Guillaume Brune

Guillaume Marie-Anne Brune, 1st Count Brune (13 March 1764 – 2 August 1815) was a French military commander, Marshal of the Empire, and political figure who served during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.

Guillaume Brune

Count of the Empire
Guillaume Marie-Anne, comte de Brune, maréchal de France (1763-1815).jpg
Portrait by Eugène Bataille after an original by Marie-Guillemine Benoist. The original, commissioned by Napoleon and executed between 1805–1810, was lost in a fire in the Tuileries Palace in 1871
Born13 March 1764 (1764-03-13)
Brive-la-Gaillarde, France
Died2 August 1815 (1815-08-03) (aged 52)
Avignon, France
Allegiance French First Republic
 First French Empire
Years of service1791–1815
RankMarshal of the Empire
AwardsGrand Cross of the Legion of Honour

Early lifeEdit

Guillaume Brune was born on May 13, 1763, at Brives-la-Gaillard. His father was a lawyer and Brune was ment to be a lawyer and studied law at the College of France in Paris.[3] Instead, Brune decided to go into literature and beacame a poet and Journalist meeting the Comte De mirabaue Camille Desmoulins and Georges Danton. Brune quickly befriended Danton. [3] When the Revolution broke out he quickly embraced it as a fiery republican.[3][4] Following the example of his friend Camille Desmoulins, on September 15, 1789, he started a newspaper, the Magazin Historique ou Journal Général, and followed up this speculation by editing, in collaboration with Gauthier, the Journal de la Cour; but owing to the violent politics of Gauthier, Brune broke his connection with the paper in August, 1790. In August, 1791, he enlisted in the volunteers of the Seine and Oise, and within a few weeks his activity, zeal, and talent for administration caused his comrades to elect him adjutant-major.Source Dunn Patterson and Charles Nove

Early in 1792 he joined the staff of the army as assistant adjutant-general,and owing to the influence of Danton and his political friends, was recalled from Thionville to Paris in September, 1792, as commissary general, to direct and organise the newly raised battalions of volunteers. Brune arrived in Paris on September 5th but he at once applied for active service disliking Paris, and was back at the camp of Meaux in time to take part in Dumouriez and Kellermans campaign of the Battle of Valmy. He then served at the Battle of Hondschoote and the Battle of Fleurus, showing good service. Bieng friends with Danton, he quickly rose through the ranks to the rank adjutant-general and he served at Battle of Neerwinden once again fighting well, and after that battle was one of the five generalofficers chosen to rally the scattered troops of the Army of the North. In July he was ordered to Calvados to assist in crushing a Girondists rebellion. After his success in Normandy his friends offered him a post in the ministry at Paris, but he preffered the army to Paris." Accordingly he returned to the Army of the North in time to fight under Houchard at Handschötten. But he had to pay the penalty for his friendship with the Terrorists, for just as he was setting out full of delight to fight the English at Dunkirk, owing to the exigencies of political strife he was hurriedly recalled to defeat the Girondists Federalist revolt in Bordeux - quote Dunn Patterson book [3]

1794-to SwitzerlandEdit

Brune returned to the capital in 1794 in time to witness the fall of his patron, Danton; but fortunately for him Barras took him under his protection, and in October, thanks to his influence, he became commandant of Paris. For a whole year the General held this post, and on October 5th commanded the second column against the mob on the 13th Vendemaire under Napoleon I. Still under the patronage of Barras, Brune spent the year 1796 in pacifying the Midi, and his work there has been admirably portrayed in Alexandre Dumas' "Les Compagnons de Jéhu," where he figures as General Rolland. From this vexatious and wearisome struggle against hostile countrymen he was summoned to Italy at the beginning of 1797, and was present with Andre Masséna's division at the Battle of Arcole and Battle of Rivoli, earning a reputatoin as a fierce divisoinal commander and enthusiastic plunderer [3][6-Epic History Tv]. Under Masséna, he fought through the campaign which ended at Leoben, and attracted the notice of Napoleon Bonaparte by his courage and goodwill: in reward for his services he was created general of division. From Italy the general, with his division, was sent in October to join the Army of England; while marching north it was suggested that he should take the post of ambassador at Berlin; but when the troops heard of this offer they asked the adjutant-general to write to their commander, saying, "Listen general: your division charges me to tell you not to give up fighting; the division will bring you honour, and that is much better than an embassy."[3] Instead on February 7, 1798, the Directors sent him to take over the command of the French troops whose duty it was to annex Switzerland to France. This was the general's first independent command; and though the campaign added to his military reputation, unfortunately it left a stain on his honour. The war was entered on merely with the desire of capturing the Swiss treasury at Berne, and thus providing funds for Bonaparte's Egyptian expedition. Brune had learned his lesson in Italy, so the campaign was short, in spite of the difficulty of the country and the patriotism of the Swiss. Writing to Bonaparte, the general explained the cause of his success: "From the moment I found myself in a situation to act, I assembled all my strength to strike like lightning: for Switzerland is a vast barrack, and I had everything to fear from a war of posts. I avoided it by negotiations which I knew were not sincere on the part of the Bernese, and since then I have followed out the plan which I traced to you. I think always I am still under your command." The crushing of the Swiss peasantry and the capture of Berne were followed by the hour of spoliation; no less than one million seven hundred thousand pounds were wrung from the wretched Swiss. Brune was so hated by the swiss his name to be "loathed throughout the length and breadth of Switzerland", and "to rob like a Brune" became a proverb, which was eagerly seized on by his detractors and it was said that when he left Switzerland his carriage was so laden with gold it broke down.[3][6] quote Dunn Patterson and Charles Nove.

Mutanies and PiedmontEdit

The Directors, pleased with his operations in Switzerland, despatched Brune, on March 31, 1798, to take command of the Army of Italy. He was tasked with ending mutinies in Rome and Mantua. To complicate the situation the general was encumbered by a civil Commission, whose duty it was to supervise the governments of the Cisalpine Republic. With the Piedmontese Increasingly wanting a true democracy and Independence, Brune was forced to expel the Cisalpine senate to consolidate the regoin for France.[3]


Leaving Italy in November, Brune found himself sent at the beginning of 1799 to Holland, where danger was threatening: it was evident that England was going to make an effort to regain for the Prince of Orange his lost possessions. In spite of this knowledge, as late as August the French commander could only concentrate ten thousand men under General Daendals to oppose an equal force of English under Abercromby when they landed on the open beach at Groete Keten. Though as strong as the enemy, General Daendals made the most feeble attempt to oppose the landing. Day by day English and Russian reinforcements poured into Holland, till at last they numbered forty-eight thousand. But the Duke of York, the English commander-in-chief, had a hopeless task. With no means of transport, no staff, and[273] an army composed of hastily enrolled militia recruits and insubordinate drunken Russians, his only chance of success lay in a general rising of the Dutch; for early in September the French forces were numerically as strong as his own. Abercromby's opinion was that defeat would mean utter disaster: "Were we to sustain a severe check I much doubt if the discipline of the troops would be sufficient to prevent a total dissolution of the army": while the English opinion of the Russians was that they were better at plundering than at fighting. As a militiaman wrote, "The Russians is people as has not the fear of God before their eyes, for I saw some of them with cheeses and bitter and all badly wounded, and in particklar one man had an eit day clock on his back, and fiting all the time which made me to conclude and say all his vanity and vexation of spirit." In spite of this the English had some considerable tactical success, and drove the French back towards Amsterdam; but Brune defeated the invasoin force at the Battle of Castricum Fortunately Brune, who had been much impressed by the fighting powers of the enemy, did not understand how difficult it would have been for them to re-embark their forces if he pressed an attack. He allowed some of his staff officers to throw out hints of an armistice and convention, which were eagerly accepted, for on October 20th the English had only three days' provision of bread. With Masséna's victory at Battle of Zurich and the embarkation of the Allies after the Convention of Alkmaar, the ring of foes which had so gravely threatened France was snapped asunder, and Brune, although he had shown but little resource or initiative during the fighting in Holland, and had failed to diagnose the extremity of the enemy, was hailed, along with Masséna, as the saviour of the country, and his tactical defeats were celebrated as the victory of Bergen and he was hailed the Victor of Castricum and the Savouir of the Batavic Republic[3]. Napoleon once said about Castricum and Brune "He was justly proclaimed the Savouir of the Batavic Republic... By saving Holland, he also saved France from Invasoin [6]

Vendee , Army of Italy and ConstantinopleEdit

From Holland the conqueror of the English was despatched, early in 1800, by the First Consul to quell the rising in La Vendée, where his former experience of guerilla warfare in Switzerland stood him in good stead, and he soon brought the rebels to their knees. During the Marengo campaign he commanded the real Army of Reserve at Dijon, but in August, when Bonaparte found it necessary to replace Masséna, he despatched Brune to take command of the Army of Italy. Unfortunately the future Marshal's genius was more suited to the details of administration and the direction of small columns than to the command of large forces in the field. Though at the head of a hundred thousand men, and supported admirably by Murat, Marmont, Macdonald, Suchet and Dupont, he failed conspicuously as a commander-in-chief. Though he won at the Battle of Monzambanno and theBattle of Polozzo, His movements at the crossing of the Mincio were hesitating and slow, and he neglected to seize the opportunity which Dupont's successful movements presented to him. At Treviso, as in Holland, he showed only too clearly his limitations: he held the enemy in the hollow of his hand, but, failing to see his advantage, he once again signed an armistice which permitted the foe to escape out of his net. His command of the army of Italy was caulamitous and it convinced Napoleon Brune was unfit for High command [3][Charles Nove]. In 1802, Napoleon dispatched Brune to Constantinople as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. During his two-year diplomatic service, he initiated relations between France and Persia.[citation needed]

Napoleonic WarsEdit

Following his coronation as Emperor of the French in 1804, Napoleon made Brune a Marshal of the Empire (Maréchal d'Empire) while he was still in Constantinople. During the campaigns against Austria during the War of the Third Coalition, Marshal Brune commanded the army in Boulogne from 1805 to 1807 overseeing drilling and keeping a watchful eye on the British. In 1807 Brune was appointed Governor General for the Hanseatic Ports and in 1808, Brune held a command of troops fighting in War of the Fourth Coalition and occupied Swedish Pomerania, taking Stralsund and the Island of Rugen. Despite these victories, his staunch republicanism and a meeting with Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden raised Napoleon's suspicions only made worse by Brune who refused to talk to Napoleon about it claiming simply that "It's a lie". Brune made his biggest blunder while drafting a treaty between France and Sweden when he wrote "the French army" instead of "His Imperial Majesty's Army". Whether an intentional insult or act of incompetence, Napoleon was infuriated and Brune was removed from duty. He then spent the next years at his country estate in disgrace and was not re-employed until 1815.[1]

Hundred Days and deathEdit

After Napoleon's abdication, Brune was awarded the Cross of Saint Louis by Louis XVIII, but rallied to the emperor's cause after his escape from exile in Elba.[1] Leaving behind their past quarrels, Napoleon appointed Brune commander of the Army of the Var during the Hundred days. Here he defended Southern France against the forces of the Austrian Empire and Kingdom of Sardinia, with the addition of the British Mediterranean Fleet and local Royalist guerrilas. Brune, while he held Liguria, slowly began to retreat, holding Toulon. Brune kept the mobs in Marseille and Provence under control.

Brune's death, illustration by Gustave Roux

On 22 July 1815, after hearing of the defeat at Waterloo, Brune surrendered Toulon to the British.[1] Fearing the Royalist mobs in Provence and aware of their hatred towards him, Brune asked Admiral Edward Pellew to sail him to Italy, but the request was rudely denied, with Pellew calling him "the prince of scamps" and a "blackguard". Brune then decided to travel to Paris over land with the promise of Royalist protection, although none was provided.[1] He managed to arrive safely with two aides-de-camp in Avignon, but was there shot and killed by an angry Royalist mob after being chased into an hotel, as a victim of the Second White Terror. The new Bourbon government soon fabricated the story that Brune had committed suicide.[1] His body, thrown into the River Rhone, was retrieved by a fisherman and buried by local farmers, and was later recovered by his wife Angélique Nicole[1] to be buried in the cemetery of Saint-Just-Sauvage.[2]

An inquiry compelled by his widow later made public that Brune's murder had been covered up by the royal authorities, and revealed that the mob responsible was led by baseless accusations that Brune was the one parading the Princess of Lamballes' head on a pike around Paris during the September Massacres.[1] In 1839, one year after Angélique's death, a monument to Marshal Brune was erected in his hometown of Brives.[1]


In 1793, Brune married Angélique Nicole Pierre, from Arpajon.[1] They had no issue but adopted two daughters.[3]


  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Brune, Guillaume Marie Anne". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Endnotes:
    • Notice historique sur la vie politique et militaire du marechal Brune (Paris, 1821).
    • Paul-Prosper Vermeil de Conchard, L'Assassinat du marechal Brune (Paris, 1888).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dunn-Pattison, Richard P (1909). Napoleon's Marshals.
  2. ^ "Revue de l'Institut Napoléon" (in French). 1984: 141. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ "Wives and Children of the Marshals". Retrieved 31 May 2019.