Pierre Emmanual Felix Chazal

Leutenant-General Pierre Emmanuel Félix Chazal was a Belgian army officer, politician and revolutionary who would become minister of defense and subsequently minister of State of Belgium. During the Belgian Uprising in 1830 he quickly rose to prominence and became the confedant of King Leopold I.

Born at Tarbes (France) in 1808 as the son of Marie-Françoise Palatine De Laville and Jean-Pierre Chazal who played an active role during the French Revolution and the First Empire the family had to flee to Vilvoorde when Napoleon fell from power and all their property was confisquated in 1816. Later the family relocated to Brussels. In the early stages of the Belgian Revolution he organised armed resistance to Dutch troops entering Brussels and took part in de clashes that ensued. The provisional government trusted him command of the insurgents and he shaped it to a fighting force. He also mediated with the commander of the fortress of Antwerp – general Chassé – and during the Ten Day campain he did not see much action returning to Kalloo.

Assuming command of the armed forces he was able to stabelise the military situation in the years following the treaty with The Netherlands and positioned Belgium’s perpetual neutrality in post-Napoleontic Europe. He was bestowed Belgian citizenship in 1844 and was raised to the title of nobility in 1857. He also was able to intercept French insugents to advance into Belgium at Risquons-Tout in 1848 during the Spring Time of Nations deploying the State Security service. As minister of defense Pierre Chazal (1847-1850 and 1859-1866) came into conflict with the Meeting Party concering the increasing militarisation and forticication of Antwerp by the Belgian government. At this time he assigned fortifications engineer Henri-Alexis Brialmont to his cabinet.

During the Prusso-Austrian war of 1866 the shifting power balance in Europe urged him to study the new and improved organisation of armies and increased firepower. In 1870 he assumed command of the observation army as Belgium mobilised – successfully – to deter French or Prussian forces from invading. He also served in different diplomatic roles – representing the Belgian crown. In the wake of the Franco-Prussian War he escorted the defeated Napoleon III to captivity at Castle Wilhelmshöle (Hesse, Germany) from Bouillon passing through Verviers. He served as Liberal (right-wing) member of Parliament and featured as a prominent figure.

In 1865 he gained notoriety for fighting an illegal dual with Antwerp member of Parliament Jan De Laet over the Belgian volunteers participating in the French intervention in Mexico which he lost – he was injured and De Laet apologized. As reigining minister and since the practice of duelling was outlawed he was convicted en sentenced by the supreme court of Belgium to two months of prison, 8 days of home arrest and 200 francs penality but received a pardon by the Senate on instigation of King Leopold II. Later he continued to assume command of several army units and would become adjudant-general of King Leopold II until his death.

In 1829 he married Anne-Thérèse Graff – his four sons all pursuided military careers. He lost one of sons during the French intervention in Mexico at the battle of Tacambaro in 1865. He is featured in the iconic painting of the Belgian Revolution made by Gustave Wappers of 1835 and he has a statue located in the present day military base of Beverlo / Leopoldsburg / Leopoldbourg. In Brussels he has a street named after him.

In 1875 he once returned to his estates (Castle of Uzos, Pau, France) and dedicated himself on writing his memoires. He passed away in January 1892 as did his spouse.

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