Jacques Alexandre Bernard Law, Marquis de Lauriston, 1758-1828

Marshal Jacques Alexander Bernard Law Marquis de Lauriston (1758-1828) was a French general and friend of Napoleon who fought at Marengo, accompanied Villeneuve's fleet during the crossing of the Atlantic, fought at Wagram, during the invasion of Russia and the campaign in Germany in 1813, where he was captured during the retreat from  Leipzig.

Lauriston was the great-nephew of John Law (1671-1729) of Lauriston near Edinburgh, a financier who caused chaos in pre-revolutionary France, forming a Royal Bank, issued paper money and using the money created to form a 'Mississippi Company', triggering a bubble in France similar to the 'South Sea Bubble' in Britain. His father, Jacques-François Law de Lauriston twice served as the French Governor of Pondicherry in India, and Lauriston was born in Pondicherry in 1768.

Jacques Alexandre entered the French army in 1784 and served in the Artillery. He was a supporter of the Revolution, and took part in the early campaigns around the French borders, before resigning in 1796 with the rank of Brigadier of Artillery. During this period he served in the Army of the North, of the Moselle and of the Sambre-et-Meuse. He distinguished himself at the siege of Maastricht.

Lauriston was a friend of Napoleon, a fellow artilleryman, and he returned to the army in 1800 to serve as one of Napoleon's ADCs. He fought at Marengo (14 June 1800) where he claimed that Desaix's last words were 'Dead', and not 'Go tell the First Consul that I die regretting not having done enough to live in posterity', as claimed in the official Army Bulletin. After Marengo he was given command of the Artillery School at La Fère.

Lauriston was also used as a diplomat. He was French envoy to Denmark, and then at the time of the Peace of Amiens of 1802 was Envoy to Britain and had the task of taking the ratification of the treaty to Britain.

Lauriston was promoted to général de brigade in September 1802. In 1804 he became Commander of the Legion of Honor. He was promoted to général de division in February 1805. In the same year he commanded the troops serving in Villeneuve's fleet, and accompanied the fleet as it crossed the Atlantic to Martinique and back in an attempt to elude Nelson's fleet. Lauriston fought at Calder's Battle off Finisterre.

During the campaign against Austria of 1805 he was appointed governor of Braunau, east of Munich.

In 1806 Lauriston captured Raguas.

In 1807 he was made Governor of Venice. During this period he had some dealing with the Ottoman Empire.

In 1808 Lauriston was created a comte, was present at the congress of Erfurt, and was then given command of the Guard Artillery during Napoleon's only intervention in Spain.

At the start of the campaign of 1809 he was part of the Prince Eugene de Beauharnais's Army of Italy. This army defeated an Austrian invasion of Italy and then advanced into Hungary. Lauriston commanded a cavalry force that was posted on the French left at the battle of Raab (14 June 1809), a French victory in Hungary that forced the Austrians who had retreated from Italy to retreat east across the Danube and prevented them from fighting at Wagram. The French Army of Italy then joined Napoleon's main army and Lauriston commanded the French Artillery at the key battle of Wagram. At a key moment in the battle a gap opened in the French line. Napoleon filled part of the gap with the Saxons and the Army of Italy, but that still left some space. Lauriston was ordered to great a battery of 112 guns, made up of 72 guns from the Guard Artillery and 40 from the Army of Italy. This battery helped stop the Austrian III Corps from taking advantage of the gap in the line, and thus played a part in the eventual French victory.

In 1810 Lauriston took part in the negotiations that led to Napoleon's marriage to Marie Louise of Austria, and then escorted her to France.

In 1811 he was appointed Ambassador to Russia, and he still held that post at the start of Napoleon's invasion.

War of Liberation 1813 - Spring Campaign
War of Liberation 1813 -
Spring Campaign

In 1812 he took part in Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia. When Napoleon reached Moscow he expected to receive envoys from Tsar Alexander. When this didn't happen, Napoleon decided to send an official delegation to the Russians. Lauriston was chosen to head this delegation, but Marshal Kutusov refused to let Lauriston go to the Tsar at St. Petersburg and detained him at the Army HQ near Moscow while his letters were sent on.

War of Liberation 1813 - Autumn Campaign
War of Liberation 1813 - Autumn Campaign

In 1813 he commanded V Corps during the German campaign, and fought at the battle of Lützen (2 May 1813), the French defeat at the Katzbach (26 August 1813) where his troops were amongst the first into action, and the battles of Bautzen and Leipzig. His corps took part in the battle of Liebertwolkwitz (14 October 1813), the massive cavalry battle that came just before the battle of Leipzig. He was captured during the massive battle of Leipzig, where his corps had taken part in an advance on the French left (south-east of the city), and not released until Napoleon had abdicated for the first time.

Lauriston accepted the Bourbon restoration. He remained loyal to them during Napoleon's return from exile, and was rewarded with promotion to Marquis in 1817.

In 1823 Lauriston was made a Marshal (replacing the recently deceased Davout), and commanded a corps in that year's more successful intervention in Spain, capturing Pamplona.

In 1824 he became a Minister of State.

Napoleonic Home Page | Books on the Napoleonic Wars | Subject Index: Napoleonic Wars

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 January 2016), Jacques Alexandre Bernard Law, Marquis de Lauriston, 1758-1828 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_lauriston.html

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group - Cookies