Gambetta, Léon

BORN 30 Oct 1838, Cahors, Lot - DIED 31 Dec 1882, Sèvres, Hauts-de-Seine: Villa des Jardies, Avenue Gambetta
CAUSE OF DEATH peritonitis (consequence of appendicitis)
GRAVE LOCATION Nice, Alpes-Maritimes: Cimetière du Château (sous un dais Gothique)

Son of a grocer. When he was fifteen he lost the sight in his right eye in an accident. He went to Paris to study law in 1857 and was called to the bar in 1859. In 1868 he defended the journalist Delescluze who supported a monument for Baudin, who had opposed Napoleon III's coup d'etat of 1851.

The case made him famous and he was elected to the Assembly in 1869. He immediately attacked the empire and after the defeat by the Prussians at Sedan in 1870 he was among the first member of the new Government of National Defense. Gambetta became Minister of the Interior and left Paris on 7 October in a hot air balloon. In Tours he acted as Minister of the Interior as well as Minister of War. He organized an army to relieve Paris but when Bazaine surrendered at Metz there was no way of helping Paris.

He lost the elections of February 1871 to Thiers and the latter's peace treaty ended the war on 1 March 1871. Gambetta had wanted to continu the fight and left France for San Sebastian. After his return to France he started the journal "La Republique française". He remained politically active and in 1881 he became prime minister. After only sixty days his cabinet fell.

In November 1882 he was hit by a gunshot in his arm. Possibly this happened when the gun was cleaned but it was also said that he prevented his mistress Léonie Leon from committing suicide. She had been his mistress since 1872 and she repeatedly refused to marry him because she was afaid this might harm his career. His injury wasn´t life threatening but he died in December 1882 from intestine or stomach cancer.

He was buried at the Cimetière du Château in Nice. His heart was buried at the Panthéon in Paris.

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The grave of Léon Gambetta at the Cimetière du Château, Nice.
Picture by Androom (29 Nov 2008)


• Adler, Josef, Handbuch der Grabstätten, 2. Band, Die Grabstätte der Europäer, Deutsches Kunstverlag, München, 1986
• Beyern, Bertrand, Guide des Cimetières en France, Le Cherche Midi Éditeur, Paris, 1994
Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
Léon Gambetta - Wikipedia

Gamelin, Maurice

Published: 09 Feb 2014
Last update: 17 Feb 2022