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François Certain de Canrobert
François Certain de Canrobert photographed by Nadar
Nickname Doyen[1] of Marshals
Doyen des Maréchaux
Born (1809-06-27)27 June 1809
Died 28 January 1895(1895-01-28) (aged 85)
Place of birth Saint-Céré, France
Place of death Paris, France
Allegiance Bourbon Restoration
France July Monarchy
 French Second Republic
 Second French Empire
 French Third Republic
Service/branch French Army
Flag of legion.svgFrench Foreign Legion
Line Infantry
Years of service 1828–1873
Rank Maréchal de France
Commands held Subdivision of Batna
2nd Foreign Legion Regiment
2ème R.E.L.E
(1848)
VI Army Corps, Army of the Rhine (1870)
Battles/wars Conquest of Algeria
Crimean War
Franco-Prussian War
Other work Military governor of Paris (1865-1870)
Senator of Lot (1876)
Senator of Charente (1879)

François Marcellin Certain de Canrobert, born François Certain de Canrobert[2][3] at Saint-Céré on June 27, 1809, and died in Paris on January 28, 1895, was a French Marshal. He demonstrated ability during the Second French Empire while participating in the Battle of Alma, the Battle of Magenta, the Battle of Solferino and the Battle of Gravelotte. A staunch supporter of Napoleon III, he became, under the French Third Republic, one of the main Bonapartist party (French language: parti bonapartiste) and chairman, from 1876 to 1894, of the Senate (French language: Sénat) at the core of the French Parliamentary Group "Call upon the people" (French language: Appel au people).

Biography[edit | edit source]

Family Origins[edit | edit source]

François Certain de Canrobert was born in Saint-Céré in Lot, where a statue (1897) in his effigy was erected in place de la République due to Alfred Lenoir.

At his birth, his Father, Antoine Certain Canrobert, former captain, was already 55 years old. This officer of the Ancien Regime had left in 1791 and served in the Armée de Condé (French language: armée de Condé). His half-brother, Antoine, a brilliant officer issued from Saint-Cyr, was killed by a cannonball at the Battle of Ligny (French language: Fleurus) on June 16, 1815, while combating for Emperor Napoleon I.

Military career[edit | edit source]

Aged 17, Canrobert entered on November 19, 1826 to the École Royale spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr where he was designated as a caporal (corporal) on May 18, 1828. At his sortie, he integrated the 47th Line Infantry Regiment (French language: 47e Régiment d’Infanterie de Ligne) (RIL), with the rank of Sous-lieutenant starting October 1. He served until 1840 and was promoted to Lieutenant on January 20, 1832.

North Africa[edit | edit source]

François Certain Canrobert.

In 1835, he arrived with his unit in Algeria where he combat engaged on the edges of Oued Sig and Habra. In 1836, he was engaged in combats at Dar el Achen, Tafna, Sidi Yacoub, La Silal and Bet el Laham.

He was designated as Lieutenant Adjudant Major, on September 28, 1836. On April 26, 1837, he was promoted to Captain and occupied the function of Captain Adjudant Major. He took parts to the combat of Medjeoly-Amar and the Siege of Constantine (French language: Siège de Constantine) where, as an assistant to colonel Michel Combes (French language: Combes), he was wounded, and at the age of 27, earned the Knight Cross of the Legion d'honneur.

He was assigned to the 6th Chasseurs Battalion à Pied (French language: 6e Bataillon), on October 17, 1840. He partook to the battle of col de Mouzaïa in 1840 (French language: col de la Mouzaïa). The following year, he participated to combats de Nador, de Moursia and confronted the Flittas. Designated as chef de bataillon (Commandant - Major) on May 22, 1842, he joined the 13th Light Infantry Regiment (French language: 13e Régiment d'Infanterie Légère). On October 16, he passed to the 5th Chasseurs Battalion à Pied (French language: 5e Bataillon de Chasseurs à Pied), where he gained the Officer Order of the Legion d'honneur while illustrating combat capability at Gontas, Baal, Tadjena, Battle of Sidi Brahim (French language: Sidi-Brahim), then near Oued Lemig, during the combat Isly and at Riou.

Promoted Lieutenant-colonel, on October 26, 1845, he was assigned to the 16th Line Infantry Regiment (French language: 16e RIL), on September 4. On June 8, 1847, he was assigned the 2nd Line Infantry Regiment (French language: 2e RIL) and commanded the subdivision of Batna.

Passage to the Legion[edit | edit source]

François Certain Canrobert decorated with the Legion d'honneur.

Promoted to Colonel, on November 8, he was assigned to the 78th Line Infantry Regiment (French language: 3e Régiment d’Infanterie Légère) which he left on March 31, 1848 to take the functions of regimental commander of the 2nd Foreign Legion Regiment 2ème R.E.L.E, while simultaneously maintaining the subdivision of Batna. With this unit, he took on Ahmed Bey (French language: bey Achmed).

In June, he substituted with colonel Jean-François de Cariés de Senilhes (French language: Cariés de Senilhes) and took the command of the 3rd Zouaves Regiment (French language: 3e Régiment de Zouaves) and the subdivision of Sour El-Ghozlane. In 1849, he was in Beni Mélikech, Sameur, Al Amri. Then, he commanded at the battle of Zaatcha (French language: siège de Zaatcha). He accordingly earned the Commander Neck Order of the Legion d'honneur on December 10.

General of the Second Empire[edit | edit source]

Maréchal de camp François Certain de Canrobert in the Palace of Versailles.

Recalled to France by the Prince-President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, he was designated as maréchal de camp (général de brigade) starting January 12, 1850. He was nominated as commandant of the infantry brigade of the 1st Division of Paris, on March 8, 1850, then the commandment of the 3rd Brigade, on February 9, 1851, and contributed to the success in Paris of the French coup d'état of 1851. In the afternoon of December 4, 1851, on the Boulevards Montmarte and Poissonnière, the soldiers of the Division commanded by Canrobert came in contact with a crowd formed of the curious and protestors [4] · .[5] In a certain confusion, the soldiers opened fire. The carnage resulted in a hundred to 300 dead as well as hundreds of wounded,[4] however on the night of December 4, the Parisian resistance at the coup were done with. The result then, was 300 to 400 persons killed without counting the soldiers.[6] While the protestors were formed in 2/3 of workers, amongst them also featured the innocent and curious, victims of the division of Canrobert on the grand boulevards.[6] In all France, 26,884 people were arrested, essentially in the South-East, the South-West and a couple of departments in the Center. Almost 21,000 people were condemned by mixed commissions (composed in each department by prefects, a general, and a magistrate) out of which 9,530 were in transportation to Algeria and 239 were sent to Cayenne in Guiana. On another hand and quite quickly, all pronounced repression measures declared by the 82 mixed commissions worried President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte[7] who delegated in extraordinary mission, generals Canrobert, Espinasse, and State Council Quentin Bauchart, in order to revise the arrests decisions taken and prepare acts of grâce (forgiving the condemned by mercy). Espinasse and Canrobert, were charged with the South-West and Languedoc, showing proof of little indulgence towards the condemned, they both accorded a little more than a thousand acts of forgiveness, while State Counselor Quentin-Bauchart, charged of the South-East, accorded alone 3,400 forgiveness sentences, while Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte applied in his right also equally from his side the forgiving of numerous condemnations.[8]

Canrobert cumulated accordingly following these events, the function of aide de camp to the Prince-President, then the Emperor. Promoted Général de division, on January 14, 1853, he commanded the infantry division at camp Helfaut-Saint Omer, as of April 27. In May, he became the inspector general of the 5th Infantry Arrondissement for the year 1853 before being designated to the infantry division of the Orient Army, on February 23, 1854.

Crimea[edit | edit source]

Général de division, he participated to the Crimean War and assumed the commandment in chief after Marshal Saint-Arnaud. He partook to combats in Dobrduja and the Battle of Alma, where he was slightly wounded. He was elevated to the dignity of the Grand Officer Order of the Legion d'honneur, on October 1. Present at the Battle of Balaclava and the Battle of Inkerman, he was wounded during the course of last battle, on November 5, 1854. He was accordingly promoted to the Order of the Grand-Croix of the Légion d'honneur. On January 13, 1855, he received the Medaille Militaire.

Judged too timorous, he was relived by general Aimable Pélissier. He accordingly, reassumed the commandment of his former division, which became the 1st Infantry Division of the 2nd Corps. This situation being morally difficult, Napoleon III insisted that he return to France. In front of several refusal, he named him again as aide de camp and in August, he intimately ordered him to return to Paris to occupy his functions.

His disputes with Lord Raglan, general of the British Army, obliged him to relinquish his commandment. On March 18, 1856, he was elevated to the dignity of Marshal of France.

Italy[edit | edit source]

Commemorative plaque honouring François Certain de Canrobert and Adolphe Niel in Carpenedolo.

In February 1858, he commanded the division of the East, at Nancy, then the Camp de Châlons, to count from June 1, 1858. On April 22, 1859, he received the commandment of the 3rd Army Corps of the Alpes and participated to the campaign of Italy from April to July, passed by Turin, Dorial, Balba, Magenta and Solferino. he distinguished himself during the Battle of Magenta (June 4, 1859) and contributed in large to the victory during the Battle of Solferino on June 24, 1859.

France[edit | edit source]

The Eglantine Castle, built in the middle of the 19th century by Marshal Canrobert.

He then joined the garrison at Nancy with his army corps. He became commandant of the 3rd Military Arrondissement at Nancy, on August 27. In 1862, he commanded the troops of the Camp de Châlons, the passed to the superior commandment of the 4th Army Corps at Lyon counting from October. On June 22, 1856, he commanded the 1st Army Corps of the 1st Military Division of Paris.

1870-1871[edit | edit source]

On August 12, he refused to take command of the Army of the Rhine, petrified by the responsibilities which would ensue, abandoned this vicious commandment to Bazaine and became an obeying subordinate. He partook to the combats of Sainte-Barbe, Noisseville and Landonchamps. On August 16/18, he commanded the 6th Army Corps and distinguished capability at Gravelotte, Saint-Privat where he shook three corps of général von Steinmetz and decimated the 1st Infantry Regiment of the Prussian Guard (French language: garde royale prussienne), however, due to a mistake in supply of ammunition and reinforcements, he abandoned his position. He was made prisoner with Marshal Bazaine during the surrender of Metz on October 28, 1870. Following several months in captivity, he was liberated at and regained France in March 1871.

End of his military career and political career[edit | edit source]

Formal Portrait of Marshal de Canrobert by Nélie Jacquemart (1870).

He was accordingly designated as President of the advancing commission of the infantry then member of the Conseil supérieur de la guerre in 1872, member of the defense committee in 1873. He led a political career in "Call upon the people" group (French language: Appel au people), while being elected as Senator of Lot in 1876, the Senator of Charente in 1879, a function which he held until 1894. His colleague Victor Hugo, would not be tender for him: « J'ai vu Canrobert au Sénat. Caboche de reître. Méchant, mais bête (Victor Hugo :"I saw Canrobert in the Senate. Full of Cavaliering. Mean but silly.[9]

Close to President-Marshal Duke de Mac Mahon, he voted, in June 1877, the dissolution of the Chamber and support of the Government Albert de Broglie (3) (French language: ministère Broglie-Fourtou). In 1873, he represented the French Government at the funeral of King Victor Emmanuel II. A marking figure if the Bonapartist Party, his participation to the political debates were mainly axed on military issues. He voted in general on the conservative side, most notably against law projects on education, against judicial reforms, against the expulsion of princes or against divorce, abstaining on the reestablishment of the voting arrondissement or the restricted law project of the freedom of the press.

Doyen[1] of the Marshals of France of his époque, he attended the funeral of President-Marshal Duke de Mac-Mahon and was saluted by Russian Admiral Avellane on behalf of the Russian Emperor (French language: Empereur de Russie). This was his last public official appearance. He died in his Parisian home, on January 28, 1895. His funerals were celebrated on Sunday February 3, 1895 at the Church of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides where he was buried. Amiral Henri Rieunier, Ministère de la Marine, was designated to hold one of the five cordons of the funeral chariot.

He was the owner of the Eglantine Castle, which houses since 1991 the Musée de la toile de Jouy.

Honors and posterity[edit | edit source]

Alfred Lenoir, details of the Statue of Marshal Canrobert (1897) at Saint-Céré.

The name of Canrobert was given to:

  • From 1872 to 1956, the village of Ange-Gardien, in the comté de Rouville, in Quebec; a rang of the municipality commemorates still the Battle of Magenta, where he distinguished himself;
  • A garrison at Pontoise, then the area lot of the Pontoise station and the street that serves it;
  • The place in the village of Saint-Privat-la-Montagne, near the cemetery in which the battle took place;
  • A city in the Constantine Department created in 1904, today Oum El Bouaghi Province;
  • The garrison of the 42nd Transmission Regiment at Rastatt in Germany;
  • A road in the commune of Nœux-les-Mines, Pas-de-Calais;
  • Support point Canrobert / Horimont-Stellung (1912-1916), north of the Group Fortification Lorraine.

Decorations[edit | edit source]

Commemorative plaque honouring François Certain de Canrobert in Castel Goffredo.

Flag of France.svg France
Flag of the United Kingdom (3-5).svg United Kingdom
Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Kingdom of Sardinia
Flag of the Ottoman Empire (1844–1922).svg Ottoman Empire
Flag of Russia.svg Russian Empire

Armories[edit | edit source]

Figure Blasonnement
French heraldic crowns - chevalier.svg
Blason François Certain Canrobert.svg

« On Blue Azure with a Silver Palmed Dexter Hand with Ancien Régime Knight Heraldry. »

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Dean (French language: Doyen) is most senior serving (oldest or responsible) and leading figure in a particular function of society (religious , education, diplomatical, governmental). In this case, the Dean is referring to de Canrobert, at the époque, as the most senior figure in the Marshal Corps of France.
  2. Departmental Archives of Lot en ligne, birth act 4 E 2214, vue 35/73.
  3. he was simply called « Canrobert » by covenance.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Pierre Milza, Napoléon III, Perrin, 2006, p.260
  5. Louis Girard, Napoléon III, Fayard, 1986. Re-edition : 2002. p.153
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pierre Milza, Napoléon III, Perrin, 2006, p.261
  7. Pierre Milza, Napoléon III', Perrin, 2006, p.268
  8. Maurice Agulhon in 1848 ou l'apprentissage de la République 1848-1852, Paris, Le Seuil, 1973 p.235-236
  9. Victor Hugo, Choses vues, p. 379, Paris, editor Gallimard, folio, 1972, total pages 529, ISBN 2-07-036141-1

References[edit | edit source]

  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911) "Canrobert, François Certain" Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.) Cambridge University Press 

Biographies[edit | edit source]

  • Germain Bapst, Le Maréchal Canrobert. Souvenirs d'un siècle (Marshal Canrobert. Souvenir of a century), Paris, Plon, 1899, 1902, 1904.


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