. Then, without waiting to have his eyes bandaged, according to custom, he firmly stepped a few paces forward, fronting the veterans who were to shoot him, and pointing to his breast, cried: - "Above all do not miss me." - An instant after and he was no more.

Yesterday, at half-past three o'clock, while his Majesty was passing under the grand vestibule of the Thuileries to enter his carriage a female, in tears, made her way through the crowd and fell at the feet of theMonarch -

"Sire," she cried, "Pardon! pardon!" Madame Labedoyere was immediately recognised. - "Madame," said the King, "I know your sentiments and those of your family; and never did I suffer more grief in pronouncing a refusal." Madame Labedoyere fainted. All the attention required by her situation was bestowed upon her. The King entered his carriage visibly affected, and all the spectators of this remarkable scene felt that his Majesty had performed the most painful duty of Royalty. - (Journal de Paris.)

(Another paper gives the following account of the same scene): -

"Yesterday at four o'clock, at the moment when the King was entering his carriage, Madame Labedoyere fell at his Majesty's feet, imploring pardon for her husband. The King answered that if the offence of M. Labedoyere had only concerned him, his pardon would be granted; but the whole of France called for the punishment of a man who brought upon them all the plagues of war. His Majesty was much moved, and it was seen how much he suffered by being obliged to resist the emotions of his heart. The King who knows how to join goodness to justice, deigned to promise Madame Labedoyere his protection for herself and her child.

"At six o'clock, at the moment when the King was returning from his airing, the mother of M. Labedoyere was in the Court of the Palace to make a new attempt to influence his Majesty. Seeing that measures had been taken to prevent her from entering the vestibule and renewing a scene equally melancholy and useless, she retired. Madame Labedoyere was dressed in deep mourning."


PARIS August 24.

Scarcely had I dispatched my last letter when the sentence of Labedoyere was confirmed. At six o'clock the same evening he was shot in the plain of Grenelle, which is situated near the Champ de Mars. An immense crowd assembled on the occasion, but the utmost tranquillity prevailed: several general officers, decorated with the great orders, were among the spectators, but no-one testified the least anxiety for his pardon: and in subsequent conversations I have generally heard the subject dismissed shortly with such expressions as "Tant mieux;" and yet the personal appearance of this criminal might have ben expected to excite some sensation in his favour, especially among the fair sex, whose influence, you know, is proverbially great in France. Labedoyere was called the Adonis of Paris. At his trial a young actress thought proper to exhibit� a fainting fit; but it did not much take; and when the fatal shot was fired, no such emotion was anywhere discoverable.

Ney will be put on his trial in� a few days: and I am assured, that the trial of several other conspirators will succeed, although it is to be owned, appearances do not much countenance this report. all the details of the late conspiracy are in the hands of the government. They know, or may know, the meetings that were held, the sums that were contributed, the couriers that arrived and were dispatched, the terms that were entered into with the patriots in the Chamber of Deputies, the disbursements that were made to the half- pay officers in Paris. All this is fully before the ministers; and yet they themselves give passports to the principal agents in the plot, to seek refuge in foreign countries.

This proceeding, so strange to us, appears perfectly natural to a Parisian. He has from long experience laid it down as an axiom, that every politician in the very moment of discharging what he calls his public duty, must have an eye to his private safety: and that those know but half their trade, who have not secured to themselves friends in the party opposed to that which they serve.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2006