|Jean-Gilbert Victor Fialin, duc de Persigny|
Native of the town called Saint-Germain-Lespinasse on the Teysonne river, a tributary to the mighty Loire, Persigny had the misfortune of beginning his life with much the same tragedy that marked its end. His father, the impoverished remnant of a minor noble family, abandoned his wife and two children to pursue a military career fighting for Napoleon in Spain, where he died in 1810 from fevers. The lack of a father meant that the young Victor was primarily raised by his maternal uncle, a convinced royalist monarchist.
He went to study at the university in Limoges after obtaining a scholarship, and opted for a military career, the best option for young people looking to get ahead in certain circles. He rose to the rank of Maréchal-des-logis-chef in the second regiment of Hussars (having completed his studies at the Royal Academy of Cavalry at Saumur). This rank is equivalent to staff-sergeant, and is known as such in the infantry. He was assigned to the company of Captain Kersausie, who was a member of the secret society destined to spark and operate in the 1830 Revolution which resulted in the July Monarchy.
Persigny fought at Vannes during the "Three Glorious" days under the tricolor, most likely out of a sense of camaraderie for his regiment. However, after King Louis-Philippe was in place, the regiment's actions were considered insubordination, and the young Victor had to leave the army. At first he was suspended on probation, but then definitively dismissed in October of 1831.
|The arms of Fialin de Persigny|
While traveling in Switzerland for his paper in 1835, he meets Louis-Napoleon, and his life is changed. Though he had the met the former King of Westphalia Jerome (the ancestor as well of the current Prince Napoleon) the previous year, to him the young son of Napoleon's older brother Joseph incarnated the Bonapartist destiny to which he was now bound forever.
With the help of colonel Claude-Nicolas Vaudrey, Persigny attempts to convert the garrison at Stasbourg to the Bonapartist cause, and while Vaudrey's own regiment is successfully proselytized, the rest are not so eager to embrace the cause. They disarm the would-be rebels. Louis-Napoleon is sent to exile in America, where he will live in New York, but Persigny was lucky in managing to escape the King's soldiers. Using the fact that he was acting as the political agent of the Prince Napoleon in France, Persigny began propagandizing the Bonapartist message by any means he could. He organized a "party" of sorts, wrote innumerable articles and collected funds.
This was all in preparation for his next attempt at a popular uprising. This was to take place as the ashes of the great Napoleon I were being brought back to France in 1840. With his master, who was now in London, Persigny takes command of a small ship and they land at Boulogne. There they attempt to convert the garrison, as they had in Strasbourg. Again, no such luck - the incident turned violent and shots were fired, leaving two dead. He is condemned to imprisonment for twenty years, but in 1843 that sentence is lessened due to his poor health, and he spends the rest of the time until 1848 - when he is freed - in the military hospital at Versailles.
It was during his time in the hospital that he wrote his most original work, proposing a theory to explain the purpose of the Egyptian pyramids. To Persigny, it was unlikely that they were just tombs, as the genius of the ancient Egyptians must have been such they contained some hidden secret. He theorized that they were in fact constructed in order to prevent the river Nile from becoming overwhelmed by the sand of the desert, acting as barriers. The theory was interesting at the time, but today it is needless to say that the idea is not accepted by the archaeological community.
The Revolution of 1848 freed Persigny from imprisonment, and he immediately went back to taking an active role in the Bonapartist cause. He campaigns for the presidential election that would see a Bonaparte back in power, journeying all over France spreading pamphlets and propagandizing the Empire, so that no hamlet was left uncovered. Then, on the 10th of December, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte is elected President of the Republic with near 75% of the votes.
|12, Rue de Poitiers, where the Committee would meet.|
The new, more Bonapartist government of President Bonaparte has Persigny placed in the prestigious post of Minister of the Interior, where he remains until 1854. In this post he continues to be the most ardent partisan for Imperial restoration, arranging for members of the Senate to cry out "Vive l'Empereur!" when Louis-Napoleon would enter, instead of "Vive le Président!". 1855 saw Persigny made ambassador to London, while he was recalled to the Interior Ministry in 1860.
In 1852 he married Albine Maria Napoléone Ney de La Moskowa, the granddaughter of the celebrated Maréchal Ney, a marriage that one assumes was unsuccessful. While his own choice of bride may have been ill-advised, he also criticized the Emperor Napoleon III's choice to marry Eugénie de Montijo, calling her a "lorette", which is term used to refer to women who are slow and indolent. Needless to say that he earned from the Empress a lifelong dislike and became her political opponent.
Despite this, the Comte (he had been awarded the title after his wedding) was at the height of his success - Minister, ambassador, married, and one of the architects behind a restored French Empire. His policy in Italy had been successful, and as a reward, the Emperor granted him the post of Senator, inducts him into the Legion of Honor, and makes him a member of his private council. All the while, he holds the post of President of the General Council of the Loire, and in that function develops the départment's infrastructure by opening the canal of Forez, founding an archeological society and a fund for the victims of flooding. He also moves to exploit the existing industrial capacity of the area.
The decline of the Comte de Persigny begins with the elections of 1863. He lacks at this point the energy he displayed in his previous runs, expecting the outcome to be predicted and the resulting parliament to be docile. Unfortunately, some political mistakes on his part, such as opposing important Catholic candidates and not forwarding some of his own supporters, result in a victory for the liberal parties who take control of the parliament. He advises Napoleon III to dissolve the chambers and the rule as he had earlier in the reign, but he was held responsible for the electoral defeat and pushed away from the Imperial circle. He is nevertheless made Duc de Persigny in 1863, the title he would bear until his death.
Victor de Persigny dies on the 12 of January in a hotel in Nice, and he is buried in his hometown, but his own wife does not even show up. It is unlikely, despite his many services to his hometown and the surroundings, that many did attend. The very day after the funeral, a telegram arrives from Great Britain from Napoleon III. It reads:
"My Dear Persigny, I learn with great concern of your poor health. I hope you can triumph over illness; but until you heal, I wish to tell you that I have forgotten that which has divided usand can remember only the great devotion that you have given me for many long years. Believe that I am your great friend."What a cruel irony that Persigny should die not knowing of the reconciliation! For a man who had shown such loyalty and friendship to his sovereign, it is absolutely heartbreaking to think he believed himself disgraced on his deathbed, abandoned by friends and family alike, disowned by his lord. What tragedy.
Victor de Persigny should be remembered as the most loyal and determined of the 19th Century Bonapartists, His perseverance and unwavering faith in the Empire is an example to follow for not just Bonapartists, but any political partisan.