Napoleon’s Polish Aide-de-Camp
After early service in Poland, writes Adam Zamoyski, Sulkowski joined the French Army of Italy and in 1798 met a gallant death in Egypt.
The birth of Jozef Sulkowski was no less mysterious than his death. It has now been established that he was born either in 1773 to Teodor Sulkowski, an impoverished colonel in Austrian service, and a Hungarian Bishop’s daughter, or else in 1770 to Prince Francis de Paula Sulkowski of Bielsko and either Marguerite Sophie de Fléville (who later married Teodor), or the notorious Princesss Radziwill.
It is impossible to clarify the matter further, particularly since the progeny of this impressive club was entirely brought up by the head of the family, Prince August Sulkowski of Rydzyna, himself a natural son of a previous King of Poland. The old Prince disliked most of his family, and decided to annoy them by making Jozef his heir.
The boy was considered something of a prodigy; he was beautiful, charming, intelligent and remarkably advanced for his age, though this remained a complete mystery to everyone.