Bones Of One Of Napoleon’s Favorite Generals Found Under Russian Dance Floor After 200 Years

Published July 15, 2019
Updated November 7, 2019

"It's a historic moment not only for me, but for our two countries. Napoleon was one of the last people to see him alive."

Charles-Étienne Gudin Excavation

Рабочий Путь/FacebookThe body of Charles-Étienne Gudin was found on July 6 under the foundation of a dance floor in Smolensk, Russia. Gudin had been buried for more than 200 years.

The remains of General Charles-Étienne Gudin, one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s most valued military commanders, have been uncovered in Smolensk, Russia by a team of French and Russian archaeologists. According to LiveScience, the one-legged military man was killed by a cannonball at age 44, on Aug. 22, 1812 — and his remains were left buried until now.

Found on July 6 beneath the foundations of a dancefloor, the skeleton was indeed missing a left leg and also showed evidence of injury on the right leg — two essential details that suggest that these remains in fact belong to Gudin.

Records from 1812 note that the man had his leg amputated below the knee after sustaining grievous harm during the Russian invasion. Upon his death, Napoleon ordered Gudin’s name be inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe while his bust was put in the Palace of Versailles, and a Parisian street was named after him.

Meanwhile, his heart was removed and placed in a chapel in Paris’ Père Lachaise Cemetery as a token of honor.

General Charles-Étienne Gudin

Wikimedia Commons A depiction of Charles-Étienne Gudin.

“It’s a historic moment not only for me but for our two countries,” said French historian and archaeologists Pierre Malinovsky, who helped find Gudin’s remains. “Napoleon was one of the last people to see him alive, which is very important, and he’s the first general from the Napoleonic period that we have found.”

Bonaparte and Gudin were childhood friends and attended the Military School in Brienne together. Gudin’s death had a profound impact on his old friend. Napoleon reportedly cried when he heard the news and immediately ordered that the man receive high honors.

In July, the research team eagerly planned on testing the skeleton for DNA to officially lay all doubt about its identification to rest, Reuters reported.

“It’s possible that we’ll have to identify the remains with the aid of a DNA test which could take from several months to a year,” the Russian military-historical society explained. “The general’s descendants are following the news.”

One Legged Skeleton

Getty ImagesA close-up of the one-legged skeleton, now confirmed to belong to General Charles-Étienne Gudin.

According to CNN, Malinovsky has since eradicated any uncertainty. In November 2019, he revealed that he transported part of the skeleton’s femur and several teeth from Moscow to Marseille shortly after the excavation to conduct a detailed analysis.

The overnight trip concluded with a genetic comparison between the remains and that of the deceased general’s mother, brother, and son. The resourceful scientist had simply packed the bone and teeth in his luggage to do so. The results were satisfactory, to say the least.

“A professor in Marseille carried out extensive testing and the DNA matches 100 percent,” he said. “It was worth the trouble.”

Malinovski said Gudin will likely be buried at Les Invalides. The historic compound of military monuments and museums will see the one-legged general in good company — as it also holds the body of Napoleon, himself.

After learning about the remains of General Charles-Étienne Gudin, discover some of the most interesting facts about Napoleon. Then, learn about archaeologists finding the remains of America’s first colonists underneath a Florida wine shop.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
Cite This Article
Margaritoff, Marco. "Bones Of One Of Napoleon’s Favorite Generals Found Under Russian Dance Floor After 200 Years.", July 15, 2019, Accessed April 19, 2024.