Grouchy, from Versailles to Waterloo. (C. Legros)

Grouchy, from Versailles to Waterloo. (C. Legros)

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« The life ofEmmanuel de Grouchy is worthy of a Balzac novel. Golden youth at the court of Versailles, twenty-five years of campaigning and glory across Europe, expiated by thirty-seven years of solitude and exclusion. His life changed after Waterloo »... In this year of the bicentenary of the disastrous battle, all eyes are on the man whom everyone, and in the first place Napoleon himself, accused of being responsible for this ultimate defeat! Christian Legros devotes a biography to this key figure of the First Empire which should quickly become a reference.


Christian Legros, general officer, patented Saint-Cyr of the War School, with a literary, legal and historical training, is a fan of the First Empire. This book is his first for the period. Himself from the cavalry, he seeks to do justice to Emmanuel de Grouchy on whom the Emperor had cast shame on Saint Helena.

Rehabilitate Grouchy?

For Christian Legros, one thing is clear: Emmanuel de Grouchy was the scapegoat for the defeat at Waterloo. Ridiculed by many of those who have written about the battle (Napoleon, Gourgaud, Thiers ...), Grouchy was presented as the one who ate strawberries while on Mont-Saint-Jean the swansong sounded for the heroes of the imperial epic. Believed to be responsible for the defeat and failure of Napoleon's return, much has been written about the inexperience and even the incompetence of this late-breaking marshal who did not "walk the cannon". This fatal role in the last battle would have determined all the historiography on the character, all his military career being judged a posteriori through this prism as if to justify the final failure.

Christian Gros therefore strives to return in a more calm manner to this career, to this noble, former of the King's bodyguards, who became general during the Revolution, this man who participated in the campaigns of the Revolution (Vendée, Holland, Germany, Italy!) Of the Empire and actively participates in victories like Eylau, Wagram or La Moskowa! A man to whom Napoleon himself entrusted the Sacred Squadron during the retreat from Russia, a man who actively participated in the campaign in France and was wounded at Craonne. A man in whom Napoleon on his return from Elba saw his 26th marshal and whom he charged with destroying the Prussians while he himself rubbed shoulders with the English. If he does not manage de facto to prevent the link between Blücher and Wellington, Marshal Grouchy distinguished himself during this campaign by winning the Battle of Wavre and by bringing his army corps safely back to France.

And what about his role at Waterloo? How to reproach him for having obeyed the orders of the Emperor? Was it materially possible to reach the battlefield in time?

In more than 600 pages, supported by an abundant bibliography, the author unraveled the black legend of the one rejected by Napoleon and monarchists to do justice to this Marshal on whom many discharged their responsibilities and their bitterness.

LEGROS Christian, Grouchy. From Versailles to Waterloo, Éditions de la Bisquine, Paris, 2015.

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