Medusa's Head
The Rise and Survival of Joseph Fouché, Inventor of the Modern Police State

The Maps

Above, choose from four maps. Hover over the points of interest to learn more about the story.


The Timeline

Scroll this timeline to the right to explore the strange and momentous life of Joseph Fouché


Portrait Gallery

Look below for the line-up of luminaries whom Fouché manipulated and in most cases eliminated or seriously compromised

1759

Joseph Fouché born in Pellerin, just outside the port city of Nantes

1788

Fouché sent by the Oratorians to teach in Arras, where he meets Robespierre

1792

Fouché elected to the National Convention as a representative from Nantes

1792

King Louis XVI tried for treason by the Convention

1793

Fouché votes "pour la mort" and the King goes to the guillotine

1793

Fouché, a revolutionary proconsul en mission, conducts a de-Christianization campaign in central France

1793

Fouché and Collot d'Herbois massacre Lyonnais insurgents

1794

Fouché organizes the overthrow and execution of Robespierre

1799

Fouché, a protégé of the Director Paul Barras, becomes Minister of Police

1799

Napoleon overthrows the Directory, with Fouché facilitating the coup d'etat

1800

Fouché cracks a plot against Napoleon which had culminated in a bombing attempt in Paris

1802

Fouché loses his Ministry portfolio as Napoleon distrusts him and France is briefly at peace

1804

Fouché's shadowy role in the kidnapping and execution of the Bourbon Duke d'Enghien

1804

Napoleon crowns himself emperor; Fouché again becomes Minister of Police

1809

Fouché and Talleyrand intrigue regarding Napoleon's successor

1809

Napoleon slightly wounded at Ratisbon in Bavaria

1809

Fouché and Bernadotte thwart a British attack on Antwerp; Napoleon becomes suspicious

1809

Napoleon names Fouché the Duke of Otranto

1810

Fouché and Napoleon's brother, Louis, engage in unauthorized peace talks with Britain; Fouché dismissed

1810

Fouché flees to Tuscany and seeks the protection of Napoleon's sister, the Grand Duchess Elisa

1813

Napoleon appoints Fouché governor of the Illyrian Provinces

1813

Fouché visits the King of Naples, Joachim Murat, and encourages him to betray his brother-in-law, the Emperor Napoleon

1814

Fouché travels to Lyon and suborns the treason of Marshal Augereau

1814

Napoleon abdicates and King Louis XVIII takes the throne

1815

Napoleon escapes from Elba while Fouché eludes the Bourbon police in Paris

1815

Napoleon defeated at Waterloo

1815

Fouché heads provisional government of France and orchestrates Napoleon's capture and exile to St. Helena

1815

Fouché works an arrangement with Wellington and Talleyrand whereby Louis XVIII is enabled to return to Paris unopposed

1815

Fouché collects his quid pro quo and becomes Louis XVIII's Minister of Police

1815

Fouché proscribes many former politicians and officers of the Empire; Marshal Ney is executed

1815

King Louis loses confidence in Fouché and Talleyrand; both are dismissed

1816

Fouché is proscribed as a regicide and exiled within the Habsburg Empire under Austrian police surveillance

1820

Fouché dies in Trieste; a strange incident occurs as his funeral cortege approaches the Cathedral of San Giusto

Joseph Fouché

Joseph Fouché

He was the "butcher of Lyon," mastermind of the plot against Robespierre, Minister of Police under the Directory and Napoleon, treacherous leader of the provisional government of France, and head of Louis XVIII’s police despite his responsibility for the execution of the King’s older brother.

Marshal Augereau

Marshal Augereau

An increasingly disaffected military man, his treason was suborned by Fouché in the face of the enemy at Lyon in 1814.

Gracchus Babeuf

Gracchus Babeuf

An early communist prototype, he was compromised and betrayed by his purported friend Fouché.

Paul Barras

Paul Barras

A Jacobin turned canny and corrupt Director, he was toppled in 1799 by his two erstwhile protégés, Napoleon and Fouché.

Josephine de Beauharnais

Josephine de Beauharnais

Napoleon's spendthrift first wife, she was Fouché's paid informant; he subsequently acted to undermine her marriage to Bonaparte.

Marshal Bernadotte

Marshal Bernadotte

Related to the Bonapartes by marriage but also a Jacobin rival to Napoleon, he was Fouché's selection to defend Antwerp in 1809, and later became the improbable King of Sweden and the employer of Fouché's sons.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

The Corsican upstart and military genius who came to rule a Continent was brought down by his own unbridled ambition and his blindness to the betrayers in his entourage.

Elisa Bonaparte

Elisa Bonaparte

Napoleon's sister and the Duchess of Tuscany, she assisted Fouché during two separate exiles, not realizing his role in the loss of her realm.

Marshal Davout

Marshal Davout

The "Iron Marshal," he was duped and out-maneuvered after Waterloo by Fouché and persuaded to withdraw the French Army from the defense of Paris.

Collot d’Herbois

Collot d’Herbois

A spurned playwright, he exacted a hideous revenge on the people of Lyon, in which he was aided and abetted by fellow représentant en mission Fouché.

Louis XVI

Louis XVI

The Bourbon monarch was guillotined for treason, thanks to the momentous vote of Fouché and 360 fellow regicides in the Convention in 1793.

Louis XVIII

Louis XVIII

The corpulent and benign Bourbon redux, surrounded by vengeful relatives, agonizingly appointed Fouché as his own Minister of Police, despite the regicide's responsibility for the death of his older brother.

 Joachim Murat

Joachim Murat

Made King of Naples by his brother-in-law Napoleon, the egotistical cavalryman was swayed by Fouché to abandon the Emperor in a time of crisis.

 Marshal Ney

Marshal Ney

The "bravest of the brave," this headstrong commander was executed by a Bourbon firing squad in 1815 after being proscribed by Fouché – who at the same time futilely attempted to aid Ney's escape.

 Maximilien Robespierre

Maximilien Robespierre

The "Incorruptible" and architect of the Terror, he aimed to destroy Fouché but instead was eliminated by him and his co-conspirators.

 Talleyrand

Talleyrand

Fouché's rival and sometimes ally of convenience, the clever foreign minister was another consummate manipulator and survivor.

 The Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington

The victor at Waterloo, he found Fouché to be of great value in opening up Paris to Allied occupation and the restoration of Bourbon rule without a struggle.