Georges Boulanger (1837 – 91)

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Georges Boulanger (1837 – 91)

Georges Boulanger /

Georges Boulanger /

If Georges had been, as his surname suggests, a pastrycook by profession instead of a wholly political general, his patisserie would have been the pride of Paris. Indeed, there might have been Boulangeries Boulanger in every provincial town in Victorian France, packed with customers.

Georges was born at Rennes in Brittany, went to school there, and got into the Army. He served notably in both Algeria and Italy, and fought in the Franco-Prussian War (q.v.) in which he became a Brigadier at only forty-three.

By 1884 he had left the army and entered politics, very much as a protegé of M. Clemenceau, who, radical though he was, was also a reforming War Minister. Georges showed rapidly that he was radical as anyone else, radically republican too, removing royalists from the Army, improving conditions for officers, men and horses, and demonstrating patriotism by ordering the painting of sentry boxes in red, white and blue.

He became the nineteenth century version of a pop star, having a good figure and presentable visage, mounted on a famous black stallion, presenting the image of the perfect Frenchman, a symbol of military glory. Above all, for the crushed French after the Franco-Prussian War, he became an icon for what might have been, if only the senior politicians had not made such a mess of the War.

When the Government fell in 1887, Georges found himself relegated to an unimportant provincial command and, anxious to regain his stardom, fell foul of right-wing groups, especially royalist right wing-groups. Georges saw himself as the new Napoleon, emerging from officers’ ranks as a future Emperor. All the dissident right wingers in the Government who prayed for a more authoritative administration flocked to join Georges. In a minute, he had established ‘The League of Patriots’. He might have been able to stage a coup d’Etat in Paris in 1889, but, as so often happens, he seemed to lose his nerve at the last moment.

Instead of moving with audacity, he moved to Brussels, where he was condemned in his absence for treason by a French court. Only two years after moving to the capital of Belgium, he stood at the grave of his latest mistress (there had apparently been dozens) and shot himself.

From his original patron – Clemenceau – came this pearl: “He died like he had lived, like a subaltern!”

By | 2012-07-11T12:15:59+00:00 July 11th, 2012|French History, German History, World History|0 Comments

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

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