Jacques Leroy de Saint Arnaud

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19th century lithographic portrait of Saint Arnaud.
Statue and plaque in botanical gardens of St Arnaud, Victoria, Australia.

Armand-Jacques Leroy de Saint-Arnaud (20 August 1801 – 29 September 1854) was a French soldier and Marshal of France. He served as French Minister of War until the Crimean War when he became Commander-in-chief of the army of the East.

Biography[edit]

Born in Paris, he entered the army in 1817, but after ten years of garrison service, he still held only the lowest commissioned grade. He then resigned, led a life of adventure in several lands and returned to the army at the age of thirty as a sub-lieutenant. He took part in the suppression of the Vendée émeute, and was for a time on the staff of General (Marshal) Bugeaud. However, his debts and the scandals of his private life compelled him to go to Algeria as a captain in the French Foreign Legion. There he distinguished himself on numerous occasions, and after twelve years had risen to the rank of maréchal de camp (major general).

In 1848 Saint Arnaud commanded a brigade during the revolution in Paris. On his return to Africa, possibly because Louis Napoleon considered him a suitable military head of a potential coup d'état, an expedition took place into Little Kabylie, in which Saint Arnaud showed his prowess as a commander-in-chief and provided his superiors with the pretext for bringing him home as a general of division (July 1851).

He succeeded Marshal Magnan as minister of war and superintended the military operations of the coup d'état of 2 December 1851, which placed Louis Napoleon on the throne as Napoleon III. A year later he became a Marshal of France and a senator, remaining at the head of the war office till 1854, when he set out to command the French forces in the Crimean War, alongside his British colleague Lord Raglan. He died on board ship, shortly after commanding at the Battle of the Alma (20 September 1854). His body, returned to France, lies buried in Les Invalides.

Legacy[edit]

The town of St Arnaud, Victoria, Australia was named after Jaques and has a commemorative statue of him in the towns botanical gardens on Napier Street. Another town located in Algeria, was called Saint Arnaud under French rule, currently, its name is El Eulma. The Saint Arnaud Range and the nearby locality of Saint Arnaud in New Zealand both derive their name from him.

Further reading[edit]

  • Lettres du Maréchal de Saint Arnaud (Paris, 1855; 2nd edition with memoire by Sainte-Beuve, 1858).

References[edit]

Preceded by
Jacques Louis Randon
Minister of War,
26 October 1851 – 11 March 1854
Succeeded by
Jean-Baptiste Philibert Vaillant