The future Maréchal was born in Paris on 30 July, 1794: his birth certificate indicates that he was the "son of Marie-Louise-Augustine Chenié, artist and of Michel-Louis-Etienne Desrichards, employee in the Armée du Nord". In actual fact, his father was Michel-Louis-Etienne Regnaud (1760-1819): Desrichards was the name of the property that belonged to his father's family on his mother's side.
Regnaud senior was a lawyer as well as a député for the Saint-Jean d'Angély sénéchaussée in the Etats Généraux. In this latter role he sought to conciliate the royalty to new ideas, and he would later become an important figure in Bonaparte's plans after Brumaire. In 1799, he was named conseiller d'Etat, followed by president of "section de l'intériur du Conseil d'Etat" (1802), member of the Académie française (1803), procurer general for the Haute Cour impériale (1804), Secretary of State to the imperial family (a records officer for members of the imperial family) and Minister of State (1807), Comte de l'Empire with the name of Regnaud de Saint Jean d'Angély (1808), and député for the Charente-inférieure in the Chambre des Cent-Jours (1815). Collaborating closely with Napoleon, Regnaud held a considerable degree of influence over the French Emperor who held his opinion in high regard.
Auguste Regnaud started at the Ecole de cavalerie de Saint-Germain on 30 March, 1812 and left with the rank of sous-lieutenant. The following year, he served in the 8th chasseur regiment, followed by the 8th hussars, participating in the Saxony campaign. He was later named aide-de-camp to division general Jean-Baptiste Comte Corbineau. Whilst fulfilling this role, he participated in the French campaign in 1814 and was made captain on 15 March before being returned to lieutenant following the royal decision on 17 March. He served with the 1st hussars regiment between the summer of 1814 and spring 1815. Returning to the Emperor, he was promoted again to captain and named ordinance officer to Napoleon. He fought at Waterloo and, on 21 June, he was promoted to squadron chief. He returned home after Napoleon's second abdication with the rank of lieutenant and on 28 August, he was arrested for having entered a foreign country without authorisation: he had accompanied his father, who had been exiled, to the United States. Auguste returned to France in 1816.
In 1825, he joined Colonel Charles-Nicolas Baron Fabvier who was employed in the service of Greece. For the next two years, Regnaud was charged with the organisation of a cavalry corps which was to receive European-style instruction and training. In 1828, he was attached, as a secretary-interpreter, to the general staff of Lieutenant General Nicolas-Joseph Marquis Maison, who was commander in chief of an expedition in the Peloponnese. The following year, on the insistence of Maison, who had since been named a Maréchal of France, Regnaud was readmitted into the army. After the revolution in 1830, he was made Lieutenant-colonel and placed with the 1st lancer regiment, where he remained until 1841. Between 1831 and 1832, he participated in the campaign in Belgium and was promoted to Colonel in 1832. He was made Maréchal de camp on 18 December, 1841 and, in 1842, he commanded the 1st division of the la Marne operational corps, followed by command of the division in the la Meurthe département. He remained there until 1844, when he was put at the head of the cavalry brigade in the division de secours of the Moselle operational corps. Between 1845 and 1848, he commanded the Versailles cavalry brigade and was distinguished during the 1848 revolution for his firm and disciplined control. He was given the command of the Indre-et-Loire département, followed by the 1st light brigade of the cavalry division in the Armée des Alpes. He was made division General on 10 July, and held the interim command of the cavalry division in the Armée des Alpes. On 26 November, 1848, he was elected député to the Assemblée constituante for the Charente-Inférieure. On 15 April, 1849, he was placed at the head of the land forces in the expeditionary corps sent to the Mediterranean to re-establish papal authority in Rome. On 13 May, he was elected representative to the Assemblée législative for the Charente-Inférieure. Between 1849 and 1855, he carried out a number of inspections. In 1850, he joined the Conseil général for the Charente-Inférieure where he remained for twenty years, as president for a number of them.
He was Minister of War for a few weeks at the start of 1851 and countersigned, on 9 January, the dismissal of General Changarnier, commander of the troops stationed in Paris. As a committed partisan of the Coup d'Etat of 2 December, he was, the morning after, named member of the advisory commission. On 26 December, he was also named to the cavalry advisory committee, where he remained until 1853, when he became president of the aforementioned committee for a term of one year. On 26 January, 1852, he entered the Senate: until 1870 he was one of the body's vice-presidents. In 1854, he commanded the Imperial Guard and, in 1855, the Reserve corps in the Orient. Upon his return to France, he took over the command of the Imperial Guard elements stationed in the country. In 1856, he was commander in chief of the Imperial Guard, a function that he would hold until 1869 when he was relieved on his own request due to poor health. In 1859, he played an important role at the head of the Imperial Guard in the victory at Magenta. On 5 June he was made a Maréchal. On 20 November, 1864, an imperial decree confirmed him as the hereditary heir to his father's title of count, a title that would also revert to the husband of his adopted daughter. He died in Cannes on 1 February 1870. His body lies in Les Invalides.
Joseph VALYNSEELE (tr. & ed. H.D.W.)
This article is reproduced with kind permission from the Dictionnaire du Second Empire, published by Fayard.