In the summer of 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte embarked on his most ambitious effort, the invasion of Russia. The Grand Army comprising over 600,000 soldiers commenced the invasion of Russia under the personal command of Napoleon. While Napoleon was off, many generals and commanders who were opposed to Napoleon hatched a plot to remove him and seize power. It is something equivalent to the July 1944 plot to remove Hitler.
The brain behind the plot was General Claude-Francois Malet. Malet was born in 1754 and was 58 years old then. His partner in prison, a guy named Abbe Lafon a professional forger, greatly enthusiastic him in his plan and promised to help him. He was the guy who forged fictitious orders and papers for the coup attempt.
The coup attempt
Malet put his plan into effect on 23 October 1812., when Napoleon was in Moscow. He arrived at the military barracks in Paris and grandly declared that Napoleon was dead in Moscow. He announced that he was authorized to announce a provisional republic and showed papers which promoted the commander of the army barracks to another position. He thus won over an important part of the institution loyal to Napoleon.
He announced that he was general Lamotte( an assumed name) and proceeded to ask the commander of the barracks to launch two generals namely General Ladurie and Guidal from prison. These generals had dropped out with Napoleon and imprisoned. General Ladurie immediately declared duty and took control of his old regiment. The plot was moving smoothly until an officer named General Hulin got suspicious and nearly recognized Malet. He wanted to find the papers of Malet and as Malet had no newspapers, there was a scuffle and Hulin was shot dead. In real terms, Malet had no choice as otherwise, his entire plan was likely to be jeopardized.
The sound of gunshots alerted the guards and they rushed in and surrounded Malet. Here was the fly in the ointment, as Malet had cared for all contingencies, but had failed to forge any papers about him. He had no identification he was General Lamotte and as such was promptly arrested.
Failure and execution
A court-martial was immediately convened and all of the 15 including Malet were sentenced to death by firing squad. Within a week Napoleon accepted the findings of the Court Martial and all the 15 were executed. Maintaining the rank of Malet in perspective, he was permitted to give the control for his own implementation. All the 15 were implemented outside Paris and the curtain came down on the coup attempt.
Napoleon returned conquered but defiant from Russia and it was another 3 years before he was removed from power and finally exiled to St Helena in the Atlantic. General Malet remains a footnote in French history. It’s important to study this case and realize that enemies of the country don’t have any place in the life span of a nation.