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Charles Auguste Louis Joseph, duc de Morny

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Charles Auguste Louis Joseph Demorny/de Morny, 1st Duc de Morny

Charles Auguste Louis Joseph Demorny/de Morny, 1st Duc de Morny (15-16 September 1811 in Switzerland – 10 March 1865 in Paris) was a French statesman. He was the natural son of Hortense de Beauharnais (wife of Louis Bonaparte, and queen of Holland) and Charles Joseph, comte de Flahaut, and therefore half-brother of Emperor Napoleon III.

Contents

Biography

He was born in Switzerland,[1] and his birth was duly registered in a misleading certificate which made him the legitimate son of Auguste Jean Hyacinthe Demorny, born in Paris on 23 October 1811[2], and described as a landowner of St. Domingo. M. Demorny was in fact an officer in the Prussian army and a native of St. Domingo, though he owned no land there or elsewhere.

After a brilliant school and college career the future Duc de Morny received a commission in the army, and the next year he entered the staff college. The comte de Morny, as he was called by a polite fiction, served in Algeria in 1834–1835 as aide-de-camp to General Camille Alphonse Trezel, whose life he saved under the walls of Constantine.

When he returned to Paris in 1838, he secured a solid position in the business world by establishing of a major beet-sugar industry at Clermont in the Auvergne and by writing a pamphlet Sur la question des sucres in 1838. In these and other lucrative speculations he was helped by his mistress Françoise Mosselman, the beautiful and wealthy wife of the Belgian ambassador, Charles Aimé Joseph Le Hon, Comte Le Hon. Eventually there were few great commercial enterprises in Paris in which he did not have an interest. He and Mme. Mosselman had one daughter, Louise Le Hon (15 July 1838 – 9 February 1931), who married in Paris on 11 June 1856 Stanislaus August Friedrich Joseph Telemach Luci, later Poniatowski. One of their descendants is Mexican journalist, Elena Poniatowska.

Although he sat as deputy for Clermont-Ferrand from 1842 onwards, he took at first no important part in party politics, but he was heard with respect on industrial and financial questions. He supported the government of Louis Philippe, because revolution threatened his commercial interests, but before the Revolutions of 1848, by which he was temporarily ruined, he considered converting to the legitimist cause represented by the Comte de Chambord. His attitude was expressed by the witticis with which he is said to have replied to a lady who asked what he would do if the Chamber were "swept out." "Range myself on the side of the broom handle," was his answer. Presently he was admitted to the intimate circle of his half-brother Louis Napoleon, and he helped to engineer the coup d'état of 2 December 1851 on the morrow of which he was appointed to head the ministry of the interior.

After six months in office, during which he showed his political opponents moderation and tact, he resigned his portfolio, ostensibly because he disapproved of the confiscation of the Orleans property but really because Napoleon, influenced by Morny's rivals, resented his claim to a foremost place in the government as a member of the Bonaparte family. He then resumed his financial speculations. When in 1854 the Emperor appointed him president of the Corps Législatif, a position which he filled for the rest of his life, he used his official rank to assist his schemes.

In 1856, he was sent as special envoy to the coronation of Alexander II of Russia and brought home a wife, whom he married at St. Petersburg on 7 January 1857, Princess Sofia Sergeyevna Trubetskaya (Moscow, 25 March 1836 – 8 August 1896), the only daughter of Prince Sergey Vasilyevich Trubetskoy (1814 - 12 May (30 April Old Style), 1859) and his wife Ekaterina Petrovna Mussina-Pushkina (1 February 1816 - c. 1897). His wife's connections greatly strengthened his social position. Sophie was legally daughter of Prince Sergey Vasilyevich Trubetskoy, but may have been the illegitimate daughter of Nicholas I of Russia. In 1862, Morny was created a Duke. It is said that he aspired to the throne of Mexico, and that the French expedition sent to place Archduke Maximilian on the throne was prompted by Napoleon III's desire to thwart this ambition.

In any case, in spite of occasional disagreements, Morny's influence with the emperor remained great, and the liberal policies which he advocated enabled him to serve the imperial cause through his influence with the leaders of the opposition, the most conspicuous of whom, Émile Ollivier, was detached from his colleagues by his efforts. But while he was laying the foundations of the "Liberal Empire" his health deteriorated and was further injured by quack medicines. The emperor and the empress visited him just before his death in Paris on the 10 March 1865.

Morny's valuable collection of pictures was sold after his death. In spite of his undoubted wit and social gifts, Morny failed to secure the distinction he desired as a dramatist, and none of his pieces which appeared under the pseudonym of M. de St Rémy, including Sur la grande route, M. Choufleuri restera chez lui le . . ., and the Les finesses du mari, among others, met with success on the stage.

Thoroughbred horse racing

Morny played an important role in the development of the thoroughbred horse racing and breeding industry in France. In 1860 he purchased the English Triple Crown champion West Australian and brought him to France for breeding purposes. In 1862 Morny built the Deauville-La Touques Race Course near Deauville. The Prix Morny is named in his honor.

Children by marriage

  • Marie Eugenie de Morny (1857–1883, married in Madrid, 1877 as his first wife José Ramón Gil Francisco de Borja Nicolás Osório y de Heredia, 9. Conde de La Corzana (Madrid, 21 August 1854 – Madrid, 1919), and had:
    • José Osorio y de Morny, 10. Conde de La Corzana (Madrid, 1878 - Madrid, 1919), married in Madrid, 1902 María de la Purificación Dorticos-Marín y León, ?. Marquesa de Marín (1878–1928), without issue
  • Auguste Charles Louis Valentin de Morny, 2nd Duc de Morny (1859–1920), married in Paris, 1886 Carlota de Guzmán-Blanco y de Ybarra (Caracas, 1869 - Courbevoie, 1939), and had:
    • Auguste de Morny, 3rd Duc de Morny (1889–1935), unmarried and without issue
    • Antoine de Morny, 4th Duc de Morny (1896–1943), unmarried and without issue
    • Anna Teresa de Morny (1890–1924), unmarried and without issue
  • Serge de Morny (1861–1922), unmarried and without issue
  • Sophie Mathilde (Missy) de Morny (1863–1944), married in Madrid, 1881 and divorced in 1903 Jacques Godart Marquis de Belbeuf (1850–1906). She created a scandal at the turn of the 20th century by her lesbian affair with the French novelist Colette who had taken up work in the music halls of Paris in 1906 under her wing, and with whom she became romantically involved. In 1907, the two performed together in a pantomime entitled Rêve d'Égypte at the Moulin Rouge. Their onstage kiss nearly caused a riot, which the police were called in to suppress. As a result of this scandal, further performances of Rêve d'Égypte were banned and Colette and de Morny were no longer able to openly live together, though their relationship continued a total of five years.[3]

Ancestors

Notes

  1. Mossiker, 361–2
  2. See obituary notice: "Nécrologie". Le Guide Musical (Schott). Thursday, 16 March 1865. http://books.google.com/books?id=LeM8AAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover#PPT47,M1. Retrieved May 8, 2009. 
  3. Benstock, 48–9


Sources

  • Shari Benstock, Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900–1940 (University of Texas Press, 1986), ISBN 0-292-79040-6
  • Frances Mossiker, Napoleon and Josephine: The Biography of a Marriage (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1964)
  • Roger L. Williams, Gaslight and Shadow: The World of Napoleon III (NY: Macmillan, 1957), ch. II: "The Duc de Mornay and the Genesis of Parliamentarianism"

References



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