The Emperor Gives Promotions

From Captain Coignet’s memoirs we have the story of how Napoleon promoted him to Lieutenant.  Coignet was in the Imperial Guard Grenadiers, Napoleon’s body guards.  The chasseurs of the guard had been sent ahead.  “On the 13th of July, he issued an order for twenty-two non-commissioned officers to be sent to him, for promotion to lieutenancies in the line.  As the chasseurs had all gone off, all the promotions fell to us.  We had to be on the square at two o’clock to be presented to the Emperor.  At noon I was passing by with my package of letters, for distribution, under my arm; Major Belcourt grasped my arm, and, pressing it heartily, said, ‘My man, you will be a lieutenant of the line before today is over.'”

“Thank you, but I do not wish to return to the line.”

“I tell you, you will wear a lieutenant’s epaulets today; and I give you my word that if the Emperor puts you into the line, I will manage to have you returned to the guard.  So not a word; be on the square at two o’clock, without fail.”

“At two o’clock the Emperor came to review us; all twenty-two of us were there, standing in line.  Beginning at the right-hand man, and looking every one of those fine-looking non-commissioned officers all over from head to foot, he said to General Dorsenne, ‘These will make fine regimental officers.'”

“When he came to me, he saw that I was the smallest of them all, and the major said to him, ‘This is our instructor; he does not wish to go into the line.'”

“‘What!  you do not wish to go into the line?'”

“‘No, sire; I wish to remain in your guard.'”

“‘Very well, I will appoint you to my minor staff.'”  Then, turning to his chief of staff, Count Monthyon, he said, ‘Take this little ‘grouser,’ and let him be attached to the minor general staff.’  How glad I was to remain near the Emperor!  I did not suspect that I was leaving paradise for hell; but I later found that it was so.”

 

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2 responses to “The Emperor Gives Promotions

  1. Another great post Scott. Coignet and Marbot have some great anecdotes, don’t they?
    James

    • I was struck by how arbitrary it all seemed. “As the chasseurs had all gone off, all the promotions fell to us.” Sometimes it just comes down to being in the right place at the right time.

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