HISTORY – The remains of French General Gudin, close to Napoleon and who died in 1812 during his Russian campaign, returned to France on Tuesday. A repatriation that is the subject of debate, marked by a discreet ceremony at Le Bourget.
ML – 2021-07-13T19:08:34.881+02:00
More than 200 years after his death, this close friend of Napoleon found his homeland on Tuesday July 13th. During the Emperor’s Russian campaign, Charles Étienne Gudin de la Sablonnière was mown down on August 19, 1812 by an enemy cannonball at the Battle of Valoutina Gora, near the current border with Belarus. Amputated of the left leg, the general, who was said to be much appreciated by Napoleon, had died of gangrene three days after his injury.
His remains were repatriated this Tuesday at the beginning of the afternoon in a white coffin, in front of volunteers in period costumes and members of his descendants, before being covered with the national flag. The bones were then exposed for a few minutes. The Minister Delegate for Veterans, Geneviève Darrieussecq, presided over the ceremony at Le Bourget.
The general was close to Napoleon. “The loss is great for you; it is also for me ”, the emperor wrote to Countess Gudin in a letter of condolence on the death of her husband, according to the Fondation Napoléon website. “The general took part in the wars of the Republic, the Consulate then the Empire”, said the ministry in a press release.
He fought in the armies of the North, the Rhine, then the Danube in which he distinguished himself in several battles, including Wagram in 1809. The warlord also distinguished himself as the precursor of the commandos, small groups of soldiers attacking the enemy by surprise.
For a long time, testimonies differed on the location of his grave. But a Franco-Russian team of archaeologists resumed the research in May 2019. DNA analyzes then made it possible to prove that the remains found in July of the same year were indeed those of this general, whose name is engraved on the Triumphal arch. His collected heart is kept in the Parisian cemetery of Père-Lachaise.
Controversial repatriation to France
The research had been relaunched at the initiative of Pierre Malinowski, a French historian and ex-soldier close to the far right and with support in the Kremlin. Former parliamentary assistant to Jean-Marie Le Pen, he is president of the Franco-Russian Foundation for Historical Initiatives and says he is close to Vladimir Poutine.
A personality undoubtedly linked to the reluctance of the Élysée. The descendants of the general hoped for a tribute paid with great pomp to the Invalides upon his arrival, as previously planned in the first part of the commemorations during the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death on May 5, before being canceled. This is what Pierre Malinowski assured in May to Radio Sputnik, a media financed by Moscow. He mentioned the health crisis as an explanation, but above all the deterioration of relations between Paris and Moscow around the fate of the Russian political opponent Alexeï Navalny, whose release the West is demanding.
But Geneviève Darrieussecq, during the ceremony at Le Bourget, finally announced this Tuesday during the burial ceremony of the general at Invalides on December 2, anniversary of the Battle of Austerlitz, in accordance with the wishes of several associations.
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