Théophile Charles Gilles Ferré (Paris, May 6, 1846 – Satory, November 1871) was one of the members of the Paris Commune, who authorized the execution of Georges Darboy, the archbishop of Paris, and five other hostages, on 24 May, 1871. He was captured by the army, tried by a military court, and was shot at Satory, an army camp southwest of Versailles. He was the first of twenty-five Commune members to be executed for their role in the Paris Commune.
Ferré was condemned to death for having ordered the execution of six hostages including Georges Darboy, the archbishop of Paris. Darboy, Bonjean (président de chambre à la Cour de cassation), the priest Deguerry of the Église de la Madeleine, and Allard, Clerc, Ducoudray of the Society of Jesus were executed on May 24 of the "Semaine Sanglante" or "Bloody Week" (Sunday, May 21-Sunday, May 28). The Archibishop and several hundred others had been arrested by the Commune in April as hostages, whom the Commune hoped to exchange for Louis-Auguste Blanqui, a revolutionary and honorary President of the Commune, who had been arrested by the French government on March 15. However, the provisional head of the French government, Adolphe Thiers refused any negotiation with the Commune for the release of hostages.
On 24 May, in the midst of Bloody Week, a delegation of National guardsmen, led by Gustave Genton, a member of the Committee of Public Safety of the Commune, came to the new headquarters of the Commune at the city hall of the 11th arrondissment and demanded the immediate execution of the hostages held at the prison of La Roquette. The new prosecutor of the Commune, Ferré hesitated and then wrote a note: "Order to the Citizen Director of la Roquette to execute six hostages." Genton asked for volunteers to serve as a firing squad, and went to the La Roquette prison, where many of the hostages were being held. Genton was given a list of hostages and selected six names, including the Archbishop of Paris three priests. The Director of the Prison, Francois, refused to give up the Archbishop without a specific order from the Commune. Genton sent a deputy back to Ferré, who wrote "and especially the archbishop" on the bottom of his note. The archbishop and five other hostages were promptly taken out into the courtyard of the prison, lined up against the wall, and shot.
Defenders of the Commune later justified the action of Ferré as an act of retaliation for the summary executions carried out by the French Army during Bloody Week.
Louise Michel, the famed "Red Virgin" of the Commune celebrated in a poem by Victor Hugo, was deeply in love with Théophile Ferré. Both were from the same district: Montmartre. Both took the same defiant attitude at their trial, as described by Lissagaray in his "Histoire de la Commune de 1871" (Bruxelles: Kistemaeckers ed, 1876), and both were eventually buried (Michel died in 1905) in the same cemetery.
Théophile Ferré by Félix Vallotton
Georges Darboy, the Archbishop of Paris, was one of six hostages shot on the authorization of Théophile Ferré on 24 May, 1871, shortly before the fall of the Paris Commune.
Notes and Citations
- Rougerie, Jacques, La Commune de 1871, Presses Universitaires de France, (1988), (ISBN:978-2-13-062078-5), pp. 118-119.
- Milza. Pierre, "La Commune", Paris, Perrin, March and April 2009, pp. 403-404
- Lissagaray, Prosper-Olivier, Histoire de la Commune de 1871 (1876) La Decouverte, 2005.
- Prosper Olivier Lissagaray: Histoire de la Commune de 1871 (1876) Paris: Librairie Marcel Rivière - Bibliothèque des Sciences Politiques et Sociales, 1947
- Bernard Noël: Dictionnaire de la Commune Paris: Champs Flammarion, 1978