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Baron Jean de Lustrac

Elmwood Cemetery
5th Alley East, Lot 44

Baron Jean de Lustrac was a a French Army officer and decorated World War I veteran.  He married Helen Reid, daughter of Fergus Reid of Norfolk, Virginia.  The Reids and de Lustracs gave Norfolk a taste of European aristocracy.  The Baron de Lustrac was a “highly regarded cultural leader” for many reasons including those described in the late George Tucker’s Virginian-Pilot article below.  The Baron and Baroness lived overseas for most of their marriage but returned to Norfolk often to visit Helen’s parents who resided at 507 Pembroke Avenue in Ghent.  The de Lustracs kept the family home until their deaths.  They had one daughter, Anne Marie de Lustrac later known as Princess Anne de Lustrac of Bavaria after marrying Prince Heinrich of Bavaria.  Princess Anne was killed in a car accident in Milan, Italy on August 16, 1999.  She had been a widow for over 40 years since Prince Heinrich was killed a year after their marriage, ironically in a car crash in Argentina.

There is also an Armagnac, a distinct kind of brandy, named after Baron de Lustrac.  It is produced in the Armagnac region in Gascony, southwest France.* 

Other family members buried on the Reid Lot include:  Janet Reid, d. 1907; Fergus Reid, d. 1941; Mary Reid, d. 1947; Helen Reid, d. 1893.

Please see the entry on Fergus Reid for more Reid family history. 

Virginian-Pilot, The (Norfolk, VA) - Sunday, October 15, 2000
REVOLUTIONARY War buffs, who regard the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown on Oct. 19, 1781, as the historical milestone that guaranteed the American colonies their independence from Great Britain, owe an ongoing debt of gratitude to Baron Jean de Lustrac, a debonair French nobleman who made Norfolk one of his homes from the mid-1920s until his death here in 1973.

Why, do you ask? Well, to come to the point, it was due to de Lustrac's efforts that the restored French Artillery Park on the Yorktown battlefield was finally equipped with 10 replicas of the original cannon that knocked the little town on the York River into a cocked hat 219 years ago this coming week. As a result, the British were forced to surrender to the combined French and American forces while their regimental bands reputedly blared away with an appropriate tune - ``The World Turned Upside Down.''

Before relating how de Lustrac went about securing the cannon, however, a few biographical details should be included concerning the man himself. Born in France in 1896, de Lustrac received his higher education at the Military School at Saint Cyr and the Cavalry School at Saumur, later serving with distinction during World War I. In 1925, he married Helen Reid, the daughter of Fergus Reid, a wealthy Norfolkian, after which he lived either abroad or in Norfolk, where he was highly regarded as a cultural leader.

More important, de Lustrac was a direct descendant of two French officers, an earlier Baron de Lustrac and the Marquis de la Corbiere, both of whom were decorated on the Yorktown battlefield for their valor during the storming of the British redoubts. And this connection serves to introduce de Lustrac's eventually successful efforts to secure the replacements of the 18th century French cannon that are now among the stellar attractions at Yorktown.

In February 1962, when de Lustrac toured the battlefield, he was shocked to discover that the restored French Artillery Park was cannonless. And this lack provided him with a dual mission - to see that the site was completed by the inclusion of the type of French artillery that had been used there in 1781, and to further honor his two ancestors.

After appealing to the French ambassador in Washington and learning that the French government would be delighted to make a gift of the missing cannon to the United States, de Lustrac then contacted his friend, the Duke de Rivoli, president of the Museum of the Army in Paris, to ascertain if there were any surviving cannon of the type that had been used at Yorktown that could be commandeered.

After an intensive search, however, de Lustrac learned that no cannon of that sort had survived World War II, during which the German occupation forces had melted down any available old pieces of artillery to provide metal for their own armaments.

But de Lustrac persisted and he eventually located several 18th century cannon of the type he was seeking in Martinique as well as in some of the former French colonies in Africa. But negotiations to secure these ancient pieces of artillery finally proved unsuccessful. Even so, de Lustrac would not give up, and when he was in France in 1963, he again applied to the proper French army department that he had needled earlier. And that time, according to a detailed feature article on the French guns that the late R.K.T. ``Kit'' Larson, a former managing editor of The Virginian-Pilot, wrote in 1964, the persistent French baron was greeted with this testy outburst.

``I have told you a hundred times that there are no old cannon,'' the officer in charge raged. ``I cannot find you what does not exist.'' Then, after a pause, he added, ``After all, you do not expect me to make old guns for you.''

Taking note of that suggestion, de Lustrac told Larson later, ``It was an idea!'' Then he explained how he successfully completed his project.

``Finally, thanks to the full backing of Ambassador (Herve) Alphand,'' de Lustrac explained, ``we obtained the promise that 10 guns would be cast by the Atelier de Construction de Bourges, in the very same molds used to cast the original cannon which fired off at Yorktown .''

To conclude the story, the newly cast cannon were brought to Yorktown by the French aircraft carrier Aromanches in 1964, and on Oct. 19 of the same year while U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Sr. of Virginia received the gift from the French government from Ambassador Alphand, the Aromanches - joined by the USS Intrepid, also anchored in the York River - fired a 21-gun salute as a noisy tribute to the world-shaking event that had taken place at Yorktown 183 years earlier.

At present five of the guns can be viewed in the French Artillery Park at Yorktown.  The others are in storage.

*Historic information courtesy of the Sargeant Memorial Room, Norfolk Public Library.

Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries.

Visitor Information

Visitor Hours: Sunrise to Sunset

Office hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Free parking inside cemetery.

Admission Cost: Free

Address: 238 E. Princess Anne Road , Norfolk, VA 23510

Official web site for more information: www.norfolk.gov/cemeteries

Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation Web Site: www.norfolksocietyforcemeteryconservation.org