napoleon general
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Charles Etienne Gudin of Sablonniere was a general under Napoleon
More than 200 years after he died of his battlefield wounds in Russia, one of Napoleon Bonaparte's favourite generals has been formally identified thanks to DNA tests on a one-legged skeleton found under a dance floor.

His heirs are now calling for him to receive a state funeral in his native France.

Charles Etienne Gudin, whose name is inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, died aged 44 on August 22, 1812, after being hit by a cannon ball during Napoleon's unsuccessful invasion of Russia.

Gudin was personally known to and respected by Napoleon. A bust of his likeness resides in the Palace of Versailles, and a Paris street bears his name.

After his death his heart was cut out and carried to Paris to be placed in a chapel in the French capital's Père Lachaise cemetery but the precise location of the rest of his body was unknown.

Then in July, a team of French and Russian archaeologists said they unearthed what they believed to be Gudin's missing remains during a dig in the Russian city of Smolensk, 250 miles west of Moscow.
napoleon general grave russia
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Gudin's remains lay for more than 200 years before being discovered
Records from the period indicate that Gudin was seriously wounded in the Battle of Valutino near Smolensk, close to the border with Belarus, in which 7,000 French perished.

His leg was amputated and he died three days later from gangrene.

The search for his remains began in May, funded by a Franco-Russian group headed by Pierre Malinowski, a historian and former soldier with ties to the French far-right and support from the Kremlin.

The team was confident that the skeleton they found belonged to Gudin but to dispel any doubt sent samples for genetic cross-analysis with DNA from the general's descendants.

"I came back with to France with a piece of femur and teeth," said Mr Malinowski. He handed them over to an expert in Marseille, southern France, who compared them with remains of Gudin's brother and sister from the family crypt at Saint-Maurice-sur-Aveyron in the Loiret, central France.

The brother had also been a general of Napoleon.

DNA tests prove that archeologists have found one of Napoleon's favourite generals who fell in Russia in 1812 Credit: Corbis Historical

"The DNA fits 100 per cent," Mr Malinowski told France Bleu. "There is no longer any doubt."

"This is the greatest day of my life. 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.

"We were very lucky to find a skeleton after all the tragedies that Russian went through in 1812. And even more incredible, there was more usable DNA on (Gudin's) remains that in the bones conserved in a dry place for the past 200 years."

He said the remains would soon be returned to France.

Albéric d'Orléans, a direct heir of the general, hailed the news as historic.

He called for a proper burial at the Invalides in Paris, the military complex housing the tomb of Napoleon and other great French military leaders.

"This is the man who stood up to the Prussians during the Battle of Auerstaedt (in which Napoleon defeated Frederick William III), he deserves a national tribute," he said.
excavation napoleon general russia
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Archaeologists worked at the site of Gudin's burial place in a park in Smolensk
According to Mr Malinowski, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has taken a personal interest in the case and offered to fly the remains to France. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, was also aware of the discovery.

"Both presidents are enthusiastic" he said, adding that he hoped for a joint ceremony in the general's honour.

"It will help to bring France and Russia closer together."

Gudin is said to have been one of Napoleon's favourite generals and the two men attended military school together.

The team in Smolensk first followed the memoirs of a subordinate of Gudin, Marshall Davout, who organised the funeral and described a mausoleum made of four cannon barrels pointing upward, said Nikolai Makarov, the director of the Russian Institute of Archaeology.

When that trail dried up, they checked another theory by a witness of the funeral and found pieces of a wooden casket buried under an old dance floor in the city park.

A preliminary report concluded that the skeleton belonged to a man who died aged 40-45.

Napoleon had hoped to defeat the Russian army at Valutino but it managed to escape and Russian Tsar Alexander refused to discuss peace.

"This battle could have been decisive if Napoleon hadn't underestimated the Russians," said Mr Malinowski.

"Heavy losses in this battle showed Napoleon that he was going to go through hell in Russia."

The French leader's campaign ended in a disastrous retreat as Russians used scorched earth tactics and even ordered Moscow to be burnt to sap Napoleon's resources.

Less than ten per cent of his forces survived the Russian invasion.