Bignon was born on 3 February, 1771 in La Mailleraye, a small commune in the Seine-Inférieure department. After serving in the armies of the Revolution, he approached Talleyrand for a diplomatic post, couching his request in verse (!) and giving his opinion on the ideal qualities of a good diplomat. Finding preferment, he was appointed a diplomatic secretary in Switzerland on 21 November, 1797, then the following year in Milan. After nearly four years in Berlin during the Consulate, in the autumn of 1803 he became Minister Plenipotentiary to the Elector of Hesse. On 21 October, he was appointed Imperial Commissioner, in charge of the administration in the conquered provinces of Prussia. He left for Karlsruhe on 11 October, 1808. He was the Resident in Warsaw, but was replaced by Pradt on 25 December 1810 and left to become the administrator of Lithuania. He subsequently returned to Warsaw after Pradt's disgrace. Finally, after Leipzig, he held office in Saxony. He retired from political life during the First Restoration, but was called to become undersecretary of State for the Foreign Affairs Minister during the Hundred Days. He was elected député for the Seine-Inférieure in parliament in the House of Representatives. After having provisionally received the portfolio of Foreign affairs on 23 June, 1815, he signed the capitulation agreement of 3 July and temporarily left political life. He was re-elected député by the l'Eure department and took pro-Bonapartist stances. He was re-elected by the Haut-Rhin in 1820 and in 1824, by Rouen in 1826 and by l'Eure in 1827. He continued his brilliant political career under Louis-Philippe and entered the House of peers in 1837. In his will, Napoleon bequeathed him 100,000 francs engaging him “to write the history of diplomacy from 1792 to 1815”. Between 1829 and 1850, Bignon did indeed publish a History of France under Napoleon in several volumes and above all, in 1822, he published The Cabinets and nations from 1815 until the end of 1822.
Author: Jean Tulard, trans. L.S.
Dictionnaire Napoléon, 1999, Fayard
Reproduced and translated with the authorisation of Editions Fayard. All rights reserved.