Thursday 14 October 2010

Once more into the breach…Constantine 1837 (2)

The French expedition to Constantine in 1837 (see yesterday’s post) was commanded by General Charles de Damrémont, the Governor General of Algeria. Unfortunately, he was killed by a cannon shot fired from the city walls the day before the final assault.

Following the fall of Constantine to the French, a funeral ceremony for Damrémont was held in the breach, which was to be the subject of a 1910 painting by Édouard Detaille.

This huge canvas currently hangs imposingly in the staircase of the Pavillon du Roi, part of the Chateau de Vincennes, and so is passed by researchers using the reading room of the French army archives at the top of the staircase. It is appropriately stimulating to historical research.

In spite of the French title of this picture Service funèbre du Général Damrémont, the general is not buried at Constantine but in the crypt of Les Invalides in Paris. His funeral service in Paris saw the first performance of Berlioz’s great Requiem.

Here is a performance of the Dies Irae from that work.

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