History Prizes 1993



Éric PERRIN, Le maréchal Ney, Paris, Perrin
As a character in the Napoleonic epic, Marshal Ney (1769-1815) has the status of a Roland or a Bayard. He distinguished himself by his often foolhardy courage and was christened ‘the bravest of the brave’. Emperor Napoleon I made him Duke of Elchingen and Prince of Moscow. Ney is often idolised in legend, but he met a tragic end. He was executed at the beginning of the second Restoration for having defected to Napoleon during the Hundred Days, instead of bringing him back in an ‘iron cage’, as he had promised to Louis XVIII. Marshal Ney’s case would join the ranks of the great legal disputes of French history, along with Louis XVI, Bazaine, Dreyfus and Pétain. It was a political bombshell, and prompted a controversy which was exploited by the Bonapartists, Orleanists and Republicans. The dramatic execution of the ‘bravest of the brave’ on a dreary morning in December 1815 would overshadow Ney’s fickle, irritable nature and Napoleon’s harsh words: ‘He was good enough for the battlefield, but I should never have made him Marshal.’ This book, based on research in the Ney collection in the French National Archives, looks beyond Ney’s bravery to explore the contradictions and weaknesses of his personality. Napoleon’s most famous marshal, the ‘Red Lion’, as he was called, would show his courage one last time at Waterloo before facing the firing squad.


Roger LEPELLEY, for his life’s work:

  • « La Manche », frégate française : 1803-1810, Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, 1989
  • Le Vieil arsenal de Cherbourg : de 1793 à 1814, Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, 1990
  • Chroniques de La Hougue : Tome I, La guerre de la Ligue d’Augsbourg et la fin du Grand Règne, 1688-1715 et Tome II, La bataille de La Hougue : récits, études et réflexions, Versailles, 1992
  • Croisières dans la mer des Indes : 1810-1811 : des marins méconnus, Spézet, 1992
  • Frégates dans la tourmente 1812-1814 : des marins méconnus, Versailles, 1993