Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Happy Days of the Empress Marie Louise by Imbert De Saint-Amand

Part 1 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Charles Aldarondo, Tiffany Vergon,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team












II. 1809































In 1814, while Napoleon was banished in the island of Elba, the Empress
Marie Louise and her grandmother, Marie Caroline, Queen of Naples,
happened to meet at Vienna. The one, who had been deprived of the French
crown, was seeking to be put in possession of her new realm, the Duchy
of Parma; the other, who had fled from Sicily to escape the yoke of her
pretended protectors, the English, had come to demand the restitution of
her kingdom of Naples, where Murat continued to rule with the connivance
of Austria. This Queen, Marie Caroline, the daughter of the great
Empress, Maria Theresa, and the sister of the unfortunate Marie
Antoinette, had passed her life in detestation of the French Revolution
and of Napoleon, of whom she had been one of the most eminent victims.
Well, at the very moment when the Austrian court was doing its best to
make Marie Louise forget that she was Napoleon's wife and to separate
her from him forever, Marie Caroline was pained to see her granddaughter
lend too ready an ear to their suggestions. She said to the Baron de
Meneval, who had accompanied Marie Louise to Vienna: "I have had, in my
time, very good cause for complaining of your Emperor; he has persecuted
me and wounded my pride,--I was then at least fifteen years old,--but
now I remember only one thing,--that he is unfortunate." Then she went
on to say that if they tried to keep husband and wife apart, Marie
Louise would have to tie her bedclothes to her window and run away in
disguise. "That," she exclaimed, "that's what I should do in her place;
for when people are married, they are married for their whole life!"

If a woman like Queen Marie Caroline, a sister of Marie Antoinette, a
queen driven from her throne by Napoleon, could feel in this way, it is
easy to understand the severity with which those of the French who were
devoted to the Emperor, regarded the conduct of his ungrateful wife. In
the same way, Josephine, in spite of her occasionally frivolous conduct,
has retained her popularity, because she was tender, kind, and devoted,
even after she was divorced; while Marie Louise has been criticised,
because after loving, or saying that she loved, the mighty Emperor, she
deserted him when he was a prisoner. The contrast between her conduct
and that of the wife of King Jerome, the noble and courageous Catherine
of Wurtemberg, who endured every danger, and all sorts of
persecutions, to share her husband's exile and poverty, has set in an
even clearer light the faults of Marie Louise. She has been blamed for
not having joined Napoleon at Elba, for not having even tried to temper
his sufferings at Saint Helena, for not consoling him in any way, for
not even writing to him. The former Empress of the French has been also
more severely condemned for her two morganatic marriages,--one with
Count Neipperg, an Austrian general and a bitter enemy of Napoleon, the
other with Count de Bombelles, a Frenchman who left France to enter the
Austrian service. Certainly Marie Louise was neither a model wife nor a
model widow, and there is nothing surprising in the severity with which
her contemporaries judged her, a severity which doubtless history will
not modify. But if this princess was guilty, more than one attenuating
circumstance may be urged in her defence, and we should, in justice,
remember that it was not without a struggle, without tears, distress,
and many conscientious scruples, that she decided to obey her
father's rigid orders and become again what she had been before her
marriage,--simply an Austrian princess.

It must not be forgotten that the Empress Marie Louise, who was in two
ways the grandniece of Queen Marie Antoinette, through her mother Maria
Theresa of Naples, daughter of Queen Marie Caroline, and through her
father the Emperor Francis, son of the Emperor Leopold II., the
brother of the martyred queen, had been brought up to abhor the French
Revolution and the Empire which succeeded it. She had been taught from
the moment she left the cradle, that France was the hereditary enemy,
the savage and implacable foe, of her country. When she was a child,
Napoleon appeared to her against a background of blood, like a fatal
being, an evil genius, a satanic Corsican, a sort of Antichrist. The few
Frenchmen whom she saw at the Austrian court were emigres, who saw in
Napoleon nothing but the selfish revolutionist, the friend of the young
Robespierre, the creature of Barras, the defender of the members of the
Convention, the man of the 13th of Vendemiaire, the murderer of the Duke
of Enghien, the enemy of all the thrones of Europe, the author of the
treachery of Bayonne, the persecutor of the Pope, the excommunicated
sovereign. Twice he had driven Austria to the brink of ruin, and it had
even been said that he wished to destroy it altogether, like a second
Poland. The young archduchess had never heard the hero of Austerlitz
and Wagram spoken of, except in terms inspired by resentment, fear,
and hatred. Could she, then, in a single day learn to love the man who
always had been held up before her as a second Attila, as the scourge of
God? Hence, when she came to contemplate the possibility of her marriage
with him, she was overwhelmed with surprise, terror, and repulsion, and
her first idea was to regard herself as a victim to be sacrificed to
a vague Minotaur. We find this word "sacrifice" on the lips of the
Austrian statesmen who most warmly favored the French alliance, even of
those who had counselled and arranged the match. The Austrian ambassador
in Paris, the Prince of Swartzenberg, wrote to Metternich, February 8,
1810, "I pity the princess; but let her remember that it is a fine thing
to bring peace to such good people!" And Metternich wrote back, February
15, to the Prince of Swartzenberg, "The Archduchess Marie Louise sees
in the suggestion made to her by her August father, that Napoleon may
include her in his plans, only a means of proving to her beloved father
the most absolute devotion. She feels the full force of the sacrifice,
but her filial love will outweigh all other considerations." Having been
brought up in the habit of severe discipline and passive obedience, she
belonged to a family in which the Austrian princesses are regarded as
the docile instruments of the greatness of the Hapsburgs. Consequently,
she resigned herself to following her father's wishes without a murmur,
but not without sadness. What Marie Louise thought at the time of her
marriage she still thought in the last years of her life. General de
Trobriand, the Frenchman who won distinction on the northern side in the
American civil war, told me recently how painfully surprised he was when
once at Venice he had heard Napoleon's widow, then the wife of Count de
Bombelles, say, in speaking of her marriage to the great Emperor, "I was

Austria was covered with ruins, its hospitals were crowded with wounded
French and Austrians, and in the ears of Viennese still echoed the
cannon of Wagram, when salvos of artillery announced not war, but this
marriage. The memories of an obstinate struggle, which both sides had
regarded as one for life or death, was still too recent, too terrible to
permit a complete reconciliation between the two nations. In fact, the
peace was only a truce. To facilitate the formal entry of Napoleon's
ambassador into Vienna, it had been necessary hastily to build a bridge
over the ruins of the walls which the French had blown up a few months
earlier, as a farewell to the inhabitants. Marie Louise, who started
with tears in her eyes, trembled as she drew near the French territory,
which Marie Antoinette had found so fatal.

Soon this first impression wore off, and the young Empress was
distinctly flattered by the amazing splendor of her throne, the most
powerful in the world. And yet amid this Babylonian pomp, and all the
splendor, the glory, the flattery, which could gratify a woman's heart,
she did not cease to think of her own country. One day when she was
standing at a window of the palace of Saint Cloud, gazing thoughtfully
at the view before her, M. de Meneval ventured to ask the cause of the
deep revery in which she appeared to be sunk. She answered that as she
was looking at the beautiful view, she was surprised to find herself
regretting the neighborhood of Vienna, and wishing that some magic wand
might let her see even a corner of it. At that time Marie Louise was
afraid that she would never see her country again, and she sighed. What
glory or greatness can wipe out the touching memories of infancy?

Doubtless Napoleon treated his wife with the utmost regard and
consideration; but in the affection with which he inspired her there
was, we fancy, more admiration than tenderness. He was too great for
her. She was fascinated, but troubled by so great power and so great
genius. She had the eyes of a dove, and she needed the eyes of an eagle,
to be able to look at the Imperial Sun, of which the hot rays dazzled
her. She would have preferred less glory, less majesty, fewer triumphs,
with her simple and modest tastes, which were rather those of a
respectable citizen's wife than of a queen. Her husband, amid his
courtiers, who flocked about him as priests flock about an idol, seemed
to her a demi-god rather than a man, and she would far rather have been
won by affection than overwhelmed by his superiority.

It is not to be supposed, however, that Marie Louise was unhappy before
the catastrophes that accompanied the fall of the Empire. It was in
perfect sincerity that she wrote to her father in praise of her husband,
and her joy was great when she gave birth to a child, who seemed a
pledge of peace and of general happiness. Let us add that the Emperor
never had an occasion to find fault with her. Her gentleness, reserve,
and obedience formed the combination of qualities which her husband
desired. He had never imagined an Empress more exactly to his taste.
When she deserted him, he was more ready to excuse and pity her than to
cast blame upon her. He looked upon her as the slave and victim of the
Viennese court. Moreover, he was in perfect ignorance of her love for
the Count of Neipperg, and no shadow of jealousy tormented him at Saint
Helena. "You may be sure," he said a few days before his death, "that if
the Empress makes no effort to ease my woes, it is because she is kept
surrounded by spies, who never let my sufferings come to her ears; for
Marie Louise is virtue itself." A pleasant delusion, which consoled the
final moments of the great man, whose last thoughts were for his wife
and son.

We fancy that the Emperor of Austria was sincere in the protestations
of affection and friendship which he made to Napoleon shortly after the
wedding. He then entertained no thoughts of dethroning or fighting him.
He had hopes of securing great advantage from the French alliance, and
he would have been much surprised if any one had foretold to him how
soon he would become one of the most active agents in the overthrow of
this son-in-law to whom he expressed such affectionate feelings. In 1811
he was sincerely desirous that the King of Rome should one day succeed
Napoleon on the throne of the vast empire. At that time hatred of France
had almost died out in Austria; it was only renewed by the disastrous
Russian campaign. The Austrians, who could not wholly forget the past,
did not love Napoleon well enough to remain faithful to him in
disaster. Had he been fortunate, the hero of Wagram would have preserved
his father-in-law's sympathy and the Austrian alliance; but being
unfortunate, he lost both at once. Unlike the rulers of the old
dynasties, he was condemned either to perpetual victory or to ruin. He
needed triumphs instead of ancestors, and the slightest loss of glory
was for him the token of irremediable decay; incessant victory was the
only condition on which he could keep his throne, his wife, his son,
himself. One day he asked Marie Louise what instructions she had
received from her parents in regard to her conduct towards him. "To be
wholly yours," she answered, "and to obey you in everything." Might she
not have added, "So long as you are not unfortunate"?

But who at the beginning of that fatal year, 1812, could have foretold
the catastrophes which were so near? When Marie Louise was with Napoleon
at Dresden, did he not appear to her like the arbiter of the world,
an invincible hero, an Agamemnon, the king of kings? Never before,
possibly, had a man risen so high. Sovereigns seemed lost amid the crowd
of courtiers. Among the aides-de-camp was the Crown Prince of Prussia,
who was obliged to make special recommendations to those near him to pay
a little attention to his father-in-law, the Emperor of Austria. What
power, what pride, what faith in his star, when, drawing all Europe
after him, he bade farewell to his wife May 29, 1812, to begin that
gigantic war which he thought was destined to consolidate all his
greatness and to crown all his glories! But he had not counted on the
burning of Moscow: there is in the air a zone which the highest balloons
cannot pierce; once there, ascent means death. This zone, which exists
also in power, good fortune, glory, as well as in the atmosphere,
Napoleon had reached. At the height of his prosperity he had forgotten
that God was about to say to him: Thou shalt go no further.

At the first defeat Marie Louise perceived that the brazen statue had
feet of clay. Malet's conspiracy filled her with gloomy thoughts. It
became evident that the Empire was not a fixed institution, but a single
man; in case this man died or lived defeated, everything was gone.
December 12, 1812, the Empress went to her bed in the Tuileries, sad and
ill. It was half-past eleven in the evening. The lady-in-waiting, who
was to pass the night in a neighboring room, was about to lock all the
doors when suddenly she heard voices in the drawing-room close by. Who
could have come at that hour? Who except the Emperor? And, in fact, it
was he, who, without word to any one, had just arrived unexpectedly in a
wretched carriage, and had found great difficulty in getting the palace
doors opened. He had travelled incognito from the Beresina, like a
fugitive, like a criminal. As he passed through Warsaw he had exclaimed
bitterly and in amazement at his defeat, "There is but one step from the
sublime to the ridiculous." When he burst into his wife's bedroom in his
long fur coat, Marie Louise could not believe her eyes. He kissed her
affectionately, and promised her that all the disasters recounted in the
twenty-ninth bulletin should be soon repaired; he added that he had been
beaten, not by the Russians, but by the elements. Nevertheless, the
decadence had begun; his glory was dimmed; Marie Louise began to have
doubts of Napoleon. His courtiers continued to flatter him, but they
ceased to worship him. A dark cloud lay over the Tuileries. The Empress
had but a few days to pass with her husband. He had been away for nearly
six months, from May 29 till December 12, 1812, and he was to leave
again April 15, 1813, to return only November 9. The European sovereigns
could not have continued in alliance with him even if they had wished
it, so irresistible was the movement of their subjects against him.
After Leipsic everything was lost; that was the signal of the death
struggle, which was to be long, terrible, and full of anguish. Europe
listened in terror to the cries of the dying Empire. But it was all
over. The sacred soil of France was invaded. January 25, 1814, at three
in the morning, the hero left the Tuileries to oppose the invaders. He
kissed his wife and his son for the last time. He was never to see them
again. In all, Napoleon had passed only two years and eight months with
Marie Louise; she had had hardly time enough to become attached to him.
Napoleon's sword was broken; he arrived before Paris too late to save
the city, which had just capitulated, and the foreigners were about to
make their triumphal entrance. Could a woman of twenty-two be strong
enough to withstand the tempest? Would she be brave enough, could she
indeed remain in Paris without disobeying Napoleon? Was not flight a
duty for the hapless sovereign? The Emperor had written to his brother,
King Joseph: "In no case must you let the Empress and the King of Rome
fall into the enemy's hands. Do not abandon my son, and remember that
I had rather see him in the Seine than in the hands of the enemies of
France. The lot of Astyanax, a prisoner among the Greeks, has always
seemed to me the unhappiest in history." But, alas! in spite of the
great Emperor's precautions, the King of Rome was condemned by fate
to be the modern Astyanax, and Marie Louise was not as constant as

The allied forces drew near, and there was no more time for flight.
March 29, 1814, horses and carriages had been stationed in the Carrousel
since the morning. At seven o'clock Marie Louise was dressed and ready
to leave, but they could not abandon hope; they wished still to await
some possible bit of good news which should prevent their leaving,--an
envoy from Napoleon, a messenger from King Joseph. The officers of the
National Guard were anxious to have the Empress stay. "Remain," they
urged; "we swear to defend you." Marie Louise thanked them through her
tears, but the Emperor's orders were positive; on no account were the
Empress and the King of Rome to fall into the enemy's hands. The peril
grew. Ever since four o'clock Marie Louise had kept putting off the
moment of leaving, in expectation that something would turn up. Eleven
struck, and the Minister of War came, declaring there was not a moment
to lose. One would have thought that the little King of Rome, who was
just three years old, knew that he was about to go, never to return.
"Don't go to Rambouillet," he cried to his mother; "that's a gloomy
castle; let us stay here." And he clung to the banisters, struggling
with the equerry who was carrying him, weeping and shouting, "I don't
want to leave my house; I don't want to go away; since papa is away, I
am the master." Marie Louise was impressed by this childish opposition;
a secret voice told her that her son was right; that by abandoning the
capital, they surrendered it to the Royalists. But the lot was cast, and
they had to leave. A mere handful of indifferent spectators, attracted
by no other feeling than curiosity, watched the flight of the sovereign
who, four years before, had made her formal entrance into this same
palace of the Tuileries under a triumphal arch, amid noisy acclamations.
There was not a tear in the eyes of the few spectators; they uttered no
sound, they made no movement of sympathy or regret; there was only a
sullen silence. But one person wept, and that was Marie Louise. When she
had reached the Champs Elysees, she cast a last sad glance at the palace
she was never to see again. It was not a flight, but a funeral.

The Empress and the King of Rome took refuge at Blois, where there
appeared a faint shadow of Imperial government. On Good Friday, April
8, Count Shouvaloff reached Blois with a detachment of Cossacks, and
carried Marie Louise and her son to Rambouillet, where the Emperor of
Austria was to join them. What Napoleon had feared was soon realized.

April 16, the Emperor of Austria was at Blois. Marie Louise, who two
years before had left her father, starting on her triumphal journey to
Prague, amid all form of splendor and devotion, was much moved at seeing
him again, and placed the King of Rome in his arms, as if to reproach
him for deserting the child's cause. The grandfather relented, but the
monarch was stern: did he not soon say to Marie Louise: "As my daughter,
everything that I have is yours, even my blood and my life; as a
sovereign, I do not know you"? The Russian sentinels at the entrance
of the castle of Rambouillet were relieved by Austrian grenadiers. The
Empress of the French changed captors; she was the prisoner no longer of
the Czar's soldiers, but of her own father. Her conjugal affection was
not yet wholly extinct, and she reproached herself with not having
joined Napoleon at Fontainebleau; but her scruples were soon allayed by
the promise that she should soon see her husband again at Elba. She was
told that the treaty which had just been signed gave her, and after her,
her son, the duchies of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla; that the King of
Rome was henceforth the hereditary Duke of Parma; that if she had duties
as a wife, she also had duties as a mother; that she ought to gain the
good-will of the powers, and assure her child's future. They added that
she ought to give her husband time to establish himself at Elba, and
that meanwhile she would find in Vienna, near her loving parents, a few
weeks of moral and physical rest, which must be very necessary after so
many emotions and sufferings. Marie Louise, who had been brought up to
give her father strict obedience, regarded the advice of the Emperor of
Austria as commands which were not to be questioned, and April 23 she
left Rambouillet with her son for Vienna.

Did the dethroned Empress carry away with her a pleasant memory of
France and the French people? We do not think so; and, to be frank,
was what had just happened likely to give her a favorable idea of the
country she was leaving? Could she have much love for the people who
were fastening a rope to pull down the statue of the hero of Austerlitz
from its pedestal, the Vendome column? When her father, the Emperor
Francis I., had been defeated, driven from his capital, overwhelmed with
the blows of fate, his misfortunes had only augmented his popularity;
the more he suffered, the more he was loved. But for Napoleon, who was
so adored in the day of triumph, how was he treated in adversity? What
was the language of the Senate, lately so obsequious and servile? The
men on whom the Emperor had literally showered favors, called him
contemptuously Monsieur de Bonaparte. What did they do to save the crown
of the King of Rome, whose cradle they had saluted with such noisy
acclamations? Were not the Cossacks who went to Blois after the Empress
rapturously applauded by the French, in Paris itself, upon the very
boulevards? Did not the marshals of the Empire now serve as an escort
to Louis XVIII.? Where were the eagles, the flags, and the tricolored
cockades? When Napoleon was passing through Provence on his way to take
possession of his ridiculous realm of Elba, he was compelled to wear an
Austrian officer's uniform to escape being put to death by Frenchmen;
the imperial mantle was exchanged for a disguise. It is true that Marie
Louise abandoned the French; but did not the French abandon her and her
son after the abdication of Fontainebleau; and if this child did not
become Napoleon II., is not the fault theirs? And did she not do
all that could be demanded of her as regent? Can she be accused of
intriguing with the Allies; and if at the last moment she left Paris,
was it not in obedience to her husband's express command? She might well
have said what fifty-six years later the second Emperor said so sadly
when he was a prisoner in Germany: "In France one must never be
unfortunate." What was then left for her to do in that volcano, that
land which swallows all greatness and glory, amid that fickle people
who change their opinions and passions as an actress changes her dress?
Where Napoleon, with all his genius, had made a complete failure, could
a young, ignorant woman be reasonably expected to succeed in the face of
all Europe? Were her hands strong enough to rebuild the colossal edifice
that lay in ruins upon the ground?

Such were the reflections of Marie Louise as she was leaving France. The
moment she touched German soil, all the ideas, impressions, feelings of
her girlhood, came back to her, and naturally enough; for were there not
many instances in the last war, of German women, married to Frenchmen,
who rejoiced in the German successes, and of French women, married to
Germans, who deplored them? Marriage is but an incident; one's nature is
determined at one's birth. In Austria, Marie Louise found again the same
sympathy and affection that she had left there. There was a sort of
conspiracy to make her forget France and love Germany. The Emperor
Francis persuaded her that he was her sole protector, and controlled her
with the twofold authority of a father and a sovereign. She who a few
days before had been the Empress of the French, the Queen of Italy, the
Regent of a vast empire, was in her father's presence merely a humble
and docile daughter, who told him everything, obeyed him in everything,
who abdicated her own free will, and promised, even swore, to entertain
no other ideas or wishes than such as agreed with his.

Nevertheless, when she arrived at Vienna, Marie Louise had by no means
completely forgotten France and Napoleon. She still had Frenchmen in her
suite; she wrote to her husband and imagined that she would be allowed
to visit him at Elba, but she perfectly understood all the difficulties
of the double part she was henceforth called upon to play. She felt that
whatever she might do she would be severely criticised; that it would
be almost impossible to secure the approval of both her father and her
husband. Since she was intelligent enough to foresee that she would be
blamed by her contemporaries and by posterity, was she not justified in
lamenting her unhappy lot? She, who under any other conditions would
have been an excellent wife and mother, was compelled by extraordinary
circumstances to appear as a heartless wife and an indifferent mother.
This thought distressed Marie Louise, who at heart was not thoroughly
contented with herself. She wrote, under date of August 9, 1814: "I am
in a very unhappy and critical position; I must be very prudent in my
conduct. There are moments when that thought so distracts me that I
think that the best thing I could do would be to die."

When Napoleon returned from Elba, the situation of Marie Louise, so far
from improving, became only more difficult. She had no illusions about
the fate that awaited her audacious husband, who was unable to contend,
single-handed, against all Europe. She knew better than any one, not
only that he had nothing to hope from the Emperor of Austria, his
father-in-law, but that in this sovereign he would find a bitter,
implacable foe. As to the Emperor Alexander, he swore that he would
sacrifice his last ruble, his last soldier, before he would consent to
let Napoleon reign in France. Marie Louise knew too well the feeling
that animated the Congress at Vienna, to imagine that her husband had
the slightest chance of success. She was convinced that by returning
from Elba, he was only preparing for France a new invasion, and for
himself chains. Since she was a prisoner of the Coalition, she was
condemned to widowhood, even in the lifetime of her husband. She cannot
then be blamed for remaining at Vienna, whence escape was absolutely

Marie Louise committed one great error; that, namely, of writing that
inasmuch as she was entirely without part in the plans of the Emperor
Napoleon, she placed herself under the protection of the Allies,--Allies
who at that very moment were urging the assassination of her husband,
in the famous declaration of March 13, 1815, in which they said: "By
breaking the convention, which established him on the island of Elba,
Bonaparte has destroyed the only legal title on which his existence
depended. By reappearing in France, with plans of disturbance and
turmoil, he has, by his own act, forfeited the protection of the laws,
and has shown to the world that there can be no peace or truce with him
as a party. The Powers consequently declare that Napoleon Bonaparte has
placed himself outside of all civil and social relations, and that as an
enemy and disturber of the world's peace, he exposes himself to public
vengeance." April 16, at the moment when the processions designed to
pray for the success of the Austrian armies, were going through the
streets of Vienna to visit the Cathedral and the principal churches,
the Empress of Austria dared to ask the former Empress of the French to
accompany the processions with the rest of the court; but Marie Louise
rejected the insulting proposal. The 6th of May next, when M. de
Meneval, who was about to return to France, came to bid farewell and to
receive her commands, she spoke to this effect to the faithful subject
who was soon to see Napoleon: "I am aware that all relations between me
and France are coming to an end, but I shall always cherish the memory
of my adopted home.... Convince the Emperor of all the good I wish him.
I hope that he will understand the misery of my position.... I shall
never assent to a divorce, but I flatter myself that he will not oppose
an amicable separation, and that he will not bear any ill feeling
towards me.... This separation has become imperative; it will in no way
affect the feelings of esteem and gratitude that I preserve." Then
she gave to M. de Meneval a gold snuff-box, bearing his initials in
diamonds, as a memento, and left him, to hide the emotion by which she
was overcome. Her emotion was not very deep, and her tears soon dried.
In 1814 she had met the man who was to make her forget her duty towards
her illustrious husband. He was twenty years older than she, and always
wore a large black band to hide the scar of a wound by which he had lost
an eye. As diplomatist and as a soldier he had been one of the most
persistent and one of the most skilful of Napoleon's enemies. General
the Count of Neipperg, as he called himself, had been especially active
in persuading two Frenchmen, Bernadotte and Murat, to take up arms
against France. Since 1814 he had been most devoted to Marie Louise, and
he felt or pretended to feel for her an affection on which she did not
fear to smile. She admitted him to her table; he became her chamberlain,
her advocate at the Congress of Vienna, her prime minister in the Duchy
of Parma, and after Napoleon's death, her morganatic husband. He had
three children by her,--two daughters (one of whom died young; the other
married the son of the Count San Vitale, Grand Chamberlain of Parma) and
one son (who took the title of Count of Montenuovo and served in the
Austrian army). Until his death in 1829 the Count of Neipperg completely
controlled Marie Louise, as Napoleon had never done.

After Waterloo, every day dimmed Marie Louise's recollections of France.
The four years of her reign--two spent in the splendor of perpetual
adoration, two in the gloom of disasters culminating in final ruin--were
like a distant dream, half a golden vision, half a hideous nightmare.
It was all but a brief episode in her life. She thoroughly deserved
the name of "the Austrian," which had been given unjustly to Marie
Antoinette; for Marie Antoinette really became a Frenchwoman. The
Duchess of Parma--for that was the title of the woman who had worn the
two crowns of France and of Italy--lived more in her principality than
in Vienna, more interested in the Count of Neipperg than in the Duke of
Reichstadt. While her son never left the Emperor Francis, she reigned
in her little duchy. But the title was to expire at her death; for the
Coalition had feared to permit a son of Napoleon to have an hereditary
claim to rule over Parma. Yet Marie Louise cannot properly be called
a bad mother. She went to close the eyes of her son, who died in his
twenty-second year, of consumption and disappointment.

By this event was broken the last bond which attached Napoleon's widow
to the imperial traditions. In 1833 she was married, for the third time,
to a Frenchman, the son of an emigre in the Austrian service. He was a
M. de Bombelles, whose mother had been a Miss Mackan, an intimate friend
of Madame Elisabeth, and had married the Count of Bombelles, ambassador
of Louis XVI. in Portugal, and later in Venice, who took orders after
his wife's death and became Bishop of Amiens under the Restoration.
Marie Louise, who died December 17, 1847, aged fifty-six, lived in
surroundings directly hostile to Napoleon's glory. Her ideas in
her last years grew to resemble those of her childhood, and she was
perpetually denouncing the principles of the French Revolution and of
the liberalism which pursued her even in the Duchy of Parma. France has
reproached her with abandoning Napoleon, and still more perhaps for
having given two obscure successors to the most famous man of modern

If Marie Louise is not a very sympathetic figure, no story is more
touching and more melancholy than that of her son's life and death. It
is a tale of hope deceived by reality; of youth and beauty cut down
in their flower; of the innocent paying for the guilty; of the victim
marked by fate as the expiation for others. One might say that he came
into the world only to give a lasting example of the instability of
human greatness. When he was at the point of death, worn out with
suffering, he said sadly, "My birth and my death comprise my whole
history." But this short story is perhaps richer in instruction than the
longest reigns. The Emperor's son will be known for many ages by
his three titles,--the King of Rome, Napoleon II., and the Duke
of Reichstadt. He had already inspired great poets, and given to
philosophers and Christians occasion for profound thoughts. His memory
is indissolubly bound up with that of his father, and posterity will
never forget him. Even those who are most virulent against Napoleon's
memory, feel their wrath melt when they think of his son; and when at
the Church of the Capuchins, in Vienna, a monk lights with a flickering
torch the dark tomb of the great captain's son, who lies by the side
of his grandfather, Francis II., who was at once his protector and his
jailer, deep thoughts arise as one considers the vanity of political
calculations, the emptiness of glory, of power, and of genius.

Poor boy! His birth was greeted with countless thanksgivings,
celebrations, and joyous applause. Paris was beside itself when in the
morning of March 20, 1811, there sounded the twenty-second report of a
cannon, announcing that the Emperor had, not a daughter, but a son. He
lay in a costly cradle of mother-of-pearl and gold, surmounted by a
winged Victory which seemed to protect the slumbers of the King of Rome.
The Imperial heir in his gilded baby-carriage drawn by two snow-white
sheep beneath the trees at Saint Cloud was a charming object. He was but
a year old when Gerard painted him in his cradle, playing with a cup and
ball, as if the cup were a sceptre and the ball were the world, with
which his childish hands were playing. When on the eve of the battle
of Moskowa, Napoleon was giving his final orders for the tremendous
struggle of the next day, a courier, M. de Bausset, arrived suddenly
from Paris, bringing with him this masterpiece of Gerard's; at once the
General forgot his anxieties in his paternal joy. "Gentlemen," said
Napoleon to his officers, "if my son were fifteen years old, you may be
sure that he would be here among this multitude of brave men, and not
merely in a picture." Then he had the portrait of the King of Rome set
out in front of his tent, on a chair, that the sight of it might be an
added excitement to victory. And the old grenadiers of the Imperial
Guard, the veterans with their grizzly moustaches,--the men who were
never to abandon their Emperor, who followed him to Elba, and died at
Waterloo,--heroes, as kind as they were brave, actually cried with joy
as they gazed at the portrait of this boy whose glorious future they
hoped to make sure by their brave deeds.

But what a sad future it was! Within less than two years Cossacks were
the escort of the King of Rome. When the Coalition made him a prisoner,
he was forever torn from his father. Napoleon, March 20, 1815, on this
return from Elba, re-entered triumphantly the Palace of the Tuileries
as if by miracle, but his joy was incomplete. March 20 was his son's
birthday, the day he was four years old, and the boy was not there;
his father never saw him again. At Vienna the little prince seemed the
victim of an untimely gloom; he missed his young playmates. "Any one can
see that I am not a king," he said; "I haven't any pages now."

The King of Rome had lost the childish merriment and the talkativeness
which had made him very captivating. So far from growing familiar with
those among whom he was thrown, he seemed rather to be suspicious and
distrustful of them. During the Hundred Days the private secretary of
Marie Louise left her at Vienna to return to Napoleon in France. "Have
you any message for your father?" he asked of the little prince. The boy
thought for a moment, and then, as if he were watched, led the faithful
officer up to the window and whispered to him, very low, "You will tell
him that I always love him dearly."

In spite of the many miles that separated them, the son was to be a
consolation to his father. In 1816 the prisoner at Saint Helena received
a lock of the young prince's hair, and a letter which he had written
with his hand held by some one else. Napoleon was filled with joy, and
forgot his chains. It was a renewal of the happiness he had felt on the
eve of Moskowa, when he had received the portrait of the son he loved
so warmly. Once again he summoned those who were about him and, deeply
moved, showed to them the lock of hair and the letter of his child.

For his part, the boy did not forget his father. In vain they gave him a
German title and a German name, and removed the Imperial arms with their
eagle; in vain they expunged the Napoleon from his name,--Napoleon,
which was an object of terror to the enemies of France. His Highness,
Prince Francis Charles Joseph, Duke of Reichstadt, knew very well that
his title was the King of Rome and Napoleon II. He knew that in his
veins there flowed the blood of the greatest warrior of modern times. He
had scarcely left the cradle when he began to show military tastes. When
only five, he said to Hummel, the artist, who was painting his portrait:
"I want to be a soldier. I shall fight well. I shall be in the charge."
"But," urged the artist, "you will find the bayonets of the grenadiers
in your way, and they will kill you perhaps." And the boy answered, "But
shan't I have a sword to beat down the bayonets?" Before he was seven he
wore a uniform. He learned eagerly the manual of arms; and when he was
rewarded by promotion to the grade of sergeant, he was as proud of
his stripes as he would have been of a throne. His father's career
continually occupied his thoughts and filled his imagination with a sort
of ecstasy.

At Paris the fickle multitude soon forgot the son of the Emperor. In
1820 the capital saluted the birth of the Duke of Bordeaux as it had
saluted that of the King of Rome. A close relationship united the two
children who represented two such distinct parties; their mothers were
first-cousins on both their fathers' and their mothers' side. The
Duchess of Berry, mother of the Duke of Bordeaux, was the daughter of
the King of Naples, Francis I., son of King Ferdinand IV. and Queen
Marie Caroline; and her mother was the Princess Marie Clementine,
daughter of the Emperor Leopold II. The Emperor Francis, father of the
Empress Marie Louise, was himself the son of Leopold II.; his wife was
Princess Marie Therese of Naples, daughter of Queen Marie Caroline and
aunt of the Duchess of Berry. The King of Rome and the Duke of Bordeaux
were thus in two ways second-cousins. July 22, 1821, at Schoenbrunn, in
the same room where, eleven years later, in the same month and on the
same day of the month, he was to breathe his last, the child who had
been the King of Rome learned that his father was dead. This news
plunged him into deep grief. He had been forbidden the name of Bonaparte
or Napoleon, but he was allowed to weep. The Duke of Reichstadt and his
household were allowed to wear mourning for the exile of Saint Helena.

In justice to the Emperor Francis it must be said that he showed great
affection for his grandson, whom he kept always near him, in his
chamber and in his study, and that he hid from him neither Napoleon's
misfortunes nor his successes. "I desire," he told Prince Metternich,
"that the Duke of Reichstadt shall respect his father's memory, that he
shall take example from his firm qualities and learn to recognize
his faults, in order to shun them and be on his guard against their
influence. Speak to the prince about his father as you should like to be
spoken about to your own son. Do not hide anything from him, but teach
him to honor his father's memory." Military drill, manoeuvres, strategy,
the study of great generals, especially of Napoleon, formed the young
prince's favorite occupations.

So long as the elder branch of the Bourbons reigned in France, the Duke
of Reichstadt never thought of seizing his father's crown and sceptre,
but the Revolution of 1830 suddenly kindled all his hopes. When he
learned that the tricolored flag had taken the place of the white one,
and heard of the enthusiasm that had seized the French for the men and
deeds of the Empire; when he heard the Austrian ministers continually
saying that Louis Philippe was a mere usurper who could reign but a
short time; when his grandfather, the Emperor Francis, who was the
incarnation of prudence and wisdom, said to him one day, "If the French
people should want you, and the Allies were to give their consent, I
should not oppose your taking your place on the French throne," and,
at another time, "You have only to show yourself on the bridge at
Strasbourg, and it is all up with the Orleans at Paris,"--the Duke was
carried away by a feeling of ambition, patriotism, and exaltation.
Born to glory, he imagined himself divinely summoned to a magnificent
destiny; wide and brilliant horizons opened before him. His eager
imagination was kindled by a hidden flame. In his youthful dreams he saw
himself resuscitating Poland, restoring the glories of the Empire. He
prepared for the part he was to play by studying with Marshal Marmont
the campaigns of Napoleon. These lessons lasted three months, and at
their end the Duke gave his portrait to his father's fellow-soldier, and
copied beneath it four lines from Racine's _Phedre_, in which Hippolyte
says to Theramene:--

"Having come to me with a sincere interest,
You told to me my father's story;
You know how my soul, attentive to your words,
Kindled at the recital of his noble exploits."

He was as enthusiastic for poetry as for the military profession. One
day his physician, Dr. Malfatti, quoted to him two lines from the author
of the _Meditations_:--

"Limited in his nature, infinite in his desires,
Man is a fallen god who remembers heaven."

"That's a fine thought," said the young prince; "it is as pleasing as
it is striking. I am sorry that I don't know Lamartine's poetry." The
physician promised to send him the _Meditations_. The next day the Duke
read the volume aloud; his eyes moistened and his voice broke when he
came to these lines in which the poet seemed to be addressing him:--

"Courage, fallen scion of a divine race;
You carry your celestial origin on your brow;
Every one who sees you, sees in your eyes
A darkened ray of heavenly splendor."

And, indeed, every one recognized in him a really extraordinary being;
his face, his gestures, his bearing, all had an imperial air. He seemed
born to rule in a drawing-room as well as in a barracks. He was admired
as well as loved; he was a true son of Caesar, born for success in
love as well as for glory. When he appeared in the ball-room, his pale
coloring, his lively expression, his military bearing, his proud but
quiet manners, the mingled energy and gentleness of his face, attracted
every woman's eye. When he appeared before his soldiers, he filled them
with the wildest enthusiasm. One day when he happened to be riding a
fiery horse at the review of his battalion, his superb appearance made
such an impression on the troops that, although they were accustomed to
maintain a profound silence in the ranks, they suddenly broke out into
shouts of admiration.

Yet in spite of all his ardor it was only at intervals that Napoleon's
son felt hopeful. If at one time he had confidence in his star, this
feeling soon yielded to deep depression. The brilliant prospects evoked
by the events in Poland and in France shone for but a moment, and then
vanished. The court of Vienna recognized the monarchy of July. One day
some one was urging him to go to a ball given by Marshal Maison, the
French minister at the Austrian court. "What should I do," he asked, "at
the house of Louis Philippe's ambassador? Has not his government exiled
and outlawed me? No one there could see me without blushing; and then,
too, what would my feelings be?" He became restless and silent, and
distrusted even his best friends. "Answer me, my friend," he said to his
confidant, Count Prokesch-Osten, "answer me this question,--which is one
of great importance to me just now: What do people think of me? Do
they see in me any justification for the caricatures which are forever
presenting me as a creature of the feeblest intelligence?" Count
Prokesch answered him: "Don't worry. Don't you appear in public every
day? Can even the most ignorant see you and place the slightest
confidence in such fables, which are invented by charlatans without the
least care for truth?" But the young Duke was not consoled, and every
day he lost confidence in his future. Once Count Prokesch-Osten found
him meditating upon his father's will. "The fourth paragraph of the
first article," he said, "contains the guiding principle of my life.
There my father bids me not to forget that I was born a French prince."
And we may be sure that he never forgot it; and if he was so uneasy, if
he suffered keenly, and grief drove him with startling rapidity to the
tomb, it was because he felt that fate condemned him to live and die an
Austrian prince.

His overwrought mind and body soon made him ill. He sought by violent
emotions and excessive fatigue to escape from the thoughts which were
persecuting him like spectres, and driving him to his death. In vain the
physicians commanded rest and quiet. When attacked by an incurable
lung trouble, he required absolute repose: but repose was torture; he
preferred death as a deliverance. Dr. Malfatti, who took the keenest
interest in him, and who was much disturbed by his many imprudences,
entreated him not to throw away wantonly a life which might be so well
and usefully employed. "It is a great pity, sir, that Your Highness," he
said, "can't change bodies as you change horses, when they are tired. I
beg of you to notice that you have a soul of steel in a crystal body,
and that the abuse of your will can only be pernicious to you."

The young invalid did not listen to him: he scarcely slept; his appetite
failed him; he made no account of the weather; he rode the wildest
horses the longest distances. His chest and throat became seriously
affected, but it made no difference; he still wanted to command at the
reviews. His voice was lost: soon he could not even speak; but his
illness did not depress, it only annoyed him. His energetic character
could not accustom itself to the idea of abandoning the struggle. He
fought against suffering as he had fought against fate. "Oh!" he said,
"how I despise this wretched body which cannot obey my soul!" Dr.
Malfatti said, "There seems to be in this unfortunate young man an
active principle impelling him to a sort of suicide; reasoning and
precaution are of no avail against the fatality which urges him on."

The end drew near; the completion of the sacrifice approached. The
victim did not pray that the cup might pass from his lips. He ceased to
struggle against the inevitable, and submitted to his fate, becoming
as gentle and peaceful as a child. As the earth left him, he turned to
heaven. "I understood and felt," said Count Prokesch-Osten, "all the
sublimity there is in religion, which alone could throw a light on this
man's path, through the uncertainty and darkness that surrounded him....
Religion is our staff. We can find no surer support in our journey
through the darkness of our life on earth." He had received from the
Emperor and Empress of Austria a book of prayers, called _Divine
Harmonies_, which he read over and over on his bed of suffering. It
contained these words written by his grandfather's hand: "In every
incident of your life, in every struggle of your soul, may God aid you
with His light and strength; this is the most ardent wish of your loving
grandparents." "This book is very dear to me," the prince said to his
friend, after a serious talk on religious matters; "those words, written
by relatives whom I sincerely respect and thoroughly love, have an
inestimable value for me, and yet I give it to you. I want what I most
value to go to you, in memory of what seems to me the most important of
our conversations."

When he was dying, he wanted to gaze at the crucifix, in order not to
complain of his sad lot, dying thus at the very threshold of a career
which promised to be brilliant and glorious; to go down so early to the
gloomy tomb of the Hapsburgs! To exchange his glowing visions for this
untimely end; to find an Austrian tomb instead of the throne of France!
He accepted his fate, but he wished as few witnesses as possible of his
last sufferings. He did not want to show to the world a son of Napoleon
so weak and broken. He could scarcely lift the weak, worn hand which
should have wielded Charlemagne's sword and sceptre. "I am so weak,"
he said; "I beg of you not to let any one see me in my misery!" His
sumptuous cradle he had given to the Imperial Treasury of Vienna, which
is near the Church of the Capuchins, where he was to be buried. "My
cradle and my grave will be near each other," he said. "My birth and my
death--that's my whole story." In the overthrow, by lightning, of one
of the eagles surmounting the palace of Schoenbrunn, the populace saw a
prophecy of the death there of Napoleon's son, and in fact it was there
that he died, in the room which his father had occupied in 1809, when
possibly for the first time he thought of this Austrian marriage, which
should--such at least was his dream--guarantee to the Napoleonic dynasty
unlimited power and glory. The prince desired only one thing,--to see
his mother. She came, and he greeted her with tenderness. He had also
near him his young and beautiful relative, the Archduchess Sophia, the
mother of the present Emperor of Austria. This charming princess, who
was very fond of the young man who was approaching his end, told him
that the time had come for him to receive the last sacraments. "We will
pray together," she said; "I will pray for you, and you shall pray for
me and for my unborn child." The prince, consoled and strengthened by
the aid of religion, died in the enjoyment of a firm faith and thorough
piety. "Mother, mother!" were his last words. General Hartmann said:
"Having passed my life on battle-fields, I have often seen death, but
I never saw a soldier die more bravely." The 22d of July was a very
momentous date in the career of this young prince. It was July 22, 1818,
that the title of Duke of Reichstadt was substituted for his name of
Napoleon Bonaparte; July 22, 1821, he heard of his father's death;
and July 22, 1832, he died at the age of twenty-one years four months
and two days.

We desire to make five studies of the second wife and the son of
Napoleon I. The first, which we are now beginning, covers a period of
brilliancy of infatuation, of fairy-like splendor, which in all its glow
forms a striking contrast with the dreadful shadows that follow. With
the aid of eye-witnesses whose memoirs abound with most valuable
recollections--such as Prince Metternich, who had the principal charge
of the Archduchess's marriage; M. de Bausset and General de Segur, both
attached to the Emperor Napoleon's household, so that they saw him
nearly every day; Madame Durand, the Empress's first lady-in-waiting;
Baron de Meneval, his private secretary--with their aid we shall try to
recall the brilliant past, taking for our motto that phrase of Michelet:
"History is a resurrection." An excellent work, which deserves
translation, Von Helfert's _Marie Louise, Empress of the French_, throws
a great deal of light on the early years of the mother of the King of
Rome. In the archives of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs--thanks to the
intelligent and liberal control which facilitates historic research--we
have found a great number of curious documents which had never been
published, such as letters written to Napoleon by the Emperor and
Empress of Austria, and despatches from his ambassador at Vienna, Count
Otto. This first study will carry us to the beginning of the Russian
campaign, that glorious period when the unheard-of prosperity promised
to be eternal. No darker night was ever preceded by a more brilliant
sun. Napoleon said on the rock of Saint Helena: "Marie Louise had a
short reign; but she must have enjoyed it; the world was at her feet."



Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria, Empress of the French, Queen of
Italy, afterwards Duchess of Parma, Piacenza, and Guastalla, was born
in Vienna, December 12, 1791, the daughter of Archduke Francis, Prince
Imperial, who a year later became Emperor of Germany under the name of
Francis II., and of Marie Therese, Princess of Naples, daughter of King
Ferdinand IV. and Queen Marie Caroline.

Marie Louise's father was born February 12, 1768, a year and a half
earlier than the Emperor Napoleon. He was the grandson of the great
Empress Marie Therese, and son of the Emperor Leopold II., who was the
brother of the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, and whom he succeeded
March 1, 1792; his mother was a Spanish princess, a daughter of Charles
III. of Spain. He had four wives. He was an excellent husband, but his
family affections were so strong that he could not remain a widower. In
1788 he married his first wife, Princess Elizabeth Wilhelmina Louisa
of Wurtemberg, who died February 17, 1790, in giving birth to a
daughter who lived but six months. The same year he married by proxy
at Naples, August 15, and September 19 in person at Vienna, the young
Neapolitan princess Marie Therese, daughter of Ferdinand IV. and of
Marie Caroline, who ruled over the Two Sicilies.

The young princess, who was born June 6, 1772, was then eighteen years
old. She was kind, virtuous, and well educated, and her influence at the
court of Vienna was most excellent. Her mother, who during her reign of
thirty-six years endured many trials and exhibited great qualities as
well as great faults, was a remarkable woman.

Marie Caroline, the Queen of Naples, was energetic to excess, courageous
to the point of heroism; she believed that severity and sometimes
even cruelty was demanded of a sovereign; her religion amounted to
superstition, her love of authority to despotism; she alternated between
passionate devotion to pleasure and earnest zeal for her duty; she was
ardent in her affections and implacable in resentment, intense in her
joys and in her sorrows; she was often an unwise queen, but as a
mother she was beyond reproach. Like the matrons of antiquity and her
illustrious mother, the Empress Marie Therese, she was proud of her
large family; she had no fewer than seventeen children, and political
cares never prevented her actively and intelligently caring for their
moral and physical welfare. If she had not the happiness of seeing them
all grow up, those who survived were yet the constant object of her
tender solicitude. She took a prominent part in the education of her two
sons, the Duke of Calabria and the Prince of Salerno, and still more
in that of her five daughters: Marie Therese, the wife of the Emperor
Francis II.; Marie Louise, who married the Archduke Ferdinand, Grand
Duke of Tuscany; Marie Christine, wife of Charles Felix, Duke of Genoa,
later King of Sardinia; Marie Amelie, Duchess of Orleans, then Queen of
France; Marie Antoinette, first wife of the Prince of Asturias, later
Ferdinand VII., King of Spain.

Marie Caroline was very fond of her eldest daughter, Marie Therese; and
when the princess had, in 1790, married the Archduke Francis, two years
later Emperor of Germany, the mother and daughter kept up an active and
affectionate correspondence in French. They were forever consulting each
other about their babies, which were born at about the same time. When
the daughter had given birth to her first child, the future French
Empress, the Queen congratulated her most warmly: "I congratulate you on
your courage. I am sure that when you look at your baby, which I hear
is large, sturdy, and strong, that you forget all that you have been
through." Scarcely was this child born than the Queen, who was most
anxious to have a number of descendants, besought her daughter to give
the Archduchess Marie Louise a little brother. April 17, 1793, there
was born an Archduke Ferdinand, later Emperor of Germany; and his
grandmother, Queen Marie Caroline, wrote: "I wept for joy! Thank Heaven
for the birth of this boy!" Indeed, the wife of the Emperor Francis
II. followed her mother's example with regard to her own children.
Her eldest daughter, the Archduchess Marie Louise, she educated most
carefully. The little princess, who had a most amiable disposition, was
an eager student, and acquired a good knowledge of French, English,
Italian, drawing, and music. She was brought up to respect religion and
to detest revolutionary ideas.

Her grandmother, Queen Marie Caroline, who in 1800 came to visit the
Austrian court and stayed there two years, had many conversations with
Marie Louise, which certainly were unlikely to inspire her with any
taste for the French Revolution or for General Bonaparte. It is easy to
understand how extremely the high-spirited and haughty Queen of the Two
Sicilies must have been distressed and revolted by the sufferings and
death of her sister, Marie Antoinette. There was something very solemn
in the way in which she told her children what took place in Paris
October 16, 1793. She had them all summoned. They found her dressed in
deep black, with tears in her eyes; and she led them without a word to
the chapel in the royal palace of Naples, and there, before the altar,
she told them that the people of regicides had just put their aunt to
death upon the scaffold. Then she bade them all to pray together for
the peace of the victim's soul, and probably there mingled with Marie
Caroline's prayer thoughts of wrath and vengeance. From that time
she waged against the principles and the spread of the Revolution a
relentless, implacable war, of varying result, which filled her more and
more with detestation of the new France. On the occasion of Bonaparte's
expedition to Egypt, she deemed the time ripe for a general uprising in
Italy against the French. But Championnet had taken possession of Naples
when the Parthenopean Republic had been proclaimed, and the Queen had
been obliged, with her family, to take refuge at Palermo.

In the next year, 1799, the conditions of things changed; and while
Milan was recovered by Austria, and the Russian army, led by Suwarow,
completed the expulsion of the French from Northern and Southern Italy,
the Parthenopean Republic expired, and the Bourbon flag waved once more
over the walls of Naples.

Early in 1800 the French cause seemed forever lost in Italy; General
Massena alone held out at Genoa. Queen Marie Caroline had triumphed; and
she conceived the plan of going to Austria to visit her daughter, the
Empress, and to make the acquaintance of her grandchildren, whom she
had never seen, and at the same time to demand an enlargement of her
territory in return for the sacrifices of the Kingdom of the Two
Sicilies in behalf of the common cause of the crowned heads and the
Pope. She set sail from Palermo, June 9, 1800, with her second son, the
Prince of Salerno, and her three unmarried daughters, Marie Christine,
Marie Amelie, and Marie Antoinette.

The ideas, the feelings, the principles, the prejudices, the hates, the
hopes, the interests, of Queen Marie Caroline were the same as those of
her son-in-law, the Emperor, of her daughter, the Empress, and of her
other daughter, the Grand Duchess of Tuscany. At Vienna she found the
same political feelings as at Naples. On her way thither she had a great
joy,--the news of the surrender of the French at Genoa, which caused
her to utter cries of delight; and a great sorrow,--the tidings of
the Austrian defeat at Marengo, which was such a blow that she fell
unconscious and narrowly escaped dying of apoplexy. We may readily
understand the influence which a woman of this character must have
had on the mind of her daughter, the Empress of Germany, and of her
granddaughter, the future Empress of the French. Doubtless the young
Marie Louise would have been much astonished if any one had prophesied
to her that she would marry this Bonaparte who was represented to her as
a monster. Marie Caroline did not leave Schoenbrunn to return to her own
kingdom until July 29, 1802. For two years she had worked persistently
and not without success, to augment, if that was possible, the
detestation which the court, the aristocracy, and the whole Austrian
people felt for France and French ideas. When Marie Louise was a child,
and with her little brothers and sisters used to play with toy-soldiers,
the ugliest, blackest, and most repulsive of them was always picked out
and called Bonaparte, and this one they used to prick with pins and
denounce in every way.

The war of 1805, which brought Austria to the brink of ruin, added to
the Archduchess's instinctive repulsion for Napoleon. At Vienna the
panic was extreme; the Imperial family was obliged to flee in different
directions. Marie Louise was only fourteen years old, and she was
already learning bitter lessons at the school of experience. Seeking
shelter in Hungary, and afterwards in Galicia, she prayed most warmly
for the success of the Austrians. She wrote: "Papa must be finally
successful, and the time must come when the usurper will lose heart.
Perhaps God has let him go so far to make his ruin more complete when
He shall have abandoned him." November 21, 1805, a few days before the
battle of Austerlitz, she wrote a letter to her governess's husband,
Count Colloredo, in which she said: "God must be very wroth with us,
since He punishes us so sorely. Perhaps at this very moment there is
living in one of our rooms at Schoenbrunn one of those generals who are
as treacherous as cats. Our family is all scattered: my dear parents are
at Olmuetz; we are at Kaschan; there is a third colony at Ofen."

Every sort of misfortune combined to smite this suffering family. While
the Emperor Francis was losing the battle of Austerlitz, his wife, who
was in Silesia, with only one of her children, the little Archduchess
Leopoldine, who was born in 1797 and was not yet eight years old, fell
seriously ill with the measles, and dreaded giving the disease to her
little girl. "The only thing which would make death terrible," she wrote
to her husband, "would be to die without seeing you again.... Do not
take a step that will injure you or the country. Only don't let me be
taken to France." Nothing disturbed her so much as the dread of falling
into the hands of the enemy. The details which her husband wrote to her
about his interview with Napoleon did not allay her uneasiness. "I have
been as happy," he wrote, "as I could hope to be with a conqueror who
holds possession of a large part of my kingdom. With regard to his
treatment of me and mine, he has been very kind. It is easy to see that
he is not a Frenchman." Thus the Emperor Francis ascribed to Napoleon's
Italian birth the politeness with which the hero of Austerlitz treated
him. Does not this simple statement suffice to show in what esteem the
German sovereign held France and the French character?

The Imperial family was at last reunited in Vienna, after many
vicissitudes, early in 1806. But a new misfortune awaited them the
following year. The Empress, whose health was already delicate, had a
miscarriage April 9, 1807, and a pleurisy which seized her carried her
off in four days, in due odor of sanctity, after she had given her
blessing to Marie Louise and the rest of her children. She was only
thirty-five. The untimely death of the amiable and virtuous princess,
whose gayety and kindness had been the life and delight of the court,
plunged her whole family into deep grief.

The Emperor Francis was an excellent husband, but he was not an
inconsolable widower. April 13, 1807, he lost his second wife; but less
than nine months afterwards, January 6, 1808, he married his young
cousin, Marie Louise Beatrice of Este, daughter of the late Archduke
Ferdinand of Modena. This princess, who was born December 14, 1787, was
very short, but attractive in appearance and of an excellent character.
Her disposition was pleasant and her intelligence acute, but she was not
the woman to give Marie Louise any taste for France or the French; for
if in all Europe there was a princess who utterly detested the French
Revolution and all its works, it was the third wife of Francis II.

The new Empress was but four years older than her step-daughter, Marie
Louise, and at the age of twenty-one, she looked much more like the
sister than the step-mother of the young Archduchess, who was then
in her seventeenth year. Nevertheless, the Empress took hold of the
princess's education with a high hand, and displayed as much solicitude
as if she had been her real mother.



The Emperor Francis was not without distractions during his honeymoon
with his third wife, the young Empress, Marie Louise Beatrice. It was
evident to every one that the Peace of Presbourg, like that of
Luneville, could be nothing more than a truce. Austria could never be
reconciled to its loss, between 1792 and 1806, of the Low Countries,
Suabia, Milan, the Venetian States, Tyrol, Dalmatia, and finally of the
Imperial crown of Germany; for the heir of the Germanic Caesars now
styled himself simply the Emperor of Austria, and a great part of
Germany had become the humble vassal of Napoleon. Of all the Austrians,
it was perhaps the Emperor who felt the least hatred of France. His
whole family and his whole people--nobles, priests, the middle classes,
and the peasantry--nourished an angry resentment against the nation that
was overturning Europe. The new Empress, whose family had been deprived
of the Duchy of Modena, was conspicuous for the bitterness of her
indignation and of her political feelings. In the eyes of all the
Austrians, great or small, poor or rich, the French were the hereditary
enemies, the invaders, the destroyers of the throne and the Church,
impious, sacrilegious, revolutionary,--the authors of every evil. It was
they who, for years, destroyed the harvests, shed torrents of blood,
smote with the sword or the axe of the guillotine, crowded war upon war,
heaped ruins upon ruins, bringing misery and disgrace to all mankind.
The old nobility, once so proud of its coats-of-arms and of its
sovereign rights, now enslaved, humiliated, shorn of its independence,
knew no limit to its abuse of the "Corsican savage," who had cut the
roots of the old Germanic tree, previously so majestic. The priests
denounced the nation which had dared to confiscate the patrimony of
Saint Peter, and they cursed in Napoleon the persecutor of the Holy
Vicar of Christ. Women who had lost their husbands or sons in the war
held France responsible for their afflictions. The Frenchmen,
overthrowing and despoiling everything, foes of the human race, the
enemies of morality and religion, brought suffering to princes in their
palaces, to workmen in their factories, to tradespeople in their shops,
to the priests in their churches, to the soldiers in their camps, to the
peasants in their huts. The war of wrath was irresistible. Every one
lamented the mistake that had been made in abandoning the struggle; all
felt that they should have fought to the end, at the cost of every man
and every florin; that a mistake had been made in not assisting Prussia
at the time of the campaign of Jena; and that the moment had come for
all the powers to combine against the common foe and to crush him. Did
he make any pretence of concealing his intention to overthrow every
throne, and to make himself the oldest sovereign? Had he not had the
insolence to say at Milan in 1805, to the Prince of Cardito, the
Neapolitan envoy extraordinary, "Tell your Queen that I shall leave to
her and her family only enough land for their graves"? Had he not
recently, under the walls of Madrid, uttered these significant words to
the Spaniards, "If you don't want my brother Joseph for king, I shall
not force him upon you. I have another throne for him; and as for you, I
shall treat you as a conquered country"? This other throne, it was said
at Vienna, this throne which Napoleon did not name, must be the throne
of the Emperor Francis II. himself. Already the Imperial crown of
Germany had been lost, and the Austrian crown was threatened. But, added
all the archdukes and officers, that would not be so easy as the French
imagined, and they would get a good lesson. The Hapsburgs were not so
compliant as the Spanish Bourbons, and the Bayonne ambush could not be
repeated. All Europe was thrilling with indignation; only a signal was
needed for it to rise, and this signal Austria would give. This time
there was every chance of success. Their cry was "Victory or Death!" but
victory was certain. The French army, scattered from the Oder to the
Tagus, from the mountains of Bohemia to the Sierra Morena, would not be
able to withstand so many people eager to break their yoke. Were not
Russia and Prussia as desirous as Austria of revenge? Was not the whole
of Germany ready for the fray? Napoleon boasted that he was the
Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine; but if the Confederate
Princes were under his command, in his pay, the people, more patriotic,
more truly German than their rulers, burned with a longing to expel the
French. Let Napoleon suffer but a single defeat, and then on which one
of his vassals would he be able to count? Could he even rely on his own
subjects? Were there not already in his overgrown Empire many germs of
decay and death? In Vienna in 1809 the same things were said as in
Berlin in 1806; the same feelings prevailed. The military ardor had
grown so intense that the greatest soldier of Austria, the Archduke
Charles, was looked upon as too cool, too moderate, and those who were
eager to begin the fight called this bold warrior, this famous general,
the "Prince of Peace." Even if he had wished it, the Emperor Francis
would not have been able to calm the warlike fever of his army and his

The musketry and the cannon would have fired themselves without waiting
for war to be declared. The Landwehr, which had been organized only
a few months, was impatient to cross swords with the veterans of the
French army. Volunteers enlisted in crowds; patriotic gifts abounded. A
story was told of a cobbler who, in despair at not being permitted to
join the army, blew out his brains. Youths wished to leave school in
order to serve. All classes of society rivalled one another in zeal,
courage, and self-sacrifice. When it was known that the Archduke Charles
had been appointed commander-in-chief, February 20, 1809, there was an
outburst of confidence from one end of the Empire to the other. March 9,
the Archbishop of Vienna solemnly blessed in the Cathedral the flags of
the Viennese Landwehr. Together with the other members of the Imperial
family, the young Archduchess Marie Louise was present at this patriotic
and religious ceremony. Could she have imagined that one year later, to
the delight of the vast majority of this same populace of Vienna, she
was to become the wife of this Napoleon who then was calling forth such
violent wrath and deep hatred?

Never was there such a terrible war; never perhaps had the world seen
such slaughter. April 8, 1809, the Emperor Francis left his capital,
leaving there his wife and children, who were not able to stay there
after the fifth of May. From Vienna the Archduchess Marie Louise wrote
frequently to her father. A rumor had spread that the battle of Eckmuehl
had been a brilliant victory for the Austrians, and Marie Louise wrote
to her father, April 25: "We have heard with delight that Napoleon was
present at the great battle which the French lost. May he lose his head
as well! There are a great many prophecies about his speedy end, and
people say that the Apocalypse applies to him. They maintain that he is
going to die this year at Cologne, in an inn called the 'Red Crawfish.'
I do not attach much importance to these prophecies, but how glad
I should be to see them come true!" These sentiments, it must be
confessed, are a singular preparation for the next year's wedding.

When the Empress of Austria was compelled to leave Vienna with her
children at the approach of the enemy, she had more the appearance of an
exile than of a sovereign. She was very ill at the time, and scarcely
able to support the jolting of her carriage, and she groaned
continually, as much from her moral as from her physical sufferings. "It
is horrible," said Marie Louise, "to see her suffer so." It rained in
torrents, and the thunder roared as if to foretell all the misfortunes
which were about to overwhelm the country. The roads, made still worse
by the bad weather, were abominable. When the fugitives reached Buda,
after a long and difficult journey, they were wet through, and nearly
worn out with fatigue.

The illusions of the Imperial family were speedily destroyed by the
harsh reality. Vienna surrendered May 12, after suffering severely. In
a few hours eighteen hundred shells had fallen in the city. The streets
were narrow, the houses high, and the populace crowded within the narrow
fortifications were terrified and infuriated at the sight of the damage
caused by the shells, which started fires in every direction. Who
would have said to the Viennese who were then hurling all manner of
imprecations at Napoleon, the author of their woes, that in ten months
later they would be singing the praise of this detested Emperor, and
would be voluntarily setting French flags in their windows as symbols
of friendship? May 13, 1809, the French, under the command of General
Oudinot, entered Vienna, amid the curses and execrations of the populace
beside itself with grief; and ten months later to a day, March 13, 1810,
the same populace, joyous and peaceful, with bells ringing and cannon
saluting, blessed and applauded an archduchess who was leaving Vienna to
share this same Napoleon's throne!

But meanwhile there were many horrors, and much blood was shed. The
artillery duel was most formidable; there was no limit to the fury and
obstinacy of the two combatants. It was a war of giants in which all
the infernal powers appeared to be let loose at once. Napoleon himself,
familiar as he was with scenes of carnage, was surprised by the
bitterness of the struggle. Never had he defied fortune with such
audacity. Neglecting the usual laws of military science, he fought for
twenty-four hours without cessation, on a line only three leagues long,
having in his rear one of the largest rivers in Europe. Wagram was
a victory, but a victory hotly disputed. When at the opening of the
campaign it was thought that events would take a turn favorable to
Austria, a thrill of hope, a movement of joy, ran through all the
European nations, which showed the conqueror what would have happened
if he had been beaten. He began to long for peace as ardently as he had
longed for war. He no longer thought of making Austria, Hungary, and
Bohemia three separate kingdoms, or of dethroning the Emperor Francis,
and putting in his place his brother, the Grand Duke of Wuerzburg,
formerly the Grand Duke of Tuscany. The Austrians, for whom he had felt
a certain contempt, now inspired him with profound esteem; he admired
their bravery, and especially the fidelity, of which they had given many
touching proofs, to their unfortunate ruler. The hero of Wagram said to
himself that if instead of gaining this battle he had lost it, he would
not have gone back to the Tuileries as easily as Francis was going back
to his palace in Vienna. An Emperor of Austria could be beaten and
retain his popularity; but he, the great Napoleon, could not. That
was the reflection which was made one day by his successor, himself a
prisoner of Prussia, "In France one cannot be unfortunate."

When the negotiations began to arrange peace, Napoleon treated the two
distinguished officers, Prince John of Lichtenstein and General von
Bubna, with the utmost courtesy. He spared no pains to show his personal
esteem and to flatter their national pride; he spoke in the highest
terms of the Austrian army and of the bravery it had displayed in the
last campaign. He said to them: "You will always remain the first
continental power, after France; you are deucedly strong. Allied as
I was with Russia, I never expected to have on my hands a serious
continental war, and what a war!" Then to console them for the
conditions imposed on mutilated Austria, he added: "Why distress
yourselves about a few scraps of territory which must come back to you
some day? All this can only last during my lifetime. France ought never
to fight beyond the Rhine. I have been able to; but when I'm gone, it's
all over." Perhaps he was thinking of marrying Marie Louise; at any
rate, he showed a consideration for Prince John of Lichtenstein
and General Bubna which amazed all who saw it. M. de Bausset, who
accompanied him as a gentleman-in-waiting, says in his Memoirs: "I
watched attentively the two Austrian commissioners while they were
breakfasting with the Emperor: I tried to read their expressions, and
I fancied that I saw harmony and a good understanding growing day by
day.... Napoleon's politeness and graciousness towards these gentlemen
never relaxed for a moment. He seemed anxious to give them a favorable
idea of his manners and his person." Nevertheless there were many
patriotic men and women in Austria who were inconsolable. Princess
Charles of Schwarzenberg--the wife of the brilliant general who had
just fought like a hero, and, in the next year, as Austrian ambassador
at the court of the Tuileries Avas to negotiate the marriage of Napoleon
and Marie Louise--wrote a most despairing letter to her husband, in
which she said: "I shall bury myself in the past in order to escape
the present and the future. I have heard that you were to be chosen to
negotiate this so-called peace; it was a heavenly grace by which you
escaped sullying your name. To conclude, I have only one earthly wish:
it is that the ruin which we are cowardly enough to call a peace, may
become complete, that our political existence may end. I pray for the
calm of death."

Napoleon was about leaving Schoenbrunn, to return to France, when,
October 12, 1809, just as he was about to review his troops, he saw
approaching him a young German, of suspicious appearance, who was at
once arrested. This young man, whose name was Staaps, was the son of a
Protestant pastor at Erfurt, and under his coat was found a large, sharp
dagger, with which he said he had intended to kill the Emperor, in order
to deliver Germany. The cool, calm replies of this determined fanatic,
whom Napoleon himself examined, made a deep impression upon him. Might
not this young German be the forerunner of numberless volunteers who
were about to organize against France what they would consider a holy
war? At the sight of this youth, who gave calm expression to unrelenting
hatred, Napoleon--who did not venture to spare his life, although no
criminal act had been committed--was moved by a painful feeling in which
pity was mingled with surprise. He who had cost Germany such torrents
of blood and tears was singularly astonished when at last he saw that
Germany did not love him. Nothing is so repugnant to the great of the
earth, and especially to conquerors, as the thought of death,--death,
the only unconquerable foe! What, the first comer, a fool, a vulgar
fanatic, can with a kitchen knife lay low the greatest hero, the most
illustrious warrior, the mightiest king! At Regensberg, when he was
wounded for the first time since he had begun his military career, the
hero of so many battles perceived, and not without a pang, that he was
not invulnerable. Before the corpse of the brave Marshal Lannes, who had
had his two legs carried off by a cannon-ball at Esoling, he wrote very
sadly to the Empress Josephine: "So everything ends!" And now he might
himself have fallen by the hand of a poor, unknown student! As the
Duchess of Abrantes wrote: "Death, which was always prowling about the
Emperor in various forms, yet never daring to seize him, but always
appearing to say, Take care! ... was a prophecy, and a prophecy of
evil." Napoleon began to reflect seriously. To audacity and the
spirit of adventure there suddenly succeeded prudence and the need of
self-preservation. The all-powerful Emperor said to himself at the
moment of his triumph, that if he were to die without a direct heir, his
vast Empire would fall to pieces, like that of Alexander the Great,
and the unrivalled edifice, built at the price of so much toil and
sacrifice, would be shattered.

The national historian has said: "In proportion as he lost the support
of the public, Napoleon took pleasure in thinking that it was the lack
of a future and not his own misdeeds that threatened his proud throne
with premature fragility. The desire to make firm what he felt trembling
beneath his feet, became his dominant passion, as if, with a new wife in
the Tuileries, the mother of a male heir, the faults which had armed
the whole world against him would be only causes without effects."
And Thiers adds this reflection: "It would doubtless have been to his
advantage to have had an undoubted heir; it would have been better, a
hundred times better, to have been prudent and wise. Napoleon, who,
despite his need of a son, could not, after Tilsit, at the very climax
of his power and glory, make up his mind to sacrifice Josephine, at last
came to a decision because he felt the Empire threatened, and he tried
in a new marriage to secure the solidity which he should have tried to
obtain by wise and moderate conduct."

Possibly even when at Schoenbrunn the conqueror already thought of
asking for the hand of the young archduchess whose home this palace was.
At any rate, it never crossed his mind that in the very room where he
wove such proud visions, such far-reaching plans, his heir would die so
sadly, the heir whom the daughter of the Germanic Caesars was to give to
him. When he reappeared crowned with victory at Fontainebleau, October
26, 1809, Josephine felt that her fate was sealed. The immediate result
of the battle of Wagram was the divorce.



Austria had known terrible fears during the campaign of Wagram; it had
asked anxiously, whether the Hapsburgs might not disappear from the list
of crowned heads, like the Spanish Bourbons, or might not, like the
Neapolitan Bourbons, be left to enjoy only part of their States. The
peace which was signed at Vienna, October 14, 1809, had somewhat allayed
these serious apprehensions, but the situation of Austria remained no
less anxious and painful. As Prince Metternich has said in his curious
Memoirs: "The so-called Peace of Vienna had enclosed the Empire in
an iron circle, cutting off its communication with the Adriatic, and
surrounding it from Brody, on the extreme northeast, towards Russia,
to the southeastern frontiers toward the Ottoman Empire, with a row of
states under Napoleon's rule, or under his direct influence. The Empire,
as if caught in a vice, was not free to move in any direction; moreover,
the conqueror had done all he could to prevent the defeated nation
from renewing its strength; a secret article of the treaty of peace
established one hundred and fifty thousand men as the maximum force of
the Austrian army."

A still darker danger threatened the throne of the Hapsburgs; namely,
the marriage, which was thought very probable and very near, of Napoleon
with the sister of the Czar. Thus imprisoned between two vast empires,
between that of the East and that of the West, as if between hammer and
anvil, what would become of Austria, shorn of its territory and its

There was but one chance, and a very faint one, of any defence against
the dangers that threatened Austria, and that was, that the Viennese
court might make the match which the Russian court was contemplating.
Already, its matrimonial alliances had brought the country good fortune
more than once, and it could not forget the famous maxim expressed in a
Latin line--

"_Bella gerant alii; tu felix Austria, nube!_"
"Let others wage war; do you, happy Austria, marry!"

The last campaigns had been unfavorable to the Hapsburg dynasty; a
marriage would set things to right.

At Vienna a party which may be called the peace party had come to power.
Mr. von Stadion, a statesman of warlike tendencies, had been succeeded
in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by a young and brilliant diplomatist,
Count Metternich. The new minister had been ambassador to Paris before
the campaign of Wagram, and, while he had been unable to prevent the
war, he had left a very favorable impression at Napoleon's court, where
his success as a man of the world, as a great nobleman, had been very
brilliant. He then, in the lifetime of his father, Prince Metternich,
bore only the title of Count. In his desire to attest his belief in the
possibility of a reconciliation between Austria and Napoleon, he had
left his wife, Countess Metternich, in France during the war. When
he came to power, he conceived a political plan which was founded,
temporarily at least, if not finally, on a French alliance. But to
secure all the benefits which he hoped to get from it, Napoleon's
marriage with an Austrian princess was necessary; and Metternich, who
was aware of the negotiations between the French and Russian courts,
was not inclined to believe in the possibility of a marriage between an
Austrian Archduchess and the hero of Wagram. Neither before nor after
the conclusion of the Treaty of Vienna was a word spoken about this
plan, either by Napoleon or by the Austrian court.

The Emperor of the French had absolutely decided on a divorce; but he
still thought that it was the Grand Duchess Anne, sister of the Emperor
Alexander of Russia, who was going to succeed Josephine. On the occasion
of the interview at Erfurt he had spoken of this marriage, and the Czar
appeared to be most favorable to the plan. November 22, 1809, the Duke
of Cadore, Minister of Foreign Affairs, forwarded this despatch to the
Duke of Vicenza, French Ambassador at Saint Petersburg: "Rumors of the
divorce reached the ears of the Emperor Alexander at Erfurt, and he
spoke to the Emperor on the subject, saying that his, sister Anne was at
his disposition. His Majesty desires you to broach the subject frankly
and simply with the Emperor Alexander, and to address him in these
terms: 'Sire, I have reason to think that the Emperor, urged by the
whole of France, is making ready for a divorce. May I ask what may be
counted on in regard of your sister? Will not Your Majesty consider the
question for two days and then give me a frank reply, not as to the
French Ambassador, but as to a person interested in the two families? I
am not making a formal demand, but rather requesting the expression
of your intentions. I venture, Sire, upon this step, because I am so
accustomed to say what I think to Your Majesty that I have no fear of
compromising myself.'

"You will not mention the subject to M. de Romanzoff on any pretext
whatsoever, and when you shall have had this conversation with the
Emperor Alexander, and shall have received his answer two days later,
you will entirely forget this communication that I am making. You will,
in addition, inform me concerning the qualities of the young Princess,
and especially when she may be expected to become a mother; for in the
present state of affairs, six months' difference is of great importance.
I need not recommend to Your Excellency the most complete secrecy; you
know what you owe to the Emperor in this respect."

At that time couriers took two weeks to go from Paris to Saint
Petersburg, and the answer to the despatch of November 22 had not yet
arrived when Napoleon, who did not yet know who his second wife was to
be, announced to Josephine, November 30, that divorce was inevitable.
The unhappy Empress received for the last time at the Tuileries, which
she was to leave forever, in the morning of December 16. The reception
was drawing to an end. Among those who were waiting on the grand
staircase or in the vestibule for their carriages to be announced, there
happened to be standing together M. de Semonville, a young man of some
prominence in the court, and M. de Floret, a young secretary of the
Austrian legation. Everybody imagined then that the marriage with the
Grand Duchess of Russia was settled. Suddenly, in this crowd of great
personages, M. de Semonville began the following conversation with the
Austrian diplomatist:--

"Well, that's fixed. Why didn't _you_ do it?"

"Who says that we didn't want to?"

"People think so. Are they wrong?"


"What? It would be possible? You may think so; but the Ambassador?"

"I will answer for Prince Schwarzenberg."

"But Count Metternich?"

"There is no difficulty about him."

"But the Emperor?"

"Or about him, either."

"And the Empress, who hates us?"

"You don't know her; she is ambitious, and could be persuaded."

M. de Semonville started at once to report this curious conversation to
his friend, the Duke of Bassano, who at once hastened to speak of it to
the Emperor. Napoleon appeared pleased, but not astonished. He said that
he had just heard the same thing from Vienna.

This is what had happened in the Austrian capital: the Count of Narbonne
had been passing through before going to Munich, where he was to
represent France as Minister Plenipotentiary. This amiable and
distinguished man, of whom M. Villemain has written an excellent life,
had succeeded in attracting Napoleon's favor, and after receiving an
appointment as general in the French army, he had been made ambassador
and one of the Emperor's aides-de-camp. M. de Narbonne, who was a model
of refinement and bravery, had been one of the ornaments of the court
of Versailles and of the Constituent Assembly. He had been a Knight of
Honor of Madame Adelaide, the daughter of Louis XV.; Minister of War
under Louis XVI., in 1792; a friend of Madame de Stael; an emigre in
England, Switzerland, and Germany; and in 1809, thanks to Napoleon's
good-will, he had once more resumed his military career, after an
interruption of seventeen years. Towards the end of the campaign the
Emperor had sent him as governor to Raab, to keep an eye on Hungary and
Bohemia, and in case Austria should refuse to accept the conditions
imposed by her conqueror, to proclaim the independence of those two
countries. The peace once signed, General the Count of Narbonne went to
Vienna, where he met two of his best friends,--the Prince of Ligne, who
had been one of the favorites of Marie Antoinette, and the Count of
Lamarck, who had been a confidant of Mirabeau. One day when he was
dining with them, and Prince Metternich and a few other intimate
friends, the conversation turned to politics. The Austrian Minister
congratulated himself on the peace, which, he said, made the future
sure, and cut short all danger of trouble and anarchy. The Prince of
Ligne expressed similar views. Then M. de Narbonne spoke out somewhat as
follows: "Gentlemen, I am surprised by your recent astonishment and your
present confidence. Is it possible that you are too blind to see that
every peace, easy or hard, is nothing more than a brief truce? that for
a long time we are hastening to one conclusion, of which peace is but
one of the stations? This conclusion is the subjugation of the whole
of Europe under two mighty empires. You have seen the swift growth and
progress of one of these empires since 1800. As to the other, it is not
yet determined. It will be either Austria or Russia, according to the
results of the Peace of Vienna; for this peace is a danger if it is not
the foundation of a closer alliance, of a family alliance, and does not
finally restore more than its beginning took away; in a word, you are
ill advised if you hesitate in your leaning towards France."

The next morning the Count of Narbonne was summoned to the Emperor
Francis II., and the Austrian monarch indicated the possibility of a
marriage between Napoleon and the Archduchess Marie Louise. The Count of
Narbonne approved, and eloquently expressed his conviction that such a
happy result as confiding once more an Archduchess to France would at
last decide Napoleon to remain at peace, instead of forever hazarding
his glory, and to work for the welfare of the people in harmony with
the wise and virtuous monarch whose adopted son he would become. M. de
Narbonne sent a note of this conversation to Fouche, to be shown to the
Emperor, who thus had knowledge of the secret plans of the Viennese
court six weeks before the meeting over which he presided at the
Tuileries, to ask his councillors their opinion on the choice of an

Since the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two powers, the
Austrian Ambassador in Paris had been Prince Charles of Schwarzenberg,
the warrior and statesman who later, as commander-in-chief of the
Austrian forces, was to deal such heavy blows to France. In 1810 he was
all for peace, and his sole aim was to undermine, for the good of his
country, the influence of his Russian colleague, Prince Kourakine. The
Austrian Ambassador was very anxious that the Archduchess Marie Louise
should become Empress of the French; for he was convinced that such an
event would be of as much benefit to him as to his country. Yet he was
still afraid to hope for the realization of his dream, when one of his
friends, Count Alexandra de Laborde--who, after serving as an emigre, in
the Austrian army, had returned to France and been appointed Master of
Requests in the Council of State, encouraged him in his ideas which
might at first have seemed fanciful, M. de Laborde, whose father had
been court-banker before the Revolution, and had most generously aided
Marie Antoinette, was well known and much liked in Vienna. In this
matter of the marriage of Marie Louise he was the secret agent between
Napoleon's Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prince of Schwarzenberg,
in whom he kindled so much zeal in behalf of the French alliance that
the Ambassador, as we shall soon see, signed the marriage contract
of the Archduchess with Napoleon, even before he had received the
authorization of his government.

December 17, 1809, nothing had been decided. Indeed, what seemed
probable, if not certain, was the Russian marriage. That day--the day
when there appeared in the _Moniteur_ the decree of the Senate relative
to the divorce--a new despatch had been sent from Paris to Saint
Petersburg by the Duke of Cadore, to demand a speedy reply from the
Russian court, yes or no. The answer of the Duke of Vicenza to the first
despatch, that of November 22, 1809, did not reach Paris until December
28. The Ambassador said that the Czar had received his overtures very
amiably, but that the affair needed much discretion and a little
patience. The Emperor Alexander, he went on to say, was personally
favorable; but his mother, whom he did not wish to offend, refused her
consent, and the Czar asked for a few days before giving a final answer.
This delay vexed Napoleon, who nevertheless resolved to wait, although
waiting suited neither his tastes nor his character.

In short, at the beginning of 1810, the matrimonial alliance with
Austria was not settled. The initiative steps had not been taken by the
monarch, the ministers of Foreign Affairs, or by the ambassadors. It is
a curious and characteristic detail, that it was the divorced Empress,
Josephine, who gave the signal. She summoned the Countess Metternich
to Malmaison, January 2, 1810, and said to her: "I have a plan which
interests me to the exclusion of everything else, and nothing but its
success can make me feel that the sacrifice I have just made is not
wholly thrown away: it is that the Emperor shall marry your Archduchess;
I spoke to him about it yesterday, and he said that his choice was
not yet made. But I think it would be made, if he were sure of being
accepted by you." Madame de Metternich was much surprised by this
overture, which she hastened to communicate to her husband in a letter
dated January 3, 1810, which began thus: "To-day I have some very
extraordinary things to tell you, and I am almost sure that my letter
will make a very important part of your despatches. In the first place,
I must tell you that I was presented to the Emperor last Sunday. I had
only mentioned the matter in conversation with Champagny when I received
a letter from M. de Segur, telling me that the Emperor had appointed
Sunday, and that I was to choose a lady-in-waiting to present me. In my
wisdom I selected the Duchess of Bassano, and after waiting in company
with twenty other women, among whom were the Princess of Isenburg,
Madame de Tyskiewitz and others, from two till half-past six in the
evening, I was introduced first, and the Emperor received me in a way I
could not have expected. He seemed really glad to see me again, and glad
that I had stayed here during the war; he spoke about you and said, 'M.
de Metternich holds the first place in the Empire; he knows the country
well and can be of service to it.'"

Then the Countess went on to narrate what the Empress Josephine and
Queen Hortense had said the evening before at Malmaison. She had been
received by Hortense while waiting in the drawing-room for Josephine to
come down, and she had been much astounded to hear the Queen of Holland
say with much warmth: "You know that we are all Austrians at heart, but
you would never guess that my brother has had the courage to advise the
Emperor to ask for the hand of your Archduchess." Josephine frequently
referred to this projected marriage, on which she seemed to have set her
heart. "Yes," she said, "we must try to arrange it." Then she expressed
her regret that M. de Metternich was not in Paris; for if he had been,
doubtless he would bring the affair to a happy conclusion. "Your Emperor
must be made to see," she went on, "that his ruin and the ruin of his
country are certain if he does not give his consent to this marriage. It
is perhaps the only way of preventing Napoleon from breaking with the
Holy See."

The letter of the Countess Metternich ended thus: "I have not seen
the Queen of Holland again, because she is ill. Hence I have nothing
positive to tell you concerning the matter in question; but if I wanted
to tell you all the honors that have been showered upon me, I should
not stop so soon. At the last levee I played with the Emperor; you may
imagine that it was a serious matter for me, but I managed to come
off with glory. He began by praising my diamond headband, and that
everlasting gold dress, then he asked me a number of questions about my
family and all my relatives; he insisted, in spite of all I could say,
that Louis von Kaunitz was my brother. You can't imagine what effect
that little game of cards had. When it was over, I was surrounded and
paid court to by all the great dignitaries, marshals, ministers, etc. I
had abundant material for philosophical reflections on the vicissitude
of human affairs."

Nevertheless, in spite of the overtures which Josephine had made to the
Countess Metternich, Napoleon had come to no decision about his new
wife. One day when he had been working with M. Daru, whom he highly
esteemed, he had the following conversation with him:--

"In your opinion which would be the better for me, to marry the Russian
or the Austrian?"


"The devil! You are very hard to please."

"Neither, I say, but a Frenchwoman; and provided the new Empress does
not have too many relatives who will have to be made princes and given a
large fortune, France will approve your choice. The throne you occupy is
like no other; you have erected it with your own hands. You are at the
head of a generous nation; your glory and its glory ought to be
shared in common. It is not by imitating other monarchs, it is by
distinguishing yourself, that you find your real greatness. You do not
rule by the same title that they do; you ought not to marry as they do.
The nation would be flattered by your looking at home for an Empress,
and it would always see in your line a thoroughly French family."

"Come, come! that's nonsense! If M. de Talleyrand should hear you, he
would form a very poor idea of your political sagacity. You don't treat
this question like a statesman. I must unite in defence of my crown
those at home and abroad who are still hostile to it; and my marriage
furnishes a chance. Do you imagine that monarchs' marriages are matters
of sentiment? No; they are matters of politics. Mine cannot be
decided by motives of internal policy; I must try to establish my
influence outside, and to extend it by a close alliance with a powerful

No answer had come from Russia, no official overture had been made to or
by Austria; still Napoleon continued to believe, or at least pretended
to believe, that his only difficulty was to make the best choice. The
idea that two emperors and a king--without counting the other sovereigns
on whom he did not deign to cast a glance--were simultaneously disputing
the honor of allying their family with him, greatly flattered his pride.
In fact, what he desired was the Austrian marriage; but he was anxious
to keep his preferences secret, in order to prolong in the eyes of his
principal councillors, an uncertainty in which his pride did not suffer.
He convoked them to an extraordinary session, at the Tuileries, after
mass, Sunday, January 21, 1810. The great dignitaries of the Empire,--
Champagny, Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Duke of Cadore; Maret, the
Secretary of State; the Duke of Bassano; M. Gamier, the President of the
Senate; and M. de Fontanes, President of the Corps Legislatif,--all took
part in this solemn council. The relative advantages and disadvantages
of the Russian, the Saxon, and the Austrian marriage were considered at
great length. The Archtreasurer Lebrun and M. Gamier favored the
daughter of the King of Saxony; the Archchancellor Cambaceres and King
Murat, the Grand Duchess of Russia; M. de Champagny, Prince Talleyrand,
Prince Eugene, the Prince of Neufchatel and the Duke of Bassano, the
Archduchess Marie Louise. Murat especially distinguished himself by his
violent opposition to the Austrian alliance. Doubtless he was averse to
the selection for Empress of the French of the granddaughter of Queen
Marie Caroline of Naples, whose throne he was occupying. Napoleon
remained calm and impassive. When the meeting was over, he dismissed the
councillors, simply saying: "I shall weigh in my mind the arguments that
you have submitted to me. In any case, I remain convinced that whatever
difference may exist in your views, each one has formed his opinion only
from a desire for the good of the country and devotion to my person."
Thus it was that seventeen years to a day after a king of France who had
married an Austrian archduchess had died on the scaffold, there was
discussed the alliance of a new French ruler with another archduchess,
the grandniece of the other.

Some time later, Cambacere's, in the course of a conversation with M.
Pasquier, then Counsellor of State, gave utterance to his regret at
having failed to impress upon his hearers the superior advantages of the
Russian alliance. "I am not surprised," he said; "when a man has only
one argument to give, and it is impossible to give it, he must expect to
be beaten.... And you will see that my argument is so good that a single
sentence will show you all its weight. I am morally sure that in less
than two years we shall be at war with the Emperor whose relative we do
not marry. Now war with Austria causes me no anxiety; but I dread war
with Russia; its consequences are incalculable. I know that the Emperor
is familiar with the road to Vienna, but I am not so sure that he will
find the road to St. Petersburg."

After quoting this conversation between Cambaceres and M. Pasquier in
his admirable book, _The Church of Rome and the First Empire_, the Count
d'Haussonville indulges in some philosophic reflections: "If it is
curious to come upon this profound and accurate summary, compressed into
a few clear and precise words by a man of remarkable sagacity dealing
with a future still completely hidden, it is no less strange to think
that the prospect of the Austrian marriage, destined to be so fatal to
the Empire, should be suddenly discussed in a five minutes' talk between
two men who met by chance on the steps of the Tuileries, at the very
moment when the unhappy Josephine was about to leave this spot which
had been so long her home. When we reflect on the course of all the
following events, we may perhaps say that the fate of the Empire was
settled in this eventful quarter of an hour; for if the Emperor had
married the Grand Duchess instead of Marie Louise, probably the campaign
of 1812, which Cambaceres foresaw, would not have taken place, and
Heaven knows what part this unhappy expedition played in the fall of the
First Empire!"

How insufficient is human wisdom, how false its calculations! This
Austrian marriage which discouraged the bitterest enemies of the hero of
Austerlitz, of Jena, of Wagram, this magnificent marriage which was to
have been the safeguard of the Empire, proved its ruin. This great event
which called forth abundant congratulations and outbursts of noisy
delight was the main cause of the most tremendous and most
disastrous war of modern times. If he had not blindly counted on
his father-in-law's friendship, would Napoleon, in spite of all his
audacity, have ventured to march to the Russian steppes, without even
taking the precaution of reviving Poland? He himself has said it:
his marriage with the Austrian Archduchess was an abyss covered with

January was drawing to a close; and while in Paris many people were
beginning to regard Napoleon's marriage with Marie Louise as very
probable, the young princess herself had no suspicion of his intentions.
Count Metternich who, like his sovereign, had maintained secrecy about
this delicate matter, wrote to his wife, January 27, 1810: "The
Archduchess is still ignorant, as indeed is proper, of the plans
concerning her, and it is not from the Empress Josephine, who gives
us so many proofs of her confidence, who with so many noble qualities
combines those of a tender mother, that I shall conceal the many
considerations which necessarily present themselves to the Archduchess
Marie Louise when the matter is laid before her. But our princesses
are little accustomed to choose their husbands according to their own
inclinations, and the respect which so fond and so well-trained a
daughter feels for her father's wishes, makes me confident that she will
make no opposition."

The same day, January 27, 1810, the Count Metternich wrote to Prince
Charles of Schwarzenberg, the Austrian Ambassador in Paris, a despatch
which proves that the negotiations concerning the marriage had not yet
begun: "It is with great interest that his Imperial Majesty has heard
the details which Your Highness has communicated to him in his last
despatches, on the question of the marriage of the Emperor of the
French. It would be difficult to form any definite conclusion from the
different data that reach us. It is impossible not to see a certain
official character in the explanations, vague as they are, which the
Minister of Foreign Affairs has had with Your Highness. M. de Laborde's
uninterrupted zeal, the remarks of so many persons connected with the
government, all tending in one direction, and especially the very direct
overtures made by the Empress and the Queen of Holland to Madame de
Metternich, would incline us to suppose that Napoleon's mind was made
up, as the Emperor said, if our August master should consent to give him
Madame the Archduchess. On the other hand, the demands commonly reported
to have been addressed to Russia conflict with this supposition. The
question must, at any rate, become clearer shortly after the arrival of
the next courier, if indeed not before then. So much has been said, that
it is impossible to deny that an alliance with the Imperial House of
Austria has entered into the designs of the French court. By following a
very simple calculation and comparing the great publicity given to the
alleged demand on Russia with the secrecy exercised towards us in this
matter, we may possibly be authorized to suppose that at present their
views tend in our direction; but probability is of very little account
in a transaction of this sort to which Napoleon is a party, and we can
only go on in our usual course, and the result, in one way or another,
must inure to our advantage."

While the court of Vienna thus maintained a position of prudent and
dignified reserve, Napoleon, annoyed by the delays of the Russian court,
and now only anxious to have nothing more to do with it, impatiently
awaited the despatches from Saint Petersburg. These arrived February 6,
but they brought no satisfactory news. The first delay of ten days which
the Czar had asked of the Duke of Vicenza came to an end January 6, but
on the 2lst the Emperor Alexander had not yet replied. He said, to be
sure, that his mother had withdrawn her opposition; but he combined
the affairs of the marriage with the political negotiations concerning
Poland, and doubtless in the desire of affecting Napoleon's decision, he
let the matter drag, as if he wanted to be urged. The Duke of Vicenza
also said in his despatches that, according to the physicians, the Grand
Duchess was yet too young to bear children, and that since she was
averse to changing her religion, she insisted on having a Greek chapel
and Greek priests at the Tuileries.

Napoleon hesitated no longer. That same day he sent word to the Russian
Ambassador, Prince Kourakine, that, being unable to accept a longer
delay, he broke off the negotiation; and that evening he had the
Austrian Ambassador, Prince Schwarzenberg, asked if the contract of his
marriage with the Archduchess Marie Louise could be signed the next day.

The Austrian diplomatist had never expected that events were going to
move at any such speed. He knew the favorable disposition of his court,
but he had received no authorization to conclude the business. The
general instructions which had been sent to him regarding the marriage
were dated December 25, 1809, and they had not since been modified.
These left the Ambassador free to discuss the question only in
accordance with the restrictions which Count Metternich had thus

"1. Every overture is to be received by you in an unofficial capacity.
Your Highness must take cognizance of it only by expressing your
personal willingness to see how the land lies here.

"2. You will then make it clear, as if it were a remark of your own,
that if no secondary consideration, no prejudice, influence the
Emperor's decision, there are laws which he will always obey. His
Majesty will never force a beloved daughter to a marriage which she
might abhor, and will never consent to a marriage not in conformity with
the principles of our religion.

"3. You will endeavor, moreover, to get a definite statement of the
advantages which France would offer to Austria in the case of a family

When, in the evening of February 6, 1810, Napoleon's Minister of Foreign
Affairs asked Prince Schwarzenberg if he was ready to sign the marriage
contract at the Tuileries the next morning, the Ambassador was
delighted, but surprised, and perhaps, for a moment, perplexed. If he
regarded the instructions conveyed in the despatch of December 25, 1809,
he certainly had no authority to sign anything. In fact, not merely did
he not know whether the Archduchess had given her consent, he did not
know whether she had ever been informed of the projected marriage.
Besides, he had no information as to the way in which the Austrian
court looked on the annulment of the religious marriage of Napoleon
and Josephine by the officials of the diocese of Paris, who had acted
independently of the Pope. Finally, he was not in condition to stipulate
for any political advantage to his government as the price of the
alliance. A timid diplomatist would have hesitated. But might not there
arrive the next moment a courier from Saint Petersburg, bringing a
definite answer from the Czar? Would Napoleon, impatient as he was and
unused to delay--would he accept the slightest postponement on the part
of Austria? Prince Schwarzenberg burned his ships; he said to himself
that if his action were disavowed, he could go and raise cabbages on his
estate; but if it were approved, he would be at the top of the wave.
Abandoning then the customary slowness and scruples of diplomacy, he
answered without hesitation that he was ready, and made an engagement
with the Duke of Cadore, Minister of Foreign Affairs, for the next day,
at the Tuileries, to sign the marriage contract of the Emperor of the
French, King of Italy, and of Marie Louise, Archduchess of Austria. IV.


February 7, 1810, M. Champagny, Duke of Cadore, the French Minister
of Foreign Affairs, and Prince Charles of Schwarzenberg, met at the
Tuileries, and signed, without the slightest hitch, the marriage
contract of Napoleon and the Archduchess Marie Louise. The text was a
copy almost word for word of Marie Antoinette's marriage contract, which
had been signed forty years before.

On leaving the Tuileries, Prince Schwarzenberg despatched a messenger to
Vienna to announce the momentous news, which possibly would arouse
more surprise than delight. "Count," he wrote to M. de Metternich, "in
signing the marriage contract, while protesting that I was in no way
clothed with power _ad hoc_, I believe that I have merely signed a paper
which can guarantee to the Emperor Napoleon the determination already
formed by my August Sovereign of meeting him half-way in negotiation on
this subject. The despatches with which you have honored me made the
course that I was to follow perfectly clear. His Majesty, as Your
Excellency assures me, approves of my conduct by bidding me follow
the same course; hence the marriage is an affair which my government
naturally regards as one of the greatest interest, and one which it
desires to see arranged. It will be evident to those who know the
character of Emperor Napoleon that if I had shown the slightest
hesitation, he would have abandoned this plan and have formed another.
If this affair was hurried, it was because that is the way in which
Napoleon acts, and it seemed to me best to seize the favorable moment.
I have the most profound conviction of having been of service to my
sovereign on this occasion; and if by any possibility I have had the
misfortune to displease him by the course that I took in perfect
sincerity, His Majesty can disavow it, but in that case I shall
instantly demand my recall."

The next day Prince Schwarzenberg sent to Vienna one of his secretaries,
M. de Floret, with this letter to M. de Metternich: "Paris, February
8, 1810. I send to you, dear Count, M. de Floret, who will give you an
account of everything that has happened. You will soon see that I could
not have acted otherwise without spoiling the whole business. If I had
insisted on not signing, he would have broken the affair off, to treat
with Russia or Saxony. I formally declared that I had full power to give
the most positive assurances that the propositions of marriage would be
favorably received by my court; but that if I was not ready to sign
a contract, it was only on account of the impossibility in which my
minister found himself of supposing that a matter scarcely touched
upon should so soon come to a head. I beg of you, my dear friend, to
arrange that there shall be no obstacle to this important business, and
that it be arranged with a good grace.... I pity the Princess, it is
true; but yet she must not forget that it is a noble deed to give peace
to such good nations, and to give a guarantee of general peace and
tranquillity. Floret will give you our records, and will explain it to
you by word of mouth; we have not had time to have it copied. You
will not object to this, inasmuch as we wish Floret to leave at once.
Conclude this matter nobly, and you will render an incalculable service
to our country."

At the diplomatic reception which was held at the Tuileries, February 8,
Napoleon walked up to the Austrian Ambassador and said to him, in the
most friendly way, "You have been very busy lately, and I think you have
done a good piece of work." Prince Kourakine, the Russian Ambassador,
was much annoyed at the turn events had taken, and did not attend the
reception, under the pretext that he was not well. The evening before
Prince Schwarzenberg had dined at the house of Napoleon's mother with
the King of Holland, Louis Bonaparte, who was loudspoken in his praise
of the Emperor Francis and the Imperial house of Austria. At the court
of the Tuileries there was general satisfaction. Napoleon thought that
he had never achieved a greater triumph. The messenger whom Prince
Schwarzenberg had despatched on the day he had signed the contract,
reached Vienna February 14. The populace had not the faintest idea of
the possibility of a marriage between the Archduchess Marie Louise and
the Emperor of the French; the Austrian monarch and M. de Metternich, in
their anxiety to keep their secret, lest some opposition should manifest
itself, had not breathed a word about the overtures made at Vienna by
Count Alexandre de Laborde, and at Malmaison by the Empress Josephine.
Neither the Viennese nor the Diplomatic Body suspected anything. As M.
de Metternich put it, Count Shouvaloff, the Russian Ambassador at the
Austrian court, was literally petrified. The English breathed fire
and flame. The sudden outburst of a volcano would not have been more
startling than this piece of news which came from a clear sky. The

Book of the day: