Joseph Fouché

[1st Duc d'Otrante]

Biography of Joseph Fouché

Joseph Fouché, 1st Duc d'Otrante (21 May 1759 Le Pellerin, near Nantes, France – 25 December 1820 Trieste, then part of the Austrian Empire, now Italy) was a French statesman and Minister of Police under Napoleon I. In English texts, his title is often translated as Duke of Otranto.

Fouché was born in Le Pellerin, a small village near Nantes. His mother was Marie Françoise Croizet (1720–1793), and his father was Julien Joseph Fouché (1719–1771). He was educated at the college of the Oratorians at Nantes, and showed aptitude for literary and scientific studies. Wanting to become a teacher, he was sent to an institution kept by brethren of the same order in Paris. There he made rapid progress, and was soon appointed to tutorial duties at the colleges of Niort, Saumur, Vendôme, Juilly and Arras. At Arras he had had some encounters with Maximilien Robespierre both before the revolution and in the early days of the French Revolution (1789).

In October 1790, he was transferred by the Oratorians to their college at Nantes, in an attempt to control his advocacy of revolutionary principles - however, Fouché became even more of a democrat. His talents and anti-clericalism brought him into favour with the population of Nantes, especially after he became a leading member of the local Jacobin Club. When the college of the Oratorians was dissolved in May 1792, Fouché gave up the church, whose major vows he had not taken.

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