Auguste Michel Marie Étienne Régnault (or Régnaud) de St-Jean d’Angely, was born in Paris on July 30, 1794. His birth certificate states that he was the “son of Marie-Louise-Augustine Chenié, artist, and Michel-Louis-Etienne Desrichards, an officer of the Northern Army”. In fact, his father was Michel-Louis-Etienne Regnaud (1760-1819). Desrichards was the name of an area / property that belonged to the family on his father’s mother. His mother died shortly after his birth, and Auguste Régnault was adopted by his father’s new wife, Laure Regnaud de Saint-Jean d’Angély, in 1795.
His father was a lawyer as well as a Member of the Parliament for the area of Saint-Jean d’Angély. He held many important positions and had a significant influence on Napoleon, who greatly valued and respected his opinion. He was, among other things, a State Counselor, a member of the Paris Academy, General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the Imperial Family (1807), while he also received the title of nobility of the Earl (Count).
Auguste Regnaud, was admitted to the prestigious Prytaneum of St Cyr (Military School), and then began his studies at the Saint-Germain Cavalry School, from which he graduated in 1812 with the rank of lieutenant. The following year he served in the 8th Hussar Regiment, and took part in the campaign in Russia and then in Saxony, where he fought in the Battle of Leipzig. On October 10, 1813, he was promoted to the aid of Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Corbineau, who was in turn the aid of Napoleon. Auguste Regnaud took part in the Campaign in France in 1814 and distinguished in the battle of Reims. He then served with the 1st Regiment of Hussar from the summer of 1814 until the spring of 1815. He then returned to the service of Napoleon, was promoted to captain, and was appointed officer of Napoleon’s headquarters. He fought at Waterloo and, on June 21, 1815, he was promoted to a Major by Napoleon himself on the battlefield, who recognized his bravery. This grade was deducted from him during the Restoration. Finally, he returned to his homeland after Napoleon’s second resignation, with the rank of lieutenant. He then traveled to the United States to accompany his father, who had been exiled for defending Napoleon. Once in the USA, he was arrested on August 28, 1815, for entering a foreign country without permission. Auguste Regnaud returned to France in 1816. He remained there for several years, expelled from the army, and followed a non-military life.
From the early 1820s, he was enthusiastic about the Greek Revolution, and supported the philhellenic initiatives in France, along with many other personalities of the time. In 1825 he decided to go to Greece and fight as a Philhellene volunteer on the side of the Greek revolutionaries. In Greece, he joined Colonel Fabvier’s Regular Corps, who had just taken over as commander. Auguste Regnaud undertook the formation from scratch, and the organization of a cavalry corps. In fact, he managed to train it according to the most advanced European standards. It is worth noting that he had brought with him all the necessary means for the organization of the Cavalry in Greece, which were an offer of the philhellenic committees of France. He also used these funds to purchase horses from the market. He himself refused to receive a salary from the Greek government, and even used personal money to support the work of his unit and his soldiers.
Around the end of October 1825, following an order from the Provisional Government, Fabvier went to Spetses on a mission with the Regular Corps. During this time, Captain Regnaud took over as Deputy Commander of the Army.
The cavalry corps, inspired by his example, soon excelled and received recognition under his command, especially during the campaign in Karystos. According to Henri Fornèsy, Auguste Regnaud enjoyed the undivided respect and esteem of his soldiers. During the campaign in Karystos, a small number of his men from the vanguard were killed and Auguste Regnaud just escaped death after being chased by three Turks. Then the remainder of the cavalry unit, being enraged at the loss of their comrades, pursued the enemy without waiting for an order from their leader. Auguste Regnaud, seeing that his corps was in danger, rushed across the lines of the Turkish cavalry and entered the battle to encourage his soldiers. However, the Greek Cavalry corps was small in number, it did not exceed one hundred men. Auguste Regnaud ordered a retreat which was executed by the Corps with “maximum bravery and prudence”, according to the historian Vyzantios. In this battle the Cavalry Corps lost about 20 men, as well as its famous flag, which had been embroidered by young Philhellene women in Paris and handed over to him, before his departure from France. Auguste Regnaud deeply regretted for the evolution of the campaign in Karystos, and a little later, he submitted his resignation, and left for his homeland. One of his officers, the great Portuguese Philhellene, Colonel Almeida, took his place.
However, his interest in the struggle of the Greeks did not stop. So Auguste Regnaud returned to Greece in 1828, as a volunteer in General Maison’s Army Corps, where he served as secretary-interpreter. The following year, Maison was promoted to General of France (Marshal). During this time, thanks to his persistent efforts, Auguste Regnaud rejoined the French army. After the revolution of 1830 in France, he was promoted to captain. On September 11, 1830, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and then participated in the Belgian campaign from 1831 to 1833. On October 23, 1832, he was promoted to colonel and placed in the 1st Regiment of the Lancers, where he remained until 1841. Then, in December 18, 1841, he was promoted to Brigadier General and, in 1842, he commanded the 1st Corps of the Operations in Marne, and then the Meurthe Division. He held this position until 1844, when he became head of the cavalry brigade in the Moselle Corps of Operations. Between 1845 and 1848, he commanded the Versailles Cavalry Brigade and distinguished himself during the 1848 revolution for the stable and disciplined role of his Corps. He was later appointed commander of the Indre-et-Loire region, and of the 1st Light Cavalry Brigade of the Alpine Army. On July 10, 1848, he was promoted to Lieutenant General and took over the temporary command of the entire cavalry division in the Alpine Army. On November 26, 1848, he was elected Member of Parliament for the Charente-Inférieure region. On April 15, 1849, he was put in charge of the ground forces in the expeditionary force sent to the Mediterranean to restore papal power in Rome. On May 13, he was elected a representative of the Assembly for the same area. Between 1849 and 1855, he carried out a number of inspections. In 1850 he joined the Municipal Council of the Charente-Inférieure, where he remained for twenty years, as chairman of several councils.
In early 1851 (January 9-24), he served as Minister of War for a few weeks. On December 26, 1851, he served on the cavalry’s advisory committee, where he remained until 1853, when he became president for a year. On January 26, 1852, he was elected Member of Parliament. From 1862 to 1870 he was one of its vice presidents. In 1854, he commanded for a while the Imperial Guard, which took part in the Crimean War, and in 1855, he commanded the Reserve Corps in the East. Upon his return to France in 1856, he was appointed commander of the Imperial Guard in Paris, a position that he held until 1869, when he resigned for health reasons. In 1859 he played an important role in the war in Italy and was distinguished for his bravery as head of the Imperial Guard in the victory at Magnenta. The French monarch honored him for his achievements by issuing a decree on June 5, 1859, nominating him Marshal. On November 20, 1864, he inherited the title of Earl (Count) from his father by imperial decree. A title he later bequeathed to his adopted daughter’s husband, along with his last name.
Auguste Regnaud was awarded the Order of the Officer of the Legion of Honor (of which he had been a knight since 1813) in May 1831, the Order of the Senior Officer on January 12, 1849, and the Grand Cross on December 28, 1849. He also received the medal of St. Andrew’s Order, the medal of St. Helen, the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in Great Britain, the Pontifical Order of Pope Pius IX. Greece honored him with the medal of the Order of the Redeemer on September 27, 1835. He died in Cannes on February 1, 1870, and was buried at public expense. His body is in the Invalides mausoleum.
Auguste Regnaud was another important personality who passed through Greece and contributed to the struggle for its independence.
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