Napoleon’s Marshal Jean Lannes died on this day in 1809. He was one of only three Napoleon’s marshals who were killed during battles or shortly after them (the other two were Marshal Bessières and Marshal Poniatowski). Namely, Marshal Lannes was the first who succumbed to his wounds. Napoleon and Marshal Lannes were friends, and had a good relationship.
Jean Lannes was originally from Gascony, and was born in 1769 (like Napoleon). He joined the Army in his youth. Napoleon recognized Lannes’s qualities and gave him the rank of brigadier general, and then the rank of division general (formerly the highest rank in revolutionary France). Lannes became famous for the Battle of Montebello in Italy, after which Napoleon gave him the title Duke of Montebello (duc de Montebello).
Lannes was one of the people who received the title of Marshal of the French Empire (Maréchal d’Empire) for the first time in history. It is believed that Lannes was one of the three most capable Napoleon’s marshals (with Massena and Davout).
On the eve of this day in 1809, Marshal Lannes took part in the famous Battle of Aspern-Essling. A cannonball struck Jean just when his legs were crossed. It smashed his knee, and injured his other leg. He had an operation, and both of his legs were amputated. Napoleon came up, and allegedly wept as he embraced Jean. Nine days after the battle, Lannes succumbed to his wounds.