Marcellin Marbot

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Jean-Baptiste Antoine Marcellin
Marcellin Marbot.jpg
Marbot as colonel commander of the 7th Hussar Regiment in 1815
Nickname(s)Marcellin Marbot
Born(1782-08-18)18 August 1782
Altillac, France
Died16 November 1854(1854-11-16) (aged 72)
Paris, France
Allegiance First French Republic
 First French Empire
First Restoration
Hundred Days
Bourbon Restoration
July Monarchy
 French Second Republic
Years of service1799-1848
RankGénéral de Division
Battles/warsFrench Revolutionary Wars,
Napoleonic Wars
AwardsOrder of the Legion of Honour (Grand Officer)
Order of Saint Louis (Knight)
Order of Leopold (Grand Officer)
Order of the Oak Crown (Grand Cross)
RelationsJean-Antoine Marbot (Father)
Antoine Adolphe Marcelin Marbot (Brother)
François Certain de Canrobert (Cousin)

Jean-Baptiste Antoine Marcellin Marbot (August 18, 1782 – November 16, 1854), was a French General, famous for his Memoires depicting the Napoleonic age of warfare. He belongs to a family that has distinguished itself particularly in the career of arms, giving France three Generals in less than 50 years. His elder brother, Antoine Adolphe Marcelin Marbot, was also a military man of some note.


Marbot as colonel of the 23rd Chasseur Regiment in 1812

Early life[edit]

He was born into a family of military nobility in Altillac, in the province of Quercy in southwestern France. After studying at the Sorèze Military College (1793-1798), he joined the 1st Hussards Regiment as a volunteer on 3 September 1799.[1]

He served under General Seras, who promoted him to the rank of Sergeant on 1 December 1799. In the same month, he was promoted again to the rank of Second-lieutenant in recognition of his courage on 31 December 1799. He fought with the Army of Italy and took part in the Battle of Marengo and the Siege of Genoa, during which his father, General Jean-Antoine Marbot died.[2]

Napoleonic wars[edit]

The Battle of Eylau (1807), in which the young Captain Marbot nearly lost his life

He became aide-de-camp to Marshal Augereau, commanding the VII corps of the Grande Armée during the war against the Kingdom of Prussia and the Russian Empire in 1806-7. He was promoted to the rank of Captain on 3 January 1807 and took part in the Battle of Eylau the following month, during the course of which he nearly lost his life. After this he served with great distinction in the Peninsular War under Marshals Lannes and Masséna, and showed himself to be a dashing leader of light cavalry in the Russian War of 1812.

He was promoted to the rank of Colonel on 15 November 1812 and took part in the German campaign of the following year as the commander of a cavalry regiment. On the morning of the first day of the Battle of Leipzig, Marbot nearly changed the course of the entire war when his regiment came close to capturing the Tsar of Russia, Alexander I and the King of Prussia, Frederick William III, as they had strayed from their escort.[3] After a slow recovery from the wounds he had received at the battles of Leipzig and Hanau, he took part in the Battle of Waterloo alongside Emperor Napoleon I during the Hundred Days.

After the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, he was exiled during the first years of the Bourbon Restoration and only returned to France in 1819.

July Monarchy[edit]

During the July Monarchy, his intimacy with King Louis Philippe I and his son, Prince Ferdinand Philippe of Orléans secured him important military positions. He was promoted to the rank of Maréchal de camp (General of Brigade), and in this rank he was present at the Siege of Antwerp in 1832.

From 1835 to 1840 he served in various Algerian expeditions, and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Général (General of Division) in 1836. In 1845 he was made a member of the Chamber of Peers. Three years later, at the fall of King Louis Philippe I, he retired into private life.


Château du Rancy in Bonneuil-sur-Marne

On 5 November 1811, he married Angélique Marie Caroline Personne-Desbrières (1790-1873), and by this alliance became the owner of the Château du Rancy in Bonneuil-sur-Marne. They had two sons:

  • Adolphe Charles Alfred, known as Alfred (1812-1865): Master of Requests to the State Council (in French Maître des requêtes au Conseil d'État), uniformologist and painter
  • Charles Nicolas Marcellin, known as Charles (1820-1882): Whose daughter Marguerite published the famous memoirs of her grandfather

He was related to François Certain de Canrobert, Marshal of France during the Second French Empire.


Statue of General Marbot in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

He received the following decorations:

 First French Empire

Kingdom of France

Kingdom of France

 Kingdom of the Netherlands

 Kingdom of Belgium

Wounds and injuries[edit]

Marbot received several serious injuries through his long career:

Literary works[edit]


Emperor Napoleon I

In exile after Battle of Waterloo, Marbot returned to France in 1819 and wrote two books. The first, Remarques critiques sur l'ouvrage de M. Lieutenant-General Rogniat, intitulé Considérations sur l'art de la guerre (1820), was a reply to General Joseph Rogniat’s treatise on war, in which Marbot effectively contrasted the human factor in war with Rogniat’s pure theory. A few years later, he published La Necessité d'augmenter les forces militaires de la France (1825), with his recommendations for the French Armed Forces.

Napoleon read the first publication while in exile on the island of Saint Helena. His aide-de-camp, General Bertrand recorded in his diary on 14 March 1821:

In the evening, the Emperor handed me Marbot's book, [...] and said: "That is the best book I have read for four years. It is the one that has given me the greatest amount of pleasure. [...] He has expressed some things better than I did, he was more familiar with them because, on the whole, he was more of a Corps commander than I. [...] Throughout the book he never refers to 'the Emperor'. He wanted the King of France (Louis XVIII) to give him an appointment with the rank of Colonel; that is quite obvious. He uses 'Emperor' once, so as not to look as though he were afraid to do so, or to appear cowardly, and another time he uses 'Napoleon'. He mentions Masséna and Augereau frequently, and he has described the Battle of Essling better than I could have done it myself [...]. I should have liked to show Marbot my appreciation by sending him a ring. If I ever return to active life, I will have him attached to me as an aide-de-camp [...].[4]

This publication earned Marbot the distinction of being remembered in Napoleon's will:

To Colonel Marbot, one hundred thousand francs. I recommend him to continue to write in defense of the glory of the French armies, and to confound their calumniators and apostates.[5]


General Jean Baptiste Antoine Marcellin Marbot

His fame rests chiefly on the memoirs of his life and campaigns, Mémoires du Général Baron de Marbot,[6] which were written for his children and published posthumously in Paris, in 1891. An English translation by A. J. Butler was published in London, in 1892.[7]

Literary references[edit]

As with a number of other historical figures, Marbot figures prominently in the "Riverworld" cycle of science-fiction novels by Philip Jose Farmer. Marbot is first featured as the commander of Marines on Sam Clemens' riverboat, the Not for Hire. After the destruction of that boat and the death of its captain, Marbot joins the group led by famed English explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton and accompanies him on the journey to the head of the River. Accompanied by his lover, the English author Aphra Behn, Marbot reaches the Tower at the head of the River, only to die in combat when androids based on characters from Alice Through the Looking-Glass attack the guests during a Lewis Carroll-themed party.

Marbot is thought to be one of the models for Brigadier Gerard in the short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, there are several mentions of Clarissa (Mrs. Dalloway) reading Marbot's memoirs.

In R. F. Delderfield's To Serve Them All My Days. David, the main protagonist, gets comfort from Marbot's memoirs during his time in the trenches, and again on the death of his wife and daughter in a road accident.


  1. ^ Marbot, Marcellin. (1905) The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot, late lieutenant-general in the French Army. (Butler, Arthur J. trans.) Chap. 1.
  2. ^ Marbot, Marcellin. (1905) The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot, late lieutenant-general in the French Army. (Butler, Arthur J. trans.) Chap. 11.
  3. ^ Marbot, Marcellin. (1905) The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot, late lieutenant-general in the French Army. (Butler, Arthur J. trans.) 639-641.
  4. ^ Napoleon at St Helena, Memoirs of General Bertrand, January to May 1821, Translated by Frances Hume, London 1953.
  5. ^ Napoleon's Will and Testamemt, 15 April 1821, Longwood, Island of St. Helena.
  6. ^ "Review of Mémoires du Général Baron de Marbot, 3 vols., 1891". The Quarterly Journal. 174: 95–126. January 1892.
  7. ^ The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot, late lieutenant-general in the French Army, translated from the French by Arthur John Butler. 1892; 2 vols.

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