Charles de Morny, Duke of Morny

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Charles de Morny
Duc-de-Morny-02.jpg
Born (1811-09-15)15 September 1811
Died 10 March 1865(1865-03-10) (aged 53)
Title Duc de Morny
Spouse(s) Princess Sofia Sergeyevna Trubetskaya
Issue
Marie Eugenie de Morny, Countess of La Corzana
Auguste Charles, 2e Duc de Morny
Serge de Morny
Sophie de Morny
Parents Charles Joseph de Flahaut
Hortense de Beauharnais
Coat of arms

Charles Auguste Louis Joseph Demorny/de Morny, 1er Duc de Morny [ʃaʁl oɡyst lwi ʒɔzɛf dəmɔʁni] (15–16 September 1811, Switzerland – 10 March 1865, Paris) was a French statesman. He was the natural (and illegitimate) son of Hortense de Beauharnais (the wife of Louis Bonaparte and queen of Holland) and Charles Joseph, Comte de Flahaut, and therefore half-brother of Emperor Napoleon III.

Biography[edit]

He was born in Switzerland,[1] and his birth was duly registered in a misleading certificate, which made him the legitimate son of Auguste Jean Hyacinthe Demorny, born in Paris on 23 October 1811,[2] and described as a landowner of St. Domingo. M. Demorny was in fact an officer in the Prussian army and a native of St. Domingo, though he owned no land there or elsewhere.

His father was in fact Charles de Flahaut. His mother, Hortense de Beauharnais was the stepdaughter of Napoléon Bonaparte and the estranged wife of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland.

He was educated by his grandmother, Adelaïde Filleul. After a brilliant school and college career the future Duc de Morny received a commission in the army, and the next year he entered the staff college. The Comte de Morny, as he was called by a polite fiction, served in Algeria in 1834–1835 as aide-de-camp to General Camille Alphonse Trezel, whose life he saved under the walls of Constantine.

When he returned to Paris in 1838, he secured a solid position in the business world by establishing of a major beet-sugar industry at Clermont in the Auvergne and by writing a pamphlet Sur la question des sucres in 1838. In these and other lucrative speculations he was helped by his mistress Françoise Mosselman, the beautiful and wealthy wife of the Belgian ambassador, Charles Aimé Joseph Le Hon, Comte Le Hon. Eventually there were few great commercial enterprises in Paris in which he did not have an interest.

Although he sat as deputy for Clermont-Ferrand from 1842 onwards, he took at first no important part in party politics, but he was heard with respect on industrial and financial questions. He supported the government of Louis Philippe, because revolution threatened his commercial interests, but before the Revolutions of 1848, by which he was temporarily ruined, he considered converting to the legitimist cause represented by the Comte de Chambord. His attitude was expressed by the witticism with which he is said to have replied to a lady who asked what he would do if the Chamber were "swept out." "Range myself on the side of the broom handle," was his answer. Presently he was admitted to the intimate circle of his half-brother Louis Napoleon, and he helped to engineer the coup d'état of 2 December 1851 on the morrow of which he was appointed to head the ministry of the interior.

After six months in office, during which he showed his political opponents moderation and tact, he resigned his portfolio, ostensibly because he disapproved of the confiscation of the Orleans property but really because Napoleon, influenced by Morny's rivals, resented his claim to a foremost place in the government as a member of the Bonaparte family. He then resumed his financial speculations. When in 1854 the Emperor appointed him president of the Corps Législatif, a position which he filled for the rest of his life, he used his official rank to assist his schemes.

In 1856, he was sent as special envoy to the coronation of Alexander II of Russia and brought home a wife, whom he married at St. Petersburg on 7 January 1857, Princess Sofia Sergeyevna Trubetskaya (Moscow, 25 March 1836 – 8 August 1896), the only daughter of Prince Sergey Vasilyevich Trubetskoy (1814 - 12 May (30 April Old Style), 1859) and his wife Ekaterina Petrovna Mussina-Pushkina (1 February 1816 - c. 1897). His wife's connections greatly strengthened his social position. Sophie was legally daughter of Prince Sergey Vasilyevich Trubetskoy, but may have been the illegitimate daughter of Nicholas I of Russia. In 1862, Morny was created a Duke. It is said that he aspired to the throne of Mexico, and that the French expedition sent to place Archduke Maximilian on the throne was prompted by Napoleon III's desire to thwart this ambition.

Tomb at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

In any case, in spite of occasional disagreements, Morny's influence with the emperor remained great, and the liberal policies which he advocated enabled him to serve the imperial cause through his influence with the leaders of the opposition, the most conspicuous of whom, Émile Ollivier, was detached from his colleagues by his efforts. But while he was laying the foundations of the "Liberal Empire" his health deteriorated and was further injured by quack medicines. The emperor and the empress visited him just before his death in Paris on 10 March 1865.

Morny's valuable collection of pictures, including Fragonard's 'The Swing', was sold after his death. In spite of his undoubted wit and social gifts, Morny failed to secure the distinction he desired as a dramatist, and none of his pieces, which appeared under the pseudonym of M. de St Rémy, including Sur la grande route, M. Choufleuri restera chez lui le . . ., and the Les finesses du mari, among others, met with success on the stage.

Thoroughbred horse racing[edit]

Morny played an important role in the development of the thoroughbred horse racing and breeding industry in France. In 1860, he purchased the English Triple Crown champion West Australian and brought him to France for breeding purposes. In 1862 Morny built the Deauville-La Touques Race Course near Deauville. The Prix Morny is named in his honor.

Children by marriage[edit]

  • Marie Eugenie de Morny (1857–1883), who married a Spanish noble, José Ramón Gil Francisco de Borja Nicolás Osório y de Heredia, 9th Conde de La Corzana (1854–1919), in 1877 in Madrid, and had a son:
    • José Osorio y de Morny, 10th Conde de La Corzana (Madrid, 1878 - Madrid, 1919). He married María de la Purificación Dorticos-Marín y León, Marquesa de Marín (1878–1928), in 1902 in Madrid. He had no children.
  • Auguste Charles Louis Valentin de Morny (1859–1920), who succeeded his father as the 2nd Duc de Morny. He married Carlota de Guzmán-Blanco y de Ybarra (Caracas, 1869 - Courbevoie, 1939) in 1886 in Paris and had three children:
    • Auguste de Morny, 3rd Duc de Morny (1889–1935), unmarried and without issue.
    • Antoine de Morny, 4th Duc de Morny (1896–1943), unmarried and without issue.
    • Anna Teresa de Morny (1890–1924), unmarried and without issue.
  • Serge de Morny (1861–1922), who died unmarried and without issue.
  • Sophie Mathilde (Missy) de Morny (1863–1944), who married Jacques Godart Marquis de Belbeuf (1850–1906) in 1881 in Madrid and divorced him in 1903. She created a scandal at the turn of the 20th century by her lesbian affair with the French novelist Colette who had taken up work in the music halls of Paris in 1906 under her wing, and with whom she became romantically involved. In 1907, the two performed together in a pantomime entitled Rêve d'Égypte at the Moulin Rouge. Their onstage kiss nearly caused a riot, which the police were called in to suppress. As a result of this scandal, further performances of Rêve d'Égypte were banned and Colette and de Morny were no longer able to openly live together, though their relationship continued a total of five years.[3]

Ancestors[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Mossiker, 361–2
  2. ^ See obituary notice: "Nécrologie". Le Guide Musical (Schott). 16 March 1865. Retrieved May 8, 2009. 
  3. ^ Benstock, 48–9

Sources[edit]

  • Shari Benstock, Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900—1940. Austin, Tx.: University of Texas Press, 1986 ISBN 0-292-79040-6
  • Frances Mossiker, Napoleon and Josephine: The Biography of a Marriage. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964
  • Roger L. Williams, Gaslight and Shadow: The World of Napoleon III. New York: Macmillan, 1957, ch. II: "The Duc de Mornay and the Genesis of Parliamentarianism"

References[edit]

External links[edit]