TOURNON-SIMIANE, Philippe-Camille-Marcellin-Casimir de

Share it
A painstaking administrator, Camille de Tournon enjoyed his most 'Romantic' years as Préfet of the départment of Tibre/Rome.
TOURNON-SIMIANE, Philippe-Camille-Marcellin-Casimir de

Early years and career before Rome

Born on 24 June 1778, Camille was third of eleven children to a family of lesser nobility whose seat lay at Claveson in the Drôme (southern central France). As a child he was independent, full of spirit, courgeous and willing to take on responsibilities – not to mention deeply devoted his mother. At the age of 14 he was called upon to rescue his father who had been arrested and imprisoned during the siege of Lyons – he travelled to Switzerland disguised as a postillion in order to prepare for his father's escape. The whole family then took refuge from the Terreur at Claveson and from 1793 to 1803, and Camille (aged 16-25) took charge of managing the family estate. Indeed his adept management reveals his early penchant for administration. He was to remain strongly attached to his 'terres' thoughout the whole of his life.
As Tournon tells us in his Memoirs (written at the end of his life, c.1832 – related by Moulard but now lost), he spent this nine-year period in self-education 'taking up Latin again, reading all the history books in the library, mathematics, 'art militaire', particularly military engineering.' He also claimed to study law, studying eight hours a day when agricultural work allowed, always in the salon amidst the hullaballoo of extremely noisy children. 'I acquired the habit of working seriously with noise around me and being constantly interrupted, but without letting my writing suffer for it. At the same time, I continued to draw and attained a certain facility'. (Moulard, Tournon, p. 16)
But in 1803 Camille left his scholarly rustic paradise to make his way in the world in Paris. As he pompously put it his Mémoirs, 'aged twenty-five and having acquired from my ten-year retreat knowledge in different fields, but yet having lost neither the vigour of character nor purity of feeling bestowed by the countryside, I felt able to become useful to my country.' But despite 'recommendation' from men very close to Bonaparte such as Mgr Boisgelin, Regnault de Saint-Jean d'Angely, Chaptal and Lebrun, he received no post. Given the calibre of Regnault de Saint-Angely, the administrator par excellence and Napoleon's golden boy, Chaptal, minister for the interior and Third-Consul Lebrun, it would seem legitimate to wonder: why? After six months of hanging around in Paris, Tournon was finally given a chance by Chaptal to work on the 'code rural'. Impressed by Tournon's application, Chaptal had him immediately brought into the adminstration. Although offered the posts of director of octrois, sous-préfet, and sécretaire général de préfecture, Tournon nevertheless yearned for higher things. He desired most of all to become an auditeur at the Conseil d'Etat, which is what he became in February 1806, in the Section de l'intérieur.

Tournon in Bayreuth

After a brief period on administrative inspection in Lorraine, Alsace and Luxembourg, on 24 October he received the order to come to Berlin where he was appointed Intendant for the principality of Bayreuth, ceded to France from Prussia in the Treaty of Tilsit, July 1806, known in German as the “französisches Intermezzo”. Bayreuth became a French province and Tournon as head complained bitterly about the confédéré and the Bavarian contingents stationed there (Moulard Tournon, I, 144-57). Hostilities preceding the Battle of Essling began on 10 April 1809, and on 12 April, 1809, Tournon retreated to Würzburg. But after being accomapnied back to Bayreuth by Bernadotte and his young Saxon troops he was captured by Radivojevich and taken as prisoner to the fortress of Munkacs in Hungary where he was to be exchanged for the Comte de Goetz, Intendant general of the Austrian Army held at Mantua in Italy (Dunan, Allemagne, p. 653). On receiving his freedom three months later, Tournon was received by Napoleon at Schönbrunn in September, at which interview Tournon gave the Emperor his report on Hungary (Tournon Note). On 7 September, Tournon was appointed 'Préfet de Rome et du Tibre', in Italy.

The office of Préfet

As per the law of 28 Pluviôse, An VIII (17 February, 1800), at the head of the Département was one man alone, the Préfet, and he replaced the the earlier collegial organisations. Appointed by the First Consul/Emperor, the prefét was the representative of government in the department. Responsible directly to the Ministère de l'Intérieur, he possessed all administrative powers. All he lacked was control over finances and (after the creation of the 'Imperial University') complete authority over the teaching body. However, in terms of policing, the Préfet was not necessarily master in his own house. Whilst the prefect was responsible to the Ministère de l'Intérieur, the police in the form of the gendarmerie, the justices of the peace and the police commissioners answered to the Ministère de la Guerre, the Ministère de la Justice and the Ministre de Police respectively. A prefect was assisted by a Secrétaire général appointed by the government who ran the office and replaced the Préfet when he was absent. “The organisation of the préfectures', said Napoleon to Las Cases (Las Cases, Mémorial, Thursday, 7 November, 1816), 'their actions, and the results obtained were admirable and prodigious. 40 million people were simultaneously under their combined impetus; and as a result of these centres of local activity, the movement was as rapid at all the edges of the Empire as at the centre. […] The préfets, with all the authority and the local resources which they possessed were you could say small-scale emperors; and since their power came from the central administration of which they were organs and their influence came uniquely from their employment of the moment, they were in no way tied to the territory which they administered, and so they possessed all the advantages of the great agents of absolute power of old, but none of their disadvantages”.

Tournon, Miollis and the Consulta Straordinaria

Napoleon decreed that the Papal States were part of the the French Empire on 17 May, 1809. On the same date, another decree dictated the composition of the Consulta Straordinaria, the temporary advisory body dedicated to assisting the Préfet in his adminstration, at least to begin with. The committee was composed of four members, Sextius-Alexandre-François Miollis, governor general,  Laurent-Marie Janet, Joséph-Marie de Gérando and Ferdinando Dal Pozzo (maîtres de requêtes from the Conseil d'état: biographies available here) and a secretary Cesare Balbo. Perhaps one of Tournon's most taxing tasks would have been overseeing the kidnapping of Pius VII, but luckily for him, Miollis and Radet had dealt with it several months earlier. Indeed, Tournon's relationship with the ascetic Miollis was spiky and difficult. Both were proud men and keen patrons of the arts. Their respective roles however were not defined enough to make clear who in the end had precedence over whom. However in his own domains, Tournon was energetic and assiduous. He was particularly renowned for known for his statistical interests, as already revealed in his descriptions of Bayreuth and Hungary. And indeed along with cadastral land surveys of the département, Tournon undertook a wide-ranging survey of the area in and around Rome, finally published in 1831 as the Etudes statistiques.

Draining of the Pomptine Marshes and Urban improvement of Rome

The three great Roman projects during Tournon's préfecture were the beautifying of Rome, the making of the Tiber navigable and the draining of the Pomptine marshes, a potentially rich source of agricultural land but also a terrible source of malaria for the city. The latter project was approved by Napoleon in July 1811 and work continued well through 1812-13, but after bad storms at the end of 1813 destroyed some of the dykes and with the financial situation worsening as the Empire agonised the project finally ground to a halt in 1814 when Tournon left the département. The marshes were finally drained during the Fascist period as a result of work begun in 1926.
As for the beautifying of Rome, an imperial decree of 27 July 1811 created a Commission for the Beautifying of Rome, with three members, Luigi Braschi Onesti, Maire of Rome, Martial Daru (Stendhal's cousin) and Tournon. The first article in the decree laid aside annual sums for work to be performed on: archeological excavation; improvement of navigation on the Tiber; a new bridge over the river,; the beautifying of the piazzas of Trajan and the Pantheon; the construction of promenades near the Piazza del Popolo, the Forum, the Colloseum and on the Palatine hill. Other work undertaken by the Commission included excavations at the Colloseum, the Baths of Titus (in fact the Domus Aurea). However, in the end, perhaps the most complete project to survive is the Piazza del Popolo, still today very much in the form given to it by the architect Valadier (completed 1824). As Stendhal put it 'It was […] the French, who often do the most ridiculous things in Paris, who built the admirable ramps which lead from the level of the Piazza del Popolo to the top of the Monte Pincio'. (Stendhal, Promenades dans Rome, Paris 1829, p. 728)

1813 – The struggle against the brigands

Towards the end of the French dominion over Rome there began to be problems of public security, most notably brigandage. There were eight bands of brigands, working together, joined by deserters and escapees from the hulks in Livorno. Armed robbery on major routes, murders, kidnapping and ransomming of civil servants and land owners were crimes listed. Indeed, according to Savary in his Rapport du ministre de la Police général, 15 September 1813 (recorded in the working papers of the Conseil d'Etat, Gérando collection 2969 Section de législation. M. le Comte Boulay, Rapporteur. N.o d'enregistrement, 39,224, Rapport et Projet de Décret : Pour la Répression du brigandage dans les départemens de Rome et du Trasimène.) the number of crimes had risen by three hundred fifty in three years. Measures were discussed and passed in the Conseil d'Etat whereby a 'Garde Soldée' was to be formed in the city, as well as a Gendarmerie corps for the special guard of the city (working papers of the Conseil d'Etat, Gérando collection 2935. Section de la guerre. M. le Chevalier Allent, Maître des Requêtes, Rapporteur. 2.e Rédaction. N.o d'enregistrement, 38,890). And as the problems worsened, Murat launched his coup d'etat at Rome (19 January, 1814). La Vauguyon was appointed Supreme Commander of the Papal States and Miollis was displaced. Refusing to support Murat, Tournon left Rome on the following day, arriving in Paris on 15 February. Thus ended Tournon's great prefecture.

The Restorations 1 and 2 and the Hundred Days, and the end of his career

Although Tournon rallied to the Bourbons, he did not however receive an administrative post. He consequently retired to the Château de Génélard (belonging to his parents-in-law) where he began putting together his Etudes statistiques. On his return, Napoleon offered Tournon the prefectures of Hérault and Finistère (April 1815), but the latter refused both. On 9 July, Louis XVIII proposed that he should become Préfet de Bordeaux. This time Camille accepted.

He was appointed Préfet of Lyons on 10 January, 1822 and made Commandeur of the Légion d'Honneur on 21 August of the same year. He resigned as Préfet of Lyons the following year to join the Conseil d'Etat where he became president of Conseil des Bâtiments Civils. Made Pair de France on 24 December of the same year, he resigned from the Conseil d'Etat after the July Revolution and spoke in the Chambre des Pairs against the suppression of hereditary peerages, the banishing of the Bourbons and a law on divorce. He left the chamber after that speech and never returned. After publishing the Etudes statistiques (but not his memoirs, which remained in manuscript form and which are today lost) he died at the Château de Génelard on 18 June 1833. Thus died the man whom in 1811 the Ministre de l'Intérieur, Montalivet, had described as 'my youngest and best prefect'.


– AA.VV., Camille de Tournon: le Préfet de la Rome napoléonienne (1809-1814), Paris: Rome; Rome: Fratelli Palombi Editori, 2001, 182 p., includes articles by Bruno Foucard et al.
– Boutry et al. Roma – Roma negli anni di influenza e dominio francese, ed. Ph. Boutry, F. Pitocco, C. M. Travaglini, Roma : Croma, Universita degli studi Roma Tre, 1989.
Includes articles by:
Carlo M. TRAVAGLINI, Introduzione, Stefania NANNI, Geografie e durate per la storia del biennio giacobino, David ARMANDO, I baroni romani nella Repubblica gioacobina: l'abolizione dei diritti feudali, Monica CALZOLARI – Elvira GRANTALIANO, La Polizia pontificia: rapporti tra centro e periferia nello Stato ecclesiastico, Raffaele SANTORO, Il ruolo dei giudici di pace, Maura PICCIALUTI, Istituzioni napoleoniche a Roma: i “depôts de mendicité”, Carla NARDI, La Roma di Napoleone nella corrispondenza di un diplomatico, Massimo CATTANEO, L'invidia appagata: “de' prodigj avvenuti in molte sagre immagini specialmente di Maria Santissima in Roma”, Domenico ROCCIOLO, Il Vicariato di Roma tra Rivoluzione e seconda Restaurazione (1798-1814), Philippe BOUTRY, La prelatura di Curia tra Rivoluzione e Restaurazione, Marina FORMICA, La legislazione annonaria e le rivolte per il pane nel 1798-1799, Rita D'ERRICO, I censi a Roma nella congiuntura monetaria di fine Settecento, Carlo TRAVAGLINI, Aspetti della modernizzazione economica tra fine Settecento e inizi Ottocento. La politica fiscale, Donatella STRANGIO, Progetti francesi per il debito pubblico pontificio, Franco ONORATI, Il ruolo del Monte di Pietà di Roma negli anni di influenza e dominio francese. Gli interventi del Card. Aurelio Roverella, Marina MORENA, A proposito di nuovi modelli proposti dai francesi per l'amministrazione del bollo e per la fabbricazione delle carte da gioco nello Stato pontificio (1798-1814), Eugenio SONNINO – Adriana BRASIELLO, La mortalità infantile a Roma durante la seconda dominazione francese in base alle registrazioni dello “stato civile”, Paolo ALVAZZI DEL FRATE, Cultura giuridica e dominazione francese nello Stato pontificio (1798-1814), Francesca SOFIA, Antico e moderno nel costituzionalismo di P.C.F. Daunou, commissario civile a Roma, Maria Pia DONATO, Immagini e modelli della virtù repubblicana, Pietro THEMELLY, Rinnovamento e normalizzazione nel teatro romano in età giacobina e napoleonica, Annarosa CERUTTI FUSCO, L'accademia di San Luca nell'età napoleonica: riforma dell'insegnamento, teoria e pratica dell'architettura, Luigi MASCILLI MIGLIORINI, Epifanie dell'antico, Anna Maria RAO, Roma e Napoli nell'Italia giacobina e napoleonica
– Dunan Allemagne – Dunan, M., Napoléon et l'Allemagne: le système continental et les débuts du royaume de Bavière, 1806-1810. – Nouv. éd. rev. et corrigée [4e éd.]. – Paris: Plon, 1943
– Haberstroh Tournon – Haberstroh, H.: Camille de Tournon, Intendant des Fürstentums Bayreuth 1806-1809, in: Archiv für Geschichte und Altertumskunde von Oberfranken, vol. 40, 1960, S.172-205
– Moulard Tournon – Moulard, Abbé Jacques, Le Comte Camille de Tournon, auditeur du Conseil d'Etat, intendant de Bayreuth, préfet de Rome, de Bordeaux, de Lyon, pair de France (1778-1833) par…, Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1929-1932, 3 vols., tome 1 La jeunesse, Paris: Bayreuth, 1929, 229 p., tome 2 La Préfecture de Rome, 1930, 567 p., tome 3: La Préfecture de Bordeaux, de Lyon, de Pairie, 1932, 722 p.
– Moulard Lettres – Moulard, Abbé Jacques, Lettres inédites du comte Camille de Tournon, préfet de Rome, 1809-1814, 1ere partie: La Politique et l'Esprit publique, Thèse complémentaire présentée à la Faculté des Lettres de l'Université de Paris pour le doctorat ès lettres par…, Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1914, 580 p.
– Nardi Napoleone – Nardi, Carla, Napoleone e Roma. La politica della Consulta Romana, Rome: École française de Rome; Paris: diff. de Boccard, 1989, collection de l'Ecole Française de Rome, 115, Rome, 1989
– Tournon Statistiques – Tournon (Comte de), Etudes statistiques sur Rome et la partie occidentale des Etats romains; contenant une description topographique et des recherches sur la population, l'argiculture, les manufactures, le commerce, le gouvernement, les établissements publics; et une notice sur les travaux exécutés par l'administration française par…, Paris, Trettel et Würtz, 1831, 2 vols., 375 p., 328 p., includes atlas and 32 plates
– Tournon Note – Tournon, C., de, 'Note sur la Hongrie, Vienne, 24 août 1809', in: Kecskeméti, K., Témoignages français sur la Hongrie à l'époque de Napoléon, 1802-1809, Brussels, 1960

Share it