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Charles de Morny, Duke of Morny : biography

16 September 1811 - 10 March 1865

Charles Auguste Louis Joseph Demorny/de Morny, 1er Duc de Morny (15–16 September 1811, Switzerland – 10 March 1865, Paris) was a French statesman. He was the natural son of Hortense de Beauharnais (the wife of Louis Bonaparte and queen of Holland) and Charles Joseph, Comte de Flahaut, and therefore half-brother of Emperor Napoleon III.


He was born in Switzerland,Mossiker, 361–2 and his birth was duly registered in a misleading certificate, which made him the legitimate son of Auguste Jean Hyacinthe Demorny, born in Paris on 23 October 1811, See obituary notice:

and described as a landowner of St. Domingo. M. Demorny was in fact an officer in the Prussian army and a native of St. Domingo, though he owned no land there or elsewhere. 

His father was in fact Charles de Flahaut. His mother, Hortense de Beauharnais was the stepdaughter of Napoléon Bonaparte and the estranged wife of Louis Bonaparte, King of Holland.

He was educated by his grandmother, Adelaïde Filleul. After a brilliant school and college career the future Duc de Morny received a commission in the army, and the next year he entered the staff college. The Comte de Morny, as he was called by a polite fiction, served in Algeria in 1834–1835 as aide-de-camp to General Camille Alphonse Trezel, whose life he saved under the walls of Constantine.

When he returned to Paris in 1838, he secured a solid position in the business world by establishing of a major beet-sugar industry at Clermont in the Auvergne and by writing a pamphlet Sur la question des sucres in 1838. In these and other lucrative speculations he was helped by his mistress Françoise Mosselman, the beautiful and wealthy wife of the Belgian ambassador, Charles Aimé Joseph Le Hon, Comte Le Hon. Eventually there were few great commercial enterprises in Paris in which he did not have an interest.

Although he sat as deputy for Clermont-Ferrand from 1842 onwards, he took at first no important part in party politics, but he was heard with respect on industrial and financial questions. He supported the government of Louis Philippe, because revolution threatened his commercial interests, but before the Revolutions of 1848, by which he was temporarily ruined, he considered converting to the legitimist cause represented by the Comte de Chambord. His attitude was expressed by the witticism with which he is said to have replied to a lady who asked what he would do if the Chamber were "swept out." "Range myself on the side of the broom handle," was his answer. Presently he was admitted to the intimate circle of his half-brother Louis Napoleon, and he helped to engineer the coup d'état of 2 December 1851 on the morrow of which he was appointed to head the ministry of the interior.

After six months in office, during which he showed his political opponents moderation and tact, he resigned his portfolio, ostensibly because he disapproved of the confiscation of the Orleans property but really because Napoleon, influenced by Morny's rivals, resented his claim to a foremost place in the government as a member of the Bonaparte family. He then resumed his financial speculations. When in 1854 the Emperor appointed him president of the Corps Législatif, a position which he filled for the rest of his life, he used his official rank to assist his schemes.

In 1856, he was sent as special envoy to the coronation of Alexander II of Russia and brought home a wife, whom he married at St. Petersburg on 7 January 1857, Princess Sofia Sergeyevna Trubetskaya (Moscow, 25 March 1836 – 8 August 1896), the only daughter of Prince Sergey Vasilyevich Trubetskoy (1814 - 12 May (30 April Old Style), 1859) and his wife Ekaterina Petrovna Mussina-Pushkina (1 February 1816 - c. 1897). His wife's connections greatly strengthened his social position. Sophie was legally daughter of Prince Sergey Vasilyevich Trubetskoy, but may have been the illegitimate daughter of Nicholas I of Russia. In 1862, Morny was created a Duke. It is said that he aspired to the throne of Mexico, and that the French expedition sent to place Archduke Maximilian on the throne was prompted by Napoleon III's desire to thwart this ambition.

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