The chumminess of some of his former comrades in
arms had already injured Consul Napoleon; this brand of familiarity
was not allowed in the least by Emperor Napoleon, who wanted to only
to be treated as the sovereign in person. The severe
thoughts of men jealous of his fame were succeeded by the poisoned
flattery of the former aristocracy, who made every effort to renew
the scenes of the small apartments of
The announcement of this great solemnity was greeted
with joy everywhere, mainly by the commercial class in
The Pope was expected at
All the bishops of France and Italy met in Paris,
where they had been called; each of them had brought with him many
clerics, so that we encountered strolling at the Royal Palace almost
as many as one might meet in the streets of Rome. Napoleon
had placed before the Holy Father, upon his arrival at
The actions and speech of the Holy Father had become the subject of all conversations in the capital. He exuded his goodness, his simplicity; everyone wanted to receive his blessing. The malignancy had not been lost yet. A hundred puns, were forged daily and repeated everywhere, even in the palace. We will not repeat them here, for the very reason that they were execrable. An old Marquise of the suburb of Saint-Germain had written, it is said, on learning that the Holy Father came to bless the Emperor: The pope’s charitable stain. However this behavior may have been seen by the world, nothing was more suitable than was the Holy Father. For his part, Napoleon’s attention to him was most respectful.
Twenty thousand letters of closed invitations to
all civilian and military officials who were attending the coronation
ceremony had been dispatched by the Emperor to all the departments
And far below:
In the last days of November, the carriages of Their
Majesties, those princes and princesses of the Imperial family who
would form the procession were conducted empty every morning, harnessed
with six or eight horses to the front of Notre-Dame and the surrounding
area by coachmen, postillions and stable grooms. These carriages,
numbering fifty, executed several rehearsals deemed necessary to
know exactly the space offered by the
While being prepared and on the eve of the coronation,
the Emperor, preceded by his service of honor, and followed by a
large number of officers of his civil house visited in the late morning
to the pontiff for him to check on the ceremony, to honestly recommend
whether it was good for the next day. The visit lasted only
five minutes. Napoleon had withdrawn; the Holy Father gave, as usual,
his blessing to everyone. It was his sole occupation: he gave
it in his bedroom, in his office, in his chapel, on the stairs, in
his carriage through the window, and so on. We would be tempted
to believe he gave more benedictions, in the short time he spent
The day before there had been terrible weather: it was hoped that the processional march would not be troubled by the wind or rain; but by a kind of special protection that Providence seems to give all emerging powers, along with the coming day, the sky took a shade less dark and the sun illuminated the huge crowd which, from eight o'clock in the morning, bordered the route from the Tuileries to Notre Dame. That day, which was a Sunday, the windows overlooking Rue Saint-Honoré were leased for one hundred francs each. The cheers that erupted from all sides, had this spirit of truth that can be easily distinguished from these clamors paid for in advance and which was so often able to appreciate the value.
Long before that day came, the greatest activity
had prevailed in the
Most of the ladies who had accompanied the Empress had the courage, after getting their hair done at two o'clock in the morning, to remain seated in front of their fire until the moment came to appear in the grand apartments. Napoleon, too, was starting at seven o'clock in the morning; because it was not a small matter for him to don the costume that had been created for him. After taking a half-cup of coffee at eight o’clock, he ordered all the civil officers of his house, and in their presence, the chamber valets began his grand toilet.
Previously, in similar circumstances, this would have been a prince of the blood, or at least a first gentleman, in the absence of a great master of the wardrobe, who would pass on the shirt of the sovereign. It was nothing of the sort: Napoleon, who had not yet thought to completely restore the old etiquette, took the shirt from the hands of his first chamber valet, to fill himself that office; but it took them so precipitously he tore it from top to bottom on the side. This disaster repaired, he began to dress. It was then on his part that a long string of curses and apostrophes were let loose against the tailor, the hosier and the cobbler. As he passed a piece of his costume:
Here, for the rest, was the makeup of this whole costume, dazzling in gold and precious stones: white velvet boots, laced in front and dotted with gold glitter; knit trousers of close fitting silk with embroidered corners edged in gold, surmounted by an imperial crown, highlighted by small pearls, by turquoise and garnets; vest of white satin, with diamond buttons; short coat, in the Polish style, of crimson velvet, with lapels and cuffs of white velvet embroidered with gold on all the seams and the half-coat of arms of Henry III, also of crimson velvet, lined with white satin, covering the left shoulder, and held, on the right chest by a double clip of sapphires and emeralds; a collar of muslin throughout; a collaret and a band (rabat) of lace of an invaluable price; finally a black velvet toque recalling that kind of cap sometimes called pouf, that women of the court wore before the Revolution. This cap had in the front a diamond plume topped by a huge white feather, drawn together by a cord of large brilliants as big as your thumb, with the diamond the Regent for a button. Gloves, entirely, were of white silk knitting. Above all, the Grand Ribbon of the Legion of Honor past over the shoulder, with silver plate and the cross of a simple legionnaire on his chest. Finally the sword, in the form of a glaive, sheathed in green velvet and with a gold handle, a very valuable work, was attached to a belt of black velvet, four fingers wide, embroidered with gold and beads, with a multitude of small stars in diamonds.
Napoleon, dressed and went at ten o’clock to the gallery of Diana, where the Empress waited, surrounded by the princess sisters of the Emperor, and all the wives. Madame de Larochefoucault, her lady of honor, bore the tail of her mantel. In general clothes (as is the expression), Josephine had a full appearance of nobility and grace. We had seen in that time many queens and princesses; but no sovereign sat on the throne better without being taught.
However, at the time fixed for the departure of
the Pope from the Tuileries, the cortege experienced a rather long
At the Archbishopric, cells were prepared of various types, so everyone could remediated the disorder of his toilet or make up. It was here that Napoleon completed his costume in the great mantle of coronation, of crimson velvet, full of golden bees and sheathed in ermine and white satin. It was held on his shoulders by gold twisted cords with clasps of brilliants, this mantle that was 22 yards in circumference, weighed 80 pounds. Although consistently supported by five major dignitaries, this kind of chlamys crushed the Emperor by its weight. These preliminaries completed, they headed for the cathedral. When the cortege came under the portal, a dizzying cry of Vive l'Empereur! Came forth with the same impetus and such unison that we would have called it an explosion: the windows of the church shuddered, the walls were likewise shaken.
When the procession came to the area halfway between the portal and the church choir, the pope came down from his dais: all the metropolitan clergy preceded him, led by M. de Pradt.
His Holiness, followed by cardinals in red and on the bottom purple, came out to Their Majesties and accompanied the processional to their seats, before which were devotional chairs (prie-dieu) placed at the entrance to the choir. Here, all the cortege paused. Their Majesties knelt and sang on the Veni Creator; then the Holy Father who was kneeling in turn gave a short prayer, had them stand and returned to sit under his canopy to the left of the altar. The procession having retreated arrived at the great throne, where Their Majesties rose. So each took their place for the ceremony and, as the pope approached the altar, the officiating began.
It was celebrated by the Holy Father in person, and listened to by all the assistants with the most perfect recollection. We had witnessed many anniversaries for forty years, we have seen many solemnities of all kinds, but the spectacle offered inside Notre-Dame, the day of coronation, will never leave our memory. Restoration and painting had been going on until nine in the whole church. Tunnels and platforms decorated with incredible richness had been built. From eight o'clock in the morning, they had been overrun by an impatient crowd. The sacred songs resounding in this huge vault, called benedictions from on high, onto the glorious head of Napoleon, in the presence of the sovereign pontiff; these walls covered with resplendent curtains; all the major bodies of the State, members of all cities of the Empire; thousands of floating feathers which shaded the hats of Senators and the High Courts of Judicature with their costumes at once vivid and severe; this multiplicity of brilliant uniforms of gold and silver; and in the midst of choir, the countless clergy in all their priestly pomp; and then, at the spans of the upper floors of the nave, these women young and beautiful, sparkling with flowers and stones; all the celebrities of the Empire, a crowd of distinguish foreigners coming from the bottom of Germany and to the ends of Italy; finally the sound of cannon, the sound of bells, the acclamations of this delirious multitude; all this, we say, formed a gathering pompous, brilliant, charming and sublime, which touched everyone with a profound emotion, whom was evidenced by some with tears, others by only a kind of stupor, and by all with a more religious silence.
Once Napoleon was seated, everyone carefully looked at him trying to guess his secret impressions. He appeared to us constantly calm; only the length of the ceremony seemed tiring. At the offertory began (in the words of men the military) the grand evolutions. M. de Pradt gave the signal that M. de Ségur repeated, and everyone willing went to the offertory. Five ladies of the palace left their seats and opened the walk; carrying: the first a candle along the length of which were inlaid with gold, the second, the bread in silver; the third, the bread in gold; the other two sacred vases. All the cortege defiled in the same order and with the same regularity as before. After this second ceremony, the Pope recited a prayer that the Emperor listened to, as all the others, with respect; the Holy Father continued the mass.
Napoleon finally descended from his throne and came alone to kneel on his prie-dieu; then suddenly we saw him get up at the moment when the Pope went to take the imperial crown placed on the altar, advancing quickly, removing it from the hands of the Holy Father and placing it proudly on his head. At this moment his face flushed, his eyes sparkled with an unaccustomed brilliancy; he appeared to be more than ten feet tall! ... But the moment that excited most strongly the attention was that when Josephine received the crown from the hands of Napoleon and as his sacred Empress and Queen.
When it was time for her to appear in this great drama on a warning from M. Pradt, she descended from the throne and advanced to the steps of the altar, where the Emperor and the Pope were waiting. Josephine walked slowly, eyes downcast, with a collected air, followed by her service of honor. Arriving before Napoleon, trembling with emotion, she knelt; and, raising her eyes and her soul to him rather than God, one saw distinctly large tears flowing and rolling from her eyes onto his hands. The Emperor was no less moved; but he continued and did not lose his seriousness. He slowly took from the altar the small crown surmounted by the cross, to the Empress, at first placing on his head in place of his own, then on that of Josephine with such majesty, that we would have said he had spent his entire life placing a crown on his head and that of others. Finally, he took her two hands, and raised her up with perfect dignity.
The Holy Father gave a little sermon to fit the circumstances to the Empress, she then returned to sit on the grand throne, and Napoleon join her there, the clergy and all the beautiful voice chosen by the Abbot Rose intoned Vivat in excelsis, then the Te Deum, which was sung by the Holy Father. After the Ite missa est, His Holiness disturbed one last time to come and present the Gospel to the Emperor, who took all the pains of the world to withdraw his glove before pronouncing his oath, which he did with a bare hand extent on the holy book.
Meanwhile, M. Maret, Secretary of State, had established the record of this oath, M. de Ségur called M. de Talleyrand, the grand chamberlain called the Arch-chancellor, as well as, the president of the Senate, those presidents of the Legislative Body, among the latter those of Tribune, and so on, to make them sign the minutes. The Arch-chancellor then presented this document to be signed by Napoleon himself. This done, Their Majesties returned on the route to the Archdiocese, then the Tuileries, amid the same cheers.
In the evening, all the streets of the capital were illuminated. Flames of Bengal were lit on all the public buildings, but nothing was more beautiful than the Tuileries gardens: the long row was lined with garlands of colored glass; each tree on the cross rows was lit by myriads of lights; finally, a huge star, erected on the Place de la Concorde, dominated all these lights. As for the chateau, we would have said the palace was in flames.
The ceremony was particularly long and tiring; it lasted more than five hours, including the return. It was half past six when Their Majesties returned to the Tuileries. Everyone was dying of hunger, of cold, of fatigue. The first thing Napoleon did was to quit his beautiful costume to put back on for his modest uniform; he ate lightly and went to bed at a respectable hour. It is likely that everybody in the palace had to do the same. The Holy Father set the example: he almost immediately returned to the Pavilion of Flora, having gained like all there a concordat and an aching back.
But amid such high fortune, Napoleon did not lose
sight of the tremendous preparations that had increased in all ports
But the king of
In the letter, the English Minister only escaped through diplomatic circumlocutions a clear and positive response. When Napoleon was apprised of the note, he contented himself by saying:
The frankness of this communication excited public sentiment to highest levels, already sympathetic by the generosity of the approach that the Emperor had made to the Prince Regent, and war against England was again sanctioned by their opinion.
However, a disastrous event deprived Napoleon of
the man on whom he had counted the most to affect it: the Vice
Admiral Tréville died. The choice of a successor to
command the expedition that was to leave
Unfortunately, the Minister appointed Villeneuve. This choice, who had missed the English expedition, was later the cause of the loss of our navy.
On 11 July, Napoleon was back at
It was the morning of his grand start off. The Emperor announced to those present on that day he would review the military shipbuilding, and before riding to his daily tour, he told the aide-de-camp service:
Napoleon left only followed by Roustan, his mameluck, and a groom. Savary, knowing better than anyone else that the desires expressed by the Emperor were a positive agenda, went to find the Admiral and perform his commission.
Indeed not a single boat moved in the port. At midday, the Emperor, returning from his tour, was going to the table for lunch, when saw his aide-de-camp; said with an air of satisfaction, slapping the handle of his whip in the palm of his left hand:
Savary faithfully reported the response from the Admiral.
And he repeated a second time word for word the statements of the Admiral.
And he returned in his barrack. Ten minutes passed during which Napoleon seemed very agitated. The Admiral did not arrive quickly enough to meet his desire, he beat his whip on the edge of the table on which his lunch remained intact, and exclaimed:
At the same time Napoleon thrust his hat on his head, and, followed by some of his officers, hastily left his barrack; but barely had he just stepped outside than he saw Bruix together with the Rear Admiral Magon and followed by Savary, who were heading towards him. When he saw Napoleon, Bruix quickened his step. The Staff of the Emperor gathered silently around him; the eyes of Napoleon flashed with lightning.
Indeed the gravity of the atmosphere, the rumbling of thunder which was distinctly heard in the distance, and the absence of the slightest wind, did not justify very well the extreme fears already expressed by Bruix.
Sir, resumed Napoleon, that the calm that the Admiral showed seemed to increasingly irritate, I had given orders; again, why do not you have them done!
And with saying these words, the Emperor, who was still holding his whip in his hand, moved toward the Admiral and made a threatening gesture. Bruix fell back two steps, and instinctively placed his hand on the hilt of his sword, replying palely:
Although Bruix was of a delicate complexion and very small, making this gesture by saying these words, he seemed a giant. All the assistants were frozen with dread. The Emperor, motionless, hand convulsively agitated, threw a terrible glance on the Admiral, who retained his noble attitude. Everyone thought that Bruix was a man lost forever. Finally, Napoleon threw his whip away from him; Bruix then brought his arm to its natural position, and the head uncovered, eye always calm, waited in silence the result of this terrible scene.
And the Emperor was away, some general officers,
among others Rear Admiral Magon, clasping the hand of their brave
Bruix offered on parting. This event did not escape Napoleon,
who nevertheless did not seem to see it. The famous Admiral
died the following year in
However, the fatal movement of the fleet demanded by the Emperor was carried out; but hardly had the first provisions been taken, that the sea has become frightening to see. The sky charged with dark clouds, was crisscrossed by incessant and continuous lightning; the thunder seemed a long roar, and winds that had suddenly, strengthened had severed all lines. Finally, what the Admiral had predicted happened, several hours after when it arrived: the most furious tempest scattered the ships here and there, so as to despair for the salvation of their crews. From the window of his barrack, Napoleon saw all this; believing he could hear the cry of sailors who called for help, he took his hat without a word, rushing out and soon coming onto the shore. There he found a trembling and worried crowd worried that the storm would come up the cliffs. The Emperor walked so as not to rush, arms crossed on his chest; he spoke to no one. His officers, the heads of the corps, some of his Guard, came there and considered in silence: no one dared give an order nor give up the example of dedication, so great and general was the stunning. Suddenly the cries he believed he heard arrived becoming more distinct and lamentable with every moment. Several gun-boats, loaded with sailors and soldiers, had just been thrown to the shore and the unfortunate that it carried, struggled against the waves, begging for relief that no one felt the courage to take them.
There was no movement. A dreary indecision reigned overall. Napoleon was irritated especially with the Naval officers, who said in his ear: “The sea is not tenable ... It's crazy to want to save men for whom there is no salvation… Hopefully we will all perish ... etc.” So Napoleon said with an accent mingled with bloody irony:
Then returning quickly making the sublime gesture of his hand:
At these words, the face of everything changed, everything was in an uproar, and everything was activated. It rained down, on all sides quickly. Many boats were put afloat as if by magic. Meanwhile, an admirable grenadier company moved at double time, proud and obedient, and seemed not to wait for a glance from their Emperor to launch themselves in the frail craft. Here he had guessed what was happening in the heart of his soldiers:
A boat much larger than others, and already loaded with twelve vigorous rowers, had been brought. Napoleon launched first; alone, he jumped on the board that served as a bridge. Vive l'Empereur! All the grenadiers cried with one voice that followed in two ranks, weapons in arms and in the most perfect order. They passed over this fragile bridge, following emotionless, without worry, without even looking at the unfathomable depths under their feet. All had entered the boat when a furious wave hit, breaking in, engulfing the Emperor, who stood with one foot resting on the edge of the boat, looked fixedly ahead of himself, shouting to the rowers in a ringing voice:
The rowers had to work vigorously to struggle against the waves; but the boat did not move, it was thrown back at every turn by waves, which rose against the boat.
At the same time the boat was pushed violently by the waves. It seemed to be a response from the Ocean to the words of the Emperor.
Napoleon turns and sees his impassive grenadiers, somber looking and held tight against each other like a bundle of weapons. He responds with a sign. Then the pilot focuses on the rudder and he makes a movement that turned the prow of the boat. Moments after it touches the shore.
The grenadiers jump out; the Emperor leaves the boat last while sea water fills it up.
In saying these words, he moved slowly towards his house. The rain fell in torrents; Napoleon was without a hat: a final wave, more angry than others, he had taken it from off his head, as if the ocean had wanted to retain a token of his recklessness.
We could only save a few who manned the shipwrecked
gunboats; and over the following day, the sea had already rejected
on the beach more than 200 corpses. It was a day of mourning
for the camp and residents of
The aide-de-camp approached the shore and looked carefully:
Impossible said the Emperor; it could not have floated so long unless it had it been empty.
At the same time a wave came in a sheet onto the shore; on receding it left on the sand and nearly at the feet of Napoleon, the object that he had sought to identify; he got up immediately and lowered himself for a closer look:
It was his old hat. We hazard to guess what state it was in when Napoleon raised the fingertips, because it resembled a dripping sponge. After shaking it lightly he returned to his barrack while holding it in his hand.
But soldiers and sailors waited to embark for
Napoleon, mounted in a small boat, accompanied only a few rowers and a few flag officers of the Navy, went back and forth continuously from one end to another of the port; he monitored all, and the troop’s embarkation progressed in perfect order. The operation began at seven o'clock in the morning and was over at five o'clock in the afternoon. In less than ten hours, one hundred and twenty-seven thousand soldiers, horses and luggage was boarded.
The troops, on their barges and their gun boats, were standing, heads uncovered, and waiting for the signal that will enable them to rush onto an enemy land. The Emperor also was standing in his boat and his army seemed to be on review one last time.
Suddenly a boat from shore is seen and heads, by strong rowing, to that of Napoleon. An officer is in this boat; he rustles a paper, it is a dispatch: it is submitted to the Emperor, who opens it hastily: eagerly his eyes scan, crushing the paper in his hands, returning to shore, placing his feet on land, and retraces in extreme agitation, the path to his barrack.
A moment later, the semaphore transmits the order
to the fleet to unload all troops who are aboard, and before midnight,
are back in
The next day, at his grand wakening, he seemed somber, and quickly heading toward his office, he called Daru.
These were the first words that Napoleon addressed to the Administrative General of the Army.
The heart of Napoleon was full of bitterness. His anger erupted first in short sentences, in strong exclamations; then it overflowed. The words of Villeneuve, of England, of Boulogne, of fleet, of posterity, thrown out at random and disconnected, barely able to Daru, stupefied, to understand that the entry of Admiral into Cadiz and the fear that in doing so he was left blockaded by Admiral Collinwood was the subject of so great an outburst. Finally the outpouring took its course; Napoleon felt the relief that comes along with weariness.
And Napoleon dictated to him that:
After reading this letter, the Emperor affixed to the bottom a hieroglyph for signing in exclaiming:
Here there was silence. Then the Emperor, coming upon a new idea, added with an expression quite different:
And he coldly dictated to the Administrative-General
of the Army the plan for the
This dictation of Napoleon lasted two hours. The
absolute empire he had created in himself had allowed his powerful
intellect to resume its growth; he embraced both the overall and
the details; he had omitted nothing, all obstacles had been resolved,
and this was subsequently such violent jolt to morale that he prepared
six months in advance, this wonderful battle of
When Daru had finished writing, Napoleon said:
The same day Napoleon spoke to his first chamber
valet while preparing for his departure, and gave orders to the Grand
Marshal of the Palace to settle and pay the expenses that could have
been made by him during his various stays in
“Soldiers of the Camp of
Boulogne! ... The wishes of our eternal enemies are made clear;
Russia are reunited with
; our generation is again to experience all the calamities of war. There
are few days, I hoped that the peace of the continent would not
be disturbed; threats and insults found me impassive; but the Austrian
Army crosses the Inn; Munich is invaded; the Elector of Bavaria,
our ally, was ousted from the capital; all my hopes have evaporated. I
lament for the blood it will still cost
An unanimous transport greeted these words of flame, using here the term of Marshal Soult, and cries of Long live the Emperor! echoed from one end of the camp to the other.
 Then Director-General for the Administration of War.
 Here is what the Grand Army was composed of:
Corps of Hanover. Bernadotte: infantry divisions,
Drouet, Rivaud; cavalry, Kellermann.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2008
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