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Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès
(October 18, 1753 - March 8, 1824) France


Lawmaker and Arch-Chancellor of the French First Empire


In the tumultuous course of the French Revolution of 1789, a minor French lawmaker named Jean-Jacques-Regis de Cambacérès threaded his way through the political landmines of his era, to change the legal code in ways that are still felt.

CambacérèsCambacérès was born in Montpelier, southern France, to a family of minor nobility, and trained for the law. There is no record of when or how he recognized that he was homosexual, yet it is evident that for much of his life he was open about his orientation, albeit discreet about the particulars. Cambacérès' affected mannerism pomposity, haughtiness and gluttony made him a subject of ridicule both during his lifetime and after his death. Although he was always discreet, he remained unmarried, and kept to the company of other bachelors. Many people, including Napoleon himself, joked opensly about Cambacérès proclivities.

Cambacérès' legal training proved helpful once the Revolution broke out, when he sided against the regime of King Louis XVI. Through it all, however, he showed a level of moderation that kept his head attached to his neck, unlike the heads of so many of his compatriots. In 1795, he even survived a term as president of the infamous Committee of Public Safety. Four years later, Napoleon took power and proposed the creation of a complete new legal code, reflecting the enlightenment of the Revolution.

CambacérèsTo draw up the code, Napoleon sought someone with a superb legal background as well as the diplomatic skills to unite disparate factions. For this momentous task, he selected Cambacérès. Many wrongly give credit to Cambacérès for the decriminalization of homosexuality in France. In fact the Constituent Assembly (1789-1792) decriminalized sodomy in 1791 when Cambacérès was still only an obscure provincial judge.

About the possibility of singles to adopt children, he declared to Napoleon, asking his advice:

"Single people should have the same right of adoption as married people. To refuse them this right is to come dangerously close to the doctrines of the Convention, which would have obliged single people to pay twice as much tax as married ones."

In 1815, the restored royal government expelled Cambacérès from France and he spent three years in Holland and Belgium. Royalist caricatures portrayed him as a cowardly "auntie" (dubbing him Tante Urlurette) and a lubricious pursuer of handsome young men. Allowed to return in May 1818, he lived in obscure retirement in Paris until his death.


The Three Consuls

The Three Consuls - Cambacérès, Bonaparte, and Lebrun - by Pierre Michel Alix

They were called "Qui, Quae, Quod" (His, Her, Its) referring in order to Napoleon (straight - center), Cambacérès (gay - left) and Lebrun (asexual - right). Cambacérès was a well known homosexual himself, commonly referred to by his peers as, "Tante Urlurette".


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