Louis d'Elbée

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Louis d'Elbée by Girodet.

Maurice-Joseph-Louis Gigost d'Elbée (pronounced: [mɔʁis ʒɔzɛf lwi ʒiɡo dɛlˈbe]; 21 March 1752 – 6 January 1794) was a French Royalist military leader. He was the second commander in chief of the Royal and Catholic Army formed by Royalist forces of the Vendean insurrection against the Republic and the French Revolution.


Born in Dresden (Electorate of Saxony) from a French family, he moved to France in 1777, becoming a naturalised citizen. He embarked on a military career, reaching the rank of lieutenant, but resigned from the army in 1783 and married, thereafter living a retired country life near Beaupréau in Anjou. He then served as an officer in the army of the Prince-Elector of Saxony. After the Revolution, he returned in obedience to the law which ordered emigrants to return to France.

In 1793, the anti-Jacobin uprisings in the Vendee and Brittany broke out, leading the peasants of Beaupréau to appoint him as their leader. His troop joined those of Charles Bonchamps, Jacques Cathelineau and Jean-Nicolas Stofflet. He served under Cathelineau, and was recognized as the new generalissimo after the death of Cathelineau. He led the Vendéans to victory in conflicts with the Republicans at Coron and Beaulieu. Also, he is famous for his actions after the battle of Chemillé, on April 11, 1793: after the insurgents' victory, many of them planned to avenge their dead and slaughter the Republican prisoners (approx. 400). D'Elbée tried to prevent them, and eventually asked them to recite the Our Father, which they did; then, when they had reached the sentence "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us", he interrupted them with the words: "Do not lie to God!". Moved by this reproach, his men turned away, and d'Elbée was able to save the prisoners. This episode has since become known as "Le Pater d'Elbée" (d'Elbée's Pater Noster). Later, however, at the Battle of Luçon he managed to extricate the Royalist force from a potential rout, but suffered a significant reverse.

A few months later the Royalists under d'Elbée were completely defeated at the Battle of Cholet on 17 October 1793. He was severely wounded and taken prisoner. Three months later he was tried, condemned and executed by Republican troops in Noirmoutier. He was shot sitting in a chair, since he was unable to stand due to his wounds.