Points to Consider

The Memoires






The Truth About Memoires

By Max Sewell

There are numerous memoires from the Napoleonic era. Many people who had close association with the Emperor seem to have kept notes or journals and later converted them to memoires, either by their own hand or with the help of a ghostwriter. These memoires are referred to again and again in secondary accounts, yet the validity or honesty expressed in them seems to vary a great deal from memoire to memoire. Historians have made their own value judgements based on their experience and expertise, but they do not always agree with one another. I have collected and collated their comments in the list below.

Please be aware that this list for the most part deals with memoires that were written by individuals who had contact with the Emperor, hence there are many memoires written by common soldiers and by individuals from other nations that are not included. In addition, I do not claim that this list is complete. Nor do I contend that the many opinions are valid or that I am necessarily in agreement with them. Readers are invited to review the opinions for themselves, read the different memoires and make their own judgements.

Points to Consider when Analyzing the Value of a Memoire

Jacques Barzun in The Modern Researcher writes at length about memoires and their utility. "The value of a piece of testimony usually increases in proportion to the nearness in time and space between the witnesses and the events about which he testifies ... A single witness may be quite accurate, but two witnesses, if independent, increase the chances of eliminating human fallibility ... What can be learned about the author's life and character helps to make up our judgement on several of the previous points. If we know his life we can answer the queries:

Was he there? Had he the expertness to appreciate the facts? Was he biased by partisan interest? Did he habitually tell the truth?" [BJ]

The author Vincent Cronin also suggests that the circumstances of publication may have impacted the content of a given memoire. During the period from 1815 to 1830, Napoleon's enemies ruled France, and strict censorship prevented favorable memoires from being published. He suggests that those people who had been highly placed in the Empire who wanted to continue their careers under the Bourbons would first have had to clear their names, and many did so by writing (but not always publishing) memoires hostile to the Emperor. [C]

The Memoires

Abrantes, Laure Permon, Duchesse de: Viewed as a troublemaker during the Empire period, Napoleon forbade her to come within 50 leagues of Paris. As a result, she welcomed the Bourbon restoration. She became friends with Balzac who encouraged her to write her memoires, which when published in 1835 amounted to 18 volumes. Memoires de Madame la Duchesse d'Abrantes were also published in Paris in 1893. Cronin indicated she was an opium addict at the time of publication and viewed them as "more fantasy than fact." In particular he considered her assertion that Napoleon "poured his heart out to her" to be patently ridiculous in part because Napoleon was unlikely to be so forthright with a man, and even less likely to be so with a woman. They were distrusted from the start. Markham listed them under "lively but unreliable." [C,H,MF]

Antommarchi, Francesco (1789-1838): Napoleon's physician on St. Helena from 1819 to 1821, he performed the postmortem and published Le Dernier Moments de Napoleon in 1825. Cronin described them as "totally untrustworthy." [C,H]

Arnault: A playwright who had first hand knowledge of Napoleon's Italian campaign. He published memoires in 1822 and a biography of the Emperor in 1861. Cronin called them "trustworthy." [C]

Barras, Paul (1755-1820): A member of the directory generally described as immoral and avaricious, he had employed Bonaparte to defend the Convention on 13 Vendemaire, and was on generally good terms with Napoleon. He left his autobiographical notes to Rousselin de Saint-Albin who founded a newspaper and was an ardent supporter of the Bourbons. He wrote Memoires of Barras, Member of the Directorate based on the notes, but by the time he was finished the Second Empire had been established and the publication was delayed until 1895. Cronin asserted that Barras could not forgive Napoleon for removing him from high office after Brumaire, and the memoires should be treated with "utmost caution." Tulard noted that they "supply some useful information," but "are partly apocryphal." Stephens noted: "Saint-Albin rewrote the memoirs of Barras. This was made necessary by the fragmentary condition and illiterate text of the original. But fortunately Saint-Albin carefully preserved the original which he had revised and edited." Stephens also cautioned that they "were written after 1820, when the writer [was an old man] ... This fact of itself deprives their testimony of any direct documentary value." Stephens also indicated that the memoirs are characterized by "the rancourous malignity with which Barras regarded Napoleon Bonaparte ... If indeed an anxiety to leave to posterity a vindication of his political life was one of the aims of Barras in writing his memoirs, an overwhelming desire to blacken the character of Napoleon and to emphasize the baseness of the methods by which he rose to high command, was an equally strong incentive. Napoleon himself, Josephine, and the members of the Bonaparte family are calumniated at every turn; the most disgraceful imputations are made against them all ... more care should be used with regard to the reckless mud-throwing of Barras whenever he mentions the man whom it was his brightest title to fame to have brought conspicuously upon the stage of history." [C,H,S,T]

Bausset, Louis Francois de: Prefect of the Imperial Palace kept a diary and published it in 1821. Cronin considered them reliable. [C]

Beauharnais, Eugene (1781-1824): Apparently first resented his mother Josephine's marriage to Napoleon, but later became one of his most loyal and capable subordinates. He served in Italy, Egypt, was promoted to General and made Viceroy of Italy. He served in 1809 and again in 1812, 1813 and 1814. After the first abdication he kept his promise to his father-in-law the King of Bavaria and did not rejoin Napoleon during the Hundred Days. He retired to Munich until his death. His Memoires et Correspondance Politiques et Militaires du Prince Eugene, edited by Baron A. du Casse were published in Paris in 1858. Elting wrote that "This work includes Eugene's official correspondence. Consequently, it is both an invaluable supplement to Napoleon's correspondence, and an unequaled picture of the Kingdom of Italy." [EE,H]

Beauharnais, Hortense (1783-1837): The daughter of Josephine, she later married Louis Bonaparte and became Queen of Holland and Duchesse de Saint-Leu. One of her sons became Napoleon III. Memoires of Queen Hortense were written between 1816 and 1820 apparently in reply to the many hostile and error-prone memoires circulating at the time. They are considered particularly valuable by Cronin because she had no reason to be well-disposed to a man who had divorced her mother and forced her into an unhappy marriage. [C,H]

Bertrand, General Henri-Gratien, comte (1773-1844): Haythornthwaite calls him the most loyal of Napoleon's followers. He served in many of the campaigns, and was named Grand Marshal of the Palace in 1813. He accompanied Bonaparte to Elba and St. Helena. His notebooks, published in 1949 as Napoleon at St. Helena: Memoirs of General Bertrand, record the last seven years of Napoleon's life in great detail. Cronin seemed to think highly of them. Durant indicated that Bertrand had refused to publish them himself. [C,D,H]

Bigarre, Auguste: Memoires du General Bigarre; Aide de Camp du Roi Joseph, published in Paris, no date. Elting wrote that "his account of his services under Joseph in Naples furnishes information on some of the lesser-known theaters of the Napoleonic wars." [EE]

Blaze, Elzear: Served in the army. His memoires have been recently reprinted, Military Life under Napoleon, The Memoires of Captain Elzear Blaze. Colonel John R. Elting, in his translation wrote: "All in all, Blaze's memoires present a clear-eyed, remarkably complete description of French army life as seen by a company-grade officer with both line and staff service." [B,EE]

Bonaparte, Joseph, King of Naples and Spain (1768-1844): The elder brother of Napoleon who became king of Naples in 1806 and later surrendered that crown to become King of Spain in 1808. In 1814 he was made Lieutenant General and commander of the Paris National Guard. After 1815 he lived in the United States. His Memoires et Correspondance Politiques et Militaires du Roi Joseph, running ten volumes, edited by Baron du Casse, were published in Paris in 1855-8. Cronin called them "trustworthy" and "particularly useful for the Corsican years." Tulard called them "unreliable" and "occasionally inaccurate." [C,H,T]

Bonaparte, Lucien, Prince of Canino (1775-1840): Active in politics, he supported the Jacobins and became a member of the Council of Five Hundred in 1798. As President of that body he was well placed to aid Napoleon in the coup of Brumaire. Disagreements followed and led to final break with Napoleon over his remarriage. He lived in Italy but was captured by the British while on a ship bound for America. He returned to Italy in 1814 and later served Napoleon during the Hundred Days. He lived out his remaining life in Italy. Bonaparte et Ses Memoires was published in Paris in 1882. Tulard indicates they should be "consulted with caution." [H,T]

Bonaparte, Napoleon (1769-1821): Dictated his memoires at St. Helena, recently published as Napoleon On Napoleon, an Autobiography of the Emperor translated and edited by Somerset de Chair in 1992. The back cover of the paperback asserted that "Napoleon dictated memoires, notes, letters, and battle commentaries to the generals who shared his captivity. He then corrected the material himself." Four volumes of Napoleon's memoires had been printed in 1823. [N]

Bonaparte, Napoleon (1769-1821): The Military Maxims of Napoleon were originally translated in 1831, assumed to be from a French edition compiled by General Burnod, with a revised edition published in 1901. Attributed to the Emperor, Ferguson stated that "there is some evidence that most, if not all, of these maxims originated from the great man," yet "there is doubt as to the authenticity of many of them," and they "are of limited value to the study of the Napoleonic era." [NM]

Bourrienne, Louis-Antoine Fauvelet de (1769-1824): A schoolboy friend of Bonaparte who became his private secretary. His was dismissed for embezzlement, though he was later employed as charge d'affaires in Hamburg, where he embezzled again. He later joined Tallyrand, and embezzled yet again under the Bourbons. A publisher urged him to sell his memoires to pay off his debts. He did not write them himself, but supplied notes to a ghostwriter, and his Memoires of Napoleon Bonaparte were printed in 1829. Their publication caused Comte Boulay de La Meurthe to publish a 720-page book addressing its errors, which had to be published in Brussels to escape Bourbon censorship. Chandler referred to them as having "dubious accuracy," Cronin as "unreliable." Markham listed them under "lively but unreliable." Tulard noted that "despite his prejudice" they "supply some useful information." [C,CD,MF,T]

Chaptal, Jean: Napoleon's Minister of the Interior until Napoleon's affair with Mademoiselle Bourgoin caused him to resign. He was never again given high office, though he served as a senator. In 1817 he wrote rather hostile memoires that were circulated but never published, which Cronin believed earned him a seat in the Bourbon era Chamber of Peers. Cronin believed Chaptal's record indicated that he served Bonaparte willingly, even during the Hundred Days when he accepted the post of Director General of Trade and Industry, and believed his hostility had more to do with advancing his career and revenge for the injury of the early affair. [C]

Caulaincourt, General Armand-Armand-Augustin-Louis, marquis de, duc de Vicence (1773-1827): Served as Master of Horse, Grand Marshal of The Palace, and Foreign Minister. He wrote a manuscript of his memoires between 1822 and 1825 based on notes taken daily when he was in touch with Napoleon. A version, Souvenirs du Duc de Vicence was published by Charlotte de Sorin 1837, but his authentic memoires, Memoires of General de Caulaincourt, Duke Oo Vincenza were not published until 1933 at which time it was determined that the first set had been of little historical value. Haythornthwaite described the later set as notable," Chandler as a "vital source." Cronin believed them to have a "high degree of value and authenticity" because they are day-to-day records. [C,CD,H]

Chateaubriand, Francois-Rene, vicomte de (1768-1848): The most celebrated literary figure of his age. He joined the Revolution but later opposed it and was wounded at Thionville while serving as an emigrant officer. He later served the Empire as attache to the French embassy in Rome, but he resigned in protest over the execution of the duc d'Enghien. His later writings were in opposition to Bonaparte, and he welcomed the Bourbon restoration. He served the Bourbons as Ambassador to Berlin, London and Rome, and briefly as Foreign Minister and as French representative to the Congress of Verona. His Memoires were published in 1849, and translated into English by Robert Baldick in 1961. Elting wrote: "His knowledge of Napoleon's subsequent campaigns is hearsay, but he saw the Hundred Days from the side of Louis XVIII, and no man ever recorded his times with more effective language, or could sum it up in more pithy phrases. However, he was a poet at heart; his phrases are more effective than accurate." [EE,H]

Coignet, Captain Jean Roche (1776-1850): Joined the French army in 1799, and rose through the ranks to eventually serve as captain in the Imperial Guard, assigned to the Emperor's staff. They were translated and published in 1897 in London under the title: The Note-Books of Captain Coignet. The original editor of the manuscript, Loredan Larchey wrote in his preface that many of the details are known to be wrong or are clearly exaggerations, but the fundamental outline of Coignet's record do not seem to be in question. They are cited frequently in many of the classic books on the era by established historians. Chandler referred to them as: "a colorful source of first-hand information," and Haythornthwaite called them "a deserved classic." [CD,H,NM]

(Constant) Wairy, Louis-Constant: Napoleon's senior valet for the Empire period, having first served Eugene and Josephine Beauharnais. His Memoirs of Constant, The Emperor Napoleon's Head Valet were ghostwritten and originally published in 1830. A translation followed in London, 1896. Haythornthwaite considered them generally interesting but unreliable. Chandler called them "suspect." Markham listed them under "lively but unreliable." Tulard asked "To what extent had the editors embellished Constant's memories of his experiences?" [CD,H,M]

Desaix, General Louis-Charles-Antoine (1768-1800): Kept a journal of his intimate conversations with Napoleon during the Italian campaign. Cronin believed them to have a "high degree of value and authenticity" because they are day-to-day records. [C,H]

Fain, Agathon-Jean-Francois, baron (1778-1837): Succeeded Meneval as secretary to Napoleon and is considered reliable. He retired to private life under the Bourbons and wrote three published works. His Memoires du Baron Fain, Premier Secretaire du Cabinet de l'Empereur were printed in Paris in 1908 and are described by Haythornthwaite as "a valuable source for the period during which he was one of Napoleon's closest associates." The First English edition Napoleon: How He Did It was published in 1998. Tulard wrote in the foreword that: "his testimony is of the essence." [C,H]

Fezenac Raymond A.P.J. Montesquiou, duc de: Joined Napoleon's army in 1804, he held staff positions and later served as ADC to Berthier. He took command of the 4th line during the retreat in Russia. His wife was appointed governess of the King of Rome. Souvenirs Militaires de 1804 a 1815 were published in Paris in 1863, but there was an English edition A Journal of The Russian Campaign of 1812 edited by Colonel W. Knollys in 1852. Haythornthwaite called them "valuable," and Elting noted that "though [they were] somewhat hazy in some details which he did not personally witness, the author participated in a number of lesser-known actions, such as the battle of Kulm." [EE,H]

Fouche, Joseph, duc d'Otrante (1763-1820): Served in the Convention and voted for the execution of the king. He later served the Directory as Minister of Police, but supported the coup Brumaire and was retained by Napoleon. He lost his office from 1802-4 but was reinstated when Napoleon recognized that his network of agents was invaluable. He was again dismissed in 1810 when it was discovered that he conducted clandestine negotiations with foreign powers. During the restoration he served the Bourbons, and in the Hundred Days again served Napoleon. Memoires of Joseph Fouche, Duke of Otranto were published in Paris in 1818. Scott wrote that they were "not actually written by Fouche, but compiled in 1824 from his notes and papers." Tulard called them "very suspect," Stephens wrote of "lying compilations like the so-called memoirs of Fouche," though the bookseller Peter Holmes in recent catalogues has indicated that "their authenticity is no longer seriously doubted." Elting called them "alleged memoires," and that "His story is chiefly interesting for what he does not tell, and for its general indications of the twisted politics of the period." [EE,H,SS,T]

Giradin, Stanislas de: Served as prefect under Napoleon and Louis XVIII, but preserved his independence and liberal opinions, published his memoires in 1828. Cronin called them "trustworthy." [C]

Gourgaud, General Gaspard, baron (1783-1852): A faithful aide who served in many campaigns and may have saved the Emperor's life from Cossack party at Brienne in 1814. He accompanied Bonaparte to St. Helena, but fell out with Las Cases and Montholon (who he challenged to a duel) and left the island in 1818. He worked in vain for better conditions for the Emperor back in France. He took issue with Segur's book on the Russian campaign and wrote a critical examination of it which was published in 1825. Journal Inedit de Sainte-Helene was published posthumously in Paris in 1899. Cronin noted that the original "bristles with barrack-room language." [C,CD,H]

Landrieux, Jean: Memoires de l'Adjutant General Jean Landrieux, Chef d'Etat-Major de la Cavalerie de Armee d'Italie, Charge du Bureau Secret 1795-1797 were published in Paris in 1893. There was only one edition of a projected three published. Elting wrote: "Landrieux was excellently placed to see the seamy side of the Italian campaign. His spiteful and savage stories might carry more weight if not matched against his known prior career as an intriguer and 'fantastic.'" [EE]

Larrey, Dominique Jean, baron (1766-1842): Took part in the storming of the Bastille, he served as a surgeon in the French Army starting in 1797. He devised the 'flying ambulance' for evacuating casualties from the battlefield. He was appointed Chief Surgeon to the Imperial Guard and the Grande Armee, serving with distinction in Germany, Spain and later Russia. He rallied to Napoleon during the Hundred Days, and after the wars he served as chief surgeon to the Invalides. Memoires of Baron Larrey, Surgeon-in-Chief of the Grande Armee were published in 1862. Elting indicated that they were "heavily edited," but also that Napoleon described Larrey as the "most virtuous man I have ever known." Haythornthwaite wrote that he was "worshipped by the army." [EE,CDH]

Las Cases, Emmanuel-Augustin-Dieudonne-Martin-Joseph, comte de (1766-1842): Converted his notes on conversations and events at St. Helena into the highly successful Memoires of the Life, Exile and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon in 1823, but Cronin felt they were "by no means free of propaganda" and inaccuracies. Chandler described them as "important." [C,CD,H]

Lavalette, Antoine-Marie Chamans, comte de: A valued friend who served Napoleon as councillor of state and Postmaster-General, who aided Napoleon's escape from Elba and was condemned to death in the restoration but escaped and received help from Eugene de Beauharnais in Bavaria. His memoires were published in 1831, the year after his death. Cronin called them "trustworthy." Tulard noted that they "supply some useful information." [C,T]

Lejeune, General Louis-Francois, baron (1776-1848): Best known as a contemporary battle painter, he was an engineer officer who came to serve Berthier as ADC at Marengo and many important battles that followed. A serious wound in 1813 caused his retirement. Souvenirs d'un de l'Empire were published in Paris and later translated by Mrs. A. Bell as Memoirs of Baron Lejeune: Aide-de-Camp to Marshals Berthier, Davout and Oudinot in London in 1897. Haythornthwaite noted that they "give an excellent account of his adventures." [EE,HH]

Macdonald, Marshal Jacques-Etienne-Joseph-Alexandre, duc de Tarante (1765-1840): Served in the revolutionary armies, and later under Napoleon. He fell out of favor in 1803, having become caught up in the accusations against Moreau, but was recalled in 1809, when he earned his marshal's baton on the battlefield of Wagram. His Souvenirs du Marechal Macdonald, Duc de Tarante were published in 1892 and translated in 1893. Haythornthwaite indicated that errors admitted to after the rout at Katzbach in 1813 were not mentioned in his memoires, showing some selectivity. Chandler characterized them as "interesting." Elting wrote that "For a soldier whose orders and letters were crisp and clear, these memoires have an evasive quality." and that he may have wished to ingratiate himself with the Bourbon regime at the time of their writing in 1825. He also accused him of having a "tendency to blandly take credit for actions where he was not present." It may be that these memoires were not intended for publication but as a gift to his son. They were published by an ancestor. [EE,CD,H]

Marbot, General Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcellin, baron de (1782-1854): ADC who served several marshals and later the Emperor, Marbot fought in many campaigns up to and including the Hundred Days. Memoirs Of Baron de Marbot were published in 1892 recounting these events in grand style, and they were translated into English in 1901. Haythornthwaite characterized them as: "vivid if not the most self-effacing; they have been criticized for accuracy (for example the version of the 14th at Eylau [where he claimed to have attempted a rescue of that regiment's eagle])" Thomason in the preface of his edited translation of these memoires wrote: "His accuracy is sometimes doubtful, but no commentator has ever questioned his honesty." Markham listed them under "lively but unreliable." Elting called them: "howling cock-and-bull inventions," but admitted that they must have "some small basis of truth" because few Frenchmen have challenged them. See Vandamme entry below. [EE,H,MF,TJ]

Marchand, Louis: Napoleon's valet from 1811 to 1821, who kept a journal that he apparently did not intend to publish. Memoires de Marchand only appeared in print in Paris 1952, and is considered trustworthy, the more so because it is a day-to-day journal rather than being written long after the events it describes. Tulard asserted that "There is no doubt of the authenticity of these memoires, nor the truth of the facts which Marchand reports." [C,M,W]

Marmont, Marshal August-Frederic-Louis Viesse de, duc de Raguse (1774-1852): Served as ADC to Bonaparte in Italy. He fought in Egypt, and played a part in Brumaire. He fought with distinction at Marengo and earned his baton after Wagram. He served in Spain until his defeat and injury at Salamanca. He fought in Germany in 1813, but in 1814 he negotiated with the Allies, allowing them to enter Paris and later surrendered his entire corps without Napoleon's consent which was seen as an act of betrayal. Memoires du Marechal Marmont, Duc de Raguse, De 1792 A 1841 which were published posthumously in Paris 1856. Cronin claimed Marmont's view has always been open to suspicion and the text is an attempt to justify his treason. Chandler characterized them as "vindicatory." Tulard noted that they "supply some useful information." Elting wrote that the memoires are a "must for every student of the period, both for its professional content and its unconscious self-portrait of a soldier who was too willing to listen to politicians and his own vanity," but that Marmont remains "an untrustworthy witness where his own conduct comes into question." [C,EE,CD,T]

Massena, Marshal Andre, duc de Rivoli, prince d'Essling (1758-1817): One of Napoleon's most trusted subordinates, Massena shone at Rivoli, Zurich and Essling. In 1810 he was appointed to lead the army of Portugal, but retired after defeats at Busaco and Fuentes de Onoro. He was virtually uncommitted during the Hundred Days, and objected to sitting in judgement of Ney, falling into disfavor with the Bourbons. Memoires de Massena, edited by General J.B.F. Koch, were published posthumously in Paris in 1850. Elting notes that they "represent careful editing of Massena's personal papers and all official records concerning him. The emphasis though, is purely military ... Koch went to great efforts to verify and extend his research through personal interrogation of officers of all grades." [EE,H]

Melito, Miot de: A close friend of Joseph Bonaparte, whose memoires were published in 1858. They were worked up from notes and a journal by his son-in-law, general Fleishmann. Cronin considered some sections to be trustworthy, but apparently others (specifically Chapter VI) are not. [C]

Meneval, Claude-Francois de (1780-1842): Secretary to Napoleon after Bourrienne, followed Marie Louise to Vienna. He published his memoires in 1843, and is considered reliable. Memoires to Serve for the History of Napoleon I from 1802 to 1815 were translated in London, 1894. Haythornthwaite highlighted Napoleon's trust of him, and characterized his memoires as "interesting."[C,H]

Montholon, General Charles-Tristan, comte de (1783-1853): Served as an Imperial chamberlain, but fell out of favor by marrying a woman Napoleon thought unsuitable. He was later charged with embezzlement. He rallied to Napoleon after the second abdication and went to St. Helena as a member of the Emperor's staff. History of the Captivity of Napoleon at St. Helena was published in London in 1846. Cronin called the memoires reliable, but Haythornthwaite believed they were unreliable. Chandler characterized them as "contentious and plagiarized." Weider and Chandler addressed the circumstantial evidence implicating Montholon in attempts to poison the Emperor on the orders of the comte d'Artois, which, if true may have impacted his veracity. [C,CD,H,W]

Ney, Marshal Michel, duc d'Elchingen, prince de le Moscowa (1769-1815): One of the original marshals, Ney served in many campaigns, and was particularly inspirational during the retreat from Moscow. He played a part in urging Napoleon's abdication in 1814, and served the Bourbons until Napoleon's return from Elba. He rejoined the Emperor and fought at Waterloo. After the defeat he was tried and executed. Ney's own memoires were not completed, but those for the period up to Elchingen were published as Memoires du Marechal Ney, Publiees par Sa Famille in 1833. [H]

O'Meara, Barry Edward (1782-1836): Served as physician to Napoleon on St. Helena from 1815 until his removal by Sir Hudson Lowe in 1818. He published his journal in 1822, A Voice from St. Helena, which Haythornthwaite indicates was "extremely critical of Lowe and his treatment of Napoleon." O'Meara himself, sensitive to accusations of falsehoods, took great pains in his preface to point out that his day-to-day journal could be relied upon because "immediately on retiring from Napoleon's presence, I hurried to my chamber and carefully committed to paper the topics of conversation, with, so far as I could, the exact words used." The Durants noted that "the book contains some errors, having been written from memory," citing Rosebery [perhaps The Last Phase?], p175. [D,H]

Oudinot, Marshal Nicholas-Charles, duc de Reggio (1767-1847): Wounded as many as twenty-two times. Served Massena as chief of staff in Switzerland and later in Italy. Fought at Austerlitz and Friedland. Took command of II Corps after Lannes' death in 1809. He won his baton for his bravery at Wagram. He fought in 1812, 1813 and 1814, but accepted the Bourbon restoration and declined service under Napoleon in 1815 and was exiled to his estates. He served the Bourbons as joint commander of the Royal Guard, and was appointed Minister of State and commanded I Corps in the invasion of Spain in 1823. Le Marshal Oudinot, Duc de Reggio were published in Paris in 1894. They included memoires written by the Duchess Eugenie. [CD,H]

Parquin, Denis-Charles: Souvenirs du Capitaine Parquin, 1803-1814 were published in Paris in 1892. Elting wrote that they were "One of the great personal memoires of the period, as vivid as Marbot's—and considerably more accurate." [EE]

Radet: Memoires du General Radet were edited by A. Combier in France in 1892. Elting wrote that: "Radet was a senior officer of the Imperial Gendarmerie, an iron man capable of introducing law and order into Naples, or of placing the Pope under arrest." [EE]

Rapp, General Jean, comte (1771-1821): Served Napoleon as an aide-de-camp since the battle of Marengo. He was extremely loyal to Napoleon and participated in all the major campaigns. He fell into disfavor with Napoleon for showing sympathy to Josephine after the divorce and for not enforcing trade restrictions in Danzig. He served Napoleon through the Hundred Days. Memoires of General Count Rapp, First Aide-de-Camp to Napoleon were published in London in 1823. Elting characterized Rapp as "frequently disapproving, but always loyal." [EE,H]

Remusat, Claire de (1780-1821): Josephine's lady-in-waiting, who was apparently fond of Napoleon. After the Imperial annulment in 1809, she moved into Talleyrand's circle and worked for Bourbon restoration. Cronin asserted that in order to provide her son a career in Restoration politics, she would have needed to clear her name by writing her memoires, and was aided by Tallyrand. She circulated the manuscript among the powers at the time. She did not publish them, but Memoires 1802-1808 were published by her son in 1880. Cronin characterizes them as "unreliable." Markham listed them under "lively but unreliable." [C,H,MF]

Robespierre, Maximilien-Francois-Marie-Isidore de (1758-94): Was elected first Deputy for Paris to the National Convention and was a member of the Commune. He became the most important and influential voice in the Committee of Public Safety and supported the Terror. He was later guillotined. Stephens wrote of the "spurious memoirs of Robespierre." Haythornthwaite, who listed many memoirs in his "Who Was Who" doesn't list Robespierre's memoires per se, but referenced a work which perhaps may be regarded as such: Hamel, E., Histoire de Robespierre d'Apres des Papiers de Famille, Paris 1865. [H,S]

Roederer, Pierre-Louis, comte (1754-1835): Served Napoleon in many capacities, and was valued for his advice on the press and economics despite disagreements. He was created a peer during the Hundred Days. Journal du Comte P. L. Roederer, Minstre et Conseiller d'Etat was published in Paris in 1909 and contains valuable information from the Consulate period. Cronin asserted they have a "high degree of value and authenticity" because they are day-to-day records. [C,H]

Savary, General Anne-Jean-Marie-Rene, duc de Rovigo (1774-1833): Served as Desaix's ADC and later served Napoleon in the same capacity. Promoted colonel to the Imperial Guard. He later became involved in intelligence and security matters, such as the Cadoudal-Pichegru plot and the execution of the duc d'Enghien. He performed notably at Austerlitz and Jena, was later appointed Ambassador to Russia. He took temporary command of French forces in Spain in 1808. He was appointed Minister of Police in after Fouche, and was embarrassed by the Malet conspiracy. He rallied to Napoleon in 1815. He would have accompanied Napoleon to St. Helena but was forbidden to do so and was imprisoned for a time at Malta, and did not return to France until 1819. Memoires du Duc de Rovigo were published in Paris in 1828 and translated to English in the same year. Haythornthwaite indicated that Napoleon thought criticism of Savary was unjust, and that "by being present at the execution of Enghien ... he was only obeying orders." [EE,H]

Segur, General Philippe-Paul, comte de (1780-1873): Served as an ADC under MacDonald and then Napoleon, he took part in many campaigns and many important diplomatic missions. An Aide-de-Camp of Napoleon was published in London in 1895. His unsympathetic tone in his history of the Russian campaign led to a duel with Gourgaud, where he was wounded. Elting characterized Segur as a "perpetual romantic, always embroidering his stories and seeing many things much larger than life." [EE,H]

Soult, Marshal (Nicholas) Jean-de-Dieu, duc de Dalamtie (1769-1851): One of Napoleon's more capable marshals, he served during the Revolutionary period fighting at Fleurus and under Massena in Switzerland. He later distinguished himself at Austerlitz, and fought at Jena and Eylau. He served in Spain in 1808 until recalled to Germany in 1813, but returned to Spain in the last stages of the war. He accepted the Bourbon restoration and served as Minister of War in 1814, but rallied to Napoleon in 1815 and served as Chief of Staff. He was proscribed during the second restoration, though he held several important positions in later years under different governments, and was given the highest rank of Marshal-General of France in 1847. Memoires du Marechal-General Soult were published in 1854, edited by his son. They cover only the first years of Soult's service after the Revolution. [EE,H]

Stael, Anne-Louise-Germanie, baronne de Staël-Holstein (1766-1817): The daughter of the Bourbon Finance Minister Jacques Necker, she became one of the great figures of literary and society life of the period. She had an unsuccessful marriage to the Swedish diplomat from which her title was taken. She became a hostess around which political moderates gathered and returned to Paris after the fall of Robespierre. She developed a considerable feud with Napoleon, who eventually banished her from Paris and later France. She traveled in Germany and Austria, and later moved to England, only returning to France after the restoration. Oeuvres Completes de la Baronne de Staël was published in Paris in 1820. [H]

Talleyrand, Charles-Maurice de, Prince de Benevente (1754-1838): The Foreign Minister under Napoleon, was dismissed for rapacity in 1807. He worked for the Bourbon return. Cronin claimed Tallyrand wrote Memoires of the Prince de Talleyrand between 1811 and 1816 with an eye to his future career. Amongst other things, his description of the treatment of the Duc d'Enghien was at variance with the facts, and he had been an accomplice in the execution. His memoires were further distorted after his death when they were written up by Bacourt under the direction of his niece and published in 1891. Stephens wrote that "the original manuscript has disappeared" and "had M. de Bacourt preserved the original upon which he worked, the suspicions which now exist that the memoirs of Talleyrand are but a garbled version of the original work of the famous diplomatist could not have arisen." Cronin indicated that a portion of his original manuscript was later found and compared with the published work and substantial revisions and additions were discovered. Tulard called these memoires "very suspect." [C,S,T]

Thiard, A.M.T.: A chamberlain to Napoleon, took notes and developed a manuscript in 1843, which was published in 1900. He quarreled with the Emperor and left his service in 1807, and his favorable testimony is considered all the more reliable by Cronin for that fact. [C]

Thibaudeau, Antoine-Clair, comte (1765-1854): Member of the States-General and the Convention, he voted for the death of the king, and served on the Committee of Public Safety. He also served during the Consulate and was made a peer of France during the Hundred Days. He was exiled as a regicide in 1815 but later served as a senator in the Second Empire. While in exile he wrote Memoires sur le Consulate published in Paris in 1827 detailing events of which he had personal knowledge. He also published Memoires sur la Convention et la Directoire, in Paris in 1824. Haythornthwaite called him "a close observer of Napoleon as well as a friend of Josephine." [C,H]

Thiebault, Baron: Wrote notes that Calmettes worked up as The Memoires of Baron Thiebault in 1893, English translation edited by Arthur J. Butler in 1896, fifty years after the baron's death. They attack nearly all the men of the revolution and empire, and Cronin considered them heavily biased, as he asserted do many others. Tulard noted that they "supply some useful information." Elting wrote that Thiebault was "an enthusiastic liar," and that "his book reads like history written by a gossip columnist; it is full of clever and malicious little stories--some of which may be true" but also "his accounts of events in which he had no intense personal interest are considered highly factual." [C,EE,T]

Vandamme, General Dominique-Joseph-Rene, comte (1770-1830): He served in the Revolutionary wars and later became one of Napoleon's most loyal subordinates. He distinguished himself at Austerlitz, and was made a comte in 1808. He resented not having been made a marshal and was noted for his volatile temperament. He was captured at Kulm in 1813 and held until 1814. He rejoined Napoleon during the Hundred Days. Le General Vandamme et Sa Correspondance was published in Paris in 1870. Elting wrote: "His account, unfortunately kills off some of the wild stories with which other authors--such as Marbot--have decorated his career." [EE,H]

Victor Perrin, Marshal Claude, duc de Bellune (1764-1841): Served in many campaigns and awarded his baton after Friedland. He performed notably at the Berezina. In 1813 he commanded II Corps until Napoleon replaced him for allegedly dilatory conduct. He was later appointed divisional command in the Imperial Guard and served until the abdication. Later he served the Bourbons and became a peer of France, voting to execute Ney in 1814. Memoires de Claude-Victor Perrin were published in Paris in 1847.


[B] Blaze, Elzear, Military Life under Napoleon, The Memoires of Captain Elzear Blaze. 1995, Emperor's Press.

[BJ] Barzun, Jacques, The Modern Researcher. 5th ed., 1985, N.Y., Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. (pages 108, 157-9).

[C] Cronin, Vincent Napoleon Bonaparte, an Intimate Biography. 1971, Newton Abbot (Appendix A, pages 441-448).

[CD] Chandler, David G. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. 1979, MacMillan, NY (each citation was taken from the particular name entry).

[D] Durant, Wil & Ariel The Age Of Napoleon. 1975, MJF Books (Bertrand page 761, O'Meara page 762).

[EE] Esposito, Vincent J. & Elting, John Robert A Military Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars. 1964, Frederick A. Praeger, NY. The last appendix is a Recommended Reading List: Memoires, Biographies and Autobiographies, containing a thorough listing and summation of the many memoires of the period. I have noted the particular comments above as being Elting's only in the interest of brevity, but they may of course be likewise attributed to Esposito.

[H] Haythornthwaite, Philip J. Who Was Who in the Napoleonic Wars. 1998 Arms & Armour Press (each citation was taken from the particular name entry).

[M] Marchand, Louis-Joseph, In Napoleon's Shadow. First English edition 1998, Proctor Jones Publishing. Preface by Jean Tulard (page XV).

[MF] Markham, Felix., Napoleon. 1966, N.Y. Penguin (page 273).

[N] Chair. Somerset de, Napoleon on Napoleon: An Autobiography of the Emperor. 1992, Cassell Publishers Ltd., London.

[NM] Napoleon magazine #7, February 1997. DeTroye, Jeff review of The Note Books of Captain Coignet, Soldier of the Empire 1776-1850 (pages 58-9); Ferguson, Doug, review of The Military Maxims of Napoleon (pages 56-8).

[S] Stephens, H. Morse. "Recent Memoirs of the French Directory" American Historical Review. vol. 1, no. 3. April 1896. (pages 473-489).

[SS] Scott, Samuel F., Historical Dictionary Of The French Revolution. 1985, Greenwood, Westport, CT (page 404).

[T] Tulard, Jean, Napoleon: The Myth of the Saviour, translated by Teresa Waugh. (1977)1984, London. His notes at the end contain a summary of short opinions on memoires (page 353). He remarks that "memoires are an important mine of information, though often unreliable, it is true." His extraordinary Notes section (pages 353-449) is particularly valuable for a lengthy study of sources.

[TJ] Thomason, Captain John W., editor of Adventures of General Marbot. 1935, NY (foreword, page X).

[W] Weider, Ben & Forshufvud, Sten, Assassination at St. Helena Revisited. 1995, John Wiley & Sons.


My thanks to Bill Barry, Beryl Bernardi, Tom Holmberg and Chris Hunt for their generous assistance in compiling memoire references and opinions.