The Court of the Empress Josephine by Imbert de Saint-Amand

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  • 1890
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“Two-thirds of my life is passed, why should I so distress myself about what remains? The most brilliant fortune does not deserve all the trouble I take, the pettiness I detect in myself, or the humiliations and shame I endure; thirty years will destroy those giants of power which can be seen only by raising the head; we shall disappear, I who am so petty, and those whom I regard so eagerly, from whom I expected all my greatness. The most desirable of all blessings is repose, seclusion, a little spot we can call our own.” When La Bruyère expressed himself so bitterly, when he spoke of the court “which satisfies no one,” but “prevents one from being satisfied anywhere else,” of the court, “that country where the joys are visible but false, and the sorrows hidden, but real,” he had before him the brilliant Palace of Versailles, the unrivalled glory of the Sun King, a monarchy which thought itself immovable and eternal. What would he say in this century when dynasties fail like autumn leaves, and it takes much less than thirty years to destroy the giants of power; when the exile of to-day repeats to the exile of the morrow the motto of the churchyard: _Hodie mihi, eras tibi?_ What would this Christian philosopher say at a time when royal and imperial palaces have been like caravansaries through which sovereigns have passed like travellers, when their brief resting-places have been consumed by the blaze of petroleum and are now but a heap of ashes?

The study of any court is sure to teach wisdom and indifference to human glories. In our France of the nineteenth century, fickle as it has been, inconstant, fertile in revolutions, recantations, and changes of every sort, this lesson is more impressive than it has been at any period of our history. Never has Providence shown more clearly the nothingness of this world’s grandeur and magnificence. Never has the saying of Ecclesiastes been more exactly verified: “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity!” We have before us the task of describing one of the most sumptuous courts that has ever existed, and of reviewing splendors all the more brilliant for their brevity. To this court of Napoleon and Josephine, to this majestic court, resplendent with glory, wealth, and fame, may well be applied Corneille’s lines:–

“All your happiness
Subject to instability
In a moment falls to the ground,
And as it has the brilliancy of glass It also has its fragility.”

We shall evoke the memory of the dead to revive this vanished court, and we shall consult, one after another, the persons who were eye-witnesses of these short-lived wonders. A prefect of the palace, M. de Bausset, wrote: “When I recall the memorable times of which I have just given a faint idea, I feel, after so many years, as if I had been taking part in the gorgeous scenes of the _Arabian Tales_ or of the _Thousand and One Nights_. The magic picture of all those splendors and glories has disappeared, and with it all the prestige of ambition and power.” One of the ladies of the palace of the Empress Josephine, Madame de Rémusat, has expressed the same thought: “I seem to be recalling a dream, but a dream resembling an Oriental tale, when I describe the lavish luxury of that period, the disputes for precedence, the claims of rank, the demands of every one.” Yes, in all that there was something dreamlike, and the actors in that fairy spectacle which is called the Empire, that great show piece, with its scenery, now brilliant, now terrible, but ever changing, must have been even more astonished than the spectators. Aix-la-Chapelle and the court of Charlemagne, the castle of Fontainebleau and the Pope, Notre Dame and the coronation, the Champ de Mars and the distribution of eagles, the Cathedral of Milan and the Iron Crown, Genoa the superb and its naval festival, Austerlitz and the three emperors,–what a setting! what accessories! what personages! The peal of organs, the intoning of priests, the applause of the multitude and of the soldiers, the groans of the dying, the trumpet call, the roll of the drum, ball music, military bands, the cannon’s roar, were the joyful and mournful harmonies heard while the play went on. What we shall study amid this tumult and agitation is one woman. We have already studied her as the Viscountess of Beauharnais, as Citizeness Bonaparte, and as the wife of the First Consul. We shall now study her in her new part, that of Empress.

Let us go back to May 18, 1804, to the Palace of Saint Cloud. The Emperor had just been proclaimed by the Senate before the _plébiscite_ which was to ratify the new state of things. The curtain has risen, the play begins, and no drama is fuller of contrasts, of incidents, of movement. The leading actor, Napoleon, was already as familiar with his part as if he had played it since his childhood. Josephine is also at home in hers. As a woman of the world, she had learned, by practice in the drawing-room, to win even greater victories. For a fashionable beauty there is no great difference between an armchair and a throne. The minor actors are not so accustomed to their new position. Nothing is more amusing than the embarrassment of the courtiers when they have to answer the Emperor’s questions. They begin with a blunder; then, in correcting themselves, they fall into still worse confusion; ten times a minute was repeated, Sire, General, Your Majesty, Citizen, First Consul. Constant, the Emperor’s valet de chambre, has given us a description of this 18th of May, 1804, a day devoted to receptions, presentations, interviews, and congratulations: “Every one,” he says, “was filled with joy in the Palace of Saint Cloud; every one imagined that he had risen a step, like General Bonaparte, who, from First Consul, had become a monarch. Men were embracing and complimenting one another; confiding their share of hopes and plans for the future; there was no official so humble that he was not fired with ambition.” In a word, the ante-chamber, barring the difference of persons, presented an exact imitation of what was going on in the drawing-room. It seemed like a first performance which had long been eagerly expected, arousing the same eager excitement among the players and the public. The day which had started bright grew dark; for a long time there were threatenings of a thunder-storm; but none looked on this as an evil omen. All were inclined to cheery views. The courtiers displayed their zeal with all the ardor, the passion, the _furia francese_, which is a national characteristic, and appears on the battle-field as well as in the ante- chamber. The French fight and flatter with equal enthusiasm.

Amid all these manifestations of devotion and delight, the members of the Imperial family alone, who should have been the most satisfied, and certainly the most astonished by their greatness, wore an anxious, almost a grieved look. They alone appeared discontented with their master. Their pride knew no bounds; their irritability was extreme. Nothing seemed good enough, for them. In the way of honors privileges, and when we recall their father’s modest at Ajaccio, it is hard to keep from smiling at the vanity of these new Princes of the blood. Of Napoleon’s four brothers, two were absent and on bad terms with him: Lucien, on account of his marriage with Madame Jouberton; Jerome, on account of his marriage with Miss Paterson. His mother, Madame Letitia Bonaparte, an able woman, who combined great courage with uncommon good sense, had not lost her head over the wonderful good fortune of the modern Caesar. Having a presentiment that all this could not last, she economized from motives of prudence, not of avarice. While the courtiers were celebrating the Emperor’s new triumphs, she lingered in Rome with her son Lucien, whom she had followed in his voluntary exile, having pronounced in his favor in his quarrel with Napoleon. As for Joseph and Louis, who, with their wives, had been raised to the dignity of Grand Elector and Constable, respectively, one might think that they were overburdened with wealth and honors, and would be perfectly satisfied. But not at all! They were indignant that they were not personally mentioned, in the _plébiscite_, by which their posterity was appointed to succeed to the French crown. This _plébiscite_ ran thus: “The French people desire the Inheritance of the Imperial dignity in the direct, natural, or adoptive line of descent from Napoleon Bonaparte, and in the direct, natural, legitimate line of descent from Joseph Bonaparte and from Louis Bonaparte, as is determined by the organic _senatus-consultum_ of the twenty-eighth Floréal, year XII.” For the Emperor’s family, these stipulations were the cause of incessant squabbles and recriminations. Lucien and Jerome regarded their exclusion as an act of injustice. Joseph and Louis asked indignantly why their descendants were mentioned when they themselves were excluded. They were very jealous of Josephine, and of her son, Eugene de Beauharnais, and much annoyed by the Emperor’s reservation of the right of adoption, which threatened them and held out hopes for Eugene. Louis Bonaparte, indignant with the slanderous story, according to which his wife, Hortense, had been Napoleon’s mistress, treated her ill, and conceived a dislike for his own son, who was reported to be that of the Emperor. As for Elisa Bacciochi, Caroline Murat, and Pauline Borghese, they could not endure the mortification of being placed below the Empress, their sister-in-law, and the thought that they had not yet been given the title of Princesses of the blood, which had been granted to the wife of Joseph and the wife of Louis, filled them with actual despair.

Madame de Rémusat, who was present at the first Imperial dinner at St. Cloud, May 18, 1804, describes this curious repast. General Duroc, Grand Marshal of the Palace, told all the guests in succession of the titles of Prince and Princess to be given to Joseph and Louis, and their wives, but not to the Emperor’s sisters, or to their husbands. This fatal news prostrated Elisa, Caroline, and Pauline. When they sat down at table, Napoleon was good-humored and merry, possibly at heart enjoying the slight constraint that this novel formality enforced upon his guests. Madame Murat, when she heard the Emperor saying frequently _Princess_ Louis, could not hide her mortification or her tears. Every one was embarrassed, while Napoleon smiled maliciously.

The next day the Emperor went to Paris to hold a grand reception at the Tuileries, for he was not a man to postpone the enjoyment of the splendor which his satisfied ambition could draw from his new title. In this palace, where had ruled the Committee of Public Safety, where the Convention had sat, whence Robespierre had departed in triumph to preside over the festival in honor of the Supreme Being, nothing was heard but the titles of Emperor, Empress, My Lord, Prince, Princess, Imperial Highness, Most Serene Highness. It was asserted that Bonaparte had cut up the red caps to make the ribbons of the Legions of Honor. The most fanatical Revolutionists had become conservative as soon as they had anything to preserve. The Empire was but a few hours old, and already the new-born court was alive with the same rivalries, jealousies, and vanities that fill the courts of the oldest monarchies. It was like Versailles, in the reign of Louis XIV., in the Gallery of Mirrors, or in the drawing-room of the Oeil de Boeuf. It would have taken a Dangeau to record, hour by hour, the minute points of etiquette. The Emperor walked, spoke, thought, acted, like a monarch of an old line. To nothing does a man so readily adapt himself as to power. One who has been invested with the highest rank is sure to imagine himself eternal; to think that he has always held it and will always keep it. Indeed, how is it possible to escape intoxication by the fumes of perpetual incense? How can a man tell the truth to himself when there is no one about him courageous enough to tell it to him? When the press is muzzled, and public power rests only on general approval, when there is no slave even to remind the triumphant hero, as in the ancient ovations, that he is only a man, how is it possible to avoid being infatuated by one’s greatness and not to imagine one’s self the absolute master of one’s destiny? The new Caesar met with no resistance. He was to publish scornfully in the _Moniteur_ the protest of Louis XVIII. against his accession. He was to be adored both by fierce Revolutionists and by great lords, by regicides and by Royalists and ecclesiastics. It seemed as if with him everything began, or rather started anew. “The old world was submerged,” says Chateaubriand; “when the flood of anarchy withdrew, Napoleon appeared at the beginning of a new world, like those giants described by profane and sacred history at the beginning of society, appearing on earth after the Deluge.”

The former general of the Revolution enjoyed his situation as absolute sovereign. He studied the laws of etiquette as closely as he studied the condition of his troops. He saw that the men of the old régime were more conversant in the art of flattery, more eager than the new men. As Madame de Staël says: “Whenever a gentleman of the old court recalled the ancient etiquette, suggested an additional bow, a certain way at knocking at the door of an ante-chamber, a ceremonious method of presenting a despatch, of folding a letter, of concluding it with this or that formula, he greeted as if he had helped on the happiness of the human race.” Napoleon attached, or pretended to attach, great importance to the thousand nothings which up the life of courts. He established in the palace the same discipline as in the camps. Everything became a matter of rule. Courtiers studied formalities as officers studied the art of war. Regulations were as closely observed in the drawing-rooms as in the tents. At the end of a few months Napoleon was to have the most brilliant, the most rigid court of Europe. At times the whirl of vanities surrounded him filled with impatience the great central sun, without whom his satellites would have been nothing. At other times, however, his pride was gratified by the thought that it was his will, his fancy, which evoked from nothing all the grandees of the earth. He was not pained at seeing such eagerness in behalf of trifles that he had invented. He liked to fill his courtiers with raptures or with despair, by a smile or a frown. He thought his sisters’ ambition childish, but it amused him; and if they had to cry a little at first, he finally granted them what they wanted.

May 19, after the family dinner, Madame Murat was more and more distressed at not being a Princess, when she was a Bonaparte by birth, while Madame Joseph and Madame Louis, one of whom was a Clary, the other a Beauharnais, bore that title, and burst out into complaints and reproaches. “Why,” she asked of her all-powerful brother, “why condemn me and my sisters to obscurity, to contempt, while covering strangers with honors and dignities?” At first these words annoyed Napoleon. “In fact,” he exclaimed, “judging from your pretensions, one would suppose that we inherited the crown from the late King our father.” At the end of the interview, Madame Murat, not satisfied with crying, fainted away. Napoleon softened at once, and a few days later there appeared a notification in the _Moniteur_ that henceforth the Emperor’s sisters should be called Princesses and Imperial Highnesses.

The Empress’s Maid of Honor was Madame de La Rochefoucauld; her Lady of the Bedchamber was Madame de Lavalette. Her Ladies of the Palace, whose number was soon raised to twelve, and later still more augmented, were at first only four: Madame de Talhouët, Madame de Luçay, Madame de Lauriston, and Madame de Rémusat. These ladies, too, aroused the hottest jealousies, and soon they gave rise to a sort of parody of the questions of vanity that agitated the Emperor’s family. The women who were admitted to the Empress’s intimacy could never console themselves for the privileges accorded to the Ladies of the Palace.

In essentials all courts are alike. On a greater or smaller scale they are rank with the same pettinesses, the same chattering gossip, the same trivial squabbles as the porter’s lodge, ante-chambers, and servants’ quarters. If we examine these things from the standpoint of a philosopher, we shall find but little difference between a steward and a chamberlain, between a chambermaid and a lady of the palace. We may go further and say that as soon as they have places and money at their disposal, republicans have courtesies, as much as monarchs, and everywhere and always there are to be found people ready to bow low if there is anything on the ground that they can pick up. Revolutions alter the forms of government, but not the human heart; afterwards, as before, there exist the same pretensions, the same prejudices, the same flatteries. The incense may be burned before a tribune, a dictator, or a Caesar, there are always the same flattering genuflections, the same cringing.

The new Empire began most brilliantly, but there was no lack of morose criticism. The Faubourg Saint Germain was for the most part hostile and scornful. It looked upon the high dignitaries of the Empire and on the Emperor himself as upstarts, and all the men of the old régime who went over to him they branded as renegades. The title of “Citizen” was suppressed and that of “Monsieur” restored, after having been abandoned in conversation and writing for twelve years. Miot de Mélito tells us in his Memoirs that at first public opinion was opposed to this change; even those who at the beginning had shown the greatest repugnance to being addressed as Citizen, disliked conferring the title of Monsieur upon Revolutionists and the rabble, and they pretended to address as Citizen those whom they saw fit to include in this class. Many turned the new state of affairs to ridicule. The Parisians, always of a malicious humor, made perpetual puns and epigrams in abundance.

The Faubourg Saint Germain, in spite of a few adhesions from personal motives, preserved an ironical attitude. General de Ségur, then a captain under the orders of the Grand Marshal of the Palace, observed that in 1804, with the exception of several obscure nobles, either poor or ruined, and others already attached to Napoleon’s civil and military fortune, many negotiations and various temptations were required to persuade well-known persons to appear at the court as it was at first constituted. He goes on: “As a spectator and confidant of the means employed, I witnessed in those early days many refusals, and some I had to announce myself. I even heard many bitter complaints on this subject. I remember that in reply I mentioned to the Empress my own case, and told her what it had cost me to enlist under the tricolor, and then to enter the First Consul’s military household. The Empress understood me so well that she made to me a similar confidence, confessing her own struggles, her almost invincible repugnance, at the end of 1795, in spite of her feeling for Bonaparte, before she could make up her mind to marry the man whom at that time she herself used to call General Vendémiaire.”

Although Josephine had become Empress, she remained a Legitimist, and saw clearly the weak points in the Empire. At the Tuileries, in the chamber of Marie Antoinette, she felt out of place; she was surprised to have for Lady of Honor a duchess of an old family, and her sole ambition was to be pardoned by the Royalists for her elevation, to the highest rank. Napoleon, too, was much concerned about the Bourbons, in whom he foresaw his successors, “One of his keenest regrets,” wrote Prince Metternich, “was his inability to invoke legitimacy as the foundation of his power. Few men have felt more deeply than he the precariousness and fragility of power when it lacks this foundation, its susceptibility to attack.”

After recalling the Emperor’s attempt to induce Louis XVIII. to abandon his claims to the throne, Prince Metternich goes on: “In speaking to me of this matter, Napoleon said: ‘His reply was noble, full of noble traditions. In those Legitimists there is something outside of mere intellectual force.'” The Emperor, who, at the beginning of his career, displayed such intense Republican enthusiasm, was by nature essentially a lover of authority and of the monarchy. He would have liked to be a sovereign of the old stamp. His pleasure in surrounding himself with members of the old aristocracy attests the aristocratic instincts of the so-called crowned apostle of democracy. The few Republicans who remained faithful to the principles were indignant with these tendencies; it was with grief that they saw the reappearance of the throne; and thus, from different motives the unreconciled Jacobins and the men of Coblentz who had not joined the court, showed the same feeling of bitterness and of hostility to the Empire.

The trial of General Moreau made clear the germs of opposition which existed in a latent condition. It is difficult to form an idea of the enormous throng that blocked all the approaches to the Palace of Justice the day the trial opened, and continued to crowd them during the twelve days that the trial lasted, which was as interesting to Royalists as to Republicans. The most fashionable people of Paris made a point of being present. Sentence was pronounced June 10. Georges Cadoudal and nineteen of the accused, among whom were M. Armand de Polignac, and M. de Rivière, were condemned to death.

To the Emperor’s great surprise, Moreau was sentenced to only two years of prison. This penalty was remitted, and he was allowed to betake himself to the United States. To facilitate his establishing himself there, the Emperor bought his house in the rue d’Anjou Saint Honoré, paying for it eight hundred thousand francs, much more than it was worth, and then he gave it to Bernadotte, who did not scruple to accept it. The sum was paid to Moreau out of the secret fund of the police before he left for Cadiz. Josephine’s urgent solicitations saved the life of the Duke Armand de Polignac, whose death-sentence was commuted to four years’ imprisonment before being transported. Madame Murat secured a modification of the sentence of the Marquis de Rivière; and these two acts of leniency, to which great publicity was given, were of great service in diminishing the irritation of the Royalists. After Moreau’s trial, the opposition, having become discouraged, and conscious of its weakness, laid down its arms, at least for a time. Napoleon was everywhere master.

The Republic was forgotten. Its name still appeared on the coins: “French Republic, Napoleon, Emperor”; but it survived as a mere ghost. Nevertheless, the Emperor was anxious to celebrate in 1804 the Republican festival of July 14; but the object of this festival was so modified that it would have been hard to see in it the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille and of the first federation. In the celebration, not a single word was said about these two events. The official eulogy of the Revolution was replaced by a formal distribution of crosses of the Legion of Honor.

This was the first time that the Emperor and Empress appeared in public in full pomp. It was also the first time that they availed themselves of the privilege of driving through the broad road of the garden of the Tuileries. Accompanied by a magnificent procession, they went in great splendor to the Invalides, which the Revolution had turned into a Temple of Mars, and the Empire had turned again to a Catholic Church. At the door they were received by the Governor and M. de Ségur, Grand Master of Ceremonies, and at the entrance to the church by the Cardinal du Belloy at the head of numerous priests. Napoleon and Josephine listened attentively to the mass; then, after a speech was uttered by the Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honor, M. de Lacépède, the Emperor recited the form of the oath; at the end of which all the members of the Legion shouted “I swear.” This sight aroused the enthusiasm of the crowd, and the applause was loud. In the middle of the ceremony, Napoleon called up to him Cardinal Caprara, who had taken a very important part in the negotiations concerning the Concordat, and was soon to help to persuade the Pope to come to Paris for the coronation. The Emperor took from his own neck the ribbon of the Legion of Honor, and gave it to the worthy and aged prelate. Then the knights of the new order passed in line before the Imperial throne, while a man of the people, wearing a blouse, took his station on the steps of the throne. This excited some surprise, and he was asked what he wanted; he took out his appointment to the Legion. The Emperor at once called him up, and gave him the cross with the usual kiss.

The Empress’s beauty made a great impression, as we learn from Madame de Rémusat, who generally prejudiced against her, but on this occasion was forced to recognize that Josephine, by her tasteful and careful dressing, succeeded in appearing young and charming amid the many young and pretty women by whom she was for the first time surrounded. “She stood there,” Madame de Rémusat goes on, “in the full light of the setting sun, wearing a dress of pink tulle, adorned with silver stars, cut very low after the fashion of the time, and crowned by a great many diamond clusters; and this fresh and brilliant dress, her graceful bearing, her delightful smile, her gentle expression produced such an effect that I heard a number of persons who had been present at the ceremony say that she effaced all her suite.” Three days later the Emperor started for the camp at Boulogne.

In spite of the enthusiasm of the people and the army, one thing became clear to every thoughtful observer, and that was that the new régime, lacking strength to resist misfortunes, must have perpetual success in order to live. Napoleon was condemned, by the form of his government, not merely to succeed, but to dazzle, to astonish, to subjugate. His Empire required extraordinary magnificence, prodigious effects, Babylonian festivities, gigantic adventures, colossal victories. His Imperial escutcheon, to escape contempt, needed rich coats of gilding, and demanded glory to make up for the lack of antiquity. In order to make himself acceptable to the European, monarchs, his new brothers, and to remove the memory of the venerable titles of the Bourbons, this former officer of the armies of Louis XVI., the former second-lieutenant of artillery, who had suddenly become a Caesar, a Charlemagne, could make this sudden and strange transformation comprehensible only through unprecedented fame and splendor. He desired to have a feudal, majestic court, surrounded by all the pomp and ceremony of the Middle Ages. He saw how hard was the part he had to play, and he knew very well how much a nation needs glory to make it forget liberty. Hence a perpetual effort to make every day outshine the one before, and first to equal, then to surpass, the splendors of the oldest and most famous dynasties. This insatiable thirst for action and for renown was to be the source of Napoleon’s strength and also of his weakness. But only a few clear-sighted men made these reflections when the Empire began. The masses, with their easy optimism, looked upon the new Emperor as an infallibly impeccable being, and thought that since he had not yet been beaten, he was invincible. Josephine indulged in no such illusions; she knew the defects in her husband’s character, and dreaded the future for him as well as for herself. Singularly enough for one so surrounded by flatteries, in her whole life her head was never for a moment turned by pride or infatuation.



Before having himself crowned by the Pope, after the example of Charlemagne, Napoleon was anxious to go to meditate at the tomb of the great Carlovingian Emperor, of whom he regarded himself as the worthy successor. A journey on the banks of the Rhine, a triumphal tour in the famous German cities which the France of the Revolution had been so proud to conquer, seemed to the new sovereign a fitting prologue to the pomp of the coronation. Napoleon was desirous of impressing the imaginations of people in his new Empire and in the old Empire of Germany. He wished the trumpets of fame to sound in his honor on both banks of the famous and disputed river.

The Empress, who had gone to Aix-la-Chapelle to take the waters, arrived there a few days before her husband. Napoleon wrote to her, August 6, 1804:–

“MY DEAR: I have been here at Calais since midnight; I am thinking of leaving this evening for Dunkirk. I am satisfied with what I see, and I am tolerably well. I hope that you will get as much good from the waters as I get from going about and from seeing the camps and the sea. Eugene has left for Blois. Hortense is well. Louis is at Plombières. I am very anxious to see you. You are always essential to my happiness. A thousand kind messages.”

The Emperor wrote again from Ostend, August 14, 1804:–

“MY DEAR: I have not heard from you for several days, though I should have been glad to hear that the waters have done you good and how you pass your time. I have been here a week. Day after to-morrow I shall be at Boulogne for a tolerably brilliant festival. Send me word by the messenger what you mean to do, and when you shall have finished your baths. I am much satisfied with the army and the fleet. Eugene is still at Blois. I hear no more about Hortense than if she were at the Congo. I am writing to scold her. Many kind wishes for all.”

Napoleon reached Aix-la-Chapelle September 3. The Emperor Francis had, on the 10th of August, assumed the Imperial title accorded to his house, of Emperor-elect of Germany, Hereditary Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia and Hungary. He had then given orders to M. de Cobentzel to go to Aix-la- Chapelle to present his credentials to Napoleon. Napoleon received the Austrian diplomatist very kindly, and was soon surrounded by a multitude of foreign ambassadors who came to pay their respects. He re-established the annual honors long before paid to the memory of Charlemagne, went down into the vault, and gave the priests of the Cathedral convincing proofs of his munificence. The Empress was shown a piece of the true cross which the Carlovingian Emperor had long worn on his breast as a talisman. She was offered a holy relic, almost the whole arm of that hero, but she declined it, saying that she did not wish to deprive Aix-la-Chapelle of so precious a memorial, especially when she had the arm of a man as great as Charlemagne to support her.

From Aix-la-Chapelle, Napoleon and Josephine went to Cologne, then to Coblentz, then to Mayence, travelling separately. The Emperor left Cologne September 16 at four in the afternoon, and reached Bonn a little before nightfall, to start again the next morning. The town pleased her very much, and she was sorry she could not remain there longer. She stayed at a fine house with a garden opening on a terrace that looked out over the Rhine. After supper she walked on the terrace. The delight of the people assembled below, the peacefulness of the night, and the beauty of the river in the moonlight, made the evening most enjoyable. At four the next morning the Empress started off again in her travelling carriage, and at ten she entered Coblentz. The Emperor did not get there until six in the evening, having left Cologne the same day. At Bonn he got on horseback to examine for himself everything that demanded close inspection. From Coblentz, where a ball was given them, Napoleon and Josephine went to Mayence, each by a different route. The Emperor followed the highway on the edge of the Rhine; the Empress ascended the river in a yacht which the Prince of Nassau Weilburg had placed at her disposal. It was a picturesque voyage.

The morning mist soon cleared away. Josephine, who had breakfast served on deck, admired the many charming scenes between Boppard and Bacharach, the fertile fields, the towns perched on the steep banks; in the distance, the mountains covered with forests; then the narrowing river, the bounded view, the cliffs crowded together, where nothing can be seen but the river, the sky, and the crags crowned by the mirrored towns of mediaeval castles. The light boat, as it glided smoothly over the stream, with its gilded Neptune at the bow, recalled Cleopatra’s barge. At times the silence was profound, then the church-bells would be heard, as well as the cheers of the peasants on the river-banks. The pettiest villages had sent guards of honor, had hoisted flags, and raised triumphal arches. Curiously enough, the right bank, which did not belong to France, seemed to display quite as much zeal and enthusiasm as the left bank, the French one; on both sides were the same shouts of welcome, the same demonstrations, the same salutes. When she reached Saint Goar, on the left bank, the Empress saw the authorities of the town coming out to meet her, with military music, in boats decorated with branches of trees; and on the other side of the river, on the terrace of the castle of Hesse Rheinfels, the Hessian garrison was presenting arms, and their salutes joined with those of the inhabitants of Saint Goar, Further on, they shouted through a speaking- trumpet to hear the famous echo of the Lorelei, with its wonderfully distinct and frequent repetitions. Then they passed the fantastic castle of the Palatinate, built in the middle of the stream, and in old times the refuge of the Countesses Palatine, where their children were born and kept in security during their babyhood. The Empress landed at Bingen, where she spent the night, starting again the next morning. Towards three in the afternoon she reached Mayence, where twelve young girls belonging to the best families of the city were awaiting her. Almost simultaneously, the cannon at the other gate announced the Emperor’s arrival.

On his way, Napoleon had noticed on an island in the Rhine, at the very extremity of the French Empire, the convent of Rolandswerth. He was told that the nuns who lived there had refused to leave it during the last war, that very often the cannon-balls of the contending armies had often fallen on the island without damaging the convent where those holy women were praying. The Emperor became interested in their fate, and made over to them the forty or fifty acres of which the little island consisted.

On their arrival at Mayence, September 21, Napoleon Josephine were most warmly greeted. In the evening all the streets and public buildings were illuminated. The Prince Archchancellor of the Germanic Empire, who owed to the French sovereign the preservation of his wealth and of his title, desired to pay his respects. The Emperor was surrounded by a real court of German Princes. The Princess of the House of Hesse, the Duke and Duchess of Bavaria, the Elector of Baden, who was more than seventy-five years old, and had come with his son and grandson, appeared as if vassals of the new Charlemagne, the second Théâtre Français had been summoned from Paris, and played before this public of Highnesses. Every one was struck by the celerity with which this crowned soldier had acquired the appearance of a sovereign belonging to an old line, while he still preserved the language and appearance of a soldier. One day he asked the hereditary Prince of Baden: “What did you do yesterday?” The young Prince replied with some embarrassment that he had strolled about the streets. “You did very wrong,” said Napoleon. “What you ought to have done was to visit the fortifications and inspect them carefully. How can you tell? Perhaps some day you will have to besiege Mayence. Who would have told me when I was a simple artillery officer walking about Toulon that I should be destined to take that city?” It was at Mayence that the treasures unjustly extorted from the German Princes were restored to them. It was at Mayence that Gutenberg’s name for the first time received formal homage.

General de Ségur, In his Memoirs, narrates an anecdote about Napoleon’s stay in this old German city. The Emperor had gone incognito and without escort to an island in the Rhine, not far from the town. As he was walking in this almost deserted island, he noticed a wretched hut in which a poor woman was lamenting that her son had been drafted. “Console yourself,” said Napoleon, without letting her know who he was, and giving her an assumed name: “Come to Mayence to-morrow and ask for me; I have some influence with the ministers and I will try to help you.” The poor woman appeared punctually. With delight and surprise she saw that the stranger was the Emperor of the French. Napoleon delighted to tell her that her house which had been destroyed by the war should be rebuilt, that he would give her a little herd and several acres of land, and that her son should be restored to her.

A letter in the _Moniteur_ thus described the departure of Napoleon and Josephine: “Mayence, 11 Vendémiaire (October 3). The Empress left yesterday for Paris, by way of Saverne and Nancy. The Emperor is just leaving; he means to visit Frankenthal, Kaiserslanten, and Kreutznach; then he will take the road to Trèves. The stay of Their Majesties has been for us a source of lasting pleasure and advantage. The most important interests of our department have been favorably regulated. We have nothing now to wish for except an opportunity to show our gratitude, our devotion, and our fidelity, and the sincerity of the good wishes our citizens expressed by their unanimous cheers. The Electors, the Princes, and the many distinguished strangers who have given our city the appearance of a great capital, are now taking their departure.”

This journey on the banks of the Rhine made a deep impression in France and throughout Europe. It must be confessed that no one has ever equalled the Emperor in the art of keeping himself picturesquely before the public. Napoleon in the crypt at Aix-la-Chapelle, face to face with the shade of Charlemagne is a subject to inspire a painter or a poet! At Brussels, in the church of Saint Gudule, Napoleon evoked the memory of Charles V.; at Aix-la-Chapelle in the Cathedral vault he questioned the shade of Charlemagne. And as he meditated on the tomb of the Carlovingian hero, so now do monarchs on their way through Paris meditate in their turn over his tomb beneath the gilded dome of the Invalides. They go down into the crypt, look at the porch upheld by twelve great statues of white marble, each one commemorating a victory, at the mosaic pavement representing a huge crown with fillets, the sarcophagus of red granite from Finland, placed on a foundation of green granite from the Vosges. Then they enter the subterranean chamber, the black marble sanctuary, which contains, among numerous relics, the sword that Napoleon carried at Austerlitz, the decorations he wore on his uniform, the gold crown voted him by the city of Cherbourg, and finally sixty flags won in his victories. The church of the Invalides Inspires the same thoughts as the Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle. In the two temples kings and great men may make the same reflection about glory, about death, about the handful of dust which is all that is left of heroes.



The time for the coronation was drawing near. Napoleon, who had already received the official recognition of foreign powers, was anxious to have his Imperial title consecrated by a great religious ceremony, the fame of which should resound throughout the whole Catholic world. The first date proposed for the solemnity was the 26th Messidor, Year XII. (July 14, 1804), then that of the 18th Brumaire, Year XIII. (Nov. 9, 1804). But the choice in each case was unfortunate. It was hard to combine the memory of the taking of the Bastille with the coronation of a sovereign, and the 18th Brumaire would have recalled the regrets of Republicans and the services of Lucien Bonaparte, who, after being the main aid of his brother’s fortune, was living at Rome, in disgrace and exile. On the other hand, the Pope’s hesitation, for it was with the greatest difficulty that he could make up his mind to go to Paris, had further postponed the date, which was at last fixed for the beginning of December.

Josephine awaited with impatience and fear an event on which, she felt, her future fate depended. The Pope, that mysterious and holy person, had started. Was he to prove her saviour? Was she to be a repudiated wife or a crowned Empress? The clergy were untiring in their laudations of Napoleon’s glory. Bishops, in their charges, spoke of him as God’s elect. One prelate, speaking of the Empire, had said: “One God and one monarch! As the God of the Christians is the only one deserving to be adored and obeyed, you, Napoleon, are the only man worthy to rule the French!” Another had said: “Napoleon, whom God called from the deserts of Egypt, like another Moses, will bring peace between the wise Empire of France and the divine Empire of Christ. The finger of God is here. Let us pray the Most High to protect with his powerful hand the man he has chosen. May the new Augustus live and rule forever! Submission is his due because he is ordered by Providence!” Yet in spite of these extravagant outbursts which came from every pulpit in the whole French Empire, this restorer of the altars, this saviour of religion was married only by civil right! From the ecclesiastic point of view, he was living in concubinage. He had had his brother Louis’s marriage with Hortense de Beauharnais, and his sister Caroline’s with Murat blessed by Cardinal Caprara, but in spite of Josephine’s entreaties, he had denied her this pious satisfaction. It was on the Pope that the Empress put all her hope; she thought that he would take pity on her, and by bringing her into conformity with the rules of the church, would put an end to a condition of things humiliating to her as a sovereign, and painful to her as a Catholic.

At the same time Josephine was anxiously wondering whether she was to be crowned. Her brothers-in-law became more venomous in their intrigues against her, and desired not only that she be excluded from any part in the coronation, but also that she should be condemned to divorce on the pretext of barrenness. Joseph Bonaparte was never tired of saying that Napoleon ought to marry some foreign Princess, or at least some daughter of an old French family, and he skilfully laid stress on his own unselfishness in urging a plan which would necessarily remove himself and his descendants from the line of inheritance. The Emperor’s sisters showed the same hostility towards Josephine, whom they hated, although she well deserved their love. Since Napoleon maintained an absolute silence about his intentions concerning the coronation, the Bonapartes already imagined that she was going to be divorced, and hence exhibited an untimely delight which displeased the Emperor and brought him closer to his wife. At last, tired with family bickerings, he suddenly put an end to them and filled Josephine with joy by telling her that she was to be crowned at Notre Dame.

The reader should turn to the curious account in Miot de Mélito’s Memoirs of the council held at Saint Cloud, November 17, 1804, to arrange the formalities of the coronation. Of Napoleon’s four brothers, two were in disgrace, Lucien and Jerome, and they were not to be present at the ceremony. As for Joseph and Louis, it was decided that they should appear, not as Princes of the blood, but only as high dignitaries of the Empire. Joseph, it will be remembered, was Grand Elector, and Louis was Constable.

This decision once taken, Joseph said in the council of November 17: “Since it has been recognized that, with the exception of the Head of the State, no one else, whatever his rank, can be regarded as partaking the honors of sovereignty, and that we especially are not treated as Princes, but only as high dignitaries, it would not be right that our wives, who henceforth are only wives of high dignitaries, should as Princesses carry the train of the Empress’s robe, which consequently must be carried by Ladies of Honor or of the Palace.” This remark displeased the Emperor, and many members of the council cited many examples to refute it, notably that of Maria de’ Medici. Joseph, who had foreseen their arguments, displayed unexpected erudition: “Maria de’ Medici,” he said, “was accompanied only by Queen Margaret, the first wife of Henri IV., and by Madame (Catherine of Bourbon), the King’s sister. The train was carried by a very distant relative. Queen Margaret had, indeed, offered a fine example of generosity by being present at the coronation of the woman who took her place and who, more fortunate than herself, had borne heirs to Henri IV. But she was not asked to carry the train of Maria de’ Medici, and yet Maria de’ Medici had a right to every honor, because she was a mother.” This very transparent allusion to Josephine’s barrenness so exasperated Napoleon that he arose suddenly from his chair and addressed his brother with the intensest bitterness and violence. After the meeting Joseph proposed to his brother retiring to Germany. Napoleon relented and, November 27, he said to his brother: “I have given a great deal of thought to the difference that has arisen between you and me, and I will confess that during the six days that this quarrel has lasted, I have not had a moment’s peace. I have even lost my sleep over it, and you are the only person who has this power over me; I know nothing that disturbs me to this degree. This influence comes from my old affection for you and from my recollection of what you did for me in my boyhood, and I am much more dependent than you think on feelings of that sort…. Take your position in an hereditary monarchy and be the first of my subjects. That is a fine enough position, to be the second man in France, perhaps in Europe…. Comply with my wishes; follow my ideas; do not flatter the patriots when I drive them away; do not oppose the nobles when I summon them; form your household according to the principles that have guided me. In a word, be a Prince, and do not disturb yourself about the importance of the title.”

Joseph at last yielded, and promised that his wife should conform without a murmur to the ceremonies established for the coronation. Only this concession was made to their susceptibilities: that in the rules the phrase, _bear the cloak_ was substituted for _carry the train_, “for,” as Miot de Mélito says, “Vanity will clutch at a straw.”

As for Madame Bonaparte, Napoleon’s mother, she persisted in remaining at Rome with Lucien. In spite of frequent messages from Paris, she was not to get there until some days after the coronation, a fact which did not prevent her appearing in the great picture commemorating the event, painted by David, who was successively Jacobin and Imperialist, and beginning with the apotheosis of Marat, celebrated that of Napoleon.

Pope Pius VII., then sixty-two years old, had left Rome November 2, after praying for a long time at the altar of Saint Peter’s, The populace had followed his carriage for a long distance, weeping with terror at his undertaking a journey to revolutionary France. At Florence he had been received by the Queen of Etruria, then a widow and her son’s Regent. At Lyons he became less anxious; a number of the inhabitants crowded about him, and fell on their knees, asking for the blessing of the Vicar of Christ. Meanwhile, Napoleon was putting the last touches to the repairs be had commenced at the Palace of Fontainebleau, to put it in a suitable condition to receive the Sovereign Pontiff. In less than twenty days the furnishing of the palace had been completed, and the castle had, as if by magic, resumed its old-time splendor.

Every one wondered how the first meeting between the Pope and the Emperor would take place. Many points of etiquette arose which Napoleon managed to elude. Pius VII. was to arrive through the forest of Fontainebleau, and the Emperor was to go to meet him through the forest of Nemours. To prevent all formality, Napoleon made an excuse of a hunting party. All the huntsmen, with their carriages, met in the forest. Napoleon was on horseback, in hunting dress. When he knew that the Pope and his suite were due at the cross of Saint Hérene–at noon, Sunday, November 25, 1804–he turned his horse in that direction, and as soon as he reached the half- moon at the top of the hill, he saw the Pope’s carriage arriving.

According to the account given in the Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo, the carriage of Pius VII. stopped, and the pontiff in his white robes got out by the left-hand door. The road was muddy, and he was averse to stepping into it with his white silk slippers; but there was nothing to be done. Napoleon got off his horse to receive him, and sprang cordially into his arms. These two famous men, who, although they were entire strangers, had already thought so often of each other, and were to exercise such great influence over each other’s destiny, now met with deep emotion. As they were embracing, one of the Emperor’s carriages, which had been ordered to drive up, pushed on a few steps as if by an oversight of the coachman; the footmen held both doors open; the Emperor took that on the right; a court official pointed to that on the left for the Pope, so that the two sovereigns entered the same carriage simultaneously by the two doors. The Emperor sat down naturally on the right-hand side, and this first step established the etiquette for the whole time of the Pope’s stay, without discussion.

At the entrance of the Palace of Fontainebleau, the Empress, the high dignitaries of the Empire, the generals, were formed in a circle to receive and salute Pius VII. He was welcomed with the utmost reverence. His fine, noble face, his air of angelic kindness, his soft, yet sonorous voice, produced a deep impression. Josephine was especially moved by the presence of the Vicar of Christ. After resting a few moments in his private apartment, to which he had been conducted by M. de Talleyrand, High Chamberlain, by General Duroc, Grand Marshal of the Palace, and by M. de Ségur, Grand Master of Ceremonies, the Pope paid a visit to Napoleon, who, after an interview of about half an hour, conducted him back to the hall that was at that time called that of the High Officers. The two sovereigns dined together, and the Pope went early to bed, to rest himself after the fatigues of his long journey. The next evening some singers had been summoned to the Empress’s apartment, but Pius VII. withdrew just as the concert was about to begin.

In the course of the day Josephine had had a private interview with the Pope, and had confided to him the secret which so distressed her. She who was reigning over the greatest of Catholic nations, the consort of the successor of the very Christian Kings, the wife of a ruler about to be crowned by the Pope, was married only by civil rite! She entreated Pius VII. to use all his influence with Napoleon to put an end to a situation which was a continual torture and reproach to her as a wife and as a Christian. The Pope appeared touched by the confidence of his dear daughter, as he always called the Empress, and promised to demand, and, if necessary, to insist, upon the celebration of the Emperor’s religious marriage, as a condition of the coronation, and this promise filled Josephine with joy.

The presence of the Pope and the Emperor, the throng of prelates, generals, courtiers, and beautiful women, the combination of religious and Imperial pomp gave to the Castle of the Valois, a few days before dilapidated and abandoned, new splendor and magnificence. Never in the most brilliant days of the reign of Francis I., or Henri II., or of Louis XIV., had this sumptuous residence appeared in greater state. This wonderful palace is renowned for its superb and picturesque architecture, its majestic façades, its five courts: that of the White Horse, of the Fountain, of the Dungeon, of the Princes, of Henri IV. The Festival Hall is very beautiful, with its rich and abundant ornamentation, its walnut floor, divided into octagonal panels richly outlined with inlaid gold and silver, its monumental mantelpiece, with its figures, emblems, and fantastic frescoes, the brilliant masterpieces of Primaticcio, and of Nicolo d’Abati.

Alas! this splendid Fontainebleau, the gorgeous palace where Pope and Emperor were then living in triumph, was later to be to both an accursed spot. The Pope was to return to it a prisoner, maltreated though old, though a priest, though the Vicar of Christ, and there the Emperor was to drink the cup of humiliation, of despair, to the dregs. It was there that, conquered, broken, betrayed by fortune, he was to sign his abdication. It was there that he was to utter those heart-rending words: “It is right; I receive what I have deserved. I wanted no statues, for I knew that there was no safety in receiving them at any other hands than those of posterity. A man to keep them while he lives, needs constant good fortune. I think of France, which it is terrible to leave in this state, without frontiers when it had such wide ones!–that is the bitterest of the humiliations that overwhelm me. To leave France so small when I wished to make it so great!” It was there that, overcome by immeasurable grief, the conqueror of so many battles wished to seek in suicide a refuge from the tortures of thought, and that he was to fail to find death, he who on the battle-field had squandered so many lives. O mortals, ignorant of your own fates, how happy you are not to have foreknowledge of them!



The Empress left Fontainebleau, Thursday, November 29, 1804, in company with Madame de La Rochefoucauld, Maid of Honor, and Madame d’Arberg, Lady of the Palace, and reached Paris the same day, a few hours before the Emperor and the Pope, who left Fontainebleau in the same carriage and entered the Tuileries at eight in the evening. A platoon of Mamelukes escorted the Imperial carriage, and it was a singular sight to see the Mussulman escorting the Vicar of Christ. The Pope was installed at the Tuileries in the Pavilion of Flora. There were attached to his person M. de Viry, the Emperor’s Chamberlain; M. de Luçay, Prefect of the Palace, and Colonel Durosnel, Equerry.

All Paris was excited by the approach of the great event. The hotels were crowded; the population of the capital was nearly doubled, so vast was the throng of provincials and foreigners. Tradesmen were working night and day to prepare the dresses and uniforms. In every workshop there was unparalleled activity. Leroy, who previously had been only a milliner, had decided for this occasion to undertake dressmaking, and had made Madame Raimbault, a celebrated dressmaker of the time, his partner. From their shop came the magnificent robes to be worn by the Empress on Coronation Day. Her jewels, consisting of a crown, a diadem, and a girdle, were the work of the jeweller Margueritte. The crown was formed of eight branches meeting under a gold globe surmounted by a cross. The branches were set with diamonds, four in the shape of a palm leaf, four in the shape of a myrtle leaf. Around the curve was a ribbon, inlaid with eight enormous emeralds. The frontlet was bright with amethysts. The diadem was formed of four rows of pearls interlaced with diamond leaves, with many large brilliants, one alone weighing one hundred and forty-nine grains. The girdle was a gold band, enriched with thirty-nine pink gems. The Emperor’s sceptre had been made by Odiot; it was of solid silver, enlaced by a gold serpent, and surmounted by a globe on which was a miniature figure of Charlemagne seated. The hand of justice, the crown, and the sword came from the workshops of Biennais. The dress of the courtiers was to be very magnificent; it consisted of a French coat of different colors according to the duties of the wearer under the Grand Marshal, the High Chamberlain, and the Grand Equerry, with silver embroidery for all; a cloak worn over one shoulder, of velvet, lined with satin: a scarf, a lace band, and the hat caught up in front, and adorned with a feather. The women were to appear in ball dress, with a train, with a collar of blond-lace, called a _chérusque_, which was fastened on both shoulders and rose high behind the head, recalling the fashions of the time of Catherine de’ Medici.

There were rehearsals of the coronation as if it were a spectacular play. Every one, from the principal actors to the most insignificant assistants, studied his part most conscientiously; the Masters of Ceremonies were to act as prompters to those who might forget. The Imperial carriages and those of the Princes and Princesses one morning were all driven empty to the neighborhood of Notre Dame, that coachman, postilions, and grooms might know the route they were to take, and when they were to draw up. The carriages were superb, the horses magnificent, the liveries sumptuous. Never in the most extravagant days of the monarchy had such luxury been seen.

M. de Bausset says that a week before the coronation the Emperor commanded of the artist Isabey seven drawings representing the seven principal ceremonies to take place at Notre Dame, which, however, could not be rehearsed in the Cathedral on account of the number of workmen busy day and night in decorating it. To ask at once for seven drawings each containing more than a hundred persons in action, was asking for the impossible. Isabey skilfully eluded the difficulty. He bought at the toy shops all the little dolls he could find, dressed them up as Pope, Emperor, Empress, Princes, high dignitaries, Chamberlains, Equerries, Ladies of Honor, Ladies of the Palace, These dolls thus arrayed he arranged on a plan in relief of the Interior of Notre Dame, and carrying it to the Emperor, said: “Sire, I bring Your Majesty something better than the drawings.” Napoleon thought the idea ingenious, and used the dolls and the plan to make every official understand his place and his duty.

The _Moniteur_ of the 9th Brumaire, Year XIII, (November 30, 1804), published in advance all the details of the ceremony, which the Emperor had fixed with as much care as if it had been the plan of a battle. A difficulty arose on this occasion. The Pope had wished Napoleon to receive the holy communion in public on the day of the coronation, and Napoleon had given the matter thought. The Grand Master of Ceremonies, M. de Ségur, brought up against the proposition the necessity of a preliminary confession and the possibility that absolution might be denied him. “That’s not the difficulty,” said the Emperor, “the Holy Father knows how to distinguish between the sins of Caesar and those of the man,” Then he added: “I know that I ought to give an example of respect for religion and its ministers; so you see that I treat the priests well, go regularly to mass, and listen to it with all due seriousness and solemnity. But every one knows me, and how would it be for me, and for others, if I should go too far? Would not that be setting an example of hypocrisy, and committing a sacrilege?” The Pope did not insist upon it. This dread of committing sacrilege Napoleon referred to again at Saint Helena, in 1816: “Everything was done,” he said then, “to persuade me to go in great pomp to communion at Notre Dame, after the fashion of our kings; I absolutely refused; I did not believe enough, I said, to get any good from it, and yet I believed too much to consent to be guilty of sacrilege.”

Another difficulty which gave the Pope much anxiety, and was not settled in the formalities of the coronation, was whether the Emperor should receive the crown from the hands of the Sovereign Pontiff. Pius VII. had brought up the question before leaving Rome, and Cardinal Consalvi had written on this matter, to which the Vatican attached great importance, as follows: “All the French Emperors, all those of Germany, who have been crowned by the Popes, have accepted the crown from them. The Holy Father, before undertaking this journey, requires to receive from Paris the assurance that there will be no innovation made in the present case, in the way of a diminution of the honor and dignity of the Sovereign Pontiff.” At Rome only vague and dilatory answers had been received. In Paris the Emperor, leaving the matter to be decided on the spur of the moment, had only said: “I will arrange that myself.”

The preparations at Notre Dame had come to an end. They had been very considerable. Several houses that hid the north façade had been destroyed. Before the great entrance, still scarred by the ravages of the Revolutionists, there had been set up a decoration of painted wood, representing a vast Gothic porch with three arches upholding the statues of the thirty-six good cities, the mayors of which were to be present at the coronation. To the right and the left stood images of Clovis and Charlemagne, sceptre in hand. Above, between two golden eagles, appeared the Imperial coat-of-arms. This was intended for the sole entrance of the Pope and the Emperor. It was connected with the Archbishop’s palace by large, covered, wooden galleries, adorned within by gobelin tapestry. This palace, to which Pius VII. and Napoleon were to go before they entered the Cathedral, no longer exists; it was destroyed, February 14, 1831, in an insurrection. It used to stand just by the side of the church. It was built in 1161 by Maurice de Sully, rebuilt in 1697 by the Cardinal of Noailles, embellished in 1750 by the Archbishop de Beaumont, and was the meeting-place of the Constituent Assembly from October 19 to November 9, 1789. There the Pope and the Emperor were to alight on their way from the Tuileries and put on their grand coronation robes before entering the Cathedral.

The whole church of Notre Dame had been hung with crimson stuffs adorned with gold fringe, with the arms of the Empire embroidered on the corners. On each side of the nave and around the choir had been built three rows of galleries, decorated alike with silk and velvet stuffs fringed with gold, and flags had been arranged like a trophy about each pillar. Above the trophies were winged and gilded victories, holding candelabra with a vast number of candles. There were, besides, twenty-four chandeliers hanging from the roof. The galleries kept out the light, especially at the season when the days were short; consequently it had been decided that the Cathedral should be artificially lit during the ceremony, thus augmenting the pomp and beauty of the spectacle. The choir, shut off by a railing, was reserved for the clergy. To the right of the high altar, on a platform with eleven steps, had been raised the pontifical throne, above which was a golden dome adorned with the arms of the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church. In front and on each side of the pontifical throne were benches with backs for the cardinals and prelates. For the Emperor and the Empress had been prepared what was called the great and the little throne. The little throne was formed of two armchairs, one for Napoleon, the other for Josephine. These two chairs stood on a platform with four steps, opposite the high altar. The Emperor and Empress were to occupy them during the first part of the ceremony. The grand throne was at the other end of the church, with its back against the great door, which was thus closed. This great throne stood on a large semicircular platform, and was reached by twenty-four steps. It stood under a canopy in the shape of a triumphal arch, upheld by eight columns, and it overlooked the whole church. The Emperor and the Empress were not to ascend this throne till after the coronation.

For the coronation Napoleon had given to the Cathedral a number of holy vessels in silver-gilt, enriched with diamonds, and very valuable lace albs, a processional cross, chandeliers, and incense-burners. At the same time he restored to the Cathedral a great number of relics with which the piety of Saint Louis had endowed the Sainte Chapelle. In 1791 they had been deposited in the treasury of Saint Denis, by order of Louis XVI., thence in 1793 they had been transferred to the cabinet of curiosities in the National Library, and had been exposed under the Directory, in the Hall of Antiquities. The Emperor restored them to the worship of the faithful.

The preparations were completed, and the ceremony promised to be magnificent. Madame Junot, afterwards the Duchess of Abrantès, breakfasted with the Empress at the Tuileries, December 1, 1804, the day before the coronation. Josephine was much excited and radiantly happy. At breakfast she told how amiably the Emperor had talked with her that morning and how he had tried on her head the crown which she was to put on the next day at Notre Dame. As she said that she shed tears of gratitude. She spoke then of her pain when Napoleon had refused her request for Lucien’s return. “I wanted to plead this great day,” she said, “but Bonaparte spoke so harshly that I had to keep silent. I wanted to show Lucien that I could return good for evil; if you have a chance, let him know it.”

In the evening the Senate came to the Tuileries to announce to the Emperor the result of the _plébiscite_ which approved of the Empire and the matter of inheritance; 3,521,660 citizens having voted for, and 2,579 against. Napoleon replied to the President of the Senate with the infatuation that springs from success and the consciousness of strength: “I ascend the throne to which I have been called by the unanimous voices of the Senate, the people, and the army, with my heart full of feeling of the great destinies of this people whom, from the midst of camps, I first saluted with the name of great. Since my youth all my thoughts have been devoted to it, and I must say here, my pleasures and my pains now are nothing but the pleasures and the pains of my people. My descendants will long fill this throne. They will never forget that contempt of laws and the overthrow of the social order are only the results of the weakness and indecision of rulers.”

The hour of disaster was approaching, but it had not yet struck; the morrow was to be radiant. Salvos of artillery were fixed every hour from six in the evening till midnight; at each salvo, the towers, spires, and public buildings were illuminated for a few minutes by Bengal lights. Imperial insignia, among others the sword of Charlemagne, were already in the Church of Notre Dame. General de Ségur, then a captain under the command of the Grand Marshal of the Palace, was charged to watch that precious relic during the night. He records one thing about it which clearly shows the bellicose spirit of the men of the time. One of the officers guarding the Imperial sword conceived the mad idea of using it against one of his comrades, who defended himself with his own sabre, and consoled himself for his defeat and for a slight wound with the thought that he was beaten by so glorious a weapon.

That same night, the one before the coronation, Josephine’s wishes were granted. Her union with Napoleon was blessed by the church. An altar was mysteriously raised in the Tuileries, and there, in the presence of M. de Talleyrand and the Marshal Berthier, who were the only witnesses, Cardinal Fesch celebrated, in the profoundest secrecy, the religious marriage of the Emperor and Empress. The scruples of Pius VII. were thus allayed. Josephine could be crowned the next day.



It was December 2, 1804. Since early morning all Paris had been alive. It was very cold; the sky was covered, but no one thought of the unpleasant weather. All the streets through which the procession was to pass had been carefully swept and sprinkled with sand. The inhabitants had decorated the fronts of their houses according to their tastes and means, with draperies, tapestry, artificial flowers, and branches of evergreens. Two lines of infantry were drawn up for a space of about half a league. Long before the hour of the departure of the Pope and the Emperor from the Tuileries, a vast throng had gathered in the streets, was crowding every window, and assembling on every roof. Marshal Murat, Governor of Paris, offered at an early hour a sumptuous breakfast to the Princes of Germany who had come to Paris for the coronation–the Elector Archchancellor of the German Empire, the Princes of Nassau, of Hesse, and of Baden. After the breakfast they drove to Notre Dame in four superb carriages, drawn by six horses each, with an escort under the command of one of his aides-de- camp, and he himself mounted his horse to take his place at the head of the twenty squadrons of cavalry which were to go in front of the Emperor’s carriage.

At the Tuileries Napoleon put on what was called the undress attire; this he was to wear on his way from the palace to the Archbishop’s. He was not to put on full dress, that is to say, the Imperial robes and cloak, until he was to enter the church. The undress is thus described by Constant, the Emperor’s valet: silk stockings embroidered with gold; low boots of white velvet, embroidered with gold on the seams; with diamond buttons and buckles on his garters; a coat of crimson velvet faced with white velvet: a short cloak of crimson lined with white satin, covering the left shoulder and fastened on the right-hand side by a double clasp of diamonds; a black velvet cap, surmounted by two aigrets, a diamond loop, and for button, the most celebrated of the crown jewels, the Regent.

The Empress’s costume was no less magnificent. She wore a dress, with a train, of silver brocade covered with gold bees; her shoulders were bare, but on her arms were tight sleeves embroidered with gold, the upper part adorned, with diamonds, and fastened to them was a lace ruff worked with gold which rose behind half up her head. The tight-fitting dress had no waist, after the fashion of the time, but she wore a gold ribbon as a girdle, set with thirty-nine pink gems. Her bracelets, ear-rings, and necklace were formed of precious stones and antique cameos. Her diadem consisted of four rows of pearls interlaced with clusters of diamonds. The Empress, whose hair was curled, after the fashion of the reign of Louis XIV., although forty-one years old, looked, according to Madame de Rémusat, no more than twenty-five. The Emperor was much struck by Josephine’s beauty in this sumptuous attire; all this luxury impressed him. He recalled the days of his childhood, and turning to his favorite brother, he said: “Joseph, if father could see us!”

Nine o’clock sounded, the hour set for the departure of the Pope, who was to reach Notre Dame before the Emperor. The Sovereign Pontiff, clad in white, went down the staircase of the Pavilion of Flora and entered his carriage, which was drawn by eight horses; above it was a large tiara. At Rome it was the custom that when the Pope went forth to officiate at one of the great churches,–for instance, to Saint John Lateran,–for one of his chamberlains to start a moment before him, mounted on a mule, and carrying a great processional cross. Pius VII. asked that the same thing might be done at Paris; consequently the pontifical procession was headed by a chamberlain whose mule did not fail to amuse the vast crowd that lined the quays; yet when the Pope passed, all knelt down and received his blessing with due respect. With cavalry in front and behind, the Pope’s carriage and the eight carriages in which were the cardinals, Italian prelates and officers who had come from Rome with him, drove slowly along the quays to the Archbishop’s Palace. There were awaiting him all the French cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, and he was received by the Cardinal du Belloy, the Archbishop of Paris, as he entered to put on his pontifical robes. The pontifical procession entered Notre Dame in the following order; a priest, carrying the apostolic cross; seven acolytes, carrying the seven golden candlesticks; more than a hundred bishops, archbishops or cardinals, in cope and mitre, marching two by two; and last of all the Holy Father, his tiara on his head, under a canopy between two cardinals who held up the ends of his golden cope. The clergy intoned the hymn _Tu es Petrus_, which was very impressive, and the Sovereign Pontiff, after kneeling for a few moments before the high altar, took his seat in the middle of the choir on the pontifical throne, above which was a dome adorned with the coat-of-arms of the church.

The Emperor and the Empress, who were to leave the Tuileries at ten, did not start till half past ten. They got into the magnificent coronation carriage which excited the hearty admiration of the crowd, always fond of show. It was drawn by eight superb horses, splendidly harnessed; upon it was a golden crown upheld by four eagles with outstretched wings. The four sides of the coach were of glass, set in slender carved uprights, so that there was an unobstructed view of Napoleon and Josephine on the back seat, with Joseph and Louis Bonaparte opposite them. Salvos of artillery announced the Emperor’s departure from the Tuileries. Twenty squadrons of cavalry, with Marshal Murat at their head, led the procession. Eighteen carriages, with six horses each, followed, conveying the high dignitaries and the courtiers. Bands played triumphal marches, and all along the way a vast crowd saluted this sovereign. The procession starting from the Tuileries by the Carrousel went along the rue Saint Honoré as far as the rue de Lombards, crossed the Pont au Change, and then along the quay to the rue du Parvis Notre Dame and the Archbishop’s Palace. Just as the Emperor and the Empress were entering the palace courtyard, the mist, which had been thick all the morning, cleared away, and the sun came out glistening on the gilded decorations of the Imperial coach. The _Moniteur_, with its official enthusiasm, spoke of “the orb of day escaping, against every expectation, from the rigid rule of a stormy season to light up the festal day.”

At the Archbishop’s Palace, Napoleon changed his dress, putting on his coronation robes. This differed entirely from the costume he had worn from the Tuileries to the palace, and consisted of a tight-fitting gown of white satin, embroidered with gold on every seam, and of an Imperial mantle of crimson velvet, all over which were golden bees; it was bordered by worked branches of olive-tree, laurels, and oak, in circles enclosing the letter N, with a crown above each one; the lining, the border, and the cape were of ermine. This cloak, fastened on the right shoulder, while leaving the arm free, reacted to just above the knee, and weighed no less than eighty pounds, and though it was held by four persons, Prince Joseph, Prince Louis, the Archchancellor Cambacérès, the Archtreasurer Lebrun, was for the Emperor, who was a short man, a sumptuous, but heavy load. He carried it, however, with fitting majesty. On his head he had put a crown of golden laurel, the laurel of Caesar; around his neck he wore the diamond necklace of the Legion of Honor; on his left side he carried a sword with a large handle–the scabbard was of blue enamel adorned with gold eagles and bees. At the same time Josephine completed her dressing, putting on a long red velvet cloak, sprinkled with gold bees, and lined with ermine; its skirts were upheld by Princesses Joseph, Louis, Elisa, Pauline, and Charlotte.

The Imperial procession proceeded from the Archbishop’s Palace to Notre Dame through the wooden gallery, and entered the church, not through the middle entrance, which was blocked by the great throne, but through one of the side-doors. They advanced in the following order, with an interval of ten paces between each group: the ushers, four abreast, the heralds at arms, two abreast; the Chief Herald at Arms; the pages, four abreast; the aides of the masters of ceremonies; the masters of ceremonies; the Grand Master of Ceremonies, M. de Ségur; Marshal Sérurier, carrying on a cushion the Empress’s ring; Marshal Moncey, carrying the basket which was to receive her cloak; Marshal Murat, carrying her crown on a cushion; the Empress, with her First Equerry on her right, and her First Chamberlain on her left; she wore the Imperial cloak, which was supported by the five Princesses, the cloak of each one of these being supported by an officer of her household; Madame de La Rochefoucauld, Maid of Honor, and Madame de Lavalette, the Empress’s Lady of the Bedchamber; Marshal Kellermann, carrying the crown of Charlemagne, a diadem with six branches adorned with valuable cameos; Marshal Perignon, carrying Charlemagne’s sceptre, at the end of which was a ball representing the world, with a small figure of the great Carlovingian Emperor; Marshal Lefebvre, carrying Charlemagne’s sword; Marshal Bernadotte, carrying Napoleon’s necklace; Colonel General Eugene de Beauharnais, the Emperor’s ring; Marshal Berthier, the Imperial globe; M. de Talleyrand, the basket destined to receive the Emperor’s cloak. Then came the Emperor, the crown of golden laurel on his head, holding in one hand his silver sceptre, topped by an eagle, and encircled by a golden serpent, and in the other his hand of justice. His cloak was supported by his two brothers, Joseph, Grand Elector, and Louis, Constable, as well as by the Archchancellor Cambacérès and the Archtreasurer Lebrun. Then followed the Grand Equerry, the Colonel General of the Guard, and the Grand Marshal of the Palace, the three abreast, the ministers, four abreast, and the high officers of the army.

As Napoleon entered the church, the twenty thousand spectators shouted, “Long live the Emperor!” A cardinal gave holy water to Josephine; the Cardinal, the Archbishop of Paris, presented it to Napoleon; and the two prelates, after complimenting the Emperor and the Empress, conducted them in a procession, under a canopy held by canons, to the smaller throne in the middle of the choir. There they were to sit during the first part of the ceremony, near the high altar, on a platform with four steps. As the Emperor and the Empress entered the choir, the Pope came down from the pontifical chair, and intoned the _Veni Creator_. The Emperor handed to the Archchancellor his hand of justice; to the Archtreasurer, his sceptre; to Prince Joseph, his crown; to Prince Louis, his sword; to the Grand Chamberlain, his Imperial cloak; to Colonel General Eugene de Beauharnais, his ring. The six objects formed what were called “the Emperor’s ornaments.” They were placed on the altar by the representative dignitaries, and were to be handed again to the Emperor by the Pope in the course of the ceremony. The same was true of the “Empress’s ornaments,” her ring, cloak, and crown, which, were placed on the altar; the ring, by Marshal Sérurier; the cloak, by Marshal Moncey; the crown, by Marshal Murat. Charlemagne’s insignia, his crown, sceptre, and sword, remained during the whole ceremony in the hands of Marshals Kellermann, Perignon, and Lefebvre, who stood at the right of the small throne in the choir.

As soon as the ornaments of the Emperor and Empress had been placed on the altar, the Pope asked the Emperor in Latin if he promised to use every effort to have law, justice, and peace rule in the church and among his people; Napoleon touched the gospels with both hands, as it was held out to him by the Grand Almoner, and answered _Profiteor_. Then the Pope, the bishops, archbishops, and cardinals knelt before the altar and began the litany. When they reached the three verses used only at coronations, the Emperor and Empress also knelt.

After the litany, the Grand Almoner, another cardinal, and two bishops advanced towards the small throne, and bowed low before Napoleon and Josephine, and conducted them to the foot of the altar to receive sacred unction. The Emperor and Empress knelt on blue velvet cushions placed on the first step of the altar. The Pope anointed Napoleon on the head and his two hands, uttering the prayer of consecration: “Mighty and Eternal God, who didst appoint Hazael to be king over Syria, and Jehu to be king over Israel, making known thy wishes through the prophet Elijah; and who didst pour holy oil of kings upon the head of Saul and of David, through the prophet Samuel, send down through my hands, the treasures of thy grace and of thy blessings upon thy servant Napoleon, whom, in spite of our unworthiness, we consecrate to-day as Emperor, in thy name.”

Then the Pope anointed the Empress in the same way, reciting this prayer: “May the Father of eternal glory be thy aid; and may the Omnipotent bless thee; may he hear thy prayers, and give thee a long life, ever confirming this blessing and maintaining it forever with all thy people; may he confound thy enemies; may the sanctification of Christ and the anointing of this oil ever aid thee, so that he who on earth has given thee his blessing may give thee in heaven the happiness of the angels, and that thou mayst be blessed and guarded for eternal life by Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who lives and reigns forever and ever.”

The Emperor and Empress were then conducted to the small throne, that is to say, to their two chairs; before each one was a praying-stand. Then high mass began; it was said by the Pope; the music had been composed by Paesiello, the Abbé Rose, and Lesueur. There were three hundred performers, singers, and musicians; among the soloists were the great singer Laïs, and two famous violinists, Kreutzer and Baillot. At the _Gradual_ the mass was interrupted for the blessing of the ornaments which the Emperor and Empress then put on.

Napoleon, followed by the Archchancellor, the Archtreasurer, the Grand Chamberlain, the Grand Equerry, and two chamberlains, and Josephine, accompanied by her Lady of Honor, her Lady of the Bedchamber, her First Chamberlain, and her First Equerry, advanced towards the altar, and ascended the steps at the same time; the Sovereign Pontiff, with his back to the altar, was sitting on a sort of folding-chair. He blessed the Imperial ornaments, reciting a special prayer for each one. His Holiness then handed them to the Emperor in the following order: first the ring, which Napoleon placed on his finger; then the sword, which he put in its scabbard; the cloak, which his chamberlains fastened on his shoulders, then the hand of justice and the sceptre which he handed to the Archchancellor and the Archtreasurer.

The only ornament left to be given to the Emperor was the crown. It will be remembered that there had been a long negotiation at Rome to ascertain whether the Emperor would be crowned by the Pope or would crown himself. The question was left uncertain, and Napoleon had said that he would settle it himself at Notre Dame when the time came. Still Pius VII. was convinced that he was going to place the crown on the sovereign’s head. He had just handed him the ring, the sword, the cloak, the hand of justice, and the sceptre, and was preparing to do the same thing with the crown. But the Emperor, who had ascended the last step of the altar, and was following every motion of the Pope, grasped from his hands the sign of sovereign power and proudly placed it on his own head. Pius VII., outwitted and surprised, made no attempt at resistance.

After thus crowning himself, Napoleon proceeded to crown the Empress. This was the most solemn moment in Josephine’s life; the moment which dispelled all her incessant dread of divorce, the brilliant verification of her fondest hopes, the completion of her triumph. Napoleon advanced with emotion to this companion of his happiest days, to the woman who had brought him happiness; she was kneeling before him, shedding tears of joy and gratitude, with her hands clasped and trembling. He recalled all that he owed her: his happiness, for, thanks to her, he had been blessed with a requited love; his glory, for it was she who, in 1796, had secured for him the command of the Army of Italy, the origin of all his triumphs. He must have been glad at this moment that he had not followed his brother’s malicious suggestions and had not separated from his dear Josephine! The affection of the young General Bonaparte revived in the heart of the sovereign. He thought Josephine more gracious, more touching, more lovable than ever, and it was with an outburst of happiness that he placed the Imperial diadem on her charming and cherished head.

The Emperor and Empress, once crowned, proceeded to the great throne, at the entrance of the church, by the great door, being solemnly led there by the Pope and the Cardinals. The Imperial procession then formed again in the order in which it had come to Notre Dame, the Empress going before the Emperor. At this moment the Princesses seemed to hesitate about carrying the skirt of the Empress’s cloak; Napoleon noticed this, and said a few severe, firm words to his sisters, and all was smoothed. The procession reached the foot of the great throne; the Emperor ascended the twenty-four steps and sat down in full majesty, wearing his crown and Imperial cloak, holding the hand of justice and the sceptre. At his right, on a seat like his, but one step lower, the Empress placed herself. Another step lower, sat the Princesses on simple seats. At the Emperor’s left, two steps below him, were the Princes and high dignitaries. On each side of the platform the marshals, high officers, and ladies of the court took their places. The sight was most impressive. The Pope in his turn ascended the twenty- four steps, and thus commanding the whole Cathedral, extended his hands over the Emperor and the Empress, and uttered these Latin words, the formula used for taking the throne: “_In hoc solio confirmare vos Deus, et in regno aeterno secum regnare faciat Christus!_”–“May God establish you on your throne, and may Christ cause you to reign with him in his eternal kingdom!” Then he kissed the Emperor on the cheek, and turning towards the assembled multitude, said: “_Vivat Imperator in aeternum!_”–“May the Emperor live forever!” This was what had been said ten centuries before at Saint Peter’s in Rome when the ruler of the same people, Charlemagne, had been proclaimed Emperor of the West.

Applause broke forth and three hundred musicians intoned the _Vivat Imperator_, a hymn composed by the Abbé Rose. The pontifical procession and the Imperial procession returned to the choir; the Emperor and Empress resumed their places on the chairs, and the Pope began, the _Te Deum_. After this, which was sung by four choirs and two orchestras, the mass, which had been interrupted by the ceremony with the ornaments and the taking possession of the throne, went on. At the offertory, Napoleon and Josephine, followed by the two Princes and the five Princesses, went to lay their offerings before the Pope; these consisted of a silver-gilt vase, a lump of gold, a lump of silver, and a candle about which were inlaid thirteen pieces of money. At the elevation Prince Joseph removed the Emperor’s crown, and Madame de La Rochefoucauld, Maid of Honor, that of the Empress. Napoleon and Josephine knelt before the Host, and when they rose, put their crowns on again.

When mass was over, the Emperor took the political oath prescribed by the constitution, which had aroused much opposition in Rome. The presidents of the great bodies of the state brought him the formula, and with one hand held over the gospels, the Emperor swore to maintain, the principles of the Revolution, to preserve the integrity of the territory, and to rule with an eye to the interest, happiness, and glory of the French people. The First Herald-at-Arms then called forth in a loud voice: “The most glorious and most august Emperor Napoleon, Emperor of the French, is crowned and enthroned: Long live the Emperor!” That was the end of the ceremony. Salvos of artillery mingled with the applause.

The solemnity had been most successful, and Napoleon could say with truth to his brother Joseph: “For me it is a battle won; by my art and the measures I took, I have succeeded beyond my expectations.” Had he not prophesied accurately when he said to his secretary at the signing of the Concordat: “Bourrienne, you will see what use I shall make of the priests!” The golden chasubles had made a brilliant spectacle by the side of the uniforms; the crosses and the tiara by the side of the swords and the sceptre. Napoleon, always a master of theatrical effect, had known how to lend antiquity to his newborn glory by borrowing from the past all its majesty and pomp, and by skilfully decking himself with what was most brilliant in the chronicles of remote centuries. From Charlemagne he took his insignia; from Caesar his golden laurel. The head of a nation that had grown great by the cross and the sword, he desired to make his coronation the festival of the church and of the army.

The Imperial and the pontifical processions returned to the Archbishop’s Palace, and half an hour later proceeded to the Tuileries, through the New Market, the Place du Châtelet, the rue Saint Denis, the boulevards, the rue and the Place de la Concorde, the Pont Tournant, and the grand roadway of the castle. Night had fallen; the houses were illuminated. Five hundred torches cast their light on the two processions, and by their imposing and strange brilliancy, the crowd gazed with interest on the new Charlemagne and the Vicar of Christ.

Napoleon and Josephine re-entered the Tuileries at half past six; the Pope at about seven. The Emperor, who was somewhat tired by all this ceremony, gladly resumed his modest uniform of Colonel of the Chasseurs of the Guard. He dined alone with Josephine, asking her to keep on her head the becoming diadem which she wore so gracefully. That evening he chatted pleasantly with the ladies-in-waiting, and praised the rich dresses they had worn in such splendor at Notre Dame; he said to them, laughing: “It’s I who deserve the credit for your charming appearance.” Then they looked out of the windows on the illuminated garden, the large flower-garden surrounded with porches covered with lights, the long alley adorned with shining colonnades, on the terraces of orange-trees all aglow, with a number of glasses of various colors on every tree, and finally on the Place de la Concorde, one blazing star. It was like a sea of flame.

It was the painter who had been a member of the Convention, the _montagnard_, the regicide who had insulted Louis XVI., who had painted the apotheosis of Marat, and with a malicious hand had drawn the features of Marie Antoinette on her way to the scaffold; it was this artist, this fierce demagogue, the ardent Revolutionist, who was commissioned with painting the official representation of the coronation. He carried his gallantry so far as to choose for his subject, not the moment when Napoleon crowned himself, but that of the coronation of the Empress; and when a critic accused him of making Josephine too young, he said: “Go and say that to her!” When the picture was finished, the Emperor and the court went to see it in the artist’s studio. Napoleon walked up and down for half an hour, bareheaded, before the canvas, which is about twenty feet high, about thirty long, and contains one hundred portraits. (It is now at Versailles in the Hall of the Guards, at the top of the marble staircase.) The Emperor examined it with the closest attention, while David and all who were present maintained a respectful silence. This long waiting made the artist very anxious. At last Napoleon turned towards him and said: “It’s good, David, very good. You have divined all my thought; you have made me a French knight. I thank you for transmitting to ages to come the proof of affection I wanted to give to her who shares with me the pains of government.” Then taking two steps towards the artist, he raised his hat and said, in a loud voice: “David, I salute you.”

Sometimes at Notre Dame in Holy Week, at evening service, when the Cathedral is lit up as at the coronation, I recall the various ceremonies of this church: the royal baptisms and marriages there celebrated; the banners hung from its roof; the _Te Deums_ and _De Profundis_ so often sung there; Bossuet uttering the funeral oration of the Prince of Condé; the shameless goddess of Reason profaning the sanctuary. I close my eyes in meditation, and seem to be present at the coronation, to see Pius VII. on his pontifical throne, and, before the altar, Napoleon crowning Josephine with his own hands, I hear the echo of distant litanies, of the trumpets, of the organ, and of the applause. Then I think of the nothingness of all human glory and grandeur. Of all the illustrious persons who have knelt in this old basilica, what is left? Scarcely a few handfuls of dust. I open my eyes. The days are silent; the crowd has quietly withdrawn. The lights are out, and at the end of the church, in the shadow, like a timid star in a cloudy day, burns a solitary lamp.



The coronation was the signal for a succession of festivities. Napoleon was anxious that all classes of society should take part in the rejoicings; that commerce should be benefited; that luxury should do wonders; and that Paris should take the position of the first city in the world, the capital of capitals. The day after the coronation was to be the popular holiday, and the day when the flags were distributed was to be the festival of the army. Monday, December 3, booths were open on every side for the entertainment of the crowd. Adulation assumed every guise, even the humblest; and every form of language, even that of the markets, was employed to flatter the new sovereign. There was sung, “The joyous round on the lottery of thirteen thousand fowls, with an accompaniment of fountains of wine.” It was a description of the food distributed to the poor people of Paris. This song was sung in every street and place, as the _Ça ira_ was sung in ’93.

The compliment of the marketmen and of their ladies ran thus: “I have reasoned it out with my wife that a house a thousand times as large as Notre Dame would not be able to hold all those who have reason to bless you.” In the way of incense, nothing was too gross for the sovereign. One district said of Napoleon:–

“He received for us when God formed him, The arm of Romulus, the mind of Numa.”

The Empress too was praised:–

“Spouse of the hero whom the universe regards, The Graces accompany you to the temple, Every one sees in your face the bounty
Of which you distribute the gifts.”

In allusion to her love of flowers this quatrain was composed:–

“Josephiniana! this is the new flower Whose beauty catches my eye.
To join the laurels of Caesar
Nothing less is needed than an immortal flower.”

The Emperor was sung, too, in mythological language, for his flatterers tried to exhaust all sorts of adulation. On Coronation Day the Prefect of Police had distributed a poem entitled _The Crown of Napoleon brought from Olympus command of Jupiter_:–

“Mounting one of the coursers of the proud Bellona, Mercury brings a crown from Olympus;
The king of the gods sends it to the hero of the French As the reward of his success.
Ye whom he guided a hundred times in the fields of glory, Phalanx of warriors, children of victory, Braving the impotent fury of the English, Sing Napoleon, sing your Emperor.”

December 3 the public rejoicings organized by the government extended from the Place de la Concorde to the Arsenal. Heralds-at-arms walked through the city, distributing medals struck to commemorate the coronation. These medals bore on one side the head of the Emperor, his brow wearing the crown of the Caesars; on the other, the image of a magistrate, and of an ancient warrior, supporting on a buckler a crowned hero, wearing an Imperial mantle. Beneath was the inscription: “The Senate and the People.”

As soon as the heralds-at-arms had passed by, the merry-making began, continuing till late in the night. There was a distribution of food, as well as sports of all kinds, reminding one of the times of the Roman Emperors: _panem et circenses_. On the Place de la Concorde had been built four large wooden halls for public balls. The cold was severe; there was a hard frost, but this did not check the universal enjoyment. On the boulevards there were at every step puppet shows, wandering singers, rope dancers, greased poles, bands of music. From the Place de la Concorde to the end of the boulevard Saint Antoine sparkled a double row of colored lights arrayed like garlands. The Garde Meuble and the Palace of the Legislative Body were ablaze with lights. The arches of Saint Denis and of Saint Martin were all covered with lights; the crowd was enraptured with the fireworks, which had never been so fine.

The people of Paris had been invited to illuminate the fronts of their houses, and moved either by enthusiasm or self-interest, they had spent large sums for this purpose. Among the notable illuminations was that of the engineer Chevalier, on the Pont Neuf. There was a transparency in which, amid encircling laurels and myrtles, was to be seen an optician turning his glass up to the sky towards a bright star, around which was this inscription: “_In hoc signo salus_!”–“In this sign is safety!”

December 3 was the first day of the coronation festivities. The third day was devoted to what the _Moniteur_ called, “arms, valor, fidelity.” This was the day when Napoleon formally presented to the army and to the National Guard of the Empire the eagles, “which they were always to find on the field of honor.” This ceremony took place on the Champ de Mars. To quote once more from the _Moniteur_: “This vast field, crowded with deputations representing France and the army, bore the aspect of a brave family assembled under the eyes of its chief.” The main front of the Military School had been decorated with a huge gallery, with several tents as high as the apartments on the first floor. The middle one, resting on four columns which supported winged victories, covered the thrones of the Emperor and the Empress. The Princes, the high dignitaries, the ministers, the marshals of the Empire, the high officers of the crown, the civil officers, the ladies of the court, were to take their places at the right of the throne. The gallery, in the middle of which was the Imperial tent, was in front of the Military School, and was divided into sixteen parts, eight on each side, representing the sixteen cohorts of the Legion of Honor. A broad staircase led from this gallery to the Champ de Mars; the first step was for the presidents of cantons, the prefects, sub-prefects, and the members of the municipal councils. On the other steps, there stationed themselves colonels of regiments and presidents of the electoral colleges of the departments, holding flags surmounted with eagles. On each side of the staircase were colossal figures of France, one at war, the other at peace. Twenty-five thousand soldiers, in faultless trim, had been under arms since six in the morning.

Unfortunately, the weather was terrible; a thaw had begun and it was raining in torrents. The Champ de Mars was a sea of mud. The courtiers who, on the 2d of December, had so belauded the sun, representing it as a sharer in the festival, a docile slave of the Emperor, were obliged to acknowledge that it was raining. Madame de Rémusat made a very true remark about this; she said with truth that one of the commonest, though one of the absurdest, flatteries of every time, was that of pretending that a sovereign’s need of fine weather was sure to bring it. “At the Tuileries,” she said, “I noticed the opinion that the Emperor needed only to appoint a review or a hunt for a certain day, and that day would be pleasant. Whenever that happened, a great deal was said about it, while silence was kept about rainy or foggy weather. This is exactly what used to happen under Louis XIV. For the honor of sovereigns I should prefer that they accepted this childish flattery with indifference or disgust, and that no one would think of offering it. It was impossible to deny that it rained during the distribution of the eagles at the Champ de Mars; but how many people I met the next day, who assured me that the rain had not wet them!”

In spite of the bad weather, an enormous crowd lined the road through which the Imperial procession was to pass. The terraces of the Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde, the _quais_ were thronged. Numberless spectators covered the slopes of the Champ de Mars. The ever obsequious _Moniteur_, in its official account of the ceremony, said; “If the spectators were uncomfortable, there was not one who was not consoled by the feeling that held him there, and by the expression of his wishes which the applause made very clear.”

At noon the Emperor and the Empress, followed by their suite, left the Tuileries in the order observed at the coronation, passed down the broad road, over the Pont Tournant, through the Place de la Concorde, to the Champ de Mars. Before their carriage rode the Chasseurs of the Guard and a squadron of Mamelukes; behind it came the mounted grenadiers and the chosen Legion. On reaching the Military School, Napoleon and Josephine received the compliments of the Diplomatic Body; then they put on their coronation robes, and took their place in the gallery in front of the building. As soon as the Emperor had seated himself on the throne, cannon were fired, drums beat, bands played. The deputations from the army, who were assembled in the Champ de Mars, formed in close columns and came forward. Then Napoleon arose and said in a loud voice: “Soldiers! These are your flags; these eagles will always be your rallying point; they will be wherever your Emperor may think necessary for the defence of his throne and of his people. You will swear to offer your life in their defence, and by your courage to keep them always on the path to victory. You swear it?” Officers and men replied: “We swear it!”

Alas! these flags were to be always on the path of honor, but not always on the path of victory, for victory is a female goddess and a fickle one. Against how many enemies these flags were to be defended, beneath scorching suns, under avalanches of ice and snow! What heroism, what miracles of bravery, were to be witnessed by these standards on many a battle-field! What fatigue, what suffering, what sacrifices, dangers, wounds, how many glorious deaths, what seas of blood, to come at last to the most lamentable disasters I Had the future been seen, those drums would have been draped in black. But the army imagined itself invincible. The thought of defeat would have called forth a smile of pity. Proud of itself, of its commander, it shouted with joy and pride as it passed before the throne.

A single incident disturbed this martial ceremony. Suddenly an unknown young man approached the Imperial gallery, and shouted: “Down with the Emperor! Liberty or death!” This ardent Republican was at once arrested. His voice had been lost in the music and clatter of arms.

The rain continued, and soon soaked through the canvas and stuffs sheltering the throne, The Empress was obliged to leave, with her daughter, who had recently given birth to a child. The other Princesses followed this example, with the exception of Madame Murat, who, although lightly clad, remained exposed to the showers. She said that she was learning how to endure the inevitable discomforts of the highest rank.

At five o’clock Napoleon and Josephine were once more at the Tuileries where a state dinner was given in the Gallery of Diana. In the middle of this gallery the table of the Emperor and the Empress was placed beneath a magnificent canopy, on a platform. The Empress sat there with the Emperor on the right and the Pope on her left. The high officers of the crown, as well as a colonel-general of the Guard and a prefect of the palace, remained standing near the Imperial table.

Pages waited on the tables. The Archchancellor of the German Empire took his place at that of the Emperor. In the same gallery were set other tables for the French Princes and for the hereditary Prince of Baden, for the ministers, for the ladies and officers of the Imperial household. After the dinner was a concert, at which the Pope consented to be present. When that was over Pius VII. withdrew, and the evening ended with a ballet danced by the dancers of the opera in the great hall called since the Empire the Hall of the Marshals.



The winter of 1804-5 was very brilliant. Napoleon was anxious to give the beginning of his reign an air of splendor. He allowed his officials generous salaries, but he insisted on their spending all they received in sumptuous living, in entertaining freely, and receiving distinguished foreigners. Luxury became compulsory, and trade flourished beyond all expectations. Paris had never, even in the grandest days of the old monarchy, known greater social animation. This martial generation, accustomed to desire a short but merry life, aware that the festivities of day would be interrupted by the battles of the next, were as eager in the ball-room as on the battlefield. They hastened to enjoy their present prosperity as if they foresaw the disasters to come. French gallantry, which had been forgotten during the Revolution, resumed its sway. The women were like the fair mistresses of castles in the Middle Ages who gave their hearts to the bravest knights. Love and glory both became the fashion. The former Lady of the Bedchamber to Marie Antoinette, Madame Campan, who taught most of the young women of the court in her school at Saint Germain, had formed a group of beauties, trained in aristocratic manners, at the head of whom was her ablest, most intelligent pupil, Hortense de Beauharnais, who had been married to Prince Louis Bonaparte. The Grand Chamberlain, M. de Talleyrand, a poor bishop but an excellent specimen of a grand lord, and the Grand Master of Ceremonies, M. de Ségur, whose success as ambassador of Louis XVI. at the court of Catherine was very great, set the tone in the households of the Emperor and the Empress.

Napoleon set an example of luxury and elegance. Grand dinners, concerts, official entertainments succeeded one another with startling rapidity. Josephine, who was wildly fond of dress, was glad of an excuse to indulge her extravagant tastes. The Emperor’s three sisters lived like real princesses, rivalling one another in magnificence. Princes Joseph and Louis displayed the pomp of future kings.

Almost all the women of the court were young and pretty. It would have been hard to confer on any one, to the exclusion of the rest, the palm of beauty. There were three who were especially distinguished: Madame Maret (later the Duchess of Bassano); Madame Savary (later the Duchess of Rovigo); and Madame de Canisy (later the Duchess of Vicenza). The last named had married M. de Canisy, the Emperor’s equerry. Later, she got a divorce and married M. de Caulaincourt, Duke of Vicenza and Grand Equerry.

At Saint Helena Napoleon thus recounted the origin of this famous beauty: “Madame de Loméne, the Cardinal’s niece, before being put to death in the Revolution, entrusted to Father Patrault her two young daughters. When the terror was over, Madame de Brienne, their aunt, who had weathered the storm and still possessed a large fortune, demanded them of Father Patrault, who refused to give them up for a long time, on the ground that their mother had urged him to bring them up as peasants.” And Napoleon went on: “I was then General of the Army of the Interior; and was able to secure the return of the two children, though with some difficulty, for Patrault resisted in every way in his power. They were the women whom you afterwards knew as Madame de Marnésia, and as the beautiful Madame de Canisy.”

The Duchess of Abrantès, in recalling the brilliant winter of 1804-5, says, in her Memoirs: “One especially impressive beauty, particularly in the ball-room, was Madame de Canisy, I have often compared her to a muse. It would be impossible for a single face to present a fuller combination of charms than hers: she possessed regular features, a delightful expression, an attractive smile; her hair was silky and glossy. Seldom have I seen anything more charming than Madames de Canisy, Maret, and Savary in entering a ball-room together,”

There was no lack of entertainments at which these beauties shone. The one given at the Hotel de Ville, December 16, 1804, to the Emperor and the Empress, was so costly that it kept the city of Paris for many years in debt. Napoleon, Josephine, Princes Joseph and Louis drove to it in the coronation coach. Batteries of artillery, stationed on the Pont Neuf, announced the moment of their arrival, while tables covered with poultry, and fountains of wine, attracted an enormous crowd to the place; almost every one had a share in this distribution of food, thanks to the precautions taken by the authorities of delivering it only to those who presented a ticket. The front of the Hotel de Ville was illuminated with colored lanterns. When the Empress entered the apartments reserved for her, she found there a complete and magnificent gold toilet-service: it was a present from the City Council. The President of the Council thus addressed her: “Madame: How could the Parisians, who are so capable of distinguishing what is good, delicate, and noble, let slip this opportunity of paying their homage to the profound tenderness, the touching grace, the true dignity that characterize Your Majesty? The happy influence of these rare qualities already makes itself felt in all classes of society, and while your august spouse elevates France in glory, you inspire it to resume the first rank among the races most renowned for urbanity.” The hall in which the Imperial banquet was to be given was called the Hall of Victories. On the door was the inscription _Fasti Napoleoni_, and at intervals, separated by military trophies and standards, were Latin inscriptions in honor of Napoleon. Before dinner he was presented with a table-service of silver-gilt by the city of Paris. Then he took his seat, with the Empress, on a platform beneath a canopy, and the meal began. During dinner, a band, hidden behind green foliage, played a symphony of Haydn’s, and then was sung a cantata full of flattery for the Emperor and the Empress.

After the dinner there were magnificent fireworks. As the first rockets rose, a second cantata was sung. One of the pieces of fireworks represented a man-of-war with eighty guns: its decks, masts, sails, and rigging were represented by glowing lights. Another, which the Emperor himself set off, represented Mount Saint Bernard sending forth a volcanic eruption from snow-covered rocks. In the centre appeared the image of Napoleon at the head of his army, riding up the steep slope of the mountain.

This entertainment, which closed with a ball at which seven hundred persons were present, was a real apotheosis. Madame de Rémusat, speaking of the extravagant adulation devised for this occasion, says: “A great deal has been said about the fulsome flatteries of Louis XIV. during his reign; I am sure that altogether they would not amount to a tenth part of those that Bonaparte received. I remember that at another festivity given by the city to the Emperor a few years later, since all inscription had been exhausted, there were placed above the throne on which he was to sit, these words from Scripture, in gold letters: _Ego sum qui sum_,–and no one was shocked.”

The Senate and the Legislative Body also gave grand entertainments in honor of the coronation. That of the Legislative Body was particularly brilliant. This assembly, which rivalled the Senate in obsequiousness, had decided that a marble statue should be raised to the Emperor in the room where it sat, in honor of the drawing up of the civil code. The day when this statue was to be inaugurated was chosen for the festivity. The Empress, followed by a magnificent suite, reached the Palace of the Legislative Body at about seven in the evening. As she entered, musicians intoned Glück’s famous chorus, which used to be sung on formal occasions in the reign of Louis XVI., in honor of Marie Antoinette:–

“What charms! What majesty!”

Unanimous applause emphasized the allusions. Then on the President’s invitation, Marshals Murat and Masséna raised the veils that covered the statue, and all eyes beheld the figure of Napoleon, wearing on his brow a laurel wreath, in which were mingled oak and olive leaves. Later, at the time of his abdication at Fontainebleau, Napoleon expressed a regret that he had permitted his statue to be made during his lifetime.

Then M. de Vaublanc ascended the tribune, and made a speech full of extravagant praise; it ended thus: “You live, all of you, threatened by the perils of the times; you live, and you owe your life to him whose statue you behold. You return unfortunate exiles; you breathe once more the delicious air of your own country; you embrace your fathers, your children, your wives, your friends; all this you owe to him whose statue you behold. There is no longer any question of his glory; I say nothing about it; I invoke humanity on one side, gratitude on the other; I ask you to whom you are indebted for this great, extraordinary, unexpected good fortune. You all answer with me, It is to the great man whose statue you behold.” Throughout the whole speech, a perfect masterpiece of official composition, adulation came in like a chorus. The President in his turn uttered a similar eulogy: “Very few at the time,” says Constant, who describes this occasion, “found this praise extravagant; possibly their opinions have changed since then.”

After the speeches, dinner was served to three hundred guests, followed by a magnificent ball. Though, in the middle of the winter, there was a great show of shrubs and flowers. The Halls of Lucretia and of the Reunion, in which there was dancing, were like one large bed of roses, laurels, lilacs, jonquils, lilies, and jasmine.

Perhaps the finest of all the entertainments was that given to the Emperor and Empress by the marshals of the Empire in the Opera House. It cost each, marshal ten thousand francs. The Opera House at that time was in the rue de Richelieu, where it had been since 1794. (It was the one torn down during the Restoration, on account of the murder of the Duke of Berry, who was killed on the threshold.) By means of a floor placed level with the stage over the orchestra and the pit, there was made a magnificent ball- room. Twenty-four chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and candelabra were set on each side of every box. The decorations consisted of silver gauze, and wreaths of flowers. The uniforms of the men and the dresses of the women were almost equally magnificent. The eyes of the spectators were dazzled by dresses trimmed with precious stones. Never had there been seen such profusion of light, flowers, perfumes, and diamonds. In this magical setting, fashionable beauties, with their dresses worked with silver and gold foil, their turbans of Eastern stuffs, their jewels and ancient cameos, appeared like sultanas. It was a most sumptuous and fairy-like show.

The marshals arrived at eight in the evening, the Empress at ten, the Emperor at eleven; as he entered the ball-room, the applause was so violent that it was feared that the candles would be put out. A military march was played, and then there was a concert, closing with the Abbé Rose’s _Vivat Imperator_, which had made such an impression on the Coronation Day. After the concert, Prince Louis Bonaparte, Marshal Murat, Eugene de Beauharnais, and Marshal Berthier opened the ball with the Princesses. The Emperor walked twice around the hall, as if he were reviewing troops. Then he sat down by the side of the Empress on a raised platform, and withdrew before the end of the ball.

Besides all these entertainments there were the grand levees and concerts at the Tuileries. The Hall of the Marshals was an impressive sight on those evenings, filled, as it was, with young and pretty women, in gorgeous dresses, and with men resplendent with stars, epaulettes, feathered hats, and sword-belts set with diamonds. After the concert the company would go to the Gallery of Diana, where the supper-tables were set: that of the Empress, those of the Princesses, of the Lady of Honor, of the Lady of the Bedchamber, of the Ladles of the Palace. “All these tables,” says the Duchess of Abrantès, “were occupied by women with roses on their heads, and smiles on their lips, and often with tears in their eyes; for vanity, everywhere triumphant, holds its court especially at court. There, favor is everything, disgrace is everything. A chance word or glance of the Emperor or Empress is a blow and a serious one. What, then, must be the result of an invitation sent or withheld?”

During the concert the Empress made up the supper-table; that is to say, chose the women who were to sit at her table, commissioning her chamberlain to notify those she had selected. The Princesses did the same, and the officers of their households likewise informed the women whom they had chosen. There were but twelve places at the Empress’s table; eight or ten at those of the Princesses. When the chamberlains came to bring these most welcome invitations, there fluttered through the eight hundred or thousand women present at the concerts and grand levees an anxious emotion which amused observers. The aspect of the Gallery of Diana was most impressive. On the Empress’s table shone a golden service amid glass and Sèvres ware. During the supper the men strolled up and down the gallery, but as soon as the Emperor appeared, awe and fear appeared on every face. It seemed as if the times of Louis XIV. had returned, of which La Bruyère said: “Nothing so disfigures certain courtiers as the presence of their Prince; I can sometimes scarcely recognize them, so altered are their features, so degraded their faces. The proud and haughty ones are the most disturbed, for they change the most; and the upright and modest man comes out best; he has nothing to change.” The Duchess of Abrantès, recalling the intimidation caused by Napoleon’s approach, wrote: “Even those who nowadays talk about the Corsican with a great show of scorn, those very ones (I have seen them, and I am not the only one,) were the most timid before the very shadow of his hat.” The women trembled even more. They dreaded the questions the Emperor might put to them, and, according to Madame de Rémusat, there was not one who would not gladly have been anywhere else. During the First Empire, everything, even the festivities, wore a military air. The sovereign always had the air of a commanding general. Discipline prevailed, at a ball as well as in a camp, and the young men took part in those pleasures only to return with renewed zeal and courage to the battle-field.



By the beginning of 1805 the court was definitely formed. After laborious studies on the part of a special commission, and long discussions in which Napoleon took as interested a part as he did in the preparation of the civil code, all the wheels of etiquette had been arranged, and the machinery worked with perfect regularity. The Emperor attached great importance to the subject, from both a political and a social point of view. In his eyes, etiquette had the great advantage of drawing between him and those who had recently been his superiors, a distinct line of separation. He looked upon it as a useful tool of government, as an accompaniment of glory absolutely essential for a sovereign, especially for one of recent origin. He was very proud of his court, of the wealth it displayed, and of the vast results he obtained at a comparatively small expense, and at Saint Helena he liked to recall its agreeable memory.