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The terrible death of marshal Brune in Avignon

Brune dragged in the river Rhône (H. Martin, 1867) | The British Library / Public domain
Street District Homicide Tragic destiny Marshal Brune Place Crillon

In front of the theatre, we have the current hôtel d’Europe. Bonaparte slept here in 1798, and they murdered French marshal Brune in 1815...

Marshal Brune’s ending

A young marshal

Guillaume Brune, young son of a lawyer, went in Paris to be a printer. He became a general in 1793, fighting with Napoleon in Italy in 1797. But Brune always remained a born republican... the Emperor didn’t like this sympathy!

In spite of his victories in Italy, Napoleon dismissed Brune from his duties. Ooo, the emperor was upset! Besides Brune was the rare Empire marshal who didn’t receive a letter patent of nobility...

Napoleon called him back after his exile in Elba island. But Bourbons came back on the throne... And Brune, as he went back in Paris, was murdered by Royalists in Avignon. In this hotel, in place Crillon!


On August 2th, Brune arrived at the hotel, at 11AM. He wanted to eat something. But an old royalist officer recognized Brune.

The rumour went quickly: Brune was in Avignon! A man started to shout: "He killed princess of Lamballe!" Another one said: "Someone told me he showed her head on a pike in Paris"... Royalists were upset. The square was full of angry people!

Man jumped on neighbour houses roofs, others took weapons and guns. There was trouble ahead...

Brune’s carriage was leaving the square but a huge crowd started to throw him stones. Forced to do a U-turn, Brune came back in his hotel bedroom and locked the door, waiting for the end of the riot.

But the crowd wanted Brune’s life! The city mayor tried to calm them down. In vain... the assault began! They ran by the hotel windows, knocked Brune’s door down... and one of them shot... Brune fell, he was deadly wounded. It was 2PM, and his death agony lasted 4 hours.

Lost in the water

Outside, people were talking, talking... What happened in that bloody room? As an answer, they heard the marshal committed suicide!

Even official reports talked about suicide.

His body was put on a stretcher and sent at the hospital, waiting for the burial. But a crowd of royalists diverted it on Saint-Bénezet bridge. There, they threw the corpse in river Rhône, while they wrote on the bridge: "This is marshal Brune’s cemetery..."

Poor Brune drifted 4 days in the water, followed on the bank by a hysterical crowd. Real madness... Finally, Brune ended somewhere between Arles and Tarascon. Someone secretly buried him, at the risk of getting caught.

And Brune’s widow would only know the exact location of the body in 1817. The crime stayed unpunished, until 1821: they condemned two men for the murder. One of these guys died before the execution...

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!