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

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

Part 5 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.

he could not go there, but that he would be glad to see the King in

Frederic William regarded the invitation as a command, and set out
forthwith. He reached the capital May 26, accompanied by Baron von
Hardenberg and Count von Goltz, Ministers of State, Prince von
Witgenstein, High Chamberlain, M. von Jagou, First Equerry, Baron von
Krumsmarck, Prussian Minister to Paris, and was joined the next day,
the 27th, by the Crown Prince. Father and son were very well received.
Napoleon consented to credit Prussia with the supplies taken by the
troops on their march, and promised to enlarge the boundaries of the
kingdom if the war with Russia should be successful. For his part,
the King proposed to the Emperor to take the Crown Prince with him as
aide-de-camp, and introduced him to the other aides, asking them to
treat their new comrade kindly. According to the Memoirs of the Baron de
Bausset, who was present at the Dresden interview, "Everything which has
been written about the coldness of the King of Prussia's reception is
false. He was welcomed, as he had the right to expect, as a powerful
ally, who, by a recent treaty, had just united his troops with those of
France." The young Crown Prince, who was making his first appearance in
the world, attracted general attention by his elegance and distinction.
As to the King, he affected a content of which the curious despatch
given below was the official expression.

Nothing more clearly shows the ascendancy which Napoleon exercised at
this time than this circular addresssed, June 2, 1812, by Count von
Goltz to the diplomatic agent of Prussia: "Sir, it will be interesting
for you to learn with certainty the main incidents of the recent journey
of the King, our Sovereign, to Dresden. Since I had the honor to
accompany His Majesty, I give myself the pleasure of seizing the moment
of my return to inform you about them. On receipt of a letter from His
Majesty, the Emperor Napoleon, brought to the King May 24, by the Count
of Saint Marsan, which contained the most obliging and friendly
invitation to visit that monarch at Dresden, His Majesty resolved to
depart at once; and having set forth very early in the morning of the
25th, he arrived that evening at Grossenhain, whither His Majesty the
King of Saxony had sent Lieutenant von Zeschaud and Colonel von Reisky
to meet him. His entrance into Dresden took place on the 28th, at ten in
the morning. It was desired to make this a formal occasion, but His
Majesty deemed it better to decline the profound honors. Nevertheless,
a squadron of the mounted body-guard had awaited His Majesty at a good
quarter of a league from the city, and accompanied him to the palace of
Prince Antony, a part of the castle in which His Majesty is lodged, amid
a countless throng of spectators, who with one accord gave the King the
most marked tokens of their respectful devotion.

"His Majesty was received at the foot of the staircase, and in the most
flattering way, by His Majesty the King of Saxony, accompanied by all
his court, his ministers, and the most distinguished citizens. After a
brief interview in the King's apartment, His Majesty having announced
his visit to the two Emperors, they paid him the friendly attention of
announcing their own. The Emperor Napoleon was the first to arrive, and
the two monarchs, having embraced, had at once an interview which lasted
more than half an hour. The Emperor of Austria then arrived, and greeted
His Majesty in the most considerate and friendly manner."

The Prussian Minister, expressing the most unbounded satisfaction,
abounded with praise of the courtesy and kindness of Napoleon. He
concluded his circular despatch thus: "I am obliged to abstain from
going into further details with regard to our Sovereign's reception, and
the subsequent interviews, as well as the court ceremonies and festivals
of this day and the two following; but what I can and must add as an
eye-witness, is, that in general there could have been nothing more
considerate and more friendly than this reception, as well on the part
of His Majesty the Emperor Napoleon, as on that of Their Majesties the
Emperor of Austria and the King of Saxony and their August families,
and that the King has been much gratified by it. The friendship and the
personal confidence of these monarchs and the reciprocal conviction of
the sincerity of their feelings have affirmed themselves in the most
solid way; and especially, the close bonds uniting our Sovereign with
that of France have acquired a new character of cordiality and strength.
I have to add that His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, who reached
Dresden on the 27th, has equally received the suffrages of the
Sovereigns there assembled, and that the Emperor Napoleon greeted him
with affectionate cordiality." Count von Goltz was evidently anxious
that all this should be bruited abroad. The last sentence of the
despatch ran thus, "Although these details are primarily intended for
you, Sir, you are obviously free to make such use of them as you may see
fit." Possibly this sentence meant that when these details might not be
agreeable, that is to say, to the friends of Russia or England, it might
not be well to communicate them.

In fact, not a single Prussian had forgotten Jena; there was not one
who did not yearn for revenge. King Frederic William, who had at first
resolved to withdraw to Silesia, in order not to be in Potsdam under
the cannon of Spandau, or in Berlin under the authority of a French
governor, consented to return to his usual quarters. Although his
minister, Count von Goltz, had represented him as "perfectly satisfied
with the precious days he had spent at Dresden, and deeply touched by
the repeated proofs of friendship, esteem, and attachment that he had
received," this sovereign, though he bowed to the exigencies of the
hour, waited only for a favorable moment to reappear in the front ranks
of his conqueror's foes. In 1816 Napoleon thus judged him: "The King
of Prussia, as a man, is loyal, kind, and honest, but in his political
capacity he is naturally ruled by necessity; so long as you have the
strength, you are his master."

People of intelligence who were with Napoleon in Dresden were not
deceived about the real feelings of Germany and nearly all its rulers.
"The wisest of us," says General de Segur, "were alarmed; they said,
though not aloud, that one must think one's self something supernatural
to destroy and displace everything in this way without fear of being
caught in the general overthrow. They saw monarchs leaving Napoleon's
palace, with their eyes and hearts full of the bitterest resentment.
They imagined that they heard them at night pouring forth to their
trusty ministers the agony which filled their souls. Everything
intensified their grief. The crowd through which they had to make their
way, in order to reach the door of their proud conqueror, was a source
of distress; for all, even their own people, seemed to be false to them.
When his happiness was proclaimed, their misfortunes were insulted. They
had collected at Dresden to make Napoleon's triumph more brilliant, for
it was he who triumphed. Every cry of admiration for him was one of
reproach to them, his exaltation was their abasement, his victories were
their defeats! They thus fed their bitterness, and every day hatred sank
deeper into their hearts."

The Duke of Bassano, at that time Minister of Foreign Affairs, was
unwilling to perceive this latent hostility, which was carefully
concealed under protestations of devotion. He wrote, May 27, 1812, to
Count Otto, French Ambassador at Vienna: "Their Royal and Imperial
Majesties will probably leave Dresden day after to-morrow. Their stay
in this city has been marked by reciprocal proofs of the most perfect
intelligence and the greatest intimacy. Now the two Emperors know and
appreciate each other. The embarrassment and timidity of the Emperor
of Austria have left him in face of Napoleon's frankness and simple
character. Long conversations have taken place between the two monarchs.
All the interests of Austria have been discussed, and I believe the
Emperor Francis will have received from his journey a fuller confidence
in the feelings of the Emperor Napoleon towards him, as well as a large
crop of good counsels." With all his optimism, the Minister of Foreign
Affairs was compelled to notice the secret feelings of the Empress of
Austria. After saying in his despatch to Count Otto that the Emperor
Francis had been able to see with his own eyes how happy Marie Louise
was, he went on: "This sight, so agreeable to a father, has produced on
another August person more surprise than emotion. However, if the
real feelings are not changed, there will be at least a perceptible
amelioration, since the illusions inspired and fed by a coterie will
have disappeared." The Duke ended his despatch by these words of praise
for the Crown Prince of Prussia: "The King of Prussia arrived here day
before yesterday. He was followed yesterday by the Crown Prince, who is
making his entrance into the world. He comports himself with prudence
and grace."

The Dresden festivities were drawing to a close. Not only the Germans,
even the French, were growing weary of them. "I pass over the ceremonies
of etiquette," says the Baron de Bausset, who took part in these
so-called rejoicings; "they are the same at every court. Great dinners,
great balls, great illuminations, always standing, even at the eternal
concerts, a few drives, long waitings in long drawing-rooms; always
serious, always attentive, always busy in defending one's powers
or one's pretensions, ... that is to what these envied, longed-for
pleasures amount." All this machinery of alleged distractions concealed
serious anxieties and the keenest uneasiness.

Napoleon had desired that the Dresden interview should preserve a
pacific appearance. Possibly he had for a moment hoped that the Czar,
on seeing the force assembled about the Emperor of the French, King of
Italy, and Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine, the ally of
Prussia and Austria, would accept whatever conditions so great a
potentate might offer, and abandon the struggle before it was begun. The
military element was kept in the background. Court dresses were more
numerous in Dresden than uniforms. Napoleon assumed the appearance of
a sovereign rather than of a general. Murat and King Jerome were
despatched to their courts. But every one knew perfectly well that the
storm was gathering. One would have said that the first cannon fired in
that tremendous campaign--the Russian campaign--were going to
disturb and then to extinguish the sound of trumpets and bands. The
entertainments were on the surface; the war was in the depths.

It was a terrible, lamentable war towards which the hero of so many
battles was plunging with a lowered head, as if drawn into the abyss by
a deadly fascination. Sometimes, amid the fumes of power and pride, some
mysterious voice warned him of his peril; but he would reassure himself
by recalling his former victories and thinking of his star. As General
de Segur has said: "It seemed as if in his doubts of the future, he
buried himself in the past, and that he felt it necessary to arm himself
against a great peril with all his most glorious recollections. Then,
as he has since done, he felt the need of forming illusions about the
alleged weakness of his rival. As he made ready for this great invasion,
he hesitated to regard the result as certain; for he no longer was
conscious of his infallibility, nor had that military assurance which
the force and fire of youth give, nor had he that conviction of success
which makes it sure." There had been no lack of warnings. Those of his
advisers who knew Russia well, such as the Count of Segur and the Duke
of Vicenza, ambassadors at Saint Petersburg, one under the King, the
other under the Empire, had said to him: "Everything will be against
you in this war. The Russians will have their patriotism and love of
independence, all public and private interests, including the secret
wishes of our allies. We shall have for us, against so many obstacles,
nothing but glory alone, even without the cupidity which the terrible
poverty of those regions cannot tempt." General Rapp, who was in command
at Dantzic, had thought it his duty to inform Marshal Davoust of the
alarming symptoms which he had discovered among the German populace:
"If the French army suffers a single defeat, there will be one vast
insurrection from the Rhine to the Niemen." Davoust forwarded this
information to Napoleon with this single indorsement: "I remember, Sire,
in fact, that in 1809, had it not been for Your Majesty's miracles at
Regensburg, our situation in Germany would have been very difficult,"
The Emperor listened to no one. He did not suspect that the King of
Prussia, seemingly his ally, had sent word secretly to the Czar: "Strike
no blow at Napoleon. Draw the French into the heart of Russia; let
fatigue and famine do the work." Meanwhile the sun was drying the roads;
the grass was beginning to grow. Nature was preparing the earth for the
common extermination of its people. And, oddly enough, at the moment
when the slaughter was about to begin, Napoleon had no feeling of hate
or wrath towards his adversary, the Russian monarch. He was of the
opinion that a war between sovereigns, that is to say, between brothers
by divine right, could in no way affect their friendship. He had
written, April 25, 1812, to the Emperor Alexander: "Your Majesty will
permit me to assure you, that if fate shall render this war between us
inevitable, it cannot alter the feelings with which Your Majesty has
inspired me; they are secure from all vicissitude and all change."

Napoleon rightly spoke of fate; for was it not that which lured him,
by its irresistible power, towards the icy steppes where his power and
glory sank beneath the snow? If at times a swift and sombre anticipation
of evil crowned his mind, what was that presentiment by the side of the
terrible reality? What would the conqueror have said if, in the misty
future, he had seen anything of his own fate? Among the courtiers
of every nationality who were gathering around the great Emperor at
Dresden, there was an Austrian general, half a military man, half a
diplomatist, but not a striking figure in any way. One evening the
Empress Marie Louise, on her way to the theatrical performance, spoke a
few empty words to him, merely because she happened to meet him. He was
the Count of Neipperg. How astonished Napoleon would have been if any
one had told him that one day this unknown officer would succeed him as
the husband of Marie Louise. The young Empress would have been equally
amazed if any one had prophesied so strange a thing. Of these two
personages, then so brilliant, the all-powerful Emperor and the radiant
Empress, one was in a few years to be a prisoner at Saint Helena; the
other was to be the morganatic wife of an Austrian general.



May 29, 1812, at three o'clock in the morning, Napoleon left Dresden
to put himself at the head of his armies. He kissed Marie Louise most
warmly, and she seemed sorely distressed at parting from him. The 30th,
at two in the morning, he reached Glogan, in Silesia, whence he started
at five to enter Poland. The Emperor of Austria passed the whole of the
29th with his daughter, trying to console her for Napoleon's departure,
and he left Dresden that evening. He was going to Prague, where she was
to rejoin him in a few days, and he was meaning to put the last touches
to the preparations of the reception he designed for her. Marie Louise
looked forward with pleasure to passing a few weeks at Prague with her
family; and the Austrian ruler, for his part, acted both as a kind
father and an astute statesman in offering to his daughter attentions
and tokens of deference by which his son-in-law could not fail to be

After the departure of her husband and her father, Marie Louise remained
still five days in the capital of Saxony, profiting by them to visit the
wonderful museum, the castle of Pilnitz, and the fortress of Koenigstein,
on the banks of the Elbe, upon a steep rock. June 4, in the early
morning, she left Dresden accompanied by her uncle, the Grand Duke
of Wuerzburg. The royal family and the Saxon court escorted the young
Empress to her carriage, and she set forth amid the roar of cannon and
the pealing of all the bells. Her journey was one long ovation. The
Saxon cuirassiers escorted her to the Austrian frontier; there she found
waiting to receive her Count Kolowrat, Grand Burgrave of Bohemia, and
Prince Clary, the Emperor Francis's Chamberlain. A detachment of light
horse of the Klenau regiment took the place of the Saxon cuirassiers. At
midday Marie Louise arrived at Toeplitz; there she rested two hours; then
they drove in the magnificent palace gardens of Prince Clary, into which
the populace had been admitted. Then she visited the suburbs, the park
of Turn, Schlossberg. Everywhere there were triumphal arches, bands
of music, girls presenting flowers. In the evening the whole town of
Toeplitz was illuminated. The miners assembled before the palace in which
the Empress was staying, to sing one of their songs, each verse of which
ended with a cheer and a swinging of their lanterns.

While the Emperor Francis was at Prague, waiting for his daughter,
he was joined by Count Otto, the French Ambassador at Vienna. This
diplomatist sent to the Duke of Bassano this curious despatch: "Prague,
June 5, 1812. My Lord,--I arrived here the night of the 3d. The Emperor
of Austria had given orders that I and my suite should be conducted to a
house prepared for me by the side of the palace. I was at once informed
on arriving that I was at liberty to dispose of all the service of the
court, including the carriages,--a very agreeable attention, because
on the mountain on which the castle of Prague is built there are no
provisions for strangers. The next day the Grand Chamberlain wrote to
me to say that Their Majesties would be very glad to receive me at a
private audience, after which I should have the honor of dining with
them. I found the Emperor extremely satisfied with all he had seen and
heard at Dresden. He congratulated himself on having made more thorough
acquaintance with his August son-in-law, and spoke with real emotion
of the happiness of his dear Louise. He was impatiently awaiting her
arrival at Prague, and anticipating her surprise at the picturesque and
magnificent view from the castle overhanging the broad river, full of
islands, above the brilliantly illuminated city. The Empress of the
French would enjoy a spectacle which could scarcely be equalled
anywhere, and the more striking because she had never seen Prague.
Knowing that the Emperor preferred to speak German, I addressed him in
that language, and I was glad that I did. The monarch expressed himself
at length in a way that touched me deeply. He told me that he wanted to
keep his August daughter with him as long as she should care to stay
at Prague, and that he would escort her to the frontier. 'To-morrow,' he
added, 'I shall go to meet her with the Empress; I shall make the most
of every moment she can give me, and I shall part with her with the
sincerest regret.'

"Then talking about the state of affairs, the Emperor said that he
could not understand the conduct of Russia; that they must be beside
themselves at Saint Petersburg to wish to measure their strength with a
power like France. 'Your army,' he went on, 'is stronger by at least a
hundred thousand men; you have far abler officers; your Emperor alone is
worth eighty thousand men.'"

After the audience of the Emperor Francis, came the Empress's. The
ambassador described that too, but not without noticing the systematic
reserve she showed in speaking directly or indirectly about the state of
affairs. "When I was introduced to Her Majesty the Empress, she received
me with the same flattering consideration. She made me sit down by her,
and spoke at some length of the excellent health of our Empress, and of
her delight that she was still going to stay for some time with her. The
rest of the conversation was about matters of art and literature, which
interest Her Majesty very much. She talked easily and pleasantly, but
confined herself to literature and philosophy, making no reference to
the events of the day or to those which are preparing." In spite of this
shadow which the ambassador was acute enough to notice, the despatch
on the whole bore witness to his complete content. "On rising from the
table," he added, "the Emperor spoke to me in the kindest way, and asked
some of the noblemen who were present to show me the curiosities of
the city and the neighborhood. He afterwards sent me word by the High
Chamberlain that he had set aside for me one of the principal boxes of
the theatre during my stay. This court, which is generally so informal,
is to be very magnificent during the visit of Her Majesty the Empress.
The Emperor is going to meet her with the principal members of the
court; the guards of the castle and of the city have been largely
reinforced; the Hungarian Guard has been ordered from Vienna. The young
Imperial family will arrive some time to-morrow; preparations are making
for grand illuminations, balls, and other festivities to celebrate
this interesting reunion. I have been invited again to dine with Their
Majesties, and everything is in readiness to receive our Sovereign. The
hearts of this good people of Bohemia are flying to meet her. Speaking
of the loyalty of this nation, the Emperor told me that it is ready to
do whatever is asked of it. General Klenau added that if he were allowed
to make use of the influence of Saint Nepomuc, whose bronze statue is
saluted every day by those who cross the Prague bridge, he could raise
two hundred thousand Bohemians in a very short time. I have mentioned
General Klenau, and I must say that he is full of gratitude for the
kindness with which His Majesty has been treated at Dresden. He speaks
of him most enthusiastically and regrets that he is not able to serve
under the greatest general the world has ever seen. The Prince and
Princess Anthony of Saxony arrived this morning, and are now setting
forth to meet Her Majesty the Empress."

June 5, Marie Louise made an early start from Toeplitz for Prague. At
five in the afternoon a salute of fifty cannon announced that she had
arrived at the White Mountain. The Emperor and Empress of Austria,
followed by their household in gala attire, had met her at the Abbey
of Saint Margaret. She got into their carriage, and with them made a
triumphal entry into Prague amid blazing torches. The capital of Bohemia
was brilliantly illuminated. The garrison and the guilds, bearing their
banners, formed a double line. The Empress of Austria had given up to
her step-daughter her place to the right on the back seat, and the
Emperor sat on the front seat with his brother, the Grand Duke of
Wuerzburg. A countless multitude cheered them most enthusiastically.

When they had reached the castle, Marie Louise was conducted to her
apartments by the Emperor and the Empress, and there she found awaiting
her, to present their respects, the authorities of the city, the
canonesses of the two noble chapters of the province, those of the
court who had not gone to meet her, and a large household chosen by
the Emperor from his most distinguished chamberlains. She dined at
her father's table with the Grand Duke of Wuerzburg, Prince Anthony of
Saxony, the Duchess of Montebello, the Duchess of Bassano, the Count of
Montesquiou, etc. The Emperor and the Empress of Austria gave up to her
the first place at the table, as they had done in the carriage, and
during her whole stay at Prague she received the honors reserved for the
Austrian sovereigns on grand occasions. Prince Clary was put at the
head of the household chosen for her, which included besides, Counts
Neipperg, von Nestitz, von Clam, Prince von Auersperg, Prince von
Kinsky, Counts von Lutzow, von Paar, von Wallis, von Trautmannsdorf, von

In the postscript of his despatch of June 5, 1812, which we have quoted,
Count Otto gave the following details about Marie Louise's entrance into
Prague: "Her Majesty the Empress arrived here at about seven in the
evening. Ever since eleven in the morning, the troops, the corporation,
the civic guards, the University, and nearly all the inhabitants of
the town, had turned out to meet her, forming a line which it was most
interesting to see, on account of the kindliness and affection which
animated the multitude. The procession was very imposing and worthy of
the two sovereigns. It had been arranged that Her Majesty should arrive
in an open carriage, which was driven very slowly so that the vast crowd
should be able to get a good look at her. Incessant cheers mingled with
the pealing bells, the cannon, and the military music. The whole court
had gathered to welcome the Empress, at the foot of the grand staircase
of the castle. Her Majesty seemed very little tired by the journey,
though she had a slight cold, which did not mar her pleasure or keep her
from expressing to her parents her delight at being with them."

June 7, the Archduke Charles reached Prague. That evening there was a
state dinner in the apartment of the Emperor of Austria. Marie Louise
sat at the middle of the table with the Emperor on her right, and the
Empress on her left. This was the place always assigned to her, both at
home and at her father's. At this dinner she was waited on by Prince
Clary, who was entrusted with the functions of her High Chamberlain.

The same day (June 7), the Duke of Bassano, who had accompanied
Napoleon, wrote to Count Otto: "Sir,--I have the honor of informing you
that His Majesty, who left Dresden May 29, reached Thorn the 2d inst. He
stopped forty-eight hours at Posen, leaving at four o'clock for Dantzic
in order to review on his way several of the army corps. His health is
perfect, and everywhere he has received the expression of the enthusiasm
and admiration he inspires. The army is magnificent. The soldiers are in
good trim, and all the corps are conspicuous for their fine bearing
and their discipline. The weather is faultless, the roads are in good
condition, and the country amply supplies all that the army needs,
without its calling on its abundant reserves. I propose, Sir, to write
to you twice a week, to give you the news about His Majesty, and details
about the operations of the army. These communications will enable you
to contradict the idle rumors which malicious persons may spread."

At Prague the festivities continued without interruption: June 10, the
Empress of France gave a dinner, and at the Court Theatre there was a
performance of a German play, Kotzebue's "American"; on the 11th, the
Emperor of Austria gave a dinner; on the 12th, they visited the Imperial
Library, the Drawing-School, the Museum of Machinery, and in the evening
there was a concert; the 10th, the Archdukes Anthony and Reinhardt
arrived; in the afternoon Marie Louise gave a ball in honor of her
sisters, the three young Archduchesses; the 14th, they visited the Park
of Bubenet; the 15th, the gardens of Count Wratislau, and the estate of
Count von Clam; the 16th, a picnic at Count von Chotek's castle, seven
leagues from Prague, a sail in the boats, return to Prague, and the
arrival of Archduke Albert. The 18th, the Empress Marie Louise rode in
the riding-school of the Wallenstein Place; the Prince of Ligne arrived,
of whom the Baron de Bausset says: "This amiable Prince had all the
qualities needed for social success; he was witty, dignified without
haughtiness, affectionate, and most gracious and polite; his fancy was
quick and fertile; his conversation was animated though kindly and
always in good taste; he was continually saying clever things which
amused but gave no pain, and was full of good stories and interesting
reminiscences. His face was handsome, his expression noble, and he was
very tall. Every one began with loving him, and ended with loving him
still more."

June 18th, in the evening, a grand ball was given by Count von Kolowrat,
Grand Burgrave of Bohemia. The 19th, arrived Archduke Joseph, Palatine
of Hungary; the 20th, visit to the wild and picturesque grotto of Saint
Procopius, which lies amid woods and rocks; the 2lst, reception of the
Princes of Mecklenburg and Hesse-Homburg, state dinner and grand ball at
the castle. The 22d, the Empress Marie Louise rode with her father, who,
when he saw that she liked her horse, made her a present of it. Marie
Louise gave it the name of Hradschin, which is the name of the mountain
on which the castle of Prague is built. The 23d, visit to the Hermitage
of Saint Ivan and to the old castle of Carlstein; the 24th, a grand
performance at the theatre; the 25th, arrival of Archduke Rudolph; the
26th, arrival of the young Archdukes, Ferdinand and Maximilian, ball
given by the Empress of France; the 27th, dinner given by the Emperor of
Austria; the 30th, festival on the island of the Arquebusiers, setting
out at half-past six in the evening from the right bank of the Moldau,
landing at the end of the island, where a triumphal arch had been built,
and young girls threw flowers before Their Majesties' path.

July 1, Marie Louise, accompanied by her father the Emperor, left Prague
at six in the morning. The garrison and the civic guard were under arms.
The nobles who were at court escorted the Empress of the French to her
carriage, and amid pealing bells and roaring cannon, the cheers and
blessings of the crowd, the young sovereign departed. That evening she
slept at Schoeffin; the next day, July 2, at Carlsbad; the 4th, she
visited the tin mines of Frankenthal, descending more than six hundred
feet in a chair, placed at the mouth and controlled by balance-weights;
the chair was then sent up, the Emperor Francis went down as well as all
the ladies, one after another; the 5th they left Carlsbad, and reached
Franzbrunn, where they were entertained by national songs and dances.
The 6th, Marie Louise parted from her father, whom she was not to see
again till after the fall of the Empire; she spent the night at Bamberg,
in the palace of the Duke William of Bavaria. The next day, the 7th,
she reached Wuerzburg, where her uncle, the Grand Duke, gave her a
magnificent reception. After a few excursions to the castle of Werneck,
many boating-parties, illuminations, and concerts led by the Duke
himself, she continued her journey. She reached Saint Cloud July 18,
1812: and at six in the evening the cannon of the Invalides announced to
the Parisians the return of their Empress.

Marie Louise, who was not yet twenty years and six months old, had been
for two years and four months Empress of the French and Queen of Italy.
In her thoughts she recalled everything that had happened since her
pathetic departure from Vienna,--the moving ceremony at Braunau, where
she was given over to the French; her first meeting with Napoleon before
the church of Courcelles; her triumphal entry into Paris by the Avenue
of the Champs Elysees; her magnificent marriage in the _salon carre_ of
the Louvre; the brilliant festivities, the journeys, continual ovations;
the ball at the Austrian Embassy, a gloomy warning amid so much
prosperity; her sufferings ending with a great joy, with the birth of a
son; the enthusiasm which this event aroused throughout the world; then
more recently, the wonderful splendor of the Dresden interview. For two
years nothing but flattery, homage, applause, music, triumphal arches,
magnificence, splendid festivities; and, after all, how poor and empty
it all was!

So far from her husband, her guide and protector, Marie Louise felt
alone and strange in the grand palace of Saint Cloud. It was then that
she began to suffer from those attacks of homesickness which made her
long for the neighborhood of Vienna. Up to that day there had been
nothing but fairy-like splendor; the young sovereign had seen only the
brilliant side of the Empire. A vague presentiment made her fear that
she was to see the other side. Napoleon had not been able to make his
wife share his boundless confidence in himself. She would have been
tempted to apply to all she saw these words from the "Imitation": "The
glory which comes from men passes quickly away.... The glory of this
world is never void of sorrow." Napoleon had just said in his last
proclamation: "Russia is led by fatality. She must fulfil her destiny."
Alas! it was not Russia, it was France; it was the Emperor who was led
by fatality. The army had crossed the Niemen June 24. As the national
historian has said, "We shall find glory at every step; but we must not
look for good fortune beyond the Niemen." Up to this point every one
looked upon Napoleon as invincible, and his young wife had imagined that
he was the incarnation of success. This false idea soon vanished. Marie
Louise's happy days were over.

In our book about the Empress Josephine we regretted that Napoleon had
not oftener sought her advice. We may say the same thing regarding
the second Empress. Marie Louise was very young and inexperienced,
especially in matters of statesmanship and diplomacy. Yet her husband,
genius as he was, would have done well to take counsel of her. She loved
peace, did not care for adventure, and she would have dissuaded him from
the Russian campaign. She who had known from infancy the prejudices,
passions, and rancors of the Viennese court, would have warned him
against blind confidence in Austrian promises. But would she have dared
to give even one word of advice to her powerful husband? Had a woman of
twenty ventured to advise the great Napoleon, the modern Caesar, the
second Charlemagne, he would have received the presumptuous child
with a smile. Yet it was she who would have been right, and she would
have prevented the lamentable wreck of the gigantic Empire. How small a
thing is genius, that word we utter with such respect and emphasis! How
petty before God is the greatest of men!

Book of the day: