Sergaent, Marshal and King: Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, 1763-1844, Part I

Harold Kurtz introduces one of the French Republic's most successful commanders, who kept his independence in relation to Napoleon and was adopted King of Sweden.

Bernadotte, alone among the marshals of the Empire, was a man of independent political means. He survived Napoleon’s abdication and fall as his own master, which again distinguishes him from his former colleagues who were obliged to serve Napoleon’s Most Christian successors in various capacities—Gouvion St. Cyr and Victor at the War Ministry, Marmont in the maison militaire—unless indeed they had been sacrificed to the vindictive policies of 1815 like Murat, Ney, Brune.

The majority died in resentful obscurity—Massena, Macdonald, Augereau, Oudinot, Davout—while two, Mortier and the weathercock Soult, achieved new careers under the July Monarchy.1 Only Bernadotte, elected Crown Prince of Sweden in 1810—he became King in 1818—was spared the dilemma that faced the Marshals when in 1814 the French Senate decreed Napoleon’s overthrow and the Allied Sovereigns coupled promises of further employment with demands for immediate public submission to the brothers of Louis XVI.

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