We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Law, Jacques Alexandre Bernard, of Lauriston, marquess of Lauriston in the French nobility (1768–1828), army officer, was born on 1 February 1768 in Pondicherry, India, the son of Jean Law de Lauriston (b. 1719), maréchal de camp and governor of Pondicherry, and his wife, Jeanne Carvalho. Of partly Scottish descent, he was a great-nephew of John Law (1671–1729) of Lauriston, the financier. An artillery officer (lieutenant, September 1785), he married on 5 December 1789 Antoinette Claudine Julie Le Duc. He fought in the republican army, which relied much on the expertise of ancien régime officers, and was chef de brigade of the 4th regiment of light artillery (February 1795). From 1796 to 1800 he was inactive, reportedly because of ill health. In 1800 he was aide-de-camp to Bonaparte, the first consul. In 1801 he went on a diplomatic mission to Copenhagen, and in October took to England the ratification of the preliminaries of the peace of Amiens. Promoted général de brigade (September 1802) and général de division (February 1805), in 1805 he commanded the troops accompanying Villeneuve's fleet, intended in Bonaparte's grand design to enable the French invasion of Britain, and was at the naval battle of Ferrol (22 July 1805). Law left the fleet on the eve of Trafalgar and rejoined the grande armée, in which he commanded divisions and later corps in Bonaparte's campaigns in the wars of the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth coalitions. In 1807 he was governor of Venice. In June 1808 he was made a count of the French empire, and later that year he served in Spain. He served on Bonaparte's campaigns in central and eastern Europe, and at Wagram (July 1809) commanded the massed artillery (112 guns). From 1811 to 1812 he was ambassador to Russia. During the invasion of Russia in 1812 he was Bonaparte's aide-de-camp, then in October his envoy to Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov, the Russian commander-in-chief. He fought in the 1812–13 campaigns, at Wachau (October 1813) leading several cavalry charges. At the French defeat at Leipzig (October 1813) he was separated from the French army by the premature blowing of a bridge, and taken prisoner.

Returned from captivity in May 1815, Law rallied to the restored Louis XVIII, who rewarded him with honours and appointments: he was made a chevalier de Saint Louis and commandant of the 1st company of grey musketeers. During the ‘hundred days’ (1815) he did not support Bonaparte, and the re-restored Louis further rewarded him. He held various senior commands and appointments, was made a marquess (August 1817) and marshal of France (June 1823), and commanded a corps during the 1823 French intervention in Spain. He died on 11 June 1828 in Paris, survived by his wife, after a career as a brave and competent commander, whose success depended on his decisions when and whether to change sides in France. Like Sieyès, he survived.

Roger T. Stearn

Sources  

S. Bradley, ed., Archives biographiques françaises (1998) · DNB · D. Chandler, The campaigns of Napoleon (1967) · P. W. Schroeder, The transformation of European politics 1763–1848 (1996) · C. J. Esdaile, The wars of Napoleon (1995) · D. Gates, The Napoleonic wars 1803–1815 (1997) · G. Ellis, Napoleon (1997) · P. Griffith, The art of war in revolutionary France, 1789–1802 (1998)