Part 2 out of 6
me, weeping, I went after her, and, as she descended the stairs with her
head drooping, I saw Eugene and Hortense, who went with her, sobbing
violently. I have not the heart to look unmoved on any one in tears.
Eugene had accompanied me to Egypt, and I have accustomed myself to
regard him as my adopted son; he is so gallant, so excellent a young
man. Hortense is just coming out into the world of society, and every
one who knows her speaks well of her. I confess, Bourrienne, that the
sight of her moved me deeply, and the sobbing of those two poor children
made me sad as well. I said to myself, 'Shall they be the victims of
their mother's fault?' I called Eugene back. Hortense turned round and,
along with Josephine, followed her brother. I saw the movement, and said
nothing. What could I do? One cannot be a mortal man without having his
hours of weakness!"
"Be assured, general," exclaimed Bourrienne, "that your adopted children
will reward you for it!"
"They must do so, Bourrienne--they must do so; for it is a great
sacrifice that I have made for them!"
[Footnote 11: Bourrienne, vol. iv., p. 119.]
This sacrifice, however, had its recompense immediately, for Josephine
had been able to set herself right, and Bonaparte had joyfully become
convinced that the accusations of his jealous brothers had been unjust.
Hence it was that Bonaparte's brothers wished to re move Hortense, since
they knew that she was her mother's main stay; that she, with her
gentle, amiable disposition, her tact and good sense, her penetrating
and never-failing sagacity, stood like a wise young Mentor at the side
of her beautiful, attractive, impulsive, somewhat vain, and very
It would be easier to set Josephine aside were Hortense first removed;
and Josephine they wanted to get out of the way because she interfered
with the ambitious designs of Bonaparte's brothers. Since they could not
become great and celebrated by their own merits, they desired to be so
through their illustrious brother; and, in order that they might become
kings, Bonaparte must, above all things, wear a crown. Josephine was
opposed to this project; she loved Bonaparte enough to fear the dangers
that a usurpation of the crown must bring with it, and she had so little
ambition as to prefer her present brilliant and peaceful lot to the
proud but perilous exaltation to a throne.
For this reason, then, Josephine was to be removed, and Bonaparte must
choose another wife--a wife in whose veins there should course
legitimate royal blood, and who would, therefore, be content to see a
crown upon the head of her consort.
LOUIS BONAPARTE AND DUROC.
The brothers of Bonaparte went diligently to work then, above all
things, to get Hortense out of the way. They told Bonaparte of the
burning love of the young couple, of the letters which they sent to each
other, and proposed to him that Duroc should be transferred to the
Italian army with a higher command, and that Hortense should then be
given to him. They persuaded the unsuspecting, magnanimous hero, who was
easy to deceive in these minor matters and thus easy because he was
occupied with grand designs and grand things; they persuaded him to keep
the proposed union a secret for the present, and then on Duroc's early
return to surprise the young couple and Josephine alike.
But Josephine had, this time, seen through the plans of her hostile
brothers-in-law. She felt that her whole existence, her entire future,
was imperilled, should she not succeed in making friends and allies in
the family of Bonaparte itself. There was only one of Bonaparte's
brothers who was not hostile to her, but loved her as the wife of his
brother, to whom he was, at that time, still devoted with the most
enthusiastic and submissive tenderness.
This one was Bonaparte's brother Louis, a young man of serious and
sedate disposition, more of a scholar than a warrior, more a man of
science than fit for the council-chamber and the drawing-room. His was
a reserved, quiet, somewhat timid character, which, notwithstanding its
apparent gentleness, developed an inflexible determination and energy at
the right, decisive moment, and then could not be shaken by either
threats or entreaties. His external appearance was little calculated to
please, nay, was even somewhat sinister, and commanded the respect of
others only in moments of excitement, through the fierce blaze of his
large blue eyes, that seemed rather to look inward than outward.
Louis Bonaparte was one of those deep, self-contained, undemonstrative,
and by no means showy natures which are too rarely understood, because,
in the noisy bustle of life, we have not the time and do not take the
pains to analyze them. Only a sister or a mother is in a position to
comprehend and love men of this stamp, because the confidential home
relations of long years have revealed to them the hidden bloom of these
sensitive plants which shrink back and close their leaves at every rude
contact of the world. But rarely, however, do they find a loving heart
outside, for, since their own hearts are too timid to seek for love, no
one gives himself the trouble to discover them.
The young brother of her husband, now scarcely twenty-four, was the one
who seemed destined in Josephine's eyes to afford her a point of support
in the Bonaparte family.
Madame Letitia loved him more tenderly than she did any of them, next to
her Napoleon, since he was the petted darling of the whole family of
brothers, who had no fear of him, because he was neither egotistical nor
ambitious enough to cross their plans, but quietly allowed them to have
their way, and only asked that they would also leave him undisturbed to
follow out his own quiet and unobtrusive inclinations. He was the
confidant of his young and beautiful sisters, who were always sure to
find in him a discreet counsellor, and never a betrayer. Finally, he was
the one of the whole circle of brothers toward whom Napoleon felt the
sincerest and warmest inclination, because he could not help esteeming
him for his noble qualities, and because he was never annoyed by him as
he was by his other brothers; for the ambition and the avarice of
Jerome, Joseph, and Lucien, were even then a source of displeasure and
chagrin to Bonaparte.
"Were any one to hear with what persistency my brothers demand fresh
sums of money from me, every day, he would really think that I had
consumed from them the inheritance their father left," said Bonaparte,
one day, to Bourrienne, after a violent scene between him and Jerome,
which had ended, as they all did, in Jerome getting another draft on the
private purse of the first consul.
Louis, however, never asked for money, but always appeared thankfully
content with whatever Bonaparte chose to give him, unsolicited, and
there never were any wranglings with tradesmen on his account, or any
debts of his to pay.
This last circumstance was what filled Josephine with a sort of
respectful deference for her young step-brother. He understood how to
manage his affairs so well as never to run up debts, and this was a
quality that was so sorely lacking in Josephine, that she could never
avoid incurring debt. How many bitter annoyances, how much care and
anxiety had not her debts cost her already; how often Bonaparte had
scolded her about them; how often she had promised to do differently,
and make no more purchases until she should be in a condition to pay
But this reform was to her thoughtless and magnanimous nature an
impossibility; and however greatly she may have feared the flashing eyes
and thundering voice of her husband when he was angered, she could not
escape his wrath in this one point, for in that point precisely was it
that the penitent sinner continually fell into fresh transgression--and
again ran into debt!
Louis, however, never had debts. He was as cautious and regular as her
own Hortense, and therefore, thought Josephine, these two young,
careful, thoughtful temperaments would be well adapted to each other,
and would know how to manage their hearts as discreetly as they did
So she wished to make a step-son of Louis Bonaparte, in order to
strengthen her own position thereby. Josephine already had a premonitory
distrust of the future, and it may sometimes have happened that she took
the mighty eagle that fluttered above her head for a bird of evil omen
whose warning cry she frequently fancied that she heard in the stillness
of the night.
The negress at Martinique had said to her, "You will be more than a
queen." But now, Josephine had visited the new fortune-teller, Madame
Villeneuve, in Paris, and she had said to her, "You will wear a crown,
but only for a short time."
Only for a short time! Josephine was too young, too happy, and too
healthful, to think of her own early death. It must, then, be something
else that threatened her--a separation, perhaps. She had no children,
yet Bonaparte so earnestly desired to have a son, and his brothers
repeated to him daily that this was for him a political necessity.
Thus Josephine trembled for her future; she stretched out her hands for
help, and in the selfishness of her trouble asked her daughter to give
up her own dreams of happiness, in order to secure the real happiness of
Yet Hortense was in love; her young heart throbbed painfully at the
thought of not only relinquishing her own love, but of marrying an
unloved man, whom she had never even thought of, and had scarcely
noticed. She deemed it impossible that she could be asked to sacrifice
her own beautiful and blessed happiness, to a cold-blooded calculation,
an artificial family intrigue; and so, with all the enthusiasm of a
first love, she swore rather to perish than to forego her lover.
"But Duroc has no fortune and no future to offer you," said Josephine.
"What he is, he is only through the friendship of Bonaparte. He has no
estate, no importance, no celebrity. Were Bonaparte to abandon him he
would fall back into nothingness and obscurity again."
Hortense replied, smiling through her tears: "I love him, and have no
other ambition than to be his wife."
"But he? Do you think that he too has no other ambition than to become
your husband? Do you think that he loves you for your own sake alone?"
"I know it," said the young girl, with beaming eyes; "Duroc has told me
that he loved me, and me only. He has sworn eternal fidelity and love to
me. Both of us ask for nothing more than to belong to each other."
Josephine shrugged her shoulders almost compassionately.
"Suppose," she rejoined, "that I were to affirm that Duroc is willing to
marry you, only because he is ambitious, and thinks that Bonaparte would
then advance him the more rapidly?"
"It is a slander--it is impossible!" exclaimed Hortense, glowing with
honest indignation; "Duroc loves me, and his noble soul is far from all
"And if I were to prove the contrary to you?" asked Josephine, irritated
by her daughter's resistance, and made cruel by her alarm for her
Hortense turned pale, and her face, which had been so animated, so
beautiful, a moment before, blanched as though the icy chill of death
had passed over it.
"If you can prove to me," she said, in a hollow tone, "that Duroc loves
me only through ambitious motives, I am ready to give him up, and marry
whom you will."
Josephine triumphed. "Duroc gets back to-day from his journey," she
replied, "and in three days more I will give you the proof that he does
not love you, but the family alliance which you present."
Hortense had heard only the first of her mother's words: "Duroc returns
to-day." What cared she for all the rest? She should see him again--she
should read consolation and love's assurance in his handsome manly face;
not that she needed this to confirm her confidence, for she believed in
him, and not the shadow of a doubt obscured her blissful greeting.
Meanwhile, Josephine's pretty hands were busy drawing the meshes of this
intrigue tighter every moment. She absolutely required a supporting ally
in the family, _against_ the family itself; and for this reason Louis
must become the husband of Hortense.
Bonaparte himself was against this union, and was quite resolved to
marry Duroc to his step-daughter. But Josephine managed to shake his
resolve, by means of entreaties, representations, caresses, and little
endearments, and even succeeded in such eloquent argument to show that
Duroc did not cherish any love whatever for Hortense, but wanted to make
an ambitious speculation out of her, that Bonaparte resolved, at least,
to put his friend to the test, and, if Josephine turned out to be right,
to marry Hortense to his own brother.
After this last interview with Josephine, Bonaparte went back into his
office, where he found Bourrienne, as ever, at the writing-desk.
"Where is Duroc?" he hastily asked.
"He has gone out--to the opera, I think."
"So soon as he returns tell him that I have promised him Hortense--that
he shall marry her. But I want the wedding to take place in two days, at
the farthest. I give Hortense five hundred thousand francs, and I
appoint Duroc to the command of the eighth military division. On the day
after his wedding he shall start with his wife for Toulon, and we shall
live apart. I will not have a son-in-law in my house; and, as I want to
see these matters brought to an end, at last, let me know to-day whether
Duroc accepts my propositions."
"I don't think that he will, general."
"Very good! Then, in that case, Hortense shall marry my brother Louis."
"Will she consent?"
"She will have to consent, Bourrienne."
Duroc came in at a late hour that evening, and Bourrienne told him, word
for word, the ultimatum of the first consul.
Duroc listened to him attentively; but, as Bourrienne went on with his
communication, his countenance grew darker and darker.
"If such be the case," he exclaimed at last, when Bourrienne had got
through, "if Bonaparte will do nothing more than that for his
son-in-law, I must forego a marriage with Hortense, however painful it
may be to do so: and then, instead of going to Toulon, I can remain in
Paris." And, as he ceased to speak, Duroc took up his hat, without a
trace of excitement or concern, and departed.
That same evening, Josephine received from her husband his full consent
to the marriage of her daughter to Louis Bonaparte.
On that very evening, too, Josephine informed her daughter that Duroc
had not withstood the test, and that he had now relinquished her,
through ambition, as, through ambition, he had previously feigned
to love her.
Hortense gazed at her mother with tearless eyes. She had not a word of
complaint or reproach to utter; she was conscious merely that a
thunder-bolt had just fallen, and had forever dashed to atoms her love,
her hopes, her future, and her happiness.
But she no longer had the strength and the will to escape the evil that
had flung its meshes around her; she submitted meekly to it. She had
been betrayed by love itself; and what cared she now for her future, her
embittered, bloomless, scentless life, when _he_ had deceived her
--_he_, the only one whom she had loved?
The next morning Hortense stepped, self-possessed and smiling, into
Josephine's private cabinet, and declared that she was ready to fulfil
her mother's wishes and marry Louis Bonaparte.
Josephine clasped her in her arms, with exclamations of delight. She
little knew what a night of anguish, of wailing, of tears, and of
despair, Hortense had struggled through, or that her present smiling
unconcern was nothing more than the dull hopelessness of a worn-out
heart. She did not see that Hortense smiled now only in order that
Duroc should not observe that she suffered. Her love for him was dead,
but her maidenly pride had survived, and it dried her tears, and
conjured up a smile to her struggling lips; it, too, enabled her to
declare that she was ready to accept the husband whom her mother might
present to her.
Thus, Josephine had accomplished her purpose; she had made one of
Bonaparte's brothers her son. Now there remained the question whether
she should attain her other aim through that son, and whether she should
find in him a support against the intrigues of the other brothers of the
CONSUL AND KING.
There was only two days' interval between the betrothal of the young
couple and their wedding; and on the 7th of January, 1802, Hortense was
married to Louis Bonaparte, the youngest brother but one of the first
consul. Bonaparte, who contented himself with the civil ceremony, and
had never given his own union with Josephine the sanction of the Church,
was less careless and unconcerned with regard to this youthful alliance,
which had, indeed, great need of the blessing of Heaven, in order to
prove a source of any good fortune to the young couple. Perhaps he
reasoned that the consciousness of the indissoluble character of their
union would lead them to an honorable and upright effort for a mutual
inclination; perhaps it was because he simply wished to render their
separation impossible. Cardinal Caprara was called into the Tuileries,
after the civil ceremony concluded, and had to bestow the blessing of
God and of the Church upon the bride and bridegroom.
Yet, not one word or one glance had thus far been interchanged by the
young couple. It was in silence that they stepped, after the ceremonies
were over, into the carriage that bore them to their new home, in the
same small residence in the Rue de la Victoire which her mother had
occupied in the first happy weeks of her youthful union with Bonaparte.
Now, another young, newly-married pair were making their entry into this
dwelling, but love did not enter with them; affection and happiness did
not shine in their faces, as had been the case with Bonaparte and
Josephine. The eyes of Hortense were dimmed with tears, and the
countenance of her young husband was dark and gloomy. For, on his side,
he, too, felt no love for this young woman; and, as she never forgave
him for having accepted her hand, although he knew that she loved
another, he, in like manner, could never forgive her having consented to
be his wife, although he had not been the one to solicit it, and
although he had never told her that he loved her. Both had bowed to the
will of him who gave the law, not merely to all France, but also to his
own family, and who had already become the lord and master of the
republic. Both had married through obedience, not for love; and the
consciousness of this compulsion rose like an impassable wall between
these two otherwise tender and confiding young hearts. In the
consciousness of this compulsion, too, they would not even try to love
one another, or find in each other's society the happiness that they
were forbidden to seek elsewhere.
Pale and mournful, in splendid attire, but with a heavy heart, did
Hortense make her appearance at the _fetes_ which were given in honor of
her marriage; and it was with a beclouded brow and averted face that
Louis Bonaparte received the customary congratulations. While every one
around them exhibited a cheerful and joyous bearing, while parties were
given in their honor, and people danced and sang, the young couple only,
of all present, were dull and sad. Louis avoided speaking to Hortense,
and she turned her gaze away from him, possibly so that he might not
read in it her deep and angry aversion.
But she had to accept her lot; and, since she was thus indissolubly
bound up with another, she had to try to live with that other. Hortense,
externally so gentle and yielding, so full of maiden coyness and
delicacy, nevertheless possessed a strong and resolute soul, and, in the
noble pride of her wounded heart, was unwilling to give any one the
right to pity her. Her soul wept, but she restrained her tears and still
tried to smile, were it only that Duroc might not perceive the traces
of her grief upon her sunken cheeks. She had torn this love from her
heart, and she rebuked herself that it had left a wound. She laid claim
to happiness no more; but her youth, her proud self-respect, revolted at
the idea of continuing to be the slave of misfortune henceforth, and so
she formed her firm resolve, saying to herself, with a melancholy smile,
"I must manage to be happy, without happiness. Let me try!"
And she did try. She once more arrayed herself in smiles, and again took
part in the festivities which now were filling the halls of St. Cloud,
Malmaison, and the Tuileries, and which, too, were but the dying lay of
the swan of the republic, or, if you will, the cradle-song of
For things were daily sweeping nearer and nearer to that great
turning-point, at which the French people would have to choose between a
seeming republic and a real monarchy. France was already a republic but
in name; the new, approaching monarchy was, indeed, but a new-born,
naked infant as yet, but only a bold hand was wanting, that should
possess the determined courage to clothe it with ermine and purple, in
order to transform the helpless babe into a proud, triumphant man.
That courage Bonaparte possessed; but he had, also, the higher courage
to advance carefully and slowly. He let the infant of monarchy, that lay
there naked and helpless at his feet, shiver there a little longer; but,
lest it should freeze altogether, he threw over it, for the time being,
the mantle of his "consulship for life." Beneath it, the babe could
slumber comfortably a few weeks longer, while waiting for its
Bonaparte was now, by the will of the French people, consul for life. He
stood close to the steps of a throne, and it depended only upon himself
whether he would mount those steps, or whether, like General Monk, he
would recall the fugitive king, and restore to him the sceptre of his
forefathers. The brothers of Bonaparte desired the first; Josephine
implored Heaven for the latter alternative. She was too completely a
loving woman only, to long for the chilly joys of mere ambition; she was
too entirely occupied with her personal happiness, not to fear every
danger that menaced it. Should Bonaparte place a crown upon his head, he
would also have to think of becoming the founder of a dynasty; and in
order to strengthen and fortify his position, he would have to place a
legitimate heir by his side. Josephine had borne her husband no
children; and she knew that his brothers had, more than once, proposed
to him to dissolve his childless union, and replace it with the presence
of a young wife. Hence, Bonaparte's assumption of royal dignity meant a
separation from her; and Josephine still loved him too well, and too
much with a young wife's love, to take so great a sacrifice upon her.
Moreover, Josephine was at heart a royalist, and considered the Count de
Lille, who, after so many agitations and wanderings, had found an asylum
at Hartwell, in England, the legitimate King of France.
The letters which the Count de Lille (afterward King Louis XVIII.) had
written to Bonaparte, had filled Josephine's heart with emotion, and,
with a kind of apprehensive foreboding, she had conjured her husband to,
at least, give the brother of the beheaded king a mild and considerate
answer. Yes, she had even ventured to beseech Bonaparte to comply with
the request that Louis had made, and give him back the throne of his
ancestors. But Bonaparte had laughed at this suggestion, as he would at
some childish joke; for it had never entered into his head that any one
could seriously ask him to lay his laurels and his trophies at the foot
of a throne, which not he, but a member of that Bourbon family whom
France had banished forever, should ascend.
Louis had written to Bonaparte: "I cannot believe that the victor at
Lodi, Castiglione, and Arcola--the conqueror of Italy and Egypt--would
not prefer real glory to mere empty celebrity. Meanwhile, you are losing
precious time. _We_ can secure the glory of France; I say _we_, because
I have need of Bonaparte in the work, and because he cannot complete it
But Bonaparte already felt strong enough to say, not "we," but "I," and
to complete his work alone. Therefore, he replied to the Count de Lille:
"You cannot desire your return to France, for you would have to enter it
over a hundred thousand corpses; sacrifice your personal interests to
the tranquillity and happiness of France. History will pay you a
Louis had said in his letter to Bonaparte, "Choose your own position,
and mark out what you want for your friends." And Bonaparte did choose
his position; but unfortunately for the Count de Lille, it was the very
one which the latter had wished to reserve for himself.
Josephine would have been glad to vacate the king's place for him, could
she but have retained her husband by so doing. She had no longings for a
diadem which, by-the-way, her beautiful head did not require in order to
"You cannot avoid being a queen or an empress, one of these days," said
Bourrienne to her, on a certain occasion.
Josephine replied, with tears: "_Mon Dieu_! I am far from cherishing any
such ambition. So long as I live, to be the wife of Bonaparte--of the
first consul--is the sum total of my wishes! Tell him so; conjure him
not to make himself king."
[Footnote 12: Bourrienne, vol. v., p. 47.]
But Josephine did not content herself with requesting Bourrienne to tell
her husband this; she had the courage to say so to him herself.
One day she went into Napoleon's cabinet, and found him at breakfast,
and unusually cheerful and good-humored. She had entered without having
been announced, and crept up on tiptoe to her husband, who sat with his
back turned toward her, and had not yet noticed her. Lightly throwing
her arm around his neck, and letting herself sink upon his breast, and
then stroking his pale cheeks and glossy brown hair, with an expression
of unutterable love and tenderness, she said:
"I implore you, Bonaparte, do not mount the throne. Your wicked brother
Lucien will urge you to it, but do not listen to him."
Bonaparte laughed. "You are a little goose, poor Josephine," he said.
"It's the old dowagers of the Faubourg St. Germain, and your La
Rochefoucauld, more than all the rest, who tell you these wonderful
stories; but you worry me to death with them. Come, now, don't bother me
about them any more!"
Bonaparte had put off Josephine with a laugh and a jesting word, but he
nevertheless conversed earnestly and seriously with his most intimate
personal friends on the subject of his assuming the crown. In the course
of one of these interviews, Bourrienne said to him:
"As first consul, you are the leading and most famous man in all Europe;
whereas, if you place the crown upon your head, you will be only the
youngest in date of all the kings, and will have to yield precedence
Bonaparte's eyes blazed up with fiercer fire, and, with that daring and
imposing look which was peculiar to him in great and decisive moments,
"The youngest of the kings! Well, then, I will drive _all_ the kings
from their thrones, and found a new dynasty: then, they will have to
recognize me as the oldest prince of all."
The union of Hortense with Bonaparte's brother had not been followed by
such good results for her as Josephine had anticipated. She had made a
most unfortunate selection, for Louis Bonaparte was, of all the first
consul's brothers, the one who concerned himself the least about
politics, and was the least likely to engage in any intrigue. Besides,
this alliance had materially diminished the affection which Louis had
always previously manifested for Josephine. He blamed her, in the depths
of his noble and upright heart, for having been so egotistic as to
sacrifice the happiness of her daughter to her own personal welfare; he
blamed her, too, for having forced him into a marriage which love had
not concluded, and, although he never sided with her enemies, Josephine
had, at least, lost a friend in him.
The wedded life of this young couple was something unusually strange.
They had openly confessed the repulsion they felt for each other, and
reciprocally made no secret of the fact that they had been driven into
this union against their own wishes. In this singular interchange of
confidence, they went so far as to commiserate each other, and to
condole with one another as friends, over the wretchedness they endured
in their married bondage.
They said frankly to each other that they could never love; that they
detested one another: but they so keenly felt a mutual compassion, that
out of that very compassion--that very hatred itself--love might
possibly spring into being.
Louis could already sit for hours together beside his wife, busied with
the effort to divert her with amusing remarks, and to drive away the
clouds that obscured her brow; already, too, Hortense had come to regard
it as her holiest and sweetest duty to endeavor to compensate her
husband, by her kindly deportment toward him, and the delicate and
attentive respect that distinguished her bearing, for the unhappiness he
felt beside her; already had both, in fine, begun to console each other
with the reflection that the child which Hortense now bore beneath her
heart would, one day, be to them a compensation for their ill-starred
marriage and their lost freedom.
"When I present you with a son," said Hortense, smiling, "and when he
calls you by the sweet name of 'father,' you will forgive me for being
"And when you press that son to your heart--when you feel that you love
him with boundless affection," said Louis, "you will pardon me for being
your husband, and you will cease to hate me, at least, for I will be the
father of your darling child."
Had sufficient time been allotted to these young, pure, and innocent
hearts, to comprehend one another, they would have overcome their
unhappiness, and love would have sprung up at last from hatred. But the
world was pitiless to them; it had no compassion for their youth and
their sufferings; with cruel hands it dashed away this tender blossoming
of nascent affection, which was beginning to expand in their hearts.
Josephine had wedded Hortense to her brother-in-law in order to secure
in him an ally in the family, and to keep her daughter by her side; and
now that daughter was made the target of insidious attacks and malicious
calumnies--now another plan was adopted in order to remove Hortense from
the scene. The conspirators had not succeeded in their designs by means
of a matrimonial alliance, so they would now try the effect of calumny.
They went about whispering from ear to ear that Bonaparte had married
his step-daughter to his brother, simply because he was attached to her
himself, and had been jealous of Duroc.
These slanders were carried so far as to hint that the child whose birth
Hortense expected was more nearly related to Bonaparte than merely
through the fact that his step-daughter was his brother's wife.
This was an infernal but skilfully-planned calumny; for those who
devised it well knew how Bonaparte detested the merest suspicion of such
immorality, how strict he was in his own principles, and how repulsive
it therefore would be to him to find himself made the object of such
The conspirators calculated that, in order to terminate these evil
rumors, the first consul would send his brother and Hortense away to a
distance, and that the fated Josephine, being thus isolated, could also
be the more readily removed. Thus Bonaparte, being separated from his
guardian angel, would no longer hear her whispering:
"Bonaparte, do not ascend the throne! Be content with the glory of the
greatest of mankind! Place no diadem upon thy brows; do not make
thyself a king!"
In Paris, as I have said, these shameful calumnies were but very lightly
whispered, but abroad they were only the more loudly heard. Bonaparte's
enemies got hold of the scandalous story, and made a weapon of it with
which to assail him as a hero.
One morning Bonaparte was reading an English newspaper which had always
been hostile to him, and which, as he well knew, was the organ of Count
d'Artois, then residing at Hartwell. As he continued to read, a dark
shadow stole over his face, and he crumpled the paper in his clinched
fist with a sudden and vehement motion. Then as suddenly again his
countenance cleared, and a proud smile flitted across it. He had his
master of ceremonies summoned to his presence, and bade him issue the
necessary invitations for a court ball to be given, on the evening of
the next day, at St. Cloud. He then went to Josephine to inform her in
person of the projected _fete_, and to say that he wished her to tell
Hortense, who had been ailing for some time, that he particularly
desired her to be present.
Hortense had been too long accustomed to obey her step-father's
requests, to venture a refusal. She rose, therefore, from her couch on
which she had been in the habit, for weeks past, of reclining, busied
with her own dreams and musings, and bade her waiting women prepare her
attire for the ball. Still she felt unwell, and seriously burdened by
this festive attire, which harmonized so little with her feelings, and
was so far from becoming to her figure, for she was only a few weeks
from her confinement; but with her gentle and yielding disposition she
did not venture, even in thought, to murmur at the compulsion imposed
upon her by her step-father's command. She therefore repaired, at the
appointed hour, to the ball at St. Cloud. Bonaparte stepped forward to
meet her with a friendly smile, and, instead of thanking her for coming
at all, earnestly urged her to dance.
Hortense gazed at him with amazement. She knew that hitherto Bonaparte
had always sought to avoid the sight of a woman in her condition; he had
frequently said that he thought there was nothing more indecent than for
a female to join in the dance under such circumstances, and now it was
he who asked her to do that very thing.
For this reason Hortense hesitated at first to comply, but Bonaparte
grew only the more pressing and vehement in his request.
"You know how I like to see you dance, Hortense," he said, with his
irresistible smile; "so do this much for me, even if you take the floor
only once, and that for but a single _contredance_."
And Hortense, although most reluctant, although blushing with shame at
the idea of exposing herself in such unseemly shape to the gaze of all,
obeyed and joined the dances.
This took place in the evening--how greatly surprised, then, was
Hortense when next morning she found, in the paper that she usually
read, a poem, extolling her performance in words of ravishing flattery,
and referring to the fact that, notwithstanding her advanced state of
pregnancy, she had consented to tread a measure in the _contredance_, as
a peculiar trait of amiability!
Hortense, however, far from feeling flattered by this very emphatic
piece of verse, took it as an affront, and hastened at once to the
Tuileries, to complain to her mother, and to ask her how it was possible
that, so early as the very next morning, there could be verses published
in the newspapers concerning what had taken place at the ball on the
Bonaparte, who happened to be with Josephine when Hortense came in, and
was the first to be questioned by her, gave her only an evasive and
jocose reply, and withdrew. Hortense then turned to her mother, who was
leaning over on the divan, her eyes reddened with weeping and her heart
oppressed with grief. To her, Bonaparte had given no evasive answer, but
had told the whole truth, and Josephine's heart was at that moment too
full of wretchedness, too overladen with this fresh and bitter trouble,
for her possibly to retain it within her own breast.
Hortense insisted upon an explanation, and her mother gave it. She told
her that Bonaparte had got the poet Esmenard to write the verses
beforehand, and that it was for this reason that he had urged her to
dance; that he had ordered the ball for no other purpose than to have
her dance, and have the poem that complimented her and referred to her
pregnancy published in the next day's paper.
Then, when Hortense, in terror, begged to be informed of the ground for
all these proceedings, Josephine had the cruel courage to tell her of
the slanders that had been circulated in reference to herself and
Bonaparte, and to say that he had arranged the poem, the ball, and her
participation in the dance, because, on the preceding day, he had read
in an English journal the calumnious statement that Madame Louis
Bonaparte had safely given birth to a vigorous and healthy child some
weeks previously, and he wished in this manner to refute the malicious
Hortense received this fresh wound with a cold smile of scorn. She had
not a word of anger or indignation for this unheard-of injury, this
shameless slander; she neither wept nor complained, but, as she rose to
take leave of her mother, she swooned away, and it required hours of
exertion to restore her to consciousness.
A few weeks later, Hortense was delivered of a dead male infant, and so
passed away her last dream of happiness; for thus was destroyed the hope
of a better understanding between her and her husband.
Hortense rose from her sick-bed with a firm, determined heart. In those
long, lonely days that she had passed during her confinement, she had
the time and opportunity to meditate on many things, and keenly to
estimate her whole present position and probable future. She had now
become a mother, without having a child; yet the resolute energy of a
mother remained to her. The youthful, gentle, dreamy, enthusiastic girl
had now become transformed into a determined, active, energetic woman,
that would no longer bow submissively to the blows of fortune, but would
meet them with an open and defiant brow. Since her fate could not be
changed, she accepted it, all the while resolved no longer to bend to
its yoke, but to subdue it, and try to be happy by force of resolution;
and, since a charming, peaceful, and harmonious fireside at home was
denied her, to at least make her house a pleasant gathering-point for
her friends--for men of scientific and artistic attainments, for poets
and singers, for painters and sculptors, and for men of learning. Ere
long, all Paris was talking about Madame Louis Bonaparte's
drawing-rooms, the agreeable and elegant entertainments that were given
there, and the concerts there arranged, in which the first singers of
the day executed pieces that Hortense had composed, and Talma recited,
with his wonderful, sonorous voice, the poems that she had written.
Every one was anxious for admission to these entertainments, in which
the participants not merely performed their parts, but greatly enjoyed
themselves as well; where the guests indulged in no backbiting or abuse,
but found more worthy and elevated subjects of conversation; where, in
fine, they could admire the works of poets and artists, and enjoy the
newly, awakened intellectual spirit of the age.
Hortense had firmly made up her mind that, since she had resigned
herself to accept the burden of existence, she would strive to render it
as agreeable as possible, and not to see any of its hateful and
repulsive features, but to turn away from them with a noble and
disdainful pride. She had never even referred to the frightful calumnies
which her mother had privately made known to her, nor had she deemed any
defence or proof of her innocence at all necessary. She felt that there
were certain accusations against which to even undertake defence is to
admit their possibility, and which, therefore, could only be combated by
silence. The slanders that had been flung at her lay in a plane so far
beneath her, that they could not rise high enough to reach her, but fell
powerless at her feet, whence she did not deem it even worth her while
to thrust them.
But Bonaparte continued to feel outraged and wounded by this vile story,
and it annoyed him deeply to learn that these rumors were still spread
abroad, and that his foes still bestirred themselves to keep him ever on
the alert, and, if possible, to dim the lustre of his gloriously-won
laurels by the shadow of an infamous crime.
"There are still rumors abroad of a _liaison_ between me and Hortense,"
said he one day to Bourrienne. "They have even invented the most
repulsive stories concerning her first infant. At the time, I thought
that these calumnies were circulated among the public because the
latter go earnestly desired that I might have a child to inherit my
name. But it is still spoken of, is it not?"
"Yes, general, it is still spoken of; and I confess that I did not
believe this calumny would be so long continued."
"This is really abominable!" exclaimed Bonaparte, his eyes flashing with
anger. "You, Bourrienne, you best know what truth there is in it. You
have heard and seen all; not the smallest circumstance could escape you.
You were her confidant in her love-affair with Duroc. I expect you to
clear me of this infamous reproach if you should some day write my
history. Posterity shall not associate my name with such infamy. I shall
depend on you, Bourrienne, and you will at least admit that you have
never believed in this abominable calumny?"
"No, never, general."
"I shall rely on you, Bourrienne, not only on my own account, but for
the sake of poor Hortense. She is, without this, unhappy enough, as is
my brother also. I am concerned about this, because I love them both,
and because this very circumstance gives color to the reports which idle
chatterboxes have circulated regarding my relations to her. Therefore,
bear this in mind when you write of me hereafter."
"I shall do so, general; I shall tell the truth, but, unfortunately, I
can not compel the world to believe the truth."
Bourrienne has, at all events, kept his word, and spoken the truth.
With deep indignation he spurns the calumny with which it has been
attempted to sully the memory of Bonaparte and Hortense, even down to
our time; and, in his anger, he even forgets the elegant and considerate
language of the courteous diplomat, which is elsewhere always
characteristic of his writings.
"He lies in his throat," says Bourrienne, "who asserts that Bonaparte
entertained other feelings for Hortense than those a step-father should
entertain for his step-daughter! Hortense entertained for the first
consul a feeling of reverential fear. She always spoke to him
tremblingly. She never ventured to approach him with a petition. She was
in the habit of coming to me, and I then submitted her wishes; and only
when Bonaparte received them unfavorably did I mention the name of the
petitioner. 'The silly thing!' said the first consul; 'why does she not
speak to me herself? Is she afraid of me?' Napoleon always entertained a
fatherly affection for her; since his marriage, he loved her as a father
would have loved his child. I, who for years was a witness of her
actions in the most private relations of life, I declare that I have
never seen or heard the slightest circumstance that would tend to
convict her of a criminal intimacy. One must consider this calumny as
belonging to the category of those which malice so willingly circulates
about those persons whose career has been brilliant, and which credulity
and envy so willingly believe. I declare candidly that, if I entertained
the slightest doubt with regard to this horrible calumny, I would say
so. But Bonaparte is no more! Impartial history must not and shall not
give countenance to this reproach; she should not make of a father and
friend a libertine! Malicious and hostile authors have asserted,
without, however, adducing any proof, that a criminal intimacy existed
between Bonaparte and Hortense. A falsehood, an unworthy falsehood! And
this report has been generally current, not only in France, but
throughout all Europe. Alas! can it, then, be true that calumny
exercises so mighty a charm that, when it has once taken possession of a
man, he can never be freed from it again?"
KING OR EMPEROR.
Josephine's entreaties had been fruitless, or Bonaparte had, at least,
only yielded to them in their literal sense. She had said: "I entreat
you, do not make yourself a king!" Bonaparte did not make himself king,
he made himself emperor. He did not take up the crown that had fallen
from the head of the Bourbons; he created a new one for himself--a crown
which the French people and Senate had, however, offered him. The
revolution still stood a threatening spectre behind the French people;
its return was feared, and, since the discovery of the conspiracy of
Georges, Moreau, and Pichegru, the people anxiously asked themselves
what was to become of France if the conspirators should succeed in
murdering Bonaparte; and when the republic should again be sent adrift,
without a pilot, on the wild sea of revolution. The people demanded that
their institutions should be securely established and maintained, and
believed that this could only be accomplished by a dynasty--by a
monarchical form of government. The consulate for life must therefore be
changed into an hereditary empire. Had not Bonaparte himself said: "One
can be emperor of a republic, but not king of a republic; these two
terms are incompatible!" They desired to make Napoleon emperor, because
they flattered themselves that in so doing they should still be able to
preserve the republic.
On the 18th of May, of the year 1804, the plan that had been so long and
carefully prepared was carried into execution. On the 18th of May, the
Senate repaired to St. Cloud, to entreat Bonaparte, in the name of the
people and army, to accept the imperial dignity, and exchange the Roman
chair of a consul for the French throne of an emperor.
Cambaceres, the late second consul of the republic, stood at the head of
the Senate, and upon him devolved the duty of imparting to Bonaparte the
wishes of the French people. Cambaceres--who, as a member of the
Convention, had voted for the condemnation of Louis XVI., in order that
royalty should be forever banished from French soil--this same
Cambaceres, was now the first to salute Bonaparte with "imperial
majesty," and with the little word, so full of significance, "sire." He
rewarded Cambaceres, for this by writing to him on the game day, and
appointing him high constable of the empire, as the first act of his
imperial rule. In this letter, the first document in which Bonaparte
signed himself merely Napoleon, the emperor retained the republican
style of writing. He addressed Cambaceres, as "citizen consul," and
followed the revolutionary method of reckoning time, his letter being
dated "the 20th Floreal, of the year 12."
The second act of the emperor, on the first day of his new dignity, was
to invest the members of his family also with new dignities, and to
confer upon them the rank of Princes of France, with the title "imperial
highness." Moreover, he made his brother Joseph prince elector, and his
brother Louis connetable. On the same day it devolved upon Louis, in his
new dignity, to present the generals and staff officers to the emperor,
and then to conduct them to the empress--the Empress Josephine.
The prophecy of the negress of Martinique was now fulfilled. Josephine
was "more than a queen." But Josephine, in the midst of the splendor of
her new dignity, could only think, with an anxious heart, of the
prophecy of the clairvoyante of Paris, who had told her, "You will wear
a crown, but only for a short time." She felt that this wondrous fortune
could not last long--that the new emperor would have to do as the kings
or old had done, and sacrifice his dearest possession to Fate, in order
to appease the hungry demons of vengeance and envy; and that he would,
therefore, sacrifice her, in order to secure the perpetuity of his
fortune and dynasty.
It was this that weighed down the heart of the new empress, and made her
shrink in alarm from her new grandeur. It was, therefore, with a feeling
of deep anxiety that she took possession of the new titles and honors
that Fate had showered upon her, as from an inexhaustible horn of
plenty. With a degree of alarm, and almost with shame, she heard herself
addressed with the titles with which she had addressed the Queen of
France years before, in these same halls, when she came to the Tuileries
as Marquise de Beauharnais, to do homage to the beautiful Marie
Antoinette. She had died on the scaffold and now Josephine was the
"majesty" that sat enthroned in the Tuileries, her brilliant court
assembled around her, while in a retired nook of England the legitimate
King of France was leading a lonely and gloomy life.
Josephine, as we have said, was a good royalist; and, as empress, she
still mourned over the fate of the unfortunate Bourbons, and esteemed it
her sacred duty to assist and advise those who, true to their principles
and duties, had followed the royal family, or had emigrated, in order
that they might, at least, not be compelled to do homage to the new
system. Her purse was always at the service of the emigrants; and, if
Josephine continually made debts, in spite of her enormous monthly
allowance, her extravagance was not alone the cause, but also her
kindly, generous heart; for she was in the habit of setting apart the
half of her monthly income for the relief of poor emigrants, and, no
matter how great her own embarrassment, or how pressing her creditors,
she never suffered the amount devoted to the relief of misfortune and
the reward of fidelity to be applied to any other purpose.
[Footnote 13: Memoires sur la reine Hortense, par le Baron van Schelten,
vol. i., p. 145.]
Now that Josephine was an empress, her daughter, the wife of the High
Constable of France, took the second position at the brilliant court of
the emperor. The daughter of the beheaded viscount was now a "Princess
of France," an "imperial highness," who must be approached with
reverence, who had her court and her maids of honor, and whose liberty
and personal inclinations, as was also the case with her mother, were
confined in the fetters of the strict etiquette which Napoleon required
to be observed at the new imperial court.
But neither Josephine nor Hortense allowed herself to be blinded by this
new splendor. A crown could confer upon Josephine no additional
happiness; glittering titles could neither enhance Hortense's youth and
beauty, nor alleviate her secret misery. She would have been contented
to live in retirement, at the side of a beloved husband; her proud
position could not indemnify her for her lost woman's happiness.
But Fate seemed to pity the noble, gentle being, who knew how to bear
misery and grandeur with the same smiling dignity, and offered her a
recompense for the overthrow of her first mother's hope--a new
hope--she promised to become a mother again.
Josephine received this intelligence with delight, for her daughter's
hope was a hope for her too. If Hortense should give birth to a son, the
gods might be reconciled, and misfortune be banished from the head of
the empress. With this son, the dynasty of the new imperial family would
be assured; this son could be the heir of the imperial crown, and
Napoleon could well adopt as his own the child who was at the same time
his nephew and his grandson.
Napoleon promised Josephine that he would do this; that he would rather
content himself with an adopted son, in whom the blood of the emperor
and of the empress was mixed, than be compelled to separate himself from
her, from his Josephine. Napoleon still loved his wife; he still
compared with all he thought good and beautiful, the woman who shed
around his grandeur the lustre of her grace and loveliness.
When the people greeted their new emperor with loud cries of joy and
thunders of applause, Napoleon, his countenance illumined with
exultation, exclaimed: "How glorious a music is this! These acclamations
and greetings sound as sweet and soft as the voice of Josephine! How
proud and happy I am, to be loved by such a people!"
[Footnote 14: Bourrienne, vol. iv., p. 288.]
But his proud ambition was not yet sated. As he bad once said, upon
entering the Tuileries as first consul, "It is not enough to _be_ in
the Tuileries; one must also _remain_ there"--he now said: "It is not
enough to have been made emperor by the French people; one must also
have received his consecration as emperor from the Pope of Rome."
And Napoleon was now mighty enough to give laws to the world; not only
to bend France, but also foreign sovereigns, to his will.
Napoleon desired for his crown the papal consecration; and the Pope left
the holy city and repaired to Paris, to give the new emperor the
blessing of the Church in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. This was a new
halo around Napoleon's head--a new, an unbounded triumph, which he
celebrated over France, over the whole world and its prejudices, and
over all the dynasties by the "grace of God." The Pope came to Paris to
crown the emperor. The German emperors had been compelled to make a
pilgrimage to Rome, to receive the papal benediction, and now the Pope
made a pilgrimage to Paris to crown the French emperor, and acknowledge
the son of the Revolution as the consecrated son of the Church. All
France was intoxicated with delight at this intelligence; all France
adored the hero, who made of the wonders of fiction a reality, and
converted even the holy chair at Rome into the footstool of his
grandeur. Napoleon's journey with Josephine through France, undertaken
while they awaited the Pope's coming, was, therefore, a single,
continuous triumph. It was not only the people who received him with
shouts of joy, but the Church also sang to him, everywhere, her
_sanctus, sanctus_, and the priests received him at the doors of their
churches with loud benedictions, extolling him as the savior of France.
Everywhere, the imperial couple was received with universal exultation,
with the ringing of bells, with triumphal arches, and solemn addresses
of welcome, the latter partaking sometimes of a transcendental nature.
"God created Bonaparte," said the Prefect of Arras, in his enthusiastic
address to the emperor--"God created Bonaparte, and then He rested."
And Count Louis of Narbonne, at that time not yet won over by the
emperor, and not yet grand-marshal of the imperial court, whispered,
quite audibly: "God would have done better had He rested a
Finally, the intelligence overran all France, that the wonder, in which
they had not yet dared to believe, had become reality, and that Pope
Pius VII. had crossed the boundaries of France, and was now approaching
the capital. The Holy Father of the Church, that had now arisen
victoriously from the ruins of the revolution, was everywhere received
by the people and authorities with the greatest honor. The old royal
palace at Fontainebleau had, by order of the emperor, been refurnished
with imperial magnificence, and, as a peculiarly delicate attention, the
Pope's bedchamber had been arranged in exact imitation of his bedchamber
in the Quirinal at Home. The emperor, empress, and their suite, now
repaired to Fontainebleau, to receive Pope Pius VII. The whole ceremony
had, however, been previously arranged, and understanding had with the
Pope concerning the various questions of etiquette. In conformity with
this prearranged ceremony, when the couriers announced the approach of
the Pope, Napoleon rode out to the chase, to give himself the appearance
of meeting the Pope accidentally on his way. The equipages and the
imperial court had taken position in the forest of Nemours. Napoleon,
however, attired in hunting-dress, rode, with his suite, to the summit
of a little hill, which the Pope's carriage had just reached. The Pope
at once ordered a halt, and the emperor also brought his suite to a
stand with a gesture of his hand. A brief interval of profound silence
followed. All felt that a great historical event was taking place, and
the eyes of all were fastened in wondering expectation on the two chief
figures of this scene--on the emperor, who sat there on his horse, in
his simple huntsman's attire; and on the Pope, in his gold-embroidered
robes, leaning back in his equipage, drawn by six horses.
As Napoleon dismounted, the Pope hastened to descend from his carriage,
hesitating a moment, however, after he had already placed his foot on
the carriage-step; but Napoleon's foot had already touched the earth.
Pius could, therefore, no longer hesitate; he must make up his mind to
step, in his white, gold-embroidered satin slippers, on the wet soil,
softened by a shower of rain, that had fallen on the previous day. The
emperor's hunting-boots were certainly much better adapted to this
meeting in the mud than the Pope's white satin slippers.
Emperor and Pope approached and embraced each other tenderly; then,
through the inattention of the coachmen, seemingly, the imperial
equipage was set in motion, and, in its rapid advance, interrupted this
tender embrace. It seemed to be the merest accident that the emperor
stood on the right, and the Pope on the left side of the equipage, that
had now been brought to a stand again. The two doors of the carriage
were simultaneously thrown open by the lackeys; at the same time, the
Pope entered the carriage on the left, and the emperor on the right
side, both seating themselves side by side at the same time. This
settled the question of etiquette. Neither had preceded the other, but
the emperor occupied the seat of honor on the Pope's right.
The coronation of the imperial pair took place on the 2d of December,
1804, in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Not only all Paris, but all
France, was in motion on this day. An immense concourse of people surged
to and fro in the streets; the windows of all the houses were filled
with richly-adorned and beautiful women, the bells were ringing in all
the churches, and joyous music, intermixed with the shouts of the
people, was heard in every direction. For a moment, however, these
shouts were changed into laughter, and that was when the papal
procession approached, headed by an ass led by the halter, in accordance
with an ancient custom of Rome. While the Pope, with the high
dignitaries of the Church, repaired to the cathedral to await there the
coming of the imperial couple, Napoleon was putting on the imperial
insignia in the Tuileries, enveloping himself in the green velvet
mantle, bordered with ermine, and thickly studded with brilliants, and
arraying himself in the whole glittering paraphernalia of his new
dignity. When already on the point of leaving the Tuileries with his
wife, who stood at his side in her imperial attire, Bonaparte suddenly
gave the order that the notary Ragideau should be called to the palace,
as he desired to see him at once.
A messenger was at once sent, in an imperial equipage, to bring him from
his dwelling, and in a quarter of an hour the little notary Ragideau
entered the cabinet of the empress, in which the imperial pair were
alone, awaiting him in their glittering attire.
His eyes beaming, a triumphant smile on his lips, Napoleon stepped
forward to meet the little notary. "Well, Master Ragideau," said he,
gayly, "I have had you called, merely to ask you whether General
Bonaparte really possesses nothing besides his hat and his sword, or
whether you will now forgive Viscountess Beauharnais for having married
me;" and, as Ragideau looked at him in astonishment, and Josephine asked
the meaning of his strange words, Bonaparte related how, while standing
in Ragideau's antechamber on a certain occasion, he had heard the notary
advising Josephine not to marry poor little Bonaparte; not to become the
wife of the general, who possessed nothing but his hat and his sword.
The notary's words had entered the ambitious young man's heart like a
dagger, and had wounded him deeply. But he had uttered no complaint, and
made no mention of it; but to-day, on the day of his supreme triumph,
to-day the emperor remembered that moment of humiliation, and, arrayed
with the full insignia of the highest earthly dignity, he accorded
himself the triumph of reminding the little notary that he had once
advised Josephine not to marry him, because of his poverty.
The poor General Bonaparte had now transformed himself into the mighty
Emperor Napoleon. Then he possessed nothing but his hat and his sword,
but now the Pope awaited him in the cathedral of Notre-Dame, to place
the golden imperial crown on his head.
Hortense had not been able to take any part in the festivities of the
coronation; but another festivity had been prepared for her in the
retirement of her apartments. She had given birth to a son; and in this
child the happy mother found consolation and a new hope.
Josephine, who had assumed the imperial crown with a feeling of
foreboding sadness, received the intelligence of the birth of her
grandson with exultation. It seemed to her that the clouds that had been
gathering over her head were now dissipated, and that a day of
unclouded sunshine now smiled down upon her. Hortense had assured her
mother's future; she had given birth to a son, and had thus given a
first support to the new imperial dynasty. There was now no longer a
reason why Napoleon should entertain the thoughts of a separation, for
there was a son to whom he could one day bequeath the imperial throne
The emperor also seemed to be disposed to favor Josephine's wishes, and
to adopt his brother's son as his own. Had he not requested the Pope to
delay his departure for a few days, in order to baptize the child? The
Pope performed this sacred rite at St. Cloud, the emperor holding the
child, and Madame Letitia standing at his side as second witness.
Hortense now possessed an object upon which she could lavish the whole
wealth of love that had until now lain concealed in her heart. The
little Napoleon Charles was Hortense's first happy love; and she gave
way to this intoxicating feeling with the most intense delight.
Josephine's house was now her home in the fullest sense of the word; she
no longer shared her home with her husband, and could now bestow her
undivided love and care upon her child. Louis Napoleon, the
Grand-Constable of France, had been appointed Governor of Piedmont by
Napoleon; and Hortense, owing to her delicate health, had not been
compelled to accompany him, but had been permitted to remain in her
little house in Paris, which she could exchange when summer came for
her husband's new estate, the castle of Saint-Leu.
But the tranquillity which Josephine enjoyed with her child in this
charming country-resort was to be of short duration. The brother and
sister-in-law of the emperor could not hope to be permitted to lead a
life of retirement. They were rays of the sun that now dazzled the whole
world; they must fulfil their destiny, and contribute their light to the
An order of Napoleon recalled the constable, who had returned from
Piedmont a short time before, and repaired to Saint-Leu to see his son,
to Paris. Napoleon had appointed his brother to a brilliant destiny; the
Constable of France was to become a king. Delegates of the Republic of
Batavia, the late Holland, had arrived in Paris, and requested their
mighty neighbor, the Emperor Napoleon, to give them a king, who should
unite them with the glittering empire, through the ties of blood.
Napoleon intended to fulfil their wishes, and present them with a king,
in the person of his brother Louis.
But Louis was rather appalled than dazzled by this offer, and refused to
accept the proposed dignity. In this refusal he was also in perfect
harmony with his wife, who did all in her power to strengthen his
resolution. Both felt that the crown which it was proposed to place on
their heads would be nothing more than a golden chain of dependence;
that the King of Holland could be nothing more than the vassal of
France; and their personal relations to each other added another
objection to this political consideration.
In Paris, husband and wife could forget the chain that bound them
together; there they were in the circle of their friends, and could
avoid each other. The great, glittering imperial court served to
separate and reconcile the young couple, who had never forgiven
themselves for having fettered each other in this involuntary union. In
Paris they had amusements, friends, society; while in Holland they would
live in entire dependence on each other, and hear continually the
rattling of the chain with which each had bound the other to the galley
of a union without love.
Both felt this, and both were, therefore, united in the endeavor to ward
off this new misfortune that was suspended over their heads, in the form
of a kingly crown.
But how could they resist successfully the iron will of Napoleon?
Hortense had never had the courage to address Napoleon directly on the
subject of her wishes and petitions, and Josephine already felt that her
wishes no longer exercised the power of earlier days over the emperor.
She therefore avoided interceding where she was not sure of being
At the outset, Louis had the courage to resist his brother openly; but
Napoleon's angry glance annihilated his opposition, and his gentle,
yielding nature was forced to succumb. In the presence of the deputation
of the Batavian Republic, that so ardently longed for a sceptre and
crown, Napoleon appealed to his brother Louis to accept the crown which
had been freely tendered him, and to be to his country a king who would
respect and protect its liberties, its laws, and its religion.
With emotion, Louis Bonaparte declared himself ready to accept this
crown, and to be a good and true ruler to his new country.
And to keep this oath faithfully was from this time the single and
sacred endeavor to which he devoted his every thought and energy. The
people of Holland having chosen him to be their king, he was determined
to do honor to their choice; having been compelled to give up his own
country and nationality, he determined to belong to his new country with
his whole heart and being--to become a thorough Hollander, as he could
no longer remain a Frenchman.
This heretofore so gentle and passive nature now developed an entirely
new energy; this dreamer, this pale, silent brother of the emperor, was
now suddenly transformed into a bold, self-reliant man of action, who
had fixed his gaze on a noble aim, and was ready to devote all the
powers of his being to its attainment. As King of Holland, he desired,
above all, to be beloved by his subjects, and to be able to contribute
to their welfare and happiness. He studied their language with untiring
diligence, and made himself acquainted with their manners and customs,
for the purpose of making them his own. He investigated the sources of
their wealth and of their wants, and sought to develop the former and
relieve the latter. He was restless in his efforts to provide for his
country, and to merit the love and confidence which his subjects
bestowed on him.
His wife also exerted herself to do justice to her new and glittering
position, and to wear worthily the crown which she had so unwillingly
accepted. In her drawing-rooms she brought together, at brilliant
entertainments, the old aristocracy and the new nobility of Holland, and
taught the stiff society of that country the fine, unconstrained tone,
and the vivacious intellectual conversation of Parisian society. It was
under Hortense's fostering hand that art and science first made their
way into the aristocratic parlors of Holland, giving to their social
reunions a higher and nobler importance.
And Hortense was not only the protectress of art and science, but also
the mother of the poor, the ministering angel of the unhappy, whose
tears she dried, and whose misery she alleviated--and this royal pair,
though adored and blessed by their subjects, could not find within their
palaces the least reflection of the happiness they so well knew how to
confer upon others without its walls. Between these two beings, so
gentle and yielding to others, a strange antipathy continued to exist,
and not even the birth of a second, and of a third, son could fill up
the chasm that separated them.
And this chasm was soon to be broadened by a new blow of destiny.
Hortense's eldest, the adopted son of Napoleon, the presumptive heir to
his throne, the child that Napoleon loved so dearly that he often played
with him for hours on the terraces of St. Cloud, the child Josephine
worshipped, because its existence seemed to assure her own happiness,
the child that had awakened the first feeling of motherly bliss in
Hortense's bosom, the child that had often even consoled Louis Bonaparte
for the unenjoyable present with bright hopes for the future--the little
Napoleon Charles died in the year 1807, of the measles.
This was a terrific blow that struck the parents, and the imperial pair
of France with equal force. Napoleon's eyes filled with tears when this
intelligence was brought him, and a cry of horror escaped
"Now I am lost!" she murmured in a low voice; "now my fate is decided.
He will put me away."
But after this first egotistical outburst of her own pain, she hastened
to the Hague to weep with her daughter, and bring her away from the
place associated with her loss and her anguish. Hortense returned with
the empress to St. Cloud; while her husband, who had almost succumbed to
his grief, was compelled to seek renewed health in the baths of the
Pyrenees. The royal palace at the Hague now stood desolate again; death
had banished life and joy from its halls; and, though the royal pair
were subsequently compelled to return to it, joy and happiness came back
with them no more.
King Louis had returned from the Pyrenees in a more gloomy and
ill-natured frame of mind than ever; a sickly distrust, a repulsive
irritability, had taken possession of his whole being, and his young
wife no longer had the good-will to bear with his caprices, and excuse
his irritable disposition. They were totally different in their views,
desires, inclinations, and aspirations; and their children, instead of
being a means of reuniting, seemed to estrange them the more, for each
insisted on considering them his or her exclusive property, and in
having them educated according to his or her views and wishes.
But Hortense was soon to forget her own household troubles and cares, in
the greater misery of her mother. A letter from Josephine, an agonized
appeal to her daughter for consolation, recalled Hortense to her
mother's side, and she left the Hague and hastened to Paris.
Josephine's fears, and the prophecies of the French clairvoyante, were
now about to be fulfilled. The crown which Josephine had reluctantly and
sorrowfully accepted, and which she had afterward worn with so much
grace and amiability, with such natural majesty and dignity, was about
to fall from her head. Napoleon had the cruel courage, now that the
dreamed-of future had been realized, to put away from him the woman who
had loved him and chosen him when he had nothing to offer her but his
hopes for the future. Josephine, who, with smiling courage and brave
fidelity, had stood at his side in the times of want and humiliation,
was now to be banished from his side into the isolation of a glittering
widowhood. Napoleon had the courage to determine that this should be
done, but he lacked the courage to break it to Josephine, and to
pronounce the word of separation himself. He was determined to sacrifice
to his ambition the woman he had so long called his "good angel;" and
he, who had never trembled in battle, trembled at the thought of her
tears, and avoided meeting her sad, entreating gaze.
But Josephine divined the whole terrible misfortune that hung
threateningly over her head. She read it in the gloomy, averted
countenance of the emperor, who, since his recent return from Vienna,
had caused the door that connected his room with that of his wife to be
locked; she read it in the faces of the courtiers, who dared to address
her with less reverence, but with a touch of compassionate sympathy; she
heard it in the low whispering that ceased when she approached a group
of persons in her parlors; it was betrayed to her in the covert,
mysterious insinuations of the public press, which attached a deep and
comprehensive significance to the emperor's journey to Vienna.
She knew that her destiny must now be fulfilled, and that she was too
weak to offer any resistance. But she was determined to act her part as
wife and empress worthily to the end. Her tears should not flow
outwardly, but inwardly to her grief-stricken heart; she suppressed her
sighs with a smile, and concealed the pallor of her cheeks with rouge.
But she longed for a heart to whom she could confide her anguish, and
show her tears, and therefore called her daughter to her side.
How painful was this reunion of mother and daughter, how many tears were
shed, how bitter were the lamentations Josephine whispered in her
"If you knew," said she, "in what torments I have passed the last few
weeks, in which I was no longer his wife, although compelled to appear
before the world as such! What glances, Hortense, what glances courtiers
fasten upon a discarded woman! In what uncertainty, what expectancy more
cruel than death, have I lived and am I still living, awaiting the
lightning stroke that has long glowed in Napoleon's eyes!"
[Footnote 15: Josephine's own words.--Bourrienne, vol. viii., p. 243.]
Hortense listened to her mother's lamentations with a heart full of
bitterness. She thought of how she had been compelled to sacrifice her
own happiness to that of her mother, of how she had been condemned to a
union without love, in order that the happiness of her mother's union
might be established on a firm basis. And now all had been in vain; the
sacrifice had not sufficed to arrest the tide of misfortune now about to
bear down her unhappy mother. Hortense could do nothing to avert it. She
was a queen, and yet only a weak, pitiable woman, who envied the beggar
on the street her freedom and her humble lot. Both mother and daughter
stood on the summit of earthly magnificence, and yet this empress and
this queen felt themselves so poor and miserable, that they looked back
with envy at the days of the revolution--the days in which they had led
in retirement a life of poverty and want. Then, though struggling with
want and care, they had been rich in hopes, in wishes, in illusions;
now, they possessed all that could adorn life; now millions of men bowed
down to them, and saluted them with the proud word "majesty," and yet
empress and queen were now poor in hopes and wishes, poor in the
illusions that lay shattered at their feet, and rejoicing only in the
one happiness, that of being able to confide their misery to each other.
A few days after her arrival, the emperor caused Hortense to be called
to his cabinet. He advanced toward her with vivacity, but before the
gaze of her large eyes the glance of the man before whom the whole world
now bowed, almost quailed.
"Hortense," said he, "we are now called on to decide an important
matter, and it is our duty not to recoil. The nation has done so much
for me and my family, that I owe them the sacrifice which they demand of
me. The tranquillity and welfare of France require that I shall choose a
wife who can give the country an heir to the throne. Josephine has been
living in suspense and anguish for six months, and this must end. You,
Hortense, are her dearest friend and her confidante; she loves you more
than all else in the world. Will you undertake to prepare your mother
for this step? You would thereby relieve my heart of a heavy burden."
Hortense had the strength to suppress her tears, and fasten her eyes on
the emperor's countenance in a firm, determined gaze. His glance again
quailed, as the lion recoils from the angry glance of a pure, innocent
woman. Hortense had the courage to positively refuse the
"How, Hortense!" exclaimed Napoleon with emotion. "You then refuse my
"Sire," said she, hardly able longer to restrain her tears, "sire, I
have not the strength to stab my mother to the heart."
[Footnote 16: Schelten, vol. ii., p. 45.]
And regardless of etiquette, Hortense turned away and left the emperor's
cabinet, the tears pouring in streams from her eyes.
Napoleon made one other attempt to impart to Josephine, through a third
person, the distressing tidings of his determination with regard to
herself. He begged Eugene, the Viceroy of Italy, to come to Paris, and
on his arrival informed him of his intentions and of his wish. Eugene,
like his sister, received this intelligence in silent submissiveness,
but like his sister, he refused to impart to his mother, tidings that
must destroy her happiness forever.
The emperor had finally to make up his mind to impart the distressing
tidings in person.
It was on the 30th of November, 1809. The emperor and empress dined, as
usual, at the same table. His gloomy aspect on entering the room made
Josephine's heart quake; she read in his countenance that the fatal hour
had come. But she repressed the tears which were rushing to her eyes,
and looked entreatingly at her daughter, who sat on the opposite side of
the table, a deathly pallor on her countenance.
Not a word was spoken during this gloomy, ominous dinner. The sighs and
half-suppressed moaning that escaped Josephine's heaving breast were
quite audible. Without, the wind shrieked and howled dismally, and drove
the rain violently against the window-panes; within, an ominous,
oppressive silence prevailed. The commotion of Nature contrasted, and
yet, at the same time, harmonized strangely with this human silence.
Napoleon broke this silence but once, and that was when, in a harsh
voice, he asked the lackey, who stood behind him, what time it was. Then
all was still as before.
At last Napoleon gave the signal to rise from the table, and coffee was
then taken standing. Napoleon drank hastily, and then set the cup down
with a trembling hand, making it ring out as it touched the table. With
an angry gesture he dismissed the attendants.
"Sire, may Hortense remain?" asked Josephine, almost inaudibly.
"No!" exclaimed the emperor, vehemently. Hortense made a profound
obeisance, and, taking leave of her mother with a look of tender
compassion, left the room, followed by the rest.
The imperial pair were now alone. And how horrible was this being left
alone under the circumstances; how sad the silence in which they sat
opposite each other! How strange the glance which the emperor fastened
on his wife!
She read in his excited, quivering features the struggle that moved his
soul, but she also read in them that her hour was come!
As he now approached her, his outstretched hand trembled, and Josephine
Napoleon took her hand in his, and laid it on his heart, regarding her
with a long and sorrowful farewell-glance.
"Josephine," said he, his voice trembling with emotion, "my good
Josephine, you know that I have loved you! To you, and to you alone, do
I owe the only moments of happiness I have enjoyed in this world.
Josephine, my destiny is stronger than my will. My dearest desires must
yield to the interests of France."
[Footnote 17: The emperor's own words. See Bourrienne, vol. iii., p.
"Speak no further," cried Josephine, withdrawing her hand angrily--"no,
speak no further. I understand you, and I expected this, but the blow is
not the less deadly."
She could speak no further, her voice failed. A feeling of despair came
over her; the long-repressed storm of agony at last broke forth. She
wept, she wrung her hands; groans escaped her heaving breast, and a loud
cry of anguish burst from her lips. She at last fainted away, and was
thus relieved from a consciousness of her sufferings.
When she awoke she found herself on her bed, and Hortense and her
physician Corvisart at her side. Josephine stretched out her trembling
arms toward her daughter, who threw herself on her mother's heart,
sobbing bitterly. Corvisart silently withdrew, feeling that he could be
of no further assistance. It had only been in his power to recall
Josephine to a consciousness of her misery; but for her misery itself he
had no medicine; he knew that her tears and her daughter's sympathy
could alone give relief.
Josephine lay weeping in her daughter's arms, when Napoleon came in to
inquire after her condition. As he seated himself at her bedside, she
shrank back with a feeling of horror, her tears ceased to flow, and her
usually so mild and joyous eyes now shot glances of anger and offended
love at the emperor. But love soon conquered anger. She extended her
tremulous hand to Napoleon; the sad, sweet smile, peculiar to woman,
trembled on her lips, and, in a gentle, touching voice, she said: "Was
I not right, my friend, when I shrank back in terror from the thought of
becoming an empress?"
[Footnote 18: Josephine's own narrative. See Bourrienne, vol. iii., p.
342, _et seq_.]
Napoleon made no reply. He turned away and wept. But these farewell
tears of his love could not change Josephine's fate; the emperor had
already determined it irrevocably. His demand of the hand of the
Archduchess Marie Louise had already been acceded to in Vienna. Nothing
now remained to be done but to remove Josephine from the throne, and
elevate a new, a legitimate empress, to the vacant place!
The emperor could not and would not retrace his steps. He assembled
about him all his brothers, all the kings, dukes, and princes, created
by his mighty will, and in the state-chambers of the Tuileries, in the
presence of his court and the Senate, the emperor appeared; at his side
the empress, arrayed for the last time in all the insignia of the
dignity she was about to lay aside forever.
In a loud, firm voice the emperor declared to the assembly his
determination to divorce himself from his wife; and Josephine, in a
trembling voice, often interrupted by tears, repeated her husband's
words. The arch-chancellor, Cambaceres, then caused the appropriate
paragraph of the _Code Civile_ to be read, applied it to the case under
consideration, in a short, terse address, and pronounced the union of
the emperor and empress dissolved.
This ended the ceremony, and satisfied the requirements of the law.
Josephine had now only to take leave of her husband and of the court,
and she did this with the gentle, angelic composure, in the graceful,
sweet manner, which was hers in a degree possessed by few other women.
As she bowed profoundly to Napoleon, her pale face illumined by inward
emotion, his lips murmured a few inaudible words, and his iron
countenance quivered for an instant with pain. As she then walked
through the chamber, her children, Hortense and Eugene, on either side,
and greeted all with a last soft look, a last inclination of the head,
nothing could be heard but weeping, and even those who rejoiced over her
downfall, because they hoped much from the new empress and the new
dynasty, were now moved to tears by this silent and yet so eloquent
The sacrifice was accomplished. Napoleon had sacrificed his dearest
possession to ambition; he had divorced himself from Josephine.
On the same day she left the Tuileries to repair to Malmaison, her
future home--to Malmaison, that had once been the paradise, and was now
to be the widow's seat, of her love.
Josephine left the court, but the hearts of those who constituted this
court did not leave her. During the next few weeks the crowds of the
coming and going on the road from Paris to Malmaison presented the
appearance of a procession; the equipages of all the kings and princes
who were sojourning in Paris, and of all the nobles and dignitaries of
the new France, were to be seen there. Even the Faubourg St.-Germain,
that still preserved its sympathy for the Bourbons, repaired to the
empress at Malmaison. And this pilgrimage was made by the poor and
humble, as well as by the rich and great. All wished to say to the
empress that they still loved and honored her, and that she was still
enthroned in their hearts, although her rule on the throne was at
The whole people mourned with Josephine and her children. It was
whispered about that Napoleon's star would now grow pale; that, with
Josephine, his good angel had left him, and that the future would avenge
THE KING OF HOLLAND.
While Josephine was weeping over her divorce at Malmaison, Hortense was
seeking one for herself. A divorce which her mother lamented as a
misfortune, because she still loved her husband, would have conferred
happiness upon Hortense, who never had loved her husband. Once again in
harmony with her husband, Hortense entreated the emperor to permit them
to be divorced, and the king united his entreaties with those of
But Napoleon was unrelenting. His family should not appear before the
people as disregarding the sanctity of the marriage bond. For state
reasons he had separated from his wife, and for state reasons he could
not give his consent to the dissolution of the union of his brother and
step-daughter. They must, therefore, continue to drag the chain that
united them; and they did, but with angry hearts.
Louis returned to Holland in a more depressed state of mind than ever;
while Hortense and her two children, in obedience to Napoleon's express
command, remained in Paris for some time. They were to attend the
festivities that were soon to take place at the imperial court in honor
of the marriage of the emperor with the Archduchess Marie Louise of
Austria. The daughter of the divorced empress, with the emperor's
sisters, had been selected to carry the train of the new empress on the
marriage-day. Napoleon wished to prove to France and to all Europe that
there was no other law in his family than his will, and that the
daughter of Josephine had never ceased to be his obedient daughter also.
Napoleon wished, moreover, to retain near his young wife, in order that
she might have at her side a gentle and tender mentor, the queen who had
inherited Josephine's grace and loveliness, and who, in her noble
womanhood, would set a good example to the ladies of his court. Hortense
mutely obeyed the emperor's command; on the 1st of April, 1810, the day
of the union of Marie Louise with the emperor, she, together with his
sisters, bore the train of the new empress. She alone did this without
making any resistance, while it was only after the most violent
opposition to Napoleon's command that his sisters, Queen Caroline of
Naples, the Duchess Pauline of Guastalla, and the Grand-duchess Elise of
Tuscany, consented to undergo the humiliation of walking behind their
new sovereign as humble subjects. And the emperor's sisters were not
the only persons who regarded the imperial pair with displeasure on the
day of the marriage celebration. Only a small number of the high
dignitaries of the Church had responded to the invitation of the
grand-master of ceremonies, and attended the marriage celebration in the
chapel in the Tuileries.
The emperor, who did not wish to punish his sisters for their
opposition, could at least punish the absence of the cardinals, and he
did this on the following day. He exiled those cardinals who had not
appeared in the chapel, forbade them to appear in their red robes
thenceforth, and condemned them to the black penitent's dress.
The people of Paris also received the new empress with a languid
enthusiasm. They regarded the new "Austrian" with gloomy forebodings;
and when, on the occasion of the ball given by Prince Schwartzenberg in
honor of the imperial marriage, a short time afterward, the fearful fire
occurred that cost so many human lives and destroyed so much family
happiness, the people remembered with terror that other misfortune that
had occurred on the day of the entry of Marie Antoinette into Paris, and
called this fire an earnest of the misfortunes which the "Austrian"
would bring upon France and the emperor.
While Hortense was compelled to attend the festivities given in honor of
the new empress in Paris, a dark storm-cloud was gathering over her
husband's head, that was soon to threaten his life and his crown.
When Louis, at the emperor's command, accepted the crown of Holland, he
had solemnly sworn to be a faithful ruler to his new people, and to
devote his whole being to their welfare. He was too honest a man not to
keep this oath sacredly. His sole endeavor was to make such
arrangements, and provide such laws, as the welfare and prosperity of
Holland seemed to require, without in the least considering whether
these laws were conducive to the interests of France or not. He would
not regard Holland as a province dependent upon France, of which he was
the governor, but as an independent land that had chosen him to be its
free and independent king. But Napoleon did not view the matter in the
same light; in his eyes it was sacrilege for the kingdom of Holland to
refuse to conform itself in every respect to the interests of its
powerful neighbor, France.
When Napoleon invested his brother with the crown of Holland, he had
charged him "to be a good king to his people, but at the same time to
remain a good Frenchman, and protect the interests of France." Louis
had, however, endeavored to become a good Hollander; and when the
interests of France and Holland came into conflict, the king took the
side of his new country, and acted as a Hollander. He was of the opinion
that the welfare of Holland depended on its commerce and industry only,
and that it could only be great through its commercial importance; he
therefore reduced the army and navy, making merchantmen of the
men-of-war, and peaceful sailors of their warlike seamen.
Napoleon, however, regarded this conversion with dismay, and angrily
reproached the King of Holland for "disarming whole squadrons,
discharging seamen, and disorganizing the army, until Holland was
without power, both on land and water, as though warehouses and clerks
were the material elements of power." Napoleon reproached the king still
more bitterly, however, for having re-established commercial relations
with England, for having raised the blockade for Holland which France
had established against England, and for having permitted the American
ships, that had been banished from the ports of France, to anchor
quietly in those of Holland.
The emperor demanded of the King of Holland that he should conform
himself to his will and to the interests of France unconditionally; that
he should immediately break off all commercial relations between Holland
and England; that he should re-establish a fleet, of forty
ships-of-the-line, seven frigates, and seven brigs, and an army of
twenty-five thousand men, and that he should abolish all the privileges
of the nobility that were contrary to the constitution.
King Louis had the courage to resist these demands, in the name of
Holland, and to refuse to obey instructions, the execution of which must
necessarily have affected the material interests of Holland most
Napoleon responded to this refusal with a declaration of war. The
ambassador of Holland received his passport, and a French army corps was
sent to Holland, to punish the king's insolence.
But the misfortune that threatened Holland had called the king's whole
energy into activity, and Napoleon's anger and threats were powerless to
break his resolution. As the commander of the French troops, the Duke of
Reggio, approached Amsterdam, to lay siege to that city and thereby
compel the king to yield, Louis determined rather to descend from his
throne than to submit to the unjust demands of France. He, therefore,
issued a proclamation to his people, in which he told them that he,
convinced that he could do nothing more to promote their welfare, and,
on the contrary, believing that he was an obstacle in the way of the
restoration of friendly relations between his brother and Holland, had
determined to abdicate in favor of his two sons, Napoleon Louis and
Charles Louis Napoleon. Until they should attain their majority the
queen, in conformity with the constitution, was to be regent. He then
took leave of his subjects, in a short and touching address. He now
repaired, in disguise, and under the name of Count de St. Leu, through
the states of his brother Jerome, King of Westphalia, and through Saxony
Here he learned that Napoleon, far from respecting and fulfilling the
conditions of his abdication, had united the kingdom of Holland with the
empire. The king published a protest against this action of the emperor,
in which, in the name of his son and heir, Napoleon Louis, he denounced
this act of the emperor as a totally unjustifiable act of violence, and
demanded that the kingdom of Holland should be re-established, in all
its integrity, declaring the annexation of Holland to France to be null
and void, in the name of himself and his sons.
Napoleon responded to this protest by causing the king to be informed by
the French ambassador in Vienna that unless he returned to France by the
1st of December, 1810, he should be regarded and treated as a rebel, who
dared to resist the head of his family and violate the constitution of
Louis neither answered nor conformed to this threat. He repaired to
Graetz, in Styria, and lived there as a private gentleman, beloved and
admired, not only by those who came in contact with him there, but
enjoying the esteem of all Europe, which he had won by the noble and
truly magnanimous manner in which he had sacrificed his own grandeur to
the welfare of his people. Even his and Napoleon's enemies could not
withhold from the King of Holland the tribute of their respect, and even
Louis XVIII. said of him: "By his abdication, Louis Bonaparte has become
a true king; in renouncing his crown, he has shown himself worthy to
wear it. He is the first monarch who has made so great a sacrifice but
of pure love for his people; others have also relinquished their
thrones, but they did it when weary of power. But in this action of the
King of Holland there is something truly sublime--something that was not
duly appreciated at first, but which will be admired by posterity, if I
mistake not, greatly."
[Footnote 19: Memoires d'une Femme de Qualite, vol. v., p. 47.]
In Graetz, Louis Bonaparte, Count de St. Leu, lived a few peaceful,
tranquil years, perhaps the first years of happiness he had enjoyed in
his short and hitherto stormy life. Occupied with work and study, he
easily forgot his former grandeur and importance. As it had once been
his ambition to become a good king, it was now his ambition to become a
good writer. He published his romance Marie, and, encouraged by the
success which it met with in his circle of friends, he also gave his
poems to the public--poems whose tender and passionate language proved
that this so often misunderstood, so often repulsed, and, therefore, so
timid and distrustful heart, could warm with a tenderness of love that
Marie Pascal, the beautiful artist of the harp, could hardly have had
the cruelty to withstand.
But a day came when Louis Bonaparte closed his ear to all these sweet
voices of happiness, of peace, and of love, to listen only to the voice
of duty, that appealed to him to return to France, to his brother's
side. While the sun of fortune shone over Napoleon, the king, who had
voluntarily descended from a throne, remained in obscurity; but when the
days of misfortune came upon the emperor, there could be but one place
for his brave and faithful brother, and that was at Napoleon's side.
Madame de St. Elme, who was at Graetz at this time, and who witnessed the
farewell scene between Louis Bonaparte and the inhabitants of Graetz,
says: "On the day when Austria so unexpectedly sundered its alliance
with France, King Louis felt the necessity of abandoning an asylum, for
which he would henceforth have been indebted to the enemies of France,
and hastened to claim of the great unjust man who had repulsed him, the
only place commensurate with the dignity of his character, the place
at his side.
"This was a subject of profound sorrow and regret for the inhabitants of
Graetz, and of all Styria, for there was not a pious or useful
institution, or a poor family in Styria, that had not been the object of
his beneficence, and yet it was well known that the king who had
descended from his throne so hastily, and with so little preparation,
had but small means, and denied himself many of the enjoyments of life,
in order that he might lend a helping hand to others. He was entreated,
conjured with tears, to remain, but he held firm to his resolution. And
when the horses, that they had at first determined to withhold from him,
were at last, at his earnest and repeated solicitation, provided, the
people unharnessed these horses from his carriage, in order that they
might take their places, and accompany him to the gates of the city with
this demonstration of their love. This departure had the appearance of a
triumphal procession; and this banished king, without a country, was
greeted with as lively plaudits on leaving his place of exile as when he
mounted his throne."
[Footnote 20: Memoires d'une contemporaine, vol. iv., p. 377.]
JUNOT, THE DUKE D'ABRANTES.
While the faithful were rallying around Napoleon to render assistance to
the hero in his hour of peril--while even his brother Louis, forgetting
the mortifications and injuries he had sustained at the emperor's hands,
hastened to his side, there was one of the most devoted kept away from
him by fate--one upon whom the emperor could otherwise have depended in
life and death.
This one was his friend and comrade-in-arms, Junot, who, descended from
an humble family, had by his merit and heroism elevated himself to the
rank of a Duke d'Abrantes. He alone failed to respond when the ominous
roll of the war-drum recalled all Napoleon's generals to Paris. But it
was not his will, but fate, that kept him away.
Junot--the hero of so many battles, the chevalier without fear and
without reproach, the former governor of Madrid, the present governor of
Istria and Illyria--Junot was suffering from a visitation of the most
fearful of all diseases--his brain was affected! The scars that covered
his head and forehead, and testified so eloquently to his gallantry,
announced at the same time the source of his disease. His head, furrowed
by sabre-strokes, was outwardly healed, but the wounds had affected
The hero of so many battles was transported into a madman. And yet,
this madman was still the all-powerful, despotic ruler of Istria and
Illyria. Napoleon, in appointing him governor of these provinces, had
invested him with truly royal authority. Knowing the noble disposition,
fidelity, and devotion of his brother-in-arms, he had conferred upon him
sovereign power to rule in his stead. There was, therefore, no one who
could take the sceptre from his hand, and depose him from his high
position. Napoleon had placed this sceptre in his hand, and he alone
could demand it of him. Even the Viceroy of Italy--to whom the Chambers
of Istria appealed for help in their anxiety--even Eugene, could afford
them no relief. He could only say to them: "Send a courier to the
emperor, and await his reply."
But at that time it was not so easy a matter to send couriers a distance
of a thousand miles; then there were no railroads, no telegraphs. The
Illyrians immediately sent a courier to the emperor, with an entreaty
for their relief, but the Russian proverb, "Heaven is high, and the
emperor distant," applied to them also! Weeks must elapse before the
courier could return with the emperor's reply; until then, there was no
relief; and until then, there was no authority to obey but the Duke
d'Abrantes, the poor madman!
No other authority, no institution, had the right to place itself in his
stead, or to assume his prerogatives for an instant even, without
violating the seal of sovereignty that Napoleon had impressed on the
brow of his governor!
Napoleon, whose crown was already trembling on his head, who was
already so near his own fall, still possessed such gigantic power that
its reflection sufficed to protect, at a distance of a thousand miles
from the boundaries of France, the inviolability of a man who had lost
his reason, and no longer had the power of reflection and volition.
How handsome, how amiable, how chivalrous, had Junot been in his earlier
days! How well he had known how to charm beautiful women in the
drawing-rooms, soldiers on the battle-field, and knights at the tourney!
In all knightly accomplishments he was the master--always and everywhere
the undisputed victor and hero. These accomplishments had won the heart
of Mademoiselle de Premont. The daughter of the proud baroness of the
Faubourg St. Germain had joyfully determined, in spite of her mother's
dismay, to become the wife of the soldier of the republic, of Napoleon's
comrade-in-arms. Although Junot had no possession but his pay, and no
nobility but his sword and his renown, this nevertheless sufficed to win
him the favor of the daughter of this aristocratic mother--of the
daughter who was yet so proud of being the last descendant of the
Comneni. Napoleon, who loved to see matrimonial alliances consummated
between his generals and his nobility and the old legitimist nobility of
France, rewarded the daughter of the Faubourg St. Germain richly for the
sacrifice she had made for his comrade-in-arms, in giving up her
illustrious name, and her coat-of-arms, to become the wife of a general
without ancestors and without fortune. He made his friend a duke, and
the Duchess d'Abrantes had no longer cause to be ashamed of her title;
the descendant of the Comneni could content herself with the homage done
her as the wife of the governor of Lisbon, contented with the laurels
that adorned her husband's brow--laurels to which he added a new branch,
but also new wounds, on every battle-field.
The consequences of these wounds had veiled the hero's laurels with
mourning-crape, and destroyed the domestic happiness of the poor duchess
forever. She had first discovered her husband's sad condition, but she
had known how to keep it a secret from the rest of the world. She had,
however, refused to accompany the duke to Illyria, and had remained in
Paris, still hoping that the change of climate and associations might
restore him to health.
But her hopes were not to be realized. The attacks of madness, that had
hitherto occurred at long intervals only, now became more frequent, and
were soon no longer a secret. All Illyria knew that its governor was a
madman, and yet no one dared to oppose his will, or to refuse to obey
his commands; all still bowed to his will, in humility and silent
submissiveness, hopefully awaiting the return of the courier who had
been dispatched to Napoleon at Paris.
"But heaven is high, and the emperor distant!" And much evil could
happen, and did happen, before the courier returned to Trieste, where
Junot resided. The poor duke's condition grew worse daily; his attacks
of madness became more frequent and more dangerous, and broke out on the
On one occasion a nightingale, singing in the bushes beneath his window,
had disturbed his rest; on the following morning he caused the general
alarm to be sounded, and two battalions of Croats to be drawn up in the
park, to begin a campaign against the poor nightingale, who had dared to
disturb his repose.
On another occasion, Junot fancied he had discovered a grand conspiracy
of all the sheep of Illyria; against this conspiracy he brought the
vigilance of the police, all the means of the administration, and the
whole severity of the law, into requisition for its suppression.
At another time, he suddenly became desperately enamoured of a beautiful
Greek girl, who belonged to his household. Upon her refusal to meet his
advances favorably, a passionate desperation took possession of Junot,
and he determined to set fire to his palace, and perish with his love in
the flames. Fortunately, his purpose was discovered, and the fire he had
kindled stifled at once.
He would suddenly be overcome with a passionate distaste for the
grandeur and splendor that surrounded him, and long to lay aside his
brilliant position, and fly to the retirement of an humble and
It was his dearest wish to become a peasant, and be able to live in a
hut; and, as there was no one who had the right to divest him of his
high dignities and grant his desire, he formed the resolution to divest
himself of this oppressive grandeur, by the exercise of his own fulness
of power, and to withdraw himself from the annoyances imposed upon him
by his high position.
Under the pretence of visiting the provinces, he left Trieste, to lead
for a few weeks an entirely new life--a life that seemed, for a brief
period, to soothe his excited mind. He arrived, almost incognito, in the
little city of Gorizia, and demanded to be conducted to the most
unpretending establishment to which humble and honest laborers were in
the habit of resorting for refreshment and relaxation. He was directed
to an establishment called the Ice-house, a place to which poor daily
laborers resorted, to repose after the labors of the day, and refresh
themselves with a glass of beer or wine.
In this Ice-house the governor of Illyria now took up his abode. He
seldom quitted it, either by day or night; and here, like
Haroun-al-Raschid, he took part in the harmless merriment of happy and
contented poverty. And here this poor man was to find a last delight, a
last consolation; here he was to find a last friend.
This last friend of the Duke d'Abrantes--this Pylades of the poor
Orestes--was--a madman!--a poor simpleton, of good family, who was so
good-humored and harmless that he was allowed to go at large, and free
scope given to his innocent freaks. He, however, possessed a kind of
droll, pointed wit, which he sometimes brought to bear most effectively,
sparing neither rank nor position. The half-biting, half-droll remarks
of this Diogenes of Istria was all that now afforded enjoyment to the
broken-down old hero. It was with intense delight that he heard the
social grandeur and distinctions that had cost him so dear made
ridiculous by this half-witted fellow, whose peculiar forte it was to
jeer at the pomp that surrounded the governor, and imitate French
elegance in a highly-burlesque manner; and when he did this, his poor
princely friend's delight knew no bounds.
On one occasion, after the poor fellow had been entertaining him in this
manner, the Duke d'Abrantes threw himself, in his enthusiasm, in his
friend's arms, and invested him with the insignia of the Legion of
Honor, by hanging around his neck the grand-cross of this order hitherto
worn by himself. The emperor had given Junot authority to distribute
this order to the deserving throughout the provinces of Illyria and
Istria, and the governor himself having invested this mad Diogenes with
the decoration, there was no one who was competent to deprive him of it.
For weeks this mad fool was to be seen in the streets of Gorizia,
parading himself like a peacock, with the grand-cross of the honorable
order of the Emperor Napoleon, and, at the same time, uttering the most
pointed and biting _bon mots_ at the expense of his own decoration. The
duke often accompanied him in his wanderings through the town, sometimes
laughing loudly at the fool's jests, sometimes listening with earnest
attention, as though his utterances were oracles. Thus this strange
couple passed the time, either lounging through the streets together, or
seated side by side on a stone by the way, engaged in curious
reflections on the passers-by, or philosophizing over the emptiness of
all glory and grandeur, and over the littleness and malice of the world,
realizing the heart-rending, impressive scenes between Lear and his
fool, which Shakespeare's genius has depicted.
After weeks of anxious suspense, the imperial message, relieving Junot
of his authority, and placing the Duke of Otranto in his place, at last
arrived. The poor Duke d'Abrantes left Illyria, and returned to France,
where, in the little town of Maitbart, after long and painful struggles,
he ended, in sadness and solitude, a life of renown, heroism, and
LOUIS NAPOLEON AS A VENDER OF VIOLETS.
Gradually, the brilliancy of the sun that had so long dazzled the eyes
of all Europe began to wax pale, and the luminous star of Napoleon to
grow dim among the dark clouds that were gathering around him. Fortune
had accorded him all that it could bestow upon a mortal. It had laid all
the crowns of Europe at his feet, and made him master of all the
monarchies and peoples. Napoleon's antechamber in Erfurt and in Dresden
had been the rendezvous of the emperors, kings, and princes of Europe,
and England alone had never disguised its hostility beneath the mask of
friendship, and bent the knee to a hated and feared neighbor. Napoleon,
the master of Europe, whom emperors and kings gladly called "brother,"
could now proudly remember his past; he had now risen so high that he no
longer had cause to deny his humble origin; this very lowliness had now
become a new triumph of his grandeur.
On one occasion, during the congress at Erfurt, all the emperors, kings,
and princes, were assembled around Napoleon's table. He occupied the
seat between his enthusiastic friend the Emperor of Russia, and his
father-in-law, the Emperor of Austria. Opposite them sat the King of
Prussia, his ally, although Napoleon had deprived him of the Rhine
provinces; and the Kings of Bavaria and Wuertemberg, to whom Napoleon had
given crowns, whose electorate and duchy he had converted into kingdoms,
and of whom the first had given his daughter in marriage to Napoleon's
adopted son, Eugene, and the second his daughter to Napoleon's brother
Jerome. There were, further, at the table, the King of Saxony and the
Grand-duke of Baden, to the latter of whom Napoleon had given the hand
of Josephine's niece, Stephanie de Beauharnais. All these were princes,
"by the grace of God," of brilliant and haughty dynasties; and in their
midst sat the son of the advocate of Corsica--he, the Emperor of