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Geraud-Christophe-Michel, Grand Marshal Duroc (1772-1813)

The son of chevalier Claude de Michel, Duroc was born at Pont-a-Mousson in Lorraine on 25 October 1772. Named Grand Marshal of the Palace by Napoleon in 1804 and eventually awarded the title of Duke of Frioul, Duroc was a skillful diplomat, brave soldier and among the first and most treasured of Napoleon's friends as well as a trustworthy friend of Empress Josephine who more than once relied upon his ability to cool the Emperorís famous temper.

A cadet when the revolution broke out in 1789, Duroc attended the Chalons artillery school, and emigrated in 1792. After a short stay abroad, he returned to France and attended the Metz school in 1793. He was the drafted to the artillery service of the army of Italy.

In 1796 Napoleon made Duroc his aide and made him a major in Egypt, a colonel in Syria, and, after his support in the coup d'etat of 18th Brumaire (9 November 1799), senior aide-de-camp. All contemporaries praised this reserved, unambitious man who, as his best friend, often redirected Napoleon's angry impulses.

From 1804 on, Duroc was Grand Marshal (aka 'Lord High Steward of the Empire') and kept good order in Napoleon's more than forty palaces. He was often on diplomatic missions, and it was he who signed the treaties of Fontainebleau and Bayonne (1807-08) which preceded the French intervention in Spain.

Duroc was also a General of Division (1803), led a division at the Battle of Austerlitz (1805) and was in all the major campaigns from Austerlitz to the so-called War of German Liberation. He was usually consulted by Napoleon on questions of promotion and became the best channel by which Napoleon's lieutenants could approach the Emperor.

Duroc participated in the Austrian campaign in 1809, the 1812 war in Russia and the campaign in Saxony the following year.  On the journey back from Russia in late 1812, the Emperor chose Armand de Caulaincourt as his travelling companion. Duroc followed in another sled. Once back in France, Duroc was made a Senator in 1813.

Duroc played an important role in the organization of the reconstituted Grand Army and was with it at the battles of Lutzen and Bautzen in Germany. Near the Silesian outpost at Markersdorf on 22 May 1813, Napoleonís entourage came under enemy artillery fire and Duroc took a random and mortal wound, having just enough time to bid his friend and Emperor farewell.