The Duke of Montebello:
Updated: Aug 13, 2021
The General who led Napoleon
over the Alps.
Jean Lannes (1769-1809) 1st Duke Montebello was one of Napoleon's three most trusted Marshals. He led the advance guard during the crossing of the Alps into Italy and won an important victory at Montebello (9th June 1800) for which Napoleon made him a Duke. After his untimely death in battle, he was given a heroes funeral and his body was interred in the Pantheon, Paris. Napoleon wept at his side after seeing his fatal wounds. Napoleon once said of his friend " I found him a pygmy and left him a giant".
Birthplace of Jean Lannes, Lectoure.
Photo: Maison Lannes Creative Commons License by Morburre
Born in the small town of Lectoure in the Gers region of France, he was apprenticed to a dyer. He joined a local volunteer regiment during France's war with Spain and the French Revolution. His skill in sports and athleticism led him to become Sargent Major. In character he was outspoken and unpredictable.
Italy & Egypt
He was promoted through the ranks for his owns deeds, capturing two enemy flags at the battle of Bassano. He led his column of soldiers in person at the Battle of Arcole, despite receiving several wounds. As a general, he was chosen to assist Napoleon in his Egyptian campaign. He was wounded at the Battle of Abukir before returning to France. After Bonaparte became Consul, Lannes was promoted to General of Division and Commander of the Imperial Guard. He led the crossing of the Alps and found a glorious victory over the Austrian army at Montebello and played a large part in the Battle of Murengo, securing Napoleon's grip on Italy.
Lannes was one of Napoleon's most trusted generals, along with Louis-Nicolas Davout and Andre Massena. He called on them frequently, for any action that needed true endurance, usually against poor odds and that required total commitment to duty and ultimate sacrifice. He was one of the few who the Emperor called a friend and allowed him to address him as "tu" rather than the formal "vous". Napoleon was by his side, as he lay fatally wounded by shrapnel on the battlefield of Aspern-Essling and requiring his legs to be amputated, despite immediate medical care and being taken to the finest house in Kaiserebersdorf. Some of Lannes' tactics are used as examples for French military training to this day.
Picture: A heroes tomb, Mareshal Jean Lannes, Duc de Montebello, Pantheon, Paris.
(creative commons license by I.Triboulet)