General Charles-Auguste-Joseph de Flahaut de la BillarderieSon of Talleyrand who became an aide-de-camp to Napoleon and cavalry general
Born: April 21, 1785
Place of Birth: Paris, Paris, France
Died: September 1, 1870
Place of Death: Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe: FLAHAUT on the west pillar
The illegitimate son of Talleyrand and Madame de Souza, Charles de Flahaut de la Billarderie was just a child when the Revolution began. When his mother fled France during the Revolution, she took him with him but they finally returned to France in 1797. In 1799 he began studying to be an engineer for the Navy, but the next year he instead joined a group of volunteer hussars. His first assignment was with the 5th Dragoons in the Army of the Reserve, which he served with at the Battle of Marengo.
In 1801, Flahaut de la Billarderie received a promotion to sous-lieutenant, and then the next year he became an aide-de-camp to General Murat. In 1803 he was promoted to lieutenant and then in 1805 he took part in the campaign against Austria and Russia. During that campaign, he fought at Nuremberg and was then wounded by a ball to the arm at Enns.
A promotion to captain in early 1806 followed, and then a year later Flahaut received a promotion to chef d'escadrons when he was assigned to the 13th Chasseurs à Cheval. Later that year he was sent to Portugal, and he then served in Spain for part of 1808 before becoming aide-de-camp to Marshal Berthier. During the Danube campaign of 1809, Flahaut served in Germany and received a promotion to colonel before serving at the Battle of Wagram .
In 1810 Flahaut de Billarderie became a Baron of the Empire and was further rewarded as a Commander of the Order of Saint-Henri of Saxony. During this time he also began an affair with Queen Hortense, Napoleon's stepdaughter. From this relationship a son was born who would become the Duke of Morny.
In 1812 Flahaut served during the Russian campaign, notably distinguishing himself at the combat of Ostrowno in July. Upon his return, he was promoted to général de brigade, and then the next year he served in Saxony. A week after the Battle of Leipzig , he became an aide-de-camp to Napoleon and simultaneously was promoted to général de division. A few months later he was further rewarded as a Count of the Empire.
Flahaut served during the campaigning in France in 1814, and in February he was sent by Napoleon to negotiate unsuccessfully with the allies. After Napoleon's abdication, the Bourbons named Flahaut a Knight of Saint-Louis but then put him on non-activity. During the Hundred Days, Flahaut resumed his position as an aide-de-camp to Napoleon. Napoleon sent him to Vienna to negotiate the return of the Empress Marie Louise, but the Austrians prevented him from traveling further than Stuttgart so he returned to France. He rejoined Napoleon and served at Quatre Bras and Waterloo.
After the loss of Waterloo, Flahaut spoke in favor of proclaiming Napoleon II as the legitimate ruler of France. He served under Exelmans for the rest of June and then commanded a division of cavalry in July until he was proscribed. Initially included on the ordinance of July 24, 1815 that proscribed a number of officers, his father Talleyrand used his influence with King Louis XVIII to get Flahaut's name removed from the list. Despite this, it was recommended that Flahaut leave the country for his own safety. Flahaut took refuge in England for a number of years where he married the daughter of Admiral Keith.
Updated June 2016
© Nathan D. Jensen