La mort du duc d’Enghien en 1804
R: Albert Capellani. B: Léon Hennique. D: Georges Grand, Henry Houry, Germaine Dermoz, Paul Capellani, Henri Étiévant, Daniel Mendaille, René Leprince. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1909
“An exceedingly well acted and photographed picture of a historical episode in French history, which occurred during 1803-1804, when Napoleon was first consul. It relates graphically the fate of the Duke D’Enghien, who was supposed to be plotting against Napoleon and planning to place a Bourbon on the throne. Napoleon assumed that the Duke was the Bourbon prince who was to succeed to the throne, though he had no proof. Spies reported the Duke’s absence for days at a time, but he was much in love and was really at the home of his inamorata, or engaged in the pleasures of the chase. Nevertheless, he was condemned to be executed, and even though some excuse for pardoning him was sought, none was found and he was shot at Versailles.
The action is very vivid. The characters do their work in the spirit of the piece and occasion, and one imagines for the time that the actual scene is transpiring before one’s eyes. The Pathés have been particularly happy in their reproductions of dramatic incidents in French history, and this picture is no exception to the rule. The interpretation is so convincing that one acquires almost unconsciously a keener understanding of the men who were instrumental in enacting the roles here reproduced.”
The Moving Picture World, December 31, 1909
About Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien
“At the outbreak of the French Revolution, he emigrated with his father and grandfather a few days after the Storming of the Bastille, and in exile he would seek to raise forces for the invasion of France and restoration of the monarchy to its pre-revolutionary status. (…) Early in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, heard news which seemed to connect the young duke with the Cadoudal Affair, a conspiracy which was being tracked by the French police at the time. (…) The news ran that the duke was in company with Charles François Dumouriez and had made secret journeys into France. This was false. (…) However, the duke had previously been condemned in absentia for having fought against the French Republic in the Armée des Émigrés. Napoleon gave orders for the seizure of the duke.
French dragoons crossed the Rhine secretly, surrounded his house and brought him to Strasbourg (15 March 1804), and thence to the Château de Vincennes, near Paris, where a military commission of French colonels presided over by General Hulin was hastily convened to try him. The duke was charged chiefly with bearing arms against France in the late war, and with intending to take part in the new coalition then proposed against France.
The military commission, presided over by Hulin, drew up the act of condemnation. (…) On 21 March, the duke was shot in the moat of the castle, near a grave which had already been prepared. (…)
The execution of Enghien shocked the aristocracy of Europe, who still remembered the bloodletting of the Revolution. Either Antoine Boulay, comte de la Meurthe (deputy from Meurthe in the Corps législatif) or Napoleon’s chief of police, Fouché, said about his execution ‘C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute’, a statement often rendered in English as ‘It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder.’ The statement is also sometimes attributed to Talleyrand.
Conversely, in France the execution appeared to quiet domestic resistance to Napoleon, who soon crowned himself Emperor of the French.”