The divorce was consummated. There were only a few days before Napoleon abandoned Trianon to return to the Tuileries, where he convened an extraordinary council to which was called, in addition to the ministers and great officers of the crown, all the members of the Imperial family who were in Paris.
The Emperor again presented that for the serious reasons of state he had decided, for the consolidation of the Empire, to seek another union in the long lost hope to pass his throne to a direct descendent; then he heard that he was master to choose his new wife is in the house of Austria, or in that of Russia, or finally in the current sovereign of Germany. All those who were part of the council, probably informed of the secret determination of the Emperor, gave their assent to the choice of an Austrian princess. Prince Eugene, among others, was of this opinion, claiming as the main reason the Catholic religion into which the Archduchess was born; but Murat spoke of a Russian Princess, giving as reasons for his opinion the merits of an alliance with the most powerful sovereign of Europe, and fought vigorously that of an Austrian by all the memories and lessons of history of sad experience.
These observations, fully sensible as they were (and they were all justified by in time), did nothing to prevent a clear-cut resolution. The Emperor of Austria had offered his daughter to Napoleon, his beloved child, as he describes her, and Napoleon was already looking like the husband of the Archduchess. Accordingly, on the evening of the holding of the council, the final settlement of the marriage was concluded by the Prince Eugene with the Prince of Schwarzenberg; thus, the son of Josephine was the one who signed the political act which deposed his mother.
The Prince of Wagram went immediately to Vienna to marry Marie-Louise, on behalf and by strength of proxy to the Emperor his master. All arrangements have been made and agreed upon in advance, the execution was carried out so quickly that on the evening of the arrival of the Prince of Neufchatel in Vienna the marriage of Napoleon and the Archduchess was prepared and signed a few days later; these acts were published in Paris, in the Moniteur.
Napoleon already had sent his sister Caroline (Madame Murat) as far as Braunau to receive Marie-Louise from the hands of the Austrian authorities, and present at the same time the people who would form the new household he had just created for her. The Emperor himself had dictated ceremonial program, and this was promptly followed by everyone, except by him.
He had made the Count de Beauharnais, the knight of honor of the new Empress, with special instructions not to use the prerogatives of office, that is to say, not to offer his hand to the Empress when she would have to climb or descend stairs. Napoleon was so jealous that he did not want another to touch the hand of his wife, or was the recommendation inspired by a sense of propriety and delicacy? Later we knew what to expect: Napoleon became jealous, and was very jealous of Mary-Louise: he became even more in the future. However, this intimate recommendation profited him little, because when the Prince of Trautmansdorff asked the daughter of his sovereign's permission to kiss her hand, taking leave of her at Braunau, not only was this favor granted without difficulty but it was the same for all the persons who made up her new home, those who were part of the former and the servants of the lower ranks.
Napoleon was only forty years old: Marie-Louise came barely in her nineteenth year. She was blonde, of a tall stature; and, without being pretty, was adorned with the graces which usually accompany youth.
The Emperor was at that moment, with everyone, even more affable than usual; he increased attention to his appearance; we believe that it was coquettish, because he instructed his chamber valet to completely renew his guard dress, to make his clothes more stylish in cut and less rococo, if we may use the expression, to select the finest linen, and to order a hat new! ... For eight days he was before Isabey, and did not complain too much about the length of the sessions. His portrait was completed and it was sent to Marie-Louise, who gave her own in return.
Marie-Louise travelled only in small journeys; a feast awaited her in every city that was on her way. Every day Napoleon wrote a letter in his own hand, it was taken by one of his pages, who went at full speed and reported the response of the Empress. In Strasbourg, she rested two days. After passing through Châlons she dined at Sillery, with the Count of Valencia, crossing the Reims and came to the last leg, which should lead to Soissons, where she was to spend the night, and keep track of all the provisions prescribed by the program.
The meeting should have taken place the next day, at Compiègne; but the impatience of Napoleon deranged the entire protocol. A little before Soissons, the Empress, was removed from the officials, and conducted in alone to Compiègne and here's how:
Napoleon, by express coaches spread along the road that Marie-Louise was taking, was only ten leagues from Soissons and wanted to surprise his fiancé, and come to her without being announced, laughing in advance, as a child at the effect that this first meeting would cause. He treated his toilet with more research than usual, and, with a coquetry of glory covered all with the little gray frock coat he wore at Wagram; then accompanied only by Murat, he stealthily escaped through a door on the park and climbed into a carriage without a crest of arms, driven by people without livery. This kind of getaway was aimed not only to satisfy a sense of curiosity which he did not have the strength to resist, but to simplify the articles of the ceremony the next day, said: “When Their Majesties meet in the middle of the tent (where they were to come together, each from the opposite side), the Empress bows to place her on her knees, the Emperor raises her, kisses her, and Their Majesties will sit opposite each other on thrones arranged for this purpose.” Whatever deference a husband may be required to his wife, it would have been too hard for the daughter of the Caesars, to meet in this article of the gallant little ceremony. The sudden entry of Napoleon and Marie-Louise made this unnecessary requirement of pure etiquette.
Napoleon had already passed Soissons and arrived in Courcelles when the first courriers of the Empress were engaged in preparing for the relay. As it was unnecessary to go further, he descended from his carriage, put the arrangements aside, and as at this time the rain fell in torrents, he went to hide under the porch of the church, located outside the village, in the vicinity of a little hill that dominated the road. He had a quarter of an hour he stood on the sidelines and with the King of Naples, when he saw the first carriage of the entourage; at once he turn back and when they were about to change horses, he hurried alone to the Berlin in which the Empress was.
The service equerry, M. de Saluces, who recognized him, but was not informed of the secrecy of the incognito, rushed to the ground, roll out the step and announced: the Emperor! But Napoleon did not waste time; he climbed into the carriage and jumped onto the neck of Marie-Louise and kissed her several times. She, not prepared for this sudden visit, remained totally frozen; she struggled, pushed and cried; the Queen of Naples, who was with her, reassured her repeating:
Marie-Louise was then placed at the knees of Napoleon, who guessed his intention and opposed any new embraces as a sign of respect, which cooled his ardor very little; finally he gave the order to move in haste and directly to Compiègne. Eleven o’clock rang from the ancient clock of the chateau when the carriage of Their Majesties came at full gallop into the courtyard. That evening there was no party; each retired immediately after the Empress entered her apartment.
The next morning Napoleon had the honor to take a succulent lunch he made, at eleven o'clock, next to the bed of Marie-Louise. It was not served by the women of the Empress, who got up that very late. This morning had to be doubly tiring for her, in that people she barely knew presented a host of others she did not know at all. After these presentations of etiquette, Their Majesties went to Saint-Cloud, where a prodigious number of people from all walks of life awaited the newlyweds.
The civil marriage ceremony took place two days later in the great gallery of the chateau.
To this end, a platform was drawn up at the end of this gallery, and a table covered with rich linens had been prepared, with two magnificent arm chairs for Napoleon and Marie-Louise; chairs and stools in the form of an X were intended only for the princes and princesses of the family. The Arch-chancellor Cambacérès was sitting at a table on which there was a huge registry, bound in green morocco, with gilt edges; M. Regnault de Saint Jean d'Angély was placed beside him, to act as Secretary of civil status. Napoleon sitting, invited by a gesture, the Empress and all those who were entitled to a chair or a stool to do the same; then, inhaling a pinch of snuff, he made a sign to the grand master of ceremonies, who approached the stage and all those who formed the circle. The Arch-chancellor then arose, and, hailed the Emperor:
A general cry of vive l'Empereur! vive l'Empress! broke out in the gallery. Immediately Mr. Regnault de Jean-d'Angély presented the document for Napoleon’s signature, who, pressing to hard with the pen that had been snatched from the hands of Cambacérès, made a big blot on the paper at the time he affixed his name, a circumstance which a few assistants smile, while others took it as a bad omen. Marie-Louise signed in a hand that seemed weak; then came the turn of the members of the Imperial family and the many witnesses; the uncle of the Empress, the Grand Duke of Würzburg, signed last. The same day, at seven o'clock, there was grand family dinner at the palace; and against his usual custom, but Napoleon took champagne for dessert.
At eight o’clock, one moved into the larger rooms, where this time there was a party; it was small but very bright. One sang various Italian scenes; Crescentini repeated among others, that of the tomb of Romeo and Juliet: it was what the Emperor had requested; one found that this was a strange choice for a wedding day. Chamber valets dealt out cards on the gaming tables, but it was only for the form, as Their Majesties withdrew at ten o’clock. Many people imitated their example, and at eleven o'clock there wasn’t a single candle lit in chateau!
The next day saw a ceremony of an impressive beauty. From early morning, all the people of the palace who had to take a role large or small were standing and dressed. Towards nine o'clock in the morning it was raining in torrents: but when the cannon of the Invalides announced the departure to Saint-Cloud of Their Majesties, suddenly, and as a result of some magic wand, the clouds disappeared, and the sun shone so as to think that it felt obliged to follow like anyone else in the program Mr. de Ségur. Napoleon and Marie-Louise left the palace in the same carriage, pulled by eight white horses. Forty carriages with windows and a fringed in gold, the first twenty with six horses, and the other twenty with only four, but all beautifully coupled, preceded the procession. They were filled with kings, queens, princes, princesses, great dignitaries, diplomats large, etc. All of the Imperial Horse Guard, in magnificent attire, leading the way: the military house of the Emperor, his staff, his aides-de-camp, his squires, his pages, were clustered around his carriage; this parade ended with a detachment of the army regiments, marching in the greatest order and always in step from Saint-Cloud to the Tuileries, through the Bois de Boulogne and Champs-Élysées, halted in the Place Louis XV, and passed under a triumphal arch that was built on the same gate as the entrance to the Garden of the Tuileries.
From the chateau of Saint-Cloud to the Tuileries, the two sides of the road were encumbered by an innumerable crowd of spectators. Along the Champs-Élysées, orchestras were established at various intervals to perform fanfares.
Once everyone had arrived at the palace, the cortege was formed in order in the Gallery of Diane, and reached the grand gallery of the Musée, through which it passed through the door that is at the extreme of the side of the Pavilion of Flowers. Offered there for ones view was another dazzling spectacle: the two sides of this immense vault were furnished from one end to the other by a triple rank of ladies made up of the upper middle class of the capital. The vast square room that is at the other extremity was made up into a chapel: where one had established all around a double rank of the tribunes magnificently decorated. Once Their Majesties had arrived, the religious ceremony began.
The mass was celebrated by the Cardinal Fesch, the uncle of the Emperor, aided in his Episcopal duties by all the musicians and choirs of the Opera. The Minister for Religious Affairs had convened at the ceremony all the high clergy, French as well as Italian. Almost all attended the church in priestly vestments: it was missing the Cardinals. Arriving at the altar, Napoleon saw their empty seats that had been prepared. He made a move that indicated his displeasure. The next day, his lightning fell on those of the princes of the church who refused to attend the celebrated Mass as a sign of excommunicating him because this was the only reason for their absence; they now were forbidden to wear their red robes, and from that moment they were called the black cardinals, because of the color of their penance robes.
On the evening of that day illuminations took place in Paris of a magnificence that could not be matched. The lights of each house competed with those of the public buildings. Likewise, the Seine was responsible for small boats decorated with colored glass and filled with musicians. No accidents troubled this wonderful evening. One lone carriage without a coat of arms circled slowly that night in the midst of six hundred thousand people who trampled on the docks, streets and squares which neighboring the Tuileries. The carriage held of two noble husbands, dressed like bourgeois: without being accompanied.
The whole Empire took part in this great solemnity. Every town, every village had its feast. For over a month the great corps of the state gave splendid balls and banquets, and every day at the palace, there was a flowing stream of champagne from officers of the house to the health of Their Majesties. The cheers were so loud and so often repeated that Napoleon was finally forced to end to the manifestation of enthusiasm prolonged too long, he said, smiling. He therefore gave the palace controllers the order to push a little less the general drunkenness, because he said still gaily, I will need to break the head of these gentlemen with the best of intentions.
A year later, on 20 March 1811, the sun rose radiantly as if it had wanted to inform by its golden rays a day no less solemn than 2 April of the previous year. Just inside the gates of the Tuileries gardens that had been opened were one hundred thousand people encumbering the flower beds and terraces that faced the palace. All spoke in a low voice and tread softly, as in the room of a patient so as not arouse fears. Marie-Louise was going to be a mother. “Is it a boy or a girl?” This was the question that preoccupied the public imagination. We knew that the bronze cannons of the Invalides were to announce the issuance of the Empress: hundred cannon shots were to be heard for an heir to the throne, and only twenty for a girl.
Meanwhile, each devised in their own way to be prepared for this great event; some even had so much against the fate of the Emperor, as the example of our neighbors overseas bet two to one against Mary-Louise giving birth to a boy. Amid the hum of the impatient crowd, the clock of the palace sounded. Immediately a cannon-shot, that repercussion with echoes in the garden, was heard in the direction of the Invalides. Everyone fell silent and remained motionless in the place where they were. One hundred thousand people listened; saying no more than these words, pronounced at equal intervals by all mouths at once: Two! three! four! After the twentieth, one would have said that death had passed over the whole multitude. The twenty-first shot rang out at last: a huge acclamation replied ... It was one hundred thousand voices shouting at once: Long live the Emperor!
It was a beautiful day for the Parisians. We kissed, we gave best wishes, we shook hands, as if a child had been born to all, because this child fixed an uncertain future. We saw no more wars, because we hoped that paternity would calm Napoleon’s love for conquest, by postponing for the King of Rome all the ambitions of his soul.
On the evening of March 19, major civil and military officers of the Imperial House had been called, or, rather, consigned to the palace. All spent the night in the main lounge, before the bedroom of the Empress, from which sometimes her complaints were heard that managed to escape. In this important circumstance, Napoleon did not leave his wife, and sought by gay proposals to overshadow her suffering, trying to prove that his expression, “his statement was that of the natural world.” Around five o'clock in the morning, Dubois, seeing that the pains of the patient had ceased, warned Napoleon warned that this could be quiet long.
Dubois responded by nodding affirmatively, Napoleon went walking on tiptoe, as if he feared to disturb the calm that reigned in the apartment. Immediately an order of the Grand Marshal dismissed all those who were called as witnesses the day before, with a recommendation not to move; that is to say, they were allowed to try to sleep sitting or standing in the halls of the palace, but ten minutes had hardly passed for Napoleon in his bath when more incessant and deepening pain returned to Marie-Louise. Dubois, concerned about the state of the Empress, ascended to the Emperor, and, in extreme agitation, said:
At these words the Emperor left the bath: eager to return to his wife.
Dubois did not conceal that there would be a great danger to run, either! For mother or the child
Napoleon spoke to the obstetrician for reassurance, and yet deep concern overcame himself. He joined his wife, and found first that the critical moment had come. Marie-Louise was experiencing a terrible tension then; there were indications that the child would be smothered. Dubois, motionless and pale, was there, inactive, in the presence of the patient.
The latter had not yet arrived.
At these words, which neither admitted, nor returned, nor replied, the doctor obeyed. Meanwhile, Napoleon, his face changed, tried to give confidence to his wife that he did not trust himself.
Marie-Louise shoved with groans that gave chills to the people present; but Dubois quickly seizing instruments that should accelerate its issuance, said:
Napoleon continued to keep her in his arms, assisted Madame de Montesquiou and Corvisart, who arrived at that moment. Madame de Montesquiou skillfully enjoyed a moment of respite to reassure the Empress, saying that she had found the need to use the same means. The Emperor, who guessed the intent of this lady, gave her a thankful look. Marie-Louise, however, convinced that it would be used differently than any other, kept saying in the most lamentable tone:
Finally he was delivered; but the danger was so severe that the etiquette set by the Emperor was set aside. The newborn, laid out onto the linen, because they were so occupied with his mother, stayed there a few moments without any of those present disturbing him as they were convinced that he was stillborn. Corvisart who was the first return to him, shook his arms and brought forth his first cry. Then Napoleon could not resist so much emotion. He drew back. As soon as he knew it was over, he came to kiss Mary-Louise, and the son whose birth was to be his last good fortune.
When news of the successful issue of the Empress was announced to the crowd, one saw rising in the air in a basket in which was Madame Blanchard, the famous aeronaut, who was responsible for distributing over thousands in acres, a newsletter announcing the grand event, at the same time that letters were sent to all the courts of Europe. The great body of the state and deputations of all army regiments came successively to congratulate Napoleon and drop at the feet of the royal child their regular tribute and their loyalty; and for a few days, there were rejoicings and illuminations in the capital.
In the midst of the tumultuous joy of the court and the city, no one at the palace, had thought to inform Josephine, withdrawn to the castle of Navarre, of what had taken place. She learned not only by newspapers but by the manifestations of public joy, which she shared sincerely. However, in such an injured oblivion a first moment of pique might have come out if not smothered by writing in her own hand to Napoleon a letter of congratulations that we transcribed verbatim, that has not yet been printed and because it reveals the whole heart of the neglected woman, the wife and Empress.
Napoleon answered on the spot. One of his pages went at full speed to Navarre, and returned to Josephine the letter of the Emperor, conceived in terms of simplicity and brevity which are remarkable. It follows:
The same day in the afternoon, a large troupe, composed of charcoal burners and the porters of the guilds of Paris, arrived in the courtyard of the Tuileries, bouquets in hand, musicians leading them, expressing Vivat and cries of joy. The Emperor went to the window and the cheers redoubled. A deputation of these brave men was admitted into the Gallery of Diana. Napoleon received it, and received the compliment that the head of the troupe presented to him on behalf of their corporations. The tour ended, as Napoleon was going to another show:
The intentions of the Emperor were executed perfectly. The charcoal burners and porters of the guild, joined a few guards in the garden and most men of the chateau, in drinking more than three hundred bottles of champagne in the day gallery on the ground floor, which overlooks the garden, where, by the attention of a prefect of the palace, tables were set up as if by magic. On hearing in his office, the noisy toasts brought forth for his newborn, Napoleon smiled with happiness and rubbed his hands.
In this joy of the people, courtiers and master, the poets soon took their part. Millevoye, Michaud, the young Casimir Delavigne, Piis, Désaugiers. etc., embellished the crown of the King of Rome in many flowers of rhetoric. Sad fate! The verses of poets would do evil to those born under the roof of a palace? What did children often sing for the Dauphin, son of Louis XVI? For the first-born of Queen Hortense? For the son of the great man? Lastly, the Duke de Bordeaux ... Well! Where have they gone? What has become the King of Rome, which were designed with such beautiful promises? Relegated to the palace of Schoenbrunn, away from his mother, separated forever from his father, he left a life without past joy without a future. A wreath of cypress is the only crown remaining on his head! God preserve the children of kings from the couplets of poets, the harangues of municipal events and noises of an army; because, for them, these explosions of formal joy almost always are fatal omens. Blessed are those who, coming in the world, do homage to the caresses of a mother, whose home is surrounded with the affections of the family!
Five months later, on August 1, one hundred cannon-shots from the Invalides were heard announcing the celebration of the Emperor. In the interior of the Tuileries garden, near the gate of the Pavilion of Flora, went a soldier and with weapon in arms, according to his assignment, when a totally new spectacle attracted his attention.
On the terrace of the waterfront, in a carriage coupled by two sheep, was paraded around a beautiful child, who soon tired of this exercise. A woman quickly took him in her arms, and back to the palace, passing the sentry. The soldier saw that the child was the King of Rome. He stopped with respect, and presented arms. The child, the hearing the sound of the fusil, instinctively stretched its little arms to the sentry.
At the appearance of the son of the Emperor, the figure of the old soldier had leapt with emotion; and seeing the child smile, he felt tears of happiness flowing down his scared cheeks. He cried, but he did not move, because duty and respect nailed him to the position he had taken.
The crowd soon gathered around him, to contemplate, too, the Imperial child. Suddenly all eyes were directed towards a window of the palace which has just opened ... The cry Vive l’Empereur! sounded among the people. It was Napoleon who appeared at the balcony. His first gaze focused on the child, then the sentry which, in front of the innocent creature, watched from the corner of the eye's father, who smiled at this tableau.
Then a voice was heard, which interrupted the required assignment: Kiss it! ... It was the voice of the Emperor, which in this soldier, saw the whole army, and perhaps all of France. So, the gun flew off on the sand, the sentry took the child and showed it proudly to the people, then covering it with kisses and tears, we heard sobbing for joy ... In this view, which the crowd applauded enthusiastically, Napoleon began to applaud too.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: June 2009
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