In 1913, the City of Geneva made an unexpected legacy

In 1913, the City of Geneva made an unexpected legacy

Published today at 3:53 p.m.

It took the curiosity of Dominique Erster to bring the illustrious Baudin de Nantua back into the spotlight. After a banking career that began in Geneva, this local history enthusiast used his free time for research that no one expected. They brought him across the story of a heritage which, a year before the First World War, cast a chill in relations between France and Switzerland. A generosity well forgotten in Geneva, received from a former mayor of Bellegarde, nephew of the great Alphonse Baudin who rests in the Pantheon in Paris.

“Having grown up in Nantua,” confides Dominique Erster, “I had long been intrigued by all these Baudins. Their name is mentioned in several places in this city. Two streets bear it, there are also monuments which recall the existence of members of the family. Hence my research which led to the book “Alphonse Baudin, Pierre and the others…”, published in 2020. Finding your way among all these notables was not easy. My interest in the past of Haut-Bugey and Savoie and my taste for genealogy have guided my work. I discovered that this family began with a priest. The Baudin ancestor became a priest in 1730, after the death of his wife. Their descendant Alphonse was rather anticlerical,” notes the historiographer.

Die for 25 francs

Alphonse Baudin is the family hero. Born in 1811 in Nantua, this son of a naval officer became a doctor and was in Paris during the fall of King Charles Republic. He was elected deputy for Ain in the National Assembly in 1849, but on December 2, 1851, President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte reestablished the Empire through a coup d’état. The next day, on a barricade set up on Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine, the elected Republican was struck to death by a bullet fired by the troops. He would have said this sentence “You will see how people die for 25 francs!” This was the amount of the deputies’ daily allowance.

Drawing of the tomb of Alphonse Baudin, the hero of the family, in the Montmartre cemetery,

The courage and tragic end of Alphonse Baudin earned him brilliant celebrations after the return of the Republic. He was exhumed and placed in 1871 in a magnificent tomb in the Montmartre cemetery. His strikingly realistic bronze recumbent figure, by Aimé Millet and Léon Dupré, reveals the hole that the bullet made in his forehead. In Paris as in Nantua, full-length statues of Baudin were erected, and on August 4, 1889, his remains were moved once again. They take place in the Pantheon, as part of the ceremonies for the centenary of the Revolution of 1789.

“You will see how people die for 25 francs!”

Famous phrase from Victor Baudin’s uncle

And the Genevan heritage? We are coming there. It would not have existed without the presence in Geneva of Georges Baudin, born in Nantua in 1808, the older brother of Alphonse the hero. This notary is, like his brother, a left-wing republican in open rebellion against the right wing of the Second Republic. Forced to leave France already in 1849, he received a kind welcome in Switzerland which his son Victor would remember when writing his will.

Victor was born in Nantua in 1841. Dominique Erster describes him as an urban planner, being an engineer and architect who graduated from the Central School of Arts and Manufactures in Paris. After living in Montmartre with his younger brother Félix, who studied the same as him but who devoted himself to painting, Victor Baudin returned to Bugey, where his father Georges bought the small castle of Musinens, on the commune of Bellegarde. He was twice elected mayor of this town, before having the sorrow of losing Félix, who ended his life in 1909 in Musinens.

Single, known to be an “original” – without us really knowing what that means – Victor Baudin wrote his will in 1912 in favor of the City of Geneva, in memory of the good reception received by his father in 1849. “He seems that he retained a certain resentment against his former voters from his non-re-election and transferred it to the Commune of Bellegarde,” explains Dominique Erster. Baudin died at the Château de Musinens in 1913, aged 73. It was then that the Geneva Administrative Council, chaired by the notary Albert Gampert, was informed that the former mayor of Bellegarde had made the City his legatee and that he had requested to be buried in Geneva.

When it left the capital of Haut-Bugey, only five people followed the coffin, including Albert Gampert, president of the Administrative Council, and his secretary general Edouard Chapuisat. It was the Geneva municipal funeral directors who were responsible for transporting Victor Baudin’s remains by train, having taken care of decorating the convoy by their own efforts. Read “Alphonse Baudin, Pierre and the others…

Read “Alphonse Baudin, Pierre and the others… The saga of an illustrious family from Ain”, by Dominique Erster, IDC Éditions, 160 pages.

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