“Jean-Jacques Régis de Cambacérès (1753-1824)

Cambacérès was a lawyer and magistrate descended from a long noble line of lawyers and magistrates from Montpellier. He was a supporter of the French Revolution, and was named Minister of Justice under the Directory. In the coup d’état of 1799 Napoleon was declared first consul, Cambacérès, second consul. 

Cambacérès was already well-known for his “Italian” sexual tastes when as a young man he first arrived in Paris from the provinces during the last days of the ancien regime. He was a frequenter of the salon of Jean-André Vassal, seigneur de la Fossette, a wealthy libertine, where he met others with similar interests. Among those were the marquis d’Aigrefeuille of Montpellier and the marquis de Villevieille, captain of the count d’Artois’s Swiss guards. The marquis, prodigiously stout, and the captain, abnormal thin, were famous gourmets and inseparable. All these men shared Cambacérès’ Italian tastes and became close friends and companions in the quest of love. They inducted him into their Masonic lodge in which bonds of friendship were formed between men sexually interested in other men.


Napoleon was well aware of his arch-chancellor’s homosexuality and all details of his pursuit of young men; Cambacérès had made no effort to conceal them. But Napoleon thought Cambacérès so useful a public servant that, like Washington who dismissed similar accusations against Von Steuben, he refused to take any action against him.”

—Clinton Elliott, Hidden: The Intimate Lives of Gay Men Past and Present (2014), pg. 51.