World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Patrice de MacMahon, Duke of Magenta

Article Id: WHEBN0000192332
Reproduction Date:

Title: Patrice de MacMahon, Duke of Magenta  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Legitimists, Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Early Modern warfare articles by quality log, Lyon Observatory, Paris Commune, Presidents of France
Collection: 1808 Births, 1893 Deaths, 19Th-Century National Presidents, Dukes of Magenta, Ecole Spéciale Militaire De Saint-Cyr Alumni, French Military Personnel of the Crimean War, French Military Personnel of the Franco-Prussian War, French People of Irish Descent, French Prisoners of War in the 19Th Century, French Senators of the Second Empire, Irish Diaspora Politicians, Knights of the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation, MacMahon Family, Marshals of France, Officers of the French Foreign Legion, Paris Commune, People from Saône-Et-Loire, Presidents of France
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Patrice de MacMahon, Duke of Magenta

Patrice de MacMahon
3rd President of France
In office
24 May 1873 – 30 January 1879
Prime Minister Albert de Broglie
Ernest Courtot de Cissey
Louis Buffet
Jules Armand Dufaure
Jules Simon
Albert de Broglie
Gaëtan de Rochebouët
Jules Armand Dufaure
Preceded by Adolphe Thiers
Succeeded by Jules Grévy
Co-Prince of Andorra
In office
24 May 1873 – 30 January 1879
Served with Josep Caixal i Estradé
Preceded by Adolphe Thiers
Succeeded by Jules Grévy
Personal details
Born 13 June 1808
Sully, France
Died 17 October 1893
Montcresson, France
Political party Legitimists

Marshal Marie Esme Patrice Maurice de MacMahon, 1st Duke of Magenta (French pronunciation: ​; 13 June 1808 – 17 October 1893), was a French general and politician with the distinction Marshal of France. He served as Chief of State of France from 1873 to 1875 and as the second president of the Third Republic, from 1875 to 1879. He won national renown and the presidency on the basis of his military actions in the war against the Germans. MacMahon was a devout conservative Catholic, a traditionalist who despised socialism and strongly distrusted the secular Republicans. He took very seriously his duty as the neutral guardian of the Constitution and rejected suggestions of a monarchist coup d'état. He also refused to meet with Gambetta, the leader of the Republicans. He moved for a parliamentary system in which the assembly selected the ruling government of the Third Republic, but he also insisted on an upper chamber. He later dissolved the Chamber of Deputies, resulting in public outrage and Republican electoral victory. MacMahon soon resigned and retired to private life.


  • Early life 1
  • Military career 2
  • Franco-Prussian War 3
  • Paris Commune 4
  • President of the Third Republic 5
  • Retirement 6
  • Quotes 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life

Patrice de MacMahon (as he was usually known before being elevated to a ducal title in his own right) was born in Sully (near Autun), in the département of Saône-et-Loire. He was the 16th of 17 children of a family already in the French nobility (his grandfather Jean-Baptiste de MacMahon was named Marquis de MacMahon and Marquis d'Eguilly (from his wife Charlotte Le Belin, Dame d' Eguilly) by King Louis XV, and the family in France had decidedly royalist politics).

His ancestors were part of the Dál gCais[1] and were Lords of Corcu Baiscind[2] in Ireland. After losing much of their land in the Cromwellian confiscations, a branch moved to Limerick for a time before settling in France during the reign of King William III because of their support of the deposed King James II.[3] They applied for French citizenship in 1749.

Patrice de MacMahon was educated at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand and at the Academy of St-Cyr, graduating in 1827.

Military career

He served in the Army as aide-de-camp to General Achard, and went to the campaign in Algiers in 1830. He stayed in Algeria from 1834–1854, and was wounded during an assault on Constantine in 1837. He became commander of the Foreign Legion in 1843, and was promoted to Divisional General in 1852.

In the Crimean War, he distinguished himself in the Battle of Malakoff at Sevastopol (8 September 1855), during which he reputedly uttered the famous quotation now attributed to him: ''J'y suis, j'y reste'' ("Here I am, here I stay"). He was offered the top French Army post after the war but declined, preferring to return to Algeria.

He was appointed to the French Senate in 1856.

He fought in the Second Italian War of Independence as commander of the Second Corps ("Army of Italy"). He secured the French victory at Magenta (4 June 1859) and rose to the rank of Maréchal de France while in the field. He was later created Duke of Magenta by Napoléon III as a result.

Franco-Prussian War

Patrice de MacMahon, duc de Magenta at the Battle of Magenta

In the Franco-Prussian War MacMahon commanded the I and V French Corps on the Rhine Army's Southern line. On 4 August 1870 the Prussian 3rd Army attacked the Southern line, and immediately took the border city of Wissembourg. They quickly moved on to capture the city of Wörth two days later.

After less than a week of fighting, the entire French Rhine Army's Southern line could not withstand the Prussian attacks and retreated west, further into French territory. The Prussians were relentless. The Prussian 3rd Army captured town after town, while the French I and V Corps hastily retreated southwest to Châlons-sur-Marne, out of the way of the advancing Prussians, while the Prussians drove west.

MacMahon led the 120,000 strong remnants of the French Rhine army (I, VII, XII Corps), reformed as the Army of Châlons, with Napoléon III. They marched north-northeast from Châlons-sur-Marne, in an attempt to relieve the besieged army at Metz over 130 km to the east. But the Prussian 3rd Army marched 325 km and intercepted the French army along the Meuse River. After three days of fighting (29 to 31 August), MacMahon's troops fell back to Sedan, where they were encircled, in part due to MacMahon's indecision. MacMahon was wounded on 31 August, and passed command.

After the Battle of Sedan, Napoléon III surrendered the main French army on 2 September, and MacMahon was taken prisoner.

Paris Commune

France surrendered to the Prussians in January 1871, and formed a new interim government based in Versailles. Radicals in Paris rejected this government and formed the Paris Commune. In May 1871, MacMahon led the troops of the Versailles government against the Commune. In the bitter fighting of what was latter called "The Bloody Week," the forces of MacMahon crushed the Commune with many protestors shot. Macmahon was not blamed for the repression, but instead became the hero of the hour for the right.[4]

President of the Third Republic

In May 1873, MacMahon was elected President of the French Republic, with the support of monarchists and conservatives in the National Assembly. Only one vote was cast against him.[5]

The Assembly fixed his term of office at seven years. He declared in a speech delivered 4 February 1874 that he would know how to make the legally-established order of things respected for seven years. Preferring to remain above party politics, he assisted at rather than taking part in the proceedings which, in January and February 1875, led to the passage of the fundamental laws finally establishing the French Third Republic as the legal government of France. And yet MacMahon (also known as Magenta) wrote in his still unpublished memoirs: "By family tradition, and by the sentiments towards the royal house which were instilled in me by my early education, I could not be anything but a Legitimist." He felt some repugnance, too, in forming, in 1876, the Dufaure and the Jules Simon cabinets, in which the republican element was represented.

German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck sought to contain France and destabilize it, and weaken the rightwing elements that wanted revenge against Germany. Bismarck promoted republicanism there by strategically and ideologically isolating MacMahon's clerical-monarchist supporters.[6] Bismarck's containment policy almost got out of hand in 1875 in the "War in Sight" crisis. When the German press reported that some highly influential Germans, alarmed by France's rapid recovery from defeat in 1871 and its rearmaments program, talked of launching a preventive war against France to hold it down. There was a war scare in Germany and France. Britain and Russia made it clear they would not tolerate a preventive war. Bismarck did not want any war, either, but the unexpected crisis forced him to take into account the fear and alarm that his bullying and Germany's fast-growing power was causing among its neighbors.[7][8][9]

In May 1877, the bishops of Poitiers, Nîmes, and Nevers issued episcopal charges recommending the case of the captive Pope Pius IX to the sympathy of the French government. On 4 May, the Left responded with a resolution in the Chambre des Députés calling on the Government "to repress Ultramontane manifestations".

Twelve days later, MacMahon controversially provoked the 16 May 1877 crisis, by demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Simon, a republican. Simon resigned, later claiming to avert a coup d'état by MacMahon, who replaced him with the Orléanist Duc de Broglie. He then persuaded the Senate to dissolve the Chamber on 16 May 1877.

Marshal The Duc de Magenta, French soldier and statesman

During the next five months, MacMahon travelled through the country campaigning for the Conservatives, protesting at the same time that he did not wish to overturn the Republic. However, the elections of 14 October resulted in a majority of 120 for the Left; the de Broglie ministry resigned on 19 November, and MacMahon formed a Left cabinet under Dufaure. He retained his office until 1878, so as to allow the Exposition Universelle to take place in political peace. After the senatorial elections of 5 January 1879, having brought another victory to the Left, MacMahon found a pretext to resign on 30 January. He was succeeded by Jules Grévy.

His presidency may be summarised thus: on the one hand, he allowed the Republic to establish itself; on the other hand, so far as his lawful prerogatives permitted, he restrained the political advance of secular parties hostile to the Catholic Church, convinced that the triumph of Radicalism would be to the detriment of the nation. McMahon operated a regime that was mildly repressive toward the left. Newspapers were prosecuted, senior officials were removed if they were suspected of support for republicanism. Critical pamphlets were suppressed by while the government circulated its own propaganda. The proprietors of meeting places were advised not to allow meetings of critics of the regime. On the other hand, there was no support for a coup d'état by monarchists. MacMahon truly believed that the assembly should rule France, not the president.[10]


The last fourteen years of his life were spent in retirement, quite removed from political interests. "I have remained a soldier", he says in his memoirs, "and I can conscientiously say that I have not only served one government after another loyally, but, when they fell, have regretted all of them with the single exception of my own." In his voluntary retirement he carried with him the esteem of all parties: Jules Simon, who did not love him, and whom he did not love, afterwards called him "a great captain, a great citizen and a righteous man" (un grand capitaine, un grand citoyen et un homme de bien).

The Duke died at the Château de La Forest at Montcresson, Loiret, in 1893. He was buried, with national honours, in the crypt of Les Invalides.


  • Showing his faith in the Foreign Legion during the Battle of Magenta: "The Legion is here. It's in the bag! ("Voici la Légion ! L'affaire est dans le sac !").[11]
  • During the Siege of Sevastopol in the Crimean War, MacMahon led an assault by French troops against the Malakoff redoubt. MacMahon captured the Malakoff, but was urged to withdraw rather than be crushed by imminent Russian counter-attacks. He refused, replying "J'y suis. J'y reste!" ("Here I am. Here I stay!"). MacMahon's troops held the Malakoff, and Sevastopol soon fell.[12]

MacMahon's line became widely quoted as an expression of defiance. P. G. Wodehouse's character Bertie Wooster used it in response to pressure from his valet Jeeves to shave off his new moustache.

See also


  1. ^ genealogy of MacMahon family
  2. ^
  3. ^ Firinne, D.H. and Eugene O'Curry, Life of Marshal MacMahon, Duke of Magenta. (The "Irishman" Office, Dublin, 1859) pp. 5–6.
  4. ^ Hutton, Patrick H., Historical Dictionary of the French Third Republic. (Greenwood Press, New York, 1986) pp. 587-88
  5. ^ D.W. Brogan, France under the Republic: The Development of Modern France (1870-1939) (1940) p 97
  6. ^ James Stone, "Bismarck and the Containment of France, 1873-1877," Canadian Journal of History (1994) 29#2 pp 281-304 online
  7. ^ A.J.P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe (1955) pp 225–27
  8. ^ William L. Langer, European Alliances and Alignments, 1871–1890 (2nd ed. 1950) pp 44–55
  9. ^ T. G. Otte, "From 'War-in-Sight' to Nearly War: Anglo–French Relations in the Age of High Imperialism, 1875–1898," Diplomacy and Statecraft (2006)17#4 pp 693–714.
  10. ^ Robert Tombs, France: 1814-1914 (1996), pp 440-42
  11. ^ The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History of the Legendary Fighting Force (book), Porch, Douglas
  12. ^

External links


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain

Political offices
Preceded by
Adolphe Thiers
President of France
Succeeded by
Jules Grévy
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Adolphe Thiers and Josep Caixal i Estradé
Co-Prince of Andorra
with Josep Caixal i Estradé
Succeeded by
Jules Grévy and Salvador Casañas i Pagés
Government offices
Preceded by
Édouard de Martimprey
Governor-General of Algeria
Succeeded by
Louis, Baron Durieu
French nobility
New title Duc de Magenta
Succeeded by
Marie Armand Patrice MacMahon
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.