Marie Edmé Patrice Maurice MacMahon, duc de Magenta, Marshal of France (July 13, 1808 - October 16, 1893) was a Frenchman of Irish descent. He served as President of the Third French Republic from 1873 to 1879. To date he is the only person of Irish descent to have served as a head of state in continental Europe.
Patrice MacMahon, duc de Magenta
President of France, 1873-1879
Born in Sully (near Autun) , in the département of Saône-et-Loire, Patrice MacMahon was the 16th of 17 children of a family already in the French nobility (his grandfather was named Marquis d'Equilly by king Louis XV, and the family in France had decidedly royalist politics).
His ancestors settled in France from county Limerick (although they were originally from County Clare) during the reign of James II, owing to the penal laws. They applied for naturalization in 1749.
Patrice MacMahon was educated at the College of Louis Le Grand and at the Academy of St-Cyr, graduating in 1827.
He served in the Army as aide-de-camp to General Achard, and went to the campaign in Algiers in 1830. He stayed in Algeria from 1834-1854, and was wounded during an assault on Constantine in 1837. He became commander of the Foreign Legion in 1843, and was promoted to Division General in 1852.
In the Crimean War, he distinguished himself in the Battle of Malakoff at Sevastopol (September 8, 1855). He was offered the top French Army post after the war but declined, preferring to return to Algeria.
He was appointed to the French Senate in 1856.
He fought in the Austro-Italian War as commander of the Second Corps ("Army of Italy"). He secured the French victory at Magenta (June 4, 1859) and rose to the rank of marshal while in the field. He was later named "duc de Magenta" by Napoleon III as a result.
He served as Governor-General of Algeria from September 1, 1864, returning at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, during which he led an Alsatian army unit (although attrition throughout the war led to men from other areas being added to this).
As president of France, he controversially dismissed the republican Prime Minister, replacing him with a known monarchist, before dissolving the French National Assembly on May 16, 1877 in an effort to halt the rise of Republicanism and boost the prospects of a restoration of the monarchy under the Comte de Chambord.