Patrice MacMahon, duc de Magenta

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Patrice MacMahon, duc de Magenta President of France, 1873-1879
Patrice MacMahon, duc de Magenta President of France, 1873-1879


Marie Edm Patrice Maurice Mac-Mahon, duc de Magenta, Marshal of France (July 13, 1808 - October 16, 1893) was a Frenchman of Irish descent. He served as Chief of State of France from 1873 to 1875 and as the first President of the Third French Republic from 1875 to 1879. To date he is the only person of Irish descent to have served as a head of state in continental Europe.

Born in Sully (near Autun), in the dpartement of Sane-et-Loire, Patrice MacMahon was the 16th of 17 children of a family already in the French nobility (his grandfather was named Marquis d'Equilly by King Louis XV, and the family in France had decidedly royalist politics).

His ancestors settled in France from County Limerick (although they were originally from County Clare) during the reign of James II, owing to the Penal Laws. They applied for naturalization in 1749.

Patrice MacMahon was educated at the College of Louis Le Grand and at the Academy of St-Cyr, graduating in 1827.

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French statesman and marshal Patrice MacMahon, duc de Magenta

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 Division General in 1852.

In the Crimean War, he distinguished himself in the Battle of Malakoff at Sevastopol (September 8, 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 Austro-Italian War as commander of the Second Corps ("Army of Italy"). He secured the French victory at Magenta (June 4, 1859) and rose to the rank of marshal while in the field. He was later named "duc de Magenta" by Napoleon III as a result.

He served as Governor-General of Algeria from September 1, 1864, returning at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, during which he led an Alsatian army unit (although attrition throughout the war led to men from other areas being added to this).

In the Franco-Prussian War MacMahon commanded the I and V French Corps on the Rhine Army's Southern line. On August 4th the Prussian 3rd Army attacked the Southern line, and immediately won the border city of Wissembourg from the French; quickly moving onto capture the city of Woerth two days later.

After less than a week of fighting, the entire French Rhine Army's Southern line couldn't withstand the Prussian aggression and retreated West, further into French territory. The Prussians were relentless. The Prussian 3rd Army was capturing town after town, while their defeated opponents I and V Corps hastily retreated to Chalon-s.-Marne making sure to stay out of the way of the advancing Prussians by heading southwest while the Prussians drove West.

MacMahon lefts his Corps and with Napoleon III led the 120,000 strong remnants of the French Rhine army (I, VII, XII Corps). They began marching from Chalons-s.-Marne North/Northeast, in an attempt to rally the besieged army at Metz over 130 km to the East. But the Prussian 3rd Army advance was incredible; in less than 3 weeks the army covered over 325 km, and intercepted the French army along the Meuse River, and for three days battled it (August 29 to 31), forcing the French to fall to Sedan. Meanwhile, the Prussians had created a 4th Army, and marched the it to the southern flank of Sedan, while the 3rd Army dug in North of Sedan.

On September 1, 1870, the Prussians thus laid siege to the city of Sedan. Standing at the gates was a powerful force of 200,000 Prussian soldiers under the prolific General Helmuth von Moltke. MacMahon were highly indecisive, allowing the Germans to move in reinforcements to completely encircle Sedan.

MacMahon was wounded and command passed to General De Wimpffen who announced the surrender of the French army. On September 2. Napolean III surrendered, along with his remaining 83,000 French troops (Battle of Sedan).

When the Paris Commune was suppressed in May 1871, MacMahon led the Versailles troops. The French army spent eight days massacring workers, shooting civilians on sight. Tens of thousands of Communards and workers are summarily executed (as many as 30,000); 38,000 others imprisoned and 7,000 are forcibly deported.

As president of France, he controversially dismissed the republican Prime Minister, replacing him with a known monarchist, before dissolving the French National Assembly on May 16, 1877 in an effort to halt the rise of Republicanism and boost the prospects of a restoration of the monarchy under the Comte de Chambord.

He died at Montcresson, Loiret.

Preceded by:
Adolphe Thiers
President of France
Succeeded by:
Jules Grvy

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Patrice Mac-Mahon is remembered in France due to several quotes often attributed, probably correctly, to him.

  • Concerning the floods of the Garonne river of 1875, in Montauban he exclained "so much water! so much water" (Que d'eau ! Que d'eau !).
  • After the Republicans' victory in the elections of 1877, Gambetta told him to "submit or resign ( se soumettre ou se dmettre) to which Mac-Mahon replied: "I'm here. I'm staying here! (J'y suis. J'y reste !)
  • As he was reviewing some troops, after he had been told that one of the soldiers was of African ancestry, he remarked "Ah, so you're the negro ? Very well, carry on !" (Ah c'est vous le ngre ? Trs bien, continuez !)
  • On typhoid fever: "Typhoide fever is a terrible sickness. Either you die from it or you remain idiotic from it. And I know what I'm taking about, I had it." (La fivre typhode est une maladie terrible. Ou on en meurt, ou on en reste idiot. Et je sais de quoi je parle, je l'ai eue.)

See Also

External link

fr:Patrice de Mac-Mahon ja:パトリス・マクマオン nl:Patrice Mac-Mahon pl:Edme Mac-Mahon sv:Patrice Mac-Mahon


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