Frances (Winckley) Shelley.

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made a great impression on Lord Hill, who stood


near me. He said it was exactly like an engagement.
Our horses, however, were evidently impressed in a
different way. They did not like the firing at all, and
we had some difficulty in quieting them down. We
remained on the hill for some time after the others
had left. We then descended, and had a delightful
canter home. The chestnut mare pulled as if she had
just been taken out of the stable, and the Duke was
pleased at the manner in which I rode her.

I forgot to mention the picturesque effect made
by the Russian cavalry. There were 30,000 light
cavalry, cuirassiers, and houlans. The flags of the
last named looked, at a distance, like a rainbow,
and the whole body of cavalry approaching from afar
to take their stations at the march past gave one the
impression of those celestial hosts described in the
" Gerusalemme Liberata" : '

In the evening the Duke, Shelley, and the Staff
dined with the Emperor Alexander, at the house
occupied by the Emperor of Austria. It appears to
have been a splendid entertainment.

The Emperor Alexander went to Vertus some days
previous to the review, to superintend the rehearsal.

1 "Leva piii in su le ardite luci, e tutta

La grand' oste del ciel congiunta guata. -

Egli alzo il guardo ; e vide in un ridutta

Milizia innumerabile ed alata.

Tre folte squadre, ed ogni squadra instrutta

In tre ordini gira e si dilata :

Ma si dilata piu, quanto piii in fuori

I cerchi son ; son gl' intimi i minori."

Canto xviii st. 96.

"But higher raise thy looks, behold in air
Where all the powers of heaven combined appear.
The hero raised his eyes, and saw above
A countless army of celestials move.
Three squadrons rang'd the wondrous force display'd
Three fulgent circles every squadron made,
Orb within orb ; by just degrees they rose,
And nine bright ranks the heavenly host compose."

{Translated by John Hoole, 1763.)


Finding that the best house had been allotted to him,
and that the one selected for the Emperor of Austria
was inferior, he gave up his own house to his Majesty,
and contented himself with the small one. Lord
Cathcart had invited me to dine at his Quarters to
meet Lord Combermere. Owing to some misunder-
standing, none of his guests arrived, so Major Cath-
cart and I dined tete-a-tete.

When General Greville, who had been dining with
the Emperor, entered the room, he looked intensely
surprised to find us sitting together in Lord Cathcart's
bedroom. After a hearty laugh at the strangeness of
the whole proceeding, he and Major Cathcart walked
back with me to the Duke's Quarters. I found the
latter waiting for me to arrange about going to Lord
Stewart's to drink tea. We agreed to make the
expedition to the Chateau Auger, about seven miles
away. Colonel Percy went with the Duke and myself,
Russell and Fremantle followed in a gig ; and a very
gay drive it was ! On our arrival at the Chateau we
found the Duchesse de Sagan ' and Madame Perigord
were both gone to bed, souffrantes as usual. But we
found the rest of the party at dinner. Lady Grantham
and the other guests were much obliged to me for
having brought the Duke. We were very merry for a
time ; but afterwards, the thought that on the morrow
we should all be separated made me feel inclined to
shed tears.

We had a very pleasant drive home by moonlight,
and saw the whole country illuminated by the fires
of the surrounding bivouacs. The Duke told us that
the custom of bivouacking was extremely bad for the
troops. He said that for the three last years in Spain
he would not permit it, except in extreme cases. He
said that the system was begun during the French
Revolution when the lives of soldiers were counted
of little value. That it prevents the men from

' La Duchesse de Sagan was Talleyrand's niece.


getting regular rest : that they get into the habit of
sleeping for an hour at a time, or when they feel
drowsy ; and that nothing wears out the troops so

• • • « •

Next morning I rose early, and made the servant
call the Duke twice. This was very fortunate, other-
wise we should not have been in time. We were
late as it was. The Emperor did not send to the
Duke, as he had done on the previous day. I feel
sure this was intentional, as he is very particular in
his devotions, and does not like a religious service to
become a spectacle. He never would allow any one in
Paris to go to see it, as he said that it distracted
his attention. We rode towards Mont Cormont, a
narrow chain of hills entirely covered on both sides
with vineyards. On turning the edge of the hill
near to the road which leads to Paris, we discovered
the whole Russian army. The cavalry were dis-
mounted. The men were stationed in squares in the
centre of which altars had been erected under canvas,
in the form of a Greek cross. The upper one was pre-
pared for the Emperor. It happened that just at the
moment of our arrival, the Emperor dismounted ; and
the whole Russian army burst into a thundering cheer.
It was very effective.

We immediately sprang from our horses. I was not
allowed to accompany the Duke further, as no woman
is permitted to approach the Altar. So I remained
with the other women throughout this impressive
ceremony. The service began by chanting the " Te
Deum." Then a priest approached, and sprinkled
incense three times to each of the three Sovereigns,
who bowed in a reverential manner. The priest's
dress was a deep green, with a great deal of rich gold
embroidery upon it. His beard was long ; so also
was his hair, which was parted in the centre. The
ceremonies seemed to be similar to those of the


Roman Church — the same changing of the mitre ;
the kissing of the book ; the curtseying, and bowing,
and the going in and out of the two doors leading
to the High Altar. Two smaller altars stood on each
side of the outer part of the tent. These were fre-
quently carried up and down the steps facing the
Sovereigns, and once into the centre of the square
when, at a given signal, the whole of the troops knelt.
This produced a very fine effect.

The service lasted above three hours. As the troops
— and most of the gentlemen, except the immediate
entourage of the Emperor — had been exposed to the
heat of a burning sun, it must have been very
fatiguing. I was under the shade of the tent, so I
did not suffer. The ceremony ended as it had begun,
with singing. I then remounted my horse, and was
soon rejoined by the Duke. We took a short cut,
so as to get ahead of the Emperors, who had left
the ground before us. We jumped a small ravine
caused by the rushing water from the hills.

I began to feel sad. During the ceremony I could
scarcely restrain my tears at the thought that I was
looking at the Duke for the last time, and that all our
pleasant intercourse would soon come to an end.
And now we were riding together for the last time !
We escorted the Emperor of Austria to his carriage.
The Emperor of Russia was especially gracious, and
talked to me for some time. He asked if I had been
"tout a fait contente du spectacle d'hier ? " He did
not speak of the religious ceremony at all — he did not
wish to hear my opinion on that subject — which I
think showed the depth of his religious feeling, and I
admired him for that trait. I had noticed him during
the ceremony very closely. His attitude bore the
appearance of a real devotedness and the humility of
an earnest Christian. I may here mention that, during
my stay in France, i had good reason to alter the bad
opinion I had entertained of his Majesty in England.


He has since had the candour to admit that he did not
behave well there, and attributed it to his sister, who,
having been so long in England, was in his opinion to
be trusted on points of etiquette, etc., in which he was
so deficient. He seems to have regarded the Regent
as a sort of first magistrate, without any of the attri-
butes of a king. It was not until he arrived at Oxford,
and observed Lord Granville's extreme attention to
the Prince, that he discovered his own error. I firmly
believe that, in spite of many faults and even follies
which the Emperor commits daily, he sincerely wishes
to promote the prosperity of Russia, and that he leaves
nothing untried which may bring good to his country.
While at Paris he worked very hard at affairs of State.
He told me himself that as he had only resided at
Petersburgh six weeks in three years, " les affaires "
had accumulated to a great extent, and that the day
was really not long enough for the business which he
was called upon to perform. I can answer for it that
the Emperor Alexander scarcely ever went out except
for excursions on horseback, and once to a musical
party at the Duke's.

At the great English review the Emperor Alexander
was much impressed by the manner in which our
troops marched. He considered that they marched
so much faster and freer than his own. The
Russians had, up to that time, been accustomed
to " point their toes " and take very short steps in
marching. In the six weeks that intervened between
our review and the review at Vertus all this had
changed. His troops now marched like ours. In
consequence, the Russian review, which the Duke of
Wellington expected to last nine hours under the old
system, was over in about six hours and a half. The
Emperor seems to have taken immense pains to make
his review a success, and he was well rewarded for
his care and attention to details. He gave the Duke a
folio book which contained eleven different movements.


General Woronzow's division was allowed by all
to have surpassed all the other divisions of that great
Russian Army. At one period, during the march-past,
one of the regiments — not having seen the markers —
came too near to the Sovereigns. The Emperor
Alexander flew into a passion, and ordered the
officers to be placed under arrest.

Owing to the heat, one man dropped down in a
fit just at the saluting-point, but otherwise all went
off with eclat.

The Russian artillery is so beautiful that I cannot
find words to describe it — the horses perfect in shape
and well groomed. It was a splendid sight to see
them on the march.

And now comes the moment when we parted from
the Duke of Wellington a short distance on the road
to Paris, whither the Duke returns. So deeply did I
feel the parting that I could not help crying, but I do
not think that he saw me. After we had shaken
hands for the last time, Shelley and I rode back to


Having dressed for our journey, we proceeded to
Epernay, where we could not get any horses to take
us to Rheims. So, as it was late, we spent the night
there at an excellent inn. During dinner we were
joined by a Prussian officer, 1 whose name I do not
know, but whose conversation was extremely in-
teresting. He now commands the Prussian force near
the Loire. It was his division that so nearly caught
Bonaparte after the Battle of Waterloo. He told me
that I reminded him of his mother, who rode remark-
ably well, and, owing to my having been with the Duke
all day, he paid me the greatest court. This was the
invariable practice of all foreigners. It is, perhaps,
very natural. In the evening we visited the cellars of
M. de la Motte. They extend 4,400 feet underground.
Parts had been bricked up, for concealment against the
too probable event of plunder. Our Prussian officer
told us that last year he saw soldiers boil their potatoes
in champagne — water being very scarce ; as, indeed, it
always is in the Champagne and Saumur districts. He
told us that they even gave champagne to their
horses !

The country round Epernay is beautiful. The view
embraces the vineyards of Aix, with Sillery beyond.
The rich effect of the verdure is enchanting ; particu-
larly in the plains of central France, where verdure is

1 I have since discovered that his name is Thielmann. (Note by Lady
Shelley.)— [Captain Thielmann,of the Pomeranian Hussars. — Ed.]



unknown, and the vinej^ards alone relieve the eye from
the glare of the burnt-up plains of corn. We left
Epernay early next morning. The roads were nearly
impassable. The pavement had been broken by the
artillery, which had dragged its guns over it last year,
so our progress was slow, but we had plenty of
time to enjoy the freshness and the beauty of the

As we ascended a hill by a road about two miles
long, which leads into the forest of Rheims, we saw
vineyards stocked with luscious grapes on either side
of us and, here and there, villages lying snugly in
valleys where a few cornfields threw into contrast the
rich verdure of the vines. Peasants were gathering
the grapes which, with hunches of bread, made an
ideal breakfast. Such a picture of rural contentment
is now rarely seen in France. Last year, I am told,
these poor people suffered dreadfully.

The forest of Rheims, stocked with fine oaks and
timber of almost every kind, extends on the top of a
long ridge of hills. We passed through it for some
time ; and then, suddenly, the city of Rheims burst
upon our view. It stands in the midst of an extensive
plain, with its noble cathedral so far above the other
buildings, that even the remains of a Roman triumphal
arch seemed dwarfed and insignificant. The extent of
the plain was enhanced by a thick haze which blotted
out the horizon. We crossed that dreary waste by a
straight road, from which even birds seemed banished.
There was not a tree visible along the whole route.
As we entered the city of Rheims we saw several
Russian regiments who had just returned from the
review at Vertus. We watched the washerwomen in
the river, standing up to their waists in casks fixed in
the water. The heat was great ; and yet these women
were laughing and singing, while they joked with the
Russian soldiers as they passed. It was a verit-
able tableau ; and I could not help thinking of the
i— ii


"devil-may-care" disposition of the French national

We drove through a considerable portion of the
city, and every moment 1 was expecting to see the
cathedral ; at last, on turning the corner of a street, I
beheld the beautiful portal of that sacred edifice. The
sublimity of that work so far surpassed my expecta-
tions, and affected me so deeply, that I shed tears. For
ten years they have been repairing the exterior of
the building ; the brightness of the modern work
harmonises very well with the ancient. No smoke has
defaced the whiteness of the stone during the eight
centuries which have passed since the cathedral was
erected. The interior has been robbed of its costly
shrines ; but, in consequence of the building having
been used as a court of justice during the Revolution,
popular fury was not let loose upon it. Poverty is at
present keenly felt at Rheims, and for that reason all
repairs to the cathedral have been stopped.

Next day we moved on to Bery au Bac, interesting
because it was last year the seat of war. 1 The fine new
bridge over the Aisne was destroyed by the Due de
Rainer in his retreat, after the Battle of Laon. We were,
therefore, ferried across, carriage and all, in a boat. It
seems to be generally believed here by the peasantry
that Marmont's treason began at that battle. This
idea has probably no foundation. The inferiority of
Marmont's force to that of the Allies is quite sufficient
to account for what happened. But French pride is
so invincible, that they will never own that they can
be conquered, except by treason.

After passing through the richly wooded and
beautiful country round Corbeny, a narrow defile
brought us into the vast plains which surround Laon.
The scene was magnificent. The fine arches of Laon
Cathedral, through which we saw the setting sun,
heightened the picturesque effect.

1 March 1S14.


It seems incomprehensible that Bonaparte should
have overlooked this fine position, and not have afforded
adequate defence to a town the importance of which
on strategic grounds alone must have been very great.
Laon commands one entrance into the plains of
Champagne by which he could get on to the rear of
Bli'icher's army — an impregnable position, as Bonaparte
found to his cost, being forced to retreat from it with
loss, in the direction of Soissons. He lost two or
three precious days vainly trying to entice the Allies
into the plain, where he meant to give them battle.

We were not able to take the direct road to La
Fere as that town still held out. We therefore made
a detour and slept at Marie instead. The poppy is
much cultivated in these parts. They make a sort
of salad oil from the seeds.

A Prussian division marched into Marie on the
day previous to our arrival. Here, as everywhere,
we heard nothing but complaints of their misconduct.
Immediately on entering the town they published an
order to the effect that every inhabitant who did
not salute their soldiers whenever they passed them
in the streets should be taken to the Hotel de
Ville and receive fifty coups de baton ! They also
took by force everything that they wanted in the
town and its neighbourhood. If their search after
brandy, etc., proved unsuccessful, they vented their
rage upon the inhabitants by stripping them, and then
throwing them, bound hand and foot, into the fields
or the woods. In one instance, when this was done
to an infirm old man of seventy, a formal complaint
was lodged with the officer in command of the
regiment. But instead of giving any redress, he
ordered the complainants to receive a flogging, and
sent them away, promising to repeat the punishment
if they ever came back !

We had an excellent dinner at an auberge which,
on the outside, looked wretched, but was very clean.


From the back of the house there was a fine view
over the valley. My bedroom faced the east, and I
was awakened by the beams of the rising sun. The
bells of a church situated on a height above the
garden tolled for matins. The view from my window
was far too beautiful for sleep, so I lay there gazing
on the glories of this lovely world, and thinking of
the dear ones whom I had left at home.

On the preceding evening we had sent for the
postmaster to consult with him as to the best road
to Valenciennes. We were much amused by the
republican impertinence, mixed with French servility,
and affected royalisme of the man. On his arrival
he at once seated himself at the table, where we
were dining, and entered into conversation. He
wished, as he said, to put us au courant with the
state of affairs in France. He begged us to under-
stand that the army of Bonaparte in no sense re-
presented the French nation ; and for this reason :
if a man possessed money, instead of serving in the
army himself, he bought a substitute, even as he
himself had done on two occasions. The inner mean-
ing of all this talk, evidently, was that the postmaster
was a rich man, and could afford to buy a substitute.
This would place him on terms of equality with
ourselves. He then went on to say that the King's
arrangement, in having the various regiments named
after the departments in which they were raised,
gave general satisfaction, and would ensure the
loyalty of the troops. It would become the interest
of the mayors, prefects, etc., to exclude all Bona-
partists, as their official positions would be forfeited
if any of the regiments behaved badly.

Up to this point the postmaster's conversation was
interesting enough ; but before we could get rid of
him we were quite tired of his company. The


familiarity with which he treated us was typical of
the manners of the middle classes in France at the
present day. They mean to be civil, and probably
think that familiarity is pleasing.

Our first stage was to Guise — a very old town —
and, after an uninteresting journey, we reached Valen-
ciennes. Shelley, who in 1792 took part in the siege,
at first thought that the state of ruin in which we
found it was the result of that assault ; for he re-
membered that the village had been completely
destroyed. But, on inquiry, we learnt that all this
havoc had been caused by the Belgians, who, in the
present year, when they entered France, had thrown
shells into the village and destroyed many of its
luckless inhabitants. In order to dislodge the Belgians
the inhabitants set the place on fire, and finally sur-
rendered to the King of France, on condition that in
future no troops from the Allied Armies should ever
enter its gates. The National Guards were at their
posts as we entered. A fair was going on, and we
saw the arms of the town carried in procession. By
this ceremony they are enabled to keep their charter.
We walked round the ramparts, and our guide
assured us that the place is now impregnable. We
went in the evening to see " Richard Cceur de Lion"
at the theatre here. The difference between the
reception of that play here and at Paris was very
striking. When " Vive Henri IV. " was played, there
certainly was some applause, but none of the allusions
which, in Paris, were received with great enthusiasm,
were noticed at Valenciennes. The acting here was
not nearly so good as at the Feydeau.

The inhabitants of this place do not seem to be well
affected to the new order of things, and they do not
conceal their feelings, being wholly unconstrained
through the absence of foreign troops. Tobacco is
much cultivated in the surrounding country. They dry
it on strings stretched across the walls of their houses.


The horses from here were excellent, as also were
the post-boys, who, however, stopped frequently
during the short stages to drink gin or brandy.

We were stopped on the Belgian frontier by
Custom House officers, who were exceedingly trouble-
some. They bullied and bothered us for some time,
until at last I got out of the carriage, and made a
pathetic appeal to the head of the Custom House in
favour of my finery. He softened at once, repressed
the eagerness of his men, and, much to their annoy-
ance, allowed us to pass. The road to Mons is
unpleasantly flat — a chaussee with deep ditches on both
sides. We passed the Field of Genappes. Mons is
finely situated on a hill, and its numberless steeples
are a great ornament to the town. The Hotel de
Ville is very fine. The inn excellent ; but the people
extremely impertinent.

• • • • •

After passing through the sandy, burnt-up plains of
France, the eye is most agreeably relieved, on the
approach to Brussels, by the softness and beauty of
the verdure. The meadows are all of the brightest
green ; the sight of living objects — cattle and sheep —
gives a cheerfulness to the landscape, which a glorious
sunshine on that day so sensibly enhanced.

Brussels is situated on almost the only steep hill in
Belgium. Its houses are ornamented and painted,
and the mixture of languages upon tablets, displayed
on nearly every shop, is amusing. The Place Royale
is very perfect from an architectural point of view,
and the Park is deliciously shady. But there is a
certain monotony in the life at Brussels which wearied
us. The environs contain few objects of interest
except Laeken and Waterloo. The streets are silent
and deserted. This may, perhaps, be due to the heat,
which is severe at present. The countrywomen
wear long black scarfs over their heads, which are
very unbecoming.


We live entirely with the Duke and Duchess of

September iS, 181 5. —To-day we have visited Water-
loo, just three months after the battle. I took the
Duke of Richmond in my carriage ; the rest of the
party went in his. His conversation, as we passed
over the field, was interesting. He showed me the
spot where half of our artillery got entangled in
the deep roads, and did not reach the field in time.
We saw men employed in repairing the road, each
side of which was in deep holes from the drawing
of the guns over the moist ground. If the centre of
the road had not been paved, none of the artillery
could have arrived in time. Our conversation almost
the whole time related to the dear Duke of Wellington.
The Duke of Richmond told me many interesting

Online LibraryFrances (Winckley) ShelleyThe diary of Frances lady Shelley (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 33)