The Iron Revolution is the name given to the military coup instigated on August 19th, 1925, to overthrow reigning French Emperor Napoleon III Bonaparte by his brother, Prince Regent and Minister of State Albert Bonaparte and members of the military and ruling elite. While not a wholesale revolution by definition, it was a major turning point in Imperial history, signifying an end to the peaceful years of the late 19th and early 20th century, ushering in a violent period of instability climaxing with the French Civil War and concluding with the solidification of Emperor Sebastien Bonaparte's rule in the late 1940's, and the formation of the French Empire as the model for the modern, efficient dictator state.
Buildup to Iron Revolution
The Dreyfus Affair
When Major Alfred Dreyfus, a well respected Jewish officer of the French Army, overheard the conversation between two ranking officers, General Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy and Colonel Hubert-Joseph Henry in May of 1899, which concerned a plan to overthrow Emperor Louis II, due to the decrease in the prestige of the Army, due to the Emperor planning on shifting enormous amounts of money towards the Foreign Legion, and his displeasure with what he referred to as "dinner guest generals." When Dreyfus heard of the plan, he went to his superior officer, who, unknowingly to Dreyfus, was part of the plan, and quickly told him to forget about it. Dreyfus then turned to the notoriously anti-Semitic Major Georges Picquart, who had close ties to the Churat, and the concerns found their way to the Emperor, but not before Dreyfus and Picquart were charged for breach of duty and treason. Dreyfus was imprisoned, while Picquart escaped to Russia, where he got into contact with a member of the Grand Assembly, Émile Zola, who publicly announced the, as of then, quiet escapades of the Grand Army. The Churat moved quickly, arresting Esterhazy and Henry the next day, and after torture, betrayed the entire operation, which included nearly a dozen of the highest ranking generals and admirals of the Empire. They were summarily shot after a show trial. Dreyfus was released and, along with Picquart, exonerated, and both would eventually reach high ranks in the Army: Dreyfus made Colonel before retiring in 1921, and Picquart became a Lieutenant General, but retired before the Iron Revolution broke out in 1925.
The Dreyfus Affair, also called the Esterhazy Plot, was disregarded by the early 1910's as a minor blip, especially due to the growth of the military operations overseas during the Colonial Wars. Still, the concern remained throughout the Empire over the apathy demonstrated towards the plot by the general public and even members of government - had the Churat and Emperor himself not cracked down on the event, the State Ministry, and far less the Defense Ministry, would have been reluctant to act. The Esterhazy Plot was also noted for its delicate yet advanced manipulation of the Imperial political structure, especially within the Parisian ministries. When Francois Baptiste began designing the Iron Revolution, he would use this failed plot not only as a model, but as an assurance that the elite cared more about their position than the integrity of the French Imperial government as a whole.
Reign of Napoleon III
Napoleon III had come to power in 1922 following the death of his father, Louis II. He was duly noted for his failure to take advantage of opportunities to drag Europe out of the economic slump it had experienced since the Paris Stock Market's crash in 1917, and the lengthy depression only deepened during his reign.
Brother Albert had served as Minister of State since 1913, and watched his elder brother and Crown Prince make several mistakes working for his father in the Internal Ministry. Napoleon III passed his most disastrous policy in 1924 when he declined a blockbuster trade agreement with the Calcuttan raj, thus eliminating enormous potential profits for the French Indian Company based out of Karachi. Business leaders in Paris and Berlin, the Empire's two largest commerce centers, went into uproar, and so did mass labor. A huge strike was staged at the Renault motor vehicle factory in Bourges, and Napoleon III employed Churat agents to work as strikebreakers. When this covert tactic only doubled their problems, the Grand Army arrived to do away with the strikers, killing 34 men.
As the Pacific War began to unfold late in 1924, Napoleon III went against the advice of his most trusted generals - including Grand Marshall Ricard Cerf and General Stephan Halle - and chose not to enter on the side of the Americans, Brazilians and Alaskans, despite overseeing the largest military in the world at the time.
On May 7th, 1925, a riot broke out in Berlin, and despite the Grand Army's arrival in the riot's second day of violence, Imperial Governor Desmond Eunaire was kidnapped from his home and publicly lynched at Ramslerplatz in front of a jeering crowd. Eunaire was a symbol of Imperial ineptitude and French meddling in the eyes of most Germans - his death was a severe boost to anti-government forces brewing beyond the Elbe. In Poland and Russia, there was talk of rebellion against the ruling elite.
Metillon Conferences and Bourges Agreement
On June 4th, 1925, several high-ranking members of the State Ministry received an invitation to the Bonaparte family's Metillon palace, in the French Alps. On June 10th, Albert Bonaparte welcomed eight visitors to Metillon, and in a closed conference, said the following immortalized words:
"Gentlemen, I do love my brother, and I do love the Empire, but the two cannot coexist."
In attendance at the first Metillon Conference were the following:
- Desmond Aumange, Secretary of the State Ministry
- Phillippe Nife, Undersecretary of the State Ministry
- Francois Baptiste, Secretary of Information, State Ministry
- Jean-Louis Claves, Undersecretary of Information, State Ministry
- Edouard Jobere, Secretary of Operations, State Ministry
- Karl Heimer, Chief of State Ministry's Berlin Wing
Albert presented to his gathered friends a need to immediately remove Napoleon III from power; his initial plan to forward this plot involved employing his allies in the Grand Assembly to block Napoleon III's edicts and assume control of state affairs by declaring the Emperor unfit to rule. Nife and Aumange both recognized that an attempted constitutional battle would be fruitless, especially with the recent violence in Berlin.
It was Baptiste who suggested a more sinister plot; the removal of Napoleon III from office by force. He pointed out that the Emperor was deeply unpopular and that if he were to be ousted in a popular revolt, the citizens of the Empire would feel vindicated.
Heimer and Nife disagreed with the execution of Baptiste's plan. They realized that a popular revolt would soon remove the rest of the government's elite as well, and would only spell doom for the Empire's sagging economy. The coup, they argued, would have to occur from within the government itself.
Albert's concern now, after the First Metillon Conference, was Edouard Jobere, who was a high-ranking member of the State Ministry but also a noted political adversary of Napoleon III. Despite his dislike of the weak Emperor, Jobere found a coup, even a nonviolent one, to be an extremely disagreeable act, and threatened to accuse the other conspirators of treason. He never had a chance; Albert's personal bodyguards murdered Jobere on June 17th in Nice in front of a stunned crowd - including Jobere's wife and three children - on a public beach in broad daylight. The exact culprits were never found.
Albert returned to Paris following the dispatchment of Jobere and there called a conference of high ranking generals to discuss, one by one, the implementation of military policy by Napoleon III. Three generals stood out among the rest as loyal to the Emperor - Roger Holle, Pierre Tital, and Fredric Giles, all three young, promising generals waiting for promotions to higher service.
The Second Metillon Conference was held on June 29th-July 3rd. The conspirators from the first conference returned, and were joined by Grand Marshall Desmond Cerf and Brigadier General Henri Moderan, the two highest-ranking officers in the . Here, a bloody oath was sworn; having seen a violent riot occur in Venice only days prior, the conspirators recognized that Napoleon III would need to be removed via military coup. With the leaders of the military onboard, the consensus was simple: Remove the reigning Emperor from office and install Albert on the throne.
The coup would need to be kept secret; scapegoats would be necessary, and for that purpose the agreement was that the Churat would have to become involved. Knowing that the Grandmaster of the Churat was just as likely to betray him as the Emperor, Albert approached the Minister of the Churat, Remy de Nancourt, and proposed that the Churat act in the best interest of the Empire and assist in the overthrow of Napoleon III. Nancourt responded on July 10th: "The Churat has decided that treason in the good of the Empire is not treason, but a public service. Tell us what we must do."
With the Grandmaster, with Nancourt as proxy, onboard, Albert could move forward with his plan. The problems with overthrowing the Emperor were twofold; first, the Grand Assembly would be in an uproar, and would need to immediately be dissolved following the physical coup. Second, as the German industrial economy swayed, so did the Empire. Albert would need the assistance of the economic heavyweights of the Rhineland to come to his aid in funding a coup that would only benefit them.
At Bourges on July 23rd, the Bourges Agreement was made between Albert, Grand Marshall Cerf and Heinrich Jasser, head of the Berlinerbank, the largest bank in the Empire: Napoleon III would be removed from power in one month's time, and the Empire's elite would back the coup one hundred percent.
The Coup: August 18th-August 22nd
At 3:30 PM on August 18th, Albert left the State Ministry to meet with his sons, Edmond and Sebastien, both high-ranking officials within the Interior and Foreign Ministries, at Baptiste's apartment in Paris. There, the two chief conspirators revealed that the Emperor was hours away from assassination and that both sons would be required to assist in the plot as it unfolded over the next few weeks.
At 6:00 PM, Robert Marge and Theo Huignot left the Raspberry, a burlesque club in Montmartre, the last time either would be seen in public by their friends. They stopped at Huignot's apartment and picked up their rifles, which they placed in the back of a stolen Renault.
By 9:30 PM, news of a potential coup had reached Interior Minister Fredric de Roybert, who was charged with briefing the Emperor the next morning on internal matters. He immediately phoned War Minister Joseph Billon, who thanked him for the message and promptly placed the Reserve Parisian Corps on alert, sensing an impending event. Grand Marshall Cerf called Billon at 10:22 to question his motivation of placing the Reserve Corps on standby so late in the evening, and Billon explained the fear of an imminent attack on the Emperor.
"If there is a coup in the works, Joseph, I'm afraid by now it would be too late," Cerf told Billon.
At 11:34, two men were seen entering the Turtledove, another burlesque club. At midnight, they left. The next morning, the club's owner - Raphael Gutat - was found dead in the club's basement, shot to death repeatedly with rifles. Gutat was later revealed to be a member of the Churat, and a fierce loyalist to the Emperor. He was the one who had spilled news of the coup to Roybert.
Napoleon III was called at 12:25 by Roybert, who informed him that there was a fear of a potential coup in the coming days and that the Reserve Corps were on alert to protect him if needed. It was the last phone call made to the Emperor, who blew off Roybert's warning and ordered the Corps to stand down. Roybert called Billon again at 12:45 to order the tired Reserve Corps to be dismissed for the night, but to return to standby at 9:00 AM the next morning, regardless of what the Emperor said. "This is for the Emperor's own good," Roybert explained.
At 2:30 AM, the Imperial Guard shift was cycled. Two of the new members of the Guard were well aware that the coup was about to take place; they had been given orders to let Marge and Huignot in through the back gate to the massive Imperial Palace in central Paris. Marge arrived first in the stolen Renault, parked it by the door to the Imperial Censor's office and entered with both rifles. He loaded them in the Censor's office and then placed them both inside the doors to the Emperor's quarters. Huignot was then let in to the Emperor's quarters through a window in the kitchen that Marge opened for him.
They ascended the stairs with the rifles and promptly killed three Imperial Guards standing watch in the hallway. Due to the raised alert, which the two assassins were unaware of, the Palace was filled with the Guard. Both assassins moved into the private chambers of the Emperor, who had woken up from the gunfire and was being escorted to safety through a secret escape passage by two of his guards. Huignot was killed in the quarters in a firefight with four Guards, and Marge chased the Emperor down into the passage.
Edouard DeBray, an additional Guard aware and complacent with the coup, was waiting at the mouth of the passage for Emperor Napoleon III and his guards. As they emerged from the fireplace in the Napoleonic Ballroom, DeBray opened fire, killing all three instantly. Marge emerged next from the fireplace, and shot DeBray once in the head with a concealed revolver. Imperial Guards stormed down into the Napoleonic Ballroom and opened fire on the overmatched Marge, who died beside the Emperor and the true assassin.
By this time, about 3:15 AM, news of the assault on the Palace had spread to the Interior Ministry. Roybert immediately drove to the Palace with his private bodyguards, arriving at 3:30. By this time, it was reported to him that the Emperor had been murdered by two yet unidentified assassins and a traitor on the Guard, and there was concern they may be more men involved in the plot. Roybert called the War Ministry and ordered the Reserve Corps mobilized immediately.
He at this point then proceeded to call State Minister Albert Bonaparte, alerting the murdered Emperor's brother of the situation. Albert, who lived separately from the Palace, thanked Roybert and immediately phoned Baptiste and Nife to alert them to put the next phase of the plan into motion.
As Prince Regent and State Minister, Albert was in a position to assume emergency powers. At 4:30 AM he declared immediate martial law and for the Reserve Corps to secure the government sector of Paris. He also ordered two additional divisions at Louis I Military Base outside of Paris to move into the city to ensure security.
At 6:00 AM, Albert ordered an emergency meeting of the State Ministry's inner circle - almost all of whom had been in on the coup to begin with. He also ordered the presence of Grand Marshall Cerf. The meeting began at 7:00 and ended at 7:24 - the bulk of it concerned not national security but the further implementation of the coup to go forward.
At 9:00 AM, the Grand Assembly convened, as per Albert's orders, to discuss the next movement of government, and Albert addressed the Empire via radio address at 10:30 to deliver the news of Emperor Napoleon III's sudden assassination and of the measures being taken to ensure Parisian security.
At around 1:00 PM, a massive riot started on the Champs Elysees. the Reserve Corps responded swiftly, attacking rioters brutally and killing almost 50 people. Albert addressed the Empire again via radio to demand compliance with the martial law put in place in Paris and its surrounding area, hoping to swiftly crush opposition to his coup, which had gone off flawlessly so far.
Roybert called Billon at 2:50 PM and asked for the immediate mobilization of troops to the south of Paris to be used to remove Albert from power, explaining his suspicion that the younger brother of Napoleon III had engineered the assassination and was using his position as State Minister to smooth over the coup. Billon complied, making the mobilization call at 3:00. Ten minutes later, he called the State Ministry and told Baptiste of Roybert's suspicion. Baptiste reassured Billon that the situation was under control and suggested that Roybert was the engineer of the coup and had been trying to mobilize troops for the past eighteen hours in order to execute a coup in his vision, and that Billon was an unknowing accomplice.
At 4:00, Roybert was placed under arrest by the Reserve Corps, who took him into custody in the Interior Ministry. Edmond Bonaparte immediately assumed control as Interior Minister and told Roybert he was free to leave, but that he was under house arrest. Roybert complied reluctantly, telling Albert's young son that the coup was doomed to fail.
Napoleon III's son, Louis-Philippe Bonaparte, was contacted at 5:50 PM at his home in French Algeria, where he had only heard whirling rumors of the coup throughout the day. He prepared to leave and assume the throne the next day, as Albert suggested, but as he left his mansion Churat agents opened fire and killed the presumptive heir.
News of the heir's murder would not reach Paris until the next day, and by then it would be too late - Louis-Philippe's only ally in the bureaucracy, Roybert, was killed at 7:00 PM as he entered his home in Paris, shot to death by presumably the Churat. With Roybert dead, few in the upper echelons of government dared question the legitimacy of Albert's coup.
August 20th and 21st
By the morning of August 20th, the rioting had begun to quiet in the streets of Paris and an uneasy still covered the city and its surrounding suburbs. General Stephan Halle arrived at the State Ministry early in the morning on the 20th, and at 7:00 AM requested a meeting with Albert Bonaparte and Baptiste. The preeminent half-German (and thus citizen-petits) general in the Grand Armee informed the State Minister and his effective right-hand man that without the support of the native Germans in the Imperial government, the coup was doomed to failure. Halle had been an opponent of the deceased Napoleon III, but he had only realized that there was an ongoing coup the day before.
Sensing a threat, Baptiste questioned Halle and asked what his suggestion was. Halle pointed out that despite having powerful bankers onboard, the industrial elite of eastern Germany - specifically, in Berlin and Leipzig - was still fuming over mistreatment under Napoleon III and that they would need to be convinced that Albert's new regime could perform differently. Albert was unsure what exactly the problem was; a State Ministry filled with his own political allies that he had appointed during his twelve years in the position had every intention of changing Napoleon III's policies. It became obvious that Halle was threatening the German portions of the Grand Armee and political establishment to defect against Albert unless given a larger share in the regime than under Napoleon III and his father, Louis II.
At 9:30 AM, news of Crown Prince Louis-Philippe's death reached Paris and an uproar ensued. A new riot began, this one on Rue Imperiale, right outside the closed-off Imperial Palace. Albert ordered the Reserve Corps once again to disperse of the rioters, and over a hundred were killed in the violence. By noon, the rioters had been dispersed from the central city, away from the fortified government sector. Tanks arrived in Paris to blockade off the State, Interior, and War Ministries from protestors, and a similar defense was arranged for the Imperial Palace, Grand Assembly and Imperial Court.
Albert spent the majority of the afternoon hidden away in the State Ministry's conference rooms with Baptiste, ordering directives to quickly supplant the escalating tension within the government. The Grand Assembly convened again, this time without the request of the acting head of state, and two prominent members - Jacques Jaunet and Nicolas Ouresseur - questioned the official story sent from the State Ministry in the morning that Roybert had been involved in a massive conspiracy and that his death was part of Albert's solution to combat the takeover.
Baptiste came to Edmond Bonaparte and politely requested a purge of the Interior Ministry of all perceived allies to Roybert in the ensuing days. Roybert had been one of Napoleon III's strongest allies in the bureaucracy and had filled the Interior Ministry, much like Albet had done with State, with his friends during his six-year stint in office.
On August 21st, Edmond initiated the purge of the Interior Ministry. At 8:00 AM he ordered the immediate review of all directors and personnel in high positions, and at 11:00 the interrogations began. The panel was comprised mostly of members of the State Ministry and George Tital, a prominent lawyer and minor member of the Grand Assembly who was a known ally of Edmond's. By 6:00 PM, the review was finished, and thirty-four men were dismissed, including most of the Ministry's Directory. Seventeen of those men would be subsequently murdered over the next three weeks, and twelve of them would be arrested only to be released. Four fled the Empire to Switzerland, England and Ireland.
Albert met with Nife on the morning of the 21st to discuss securing their hold over the government while the Interior Ministry was being cleansed of political enemies. Albert appeared before the Grand Assembly at 1:00 PM to ask for a suspension of civil law in the immediate Parisian area and to put all divisions across the Empire on alert in case of further attacks in other cities. Jaunet rose and accused the Prince Regent of instigating a coup and walked out of the Grand Assembly with seven other men, including Ouresseur.
Jaunet later organized a meeting at the Laughing Bull, a public house and tavern in southern Paris, where he drafted a resolution that all people at the meeting signed. The Jaunet Plan called for a suspension of Imperial powers by the Grand Assembly so the legislative body could review the evidence of the coup, and for citizens to refuse the martial law placed on Paris as a violation of Imperial law protecting against anti-judicial killings.
Albert was notably shaken by the Jaunet Plan when he heard of it that night, but chose to focus his energy instead on trying to maintain order as another mild riot sparked up outside of Paris. He ordered the immediate return to the capital, however, by all high-ranking generals in the Grand Armee, to arrive no later than August 30th for a Roll Call.
With the Interior Ministry wiped clean and with military control of the city, the physical coup was all but over.
Assertion of Force: August 23rd-29th
Suspension of Grand Assembly
The Empire was stunned on August 23rd when Albert addressed the country by radio: "Effective at noon today, August 23rd, 1925, the Grand Assembly's activities are suspended indefinitely until the State Ministry can determine whether or not any of Roybert's co-conspirators still serve in that body and whether they are seeking to currently threaten the Empire."
At this point, the State Ministry's propaganda - brilliantly executed by Baptiste - heaped the full blame of the assassination of Napoleon and Louis-Philippe on a cabal of conspirators that was not necessarily led by, but including Fredric de Roybert. Albert had found the perfect scapegoat and besides marked anger at the current martial law, few members of the Parisian public believed he was responsible for the ongoing coup; the story told by the State Ministry was extremely believable. Beyond the immediate Parisian area, information was very difficult to come by; for example, pro-Albert officials in Vienna only knew that there was "ongoing unrest" in the capital, not what the details were.
Jaunet still refused to back down from his Jaunet Plan, and was called to meet with Albert at the Imperial Palace on August 24th. Jaunet obliged, bringing with him Ouresseur and Ben Dreyfuss, another critic of Albert's handling of the emergency. With the city considerably more calm a few days removed from the physical coup, the meeting was informal and courteous. Albert reassured the three men that he was still trying to figure out who the true culprit was and that the State Ministry was in full control.
Jaunet's reaction was somewhat similar to General Halle's; he demanded a share in whatever new regime emerged from the coup and threatened a total lack of cooperation by the Grand Assembly should Albert act in a way disagreeable to him. Albert pointed out that Jaunet's camp in the Assembly was far too small to constitutionally block his measures, and also that the suspended Assembly could not act until he was satisfied it was ready. Jaunet left with little accomplished but the further establishment of himself as Albert's primary new enemy.
Albert called on Aumange and Nife to promptly develop a solution to the "Assembly problem," since Jaunet clearly hadn't gotten the hint that his actions were not tolerated by the government after the suspension of activity. Sensing that the suspension was only going to inflame the Assembly and push more people into Jaunet's camp, Aumange submitted a detailed report on the 26th presenting only one foreseeable option: the complete dissolution of the Grand Assembly.
Meanwhile, Sebastien Bonaparte went about orchestrating reviews of the Foreign and War Ministries for similar purposes that his elder brother had cleansed out the Interior Ministry with. The results were not quite as noticeable - only a handful of dismissals were made, and none of them were arrested or assassinated following their removal from positions of power. Also, the Directories of both Ministries stayed more or less intact - the only noticeable departure was Robert Hauge, Secretary of the War Ministry.
Division and Fear Within Officer Corps
The Imperial officer corps was built to allow speedy promotion by capable officers, and often very young, bright officers came to high rank quickly. Such was the case of Roger Holle and Pierre Tital, both of whom came from traditionally powerful Parisian elite families and who were very complacent with the ongoing coup. Nevertheless, despite their lack of protest towards Albert's actions, they quickly became the target of higher, older officers once the order to hold a Roll Call was issued.
On August 23rd, fear spread through the generals already assembled in Paris, and a selfish attitude permeated the ranks. The belief was that the Roll Call would turn into a massive witch hunt to finger officers who were the most dangerous to the success of the military coup; Albert needed full support of the Grand Armee to solidify power outside of Paris once he had the central government under control.
Grand Marshall Cerf's position was secure, as was Henri Moderan's, but from there on, nobody was safe. Fingers were pointed at one another behind backs and in private clubs as the hours and days ticked down to the dreaded Roll Call on August 30th at 7:00 AM.
Francois Gaton was the preeminent general opposed to the coup. While very apolitical, he felt that the Emperor was abusing his power over the military to constitute personal gain. Along with Jacques Togal and Gerhardt Strucker, he attempted to form a camp within the officers to face the Emperor at the Roll Call and try to turn the military against him. They and junior officers who sided with them were known as "Gatonists."
Tital violently confronted Gaton at a gentleman's club on the 26th, once news had leaked that he himself was a Gatonist. Cerf and Moderan quickly camped together another gang of generals to exclude Tital and isolate him as a scapegoat, despite his silence on the coup.
Holle came to Tital's defense on the 27th, arguing to several other generals, including Stephan Halle, that a division within the officer corps would only give the Prince Regent more power within the Roll Call. By separating officers into separate camps, the generals were only losing leverage to gain power within the coup and help shape policy.
Cerf wrote a letter to Albert on the 28th, fiercely slandering both Holle and Tital, explaining how they were dangers to the security of the Empire and that even if they avoided allegiance with the Gatonists, they were displeased with the fall of Napoleon III. This missive was designed largely to protect Cerf; he was the fiercest advocate of manipulating Albert at the Roll Call, and by pointing a finger at Holle and Tital believed he had bought himself time. He also condemned Halle, reminding the Prince Regent that the German had tried to swing German clout against him.
Dissolution of Grand Assembly and Purge of Jaunetists
On August 27th, Albert met early in the morning with Nife, Aumange, Baptiste and Claves to discuss the delicate Grand Assembly question. Having heard that Jaunet was calling for an inquiry led by the Grand Assembly into the State Ministry once the suspension was lifted, they decided that he was now a liability and a danger to their new regime. Albert was reluctant to officially dissolve the Assembly, a power only Emperors held, but realized that as Prince Regent he was the acting Emperor and had the right to. Also, there were few other options but to completely disband the body and start anew later once his power was unquestioned inside of government.
At 10:00 AM Jaunet and Ouresseur received letters from the Prince Regent informing them that warrants for their arrests had been issued and that he would be announcing the official dissolution of the Grand Assembly at noon that day, but out of respect for their vain efforts, the arrest warrants would not be effective until the Grand Assembly was officially dissolved. Ouresseur managed to escape to the English Channel during the brief time, bringing no belongings with him. He arrived in England on August 29th and lived in London as an exile until his death in 1937 from a heart attack.
Jaunet was not so lucky. Despite his arrest warrant being delayed, the death order placed upon him by Nancourt at the request of Baptiste was still valid. Churat agents arrived at his apartment as he was packing his things to flee the country like Ouresseur and dragged him out into the street, where he his throat was slit and he was left to die in the middle of traffic, branded as an enemy of the Empire by Baptiste's propaganda machine.
When the order of dissolution became public, dozens of members of the Assembly realized that they were next at risk for assault by the Churat and government forces. Almost fifty former members of the Grand Assembly fled to England, Ireland and Switzerland out of misguided fear. Albert's attention, however, was focused more narrowly - on Dreyfuss and all others who had signed the Jaunet Plan, of which he had a copy and a roster of signatures.
Between August 27th and 30th, thirty-four people were rounded up and taken away from Paris to an unknown fate. Twenty-five people were arrested and jailed for insurrection, of which twelve were eventually tried and executed for treason. Sixteen men and two women who had signed the Jaunet Plan were murdered swiftly, including Ben Dreyfuss, who was gunned down on the steps of the Grand Assembly as he was leaving after cleaning out his office and tendering his resignation as Chief of Operations for the Hebrew Brotherhood, a Jewish organization that included several notable politicians.
With the "Jaunetists" now removed, and their ties to Roybert perpetuated upon the public by the State Ministry, Albert could focus entirely on his last objective: securing his position as leader of the military, and silencing his most dangerous critics within their ranks.
Purge of Officer Corps
At 7:00 AM, two hundred and thirty six generals from the Grand Armee gathered at the War Ministry in Paris. They were separated into groups to be interviewed by panels of officials from the War and State Ministries. Sebastien and Edmond Bonaparte were both sitting on two separate panels, along with Baptiste, Aumange, and Claves.
The interviews were conducted until 12:00 PM, and every hour in between the generals would be reorganized into new groups to meet with new panels. The design of the Roll Call was to split generals out of their preferred camps and see how they interacted in front of different peers and different officials.
Grand Marshall Cerf behaved largely as if his allegiance to Albert made him invincible, which Baptiste took note of. The panels also saw that Cerf's finger-pointing was aimed primarily at those he saw as a direct threat to his position in the new government within the coup.
Meanwhile, Stephan Halle was the first early target in the Roll Call; even before the interviews started, Albert and his inner circle had decided his fate. Halle scrambled in interviews to gain support from fellow Germans, but most generals could tell that he would only bring other officers down with him and backed away from Halle.
The Gatonists managed to earn some favor during the interviews; Gaton himself spoke eloquently about how the military was an instrument that would be needed to secure peace, not power, in the new France. His most famous line from the Roll Call, later publicized, was: "The Emperor is gone, we cannot change that. But now what?"
Roger Holle and Pierre Tital scrambled to dig themselves out of the hole they had been plunged into by Cerf and Gaton, trying to earn favor with the State Ministry after having been abandoned by the other camps within the officer corps. Baptiste himself commented on Holle's legislative ability, impressed by the officer's refusal to accept his isolation and perceived doom and the stubborn attempts to earn back respect from the men that held his fate.
At 12:00, the generals were dismissed for two hours, while the interview panels compiled their reports. At 2:00, the generals returned and roll was taken in the massive conference hall. Here, Albert himself appeared, along with War Minister Joseph Billon and Baptiste, Claves and sons Edmond and Sebastien.
From 2:30 until 6:00, Albert opened a forum for the generals to propose policy and continue to splinter themselves into groups he could handle more effectively. During the forum, Halle continued to isolate himself from all camps. Heinrich Strasser, the highest ranking German in the Grand Armee, personally stood up and reassured the Emperor that no Germans in the military were taking Halle's threats of internal subversion seriously. Halle's fate was sealed.
Cerf spent as much time as possible slamming the Gatonists, who he painted as traitors to the Empire and plotting their own violent overthrow of the new government. Gaton's attempts to argue Cerf directly were not as successful as his earlier overtures to Albert's inner circle. Nife and Claves both commented on how Gaton was clearly not a threat to their power, but that his voice was one that would have to be silenced out of necessity and his removal from rank was critical to maintaining stability in the army.
Holle and Tital, both still eyed by most as potential threats as their careers continued, tried desperately to appeal to Billon and Albert's sons to consider the help young, able officers would be able to provide once the new government was solidified. Sebastien argued in their favor, but Edmond was not convinced, and as acting Interior Minister he swayed Albert to punish Holle and Tital accordingly.
At 7:00, after an hour of deliberation by Albert and his inner circle, the announcement was made that the officer corps was, for the most part, sound. However, seven generals would be stripped of rank immediately due to perceived "questions of loyalty."
- Stephan Halle
- Francois Gaton
- Pierre Tital
- Roger Holle
- Jean-David Rougelier
- Bernard Ouisse
- Luc Damon
The inclusion of Halle and Gaton were foregone by the time the Roll Call was over, but the stripping of rank of Tital and Holle, who had tried so desperately to prove their loyalty, was a surprise to many. Rougelier and Ouisse were not fervent Gatonists by any means, but they were old-guard generals who were noted political enemies of Cerf. Luc Damon was considered a liability due to his known personal dislike of Baptiste and several other key State Ministry officials, who felt that he would be detrimental to the survival of the regime.
August 31st-September 7th
Albert fingered Gaton and Halle as the primary targets of his purge into the officer corps, and immediately ordered that all remaining generals conduct thorough reviews of their subordinates to determine loyalty or perceived "Gaton-ism". Francois Gaton was murdered on September 1st when Churat agents stormed his home and bludgeoned him and his two sons to death as they ate dinner.
Halle realized that his time was up and attempted to flee the country. He was gunned down by soldiers and Churat agents at Terminus Station as he was running to catch a train to Calais. Rougelier, having heard of Gaton's death and suspecting possible attack by the Churat, had his civilian cousin drive him to safety in Castille, avoiding capture the entire way. Rougelier lived out his exile in Portugal, using his wealth and status to bring his family safely to Lisbon and to surround himself with protection. He wrote three books about the Iron Revolution before his death of cancer in 1941.
On September 3rd, Luc Damon was shot twice in the head in the early hours of the morning near his Parisian apartment as he was waiting for his car to arrive. Roger Holle, who suspected his death warrant may have been signed, turned himself in to the State Ministry on the 4th, believing that it would spare him his life. The bravery of Holle did not go unnoted; he was left in a cell for seven days, where he wrote numerous letters that a sympathetic guard smuggled out to be published eventually. On September 11th, however, Holle was shot to death in his cell.
On the 5th, Bernard Ouisse brokered a deal with Cerf to spare his life. Albert, however, did place Ouisse under arrest, and the aging general was not released until 1928, and he died shortly thereafter.
On the 7th of September, the Churat came for Pierre Tital, who, having already been made aware of the murders of his peers, had seen to it that his family escaped to America safely before attempting a flight of his own. His brother George, an ally of Albert, is rumored to have turned his elder brother in; regardless of who alerted the Churat of Tital's whereabouts on the 7th, he was attacked in his apartment that day, fully prepared to fight his way out. Armed with a pistol and hunting rifle, Tital engaged the Churat in a shootout in his apartment in which he managed to kill four of his attackers. He then scaled a fire escape onto the roof, where he camped out for fifteen minutes, killing two additional Churat assassins in the process. Tital finally ran out of ammunition spare one bullet, and he was shot in the back by a sniper as he tried to make his escape to another fire escape. Tital shot himself in the throat as he lay dying on the roof, and the angry Churat men threw his body to the street below where it was mutilated by a passing streetcar.
Tital and Holle became martyrs in the eyes of those who opposed the new regime. The Roger Holle Letters were compiled in a book titled initially "My Final Thoughts" and became a bestseller and famous critique of authoritarianism. Tital's name is synonymous with a heroic death, and a book was written concerning the difficult tale of him and his brother George titled Tital, which, along with his other works, elevated Wilhelm Diess as one of the preeminent 20th century authors.
Coronation and End of Revolution
Albert was, for all practical purposes, finished. The purge of the officer corps had left the most loyal soldiers, and he tasked the generals with rooting out "Gatonists" among the ranks of the normal army and navy. Thousands more were imprisoned or discharged for suspected disloyalty to Albert, although only a few were killed, the majority of generals feeling that enough blood had been shed. In the coming days, the military was mobilized and moved out of Paris to crack down on any detected unrest in the countryside. France was, for the time being, the priority; later, troops would move into Germany, Catalonia, and northern Italy. Russia and the East remained mostly untouched throughout this process; this would come back to haunt Albert later.
On September 10th, Albert held his coronation as Emperor of France. It was a somber affair; few citizens of France believed that Albert was innocent in the coup and that he was the legitimate Emperor. Throughout the history of the Empire, transparency had been key to the survival of the Bonaparte rule; the secretive nature of Albert's rise to power, and its bloodiness, cast a deep pallor over the events, and small riots continued over the course of the next few days in Paris and other large French and German cities.
The Iron Revolution, however, had more or less ended.
The Iron Revolution left deep emotional scars in France. Many French were detested by the practice of secrecy and the coup itself. Albert's habit of using the Churat to hunt down his personal enemies, and not traitors and legitimate threats as they were meant to, ushered in an era of authoritarianism in France that would last in some form or another until the mid-1970's.
In the immediate fallout, however, was the collapse of Albert's foreign relations; other countries hesitated when it came to Albert, questioning his methods of coming to power. It was not until well into 1926 that America sent a new ambassador to Paris.
The Iron Revolution was a direct leadup to the Oktoberkreig of 1928-29, which challenged Albert's skills as a military commander. He also later ushered in the New Reign of Terror, which resulted in the deaths of over a hundred thousand civilians suspected of treason or disloyalty. The First Albertine Era is not remembered fondly in France; it ended with the French Civil War waged between his two sons Edmond and Sebastien, which would wind up being one of the most destructive conflicts in human history.
See also: French Civil War