1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Flahaut de la Billarderie, Auguste Charles Joseph, Comte de

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 10
Flahaut de la Billarderie, Auguste Charles Joseph, Comte de

FLAHAUT DE LA BILLARDERIE, AUGUSTE CHARLES JOSEPH, Comte de (1785–1870), French general and statesman, son of Alexandre Sébastien de Flahaut de la Billarderie, comte de Flahaut, beheaded at Arras in February 1793, and his wife Adélaide Filleul, afterwards Mme de Souza (q.v.), was born in Paris on the 21st of April 1785. Charles de Flahaut was generally recognized to be the offspring of his mother’s liaison with Talleyrand, with whom he was closely connected throughout his life. His mother took him with her into exile in 1792, and they remained abroad until 1798. He entered the army as a volunteer in 1800, and received his commission after the battle of Marengo. He became aide-de-camp to Murat, and was wounded at the battle of Landbach in 1805. At Warsaw he met Anne Poniatowski, Countess Potocka, with whom he rapidly became intimate. After the battle of Friedland he received the Legion of Honour, and returned to Paris in 1807. He served in Spain in 1808, and then in Germany. Meanwhile the Countess Potocka had established herself in Paris, but Charles de Flahaut had by this time entered on his liaison with Hortense de Beauharnais, queen of Holland. The birth of their son was registered in Paris on the 21st of October 1811 as Charles Auguste Louis Joseph Demorny, known later as the duc de Morny. Flahaut fought with distinction in the Russian campaign of 1812, and in 1813 became general of brigade, aide-de-camp to the emperor, and, after the battle of Leipzig, general of division. After Napoleon’s abdication in 1814 he submitted to the new government, but was placed on the retired list in September. He was assiduous in his attendance on Queen Hortense until the Hundred Days brought him into active service again. A mission to Vienna to secure the return of Marie Louise resulted in failure. He was present at Waterloo, and afterwards sought to place Napoleon II. on the throne. He was saved from exile by Talleyrand’s influence, but was placed under police surveillance. Presently he elected to retire to Germany, and thence to England, where he married Margaret, daughter of Admiral George Keith Elphinstone, Lord Keith, and after the latter’s death Baroness Keith in her own right. The French ambassador opposed the marriage, and Flahaut resigned his commission. His eldest daughter, Emily Jane, married Henry, 4th marquess of Lansdowne. The Flahauts returned to France in 1827, and in 1830 Louis Philippe gave the count the grade of lieutenant-general and made him a peer of France. He remained intimately associated with Talleyrand’s policy, and was, for a short time in 1831, ambassador at Berlin. He was afterwards attached to the household of the duke of Orleans, and in 1841 was sent as ambassador to Vienna, where he remained until 1848, when he was dismissed and retired from the army. After the coup d’état of 1851 he was again actively employed, and from 1860 to 1862 was ambassador at the court of St James’s. He died on the 1st of September 1870. The comte de Flahaut is perhaps better remembered for his exploits in gallantry, and the elegant manners in which he had been carefully trained by his mother, than for his public services, which were not, however, so inconsiderable as they have sometimes been represented to be.

See A. de Haricourt, Madame de Souza et sa famille (1907).