Charles-François Lebrun, one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s most important associates, was born on this day in 1739. Lebrun was as many as 30 years older than Napoleon, belonging to the oldest generation of his associates (in comparison, Napoleon’s marshals were for the most part far younger). In fact, Lebrun was the oldest individual among the highest-ranking dignitaries of the French Empire (he was seven years older than even Napoleon’s father).
Charles-François Lebrun was 50 years old at the outbreak of the French Revolution. He had already made a fairly successful career before the Revolution, at the time of the French kings from the Bourbon dynasty. He was the King’s Censor (censeur du Roi), acting as a sort of inspector of the king’s domains.
After taking power in France, Napoleon appointed Lebrun the Third Consul. Namely, France was at that time ruled by a three-man Consulate, where Napoleon was the First Consul and final authority in the decision-making process. When Napoleon declared himself Emperor of the French, Lebrun received the pompous title of Prince Arch-Treasurer of the Empire (French: Prince-Architrésorier de l’Empire).
Napoleon also granted Lebrun the hereditary title of Duc de Plaisance, which referred to the city of Piacenza, Italy (located between Milan and Parma). Namely, that part of Italy was annexed to the French Empire in Napoleon’s time.
As Prince Arch-Treasurer of the Empire, Lebrun belonged to the Princes Grands Dignitaires, a group encompassing some of the most powerful individuals in the Empire. He had the right to be addressed as “Son Altesse Sérénissime” (His Serene Highness).
It is interesting to note that Lebrun outlived Napoleon, despite the mentioned age difference, dying in 1824 at the age of 85. His title of Duc de Plaisance was inherited by his son, Anne Charles Lebrun.