Four Sergeants of La Rochelle

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The four Sergeants hearing their sentence

The Four Sergeants of La Rochelle were soldiers who were guillotined in Paris in 1822 for plotting to overthrow the restored Bourbon monarchy of Louis XVIII of France. Their great courage initiated a liberal campaign and they became legendary.

Trial[edit]

The four sergeants were Jean-François Bories, Jean-Joseph Pommier, Charles Goubin et Marius-Claude Raoulx. They were arrested on 19 March 1820 due to an indiscretion, and were among a number of people accused of belonging to the Carbonari, a revolutionary group. Bories was assigned to a group that included thirteen other soldiers and four civilians who appeared before a special jury. His trial started on 21 August 1820 and was followed closely by the public due to a campaign by the liberal press.[1] He was defended by the advocate Joseph Mérilhou.[2]

Bories refused to admit any guilt, as did Raoulx and Goubin. Pommier admitted having attended a Carbonari meeting but did not accuse anyone. The Advocate General, Louis Antoine François de Marchangy, demanded heads, starting with that of Bories, whom he considered to be the leader of the conspiracy.[1] Marchangy alluded to Mérilhou when he said in his indictment, "Here the real culprits are not those in the dock, but those on the advocates' bench."[2] The court deliberated, then announced the death penalty for the four sergeants. They were executed the next day in the place de Grève.[1]

Legacy[edit]

The four sergeants became heroes among the carbonari in Italy. The flag used by the Four Sergeants was once owned by Prince Jérôme Bonaparte. It is a French Tricolor bearing the slogans Constitution and Napoleon II on one side and Honour and Fatherland on the other. The flag was used by the carbonari ventes between 1821 and 1822. It was seen during the plot of the 29th line regiment in Belfort, then in Paris, and finally in La Rochelle where it was preserved. It passed through the hands of the Lieutenant-Colonel Caron, then to M. Dubourjal, then to Marquis d'Audan who finally offered it to Prince Napoleon in 1888.

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