Louis Alexander Berthier

Marshal Louis BerthierFrench Marshal
Prince de Neuchatel & Wagram

It is doubtful that without Louis Berthier the French command system under Napoleon Bonaparte would have functioned to the degree of excellence it did.

Berthier's brilliance lay in his ability to translate the many orders of the emperor into easily understood messages to subordinates.

Berthier began his military career in 1766 in the engineers and his first major posting was to America in 1781.

During the French Revolution, Berthier sheltered the Royal Family from extremists and this led to his dismissal in 1792.

Three years later he returned to the military in Italy and became a general of division.

His next move, to the Army of the Alps, brought him his first meeting with Bonaparte, with whom he served in a senior staff role in Italy and Egypt campaigns.

While he was without peer as an organiser and administrator, Berthier's military talents were poor and when left in command of the army on the Danube found himself in trouble against a rapid attack from Archduke Charles.

While no supreme strategist he was brave and when Bonaparte left the French forces during the retreat from Moscow, Berthier stayed behind to help both Marshal Joachim Murat and then Eugene Beauharnais.

Wounded at Brienne, Berthier realised the need to remove Bonaparte from power and supported both the new government and the Bourbons upon their return to power.

When Bonaparte returned from exile Berthier refused to join with him.

It is unsure why, but he fell to his death from a window at Bamberg.

Conjecture is that he was either murdered, or was deeply upset by his own decision not to join the emperor and threw himself out.


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