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MARET, Hugues-Bernard, Duc de Bassano

Born on 22 July, 1763 in Dijon, Maret was a supporter of the Revolution and published a report of the debates that took place in the National Constituent Assembly. This report was picked up and published by the Moniteur. Although initially a member of the Jacobin club, he was to leave the group after the National Guard shot on demonstrators on the Champ de Mars in 1791. He was afterwards hired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lebrun, who dispatched him to London. He was named ambassador to Naples in 1793, but was taken prisoner by the Austrians whilst in Piedmont and kept in captivity for thirty months. He was finally released in exchange for the daughter of Louis XVI. He was involved in the negotiations with England that took place in Lille, and was hired as secretary by Napoleon Bonaparte upon the French general's return from Egypt. He was made Secretary of State on 4 Nivôse, Year VIII (25 December, 1799), during which time he was responsible for the promulgation of laws and the registration and counter-signing of decrees and announcements. From this point onwards, Maret organised Napoleon's cabinet, fulfilling a role that can be considered the civilian equivalent to that played by Berthier. He was involved in the negotiations and discussions at Tilsit, Bayonne and Erfurt, and was named the Duc de Bassano on 15 August, 1809, in recognition of his services. He became Minister of Foreign Affairs on 17 April, 1811 and remained in the post until 19 November, 1813. Considered to be too bellicose, he was marginalised despite remaining a trusted adviser to Napoleon, to whom he would remain close until April 1814. During the Hundred Days, he resumed his functions as Secretary of State and was made a Peer of France. Proscribed during the Second Restoration and dismissed from the Institut de France (of which he had been an elected member since 1803), he retired to Linz then to Graz. Returning to France only in 1820, he produced a number of publications of Bonapartist propaganda, before being made a Peer by Louis-Philippe in 1831. He also served briefly as President of the Conseil in 1834. He died in Paris on 13 May, 1839. Talleyrand, who hated Maret, said of him: "There is only one man more stupid than Monsieur Maret, and that is the Duc de Bassano."
Source: Dictionnaire Napoléon (tr. & ed., with permission, H.D.W.)


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