Napoleon III and General Trochu

Napoleon III and General Trochu

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  • Napoleon III and Louis Trochu.

    FAUSTIN Faustin Betbeder, known as (1847 - 1914)

  • Trochu's plan.


To close

Title: Napoleon III and Louis Trochu.

Author : FAUSTIN Faustin Betbeder, known as (1847 - 1914)

Creation date : 1871

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 55.8 - Width 45.1

Technique and other indications: Series News by Faustin

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot website

Picture reference: 04-509851 / 996.4.69D

Napoleon III and Louis Trochu.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

To close

Title: Trochu's plan.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 68.5 - Width 50

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot website

Picture reference: 04-509101 / 50.39.1081D

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: August 2008

Historical context

After the defeat of Sedan, the defense of Paris

In August 1870, an inevitable succession of defeats brought down the Second Empire. However, this national defense government has in its ranks some great names of those who will make the IIIe République, such as Favre, Ferry or Gambetta. But the new leaders must make up for their credibility deficit with a French population which, again in May 1870, voted for Napoleon III: a man of order is absolutely necessary. Hence "the idea of ​​bringing Trochu into the government combination [because] despite his Catholic and Orleanist convictions, the latter benefited from his image as an opponent to the Empire and his popularity in the capital". (S. Audoin-Rouzeau, 1870, France in the war, p. "Breton, Catholic and soldier", as he defines himself, he is a man of convictions as evidenced by his resounding pre-war work, The French Army in 1867, where he unfriendly points out the extent of the shortcomings of the institution to which he belongs. This publication earned him a "shelving" by the imperial power, but it paid off during the collapse of Napoleon III's regime.

Image Analysis

Defeat, source of inspiration for the cartoon

The drawing entitled “Maître et valet” is the work of Faustin, diminutive of Faustin Betbeder (1847-1914), one of the big names in caricature, who counts, besides Napoleon III, Queen Victoria and Disraeli among his most victims. known. It is characterized by a precise line and a detailed representation of the counterfeit characters. Napoleon III and Trochu are here firmly tied up like condemned men, in a dreary place that one guesses stony, with a sky peopled with clouds of crows. The fallen emperor appears aged, eyelid drooping, decked out in a slicked back mustache that is just as much. Dressed in a sort of cloth, "the man of Sedan" clearly looks like an outlaw. According to a classic exaggeration, the very Catholic Trochu is, meanwhile, dressed in a cassock. His face less apathetic than his sidekick, the "valet" gives the impression of wanting to get rid of his ties. He owes his nickname "the man of Paris" to his role as military governor of the capital, a responsibility that his "master" Napoleon III entrusted to him on August 17, 1870 and that he retained until January 1871.

It seems that this function of military governor of the capital attracts many other jeers to Trochu. "His Tactics", as a Parisian newspaper ironically calls it, constantly brandishes a "plan", which it would have to face the difficulties, a plan moreover never revealed. This is blessed bread for the chansonniers, as shown in the lithograph thus entitled, publication of the newspaper The fight led by a revolutionary who returned from exile, Félix Pyat. The text is sarcastic at will (feigning assurance, Trochu enumerates all the setbacks and misfortunes suffered by France by making them the elements of the famous "Plan" planned to save the country ...). note that The fight It had already made a name for itself in the same register when it published an article on the "Plan Bazaine" on October 27, 1870, a virulent denunciation of the talks for the surrender of Metz. Featured in the center of the page as a wacky conspirator, Trochu rubs his hands, his feet resting on a plate running rats, a symbol of the daily life of Parisians during the siege. Below left, the cartoonist is ironic about his unsuccessful attempts to "get out" of the capital. On the other hand, it refers to the most famous of them, known as the Battle of Champigny (November 30-December 2, 1870). These days indeed saw the French troops cross the Marne to meet the Uhlans, to "re-pass" it (pun at the origin of the illustration) forced and forced three days later.


Men chained to the event

The sudden and unexpected collapse, at least in this form, of the Second Empire opens up a new political space and arouses caustic glances. The iconic figures of this historic fishtail are taunted, reflecting the fates of the protagonists. Prisoner of the enemy after Sedan, Napoleon III therefore lived in exile without return, barely embellished with any hints of conspiracy. Trochu resigned on January 22, 1871, after the failure of another "sortie", this time towards Versailles (Battle of Buzenval). The end of his functions is marked by a resounding speech in which he unequivocally points out the reality of the French defeat against the Prussians. The disowned general then quickly withdraws from political life.

Like General Boulanger a few years later, his career is characteristic of a popularity based on a reputation for inflexibility, but quickly dissipated: “Trochu, past participle of the verb too choir”, Victor Hugo will say scathingly. . On another level, the very free tone of the documents analyzed here refers to an adjacent question, that of freedom of expression. The reign of Napoleon III was indeed marked by heavy censorship. Once completed, it is certain that a breath of freedom animates the critical or satirical publications, which flourish from 1871. The IIIe République will of course curb imperial repressive practices, notably with the promulgation of the 1881 Press and Publishing Act. However, the creation in 1874 by cartoonist Gill of the indestructible shrew Anastasie, the incarnation of censorship with his long scissors, reminds us that the authors will never have any license to pastiche reality to make it appear better.

  • caricature
  • War of 1870
  • Napoleon III
  • Paris Headquarters


Aimé DUPUY, 1870-1871, the war, the Commune and the press, Paris, Armand Colin, coll. “Kiosque”, 1959.Bertrand TILLIER, La Républicature, political caricature in France. 1870-1914, Paris, Éditions du C.N.R.S., 1997. Robert TOMBS, La Guerre contre Paris, 1871, Paris, Aubier, 1997.

To cite this article

François BOULOC, "Napoleon III and General Trochu"

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