RECOLLECTIONS OF THE PRIVATE LIFE OF NAPOLEON, V3
PREMIER VALET DE CHAMBRE
TRANSLATED BY WALTER CLARK
The First Consul left Boulogne to return to Paris, in order to be present at the marriage of one of his sisters. Prince Camille Borghese, descendant of the noblest family of Rome, had already arrived at Paris to—marry Madame Pauline Bonaparte, widow of General Leclerc, who had died of yellow fever in San Domingo. I recollect having seen this unfortunate general at the residence of the First Consul some time before his departure on the ill-starred expedition which cost him his life, and France the loss of many brave soldiers and much treasure. General Leclerc, whose name is now almost forgotten, or held in light esteem, was a kind and good man. He was passionately in love with his wife, whose giddiness, to put it mildly, afflicted him sorely, and threw him into a deep and habitual melancholy painful to witness. Princess Pauline (who was then far from being a princess) had married him willingly, and of her own choice; but this did not prevent her tormenting her husband by her innumerable caprices, and repeating to him a hundred times a day that he was indeed a fortunate man to marry the sister of the First Consul. I am sure that with his simple tastes and quiet disposition General Leclerc would have preferred less distinction and more peace. The First Consul required his sister to accompany her husband to San Domingo. She was forced to obey, and to leave Paris, where she swayed the scepter of fashion, and eclipsed all other women by her elegance and coquetry, as well as by her incomparable beauty, to brave a dangerous climate, and the ferocious companions of Christophe and Dessalines. At the end of the year 1801 the admiral's ship, The Ocean, sailed from Brest, carrying to the Cape (San Domingo) General Leclerc, his wife, and their son. After her arrival at the Cape, the conduct of Madame Leclerc was beyond praise. On more than one occasion, but especially that which I shall now attempt to describe, she displayed a courage worthy of her name and the position of her husband. I obtained these details from an eye-witness whom I had known at Paris in the service of Princess Pauline.
The day of the great insurrection of the blacks in September, 1802, the bands of Christophe and Dessalines, composed of more than twelve thousand negroes, exasperated by their hatred against the whites, and the certainty that if they yielded no quarter would be given, made an assault on the town of the Cape, which was defended by only one thousand soldiers; for only this small number remained of the large army which had sailed from Brest a year before, in brilliant spirits and full of hope. This handful of brave men, the most of them weakened by fever, led by the general-in-chief of the expedition, who was even then suffering from the malady which caused his death, repulsed by unheard of efforts and heroic valor the repeated attacks of the blacks.
During this combat, in which the determination, if not the number and strength, was equal on both sides, Madame Leclerc, with her son, was under the guard of a devoted friend who had subject to his orders only a weak company of artillery, which still occupied the house where her husband had fixed his residence, at the foot of the low hills which bordered the coast. The general-in-chief, fearing lest this residence might be surprised by a party of the enemy, and being unable to foresee the issue of the struggle which he was maintaining on the heights of the Cape, and against which the blacks made their most furious assaults, sent an order to convey his wife and son on board the fleet. Pauline would not consent to this. Always faithful to the pride with which her name inspired her (but this time there was in her pride as much greatness as nobility), she spoke to the ladies of the city who had taken refuge with her, and begged them to go away, giving them a frightful picture of the horrible treatment to which they would be exposed should the negroes defeat the troops. "You can leave. You are not the sisters of Bonaparte."
However, as the danger became more pressing every moment, General Leclerc sent an aide-de-camp to his residence, and enjoined on him, in case Pauline still persisted in her refusal, to use force, and convey her on board against her will. The officer was obliged to execute this order to the letter. Consequently Madame Leclerc was forcibly placed in an arm- chair which was borne by four soldiers, while a grenadier marched by her side, carrying in his arms the general's son. During this scene of flight and terror the child, already worthy of its mother, played with the plume of the soldier who was carrying him. Followed by her cortege of trembling, tearful women, whose only source of strength during this perilous passage was in her courage, she was thus conveyed to the seashore. Just as they were going to place her in the sloop, however, another aide-de-camp of her husband brought news of the defeat of the blacks. "You see now," said she, returning to her residence, "I was right in not wishing to embark." She was not yet out of danger, however; for a troop of negroes, forming part of the army which had just been so miraculously repulsed, in trying to make good their retreat to the dikes, met the small escort of Madame Leclerc. As they appeared disposed to attack, it was necessary to scatter them by shots at short range. Throughout this skirmish Pauline preserved a perfect equanimity. All these circumstances, which reflected so much honor on Madame Leclerc, were reported to the First Consul.
His self-love was flattered by it; and I believe that it was to Prince Borghese that he said one day at his levee, "Pauline is predestined to marry a Roman, for from head to foot she is every inch a Roman."
Unfortunately this courage, which a man might have envied, was not united in the Princess Pauline with those virtues which are less brilliant and more modest, and also more suitable for a woman, and which we naturally expect to find in her, rather than boldness and contempt of danger.
I do not know if it is true, as has been written somewhere, that Madame Leclerc, when she was obliged to set out for San Domingo, had a fancy for an actor of the Theatre Francais. Nor am I able to say whether it is true that Mademoiselle Duchesnois had the naivete to exclaim before a hundred people in reference to this departure, "Lafon will never be consoled; it will kill him!" but what I myself know of the frailty of this princess leads me to believe that the anecdote is true.
All Paris knew the special favor with which she honored M. Jules de Canouville, a young and brilliant colonel who was handsome and brave, with a perfect figure, and an assurance which was the cause of his innumerable successes with certain women, although he used little discretion in respect to them. The liaison of Princess Pauline with this amiable officer was the most lasting that she ever formed; and as, unfortunately, neither of them was discreet, their mutual tenderness acquired in a short while a scandalous publicity. I shall take occasion later to relate in its proper place the incident which caused the disgrace, banishment, and perhaps even the death, of Colonel de Canouville. A death so premature, and above all so cruel, since it was not an enemy's bullet which struck him, was deplored by the whole army.
[Monsieur Bousquet was called to Neuilly (residence of the Princess Pauline) in order to examine the beautiful teeth of her Imperial Highness. Presented to her, he prepared to begin work. "Monsieur," said a charming young man in a wrapper, negligently lying on a sofa, "take care, I pray, what you do. I feel a great interest in the teeth of my Paulette, and I hold you responsible for any accident."—" Be tranquil, my Prince; I can assure your Imperial Highness that there is no danger." During all the time that Bousquet was engaged in working on the pretty mouth, these recommendations continued. At length, having finished what he had to do, he passed into the waiting-room, where he found assembled the ladies of the palace, the chamberlains, etc., who were awaiting to enter the apartments of the Princess.
They hastened to ask Bousquet news of the princess, "Her Imperial Highness is very well, and must be happy in the tender attachment her august husband feels for her, which he has shown in my presence in so touching a manner. His anxiety was extreme. It was only with difficulty I could reassure him as to the result of the simplest thing in the world; I shall tell everywhere what I have just witnessed. It is pleasant to be able to cite such an example of conjugal tenderness in so high a rank. I am deeply impressed with it." They did not try to stop good M. Bousquet in these expressions of his enthusiasm. The desire to laugh prevented a single word; and he left convinced that nowhere existed a better household than that of the Prince and Princess Borghese. The latter was in Italy, and the handsome young man was M. de Canouville.
I borrow this curious anecdote from the "Memoirs of Josephine," the author of which, who saw and described the Court of Navarre and Malmaison with so much truth and good judgment, is said to be a woman, and must be in truth a most intellectual one, and in a better position than any other person to know the private affairs of her Majesty, the Empress.—CONSTANT.
He was slain by a ball from a French cannon, which was discharged after the close of an action in which he had shown the most brilliant courage.—CONSTANT.]
Moreover, however great may have been the frailty of Princess Pauline in regard to her lovers, and although most incredible instances of this can be related without infringing on the truth, her admirable devotion to the person of the Emperor in 1814 should cause her faults to be treated with indulgence.
On innumerable occasions the effrontery of her conduct, and especially her want of regard and respect for the Empress Marie Louise, irritated the Emperor against the Princess Borghese, though he always ended by pardoning her; notwithstanding which, at the time of the fall of her august brother she was again in disgrace, and being informed that the island of Elba had been selected as a prison for the Emperor, she hastened to shut herself up there with him, abandoning Rome and Italy, whose finest palaces were hers. Before the battle of Waterloo, his Majesty at the critical moment found the heart of his sister Pauline still faithful. Fearing lest he might be in need of money, she sent him her handsomest diamonds, the value of which was enormous; and they were found in the carriage of the Emperor when it was captured at Waterloo, and exhibited to the curiosity of the inhabitants of London. But the diamonds have been lost; at least, to their lawful owner.
On the day of General Moreau's arrest the First Consul was in a state of great excitement.
[Jean Victor Moreau, born at Morlaix in Brittany, 1763, son of a prominent lawyer. At one time he rivaled Bonaparte in reputation. He was general-in-chief of the army of the Rhine, 1796, and again in 1800, in which latter year he gained the battle of Hohenlinden. Implicated in the conspiracy of Pichegru, he was exiled, and went to the United States. He returned to Europe in 1813, and, joining the allied armies against France, was killed by a cannon-shot in the attack on Dresden in August of that year.]
The morning was passed in interviews with his emissaries, the agents of police; and measures had been taken that the arrest should be made at the specified hour, either at Gros-Bois, or at the general's house in the street of the Faubourg Saint-Honore. The First Consul was anxiously walking up and down his chamber, when he sent for me, and ordered me to take position opposite General Moreau's house (the one in Paris), to see whether the arrest had taken place, and if there was any tumult, and to return promptly and make my report. I obeyed; but nothing extraordinary took place, and I saw only some police spies walking along the street, and watching the door of the house of the man whom they had marked for their prey. Thinking that my presence would probably be noticed, I retired; and, as I learned while returning to the chateau that General Moreau had been arrested on the road from his estate of Gros-Bois, which he sold a few months later to Marshal Berthier, before leaving for the United States, I quickened my pace, and hastened to announce to the First Consul the news of the arrest. He knew this already, made no response, and still continued thoughtful, and in deep reflection, as in the morning.
Since I have been led to speak of General Moreau, I will recall by what fatal circumstances he was led to tarnish his glory. Madame Bonaparte had given to him in marriage Mademoiselle Hulot, her friend, and, like herself, a native of the Isle of France. This young lady, gentle, amiable, and possessing those qualities which make a good wife and mother, loved her husband passionately, and was proud of that glorious name which surrounded her with respect and honor; but, unfortunately, she had the greatest deference for her mother, whose ambition was great, and who desired nothing short of seeing her daughter seated upon a throne. The influence which she exercised over Madame Moreau soon extended to the general himself, who, ruled by her counsels, became gloomy, thoughtful, melancholy, and forever lost that tranquillity of mind which had distinguished him. From that time the general's house was open to intrigues and conspiracies; and it was the rendezvous of all the discontented, of which there were many. The general assumed the task of disapproving all the acts of the First Consul; he opposed the reestablishment of public worship, and criticised as childish and ridiculous mummery the institution of the Legion of Honor. These grave imprudences, and indeed many others, came to the ears of the First Consul, who refused at first to believe them; but how could he remain deaf to reports which were repeated each day with more foundation, though doubtless exaggerated by malice?
In proportion as the imprudent speeches of the general were depriving him of the esteem of the First Consul, his mother-in-law, by a dangerous obstinacy, was encouraging him in his opposition, persuaded, she said, that the future would do justice to the present. She did not realize that she spoke so truly; and the general rushed headlong into the abyss which opened before him. How greatly his conduct was in opposition to his character! He had a pronounced aversion to the English, and he detested the Chouans, and everything pertaining to the old nobility; and besides, a man like General Moreau, who had served his country so gloriously, was not the one to bear arms against her. But he was deceived, and he deceived himself, in thinking that he was fitted to play a great political part; and he was destroyed by the flatteries of a party which excited all possible hostility against the First Consul by taking advantage of the jealousy of his former comrades in arms. I witnessed more than one proof of affection shown by the First Consul to General Moreau. In the course of a visit of the latter to the Tuileries, and during an interview with the First Consul, General Carnot arrived from Versailles with a pair of pistols of costly workmanship, which the manufactory of Versailles had sent as a gift to the First Consul. He took these handsome weapons from the hands of General Carnot, admired them a moment, and immediately offered them to General Moreau, saying to him, "Take them, truly they could not have come at a better time." All this was done quicker than I can write it; the general was highly flattered by this proof of friendship, and thanked the First Consul warmly.
The name and trial of General Moreau recall to me the story of a brave officer who was compromised in this unfortunate affair, and who after many years of disgrace was pardoned only on account of the courage with which he dared expose himself to the anger of the Emperor. The authenticity of the details which I shall relate can be attested, if necessary, by living persons, whom I shall have occasion to name in my narrative, and whose testimony no reader would dream of impeaching.
The disgrace of General Moreau extended at first to all those who surrounded him; and as the affection and devotion felt for him by all the officers and soldiers who had served under him was well known, his aides- de-camp were arrested, even those who were not then in Paris. One of them, Colonel Delelee, had been many months on furlough at Besancon, resting after his campaigns in the bosom of his family, and with a young wife whom he had recently married. Besides, he was at that time concerning himself very little with political matters, very much with his pleasures, and not at all with conspiracies. Comrade and brother in arms of Colonels Guilleminot, Hugo, Foy,—all three of whom became generals afterwards,—he was spending his evenings gayly with them at the garrison, or in the quiet pleasures of his family circle. Suddenly Colonel Delelee was arrested, placed in a postchaise, and it was not until he was rolling along in a gallop on the road to Paris, that he learned from the officer of the gendarmes who accompanied him, that General Moreau had conspired, and that in his quality as aide-de-camp he was counted among the conspirators.
Arrived at Paris, the colonel was put in close confinement, in La Force I believe. His wife, much alarmed, followed his footsteps; but it was several days before she obtained permission to communicate with the prisoner, and then could do so only by signs from the courtyard of the prison while he showed himself, for a few moments, and put his hands through the bars of the window. However, the rigor of these orders was relaxed for the colonel's young child three or four years of age, and his father obtained the favor of embracing him. He came each morning in his mother's arms, and a turnkey carried him in to the prisoner, before which inconvenient witness the poor little thing played his role with all the skill of a consummate actor. He would pretend to be lame, and complain of having sand in his shoes which hurt him and the colonel, turning his back on the jailer, and taking the child in his lap to remove the cause of the trouble, would find in his son's shoe a note from his wife, informing him in a few words of the state of the trial, and what he had to hope or fear for himself. At length, after many months of captivity, sentence having been pronounced against the conspirators, Colonel Delelee, against whom no charge had been made, was not absolved as he had a right to expect, but was struck off the army list, arbitrarily put under surveillance, and prohibited from coming within forty leagues of Paris. He was also forbidden to return to Besancon, and it was more than a year after leaving prison before he was permitted to do so.
Young and full of courage, the Colonel saw, from the depths of his retirement, his friends and comrades make their way, and gain upon the battlefield fame, rank, and glory, while he himself was condemned to inaction and obscurity, and to pass his days in following on the map the triumphant march of those armies in which he felt himself worthy to resume his rank. Innumerable applications were addressed by him and his friends to the head of the Empire, that he might be allowed to go even as a common volunteer, and rejoin his former comrades with his knapsack on his shoulder; but these petitions were refused, the will of the Emperor was inflexible, and to each new application he only replied, "Let him wait." The inhabitants of Besancon, who considered Colonel Delelee as their fellow-citizen, interested themselves warmly in the unmerited misfortunes of this brave officer; and when an occasion presented itself of recommending him anew to the clemency, or rather to the justice, of the Emperor, they availed themselves of it.
It was, I believe, on the return from Prussia and Poland that from all parts of France there came deputations charged with congratulating the Emperor upon his several victories. Colonel Delelee was unanimously elected member of the deputation of Doubs, of which the mayor and prefect of Besancon were also members, and of which the respectable Marshal Moncey was president, and an opportunity was thus at last offered Colonel Delelee of procuring the removal of the long sentence which had weighed him down and kept his sword idle. He could speak to the Emperor, and complain respectfully, but with dignity, of the disgrace in which he had been so long kept without reason. He could render thanks, from the bottom of his heart, for the generous affection of his fellow-citizens, whose wishes, he hoped would plead for him with his Majesty.
The deputies of Besancon, upon their arrival at Paris, presented themselves to the different ministers. The minister of police took the president of the deputation aside, and asked him the meaning of the presence among the deputies of a man publicly known to be in disgrace, and the sight of whom could not fail to be disagreeable to the chief of the Empire.
Marshal Moncey, on coming out from this private interview, pale and frightened, entered the room of Colonel Delelee:
"My friend," said he, "all is lost, for I have ascertained at the bureau that they are still hostile to you. If the Emperor sees you among us, he will take it as an open avowal of disregard for his orders, and will be furious."
"Ah, well, what have I to do with that?"
"But in order to avoid compromising the department, the deputation, and, indeed, in order to avoid compromising yourself, you would perhaps do well "—the Marshal hesitated. "I will do well?" demanded the Colonel.
"Perhaps to withdraw without making any display"—
Here the colonel interrupted the president of the deputation: "Marshal, permit me to decline this advice; I have not come so far to be discouraged, like a child, before the first obstacle. I am weary of a disgrace which I have not deserved, and still more weary of enforced idleness. Let the Emperor be irritated or pleased, he shall see me; let him order me to be shot, if he wishes. I do not count worth having such a life as I have led for the last four years. Nevertheless, I will be satisfied with whatever my colleagues, the deputies of Besancon, shall decide."
These latter did not disapprove of the colonel's resolution, and he accompanied them to the Tuileries on the day of the solemn reception of all the deputations of the Empire. All the halls of the Tuileries were packed with a crowd in richly embroidered coats and brilliant uniforms. The military household of the Emperor, his civil household, the generals present at Paris, the diplomatic corps, ministers and chiefs of the different administrations, the deputies of the departments with their prefects, and mayors decorated with tricolored scarfs, were all assembled in numerous groups, and conversed in a low tone while awaiting the arrival of his Majesty.
In one of these groups was seen a tall officer dressed in a very simple uniform, cut in the fashion of several years past. He wore neither on his collar, nor even on his breast the decoration which no officer of his grade then lacked. This was Colonel Delelee. The president of the deputation of which he was a member appeared embarrassed and almost distressed. Of the former comrades of the colonel, very few dared to recognize him, and the boldest gave him a distant nod which expressed at the same time anxiety and pity, while the more prudent did not even glance at him.
As for him, he remained unconcerned and resolute.
At last the folding doors were opened, and an usher cried "The Emperor, gentlemen."
The groups separated, and a line was formed, the colonel placing himself in the first rank.
His Majesty commenced his tour of the room, welcoming the president of each delegation with a few flattering words. Arrived before the delegation from Doubs, the Emperor, having addressed a few words to the brave marshal who was president, was about to pass on to the next, when his eyes fell upon an officer he had not yet seen. He stopped in surprise, and addressed to the deputy his familiar inquiry, "Who are you?"
"Sire, I am Colonel Delelee, former aide-de-camp of General Moreau."
These words were pronounced in a firm voice, which resounded in the midst of the profound silence which the presence of the sovereign imposed.
The Emperor stepped back, and fastened both eyes on the colonel. The latter showed no emotion, but bowed slightly.
Marshal Moncey was pale as death.
The Emperor spoke. "What do you come to ask here?"
"That which I have asked for many years, Sire: that your Majesty will deign to tell me wherein I have been in fault, or restore to me my rank."
Among those near enough to hear these questions and replies, few could breathe freely. At last a smile half opened the firmly closed lips of the Emperor; he placed his finger on his mouth, and, approaching the colonel, said to him in a softened and almost friendly tone, "You have reason to complain a little of that, but let us say no more about it," and continued his round. He had gone ten steps from the group formed by the deputies of Bescancon, when he came back, and, stopping before the colonel, said, "Monsieur Minister of War, take the name of this officer, and be sure to remind me of him. He is tired of doing nothing, and we will give him occupation."
As soon as the audience was over, the struggle was, who should be most attentive to the colonel. He was surrounded, congratulated, embraced, and pulled about. Each of his old comrades wished to carry him off, and his hands were not enough to grasp all those extended to him. General Savary, who that very evening had added to the fright of Marshal Moncey, by being astonished that any one could have the audacity to brave the Emperor, extended his arm over the shoulders of those who pressed around the colonel, and shaking his hand in the most cordial manner possible, "Delelee," cried he, "do not forget that I expect you to-morrow to breakfast."
Two days after this scene at court, Colonel Delelee received his appointment as chief of staff of the army of Portugal, commanded by the Duke d'Abrantes. His preparations were soon made; and just before setting out he had a last interview with the Emperor, who said to him, "Colonel, I know that it is useless to urge you to make up for lost time. In a little while I hope we shall both be satisfied with each other."
On coming out from this last audience, the brave Delelee said there was nothing wanting to make him happy except a good opportunity to have himself cut to pieces for a man who knew so well how to close the wounds of a long disgrace. Such was the sway that his Majesty exercised over the minds of men.
The colonel had soon crossed the Pyrenees, passed through Spain, and been received by Junot with open arms. The army of Portugal had suffered much in the two years during which it had struggled against both the population and the English with unequal forces. Food was secured with difficulty, and the soldiers were badly clothed, and half-shod. The new chief of staff did all that was possible to remedy this disorder; and the soldiers had just begun to feel the good effects of his presence, when he fell sick from overwork and fatigue, and died before being able, according to the Emperor's expression, to "make up for lost time."
I have said elsewhere that upon each conspiracy against the life of the First Consul all the members of his household were at once subjected to a strict surveillance; their smallest actions were watched; they were followed outside the chateau; their conduct was reported even to the smallest details. At the time the conspiracy of Pichegru was discovered, there was only a single guardian of the portfolio, by the name of Landoire; and his position was very trying, for he must always be present in a little dark corridor upon which the door of the cabinet opened, and he took his meals on the run, and half-dressed. Happily for Landoire, they gave him an assistant; and this was the occasion of it.
Angel, one of the doorkeepers of the palace, was ordered by the First Consul to place himself at the barrier of Bonshommes during the trial of Pichegru, to recognize and watch the people of the household who came and went in the transaction of their business, no one being allowed to leave Paris without permission. Augel's reports having pleased the First Consul, he sent for him, was satisfied with his replies and intelligence, and appointed him assistant to Landoire in the custody of the portfolio. Thus the task of the latter became lighter by half. In 1812 Angel was in the campaign of Russia, and died on the return, when within a few leagues of Paris, in consequence of the fatigue and privations which we shared with the army.
However, it was not only those attached to the service of the First
Consul, or the chateau, who were subject to this surveillance.
When Napoleon became Emperor, the custodians of all the imperial palaces were furnished with a register upon which all persons from outside, and all strangers who came to visit any one in the palace were obliged to inscribe their names, with that of the persons whom they came to see. Every evening this register was carried to the grand marshal of the palace, and in his absence to the governor, and the Emperor often consulted it. He once found there a certain name which, as a husband, he had his reasons, and perhaps good ones, to suspect. His Majesty had previously ordered the exclusion of this person; and finding this unlucky name again upon the custodian's register, he was angry beyond measure, believing that they had dared on both sides to disobey his orders. Investigation was immediately made; and it was fortunately ascertained that the visitor was a most insignificant person, whose only fault was that of bearing a name which was justly compromised.
The year 1804, which was so full of glory for the Emperor, was also the year which brought him more care and anxiety than all others, except those of 1814 and 1815. It is not my province to pass judgment on such grave events, nor to determine what part was taken in them by the Emperor, or by those who surrounded and counseled him, for it is my object to relate only what I saw and heard. On the 21st of March of that year I entered the Emperor's room at an early hour, and found him awake, leaning on his elbow. He seemed gloomy and tired; but when I entered he sat up, passed his hand many times over his forehead, and said to me, "Constant, I have a headache." Then, throwing off the covering, he added, "I have slept very badly." He seemed extremely preoccupied and absorbed, and his appearance evinced melancholy and suffering to such a degree that I was surprised and somewhat anxious. While I was dressing him he did not utter a word, which never occurred except when something agitated or worried him. During this time only Roustan and I were present. His toilet being completed, just as I was handing him his snuff-box, handkerchief, and little bonbon box, the door opened suddenly, and the First Consul's wife entered, in her morning negligee, much agitated, with traces of tears on her cheeks. Her sudden appearance astonished, and even alarmed, Roustan and myself; for it was only an extraordinary circumstance which could have induced Madame Bonaparte to leave her room in this costume, before taking all necessary precautions to conceal the damage which the want of the accessories of the toilet did her. She entered, or rather rushed, into the room, crying, "The Duke d'Enghien is dead! Ah, my friend! what have you done?" Then she fell sobbing into the arms of the First Consul, who became pale as death, and said with extraordinary emotion, "The miserable wretches have been too quick!" He then left the room, supporting Madame Bonaparte, who could hardly walk, and was still weeping. The news of the prince's death spread consternation in the chateau; and the First Consul remarked this universal grief, but reprimanded no one for it. The fact is, the greatest chagrin which this mournful catastrophe caused his servants, most of whom were attached to him by affection even more than by duty, came from the belief that it would inevitably tarnish the glory and destroy the peace of mind of their master.
The First Consul probably understood our feelings perfectly; but however that may be, I have here related all that I myself saw and know of this deplorable event. I do not pretend to know what passed in the cabinet meeting, but the emotion of the First Consul appeared to me sincere and unaffected; and he remained sad and silent for many days, speaking very little at his toilet, and saying only what was necessary.
During this month and the following I noticed constantly passing, repassing, and holding frequent interviews with the First Consul, many persons whom I was told were members of the council of state, tribunes, or senators. For a long time the army and a great number of citizens, who idolized the hero of Italy and Egypt, had manifested openly their desire to see him wear a title worthy of his renown and the greatness of France. It was well known, also, that he alone performed all the duties of government, and that his nominal colleagues were really his subordinates. It was thought proper, therefore, that he should become supreme head of the state in name, as he already was in fact. I have often since his fall heard his Majesty called an usurper: but the only effect of this on me is to provoke a smile of pity; for if the Emperor usurped the throne, he had more accomplices than all the tyrants of tragedy and melodrama combined, for three-fourths of the French people were in the conspiracy. As is well known, it was on May 18 that the Empire was proclaimed, and the First Consul (whom I shall henceforward call the Emperor) received at Saint-Cloud the Senate, led by Consul Cambaceres, who became, a few hours later, arch-chancellor of the Empire; and it was by him that the Emperor heard himself for the first time saluted with the title of Sire. After this audience the Senate went to present its homage to the Empress Josephine. The rest of the day was passed in receptions, presentations, interviews, and congratulations; everybody in the chateau was drunk with joy; each one felt that he had been suddenly promoted in rank, so they embraced each other, exchanged compliments, and confided to each other hopes and plans for the future. There was no subaltern too humble to be inspired with ambition; in a word, the antechamber, saving the difference of persons, furnished an exact repetition of what passed in the saloon. Nothing could be more amusing than the embarrassment of the whole service when it was necessary to reply to his Majesty's questions. They would begin with a mistake, then would try again, and do worse, saying ten times in the same minute, "Sire, general, your Majesty, citizen, First Consul." The next morning on entering as usual the First Consul's room, to his customary questions, "What o'clock is it? What is the weather? "I replied, "Sire, seven o'clock; fine weather." As I approached his bed, he seized me by the ear, and slapped me on the cheek, calling me "Monsieur le drole," which was his favorite expression when especially pleased with me. His Majesty had kept awake, and worked late into the night, and I found him serious and preoccupied, but well satisfied. How different this awakening to that of the 21st of March preceding! On this day his Majesty went to hold his first grand levee at the Tuileries, where all the civil and military authorities were presented to him. The brothers and sisters of the Emperor were made princes and princesses, with the exception of Lucien, who had quarreled with his Majesty on the occasion of his marriage with Madame Jouberton. Eighteen generals were raised to the dignity of marshals of the empire. Dating from this day, everything around their Majesties took on the appearance of a court and royal power. Much has been said of the awkwardness of the first courtiers, not yet accustomed to the new duties imposed upon them, and to the ceremonials of etiquette; and there was, indeed, in the beginning some embarrassment experienced by those in the immediate service of the Emperor, as I have said above; but this lasted only a short while, and the chamberlains and high officials adapted themselves to the new regime almost as quickly as the valets de chambre. They had also as instructors many personages of the old court, who had been struck out of the list of emigres by the kindness of the Emperor, and now solicited earnestly for themselves and their wives employment in the new imperial court.
His majesty had no liking for the anniversaries of the Republic; some of which had always seemed to him odious and cruel, others ridiculous; and I have heard him express his indignation that they should have dared to make an annual festival of the anniversary of the 21st of January, and smile with pity at the recollection of what he called the masquerades of the theo-philanthropists, who, he said, "would have no Jesus Christ, and yet made saints of Fenelon and Las Casas—Catholic prelates."
Bourrienne, in his Memoirs, says that it was not one of the least singular things in the policy of Napoleon, that during the first years of his reign he retained the festival of 14th July. I will observe, as to this, that if his Majesty used this annual solemnity to appear in pomp in public, on the other hand, he so changed the object of the festival that it would have been difficult to recognize in it the anniversary of the taking of the Bastile and of the First Federation. I do not think that there was one word in allusion to these two events in the whole ceremony; and to confuse still further the recollections of the Republicans, the Emperor ordered that the festival should be celebrated on the 15th, because that was Sunday, and thus there would result no loss of time to the inhabitants of the capital. Besides, there was no allusion made to honoring the, captors of the Bastile, this being made simply the occasion of a grand distribution of the cross of the Legion of Honor.
It was the first occasion on which their Majesties showed themselves to the people in all the paraphernalia of power.
The cortege crossed the grand alley of the Tuileries on their way to the Hotel des Invalides, the church of which (changed during the Revolution into a Temple of Mars) had been restored by the Emperor to the Catholic worship, and was used for the magnificent ceremonies of the day. This was also the first time that the Emperor had made use of the privilege of passing in a carriage through the garden of the Tuileries. His cortege was superb, that of the Empress Josephine not less brilliant; and the intoxication of the people reached such a height, that it was beyond expression. By order of the Emperor I mingled in the crowd, to learn in what spirit the populace would take part in the festival; and I heard not a murmur, so great was the enthusiasm of all classes for his Majesty at that time, whatever may have been said since. The Emperor and Empress were received at the door of the Hotel des Invalides by the governor and by Count de Segur, grand-master of ceremonies, and at the entrance of the church by Cardinal du Belloy at the head of a numerous clergy. After the mass, de Lacepede, grand chancellor of the Legion of Honor, delivered a speech, followed by the roll-call of the grand officers of the Legion, after which the Emperor took his seat, and putting on his hat, repeated in a firm voice the formula of the oath, at the end of which all the members of the Legion cried, "Je le jure!" (I swear it); and immediately shouts of "Vive l'Empereur," repeated a thousand times, were heard in the church and outside.
A singular circumstance added still more to the interest which the ceremony excited. While the chevaliers of the new order were passing one by one before the Emperor, who welcomed them, a man of the people, wearing a roundabout, placed himself on the steps of the throne. His Majesty showed some astonishment, and paused an instant, whereupon the man, being interrogated, showed his warrant. The Emperor at once and with great cordiality bade him advance, and gave him the decoration, accompanied by a sharp accolade. The cortege, on its return, followed the same route, passing again through the garden of the Tuileries.
On the 18th of July, three days after this ceremony, the Emperor set out from Saint-Cloud for the camp of Boulogne. Believing that his Majesty would be willing to dispense with my presence for a few days, and as it was a number of years since I had seen my family, I felt a natural desire to meet them again, and to review with my parents the singular circumstances through which I had passed since I had left them.
I should have experienced, I confess, great joy in talking with them of my present situation and my hopes; and I felt the need of freely expressing myself, and enjoying the confidences of domestic privacy, in compensation for the repression and constraint which my position imposed on me. Therefore I requested permission to pass eight days at Perueltz. It was readily granted, and I lost no time in setting out; but my astonishment may be imagined when, the very day after my arrival, a courier brought me a letter from the Count de Remusat, ordering me to rejoin the Emperor immediately, adding that his Majesty needed me, and I should have no other thought than that of returning without delay. In spite of the disappointment induced by such orders, I felt flattered nevertheless at having become so necessary to the great man who had deigned to admit me into his service, and at once bade adieu to my family. His Majesty had hardly reached Boulogne, when he set out again immediately on a tour of several days in the departments of the north. I was at Boulogne before his return, and had organized his Majesty's service so that he found everything ready on his arrival; but this did not prevent his saying to me that I had been absent a long time.
While I am on this subject, I will narrate here, although some years in advance, one or two circumstances which will give the reader a better idea of the rigorous confinement to which I was subjected. I had contracted, in consequence of the fatigues of my continual journeyings in the suite of the Emperor, a disease of the bladder, from which I suffered horribly. For a long time I combated the disease with patience and dieting; but at last, the pain having become entirely unbearable, in 1808 I requested of his Majesty a month's leave of absence in order to be cured, Dr. Boyer having told me that a month was the shortest time absolutely necessary for my restoration, and that without it my disease would become incurable. I went to Saint-Cloud to visit my wife's family, where Yvan, surgeon of the Emperor, came to see me every day. Hardly a week had passed, when he told me that his Majesty thought I ought to be entirely well, and wished me to resume my duties. This wish was equivalent to an order; it was thus I understood it, and returned to the Emperor, who seeing me pale, and suffering excruciatingly, deigned to say to me many kind things, without, however, mentioning a new leave of absence. These two were my only absences for sixteen years; therefore, on my return from Moscow, and during the campaign of France, my disease having reached its height, I quitted the Emperor at Fontainebleau, because it was impossible for me, in spite of all my attachment to so kind a master, and all the gratitude which I felt towards him, to perform my duties longer. Even after this separation, which was exceedingly painful to me, a year hardly sufficed to cure me, and then not entirely. But I shall take occasion farther on to speak of this melancholy event. I now return to the recital of facts, which prove that I could, with more reason than many others, believe myself a person of great importance, since my humble services seemed to be indispensable to the master of Europe, and many frequenters of the Tuileries would have had more difficulty than I in proving their usefulness. Is there too much vanity in what I have just said? and would not the chamberlains have a right to be vexed by it? I am not concerned with that, so I continue my narrative. The Emperor was tenacious of old habits; he preferred, as we have already seen, being served by me in preference to all others; nevertheless, it is my duty to state that his servants were all full of zeal and devotion, though I had been with him longest, and had never left him. One day the Emperor asked for tea in the middle of the day. M. Seneschal was on duty, consequently made the tea, and presented it to his Majesty, who declared it to be detestable, and had me summoned. The Emperor complained to me that they were trying to poison him (this was his expression when he found a bad taste in anything); so going into the kitchen, I poured out of the same teapot, a cup, which I prepared and carried to his Majesty, with two silver-gilt spoons as usual, one to taste the tea in the presence of the Emperor, and the other for him. This time he said the tea was excellent, and complimented me on it with a kind familiarity which he deigned at times to use towards his servants. On returning the cup to me, he pulled my ears, and said, "You must teach them how to make tea; they know nothing about it." De Bourrienne, whose excellent Memoirs I have read with the greatest pleasure, says somewhere, that the Emperor in his moments of good humor pinched the tip of the ears of his familiars. I myself think that he pinched the whole ear, often, indeed, both ears at once, and with the hand of a master. He also says in these same Memoirs, that the Emperor gave little friendly slaps with two fingers, in which De Bourrienne is very moderate, for I can bear witness in regard to this matter, that his Majesty, although his hand was not large, bestowed his favors much more broadly; but this kind of caress, as well as the former, was given and received as a mark of particular favor, and the recipients were far from complaining then. I have heard more than one dignitary say with pride, like the sergeant in the comedy,—
"Sir, feel there, the blow upon my cheek is still warm."
In his private apartments the Emperor was almost always cheerful and approachable, conversing freely with the persons in his service, questioning them about their families, their affairs, and even as to their pleasures. His toilet finished, his appearance suddenly changed; he became grave and thoughtful, and assumed again the bearing of an emperor. It has been said, that he often beat the people of his household, which statement is untrue. I saw him once only give himself up to a transport of this kind; and certainly the circumstances which caused it, and the reparation which followed, ought to render it, if not excusable, at least easily understood: This is the incident, of which I was a witness, and which took place in the suburbs of Vienna, the day after the death of Marshal Lannes. The Emperor was profoundly affected, and had not spoken a word during his toilet. As soon as he was dressed he asked for his horse; and as an unlucky chance would have it, Jardin, superintendent of the stables, could not be found when the horse was saddled, and the groom did not put on him his regular bridle, in consequence of which his Majesty had no sooner mounted, than the animal plunged, reared, and the rider fell heavily to the ground. Jardin arrived just as the Emperor was rising from the ground, beside himself with anger; and in his first transport of rage, he gave Jardin a blow with his riding-whip directly across his face. Jardin withdrew, overwhelmed by such cruel treatment, so unusual in his Majesty; and: few hours after, Caulaincourt, grand equerry, finding himself alone with his Majesty, described to him Jardin's grief and mortification. The Emperor expressed deep regret for his anger, sent for Jardin, and spoke to him with a kindness which effaced the remembrance of his ill treatment, and sent him a few days afterward three thousand francs. I have been told that a similar incident happened to Vigogne, senior, in Egypt. But although this may be true, two such instances alone in the entire life of the Emperor, which was passed amid surroundings so well calculated to make a man, even though naturally most amiable, depart from his usual character, should not be sufficient to draw down upon Napoleon the odious reproach of beating cruelly those in his service.
In his headquarters at the Pont des Briques the Emperor worked as regularly as in his cabinet at the Tuileries. After his rides on horseback, his inspections, his visits, his reviews, he took his meals in haste, and retired into his cabinet, where he often worked most of the night, thus leading the same life as at Paris. In his horseback rides Roustan followed him everywhere, always taking with him a little silver flask of brandy for the use of his Majesty, who rarely asked for it.
The army of Boulogne was composed of about one hundred and fifty thousand infantry and ninety thousand cavalry, divided into four principal camps, the camp of the right wing, the camp of the left wing, the camp of Wimereux, and the camp of Ambleteuse.
His Majesty the Emperor had his headquarters at Pont de Briques; thus named, I was told, because the brick foundations of an old camp of Caesar's had been discovered there. The Pont de Briques, as I have said above, is about half a league from Boulogne; and the headquarters of his Majesty were established in the only house of the place which was then habitable, and guarded by a detachment of the cavalry of the Imperial Guard.
The four camps were on a very high cliff overlooking the sea, so situated that in fine weather the coast of England could be seen.
In the camp on the right they had established barracks for the Emperor, Admiral Bruix, Marshal Soult, and Decres, who was then minister of the navy.
The Emperor's barrack was constructed under the direction of Sordi, engineer, performing the functions of engineer-in-chief of military roads; and his nephew, Lecat de Rue, attached at that time to the staff of Marshal Soult as aide-de-camp, has been kind enough to furnish me with information which did not come within my province.
The Emperor's barrack was built of plank, like the booths of a country fair; with this difference, that the planks were neatly planed, and painted a grayish white. In form it was a long square, having at each end two pavilions of semicircular shape. A fence formed of wooden lattice inclosed this barrack, which was lighted on the outside by lamps placed four feet apart, and the windows were placed laterally. The pavilion next to the sea consisted of three rooms and a hall, the principal room, used as a council-chamber, being decorated with silver- gray paper. On the ceiling were painted golden clouds, in the midst of which appeared, upon the blue vault of the sky, an eagle holding the lightning, and guided towards England by a star, the guardian star of the Emperor. In the middle of this chamber was a large oval table with a plain cover of green cloth; and before this table was placed only his Majesty's armchair, which could be taken to pieces, and was made of natural wood, unpainted, and covered with green morocco stuffed with hair, while upon the table was a boxwood writing-desk. This was the entire furniture of the council-chamber, in which his Majesty alone could be seated. The generals stood before him, and had during these councils, which sometimes lasted three or four hours, no other support than the handles of their sabers.
The council-chamber was entered from a hall. On the right of this hall was his Majesty's bedroom, which had a glass door, and was lighted by a window which looked out upon the camp of the right wing, while the sea could be seen on the left. In this room was the Emperor's iron bed, with a large curtain of plain green sarsenet fastened to the ceiling by a gilded copper ring; and upon this bed were two mattresses, one made of hair, two bolsters, one at the head, the other at the foot, no pillow, and two coverlets, one of white cotton, the other of green sarsenet, wadded and quilted; by the side of the bed two very simple folding-seats, and at the window short curtains of green sarsenet.
This room was papered with rose-colored paper, stamped with a pattern in lace-work, with an Etruscan border.
Opposite the-bedroom was a similar chamber, in which was a peculiar kind of telescope which had cost twelve thousand francs. This instrument was about four feet long, and about a foot in diameter, and was mounted on a mahogany support, with three feet, the box in which it was kept being almost in the shape of a piano. In the same room, upon two stools, was a little square chest, which contained three complete suits and the linen which formed the campaign wardrobe of his Majesty. Above this was a single extra hat, lined with white satin, and much the worse for wear; for the Emperor, as I shall say later in speaking of his personal peculiarities, having a very tender scalp, did not like new hats, and wore the same a long time.
The main body of the imperial barrack was divided into three rooms, a saloon, a vestibule, and a grand dining-room, which communicated with the kitchens by a passage parallel to that I have just mentioned. Outside the barrack, and connected with the kitchen, was a little shed, covered with thatch, which served as a washroom, and which was also used as a butler's pantry.
The barrack of Admiral Bruix was arranged like that of the Emperor, but on a smaller scale.
Near this barrack was the semaphore of the signals, a sort of marine telegraph by which the fleet was maneuvered. A little farther on was the Tour d'Ordre, with a powerful battery composed of six mortars, six howitzers, and twelve twenty-four pounders.
These six mortars, the largest that had ever been made, were six inches thick, used forty-five pounds of powder at a charge, and threw bombs fifteen hundred toises [A toise is six feet, and a league is three miles] in the air, and a league and a half out to sea, each bomb thrown costing the state three hundred francs. To fire one of these fearful machines they used port-fires twelve feet long; and the cannoneer protected himself as best he could by bowing his head between his legs, and, not rising until after the shot was fired. The Emperor decided to fire the first bomb himself.
To the right of the headquarters battery was the barrack of Marshal Soult, which was constructed in imitation of the but of a savage, and covered with thatch down to the ground, with glass in the top, and a door through which. you descended into the rooms, which were dug out like cellars. The principal chamber was round; and in it was a large work- table covered with green cloth, and surrounded with small leather folding-chairs.
The last barrack was that of Decres, minister of the navy, which was furnished like that of Marshal Soult. From his barrack the Emperor could observe all the maneuvers at sea; and the telescope, of which I have spoken, was so good that Dover Castle, with its garrison, was, so to speak, under the very eyes of his Majesty. The camp of the right wing, situated upon the cliff, was divided into streets, each of which bore the name of some distinguished general; and this cliff bristled with batteries from Cologne to Ambleteuse, a distance of more than two leagues.
In order to go from Boulogne to the camp of the right wing, there was only one road, which began in the Rue des Vieillards, and passed over the cliff, between the barrack of his Majesty and those of Bruix, Soult, and Decres, so that if at low tide the Emperor wished to go down upon the beach, a long detour was necessary. One day when he was complaining greatly of this, it occurred to Bonnefoux, maritime prefect of Boulogne, to apply to Sordi, engineer of military roads, and ascertain if it was not possible to remedy this great inconvenience.
The engineer replied that it was feasible to provide a road for his Majesty directly from his barrack to the beach; but that in view of the great height of the cliff it would be necessary to moderate the rapidity of the descent by making the road zigzag. "Make it as you wish," said the Emperor, "only let it be ready for use in three days." The skillful engineer went to work, and in three days and three nights the road was constructed of stone, bound together with iron clamps; and the Emperor, charmed with so much diligence and ingenuity, had the name of Sordi placed on the list for the next distribution of the cross of the Legion of Honor, but, owing to the shameful negligence of some one, the name of this man of talent was overlooked. The port of Boulogne contained about seventeen hundred vessels, such as flatboats, sloops, turkish boats, gunboats, prairies, mortar-boats, etc.; and the entrance to the port was defended by an enormous chain, and by four forts, two on the right, and two on the left.
Fort Husoir, placed on the left, was armed with three formidable batteries ranged one above the other, the lower row bearing twenty-four pounders, the second and third, thirty-six pounders. On the right of this fort was the revolving bridge, and behind this bridge an old tower called Castle Croi, ornamented with batteries which were both handsome and effective. To the left, about a quarter of a league from Fort Musoir, was Fort La Creche, projecting boldly into the sea, constructed of cut stone, and crowned by a terrible battery; and finally, on the right of Fort La Creche, was the Fort en Bois, perfectly manned, and pierced by a large opening which was uncovered at low tide.
Upon the cliff to the left of the town, at nearly the same elevation as the other, was the camp of the left wing. Here was situated the barrack of Prince Joseph, at that time colonel of the Fourth Regiment of the line; this barrack was covered with thatch. Below the camp, at the foot of the cliff, the Emperor had a basin hollowed out, in which work a part of the troops were employed.
It was in this basin that one day a young soldier of the Guard, who had stuck in the mud up to his knees, tried with all his strength to pull out his wheelbarrow, which was even worse mired than himself; but he could not succeed, and covered with sweat, swore and stormed like an angry grenadier. By chance lifting his eyes, he suddenly perceived the Emperor, who was passing by the works on his way to visit his brother Joseph in the camp on the left. The soldier looked at him with a beseeching air and gesture, singing in a most sentimental tone, "Come, oh, come, to my aid." His Majesty could not help smiling, and made signs to the soldier to approach, which the poor fellow did, after extricating himself with great difficulty. "What is your regiment"—"Sire, the First of the Guard."—"How long have you been a soldier?"—"Since you have been Emperor, Sire."—"Indeed, that is not a long time! It is not long enough for me to make you an officer, is it? But conduct yourself well, and I will have you made sergeant-major. After that, the cross and epaulets on the first battlefield. Are you content?"—"Yes, Sire."—"Chief of Staff," continued the Emperor, addressing General Berthier, "take the name of this young man. You will give him three hundred francs to clean his pantaloons and repair his wheelbarrow." And his Majesty rode on in the midst of the acclamations of the soldiers.
At the inside extremity of the port, there was a wooden bridge which they called the Service bridge. The powder magazines were behind it, containing an immense amount of ammunition; and after nightfall no one was allowed to go upon this bridge without giving the countersign to the second sentinel, for the first always allowed him to pass. He was not allowed to pass back again, however; for if any person entering the bridge was ignorant of the countersign, or had happened to forget it, he was stopped by the second sentinel, and the first sentinel at the head of the bridge had express orders to pass his bayonet through the body of the rash man if he was unable to answer the questions of this last sentinel. These rigorous precautions were rendered necessary by the vicinity of these terrible powder magazines, which a single spark might blow up, and with it the town, the fleet, and the two camps.
At night the port was closed with the big chain I have mentioned, and the wharves were picketed by sentinels placed fifteen paces from each other. Each quarter of an hour they called, "Sentinels, look out!" And the soldiers of the marine, placed in the topsails, replied to this by, "All's well," pronounced in a drawling, mournful tone. Nothing could be more monotonous or depressing than this continual murmur, this lugubrious mingling of voices all in the same tone, especially as those making these cries endeavored to make them as inspiring as possible.
Women not residing in Boulogne were prohibited from remaining there without a special permit from the minister of police. This measure had been judged necessary on account of the army; for otherwise each soldier perhaps would have brought a woman to Boulogne, and the disorder would have been indescribable. Strangers were admitted into the town with great difficulty.
In spite of all these precautions, spies from the English fleet each day penetrated into Boulogne. When they were discovered no quarter was given; and notwithstanding this, emissaries who had landed, no one knew where, came each evening to the theater, and carried their imprudence so far as to write their opinion of the actors and actresses, whom they designated by name, and to post these writings on the walls of the theater, thus defying the police. One day there were found on the shore two little boats covered with tarpaulin, which these gentry probably used in their clandestine excursions.
In June, 1804, eight Englishmen, perfectly well dressed, in white silk stockings, etc., were arrested, and on them was found sulphurated apparatus with which they had intended to burn the fleet. They were shot within an hour, without any form of trial.
There were also traitors in Boulogne. A schoolmaster, the secret agent of Lords Keith and Melville, was surprised one morning on the cliff above the camp of the right wing, making telegraphic signals with his arms; and being arrested almost in the act by the sentinels, he protested his innocence, and tried to turn the incident into a jest, but his papers were searched, and correspondence with the English found, which clearly proved his guilt. He was delivered to the council of war, and shot the next day.
One evening between eleven o'clock and midnight, a fire-ship, rigged like a French ship, flying French colors, and in every respect resembling a gunboat, advanced towards the line of battle and passed through. By unpardonable negligence the chain had not been stretched that evening. This fire-ship was followed by a second, which exploded, striking a sloop, which went down with it. This explosion gave the alarm to the whole fleet; and lights instantly shone in every direction, revealing the first fire-ship advancing between the jetties, a sight which was witnessed with inexpressible anxiety. Three or four pieces of wood connected by cables fortunately stopped her progress; but she blew up with such a shock that the glasses of all the windows in town were shattered, and a great number of the inhabitants, who for want of beds were sleeping upon tables, were thrown to the floor, and awakened by the fall without comprehending what had happened. In ten minutes everybody was stirring, as it was thought that the English were in the port; and there ensued such confusion, such a mingled tumult of noises and screams, that no one could make himself understood, until criers preceded by drums were sent through the town to reassure the inhabitants, and inform them that all danger was past.
The next day songs were composed on this nocturnal alarm, and were soon in every mouth.
Another alarm, but of an entirely different kind, upset all Boulogne in the autumn of 1804. About eight o'clock in the evening a chimney caught fire on the right of the port; and the light of this fire, shining through the masts of the flotilla, alarmed the commandant of a post on the opposite shore. At this time all the vessels had powder and ammunition on board; and the poor commandant, beside himself with terror, cried, "Boys, the fleet is on fire;" and immediately had the alarm beaten. The frightful news spread like lightning; and in less than half an hour more than sixty thousand men appeared upon the wharves, the tocsin was sounded in all the churches, the forts fired alarm guns, while drums and trumpets sounded along the streets, the whole making an infernal tumult.
The Emperor was at headquarters when this terrible cry, "The fleet is on fire," came to his ears. "It is impossible!" he immediately exclaimed, but, nevertheless, rushed out instantly.
On entering the town, what a frightful spectacle we beheld. Women in tears, holding their children in their arms, ran like lunatics, uttering cries of despair, while men abandoned their houses, carrying off whatever was most valuable, running against and knocking each other over in the darkness. On all sides was heard, "Mauve qui peat; we are going to be blown up, we are all lost;" and the maledictions, lamentations, blasphemies, were sufficient to make your hair stand on end.
The aides-de-camp of his Majesty and those of Marshal Soult galloped in every direction, forcing their way through the crowds, stopping the drummers, and asking them, "Why do you beat the alarm? Who has ordered you to beat the alarm?"—"We don't know," they replied; and the drums continued to beat, while the tumult kept on increasing, and the crowd rushed to the gates, struck by a terror which a moment's reflection would have dissipated. But, unfortunately, fear gives no time for reflection.
It is true, however, that a considerable number of inhabitants, less excitable than these I have described, remained quietly at home, well knowing that if the fleet had really been on fire, there would have been no time to give an alarm. These persons made every effort to quiet the excited crowd. Madame F——, the very pretty and very amiable wife of a clockmaker, was in her kitchen making preparations for supper, when a neighbor, thoroughly frightened, entered, and said to her, "Save yourself Madame; you have not a moment to lose!"—"What is the matter?"—"The fleet is on fire!"—"Ah-pshaw!"—"Fly then, Madame, fly! I tell you the fleet is on fire." And the neighbor took Madame F—— by the arm, and endeavored to pull her along. Madame F—— held at the moment a frying- pan in which she was cooking some fritters. "Take care; you will make me burn my fritters," said she, laughing. And with a few half serious, half jesting words she reassured the poor fellow, who ended by laughing at himself.
At last the tumult was appeased, and to this great fright a profound calm succeeded. No explosion had been heard; and they saw that it must have been a false alarm, so each returned home, thinking no longer of the fire, but agitated by another fear. The robbers may have profited by the absence of the inhabitants to pillage the houses, but as luck would have it no mischance of this kind had taken place.
The next day the poor commandant who had so inopportunely taken and given the alarm was brought before the council of war. He was guilty of no intentional wrong; but the law was explicit, and he was condemned to death. His judges, however, recommended him to the mercy of the Emperor, who pardoned him.
Many of the brave soldiers who composed the army of Boulogne had earned the cross (of the Legion of Honor) in these last campaigns, and his Majesty desired that this distribution should be made an impressive occasion, which should long be remembered. He chose the day after his fete, Aug. 16, 1804. Never has there been in the past, nor can there be in the future, a more imposing spectacle.
At six o'clock in the morning, more than eighty thousand men left the four camps,—at their head drums beating and bands playing,—and advanced by divisions towards the "Hubertmill" field, which was on the cliff beyond the camp of the right wing. On this plain an immense platform had been erected, about fifteen feet above the ground, and with its back toward the sea. It was reached by three flights of richly carpeted steps, situated in the middle and on each side. From the stage thus formed, about forty feet square, rose three other platforms, the central one bearing the imperial armchair, decorated with trophies and banners, while that on the left held seats for the brothers of the Emperor, and for the grand dignitaries, and that on the right bore a tripod of antique form, surmounted by a helmet (the helmet of Duguesclin, I think), covered with crosses and ribbons. By the side of the tripod had been placed a seat for the arch-chancellor.
About three hundred steps from the throne, the land rose in a slight and almost circular ascent; and on this ascent the troops were arranged as in an amphitheater. To the right of the throne, on an eminence, were placed sixty or eighty tents made of naval flags; these tents were intended for the ladies of the city, and made a charming picture, but they were so far from the throne that the spectators who filled them were obliged to use glasses. Between these tents and the throne a part of the Imperial Guard was ranged in line of battle.
The weather was perfect; there was not a cloud in the sky; the English cruisers had disappeared; and on the sea could be seen only our line of vessels handsomely decorated with flags.
At ten o'clock in the morning, a discharge of artillery announced the departure of the Emperor; and his Majesty left his barrack, surrounded by more than eighty generals and two hundred aides-decamp, all his household following him. The Emperor was dressed in the uniform of the colonel- general of the infantry of the guard. He rode at a gallop to the foot of the throne, in the midst of universal acclamations and the most deafening uproar made by drums, trumpets, and cannon, beating, blowing, and roaring all together.
His Majesty mounted the throne, followed by his brothers and the grand dignitaries; and when he was seated each one took his designated place, and the distribution of the crosses began in the following manner: An aide-de-camp of the Emperor called by name the soldiers to be honored, who one by one stopped at the foot of the throne, bowed, and mounted the steps on the right. There they were received by the arch-chancellor, who delivered to them their commissions; and two pages, placed between the Emperor and the tripod, took the decoration from the helmet of Duguesclin, and handed it to his Majesty, who fastened it himself on the breast of the brave fellow. Instantly more than eight hundred drums beat a tattoo; and when the soldier thus decorated descended from the throne by the steps on the left, as he passed before the brilliant staff of the Emperor a burst of music from more than twelve hundred musicians signaled the return to his company of the Knight of the Legion of Honor. It is needless to say that the cry of 'Vive l'Empereur' was repeated twice at each decoration.
The distribution began at ten o'clock, and ended about three. Then, according to orders borne by the aides-decamp to the divisions, a volley of artillery was heard, and eighty thousand men advanced in close columns to within twenty or thirty steps of the throne. The most profound silence succeeded the noise of drums; and, the Emperor having given his orders, the troops executed maneuvers for about an hour, at the end of which each division defiled before the throne as they returned to the camp. Each chief, on passing, saluted by lowering the point of his sword. Specially noticeable among them was Prince Joseph, newly appointed colonel of the Fourth Regiment of the line, who made his brother a salute more graceful than military. The Emperor frowned slightly at the somewhat critical remarks which his old companions in arms seemed inclined to make on this subject; but except for this slight cloud, the countenance of his Majesty was never more radiant.
Just as the troops were filing off, the wind, which for two or three hours had been blowing violently, became a perfect gale, and an orderly officer came in haste to inform his Majesty that four or five gunboats had just been driven ashore. The Emperor at once left the plain at a gallop, followed by some of the marshals, and took his position on the shore until the crews of the gunboats were saved, and the Emperor then returned to the Pont des Briques.
This immense army could not regain its quarters before eight o'clock in the evening. The next day the camp of the left wing gave a military fete, at which the Emperor was present.
From early in the morning, launches mounted on wheels ran at full speed through the streets of the camp, driven by a favorable wind. Officers amused themselves riding after them at a gallop, and rarely overtaking them. This exercise lasted an hour or two; but, the wind having changed, the launches upset, amid shouts of laughter.
This was followed by a horseback race, the prize being twelve hundred francs. A lieutenant of dragoons, very popular in his company, asked as a favor to be allowed to compete; but the haughty council of superior officers refused to admit him, under the pretext that his rank was not sufficiently high, but, in reality, because he had the reputation of being a splendid horseman. Stung to the quick by this unjust refusal, the lieutenant of dragoons applied to the Emperor, who gave him permission to race with the others, after having learned that this brave officer supported by his own exertions a numerous family, and that his conduct was irreproachable.
At a given signal the races began. The lieutenant of dragoons soon passed his antagonists, and had almost reached the goal, when, by an unfortunate mischance, a little poodle ran between the legs of his horse, and threw him down. An aide-de-camp who came immediately after was proclaimed victor. The lieutenant picked himself up as well as he could, and was preparing, very sadly, to retire, somewhat consoled by the signs of interest which the spectators manifested, when the Emperor summoned him, and said, "You deserve the prize, and you shall have it; I make you captain." And addressing himself to the grand marshal of the palace, "You will pay twelve hundred francs to the Captain" (the name does not occur to me), while all cried, "Vive l'Empereur," and congratulated the new captain on his lucky fall.
In the evening there were fireworks, which could be seen from the coast of England. Thirty thousand soldiers executed all sorts of maneuvers, firing sky-rockets from their guns. The crowning piece, which represented the arms of the Empire, was so fine that for five minutes Boulogne, the country, and all the coast, were lighted up as if it were broad daylight.
A few days after these fetes, as the Emperor was passing from one camp to the other, a sailor who was watching for him in order to hand him a petition was obliged, as the rain was falling in torrents, and he was afraid of spoiling the sheet of paper, to place himself under shelter in an isolated barrack on the shore, used to store rigging. He had been waiting a long time, and was wet to the skin, when he saw the Emperor coming from the camp of the left wing at a gallop. Just as his Majesty, still galloping, was about to pass before the barrack, the brave sailor, who was on the lookout, sprang suddenly from his hiding place, and threw himself before the Emperor, holding out his petition in the attitude of a fencing-master defending himself. The Emperor's horse, startled by this sudden apparition, stopped short; and his Majesty, taken by surprise, gave the sailor a disapproving glance, and passed on without taking the petition which was offered him in so unusual a manner.
It was on this day, I think, that Monsieur Decres, minister of the navy, had the misfortune to fall into the water, to the very great amusement of his Majesty. To enable the Emperor to pass from the quay to a gunboat, there had been a single plank thrown from the boat to the quay. Napoleon passed, or rather leaped, over this light bridge, and was received on board in 'the arms of a soldier of the guard; but M. Decres, more stout, and less active than the Emperor, advanced carefully over the plank that he found to his horror was bending under his feet, until just as he arrived in the middle, the weight of his body broke the plank, and the minister of the navy was precipitated into the water, midway between the quay and the boat. His Majesty turned at the noise that M. Decres made in falling, and leaning over the side of the boat, exclaimed, "What! Is that our minister of the navy who has allowed himself to fall in the water? Is it possible it can be he?" The Emperor during this speech laughed most uproariously. Meanwhile, two or three sailors were engaged in getting M. Decres out of his embarrassing position. He was with much difficulty hoisted on the sloop, in a sad state, as may be believed, vomiting water through his nose, mouth, and ears, and thoroughly ashamed of his accident, which the Emperor's jokes contributed to render still more exasperating.
Towards the end of our stay the generals gave a magnificent ball to the ladies of the city, at which the Emperor was present.
For this purpose a temporary hall had been erected, which was tastefully decorated with garlands, flags, and trophies.
General Bertrand was appointed master of ceremonies by his colleagues; and General Bisson. I was put in charge of the buffet, which employment suited General Bisson perfectly, for he was the greatest glutton in camp, and his enormous stomach interfered greatly with his walking. He drank not less than six or seven bottles of wine at dinner, and never alone; for it was a punishment to him not to talk while eating, consequently he usually invited his aides-de-camp, whom, through malice no doubt, he chose always from among the most delicate and abstemious in the army. The buffet was worthy of the one who had it in charge.
The orchestra was composed of musicians from twenty regiments, who played in turn. But on the opening of the ball the entire orchestra executed a triumphal march, during which the aides-de-Camp, most elegantly attired, received the ladies invited, and presented them with bouquets.
In order to be admitted to this ball, it was necessary to have at least the rank of commandant. It is, impossible to give an idea of the scene presented by this multitude of uniforms, each vying in brilliancy with the other. The fifty or sixty generals who gave the ball had ordered from Paris magnificently embroidered uniforms, and the group they formed around his Majesty as he entered glittered with gold and diamonds. The Emperor remained an hour at this fete, and danced the Boulanyere with Madame Bertrand. He wore the uniform of colonel-general of the cavalry of the guard.
The wife of Marshal Soult was queen of the ball. She wore a black velvet dress besprinkled with the kind of diamonds called rhinestones.
At midnight a splendid supper was served, the preparation of which General Bisson had superintended, which is equivalent to saying that nothing was wanting thereto.
The ladies of Boulogne, who had never attended such a fete, were filled with amazement, and when supper was served advised each other to fill up their reticules with dainties and sweets. They would have carried away, I think, the hall, with the musicians and dancers; and for more than a month this ball was the only subject of their conversation.
About this time his Majesty was riding on horseback near his barracks, when a pretty young girl of fifteen or sixteen, dressed in white, her face bathed in tears, threw herself on her knees in his path. The Emperor immediately alighted from his horse, and assisted her to rise, asking most compassionately what he could do for her. The poor girl had come to entreat the pardon of her father, a storekeeper in the commissary department, who had been condemned to the galleys for grave crimes. His Majesty could not resist the many charms of the youthful suppliant, and the pardon was granted.
At Boulogne, as everywhere else, the Emperor well knew how to win all hearts by his moderation, his justice, and the generous grace with which he acknowledged the least service. All the inhabitants of Boulogne, even all the peasants of the suburbs, would have died for him, and the smallest particulars relating to him were constantly repeated. One day, however, his conduct gave rise to serious complaints, and he was unanimously blamed; for his injustice was the cause of a terrible tragedy. I will now relate this sad event, an authentic account of which I have never seen in print.
One morning, as he mounted his horse, the Emperor announced that he would that day review the naval forces, and gave orders that the boats which occupied the line of defense should leave their position, as he intended to hold the review in the open sea. He set out with Roustan for his morning ride, and expressed a wish that all should be ready on his return, the hour of which he designated. Every one knew that the slightest wish of the Emperor was law; and the order was transmitted, during his absence, to Admiral Bruix, who replied with imperturbable 'sang froid', that he much regretted it, but the review would not take place that day, and in consequence no boat stirred.
On his return from his ride, the Emperor asked if everything was ready, and the admiral's answer was reported to him. Astonished by its tone, so different from what he was accustomed to, he had it repeated to him twice, and then, with a violent stamp of his foot, ordered the admiral to be summoned. He obeyed instantly; but the Emperor, thinking he did not come quickly enough, met him half-way from his barracks. The staff followed his Majesty, and placed themselves silently around him, while his eyes shot lightning.
"Admiral Bruix," said the Emperor in a tone showing great excitement, "why have you not obeyed my orders?"
"Sire," responded Bruix with respectful firmness, "a terrible storm is gathering. Your Majesty can see this as well as I; are you willing to uselessly risk the lives of so many brave men?" In truth, the heaviness of the atmosphere, and the low rumbling which could be heard in the distance, justified only too well the admiral's fears. "Monsieur," replied the Emperor, more and more irritated, "I gave the orders; once again, why have you not executed them? The consequences concern me alone. Obey!"—"Sire, I will not obey!"—"Monsieur, you are insolent!" And the Emperor, who still held his riding-whip in his hand, advanced on the admiral, making a threatening gesture. Admiral Bruix retreated a step, and placed his hand on the hilt of his sword: "Sire," said he, growing pale, "take care!" All those present were paralyzed with terror. The Emperor remained for some time immovable, with his hand raised, and his eyes fixed on the admiral, who still maintained his defiant attitude. At last the Emperor threw his whip on the ground. Admiral Bruix relaxed his hold on his sword, and, with uncovered head, awaited in silence the result of this terrible scene.
"Rear-admiral Magon!" said the Emperor, "you will see that the orders which I have given are executed instantly. As for you, sir," continued he, turning to Admiral Bruix, "you will leave Boulogne within. twenty- four hours, and retire to Holland. Go!" His Majesty returned at once to headquarters; some of the officers, only a small number, however, pressed in parting the hand that the admiral held out to them.
Rear-admiral Magon immediately ordered the fatal movement commanded by the Emperor; but hardly had the first dispositions been made when the sea became frightful to behold, the sky, covered with black clouds, was furrowed with lightning, the thunder roared incessantly, and the wind increased to a gale. In fact, what Admiral Bruix had foreseen occurred; a frightful tempest scattered the boats in every direction, and rendered their condition desperate. The Emperor, anxious and uneasy, with lowered head and crossed arms, was striding up and down the shore, when suddenly terrible cries were heard. More than twenty gunboats, filled with soldiers and sailors, had just been driven on the shore; and the poor unfortunates who manned them, struggling against furious waves, were imploring help which none could venture to render. The Emperor was deeply touched by this sight, while his heart was torn by the lamentations of an immense crowd which the tempest had collected on the shore and the adjoining cliffs. He beheld his generals and officers stand in shuddering horror around him, and wishing to set an example of self-sacrifice, in spite of all efforts made to restrain him, threw himself into a lifeboat, saying, "Let me alone; let me alone! They must be gotten out of there." In an instant the boat filled with water, the waves dashed over it, and the Emperor was submerged, one wave stronger than the others threw his Majesty on the shore, and his hat was swept off.
Electrified by such courage, officers, soldiers, sailors, and citizens now began to lend their aid, some swimming, others in boats; but, alas! they succeeded in saving—only a very small number of the unfortunate men who composed the crews of the gunboats, and the next day the sea cast upon the shore more than two hundred men, and with them the hat of the conqueror of Marengo.
The next was a day of mourning and of grief, both in Boulogne and the camp. The inhabitants and soldiers covered the beach, searching anxiously among the bodies which the waves incessantly cast upon the shore; and the Emperor groaned over this terrible calamity, which in his inmost heart he could not fail to attribute to his own obstinacy. By his orders agents entrusted with gold went through the city and camp, stopping the murmurs which were ready to break forth.
That day I saw a drummer, who had been among the crew of the shipwrecked vessels, washed upon the shore upon his drum, which lie had used as a raft. The poor fellow had his thigh broken, and had remained more than twenty hours in that horrible condition.
In order to complete in this place my recollections of the camp of Boulogne, I will relate the following, which did not take place, however, until the month of August, 1805, after the return of the Emperor from his journey to Italy, where he had been crowned.
Soldiers and sailors were burning with impatience to embark for England, but the moment so ardently desired was still delayed. Every evening they said to themselves, "Tomorrow there will be a good wind, there will also be a fog, and we shall start," and lay down with that hope, but arose each day to find either an unclouded sky or rain.
One evening, however, when a favorable wind was blowing, I heard two sailors conversing together on the wharf, and making conjectures as to the future. "The Emperor would do well to start tomorrow morning," said one; "he will never have better weather, and there will surely be a fog." —"Bah!" said the other, "only he does not think so. We have now waited more than fifteen days, and the fleet has not budged; however, all the ammunition is on board, and with one blast of the whistle we can put to sea."
The night sentinels came on, and the conversation of the old sea-wolves stopped there; but I soon had to acknowledge that their nautical experience had not deceived them. In fact, by three o'clock in the morning, a light fog was spread over the sea, which was somewhat stormy, the wind of the evening before began to, blow again, and at daylight the fog was so thick as to conceal the fleet from the English, while the most profound silence reigned everywhere. No hostile sails had been signaled through the night, and, as the sailors had predicted, everything favored the descent.
At five o'clock in the morning, signals were made from the semaphore; and in the twinkling of an eye all the sailors were in motion, and the port resounded with cries of joy, for the order to depart had just been received. While the sails were being hoisted, the long roll was beaten in the four camps, and the order was given for the entire army to take arms; and they marched rapidly into the town, hardly believing what they had just heard. "We are really going to start," said all the soldiers; "we are actually going to say a few words to those Englishmen," and the joy which animated them burst forth in acclamations, which were silenced by a roll of the drums. The embarkation then took place amid profound silence, and in such perfect order that I can hardly give an idea of it. At seven o'clock two hundred thousand soldiers were on board the fleet; and when a little after midday this fine army was on the point of starting amidst the adieus and good wishes of the whole city, assembled upon the walls and upon the surrounding cliffs, and at the very moment when all the soldiers standing with uncovered heads were about to bid farewell to the soil of France, crying, "Vive l'Empereur!" a message arrived from the imperial barrack, ordering the troops to disembark, and return to camp. A telegraphic dispatch just then received by his Majesty had made it necessary that he should move his troops in another direction; and the soldiers returned sadly to their quarters, some expressing in a loud tone, and in a very energetic manner, the disappointment which this species of mystification caused them.
They had always regarded the success of the enterprise against England as assured, and to find themselves stopped on the eve of departure was, in their eyes, the greatest misfortune which could happen to them.
When order had again been restored, the Emperor repaired to the camp of the right wing, and made a proclamation to the troops, which was sent into the other camps, and posted everywhere. This was very nearly the tenor of it: "Brave soldiers of the camp of Boulogne! you will not go to England. English gold has seduced the Emperor of Austria, who has just declared war against France. His army has passed the line which he should have respected, and Bavaria is invaded. Soldiers! new laurels await you beyond the Rhine. Let us hasten to defeat once more enemies whom you have already conquered." This proclamation called forth unanimous acclamations of joy, and every face brightened, for it mattered little to these intrepid men whether they were to be led against Austria or England; they simply thirsted for the fray, and now that war had been declared, every desire was gratified.
Thus vanished all those grand projects of descent upon England, which had been so long matured, so wisely planned. There is no doubt now that with favorable weather and perseverance the enterprise would have been crowned with the greatest success; but this was not to be.
A few regiments remained at Boulogne; and while their brethren crushed the Austrians, they erected upon the seashore a column destined to recall for all time the memory of Napoleon and his immortal army.
Immediately after the proclamation of which I have just spoken, his Majesty gave orders that all should prepare for immediate departure; and the grand marshal of the palace was charged to audit and pay all the expenses which the Emperor had made, or which he had ordered to be made, during his several visits, not without cautioning him, according to custom, to be careful not to pay for too much of anything, nor too high a price. I believe that I have already stated that the Emperor was extremely economical in everything which concerned him personally, and that he was afraid of spending twenty francs unless for some directly useful purpose. Among many other accounts to be audited, the grand marshal of the palace received that of Sordi, engineer of military roads, whom he had ordered to decorate his Majesty's barrack, both inside and out. The account amounted to fifty thousand francs. The grand marshal exclaimed aloud at this frightful sum. He was not willing to approve the account of Sordi, and sent it back to him, saying that he could not authorize the payment without first receiving the orders of the Emperor. The engineer assured the grand marshal that he had overcharged nothing, and that he had closely followed his instructions, and added, that being the case, it was impossible for him to make the slightest reduction. The next day Sordi received instructions to attend his Majesty. The Emperor was in his barrack, which was the subject under discussion, and spread out before him was, not the account of the engineer, but a map, upon which he was tracing the intended march of his army. Sordi came, and was admitted by General Caffarelli. The half-open door permitted the general, as well as myself, to hear the conversation which followed. "Monsieur," said his Majesty, "you have spent far too much money in decorating this miserable barrack. Yes; certainly far too much. Fifty thousand francs! Just think of it, monsieur! That is frightful; I will not pay you!" The engineer, silenced by this abrupt entrance upon business, did not at first know how to reply. Happily the Emperor, again casting his eyes on the map which lay unrolled before him, gave him time to recover himself; and he replied, "Sire, the golden clouds which ornament this ceiling" (for all this took place in the council-chamber), "and which surround the guardian star of your Majesty, cost twenty thousand francs in truth; but if I had consulted the hearts of your subjects, the imperial eagle which is again about to strike with a thunderbolt the enemies of France and of your throne, would have spread its wings amid the rarest diamonds."—"That is very good," replied the Emperor, laughing, "very good; but I will not have you paid at present, and since you tell me that this eagle which costs so dear will strike the Austrians with a thunderbolt, wait until he has done so, and I will then pay your account in rix dollars of the Emperor of Germany, and the gold frederics of the King of Prussia." His Majesty, resuming his compass, began to move his armies upon the map; and truth to tell, the account of the engineer was not paid until after the battle of Austerlitz, and then, as the Emperor had said, in rix dollars and frederics.
About the end of July (1804), the Emperor left Boulogne in order to make a tour through Belgium before rejoining the Empress, who had gone direct to Aix-la-Chapelle. Everywhere on this tour he was welcomed, not only with the honors reserved for crowned heads, but with hearty acclamations, addressed to him personally rather than to his official position. I will say nothing of the fetes which were given in his honor during this journey, nor of the remarkable things which occurred. Descriptions of these can easily be found elsewhere; and it is my purpose to relate only what came peculiarly under my own observation, or at least details not known to the general public. Let it suffice, then, to say that our journey through Arras, Valenciennes, Mons, Brussels, etc., resembled a triumphal progress. At the gate of each town the municipal council presented to his Majesty the wine of honor and the keys of the place. We stopped a few days at Lacken; and being only five leagues from Alost, a little town where my relatives lived, I requested the Emperor's permission to leave him for twenty-four hours, and it was granted, though reluctantly. Alost, like the remainder of Belgium at this time, professed the greatest attachment for the Emperor, and consequently I had hardly a moment to myself. I visited at the house of Monsieur D——, one of my friends, whose family had long held positions of honor in the government of Belgium. There I think all the town must have come to meet me; but I was not vain enough to appropriate to myself all the honor of this attention, for each one who came was anxious to learn even the most insignificant details concerning the great man near whom I was placed. On this account I was extraordinarily feted, and my twenty-four hours passed only too quickly. On my return, his Majesty deigned to ask innumerable questions regarding the town of Alost and its inhabitants, and as to what was thought there of his government and of himself. I was glad to be able to answer without flattery, that he was adored. He appeared gratified, and spoke to me most kindly of my family and of my own small interests.
We left the next day for Lacken, and passed through Alost; and had I known this the evening before, I might perhaps have rested a few hours longer. However, the Emperor found so much difficulty in granting me even one day, that I would not probably have dared to lose more, even had I known that the household was to pass by this town.
The Emperor was much pleased with Lacken; he ordered considerable repairs and improvements to be made there, and the palace, owing to this preference, became a charming place of sojourn.
This journey of their Majesties lasted nearly three months; and we did not return to Paris, or rather to Saint-Cloud, until November. The Emperor received at Cologne and at Coblentz the visits of several German princes and princesses; but as I know only from hearsay what passed in these interviews, I shall not undertake to describe them.
Nothing is too trivial to narrate concerning great men; for posterity shows itself eager to learn even the most insignificant details concerning their manner of life, their tastes, their slightest peculiarities. When I attended the theater, whether in my short intervals of leisure or in the suite of his Majesty, I remarked how keenly the spectators enjoyed the presentation on the stage, of some grand historic personage; whose costume, gestures, bearing, even his infirmities and faults, were delineated exactly as they have been transmitted to us by contemporaries. I myself always took the greatest pleasure in seeing these living portraits of celebrated men, and well remember that on no occasion did I ever so thoroughly enjoy the stage as when I saw for the first time the charming piece of The Two Pages. Fleury in the role of Frederick the Great reproduced so perfectly the slow walk, the dry tones, the sudden movements, and even the short- sightedness of this monarch, that as soon as he appeared on the stage the whole house burst into applause. It was, in the opinion of persons sufficiently well informed to judge, a most perfect and faithful presentation; and though for my own part, I was not able to say whether the resemblance was perfect or not, I felt that it must be. Michelot, whom I have since seen in the same role, gave me no less pleasure than his predecessor; and it is evident that both these talented actors must have studied the subject deeply, to have learned so thoroughly and depicted so faithfully the characteristics of their model.
I must confess a feeling of pride in the thought that these memoirs may perhaps excite in my readers some of the same pleasurable emotions which I have here attempted to describe; and that perhaps in a future, which will inevitably come, though far distant now perhaps, the artist who will attempt to restore to life, and hold up to the view of the world, the greatest man of this age, will be compelled, in order to give a faithful delineation, to take for his model the portrait which I, better than any one else, have been able to draw from fife. I think that no one has done this as yet; certainly not so much in detail.
On his return from Egypt the Emperor was very thin and sallow, his skin was copper-colored, his eyes sunken, and his figure, though perfect, also very thin. The likeness is excellent in the portrait which Horace Vernet drew in. his picture called "A Review of the First Consul on the Place du Carrousel." His forehead was very high, and bare; his hair thin, especially on the temples, but very fine and soft, and a rich brown color; his eyes deep blue, expressing in an almost incredible manner the various emotions by which he was affected, sometimes extremely gentle and caressing, sometimes severe, and even inflexible. His mouth was very fine, his lips straight and rather firmly closed, particularly when irritated. His teeth, without being very regular, were very white and sound, and he never suffered from them. His nose of Grecian shape, was well formed, and his sense of smell perfect. His whole frame was handsomely proportioned, though at this time his extreme leanness prevented the beauty of his features being especially noticed, and had an injurious effect on his whole physiognomy.
It would be necessary to describe his features separately, one by one, in order to form a correct idea of the whole, and comprehend the perfect regularity and beauty of each. His head was very large, being twenty-two inches in circumference; it way a little longer than broad, consequently a little flattened on the temples; it was so extremely sensitive, that I had his hats padded, and took the trouble to wear them several days in my room to break them. His ears were small, perfectly formed, and well set. The Emperor's feet were also very tender; and I had his shoes broken by a boy of the wardrobe, called Joseph, who wore exactly the same size as the Emperor.
His height was five feet, two inches, three lines. He had a rather short neck, sloping shoulders, broad chest, almost free from hairs, well shaped leg and thigh, a small foot, and well formed fingers, entirely free from enlargements or abrasions; his arms were finely molded, and well hung to his body; his hands were beautiful, and the nails did not detract from their beauty. He took the greatest care of them, as in fact of his whole person, without foppishness, however. He often bit his nails slightly, which was a sign of impatience or preoccupation.
Later on he grew much stouter, but without losing any of the beauty of his figure; on the contrary, he was handsomer under the Empire than under the Consulate; his skin had become very white, and his expression animated.
The Emperor, during his moments, or rather his long hours, of labor and of meditation, was subject to a peculiar spasmodic movement, which seemed to be a nervous affection, and which clung to him all his life. It consisted in raising his right shoulder frequently and rapidly; and persons who were not acquainted with this habit sometimes interpreted this as a gesture of disapprobation and dissatisfaction, and inquired with anxiety in what way they could have offended him. He, however, was not at all affected by it, and repeated the same movement again and again without being conscious of it.
One most remarkable peculiarity was that the Emperor never felt his heart beat. He mentioned this often to M. Corvisart, as well as to me; and more than once he made us pass our hands over his breast, in order to prove this singular exception. Never did we feel the slightest pulsation. [Another peculiarity was that his pulse was only forty to the minute.]
The Emperor ate very fast, and hardly spent a dozen minutes at the table. When he had finished he arose, and passed into the family saloon; but the Empress Josephine remained, and made a sign to the guests to do the same. Sometimes, however, she followed his Majesty; and then, no doubt, the ladies of the palace indemnified themselves in their apartments, where whatever they wished was served them.
One day when Prince Eugene rose from the table immediately after the Emperor, the latter, turning to him, said, "But you have not had time to dine, Eugene."—"Pardon me," replied the Prince, "I dined in advance!" The other guests doubtless found that this was not a useless precaution. It was before the Consulate that things happened thus; for afterwards the Emperor, even when he was as yet only First Consul, dined tete-a-tete with the Empress, except when he invited some of the ladies of the household, sometimes one, sometimes another, all of whom appreciated highly this mark of favor. At this time there was already a court.
Most frequently the Emperor breakfasted alone, on a little mahogany candle-stand with no cover, which meal, even shorter than the other, lasted only eight or ten minutes.
I will mention, later on, the bad effects which the habit of eating too quickly often produced on the Emperor's health. Besides this, and due in a great measure to his haste, the Emperor lacked much of eating decently; and always preferred his fingers to a fork or spoon. Much care was taken to place within his reach the dish he preferred, which he drew toward him in the manner I have just described, and dipped his bread in the sauce or gravy it contained, which did not, however, prevent the dish being handed round, and those eating from it who could; and there were few guests who could not.
I have seen some who even appeared to consider this singular act of courage a means of making their court. I can easily understand also that with many their admiration for his Majesty silenced all repugnance, for the same reason that we do not scruple to eat from the plate, or drink from the glass, of a person whom we love, even though it might be considered doubtful on the score of refinement; this is never noticed because love is blind. The dish which the Emperor preferred was the kind of fried chicken to which this preference of the conqueror of Italy has given the name of poulet a la Marengo. He also ate with relish beans, lentils, cutlets, roast mutton, and roast chicken. The simplest dishes were those he liked best, but he was fastidious in the article of bread. It is not true, as reported, that he made an immoderate use of coffee, for he only took half a cup after breakfast, and another after dinner; though it sometimes happened when he was much preoccupied that he would take, without noticing it, two cups in succession, though coffee taken in this quantity always excited him and kept him from sleeping.
It also happened frequently that he took it cold, or without sugar, or with too much sugar. To avoid all which mischances, the Empress Josephine made it her duty to pour out the Emperor's coffee herself; and the Empress Marie Louise also adopted the same custom. When the Emperor had risen from the table and entered the little saloon, a page followed him, carrying on a silvergilt waiter a coffee-pot, sugar-dish and cup. Her Majesty the Empress poured out the coffee, put sugar in it, tried a few drops of it, and offered it to the Emperor.
The Emperor drank only Chambertin wine, and rarely without water; for he had no fondness for wine, and was a poor judge of it. This recalls that one day at the camp of Boulogne, having invited several officers to his table, his Majesty had wine poured for Marshal Augereau, and asked him with an air of satisfaction how he liked it. The Marshal tasted it, sipped it critically, and finally replied, "There is better," in a tone which was unmistakable. The Emperor, who had expected a different reply, smiled, as did all the guests, at the Marshal's candor.
Every one has heard it said that his Majesty used great precautions against being poisoned, which statement must be placed beside that concerning the cuirass proof against bullet and dagger. On the contrary, the Emperor carried his want of precaution only too far. His breakfast was brought every day into an antechamber open to all to whom had been granted a private audience, and who sometimes waited there for several hours, and his Majesty's breakfast also waited a long time. The dishes were kept as warm as possible until he came out of his cabinet, and took his seat at the table. Their Majesties' dinner was carried from the kitchen to the upper rooms in covered, hampers, and there was every opportunity of introducing poison; but in spite of all this, never did such an idea enter the minds of the people in his service, whose devotion and fidelity to the Emperor, even including the very humblest, surpassed any idea I could convey.
The habit of eating rapidly sometimes caused his Majesty violent pains in his stomach, which ended almost always in a fit of vomiting.
One day the valet on duty came in great haste to tell me that the Emperor desired my presence immediately. His dinner had caused indigestion, and he was suffering greatly. I hurried to his Majesty's room, and found him stretched at full length on the rug, which was a habit of the Emperor when he felt unwell. The Empress Josephine was seated by his side, with the sick man's head on her lap, while he groaned or stormed alternately, or did both at once: for the Emperor bore this kind of misfortune with less composure than a thousand graver mischances which the life of a soldier carries with it; and the hero of Arcola, whose life had been endangered in a hundred battles, and elsewhere also, without lessening his fortitude, showed himself unequal to the endurance of the slightest pain. Her Majesty the Empress consoled and encouraged him as best she could; and she, who was so courageous herself in enduring those headaches which, on account of their excessive violence, were a genuine disease, would, had it been possible, have taken on herself most willingly the ailment of her husband, from which she suffered almost as much as he did, in witnessing his sufferings. "Constant," said she, as I entered, "come quick; the Emperor needs you; make him some tea, and do not go out till he is better." His Majesty had scarcely taken three cups before the pain decreased, while she continued to hold his head on her knees, pressing his brow with her white, plump hands, and also rubbing his breast. "You feel better, do you not? Would you like to lie down a little while? I will stay by your bed with Constant." This tenderness was indeed touching, especially in one occupying so elevated a rank.
My intimate service often gave me the opportunity of enjoying this picture of domestic felicity. While I am on the subject of the Emperor's ailments, I will say a few words concerning the most serious which he endured, with the exception of that which caused his death.
At the siege of Toulon, in 1793, the Emperor being then only colonel of artillery, a cannoneer was killed at his gun; and Colonel Bonaparte picked up the rammer and rammed home the charge several times. The unfortunate artilleryman had an itch of the most malignant kind, which the Emperor caught, and of which he was cured only after many years; and the doctors thought that his sallow complexion and extreme leanness, which lasted so long a time, resulted from this disease being improperly treated. At the Tuileries he took sulphur baths, and wore for some time a blister plaster, having suffered thus long because, as he said, he had not time to take care of himself. Corvisart warmly insisted on a cautery; but the Emperor, who wished to preserve unimpaired the shapeliness of his arm, would not agree to this remedy.
It was at this same siege that he was promoted from the rank of chief of battalion to that of colonel in consequence of a brilliant affair with the English, in which he received a bayonet wound in the left thigh, the scar of which he often showed me. The wound in the foot which he received at the battle of Ratisbonne left no trace; and yet, when the Emperor received it, the whole army became alarmed.
We were about twelve hundred yards from Ratisbonne, when the Emperor, seeing the Austrians fleeing on all sides, thought the combat was over. His dinner had been brought in a hamper to a place which the Emperor had designated; and as he was walking towards it, he turned to Marshal Berthier, and exclaimed, "I am wounded!" The shock was so great that the Emperor fell in a sitting posture, a bullet having, in fact, struck his heel. From the size of this ball it was apparent that it had been fired by a Tyrolean rifleman, whose weapon easily carried the distance we were from the town. It can well be understood that such an event troubled and frightened the whole staff.
An aide-de-camp summoned me; and when I arrived I found Dr. Yvan cutting his Majesty's boot, and assisted him in dressing the wound. Although the pain was still quite severe, the Emperor was not willing to take time to put on his boot again; and in order to turn the enemy, and reassure the army as to his condition, he mounted his horse, and galloped along the line accompanied by his whole staff. That day, as may be believed, no one delayed to take breakfast, but all dined at Ratisbonne.
His Majesty showed an invincible repugnance to all medicine; and when he used any, which was very rarely, it was chicken broth, chicory, or cream of tartar.
Corvisart recommended him to refuse every drink which had a bitter or disagreeable taste, which he did, I believe, in the fear that an attempt might be made to poison him.
At whatever hour the Emperor had retired, I entered his room at seven or eight o'clock in the morning; and I have already said that his first questions invariably were as to the hour and the kind of weather. Sometimes he complained to me of looking badly; and if this was true, I agreed with him, and if it were not, I told him the truth. In this case he pulled my ears, and called me, laughing, "grosse bete," and asked for a mirror, sometimes saying he was trying to fool me and that he was very well. He read the daily papers, asked the names of the people in the waiting-room, named those he wished to see, and conversed with each one. When Corvisart came, he entered without waiting for orders; and the Emperor took pleasure in teasing him by speaking of medicine, which he said was only a conjectural art, that the doctors were charlatans, and cited instances in proof of it, especially in his own experience, the doctor never yielding a point when he thought he was right. During these conversations, the Emperor shaved himself; for I had prevailed on him to take this duty on himself, often forgetting that he had shaved only one side of his face, and when I called his attention to this, he laughed, and finished his work. Yvan, doctor-in-ordinary, as well as Corvisart, came in for his share in the criticisms and attacks on his profession; and these discussions were extremely amusing. The Emperor was very gay and talkative at such times, and I believe, when he had at hand no examples to cite in support of his theories, did not scruple to invent them; consequently these gentlemen did not always rely upon his statements. One day his Majesty pulled the ears of one of his physicians (Halle, I believe). The doctor abruptly drew himself away, crying, "Sire, you hurt me." Perhaps this speech was tinged with some irritation, and perhaps, also, the doctor was right. However that may be, his ears were never in danger again.
Sometimes before beginning my labors, his Majesty questioned me as to what I had done the evening before, asked me if I had dined in the city, and with whom, if I had enjoyed myself, and what we had for dinner. He often inquired also what such or such a part of my clothing cost me; and when I told him he would exclaim at the price, and tell me that when he was a sub-lieutenant everything was much cheaper, and that he had often during that time taken his meals at Roze's restaurant, and dined very well for forty cents. Several times he spoke to me of my family, and of my sister, who was a nun before the Revolution, and who had been compelled to leave her convent; and one day asked me if she had a pension, and how much it was. I told him, and added, that this not being sufficient for her wants, I myself gave an allowance to her, and also to my mother. His Majesty told me to apply to the Duke of Bassano, and report the matter to him, as he wished to treat my family handsomely. I did not avail myself of this kind intention of his Majesty; for at that time I had sufficient means to be able to assist my relatives, and did not foresee the future, which I thought would not change my condition, and felt a delicacy in putting my people, so to speak, on the charge of the state. I confess that I have been more than once tempted to repent this excessive delicacy, which I have seen few persons above or below my condition imitate. On rising, the Emperor habitually took a cup of tea or orange water; and if he desired a bath, had it immediately on getting out of bed, and while in it had his dispatches and newspapers read to him by his secretary (Bourrienne till 1804). If he did not take a bath, he seated himself by the fire, and had them read to him there, often reading them himself. He dictated to the secretary his replies, and the observations which the reading of these suggested to him; as he went through each, throwing it on the floor without any order. The secretary afterwards gathered them all up, and arranged them to be carried into the Emperor's private room. His Majesty, before making his toilet, in summer, put on pantaloons of white pique and a dressing-gown of the same, and in winter, pantaloons and dressing-gown of swanskin, while on his head was a turban tied in front, the two ends hanging down on his neck behind. When the Emperor donned this headdress, his appearance was far from elegant. When he came out of the bath, we gave him another turban; for the one he wore was always wet in the bath, where he turned and splashed himself incessantly. Having taken his bath and read his dispatches, he began his toilet, and I shaved him before he learned to shave himself. When the Emperor began this habit, he used at first, like every one, a mirror attached to the window; but he came up so close to it, and lathered himself so vigorously with soap, that the mirror, window-panes, curtains, his dressing-gown, and the Emperor himself, were all covered with it. To remedy this inconvenience, the servants assembled in council, and it was decided that Roustan should hold the looking-glass for his Majesty. When the Emperor had shaved one side, he turned the other side to view, and made Roustan pass from left to right, or from right to left, according to the side on which he commenced. After shaving, the Emperor washed his face and hands, and had his nails carefully cleaned; then I took off his flannel vest and shirt, and rubbed his whole bust with an extremely soft silk brush, afterwards rubbing him with eau-de-cologne, of which he used a great quantity, for every day he was rubbed and dressed thus. It was in the East he had acquired this hygienic custom, which he enjoyed greatly, and which is really excellent. All these preparations ended, I put on him light flannel or cashmere slippers, white silk stockings, the only kind he ever wore, and very fine linen or fustian drawers, sometimes knee-breeches of white cassimere, with soft riding-boots, sometimes pantaloons of the same stuff and color, with little English half-boots which came to the middle of the leg, and were finished with small silver spurs which were never more than six lines in length. All his, boots were finished with these spurs. I then put on him his flannel vest and shirt, a neck-cloth of very fine muslin, and over all a black silk stock; finally a round vest of white pique, and either a chasseur's or grenadier's coat, usually the former. His toilet ended, he was presented with his handkerchief, his tobacco-box, and a little shell bog filled with aniseed and licorice, ground very fine. It will be seen by the above that the Emperor had himself dressed by his attendants from head to foot. He put his hand to nothing, but let himself be dressed like an infant, his mind filled with business during the entire performance.
I had forgotten to say that he used boxwood toothpicks, and a brush dipped in some opiate. The Emperor was born, so to speak, to be waited on (homme d valets de chambre). When only a general, he had as many as three valets, and had himself served with as much luxury as at the height of his fortunes, and from that time received all the attentions I have just described, and which it was almost impossible for him to do without; and in this particular the etiquette was never changed. He increased the number of his servants, and decorated them with new titles, but he could not have more services rendered him personally. He subjected himself very rarely to the grand etiquette of royalty, and never, for example, did the grand chamberlain hand him his shirt; and on one occasion only, when the city of Paris gave him a dinner at the time of his coronation, did the grand marshal hand him water to wash his hands. I shall give a description of his toilet on the day of his coronation; and it will be seen that even on that day his Majesty, the Emperor of the French, did not require any other ceremonial than that to which he had been accustomed as general and First Consul of the Republic.
The Emperor had no fixed hour for retiring: sometimes he retired at ten or eleven o'clock in the evening; oftener he stayed awake till two, three, or four o'clock in the morning. He was soon undressed; for it was his habit, on entering the room, to throw each garment right and left,— his coat on the floor, his grand cordon on the rug, his watch hap-hazard at the bed, his hat far off on a piece of furniture; thus with all his clothing, one piece after another. When he was in a good humor, he called me in a loud voice, with this kind of a cry: "Ohe, oh! oh!" at other times, when he was not in good humor, "Monsieur, Monsieur Constant!"
At all seasons his bed had to be warmed with a warming-pan, and it was only during the very hottest weather that he would dispense with this. His habit of undressing himself in haste rarely left me anything to do, except to hand him his night-cap. I then lighted his night-lamp, which was of gilded silver, and shaded it so that it would give less light. When he did not go to sleep at once, he had one of his secretaries called, or perhaps the Empress Josephine, to read to him; which duty no one could discharge better than her Majesty, for which reason the Emperor preferred her to all his readers, for she read with that especial charm which was natural to her in all she did. By order of the Emperor, there was burnt in his bedroom, in little silver perfume-boxes, sometimes aloes wood, and sometimes sugar or vinegar; and almost the year round it was necessary to have a fire in all his apartments, as he was habitually very sensitive to cold. When he wished to sleep, I returned to take out his lamp, and went up to my own room, my bedroom being just above that of his Majesty. Roustan and a valet on service slept in a little apartment adjoining the Emperor's bedroom; and if he needed me during the night, the boy of the wardrobe, who slept in an antechamber, came for me. Water was always kept hot for his bath, for often at any hour of the night as well as the day he might suddenly be seized with a fancy to take one.
Doctor Yvan appeared every morning and evening, at the rising and retiring of his Majesty.
It is well known that the Emperor often had his secretaries, and even his ministers, called during the night. During his stay at Warsaw, the Prince de Talleyrand once received a message after midnight; he came at once, and had a long interview with the Emperor, and work was prolonged late into the night, when his Majesty, fatigued, at last fell into a deep slumber. The Prince of Benevento, who was afraid to go out, fearing lest he might awaken the Emperor or be recalled to continue the conversation, casting his eyes around, perceived a comfortable sofa, so he stretched himself out on it, and went to sleep. Meneval, secretary to his Majesty, not wishing to retire till after the minister had left, knowing that the Emperor would probably call for him as soon as Talleyrand had retired, became impatient at such a long interview; and as for me, I was not in the best humor, since it was impossible for me to retire without taking away his Majesty's lamp. Meneval came a dozen times to ask me if Prince Talleyrand had left. "He is there yet," said I. "I am sure of it, and yet I hear nothing." At last I begged him to place himself in the room where I then was, and on which the street-door opened, whilst I went to act as sentinel in a vestibule on which the Emperor's room had another opening; and it was arranged that the one of us who saw the prince go out would inform the other. Two o'clock sounded, then three, then four; no one appeared, and there was not the least movement in his Majesty's room. Losing patience at last, I half opened the door as gently as possible; but the Emperor, whose sleep was very light, woke with a start, and asked in a loud tone: "Who is that? Who comes there?" "What is that?" I replied, that, thinking the Prince of Benevento had gone out, I had come for his Majesty's lamp. "Talleyrand! Talleyrand!" cried out his Majesty vehemently. "Where is he, then?" and seeing him waking up, "well, I declare he is asleep! Come, you wretch; how dare you sleep in my room! ah! ah!" I left without taking out the lamp; they began talking again, and Meneval and I awaited the end of the tete-a- tete, until five o'clock in the morning.
The Emperor had a habit of taking, when he thus worked at night, coffee with cream, or chocolate; but he gave that up, and under the Empire no longer took anything, except from time to time, but very rarely, either punch mild and light as lemonade, or when he first awoke, an infusion of orange-leaves or tea.
The Emperor, who so magnificently endowed the most of his generals, who showed himself so liberal to his armies, and to whom, on the other hand, France owes so many and such handsome monuments, was not generous, and it must even be admitted was a little niggardly, in his domestic affairs. Perhaps he resembled those foolishly vain rich persons, who economize very closely at home, and in their own households, in order to shine more outside. He made very few, not to say no, presents to members of his household; and the first day of the year even passed without loosening his purse-strings. While I was undressing him the evening before, he said, pinching my ear, "Well, Monsieur Constant, what will you give me for my present?" The first time he asked this question I replied I would give him whatever he wished; but I must confess that I very much hoped it would not be I who would give presents next day. It seemed that the idea never occurred to him; for no one had to thank him for his gifts, and he never departed afterwards from this rule of domestic economy. Apropos of this pinching of ears, to which I have recurred so often, because his Majesty repeated it so often, it is necessary that I should say, while I think of it, and in closing this subject, that any one would be much mistaken in supposing that he touched lightly the party exposed to his marks of favor; he pinched, on the contrary, very hard, and pinched as much stronger in proportion as he happened to be in a better humor.
Sometimes, when I entered his room to dress him, he would run at me like a mad man, and saluting me with his favorite greeting, "Well, Monsieur le drole," would pinch my ears in such a manner as to make me cry out; he often added to these gentle caresses one or two taps, also well applied. I was then sure of finding him all the rest of the day in a charming humor, and full of good-will, as I have seen him, so often. Roustan, and even Marshal Berthier, received their due proportion of these imperial tendernesses.
The allowance made by his Majesty for the yearly expenses of his dress was twenty thousand francs; and the year of, the coronation he became very angry because that sum had been exceeded. It was never without trepidation that the various accounts of household expenses were presented to him; and he invariably retrenched and cut down, and recommended all sort of reforms. I remember after asking for some one a place of three thousand francs, which he granted me, I heard him exclaim, "Three thousand francs! but do you understand that this is the revenue of one of my communes? When I was sub-lieutenant I did not spend as much as that." This expression recurred incessantly in his conversations with those with whom he was familiar; and "when I had the honor of being sub- lieutenant" was often on his lips, and always in illustration of comparisons or exhortations to economy.
While on the subject of accounts, I recall a circumstance which should have a place in my memoirs, since it concerns me personally, and moreover gives an idea of the manner in which his Majesty understood economy. He set out with the idea, which was, I think, often very correct, that in private expenses as in public ones, even granting the honesty of agents (which the Emperor was always, I admit, very slow to do), the same things could have been done with much less money. Thus, when he required retrenchment, it was not in the number of objects of expense, but only in the prices charged for these articles by the furnishers; and I will elsewhere cite some examples of the effect which this idea produced on the conduct of his Majesty towards the accounting agents of his government. Now I am relating only private matters. One day when investigating various accounts, the Emperor complained much of the expenses of the stables, and cut off a considerable sum; and the grand equerry, in order to put into effect the required economy, found it necessary to deprive several persons in the household of their carriages, mine being included in this number. Some days after the execution of this measure, his Majesty charged me with a commission, which necessitated a carriage; and I was obliged to inform him that, no longer having mine, I should not be able to execute his orders. The Emperor then exclaimed that he had not intended this, and M. Caulaincourt must have a poor idea of economy. When he again saw the Duke of Vicenza, he said to him that he did not wish anything of mine to be touched.
The Emperor occasionally read in the morning the new works and romances of the day; and when a work displeased him, he threw it into the fire. This does not mean that only improper books were thus destroyed; for if the author was not among his favorites, or if he spoke too well of a foreign country, that was sufficient to condemn the volume to the flames. On this account I saw his Majesty throw into the fire a volume of the works of Madame de Stael, on Germany. If he found us in the evening enjoying a book in the little saloon, where we awaited the hour for retiring, he examined what we were reading; and if he found they were romances, they were burned without pity, his Majesty rarely failing to add a little lecture to this confiscation, and to ask the delinquent "if a man could not find better reading than that." One morning he had glanced over and thrown in the fire a book (by what author I do not know); and when Roustan stooped down to take it out the Emperor stopped him, saying, "Let that filthy thing burn; it is all that it deserves."
The Emperor mounted his horse most ungracefully, and I think would not have always been very safe when there, if so much care had not been taken to give him only those which were perfectly trained; but every precaution was taken, and horses destined for the special service of the Emperor passed through a rude novitiate before arriving at the honor of carrying him. They were habituated to endure, without making the least movement, torments of all kinds; blows with a whip over the head and ears; the drum was beaten; pistols were fired; fireworks exploded in their ears; flags were shaken before their eyes; heavy weights were thrown against their legs, sometimes even sheep and hogs. It was required that in the midst of the most rapid gallop (the Emperor liked no other pace), he should be able to stop his horse suddenly; and in short, it was absolutely necessary to have only the most perfectly trained animals.
M. Jardin, senior, equerry of his Majesty, acquitted himself of this laborious duty with much skill and ability, as the Emperor attached such importance to it; he also insisted strongly that his horses should be very handsome, and in the last years of his reign would ride only Arab horses.
There were a few of those noble animals for which the Emperor had a great affection; among others, Styria, which he rode over the St. Bernard and at Marengo. After this last campaign, he wished his favorite to end his days in the luxury of repose, for Marengo and the great St. Bernard were in themselves a well-filled career. The Emperor rode also for many years an Arab horse of rare intelligence, in which he took much pleasure. During the time he was awaiting his rider, it would have been hard to discover in him the least grace; but as soon as he heard the drums beat the tattoo which announced the presence of his Majesty, he reared his head most proudly, tossed his mane, and pawed the ground, and until the very moment the Emperor alighted, was the most magnificent animal imaginable.
His Majesty made a great point of good equerries, and nothing was neglected in order that the pages should receive in this particular the most careful education. To accustom them to mount firmly and with grace, they practiced exercises in vaulting, for which it seemed to me they would have no use except at the Olympic circus. And, in fact, one of the horsemen of Messieurs Franconi had charge of this part of the pages' education.
The Emperor, as has been said elsewhere, took no pleasure in hunting, except just so far as was necessary to conform to the usage which makes this exercise a necessary accompaniment to the throne and the crown; and yet I have seen him sometimes continue it sufficiently long to justify the belief that he did not find it altogether distasteful. He hunted one day in the forest of Rambouillet from six in the morning to eight in the evening, a stag being the object of this prolonged excursion; and I remember they returned without having taken him. In one of the imperial hunts at Rambouillet, at which the Empress Josephine was present, a stag, pursued by the hunters, threw himself under the Empress's carriage; which refuge did not fail him, for her Majesty, touched by the misery of the poor animal, begged his life of the Emperor. The stag was spared; and Josephine placed round its neck a silver collar to attest its deliverance, and protect it against the attacks of all hunters.
One of the ladies of the Empress one day showed less humanity than she, however; and the reply which she made to the Emperor displeased him exceedingly, for he loved gentleness and pity in women. When they had hunted for several hours in the Bois de Boulogne, the Emperor drew near the carriage of the Empress Josephine, and began talking with a lady who bore one of the most noble and most ancient names in all France, and who, it is said, had been placed near the Empress against her wishes. The Prince of Neuchatel (Berthier) announced that the stag was at bay. "Madame," said the Emperor gallantly to Madame de C—— , "I place his fate in your hands."—"Do with him, Sire," replied she, "as you please. It difference to me." The Emperor gave her a glance of disapproval, and said to the master of the hounds, "Since the stag in his misery does not interest Madame C——, he does not deserve to live; have him put to death; "whereupon his Majesty turned his horse's bridle, and rode off. The Emperor was shocked by such an answer, and repeated it that evening, on his return from the hunt, in terms by no means flattering to Madame de C——.
It is stated in the Memorial of Saint-Helena that the Emperor, while hunting, was thrown and wounded by a wild boar, from which one of his fingers bore a bad scar. I never saw this, and never knew of such an accident having happened to the Emperor. The Emperor did not place his gun firmly to his shoulder, and as he always had it heavily loaded and rammed, never fired without making his arm black with bruises; but I rubbed the injured place with eau de Cologne, and he gave it no further thought.
The ladies followed the hunt in their coaches; a table being usually arranged in the forest for breakfast, to which all persons in the hunt were invited.
The Emperor on one occasion hunted with falcons on the plain of Rambouillet, in order to make a trial of the falconry that the King of Holland (Louis) had sent as a present to his Majesty. The household made a fete of seeing this hunt, of which we had been hearing so much; but the Emperor appeared to take less pleasure in this than in the chase or shooting, and hawking was never tried again.
His Majesty was exceedingly fond of the play, preferring greatly French tragedy and the Italian opera. Corneille was his favorite author; and he had always on his table some volume of the works of this great poet. I have often heard the Emperor declaim, while walking up and down in his room, verses of Cinna, or this speech on the death of Caesar:
"Caesar, you will reign; see the august day
In which the Roman people, always unjust to thee," etc.
At the theater of Saint-Cloud, the piece for the evening was often made up of fragments and selections from different authors, one act being chosen from one opera, one from another, which was very vexatious to the spectators whom the first piece had begun to interest. Often, also, comedies were played; on which occasions there was great rejoicing in the household, and the Emperor himself took much pleasure in them. How many times have I seen him perfectly overcome with laughter, when seeing Baptiste junior in 'les Heritiers', and Michaut also amused him in 'la Partie de Chasse de Henry IV'.
I cannot remember in what year, but it was during one of the sojourns of the court at Fontainebleau, that the tragedy of the Venetians was presented before the Emperor by Arnault, senior. That evening, as he was retiring, his Majesty discussed the piece with Marshal Duroc, and gave his opinion, adducing many reasons, in support of it. These praises, like the criticisms, were all explained and discussed; the grand marshal talking little, and the Emperor incessantly. Although a poor judge myself of such matters, it was very entertaining, and also very instructive, to hear the Emperor's opinion of pieces, ancient and modern, which had been played before him; and his observations and remarks could not have failed, I am sure, to be of great profit to the authors, had they been able like myself to hear them. As for me, if I gained anything from it, it is being enabled to speak of it here a little (although a very little), more appropriately than a blind man would of colors; nevertheless, for fear of saying the wrong thing, I return to matters which are in my department.
It has been said that his Majesty used a great quantity of tobacco, and that in order to take it still more frequently and quickly, he put it in a pocket of his vest, lined with skin for that purpose. This is an error. The Emperor never took tobacco except in his snuff-boxes; and although he wasted a great quantity of it, he really used very little, as he took a pinch, held it to his nose simply to smell it, and let it fall immediately. It is true that the place where he had been was covered with it; but his handkerchiefs, irreproachable witnesses in such matters, were scarcely stained, and although they were white and of very fine linen, certainly bore no marks of a snuff-taker. Sometimes he simply passed his open snuff-box under his nose in order to breathe the odor of the tobacco it contained. These boxes were of black shell, with hinges, and of a narrow, oval shape; they were lined with gold, and ornamented with antique cameos, or medallions, in gold or silver. At one time he used round tobacco-boxes; but as it took two hands to open them, and in this operation he sometimes dropped either the box or the top, he became disgusted with them. His tobacco was grated very coarse, and was usually composed of several kinds of tobacco mixed together. Frequently he amused himself by making the gazelles that he had at Saint-Cloud eat it. They were very fond of it, and although exceedingly afraid of every one else, came close to his Majesty without the slightest fear.
The Emperor took a fancy on one occasion, but only one, to try a pipe, as I shall now relate. The Persian ambassador (or perhaps it was the Turkish ambassador who came to Paris under the Consulate) had made his Majesty a present of a very handsome pipe such as is used by the Orientals. One day he was seized with a desire to try it, and had everything necessary for this purpose prepared. The fire having been applied to the bowl, the only question now was to light the tobacco; but from the manner in which his Majesty attempted this it was impossible for him to succeed, as he alternately opened and closed his lips repeatedly without drawing in his breath at all. "Why, what is the matter?" cried he; "it does not work at all." I called his attention to the fact that he was not inhaling properly, and showed him how it ought to be done; but the Emperor still continued his performances, which were like some peculiar kind of yawning. Tired out by his fruitless efforts at last, he told me to light it for him, which I did, and instantly handed it back to him. But he had hardly taken a whiff when the smoke, which he did not know how to breathe out again, filled his throat, got into his windpipe, and came out through his nose and eyes in great puffs. As soon as he could get his breath, he panted forth, "Take it away! what a pest! Oh, the wretches! it has made me sick." In fact, he felt ill for at least an hour after, and renounced forever the "pleasure of a habit, which," said he, "is only good to enable do-nothings to kill time."
The only requirements the Emperor made as to his clothing was that it should be of fine quality and perfectly comfortable; and his coats for ordinary use, dress-coats, and even the famous gray overcoat, were made of the finest cloth from Louviers. Under the Consulate he wore, as was then the fashion, the skirts of his coat extremely long; afterwards fashion changed, and they were worn shorter; but the Emperor held with singular tenacity to the length of his, and I had much trouble in inducing him to abandon this fashion, and it was only by a subterfuge that I at last succeeded. Each time I ordered a new coat for his Majesty, I directed the tailor to shorten the skirts by an inch at least, until at last, without his being aware of it, they were no longer ridiculous. He did not abandon his old habits any more readily on this point than on all others; and his greatest desire was that his clothes should not be too tight, in consequence of which there were times when he did not make a very elegant appearance. The King of Naples, the man in all France who dressed with the most care, and nearly always in good taste, sometimes took the liberty of bantering the Emperor slightly about his dress. "Sire," said he to the Emperor, "your Majesty dresses too much like a good family man. Pray, Sire, be an example to your faithful subjects of good taste in dress."—"Would you like me, in order to please you," replied the Emperor, "to dress like a scented fop, like a dandy, in fine, like the King of Naples and the Two Sicilies. As for me, I must hold on to my old habitudes."—"Yes, Sire, and to your 'habits tues'," added the king on one occasion. "Detestable !" cried the Emperor; "that is worthy of Brunet;" and they laughed heartily over this play on words, while declaring it what the Emperor called it.
However, these discussions as to his dress being renewed at the time of his Majesty's marriage to the Empress Marie Louise, the King of Naples begged the Emperor to allow him to send him his tailor. His Majesty, who sought at that time every means of pleasing his young wife, accepted the offer of his brother-in-law; and that very day I went for Leger, King Joachim's tailor, and brought him with me to the chateau, recommending him to make the suits which would be ordered as loose as possible, certain as I was in advance, that, Monsieur Jourdain [a character in a Moliere comedy] to the contrary, if the Emperor could not get into them easily, he would not wear them. Leger paid no attention to my advice, but took his measure very closely. The two coats were beautifully made; but the Emperor pronounced them uncomfortable, and wore them only once, and Leger did no more work for his Majesty. At one time, long before this, he had ordered a very handsome coat of chestnut brown velvet, with diamond buttons, which he wore to a reception of her Majesty the Empress, with a black cravat, though the Empress Josephine had prepared for him an elegant lace stock, which all my entreaties could not induce him to put on.
The Emperor's vest and breeches were always of white cassimere; he changed them every morning, and they were washed only three or four times. Two hours after he had left his room, it often happened that his breeches were all stained with ink, owing to his habit of wiping his pen on them, and scattering ink all around him by knocking his pen against the table. Nevertheless, as he dressed in the morning for the whole day, he did not change his clothes on that account, and remained in that condition the remainder of the day. I have already said that he wore none but white silk stockings, his shoes, which were very light and thin, being lined with silk, and his boots lined throughout inside with white fustian; and when he felt an itching on one of his legs, he rubbed it with the heel of his shoe or the boot on the other leg, which added still more to the effect of the ink blotches. His shoe-buckles were oval, either plain gold or with medallions, and he also wore gold buckles on his garters. I never saw him wear pantaloons under the Empire.
Owing to the Emperor's tenacity to old customs, his shoemaker in the first days of the Empire was still the same he employed at the military school; and as his shoes had been made by the same measure, from that time, and no new one ever taken, his shoes, as well as his boots, were always badly made and ungraceful. For a long time he wore them pointed; but I persuaded him to have them 'en bec de canne', as that was the fashion. At last his old measure was found too small, and I got his Majesty's consent to have a new one-taken; so I summoned the shoemaker, who had succeeded his father, and was exceedingly stupid. He had never seen the Emperor, although he worked for him; and when he learned that he was expected to appear before his Majesty, his head was completely turned. How could he dare to present himself before the Emperor? What costume must he wear? I encouraged him, and told him he would need a black French coat, with breeches, and hat, etc.; and he presented himself thus adorned at the Tuileries. On entering his Majesty's chamber he made a deep bow, and stood much embarrassed. "It surely cannot be you who made shoes for me at the l'ecole militaire?"—"No, your Majesty, Emperor and King, it was my father."—"And why don't he do so now?"—"Sire, the Emperor and King, because he is dead."—"How much do you make me pay for my shoes?"—"Your Majesty, Emperor and King, pays eighteen francs for them."—"That is very dear."—"Your Majesty, Emperor and King, could pay much more for them if he would." The Emperor laughed heartily at this simplicity, and let him take his measure; but the Emperor's laughter had so completely disconcerted the poor man that, when he approached him, his hat under his arm, making a thousand bows, his sword caught between his legs, was broken in two, and made him fall on his hands and knees, not to remain there long, however, for his Majesty's roars of laughter increasing, and being at last freed from his sword, the poor shoemaker took the Emperor's measure with more ease, and withdrew amidst profuse apologies.
All his Majesty's linen was of extremely fine quality, marked with an "N" in a coronet; at first he wore no suspenders, but at last began using them, and found them very comfortable. He wore next his body vests made of English flannel, and the Empress Josephine had a dozen cashmere vests made for his use in summer.
Many persons have believed that the Emperor wore a cuirass under his clothes when walking and while in the army. This is entirely false: the Emperor never put on a cuirass, nor anything resembling one, under his coat any more than over it.
The Emperor wore no jewelry; he never had in his pockets either purse or silver, but only his handkerchief, his snuff-box, and his bonbon-box.
He wore on his coat only a star and two crosses, that of the Legion of Honor, and that of the Iron Crown. Under his uniform and on his vest he wore a red ribbon, the ends of which could just be seen.
When there was a reception at the chateau, or he held a review, he put this grand cordon outside his coat.
His hat, the shape of which it will be useless to describe while portraits of his Majesty exist, was-extremely fine and very light, lined with silk and wadded; and on it he wore neither tassels nor plumes, but simply a narrow, flat band of silk and a little tricolored cockade.
The Emperor purchased several watches from Breguet and Meunier,—very plain repeaters, without ornamentation or figures, the face covered with glass, the back gold. M. Las Casas speaks of a watch with a double gold case, marked with the cipher "B," and which never left the Emperor. I never saw anything of the sort, though I was keeper of all the jewels, and even had in my care for several days the crown diamonds. The Emperor often broke his watch by throwing it at random, as I have said before, on any piece of furniture in his bedroom. He had two alarm-clocks made by Meunier, one in his carriage, the other at the head of his bed, which he set with a little green silk cord, and also a third, but it was old and wornout so that it would not work; it is this last which had belonged to Frederick the Great, and was brought from Berlin.
The swords of his Majesty were very plain, with gold mountings, and an owl on the hilt.
The Emperor had two swords similar to the one he wore the day of the battle of Austerlitz. One of these swords was given to the Emperor Alexander, as the reader will learn later, and the other to Prince Eugene in 1814. That which the Emperor wore at Austerlitz, and on which he afterwards had engraved the name and date of that memorable battle, was to have been inclosed in the column of the Place Vendome; but his Majesty still had it, I think, while he was at St. Helena.
He had also several sabers that he had worn in his first campaigns, and on which were engraved the names of the battles in which he had used them. They were distributed among the various general officers of his Majesty the Emperor, of which distribution I will speak later.
When the Emperor was about to quit his capital to rejoin his army, or for a simple journey through the departments, we never knew the exact moment of his departure. It was necessary to send in advance on various roads a complete service for the bedroom, kitchen, and stables; this sometimes waited three weeks, or even a month, and when his Majesty at length set out, that which was waiting on the road he did not take was ordered to return. I have often thought that the Emperor acted thus in order to disconcert those who spied on his proceedings, and to baffle their schemes.
The day he was to set out no one could discover that fact from him, and everything went on as usual. After a concert, a play, or any other amusement which had collected a large number of people, his Majesty would simply remark on retiring, "I shall leave at two o'clock!" Sometimes the time was earlier, sometimes later; but he always began his journey at the designated hour. The order was instantly announced by each of the head servants; and all were ready at the appointed time, though the chateau was left topsy-turvy, as may be seen from the picture I have given elsewhere of the confusion at the chateau which preceded and followed the Emperor's departure. Wherever his Majesty lodged on the journey, before leaving he had all the expenses of himself and of his household paid, made presents to his hosts, and gave gratuities to the servants of the house. On Sunday the Emperor had mass celebrated by the curate of the place, giving always as much as twenty napoleons, sometimes more, and regulating the gift according to the needs of the poor of the parish. He asked many questions of the cures concerning their resources, that of their parishioners, the intelligence and morality of the population, etc. He rarely failed to ask the number of births, deaths, marriages, and if there were many young men and girls of a marriageable age. If the cure replied to these questions in a satisfactory manner, and if he had not been too-long in saying mass, he could count on the favor of his Majesty; his church and his poor would find themselves well provided for; and as for himself, the Emperor left on his departure, or had sent to him, a commission as chevalier of the Legion of Honor. His Majesty preferred to be answered with confidence and without timidity; he even endured contradiction; and one could without any risk reply inaccurately; this was almost always overlooked, for he paid little attention to the reply, but he never failed to turn away from those who spoke to him in a hesitating or embarrassed manner. Whenever the Emperor took up his residence at any place, there were on duty, night and day, a page and an aide-decamp, who slept on sacking beds. There was also constantly in attendance, in an antechamber, a quartermaster and sergeant of the stables prepared to order, when necessary, the equipages, which they took care to keep always in readiness to move; horses fully saddled and bridled, and carriages harnessed with two horses, left the stables on the first signal of his Majesty. These attendants were relieved every two hours, like sentinels.
I said above that his Majesty liked prompt replies, and those which showed vivacity and sprightliness. I will give two anecdotes in support of this assertion. Once, while the Emperor was holding a review on the Place du Carrousel, his horse reared, and in the efforts his Majesty made to control him, his hat fell to the ground; a lieutenant (his name, I think, was Rabusson), at whose feet the hat fell, picked it up, and came out from the front ranks to offer it to his Majesty. "Thanks, Captain," said the Emperor, still engaged in quieting his horse. "In what regiment?"—"Sire?" asked the officer. The Emperor, then regarding him more attentively, and perceiving his mistake, said to him, smiling, "Ah, that is so, monsieur; in the Guard."
The new captain received the commission which he owed to his presence of mind, but which he had in fact well earned by his bravery and devotion to duty.
At another review, his Majesty perceived in the ranks of a regiment of the line an old soldier, whose arms were decorated with three chevrons. He recognized him instantly as having seen him in the army of Italy, and approaching him, said, "Well, my brave fellow, why have you not the cross? You do not look like a bad fellow."—"Sire," replied the old soldier, with sorrowful gravity, "I have three times been put on the list for the cross."—"You shall not be disappointed a fourth time," replied the Emperor; and he ordered Marshal Berthier to place on the list, for the next promotion, the brave soldier, who was soon made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
Pope Pius VII. had left Rome early in November, 1804; and his Holiness, accompanied by General Menou, administrator of Piedmont, arrived at Mont Cenis, on the morning of Nov. 15. The road of Mont Cenis had been surveyed and smoothed, and all dangerous points made secure by barriers. The Holy Father was received by M. Poitevin-Maissemy, prefect of Mont Blanc, and after a short visit to the hospice, crossed the mountain in a sedan chair, escorted by an immense crowd, who knelt to receive his blessing as he passed.
Nov. 17 his Holiness resumed his carriage, in which he made the remainder of the journey, accompanied in the same manner. The Emperor went to meet the Holy Father, and met him on the road to Nemours in the forest of Fontainebleau. The Emperor dismounted from his horse, and the two sovereigns returned to Fontainebleau in the same carriage. It is said that neither took precedence over the other, and that, in order to avoid this, they both entered the carriage at the same instant, his Majesty by the door on the right, and his Holiness by that on the left.
I do not know whether it is true that the Emperor used devices and stratagems in order to avoid compromising his dignity, but I do know that it would have been impossible to show more regard and attention to the venerable old man. The day after his arrival at Fontainebleau, the Pope made his entrance into Paris with all the honors usually rendered to the head of the Empire. Apartments had been prepared for him at the Tuileries in the Pavilion of Flora; and as a continuation of the delicate and affectionate consideration which his Majesty had shown from the beginning in welcoming the Holy Father, he found his apartments, in arrangement and furniture, an exact duplicate of those he occupied at Rome. He evinced much surprise and gratitude at this attention, which he himself, it is said, with his usual delicacy, called entirely filial; desiring thus to acknowledge the respect which the Emperor had shown him on every occasion, and the new title of eldest son of the Church, which his Majesty was about to assume with the imperial crown.
Every morning I went, by order of his Majesty, to inquire after the health of the Holy Father. Pius VII. had a noble and handsome countenance, an air of angelic sweetness, and a gentle, well modulated voice; he spoke little, and always slowly, but with grace; his tastes were extremely simple, and his abstemiousness incredible; he was indulgent to others and most lenient in his judgments. I must admit that on the score of good cheer the persons of his suite made no pretense of imitating the Holy Father, but, on the contrary, took most unbecoming advantage of the Emperor's orders, that everything requested should be furnished. The tables set for them were abundantly and even magnificently served; which, however; did not prevent a whole basket of Chambertin being requested each day for the Pope's private table, though he dined alone and drank only water.
The sojourn of nearly five months which the Holy Father made at Paris was a time of edification for the faithful; and his Holiness must have carried away a most flattering opinion of the populace, who, having ceased to practice, and not having witnessed for more than ten years, the ceremonies of the Catholic religion, had returned to them with irrepressible zeal. When the Pope was not detained in his apartments by his delicate health in regard to which the difference in the climate, compared with that of Italy, and the severity of the winter, required him to take great precautions, he visited the churches, the museum, and the establishments of public utility; and if the severe weather prevented his going out, the persons who requested this favor were presented to Pius VII. in the grand gallery of the Museum Napoleon. I was one day asked by some ladies of my acquaintance to accompany them to this audience of the Holy Father, and took much pleasure in doing so.
The long gallery of the museum was filled with ladies and gentlemen, arranged in double lines, the greater part of whom were mothers of families, with their children at their knees or in their arms, ready to be presented for the Holy Father's blessing; and Pius VII. gazed on these children with a sweetness and mildness truly angelic. Preceded by the governor of the museum, and followed by the cardinals and lords of his household, he advanced slowly between these two ranks of the faithful, who fell on their knees as he passed, often stopping to place his hand on the head of a child, to address a few words to the mother, or to give his ring to be kissed. His dress was a plain white cassock without ornament. Just as the Pope reached us, the director of the museum presented a lady who, like the others, was awaiting the blessing of his Holiness on her knees. I heard the director call this lady Madame, the Countess de Genlis, upon which the Holy Father held out to her his ring, raised her in the most affable manner, and said a few flattering words complimenting her on her works, and the happy influence which they had exercised in re- establishing the Catholic religion in France.
Sellers of chaplets and rosaries must have made their fortunes during this winter, for in some shops more than one hundred dozen were sold per day. During the month of January, by this branch of industry alone, one merchant of the Rue Saint-Denis made forty thousand francs. All those who presented themselves at the audience of the Holy Father, or who pressed around him as he went out, made him bless chaplets for themselves, for all their relations, and for their friends in Paris or in the provinces. The cardinals also distributed an incredible quantity in their visits to the various hospitals, to the Hotel des Invalides, etc., and even at private houses.
It was arranged that the coronation of their Majesties should take place on Dec. 2. On the morning of this great day all at the chateau were astir very early, especially the persons attached to the service of the wardrobe. The Emperor himself arose at eight o'clock. It was no small affair to array his Majesty in the rich costume which had been prepared for the occasion; and the whole time I was dressing him he uttered unlimited maledictions and apostrophes against embroiderers, tailors, and furnishers generally. As I passed him each article of his dress, "Now, that is something handsome, Monsieur le drole," said he (and my ears had their part in the play), "but we shall see the bills for it." This was the costume: silk stockings embroidered in gold, with the imperial coronet on the clocks; white velvet boots laced and embroidered with gold; white velvet breeches embroidered in gold on the seams; diamond buckles and buttons on his garters; his vest, also of white velvet, embroidered in gold with diamond buttons; a crimson velvet coat, with facings of white velvet, and embroidered on all the seams, the whole sparkling with gold and gems. A short cloak, also of crimson, and lined with white satin, hung from his left shoulder, and was caught on the right over his breast with a double clasp of diamonds. On such occasions it was customary for the grand chamberlain to pass the shirt; but it seems that his Majesty did not remember this law of etiquette, and it was I alone who performed that office, as I was accustomed. The shirt was one of those ordinarily worn by his Majesty, but of very beautiful cambric, for the Emperor would wear only very fine linen; but ruffles of very handsome lace had been added, and his cravat was of the most exquisite muslin, and his collar of superb lace. The black velvet cap was surmounted by two white aigrettes, and surrounded with a band of diamonds, caught together by the Regent. The Emperor set out, thus dressed, from the Tuileries; and it was not till he had reached Notre- Dame, that he placed over his shoulders the grand coronation mantle. This was of crimson velvet, studded with golden bees, lined with white satin, and fastened with a gold cord and tassel. The weight of it was at least eighty pounds, and, although it was held up by four grand dignitaries, bore him down by its weight. Therefore, on returning to the chateau, he freed himself as soon as possible from all this rich and uncomfortable apparel; and while resuming his grenadier uniform, he repeated over and over, "At last I can get my breath." He was certainly much more at his ease on the day of battle.
The jewels which were used at the coronation of her Majesty the Empress, and which consisted of a crown, a diadem, and a girdle, came from the establishment of M. Margueritte. The crown had eight branches, which supported a golden globe surmounted by a cross, each branch set with diamonds, four being in the shape of palm and four of myrtle leaves. Around the crown ran a band set with eight enormous emeralds, while the bandeau which rested on the brow shone with amethysts.
The diadem was composed of four rows of magnificent pearls entwined with leaves made of diamonds, each of which matched perfectly, and was mounted with a skill as admirable as the beauty of the material. On her brow were several large brilliants, each one alone weighing one hundred and forty-nine grains. The girdle, finally, was a golden ribbon ornamented With thirty-nine rose-colored stones. The scepter of his Majesty the Emperor had been made by M. Odiot; it was of silver, entwined with a golden serpent, and surmounted by a globe on which Charlemagne was seated. The hand of Justice and the crown, as well as the sword, were of most exquisite workmanship, but it would take too long to describe them; they were from the establishment of M. Biennais.
At nine o'clock in the morning the Pope left the Tuileries for Notre Dame, in a carriage drawn by eight handsome gray horses. From the imperial of the coach rose a tiara surrounded by the insignia of the papacy in gilt bronze, while the first chamberlain of his Holiness, mounted on a mule, preceded the carriage, bearing a silver gilt cross.
There was an interval of about one hour between the arrival of the Pope at Notre Dame and that of their Majesties, who left the Tuileries precisely at eleven o'clock, which fact was announced by numerous salutes of artillery. Their Majesties' carriage, glittering with gold and adorned with magnificent paintings, was drawn by eight bay horses superbly caparisoned.
Above the imperial of this coach was a crown supported by four eagles with extended wings. The panels of this carriage, which was the object of universal admiration, were of glass instead of wood; and it was so built that the back was exactly like the front, which similarity caused their Majesties, on entering it, to make the absurd mistake of placing themselves on the front seat. The Empress was first to perceive this, and both she and her husband were much amused.
I could not attempt to describe the cortege, although I still retain most vivid recollections of the scene, because 1 should have too much to say. Picture to yourself, then, ten thousand cavalry superbly mounted, defiling between two rows of infantry equally imposing, each body covering a distance of nearly half a league. Then think of the number of the equipages, of their magnificence, the splendor of the trappings of the horses, and of the uniforms of the soldiers; of the crowds of musicians playing coronation marches, added to the ringing of bells and booming of cannon; then to all this add the effect produced by this immense multitude of from four to five hundred thousand spectators; and still one would be very far from obtaining a correct idea of this astonishing magnificence.
In the month of December it is very rare that the weather is fine, but on that day the heavens seemed auspicious to the Emperor and just as he entered the archiepiscopal church, quite a heavy fog, which had lasted all the morning, was suddenly dissipated, and a brilliant flood of sunlight added its splendor to that of the cortege. This singular circumstance was remarked by the spectators, and increased the enthusiasm.
All the streets through which the cortege passed were carefully cleared and sanded; and the inhabitants decorated the fronts of their houses according to their varied taste and means, with drapery, tapestry, colored paper, and some even with garlands of yew-leaves, almost all the shops on the Quai des Orfevres being ornamented with festoons of artificial flowers.
The religious ceremony lasted nearly four hours, and must have been extremely fatiguing to the principal actors. The personal attendants were necessarily on duty continually in the apartment prepared for the Emperor at the archiepiscopal palace; but the curious (and all were so) relieved each other from time to time, and each thus had an opportunity of witnessing the ceremony at leisure.
I have never heard before or since such imposing music: it was the composition of Messieurs Paesiello, Rose, and Lesueur, precentors of their Majesties; and the orchestra and choruses comprised the finest musicians of Paris. Two orchestras with four choruses, including more than three hundred musicians, were led, the one by M. Persuis, the other by M. Rey, both leaders of the Emperor's bands. M. Lais, first singer to his Majesty, M. Kreutzer, and M. Baillot, first violinists of the same rank, had gathered the finest talent which the imperial chapel, the opera, and the grand lyric theaters possessed, either as instrumental players or male and female singers. Innumerable military bands, under the direction of M. Lesuem, executed heroic marches, one of which, ordered by the Emperor from M. Lesueur for the army of Boulogne, is still to-day, according to the judgment of connoisseurs, worthy to stand in the first rank of the most beautiful and most imposing musical compositions. As for me, this music affected me to such an extent that I became pale and trembling, and convulsive tremors ran through all my body while listening to it.
His Majesty would not allow the Pope to touch the crown, but placed it on his head himself. It was a golden diadem, formed of oak and laurel leaves. His Majesty then took the crown intended for the Empress, and, having donned it himself for a few moments, placed it on the brow of his august wife, who knelt before him. Her agitation was so great that she shed tears, and, rising, fixed on the Emperor a look of tenderness and gratitude; and the Emperor returned her glance without abating in the least degree the dignity required by such an imposing ceremony before so many witnesses.
In spite of this constraint their hearts understood each other in the midst of the brilliancy and applause of the assembly, and assuredly no idea of divorce entered the Emperor's mind at that moment; and, for my part, I am very sure that this cruel separation would never have taken place if her Majesty the Empress could have borne children, or even if the young Napoleon, son of the King of Holland and Queen Hortense, had not died just at the time the Emperor had decided to adopt him. Yet I must admit that the fear, or rather the certainty, of Josephine not bearing him an heir to the throne, drove the Emperor to despair; and I have many times heard him pause suddenly in the midst of his work, and exclaim with chagrin, "To whom shall I leave all this?"
After the mass, his Excellency, Cardinal Fesch, grand almoner of France, bore the Book of the Gospels to the Emperor, who thereupon, from his throne, pronounced the imperial oath in a voice so firm and distinct that it was heard by all present. Then, for the twentieth time perhaps, the cry of 'Vive l'Empereur' sprang to the lips of all, the 'Te Deum' was chanted, and' their Majesties left the church in the same manner as they had entered. The Pope remained in the church about a quarter of an hour after the sovereigns; and, when he rose to withdraw, universal acclamations accompanied him from the choir to the portal.
Their Majesties did not return to the chateau until half-past six, and the Pope not till nearly seven. On their entrance to the church, their Majesties passed through the archbishop's palace, the buildings of which, as I have said, communicated with Notre Dame by means of a wooden gallery. This gallery, covered with slate, and hung with magnificent tapestry, ended in a platform, also of wood, erected before the principal entrance, and made to harmonize perfectly with the gothic architecture of this handsome metropolitan church. This platform rested upon four columns, decorated with inscriptions in letters of gold, enumerating the names of the principal towns of France, whose mayors had been deputized to attend the coronation. Above these columns was a painting in relief, representing Clovis and Charlemagne seated on their thrones, scepter in hand; and in the center of this frontispiece were presented the arms of the Empire, draped with the banners of the sixteen cohorts of the Legion of Honor, while on each side were towers, surmounted by golden eagles. The inside of this portico, as well as the gallery, was shaped like a roof, painted sky-blue, and sown with stars.
The throne of their Majesties was erected on a stage in the shape of a semicircle, and covered with a bluff carpet studded with bees, and was reached by twenty-two steps. The throne, draped in red velvet, was also covered by a pavilion of the same color, the left wing of which extended over the Empress, the princesses, and their maids of honor, and the right over the two brothers of the Emperor, with the arch-chancellor and the arch-treasurer.
Nothing could be grander than the bird's-eye view of the garden of the Tuileries on the evening of this auspicious day, the grand parterre, encircled by illuminated colonnades from arch to arch of which were festooned garlands of rose-colored lights; the grand promenade outlined by columns, above which stars glittered; the terraces on each side filled with orange-trees, the branches of which were covered with innumerable lights; while every tree on the adjoining walks presented as brilliant a spectacle; and finally, to crown all this magnificent blaze of light, an immense star was suspended above the Place de la Concorde, and outshone all else. This might in truth be called a palace of fire.
On the occasion of the coronation his Majesty made magnificent presents to the metropolitan church. I remarked, among other things, a chalice ornamented with bas-reliefs, designed by the celebrated Germain, a pyx, two flagons with the waiter, a holy-water vessel, and a plate for offerings, the whole in silver gilt, and beautifully engraved. By the orders of his Majesty, transmitted through the minister of the interior, there was also presented to M. d'Astros, canon of Notre Dame, a box containing the crown of thorns, a nail, and a piece of the wood of the true cross, and a small vial, containing, it was said, some of the blood of our Lord, with an iron scourge which Saint Louis had used, and a tunic which had also belonged to that king.
In the morning Marshal Murat, Governor of Paris, had given a magnificent breakfast to the princes of Germany who had come to Paris in order to be present at the coronation; and after breakfast the marshal-governor conveyed them to Notre Dame in four carriages, each drawn by six horses, accompanied by an escort of a hundred men on horseback, and commanded by one of his aides-de-camp. This escort was especially noticeable for the elegance and richness of its uniforms.
The day after this grand and memorable solemnity was one of public rejoicing. From the early morning an immense crowd of the populace, enjoying the magnificent weather, spread itself over the boulevards, the quays, and the public squares, on which were prepared an infinite variety of amusements.
The heralds-at-arms went at an early hour through all the public places, throwing to the crowd, which pressed around them, medals struck in memory of the coronation. These medals represented on one side the likeness of the Emperor, his brow encircled with the crown of the Caesars, with this motto: Napoleon, Empereur. On the reverse side was the figure of a magistrate, with the attributes of his office around him, and that of an ancient warrior, bearing on a shield a hero crowned, and covered with the imperial mantle. Above was written: The Senate and the People. Soon after the passage of the heralds-at-arms the rejoicings commenced, and were prolonged far into the evening.
There had been erected on the Place Louis XV., which was called then the Place de la Concorde, four large square rooms of temporary woodwork, for dancing and waltzing. Stages for the presentation of pantomimes and farces were placed on the boulevards here and there; groups of singers and musicians executed national airs and warlike marches; greased poles, rope-dancers, sports of all kinds, attracted the attention of promenaders at every step, and enabled them to await without impatience the illuminations and the fireworks.
The display of fireworks was most admirable. From the Place Louis XV. to the extreme end of the Boulevard Saint-Antoine, ran a double line of colored lights in festoons. The palace of the Corps-Legislatif, formerly the Garde-Meuble, was resplendent with lights, and the gates of Saint- Denis and Saint-Martin were covered with lamps from top to bottom.
In the evening all those interested betook themselves to the quays and bridges, in order to witness the fireworks which were set off from the Bridge de la Concorde (now called Bridge Louis XVI.), and which far surpassed in magnificence all that had ever been seen.
Wednesday, Dec. 5, three days after the coronation, the Emperor made a distribution of the colors on the Champ-de-Mars.
In front of Ecole-Militaire a balcony was erected, covered with awnings, and placed on a level with the apartments on the first floor. The middle awning, supported by four columns, each one of which was a gilded figure representing Victory, covered the throne on which their Majesties were seated. A most fortunate precaution, for on that day the weather was dreadful; the thaw had come suddenly, and every one knows what a Paris thaw is.
Around the throne were ranged princes and princesses, grand dignitaries, ministers, marshals of the Empire, grand officers of the crown, the ladies of the court, and the council of state.
This balcony was divided on the right and left into sixteen compartments, decorated with banners, and crowned with eagles, these divisions representing the sixteen cohorts of the Legion of Honor. Those on the right were occupied by the Senate, the officers of the Legion of Honor, the court of appeals, and the chiefs of the national treasury, and those on the left by the Tribunate and the Corps-Legislatif.
At each end of the balcony was a pavilion. That on the side next the city was styled the imperial tribune, and intended for foreign princes, while the diplomatic corps and foreign personages of distinction filled the other pavilion.
From this gallery an immense staircase descended into the Champ-de-Mars, the first step of which formed a bench below the tribunes, and was occupied by the presidents of the cantons, the prefects, the sub- prefects, and the members of the municipal council. On each side of this staircase were placed the colossal figures of France making peace and France making war. Upon the steps were seated the colonels of regiments, and the presidents of the electoral colleges of the department, holding aloft the imperial eagles.
The cortege of their Majesties set out at noon from the chateau of the Tuileries, in the same order adopted at the coronation: the chasseurs of the guard and the squadrons of mamelukes marching in front, the Legion d' Elite and the mounted grenadiers following the municipal guard; while the grenadiers of the guard closed up the line. Their Majesties having entered l'Ecole-Militaire, received the homage of the diplomatic corps, who were stationed for this purpose in the reception-rooms. Then the Emperor and Empress, having donned their insignia of royalty, took their seats upon the throne, while the air was rent with reiterated discharges of artillery and universal acclamations. At a given signal the deputations of the army, scattered over the Champ-de-Mars, placed themselves in solid column, and approached the throne amid a flourish of trumpets. The Emperor then rose, and immediately a deep silence ensued, while in a loud, clear tone he pronounced these words, "Soldiers, behold your standards! These eagles will serve you always as a rallying point. They will go wherever your Emperor may judge their presence necessary for the defense of his throne and of his people. Will you swear to sacrifice even your lives in their defense, and to keep them always by your valor in the path to victory? Do you swear it?"—"We swear it," repeated all the colonels in chorus, while the presidents of the colleges waved the flags they bore. "We swear it," said in its turn the whole army, while the bands played the celebrated march known as "The March of the Standards."
This intense enthusiasm was communicated to the spectators, who, in spite of the rain, pressed in crowds upon the terraces which surrounded the enclosure of the Champ-de-Mars. Soon the eagles took their designated places, and the army defiled in divisions before the throne of their Majesties.
Although nothing had been spared to give this ceremony every possible magnificence, it was by no means brilliant. It is true, the object of the occasion was imposing; but how could an impressive ceremony be held in a deluge of melted snow, and amid a sea of mud, which was the appearance the Champ-de-Mars presented that day? The troops were under arms from six in the morning, exposed to rain, and forced to endure it with no apparent necessity so at least they regarded it. The distribution of standards was to these men nothing more than a review; and surely it must strike a soldier as a very different matter to brave the weather on the field of battle, from what it is to stand idle, exposed to it for hours, with shining gun and empty cartridge-box, on a parade-day.
The cortege returned to the Tuileries at five o'clock, after which there was a grand banquet in the gallery of Diana, at which the Pope, the sovereign elector of Ratisbonne, the princes and princesses, the grand dignitaries, the diplomatic corps, and many other persons were guests. Their Majesties' table was placed in the midst of the gallery, upon a platform, and covered with a magnificent canopy, under which the Emperor seated himself on the right of the Empress, and the Pope on her left. The serving was done by the pages. The grand chamberlain, the grand equerry, and the colonel-general of the guard stood before his Majesty; the grand marshal of the palace on his right, and in front of the table, and lower down, the prefect of the palace; on the left, and opposite the grand marshal, was the grand master of ceremonies; all these also standing. On either side of their Majesties' table were those of their imperial highnesses, of the diplomatic corps, of the ministers and grand officers, and lastly that of the ladies of honor. At night there was given a reception, concert, and ball. The day after the distribution of the eagles, his imperial highness Prince Joseph presented to his Majesty the presidents of the electoral colleges of the departments; and the presidents of the colleges of the arrondissements and their prefects were next introduced, and received by his Majesty.
The Emperor conversed with the greater part of these officials on the needs of each department, and thanked them for their zeal in assisting him. Then he recommended to them especially the execution of the conscript law. "Without conscription," said his Majesty, "we should have neither power nor national independence. All Europe is subject to conscription. Our success and the strength of our position depend on our having a national army, and it is necessary to maintain this advantage with the greatest care."
These presentations occupied several days, during which his Majesty received in turn, and always with the same ceremonial, the presidents of the high courts of justice, the presidents of the councils-general of departments, the subprefects, the deputies of the colonies, the mayors of the thirty-six principal cities, the presidents of the cantons, the vice- presidents of the chambers of commerce, and the presidents of the consistories.
Some days later the city of Paris gave, in honor of their Majesties, a fete whose brilliance and magnificence surpassed any description that could possibly be given. On this occasion the Emperor, the Empress, and the princes Joseph and Louis, rode together in the coronation carriage; and batteries placed upon the Pont-Neuf announced the moment at which their Majesties began to ascend the steps of the Hotel de Ville. At the same time, buffets with pieces of fowl and fountains of wine attracted an immense crowd to the chief squares of each of the twelve municipalities of Paris, almost every individual of which had his share in the distribution of eatables, thanks to the precaution which the authorities took of distributing to none except those who presented tickets. The front of the Hotel de Ville was brilliant with colored lamps; but what seemed to me the finest part of the whole display was a vessel pierced for eighty cannon, whose decks, masts, sails, and cordage were distinctly outlined in colored lights. The crowning piece of all, which the Emperor himself set off, represented the Saint-Bernard as a volcano in eruption, in the midst of glaciers covered with snow. In it appeared the Emperor, glorious in the light, seated on his horse at the head of his army, climbing the steep summit of the mountain. More than seven hundred persons attended the ball, and yet there was no confusion. Their Majesties withdrew early. The Empress, on entering the apartment prepared for her at the Hotel de Ville, had found there a most magnificent toilets-service, all in gold. After it was brought to the Tuileries it was for many days her Majesty's chief source of entertainment and subject of conversation. She wished every one to see and admire it; and, in truth, no one who saw it could fail to do so. Their Majesties gave permission that this, with a service which the city had presented to the Emperor, should be placed on exhibition for several days, for the gratification of the public.
After the fireworks a superb balloon was sent up, the whole circumference of which, with the basket, and the ropes which attached it to the balloon, were decorated with countless festoons of colored lights. This enormous body of colored fire rising slowly and majestically into the air was a magnificent spectacle. It remained suspended for a while exactly over the city of Paris, as if to wait till public curiosity was fully satisfied, then, having reached a height at which it encountered a more rapid current of air, it suddenly disappeared, driven by the wind towards the south. After its disappearance it was thought of no more, but fifteen days later a very singular incident recalled it to public attention.
While I was dressing the Emperor the first day of the year, or the day before, one of his ministers was introduced; and the Emperor having inquired the news in Paris, as he always did of those whom he saw early in the morning, the minister replied, "I saw Cardinal Caprara late yesterday evening, and I learned from him a very singular circumstance." —"What was it? about what?" and his Majesty, imagining doubtless that it was some political incident, was preparing to carry off his minister into his cabinet, before having completed his toilet, when his Excellency hastened to add, "Oh, it is nothing very serious, Sire! Your Majesty doubtless remembers that they have been discussing lately in the circle of her Majesty the Empress the chagrin of poor Garnerin, who has not succeeded up to this time in finding the balloon which he sent up on the day of the fete given to your Majesty by the city of Paris. He has at last received news of his balloon."—"Where did it fall?" asked the Emperor. "At Rome, Sire!"—"Ah, that is really very singular."—"Yes, Sire; Garnerin's balloon has thus, in twenty-four hours, shown your imperial crown in the two capitals of the world." Then the minister related to his Majesty the following details, which were published at the time, but which I think sufficiently interesting to be repeated here.
Garnerin had attached to his balloon the following notice: "The balloon carrying this letter was sent up at Paris on the evening of the 25th Frimaire (Dec. 16) by Monsieur Garnerin, special aeronaut of his Majesty the Emperor of Russia, and ordinary aeronaut of the French government, on the occasion of a fete given by the city of Paris to the Emperor Napoleon, celebrating his coronation. Whoever finds this balloon will please inform M. Garnerin, who will go to the spot."
The aeronaut expected, doubtless, to receive notice next day that his balloon had fallen in the plain of Saint-Denis, or in that of Grenelle; for it is to be presumed that he hardly dreamed of going to Rome when he engaged to go to the spot. More than fifteen days passed before he received the expected notice; and he had probably given up his balloon as lost, when there came the following letter from the nuncio of his Holiness:
"Cardinal Caprara is charged by his Excellency Cardinal Gonsalvi, Secretary of State of His Holiness, to remit to M. Garnerin a copy of a letter dated Dec. 18. He hastens to send it, and also to add a copy of the note which accompanied it. The cardinal also takes this occasion to assure Monsieur Garnerin of his highest esteem."
To this letter was added a translation of the report made to the cardinal, secretary of state at Rome, by the Duke of Mondragone, and dated from Anguillora, near Rome, Dec. 18:
"Yesterday evening about twenty-four o'clock there passed through the air a globe of astonishing size, which fell upon Lake Bracciano, and had the appearance of a house. Boatmen were sent to bring it to land; but they were not able to do so, as a high wind prevailed, accompanied by snow. This morning early they succeeded in bringing it ashore. This globe is of oiled silk, covered with netting, and the wire gallery is a little broken. It seems to have been lighted by lamps and colored lanterns, of which much debris remains. Attached to the globe was found the following notice." (Which is given above).
Thus we see that this balloon, which left Paris at seven o'clock on the evening of Dec. 16, had fallen next day, the 17th, near Rome, at twenty- four o'clock, that is to say, at sunset. It had crossed France, the Alps, etc., and passed over a space of more than three hundred leagues in twenty-two hours, its rate of speed being then fifteen leagues (45 miles) per hour; and, what renders this still more remarkable, is the fact that its weight was increased by decorations weighing five hundred pounds.
An account of the former trips of this balloon will not be without
interest. Its first ascension was made in the presence of their Prussian
Majesties and the whole court, upon which occasion it carried M.
Garnerin, his wife, and M. Gaertner, and descended upon the frontiers of
The second ascension was at St. Petersburg, in the presence of the
Emperor, the two Empresses, and the court, carrying Monsieur and Madame
Garnerin; and it fell a short distance off in a marsh. This was the
first balloon ascension ever seen in Russia.
The third trial was also at St. Petersburg, in the presence of the imperial family. M. Garnerin ascended, accompanied by General Suolf; and the two travelers were transported across the Gulf of Friedland in three- quarters of an hour, and descended at Krasnoe-selo, twenty-five versts from St. Petersburg. The fourth trial took place at Moscow, and Garnerin ascended more than four thousand toises [24,000 ft.] He had many harrowing experiences, and at the end of seven hours descended three hundred and thirty versts [200 miles] from Moscow, in the neighborhood of the old frontiers of Russia. This same balloon was again used at the ascension which Madame Garnerin made at Moscow with Madame Toucheninolf, in the midst of a frightful storm, and amid flashes of lightning which killed three men within three hundred paces of the balloon, at the very instant of the ascension. These ladies descended without accident twenty-one versts from Moscow.
The city of Paris gave a gratuity of six hundred francs to the boatmen who had drawn out of Lake Bracciano the balloon, which was brought back to Paris, and placed in the museum of the Hotel de Ville.
I was a witness that same day of the kindness with which the Emperor received the petition of a poor woman, a notary's wife, I believe, whose husband had been condemned on account of some crime, I know not what, to a long imprisonment. As the carriage of their Imperial Majesties passed before the Palais-Royal, two women, one already old, the other sixteen or seventeen years of age, sprang to the door, crying, "Pardon for my husband, pardon for my father."
The Emperor immediately, in a loud tone, gave the order to stop his carriage, and held out his hand for the petition which the older of the two women would give to no one but him, at the same time consoling her with kind words, and showing a most touching interest lest she might be hurt by the horses of the marshals of the empire, who were on each side of the carriage. While this kindness of his august brother was exciting to the highest pitch the enthusiasm and sensibilities of the witnesses of this scene, Prince Louis, seated on the front seat of the carriage, also leaned out, trying to reassure the trembling young girl, and urging her to comfort her mother, and count with certainty on the Emperor's favorable consideration. The mother and daughter, overcome by their emotion, could make no reply; and as the cortege passed on, I saw the former on the point of falling in a swoon. She was carried into a neighboring house, where she revived, and with her daughter shed tears of gratitude and joy.
The Corps Legislatif had decreed that a statue, in white marble, should be erected to the Emperor in their assembly hall, to commemorate the completion of the Civil Code. On the day of the unveiling of this monument, her Majesty the Empress, the princes Joseph, Louis, Borghese, Bacciochi, and their wives, with other members of the imperial family, deputations of the principal orders of the state, the diplomatic corps, and many foreigners of distinction, the marshals of the empire, and a considerable number of general officers, assembled at seven o'clock in the evening at the palace of the Legislative Corps.
As the Empress appeared in the hall, the entire assembly rose, and a band of music, stationed in the neighboring stand, rendered the well-known chorus from Gluck, "How many charms! What majesty!" Scarcely had the first strains of this chorus been heard than each one was struck with the happy coincidence, and applause burst forth from all sides.
By invitation of the president, Marshals Murat and Massena unveiled the statue; and all eyes were fixed on this image of the Emperor, his brows encircled with a crown of laurel, and entwined with oak and olive leaves. When silence had succeeded to the acclamations excited by this sight, M. de Vaublanc mounted the tribune, and pronounced a discourse, which was loudly applauded in the assembly, whose sentiments it faithfully expressed.
"Gentlemen," said the orator, "you have celebrated the completion of the Civil Code of France by an act of admiration and of gratitude; you have awarded a statue to the illustrious prince whose firmness and perseverance have led to the completion of that grand work, while at the same time his vast intelligence has shed a most glorious light over this noble department of human institutions. First Consul then, Emperor of the French to-day, he appears in the temple of the laws, his head adorned with a triumphal crown as victory has so often adorned it, while foretelling that this should change to the diadem of kings, and covered with the imperial mantle, noble attribute of the highest of dignities.
"Doubtless, on this solemn day, in presence of the princes and the great of the state, before the august person whom the Empire honors for her beautiful character even more than for the high rank of which her virtues render her so worthy, in this glorious fete in which we would reunite all France, you will permit my feeble voice to be raised a moment, and to recall to you by what immortal actions Napoleon entered upon this wonderful career of power and honor.
"If praise corrupts weak minds, it is the nourishment of great souls; and the grand deeds of heroes are ties which bind them to their country. To recapitulate them is to say that we expect from them a combination of those grand thoughts, those generous sentiments, those glorious deeds, so nobly rewarded by the admiration and gratitude of the public.
"Victorious in the three quarters of the world, peacemaker of Europe, legislator of France, having bestowed and added provinces to the Empire, does not this glorious record suffice to render him worthy at one and the same time both of this august title of Emperor of the French, and this monument erected in the temple of the laws? And yet I would wish to make you forget these brilliant recollections which I have just recalled. With a stronger voice than that which sounded his praises, I would say to you: erase from your minds this glory of the legislator, this glory of the warrior, and say to yourselves, before the 18th Brumaire, when fatal laws were promulgated, and when the destructive principles proclaimed anew were already dragging along men and things with a rapidity which it would soon have been impossible to arrest—who appeared suddenly like a beneficent star, who came to abrogate these laws, who filled up the half- open abyss? You have survived, each one of you, through those threatening scenes; you live, and you owe it to him whose image you now behold. You, who were miserable outlaws, have returned, you breathe again the gentle air of your native land, you embrace your children, your wives, your friends; and you owe it to this great man. I speak no longer of his glory, I no longer bear witness to that; but I invoke humanity on the one side, gratitude on the other; and I demand of you, to whom do you owe a happiness so great so extraordinary, so unexpected? . . . And you, each and all, reply with me—to the great man whose image we behold."
The president repeated in his turn a similar eulogium, in very similar terms; and few persons then dreamed of thinking these praises exaggerated, though their opinions have perhaps changed since.
After the ceremony the Empress, on the arm of the president, passed into the hall of conference, where her Majesty's table had been prepared under a magnificent dais of crimson silk, and covers for nearly three hundred guests had been laid by the caterer Robert, in the different halls of the palace. To the dinner succeeded a brilliant ball. The most remarkable thing in this fete was the indescribable luxury of flowers and shrubs, which must doubtless have been collected at great expense, owing to the severity of the winter. The halls of Lucrece and of La Reunion, in which the dancing quadrilles were formed, resembled an immense parterre of roses, laurel, lilac, jonquils, lilies, and jessamine.