Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte’s favorite lieutenant, Marshal Michel Ney, was granted permission at his execution to order the firing squad to fire. Ney told his men, “Wait for the order. It will be my last to you.”
Michel Ney 1st Duc d’Elchingen, 1st Prince de la Moskowa (10 January 1769 – 7 December 1815), popularly known as Marshal Ney, was a French soldier and military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of France created by Napoleon. He was known as Le Rougeaud (“red faced” or “ruddy”) by his men and nicknamed le Brave des Braves (“the bravest of the brave”) by Napoleon.
When Napoleon was defeated, dethroned, and exiled for the second time in the summer of 1815, Ney was arrested (on 3 August 1815), and tried (4 December 1815) for treason by the Chamber of Peers. On 6 December 1815 he was condemned, and executed by firing squad in Paris near the Luxembourg Garden on 7 December 1815 – an event that deeply divided the French public. He refused to wear a blindfold and was allowed the right to give the order to fire, reportedly saying:
“Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her … Soldiers, Fire!”
Ney’s execution was an example intended for Napoleon’s other marshals and generals, many of whom were eventually exonerated by the Bourbon monarchy. Ney is buried in Paris at Père Lachaise Cemetery.