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BESIDE BOLIVAR: The Edecán Demarquet

© 2009 Jim Chevallier
Includes additional research by
Laurent Chevallier and Armando Demarquet

The second edition of this history is now available as a book:

with expanded and revised text and additional images.
(Click image to buy)


When, in February 1828, Simon Bolivar's fiery, memorable mistress, Manuela Saenz, took a long trip to meet him in Bogota, she was accompanied by his trusted aide-de-camp ('edecán', in older Spanish), Charles Eloy Demarquet. Variously cited as “Charles Demarquet”, “Carlos E. Demarquet”, “C. Eloy Demarquet”, “Eloy Demarquet”, “Eloi Demarquet”, etc. and even with “Dumarquet” or “Demarquez” as the last name. This was not the first nor the last time the Liberator confided a sensitive mission to his French aide-de-camp, of whom he said: “Demarquet does not know how to lie or slander; I believe him loyal and sincere”. Daniel Florencio O'Leary, Memorias del general O'Leary

Despite such praise, information on Demarquet is scarce and often inaccurate. Several sources say, wrongly, that he was Canadian. Van Hagen, in his romanticized book on Saenz, says of Demarquet “A self-possessed, much-traveled Frenchman doomed by his love of battle to be forever a soldier, he had fought with Napoleon at Austerlitz and there lost three fingers. He found himself at the age of forty still Mars's creature.” Victor W. Von Hagen, The Four Seasons of Manuela. But Demarquet (then only 32) abandoned “Mars” more than once to become a businessman. Though others also say that Demarquet fought at Austerlitz (1805), he then would have been nine. Lafond de Lurcy says, more credibly, that he fought at Waterloo (1815) and that he met Bolivar when he went to Haiti in 1817 for family business:

It was towards this time that Aury introduced to Bolivar M. Eloy Demarquet, born in Paris on June 13, 1796. This young Frenchman had just left the army of Waterloo; he had come to Haiti on family business and, not being able to obtain anything from the government, he accepted the rank of captain in the Columbian army and the post of aide-de-camp to Bolivar, which he held until the death of the Liberator, while passing successively through the intervening ranks up to that of colonel....
He is one of those rare men whose name history preserves, because he was as faithful to Bolivar as Sully was to Henry IV and Bertrand to Napoleon. In fact he was the only one of the Columbian general's aides-de-camp who never left him, and who was with him in all the campaigns of Columbia and Peru...
Colonel Demarquet was one of the men who, in America, did the most honor to France, because, even as he zealously served the cause of independence, he never forgot his homeland, its rights and its civilizing mission in the whole world.
Gabriel Lafond de Lurcy, Voyages autour du monde et naufrages célèbres

Lafond is wrong, however, to say Demarquet never left Bolivar; in fact, he resigned and returned more than once. It was General O'Leary who joined Bolivar almost from the start and stayed with him until his last days. O'Leary also collected and published the Liberator's papers – which may be one reason he is so much better known today than Demarquet.

During this period, too, Demarquet met a young Frenchman in his twenties who would later become a famous chemist. In his colorful memoirs, Jean Baptiste Boussingault wrote of his time in Ecuador and of his friendship with Demarquet, which would endure well after both had returned to Paris.

Boussingault gives a slightly different version of Demarquet's beginnings in South America:

I had been very close to Demarquet (Eloi), whom I had known in Quito, where he was married. He belonged, under the Empire, to the pupilles de la garde, a regiment of children formed to guard the king of Rome, then he went into the active army, with the rank of second-lieutenant, and was part of the "brigands of the Loire". Like many others, after the army was decommissioned, he went to America. It was in Jamaica that he met Bolivar, after he was obliged to leave, having been defeated at Cartagena by Morillo's troops. It was there that Bolivar recruited several French military men who were to follow him when he returned to Venezuela.
Demarquet became his first aide de camp, he fought all the wars of independence, starting in 1816 or 1817, he accompanied the Liberator in the Peru campaign. Before the death of general Bolivar, he had already left service, did business in Quito, Lima, Choco, earned a good enough fortune and came to live in Paris, with his family... Demarquet was an honest man in every sense of the word. In the course of his difficult and dangerous career, he suffered much in the milieu in which circumstances obliged him to live; he had an enchanting good humor, which did not exclude a great sensitivity.

To illustrate the latter, Boussingault tells of a Spanish soldier who gave misleading information as a joke:

The general dictated an order to Demarquet ordering the corps leader to have the poor devil shot, Demarquet tried to intervene; the general arched his brows, and what brows! Demarquet let a tear fall on the paper. Then Bolivar slapped him on the shoulder saying: "Good, colonel, you are sensitive, that's good; the order is signed." And a half-hour later the soldier was shot.
Boussingault, Memorias

Demarquet, a natural diplomat, was a helpful guide to his compatriot:

Quito... has a profoundly monastic character. Even though its population is said to include 60,000 inhabitants, one only sees monks and priests in the street.
Demarquet was quick to warn me that it was in my interest to put in an appearance at the church, if only once in order to establish that, although a foreigner, I was not a heretic. The following Sunday, in full uniform, I went with Demarquet to the cathedral, to high mass. As in Caracas, in Bogota, the women were seated on the ground, like Moors, on a rug, feet under the trasero, accompanied by a black slave or an Indian seeming to pay little attention to the divine service. I was there, feeling rather awkward... but everything has its end. Going out, Demarquet introduced me to some ladies, friends of his family, several of them stunning.

Boussingault, who is not shy about describing misbehavior, be it by others (including the proper ladies of Quito when they had had a few drinks) or himself, says little about Demarquet in this regard. The closest he comes is in describing a night when a friend arrived with a shipment of champagne and invited several of them to sample it:

One can imagine the brouhaha of our assembly. Nonetheless, there was one moment of calm: this was when Marchese proposed that we decide which of us had had the best success with women. Each told his story, always more or less the same. Good strokes of luck, everyone has had, even hunchbacks; especially hunchbacks.

This shows that Demarquet could, when male bonding required it, talk as frankly as other men. But one gets the impression overall that if he had lived all aspects of a soldier's life, Demarquet was, at the least more discreet than, say, Boussingault. Surrounded though he was by beautiful women, no whisper of a dalliance appears in any memoir that mentions him.

Close friends though they were, Boussingault too makes mistakes. It is unlikely, for instance, that Demarquet was in the pupilles, which was made up of orphans (Demarquet, thanks to a divorce, in fact had two sets of parents and maintained excellent relations with both). By “first aide de camp”, Boussingault probably meant in rank; Bolivar himself confirmed that, chronologically, his first aide de camp was Diego Ibarra, though O'Leary too had a claim to that honor Luis Peru de Lacroix Djario de Bucaramanga Año de 1828 .

A modern writer gives a third version of Demarquet's arrival, saying that Demarquet, “revolted by the slow pace of his advance and the lack of response to letters addressed to Louis XVIII, left to offer his services to the insurgents of the Cote Ferme [Cumane, Sucre, Venezuela]. As soon as he arrived, Bolivar noticed him and chose him as an aide de camp for the expedition of Los Cayos.” Christiane Laffite-Carles, "La contribution Française a l'indépendance de la Grande Colombie"

In 1823, Demarquet married Manuela Fernandez Salvador y Gómez de la Torre, a woman from Quito. (Manuela was apparently also known as “Carmencita”, a diminutive of her mother's name). By most standards, it was a serious and substantial marriage. Certainly, it lasted until her death. And their union began a family line which ultimately would include an Ecuadorian political figure, two admired beauties and a French Academician. Yet, according to Boussingault, it began as a whim, another caprice of the irrepressible Manuela Saenz:

Manuelita hated marriage and yet she was obsessed with marrying people as if saying to them: "The nuptials mean nothing, it is a passion of pleasure!"
....One must know that then, in Spanish America, marriage was a purely religious act. It was enough that in the presence of a priest the future spouses declared that they wanted to be united. They received the blessing, and it was done. Several of my friends were so married between two glasses of punch, among others Colonel Demarquet, who bitterly regretted it, even though his wife was beautiful, charming and from a very respectable family.
Boussingault, Memorias

Lacking a more detailed description of her, it is not unreasonable to think she shared some traits with her sister Juana, whom Noboa describes as having “light brown skin, a wide face, the eyes between sleepy and passionate, black, slightly kinky hair, nose thin and somewhat long, very small, dimpled mouth and narrow waist.” Fernando Jurado Noboa, Las quiteñas.

Angel Grisanti describes the bride's family as being “of the highest political and social hierarchy” El gran mariscal de Ayacucho y su esposa la marguesa de Solanda, 21 Her most distinguished ancestor would ultimately be her own father, Dr. José Fernández Salvador.

Dr. Luis F. Borja: "The Liberator Bolivar held Dr. Fernandez Salvador in the highest regard, he sought his advice in the most difficult questions of politics and administration, because as a statesman and a jurist, his insight inspired complete confidence in him."

Another writer calls him “the well known José Fernández Salvador” and says he had a reputation as “a liberal among the criollos(that is, people of pure Spanish blood born in South America). Petro Saad, Antes del Amanecer: Antecedentes de la Independencia, 81

In 1830 he would lead the committee that created Ecuador's first constitution. (In that role, he would also have occasion to order the arrest of his own son-in-law, Manuela Saenz's brother José Maria.) When he died in 1853, he was “reputed to be the most learned jurist of the country in matters involving public administration.” His career was a varied and colorful one, before and after June 1823, when Bolivar came to a party at his wife's farm “La Arcadia” where “his daughter Carmencita became engaged to the Colonel Carlos Eloy Demarquet” (though by Pimentel's account they did not marry until 1824; he also says that Bolivar and the bride's mother served as godparents). Rodolfo Pérez Pimentel, and One of the FernŠndez-Salvador haciendas survives today as the “Hacienda La Carriona” however, La Arcadia seems to have been at a different location, in Chillogallo, and no longer exists..

His father, Dr. Andrés Fernández-Salvador y Medrano, had come to Quito from the Spanish city of Villoslada in Castilla la Vieja (the Saenz family came from the same region.). Though he was “poor and of mediocre status” (Pimental), he had been a lawyer and arrived with a certificate of nobility and an extensive genealogy tracing the family back to “the hero Jaraba El Barbon”. (Gaspar de Xarava the Bearded fought against the Moors at Cuenca in 1177, and his tomb, with his arms, was in that Spanish city's cathedral; he no doubt had an impressive beard. Boletin de la Sociedad Ecuatoriana de Estudios Históricos Americanos (IV:295)) He was not the first of the line in Quito – his grandfather, Captain Antonio Fernandez-Salvador, had come at the start of the eighteenth century, but his father Gabriel had returned to Villoslada. He rose through several positions to became Perpetual Councilor on the City Council. He was also a district judge for “Collections, Convictions and Fines”.

The “Salvador” suffix apparently comes from the family's relation to one of the Twelve Families of Soria: “The Chroniclers Miguel Salazar, Alonso Tello de Meneses, Gonzalo Argote de Molina and others all agree in noting the family of Fernandez Salvador as very old. All speak of this line as one of the twelve founding houses of the city of Soria.”

Carmen Gómez de la Torre, the bride's mother, was the daughter of Cap. Francisco Gómez de la Torre, who was born in Cestona (today the Basque town of Zestoa), though no Basques appear in the family lineage.

Gomez de la Torre

De la Torre

The Gómez and de la Torre families had united in the late seventeenth century, when Mateo Gomez de Via married Antonia de la Torre in Bilbao (no date given); their son Bartolome Ventura Gomez de la Torre was baptized on July 6, 1678. Boletin de la Academia Nacional de Historia, 1920 (I:228). The Gómez were then from Laredo, in Cantabria (above Castilla la Vieja) and the de la Torre family from Bilbao (in the Basque country, next to Cantabria). Note: Another “Gomez de la Torre” line existed in France, but apparently resulted from a separate marriage.

In marrying this couple's daughter, Demarquet had instantly joined the elite of Quito.

His own ancestry is not as scrupulously documented. Though the name (also De Marquet and Desmarquet) is most found in Picardy, it is too widespread in France to indicate even a regional ancestry. Some of that name were aristocrats, but Boussingault describes his friend's father as “a very modestly dressed old man, and wearing an apron” and says that Demarquet sent him money. If Charles Eloi Demarquet had nobility, it was of a different kind, a kind described by Bolivar to Peru de Lacroix as he recalled his various aides:

But what a difference, exclaimed the Liberator, in the social positions in which the one or the other of these men found themselves! What a difference between the rank, the affluence and the elevation among them, some full of riches, titles and honors, the others poor with only a military title and the modest honors of a Republic, but the former also subjects of a powerful monarch and the latter, citizens of a free State; those favorites of the emperor, these friends of the Liberator. The sybarites of the century would surely prefer the place of the first, but the modern Lycurguses and Catos would rather have been the latter.

Demarquet's nobility then was that of an early Roman, an upright man at the forefront of a young republic, founding not following a line.

Both spouses clearly brought, not only personal attractions, but different claims to status and personal relations. Why then did Demarquet “bitterly regret” what many would consider an excellent marriage? One clue might lie in Boussingault's own impression of the wife: “Beautiful, and that is all.” Was Boussingault too harsh? Manuela Fernandez Salvador, who had her own intellectual heritage, was probably not unintelligent. But she would have had a minimal education, as Boussingault explains elsewhere:

The women of good society in Spanish America... are seductive, although, in general, they have no education. They know how to read, write, but are not well-read; they do not even read the holy books; their religion is a blind faith.

(They also, like the men, loved to gamble.) It may be too that, as a proper South American woman of the nineteenth century, she lacked a quality prized by the French in both sexes: wit. If an adventurous Frenchman, raised in Paris, found himself bound for life to a woman with neither reading nor wit, he would indeed have been à plaindre. Especially if he had frequented the daring and sensual Manuela Saenz. (On that long trip to Bogota, did Demarquet do more than watch over the Liberator's mistress? Neither she nor her servant were known for their inhibitions, and Boussingault says of that trip: “The indiscretion of a brigadier revealed the erotic incidents on the road.” But he adds “Demarquet always declared that he had been a platonic escort.”)

Alternately, perhaps Demarquet exaggerated his discontent to his male friends. The couple's descendants are addressed in a later section here, after a look at Demarquet's role in the struggle for independence. But by one count they had seven children, and in over ten years; this hardly bespeaks distaste for one's wife.

At some pointafter Bolivar died, they moved to Paris. Though the date is uncertain, Lafond de Lurcy says that Demarquet gave him documents there in 1843. It seems likely the family had settled there before then, though Demarquet himself spent part of that decade in Ecuador.

His life in Paris is undocumented until 1860, when, already widowed, he lived at 8, rue St. Louis (which five years later became part of the rue de Turenne). Marriage certificate for Pierre Moyse Merlet and Petrona Mercedés Clara Paulina Hipolita Demarquet, August 14, 1860. In 1870, when he died, he was living at 113, rue de Turenne Death certificate, Eloi Demarquet, February 27, 1870.

The buildings standing there today appear to be from that period.

He was buried in Paris' most famous cemetery, Pere Lachaise, where Boussingault spoke a brief farewell at his friend's tomb. One Latin American work says, a bit romantically, “The handsome mausoleum of Colonel Eloy Demarquet in Paris bears different biographical inscriptions, among one which that declares that he serves at Bolivar's command.”Angel Grisanti, El gran mariscal de Ayacucho y su esposa la marquesa de Solanda However, the tombstone that stands there today (which appears to be the original) simply bears the title “Family of Colonel Eloy Demarquet” above his wife's name, followed by those of Demarquet and others, including their daughter Petrona Merlet.

Photograph by Christophe Chevallier

Though he did not have a “handsome mausoleum”, several sources mention honors given to Demarquet. At his daughter Petrona's wedding in 1860, he declared himself a Knight of the Imperial Order of the Legion of Honor and a Knight of the Order of Christ in Brasil. Grisanti adds to these the title of Venezuelan Knight of the Order of the Liberator. An obituary for one of his great-grandsons says that the Ecuadorian government granted his descendants a lifetime income until the fifth generation.

continue to Demarquet's role in the struggle ==>