The Baron de Geramb

Until his arrest, the Baron de Geramb is occupied, with great perseverance, in turning the crowned heads of Europe against Napoleon.  He also attempts to win over the Prince de Conde, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armee des Emigres.  For this purpose, he goes to Worms and to Coblenz where the Emigres had reconstituted a little turbulent and exalted Court.

The Duke de Berry, who is there, does not, however, succumb to Geramb’s charm.  He is supposed to have said of him:

“This charlatan is more a General for the Jacobins than a General against them”.

Superficial impressions perhaps inspire this severe judgement.  Just imagine the Baron arriving with his portable arsenal at the refined Coblenz Court.  Or, perhaps the Duke has a rapid intuition of the Baron’s fragile psychology.  Police reports, generally bad, because they are drawn up by people who have every interest in denigrating the Baron, perhaps influence the Duke, too.

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It is certain that, at the Empire’s collapse, when he leaves prison, Geramb has his moment of truth, which definitively cures him of his youthful extravagances.  At forty-three, after twenty-five years of dissipations and extravagances, he draws the line on his follies.

For thirty-three years, he devotes himself to his religious Order, with the same fervour that he put into his profane adventures.  It is from 1816 that he throws himself headlong into Faith, a bit like Saint Augustin, who starts out by “throwing hinself into love”, the physical variety, before serving only the glorious body of the chosen, as he, himself, will say.

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Brother Marie-Joseph

The general biographical acts of the clergy allow us to follow more easily the different stages of his second existence.  On the portrait that we have of him, he appears a bit absorbed in devotion, his head partly bald and his body thickened.  The mystery of his size is not really cleared up because he is represented seated.  The police reports are very contradictory also on this point:  some give him as one metre seventy-five, others one metre sixty-five, that is to say, way off the gigantic size given to him by the English press when he debarks in London.

What is certain is that he played an important role in the Order of the Trappists, a most venerable Order, since its foundation goes back to the XIIth Century, and which counts several dozen convents and a few thousand monks in the middle of the XVIIIth Century.

The function that he exercised, “General Procurer” of the Order, puts him on an equal footing with the “General Abbot” who, from 1892, will reside in Rome.  In Rome, where the adventures of Geramb are known, and captivate the highest Vatican dignitaries.

But this life, so very rich and so spell-binding, whose magical character is undeniable, hides a last mystery, which is quite sizeable.  Adulated by his equals, estimed by the whole hierarchy of the Church, Geramb is also received by pious Queen Marie-Amelie, the daughter of that Marie-Caroline whose head he had turned so well, twenty-five years earlier.

He is at the head of a religious Order, which is very strict about its Rule, at the Paris Court and in Rome, but he dies without ever having received Orders, not even the “quatre moindres”.

We don’t even know where he is buried.

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