Bernard-François, marquis de Chauvelin

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Coronet of a French Marquis

François-Bernard de Chauvelin, marquis de Grosbois (born 29 November 1766 in Paris; died 9 April 1832 in Paris), also known as Marquis de Chauvelin, was a French nobleman, diplomat, parliamentarian and liberal reformer.


The scion of an illustrious family, Chauvelin followed his father François-Claude de Chauvelin as Master of the King's Wardrobe (to Louis XVI) and fought in the Comte de Rochambeau's French Expeditionary Force. However, despite being of aristocratic birth, he had been raised with liberal views and thus became supportive of the French Revolution.[1]

In February 1792 he married Herminie-Felicienne-Joséphine Tavernier de Boulogne de Magnanville and was posted to the Court of St. James's, styled "Ambassador's Cloak" (or Deputy Ambassador), under Talleyrand. His role in London was to persuade the British Government to remain neutral in the impending war between France and Austria and Prussia. Chauvelin was well received at first and secured British neutrality but, on 10 August 1792 following King Louis XVI's execution in January, his official status at the Court of St James's was terminated by the French Republican Government, and on 1 February 1793 he was ordered to leave England, as the British made preparations for war.

After returning to Paris and ingratiating himself with the new régime, Chauvelin was posted as French Ambassador to the Medicis in Florence but his term there was unsuccessful, being unable to convince the Grand-Duke to recognize the new French Republic. Chauvelin was recalled to Paris and jailed as a suspect during the Terreur. However, he was released following Robespierre's arrest during the Thermidorean Reaction (27 July 1794).

In 1800, he was elected to the Tribunat and in February 1804, he was appointed Prefect of La Lys. And in 1811, Chauvelin was created a Baron of the Empire and appointed Councillor of State. From 1812 to 1814, he governed Catalonia styled Intendant-Général, having been expected to win over the Catalonians to Joseph Bonaparte, Emperor Napoleon's brother, who had been installed as King of Spain.

In 1816, he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies, and spoke in favor of press freedom and extending the electoral franchise. He earned a reputation as an outstanding orator. He was one of the major figures of the leftwing, republican and liberal group in parliament. Though he was returned again as a Deputy in 1827, he played no further part in public affairs, finally resigning in 1829. He then permanently withdrew to the former Abbey of Cîteaux in Beaune, which he had bought and converted into a residence. He died of cholera three years later in Paris.

Chauvelin and The Scarlet Pimpernel[edit]

In Baroness Emmuska Orczy’s novel The Scarlet Pimpernel and its sequels, the Scarlet Pimpernel's arch enemy throughout most of the series is Citizen Chauvelin, a character loosely based on the real Marquis. Although there are some similarities between the real and fictional Chauvelins, Orczy's depiction of Chauvelin's career, personality and history is considered highly distorted.

See also[edit]


  • Hugh CHISHOLM (ed.), Bernard François, marquis de Chauvelin, in: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911
  • M. PREVOST, Bernard-François Chauvelin, in: Dictionnaire de Biographie française, Edn 8, col. 905-906.
  • J. DE SMET, L'administration du département de La Lys, in: Annales de la Société d'Emulation de Bruges, 1931, blz. 138-138.
  • Andries VAN DEN ABEELE, De vier prefecten van het departement van de Leie. II. Bernard François markies de Chauvelin, in: Biekorf, 2004, blz. 224-251 en 333-356.


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