The Chouan family gave everything for altar and throne

October 24, 2011

The Cottereau family home of Jean Chouan.

When hostilities commenced, the family of Jean Chouan consisted of seven persons: his mother, his four brothers, Pierre, Jean, François and René; and his two sisters Perrine and Renée.

By the 1st August 1794, the youngest of the four brothers was the only one of the seven left alive; the rest had all perished. The heroic mother had been killed in the rout at Mans; François had died of his wounds; Pierre had been taken and guillotined; the two daughters had also perished on the scaffold, as sisters of the great brigand.

The story of their death is of a piece with the history of the whole family. On being brought before the judges, Perrine displayed extraordinary courage. “You treat us as brigands,” she said; “but the good God will judge us, and you also, and will award to each what is just. I throw myself on His mercy. From you I expect neither justice nor pity. I glory in being the sister of Jean Chouan.” Renée, on the other hand, wept at the thought of the terrible death which they were going to suffer. Still she would condescend to ask no favor at the hands of her executioners on the bench. On her way to the scaffold, her limbs failed her at every step; but her more courageous sister sustained her to resignation, spoke of the glorious reward in store for them, and saw her die; and then, when her own turn came, calmly made the sign of the cross, and said, “Vive le Roi! Vive Jean Chouan! God protect them, and have mercy on me!”

Jean Chouan

Mielette, Jean Chouan’s friend, was in the crowd; and after their death rushed up to the scaffold, and dipped a handkerchief in their blood, and brought it to their brother. He received the news of their death in silence; took the handkerchief, and placed it in his bosom, and went away. It was found there shortly afterwards, when he was killed in the defense of his sister-in-law, René’s wife. He died surrounded by his men, whom, with his last breath, he encouraged to be true to their God and their king. He was buried carefully and secretly, to protect the body from the vengeance of the Blues, by whom he was regarded with the greatest terror; and who did not cease, after his decease, to blacken his memory with the charge of the most atrocious crimes.

Such was the end of this extraordinary man, who gave his name to a civil war, “compared to which,” said General Hoche, “all others are but child’s play.”


George J. Hill, The Story of the War in La Vendée and the Little Chouannerie (New York: D. & J. Sadlier & Co. n.d.), pp. 189-190.


Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 120

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