Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Duc and Duchesse du Châtelet

Diane Adélaide de Rochechouart had married Louis Marie Florent du Châtelet on 24 April 1752 in the presence of Louis XV and the royal family at Versailles. 

By 1788 the Duc du Châtelet had taken command of the French guards garrisoned in Paris. As it happens, the new colonel was an avid follower of the strict Prussian military discipline which he immediately attempted to impose on his troops. The Prussian army of the time was most likely the most disciplined in Europe; but it came a cost. Harsh physical punishment were commonplace for even minor infractions.

Naturally, his men were less than pleased at this new regime. Unfortunately, the Duc made it even worse for himself by not carrying the discipline thoroughly through. Officers of the 18th century were usually aristocrats (or at least wealthy) and this was the case in this regiment as well. However, these young men thought very little of their duties to their regiment and often neglected them - if they showed up at all. Louis failed to impose the same level of discipline and order amongst the officers which let to a clear difference in treatment.

Unsurprisingly, the Duc du Châtelet soon became an unpopular figure. In the summer of 1789 Paris was boiling with tension which would later erupt into the revolution. The morale in the regiment was low and ultimately failed to handle the scattered uprisings. Furthermore, the Duc became more and more a target of the people's anger.
On 12th July 1789 he was to experience exactly how deep the popular hatred for him went. He was basically kidnapped by an angry mob; it was only at the last moment that a detachment of his French guards came to his rescue.

Louis-Marie-Florent du Châtelet

Sadly for him, he was not to remain safe. On 14th July he lost all control of his soldiers when the majority deserted and joined the revolution. In the upheaval he was again arrested and imprisoned. 
By September 1793 the Duchesse du Châtelet was also arrested in Paris under charges of having attempted to emigrate without permission. She, too, underwent interrogation which particularly aimed at locating her son, the Comte du Châtelet. 

According to author Daniel Gerould Louis attempted to commit suicide by cutting his veins with a shard of glass while imprisoned. Another account also states that he allegedly attempted to smash his head against the wall. Exactly how he attempted to take his own life is unclear; what is clear, though, is that he became truly desperate during his imprisonment.

On 13th December 1793 the Duc du Châtelet was guillotined on the newly christened Place de la Revolution; the Duchesse was likewise executed on 22 April 1794.

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