Part 4 out of 6
might compromise, require that I should not permit her to return to
Paris. If I should allow her to do so, she would place me under the
necessity of sending her to Bicetre, or of imprisoning her in the
Temple, before six months elapsed; that would be extremely disagreeable,
for it would cause a sensation, and injure me in the public opinion.
Inform your mother that my resolution is irrevocable. While I live, she
shall not return to Paris."
It was in vain that young Stael assured him in his mother's name, that
she would avoid giving him the least occasion for displeasure, and that
she would live in complete retirement if permitted to return to Paris.
"Ah, yes! I know the value of fine promises!" exclaimed the emperor. "I
know what the result would be, and I repeat it, it cannot be! She would
be the rallying-point of the whole Faubourg St. Germain. She live in
retirement! Visits would be made her, and she would return them; she
would commit a thousand indiscretions, and say a thousand humorous
things, to which she attaches no importance, but which annoy me. My
government is no jest, I take every thing seriously; I wish this to be
understood, and you may proclaim it to the whole world!"
Young Stael had, however, the courage to continue his entreaties; he
even went so far as to inquire in all humility for the grounds of the
emperor's ill-will against his mother. He said he had been assured that
Necker's last work was more particularly the cause of the emperor's
displeasure, and that he believed Madame de Stael had assisted in
writing it. This was, however, not so, and he could solemnly assure the
emperor that his mother had taken no part in it whatever. Besides,
Necker had also done full justice to the emperor in this work.
"Justice, indeed! He calls me the 'necessary man.' The necessary man!
and yet, according to his book, the first step necessary to be taken,
was to take off this necessary man's head! Yes, I was necessary to
repair all that your grandfather had destroyed! It is he who overthrew
the monarchy, and brought Louis XVI. to the scaffold!"
"Sire!" exclaimed the young man, deeply agitated, "you are then not
aware that my grandfather's estates were confiscated because he defended
"A fine defence, indeed! If I give a man poison, and then, when he lies
in the death-struggle, give him an antidote, can you then maintain that
I wished to save this man? It was in this manner that M. Necker defended
Louis XVI. The confiscations of which you speak prove nothing.
Robespierre's property was also confiscated. Not even Robespierre,
Marat, and Danton, have brought such misery upon France as Necker; he it
is who made the revolution. You did not see it, but I was present in
those days of horror and public distress; but I give you my word that
they shall return no more while I live! Your schemers write out their
utopias, the simple-minded read these dreams, they are printed and
believed in; the common welfare is in everybody's mouth, and soon there
is no more bread for the people; it revolts, and that is the usual
result of all these fine theories! Your grandfather is to blame for the
orgies that brought France to desperation."
Then lowering his voice, from the excited, almost angry tone in which he
had been speaking, to a milder one, the emperor approached the young
man, who stood before him, pale, and visibly agitated. With that
charming air of friendly intimacy that no one knew so well how to assume
as Napoleon, he gently pinched the tip of the young man's ear, the
emperor's usual way of making peace with any one to whom he wished well,
after a little difficulty.
"You are still young," said he; "if you possessed my age and experience,
you would judge of these matters differently. Your candor has not
offended, but pleased me; I like to see a son defend his mother's cause!
Your mother has entrusted you with a very difficult commission, and you
have executed it with much spirit. It gives me pleasure to have
conversed with you, for I love the young when they are straightforward
and not too 'argumentative.' But I can nevertheless give you no false
hopes! You will accomplish nothing! If your mother were in prison, I
should not hesitate to grant you her release. But she is in exile, and
nothing can induce me to recall her."
"But, sire, is one not quite as unhappy far from home and friends, as in
"Ah, bah! those are romantic notions! You have heard that said about
your mother. She is truly greatly to be pitied. With the exception of
Paris, she has the whole of Europe for her prison!"
"But, sire, all her friends are in Paris!"
"With her intellect, she will be able to acquire new ones everywhere.
Moreover, I cannot understand why she should desire to be in Paris. Why
does she so long to place herself in the immediate reach of tyranny? You
see I pronounce the decisive word! I am really unable to comprehend it.
Can she not go to Rome, Berlin, Vienna, Milan, or London? Yes, London
would be the right place! There she can perpetrate libels whenever she
pleases. At all of these places I will leave her undisturbed with the
greatest pleasure; but Paris is my residence, and there I will tolerate
those only who love me! On this the world can depend. I know what would
happen, if I should permit your mother to return to Paris. She would
commit new follies; she would corrupt those who surround me; she would
corrupt Garat, as she once corrupted the tribunal; of course, she would
promise all things, but she would, nevertheless, not avoid engaging in
"Sire," I can assure you that my mother does not occupy herself with
politics at all; she devotes herself exclusively to the society of her
friends, and to literature."
"That is the right word, and I fully understand it. One talks politics
while talking of literature, of morals, of the fine arts, and of every
conceivable thing! If your mother were in Paris, her latest _bon mots_
and phrases would be recited to me daily; perhaps they would be only
invented; but I tell you I will have nothing of the kind in the city in
which I reside! It would be best for her to go to London; advise her to
do so. As far as your grandfather is concerned, I have certainly not
said too much; M. Necker had no administrative ability. Once more,
inform your mother that I shall never permit her to return to Paris."
"But if sacred interests should require her presence here for a few
days, your majesty would at least--"
"What? Sacred interests? What does that mean?"
"Sire," the presence of my mother will be necessary, in order to procure
from your majesty's government the return of a sacred debt."
"Ah, bah! sacred! Are not all the debts of the state sacred?"
"Without doubt, sire; but ours is accompanied by peculiar
"Peculiar circumstances!" exclaimed the emperor, rising to terminate
the long interview, that began to weary him. "What creditor of the state
does not say the same of his debt? Moreover, I know too little of your
relations toward my government. This matter does not concern me, and I
will not be mixed up in it. If the laws are for you, all will go well
without my interference; but if it requires influence, I shall have
nothing to do with it, for I should be rather against than for you!"
"Sire," said young Stael, venturing to speak once more, as the emperor
was on the point of leaving, "sire, my brother and I were anxious to
settle in France; but how could we live in a land in which our mother
would not be allowed to live with us everywhere?"
Already standing on the threshold of the door, the emperor turned to him
hastily. "I have no desire whatever to have you settle here," said he;
"on the contrary. I advise you not to do so. Go to England. There they
have a _penchant_ for Genevese, parlor-politicians, etc.; therefore, go
to England; for I must say, I should be rather ill than well disposed
[Footnote 35: Bourrienne, vol. viii., p. 355.]
MADAME DE STAEL'S RETURN TO PARIS.
Madame de Stael returned to her cherished France with the restoration.
She came back thirsting for new honor and renown, and determined, above
all, to have her work republished in Germany, its publication having
been once suppressed by the imperial police. She entertained the
pleasing hope that the new court would forget that she was Necker's
daughter, receive her with open arms, and accord her the influence to
which her active mind and genius entitled her.
But she was laboring under an error, by which she was not destined to be
long deceived. She was received at court with the cold politeness which
is more terrible than insult. The king, while speaking of her with his
friends, called Madame de Stael "a Chateaubriand in petticoats." The
Duchess d'Angouleme seemed never to see the celebrated poetess, and
never addressed a word to her; the rest of the court met Madame de Stael
armed to the teeth with all the hatred and prejudices of the olden time.
It was also in vain that Madame de Stael endeavored to act an important
part at the new court; they refused to regard her as an authority or
power, but treated her as a mere authoress; her counsel was ridiculed,
and they dared even to question the renown of M. Necker.
"I am unfortunate," said Madame de Stael to Countess Ducayla; "Napoleon
hated me because he believed me to possess intellect; these people repel
me because I at least possess ordinary human understanding! I can
certainly get on very well without them; but, as my presence displeases
them, I shall, at least, endeavor to get my money from them."
The "sacred debt" had not been paid under the empire, and it was now
Madame de Stael's intention to obtain from the king what the emperor
She was well aware of the influence which Countess Ducayla exercised
over Louis XVIII., and she now hastened to call on the beautiful
countess--whose acquaintance she had made under peculiar circumstances,
in a romantic love intrigue--in order to renew the friendship they had
then vowed to each other.
The countess had not forgotten this friendship, and she was now grateful
for the service Madame de Stael had then shown her. She helped to secure
the liquidation of the sacred debt, and, upon the order of King Louis,
the million was paid over to Madame de Stael. "But," says the countess,
in her memoirs, "I believe the recovery of this million cost Madame de
Stael four hundred thousand francs, besides a set of jewelry that was
worth at least one hundred thousand."
The countess's purse and the jewelry case, however, doubtlessly bore
evidence that she might as well have said "I know" as "I believe."
Besides the four hundred thousand francs and the jewelry, Madame de
Stael also gave the countess a piece of advice. "Make the most of the
favor you now enjoy," said she to her; "but do so quickly, for, as
matters are now conducted, I fear that the restoration will soon have to
"What do you mean by that?" asked the countess, smiling.
"I mean that, with the exception of the king, who perhaps does not say
all he thinks, the others are still doing precisely as they always have
done, and Heaven knows to what extremities their folly is destined to
bring them! They mock at the old soldiers and assist the young priests,
and this is the best means of ruining France."
Countess Ducayla considered this prediction of her intellectual friend
as a mere cloud with which discontent and disappointed ambition had
obscured the otherwise clear vision of Madame de Stael, and ridiculed
the idea, little dreaming how soon her words were to be fulfilled.
Madame de Stael consoled herself for her cold reception at court, by
receiving the best society of Paris in her parlors, and entertaining
them with biting _bon mots_ and witty _persiflage_, at the expense of
the grand notabilities, who had suddenly arisen with their imposing
genealogical trees out of the ruins and oblivion of the past.
Madame de Stael now also remembered the kindness Queen Hortense had
shown her during her exile; and not to her only, but also to her friend,
Madame Recamier, who had also been exiled by Napoleon, not, however, as
his enemies said, "because she was Madame de Stael's friend," but
simply because she patronized and belonged to the so-called "little
church." The "little church" was an organization born of the spirit of
opposition of the Faubourg St. Germain, and a portion of the Catholic
clergy, and was one of those things appertaining to the internal
relations of France that were most annoying and disagreeable to
Queen Hortense had espoused the cause of Madame de Stael and of Madame
Recamier with generous warmth. She had eloquently interceded for the
recall of both from their exile; and, now that the course of events had
restored them to their home, both ladies came to the queen to thank her
for her kindness and generosity.
Louise de Cochelet has described this visit of Madame de Stael so
wittily, with so much _naivete_, and with such peculiar local coloring,
that we cannot refrain from laying a literal translation of the same
before the reader.
MADAME DE STAEL'S VISIT TO QUEEN HORTENSE.
Louise de Cochelet relates as follows: "Madame de Stael and Madame
Recamier had begged permission of the queen to visit her, for the
purpose of tendering their thanks. The queen invited them to visit her
at St. Leu, on the following day.
"She asked my advice as to which of the members of her social circle
were best qualified to cope with Madame de Stael.
"'I, for my part,' said the queen, 'have not the courage to take the
lead in the conversation; one cannot be very intellectual when sad at
heart, and I fear my dullness will infect the others.'
"We let quite a number of amiable persons pass before us in review, and
I amused myself at the mention of each new name, by saying, 'He is too
dull for Madame de Stael.'
"The queen laughed, and the list of those who were to be invited was at
last agreed upon. We all awaited the arrival of the two ladies in great
suspense. The obligation imposed on us by the queen, of being
intellectual at all hazards, had the effect of conjuring up a somewhat
embarrassed and stupid expression to our faces. We presented the
appearance of actors on the stage looking at each other, while awaiting
the rise of the curtain. Jests and _bon mots_ followed each other in
rapid succession until the arrival of the carriage recalled to our faces
an expression of official earnestness.
"Madame Recamier, still young, and very handsome, and with an expression
of _naivete_ in her charming countenance, made the impression on me of
being a young lady in love, carefully watched over by too severe a
_duenna,_ her timid, gentle manner contrasted so strongly with the
somewhat too masculine self-consciousness of her companion. Madame de
Stael is, however, generally admitted to have been good and kind,
particularly to this friend, and I only speak of the impression she made
on one to whom she was a stranger, at first sight.
"Madame de Stael's extremely dark complexion, her original toilet, her
perfectly bare shoulders, of which either might have been very
beautiful, but which harmonized very poorly with each other; her whole
_ensemble_ was far from approximating to the standard of the ideal I had
formed of the authoress of Delphine and Corinne. I had almost hoped to
find in her one of the heroines she had so beautifully portrayed, and I
was therefore struck dumb with astonishment. But, after the first shock,
I was at least compelled to acknowledge that she possessed very
beautiful and expressive eyes; and yet it seemed impossible for me to
find anything in her countenance on which love could fasten, although I
have been told that she has often inspired that sentiment.
"When I afterward expressed my astonishment to the queen, she replied:
'It is, perhaps, because she is capable of such great love herself, that
she succeeds in inspiring others with love; moreover, it flatters a
man's self-love to be noticed by such a woman, and, in the end, one can
dispense with beauty, when one has Madame de Stael's intellect.'
"The queen inquired after Madame de Stael's daughter, who had not come
with her, and who was said to be truly charming. I believe the young
gentlemen of our party could have confronted the beautiful eyes of the
daughter with still greater amiability than those of the mother, but an
attack of toothache had prevented her coming.
"After the first compliments and salutations, the queen proposed to the
ladies to take a look at her park. They seated themselves on the
cushions of the queen's large _char a banc_, which has become historic
on account of the many high and celebrated personages who have been
driven in it at different times. The Emperor Napoleon was, however, not
one of this number, as he never visited St. Leu; but, with this
exception, there are few of the great and celebrated who have not been
seated in it at one time or another.
"As they drove through the park and the forest of Montmorency, in a walk
only, the conversation was kept up as in the parlor, and the consumption
of intellectuality was continued. The beautiful neighborhood, that
reminded one of Switzerland, as it was remarked, was duly admired. Then
Italy was spoken of. The queen, who had been somewhat _distraite_, and
had good cause to be somewhat sad, and disposed to commune with herself,
addressed Madame de Stael with the question, 'You have been in
"Madame de Stael was, as it were, transfixed with dismay, and the
gentlemen exclaimed with one accord: 'And Corinne? and Corinne?'
"'Ah, that is true,' said the queen, in embarrassment, awakening, as it
were, from her dreams.
"'Is it possible,' asked M. de Canonville, 'your majesty has not read
"'Yes--no,' said the queen, visibly confused, 'I shall read it again,'
and, in order to conceal an emotion that I alone could understand, she
abruptly changed the topic of conversation.
"She might have said the truth, and simply informed them that the book
had appeared just at the time her eldest son had died in Holland. The
king, disquieted at seeing her so profoundly given up to her grief,
believed, in accordance with Corvisart's advice, that it was necessary
to arouse her from this state of mental dejection at all hazards. It was
determined that I should read 'Corinne' to her. She was not in a
condition to pay much attention to it, but she had involuntarily
retained some remembrance of this romance. Since then, I had several
times asked permission of the queen to read Corinne to her, but she had
always refused. 'No, no,' said she, 'not yet; this romance has
identified itself with my sorrow. Its name alone recalls the most
fearful period of my whole life. I have not yet the courage to renew
these painful impressions.'
"I, alone, had therefore been able to divine what had embarrassed and
moved the queen so much when she replied to the question addressed to
her concerning Corinne. But the authoress could, of course, only
interpret it as indicating indifference for her master-work, and I told
the queen on the following day that it would have been better to have
confessed the cause of her confusion to Madame de Stael.
"'Madame de Stael would not have understood me,' said she; 'now, I am
lost to her good opinion, she will consider me a simpleton, but it was
not the time to speak of myself, and of my painful reminiscences.'
"The large _char a banc_ was always preferred to the handsomest
carriages (although it was very plain, and consisted of two wooden
benches covered with cushions, placed opposite each other), because it
was more favorable for conversation. But it afforded no security against
inclement weather, and this we were soon to experience. The rain poured
in streams, and we all returned to the castle thoroughly wet. A room was
there prepared and offered the ladies, in which they might repair the
disarrangement of their toilet caused by the storm. I remained with them
long, kept there by the questions of Madame de Stael concerning the
queen and her son, which questions were fairly showered upon me. There
was now no longer a question of intellectuality, but merely of washing,
hair-dressing, and reposing, with an entire abandonment of the display
of mind, the copiousness of which I had been compelled to admire but a
moment before. I said to myself: 'There they are, face to face, like the
rest of the world, with material life, these two celebrated women, who
are everywhere sought after, and received with such marked
consideration. There they are, as wet as myself, and as little poetic.'
We were really behind the curtain, but it was shortly to rise again.
"Voices were heard under the window; among other voices, a German accent
was audible, and both ladies immediately exclaimed: 'Ah, that is
Prince Augustus of Prussia!'
"No one expected the prince, and this meeting with the two ladies had
therefore the appearance of being accidental. He had come merely to pay
the queen a visit, and it was so near dinner-time, that politeness
required that he should be invited to remain. And this was doubtless
what he wished.
"The prince had the queen on his right, and Madame de Stael on his left.
The servant of the latter had laid a little green twig on her napkin,
which she twisted between her fingers while speaking, as was her habit.
The conversation was animated, and it was amusing to observe Madame de
Stael gesticulating with the little twig in her fingers. One might have
supposed that some fairy had given her this talisman, and that her
genius was dependent upon this little twig.
"Constantinople, with which city several of the gentlemen were well
acquainted, was now the topic of conversation. Madame de Stael thought
it would be a delightful task for an intellectual woman, to turn the
sultan's head, and then to compel him to give his Turks a constitution.
After dinner, freedom of the press was also a topic of conversation.
"Madame de Stael astonished me, not only by the brilliancy of her
genius, but also by the deep earnestness with which she treated
questions of that kind, for until then custom had not allowed women to
discuss such matters. At entertainments, philosophy, morals, sentiment,
heroism, and the like, had been the subjects of conversation, but the
emperor monopolized politics. His era was that of actions, and, we may
say it with pride, of great actions, while the era that followed was
essentially that of great words, and of political and literary
"Madame de Stael spoke to the queen of her motto: 'Do that which is
right, happen what may.'
"'In my exile, which you so kindly endeavored to terminate,' said she,
'I often repeated this motto, and thought of you while doing so.'
"While speaking thus, her countenance was illumined by the reflection of
inward emotion, and I found her beautiful. She was no longer the woman
of mind only, but also the woman of heart and feeling, and I
comprehended at this moment how charming she could be.
"Afterward, she had a long conversation with the queen touching the
emperor. 'Why was he so angry with me?' asked she. 'He could not have
known how much I admired him! I will see him--I shall go to Elba! Do you
think he would receive me well? I was born to worship this man, and he
has repelled me.'
'Ah, madame,' replied the queen, 'I have often heard the emperor say
that he had a great mission to fulfil, and that he could compare his
labors with the exertions of a man who, having the summit of a steep
mountain ever before his eyes, strains every nerve to attain it, ever
toiling painfully upward, and allowing his progress to be arrested by no
obstacle whatever. "All the worse for those," said he, "who meet me on
my course--I can show them no consideration."'
"'You met him on his course, madame; perhaps he would have extended you
a helping hand, after having reached the summit of his mountain.'
"'I must speak with him,' said Madame de Stael; 'I have been injured in
"'I think so too,' replied the queen, 'but you would judge him ill, if
you considered him capable of hating any one. He believed you to be his
enemy, and he feared you, which was something very unusual for him,'
added she, with a smile. 'Now that he is unfortunate, you will show
yourself his friend, and prove yourself to be such, and I am satisfied
that he will receive you well.'
"Madame de Stael also occupied herself a great deal with the young
princes, but she met with worse success with them than with us. It was
perhaps in order to judge of their mental capacity, that she showered
unsuitable questions upon them.
"'Do you love your uncle?'
"'Very much, madame!'
"'And will you also be as fond of war as he is?'
"'Yes, if it did not cause so much misery.'
'Is it true that he often made you repeat a fable commencing with the
words, "The strongest is always in the right?"'
"'Madame, he often made us repeat fables, but this one not oftener than
"Young Prince Napoleon, a boy of astounding mental capacity and
precocious judgment, answered all these questions with the greatest
composure, and, at the conclusion of this examination, turned to me and
said quite audibly: 'This lady asks a great many questions. Is that what
you call being intellectual?'
"After the departure of our distinguished visitors, we all indulged in
an expression of opinion concerning them, and young Prince Napoleon was
the one upon whom the ladies had made the least flattering impression,
but he only ventured to intimate as much in a low voice.
"I for my part had been more dazzled than gladdened by this visit. One
could not avoid admiring this genius in spite of its inconsiderateness,
and its wanderings, but there was nothing pleasing, nothing graceful and
womanly, in Madame de Stael's manner."
[Footnote 36: Cochelet, Memoires sur la Reine Hortense, vol. i., pp.
THE OLD AND THE NEW ERA.
The restoration was accomplished. The allies had at last withdrawn from
the kingdom, and Louis XVIII. was now the independent ruler of France.
In him, in the returned members of his family, and in the emigrants who
were pouring into the country from all quarters, was represented the
old era of France, the era of despotic royal power, of brilliant
manners, of intrigues, of aristocratic ideas, of ease and luxury.
Opposed to them stood the France of the new era, the generation formed
by Napoleon and the revolution, the new aristocracy, who possessed no
other ancestors than merit and valorous deeds, an aristocracy that had
nothing to relate of the _oeil de boeuf_ and the _petites maisons_, but
an aristocracy that could tell of the battle-field and of the hospitals
in which their wounds had been healed.
These two parties stood opposed to each other.
Old and young France now carried on an hourly, continuous warfare at the
court of Louis XVIII., with this difference, however, that young France,
hitherto ever victorious, now experienced a continuous series of
reverses and humiliations. Old France was now victorious. Not victorious
through its gallantry and merit, but through its past, which it
endeavored to connect with the present, without considering the chasm
which lay between.
True, King Louis had agreed, in the treaty of the 11th of April, that
none of his subjects should be deprived of their titles and dignities;
and the new dukes, princes, marshals, counts, and barons, could
therefore appear at court, but they played but a sad and humiliating
_role_, and they were made to feel that they were only tolerated, and
The gentlemen who, before the revolution, had been entitled to seats in
the royal equipages, still retained this privilege, but the doors of
these equipages were never opened to the gentlemen of the new Napoleonic
nobility. "The ladies of the old era still retained their _tabouret,_ as
well as their grand and little _entree_ to the Tuileries and the Louvre,
and it would have been considered very arrogant if the duchesses of the
new era had made claim to similar honors."
It was the Duchess d'Angouleme who took the lead and set the Faubourg
St. Germain an example of intolerance and arrogant pretensions in
ignoring the empire. She was the most unrelenting enemy of the new era,
born of the revolution, and of its representatives; it is true, however,
that she, who was the daughter of the beheaded royal pair, and who had
herself so long languished in the Temple, had been familiar with the
horrors of the revolution in their saddest and most painful features.
She now determined, as she could no longer punish, to at least forget
this era, and to seem to be entirely oblivious of its existence.
At one of the first dinners given by the king to the allies, the Duchess
d'Angouleme, who sat next to the King of Bavaria, pointed to the
Grand-duke of Baden, and asked: "Is not this the prince who married a
princess of Bonaparte's making? What weakness to ally one's self in
such a manner with that general!"
The duchess did not or would not remember that the King of Bavaria, as
well as the Emperor of Austria, who sat on her other side, and could
well hear her words, had also allied themselves with General Bonaparte.
After she had again installed herself in the rooms she had formerly
occupied in the Tuileries, the duchess asked old Dubois, who had
formerly tuned her piano, and had retained this office under the empire,
and who now showed her the new and elegant instruments provided by
Josephine--she asked him: "What has become of my piano?"
This "piano" had been an old and worn-out concern, and the duchess was
surprised at not finding it, as though almost thirty years had not
passed since she had seen it last; as though the 10th of August, 1792,
the day on which the populace demolished the Tuileries, had never been!
But the period from 1795 to 1814 was ignored on principle, and the
Bourbons seemed really to have quite forgotten that more than one night
lay between the last levee of King Louis XVI. and the levee of to-day of
King Louis XVIII. They seemed astonished that persons they had known as
children had grown up since they last saw them, and insisted on treating
every one as they had done in 1789.
After the Empress Josephine's death, Count d'Artois paid a visit to
Malmaison, a place that had hardly existed before the revolution, and
which owed its creation to Josephine's love and taste for art.
The empress, who had a great fondness for botany, had caused magnificent
greenhouses to be erected at Malmaison; in these all the plants and
flowers of the world had been collected. Knowing her taste, all the
princes of Europe had sent her, in the days of her grandeur, in order
to afford her a moment's gratification, the rarest exotics. The Prince
Regent of England had even found means, during the war with France, to
send her a number of rare West-Indian plants. In this manner her
collection had become the richest and most complete in all Europe.
Count d'Artois, as above said, had come to Malmaison to view this
celebrated place of sojourn of Josephine, and, while being conducted
through the greenhouses, he exclaimed, as though he recognized his old
flowers of 1789: "Ah, here are our plants of Trianon!"
And, like their masters the Bourbons, the emigrants had also returned to
France with the same ideas with which they had fled the country. They
endeavored, in all their manners, habits, and pretensions, to begin
again precisely where they had left off in 1789. They had so lively an
appreciation of their own merit, that they took no notice whatever of
other people's, and yet their greatest merit consisted in having
For this merit they now demanded a reward.
All of these returned emigrants demanded rewards, positions, and
pensions, and considered it incomprehensible that those who were already
in possession were not at once deprived of them. Intrigues were the
order of the day, and in general the representatives of the old era
succeeded in supplanting those of the new era in offices and pensions as
well as in court honors. All the high positions in the army were filled
by the marquises, dukes, and counts, of the old era, who had sewed
tapestry and picked silk in Coblentz, while the France of the new era
was fighting on the battle-field, and they now began to teach the
soldiers of the empire the old drill of 1780.
The etiquette of the olden time was restored, and the same luxurious and
lascivious disposition prevailed among these cavaliers of the former
century which had been approved in the _oeil de boeuf_ and in the
_petites maisons_ of the old era.
These old cavaliers felt contempt for the young Frenchmen of the new era
on account of their pedantic morality; they scornfully regarded men who
perhaps had not more than one mistress, and to whom the wife of a friend
was so sacred, that they never dared to approach her with a
disrespectful thought even.
These legitimist gentlemen entertained themselves chiefly with
reflections over the past, and their own grandeur. In the midst of the
many new things by which they were surrounded, some of which they
unfortunately found it impossible to ignore, it was their sweetest
relaxation to give themselves up entirely to the remembrance of the old
_regime_, and when they spoke of this era, they forgot their age and
debility, and were once more the young _roues_ of the _oeil de boeuf_.
Once in the antechamber of King Louis XVIII., while the Marquis de
Chimene and the Duke de Lauraguais, two old heroes of the frivolous era,
in which the boudoir and the _petites maisons_ were the battle-field,
and the myrtle instead of the laurel the reward of victory, while these
gentlemen were conversing of some occurrence under the old government,
the Duke de Lauraguais, in order to more nearly fix the date of the
occurrence of which they were speaking, remarked to the marquis, "It was
in the year in which I had my _liaison_ with your wife."
"Ah, yes," replied the marquis, with perfect composure, "that was in the
Neither of the gentlemen found anything strange in this allusion to the
past. The _liaison_ in question had been a perfectly commonplace matter,
and it would have been as ridiculous in the duke to deny it as for the
marquis to have shown any indignation.
The wisest and most enlightened of all these gentlemen was their head,
King Louis XVIII. himself.
He was well aware of the errors of those who surrounded him, and placed
but little confidence in the representatives of the old court. But he
was nevertheless powerless to withdraw himself from their influence, and
after he had accorded the people the charter, in opposition to the will
and opinion of the whole royal family, of his whole court and of his
ministers, and had sworn to support it in spite of the opposition of
"Monsieur" and the Prince de Conde, who was in the habit of calling the
charter "_Mademoiselle la Constitution de 1791,_" Louis withdrew to the
retirement of his apartments in the Tuileries, and left his minister
Blacas to attend to the little details of government, the king deeming
the great ones only worthy of his attention.
KING LOUIS XVIII.
King Louis XVIII. was, however, in the retirement of his palace, still
the most enlightened and unprejudiced of the representatives of the old
era; he clearly saw many things to which his advisers purposely closed
their eyes. To his astonishment, he observed that the men who had risen
to greatness under Bonaparte, and who had fallen to the king along with
the rest of his inheritance, were not so ridiculous, awkward, and
foolish, as they had been represented to be.
"I had been made to suppose," said Louis XVIII., "that these generals of
Bonaparte were peasants and ruffians, but such is not the case. He
schooled these men well. They are polite, and quite as shrewd as the
representatives of the old court. We must conduct ourselves very
cautiously toward them."
This kind of recognition of the past which sometimes escaped Louis
XVIII., was a subject of bitter displeasure to the gentlemen of the old
era, and they let the king perceive it.
King Louis felt this, and, in order to conciliate his court, he often
saw himself compelled to humiliate "the _parvenus_" who had forced
themselves among the former.
Incessant quarrelling and intriguing within the Tuileries was the
consequence, and Louis was often dejected, uneasy, and angry, in the
midst of the splendor that surrounded him.
"I am angry with myself and the others," said he on one occasion to an
intimate friend. "An invisible and secret power is ever working in
opposition to my will, frustrating my plans, and paralyzing my
"And yet you are king!"
"Undoubtedly I am king!" exclaimed Louis, angrily; "but am I also
master? The king is he who all his life long receives ambassadors, gives
tiresome audiences, listens to annihilating discourses, goes in state to
Notre-Dame, dines in public once a year, and is pompously buried in St.
Denis when he dies. The master is he who commands and can enforce
obedience, who puts an end to intriguing, and can silence old women as
well as priests. Bonaparte was king and master at the same time! His
ministers were his clerks, the kings his brothers merely his agents, and
his courtiers nothing more than his servants. His ministers vied with
his senate in servility, and his _Corps Legislatif_ sought to outdo his
senate and the church in subserviency. He was an extraordinary and an
enviable man, for he had not only devoted servants and faithful friends,
but also an accommodating church."
[Footnote 37: Memoires d'une Femme de Qualite, vol. v., p. 35.]
King Louis XVIII., weary of the incessant intrigues with which his
courtiers occupied themselves, withdrew himself more and more into the
retirement of his palace, and left the affairs of state to the care of
M. de Blacas, who, with all his arrogance and egotism, knew very little
The king preferred to entertain himself with his friends, to read them
portions of his memoirs, to afford them an opportunity of admiring his
verses, and to regale them with his witty and not always chaste
anecdotes; he preferred all these things to tedious and useless disputes
with his ministers. He had given his people the charter, and his
ministers might now govern in accordance with this instrument.
"The people demand liberty," said the king. "I give them enough of it to
protect them against despotism, without according them unbridled
license. Formerly, the taxes appointed by my mere will would have made
me odious; now the people tax themselves. Hereafter, I have nothing to
do but to confer benefits and show mercy, for the responsibility for all
the evil that is done will rest entirely with my ministers."
[Footnote 38: Memoires d'une Femme de Qualite, vol. i., p. 410.]
While his ministers were thus governing according to the charter, and
"doing evil," the king, who now had nothing but "good" to do, was
busying himself in settling the weighty questions of the old etiquette.
One of the most important features of this etiquette was the question of
the fashions that should now be introduced at court; for it was, of
course, absurd to think of adopting the fashions of the empire, and
thereby recognize at court that there had really been a change
They desired to effect a counter-revolution, not only in politics, but
also in fashions; and this important matter occupied the attention of
the grand dignitaries of the court for weeks before the first grand
levee that the king was to hold in the Tuilerics. But, as nothing was
accomplished by their united wisdom, the king finally held a private
consultation with his most intimate gentleman and lady friends on this
important matter, that had, unfortunately, not been determined by
The grand-master of ceremonies, M. de Brege, declared to the king that
it was altogether improper to continue the fashions of the empire at the
court of the legitimate King of France.
"We are, therefore, to have powder, coats-of-mail, etc.," observed the
M. de Brege replied, with all gravity, that he had given this subject
his earnest consideration day and night, but that he had not yet arrived
at a conclusion worthy of the grand-master of ceremonies of the
"Sire," said the Duke de Chartres, smiling, "I, for my part, demand
knee-breeches, shoe-buckles, and the cue."
"But I," exclaimed the Prince de Poir, who had remained in France during
the empire, "I demand damages, if we are to be compelled to return to
the old fashions and clothing before the new ones are worn out!"
The grand-master of ceremonies replied to this jest at his expense with
a profound sigh only; and the king at last put an end to this great
question, by deciding that every one should be permitted to follow the
old or new fashions, according to his individual taste and inclination.
The grand-master of ceremonies was compelled to submit to this royal
decision; but in doing so he observed, with profound sadness: "Your
majesty is pleased to smile, but dress makes half the man; uniformity of
attire confounds the distinctions of rank, and leads directly to an
"Yes, marquis," exclaimed the king, "you think precisely as Figaro. Many
a man laughs at a judge in a short dress, who trembles before a
procurator in a long gown."
[Footnote 39: Memoires d'une Femme de Qualite, vol. i., p. 384.]
But while the king suppressed the counter-revolution in fashions, he
allowed the grand-master of ceremonies to reintroduce the entire
etiquette of the old era. In conformity with this etiquette, the king
could not rise from his couch in the morning until the doors had been
opened to all those who had the _grande entree_--that is to say, to the
officers of his household, the marshals of France, several favored
ladies; further, to his _cafetier_, his tailor, the bearer of his
slippers, his barber, with two assistants, his watchmaker, and his
The king was dressed in the presence of all these favored individuals,
etiquette permitting him only to adjust his necktie himself, but
requiring him, however, to empty his pockets of their contents of the
The usage of the old era, "the public dinner of the royal family," was
also reintroduced; and the grand-master of ceremonies not only found it
necessary to make preparations for this dinner weeks beforehand, but the
king was also compelled to occupy himself with this matter, and to
appoint for this great ceremony the necessary "officers of
provisions"--that is to say, the wine-taster, the cup-bearers, the grand
doorkeepers, and the cook-in-chief.
At this first grand public dinner, the celebrated and indispensable
"ship" of the royal board stood again immediately in front of the king's
seat. This old "ship" of the royal board, an antique work of art which
the city of Paris had once presented to a King of France, had also been
lost in the grand shipwreck of 1792, and the grand-master of ceremonies
had been compelled to have a new one made by the court jeweller for the
occasion. This "ship" was a work in gilded silver, in form of a vessel
deprived of its masts and rigging; and in the same, between two golden
plates, were contained the perfumed napkins of the king. In accordance
with the old etiquette, no one, not even the princes and princesses,
could pass the "ship" without making a profound obeisance, which they
were also compelled to make on passing the royal couch.
The king restored yet another fashion of the old era--the fashion of the
Like his brother the Count d'Artois, Louis XVIII. also had his
lady-friends; and among these the beautiful and witty Countess Ducayla
occupied the first position. It was her office to amuse the king, and
dissipate the dark clouds that were only too often to be seen on the
brow of King Louis, who was chained to his arm-chair by ill-health,
weakness, and excessive corpulency. She narrated to him the _chronique
scandaleuse_ of the imperial court; she reminded him of the old affairs
of his youth, which the king knew how to relate with so much wit and
humor, and which he so loved to relate; it devolved upon her to examine
the letters of the "black cabinet," and to read the more interesting
ones to the king.
King Louis was not ungrateful to his royal friend, and he rewarded her
in a truly royal manner for sometimes banishing _ennui_ from his
apartments. Finding that the countess had no intimate acquaintance with
the contents of the Bible, he gave her the splendid Bible of Royaumont,
ornamented with one hundred and fifty magnificent engravings, after
paintings of Raphael. Instead of tissue-paper, a thousand-franc note
covered each of these engravings.
[Footnote 40: Amours et Galanteries des Rois de France, par St. Edme,
vol. ii., p. 383. Memoires d'une Femme de Qualite, vol. i., p. 409.]
On another occasion, the king gave her a copy of the "Charter;" and in
this each leaf was also covered with a thousand-franc note, as in
For so many proofs of the royal generosity, the beautiful countess,
perhaps willingly, submitted to be called "the royal snuff-box," which
appellation had its origin in the habit which the king fondly indulged
in of strewing snuff on the countess's lovely shoulder, and then
snuffing it up with his nose.
THE DRAWING-KOOM OF THE DUCHESS OF ST. LEU.
While the etiquette and frivolity of the old era were being introduced
anew at the Tuileries, and while M. de Blacas was governing in
complacent recklessness, time was progressing, notwithstanding his
endeavors to turn it backward in his flight.
While, out of the incessant conflict between the old and the new France,
a discontented France was being born, Napoleon, the Emperor of Elba, was
forming great plans of conquest, and preparing in secret understanding
with the faithful, to leave his place of exile and return to France.
He well knew that he could rely on his old army--on the army who loudly
cried, "_Vive le roi!_" and then added, _sotto voce_, "_de Rome, et son
[Footnote 41: Cochelet, Memoires sur la Reine Hortense, vol. iii, p.
Hortense, the new Duchess of St. Leu, took but little part in all these
things. She had, notwithstanding her youth and beauty, in a measure
taken leave of the world. She felt herself to be no longer the woman,
but only the mother; her sons were the objects of all her tenderness and
love, and she lived for them only. In her retirement at St. Leu, her
time was devoted to the arts, to reading, and to study; and, after
having been thus occupied throughout the day, she passed the evening in
her drawing-room, in unrestrained intellectual conversation with
For she had friends who had remained true, notwithstanding the obscurity
into which she had withdrawn herself, and who, although they filled
important positions at the new court, had retained their friendship for
the solitary dethroned queen.
With these friends the Duchess of St. Leu conversed, in the evening, in
her parlor, of the grand and beautiful past, giving themselves up
entirely to these recollections, little dreaming that this harmless
relaxation could awaken suspicion.
For the Duke of Otranto, who had succeeded in his shrewdness in
retaining his position of minister of police, as well under Louis XVIII.
as under Napoleon, had his spies everywhere; he knew of all that was
said in every parlor of Paris; he knew also that it was the custom, in
the parlors of the Duchess of St. Leu, to look from the dark present
back at the brilliant past, and to console one's self for the littleness
of the present, with the recollection of the grandeur of departed days!
And Fouche, or rather the Duke of Otranto, knew how to utilize
In order to arouse Minister Blacas out of his stupid dream of security,
to a realizing sense of the grave events that were taking place, Fouche
told him that a conspiracy against the government was being formed in
the parlors of the Duchess of St. Leu; that all those who were secret
adherents of Bonaparte were in the habit of assembling there, and
planning the deliverance of the emperor from Elba. In order, however, on
the other hand, to provide against the possibility of Napoleon's return,
the Duke of Otranto hastened to the Duchess of St. Leu, to warn her and
conjure her to be on her guard against the spies by whom she was
surrounded, as suspicion might be easily excited against her at court.
Hortense paid no attention to this warning; she considered precaution
unnecessary, and was not willing to deprive herself of her one
happiness--that of seeing her friends, and of conversing with them in a
free and unconstrained manner.
The parlors of the duchess, therefore, continued to be thrown open to
her faithful friends, who had also been the faithful servants of the
emperor; and the Dukes of Bassano, of Friaul, of Ragusa, of the Moskwa,
and their wives, as well as the gallant Charles de Labedoyere, and the
acute Count Renault de Saint-Jean d'Angely, still continued to meet in
the parlors of the Duchess of St. Leu.
The voice of hostility was raised against them with ever-increasing
hostility; the reunions that took place at St. Leu were day by day
portrayed at the Tuileries in more hateful colors; and the poor duchess,
who lived in sorrow and retirement in her apartments, became an object
of hatred and envy to these proud ladies of the old aristocracy, who
were unable to comprehend how this woman could be thought of while they
were near, although she had been the ornament of the imperial court, and
who was considered amiable, intellectual, and beautiful, even under the
Hortense heard of the ridiculous and malicious reports which had been
circulated concerning her, and, for the sake of her friends and sons,
she resolved to put an end to them.
"I must leave my dear St. Leu and go to Paris," said she. "There they
can better observe all my actions. Reason demands that I should conform
myself to circumstances."
She therefore abandoned her quiet home at St. Leu, and repaired with her
children and her court to Paris, to again take up her abode in her
dwelling in the Rue de la Victoire.
But this step gave fresh fuel to the calumnies of her enemies, who saw
in her the embodied remembrance of the empire which they hated and at
the same time feared.
The Bonapartists still continued their visits to her parlors, as before;
and no appeals, no representations could induce Hortense to close her
doors against her faithful friends, for fear that their fidelity might
excite suspicion against herself.
In order, however, to contradict the report that adherents of Napoleon
only were in the habit of frequenting her parlors, the duchess also
extended the hospitalities of her parlors to the strangers who brought
letters of recommendation, and who desired to be introduced to her.
Great numbers hastened to avail themselves of this permission.
The most brilliant and select circle was soon assembled around the
duchess. There, were to be found the great men of the empire, who came
out of attachment; distinguished strangers, who came out of admiration;
and, finally, the aristocrats of the old era, who came out of curiosity,
who came to see if the Duchess of St. Leu was really so intelligent,
amiable, and graceful, as she was said to be.
The parlors of the duchess were therefore more talked of in Paris than
they had been at St. Leu. The old duchesses and princesses of the
Faubourg St. Germain, with all their ancestors, prejudices, and
pretensions, were enraged at hearing this everlasting praise of the
charming queen, and endeavored to appease their wrath by renewed
hostilities against its object.
It was not enough that she was calumniated, at court and in society, as
a dangerous person; the arm of the press was also wielded against her.
As we have said, Hortense was the embodied remembrance of the empire,
and it was therefore determined that she should be destroyed.
_Brochures_ and pamphlets were published, in which the king was appealed
to, to banish from Paris, and even from France, the dangerous woman who
was conspiring publicly, and even under the very eyes of the government,
for Napoleon, and to banish with her the two children also, the two
Napoleons; "for," said these odious accusers, "to leave these two
princes here, means to raise in France wolves that would one day ravage
[Footnote 42: Cochelet, Memoires sur la Reins Hortense, vol. ii., p.
Hortense paid but little attention to these reports and calumnies. She
was too much accustomed to being misunderstood and wrongly judged, to
allow herself to be disquieted thereby. She knew that calumnies were
never refuted by contradiction, and that it was therefore better to meet
them with proud silence, and to conquer them by contempt, instead of
giving them new life by combating and contradicting them.
She herself entertained such contempt for calumny that she never allowed
anything abusive to be said in her presence that would injure any one in
her estimation. When, on one occasion, while she was still Queen of
Holland, a lady of Holland took occasion to speak ill of another lady,
on account of her political opinions, the queen interrupted her, and
said: "Madame, here I am a stranger to all parties, and receive all
persons with the same consideration, for I love to hear every one well
spoken of; and I generally receive an unfavorable impression of those
only who speak ill of others."
[Footnote 43: Cochelet, vol. i., p. 378.]
And, strange to say, she herself was ever the object of calumny and
"During twenty-five years, I have never been separated from Princess
Hortense," says Louise de Cochelet, "and I have never observed in her
the slightest feeling of bitterness against any one; ever good and
gentle, she never failed to take an interest in those who were unhappy;
and she endeavored to help them whenever and wherever they presented
themselves. And this noble and gentle woman was always the object of
hatred and absurd calumnies, and against all this she was armed with the
integrity and purity of her actions and intentions only."
[Footnote 44: Cochelet, vol. i., p. 378.]
Nor did Hortense now think of contradicting the calumnies that had been
circulated concerning her. Her mind was occupied with other and far more
An ambassador of her husband, who resided in Florence, had come to Paris
in order to demand of Hortense, in the name of Louis Bonaparte, his
After much discussion, he had finally declared that he would be
satisfied, if his wife would send him his eldest son, Napoleon
But the loving mother could not and would not consent to a separation
from either of her children; and as, in spite of her entreaties, her
husband persisted in refusing to allow her to retain both of them, she
resolved, in the anguish of maternal love, to resort to the most extreme
means to retain the possession of her sons.
She informed her husband's ambassador that it was her fixed purpose to
retain possession of her children, and appealed to the law to recognize
and protect them, and not allow her sons to be deprived of their rights
as Frenchmen, by going into a compulsory exile.
While the Duchess of St. Leu was being accused of conspiring in favor of
Napoleon, her whole soul was occupied with the one question, which was
to decide whether one of her sons could be torn from her side or not;
and, if she conspired at all, it was only with her lawyer in order to
frustrate her husband's plans.
But the calumnies and accusations of the press were nevertheless
continued; and at last her friends thought it necessary to lay before
the queen a journal that contained a violent and abusive article against
her, and to request that they might be permitted to reply to it.
"With a sad smile, Hortense read the article and returned the newspaper.
"It is extremely mortifying to be scorned by one's countrymen," said
she, "but it would be useless to make any reply. I can afford to
disregard such attacks--they are powerless to harm me."
But when on the following morning the same journal contained a venomous
and odious article levelled at her husband, Louis Bonaparte, her
generous indignation was aroused, and, oblivious of all their
disagreements, and even of the process now pending between them, she
remembered only that it was the father of her children whom they had
dared to attack, and that he was not present to defend himself. It
therefore devolved upon her to defend him.
"I am enraged, and I desire that M. Despres shall reply to this article
at once," said Hortense. "Although paternal love on the one side, and
maternal love on the other, has involved us in a painful process, it
nevertheless concerns no one else, and it disgraces neither of us. I
should be in despair, if this sad controversy were made the pretext for
insulting the father of my children and the honored name he bears. For
the very reason that I stand alone, am I called on to defend the absent
to the best of my ability. Therefore let M. Despres come to me; I will
instruct him how to answer this disgraceful article!"
On the following day, an able and eloquent article in defence of Louis
Bonaparte appeared in the journal--an article that shamed and silenced
his accusers--an article which the prince, whose cause it so warmly
espoused, probably never thought of attributing to the wife to whose
maternal heart be had caused such anguish.
[Footnote 45: Cochelet, vol. i., p. 303.]
THE BURIAL OF LOUIS XVI. AND HIS WIFE.
The earnest endeavors of the Bourbon court to find the resting-place of
the remains of the royal couple who had died on the scaffold, and who
had expiated the crimes of their predecessors rather than their own,
were at last successful. The remains of the illustrious martyrs had
been sought for in accordance with the directions of persons who had
witnessed their sorrowful and contemptuous burial, and the body of Louis
XVI. was found in a desolate corner of the grave-yard of St. Roch, and
in another place also that of Queen Marie Antoinette.
It was the king's wish, and a perfectly natural and just one, to inter
these bodies in the royal vault at St. Denis, but he wished to do it
quietly and without pomp; his acute political tact taught him that these
sad remains should not be made the occasion of a political
demonstration, and that it was unwise to permit the bones of Louis XVI.
to become a new apple of discord.
But the king's court, even his nearest relatives, his ministers, and the
whole troop of arrogant courtiers, who desired, by means of an
ostentatious interment, not only to show a proper respect for the
beheaded royal pair, but also to punish those whom they covertly called
"regicides," and whom they were nevertheless now compelled to
tolerate--the king's entire court demanded a solemn and ceremonious
interment; and Louis, who, as he himself had said, "was king, but not
master," was compelled to yield to this demand.
Preparations were therefore made for an ostentatious interment of the
royal remains, and it was determined that the melancholy rites should
take place on the 21st of January, 1815, the anniversary of painful
memories and unending regret for the royal family.
M. de Chateaubriand, the noble and intelligent eulogist and friend of
the Bourbons, caused an article to be inserted in the _Journal des
Debats_, in which he announced the impending ceremony. This article was
then republished in pamphlet form; and so great was the sympathy of the
Parisians in the approaching event, that thirty thousand copies were
disposed of, in Paris alone, in one day.
On the 20th of January the graves of the martyrs were opened, and all
the princes of the royal house who were present, knelt down at the edge
of the grave to mingle their prayers with those of the thousands who had
accompanied them to the church-yard.
But the king was right. This act, that appeared to some to be a mere act
of justice, seemed an insult to others, and reminded them of the dark
days of error and fanaticism, in which they had allowed themselves to be
drawn into the vortex of the general delirium. Many of those who in the
Assembly had voted for the death of the king, were now residing at
Paris, and even at court, as for instance Fouche, and to them the
approaching ceremony seemed an insult.
"Are you aware," exclaimed Descourtis, as he rushed into the apartment
of Cambaceres, who was at that moment conversing with the Count de Pere,
"have you already been informed that this ceremony is really to take
"Yes, to-morrow is the fated day. To-morrow we are to be delivered over
to the daggers of fanatics."
"Is this the pardon that was promised us?"
"As for that," exclaimed the Count de Pere (a good royalist), "I was
not aware that there was an article in the constitution forbidding the
reinterment of the mortal remains of the royal pair. The proceeding will
be perfectly lawful."
"It is their purpose to infuriate the populace," exclaimed Descourtis,
pale with inward agitation. "Old recollections are to be recalled and a
mute accusation hurled at us. But we shall some day be restored to power
again, and then we will remember also!"
Cambaceres, who had listened to this conversation in silence, now
stepped forward, and, taking Descourtis's hand in his own, pressed
"Ah, my friend," said he, in sad and solemn tones, "I would we were
permitted to march behind the funeral-car in mourning-robes to-morrow!
We owe this proof of repentance to France and to ourselves!"
The solemn funeral celebration took place on the following day. All
Paris took part in it. Every one, even the old republicans, the
Bonapartists as well as the royalists, joined the funeral procession, in
order to testify that they had abandoned the past and were repentant.
Slowly and solemnly, amid the ringing of all the bells, the roll of the
drum, the thunders of artillery, and the chants of the clergy, the
procession moved onward.
The golden crown, which hung suspended over the funeral-car, shone
lustrously in the sunlight. It had fallen from the heads of the royal
pair while they still lived; it now adorned them in death.
Slowly and solemnly the procession moved onward; it had arrived at the
Boulevards which separates the two streets of Montmartre. Suddenly a
terrible, thousand-voiced cry of horror burst upon the air.
The crown, which hung suspended over the funeral-car, had fallen down,
touching the coffins with a dismal sound, and then broke into fragments
on the glittering snow of the street.
This occurred on the 21st of January; two months later, at the same
hour, and on the same day, the crown of Louis XVIII. fell from his head,
and Napoleon placed it on his own!
NAPOLEON'S RETURN FROM ELBA.
A cry of tremendous import reverberated through Paris, all France, and
all Europe, in the first days of March, 1815. Napoleon, it was said, had
quitted Elba, and would soon arrive in France!
The royalists heard it with dismay, the Bonapartists with a delight that
they hardly took the pains to conceal.
Hortense alone took no part in the universal delight of the
imperialists. Her soul was filled with profound sadness and dark
forebodings. "I lament this step," said she; "I would have sacrificed
every thing to prevent his return to France, because I am of the belief
that no good can come of it. Many will declare for, and many against
him, and we shall have a civil war, of which the emperor himself may be
[Footnote 46: Cochelet, vol. ii., p. 348.]
In the meanwhile the general excitement was continually increasing; it
took possession of every one, and at this time none would have been
capable of giving cool and sensible advice.
Great numbers of the emperor's friends came to the Duchess of St. Leu,
and demanded of her counsel, assistance, and encouragement, accusing her
of indifference and want of sympathy, because she did not share their
hopes, and was sad instead of rejoicing with them.
But the spies of the still ruling government, who lay in wait around the
queen's dwelling, did not hear her words; they only saw that the
emperor's former generals and advisers were in the habit of repairing to
her parlors, and that was sufficient to stamp Hortense as the head of
the conspiracy which had for its object the return of Napoleon
The queen perceived the danger of her situation, but she bowed her head
to receive the blows of Fate in silent resignation. "I am environed by
torments and perplexities," said she, "but I see no means of avoiding
them. There is no resource for me but to arm myself with courage, and
that I will do."
The royal government, however, still hoped to be able to stem the
advancing tide, and compel the waves of insurrection to surge backward
and destroy those who had set them in motion.
They proposed to treat the great event which made France glow with new
pulsations, as a mere insurrection, that had been discovered in good
time, and could therefore be easily repressed. They therefore
determined, above all, to seize and render harmless the "conspirators,"
that is to say, all those of whom it was known that they had remained
faithful to the emperor in their hearts.
Spies surrounded the houses of all the generals, dukes, and princes of
the empire, and it was only in disguise and by the greatest dexterity
that they could evade the vigilance of the police.
The Duchess of St. Leu was at last also compelled to yield to the urgent
entreaties of her friends, and seek an asylum during these days of
uncertainty and danger. She quitted her dwelling in disguise, and,
penetrating through the army of spies who lay in wait around the house
and in the street in which she resided, she happily succeeded in
reaching the hiding-place prepared for her by a faithful servant of her
mother. She had already confided her children to another servant who had
remained true to her in her time of trouble.
The Duke of Otranto, now once more the faithful Fouche of the empire,
was also to have been arrested, but he managed to effect his escape.
General Lavalette--who was aware that the dwelling of the Duchess of St.
Leu was no longer watched by the police, who had discovered that the
duchess was no longer there--Lavalette took advantage of this
circumstance, and concealed himself in her dwelling, and M. de Dandre,
the chief of police, who had vainly endeavored to catch the so-called
conspirators, exclaimed in anguish: "It is impossible to find any one;
it has been so much noised about that these Bonapartists were to be
arrested, that they are now all hidden away."
Like a bombshell the news suddenly burst upon the anxious and doubting
capital: "The emperor has been received by the people in Grenoble with
exultation, and the troops that were to have been led against him have,
together with their chieftain, Charles de Labedoyere, gone over to the
emperor. The gates of the city were thrown open, and the people advanced
to meet him with shouts of welcome and applause; and now Napoleon stood
no longer at the head of a little body of troops, but at the head of a
small army that was increasing with every hour."
The government still endeavored, through its officials and through the
public press, to make the Parisians disbelieve this intelligence.
But the government had lost faith in itself. It heard the old, the hated
cry, "Vive l'empereur!" resounding through the air; it heard the
fluttering of the victorious battle-flags of Marengo, Arcola, Jena, and
Austerlitz! The Emperor Napoleon was still the conquering hero, who
swayed destiny and compelled it to declare for him.
A perfect frenzy of dismay took possession of the royalists; and when
they learned that Napoleon had already arrived in Lyons, that its
inhabitants had received him with enthusiasm, and that its garrison had
also declared for him, their panic knew no bounds.
The royalist leaders assembled at the house of Count de la Pere, for the
purpose of holding a last great discussion and consultation. The most
eminent persons, men and women, differing widely on other subjects, but
a unit on this point, assembled here with the same feelings of patriotic
horror, and with the same desire to promote the general welfare. There
were Madame de Stael, Benjamin Constant, Count Laine, and Chateaubriand;
there were the Duke de Nemours, and Count de la Pere, and around them
gathered the whole troop of anxious royalists, expecting and hoping that
the eloquent lips of these celebrated personages who stood in their
midst would give them consolation and new life.
Benjamin Constant spoke first. He said that, to Napoleon, that is, to
force, force must be opposed. Bonaparte was armed with the love of the
soldiers, they must arm themselves with the love of the citizens. His
appearance was imposing, like the visage of Caesar; it would be
necessary to oppose to him an equally sublime countenance. Lafayette
should, therefore, be made commander-in-chief of the French army.
M. de Chateaubriand exclaimed, with noble indignation, that the first
step to be taken by the government was to punish severely a ministry
that was so short-sighted, and had committed so many faults. Laine
declared, with a voice tremulous with emotion, that all was lost, and
that but one means of confounding tyranny remained; a scene, portraying
the whole terror, dismay and grief of the capital at the approach of the
hated enemy, should be arranged. In accordance with this plan, the whole
population of Paris--the entire National Guard, the mothers, the young
girls, the children, the old and the young--were to pass out of the
city, and await the tyrant; and this aspect of a million of men fleeing
from the face of a single human being was to move or terrify him who
came to rob them of their peace!
In her enthusiastic and energetic manner, Madame de Stael pronounced an
anathema against the usurper who was about to kindle anew, in weeping,
shivering France, the flames of war.
All were touched, enthusiastic, and agitated, but they could do nothing
but utter fine phrases; and all that fell from the eloquent lips of
these celebrated poets and politicians was, as it were, nothing more
than a bulletin concerning the condition of the patient, and concerning
the mortal wounds which he had received. This patient was France; and
the royalists, who were assembled in the house of Count de la Pere, now
felt that the patient's case was hopeless, and that nothing remained to
them but to go into exile, and bemoan his sad fate!
[Footnote 47: Memoires d'une Femme de Qualite, vol. i., p. 99.]
LOUIS XVIII.'S DEPARTURE AND NAPOLEON'S ARRIVAL.
While the royalists were thus considering, hesitating, and despairing,
King Louis XVIII. had alone retained his composure and sense of
security. That is to say, they had taken care not to inform him of the
real state of affairs. On the contrary, he had been informed that
Bonaparte had been everywhere received with coldness and silence, and
that the army would not respond to his appeal, but would remain true to
the king. The exultation with which the people everywhere received the
advancing emperor found, therefore, no echo in the Tuileries, and the
crowd who pressed around the king when he repaired to the hall of the
_Corps Legislatif_ to hold an encouraging address, was not the people,
but the royalists--those otherwise so haughty ladies and gentlemen of
the old nobility, who again, as on the day of the first entrance, acted
the part to which the people were not disposed to adapt themselves, and
transformed themselves for a moment into the people, in order to show to
the king the demonstrations of his people's love.
The king was completely deceived. M. de Blacas told the king of
continuous reverses to Napoleon's arms, while the emperor's advance was
in reality a continuous triumph. They had carried this deception so far
that they had informed the king that Lyons had closed its gates to
Napoleon, and that Ney was advancing to meet him, vowing that he would
bring the emperor back to Paris in an iron cage.
The king was therefore composed, self-possessed, and resolute, when
suddenly his brother, the Count d'Artois, and the Duke of Orleans, who,
according to the king's belief, occupied Lyons as a victor, arrived in
Paris alone, as fugitives, abandoned by their soldiers and servants, and
informed Louis that Lyons had received the emperor with open arms, and
that no resource had been left them but to betake themselves to flight.
And a second, and still more terrible, item of intelligence followed the
first. Ney, the king's hope, the last support of his tottering throne,
Ney had not had the heart to maintain a hostile position toward his old
companion in arms. Ney had gone over to the emperor, and his army had
followed him with exultation.
The king's eyes were now opened, he now saw the truth, and learned how
greatly he had been deceived.
"Alas," cried he, sadly, "Bonaparte fell because he would not listen to
the truth, and I shall fall because they would not tell me the truth!"
At this moment, and while the king was eloquently appealing to his
brothers and relatives, and to the gentlemen of his court who surrounded
him, to tell him the whole truth, the door opened, and the Minister
Blacas, until then so complacent, so confident of victory, now stepped
in pale and trembling.
The truth, which he had so long concealed from the king, was now plainly
impressed on his pale, terrified countenance. The king had desired to
hear the truth; it stood before him in his trembling minister.
A short interval of profound silence occurred; the eyes of all were
fastened on the count, and, in the midst of the general silence, he was
heard to say, in a voice choked with emotion: "Sire, all is lost; the
army, as well as the people, betray your majesty. It will be necessary
for your majesty to leave Paris."
The king staggered backward for an instant, and then fastened an
inquiring glance on the faces of all who were present. No one dared to
return his gaze with a glance of hope. They all looked down sorrowfully.
The king understood this mute reply, and a deep sigh escaped his breast.
"The tree bears its fruit," said he, with a bitter smile; "heretofore it
has been your purpose to make me govern for you, hereafter I shall
govern for no one. If I shall, however, return to the throne of my
fathers once more, you will be made to understand that I will profit by
the experience you have given me!"
[Footnote 48: The king's own words. Memoires d'une Femme de Qualite,
vol. i. p. 156.]
A few hours later, at nightfall, supported on the arm of Count Blacas,
without any suite, and preceded by a single lackey bearing a torch, the
king left the once more desolate and solitary Tuileries, and fled
Twenty-four hours later, on the evening of the 20th of March, Napoleon
entered the Tuileries, accompanied by the exulting shouts of the
people, and the thundering "_Vive l'empereur_" of the troops. On the
same place where the white flag of the Bourbons had but yesterday
fluttered, the _tricolore_ of the empire now flung out its folds to
In the Tuileries the emperor found all his old ministers, his generals,
and his courtiers, assembled. All were desirous of seeing and greeting
him. An immense concourse of people surged around the entrance on the
stair-ways and in the halls.
Borne aloft on the arms and shoulders of the people, the emperor was
carried up the stairway, and into his apartments; and, while shouts of
joy were resounding within, the thousands without joined the more
fortunate ones who had borne the emperor to his apartments, and rent the
air with exulting cries of "_Vive l'empereur_!"
In his cabinet, to which Napoleon immediately repaired, he was received
by Queen Julia, wife of Joseph Bonaparte, and Queen Hortense, who had
abandoned her place of concealment, and hurried to the Tuileries to
salute the emperor.
Napoleon greeted Hortense coldly, he inquired briefly after the health
of her sons, and then added, almost severely: "You have placed my
nephews in a false position, by permitting them to remain in the midst
of my enemies."
Hortense turned pale, and her eyes filled with tears. The emperor seemed
not to notice it. "You have accepted the friendship of my enemies," said
he, "and have placed yourself under obligations to the Bourbons. I
depend on Eugene; I hope he will soon be here. I wrote to him
This was the reception Hortense received from the emperor. He was angry
with her for having remained in France, and at the same time the flying
Bourbons, who were on their way to Holland, said of her: "The Duchess of
St. Leu is to blame for all! Her intrigues alone have brought Napoleon
back to Paris."
THE HUNDRED DAYS.
The hundred days that followed the emperor's return are like a myth of
the olden time, like a poem of Homer, in which heroes destroy worlds
with a blow of the hand, and raise armies out of the ground with a stamp
of the foot; in which nations perish, and new ones are born within the
space of a minute.
These hundred days stand in history as a giant era, and these hundred
days of the restored empire were replete with all the earth can offer of
fortune, of magnificence, of glory, and of victory, as well as of all
that the earth contains that is disgraceful, miserable, traitorous, and
Wondrous and brilliant was their commencement. All France seemed to hail
the emperor's return with exultation. Every one hastened to assure him
of his unchangeable fidelity, and to persuade him that they had only
obeyed the Bourbons under compulsion.
The old splendor of the empire once more prevailed in the Tuileries,
where the emperor now held his glittering court again. There was,
however, this difference: Queen Hortense now did the honors of the
court, in the place of the Empress Marie Louise, who had not returned
with her husband; and the emperor could not now show the people his own
son, but could only point to his two nephews, the sons of Hortense.
The emperor had quickly reconciled himself to the queen; he had been
compelled to yield to her gentle and yet decided explanations; he had
comprehended that Hortense had sacrificed herself for her children, in
continuing to remain in France notwithstanding her reluctance. After
this reconciliation had taken place, Napoleon extended his hand to
Hortense, with his irresistible smile, and begged her to name a wish, in
order that he might fulfil it.
Queen Hortense, who had been so bitterly slandered and scorned by the
royalists, and who was still considered by the fleeing Bourbons to be
the cause of their overthrow--this same queen now entreated the emperor
to permit the Duchess d'Orleans, who had not been able to leave Paris on
account of a broken limb, to remain, and to accord her a pension
besides. She told the emperor that she had received a letter from the
duchess, in which she begged for her intercession in obtaining some
assistance from the emperor, assuring her that it was urgently Deeded,
in her depressed circumstances.
The emperor consented to grant this wish of his step-daughter Hortense;
and it was solely at her solicitation that Napoleon accorded a pension
of four hundred thousand francs to the Duchess d'Orleans, the mother of
King Louis Philippe.
[Footnote 49: La Reine Hortense en Italie, en France, et en Angleterre.
Ecrit par elle-meme, p. 185.]
A few days later, at Hortense's request, a pension of two hundred
thousand francs was also accorded to the Duchess of Bourbon, who had
also besought the queen to exert her influence in her behalf; and both
ladies now hastened to assure Hortense of their everlasting gratitude.
The fulfilment of her wish filled Hortense with delight; she was as
proud of it as of a victory achieved.
"I considered it a sacred duty," said she, "to intercede for these
ladies. They were as isolated and desolate as I had been a few clays
before, and I know how sad it is to be in such a state!"
But Hortense's present state was a very different one. She was now no
longer the Duchess of St. Leu, but the queen and the ornament of the
court once more; all heads now bowed before her again, and the high-born
ladies, who had seemed oblivious of her existence during the past year,
now hastened to do homage to the queen.
"Majesty," said one of these ladies to the queen, "unfortunately, you
were always absent in the country when I called to pay my respects
during the past winter."
The queen's only response was a gentle "Indeed madame," which she
accompanied with a smile.
Hortense, as has before been said, was now again the grand point of
attraction at court, and, at Napoleon's command, the public officials
now also hastened to solicit the honor of an audience, in order to pay
their respects to the emperor's step-daughter. Each day beheld new
_fetes_ and ceremonies.
The most sublime and imposing of all these was the ceremony of the
_Champ de Mai_, that took place on the first of June, and at which the
emperor, in the presence of the applauding populace, presented to his
army the new eagles and flags, which they were henceforth to carry into
battle instead of the lilies of the Bourbons.
It was a wondrous, an enchanting spectacle to behold the sea of human
beings that surged to and fro on this immense space, and made the welkin
ring with their "_Vive l'empereur_!"--to behold the proud, triumphant
soldiers receiving from Napoleon the eagles consecrated by the priests
at the altar that stood before the emperor. It was a wondrous spectacle
to behold the hundreds of richly-attired ladies glittering with
diamonds, who occupied the tiers of seats that stood immediately behind
the emperor's chair, and on which Hortense and her two sons occupied the
The air was so balmy, the sun shone so lustriously over all this
splendor and magnificence, the cannon thundered so mightily, and the
strains of music resounded so sweetly on the ear; and, while all were
applauding and rejoicing, Hortense sat behind the emperor's chair
covertly sketching the imposing scene that lay before her, the grand
ceremony, which, a dark foreboding told her, "might perhaps be the last
of the empire."
[Footnote 50: Cochelet, vol. iii., p. 97.]
Hortense alone did not allow herself to be deceived by this universal
delight and contentment.
The heavens still seemed bright and serene overhead, but she already
perceived the gathering clouds, she already heard the mutterings of the
storm that was soon, and this time forever, to hurl the emperor's throne
to the ground. She knew that a day would suddenly come when all this
brightness would grow dim, and when all those who now bowed so humbly
before him, would turn from him again--a day when they would deny and
desert the emperor as they had already done once before, and that, from
that day on, the present period of grandeur would be accounted to her as
a debt. But this knowledge caused her neither anxiety nor embarrassment.
The emperor was once more there; he was the lord and father left her by
her mother Josephine, and it was her duty and desire to be true and
obedient to him as long as she lived.
The sun still shone lustrously over the restored empire, and in the
parlors of Queen Hortense, where the diplomats, statesmen, artists, and
all the notables of the empire were in the habit of assembling, gayety
reigned supreme. There music and literature were discussed, and homage
done to all the fine arts.
Benjamin Constant, who had with great rapidity transformed himself from
an enthusiastic royalist into an imperial state-councillor, came to the
queen's parlors and regaled her guests by reading to them his romance
Adolphe; and Metternich, the Austrian ambassador seemed to have no other
destiny than to amuse the queen and the circle of ladies assembled
around them, and to invent new social games for their entertainment.
Metternich knew how to bring thousands of charming little frivolities
into fashion; he taught the ladies the charming and poetic language of
flowers, and made it a symbolic means of conversation and correspondence
in the queen's circle. He also, to the great delight of the court,
invented the alphabet of gems; in this alphabet each gem represented its
initial letter, and, by combinations, names and devices were formed,
which were worn in necklaces, bracelets, and rings.
The little games with which the diplomatic Metternich occupied himself
during the hundred days at the imperial court at Paris, were, it
appears, of the most innocent and harmless nature.
NAPOLEON'S LAST ADIEU.
The storm, of the approach of which Queen Hortense had so long had a
foreboding, was preparing to burst over France. All the princes of
Europe who had once been Napoleon's allies had now declared against him.
They all refused to acknowledge Napoleon as emperor, or to treat with
him as one having any authority.
"No peace, no reconciliation with this man," wrote the Emperor Alexander
to Pozzo di Borgo; "all Europe is of the same opinion concerning him.
With the exception of this man, any thing they may demand; no preference
for any one; no war after this man shall have been set aside."
[Footnote 51: Cochelet, vol. iii., p. 90.]
But, in order to "set this man aside," war was necessary. The allied
armies therefore advanced toward the boundaries of France; the great
powers declared war against France, or rather against the Emperor
Napoleon; and France, which had so long desired peace, and had only
accepted the Bourbons because it hoped to obtain it of them, France was
now compelled to take up the gauntlet.
On the 12th of June the emperor left Paris with his army, in order to
meet the advancing enemy. Napoleon himself, who had hitherto gone into
battle, his countenance beaming with an assurance of victory, now looked
gloomy and dejected, for he well knew that on the fate of his army now
depended his own, and the fate of France.
This time it was not a question of making conquests, but of saving the
national independence, and it was the mother-earth, red with the blood
of her children, that was now to be defended.
Paris, that for eighty days had been the scene of splendor and
festivity, now put on its mourning attire. All rejoicings were at an
end, and every one listened hopefully to catch the first tones of the
thunder of a victorious battle.
But the days of victory were over; the cannon thundered, the battle was
fought, but instead of a triumph it was an overthrow.
At Waterloo, the eagles that had been consecrated on the first of June,
on the _Champ de Mai_, sank in the dust; the emperor returned to Paris,
a fugitive, and broken down in spirit, while the victorious allies were
approaching the capital.
At the first intelligence of his return, Hortense hastened to the
Elysee, where he had taken up his residence, to greet him. During the
last few days she had been a prey to gloomy thoughts; now that the
danger had come, now when all were despairing, she was composed,
resolute, and ready to stand at the emperor's side to the last.
Napoleon was lost, and Hortense knew it; but he now had most need of
friends, and she remained true, while so many of his nearest friends and
relatives were deserting him.
On the twenty-second day of June the emperor sent in his abdication in
favor of his son, the King of Rome, to the chambers; and a week later
the chambers proclaimed Napoleon's son Emperor of France, under the name
of Napoleon II.
But this emperor was a child of four years, and was, moreover, not in
France, but in the custody of the Emperor of Austria, whose army was now
marching on Paris with hostile intent!
Napoleon, now no longer Emperor of France, had been compelled to take
the crown from his head a second time; and for the second time he
quitted Paris to await the destiny to be appointed him by the allies.
This time he did not repair to Fontainebleau, but to Malmaison--to
Malmaison, that had once been Josephine's paradise, and where her heart
had at last bled to death. This charming resort had passed into the
possession of Queen Hortense; and Napoleon, who but yesterday had ruled
over a whole empire, and to-day could call nothing, not even the space
of ground on which he stood, his own, Napoleon asked Hortense to receive
him at Malmaison.
Hortense accorded his request joyfully, and, when her friends learned
this, and in their dismay and anxiety conjured her not to identify in
this manner herself and children with the fate of the emperor, but to
consider well the danger that would result from such a course, the queen
replied resolutely: "That is an additional reason for holding firm to my
determination. I consider it my sacred duty to remain true to the
emperor to the last, and the greater the danger that threatens the
emperor, the happier I shall be in having it in my power to show him my
entire devotion and gratitude."
And when, in this decision, when her whole future hung in the balance,
one of her most intimate lady-friends ventured to remind the queen of
the disgraceful and malicious reports that had once been put in
circulation with regard to her relation to Napoleon, and suggested that
she would give new strength to them by now receiving the emperor at
Malmaison, Hortense replied with dignity: "What do I care for these
calumnies? I fulfil the duty imposed on me by feeling and principle. The
emperor has always treated me as his child; I shall therefore ever
remain his devoted and grateful daughter; it is my first and greatest
necessity to be at peace with myself."
[Footnote 52: Cochelet, vol. iii., p. 149.]
Hortense therefore repaired with the emperor to Malmaison, and the
faithful, who were not willing to leave him in his misfortune, gathered
around him, watched over his life, and gave to his residence a fleeting
reflection of the old grandeur and magnificence. For they who now stood
around Napoleon, guarding his person from any immediate danger that
threatened him at the hands of fanatic enemies or hired assassins, were
marshals, generals, dukes, and princes.
But Napoleon's fate was already decided--it was an inevitable one, and
when the intelligence reached Malmaison that the enemy was approaching
nearer and nearer, and that resistance was no longer made anywhere, and
when Napoleon saw that all was lost, his throne, his crown, and even the
love which he imagined he had for ever built up for himself in the
hearts of the French people by his great deeds and victories--when he
saw this he determined to fly, no matter whither, but away from the
France that would no longer rally to his call, the France that had
The emperor resolved to fly to Rochefort, and to embark there in order
to return to Elba. The provisional government that had established
itself in Paris, and had sent an ambassador to Napoleon at Malmaison
with the demand that he should depart at once, now instructed this
ambassador to accompany the emperor on his journey, and not to leave him
until he should have embarked.
Napoleon was ready to comply with this demand. He determined to depart
on the afternoon of the 30th of June. He had nothing more to do but to
take leave of his friends and family. He did this with cold, tearless
composure, with an immovable, iron countenance; no muscle of his face
quivered, and his glance was severe and imperious.
But, when Hortense brought in her two sons, when he had clasped them in
his arms for the last time, then a shadow passed over his countenance;
then his pale compressed lips quivered, and he turned away to conceal
the tears that stood in his eyes.
But Hortense had seen them, and in her heart she preserved the
remembrance of these tears as the most precious gem of her departed
fortune. As the emperor then turned to her to bid her adieu in his
former cold and immovable manner, Hortense, who well knew that a volcano
of torments must be glowing under this cold lava, entreated him to grant
her a last favor.
A painful smile illumined the emperor's countenance for a moment. There
was, it seemed, still something that he could grant; he was not
altogether powerless! With a mute inclination of the head he signified
his assent. Hortense handed him a broad black belt.
"Sire," said she, "wear this belt around your body and beneath your
clothing. Conceal it carefully, but in the time of necessity remember it
and open it."
The emperor took the belt in his hand, and its weight startled him.
"What does it contain?" asked he: "I must know what it contains!"
"Sire," said Hortense, blushing and hesitating: "Sire, it is my large
diamond necklace that I have taken apart and sewed in this belt. Your
majesty may need money in a critical moment, and you will not deny me
this last happiness, your acceptance of this token."
The emperor refused, but Hortense entreated him so earnestly that he was
at last compelled to yield, and accept this love-offering.
They then took a hasty and mute leave of each other, and Hortense, in
order to hide her tears, hastened with her children from the room.
The emperor summoned a servant, and ordered that no one else should be
admitted; but at this moment the door was hastily thrown open, and a
national guard entered the room.
"Talma!" exclaimed the emperor, almost gayly, as he extended his hand.
"Yes, Talma, sire," said he, pressing the emperor's hand to his lips.
"I disguised myself in this dress, in order that I might get here to
take leave of your majesty."
"To take leave, never to see each other more," said the emperor, sadly.
"I shall never be able to admire you in your great _roles_ again, Talma.
I am about to depart, never to return again. You will play the emperor
on many an evening, but not I, Talma! My part is at an end!"
"No, sire, you will always remain the emperor!" exclaimed Talma, with
generous enthusiasm; "the emperor, although without the crown and the
"And also the emperor without a people," said Napoleon.
"Sire, you have a people that will ever remain yours, and a throne that
is imperishable! It is the throne that you have erected for yourself on
the battle-fields, that will be recorded in the books of history. And
every one, no matter to what nation he may belong, who reads of your
great deeds, will be inspired by them, and will acknowledge himself to
be one of your people, and bow down before the emperor in reverence."
"I have no people," murmured Napoleon, gloomily; "they have all
deserted--all betrayed me, Talma!"
"Sire, they will some day regret, as Alexander of Russia will also one
day regret, having deserted the great man he once called brother!" And,
in his delicate and generous endeavor to remind Napoleon of one of his
moments of grandeur, Talma continued: "Your majesty perhaps remembers
that evening at Tilsit, when the Emperor of Russia made you so tender a
declaration of his love, publicly and before the whole world? But no,
you cannot remember it; for you it was a matter of no moment; but I--I
shall never forget it! It was at the theatre; we were playing 'Oedipus.'
I looked up at the box in which your majesty sat, between the King of
Prussia and the Emperor Alexander. I could see you only--the second
Alexander of Macedon, the second Julius Caesar--and I held my arms aloft
and saw you only when I repeated the words of my part: 'The friendship
of a great man is a gift of the gods!' And as I said this, the Emperor
Alexander arose and pressed you to his heart. I saw this, and tears
choked my utterance. The audience applauded rapturously; this applause
was, however, not for me, but for the Emperor Alexander!"
[Footnote 53: This scene is entirely historical. See Bossuet, Memoires;
Bourrienne, Memoires; Cochelet and Une Femme de Qualite.]
While Talma was speaking, his cheeks glowing and his eyes flashing, a
rosy hue suffused the emperor's countenance, and, for an instant, he
smiled. Talma had attained his object; he had raised up the humiliated
emperor with the recital of his own grandeur.
Napoleon thanked him with a kindly glance, and extended his hand to bid
As Talma approached the emperor, a carriage was heard driving up in
front of the house. It was Letitia, the emperor's mother, who had come
to take leave of her son. Talma stood still, in breathless suspense; in
his heart he thanked Providence for permitting him to witness this
"Madame mere" walked past Talma in silence, and without observing him.
She saw only her son, who stood in the middle of the room, his sombre
and flashing glance fastened on her with an unutterable expression. Now
they stood face to face, mother and son. The emperor's countenance
remained immovable as though hewn out of marble.
They stood face to face in silence, but two great tears slowly trickled
down the mother's cheeks. Talma stood in the background, weeping
bitterly. Napoleon remained unmoved. Letitia now raised both hands and
extended them to the emperor. "Adieu, my son!" said she, in full and
Napoleon pressed her hands in his own, and gazed at her long and
fixedly; and then, with the same firmness, he said: "My mother, adieu!"
Once more they gazed at each other; then the emperor let her hand fall.
Letitia turned to go, and at this moment General Bertrand appeared at
the door to announce that all was prepared for the journey.
[Footnote 54: This leave-taking was exactly as above described, and
Talma himself narrated it to Louise de Cochelet. See her Memoires, vol.
iii, P. 173.]
_THE DUCHESS OF ST. LEU_.
THE BANISHMENT OF THE DUCHESS OF ST. LEU.
For the second time, the Bourbons had entered Paris under the protection
of the allies, and Louis XVIII. was once more King of France. But this
time he did not return with his former mild and conciliatory
disposition. He came to punish and to reward; he came unaccompanied by
mercy. The old generals and marshals of the empire, who had not been
able to resist their chieftain's call, were now banished, degraded, or
executed. Ney and Labedoyere paid for their fidelity to the emperor with
their blood; and all who were in any way connected with the Bonapartes
were relentlessly pursued. The calumnies that had been circulated in
1814 against the Duchess of St. Leu were now to bear bitter fruit. These
were the dragon's teeth from which the armed warriors had sprung, who
now levelled their swords at the breast of a defenceless woman.
King Louis had returned to the throne of his fathers, but he had not
forgotten that he had been told on his flight: "The Duchess of St. Leu
is to blame for all! Her intrigues have brought Napoleon back!" Now that
he was again king, he thought of it, and determined to punish her. He
requested it of Alexander, as a favor, that he should this time not call
on the Duchess of St. Leu.
The emperor, dismayed by the odious reports in circulation concerning
Hortense, and already enchained in the mystic glittering web with which
Madame de Kruedener had enveloped him, and separated from the reality of
the world, acceded to the wishes of the Bourbons, and abandoned the
queen. This was the signal that let loose the general wrath of the
royalists; they could now freely utter their scorn and malice. By low
calumnies they could now compensate themselves for their humiliation of
the past, for having been compelled to approach the daughter of
Viscountess de Beauharnais with the reverence due to a queen.
They could pursue the step-daughter of the emperor with boundless fury,
for this very fury proved their royalism, and to hate and calumniate
Bonaparte and his family was to love and flatter the Bourbons.
Day by day these royalists hurled new accusations against the duchess,
whose presence in Paris unpleasantly recalled the days of the empire,
and whom they desired to remove from their sight, as well as the column
on the _Place Vendome_.
While the poor queen was living in the retirement of her apartments, in
sadness and desolation, the report was circulated that she was again
conspiring, and that she was in the habit of leaving her house every
evening at twilight, in order to incite the populace to rise and demand
the emperor's return, or at least the instalment of the little King of
Rome on the throne instead of Louis de Bourbon.
When the queen's faithful companion, Louise de Cochelet, informed her of
these calumnies, Hortense remained cold and indifferent.
"Madame," exclaimed Louise, "you listen with as much composure as if I
were reciting a story of the last century!"
"And it interests me as little," said Hortense, earnestly; "we have lost
all, and I consider any blow that may still strike us, with the
composure of an indifferent spectator. I consider it natural that they
should endeavor to caluminate me, because I bear a name that has made
the whole world tremble, and that will still be great, though we all be
trodden in the dust. But I will shield myself and children from this
hatred. We will leave France and go to Switzerland, where I possess a
little estate on the Lake of Geneva."
But time was not allowed the duchess to prepare for her departure. The
dogs of calumny and hatred were let loose upon her to drive her from the
city. A defenceless woman with two young children seemed to be an object
of anxiety and terror to the government, and it made haste to get rid
On the morning of the 17th of July, an adjutant of the Prussian General
de Mueffling, the allied commandant of Paris, came to the dwelling of the
Duchess of St. Leu, and informed her intendant, M. Deveaux, that the
duchess must leave Paris within two hours, and it was only at the urgent
solicitation of the intendant, that a further sojourn of four hours was
Hortense was compelled to conform to this military command, and depart
without arranging her affairs or making any preparations for her
journey. Her only possession consisted of jewelry, and this she of
course intended to take with her. But she was warned that a troop of
enraged Bourbonists, who knew of her approaching departure, had quitted
Paris to lie in wait for her on her road, "in order to rob her of the