Ferdinand von Funck

The Influential Count Camillo Marcolini
Book Essay on: Oakley Williams (ed.), In the Wake of Napoleon, being the memoirs (1807-1809) of Ferdinand von Funck
(London: Richard Clay & Sons, 1931 [Leipzig 1829]), 285 pages.
UCSB: DD.801.S409.F8

by Daniel Razzari
November 11, 2006

for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
19th Century Germany
UC Santa Barbara, Fall 2006

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Plagiarism Warning

About Daniel Razzari

I am a fourth year history major at UCSB. I am primarily interested in English history and early modern Italy. I am currently working on a project that focuses on Sir Francis Drake’s raids on the Iberian Peninsula, particularly Portugal. I have a limited knowledge of German history, and wanted to take the opportunity to study Germany outside of the twentieth-century. I chose Ferdinand von Funck’s memoirs because I wanted to come to some sort of understanding of early nineteenth-century Germany through the eyes of one society’s elites. It was also of interest to see what possible internal issues made it easy for Napoleon to advance through the German states.

Abstract (back to top)

Ferdinand von Funck’s memoir discusses the years between 1807 and 1809 in Saxony. Von Funck was born on December 13, 1761 and died on August 17, 1828. He was Adjutant-General to Frederick Augustus, the king of Saxony, or simply his assistant. A small section is devoted to discussing Frederick Augustus’ childhood, and how his childhood made it easy for Count Camillo Marcolini to manipulate Frederick. Funck discussed court issues, Marcolini’s influence over Frederick, and Napoleon’s control in Saxony. One of the major themes throughout is the use of Saxon troops in Napoleon’s Grande Armée. Napoleon was fond of the Saxon cavalry unit, and wanted a sizeable contingent to use within his overall force. Ferdinand von Funck was in charge of assembling the cavalry contingent for Napoleon. The memoir also discusses problems concerning the treatment of Saxon troops by Saxon leaders. Although the memoir discusses Saxony on a wide spectrum of issues, focused primarily on Napoleon’s occupation, Funck constantly attributes several of the state's problems to Marcolini. Finally, a portion of the memoir discusses Napoleon's merging or handing control of Poland to Frederick Augustus.

Essay (back to top)

The Influential Count Camillo Marcolini


Count Marcolini
Unfortunately, all we know is that Marcolini was Italian. Funck does not mention when he came from Italy, why, or how old he was.

The memoir of Ferdinand von Funck is important because it allows historians to grasp certain aspects of Frederick Augustus’ court in Saxony. We know that von Funck was close to Frederick Augustus from reading his memoirs. On several occasions Frederick consulted von Funck about political affairs, court affairs, and other issues that emerged. The memoirs were written between the years of 1807 and 1809. Frederick Augustus had become king of Saxony in 1806. Funck was in his mid forties during the period his memoirs cover. Napoleon, at this time, had pushed into Germany, and the Saxon court was soon subject to Napoleon. Saxons, internal influence from Italian Count Camillo Marcolini was terrible for the state. Some, such as Funck, realized that Marcolini controlled Frederick, yet little could be done. I will argue, from Funck’s point of view, that ambitious individuals such as Marcolini hindered Saxony from reforming certain aspects such as the military, and how their influence over Frederick was too great for the king to break away from.

Frederick Augustus of Saxony

The beginning of the text discusses Frederick’s isolation growing up as a child. His mother controlled him. She isolated him in such a way that he became physically weak.
The discussion ofn Frederick Augustus’ early life is drawn from several of von Funck’s assessments, but is primarily Oakley Williams' opinion. Williams uses quotes from Funck that suggest that Funck was aware of Frederick’s early life. There is some evidence that Funck would have been close to Frederick at an early age. Funck’s father was Karl Augustus von Funck, who was a court officer himself. Funck may have been exposed to court life as a child. However, Funck was born in 1761 when Frederick was eleven years old. Frederick would have been in his late teens or early twenties before Funck would have been old enough to grasp the situation. His opinions of Frederick’s early life probably were developed from things he heard—probably from his father. Also, it is important to keep in mind that von Funck’s opinions may have been those of his father or Marcolini’s, only he expanded on them later on. In fact, on page 9, Funck states that Marcolini told him about certain aspects of Frederick’s early life. It is quite possible that Karl von Funck did not trust Marcolini, and his son held the same views without really understanding why. Therefore, Oakley’s discussion of Augustus’ early life may not be completely accurate, and I assume his information comes only from Funck’s memoir because nothing else is cited in the introduction or the chapters featuring Frederick’s early life. However, Williams does admit that at times Funck may have exaggerated his description of Marcolini, and that he was an adversary to Funck.
He lacked companionship, which created an opportunity for Count Marcolini later on. “The Electress Dowager went to greater lengths, for she aimed at crippling her son in mind and body” (Funck p. 7). Marcolini recognized opportunity, and quickly took advantage of the young prince. He became Frederick’s friend and trusted companion, and it was evident that Marcolini had created a bond that gave him substantial influence over Frederick. However, it seems unreasonable that Funck would have witnessed Frederick’s youth. Funck was born in 1761; Frederick was already eleven years of age. Also Funck admitted to learning of Frederick’s early life from Marcolini. Perhaps Funck derived his idea that Marcolini was overpowering Frederick because Marcolini had been his teacher while Frederick was young. Nevertheless, Funck believed Marcolini worked diligently to keep people who had enough wit to influence the young elector at a distance (Funck p.17). After a short description of Frederick’s growth, the memoirs continue during Frederick’s reign during the Napoleonic era.

The remainder of the memoir expresses Napoleon’s influence and even power over the Saxon court. Within this memoir, Funck also describes an elaborate Saxon court, where etiquette and dress appeared to be more important than matters of the state. Frederick, isolated as a child, rarely made decisions on his own or trusted in his own opinion. Marcolini continued to monitor and control Frederick’s audiences and those at court who had access to the king. Nearly all affairs of the state had to pass through Marcolini, since he held several offices of great importance (Funck p. 39-40). The memoir makes it clear that Frederick esteemed Ferdinand von Funck. Funck’s memoirs describe to us Frederick’s interaction with the French court in Dresden, and his encounter with Napoleon. At one point Funck is given orders from Napoleon to raise a contingent of Saxons to aid his army. It is particularly interesting to note Funck’s response to Napoleon, or general attitude towards French occupation, which was obedient.

Marcolini’s opportunity

In von Funck’s opinion, Count Marcolini was a virus that Frederick was unable to remove or perhaps did not realize needed to be removed from the Saxon court. According to von Funck:

“The long term of tutelage under which Gutschmid and Marcolini had kept the King rendered him incapable of standing on his own two feet, of regarding himself as independent, not only in administration of his country but in his foreign policy as well” (Funck 75).

Marcolini ambitiously befriended the young prince, and his constant goal was to control the prince and lure him into dependency (Funck p.7). The young prince must have been excited about the attention he received from Marcolini; this enabled Marcolini to remain close to Frederick until he was king of Saxony.

Both Gutschmid and Marcolini worked hard to keep people with mediocre intelligence in senior positions (Funck12). The obvious purpose was to keep possible influential people away from the king, consequently enabling both Marcolini and Gutschmid to control the court or outwit them. Gutschmid reasoned that it was much more efficient to surround yourself with those of mediocre minds rather than intellects of society (Funck 12). Frederick did not seem to understand that it allowed Marcolini to control most of the government, because any real opposition had been excluded from senior positions, or positions of influence.
Funck learned of Frederick’s childhood from Marcolini, and how Marcolini became Frederick’s teacher. I think that Funck was jealous of Marcolini’s position with Frederick, and Funck created the impression that Marcolini was manipulative.
Marcolini was able to control what Frederick did, and as Funck describes, the elector was simply wearing “shackles of habit”, and it was going to be difficult for him to release himself (Funck p.24). Frederick quickly became a puppet for Marcolini’s own ambitions.

The Military Question: strengthen or ignore?

Marcolini watched Frederick closely. It was among his greatest fears that he would have to join the king on the battlefield; therefore, it was important for him to force the elector down other paths of interest (Funck p.19). He tried to keep Frederick busy with other activities, such as hunting, but also overwhelmed him with paperwork. The king spent long hours studying, and working on extensive piles of paperwork that Marcolini had given him. The king soon developed a character that may have affected the loyalty of his soldiers. “His duties became habits, and his habits duties” (Funck p.24). This seemed to have evolved into the idea that people had jobs and it was their duty to perform those jobs under any conditions or circumstances that may be present. Frederick was not sympathetic to those soldiers who were patriotic; he felt that it was their duty to follow orders and accept the orders given (Funck p.126).

Based on Funck’s view of Frederick, we can assume that it was Fredrick’s opinion that soldiers experienced a difficult life on the battlefield, and their small provisions of bread and water were to be sufficient. Frederick felt it was unnecessary to burden his people with higher taxes in order to fill the stomachs of his troops (Funck p.127). It was a hard life, that was to be expected, and the soldiers would have to deal with the lack of food and concentrate on their job at hand. Raiding of provisions was condemned by severe punishment, and essentially his soldiers were left to starve. Perhaps, in my opinion, his strenuous laboring over paper work, and other tasks Marcolini had reserved for him created a sense of self-discipline; which he felt all others of society should possess.

Soldiers developed attitudes, according to Funck, that victory or defeat mattered little because their treatment remained the same regardless of their actions in battle (Funck p.128). Funck reiterates my point when he states that, “..I told him that three whole days before the battle of Jena the troops had had no bread, that they had to fight on empty stomachs” (Funck p. 129). Frederick had been informed by Funck of the condition of the men before the battle of Jena. He was shocked when he heard how they were treated. Frederick did not concern himself much with military matters and it would seem that Marcolini had successfully weaned him from military interests.
Funck’s view is that Frederick was astonished by the soldiers' suffering, but did little to resolve it. Funck does not take into account that the French could have absorbed a large proportion of Saxony’s food supply. Frederick may have had little food in the entire state, and felt he needed to distribute it as equally as he could. Funck does not mention anything about how well the citizens ate in Saxony. Therefore, we do not have anything to compare the soldiers’ diets with. Furthermore, Napoleon was formulating his Grande Armée and there would have been a large proportion of French troops in or around the German states. Therefore, although Funck does not suggest any of these issues, it may have been true that Frederick did not have enough food to supply his soldiers properly.
Funck attempted to persuade Frederick to confront the matter, but to no avail. It appeared that, although the condition of the troops was horrendous, Frederick would not waver from the teachings he had received from Marcolini and Gutschmid (Funck p. 130).

It seems clear that Marcolini’s influence had been strong enough to persuade Frederick away from listening to the advice of others. Frederick had neglected the health of his troops, which is quite dangerous when a leader needs his troops for support. In contrast, according to Funck, Frederick remained concerned with the attire worn at court more than the affairs of his military, which I will discuss shortly. His lack of interest in the military was unfortunate, as many of his soldiers held anti-French views and he could have rallied them. The army, as Funck points out, had several grievances about the French alliance (Funck p. 139). This is important because eventually several companies refused to march, and mutiny occurred, which upset Frederick. This was an opportunity for Frederick because Napoleon was suffering defeat on all fronts, but Frederick failed to acknowledge this (Funck p. 139). The light of opportunity was soon snuffed out, as mutinies were immediately stopped. Later in Danzig, Saxon troops were placed under authority of the French. The troops were fed well, and any animosity they held towards the French soon dissipated. The soldiers were properly fed and conditions much better than under the control of Saxon leaders (Funck p. 151). “So easy is it to win the good graces of the rank and file if you will only see that their needs are not neglected” (Funck p. 151).

Marcolini certainly was not concerned with the affairs of state, only those of his own gain. His influence superceded reason, and Frederick found himself concerned more with proper dress in court, than the soldiers who fought his battles. At any rate, it was much safer for Marcolini, if Frederick concerned himself with apparel rather than military affairs. Funck was completely astonished at the fact that forgiveness could be obtained by those who break discipline, blunder on duty, or exhibited plain ignorance; but “transgression against dress regulations” was intolerable and must be punished (Funck p.132). Frederick’s lack of concern for issues that were important for the welfare of the state is appalling, but he continued to follow his teachers closely.

Funk’s view of Marcolini as a thief

While Marcolini essentially controlled Frederick’s thoughts and actions, he also enriched himself.
This passage in Funck’s memoir may have been exaggerated or misinterpreted. For instance, Saxony was subject to French rule. Napoleon had given Frederick control over Poland. It may have been possible that the “unimportant items” Funck refers to could have been gifts to the Polish court. It would have been reasonable to seek friends or allies against Napoleon. According to Funck, Napoleon’s power was waning and if Saxony created bonds with other states, it may have pushed the French out. This is pure assumption on my part and I only point this out because we know Funck was opposed to Marcolini. With that in mind, it may have been possible that Marcolini filled the baggage train not with unimportant items for the journey, but gifts for the Polish. Once again, the lack of sources prevents a clearer answer to the question.
Napoleon wanted to combine Poland and Saxony; therefore, he crowned Frederick king of both regions. Frederick and the court prepared to visit Poland, whereby Marcolini had control of the preparations. Marcolini supplied the caravan with old or unimportant items, and as usual, he did not include things of importance for the journey (Funck p.203). Frederick was oblivious to the fact that Marcolini charged the king for new gear, yet supplied them with old or unusable items, for which he collected a large sum for himself (Funck p.203). This of course, was not the first time Marcolini tried to profit from the king’s ignorance. “It would be easy to fill a big tome if every several instances in which he allowed third parties to cheat the state for his own enrichment were put on record” (Funck p.40). In reference to Marcolini, Funck was disturbed with Marcolini and his attempts to drain the state treasury for his own gain. One incident, as Funck explains, Marcolini had scrapped court silver made into breastplates for the army. The king originally declined, but Marcolini worked closely with the Inspector-General. The Inspector-General insisted that these plates were much better than the older ones, and replacing the plates would be infrequent (Funck p.41). This in fact proved false, as the breastplates broke easily and had to be replaced frequently. Funck was able to convince the king to stop the commission of these breastplates for the army; but it is clear in Funck’s eyes that Marcolini used his “friendship” with Frederick to steal from him.
Funck writes that he had learned that Marcolini was responsible for the breastplate scandal from the Inspector-General. Since documents in English are scarce it is difficult to suggest anything other than what Funck describes. From what we know of Funck and Marcolini’s relationship, it may be fair to suggest that Marcolini had good intentions for the breastplates, but Funck assumed Marcolini was trying to rob the crown when the breastplates failed to work properly. This, of course, is a question that cannot be answered until further sources are uncovered, but it is a question that should be looked at.
It was common for Marcolini, according to Funck, to use third parties to help extort or steal from the crown.

It is quite possible that Funck’s opinion of Marcolini was somewhat distorted, possibly from jealousy. According to the editor, he was loyal and devoted to Frederick (Funck p. 28). The editor also points out that Funck occasionally would credit Marcolini for some of his advice, but he would soon after ridicule Marcolini’s advice by stating, for instance, “it did not always suit his purpose; on great occasions, however, it had to suit them because his own advantage was involved in it” (Funck p.49). Although Funck may have had a distorted view of Marcolini, there is a small piece of evidence that suggests that Marcolini was quite controlling and feared losing control:

During the first few years of her [Marcolini’s wife] married life Marcolini was very jealous; she was not allowed the go into society and to associate with only a few people at Court, and had to spend her time, when his duties at Court called for his attendance, in almost conventual seclusion in the house, where she hardly dared show herself at the window. (Funck p. 45).

The previous quote, taken from the editor, seems to express Marcolini as a nervous individual.
Without diaries or letters from both Marcolini and his wife, it will be difficult to determine whether Funck’s accusations are accurate.
Marcolini isolated Frederick in similar fashion, so there may be a connection between his actions against his own wife and Frederick. It also suggests that Marcolini’s personality traits were those of a man who desired to be in control; perhaps Funck noticed this trait in the extreme sense and it may have distorted Funck’s view of Marcolini. However, we should be careful not to accept Funck’s view as factual—it may have been purposely slanderous.


Aside from Marcolini absorbing large sums of money from the state, it was probably more devastating for Saxony to have their king controlled or lured as Marcolini desired, as is the opinion of Funck. The primary argument was to show how Marcolini’s control over Frederick as a child, allowed for him to lead the king as he saw fit. He led the king in directions that protected his own interests. It should have been clear that Marcolini’s influence prevailed over reason. Although Frederick understood the seriousness of the situation, he was not willing to adjust accordingly and separate from the teachings of Marcolini and Gutschmid. However, many of Funck’s arguments and complaints may have been severely biased. Funck points out several moments in his memoirs where Marcolini and himself held conflicting views, which Marcolini prevailed. Some of Funck’s negative portrayals of Marcolini may have originated from being overshadowed by him. Also Funck’s opinion on Frederick’s early life had been drawn from what others around him thought, especially the views of Marcolini himself. Oakley Williams also points out that Funck and Marcolini were adversaries, so some of the views may be correct but exaggerated slightly. Throughout the paper I formed an argument based on Funck’s view, but it needs to be understood that Funck’s view of Marcolini may have be seriously distorted. Since this remains the only source I could draw from, it would be difficult to refute anything Funck had said. For this reason I presented an argument according to Funck’s view, but I made several suggestions in footnotes of what could have been possible according to the period and situation Saxony was enduring.

Bibliography and Links (back to top)

Related Books

  • Glenn J. Lamar, Jérôme Bonaparte: The War Years, 1800-1815. (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000). UCSB: DC. 216.8. L35. 2000.
    This books deals with several of Jerome’s campaigns, and his time in Saxony.

Relevant Links

Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi:

Plagiarism—presenting someone else's work as your own, or deliberately failing to credit or attribute the work of others on whom you draw (including materials found on the web)—is a serious academic offense, punishable by dismissal from the university. It hurts the one who commits it most of all, by cheating them out of an education. I report offenses to the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on 12/11/06; last updated: 1/3/06
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