RECOLLECTIONS OF THE PRIVATE LIFE OF NAPOLEON, V4
PREMIER VALET DE CHAMBRE
TRANSLATED BY WALTER CLARK
It was the 2d of January, 1805, exactly a month after the coronation, that I formed with the eldest daughter of M. Charvet a union which has been, and will I trust ever be, the greatest happiness of my life. I promised the reader to say very little of myself; and, in fact, how could he be interested in any details of my own private life which did not throw additional light upon the character of the great man about whom I have undertaken to write? Nevertheless, I will ask permission to return for a little while to this, the most interesting of all periods to me, and which exerted such an influence upon my whole life. Surely he who recalls and relates his souvenirs is not forbidden to attach some importance to those which most nearly concern himself. Moreover, even in the most personal events of my life, there were instances in which their Majesties took a part, and which, from that fact, are of importance in enabling the reader to form a correct estimate of the characters of both the Emperor and the Empress.
My wife's mother had been presented to Madame Bonaparte during the first campaign in Italy, and she had been pleased with her; for Madame Bonaparte, who was so perfectly good, had, in her own experience, also endured trials, and knew how to sympathize with the sorrows of others.
She promised to interest the General in the fate of my father-in-law, who had just lost his place in the treasury. During this time Madame Charvet was in correspondence with a friend of her husband, who was, I think, the courier of General Bonaparte; and the latter having opened and read these letters addressed to his courier, inquired who was this young woman that wrote such interesting and intelligent letters, and Madame Charvet well deserved this double praise. My father-in-law's friend, while replying to the question of the General-in-chief, took occasion to relate the misfortunes of the family, and the General remarked that, on his return to Paris, he wished to meet M. and Madame Charvet; in consequence of which they were presented to him, and Madame Bonaparte rejoiced to learn that her protegees had also become those of her husband. It had been decided that M. Charvet should follow the General to Egypt; but when my father-in-law arrived at Toulon, Madame Bonaparte requested that he should accompany her to the waters of Plombieres. I have previously related the accident which occurred at Plombieres, and that M. Charvet was sent to Saint-Germain to bring Mademoiselle Hortense from the boarding-school to her mother. On his return to Paris, M. Charvet searched through all the suburbs to find a country-seat, as the General had charged his wife to purchase one during his absence.
When Madame Bonaparte decided on Malmaison, M. Charvet, his wife, and their three children were installed in this charming residence.
My father-in-law was very faithful to the interests of these benefactors of his family, and Madame Charvet often acted as private secretary to Madame Bonaparte.
Mademoiselle Louise, who became my wife, and Mademoiselle Zoe, her younger sister, were favorites of Madame Bonaparte, especially the latter, who passed more time than Louise at Malmaison. The condescension of their noble protectress had rendered this child so familiar, that she said thou habitually to Madame Bonaparte. One day she said to her, "Thou art happy. Thou hast no mamma to scold thee when thou tearest thy dresses."
During one of the campaigns that I made while in the service of the Emperor, I wrote to my wife, inquiring about the life that her sister led at Malmaison. In her answer, among other things, she said (I copy a passage from one of her letters): "Sometimes we take part in performances such as I had never dreamed of. For instance, one evening the saloon was divided in half by a gauze curtain, behind which was a bed arranged in Greek style, on which a man lay asleep, clothed in long white drapery. Near the sleeper Madame Bonaparte and the other ladies beat in unison (not in perfect accord, however) on bronze vases, making, as you may imagine, a terrible kind of music. During this charivari, one of the gentlemen held me around the waist, and raised me from the ground, while I shook my arms and legs in time to the music. The concert of these ladies awoke the sleeper, who stared wildly at me, frightened at my gestures, then sprang up and ran with all his might, followed by my brother, who crept on all fours, representing a dog, I think, which belonged to this strange person. As I was then a mere child, I have only a confused idea of all this; but the society of Madame Bonaparte seemed to be much occupied with similar amusements."
When the First Consul went to live at Saint-Cloud, he expressed his high opinion of my father-in-law in the most flattering manner, and made him concierge of the chateau, which was a confidential position, the duties and responsibilities of which were considerable.
M. Charvet was charged with organizing the household; and, by orders of the First Consul, he selected from among the old servants of the queen those to whom he gave places as porters, scrubbers, and grooms of the chateau, and he gave pensions to those unable to work.
When the chateau took fire in 1802, as I have related previously, Madame Charvet, being several months pregnant, was terribly frightened; and as it was not thought best to bleed her, she became very ill, and died at the age of thirty years. Louise had been at a boarding-school for several years; but her father now brought her home to keep house for him, though she was then only twelve years old. One of her friends has kindly allowed me to see a letter which Louise addressed to her a short time after our marriage, and from which I have made the following extracts:
"On my return from boarding-school I went to see her Majesty the Empress (then Madame Bonaparte) at the Tuileries. I was in deep mourning. She took me on her knee, and tried to console me, saying that she would be a mother to me, and would find me a husband. I wept, and said that I did not wish to marry. Not at present,' replied her Majesty, I but that will come; be sure of it. I was, however, by no means persuaded that this would be the case. She caressed me a while longer, and I withdrew. When the First Consul was at Saint-Cloud, all the chiefs of the different departments of the household service assembled in the apartments of my father, who was the most popular, as well as the eldest, member of the household. M. Constant, who had seen me as a child at Malmaison, found me sufficiently attractive at Saint-Cloud to ask me of my father, subject to the approval of their Majesties; and it was decided that we should be married after the coronation. I was fourteen years old fifteen days after our marriage.
"Both my sister and I are always received with extreme kindness by her Majesty the Empress; and whenever, for fear of annoying her, we let some time pass without going to see her, she complains of it to my father. She sometimes admits us to her morning toilet, which is conducted in our presence, and to which are admitted in her apartments only her women; and a few persons of her household, who, like us, count among their happiest moments those in which they can thus behold this adored princess. The conversations are almost always delightful, and her Majesty frequently relates anecdotes which a word from one or another of us recalls to her."
Her Majesty the Empress had promised Louise a dowry; but the money which she intended for that she spent otherwise, and consequently my wife had only a few jewels of little value and two or three pieces of stuff.
M. Charvet was too refined to recall this promise to her Majesty's recollection. However, that was the only way to get anything from her; for she knew no better how to economize than how to refuse. The Emperor asked me a short time after my marriage what the Empress had given my wife, and on my reply showed the greatest possible vexation; no doubt because the sum that had been demanded of him for Louise's dowry had been spent otherwise. His Majesty the Emperor had the goodness, while on this subject, to assure me that he himself would hereafter look after my interests, and that he was well satisfied with my services, and would prove it to me.
I have said above that my wife's younger sister was the favorite of her Majesty the Empress; and yet she received on her marriage no richer dowry than Louise, nevertheless, the Empress asked to have my sister-in-law's husband presented to her, and said to him in the most maternal tone, "Monsieur, I recommend my daughter to you, and I entreat you to make her happy. She deserves it, and I earnestly hope that you know how to appreciate her!" When my sister-in-law, fleeing from Compiegne, in 1814, went with her husband's mother to Evreux for her confinement, the Empress sent by her first valet de chambre every thing necessary for a young woman in that condition, and, even reproached her with not having come to Navarre.
My sister-in-law had been reared in the same boarding-school as Mademoiselle Josephine Tallien, god-daughter of the Empress, who has since married M. Pelet de la Lozere, and another daughter of Madame Tallien, Mademoiselle Clemence Cabarus. The school was conducted by Madame Vigogne, widow of the colonel of that name, and an old friend of the Empress, who had advised her to take a boarding-school, and promised to procure for her as many pupils as she could. This institution prospered under the direction of this lady, who was distinguished for her intelligence and culture; and she frequently brought to the Empress these protegees, with other young persons who by good conduct had earned this reward; and this was made a powerful means of exciting the emulation of these children, whom her Majesty overwhelmed with caresses, and presented with little gifts.
One morning just as Madame Vigogne was about to visit the Empress, and was descending the staircase to enter her carriage, she heard piercing cries in one of the schoolrooms, and, hastening to the spot, saw a young girl with her clothing on fire. With a presence of mind worthy of a mother, Madame Vigogne wrapped her pupil in the long train of her dress, and thus extinguished the flames, not, however, until the hands of the courageous instructress had been most painfully burned. She made the visit to her Majesty in this condition, and related to her the sad accident which had occurred; while her Majesty, who was easily moved by everything noble and generous, overwhelmed her with praises for her courage, and was so deeply touched that she wept with admiration, and ordered, her private physician to give his best services to Madame Vigogne and her young pupil.
The Empress Josephine was of medium height, with an exquisite figure; and in all her movements there was an airiness and grace which gave to her walk something ethereal, without detracting from the majesty of the sovereign. Her expressive countenance portrayed all the emotions of her soul, while retaining the charming sweetness which was its ruling expression. In pleasure, as in grief, she was beautiful, and even against your will you would smile when she smiled; if she was sad, you would be also. Never did a woman justify better than she the expression that the eyes are the mirror of the soul. Hers were of a deep blue, and nearly always half closed by her long lids, which were slightly arched, and fringed with the most beautiful lashes in the world; in regarding her you felt yourself drawn to her by an irresistible power. It must have been difficult for the Empress to give severity to that seductive look; but she could do this, and well knew how to render it imposing when necessary. Her hair was very beautiful, long and silken, its nut-brown tint contrasting exquisitely with the dazzling whiteness of her fine fresh complexion. At the commencement of her supreme power, the Empress still liked to adorn her head in the morning with a red madras handkerchief, which gave her a most piquant Creole air, and rendered her still more charming.
But what more than all else constituted the inexpressible charm of the Empress's presence were the ravishing tones of her voice. How many times have I, like many others, stopped suddenly on hearing that voice; simply to enjoy the pleasure of listening to it. It cannot perhaps be said that the Empress was a strictly beautiful woman; but her lovely countenance, expressing sweetness and good nature, and the angelic grace diffused around her person, made her the most attractive of women.
During her stay at Saint-Cloud, the Empress rose habitually at nine o'clock, and made her first toilet, which lasted till ten; then she passed into a saloon, where she found assembled those persons who had solicited and obtained the favor of an audience; and sometimes also at this hour, and in the same saloon, her Majesty received her tradespeople; and at eleven o'clock, when the Emperor was absent, she breakfasted with her first lady of honor and a few others. Madame de la Rochefoucauld, first lady of honor to the Empress, was a hunchback, and so small that it was necessary, when she was to have a place at the table, to heighten the seat of her chair by another very thick cushion made of violet satin. Madame de la Rochefoucauld knew well how to efface, by means of her bright and sparkling, though somewhat caustic wit, her striking elegance, and her exquisite court manners, any unpleasant impression which might be made by her physical deformity.
Before breakfast the Empress had a game of billiards; or, when the weather was good, she walked in the gardens or in the inclosed park, which recreation lasted only a short while, and her Majesty soon returned to her apartments, and occupied herself with embroidery, while talking with her ladies, like herself, occupied with some kind of needlework. When it happened that they were not interrupted by visits, between two and three o'clock in the afternoon the Empress took a drive in an open barouche; and on her return from this the grand toilet took place, at which the Emperor was sometimes present.
Now and then, also, his Majesty surprised the Empress in her saloon; and we were sure to find him, on those occasions, amusing, amiable, and in fine spirits.
At six o'clock dinner was served; this the Emperor frequently forgot, and delayed it indefinitely, in consequence of which dinner was more than once eaten at nine or ten o'clock in the evening. Their Majesties dined together alone, or in the company of a few invited guests, princes of the imperial family, or ministers, after which there was a concert, reception, or the theater; and at midnight every one retired except the Empress, who greatly enjoyed sitting up late, and then played backgammon with one of the chamberlains. The Count de Beaumont was thus honored most frequently.
On the days of the chase the Empress and her ladies followed in the coach. They had a special costume for this occasion, consisting of a kind of green riding-habit, and a hat ornamented with white plumes. All the ladies who followed the chase dined with their Majesties.
When the Empress spent the night in the Emperor's apartment, I entered in the morning, as usual, between seven and eight o'clock, and nearly always found the august spouses awake. The Emperor usually ordered tea, or an infusion of orange flowers, and rose immediately, the Empress saying to him, with a laugh, "What, rising already? Rest a little longer."—"Well, you are not asleep, then?" replied his Majesty, rolling her over in the covering, giving her little slaps on her cheeks and shoulders, laughing, and kissing her.
At the end of a few moments the Empress rose also, put on a wrapper, and read the journals, or descended by the little communicating stairway to her own apartment, never leaving the Emperor without a few words expressing the most touching affection and good-will.
Elegant and simple in her dress, the Empress submitted with regret to the necessity of toilets of state. Jewels, however, were much to her taste; and, as she had always been fond of them; the Emperor presented her with them often and in great quantities; and she greatly enjoyed adorning herself with them, and still more exhibiting them to the admiration of others.
One morning, when my wife was present at her toilet, her Majesty related that, being newly married to M. de Beauharnais, and much delighted with the ornaments he had given her, she was in the habit of carrying them around in her reticule (reticules were then an essential part of a woman's dress), and showing them to her young friends.
As the Empress spoke of her reticule, she ordered one of her ladies to hunt for one to show my wife. The lady whom the Empress addressed could scarcely repress a laugh at this singular request, and assured her Majesty that there was nothing similar to that now in her wardrobe; to which the Empress replied, with an air of regret, that she would have really liked to see again one of her old reticules, and that the years hall brought great changes. The jewels of the Empress Josephine could hardly have been contained in the reticule of Madame de Beauharnais, however long or deep it might have been; for the jewel case which had belonged to Queen Marie Antoinette, and which had never been quite full, was too small for the Empress. One day, when she wished to exhibit all her ornaments to several ladies who expressed a desire to see them, it was necessary to prepare a large table on which to place the caskets; and, as this table was not sufficient, several other pieces of furniture were also covered with them.
Good to excess, as everyone knows, sympathetic beyond all expression, generous even to prodigality, the Empress made the happiness of all who surrounded her; loving her husband with a devotion which nothing ever changed, and which was as deep in her last moments as at the period when Madame Beauharnais and General Bonaparte made to each other a mutual avowal of their love. Josephine was long the only woman loved by the Emperor, as she well deserved to have ever been; and for several years the harmony of this imperial household was most touching. Attentive, loving, and entirely devoted to Josephine, the Emperor took pleasure in embracing her neck, her figure, giving her taps, and calling her 'ma grosse bete'; all of which did not prevent, it is true, his being guilty of some infidelities, but without failing otherwise in his conjugal duties. On her side the Empress adored him, sought by every means to please him, to divine his wishes, and to forestall his least desires.
At first she gave her husband cause for jealousy. Having been strongly prejudiced against her by indiscreet reports, during the campaign of Egypt, the Emperor on his return had explanations with her, which did not always end without lamentations and violent scenes; but peace was soon restored, and was thereafter very rarely broken, for the Emperor could not fail to feel the influence of so many attractions and such loveliness.
The Empress had a remarkable memory, of which the Emperor often availed himself; she was also an excellent musician, played well on the harp, and sang with taste. She had perfect tact, an exquisite perception of what was suitable, the soundest, most infallible judgment imaginable, and, with a disposition always lovely, always the same, indulgent to her enemies as to her friends, she restored peace wherever there was quarrel or discord. When the Emperor was vexed with his brothers or other persons, which often happened, the Empress spoke a few words, and everything was settled. If she demanded a pardon, it was very rare that the Emperor did not grant it, however grave the crime committed; and I could cite a thousand examples of pardons thus solicited and obtained. One occurrence which is almost personal to me will sufficiently prove how all-powerful was the intercession of this good Empress.
Her Majesty's head valet being one day a little affected by the wine he had taken at a breakfast with some friends, was obliged, from the nature of his duties, to be present at the time of their Majesties' dinner, and to stand behind the Empress in order to take and hand her the plates. Excited by the fumes of the champagne, he had the misfortune to utter some improper words, which, though pronounced in a low tone, the Emperor unfortunately overheard. His Majesty cast lightning glances at M. Frere, who thus perceived the gravity of his fault; and, when dinner was over, gave orders to discharge the impudent valet, in a tone which left no hope and permitted no reply.
Monsieur Frere was an excellent servant, a gentle, good, and honest man; it was the first fault of this kind of which he could be accused, and consequently he deserved indulgence. Application was made to the grand marshal, who refused to intercede, well knowing the inflexibility of the Emperor; and many other persons whom the poor man begged to intercede for him having replied as the grand marshal had done, M. Frere came in despair to bid us adieu. I dared to take his cause in hand, with the hope that by seizing a favorable moment I might succeed in appeasing his Majesty. The order of discharge required M. Frere to leave the palace in twenty-four hours; but I advised him not to obey it, but to keep himself, however, constantly concealed in his room, which he did. That evening on retiring, his Majesty spoke to me of what had passed, showing much anger, so I judged that silence was the best course to take; and therefore waited; but the next day the Empress had the kindness to tell me that she would be present at her husband's toilet, and that, if I thought proper to open the matter, she would sustain me with all her influence. Consequently, finding the Emperor in a good humor, I spoke of M. Frere; and depicting to his Majesty the despair of this poor man, I pointed out to him the reasons which might excuse the impropriety of his conduct. "Sire," said I, "he is a good man, who has no fortune, and supports a numerous family; and if he has to quit the service of her Majesty the Empress, it will not be believed that it was on account of a fault for which the wine was more to be blamed than he, and he will be utterly ruined." To these words, as well as to many other suggestions, the Emperor only replied by interruptions, made with every appearance of a decided opposition to the pardon which I had requested. Fortunately the Empress was good enough to come to my assistance, and said to her husband in her own gentle tones, always so touching and full of expression, "Mon ami, if you are willing to pardon him, you will be doing me a favor." Emboldened by this powerful patronage, I renewed my solicitations; to which the Emperor at last replied abruptly, addressing himself to both the Empress and myself, "In short, you wish it; well, let him stay then."
Monsieur Frere thanked me with his whole heart, and could hardly believe the good news which I brought him; and as for the Empress, she was made happy by the joy of this faithful servant, who gave her during the remainder of his life every proof of his entire devotion. I have been assured that, in 1814, on the departure of the Emperor for the Island of Elba, Monsieur Frere was by no means the last to blame my conduct, the motive of which he could not possibly know; but I am not willing to believe this, for it seems to me that in his place, if I thought I could not defend an absent friend, I should at least have kept silence.
As I have said, the Empress was extremely generous, and bestowed much in alms, and was most ingenious in finding occasions for their bestowal. Many emigres lived solely on her benefactions; she also kept up a very active correspondence with the Sisters of Charity who nursed the sick, and sent them a multitude of things. Her valets were ordered to go in every direction, carrying to the needy the assistance of her inexhaustible benevolence, while numerous other persons also received each day similar commissions; and all these alms, all these multiplied gifts which were so widely diffused, received an inestimable value from the grace with which they were offered, and the good judgment with which they were distributed. I could cite a thousand instances of this delicate generosity.
Monsieur de Beauharnais had at the time of his marriage to Josephine a natural daughter named Adele. The Empress reared her as if she had been her own daughter, had her carefully educated, gave her a generous dowry, and married her to a prefect of the Empire.
If the Empress showed so much tenderness for a daughter who was not her own, it is impossible to give an idea of her love and devotion to Queen Hortense and Prince Eugene, which devotion her children fully returned; and there was never a better or happier mother. She was very proud of her children, and spoke of them always with an enthusiasm which seemed very natural to all who knew the Queen of Holland and the Vice-King of Italy. I have related how, having been left an orphan at a very early age by the Revolutionary scaffold, young Beauharnais had gained the heart of General Bonaparte by an interview in which he requested of him his father's sword, and that this action inspired in the General a wish to become acquainted with Josephine, and the result of that interview, all of which events are matters of history. When Madame de Beauharnais had become the wife of General Bonaparte, Eugene entered on a military career, and attached himself immediately to the fortunes of his step- father, whom he accompanied to Italy in the capacity of aide-de-camp. He was chief of squadron in the chasseurs of the Consular Guard, and at the immortal battle of Marengo shared all the dangers of the one who took so much pleasure in calling him his son. A few years later the chief of squadron had become Vice-King of Italy, the presumptive heir of the imperial crown (a title which, in truth, he did not long preserve), and husband of the daughter of a king.
The vice-queen (Augusta Amelia of Bavaria) was handsome and good as an angel. I happened to be at Malmaison on the day the Empress received the portrait of her daughter-in-law, surrounded by three or four children, one upon her shoulder, another at her feet, and a third in her arms, all of whom had most lovely faces. The Empress, seeing me, deigned to call me to admire with her this collection of charming heads; and I perceived that, while speaking, her eyes were full of tears. The portraits were well painted, and I had occasion later to find that they were perfect likenesses. From this time the only question was playthings and rare articles of all sorts to be bought for these dear children, the Empress going in person to select the presents she desired for them, and having them packed under her own eyes.
The prince's valet has assured me that, at the time of the divorce, Prince Eugene wrote his wife a very desponding letter, and perhaps expressed in it some regret at not being an adopted son of the Emperor, to which the Princess replied most tenderly, saying, among other things, "It is not the heir of the Emperor whom I married and whom I love, but it is Eugene de Beauharnais." The Prince read this sentence and some others in the presence of the person from whom I have these facts, and who was touched even to tears. Such a woman deserved more than a throne.
After that event, so grievous to the heart of the Empress, and for which she never found consolation, she left Malmaison no more, except to make a few visits to Navarre.
Each time that I returned to Paris with the Emperor, I had no sooner arrived than my first duty was to go to Malmaison, though I was rarely the bearer of a letter from the Emperor, as he wrote to Josephine only on extraordinary occasions. "Tell the Empress I am well, and that I wish her to be happy," were almost invariably the parting words of the Emperor as I set out. The moment I arrived the Empress quitted everything to speak to me; and I frequently remained an hour and often two hours with her; during which time there was no question of anything save the Emperor. I must tell her all that he had suffered on the journey, if he had been sad or gay, sick or well; while she wept over the details as I repeated them, and gave me a thousand directions regarding his health, and the cares with which she desired I should surround him. After this she deigned to question me about myself, my prospects, the health of my wife, her former protegee; and at last dismissed me, with a letter for his Majesty, begging me to say to the Emperor how happy she would be if he would come to see her.
Before his departure for Russia, the Empress, distressed at this war, of which she entirely disapproved, again redoubled her recommendations concerning the Emperor, and made me a present of her portrait, saying to me, "My good Constant, I rely on you; if the Emperor were sick, you would inform me of it, would you not? Conceal nothing from me, I love him so much."
Certainly the Empress had innumerable means of hearing news of his Majesty; but I am persuaded that, had she received each day one hundred letters from those near the Emperor, she would have read and reread them with the same avidity.
When I had returned from Saint-Cloud to the Tuileries, the Emperor asked me how Josephine was, and if I found her in good spirits; he received with pleasure the letters I brought, and hastened to open them. All the time I was traveling, or on the campaign in the suite of his Majesty, in writing to my wife, I spoke of the Emperor, and the good princess was delighted that she showed my letters to her. In fact, everything having the least connection with her husband interested the Empress to a degree which proved well the singular devotion that she still felt for him after, as before, their separation. Too generous, and unable to keep her expenses within her income, it often happened that the Empress was obliged to send away her furnishers unpaid the very day she had herself fixed for the settlement of their bills; and as this reached the ears of the Emperor on one occasion, there ensued a very unpleasant scene between the Empress and himself, ending in a decision, that in future no merchant or furnisher should come to the chateau without a letter from the lady of attire or secretary of orders; and this plan, once decided upon, was followed very closely until the divorce. During this explanation the Empress wept freely, and promised to be more economical, upon which the Emperor pardoned and embraced her, and peace was made, this being, I think, the last quarrel of this nature which disturbed the imperial household.
I have heard that after the divorce, the allowance of the Empress having been exceeded, the Emperor reproached the superintendent of Malmaison with this fact, who in turn informed Josephine. His kind-hearted mistress, much distressed at the annoyance which her steward had experienced, and not knowing how to establish a better order of things, assembled a council of her household, over which she presided in a linen dress without ornament; this dress had been made in great haste, and was used only this once. The Empress, whom the necessity for a refusal always reduced to despair, was continually besieged by merchants, who assured her that they had made such or such a thing expressly for her own use, begging her not to return it because they would not be able to dispose of it; in consequence of which the Empress kept everything they brought, though they afterwards had to be paid for.
The Empress was always extremely polite in her intercourse with the ladies of her household; and a reproach never came from those lips which seemed formed to say only pleasant things; and if any of her ladies gave her cause of dissatisfaction, the only punishment she inflicted was an absolute silence on her part, which lasted one, two, three, or even eight days, the time being longer or shorter according to the gravity of the fault. And indeed this penalty, apparently so mild, was really very cruel to many, so well did the Empress know how to make herself adored by those around her.
In the time of the Consulate, Madame Bonaparte often received from cities which had been conquered by her husband, or from those persons who desired to obtain her intercession with the First Consul, quantities of valuable furniture, curiosities of all kinds, pictures, stuffs, etc. At first these presents delighted Madame Bonaparte greatly; and she took a childish pleasure in having the cases opened to find what was inside, personally assisting in unpacking them, and rummaging through all these pretty things. But soon these consignments became so considerable, and were so often repeated, that it was found necessary to place them in an apartment, of which my father-in-law kept the key, and where the boxes remained untouched until it pleased Madame Bonaparte to have them opened.
When the First. Consul decided that he would take up his residence at Saint-Cloud, my father-in-law was obliged to leave Malmaison, and install himself in the new palace, as the master wished him to take charge there.
Before leaving Malmaison, my father-in-law rendered an account to Madame Bonaparte of everything committed to his care, and all the cases which were piled up from floor to ceiling in two rooms were opened in her presence. Madame Bonaparte was astonished at such marvelous riches, comprising marbles, bronzes, and magnificent pictures, of which Eugene, Hortense, and the sisters of the First Consul received a large part, and the remainder was used in decorating the apartments of Malmaison.
The Empress's love of ornaments included for a while antique curiosities, cut stones, and medals. M. Denon flattered this whim, and ended by persuading the good Josephine that she was a perfect connoisseur in antiques, and that she should have at Malmaison a cabinet, a keeper for it, etc. This proposition, which flattered the self-love of the Empress, was favorably received; the room was selected, M. de M—— made keeper, and the new cabinet enriched by diminishing in the same proportion the rich furniture of the apartments of the chateau. M. Denon, who had originated this idea, took upon himself to make a collection of medals; but this idea, which came so suddenly, vanished as suddenly; the cabinet was changed into a saloon for guests, and the antiques relegated to the antechamber of the bathing hall, while M. de M——, having no longer anything to keep, remained constantly in Paris.
A short time after this, two ladies of the palace took a fancy to persuade the Empress that nothing could be handsomer or more worthy of her than a necklace of Greek and Roman antique stones perfectly matched. Several chamberlains approved the idea, which, of course, pleased the Empress, for she was very fond of anything unique; and consequently one morning, as I was dressing the Emperor, the Empress entered, and, after a little conversation, said, "Bonaparte, some ladies have advised me to have a necklace made of antique stones, and I came to ask you to urge M. Denon to select only very handsome ones." The Emperor burst out laughing, and refused flatly at first; but just then the grand marshal of the palace arrived, and the Emperor informed him of this request of the Empress, asking his opinion. M. le due de Frioul thought it very reasonable, and joined his entreaties to those of the Empress. "It is an egregious folly," said the Emperor; "but we are obliged to grant it, because the women wish it, so, Duroc, go to the cabinet of antiques, and choose whatever is necessary."
M. le due de Frioul soon returned with the finest stones in the collection, which the crown jeweler mounted magnificently; but this ornament was of such enormous weight that the Empress never wore it.
Though I may be accused of making tiresome repetitions, I must say that the Empress seized, with an eagerness which cannot be described, on all occasions of making benefactions. For instance, one morning when she was breakfasting alone with his Majesty, the cries of an infant were suddenly heard proceeding from a private staircase. The Emperor was annoyed at this, and with a frown, asked sharply what that meant. I went to investigate, and found a new-born child, carefully and neatly dressed, asleep in a kind of cradle, with a ribbon around its body from which hung a folded paper. I returned to tell what I had seen; and the Empress at once exclaimed, "O Constant! bring me the cradle." The Emperor would not permit this at first, and expressed his surprise and disapprobation that it should have been thus introduced into the interior of his apartments, whereupon her Majesty, having pointed out to him that it must have been done by some one of the household, he turned towards me, and gave me a searching look, as if to ask if it was I who had originated this idea. I shook my head in denial. At that moment the baby began to cry, and the Emperor could not keep from smiling, still growling, and saying, "Josephine, send away that monkey!"
The Empress, wishing to profit by this return of good humor, sent me for the cradle, which I brought to her. She caressed the little new-born babe, quieted it, and read the paper attached to which was a petition from its parents. Then she approached the Emperor, insisting on his caressing the infant himself, and pinching its fat little cheeks; which he did without much urging, for the Emperor himself loved to play with children. At last her Majesty the Empress, having placed a roll of napoleons in the cradle, had the little bundle in swaddling clothes carried to the concierge of the palace, in order that he might restore it to its parents.
I will now give another instance of the kindness of heart of her Majesty the Empress, of which I had the honor to be a witness, as well as of the preceding.
A few days before the coronation, a little girl four and a half years old had been rescued from the Seine; and a charitable lady, Madame Fabien Pillet, was much interested in providing a home for the poor orphan. At the time of the coronation, the Empress, who had been informed of this occurrence, asked to see this child, and having regarded it a few moments with much emotion, offered her protection most gracefully and sincerely to Madame Pillet and her husband, and announced to them that she would take upon herself the care of the little girl's future; then, with her usual delicacy and in the affectionate tone which was so natural to her, the Empress added, "Your good action has given you too many claims over the poor little girl for me to deprive you of the pleasure of completing your work, I therefore beg your permission to furnish the expenses of her education. You have the privilege of putting her in boarding-school, and watching over her; and I wish to take only a secondary position, as her benefactress." It was the most touching sight imaginable to see her Majesty, while uttering these delicate and generous words, pass her hands through the hair of the poor little girl, as she had just called her, and kiss her brow with the tenderness of a mother. M. and Madame Pillet withdrew, for they could no longer bear this touching scene.
The appointment of General Junot as ambassador to Portugal recalled to my recollection a laughable anecdote concerning him, which greatly amused the Emperor. While in camp at Boulogne, the Emperor had published in the order of the day that every soldier should discard powder, and arrange his hair 'a la Titus', on which there was much murmuring; but at last all submitted to the order of the chief, except one old grenadier belonging to the corps commanded by General Junot. Not being able to decide on the sacrifice of his oily tresses or his queue, the old soldier swore he would submit to it only in case his general would himself cut off the first lock; and all the officers interested in this affair having succeeded in getting no other reply, at last reported him to the general. "That can be managed; bring the idiot to me!" replied he. The grenadier was called, and General Junot himself applied the scissors to an oiled and powdered lock; after which he gave twenty francs to the grumbler, who went away satisfied to let the barber of the regiment finish the operation.
The Emperor having been informed of this adventure, laughed most heartily, and praised Junot, complimenting him on his condescension.
I could cite a thousand similar instances of the kindness of heart joined to military brusqueness which characterized General Junot, and could also cite those of another kind, which would do less honor to his name. The slight control he had over himself often threw him into transports of rage, the most ordinary effect of which was forgetfulness of his rank and the dignity of demeanor which it demanded of him. Every one has heard the adventure of the gambling-house, when he tore up the cards, upset the furniture, and beat both bankers and croupiers, to indemnify himself for the loss of his money; and the worst of it was, he was at that very time Governor of Paris. The Emperor, informed of this scandal, sent for him, and demanded of him (he was still very angry), if he had sworn to live and die mad. This might have been, from the sequel, taken as a prediction; for the unfortunate general died at last in a fit of mental aberration. He replied in such improper terms to the reprimands of the Emperor that he was sent, perhaps in order that he might have time to calm himself, to the army of England. It was not only in gaming-houses, however, that the governor thus compromised his dignity; for I have heard other stories about him of a still more shocking character, which I will not allow myself to repeat. The truth is, General Junot prided himself much less on respecting the proprieties than on being one of the best pistol-shots in the army. While riding in the country, he would often put his horse into a gallop, and with a pistol in each hand, never fail to cut off, in passing, the heads of the ducks or chickens which he took as his target. He could cut off a small twig from a tree at twenty-five paces; and I have even heard it said (I am far from guaranteeing the truth of this) that on one occasion, with the consent of the party whose imprudence thus put his life in peril, he cut half in two the stem of a clay pipe, hardly three inches long, which a soldier held between his teeth.
In the first journey which Madame Bonaparte made into Italy to rejoin her husband, she remained some time at Milan. She had at that time in her service a 'femme de chambre' named Louise, a large and very beautiful woman, and who showed favors, well remunerated however, to the brave Junot. As soon as her duties were ended, Louise, far more gorgeously attired than Madame Bonaparte, entered an elegant carriage, and rode through the city and the principal promenades, often eclipsing the wife of the General-in-chief. On his return to Paris, the latter obliged his wife to dismiss the beautiful Louise, who, abandoned by her inconstant lover, fell into great destitution; and I often saw her afterwards at the residence of Josephine begging aid, which was always most kindly granted. This young woman, who had dared to rival Madame Bonaparte in elegance, ended by marrying, I think, an English jockey, led a most unhappy life, and died in a miserable condition.
The First Consul of the French Republic, now become Emperor of the French, could no longer be satisfied with the title of President of Italy. Therefore, when new deputies of the Cisalpine Republic passed over the mountains, and gathered at Paris for consultation, they conferred on his Majesty the title of King of Italy, which he accepted, and a few days after his acceptance he set out for Milan, where he was to be crowned.
I returned with the greatest pleasure to that beautiful country, of which, notwithstanding the fatigues and dangers of war, I retained the most delightful recollections. How different the circumstances now! As a sovereign the Emperor was now about to cross the Alps, Piedmont, and Lombardy, each gorge, each stream, each defile of which we had been obliged in a former visit to carry by force of arms. In 1800 the escort of the First Consul was a warlike army; in 1805 it was a peaceful procession of chamberlains, pages, maids of honor, and officers of the palace.
Before his departure the Emperor held in his arms at the baptismal font, in company with Madame his mother, Prince Napoleon Louis, second son of his brother Prince Louis. [The third son lived to become Napoleon III.] The three sons of Queen Hortense had, if I am not much mistaken, the Emperor as godfather; but he loved most tenderly the eldest of the three, Prince Napoleon Charles, who died at the age of five years, Prince Royal of Holland. I shall speak afterwards of this lovely child, whose death threw his father and mother into the most overwhelming grief, was the cause of great sorrow to the Emperor, and may be considered as the source of the gravest events.
After the baptismal fetes we set out for Italy, accompanied by the Empress Josephine. Whenever it was convenient the Emperor liked to take her with him; but she always desired to accompany her husband, whether or not this was the case.
The Emperor usually kept his journey a profound secret up to the moment of his departure, and ordered at midnight horses for his departure to Mayence or Milan, exactly as if a hunt at Saint-Cloud or Rambouillet was in question.
On one of his journeys (I do not remember which), his Majesty had decided not to take the Empress Josephine. The Emperor was less disturbed by this company of ladies and women who formed her Majesty's suite, than he was by the annoyance of the bandboxes and bundles with which they were usually encumbered, and wished on this occasion to travel rapidly, and without ostentation, and spare the towns on his route an enormous increase of expense.
He therefore ordered everything to be in readiness for his departure, at one o'clock in the morning, at which hour the Empress was generally asleep; but, in spite of all precautions, some slight noise warned the Empress of what was taking place. The Emperor had promised her that she should accompany him on his first journey; but he had deceived her, nevertheless, and was about to set out without her! She instantly called her women; but vexed at their slowness, her Majesty sprang out of bed, threw on the first clothing she found at hand, and ran out of her room in slippers and without stockings. Weeping like a little child that is being taken back to boarding-school, she crossed the apartments, flew down the staircase, and threw herself into the arms of the Emperor, as he was entering his carriage, barely in time, however, for a moment later he set out. As almost always happened at the sight of his wife's tears, the Emperor's heart was softened; and she, seeing this, had already entered the carriage, and was cowering down in the foot, for the Empress was scantily clad. The Emperor covered her with his cloak, and before starting gave the order in person that, with the first relay, his wife should receive all she needed.
The Emperor, leaving his wife at Fontainebleau, repaired to Brienne, where he arrived at six o'clock in the evening, and found Mesdames de Brienne and Lomenie, with several ladies of the city, awaiting him at the foot of the staircase to the chateau. He entered the saloon, and received most graciously all persons who were presented to him, and then passed into the garden, conversing familiarly with Mesdames Brienne and Lomenie, and recalling with surprising accuracy the smallest particulars of the stay which he made during his childhood at the military school of Brienne.
His Majesty invited to his table at dinner his hostesses and a few of their friends, and afterwards made a party at a game of whist with Mesdames de Brienne, de Vandeuvre, and de Nolivres. During this game, as also at the table, his conversation was animated and most interesting, and he displayed such liveliness and affability that every one was delighted.
His Majesty passed the night at the chateau of Brienne, and rose early to visit the field of la Rothiere, one of his favorite walks in former days. He revisited with the greatest pleasure those spots where his early youth had been passed, and pointed them out with a kind of pride, all his movements, all his reflections, seeming to say, "See whence I set out, and where I have arrived."
His Majesty walked in advance of the persons who accompanied him, and took much pleasure in being first to call by their names the various localities he passed. A peasant, seeing him thus some distance from his suite, cried out to him familiarly, "Oh, citizen, is the Emperor going to pass soon?"—"Yes," replied the Emperor, "have patience."
The Emperor had inquired the evening before, of Madame Brienne, news of Mother Marguerite. Thus was styled a good woman who dwelt in a cottage, in the midst of the forest, and on whom the, pupils of the military academy were accustomed to make frequent visits. He had not forgotten her name, and learning, with as much joy as surprise, that she still lived, the Emperor, extended his morning ride, and galloping up to the door of the cottage, alighted from his horse, and entered the home of the good old peasant. Her sight was impaired by age; and besides, the Emperor had changed so much since she had seen him that it would have been difficult even for the best eyes to recognize him. "Good-day, Mother Marguerite," said his Majesty, saluting the old woman; "so you are not curious to see the Emperor?"—"Yes, indeed, my good sir; I am very curious to see him; so much so, that here is a little basket of fresh eggs that I am going to carry to Madame; and I shall then remain at the chateau, and endeavor to see the Emperor. But the trouble is, I shall not be able to see him so well to-day as formerly, when he came with his comrades to drink milk at Mother Marguerite's. He was not Emperor then; but that was nothing, he made the others step around! Indeed, you should have seen him! The milk, the eggs, the brown bread, the broken dishes though he took care to have me paid for everything, and began by paying his own bill."—"What! Mother Marguerite," replied his Majesty, smiling, "you have not forgotten Bonaparte!"—"Forgotten! my good sir; you think that any one would forget such a young man as he, who was wise, serious, and sometimes even sad, but always good to poor people? I am only a poor peasant woman, but I could have predicted that this young man would make his way. He has not done it very badly, has he? Ah, no, indeed!"
During this short dialogue, the Emperor had at first turned his back to the door, and consequently to the light, which entered the cottage only by that means. But, by degrees; the Emperor approached the good woman; and when he was quite near her, with the light shining full on his face from the door, he began to rub his hands and say, trying to recall the tone and manner of the days of his early youth, when he came to the peasant's house, "Come, Mother Marguerite, some milk and fresh eggs; we are famishing." The good old woman seemed trying to revive her memories, and began to observe the Emperor with the closest attention. "Oh, yes, Mother, you were so sure a while ago of knowing Bonaparte again. Are we not old acquaintances, we two?" The peasant, while the Emperor was addressing these last words to her, had fallen at his feet; but he raised her with the most touching kindness, and said to her, "The truth is, Mother Marguerite, I have still a schoolboy's appetite. Have you nothing to give me?" The good woman, almost beside herself with happiness, served his Majesty with eggs and milk; and when this simple repast was ended, his Majesty gave his aged hostess a purse full of gold, saying to her, "You know, Mother Marguerite, that I believe in paying my bills. Adieu, I shall not forget you." And while the Emperor remounted his horse, the good old woman, standing on the threshold of her door, promised him, with tears of joy, to pray to the good God for him.
One morning, when he awoke, his Majesty was speaking of the possibility of finding some of his old acquaintances; and an anecdote concerning General Junot was related to him, which amused him greatly. The General finding himself, on his return from Egypt, at Montbard, where he had passed several years of his childhood, had sought with the greatest care for his companions in school and mischief, and had found several, with whom he had talked gayly and freely of his early frolics and his schoolboy excursions. As they went together to revisit the different localities, each of which awakened in them some memory of their youth, the general saw an old man majestically promenading on the public square with a large cane in his hand. He immediately ran up to him, threw his arms around him, and embraced him many times, almost suffocating him. The promenader disengaged himself with great difficulty from his warm embraces, regarded General Junot with an amazed air, and remarked that he was ignorant to what he could attribute such excessive tenderness from a soldier wearing the uniform of a superior officer, and all the indications of high rank. "What," cried he, "do you not recognize me?"— "Citizen General, I pray you to excuse me, but I have no idea"— "Ah, morbleu, my dear master, have you forgotten the most idle, the most lawless, the most incorrigible of your scholars?"—"A thousand pardons, you are Monsieur Junot."—"Himself!" replied Junot, renewing his embraces, and laughing with his friends at the singular characteristics by which he had caused himself to be recognized. As for his Majesty the Emperor, if any of his old masters had failed to recognize him, it could not be by reminiscences of this kind that he could have recalled himself to them; for every one knows that he was distinguished at the military school for his application to work, and the regularity and sobriety of his life.
A meeting of the same nature, saving the difference in recollections, awaited the Emperor at Brienne. While he was visiting the old military school, now falling to ruin, and pointing out to the persons who surrounded him the situation of the study halls, dormitories, refectories, etc., an ecclesiastic who had been tutor of one of the classes in the school was presented to him. The Emperor recognized him immediately; and, uttering an exclamation of surprise, his Majesty conversed more than twenty minutes with this gentleman, leaving him full of gratitude.
The Emperor, before leaving Brienne to return to Fontainebleau, required the mayor to give him a written account of the most pressing needs of the commune, and left on his departure a considerable sum for the poor and the hospitals.
Passing through Troyes, the Emperor left there, as everywhere else, souvenirs of his generosity. The widow of a general officer, living in retirement at Joinville (I regret that I have forgotten the name of this venerable lady, who was more than an octogenarian), came to Troyes, notwithstanding her great age, to ask aid from his Majesty. Her husband having served only before the Revolution, the pension which she had enjoyed had been taken from her under the Republic, and she was in the greatest destitution. The brother of General Vouittemont, mayor of a commune in the suburbs of Troyes, was kind enough to consult me as to what should be done in order to present this lady to the Emperor; and I advised him to have her name placed on the list of his Majesty's private audiences. I myself took the liberty of speaking of Madame de to the Emperor; and the audience was granted, though I do not pretend to attribute the merit of it to myself, for in traveling the Emperor was always very accessible.
When the good lady came to attend the audience with M. de Vouittemont, to whom his municipal scarf gave the right of entrance, I happened to meet them, and she stopped to thank me for the little service which she insisted I had rendered her, and mentioned that she had been obliged to pawn the six silver plates which alone remained to her, in order to pay the expenses of her journey; that, having arrived at Troyes in a poor farm wagon, covered with a cloth thrown over a hoop, and which had shaken her terribly, she could find no place in the inns, all of which were filled on account of the arrival of their Majesties; and she would have been obliged to sleep in her wagon had it not been for the kind consideration of M. de Vouittemont, who had given up his room to her, and offered his services. In spite of her more than eighty years, and her distress, this respectable lady related her story with an air of gentle gayety, and at the close threw a grateful glance at her guide, on whose arm she was leaning.
At that moment the usher came to announce that her turn had come, and she entered the saloon of audience. M. de Vouittemont awaited her return while conversing with me; and on her return she related to us, scarcely able to control her emotion, that the Emperor had in the kindest manner received the memorial she presented to him, had read it attentively, and passed it to a minister who was near him, with the order to do her justice this very day.
The next day she received the warrant for a pension of three thousand francs, the first year's pay being handed her at once.
At Lyons, of which Cardinal Fesch was archbishop, the Emperor lodged in the archiepiscopal palace. [Joseph Fesch, born in Corsica, 1763, was half-brother to Napoleon's mother. Archbishop of Lyons 1801, cardinal 1803, died 1839]
During the stay of their Majesties the cardinal exerted himself to the utmost to gratify every wish of his nephew; and in his eagerness to please, monseigneur applied to me many times each day to be assured that nothing was lacking; so everything passed off admirably. The zeal of the cardinal was remarked by all the household; but for my part I thought I perceived that the zeal displayed by monseigneur in the reception of their Majesties took on an added strength whenever there was a question of all the expenses incurred by this visit, which were considerable, being paid by them. His eminence, I thought, drew very fine interest on his investment, and his generous hospitality was handsomely compensated by the liberality of his guests.
The passage of Mont Cenis was by no means so difficult as had been that of Mont St. Bernard; although the road, which has since been made by the Emperor's orders, was not then commenced. At the foot of the mountain they were obliged to take the carriage to pieces, and transport it on the backs of mules; and their Majesties crossed the mountain partly on foot, partly in very handsome sedan chairs which had been made at Turin, that of the Emperor lined with crimson satin, and ornamented with gold lace and fringes, and that of the Empress in blue satin, with silver lace and fringes. The snow had been carefully swept off and removed. On their arrival at the convent they were most warmly received by the good monks; and the Emperor, who had a singular affection for them, held a long conversation with them, and did not depart without leaving rich and numerous tokens of his liberality. As soon as he arrived at Turin he gave orders for the improvement of their hospice, which he continued to support till his fall.
Their Majesties remained several days at Turin, where they occupied the former palace of the kings of Sardinia, constituted the imperial residence by a decree of the Emperor during our stay, as was also the castle of Stupinigi, situated a short distance from the town.
The Pope rejoined their Majesties at Stupinigi; the Holy Father had left Paris almost at the same time as ourselves, and before his departure had received from the Emperor magnificent presents. Among these was a golden altar with chandeliers, and holy vessels of the richest workmanship, a superb tiara, Gobelin tapestries, and carpets from the Savonnerie, with a statue of the Emperor in Sevres porcelain. The Empress also made to his Holiness a present of a vase of the same manufacture, adorned with paintings by the best artists. This masterpiece was at least four feet in height, and two feet and a half in diameter at the mouth, and was made expressly to be offered to the Holy Father, the painting representing, if my memory is correct, the ceremony of the coronation.
Each of the cardinals in the suite of the Pope had received a box of beautiful workmanship, with the portrait of the Emperor set in diamonds; and all the persons attached to the service of Pius VII. had presents more or less considerable, all these various articles being brought by the furnishers to the apartments of his Majesty, where I took a list of them, by order of his Majesty, as they arrived.
The Holy Father also made in return very handsome presents to the officers of the Emperor's household whose duties had brought them near his person during his stay at Paris.
From Stupinigi we went to Alexandria. The Emperor, the next day after his arrival, rose early, visited the fortifications of the town, reviewed all the positions of the battlefield of Marengo, and returned only at seven o'clock, and after having broken down five horses. A few days after he wished the Empress to see this famous plain, and by his orders an army of twenty-five or thirty thousand men was assembled. The morning of the day fixed for the review of these troops, the Emperor left his apartment dressed in a blue coat with long skirts, much worn, and even with holes in some places. These holes were the work of moths and not of balls, as has been said in certain memoirs. On his head his Majesty wore an old hat edged with gold lace, tarnished and frayed, and at his side a cavalry saber, such as the generals of the Republic wore; this was the coat, hat, and sword that he had worn on the day of the battle of Marengo. I afterwards lent these articles to Monsieur David, first painter to his Majesty, for his picture of the passage of Mont St. Bernard. A vast amphitheater had been raised on this plain for the Empress and the suite of their Majesties; the day was perfect, as is each day of the month of May in Italy. After riding along the ranks, the Emperor took his seat by the side of the Empress, and made to the troops a distribution of the cross of the Legion of Honor, after which he laid the corner stone of a monument, which he had directed to be raised on the plain to the memory of the soldiers who had fallen on the battlefield. When his Majesty, in the short address which he made to the army on this occasion, pronounced in a strong voice, vibrating with emotion, the name of Desaix, who here died gloriously for his country, a murmur of grief ran through the ranks of the soldiers. As for me, I was moved to tears; and as my eyes fell on this army, on its banners, on the costume of the Emperor, I was obliged to turn from time to time towards the throne of her Majesty the Empress, to realize that this was not the 14th of June in the year 1800.
I think it was during this stay at Alexandria, that Prince Jerome Bonaparte had an interview with the Emperor, in which the latter seriously and earnestly remonstrated with his brother, and Prince Jerome left the cabinet visibly agitated. This displeasure of the Emperor arose from the marriage contracted by his brother, at the age of nineteen, with the daughter of an American merchant.
His Majesty had this union annulled on the plea of minority, and made a decree forbidding the officers of the civil state to receive, on their registers, the record of the certificate of the celebration of the marriage of Monsieur Jerome with Mademoiselle Patterson. For some time the Emperor treated him with great coolness, and kept him at a distance; but a few days after the interview at Alexandria, he sent him to Algiers to claim as subjects of the Empire two hundred Genoese held as slaves. The young prince acquitted himself handsomely of this mission of humanity, and returned in the month of August to the port of Genoa, with the captives whom he had just released. The Emperor was well satisfied with the manner in which his brother had carried out his instructions, and said on this occasion, that "Prince Jerome was very young and very thoughtless, that he needed more weight in his head, but that, nevertheless, he hoped to make something of him."
This brother of his Majesty was one among the few persons whom he really loved, although he had often given him just cause for anger.
Their Majesties remained more than a month at Milan, and I had ample leisure to acquaint myself with this beautiful capital of Lombardy. This visit was a continual succession of fetes and gayeties; and it seemed that the Emperor alone had time to give to work, for he shut himself up, as was his custom, with his ministers, while all the persons of his suite and of his household, whose duties did not detain them near his Majesty, were eagerly taking part in the sports and diversions of the Milanese. I will enter into no details of the coronation, as it was almost a repetition of what had taken place at Paris a few months before; and as all solemnities of this sort are alike, every one is familiar with the least details. Amid all these fete days there was one day of real happiness to me: it was that on which Prince Eugene, whose kindness to me I have never forgotten, was proclaimed viceroy of Italy. Truly, no one could be more worthy than he of a rank so elevated, if to attain it only nobility, generosity, courage, and skill in the art of governing, were needed; for never did prince more sincerely desire the prosperity of the people confided to his care. I have often observed how truly happy he was, and what genuine delight beamed from his countenance when he had shed happiness around him.
The Emperor and Empress went one day to breakfast in the environs of Milan, on a little island called Olona. While walking over it, the Emperor met a poor woman, whose cottage was near the place where their Majesties' table had been set, and he addressed to her a number of questions. "Monsieur," replied she (not knowing the Emperor), "I am very poor, and the mother of three children, whom I have great difficulty in supporting, because my husband, who is a day laborer, has not always work."—"How much would it take," replied his Majesty, "to make you perfectly happy?"—"O Sire, it would take a great deal of money."—"But how much, my good woman, how much would be necessary?"—"Ah, Monsieur, unless we had twenty louis, we would not be above want; but what chance is there of our ever having twenty louis?"
The Emperor gave her, on the spot, the sum of three thousand francs in gold, and ordered me to untie the rolls and pour them all into the good woman's lap.
At the sight of so much gold the latter grew pale, reeled, and I saw she was fainting. "All, that is too much, Monsieur, that is indeed too much. Surely you could not be making sport of a poor woman!"
The Emperor assured her that it was indeed all hers, and that with this money she could buy a little field, a flock of goats, and raise her children well.
His Majesty did not make himself known; for he liked, in dispensing his benefits, to preserve his incognito, and I knew, during his life, a large number of instances similar to the foregoing. It seems that historians have made it a point to pass them over in silence; and yet it is, I think, by the rehearsal of just such deeds that a correct idea of the Emperor's character can and should be formed.
Deputations from the Ligurian Republic, with the Doge at their head, had come to Milan to entreat the Emperor to annex Genoa and its territory to the Empire, which demand his Majesty took care not to refuse, and by a decree formed of the Genoese states three departments of his Italian kingdom. The Emperor and Empress set out from Milan to visit these departments and some others.
We had been at Mantua a short time, when one evening, about six o'clock, Grand Marshal Duroc gave me an order to remain alone in a little room adjoining that of the Emperor, and informed me that Count Lucien Bonaparte would arrive soon. He came in a few moments; and as soon as he announced himself, I introduced him into, the Emperor's bedroom, and then knocked at the door of the Emperor's cabinet, to inform him of his arrival. After saluting each other, the two brothers shut themselves up in the room, and there soon arose between them a very animated discussion; and being compelled to remain in the little saloon, much against my will, I overheard a great part of the conversation. The Emperor was urging his brother to get a divorce, and promised him a crown if he would do this; but Lucien replied that he would never abandon the mother of his children, which refusal irritated the Emperor so greatly, that his expressions became harsh and even insulting. When this altercation had lasted more than an hour, M. Lucien came out from it in a deplorable condition, pale and disheveled, his eyes red and filled with tears; and we did not see him again, for, on quitting his brother, he returned to Rome.
The Emperor was greatly troubled by this refusal of his brother, and did not open his mouth on retiring. It has been maintained that the disagreement between the brothers was caused by the elevation of the First Consul to the Empire, and Lucien's disapproval of this step; but that is a mistake. It is indeed true that the latter had proposed to continue the Republic under the government of two consuls, who were to be Napoleon and Lucien, one to be at the head of the department of war and foreign relations, the other of everything connected with the affairs of the interior; but although the failure of this plan must have disappointed Lucien, the avidity with which he accepted the titles of senator and count of the Empire proved that he cared very little for a republic of which he was not to be one of the heads. I am sure that the marriage of Monsieur Lucien to Madame Jouberthon was the only cause of this disagreement. The Emperor disapproved of this union because the lady's reputation was somewhat doubtful, and she was also divorced from her husband, who had become insolvent, and had fled to America. This insolvency, and the divorce especially, offended Napoleon deeply, who always felt a great repugnance for divorced people.
Before this, the Emperor had wished to raise his brother to the rank of sovereign, by making him marry the Queen of Etruria, who had lost her husband. Lucien had refused this alliance on several different occasions; and at last the Emperor became angry, and said to him, "You see how far you are carrying your infatuation and your foolish love for a femme galante."—"At least," replied Lucien, "mine is young and pretty," alluding to the Empress Josephine, who had been both the one and the other.
The boldness of this reply excited the Emperor's anger beyond all bounds. At that moment he held in his hands his watch, which he dashed with all his might on the floor, crying out, "Since you will listen to nothing, see, I will break you like this watch."
Differences had arisen between the brothers before the establishment of the Empire; and among the acts which caused the disgrace of Lucien, I have often heard the following cited.
Lucien, being minister of the interior, received the order of the First Consul to let no wheat go out of the territory of the Republic. Our warehouses were filled, and France abundantly supplied; but this was not the case in England, and the scarcity of it was beginning to be felt there. It was never known how it happened; but the larger part of this grain passed the Strait of Calais, and it was stated positively that the sum of twenty millions was received for it. On learning this, the First Consul took away the portfolio of the interior from his brother, and appointed him ambassador to Spain.
At Madrid, Monsieur Lucien was well received by the king and the royal family, and became the intimate friend of Don Manuel Godoy, Prince de la Paix. It was during this mission, and by agreement with the Prince de la Paix, that the treaty of Badajos was concluded, in order to procure which it is said that Portugal gave thirty millions. It has been also declared that more than this sum, paid in gold and diamonds, was divided between the two plenipotentiaries, who did not think it necessary to render an account of this transaction to their respective courts.
Charles IV. loved Lucien tenderly, and felt for the First Consul the greatest veneration. After examining carefully several Spanish horses which he intended for the First Consul, he said to his head groom: "How fortunate you are, and how I envy your happiness! you are going to see the great man, and you will speak to him; how I should like to take your place!"
During his embassage Lucien had paid his court to a person of most elevated rank, and had received her portrait in a medallion surrounded with very fine brilliants. I have seen a hundred times this portrait which he wore suspended from his neck by a chain of most beautiful black hair; and far from making a mystery of it, he endeavored, on the contrary, to show it, and bent over so that the rich medallion could be seen hanging on his breast.
Before his departure from Madrid, the king likewise made him a present of his own portrait in miniature, also set in diamonds.
These stones, remounted and set in the form of a hat buckle, passed to the second wife of Lucien. I will now give an account of his marriage with Madame Jouberthon, as related to me by a person who resided in the same house.
The First Consul was informed each day, and very promptly, of all that took place in the interior of the homes of his brothers, a circumstantial account being rendered, even as to the smallest particulars and the slightest details. Lucien, wishing to marry Madame Jouberthon, whom he had met at the house of the Count de L——, an intimate friend of his, wrote between two and three o'clock in the afternoon to Duquesnoy, mayor of the tenth arrondissement, requesting him to come to his residence, Rue Saint Dominique, about eight o'clock in the evening, and bring the marriage register.
Between five and six o'clock Monsieur Duquesnoy, mayor of the tenth arrondissement, received from the chateau of the Tuileries an order not to take the register out of the municipality, and above all not to celebrate any marriage whatever, unless, in accordance with the law, the names of the parties thereto had been published for eight days.
At the hour indicated Duquesnoy arrived at the residence, and asked to speak in private to the count, to whom he communicated the order emanating from the chateau.
Beside himself with anger, Lucien immediately hired a hundred post-horses for himself and friends; and without delay he and Madame Jouberthon, with these friends and the people of his household, took carriages for the chateau of Plessis-Chamant, a pleasure-house half a league beyond Senlis. The cure of the place, who was also associate mayor, was summoned, and at midnight pronounced the civil marriage; then, putting on his sacerdotal robes over the scarf he wore as an officer of the civil state, he bestowed on the fugitives the nuptial benediction. A good supper was then served, at which the assistant and cure were present; but, as he returned to his vicarage about six o'clock in the morning, he saw at his gate a post-chaise, guarded by two soldiers, and on entering his house, found there an officer of the armed police, who invited him politely to be kind enough to accompany him to Paris. The poor curate thought himself lost; but he was compelled to obey, under penalty of being carried to Paris from one guard-house to another by the police.
Nothing was left for him but to enter the fatal chaise, which was drawn at a gallop by two good horses, and soon arrived at the Tuileries, where he was brought into the cabinet of the First Consul, who said to him in a voice of thunder, "It is you, then, Monsieur, who marry members of my family without my consent, and without having published the bans, as is your duty in your double character of cure and assistant mayor. You well know that you deserve to be deprived of your office, excommunicated, and tried before the courts." The unfortunate priest believed himself already in prison; but after a severe lecture he was sent back to his curacy, and the two brothers were never reconciled.
In spite of all these differences, Lucien always counted on the affection of his brother to obtain him a kingdom. I guarantee the authenticity of the following incident, which was related to me by a reliable person: Lucien had in charge of his establishment a friend of his early youth, the same age as himself, and like him born in Corsica, who was named Campi, and enjoyed the most confidential relations in the count's household. On the day that the 'Moniteur' gave a list of the new French princes, Campi was promenading in the handsome gallery of pictures collected by Lucien, with the latter's young secretary, when the following conversation occurred between them. "You have no doubt read the 'Moniteur' of to-day?"—"Yes."—"You have seen that all the members of the family have had the title of French princes bestowed on them, and the name of monsieur le count alone is wanting to the list."—"What matters that? There are kingdoms."—"Considering the care that sovereigns take to keep them, there will hardly be any vacancy."— "Ah, well, they will be made. All the royal families of Europe are worn out, and we must have new ones." Thereupon Campi was silent, and advised the young man to hold his tongue, if he wished to preserve the favor of the count. However, it was not long after this before the young secretary repeated this confidential conversation, which, without being singularly striking, gives, however, an idea of the amount of confidence which should be placed in the pretended moderation of Count Lucien, and in the epigrams against his brother and his family which have been attributed to him.
No one in the chateau was ignorant of the hostility which existed between Lucien Bonaparte and the Empress Josephine; and to make their court to the latter the former habitues of Malmaison, now become the courtiers of the Tuileries; were in the habit of relating to her the most piquant anecdotes they could collect relative to the younger brother of the Emperor. Thus it happened that by chance one day I heard a dignified person and a senator of the Empire give the Empress, in the gayest manner imaginable, very minute details as to one of the temporary liaisons of Count Lucien. I do not guarantee the authenticity of the anecdote, and I experience in writing it more embarrassment than the senator displayed in relating it, and omit, indeed, a mass of details which the narrator gave without blushing, and without driving off his audience; for my object is to throw light upon the family secrets of the imperial household, and on the habits of the persons who were nearest the Emperor, and not to publish scandal, though I could justify myself by the example of a dignitary of the Empire.
Count Lucien (I do not know in what year) established himself in the good graces of Mademoiselle Meserai, an actress of the Theatre Francais, who was both pretty and sprightly. The conquest was not difficult, in the first place, because this had never been her character towards any one, and, secondly, because the artiste knew the great wealth of the count, and believed him to be prodigal. The first attentions of her lover confirmed her in this opinion, and she demanded a house. He at once presented her with one richly and elegantly furnished, the deed being put in her hands on the day she took possession; and each visit of the count added to the actress's wardrobe or jewel-case some new gifts. This lasted some months, at the end of which Lucien became disgusted with his bargain, and began to consider by what means to break it without losing too much. Among other things, he had made mademoiselle a present of a pair of girandoles, containing diamonds of great value. In one of the last interviews, before the count had allowed any signs of coldness to be seen, he perceived the girandoles on the toilet-table of his mistress, and, taking them in his hands, said, "Really, my dear, you do me injustice; why do you not show more confidence in me? I do not wish you to wear jewelry so much out of date as these."—"Why, it has been only six months since you gave them to me."—"I know it; but a woman of good taste, a woman who respects herself, should never wear anything six months old. I will take the ear-rings and send them to de Villiers [he was the count's jeweler] with orders to mount them as I wish." The count was tenderly thanked for so delicate an attention, and put the girandoles in his pocket, with one or two necklaces which had also been his gift, and which did not appear to him sufficiently new in style, and the breach took place before any of these had been returned.
Notwithstanding this, Mademoiselle believed herself well provided for with her furniture and her house, until one morning the true proprietor came to ask her wishes as to making a new lease. She ran to examine her deed, which she had not yet thought to do, and found that it was simply a description of the property, at the end of which was a receipt for two years' rent.
During our stay at Genoa the heat was insupportable; from this the Emperor suffered greatly, saying he had never experienced the like in Egypt, and undressed many times a day. His bed was covered with a mosquito netting, for the insects were numerous and worrying. The windows of the bedroom looked out upon a grand terrace on the margin of the sea, and from them could be seen the gulf and all the surrounding country. The fetes given by the city were superb. An immense number of vessels were fastened together, and filled with orange and citrontrees and shrubs, some covered with flowers, some with fruits, and all combined formed a most exquisite floating garden which their Majesties visited on a magnificent yacht.
On his return to France, the Emperor made no halt between Turin and Fontainebleau. He traveled incognito, in the name of the minister of the interior, and went at such speed that at each relay they were obliged to throw water on the wheels; but in spite of this his Majesty complained of the slowness of the postilions, and cried continually, "Hurry up! hurry up! we are hardly moving." Many of the servants' carriages were, left in the rear; though mine experienced no delay, and I arrived at each relay at the same time as the Emperor.
In ascending the steep hill of Tarare, the Emperor alighted from the carriage, as did also Berthier, who accompanied him; the carriages of the suite being some distance behind, as the drivers had stopped to breathe their horses.
His Majesty saw, climbing the hill a few steps before him, an old, decrepit woman, who hobbled along with great difficulty. As the Emperor approached her he inquired why, infirm as she was, and apparently so fatigued, she should attempt to travel so difficult a road.
"Sir," replied she, "they tell me the Emperor is to pass along here, and I wish to see him before I die." His Majesty, who liked to be amused, said to her, "Ah, but why trouble yourself about him? He is a tyrant, like all the rest." The good woman, indignant at this remark, angrily replied, "At least, Sir, he is our choice; and since we must have a master, it is at least right that we should choose him." I was not an eye-witness of this incident; but I heard the Emperor himself relate it to Dr. Corvisart, with some remarks upon the good sense of the masses, who, according to the opinion of his Majesty and his chief doctor, had generally formed very correct opinions.
His Majesty the Emperor passed the month of January, 1806, at Munich and Stuttgard, during which, in the first of these two capitals, the marriage of the vice-king and the Princess of Bavaria was celebrated. On this occasion there was a succession of magnificent fetes, of which the Emperor was always the hero, and at which his hosts tried, by every variety of homage, to express to this great man the admiration with which his military genius inspired them.
The vice-king and vice-queen had never met before their marriage, but were soon as much attached to each other as if they had been acquainted for years, for never were two persons more perfectly congenial. No princess, and indeed no mother, could have manifested more affection and care for her children than the vice-queen; and she might well serve as a model for all women. I have been told an incident concerning this admirable princess which I take pleasure in relating here. One of her daughters, who was quite young, having spoken in a very harsh tone to her maid, her most serene highness the vice-queen was informed of it, and in order to give her daughter a lesson, forbade the servants to render the young princess any service, or to reply to any of her demands, from that time. The child at once complained to her mother, who told her gravely that when any one received, like her, the care and attention of all around them, it was necessary to merit this, and to show her appreciation by consideration and an obliging politeness. Then she required her to ask pardon of the 'femme de chambre', and henceforward to speak to her politely, assuring her that by this means she would always obtain compliance with all reasonable and just requests she might make.
The child obeyed; and the lesson was of such benefit to her that she became, if general report is to be believed, one of the most accomplished princesses of Europe. The report of her perfections spread abroad even to the New World, which contended for her with the Old, and has been fortunate enough to obtain her. She is at this time, I think, Empress of Brazil.
His Majesty the King of Bavaria, Maximilian Joseph, then about fifty years of age, was very tall, with a noble and attractive physiognomy and fascinating manners. Before the Revolution he had been colonel of an Alsatian regiment in the service of France, under the name of Prince Maximilian, or Prince Max as the soldiers called him, and stationed at Strasburg, where he left a reputation for elegance and chivalrous gallantry. His subjects, his family, his servants, everybody, adored him. He often took long walks through the city of Munich in the morning, went to the market, inquired the price of grain, entered the shops, spoke to every one, especially the children, whom he persuaded to go to school. This excellent prince did not fear to compromise his dignity by the simplicity of his manners; and he was right, for I do not think any one ever failed to show him respect, and the love which he inspired lessened in no wise the veneration which was felt for him. Such was his devotion to the Emperor, that his kindly feelings extended even to the persons who by their functions approached nearest to his Majesty, and were in the best position to know his needs and wishes. Thus (I do not relate it out of vanity, but in proof of what I have just said) his Majesty the King of Bavaria never came to see the Emperor, that he did not take my hand and inquire first after the health of his Imperial Majesty, then after my own, adding many things which plainly showed his attachment for the Emperor and his natural goodness.
His Majesty the King of Bavaria is now in the tomb, like him who gave him a throne; but this tomb is still a royal tomb, and the loyal Bavarians can come to kneel and weep over it. The Emperor, on the contrary—
[Constant wrote this before the return, in 1840, of the ashes of Napoleon to rest on "the banks of the Seine, amid the French people whom he loved so well," where in a massive urn of porphyry, and beneath the gilded dome of the Invalides, in the most splendid tomb of the centuries, sleeps now the soldier of Lodi, Marengo, Austerlitz, Wagram, and Waterloo.—TRANS.]
The virtuous Maximilian was able to leave to a worthy son the scepter which he had received from him who perished an exile at St. Helena. Prince Louis, the present King of Bavaria, and to-day perhaps the best king in Europe, was not so tall as his august father, neither was his face so handsome; and, unfortunately, he was afflicted with an extreme deafness, which made him raise his voice without knowing it, and in addition to this his utterance was impeded by a slight stammering. This prince was grave and studious; and the Emperor recognized his merit, but did not rely upon his friendship. This was not because he thought him wanting in loyalty, for the prince royal was above such suspicion; but the Emperor was aware that he belonged to a party which feared the subjection of Germany, and who suspected that the French, although they had so far attacked only Austria, had ideas of conquest over all the German powers.
However, what I have just stated in regard to the prince royal relates only to the years subsequent to 1806; for I am certain that at that epoch his sentiments did not differ from those of the good Maximilian, who was, as I have said, full of gratitude to the Emperor. Prince Louis came to Paris at the beginning of this year; and I saw him many times at the court theater in the box of the prince arch-chancellor, where they both slept in company and very profoundly. This was also such a habit with Cambaceres, that when the Emperor asked for him, and was told that monseigneur was at the theater, he replied, "Very well, very well; he is taking his siesta; let us not disturb him!"
The King of Wurtemburg was large, and so fat that it was said of him God had put him in the world to prove how far the skin of a man could be stretched. His stomach was of such dimensions that it was found necessary to make a broad, round incision in front of his seat at the table; and yet, notwithstanding this precaution, he was obliged to hold his plate on a level with his chin to drink his soup. He was very fond of hunting, either on horseback, or in a little Russian carriage drawn by four horses, which he often drove himself. He was fond of horseback riding, but it was no easy task to find a mount of size and strength sufficient to carry so heavy a burden. It was necessary that the poor animal should be progressively trained; and in order to accomplish this the king's equerry fastened round the horse a girth loaded with pieces of lead, increasing the weight daily till it equalled that of his Majesty. The king was despotic, hard, and even cruel, ever ready to sign the sentence of the condemned, and in almost all cases, if what is said at Stuttgart be true, increased the penalty inflicted by the judges. Hard to please, and brutal, he often struck the people of his household; and it is even said that he did not spare her Majesty the queen, his wife, who was a sister of the present King of England. Notwithstanding all this, he was a prince whose knowledge and brilliant mind the Emperor esteemed; for they had a mutual affection for each other, and he found him faithful to his alliance to the very end. King Frederic of Wurtemburg had a brilliant and numerous court, at which he displayed great magnificence.
The hereditary prince was much beloved; he was less haughty and more humane than his father, and was said to be just and liberal.
Besides those crowned by his hand, the Emperor, while in Bavaria, received a great number of the princes of the Confederation; and they usually dined with his Majesty. In this crowd of royal courtiers the prince primate was noticeable, who differed in nothing as to manners, bearing, and dress from the most fashionable gentlemen of Paris. The Emperor paid him special attention. I cannot pay the same eulogy to the toilet of the princesses, duchesses, and other noble ladies; for most of them dressed in exceedingly bad taste, and, displaying neither art nor grace, covered their heads with plumes, bits of gold, and silver gauze, fastened with a great quantity of diamond-headed pins.
The equipages the German nobility used were all very large coaches, which were a necessity from the enormous hoops still worn by those ladies; and this adherence to antiquated fashions was all the more surprising, because at that time Germany enjoyed the great advantage of possessing two fashion journals. One was the translation of the magazine published by Mesangere; and the other, also edited at Paris, was translated and printed at Mannheim. These ridiculous carriages, which much resembled our ancient diligences, were drawn by very inferior horses, harnessed with ropes, and placed so far apart that an immense space was needed to turn the carriage.
The Prince of Saxe-Gotha was long and thin. In spite of his great age, he was enough of a dandy to order at Paris, from our hairdresser Michalon, some pretty little wigs of youthful blonde, curled like the hair of Cupid; but, apart from this, he was an excellent man. I recollect, a propos of the noble German ladies, to have seen at the court theater at Fontainebleau a princess of the Confederation who was being presented to their Majesties. The toilet of her Highness announced an immense progress in the elegance of civilization beyond the Rhine; for, renouncing the Gothic hoops, the princess had adopted the very latest fashions, and, though nearly seventy years of age, wore a dress of black lace over red satin, and her coiffure consisted of a white muslin veil, fastened by a wreath of roses, in the style of the vestals of the opera. She had with her a granddaughter, brilliant with the charm of youth, and admired by the whole court, although her costume was less stylish than that of her grandmother.
I heard her Majesty, the Empress Josephine, relate one day that she had much difficulty in repressing a smile when, among a number of German princesses presented to her, one was announced under the name of Cunegonde [Cunegonde was the mistress of Candide in Voltaire's novel of Candide.] Her Majesty added that, when she saw the princess take her seat, she imagined she saw her lean to one side. Assuredly the Empress had read the adventures of Candide and the daughter of the very noble baron of Thunder-Ten-Trunck.
At Paris, in the spring of 1806, I saw almost as many members of the Confederation as I had seen in the capitals of Bavaria and Wurtemburg. A French name had the precedence among these names of foreign princes. It was that of Prince Murat, who in the month of March was made Grand- duke of Berg and Cleves. After Prince Louis of Bavaria, arrived the hereditary prince of Baden, who came to Paris to marry a niece of the Empress.
At the beginning this union was not happy. The Princess Stephanie (de Beauharnais) was a very pretty woman, graceful and witty; and the Emperor had wished to make a great lady of her, and had married her without consulting her wishes. Prince Charles-Louis-Frederic was then twenty years of age, and though exceedingly good, brave, and generous, and possessing many admirable traits, was heavy and phlegmatic, ever maintaining an icy gravity, and entirely destitute of the qualities which would attract a young princess accustomed to the brilliant elegance of the imperial court.
The marriage took place in April, to the great satisfaction of the prince, who that day appeared to do violence to his usual gravity, and even allowed a smile to approach his lips. The day passed off very well; but, when the time came for retiring, the princess refused to let him share her room, and for eight days was inexorable.
He was told that the princess did not like the arrangement of his hair, and that nothing inspired her with more aversion than a queue; upon which the good prince hastened to have his hair cut close, but when she saw him thus shorn, she laughed immoderately, and exclaimed that he was more ugly a la Titus than he was before. It was impossible that the intelligence and the kind heart of the princess could fail to appreciate the good and solid qualities of her husband; she learned to love him as tenderly as she was loved, and I am assured that the august couple lived on excellent terms.
Three months after this marriage, the prince left his wife to follow the Emperor, first on the campaign in Prussia, and afterwards in Poland. The death of his grandfather, which happened some time after the Austrian campaign of 1809, put him in possession of the grand duchy, whereupon he resigned the command of his troops to his uncle the Count of Hochberg, and returned to his government, never more to leave it.
I saw him again with the princess at Erfurt, where they told me he had become jealous of the Emperor Alexander, who paid assiduous court to his wife; at which the prince took alarm and abruptly left Erfurt, carrying with him the princess, of whom it must in justice be said that there had been on her part not the slightest imprudence to arouse this jealousy, which seems very pardonable, however, in the husband of so charming a woman.
The prince's health was always delicate, and from his earliest youth alarming symptoms had been noticed in him; and this physical condition was no doubt, in a great measure, the main source of the melancholy which marked his character. He died in 1818, after a very long and painful illness, during which his wife nursed him with the most affectionate care, leaving four children, two sons and two daughters. The two sons died young, and would have left the grand duchy of Baden without heirs, if the Counts Hochberg had not been recognized as members of the ducal family. The grand-duchess is to-day devoting her life to the education of her daughters, who promise to equal her in graces and virtues. The nuptials of the Prince and Princess of Baden were celebrated by brilliant fetes; at Rambouillet took place a great hunting- party, in which their Majesties, with many members of their family, and all the princes of Baden, Cleves, etc., traversed on foot the forests of Rambouillet.
I recollect another hunting-party, which took place about the same time in the forest of Saint-Germain, to which the Emperor invited the ambassador of the Sublime Porte, then just arrived at Paris. His Turkish Excellency followed the chase with ardor, but without moving a muscle of his austere countenance. The animal having been brought to bay, his Majesty had a gun handed to the Turkish ambassador, that he might have, the honor of firing the first shot; but he refused, not conceiving, doubtless, that any pleasure could be found in slaying at short range a poor, exhausted animal, who no longer had the power to protect itself, even by flight.
The Emperor remained only a few days at Paris, after our return from Italy, before setting out again for the camp of Boulogne. The fetes of Milan had not prevented him from maturing his political plans, and it was suspected that not without good reason had he broken down his horses between Turin and Paris. These reasons were plainly evident, when it was learned that Austria had entered secretly into the coalition of Russia and England against the Emperor. The army collected in the camp of Boulogne received orders to march on the Rhine, and his Majesty departed to rejoin his troops about the end of September. As was his custom, he informed us only an hour in advance of his departure; and it was curious to observe the contrast of the confusion which preceded this moment with the silence that followed it. Hardly was the order given, than each one busied himself hastily with his own wants and those of his Majesty; and nothing could be heard in the corridors but the sound of domestics coming and going, the noise of cases being nailed down, and boxes being carried out. In the courts appeared a great number of carriages and wagons, with men harnessing them, the scene lighted by torches, and everywhere oaths and cries of impatience; while the women, each in her own room, were sadly occupied with the departure of husband, son, or brother. During all these preparations the Emperor was making his adieux to her Majesty the Empress, or taking a few moments of repose; but at the appointed hour he rose, was dressed, and entered his carriage. Soon after everything was silent in the chateau, and only a few isolated persons could be seen flitting about like shadows; silence had succeeded to noise, solitude to the bustle of a brilliant and numerous court. Next morning this deep silence was broken only by a few scattered women who sought each other with pale faces and eyes full of tears, to communicate their grief and share their apprehensions. Many courtiers, who were not of the party, arrived to make their court, and were stupefied on learning of his Majesty's absence, feeling as if the sun could not have risen that day.
The Emperor went without halting as far as Strasburg; and the day after his arrival in this town, the army began to file out over the bridge of Kehl.
On the evening before this march, the Emperor had ordered the general officers to be on the banks of the Rhine on the following day, at exactly six in the morning. An hour before that set for the rendezvous, his Majesty, notwithstanding the rain which fell in torrents, went alone to the head of the bridge, to assure himself of the execution of the orders he had given, and stood exposed to this rain without moving, till the first divisions commenced to file out over the bridge. He was so drenched that the drops which fell from his clothing ran down under his horse, and there formed a little waterfall; and his cocked hat was so wet that the back of it drooped over his shoulders, like the large felt hats of the coal-burners of Paris. The generals whom he was awaiting gathered around him; and when he saw them assembled, he said, "All goes well, messieurs; this is a new step taken in the direction of our enemies; but where is Vandamme? Why is he not here? Can he be dead?" No one said a word. "Answer me, what has become of Vandamme? "General Chardon, general of the vanguard, much loved by the Emperor, replied, "I think, Sire, that General Vandamme is still asleep; we drank together last evening a dozen bottles of Rhine wine, and doubtless"—"He does very well to drink, sir; but he is wrong to sleep when I am waiting for him." General Chardon prepared to send an aide-de-camp to his companion in arms; but the Emperor prevented him, saying, "Let Vandamme sleep; I will speak to him later." At this moment General Vandamme appeared. "Well, here you are, sir; you seem to have forgotten the order that I gave yesterday."—"Sire, this is the first time this has happened, and"— "And to avoid a repetition of it, you will go and fight under the banner of the King of Wurtemburg; I hope you will give them lessons in sobriety."
General Vandamme withdrew, not without great chagrin, and repaired to the army of Wurtemburg, where he performed prodigies of valor. After the campaign he returned to the Emperor, his breast covered with decorations, bearing a letter from the King of Wurtemburg to his Majesty, who, after reading it, said to Vandamme: "General, never forget that, if I admire the brave, I do not admire those who sleep while I await them." He pressed the general's hand, and invited him to breakfast, in company with General Chardon, who was as much gratified by this return to favor as was his friend.
On the journey to Augsburg, the Emperor, who had set out in advance, made such speed that his household could not keep up with him; and consequently he passed the night, without attendants or baggage, in the best house of a very poor village. When we reached his Majesty next day, he received us laughing, and threatened to have us taken up as stragglers by the provost guard.
From Augsburg the Emperor went to the camp before Ulm, and made preparations to besiege that place.
A short distance from the town a fierce and obstinate engagement took place between the French and Austrians, and had lasted two hours, when cries of 'Vive l'Empereur!' were suddenly heard. This name, which invariably carried terror into the enemy's ranks, and always imparted fresh courage to our soldiers, now electrified them to such an extent that they put the Austrians to flight, while the Emperor showed himself in the front ranks, crying "Forward," and making signs to the soldiers to advance, his Majesty's horse disappearing from time to time in the smoke of the cannon. During this furious charge, the Emperor found himself near a grenadier who was terribly wounded; and yet this brave fellow still shouted with the others, "Forward! forward!"
The Emperor drew near him, and threw his military cloak over him, saying, "Try to bring it back to me, and I will give you in exchange the cross that you have just won." The grenadier, who knew that he was mortally wounded, replied that the shroud he had just received was worth as much as the decoration, and expired, wrapped in the imperial mantle.
At the close of the battle, the Emperor had this grenadier, who was also a veteran of the army of Egypt, borne from the field, and ordered that he should be interred in the cloak.
Another soldier, not less courageous than the one of whom I have just spoken, also received from his Majesty marks of distinction. The day after the combat before Ulm, the Emperor, in visiting the ambulances, had his attention attracted by a, cannoneer of light artillery, who had lost one leg, but in spite of this was still shouting with all his might, 'Vive l'Empereur!' He approached the soldier and said to him, "Is this, then, all that you have to say to me?"—"No, Sire, I can also tell you that I, I alone, have dismounted four pieces of the Austrian cannon; and it is the pleasure of seeing them silenced which makes me forget that I must soon close my eyes forever." The Emperor, moved by such fortitude, gave his cross to the cannoneer, noted the names of his parents, and said to him, "If you recover, the Hotel des Invalides is at your service." "Thanks, Sire, but the loss of blood has been too great; my pension will not cost you very dear; I know well that I must soon be off duty, but long live the Emperor all the same!" Unfortunately this brave man realized his real condition only too well, for he did not survive the amputation of his leg.
We followed the Emperor into Ulm after the occupation of that place, and saw a hostile army of more than thirty thousand men lay down their arms at the feet of his Majesty, as they defiled before him; and I have never beheld a more imposing sight. The Emperor was seated on his horse, a few steps in front of his staff, his countenance wearing a calm and grave expression, in spite of which the joy which filled his heart was apparent in his glance.
He raised his hat every moment to return the salutes of the superior officers of the Austrian troops. When the Imperial Guard entered Augsburg, eighty grenadiers marched at the head of the columns, each bearing a banner of the enemy.
The Emperor, on his arrival at Munich, was welcomed with the greatest respect by his ally, the Elector of Bavaria. His Majesty went several times to the theater and the hunt, and gave a concert to the ladies of the court. It was, as has been since ascertained, during this stay of the Emperor at Munich that the Emperor Alexander and the King of Prussia pledged themselves at Potsdam, on the tomb of Frederick the Great, to unite their efforts against his Majesty.
A year later Napoleon also made a visit to the tomb of the great
The taking of Ulm had finished the conquest of the Austrians, and opened to the Emperor the gates of Vienna: but meanwhile the Russians were advancing by forced marches to the help of their allies; his Majesty hastened to meet them, and the 1st of December the two hostile armies found themselves face to face. By one of those happy coincidences made only for the Emperor, the day of the battle of Austerlitz was also the anniversary of the coronation.
I do not remember why there was no tent for the Emperor at Austerlitz; but the soldiers made a kind of barrack of limbs of trees, with an opening in the top for the passage of the smoke. His Majesty, though he had only straw for his bed, was so exhausted after having passed the day on horseback on the heights of Santon, that on the eve of the battle he was sleeping soundly, when General Savary, one of his aides-de-camp, entered, to give an account of the mission with which he had been charged; and the general was obliged to touch his shoulder, and shake him, in order to rouse him. He then rose, and mounted his horse to visit his advance posts. The night was dark; but the whole camp was lighted up as if by enchantment, for each soldier put a bundle of straw on the end of his bayonet, and all these firebrands were kindled in less time than it takes to describe it. The Emperor rode along the whole line, speaking to those soldiers whom he recognized. "Be to-morrow what you have always been, my brave fellows," said he, "and the Russians are ours; we have them!" The air resounded with cries of 'Vive l'Empereur', and there was neither officer nor soldier who did not count on a victory next day.
His Majesty, on visiting the line of battle, where there had been no provisions for forty-eight hours (for that day there had been distributed only one loaf of ammunition bread for every eight men), saw, while passing from bivouac to bivouac, soldiers roasting potatoes in the ashes. Finding himself before the Fourth Regiment of the line, of which his brother was colonel, the Emperor said to a grenadier of the second battalion, as he took from the fire and ate one of the potatoes of the squad, "Are you satisfied with these pigeons?"—"Humph! They are at least better than nothing; though they are very much like Lenten food."—"Well, old fellow," replied his Majesty to the soldier, pointing to the fires of the enemy, "help me to dislodge those rascals over there, and we will have a Mardi Gras at Vienna."
The Emperor returned to his quarters, went to bed again, and slept until three o'clock in the morning, while his suite collected around a bivouac fire near his Majesty's barracks, and slept on the ground, wrapped in their cloaks, for the night was extremely cold. For four days I had not closed my eyes, and I was just falling asleep, when about three o'clock the Emperor asked me for punch. I would have given the whole empire of Austria to have rested another hour; but notwithstanding this, I carried his Majesty the punch, which I made by the bivouac fire, and the Emperor insisted that Marshal Berthier should also partake of it; the remainder I divided with the attendants. Between four and five o'clock the Emperor ordered the first movements of his army, and all were on foot in a few moments, and each at his post; aides-de-camp and orderly officers were seen galloping in all directions, and the battle was begun.
I will not enter into the details of this glorious day, which, according to the expression of the Emperor himself, terminated the campaign by a thunderbolt. Not one of the plans of the Emperor failed in execution, and in a few hours the French were masters of the field of battle and of the whole of Germany.
The brave General Rapp was wounded at Austerlitz, as he was in every battle in which he took part, and was carried to the chateau of Austerlitz, where the Emperor visited him in the evening, and returned to pass the night in the chateau.
Two days after, the Emperor Francis sought an audience of his Majesty, to demand peace; and before the end of December a treaty was concluded, by which, the Elector of Bavaria and the Duke of Wurtemburg, faithful allies of the Emperor Napoleon, were made kings. In return for this elevation, of which he alone was the author, his Majesty demanded and obtained for Prince Eugene, viceroy of Italy, the hand of the Princess Augusta Amelia of Bavaria.
During his sojourn at Vienna, the Emperor had established his headquarters at Schoenbrunn, the name of which has become celebrated by the numerous sojourns of his Majesty there, and is to-day, by a singular coincidence, the residence of his son. [The Duke de Reichstadt, born King of Rome, died July, 1832, soon after Constant wrote.]
I am not certain whether it was during this first sojourn at Schoenbrunn that his Majesty had the extraordinary encounter that I shall now relate. His Majesty, in the uniform of colonel of the chasseurs of the guard, rode every day on horseback, and one morning, while on the road to Vienna, saw approaching a clergyman, accompanied by a woman weeping bitterly, who did not recognize him. Napoleon approached the carriage, and inquired the cause of her grief, and the object and end of her journey. "Monsieur," replied she, "I live at a village two leagues from here, in a house which has been pillaged by soldiers, and my gardener has been killed. I am now on my way to demand a safeguard from your Emperor, who knew my family well, and is under great obligations to them."—"What is your name, Madame?"—"De Bunny. I am the daughter of Monsieur de Marbeuf, former governor of Corsica."—"I am charmed, Madame," replied Napoleon, "to find an opportunity of serving you. I am the Emperor." Madame de Bunny remained speechless with astonishment; but Napoleon reassured her, and continuing his route, requested her to go on and await him at his headquarters. On his return he received her, and treated her with remarkable kindness, gave her an escort of the chasseurs of the guard, and dismissed her happy and satisfied.
As soon as the day of Austerlitz was gained, the Emperor hastened to send the courier Moustache to France to announce the news to the Empress, who was then at the chateau of Saint-Cloud. It was nine o'clock in the evening when loud cries of joy were suddenly heard, and the galloping of a horse at full speed, accompanied by the sound of bells, and repeated blows of the whip which announced a courier. The Empress, who was awaiting with the greatest impatience news from the army, rushed to the window, opened it hurriedly, and the words victory and Austerlitz fell on her ears. Eager to know the details, she ran down the steps, followed by her ladies; and Moustache in the most excited manner related the marvelous news, and handed her Majesty the Emperor's letter, which Josephine read, and then drawing a handsome diamond ring from her finger, gave it to the courier. Poor Moustache had galloped more than fifty leagues that day, and was so exhausted that he had to be lifted from his horse and placed in bed, which it required four persons to accomplish. His last horse, which he had doubtless spared less than the others, fell dead in the court of the chateau.
The Emperor having left Stuttgard, stopped only twenty-four hours at Carlsruhe, and forty-eight hours at Strasburg, and between that place and Paris made only short halts, without manifesting his customary haste, however, or requiring of the postilions the break-neck speed he usually demanded.
As we were ascending the hill of Meaux, and while the Emperor was so engrossed in reading a book that he paid no attention to what was passing on the road, a young girl threw herself against the door of his Majesty's carriage, and clung there in spite of the efforts to remove her, not very vigorous in truth, made by the cavaliers of the escort. At last she succeeded in opening the door, and threw herself at the Emperor's feet. The Emperor, much surprised, exclaimed, "What the devil does this foolish creature want with me?" Then recognizing the young lady, after having scrutinized her features more closely, he added in very evident anger, "Ah, is it you again? will you never let me alone?" The young girl, without being intimidated by this rude welcome, said through her sobs that the only favor she now came to ask for her father was that his prison might be changed, and that he might be removed from the Chateau d'If, the dampness of which was ruining his health, to the citadel of Strasburg. "No, no," cried the Emperor, "don't count on that. I have many other things to do beside receiving visits from you. If I granted you this demand, in eight days you would think of something else you wished." The poor girl insisted, with a firmness worthy of better success; but the Emperor was inflexible, and on arriving at the top of the hill he said to her, "I hope you will now alight and let me proceed on my journey. I regret it exceedingly, but what you demand of me is impossible." And he thus dismissed her, refusing to listen longer.
While this was occurring I was ascending the hill on foot, a few paces from his Majesty's carriage; and when this disagreeable scene was over, the young lady, being forced to leave without having obtained what she desired, passed on before me sobbing, and I recognized Mademoiselle Lajolais, whom I had already seen in similar circumstances, but where her courageous devotion to her parents had met with better success.
General Lajolais had been arrested, as well as all his family, on the 18th Fructidor. After being confined for twenty-eight months, he had been tried at Strasburg by a council of war, held by order of the First Consul, and acquitted unanimously.
Later, when the conspiracy of Generals Pichegru, Moreau, George Cadoudal, and of Messieurs de Polignac, de Riviere, etc., were discovered, General Lajolais, who was also concerned therein, was condemned to death. His daughter and his wife were transferred from Strasburg to Paris by the police, and Madame Lajolais was placed in the most rigorous close confinement, while her daughter, now separated from her, took refuge with friends of her family. It was then that this young person, barely fourteen years old, displayed a courage and strength of character unusual at her age; and on learning that her father was condemned to death, she set out at four o'clock in the morning, without confiding her resolution to any one, alone, on foot, and without a guide, with no one to introduce her, and presented herself weeping at the chateau of Saint-Cloud, where the Emperor then was.
She succeeded in gaining an entrance into the chateau only after much opposition; but not allowing herself to be rebuffed by any obstacle, she finally presented herself before me, saying, "Monsieur, I have been promised that you would conduct me instantly to the Emperor" (I do not know who had told her this). "I ask of you only this favor; do not refuse it, I beg!" and moved by her confidence and her despair, I went to inform her Majesty the Empress.
She was deeply touched by the resolution and the tears of one so young, but did not dare, nevertheless, to promise her support at once, for fear of awakening the anger of the Emperor, who was very much incensed against those who were concerned in this conspiracy, and ordered me to say to the young daughter of Lajolais that she was grieved to be able to do nothing for her just then; but that she might return to Saint-Cloud the next day at five o'clock in the morning, and meanwhile she and Queen Hortense would consult together as to the best means of placing her in the Emperor's way. The young girl returned next day at the appointed hour; and her Majesty the Empress had her stationed in the green saloon, and there she awaited ten hours, the moment when the Emperor, coming out from the council-chamber, would cross this room to enter his cabinet.
The Empress and her august daughter gave orders that breakfast, and then dinner, should be served to her, and came in person to beg her to take some nourishment; but their entreaties were all in vain, for the poor girl had no other thought, no other desire, than that of obtaining her father's life. At last, at five o'clock in the afternoon, the Emperor appeared; and a sign being made to Mademoiselle Lajolais by which she could designate the Emperor, who was surrounded by several councilors of state and officers of his household, she sprang towards him; and there followed a touching scene, which lasted a long while. The young girl, prostrating herself at the feet of the Emperor, supplicated him with clasped hands, and in the most touching terms, to grant her father's pardon. The Emperor at first repulsed her, and said in a tone of great severity, "Your father is a traitor; this is the second time he has committed a crime against the state; I can grant you nothing." Mademoiselle Lajolais replied to this outburst of the Emperor, "The first time my father was tried and found innocent; this time it is his pardon I implore!" Finally the Emperor, conquered by so much courage and devotion, and a little fatigued besides by an interview which the perseverance of the young girl would doubtless have prolonged indefinitely, yielded to her prayers, and the life of General Lajolais was spared.
[It is well known that the sentence of General Lajolais was commuted to four years detention in a prison of state, that his property was confiscated and sold, and that he died in the Chateau d'If much beyond the time set for the expiration of his captivity.— Note by CONSTANT.]
Exhausted by fatigue and hunger, the daughter fell unconscious at the Emperor's feet; he himself raised her, gave her every attention, and presenting her to the persons who witnessed this scene, praised her filial piety in unmeasured terms.
His Majesty at once gave orders that she should be reconducted to Paris, and several superior officers disputed with each other the pleasure of accompanying her. Generals Wolff, aide-de-camp of Prince Louis, and Lavalette were charged with this duty, and conducted her to the conciergerie where her father was confined. On entering his cell, she threw herself on his neck and tried to tell him of the pardon she had just obtained; but overcome by so many emotions, she was unable to utter a word, and it was General Lavalette
[Marie Chamans, Count de Lavalette, was born in Paris, 1769. Entered the army 1792, made Captain at Arcola 1796, and served in Egyptian campaign. Married Emilie de Beauharnais, a niece of Josephine. Postmaster-general, 1800-1814. Condemned to death during the Hundred Days, he escaped from prison in his wife's dress. His wife was tried, but became insane from excitement. He was pardoned 1822, and died 1830, leaving two volumes of Memoirs.]
who announced to the prisoner what he owed to the brave persistence of his daughter. The next day she obtained, through the favor of the Empress Josephine, the liberty of her mother, who was to have been transported.
Having obtained the life of her father and the liberty of her mother, as I have just related, she still further exerted herself to save their companions in misfortune, who had been condemned to death, and for this purpose joined the ladies of Brittany, who had been led to seek her cooperation by the success of her former petitions, and went with them to Malmaison to beg these additional pardons.
These ladies had succeeded in getting the execution of the condemned delayed for two hours, with the hope that the Empress Josephine would be able to influence the Emperor; but he remained inflexible, and their generous attempt met with no success, whereupon Mademoiselle Lajolais returned to Paris, much grieved that she had not been able to snatch a few more unfortunates from the rigor of the law.
I have already said two things which I am compelled to repeat here: the first is, that, not feeling obliged to relate events in their chronological order, I shall narrate them as they present themselves to my memory; the second is, that I deem it both an obligation and a duty which I owe to the Emperor to relate every event which may serve to make his true character better known, and which has been omitted, whether involuntarily or by design, by those who have written his life. I care little if I am accused of monotony on this subject, or of writing only a panegyric; but, if this should be done, I would reply: So much the worse for him who grows weary of the recital of good deeds! I have undertaken to tell the truth concerning the Emperor, be it good or bad; and every reader who expects to find in my memoirs of the Emperor only evil, as well as he who expects to find only good, will be wise to go no farther, for I have firmly resolved to relate all that I know; and it is not my fault if the kind acts performed by the Emperor are so numerous that my recitals should often turn to praises.
I thought it best to make these short observations before giving an account of another pardon granted by his Majesty at the time of the coronation, and which the story of Mademoiselle Lajolais has recalled to my recollection.
On the day of the last distribution of the decoration of the Legion of Honor in the Church of the Invalides, as the Emperor was about to retire at the conclusion of this imposing ceremony, a very young man threw himself on his knees on the steps of the throne, crying out, "Pardon, pardon for my father." His Majesty, touched by his interesting countenance and deep emotion, approached him and attempted to raise him; but the young man still retained his beseeching posture, repeating his demand in moving tones. "What is your father's name?" demanded the Emperor. "Sire," replied the young man, hardly able to make himself heard, "it is well known, and has been only too often calumniated by the enemies of my father before your Majesty; but I swear that he is innocent. I am the son of Hugues Destrem."—"Your father, sir, is gravely compromised by his connection with incorrigible revolutionists; but I will consider your application. Monsieur Destrem is happy in having so devoted a son." The Emperor added a few consoling words, and the young man retired with the certainty that his father would be pardoned; but unfortunately this pardon which was granted by the Emperor came too late, and Hugues Destrem, who had been transported to the Island of Oleron after the attempt of the 3d Nivose, [The affair of the infernal machine in the Rue Sainte Nicaise] in which he had taken no part, died in his exile before he had even learned that the solicitations of his son had met with such complete success.
On our return from the glorious campaign of Austerlitz, the commune of Saint-Cloud, so favored by the sojourn of the court, had decided that it would distinguish itself on this occasion, and take the opportunity of manifesting its great affection for the Emperor.
The mayor of Saint-Cloud was Monsieur Barre, a well informed man, with a very kind heart. Napoleon esteemed him highly, and took much pleasure in his conversation, and he was sincerely regretted by his subordinates when death removed him.
M. Barre had erected an arch of triumph, of simple but noble design, in excellent taste, at the foot of the avenue leading to the palace, which was adorned with the following inscription:
"TO HER BELOVED SOVEREIGN; THE MOST FORTUNATE OF THE COMMUNES."
The evening on which the Emperor was expected, the mayor and his associates, armed with the necessary harangue, passed a part of the night at the foot of the monument. M. Barre, who was old and feeble, then retired, after having placed as sentinel one of his associates, whose duty it was to inform him of the arrival of the first courier; and a ladder was placed across the entrance of the arch of triumph, so that no one might pass under it before his Majesty. Unfortunately, the municipal argus went to sleep; and the Emperor arrived in the early morning, and passed by the side of the arch of triumph, much amused at the obstacle which prevented his enjoying the distinguished honor which the good inhabitants of Saint-Cloud had prepared for him.
On the day succeeding this event, a little drawing was circulated in the palace representing the authorities asleep near the monument, a prominent place being accorded the ladder, which barred the passage, and underneath was written the arch barre, alluding to the name of the mayor. As for the inscription, they had travestied it in this manner:
"TO HER BELOVED SOVEREIGN; THE SLEEPIEST OF THE COMMUNES."
Their Majesties were much amused by this episode.
While the court was at Saint-Cloud, the Emperor, who had worked very late one evening with Monsieur de Talleyrand, invited the latter to sleep at the chateau; but the prince, who preferred returning to Paris, refused, giving as an excuse that the beds had a very disagreeable odor. There was no truth whatever in this statement, for there was, as may be believed, the greatest care taken of the furniture, even in the store- rooms of the different imperial palaces; and the reason assigned by M. de Talleyrand being given at random, he could just as well have given any other; but, nevertheless, the remark struck the Emperor's attention, and that evening on entering his bedroom he complained that his bed had an unpleasant odor. I assured him to the contrary, and told his Majesty that he would next day be convinced of his error; but, far from being persuaded, the Emperor, when he rose next morning, repeated the assertion that his bed had a very disagreeable odor, and that it was absolutely necessary to change it. M. Charvet, concierge of the palace, was at once summoned; his Majesty complained of his bed, and ordered another to be brought.
M. Desmasis, keeper of the furniture-room, was also called, who examined mattress, feather-beds, and covering, turned and returned them in every direction; other persons did the same, and each was convinced that there was no odor about his Majesty's bed. In spite of so many witnesses to the contrary, the Emperor, not because he made it a point of honor not to have what he had asserted proved false, but merely from a caprice to which he was very subject, persisted in his first idea, and required his bed to be changed. Seeing that it was necessary to obey, I sent this bed to the Tuileries, and had the one which was there brought to the chateau of Saint-Cloud. The Emperor was now satisfied, and, on his return to the Tuileries, did not notice the exchange, and thought his bed in that chateau very good; and the most amusing part of all was that the ladies of the palace, having learned that the Emperor had complained of his bed, all found an unbearable odor in theirs, and insisted that everything must be overhauled, which created a small revolution. The caprices of sovereigns are sometimes epidemic.
His Majesty was accustomed to say that one could always tell an honorable man by his conduct to his wife, his children, and his servants; and I hope it will appear from these memoirs that the Emperor conducted himself as an honorable man, according to his own definition. He said, moreover, that immorality was the most dangerous vice of a sovereign, because of the evil example it set to his subjects. What he meant by immorality was doubtless a scandalous publicity given to liaisons which might otherwise have remained secret; for, as regards these liaisons themselves, he withstood women no more than any other man when they threw themselves at his head. Perhaps another man, surrounded by seductions, attacks, and advances of all kinds, would have resisted these temptations still less. Nevertheless, please God, I do not propose to defend his Majesty in this respect. I will even admit, if you wish, that his conduct did not offer an example in the most perfect accord with the morality of his discourses; but it must be admitted also that it was somewhat to the credit of a sovereign that he concealed, with the most scrupulous care, his frailties from the public, lest they should be a subject of scandal, or, what is worse, of imitation; and from his wife, to whom it would have been a source of the deepest grief.
On this delicate subject I recall two or three occurrences which took place, I think, about the period which my narrative has now reached.
The Empress Josephine was jealous, and, notwithstanding the prudence which the Emperor exercised in his secret liaisons, could not remain in entire ignorance of what was passing.
The Emperor had known at Genoa Madame Gazani, the daughter of an Italian dancer, whom he continued to receive at Paris; and one day, having an appointment with her in his private apartments, ordered me to remain in his room, and to reply to whoever asked for him, even if it was her Majesty the Empress herself, that he was engaged in his cabinet with a minister.
The place of the interview was the apartment formerly occupied by Bourrienne, communicating by a staircase which opened on his Majesty's bedroom. This room had been arranged and decorated very plainly, and had a second exit on the staircase called the black staircase, because it was dark and badly lighted, and it was through this that Madame Gazani entered, while the Emperor came in by the other door. They had been together only a few moments when the Empress entered the Emperor's room, and asked me what her husband was doing. "Madame, the Emperor is very busy just now; he is working in his cabinet with a minister."—"Constant, I wish to enter."—"That is impossible, Madame. I have received a formal order not to disturb his Majesty, not even for her Majesty the Empress;" whereupon she went away dissatisfied and somewhat irritated, and at the end of half an hour returned; and, renewing her demand, I was obliged to repeat my reply, and, though much distressed in witnessing the chagrin of her Majesty the Empress, I could not disobey my orders. That evening on retiring the Emperor said to me, in a very severe tone, that the Empress had informed him she had learned from me, that, at the time she came to question me in regard to him, he was closeted with a lady. Not at all disturbed, I replied to the Emperor, that of course he could not believe that. "No," replied the Emperor, returning to the friendly tone with which he habitually honored me, "I know you well enough to be assured of your discretion; but woe to the idiots who are gossiping, if I can get hold of them." The next night the Empress entered, as the Emperor was retiring, and his Majesty said to her in my presence, "It is very bad to impute falsehood to poor Monsieur Constant; he is not the man to make up such a tale as that you told me." The Empress, seated on the edge of the bed, began to laugh, and put her pretty little hand over her husband's mouth; and, as it was a matter concerning myself, I withdrew. For a few days the Empress was cool and distant to me; but, as this was foreign to her nature, she soon resumed the gracious manner which attached all hearts to her.
The Emperor's liaison with Madame Gazani lasted nearly a year, but they met only at long intervals.
The following instance of jealousy is not as personal to me as that which
I have just related.
Madame de Remusat, [Authoress of the well-known Memoirs. Born in Paris, 1780, died 1821. Her husband was first chamberlain to the Emperor.] wife of one of the prefects of the palace, and one of the ladies of honor to whom the Empress was most attached, found her one evening in tears and despair, and waited in silence till her Majesty should condescend to tell her the cause of this deep trouble. She had not long to wait, however; for hardly had she entered the apartment than her Majesty exclaimed, "I am sure that he is now with some woman. My dear friend," added she, continuing to weep, "take this candle and let us go and listen at his door. We will hear much." Madame de Remusat did all in her power to dissuade her from this project, representing to her the lateness of the hour, the darkness of the passage, and the danger they would run of being surprised; but all in vain, her Majesty put the candle in her hand, saying, "It is absolutely necessary that you should go with me, but, if you are afraid, I will go in front." Madame de Remusat obeyed; and behold the two ladies advancing on their tiptoes along the corridor, by the light of a single candle flickering in the air. Having reached the door of the Emperor's antechamber, they stopped, hardly daring to breathe, and the Empress softly turned the knob; but, just as she put her foot into the apartment, Roustan, who slept there and was then sleeping soundly, gave a formidable and prolonged snore. These ladies had not apparently remembered that they would find him there; and Madame de Remusat, imagining that she already saw him leaping out of bed saber and pistol in hand, turned and ran as fast as she could, still holding the candle in her hand, and leaving the Empress in complete darkness, and did not stop to take breath until she reached the Empress's bedroom, when she remembered that the latter had been left in the corridor with no light. Madame de Remusat went back to meet her, and saw her returning, holding her sides with laughter, and forgetting her chagrin in the amusement caused by this adventure. Madame de Remusat attempted to excuse herself. "My dear friend," said her Majesty, "you only anticipated me, for that pigheaded Roustan frightened me so that I should have run first, if you had not been a greater coward than I."
I do not know what these ladies would have discovered if their courage had not failed them before reaching the end of their expedition, but probably nothing at all, for the Emperor rarely received at the Tuileries any one for whom he had a temporary fancy. I have already stated that, under the consulate, he had his meetings in a small house in the allee des Veuves; and after he became Emperor, such meetings still took place outside the chateau; and to these rendezvous he went incognito at night, exposing himself to all the chances that a man runs in such adventures.
One evening, between eleven o'clock and midnight, the Emperor called me, asked for a black frock coat and round hat, and ordered me to follow him; and with Prince Murat as the third party, we entered a close carriage with Caesar as driver, and only a single footman, both without livery. After a short ride, the Emperor stopped in the rue de —-, alighted, went a few steps farther, and entered a house alone, while the prince and I remained in the carriage. Some hours passed, and we began to be uneasy; for the life of the Emperor had been so often menaced, that it was very natural to fear some snare or surprise, and imagination takes the reins when beset by such fears. Prince Murat swore and cursed with all his might, sometimes the imprudence of his Majesty, then his gallantry, then the lady and her complaisance. I was not any better satisfied than he, but being calmer I tried to quiet him; and at last, unable longer to restrain his impatience, the prince sprang out of the carriage, and I followed; but, just as his hand was on the knocker of the door, the Emperor came out. It was then already broad daylight, and the Prince informed him of our anxiety, and the reflections we had made upon his rashness. "What childishness!" said his Majesty; "what is there to fear? Wherever I am, am I not in my own house?"
It was as volunteers that any courtiers mentioned to the Emperor any young and pretty persons who wished to make his acquaintance, for it was in no wise in keeping with his character to give such commissions. I was not enough of a courtier to think such an employment honorable, and never voluntarily took part in any business of the kind.
It was not, however, for want of having been indirectly sounded, or even openly solicited, by certain ladies who were ambitious of the title of favorites, although this title would have given very few rights and privileges with the Emperor; but I would never enter into such bargains, restricting myself to the duties which my position imposed on me, and not going beyond them; and, although his Majesty took pleasure in reviving the usages of the old monarchy, the secret duties of the first valet de chambre were not re-established, and I took care not to claim them.
Many others (not valets de chambre) were less scrupulous than I. General L—— spoke to the Emperor one day of a very pretty girl whose mother kept a gambling-house, and who desired to be presented to him; but the Emperor received her once only, and a few days afterwards she was married. Some time later his Majesty wished to see her again, and asked for her; but the young woman replied that she did not belong to herself any longer, and refused all the invitations and offers made to her. The Emperor seemed in no wise dissatisfied, but on the contrary praised Madame D—— for her fidelity to duty, and approved her conduct highly.
In 1804 her imperial highness Princess Murat had in her household a young reader named Mademoiselle E——, seventeen or eighteen years of age, tall, slender, well made, a brunette, with beautiful black eyes, sprightly, and very coquettish. Some persons who thought it to their interest to create differences between his Majesty and the Empress, his wife, noticed with pleasure the inclination of this young reader to try the power of her glances upon the Emperor, and his disposition to encourage her; so they stirred up the fire adroitly, and one of them took upon himself all the diplomacy of this affair. Propositions made through a third party were at once accepted; and the beautiful E—— came to the chateau secretly, but rarely, and remained there only two or three, hours. When she became enceinte, the Emperor had a house rented for her in the Rue Chantereine, where she bore a fine boy, upon whom was settled at his birth an income of thirty thousand francs. He was confided at first to the care of Madame I——, nurse of Prince Achille Murat, who kept him three or four years, and then Monsieur de Meneval, his Majesty's secretary, was ordered to provide for the education of this child; and when the Emperor returned from the Island of Elba; the son of Mademoiselle E—— was placed in the care of her Majesty, the Empress- mother. The liaison of the Emperor with Mademoiselle E—— did not last long. She came one day with her mother to Fontainebleau, where the court then happened to be, went up to his Majesty's apartment, and asked me to announce her; and the Emperor, being exceedingly displeased by this step, directed me to say to Mademoiselle E—— that he forbade her to present herself before him again without his permission, and not to remain a moment longer at Fontainebleau. In spite of this harshness to the mother, the Emperor loved the son tenderly; and I brought him to him often, on which occasions he caressed the child, gave him a great many dainties, and was much amused by his vivacity and repartees, which showed remarkable intelligence for his age.
This child and that of the Polish beauty, of whom I will speak later,
[This son of Countess Walewska became Count Walewski, a leading statesman of the Second Empire, ambassador to London, 1852, minister of foreign affairs, 1855, minister of state, 1860, president of Corps Legislatif, 1865. Born 1810, died 1868.—TRANS.]
and the King of Rome, were the only children of the Emperor. He never had a daughter, and I believe he desired none.
I have seen it stated, I know not where, that the Emperor, during the long stay we made at Boulogne, indemnified himself at night for the labors of the day with a beautiful Italian, and I will now relate what I know of this adventure. His Majesty complained one morning, while I was dressing him, in the presence of Prince Murat, that he saw none but moustached faces, which he said was very tiresome; and the prince, ever ready on occasions of this kind to offer his services to his brother-in- law, spoke to him of a handsome and attractive Genoese lady, who had the greatest desire to see his Majesty. The Emperor laughingly granted a tete-a-tete, the prince himself offering to send the message; and two days later, by his kind assistance, the lady arrived, and was installed in the upper town. The Emperor, who lodged at Pont des Briques, ordered me one evening to take a carriage, and find this protegee of Prince Murat. I obeyed, and brought the beautiful Genoese, who, to avoid scandal, although it was a dark night, was introduced through a little garden behind his Majesty's apartments. The poor woman was much excited, and shed tears, but controlled herself quickly on finding that she was kindly received, and the interview was prolonged until three o'clock in the morning, when I was called to carry her back. She returned afterwards four or five times, and was with the Emperor afterwards at Rambouillet. She was gentle, simple, credulous, and not at all intriguing, and did not try to draw any benefit from a liaison which at best was only temporary.
Another of these favorites of the moment, who threw themselves so to speak into the arms of the Emperor without giving him time to make his court to them, was Mademoiselle L. B——, a very pretty girl. She was intelligent, and possessed a kind heart, and, had she received a less frivolous education, would doubtless have been an estimable woman; but I have reason to believe that her mother had from the first the design of acquiring a protector for her second husband, by utilizing the youth and attractions of the daughter of her first. I do not now recall her name, but she was of a noble family, of which fact the mother and daughter were very proud, and the young girl was a good musician, and sang agreeably; but, which appeared to me as ridiculous as indecent, she danced the ballet before a large company in her mother's house, in a costume almost as light as those of the opera, with castanets or tambourines, and ended her dance with a multiplicity of attitudes and graces. With such an education she naturally thought her position not at all unusual, and was very much chagrined at the short duration of her liaison with the Emperor; while the mother was in despair, and said to me with disgusting simplicity, "See my poor Lise, how she has ruined her complexion in her vexation at seeing herself neglected, poor child. How good you will be, if you can manage to have her sent for." To secure an interview for which the mother and daughter were both so desirous, they came together to the chapel at Saint-Cloud, and during mass the poor Lise threw glances at the Emperor which made the young ladies blush who witnessed them, and were, nevertheless, all in vain, for the Emperor remained unmoved.
Colonel L. B—— was aide-de-camp to General L——, the governor of Saint-Cloud; and the general was a widower, which facts alone furnish an excuse for the intimacy of his only daughter with the family of L. B——, which astonished me greatly. One day, when I was dining at the house of the colonel, with his wife, his step-daughter, and Mademoiselle L——, the general sent for his aides-de-camp, and I was left alone, with the ladies; who so earnestly begged me to accompany them on a visit to Mademoiselle le Normand, that it would have been impolite to refuse, consequently we ordered a carriage and went to the Rue de Tournon. Mademoiselle L. B—— was first to enter the Sybil's cave, where she remained a long while, but on her return was very reserved as to any communications made to her, though Mademoiselle L—— told us very frankly that she had good news, and would soon marry the man she loved, which event soon occurred. These ladies having urged me to consult the prophetess in my turn, I perceived plainly that I was recognized; for Mademoiselle le Normand at once discovered in my hand that I had the happiness of being near a great man and being highly esteemed by him, adding much other nonsense of the same kind, which was so tiresome that I thanked her, and made my adieux as quickly as possible.
While the Emperor was giving crowns to his brothers and sisters,—to Prince Louis, the throne of Holland; Naples to Prince Joseph; the Duchy of Berg to Prince Murat; to the Princess Eliza, Lucca and Massa-Carrara; and Guastalla to the Princess Pauline Borghese; and while, by means of treaties and family alliances, he was assuring still more the co- operation of the different states which had entered into the Confederation of the Rhine,—war was renewed between France and Prussia. It is not my province to investigate the causes of this war, nor to decide which first gave cause of offense.
All I can certify is this, frequently at the Tuileries, and on the campaign, I heard the Emperor, in conversation with his intimate friends, accuse the old Duke of Brunswick, whose name had been so odious in France since 1792, and also the young and beautiful Queen of Prussia, of having influenced King Frederic William to break the treaty of peace. The Queen was, according to the Emperor, more disposed to war than General Blucher himself. She wore the uniform of the regiment to which she had given her name, appeared at all reviews, and commanded the maneuvers.
We left Paris at the end of September. I will not enter into the details of this wonderful campaign, in which the Emperor in an incredibly short time crushed to pieces an army of one hundred and fifty thousand men, perfectly disciplined, full of enthusiasm and courage, and fighting in defense of their country. In one of the first battles, the young Prince Louis of Prussia, brother of the king, was killed at the head of his troops by Guinde, quartermaster of the Tenth Hussars. The prince fought hand to hand with this brave sub-officer, who said to him, "Surrender, Colonel, or you are a dead man," to which Prince Louis replied only by a saber stroke, whereupon Guinde plunged his own into the body of his opponent, and he fell dead on the spot.
On this campaign, as the roads had become very rough from the continual passage of artillery, my carriage was one day upset, and one of the Emperor's hats fell out of the door; but a regiment which happened to pass along the same road having recognized the hat from its peculiar shape, my carriage was immediately set up again, "For," said these brave soldiers, "we cannot leave the first valet of the little corporal in trouble;" and the hat, after passing through many hands, was at last restored to me before my departure.
On the Emperor's arrival at the plateau of Weimar, he arranged his army in line of battle, and bivouacked in the midst of his guard. About two o'clock in the morning he arose and went on foot to examine the work on a road that was being cut in the rock for the transportation of artillery, and after remaining nearly an hour with the workmen, decided to take a look at the nearest advance posts before returning to his bivouac.
This round, which the Emperor insisted on making alone and with no escort, came near costing him his life. The night was so dark that the sentinels of the camp could not see ten steps in front of them; and the first, hearing some one in the darkness approaching our line, called out "Qui vive?" and prepared to fire. The Emperor being lost in thought, as he himself told me afterwards, did not notice the sentinel's challenge, and made no reply until a ball, whistling by his ears, woke him from his reverie, when immediately perceiving his danger, he threw himself face downwards on the ground, which was a very wise precaution; for hardly had his Majesty placed himself in this position, than other balls passed over his head, the discharge of the first sentinel having been repeated by the whole line. This first fire over, the Emperor rose, walked towards the nearest post, and made himself known.
His Majesty was still there when the soldier who had fired on him joined them, being just relieved at his post; he was a young grenadier of the line. The Emperor ordered him to approach, and, pinching his cheeks hard, exclaimed, "What, you scamp, you took me for a Prussian! This rascal does not throw away his powder on sparrows; he shoots only at emperors." The poor soldier was completely overcome with the idea that he might have killed the little corporal, whom he adored as much as did the rest of the army; and it was with great difficulty he could say, "Pardon, Sire, but I was obeying orders; and if you did not answer, it was not my fault. I was compelled to have the countersign, and you would not give it." The Emperor reassured him with a smile, and said, as he left the post, "My brave boy, I do not reproach you. That was pretty well aimed for a shot fired in the dark; but after awhile it will be daylight; take better aim, and I will remember you."
The results of the Battle of Jena, fought on the 14th of October (1806), are well known. Almost all the Prussian generals, at least the bravest among them, were there taken prisoners, or rendered unable to continue the campaign.
The king and queen took flight, and did not halt till they had reached
A few moments before the attack, the Queen of Prussia, mounted on a noble, graceful steed, had appeared in the midst of the soldiers; and, followed by the elite of the youth of Berlin, this royal Amazon had galloped down the front rank of the line of battle. The numerous banners which her own hands had embroidered to encourage her troops, with those of the great Frederick, blackened by the smoke of many battles, were lowered at her approach, amid shouts of enthusiasm which rang through the entire ranks of the Prussian army. The atmosphere was so clear, and the two armies so near each other, that the French could easily distinguish the costume of the queen.
This striking costume was, in fact, one great cause of the danger she encountered in her flight. Her head was covered with a helmet of polished steel, above which waved a magnificent plume, her cuirass glittered with gold and silver, while a tunic of silver cloth completed her costume and fell to her feet, which were shod in red boots with gold spurs. This dress heightened the charms of the beautiful queen.
When the Prussian army was put to flight, the queen was left alone with three or four young men of Berlin, who defended her until two hussars, who had covered themselves with glory during the battle, rushed at a gallop with drawn sabers on this little group, and they were instantly dispersed. Frightened by this sudden onset, the horse which her Majesty rode fled with all the strength of his limbs; and well was it for the fugitive queen that he was swift as a stag, else the two hussars would infallibly have made her a prisoner, for more than once they pressed so close that she heard their rude speeches and coarse jests, which were of such a nature as to shock her ears.
The queen, thus pursued, had arrived in sight of the gate of Weimar, when a strong detachment of Klein's dragoons were perceived coming at full speed, the chief having orders to capture the queen at any cost; but, the instant she entered the city, the gates swung to behind her, and the hussars and the detachment of dragoons returned disappointed to the battle-field.
The particulars of this singular pursuit soon reached the Emperor's ears, and he summoned the hussars to his presence, and having in strong terms testified his disapproval of the improper jests that they had dared to make regarding the queen; at a time when her misfortunes should have increased the respect due both to her rank and her sex, the Emperor then performed the duty of rewarding these two brave fellows for the manner in which they had borne themselves on the field of battle. Knowing that they had dons prodigies of valor, his Majesty gave them the cross, and ordered three hundred francs to be given each one as gratuity.
The Emperor exercised his clemency toward the Duke of Weimar, who had commanded a Prussian division. The day after the battle of Jena, his Majesty, having reached Weimar, lodged at the ducal palace, where he was received by the duchess regent, to whom he said, "Madame, I owe you something for having awaited me; and in appreciation of the confidence you have manifested in me, I pardon your husband."
While we were in the army I slept in the Emperor's tent, either on a little rug, or on the bearskin which he used in his carriage; or when it happened that I could not make use of these articles, I tried to procure a bed-of straw, and remember one evening having rendered a great service to the King of Naples, by sharing with him the bundle of straw which was to have served as my bed.
I here give a few details from which the reader can form an idea of the manner in which I passed the nights on the campaign.
The Emperor slept on his little iron bedstead, and I slept where I could. Hardly did I fall asleep before the Emperor called me, "Constant."— "Sire."—"See who is on duty" (it was the aides-de-camp to whom he referred).—"Sire, it. is M.——"—"Tell him to come to me." I then went out of the tent to summon the officer, and brought him back with me. On his entrance the Emperor said to him, "Report to such a corps, commanded by such a marshal; you will request him to send such a regiment to such a position; you will ascertain the position of the enemy, then you will return to report." The aide-de-camp, having left on horseback to execute these orders, I lay down again, and the Emperor now seemed to be going to sleep; but, at the end of a few moments, I heard him call again, "Constant."—"Sire."—"Have the Prince de Neuchatel summoned. "I sent for the prince, who came at once; and during the conversation I must remain at the door of the tent, until the prince wrote several orders and withdrew. These interruptions took place many times during the night, and at last towards morning his Majesty slept, when I also had a few moments of repose.
When aides-de-camp arrived, bringing any news to the Emperor, I awoke him, by shaking him gently.
"What is it?" said his Majesty, waking with a start; "what o'clock is it? Let him enter." The aide-de-camp made his report; and if it was necessary, his Majesty rose immediately, and left the tent, his toilet never occupying much time. If a battle was in contemplation the Emperor scanned the sky and the horizon carefully, and often remarked, "We are going to have a beautiful day."
Breakfast was prepared and served in five minutes, and at the end of a quarter of an hour the cloth was removed. The Prince de Neuchatel breakfasted and dined every day with his Majesty; and, in eight or ten minutes, the longest meal was over. "To horse," then exclaimed the Emperor, and set out, accompanied by the Prince de Neuchatel, and an aide-de-camp or two, with Roustan, who always carried a silver flask of brandy, which, however, the Emperor rarely ever used. His Majesty passed from one corps to the other, spoke to the officers and soldiers, questioned them, and saw with his own eyes all that it was possible to see.
If a battle was on hand, dinner was forgotten, and the Emperor ate only after his return; but, if the engagement lasted too long, there was carried to him, without his ordering it, a crust of bread and a little wine.
M. Colin, chief of the culinary department, many times braved the cannon to carry a light repast to the Emperor.
At the close of the combat, his Majesty never failed to visit the battle- field, where he had aid given the wounded, and encouraged them with cheering words.
The Emperor sometimes returned overcome by fatigue; he then took a light repast, and lay down again to begin his interrupted sleep.
It was remarkable, that, each time that unexpected circumstances forced the aides-de-camp to have the Emperor waked, he was as ready for work as he would have been at the beginning or in the middle of the day, and his awaking was as amiable as his manner was pleasant. The report of an aide-de-camp being finished, Napoleon went to sleep again as easily as if his sleep had not been interrupted.
During the three or four hours preceding an engagement, the Emperor spent most of the time with large maps spread out before him, the places on which he marked with pins with heads of different colored wax.
I have already said that all the persons of the Emperor's household emulated each other in seeking the surest and promptest means of carrying out his wishes; and everywhere, whether in traveling or on the campaign, his table, his coffee, his bed, or even his bath could be prepared in five minutes. How many times were we obliged to remove, in still less time, corpses of men and horses, to set up his Majesty's tent.
In one of the campaigns beyond the Rhine we were delayed in a poor village, and, in order to prepare the Emperor's lodging, were obliged to use a peasant's hut, which had served as a field hospital; and we began preparations by carrying away the dismembered limbs, and washing up the stains of blood, this labor being finished, and everything almost in order, in less than-half an hour.
The Emperor, sometimes slept a quarter or half an hour on the field of battle when he was fatigued, or wished to await more patiently the result of the orders he had given.
While on the road to Potsdam, we were overtaken by a violent storm, which became so severe, and the rain so heavy, that we were obliged to stop and take refuge in a neighboring house on the road. Well wrapped in his gray overcoat, and not thinking that he could be recognized, the Emperor was much surprised to see, as he entered the house, a young woman who seemed to tremble at his presence. He ascertained that she was an Egyptian, who had retained for my master the religious veneration which all the Arabs bore him, and was the widow of an officer of the army of Egypt, whom chance had led to the same house in Saxony where he had been welcomed. The Emperor granted her a pension of twelve hundred francs, and took upon himself the education of her son, the only legacy left her by her husband. "This is the first time," said Napoleon, "that I have alighted to avoid a storm; I had a presentiment that an opportunity of doing good awaited me here."
The loss of the battle of Jena had struck the Prussians with such terror, and the court had fled with such precipitation, that everything had been left in the royal residences; and, consequently, on his arrival at Potsdam, the Emperor found there the sword of the great Frederick, his gorget, the grand cordon of his order, and his alarm-clock, and had them carried to Paris, to be preserved at the Hotel des Invalides. "I prefer these trophies," said his Majesty, "to all the treasures of the King of Prussia; I will send them to my old soldiers of the campaign of Hanover, who will guard them as a trophy of the victories of the grand army, and of the revenge that it has taken for the disaster of Rosbach." The Emperor the same day ordered the removal to his capital of the column raised by the great Frederick to perpetuate the remembrance of the defeat of the French at Rosbach. [At Rosbach, November, 1757, the French, under Prince de Soubise, had been shamefully defeated by Frederick the Great] He might have contented himself with changing the inscription.
Napoleon remained at the chateau of Charlottenburg, where he had established his headquarters, until the regiments of the guard had arrived from all points; and as soon as they were assembled, orders were given to put themselves in full uniform, which was done in the little wood before the town. The Emperor made his entry into the capital of Prussia between ten and eleven o'clock in the morning, surrounded by his aides-de-camp, and the officers of his staff, all the regiments filing before him in the most perfect order, drums and music at their head; and the fine appearance of the troops excited the admiration of the Prussians.
Having entered Berlin in the suite of the Emperor, we arrived at the town square, in the midst of which a bust of the great Frederick had been placed. The name of this monarch is so popular at Berlin, and, in fact, throughout all Prussia, that on many occasions, when any one by chance pronounced it, either in a cafe or in any other public place, or even in private assemblies, I have seen every one present rise, and lift his hat with an air of the most profound respect and genuine adoration.
When the Emperor arrived in front of the bust, he described a semicircle at a gallop, followed by his staff, and lowering the point of his sword, while uncovering his head, was the first to salute the image of Frederick II. His staff followed his example; and all the general and other officers who composed it ranged themselves in a semicircle around the bust, with the Emperor in the center. His Majesty gave orders that each regiment should present arms in defiling before the bust, which maneuver was not to the taste of some grumblers of the first regiment of the Guard, who, with moustaches scorched, and faces still blackened with the powder of Jena, would have better liked an order for lodgings with the bourgeois than all this parade, and took no pains to conceal their ill- humor. There was one, among others, who, as he passed in front of the bust and before the Emperor, exclaimed between his teeth, without moving a muscle of his face, but still loud enough to be heard by his Majesty, "Damn the bust." His Majesty pretended not to hear, but that evening he repeated with a laugh the words of the old soldier.
His Majesty alighted at the chateau, where his lodging was prepared, and the officers of his household had preceded him. Having learned that the electoral princess of Hesse-Cassel, sister of the king, was still ill at the end of her confinement, the Emperor ascended to the apartment of this princess, and, after quite a long visit, gave orders that she should be treated with all the deference due to her rank and unfortunate situation.