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The Tragedy of Marshal Ney

Harold Kurtz describes how, ordered by Louis XVIII to arrest Napoleon on his return from Elba in 1815, Marshal Ney went over to his former master.

Monsieur Rude’s statue of Marshal Ney was not unveiled until December 7th, 1853. The work had been commissioned in 1848 by the Provisional Government of the Second Republic whose Foreign Minister, Alphonse de Lamartine, was the prime mover behind this gesture of public expiation; but it was not until after the establishment of the Second Empire that the gaunt and dramatic monument was finally unveiled at the spot in the Avenue d’Observatoire where, on December 7th, 1815, the Marshal had been executed by a firing squad of King Louis XVIII’s Maison Militaire. Thus, on the 38th anniversary of the fateful day, a gathering of representatives of the Church, Army and Government was solemnly assembled in the presence of the Marshal’s three sons in order to pay homage to the memory of the Bravest of the Brave, as the Emperor had ordered. The ceremony was opened by the Archbishop of Paris intoning the De Profundis and chanting the Oremus. He was followed by Marshal St. Arnaud, reciting the heroic saga of Ney’s military career. The sable sheets enveloping the statue then fluttered to the ground, and forward stepped Monsieur Dupin to make one of the more significant speeches in France’s political history.

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