Research Subjects: Napoleon Himself


The year 1807 opened, as said, with the Battle of Eylau, a strange battle as it was without political result.  The Russians lost thirty thousand men, both killed and wounded, and the French 16,000.  Both parties claimed victory: a Te Deum was sung in Paris and St. Petersburg, but the swell of Russian pride was short: May 26, Danzig was taken; finally, on the following 14 June the two armies were present at Friedland.

—Today is a happy time! Cried Napoleon passing in front of his grenadiers: it is the anniversary of Marengo!

Indeed, as like Marengo, the battle was conclusive:  the Russians were crushed.  The Czar, who was in the same position as at Austerlitz, had to take a humbling resolution a second time.  On June 21 an armistice was proposed and accepted; that the armistice was only a prelude to the Peace of Tilsit, signed on 9 July 1807.  One year after (September 1808), Napoleon and Alexander met at Erfurth.  In the midst of the crowd of kings, princes and great men of all sorts surrounding them, the two emperors liked to isolate themselves from this mad crowd of gold, and spent all day in perfect total privacy.  One morning, Napoleon having walked out of his palace, accompanied by Alexander, under the arm of which had been given amicably, he stopped in front of the grenadier who stood watch at the bottom of the stairs, presenting arms.  Napoleon looked at him a moment and shook his head with an air of pride, and pointing out to Alexander that soldier, whose face bore a scar which ran from the forehead and down to the middle of the jaw:

—What do you think, Sir, my brother, he said, of soldiers who survive such injuries?

—And you, my lord brother, Alexander answered, what do you think of the soldiers that caused them?

—They are dead, those there... murmured the grenadier in a deep voice, without losing any of his stiffness.

Alexander that the beautiful response had momentarily embarrassed Napoleon, then turned toward the latter, saying courteously:

—My brother, here as elsewhere, you still win.

— My brother, it is that here, as elsewhere, I have been given my Grognards.

And Napoleon turned with a gesture of thanks on the sentry, who do not even blink an eye.

The two emperors left Erfurth October 14.

The invasion of Portugal, which had previously been held by French troops, wasn’t to achieve the conquest of Spain, where Charles IV reigned, but was torn by two opposing powers, the favorite Godoy and the Prince of Asturias, Ferdinand.  Offended by the clumsy arming by Godoy during the Prussian War, Napoleon had thrown a glance on Spain, a quick and unserious glance, but it was enough however to see a throne could be taken.  Therefore, just in possession of Portugal, his troops entered the peninsula, and, under pretext of a sea war and blockade, first occupied the coasts, then the principal cities, and then formed a circle to Madrid that had to be tightened in three days, to make them masters of the capital.  In the meantime, a revolt broke out against the minister, and the Prince of Asturias was proclaimed king under the name of Ferdinand VII, to replace his father: that was all what Napoleon asked.

It was at Saint-Cloud when he learned of these events and the capitulation of Baylen by General Dupont.  He was very distressed with indignity, and resolved to go himself, to Spain, placing himself at the head of his armies to subdue them.  Madrid had been evacuated by French troops, and Joseph Bonaparte had withdrawn to Burgos to wait for the rescue of his brother.  At the news of this event, Napoleon had to fully consider the seriousness of the circumstances; his intention was to hit Spain with terror by one of these moves that he was known for.  The Imperial Guard crossed France by post, and he himself, crossing the Pyrenees, advanced by leaps and bounds, forcing out of

the way anything that blocked his passage.  At Somo-Sierra, the enemy was entrenched on the mountain, but while our infantry ascended on the right and left; the Polish lancers scaled, so to say on their horses, a route breaking through the spiral amid bullets and areas of rocks that the enemy were raining on them, and rushed on these high natural redoubts, by cutting down the Spaniards, who, appalled by such boldness, withdrew in haste to Madrid.  Napoleon pursued them, and came almost at the same time to the gates of the capital.  Resistance had been organized.  It was to be a long stubborn defense; soldiers and citizens rivaled each other in their zeal and courage.  A kind of patriotic fury animated the combatants; fanaticism drove the Spaniards to martyrdom.  Monks, the crucifix in one hand, the carbine in the other, gave them the example; but so many heroic efforts were of no effect on the bravery and coolness of our battalions.  Spaniards died, and our soldiers, passing piles of corpses, took the position of the Retiro, after the fiercest battle in which the history of our wars in the Peninsula should mention.  It was because of the city of Madrid without Napoleon, which made local authorities propose a capitulation that they hastened to accept to avoid the greatest of misfortunes, its destruction.  Among the names that the Emperor read at the bottom of this capitulation, he saw the Marquis de Saint-Simon.

—This officer is French, he said to the Prince of Neufchatel, and he carried arms against his country: he is to be arrested, tried and executed according to the full extent of our military laws. I will argue against anyone interceding on his behalf.

To such a formal order there was no answer.  Berthier went to General Belliard, who was appointed governor of Madrid, and he transmitted the order he had received; Belliard argued considerations in favor of the Marquis; invoking the capitulation which had been ratified; the Prince of Neufchatel simply answered with an air of dismay:

—The Emperor wants it so.

There was nothing left but to obey.  At eleven o'clock in the evening, a court martial was convened, and M. de Saint-Simon, who had been brought to the staff, soon appeared before the judge.  He was more than an seventy years old; his face was calm, his language full of dignity; but he had not taken a moment to make friends of all the officers around him.  Before the council, the Marquis did not seek to contest the remainder of a life that had never been denied the beautiful name he bore, and it was simply presented to the judges as justification for the crime with which he was charged, and the summary of his political conduct.

Despite the nobility of his language, the court thought that M. de Saint-Simon, by the mere fact of his removal from the list of émigrés, could not shed his French nationality, even after his refusal to swear allegiance to the constitution of the Empire, believed to have the force of law, and the death penalty was pronounced unanimously.  At this news, the strength of the Marquis never flagged; to see his beautiful face and the defeated air of his judges, it would have been thought that the roles were reversed.

However Mademoiselle de Saint-Simon, learning of her father's arrest, appealed to the staff to know the reason for this severe measure.  She was sitting among officers that she had known commanded respect and interest.   They gave consolations and tried to raise in this angelic soul a hope that they were far from sharing; but when the conviction of her father was known, these same seemed to avoid her on leaving this sad outcome; she realized from the expressions of the saddened officers that something extraordinary was going on.  She was questioning when General Belliard went into the salon to get help from the service aide-de-camp.  Immediately Mademoiselle Saint-Simon rushed toward him, grabbing him by the arm:

—General, she asked in a trembling voice, where is my father?  What has become of him? What crime can he have committed? Take me to him. I implore you!

Belliard was reluctant to tell the whole truth, but finally defeated by the entreaty of the girl, he said, trying to control the emotion he felt:

—Well! Yes, miss, I must admit to you, M. de Saint-Simon has just been sentenced for having borne arms against the French army, against his homeland, but believe me; all hope of saving him is not lost.

— Ah! Sir, she cried, suffering from more violent despair, save my father!  Save him or I die with him!

—Alas! What you ask of me is not in my power.  However, though I incur the wrath of the Emperor, I will help you to obtain mercy for your father.  Despite the orders, I received in his regard, I will order the execution of the sentence to be suspended; but you must go immediately in a carriage with one of my officers, and try to get to meet with the Emperor, who will be reviewing his Guard at the break of the day.  Leave, Mademoiselle; Heaven and your filial piety will do the rest.

Belliard then called a captain of the staff:

—Monsieur Rastoul, he said, you'll get into my carriage with Mademoiselle Saint-Simon; you will go to Chamartin, where the Guard is to be at this time.  Kill my horses, if necessary, but make sure to arrive before the Emperor has completed his inspection.  You need to break into it, mark me well, for that Mademoiselle, which I entrust to your honor, to talk to him.  Go, sir, you have no time to lose: the life of a man rests on it!

They left, and arrived at a time when Napoleon went to the last rank of his grenadiers.  Mademoiselle de Saint-Simon rushed out of the carriage, at her risk, because Captain Rastoul could not accompany her to the place where Napoleon was.  Fortunately, she met Captain Duchaud, now Lieutenant General of the artillery and then officer d’ordonnance of the Emperor, who took it upon himself to lead her to Napoleon.  Immediately on seeing him, she rushed to the stirrup of his horse, falling on her knees, after a crying in a wrenching voice:

—Mercy! Sire, mercy!

Napoleon stopped, turned his head, and frowned with his eyebrows, asking with a gesture of humor:

—Who is that girl? Why is she here?

—Sire, I am the daughter of the Marquis de Saint-Simon, who was sentenced to death last night.

—I gave the orders! Said the Emperor in a terrible voice.

But Napoleon had looked upon Mademoiselle Saint-Simon, extended almost motionless at the feet of his horse, and soon his eyes had softened, it was a gesture of loving mercy, saying in a voice that was brief as usual on such occasions:

—Gentlemen, we have the greatest sympathy for Mademoiselle de Saint-Simon, and let it be known that the sentence of her father is commuted.

Then he imparted to his horse a slight movement and slowly moved away but not without turning his head to ensure that his orders were promptly executed.

Indeed, the death sentence of the Marquis was changed to detention in the citadel of Besançon.  There, the devotion of his daughter was admirable: she had obtained permission to be held with her father, thus renouncing the world and the brilliant parties which had already been offered to her.  Then the political events of 1814 resulted in the freedom of M. de Saint-Simon, who, accompanied by the guardian angel of his old age, returned to Madrid, where he died soon after.  With the arrival of 1815 came bad days.  General Belliard, who was accused and imprisoned in turn, had the thankfulness of the family of the Marquis de Saint-Simon for the consolations and hope he received in his prison.[1]

The taking of Madrid and the destruction of the Spanish armies were followed by the defeat of a fourth army, composed of remnants of three others, and who Marshal Victor, Duke of Bellune, completely defeated and dispersed to Uolès.  The Anglo-Portuguese Army had even dared to enter Spain.  Marshal Soult went to meet them, reaching and beating them in turn at Mausilla, at Cacabelos and at Lugo, and forced the British, having cut the hocks of their cavalry horses themselves, to embark at Corunna.

The pacification of the Hispanic Peninsula therefore appeared next, so while Joseph was returning as king to Madrid, Napoleon hastened back to Paris, to be pay attention to a  march on Germany, assuming that the intentions of Austria could become threatening ... There he wasn’t wrong!

In early April 1809, the Archduke Charles, imagining that there was a French Army in Bavaria, informed the cabinet of Saint-Cloud that he had received from the Emperor of Austria, his brother, the order to move forward and deal with whatever enemy he oppose with resistance.  Such a statement was addressed to Russia and all the allied powers of the French Empire.  As a result of this communication, the Austrian army, in defiance of Treaty of Presbourg, entered the territory of Bavaria.  A telegraphic dispatch gave to Napoleon the news of the invasion by Austria.  It was made on April 10 by Berthier, at nine o'clock in the evening, while he was attending a performance of Andromache, at the Tuileries.

He had barely laid eyes on the headlines when, striking his clenched fist on the arm of the chair which was next to him in the salon, he exclaimed:

—Well! Here is the news for Vienna ... What do they want now ... The Emperor of Austria has been bitten by the tarantula ... Ah! Ah! They force me, I will give them something beautiful!

And at the end of the third act of the tragedy, he left the show, returned to his inner apartments, where a council of ministers was convened immediately.

The Emperor had never been so taken by surprise, but Austria had not put into account the forcefulness, the genius and the power of Napoleon, who, in a word and as if by magic, gathered a formidable army on the Rhine, along with all the sovereigns of the Confederation, faithful to their commitments, set on a war footing.  Having given his last orders, he left Paris the 13th of April 1809, at four o'clock in the morning, taking with him again this time, the Empress Josephine, for Strasbourg on the 15th; then he crossed the Rhine at the head of his beautiful phalanxes and marched in haste to the rescue of Bavaria: a few weeks had just passed when he was master of Vienna.

After having stationed his army in the conquered country, Napoleon left his bivouac at Znaïm on July 13, and came to settle for the second time at Schoenbrunn, where he arrived on the same day at three o'clock in the afternoon.

The court of the Emperor was soon formed and maintained on the same footing as at Saint-Cloud or the Tuileries. All those officers of the civil house who remained in Paris and Strasbourg were ordered to go to Schoenbrunn; similarly, those of the military house left from their respective corps to come to the palace to begin their service.  All of the Imperial Guard was camped at Schoenbrunn, or nearby.

The next day, Napoleon appointed as Marshals of the Empire Generals Oudinot, Marmont and Macdonald; then he attended to the distribution of awards to his army.  He created space for those who, incapable of serving in the war, could perform administrative functions.  It was, Misters de Contades. Duverdier, Delavédrine, Arcambal and many others, who were entrusted with civilian jobs that they filled in their return to France; because Berthier, as the first note taker, had been given the task of writing to each minister to ensure that the orders of the Emperor were promptly executed.  No one was forgotten, the troops even at the more remote headquarters were shown these considerations, because there existed between Napoleon and his companions in glory an intimate solidarity, reciprocated, in which nothing was missed.

From 14 July to 17 October, Napoleon lived constantly at Schoenbrunn.  He didn’t go to Vienna except rarely and then incognito.  M. de Montesquiou, who had succeeded M. de Talleyrand's appointment as Grand Chamberlain, had lavishly mounted, at Schoenbrunn’s theater, a German and Italian show; so that every night either Don Juan of Mozart or the Barber of Seville, of Paësiello could be heard, or the ballet of the Rosière, could be seen, executed by a troupe of dancers headed by Aumer, of the Grand Opera of Paris.  Napoleon often attended that show, for three quarters of an hour or more, when it was the Italians who played, he never left the ballet.  The work of the cabinet was headed by him as if he was in Paris.  Military parades were set for nine o'clock in the morning in the courtyard of the chateau; where one descended by a beautiful staircase in the shape of a horseshoe.  Quite typically, most of the general officers of the army and almost all senior officers of the Guard, when they were on duty, were on the last steps and on the sides.  Napoleon, descending from the palace, always stopped when asking them a few questions or to listen to the requests they might have.

The Emperor went hunting several times in the beautiful forest that came out of the park of Schoenbrunn, but there were no public audiences on those days.  This was unusual because all the time he remained in Schoenbrunn, he devoted at least four days a week to receive those French who were in Austria as a result of the events of war, and even the Austrians of distinction, so long as they spoke our language.

Do not believe, however, that getting to Napoleon was as easy as it was to reach Saint Louis, under the famous oak of Vincennes: few people were refused, but they should give their name, their position and address, two days in advance to the service Chamberlain.  This done, they could be certain of being admitted on the day. Napoleon usually held these kinds of hearings in the guard room, which was very broad.

Everyone was allowed their turn with the Emperor, but all who were present could hear the words spoken by him in response to requests being made to him; he even took care, on these occasions, to raise his voice, that wasnaturally short, full and serious all at once, as if he had wanted to testify and that his justice could illicit fear in the public.

One of his secretaries (M. Fain or M. de Menneval) was near him to write his orders. Prince Berthier, the Grand Marshal, or the duty aide-de-camp, was always present, holding in their hand a notebook and a small pencil holder that Napoleon quickly took from his hands to write a note or recommendation on the sidelines of the petition before him; which would then require deciphering of the note or the recommendation!

On 18 July, a decree granted two crosses of honor to the light artillery of the 3rd Corps, four crosses to the 3rd Regiment of the Vistula, six crosses to the 44th Regiment of the Line, eight crosses to the Division of the Duke of Rivoli, and ten crosses to that of Oudinot, which had in a part in the success of the Battle of Wagram, in total, 30 crosses would be distributed among 250,000 men.

The munificence of rulers has increased significantly since that time, at least in this regard.

On August l5, there was a Te Deum in Saint-Etienne of Vienna, an evening gala with General Andréossi, Governor of the city, and that night a general illumination.  The same day, the Prince of Neufchatel was appointed Prince of Wagram; Marshal Massena, Prince of Essling; Marshal Davoust, Prince of Eckmiihl.  The day before Napoleon had created dukes Maret, Oudinot. Macdonald, Clarke, Champagny, Régnier and Godin.  Finally he instituted for those maimed on the battlefield, the order of Three-Fleece, called pleasantly the Order of the Sepulcher, because of the conditions for admission which seemed to exclude all living beings by the number of injuries that had to be received and the battles that one had needed to partake in to be eligible.  The true purpose of this new design was the destruction of the Golden Fleece.  Napoleon, who owned the Netherlands and who took Spain, wanted to humiliate Austria, defeated for the third time, by creating the Three-Fleece. With each step can one find, in this period of our history, the thought of such a huge European sovereignty?

The armistice of Znaïm once concluded, led to appointment of the plenipotentiaries to treaty for peace.

The debate was long. M. de Champagny squeezed out million by million. Clever man, he got up to eighty-five.  Close to three o’clock in the night, all items were resolved.  M. de la Bénadière, then head of the first division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who had accompanied the minister, was asked to send two copies of the Treaty, which were signed at five o’clock and at six, M. de Champagny, had return to Schoenbrunn.  Napoleon saw him enter his office with a sense of concern.

—Well! What did you do last night? He asked.

—The peace, Sire.

—The treaty was signed?

—Yes, Sire: here it is!

At seeing this, the figure of Napoleon brightened.

—Ah! Ah! Can I see this treaty?

M. de Champagny read it back to him.

—What! Eighty-five million, where I was willing to settle myself for seventy-five! This is very good, monsieur Duke.

And every article that the minister read to him won the vote of Napoleon, who showed his joy by rubbing his hands.

This reading completed, Napoleon took the paper from the hands of the Minister, folded it, and then putting it in the pocket of his coat tail, walked diagonally away without saying a word.

Finally, strongly turning:

—Monsieur Duke, he said, it is a good treaty: I am very satisfied. Go relax: you need it.

And while amicably signaling with his hand, he added:

—See you tomorrow!

It was very rare for him to come to the Emperor when he expressed his approval.  From that moment, he gave his orders for his departure from Schoenbrunn, which was set for the 17th.

On the morning of October 17, Napoleon gave a final audience to all that the army considered noteworthy. He had to signal to General Lamarque to come talk to him, when he noticed in the duty room an Austrian baron who had come every evening assiduously to his court.  Not being accustomed to see this character at the palace in the day, Napoleon came to him saying in a gay tone:

—Ah! Ah! Hello, monsieur Baron, I am very glad to see you this morning ... Well! What is new? How are the people of Vienna?

—Sire, they are imbued with admiration for Your Majesty, and each sees in the French soldier someone who will stay as a protector.

With these words, the Emperor made a small grimace.  Perhaps he was just about to respond to this toady when suddenly, Marshal Bessière appeared at the end of the salon.  Napoleon hurriedly left the German baron, going out to the brave marshal, whose purpose seemed to provide him a beautiful mood; he praised the state of his health, and taking one of his hands in his, he also asked what the Viennese said.

—Well, Sire, replied Bessière to speak frankly to Your Majesty, they give us all the devil from morning to night!

—This seems more believable, said the Emperor throwing a mocking a look on the German baron, who bowed, and he should not delude himself; I do not listen to the makers of stories: I know who stick to their stories (leur contes) and who stick to their loyalties (leur comptes).

And afterwards laughing with all the assistants at this bad play on words, Napoleon rose from the audience and left Schoenbrunn for Strasbourg.  In this city, police reports, which were handed him, suddenly disturbed his good mood.  There had been circulated in Paris a ridiculous rumor that he had suddenly fallen into a psychological disorder.  This absurd proposition deeply wounded him; so he cried in a tone of menace:

—It's still the suburb of Saint-Germain that imagines these beautiful things ... They will do so until I’m finished sending everything by this world in the Champagne Pouilleuse.

From Strasbourg he wanted to go in one trip to Fontainebleau: but arrived at a small village located below Nogent-sur-Seine, where the axle of the carriage in which he was with the Grand Marshal broke, he was so anxious to get on that he preferred to continue his route at full speed, although he had a horrible time, rather than waiting until he had found another carriage.  On 26 October 1809 he was at Fontainebleau with the Grand Marshal, both soaked to the bone.  The escort was left behind; a chasseur of the Guard alone could follow.  As the Emperor was not expected soon, none of the officers of his house were in the palace to receive him.

This isolation placed him in a great mood, judging by the way he began to whistle, as things didn’t appear in the least as they normally would.  However, he did not reproach the Grand Marshal, and contented himself by sending through the field to Saint-Cloud the chasseur who had accompanied him, to announce to the Empress his arrival at Fontainebleau, and then he visited the new apartments of the chateau.  It was restored by the order of the buildings located in the courtyard of the White Horse, which was previously the military school, which had just been installed at Saint-Cyr.  This wing of the palace was enlarged, decorated and furnished to serve as apartments of honor, and in order, he said, to occupy the manufactures of Lyons and give work to the artisans of Paris.  It is certain that Napoleon had taken the palace from the state of ruin in which it had been left since the beginning of the Revolution, and it was then found, as if by magic, restored with magnificence equal to that of the fine days of Louis XV.

About five o'clock in the evening, some employees of the Emperor arrived.  When Napoleon saw their carriage arrive, he went down to confront them:

—And the Empress? He asked suddenly to those who were still in the carriage.

—Sire, answered by chance an officer speaking, we had the honor of  preceding Her Majesty by ten minutes; she may even got here before us.

—That's very fortunate, said Napoleon entering the palace; and while walking, he continued to mumble between his teeth words that could not be understood.

Josephine finally arrived.  It was after six o’clock.  It was perhaps the first time in her life that she had missed this type of appointment, unless it was considered as orders and as a duty she pleasantly fulfilled.  This time Napoleon was ahead by several hours, and against his custom, he did not go out to her in the vestibule.  He was sitting in a small salon on the ground floor when the Empress entered, after looking for herself in the apartments.

—Ah! Ah! He said in a cold tone, you're finally her Madam? ... It is about time: I would go to Saint-Cloud.

Josephine, already sorry for the involuntary delay, was sorely afflicted by this icy reception after a long separation; she was shocked; but she tried to apologize:

—But Bonaparte, she replied in a tone of reproaching charm, it's your fault ... You said to us that you would not be here in three or four days, and you arrive today as if you fell out of the clouds! How then did you come?

—It is I who is always wrong, said Napoleon while pacing with agitation.  Madam, I came as usual.  Do I not have to warn you by more than two weeks? With you, it is always a new recrimination.

These recriminations, that Josephine was not used to, much less perhaps than the circumstances in which they were addressed to her, brought out tears.  Napoleon, continuing on the same tone, and not allowing enough for the sensitivity that he rarely tested, wounded the Empress in the heart.  Irritated in turn with what she called an injustice, she let loose with a few pungent words.  Napoleon answered with those even more lively and the word separation was spoken by him.

In the meantime, the King of Saxony arrived in Paris with Prince Eugene, who Napoleon had come from Italy, perhaps to console his mother when the fatal moment arrived.  Their Majesties left Fontainebleau November 14 to return to the Tuileries. The days following, all the princes of the Rhine Confederation successively arrived in the capital: the King and Queen of Bavaria, the King of Wurttemberg, etc.  Some were accommodated at the Élysée-Bourbon, the others in mansions that Napoleon expressly leased for them.  Every day, these princes were treated beautifully at the Tuileries, on the walls of which were placed at night a small poster with a few words: Depot of the great factory of sires.  This bad pun had everyone in a laughing, except the Emperor.

We said previously that Napoleon protected in a very special way the Institution for the Orphans of the Legion of Honor, also called Écouen; but it was another that he loved even more:  it was the Imperial Military School of Saint-Cyr.  It was rare that within the intervals between one campaign and another he did not visit his small protégées or hadn’t gone to see his little rabbits, as colloquially referred to at each of these institutions.  However, in early December 1809, the snow covering the ground, the Commandant Coteau, Deputy Director of Studies at Saint-Cyr, entered, after the morning theory, into the quarters of the veterans (the second year students) , saying, with his voice as Head of the School of Intonation:

—Gentlemen! The Emperor is hunting at this time in the vicinity of Versailles ... It should not be hot! He said by hitting into his hand with the other, covered with gloves, whose skin was at least four lines thick.

Long live the Emperor! ... Such was the general and prolonged acclamation that occurred spontaneously with the students by the news that they learned from the Commandant Coteau.  Immediately the training battalion fell out under arms, with the class of recruits on its left, ashamed by its probation, and on its right the teachers and officers attached to the school.  In front of the battle line, General Belaveine, with his wooden leg and crutch cane, stood in the middle of the senior officers who comprise the staff.  Suddenly the galloping sounds of several horses were heard on the pavement of the avenue: it is the Emperor! ... He entered the court. Carry arms! ... Fixed! Commanded Captain Saget.  The drums beat aux champs, all the officers adjust themselves.  The general advanced to the front of Napoleon, who already has descended from his horse: his followers also.  The hunting escort, carts and crews remained at Trianon.

All we have reported here takes place in the matter of a minute.  On setting foot on the ground Napoleon removed his hat at two different occasions before the flag of the school, which was lowered to his approach.  The punishment register is the first thing he asked to see.  The Adjutant of the School gave it to him, and the first name that strikes his eyes is La Pagerie, cousin of the Empress.  Napoleon was initially unhappy; but soon we saw him smile as he thumbed through the many pages of the register, in which he found mentioned the cause of the punishments that the Adjutant had been forced by him to afflict on the students.  This brave officer, who certainly had not intended to create a new style, however, should precede some of our writers in the use of inversions. Thus, the young La Pagerie was sentenced to six days in the guard house for having committed two mistakes: the first: “Having pushed his whiskers in his bag with a razor; and the second: for peeling vegetables with a paring knife, the guardhouse had sown.”  The fact was that this student had forgotten making the beard, having cut a small pair of whiskers that presented no better an air to his face; and then, before missing a class, he amused himself by eating a raw turnip that he had dug near the polygon, having peeled it in the guardhouse.  Napoleon, having covered the register, told the commander:

—Overall, I ask pardon for the cousin of my wife; make him come to his company; I would not be upset to see him today.

The command: Three steps back, open your ranks! ... And that of: Present arms! Having been executed, as always, with an admirable unity, Napoleon, with an air of satisfaction which read on his face, immediately began his inspection review.  Passing the oldest of the captains of the school, he cast a loving gaze: he had promised to the former officer, in exchange for a large simple Legionnaire cross he had on his chest, a smaller dimensioned cross, but topped by a small golden crown with a tidy rosette ribbon.

Walking through the ranks, Napoleon looked carefully at the kit for each student battalion, opened the bag of them, adjusted the leatherwork of them, and straightened for the most part the shakos posed too far forward or too far back on the head.  Arriving before the young La Pagerie, who had taken his place, he stopped, and taking a severe air:

—Ah! Ah! He said, there you are, sir ... So why do you not follow orders?  Your General was too good to lift your charges because of me ... In the future, you will fair no better than a muscadine!  You have the honor of being the cousin of the Empress, sir, and therefore mine, for this reason, more than any other; you should set for your friends an example of obedience to the rules!  Then, glaring less severely and in a more soothing tone, he added in a half-voice:  I am angry, La Pagerie, you have been found at fault; but I am confident that this will happen no more, isn’t that right? ... Come on, head a little higher, the thumb extended on the upper band, the gun perpendicular: good! That is it.

Arriving at the Drum Major of the School, Napoleon stopped again.  It was a magnificent man that non-commissioned officer; he could have been five feet eight inches, and more than once in the workshops of famous painters of battles, he served as a model.  With a tilt of the head Napoleon surveyed him, while he supported a hand on the hip and the other on his baton with its giant pommel; he stood proud and motionless in front of his drummers, like a Roman Consul before a Praetorian legion.

—What a good moment! Napoleon said; I would like it if they were all in my Guard.

—I was, my Emperor, said the drum major in straightening further.

—Parbleu!  I know it well. You're out to get married, to your folly.  Is it that you didn’t think I would remember you? ... I would know what it would take you to return. Do you have children?

—Yes, sir.


—Yes, sir, I have three.

—So it's different, I ensure that you stay where you are, but when your children are big, big like you, know you well, that their place is already found.

Napoleon approached another group who the old Fraboulet was a part, and made him a gesture of the hand that came to him.  This artillery sergeant advanced with a normal step, the right hand stuck to the shako, but in the presence of his Emperor he was as intimidated as a young girl. Napoleon said to the old gunner while looking fixedly at him:

—And you, my old friend, do you write now?

At this unexpected question, the poor sergeant remained speechless, the muscles of his face fell, and the huge piece of tobacco he kept in his mouth passed ten times in a second from left to right and right to left, but could not find a word.

—I asked you whether you could write, repeated Napoleon.

—No, my Emperor, Fraboulet finally responded, making an enormous effort.  I am curator of the powder magazine; it is I that ... I tend to the manufacturing of cartridge, that ... I watch the fuses, that ... I demonstrate to the students scoring theory, that ... I ...

—It's well ... good ... enough!  Napoleon resumed waving his hand as if to say he did not want any more: but at the same time he made a gracious nod.  Fraboulet had been decorated in the Camp of Boulogne, and later, having not been appointed an officer, to compensate, Napoleon had given an allocation of 365 fr. annuity from mortgages on his extraordinary properties in Westphalia.  The review inspection over, the maneuvering began.

In the short interval of rest that separated the defilement, Napoleon continued to meet with General Belaveine, senior officers of the School and Commandant Saget, a profound theorist, hardener in the school battalion, and who always found sufficient merit in a subject when he carried arms well and marched with his head high, steady movement and elbows to the body.  Upon noticing one day in the presence of the Emperor, that pretty clever people knew when to cross the bayonet in two stages and two movements, Napoleon had bestowed a smile of approval and an endowment that, moreover, he deserved for his services.  The parade ran on delightfully, and, having forgiven all the punishments, Napoleon left Saint-Cyr amid cheers capable of splitting a brain that, like those he had not become accustomed to at this point.

Returning to Versailles, instead of hunting or returning to Paris, Napoleon had lunched at Trianon; then got into his carriage announcing that he would visit Écouen, wanting, he said to the Prince of Neufchatel, to kill two birds with one stone.  He went through Sevres, the park of Saint-Cloud, the Bois de Boulogne, the Path of the Revolt, Saint-Denis, etc.; more than nine miles were completed in less than two and a half hours.

A page followed a picket who went ahead to announce the visit to Madame Campan.  The latter, although she did not feel fine, was walking in the small wood near the castle, where a woman supervisor, on seeing on the platform a picket in the livery of the Emperor, hastened to inform the Superintendent , who returned in great haste. At the gate of the castle she found the page very busy with his horse covered in foam.  He warned the Superintendent that the Emperor was on the road to Écouen, and he was not more than ten minutes ahead of His Majesty.  This gave little time for the students to put on the so-called full uniform (the white dress and the belt of distinctive color).  Also for the Director to give the order that the students remain in class, and that all the ladies were to be in their respective positions.  A few moments later, the carriage of the Emperor entered the court. Madame Campan, accompanied by all the lady dignitaries, received Napoleon in the grand entrance vestibule, and was led, according to his desire, into classes on the ground floor; he followed with interviews of some of the small ones, and these, although a little troubled, did answer poorly.

—Madame, he said, show me the three most distinguished students.

—Sire, I cannot submit just three to Your Majesty, but six, if he deigns to allow me.

In response, Napoleon made a pirouette on the heel, and went up to visit the dormitories and the infirmary. Meanwhile, the residents went to the chapel, where he soon arrived.

At prayer, knelt Napoleon like everyone else; but he got up as soon as the students themselves started to sing in the choir another prayer that the blessings of heaven should on their benefactor.  This song, which he heard for the first time, with a slow measure by many young and fresh voices, and sustained playing of the organ, entranced Napoleon to such an extent, that everyone who saw it, shared in the feeling he felt.  Out of the chapel, he went on the platform between the chateau and the wood.  Here, although it was very cold and the snow started to fall, were collected by all divisions and classes; they formed two ranks which continued up to the park entrance.  By browsing, Napoleon said, smiling at Madame Campan:

—You command there a very pretty regiment; I do not often pass reviews of this kind; all these girls are very healthy.

—Sire, this is due to the purity of the air that prevails here.

—And to your care, ladies, he replied with a gracious salute to the lady instructors around him.  Then he repeated his request to the Superintendent on the presentation of the three most distinguished students.

—Sire, replied Madame Campan with some dignity, I ask with respect, the freedom to observe to Your Majesty that I would commit an injustice to many of their as advanced companions that I might have the honor to submit.

At these words Napoleon frowned slightly his eyebrows, but he did not answer more than the first time.  At the end of dinner, which was pressed a bit, he entered the dining hall and stood below the pulpit.  One of the big ones recited the graces, which always ended with wishes for him; he raised his head and gave a charming salute.  He addressed at the same time to one of the women supervisors questions about the number and choice of food which usually constituted the meals of the students.  She responded to his questions.  Speaking for the third time with Madame Campan, he said, taking tobacco:

—Finally, Madame, I see that I need to go through where you want; indeed does not everyone follow you here?  Name me your six students.

But the Superintendent appointed twelve, and as she called a student by name, she came to be placed before Napoleon, who gave them a few flattering words.  The number six, tolerated by him, being complete, and seeing other students continue to stand beside their companions, the Emperor let escape an oh! oh! more expressive from his mouth, when he had realized that he had fallen himself into a trap without being aware of it.  Too polite and above all too good to think to deny Madame Campan, as he said, to go through it: he therefore did so with good grace.  Moreover, these young girls had so pleasantly moved him in chapel ... Having watched all respondents and with a kind attention, he gave a small salute with his hand, saying to them:

—Come on! Good-bye, Mesdemoiselles.

And, turning to Madame Campan, who had a pouting air for a moment, he added:

—Madam, you address to Duroc your list of twelve students with a score for each of them, and I will send you candy for them all.  Adieu, Madam, I am very satisfied.  I will report to the Empress and the Queen of Holland, your protectoress, the visit that I made today.

And he went into his carriage.

The same day, at seven o'clock in the evening, placing themselves at the table for dinner, he said cheerfully to Josephine:

—Bye the bye!  I went to see this morning your cousin La Pagerie.

—Well! How did you find that poor young man?

—I found this poor young man in the guard house.

—Oh! My God! How is this?

—Few things, calm yourself; he only wanted to look prettier: he takes after your family; but the Adjutant of the School, which handles much of the enforcement of orders sends to the Minister of War, those modes included in the log every day, without regard to his relationship with you, putting your little cousin in the penitentiary that is to say, bread and water in a room that has four walls. I have just washed his head in the presence of his comrades.  Yet he is doing wonderfully, and I have no doubt that he will one day be a good officer.

—Good! Because he loves you very much.

—On leaving there, Napoleon continued, I went to see the old mistress of pensions of your daughters.

—How! From Saint-Cyr you were at Écouen ... What a race ... The poor horses!

—Bah! bah! I went walking with my pages ... Did you know that these little men there are like the pet monkeys of yesteryear?

—How so?

—That when they suspected that I want to go to Écouen; they competed among themselves for who will be my escort.

—This should not be a point of surprise: we are so happy to be with you!

—Oh!  It is not for me!  Napoleon said rubbing his hands, but for the residents of Madame Campan; they are really lovely ... Their director caught me; but I did not tell her ... I tell you that.

Then, after a moment of silence, and as a result of one of these strange thoughts that came to him so often, he said:

—Be quiet, I will make them all happy marriage days.

—My God! Josephine said with a kind of badly disguise spite, you return to your wedding dreams ... Marry all those whom you want, provided you do not dream, as we say here, you get married yourself, this is all I want in heaven, because, believe me, if you ever leave me, you will cease to be happy.

At that exit, which was far from expected, Napoleon rose abruptly from the table and, taking his hat with vivacity, he left the salon without uttering a word.

As for Josephine, who had stood up almost simultaneously, at this exact moment became pensive and worried; the tears came down from her eyes with abundance: she came to understand that this time she had gone too far.

It was, as we mentioned, at the end of 1809; it had been barely a month since the Emperor had returned from Schoenbrunn and with a man like him, the most seemingly insignificant causes sometimes brought the most serious effects.  Indeed, at the same moment, Napoleon determined on irrevocably the divorce he was planning for a long time.


[1] It is with the kindness of M. the Commandant Vinet, nephew and aide-de-camp of Belliard, the same who just published such interesting memoirs of this general, that we owe the telling of this anecdote, which honors at the time the character of M. the Lieutenant General Duchaud, of M. the Captain Rastoul, that of the family of the Marquis de Saint-Simon, and the memory of one of the most illustrious lieutenants of Napoleon, the Lieutenant General Belliard.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2009


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