The Daughters of Count General Arthur Dillon

Arthur Dillon had quite an incredible, if short, life as an officer in the Irish Brigade of France and later victim of the "Reign of Terror.". He also had two daughters that lived rather extraordinary lives as well. His daughter, Henriette-Lucy (left), from his first marriage, married French soldier and diplomat Frederic-Séraphin, comte de Gouvernet, later Marquise de La Tour du Pin. He commanded the 43rd infantry regiment of the line and then was aide du camp to the Marquis de Lafayette. Her mother had been a lady-in-waiting and good friend of Queen Marie Antionette. Her mother suffered an untimely death of tuberculosis at just 31 in 1782. Henriette also became a lady-in-waiting to the queen.

(Below: Frederic-Séraphin, comte de Gouvernet)

Being closely aligned with the King or Queen was dangerous for any French citizen after the start of the “Reign of Terror.” Frederic and Henriette barely escaped France with their heads during the “Reign of Terror.” Séraphin’s father, like Henriette’s, was guillotined. After exile in America, they returned to France in 1796.

Frederic was able to return to his diplomatic career after Napoleon came to power in 1799. Henriette wrote a famous memoir of the monumental events she witnessed called “Journal d’une femme de 50 ans.” It wasn’t published until 1906. Her husband died in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1837. Henriette, she moved to Italy, where she died in Pisa in 1853.

(Below: Countess Françoise-Elisabeth Bertrand, Fanny Dillon)

Arthur had a daughter from his 2nd marriage, Élisabeth Françoise, known as Fanny, who also had a fascinating history. Her mother’s cousin was Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, later to be Empress Josephine. After the death of her father, Fanny and her mother were living in England in 1802 when Josephine, two years away from being the Empress, invited them to France.

In 1805, Fanny met General Henri Tatien Bertrand, Emperor Napoleon’s aide-de-camp, who became Fanny’s chief suitor. She showed that she had inherited some of her father’s courage when Napoleon related to Bertrand’s marriage proposal, and she refused it. She told the Emperor that she intended to marry Prince Alfonso Pignatelli d’Aragona. Sadly, however, the prince soon died of tuberculosis.

(Below: General Henri Tatien Bertrand)

The prince asked her to marry her on his deathbed so that she might inherit his fortune, but the young woman showed tremendous integrity by refusing. She thought it unfair to his family. With the prince gone, Napoleon would no longer countenance any refusal of Bertrand’s proposal. A young woman could only refuse an Emperor for so long, so they were married. In the end, the marriage was a successful one. Bertrand later called Fanny ‘My Fiery Creole’.

Bertrand and Fanny followed Napoleon into exile at Elba in 1814 with their three children. It was Fanny who informed Napoleon of the death of Josephine in May 1814 at Elba. After enduring that first exile, the "Fiery Creole" was not happy about them going into exile with him again at St. Helena in 1815. It was said that she threatened to throw herself overboard during the boat trip there. Fanny had a son named Arthur, after her father, while living on St. Helena. This son was said to be a great favorite of the aging Emperor in his last years. Fanny was in the room when Napoleon passed away on May 5, 1821. Fanny died at just fifty in her château de Laleuf, in St-Maur, outside Cháteauroux, in 1836.


Semper Et Ubique Fidelis: The Dillons and the Irish Brigade of France

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Tags: Arthur Dillon, Dillon", Fanny, Fanny Dillon, France, France", Henriette-Lucy Dillon, Irish Brigade


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