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Noël Édouard, Vicomte de Curières de Castelnau
Édouard de Castelnau
Nickname the fighting friar
Born (1851-12-24)December 24, 1851
Died March 19, 1944(1944-03-19) (aged 92)
Place of birth Saint-Affrique, France
Place of death Montastruc-la-Conseillère, France
Allegiance  French Third Republic
Service/branch French Army
Years of service 1870 - 1919
Rank General
Battles/wars Franco-Prussian War
World War I
Awards Grand cross of the Légion d'honneur

Noël Édouard Marie Joseph, Vicomte de Curières de Castelnau (24 December 1851 – 19 March 1944) was a French general in World War I.


Born in Gascony to a family with a long history of military service, he joined the army in 1870 and fought in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870–1871. He was Catholic and nicknamed le Capucin Botté (the fighting friar).

From 1912 to 1914 he was chief of staff to Joseph Joffre and helped to develop the strategic Plan XVII for the recapture of Alsace-Lorraine as part of an invasion of Germany. Although the plan almost led to disaster in the Battle of the Frontiers in August 1914, Castelnau was able to organize a defence at Nancy.

In June 1915 he was appointed to command the newly created Central Army Group. Later that year he was made chief of staff to Joffre, and in 1916 he organised the initial defence at the Battle of Verdun, before appointing Philippe Pétain to the command.

After the dismissal of Joffre and the appointment of Robert Nivelle in 1916 Castelnau was retired from active service. He was sent on the Allied Mission to Russia in the early months of 1917, just prior to the Fall of the Tsar. When Nivelle was dismissed and replaced with Philippe Pétain, Castelnau was recalled to the command of the Eastern Army Group where he commanded the advance into Lorraine in 1918.

Recognizing the hopelessness of modern trench warfare, he once remarked: "Ah, Napoleon, Napoleon. If he were here now, he'd have thought of something else."[1] Three of Castelnau's sons were killed in the war.

After the war he entered politics. In 1919 he was elected to parliament as a deputy of Bloc National for Aveyron. In 1924 he founded the Fédération nationale catholique, which advanced a socio-religious model of France that has been described as "national Catholicism". In the same year Castelnau wrote an anti-Masonry pamphlet titled "La dictature de la maçonnerie en France" (The Dictatorship of the Masonry in France); he further publicized his accusations in a series of articles in Echo de Paris.[2] Although his catholic Federation reached one million members in 1925, it was of short-lived significance, subsiding into obscurity by 1930.[3]


Rue De Castelnau and De Castelnau metro station in Montreal are named for the general.


  1. Robert B. Holtman, The Napoleonic Revolution (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967), 36.
  2. Frank Tallett (2003). Catholicism in Britain & France Since 1789. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 152–154. ISBN 978-1-85285-100-2. 
  3. Maurice Larkin (2002). Religion, Politics and Preferment in France since 1890: La Belle Epoque and its Legacy. Cambridge University Press. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-521-52270-0. 

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