1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Montholon, Charles Tristan, Marquis de

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica by John Holland Rose
Montholon, Charles Tristan, Marquis de

MONTHOLON, CHARLES TRISTAN, Marquis de (1782–1853), was born at Paris. He was trained for a military career, and in his tenth year shared in the expedition of Admiral Truguet to the coast of Sardinia. Entering the army in 1798, he rose with rapidity and avowed himself, when chef d’escadron in Paris at the time of the coup d’état of Brumaire (November 1799), entirely devoted to Bonaparte. He served with credit in the ensuing campaigns, and distinguished himself at the battle of Aspern-Essling (May 1809) where he was wounded. At the end of that campaign on the Danube he received the title of count and remained in close attendance on Napoleon, who confided to him several important duties, among others, a mission to the Archduke Ferdinand at Würzburg. At the time of the first abdication of Napoleon at Fontainebleau (April 11, 1814), Montholon was one of the few generals who advocated one more attempt to rally the French troops for the overthrow of the allies. After the second abdication (June 22, 1815) he with his wife accompanied the emperor to Rochefort, where Napoleon and his friends finally adopted the proposal, which emanated from Count Las Cases (q.v.), that he should throw himself on the generosity of the British nation and surrender to H.M.S. “Bellerophon.” Montholon afterwards, at Plymouth, asserted that the conduct of Captain Maitland of the “Bellerophon” had been altogether honourable, and that the responsibility for the failure must rest largely with Las Cases. Montholon and his wife accompanied the ex-emperor to St Helena. To Montholon chiefly, Napoleon dictated the notes on his career which form so interesting, though far from trustworthy, a commentary on the events of the first part of his life. Montholon is known to have despised and flouted Las Cases, though in later writings he affected to laud his services to Napoleon. With Gourgaud, who was no less vain and sensitive than himself, there was a standing feud, which would have led to a duel but for the express prohibition of Napoleon. Las Cases left the island in November 1816, and Gourgaud in January 1818; but Montholon, despite the departure of his wife, stayed on at Longwood to the end of the emperor’s life (May, 1821). In a letter written to his wife he admitted that Napoleon died of cancer, though he afterwards encouraged the belief that death was due to a liver complaint aggravated by the climate and by the restrictions to which Napoleon was subjected. After that event Montholon and Bertrand became reconciled to Sir Hudson Lowe (q.v.); but this did not prevent him, on his return to France, from vilifying that much abused man. Colonel Basil Jackson found him very frank as to the politique de Longwood which aimed at representing Napoleon as a martyr, and Sir Hudson Lowe as his persecutor. Montholon admitted that an “angel from heaven as governor would not have pleased them.” Montholon had to spend many years in Belgium; and in 1840 acted as “chief of staff” in the absurd “expedition” conducted by Louis Napoleon from London to Boulogne. He was condemned to imprisonment at Ham, but was released in 1847; he then retired to England and published the Récits de la captivité de Napoléon à Ste Hélène. In 1849 he became one of the deputies for the Legislative Assembly under the Second French Republic. He died on the 21st of August 1853.

See Recueil de pièces authentiques sur le captif de Ste Hélène: suivi de lettres de MM . . . . le Général Montholon, &c. (Paris, 1821); Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de France sous Napoléon (ed. Gourgaud and Montholon, Paris, 1823; Eng. ed., London, 1823; new ed., Paris, 1905); Récits de la captivité de l’empereur Napoleon à Ste Hélène (2 vols., Paris, 1847). Also the Marquise de Montholon’s Souvenirs de Ste Hélène, 1815–16 (Paris, 1901). Of Montholon’s own writings the only one of note is De l’Armée française (1834). For the conversations of Montholon with Basil Jackson in 1828, see Lieut.-Colonel Basil Jackson, Notes and Reminiscences of a Staff Officer (London, 1903).

 (J. Hl. R)