Admiral Laurent Jean François Truguet, 1752-1839

Admiral Laurent Jean François Truguet (1752-1839) was a French admiral who was suspected of hostility to the Revolution, and argued with Napoleon, but still managed to maintain a career that lasted into the post-Napoleonic period.

Truguet entered the Navy before the revolution. In 1791 he visited England to examine the Royal Navy's organisation. This, combined with his dislike of the Revolutionary spirit of insubordination to authority, meant that he was always suspected of hostility to its principles.

In September 1792 he took command of a small squadron from the Toulon fleet, and used it to support Admiral d'Anselme's attack on Nice, then held by pro-Royalist rebels. Nice fell on 29 September.

Early in 1793 Truguet was given command of an expedition that was sent to conquer Sardinia, a potential first step on the road to Italy. This fleet moved to Corsica, where Truguet is said to have fallen in love with Napoleon's sister Elisa. The attack on Sardinia was a failure, and in its aftermath the French also lost control of Corsica, forcing Napoleon to move back to France.

Later in 1793 Toulon rebelled against the Revolution, and admitted a British fleet. Truguet was considered suspect by the Revolutionary authorities and was arrested. The fall of Robespierre in July 1794 saved him from execution.

After his release Truguet was promoted to Rear Admiral and appointed Minister of Marine. He was dismissed from that post after the failure of the 1797 expedition to Ireland, and was appointed ambassador to Madrid instead.

When he was recalled to France Truguet delayed leaving Madrid for so long that he was placed on the list of émigrés, but Talleyrand managed to get him removed from the list, and in 1801 he was appointed to the Council of State.

In 1802 he was given command of the joint French and Spanish squadron at Cadiz, with orders to keep his ships constantly in commission. He disobeyed this order, and was removed from the post.

When Napoleon began to consider changing his title from First Consul to Emperor Truguet wrote to him strongly recommending he didn't make the change, arguing that First Consul was 'a title to which you have given a fame vastly superior to that of either king or emperor', something that can't have endeared him to Napoleon. In 1804 he turned down the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, and was dismissed from the Council of State as a punishment. Unsurprisingly Napoleon found him irritating and eventually grew to dislike him.

Despite their lack of any personal connection, Napoleon still appointed Truguet maritime prefect of Rochefort in 1809. He was later moved to hold the same post in Holland, where he was captured by Cossacks during the fall of Napoleon's empire.

Truguet's career survived Napoleon's fall. He was created a count by Louis XVIII in 1815 and a Peer in 1819. He died at the age of eighty-seven in 1839.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 December 2015), Admiral Laurent Jean François Truguet, 1752-1839, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_truguet.html

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