October 9 – Superb and valiant knight

October 8, 2012

Baron Athanase-Charles-Marie Charette de la Contrie

Born at Nantes, 3 Sept., 1832; died at Basse-Motte (Ille-et-Vilaine), 9 Oct., 1911.

The four de Charette brothers, three of whom served in the Pontifical Zouaves, and one as a Papal Dragoon.

His father was a nephew of the famous General Charette who was shot at Nantes, 29 March, 1795, during the rising of the Vendee. His mother, Louise, Countess de Vierzon, was the daughter of the Duc de Berry and Amy Brown. As the Duchesse de Berry was at that time in hiding at Nantes, and Charette’s father was being sought by the police, the child’s birth was concealed; he was secretly taken from Nantes on 17 Sept. and was registered in the commune of Sainte-Reine as born 18 Sept. Unwilling, by reason of his legitimist antecedents, to serve in France under Louis Philippe, young Charette, in 1846, entered the Military Academy of Turin; he left in 1848 to avoid serving Piedmont, the revolutionary policy of that kingdom being evident to him. In 1852 the Duke of Modena, the Comte de Chambord’s brother-in-law, appointed Charette sub-lieutenant in an Austrian regiment stationed in the duchy. He resigned in 1859 when the French were on the eve of a campaign against Austria.

General Baron Athanase Charles Marie de Charette de la Contrie 1832 -1911

In May, 1860, when two of his brothers, like him eager to fight the Italian revolutionaries, offered their services to the King of Naples, he went to Rome and placed himself at the service of Pius IX, who had commissioned Lamoriciere to organize an army for the defense of the Papal States. Charette was appointed captain of the first company of the Franco-Belgian Volunteers, known after 1861 as the Pontifical Zouaves, and was wounded at the battle of Castelfidardo (Sept., 1860). After the taking of Rome by the Piedmontese, Charette negotiated with Gambetta for the employment of the French Zouaves in the service of France against Germany; he was permitted to organize them as “Volunteers of the West”. Wounded at Loigny, Charette was made prisoner; but he escaped, and on 14 Jan., 1871, the Provisional Government of France made him a general. He was elected to the National Assembly by the Department of Bouches-du-Rhône, but resigned without taking his seat.

Louis-Adolphe Thiers proposed his entering the French army with his Zouaves, but Charette declared his intention of remaining at the Pope’s disposal. On 15 Aug., 1871, his Zouaves were mustered out of the French army. Retiring into private life, Charette passed his last thirty years serving the cause of religion and hoping for the restoration of the monarchy. He was, in the nineteenth century, a superb type of the valiant knight, devoted heart and soul to the defence of the Pope’s temporal sovereignty, and consecrated himself to that cause in the same spirit which actuated the Crusades of the Middle Ages.

MEURVILLE, Correspondant (10 Dec., 1911).

GEORGES GOYAU (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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