General Boulanger 1891

Suicide of General Boulanger

Source: Le Petit Journal, October 1, 1891;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor.

Ixelles, September 30, 1:15 pm

General Boulanger has just killed himself at the cemetery of Ixelles, near the grave of Mme de Bonnemain, who was his companion in exile and whose recent death we have doubtless not forgotten.

This morning the general went out in his carriage, had his coachman leave and remained standing for quite some time before the grave. And then suddenly – it was about 11:30 – he took revolver from his pocket and shot a bullet into his right temple. The bullet came out the other side, through the left temple. The guards and several people attracted by the sound of the detonation saw the general spin and then fall to the ground. They immediately ran over, but the general had already breathed his last breath.

M. Marchal, the director of the cemetery, took the weapon from the suicide’s hand, and at 1:00 the corpse was transported to the general’s domicile.

The suicide
Brussels, 3:00 pm

The general lived on rue Montoyer in Ixelles, a suburb of Brussels, in a house with his mother and his nieces, Mlles Griffith. A few days ago one of his friends, M. Alfred Dutens, had come to join him in Ixelles. Since Mme de Bonnemain’s death, the general went every day at 4:00 to the cemetery where she rests and remained there for a long time in meditation before her grave.

This grave is quite simple, and is only distinguishable from the monuments that surround it by the pile of wreaths of all sizes and kinds that cover it. On the tombstone, this epitaph:

December 19, 1855 July 15, 1891
See you soon

Since losing his companion, the general appeared to be in a state of total despair, completely annihilated. He showed no concern for anything at all.

This morning at 10:00, contrary to his habit, he left for the cemetery in his coupé. A short while later, M. Dutens, surprised by the abnormal departure of his friend, left in a carriage to join him at the spot he was almost certain to find him. It was 11:10.

“Oh, it’s you,” cried General Boulanger upon seeing M. Dutens. “What have you come here for?”

“General, your absence surprised me, and I wanted to join you and tear you from your sad thoughts. I was afraid you had some fatal project.”

“But if I wanted to kill myself would I come here, to a public place, and make a spectacle of myself? I would do it at home. But by the way, how did you get here?”

“In a fiacre.”

“Send it away, I’ll join you. We’ll leave together.”

M. Dutens moved away. The general walked around the grave and a few seconds later, a fatal shot resounded.

The rest is known.

When they ran to his aid the general couldn’t say a single word, and when doctors arrived they had nothing left to do but pronounce him dead. Cemetery guards and policemen transported the corpse in the general’s coupé.

General Boulanger killed himself with his service revolver.

The grooming of the body

At the house on rue Montoyer the domestics brought the corpse upstairs to the bedroom, laid it out on the bed, and dressed it in evening clothes, decorated with the plaque of a high officer of the Legion of Honor.

Upon undressing the general, it was noted that he wore on his breast, stuck to a shirt onto which blood had flowed, a large photograph of Mme de Bonnemain. The blood soaked portrait was stuck to the undergarment, and when taking it off a few small pieces were torn. Mme Bonnemain is pictured there standing, in an evening dress with a deep décolletage. The portrait dates from 1888.

The general is now resting in his bedroom on the third floor of the building, in a bed whose canopy and curtains are garnished with blue silk. In the room can be seen a portrait of the former Minister of War in street clothes, tracing out plans; to the side are a portrait of Mme de Bonnemain and a photograph of Mme Driant.

The face of the deceased is calm. On each of his temples, to hide the holes made by the bullet, a black plaster with cotton balls has been placed.

The general’s testament

Four days ago the general deposited a will relating to his private affairs with M. Lecocq, notary on rue d’Arlon.

He also deposited a political testament by which, we have been told, he designated a leader for his former party. This leader is M. Paul Déroulède.

In addition, General Boulanger before dying left different telegrams destined for family members, friends, and several people involved in his political affairs.

These dispatches had been placed in a package that M. Mouton, the general’s secretary, found this afternoon in a cardboard box. On this package was written these words: ‘Telegrams to be sent immediately after my death.”

One of these telegrams was for Mme Boulanger, and was addressed as follows: Mme Widow Boulanger.

Before leaving for the cemetery where he put an end to his days, the general had written to his mother and said he intended to go away for a few days. In writing this letter his aim was to allow his friends to hide the fatal news for a while from the poor woman, who is more than 80 years old, and to inform her of it with much delicacy.

The seals

Brussels, 9:00 pm

It was thought that the French legation, immediately after the death of General Boulanger, would call for the sealing of the papers of the former Minister of War, but this formality wasn’t carried out until quite late in the afternoon.

The French minister is on leave, and in his absence the secretary of the legation sent a telegram to Paris for orders.

By 4:00 in the afternoon he had still received no instructions, but the justice of the peace having proceeded to the placing of seals it is presumed it was done at the request of the French legation.

At the general’s home

It was only at 4:00 that visitors and dispatches started to arrive at the house on rue Montoyer. The first person to arrive was Prince Victor Napoleon.

The first telegram to arrive was from M. Paul Déroulède, the second was signed M. Millevoye. Expected tonight at midnight on the Paris train are several members of the former National Party.

A large crowd is stationed in front of the building, commenting on the general’s tragic end.

The shutters on the ground floor are shut; the blinds on the upper floors are down.

The funeral

The funeral service, according to what we’ve been told, will be celebrated Sunday at 3:00. However, nothing has been decided in this regard, the family not having had time to make a decision. This is the response that is invariably given to all the coffin salesmen, hearse renters, and funeral directors who are virtually assaulting the building.

It appears that the Archbishop of Malines has refused the authorization needed for a religious ceremony.

In principle the Catholic Church refuses entry to its temples of the mortal remains of suicides, and the Belgian clergy is particularly strict on this point. In France one can quite easily get around this difficulty if the family can have it admitted that the suicide killed himself in an access of insanity.