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Charles Joseph, comte de Flahaut

Charles Joseph, comte de Flahaut

French diplomat
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro French diplomat
Countries France
Occupations Diplomat Politician Officer
Gender male
Birth April 21, 1785 (Paris)
Death September 2, 1870 (Paris)
Mother: Adelaide FilleulMarquise de Souza-Botelho
Father: Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
Spouse: Margaret Mercer Elphinstone
Children: Charles de MornyDuke of MornyEmily Petty-FitzmauriceMarchioness of Lansdowne
The details

Auguste-Charles-Joseph de Flahaut de La Billarderie, comte de Flahaut (21 April 1785 – 1 September 1870) was a French general and statesman.
Charles de Flahaut was the lover of Napoleon I's stepdaughter, Hortense de Beauharnais (Queen of Holland), by whom he had an illegitimate son, Charles Demorny who later became Duke of Morny.


He was born in Paris, officially the son of Marshal Alexandre-Sébastien, comte de Flahaut (2nd son of Charles-César, marquis de La Billarderie) who was guillotined at Arras in February 1793, by his wife Adélaïde Filleul, However, Charles de Flahaut was generally recognized to be the offspring of his mother's liaison with Talleyrand, with whom he was closely connected throughout his life. His mother took him with her into exile in 1792, and they remained abroad until 1798, moving from England to Switzerland (where she is rumoured to have "become involved" with Louis-Philippe, then Duke of Orleans), before Hamburg where she met her second husband, Ambassador Dom José Maria do Carmo de Sousa Botelho Mourão e Vasconcelos, 5.º Morgado de Mateus.

Charles de Flahaut volunteered for military service joining the cavalry in 1800, and received his army commission after the Battle of Marengo. He was appointed Aide-de-Camp to Joachim, 1st Prince Murat, and was wounded at the Battle of Landbach in 1805.

At Warsaw he met Anne Poniatowska, Countess Potocka with whom he quickly became intimate. After the Battle of Friedland he was awarded the Legion of Honour and returned to Paris in 1807. He served in Spain in 1808, and then in Germany.

S.E. le comte de Flahaut when French Imperial Ambassador to London

Meanwhile, the Countess Potocka had established herself in Paris, but Flahaut had by this time entered into a relationship with Queen Hortense of Holland; the birth of their son was registered in Paris on 21 October 1811 as Charles-Auguste-Louis-Joseph Demorny, later created Duc de Morny.

Flahaut fought with distinction in the Russian Campaign of 1812 and, in 1813, was appointed Brigadier-General and AdC to Emperor Napoleon being promoted, after the Battle of Leipzig, as a Général de division.

After Napoleon's abdication in 1814 he submitted to the new French government, but was placed on the retired list in September. Flahaut was assiduous in his attendance on Queen Hortense until the Hundred Days brought him back into active service.

A mission to Vienna to secure the return of Empress Marie-Louise resulted in failure. He was present at Waterloo, and afterwards sought to place Napoleon II on the throne.

He was spared exile due to an intervention by Talleyrand, but was placed under police surveillance. Flahaut then chose to leave for Germany, and thence to Britain, where he married in Edinburgh on 20 June 1817 The Hon. Margaret Mercer Elphinstone (1788–1867), daughter of Admiral George, Viscount Keith GCB; she succeeded, in her own right, as 2nd Baroness Keith in 1823 and de jure 7th Lady Nairne in 1837. They had five daughters:

  • Emily Jane de Flahaut (16 May 1819 – 25 June 1895), married on 1 November 1843 to Henry, 4th Marquess of Lansdowne KG.
  • Clémentine de Flahaut (29 April 1821 – 5 January 1836), died young.
  • Georgiana Gabrielle de Flahaut (1822 – 16 July 1907), married on 2 February 1871 to Jean Charles Marie Félix, Marquis of La Valette.
  • Adélaïde Joséphine Elisabeth de Flahaut (1824 – 3 April 1841), died young.
  • Sarah Sophie Louise de Flahaut (1825 – 10 June 1853), died unmarried.

Since the then French Ambassador opposed the marriage, Flahaut offered to resign his commission.

The Flahauts returned to France in 1827 and, in 1830, King Louis-Philippe promoted the Count to the rank of Lieutenant-General as well as creating him a Peer of France. He remained a staunch supporter of Talleyrand's policies, and in 1831 served briefly as French Ambassador to Berlin.

Comte Charles de Flahaut's arms

Subsequently he was attached to the household of the Duke of Orléans and, in 1841, was posted as Ambassador to Vienna, where he remained until 1848, when he was dismissed and retired from army service. After the Coup d'état of 1851, his services were re-engaged, and from 1860 to 1862 he served as French Ambassador to the Court of St James's.

In the opinion of the author of a biography on Flahaut in Encyclopædia Britannica (eleventh edition):

"The comte de Flahaut is perhaps better remembered for his exploits in gallantry, and the elegant manners in which he had been carefully trained by his mother, than for his public services, which were not, however, so inconsiderable as they have sometimes been represented to be".

Flahaut died in Paris on 1 September 1870.


  • Biret comte.png Comte de l'Empire
  • Legion Honneur GC ribbon.svg Grand-Croix, Légion d'honneur

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