Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien

Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien
Louis Antoine
Duke of Enghien
Spouse Charlotte de Rohan
Full name
Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon
Father Louis Henri de Bourbon
Mother Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde d'Orléans
Born 2 August 1772(1772-08-02)
Château de Chantilly, France
Died 21 March 1804(1804-03-21) (aged 31)
Château de Vincennes, France

Louis Antoine de Bourbon, (Duke of Enghien, "duc d'Enghien" pronounced [dɑ̃ɡɛ̃]; the i is silent) (Louis Antoine Henri; 2 August 1772 – 21 March 1804) was a relative of the Bourbon monarchs of France. More famous for his death than for his life, he was executed on trumped-up charges during the French Consulate.



The Duke was the only son of Louis Henri de Bourbon "Duke of Bourbon", and of Bathilde d'Orléans, "Duchess of Bourbon". As a member of the reigning House of Bourbon, he was a Prince du Sang. He was born at the Château de Chantilly, the country residence of the Princes of Condé - a title he was born to inherit.

He was given the title Duke of Enghien from birth, his father already being the Duke of Bourbon and the heir of the Prince of Condé, the Duke of Bourbon being the Heir apparent of Condé.

His mother's full name was Louise Marie Thérèse Bathilde d'Orléans; she was the only surviving daughter of Louis Philippe d'Orléans (grandson of the Regent Philippe d'Orléans) and Louise Henriette de Bourbon. His uncle was the future Philippe Égalité and he was thus a first cousin of the future Louis-Philippe I, King of the French. He was also a descendant of Louis XIV and his mistress Madame de Montespan, his mother being a great-granddaughter of Mademoiselle de Blois (1677–1749) and his father a great-grandson of Mademoiselle de Nantes (1673–1743), the two surviving daughters of Madame de Montespan.

He was an only child, his parents separating in 1778 after his father's romantic involvement with one Marguerite Catherine Michelot, an opera singer, was discovered; it was his mother who was blamed for her husband's infidelity. His father had two illegitimate daughters with Marguerite.

He was educated privately by the Abbé Millot, and in military matters by Commodore de Vinieux. He early on showed the warlike spirit of the House of Condé, and began his military career in 1788. At the outbreak of the French Revolution, he emigrated with his father and grandfather a few days after the fall of the Bastille, and remained in exile, seeking to raise forces for the invasion of France and the restoration of the monarchy. In 1792, at the outbreak of French Revolutionary Wars, he held a command in the corps of émigrés organized and commanded by his grandfather, the Prince of Condé. This Army of Condé shared in the Duke of Brunswick's unsuccessful invasion of France.

Charlotte Louise de Rohan, Louis Antoine's secret wife; miniature by François-Joseph Desvernois

After this, the young duke continued to serve under his father and grandfather in the Condé army, and, on several occasions, distinguished himself by his bravery and ardour in the vanguard. On the dissolution of that force after the peace of Lunéville (February 1801), he married privately Charlotte de Rohan, niece of the Cardinal de Rohan, and took up his residence at Ettenheim in Baden, near the Rhine.


Early in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, heard news which seemed to connect the young duke with the Cadoudal-Pichegru conspiracy then being tracked by the French police. The news ran that the duke was in company with Charles François Dumouriez and had made secret journeys into France. This was false; the acquaintance was Thumry, a harmless old man, and the duke had no dealings with either Cadoudal or Pichegru. Napoleon gave orders for the seizure of the duke.

French dragoons crossed the Rhine secretly, surrounded his house and brought him to Strasbourg (15 March 1804), and thence to the Château de Vincennes, near Paris, where a military commission of French colonels presided by General Hulin was hastily convened to try him.

Meanwhile, Bonaparte had found out the true facts of the case, and the accusations were hastily changed. The duke was now charged chiefly with bearing arms against France in the late war, and with intending to take part in the new coalition then proposed against France. The military commission, presided over by Hullin, hastily and most informally drew up the act of condemnation, being incited thereto by orders from Anne Jean Marie René Savary, who had come charged with instructions to kill the duke. Savary prevented any chance of an interview between the condemned and the First Consul, and, on 21 March, the duke was shot in the moat of the castle, near a grave which had already been prepared.

Impact of death

Execution of the duke d Enghien

The duc d'Enghien was the last descendant of the House of Condé; his grandfather and father died after him, but without producing further heirs. In 1816, his remains were exhumed and placed in the chapel of the castle[clarification needed]. It is now known that Joséphine and Madame de Rémusat had begged Bonaparte for mercy towards the duke; but nothing would bend his will.[citation needed] The blame which the apologists of the emperor have thrown on Talleyrand or Savary is debatable, as at times he was known to claim Talleyrand created the idea, while at others took full responsibilities for the killing.[1] On his way to St. Helena and at Longwood, Napoleon asserted that, in the same circumstances, he would do the same again; he inserted a similar declaration in his will.

The judicial murder of Enghien shocked the aristocrats of Europe, who still remembered the bloodletting of the Revolution and thus lost whatever conditional respect they may have entertained for Napoleon. Either Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe[2] (deputy from Meurthe in the Corps législatif) or Napoleon's chief of police, Joseph Fouché,[3] said about his execution "C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute", a statement often rendered in English as "It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder." The statement is also sometimes attributed to French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. Sometimes the quote is given as, "It was worse than a crime; it was a mistake."

Cultural references


The killing of the duc d'Enghien is discussed in the opening book of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. The vicomte de Mortemart, a French émigré who supposedly knew the duke personally, is the focus of attention of the Russian aristocrats gathered at Anna Pavlovna Sherer's home:

The group about Mortemart immediately began discussing the murder of the duc d'Enghien. "After the murder of the Duc, even the most partial ceased to regard [Buonaparte] as a hero. If to some people he ever was a hero, after the murder of the duc there was one martyr more in heaven and one hero less on earth." The vicomte said that the duc d'Enghien had perished by his own magnanimity, and that there were particular reasons for Buonaparte's hatred of him.(...)

It was an anecdote, then current, to the effect that the duc d'Enghien had gone secretly to Paris to visit Mademoiselle George; that at her house he came upon Bonaparte, who also enjoyed the famous actress' favors, and that in his presence Napoleon happened to fall into one of the fainting fits to which he was subject, and was thus at the Duc's mercy. The latter spared him, and this magnanimity Bonaparte subsequently repaid by death. The story was very pretty and interesting, especially at the point where the rivals suddenly recognized one another; and the ladies looked agitated.

The actress Marguerite-Joséphine Wiemer, known as "Mademoiselle George", was indeed Napoleon's mistress, but there is no evidence that the duc d'Enghien had anything to do with her, or that the story preserved to posterity by Tolstoy's masterpiece was anything more than one of the pieces of gossip and conspiracy theories current around Europe at the time.


The killing of the duc d'Enghien is also treated in The Last Cavalier by Alexandre Dumas. For example:

[T]he dominant sentiment in Bonaparte's mind at that moment was neither fear nor vengeance, but rather the desire for all of France to realise that Bourbon blood, so sacred to Royalist partisans, was no more sacred to him than the blood of any other citizen in the Republic.

"Well, then," asked Cambacérès, "what have you decided?"

"It's simple," said Bonaparte. "We shall kidnap the Duc d'Enghien and be done with it."[4]


La mort du duc d'Enghien en 1804 (1909) was a one reel silent film directed by Albert Capellani.[5]


  1. ^ Duff Cooper, Talleyrand. (Great Britain: Jonathan Cape, 1932), p. 139-141
  2. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
  3. ^ John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919), 9625
  4. ^ Dumas, Alexandre, The Last Cavalier, p. 292 (Lauren Yoder trans., Pegasus Books 2007) (1869).
  5. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0434198/


Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 2 August 1772 – 21 March 1804 His Serene Highness the Duke of Enghien


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