White terror in France: the royalist reaction of 1815

White terror in France: the royalist reaction of 1815

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After the fall of Napoleon in June 1815, a new White terror is led by the ultraroyalists, who enjoy the support of rural France and the clergy. This "counter-revolution " s will endeavor to eliminate the former revolutionaries or Bonapartists from all organs of power and administration, and to eradicate from the country all the political and ideological heritage of this period. Suppression of individual freedoms, expeditious justice and massacres followed one another for a year until the dissolution by Louis XVIII of the Chamber dominated by the ultras.

White terror in the south of France

After Waterloo and Napoleon's second abdication, while in Paris it was enough to carry a bunch of violets to be molested, new massacres were carried out in the south of France. On June 25, serious incidents opposed royalists and soldiers in Marseilles; the latter, who had been ordered not to respond to provocations in order to avoid civil war, lost 145 infantry and 18 cavalry, to the blows of the royal volunteers, on the way to Toulon.

In the Phocaean city left to itself, there was carnage; retired soldiers, peaceful shopkeepers, former Mamluks brought back from Egypt by Bonaparte 15 years earlier (13 corpses of Mamluks were identified, but there were others), gendarmes, were ruthlessly massacred sometimes with refinement, while the crowd celebrated the French defeat in Belgium. We do not know the exact number of victims of this bacchanal which kept the name of Day of the farce for posterity; estimates range from 45 to 250. The surviving suspects were locked up for their safety at Château d'If; they were almost all freed by the king's prefect, Mr de Vaublanc.

The assassination of Marshal Brune

Soon, everywhere, rioters, in the colors of the Comte d'Artois, pursued and killed the Protestants and the ancient Jacobins. In Avignon, under the leadership of a man named Pointu and a so-called Major Lambot, the houses of the Bonapartists were ransacked, dozens of people immolated, we even speak of hundreds, including an invalid and a baker who was destroyed. scalded in his mess; debtors freed themselves of their debts by throwing their creditors into the river; It was in this excited atmosphere that Marshal Brune, who had nevertheless made his submission to the king, was assassinated by madmen. Brune, a genuine Republican rather than Bonapartist, was falsely criticized for having carried the head of the Princess of Lamballe on the end of a pike! The constituted authorities, including the newly appointed royal prefect, Mr de Saint Shamans, tried in vain to save the marshal. As we feared the disapproval of Paris, we made up this murderer as suicide.

The rioters did not fail to loot the marshal's baggage. Brune’s body was thrown into the Rhone, it floated and was overwhelmed by a hail of gunfire; withdrawn from the river downstream and buried by pious hands, he was unearthed and then buried again, in the ditches of a castle, where he remained two years, before being brought back to his widow in a soapbox, in order to go unnoticed. For several months, the Austrian occupation calmed the excited; an Austrian officer then asserted that, all in all, he preferred Napoleon's officers to French nobles brought back in his army vans! Like the September massacres, these atrocities were not committed by the scum of the populace alone, but by good bourgeois and aristocrats among whom women were not absent. And it all ended in a festive atmosphere reminiscent of the Sabbath of rural spirits (carimantran).

The second White Terror was certainly more terrible than the first. In Montpellier, where the announcement of the Emperor's abdication caused a bloody clash between the royalists and the still Bonapartist garrison, more than a hundred people perished in the bloody orgies that followed. In Uzès, a dozen.

Civil peace threatened

In Nîmes, the change of regime, badly accepted at first by a fraction of the army, opposed the latter to the royalists, before the evacuation of the place by the unarmed troops who were ruthlessly massacred (more than thirty dead). We saw the reappearance of religious antagonisms; the Protestants, about a third of the population of Gard, had welcomed the return of the Emperor with joy; they were again the target of the Catholic majority; it is true that, during the Hundred Days, they had committed an assault on the Duke of Angoulême's miquelets, in particular in Arpaillargues (2 dead); the villages remained divided and travelers were well advised to own a set of cockades to quickly change them before entering them, depending on whether they were Bonapartists or Royalists! Beaucaire's royalist army, a mob dressed in motley uniforms stolen from slain soldiers, looted, and wrongly assassinated, even royalists, and chastised Calvinist women by lifting up their skirts and beating them down with beating bars adorned with lilies (incidents minimized by the royalists)!

It was at this time that Trestaillons, who was actually called Jacques Dupont, became famous; he owed his nickname, it is said, to the fact that he claimed to cut the Bonapartists into three pieces, but others claim that he only came from the three stumps of vines he owned; this porter, at the head of armed bands, had many Protestants assassinated, many others were persecuted and several thousand fled; paradoxically the only almost safe havens were prisons; however, these were emptied and their occupants exterminated. Trestaillons was assisted by two acolytes, the Sieurs Truphémy and Servan; these characters varied the festivities, setting fire to and dancing around the blaze, looting, cutting off their ears or killing, sometimes by burning their victims alive. After having driven the Protestant Bonapartists out of their homes, we lodged our family there! We went so far as to dig up the ancestors of bad thinkers to put their bodies up for auction. It was necessary to have recourse to foreign troops to restore calm; the Austrians shot twenty rioters, but not the leaders.

For good measure, they then reduced the inhabitants of Gardonnenque who, being Protestants, had taken up arms to defend themselves; about sixty of these were fired on charges of rebellion. After the departure of the Austrians, fermentation resumed, encouraged it seems by the instructions of the Pavillon de Marsan, seat of the Count of Artois, the future Charles X, despite the disavowal of the king. General Le Pelletier de Lagarde tried to restore order, assisted by the Duke of Angoulême; Protestant temples were reopened; but, on October 12, a violent riot broke out and triumphed; the general was seriously wounded by a madman; three Protestants were raped; the Duke of Angoulême succeeded in restoring a semblance of calm, but civil peace was by no means assured; the bewilderment of the royalists was such that some of them, finding Louis XVIII too soft, dreamed of submitting to Ferdinand VII of Spain! The assassin of General de Lagarde was not punished despite the indignation of the Duke of Richelieu, friend of this irreproachable officer. Trestaillons escaped all trouble and refused to leave Nîmes, as requested by the prefect; Truphémy was condemned to death and his sentence commuted to hard labor; Servan was guillotined for a murder of which he was innocent! By comparison, eight Bonapartists involved in the massacre of Arpaillargues, which saw only two royalists perish, it is true in dreadful torments, were condemned, including an old man and two women. The number of victims in the Gard is difficult to establish, estimates varying from a few dozen to several hundred.

Trestaillons was, however, surpassed in cruelty by Quatretaillons d'Uzès, a certain Graffand, a former soldier, then rural guard and miquelet of the Duke of Angoulême in 1815, who surrounded himself, like Trestaillons, with a band of bloodthirsty enigumens ready to commit all crimes; he shot, in the name of popular justice, both Catholic and Protestant prisoners; caused terror to reign in the villages and engaged in ignoble mockery on the corpses of the unfortunate people he had just murdered; pardoned for the first time, he was arrested again by the courts for a common law offense, committed in 1819, and was condemned to death in absentia by the court of Riom in 1821; fifteen murders were attributed to him with certainty, without counting the others. All the south of France was shaken by the storm and, apart from a few islets, such as Montauban where the prefect, Mr de Rambuteau, showed firmness and courage, the authorities allowed themselves to be overwhelmed almost everywhere.

The assassination of General Ramel

In Toulouse, on the return of the usurper, Vitrolles, a trusted man of the Comte d'Artois, armed a cohort of verdets so called because their white cockade was adorned with a green border. The population was frankly royalist. After the second abdication of Napoleon, bloody incidents opposed the troops to the partisans of the Restoration; the army was forced to leave the city which was handed over to the verdicts. The most enthusiastic dreamed of the creation of a kingdom of Aquitaine whose monarch would be the Count of Artois, supported by the troops of Ferdinand VII. The presence of the Duke of Angoulême, however, kept the monarchists in duty until mid-August. Afterwards, the secret societies took the situation in hand while the verdets, which were no longer being paid, began to grow impatient. The appointments of Mr de Rémusat, as prefect, of General Ramel, as deputy of Marshal Pérignon in charge of maintaining order, and of Mr de Castellane, head of the national guard, were received as provocations. The secret societies refused to obey Paris and the verdicts demanded to be paid; to win their case, they saw only one way: scare! The mayor Malaret, threatened, preferred to give way to Mr. de Villèle, future minister; Remusat did not let himself be intimidated, nor Ramel: he had also been ordered to dissolve the verdets.

On August 15, after a well-watered dinner, the conspirators went to Ramel's windows where they drunk the soldiers on guard. The absent general, informed of the events which were brewing, returned to his lodgings under invectives and threats. The soldier on guard at his door was bayoneted as a pistol shot hit Ramel in the abdomen. The injured man was taken to his apartment by the few people accompanying him. The rioters demanded that he be thrown out the window to be finished. With the door threatening to be broken down, the two or three individuals present ran into hiding. Ramel dragged himself as best he could to a neighbor's; the latter refused to receive it. Outside, the greens excited the crowd by claiming that the general had fired on the people when they were the only ones to have used their weapons.

However Colonel Ricard, a surgeon and a police superintendent, arrived and, guided by the traces of blood, they found the general in an attic. The surgeon bandaged the wounded man while national guards and gendarmes arrived in the square; this troop did nothing to prevent the rioters from breaking through the barriers erected to separate them from their prey. The madmen threw themselves on the wounded general, tore out an eye, struck him with several bladed weapons, being careful not to kill him, to make the pleasure last; nothing was spared: his uniform, which was lying on a chair, was torn with a saber. Ramel did not die until the next day, horribly mutilated, in horrific suffering. However, he had been deported to Guyana during the coup d'etat of Fructidor, because of his royalist opinions, and he made no secret of his support for Louis XVIII; his only fault was to have obeyed the king's orders by refusing to settle the verdicts!

Louis XVIII, whose authority in this affair had been flouted, in vain demanded the punishment of an attack which threatened the unity of the kingdom. In 1816, the apartment of the magistrate who was investigating the case, Mr de Caumont, was visited, six hundred francs stolen and many documents useful for the investigation taken away; this one comes nowhere. In 1817, three of Ramel's murderers were indeed brought before the provost court, an exceptional tribunal which raged against the Bonapartists, but, despite a severe indictment from the king's prosecutor, treated for the occasion of Jacobin by the audience, the the defendants were sentenced, as reluctantly, to minimal sentences. Pérignon, Ramel's hierarchical superior, not only did not appear on the day of the tragedy, but the next day he wrote to Paris that he was forced to replace his sick deputy; the pusillanimity of the old marshal was rewarded as it deserved by an exile in his lands. And, to add hypocrisy to horror, a solemn funeral was reserved for the martyred general, which some of his executioners dared to attend. This case remained emblematic of the state of mind then.

It should be noted, however, that in Vendée, where a royal army opposed the imperial troops during the Hundred Days, upon Napoleon's abdication, the royalists offered to unite with their adversaries to defend France against the invaders. A fine proof of civic-mindedness when, further south, we were thinking of dismembering the kingdom. In the west, it was only in Nantes that the Vicomte de Cardaillac deserved the name of "Carrier blanc", unfairly enough, moreover, because, if he persecuted, he did not kill. In Normandy, the prefect was threatened for a moment by a band of madmen who tore up the orders from Paris, but Caen was not far from the capital, the news circulated quickly and everything quickly returned to order. In the Center, the brigands of the Loire, as the survivors of the imperial army were called, were often threatened, especially when they returned to their homes alone; but, when they were in a troop, it was enough for them to take a firm attitude and their adversaries would scatter like a flock of sparrows.

The second institutional white terror: the provost courts

If, as we have just seen, a misguided and disorderly justice characterized the white terror, the second episode of it was different from the first. This second episode also took on an institutional and regular character with the condemnation to prison terms or the death of several senior officers (19 generals), some of whom managed to escape the sentence while others suffered it. Exceptional tribunals, the provost courts, were instituted, in a way reflections of revolutionary tribunals. The press demanded without nuance in its columns the punishment of the culprits, condemning some to death and others to deportation to Siberia! There were even those who attacked the king who was deemed too lenient to have promised forgiveness on his return to Cambrai, a promise he could not keep. Legal terror was encouraged by foreigners who wished to teach the French a lesson and also strip them of some of the works of art they owned, which were not always honestly acquired.

It was in this atmosphere of vengeance that Fouché, ex-regicide for the moment minister, prepared the proscription lists, in which he did not forget any of his old friends without suspecting perhaps that he would join them a little. later ! Faithful to the policy of Jacobin terror, Fouché threw ballast on public opinion by bringing to justice the most culprits in order to put an end to the disturbances which bloodied the south of France and to calm the fury of reaction. The arbitrariness which presided over the choice of those who should pay for all certainly helped to discredit the monarchy and to prepare for 1830. Many forgave the revolutionaries for being cruel because of their lack of education; such an excuse did not hold when well-born people indulged in the same mistakes. To the cruelty was added hypocrisy; to use a black humor of the time, an amnesty was soon proclaimed from which everyone was excluded! The legal quibbles of the notables had simply replaced the revolutionary fury of the people. And the nowhere to be found room, mostly frenzied, prolonged a situation that the first moment alone could have excused.

Death sentences for soldiers

We come to executions. The brothers Constantin and César de Faucher, natives of La Réole, two twins, more moderate Republicans than Bonapartists, were legally assassinated in Bordeaux where the population, won over by the courage shown by the Duchess of Angoulême, during the return of France. Usurper, showed himself to be a royalist but without going into excess other than in words; the incredible and tragic arrest of the two brothers, for trivial peccadilloes, took place in an atmosphere of civil war which reminded us that Bordeaux was not so far from Toulouse; the two brothers, who could only be blamed for their opinions, found no lawyer to defend them, even among their friends, and they went so far as to imprison a defense witness! In cassation, their lawyer, office clerk, instead of defending his clients, apologized to the court for having been chosen for this office! On the day of the execution, the convicts were taken for a long time on foot, for an hour, instead of the torture in order to give wages to the ultras; but, if their shooting excited for a moment the delirium of the ultras, their firm countenance and their noble attitude moved many spectators and soon aroused the contempt of honest people.

Colonel Charles de Labédoyère, an impetuous Bonapartist who had brought his regiment to Napoleon in the Alps, was executed in Paris, despite the pleas of his royalist family; warned of the fate that awaited him, the young colonel could have fled but, after an attempt, he procrastinated to finally refuse to leave his wife and child! Decazes took advantage of his arrest to hatch a plot against Fouché, whose place he was running for; this time, Madame Mère's former secretary, young and dashing favorite of Louis XVIII, failed, but it was only a postponement and the regicidal police minister was soon forced into exile. The widow of La Bédoyère was ordered to pay the bonus allocated to the soldiers who shot her husband. The ultras exulted and Chateaubriand himself urged the king to be firm; but Madame de Krudener, the muse of the Emperor Alexander, mourned the beautiful colonel.

Marshal Ney was arrested in Cantal, where he had taken refuge, after having tried in vain to be killed at Waterloo; his arrest disturbed Louis XVIII, who, more sagacious than the ultras, guessed that the inevitable death sentence of the hero of the retreat from Russia would deal a terrible blow to the resurgent monarchy; to demand the death of the marshal, the Faubourg Saint-Germain proved even more ferocious than the Faubourg Saint-Antoine in 1793. The council of war, made up of soldiers, was recused; it was the Chamber of Peers, of which Ney was a member, that condemned him, with the exception of the Duke de Broglie. The marshal was officially shot on the sly avenue de l'Observatoire, where his statue stands today; but some believe that this execution was a sham and that he died in the United States, where a grave bears his name, in Brownsville, North Carolina.

In any event, this event moved the army even further away from the new regime. In this regard, we cannot ignore the courageous attitude of Marshal Moncey who, when asked to preside over the Council of War responsible for condemning the hero of the retreat from Russia, recused himself in a letter full of dignity, which attracted him the enmity of the ultras, the loss of his rank of marshal and three months of detention at the fortress of Ham. But, on the other hand, his noble attitude won him the respect of the Prussian officers in charge of his guard who gave him the nightmare until the end of his detention! In 1823, during the intervention in Spain, the king recalled Moncey and entrusted him with the command-in-chief of the 4th army corps destined to invade Catalonia.

Mouton-Duvernet, who had yet rallied Napoleon only when forced and forced, had not taken part in the Belgian campaign and had even calmed the soldiers who refused to take back the white cockade, was shot in Lyon, after being hidden in his house by the Vicomte de Meaux, royalist mayor of Montbrison. The Lyonnais ladies of good society greeted this triumph of the monarchy by going to dance at the scene of the torture and the gentlemen devoured a mutton liver previously stabbed. One would almost believe relating scenes of cannibalism!

Chartran was shot in Lille. Travot was sentenced to death on a staggering charge of showing moderation in the 1815 campaign in Vendée against the royalist troops; his lawyers were punished for defending him. However, the Breton bourgeois, who had their heads close to the round hat, became indignant and threatened to rise up if the sentence was carried out; this gave cause for reflection in high places and the old general saw his sentence commuted to twenty years in prison: he had time to sink into madness! General de Belle, disgraced under the Empire and recalled during the Hundred Days, after his offers of service had been rejected by the first Restoration, also saw his death sentence commuted to ten years in prison, on the intervention of the duke d'Angoulême, whom he had fought in 1815. General Gruyer, wounded in 1814, was condemned to death, but his sentence was commuted to ten years in prison.

General Boyer was also condemned to death for having defended Guadeloupe against the English, but he was not executed. General Bonnaire, a cripple, was condemned to degradation at the foot of the Vendôme column, for failing to prevent the murder by one of his spy soldiers; he died in prison and the impulsive soldier was taken to arms. Drouot, the sage of the Grande Armée, constituted himself a prisoner and, against the expectations of the ultras, the Council of War acquitted him because, having followed the Emperor to the island of Elba, he had could not betray the king and, on the contrary, had only obeyed his prince, whom, moreover, he did not approve of the enterprise to reconquer the throne; the king himself informed him that he would not appeal against this sentence. Cambronne, the man who replied so forcefully to Waterloo, was also acquitted, after the passionate plea of ​​the young royalist lawyer Berryer, to the great indignation of the ultras.

Marshal Davout, who had the boldness to defend his subordinates and oppose the indictment of Marshal Ney, was deprived of treatment, ruined and sentenced to forced residence at Louviers. Masséna was publicly insulted; he was accused of plunder, which was correct, and of treason, which was false; his marshal's staff was taken from him, but it was necessary to return it to him at the time of his funeral under the threat of seeing that of the Empire strewn with golden bees appear therein. Soult, who feared the worst, took refuge in the Grand Duchy of Berg in disguise. It would take several volumes to recount the escapes, moving or incredible, of officers and soldiers who often owed their service to the Imperial Hundred Days Army by chance.

Persecution of civilians and soldiers

Alongside the soldiers, civilians were also persecuted and condemned to death, including Lavalette, a former post minister who his wife escaped from prison by taking her place, with the help of English soldiers; she went mad about it. But this escape clearly showed that the majority of the French did not lean on the side of the ultras, so great were the number of those who rejoiced, including in the ranks of the nobility. The cleansing did not affect only the army and the upper social classes. In Sarthe, four people were condemned to death for having disarmed Chouans. In Montpellier, five National Guards were guillotined for having dispersed a royalist gathering. In Carcassonne, the surgeon Baux, the soldier Gardé and another person, victims of a sordid scheme, were beheaded; but their executioners, assigned by Gardé to the tribunal of God, did not survive them long: one died of illness and the other committed suicide.

At the end of 1815, there were nearly 3000 political prisoners in French jails. Nine thousand political sentences were pronounced by the assize courts, the war councils, the criminal courts and the provost courts. Finally, the purification struck thousands of people from the top of the social hierarchy to its base. To escape the executioner, many compromised French took refuge abroad, in Europe and America, where some fought in the ranks of the liberators of the Spanish colonies. This is how Marshal Grouchy, who had distinguished himself in the defeat of the Duke of Angoulême in 1815 and had so sorely missed in Waterloo, took refuge in the United States where was also Joseph Bonaparte, former king of Spain , as well as Generals Clausel, Vandamme, Lallemand, Lefebvre-Desnouettes, Rigau ... and 25,000 other French survivors of various proscriptions. Many other exiles, both civilian and military, dispersed across Europe, Belgium, England, Switzerland, Germany and the Austrian possessions. The great painter David thus died in exile, and Fouché too, among many others.

Louis XVIII, who did not approve of the excesses of the White Terror, was soon compelled to return the untraceable room which he considered more dangerous than useful in the Restoration. In 1816, the royal power decided to dissolve the associations which had formed, supposedly to defend it, which engaged in extortion to support their minions brought before the courts. One point must be underlined: the foreign armies which then occupied France, and were therefore responsible for its security, seem to have intervened only occasionally to maintain order and bring the excited to their senses, even if England s he worried about the fate reserved for the Protestants and whether officers of this nation would effectively contribute to removing Lavalette from the scaffold. How could royal power contain the passions when the only force capable of opposing them, the army, had been disbanded? It was obviously up to the Allied troops to make the transition, and they did not engage until too late and very insufficiently. But we must admit in their defense that few abuses were committed in the north and east where they were present in the aftermath of Waterloo.

The aftermath of the second white terror

In 1815, the disorganization of French society was such that it opened up a vast field of practice for pirates of all kinds. We will limit ourselves to giving just one example, but it was far from unique. A so-called Count of Saint Helena, a convicted prisoner at the head of a band of thieves, manages to break into the National Guard; invited to the best houses, he took the opportunity to prepare the exploits of his associates who looted them some time later!

Contrary to what the ultras hoped, the white terror in no way consolidated civil peace; on the contrary, it deepens still further the gulf between emigrated France and revolutionary France. In 1816, a thunderclap broke out in Grenoble: Didier's conspiracy, which was perhaps not unrelated to the severity shown by the courts against Mouton-Duvernet and Chabran executed that year.

Before Didier’s team, various incidents had punctuated the return of the white flag to Isère, a region which had become famous during the flight of the eagle; the villagers did not hesitate to confront the constabulary to protect their own. We do not really know for whom Didier was plotting; this former lawyer, law professor, ephemeral member of the Council of State, bankrupt industrialist, had successively joined all the causes before fighting them. He only uttered Napoleon's name with lip service and to convince half-sales; on soupçonna Fouché de l’avoir manipulé pour le compte du duc d’Orléans. Quoi qu’il en soit, il tissa avec fougue son réseau autour de Grenoble au début de 1816 et parvint même à convaincre les douaniers d’y participer.

Début mai 1816, les comploteurs profitèrent du départ de l’armée de Grenoble, pour faire la haie sur le passage de Marie-Caroline de Naples qui venait épouser son cousin le duc de Berry, fils du comte d’Artois, pour déclencher le mouvement au nom de Napoléon II, supposé être en chemin, appuyé par les puissances de l’Europe, à l’exception de l’Angleterre accusée de dominer la France après avoir déporté Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène. Mais les atermoiements de Didier, ses hésitations à se prononcer clairement pour l’Empereur, avaient jeté le trouble parmi ses affidés : les douaniers et d’autres aussi firent défection. Mal conduite, la prise d’armes ne fut qu’une échauffourée qui fit six victimes dans les rangs des insurgés et aucune dans ceux des forces de l’ordre.

Le général Donnadieu, un mauvais sujet, ancien des colonnes infernales de Turreau en Vendée, converti au royalisme intransigeant, gonfla l’affaire pour se faire mousser. La Cour prévôtale condamna trois prisonniers à mort et proposa l’un des trois à la clémence du roi ; ce verdict clément fut dû à l’influence du prévôt, un royaliste philosophe, Planta, et du procureur du roi Mallein qui, jugés trop timorés, furent menacés de révocation. Donnadieu et le préfet Montlivault, qui se détestaient, surenchérissaient pour se faire bien voir affolant le gouvernement par des informations toutes plus exagérées les unes que les autres. Le département de l’Isère fut mis en état de siège et une punition exemplaire des mutins fut exigée. Fort des ordres venus de la capitale, Donnadieu dessaisit la Cour prévôtale et nomma des Commissions militaires, parfaitement contraires à la Charte, chargées de châtier de manière expéditive les rebelles. Les accusés furent jugés en bloc et la parole pratiquement retirée à la défense. Sur les trente accusés de la première fournée, seize furent condamnés à mort et quatorze furent fusillés ; Donnadieu prit sur lui d’en gracier deux à la demande d’une notabilité ! Quelques jours plus tard, sept autres personnes furent passées par les armes, le gouvernement ayant refusé la grâce, sans la soumettre au roi, malgré les interventions du duc de Richelieu ! Quelques jours plus tard, une autre personne fut guillotinée.

Grenoble, que la terreur révolutionnaire avait épargnée, était plongée dans la stupeur. Comme Didier courait toujours on menaça ceux qui l’hébergeraient de représailles et de destruction de leur maison ; la région tout entière fut soumise à un régime militaire ; on fusilla à vue les suspects sortant de chez eux pour satisfaire un besoin pressant ; on tira comme un pigeon un bonhomme réfugié sur son toit, lequel mourut tandis qu’on le transportait en charrette devant le juge ; on pilla les caves des suspects et on déroba leur argent ; on promit la sauvegarde à un militaire qui n’avait pas participé au mouvement afin qu’il se livrât et qu’on pût le déporter plus facilement... L’épilogue de cette affaire, rocambolesque autant que tragique, se déroula le 10 juin lorsque Didier, trahi par la famille de deux de ses compagnons à qui l’on promit la vie sauve, gravit les marches de l’échafaud en face de la maison de son gendre. Ce fut la dernière exécution ; il n’y eut plus après que des condamnations à des peines de prison. Accablés par le sort autant que par le mépris public, ceux qui avaient livré Didier ne profitèrent pas de leur trahison et périrent misérablement ; quant à Donnadieu, compromis dans la conspiration de Lyon en 1817, rappelé à Paris, il versa si complètement dans l’outrance ultra que cela finit par lui valoir la prison.

Les provocations de Canuel à Lyon

En 1817, le général Canuel, gouverneur de la région militaire de Lyon, dont la carrière rappelait celle de Donnadieu, jaloux de la notoriété acquise par ce dernier lors des événements de Grenoble, profita du mécontentement qui régnait parmi la population pauvre du fait d’une disette pour fomenter en sous-main un soulèvement bonapartiste, afin de pouvoir manifester son zèle pour le roi. Le 8 juin, au son du tocsin, la population de quelques villages, travaillée par les émissaires du général, s’insurgea au nom de Napoléon II. Deux cents personnes furent arrêtées à Lyon et trois cents dans les bourgades environnantes ; cent dix huit furent traduites devant les Cours prévôtales ; soixante dix-neuf furent condamnées dont vingt trois à mort ; onze furent exécutées. Les demi-soldes durent apporter la preuve de leur innocence. Canuel plastronnait ; pas pour longtemps. Le général Fabvier, un libéral, aide de camp du maréchal Marmont, et le lieutenant de police Sainneville, chargés de faire la lumière sur cette affaire, dénoncèrent vigoureusement la supercherie. Le préfet Chabrol fut déplacé tandis que les survivants étaient discrètement élargis et que Canuel était astucieusement écarté par une nomination comme inspecteur général de l’infanterie tout en étant gratifié d’un titre de baron. Néanmoins furieux, l’irascible général, qui avait fait ses premières armes en Vendée dans les rangs républicains avant de retourner sa veste, rédigea un libelle contre Favier et Sainneville ; ceux-ci répondirent avec non moins de vigueur. Cette agitation épistolaire faisait l’affaire de Decazes et du roi qui n’étaient pas mécontents de laisser à d’autres le soin de démasquer les ultras auprès de l’opinion publique sans compromettre le gouvernement.

Bien d’autres conspirations visant soit à entretenir l’agitation ultra soit à renverser la branche aînée des Bourbons se succédèrent ; derrière les secondes se profila souvent l’ombre de Lafayette. Un exposé exhaustif de ces tentatives déborderait du cadre de cet article. Les trois glorieuses de 1830 condamnèrent enfin à un nouvel exil celui qui fut le véritable chef des ultras, le roi Charles X. A l’issue de ce survol des terreurs blanches, une question vient naturellement à l’esprit : la monarchie parlementaire aurait-elle pu s’installer durablement en France si la Restauration s’était montrée plus clémente ? Il est évidemment impossible de répondre à cette question d’ailleurs largement vaine. On se bornera à formuler la remarque suivante : il est infiniment plus facile d’entrer dans une période de troubles sanglants que d’en sortir. 1830 prouva, une fois de plus, que l’on ne crée pas impunément des martyrs.

Poète, Passionné d'histoire et grand voyageur, Jean Dif a rédigé des ouvrages historiques et des récits de voyage.(voir son site).


- 1815 La terreur blanche, de Pierre Triomphe. Privat, 2017.

- La terreur blanche : l'epuration de 1815, de René de La Croix de Castries. Perrin, 1981.

- Les Suites Du Neuf Thermidor; Terreurs Blanches, 1795-1815, de Marc Bonnefoy. Wenworth, 2016.

Video: Napoleons Marshals Part 3


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