Nicolas Soult

Marshal  Nicolas SoultFrench Marshal
Duc de Dalmatie

More than 20 years after the Napoleonic Wars had ended Marshal Nicolas Soult was representing France at the coronation of Queen Victoria when he was grabbed by the arm by none other than the Duke of Wellington.

The conqueror of Napoleon Bonaparte is reported to have said: "I have you at last."

The comment refers to one of the final campaigns of the Peninsular War where Wellington was forced to chase Soult's army through the Pyrenees as the Frenchman led him a merry dance.

Such was the respect that one of the greatest commanders of all time had for the son of a baker.

Soult had joined the French army at 16 and his abilities saw him an officer within six years.

He fought at Fleurus, received a promotion to general of brigade in 1794, and then was stationed on the Rhine. In 1799 he took part at Stockach, became general of division and fought at Zurich.

Becoming a marshal in 1804, Soult was given the honour of taking the vital Pratzen Heights at Austerlitz and won huge praise from Bonaparte for his tactical abilities.

He fought well at Jena, Eylau, Heilsberg and was rewarded by becoming the Duke of Dalmatia.

Known for his greed, Soult enjoyed his titles and the accompanying wealth.

In 1808, Soult went to Spain and chased Sir John Moore to Corunna where, although beaten, he put up a monument to his fallen foe and won great respect from the British for doing so.

Being surprised by Wellington at Oporto lessened his standing, although he followed that by beating the Spanish at Ocana.

In 1811, Soult found himself up against Marshal Beresford at Albuera and was stunned to lose that bloody battle. In awe of British courage, he said later he had beaten the redcoats, it was just that they did not know when they were beaten.

During the 1813 Campaign, Soult fought at Bautzen but was rushed back to Spain to recover the situation after the debacle of Vitoria.

His leadership proved outstanding and, in the face of great odds and a supremely confident British army, managed to stay the inevitable for almost a year.

Joining with Bonaparte for the 100 Days' Campaign he became the emperor's chief of staff and did not perform as well as perhaps he could have.

In later years, Soult was used in many senior government position, including Minister of War, and became one of only a few honoured with the title Marshal-General of France.


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