THE IMPERIAL GUARD UNDER THE RESTORATION.
FTER large foreign wars, it is difficult for a
government, no matter how strong or well established it is, to avoid
Indeed, how do you get rid yourself of young, proud and ambitious soldiers? Were
the Generals and the officers of the Imperial Guard, accustomed
to the life of the camps, to a wandering and extravagant
existence, going to be able to subject themselves to the idleness
and deprivations which peace was going to impose to them? Would
they be softened with the cutting off of part of their salary? These
considerations were one of the great embarrassments of the Restoration,
and these embarrassments were increased each day by the arrival
of the prisoners of war who returned from English prison ships,
from the towns of the Elbe, of the Oder, from
The Old Guard, made indignant of his defection, decried Marshal Marmont. It
felt betrayed and was not held accountable for failure. The
In such a situation it was necessary to lay off the Imperial Guard or
to conquer it. To lay it off, as was most desirable, no one
would dare. To ease the way of
The first, the greatest fault of the Restoration, was indisputably the suppression of the national colors that Louis XVIII had solemnly raised himself in 1790. By proscribing them, these colors, like a sign of rebellion, all that had faded during twenty-five years, had carried this illustrious cockade through so many victories, and had served under this tricolor marched in triumph through all Europe. For the Imperial Guard, what was the white flag? A rag. Regiments burned their standard instead of turning them; not to be parted even a little, the invalids swallowed ashes of them. A great number carried the tricolor cockade at the bottom of their shakos, or under the white cockade. In several corps of the Old Guard, the eagles were secretly preserved: they had become the object of a sacred worship.
To erase the last memory of the glorious actions, which had immortalized the Imperial Guard over ten years, one replaced the ranks of their chiefs by those of Ancien Régime, which no longer had any relationship to its organization. The brigadier generals were called maréchaux-de-camp, and the generals of division lieutenants-généraux. Times were recalled when, before combat, one called upon God of the battles. Chaplains were abruptly introduced into the corps with, the rank of first captain. The catholic soldier was obliged to go to mass; finally Protestants were paid to convert.
The titles of Colonel-Generals of the different the arms were given by the king to the princes of his family, and the dispossessed holders accepted in consolation the title of first inspector-Generals under the orders of the princes.
In the beginning, the Old Imperial Guard had resumed its service at the Palace of Tuileries; it did not remain there eight days; it wasn’t to remain even in Paris*, because its attitude appeared too proud, and it was feared, with reason, that it would unceasingly seek arguments with foreigners. One even saw, the day and the days before of its departure from the capital, the Swiss sentries refuse, in full daylight, entry into the Tuileries to grenadiers of the Old Guard, who only had intended to cross the garden.
*The grenadiers were sent to
The foot chasseurs, to
However a great number of officers of the Guard, even those on active
duty, had remained in
The prisoners of war, recently returned, were amazed at what had come to pass
*Order of the day of the Minister of War
Dupont, the same one that signed the capitulation of Baylen, in
During this time, hundreds of officers of the Old Guard languished in shortage
and need: one stripped them of their salary, one charmed them with
reward for their heroic work, one took away from them the bread
gained at the price of their blood; one devoted their noble scars
to misery and humiliation, to honor and pay obscure, ignored or
even fictitious services. That the king had rewarded the
devotion of men who remained until the last moments faithful to
his adversities, the army and the nation would have understood;
but to lavish the favors with all that had been or said to be enemies
of the revolution, to disinherit the Imperial Guard of its past
glories, to introduce into the ranks the men whom it had fought
formerly, to associate its triumphs to those that it had overcome,
to remove the guard of the throne from it, to give to foreign troops
a mark of confidence that one refused to French soldiers: here
is what raised all the ire and left profoundly indignant all the
hearts. And how was one answered one, when one complained
about this predilection for the émigrés? “That
if ranks were distributed to them, it was for honor; and
that when the time for their retirement came, if pensions were
granted to them, it was only to give them bread.” But soon
after, one conferred full duty and commands to them. Except
the Marshals Berthier and Marmont, who appear in the military household
of the king that of ancient nobles: they were childhood friends
of the Bourbons, their only and real support of the throne. At
*The ancient qualification of château, to indicate the royal residence, had succeeded that of palace.
The Imperial Guard showed more revulsion perhaps to these cowards and untrue diatribes, than the injustices and affronts to which it was condemned. Its glory had become national; the nation thus highly resented the insult, which was made of its former defenders.
Under the Empire, all the orders of knighthood had been removed; there was only the decoration of the Legion of Honor, maintained by the Charter of 1814. This distinction had been the reward for the beautiful actions and more particularly to the military services; but instituted by Napoleon, this order was to the Bourbons only one work of usurpation: there is no doubt that if they did not have fears of revolt in the entire army, they would have abolished it. Instead they restricted themselves to undermining the institution to its ruin: all the old orders are restored; one raised against it the Royal Order of Saint-Louis, for which, at the court, one professed a high preference. To obtain this order, it was necessary to be catholic; one exhumed the military Order of Merit for the officers who had none. One joined with the Legion of Honor the Order of the Lily, created by the Count d' Artois; one imposed it on the army and to the civil servants. The private individuals who were not offered one obtained the distinction for five francs; it soon ended by being offered free without finding purchasers, and fell from the contempt and ridicule. One formed the project make a Legion of Honor only a civil order, to leave with the Order of Saint-Louis all the military honors. The army fumed about it; the court moved back. Le Moniteur published its disavowal.
To calm general dissatisfaction, the King returned the ordinance of July 19. In
the preamble, he was justly charged to have seen with indifference the
institution of the Legion of Honor; and, as proof of the interest
that it carried to him, it approved it and confirmed it; he made
is a work of his; it was declared, for him and his successors,
chief, sovereign and grand master; he maintained the honorary honors
and prerogatives of them, as well as the salaries. However,
these emoluments were reduced by half; and for the effigy of Napoleon
that of Henri IV was substituted!
… Lastly, and like the crowning of his work of inconsideration,
the King named an archbishop (the abbot of Pradt) Grand Chancellor
of the Legion of Honor. As of this moment, one lavished the
decoration on the émigrés, Vendéens and the
chouans; the civil classes were not spared either: it was given to
all comers without examination; contest. In their voyages,
the princes distributed it to ordinary hands; trade was not made,
it was sold, and cheaply. After the victories of
In the Chamber of Deputies, Dumolard disclaimed with energy in favor of the
Legion of Honor, which he represented as a national institution,
the only one of this nature in
The house of education of Écouen, for the daughters of the members of
the Legion of Honor, was joined together with the house of
There were three military academies: Saint-Cyr, Saint-Germain and the
Flèche. An ordinance closed these two last institutions
and maintained only the
More than a thousand soldier invalids, wounded or mutilated under the flag of the Imperial Guard, without pity were turned out of the Home: fifteen hundred others were, with pensions of a ridiculous cheapness, expelled from this establishment devoted by the State recognizing these martyrs of the battles.
Far from calming the spirits and gaining the hearts of the soldiers in the departments, the voyages of the princes increased the irritation. The Duke de Berri treated them with an incredible hardness and contempt. It resulted in scandalous scenes: Louis XVIII was obliged to recall his nephew.
The Imperial Guard, initially reduced to twenty thousand men was dropped immediately to ten thousand, far from its full complement, even on a peace footing. Exodus of the officers from the line was considerable: at the end of 1814, a hundred and six thousand had been granted leave with the soldiers. The absent ones were recalled, but were not pressed to return: several regiments, on August 15, celebrated in their barracks Saint-Napoleon.
The Bourbons thus did not have an army. They little worried whether the
country was respected on the outside, provided that they reigned
on the inside. Far from fearing the foreigner, it was they
who were looked for by their necessary support.
The Restoration had taken a bad route; it was enacted more and more. An
ordinance put at half-pay all the general officers and officers
of all ranks of the ex-Guard which were not employed. Dissatisfaction
was at its peak. The soldiers on half-pay formed coalitions,
Another ordinance prescribed to the soldiers of all ranks, which had taken
service abroad, without authorization, to return to
Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2007
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