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The Napoleon Series > Biographies > Biographies

Research Subjects: Biographies

Guillaume Marie Anne Brune, Marshal (1804)

(Born Brive, 1763 - Died Avignon, 1815)


Brune, more a general of the Revolution than of the Empire. Soon dismissed by Napoleon, ignored by Louis XVIII, killed by royalists.

Son of a lawyer, Brune starts out as a journalist and printer. He thus befriends Danton, with whom he is a member of the Club des Cordeliers. In 1791, he enlists in the Paris National Guard, then in the second battalion of the Seine et Oise volunteers. On 13 Vendémiaire, he takes part in the crushing of the Royalist uprising, with Barras and general Bonaparte. He is sent to Italy and fights at Rivoli; he is promoted major general in 1797, and put at the head of the vanguard.

After a short mission in Switzerland, the Directory appoints him commander of the Army of Holland. On September 19, 1799, Brune defeats the Russo-English forces in Bergen. This victory wins him the rank of commander-in-chief of the Army of the West, in charge of pacifying the Vendée. Shortly afterwards, the Chouan leaders sign a peace treaty. In August 1800, Brune is sent to replace Masséna at the head of the Army of Italy.

In 1802, Bonaparte, First Consul, begins to gather power; he sends this zealous Republican away by naming him ambassador to Turkey, but he does include him in the 1804 list of marshals. The following year, Brune, back in France, is general-in-command of what will soon become the Grande Armée, assembled in Boulogne. In 1806, he is governor of the Hanseatic cities.

During the 1807 Prussian campaign, he takes Straslund without meeting any opposition. However, instead of earning congratulations, he infuriates the Emperor, because in the convention later signed with the Swedes, he refers to the French army and not to the Army of His Imperial and Royal Majesty. Napoleon does away with him for good.

As of April 1, 1814, Brune sides with the provisional government. He rallies to the Bourbons, although they are not eager to accept his services. Brune then offers them to Napoleon, when the latter comes back from Elba in 1815. He receives the title of Peer of France during the Hundred Days. At the time of the second Restoration, he is on his way to Paris to swear allegiance to the government again, when he is recognized in the streets of Avignon by Royalists who attack and murder him. His body is then thrown in the river without further ado.

By Artea


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