Marie-Anne Adélaïde Lenormand.

The historical and secret memoirs of the Empress Josephine (Marie Rose Tascher de La Pagerie) (Volume 1) online

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Edition strictly limited to 500 copies.

Five extra copies have been printed on Japanese vellum, but
are not offered for sale.


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(Marie Rose Tascher de La Pagerie)


Mdlle. M. a. LE NORMAND







Printed and Published by



There still exist large masses of material,
interesting and abundant, but little known and
difficult to procure, for the history and illustration
not only of celebrated Courts and epochs, but of
the lives of the illustrious individuals which ren-
dered them famous.

This fact, and the favourable reception accorded
the Court Memoir Series, encourages me to believe
that, while that series will continue to appear un-
interruptedly, one of a supplemental character, to be
distinguished as the " Historic Memoir Series,"
would be received with favour and appreciation, and
be found deserving of equal success.

I have, therefore, determined upon the publica-
tion of such a series of individual or personal
narratives of celebrities under the distinctive title
just given.

Each volume will be carefully edited, and, as
heretofore, each issue limited to Five Hundred

The new series again commences with an
account of the principal events of the life of the
Empress Josephine. The subject is one of undying


interest. Her devotion to her husband and her
adopted country, the self-abnegation of this illus-
trious woman, whom, in the words of the Emperor
Alexander, " France hath surnamed ' the Good,' "
invest the touching story with irresistible fascination.

On the other hand, the fresh light thrown
upon the circumstances of the divorce, and the
elucidation of many of the hidden springs of con-
duct on the part of one who imagined himself
destined to become the Master of the Universe,
will unquestionably prove valuable to the historian.

This narrative, which may be regarded as com-
plementary to the "Court Memoirs" of Madame
Ducrest, already published, is written in an affecting
and sympathetic manner by Mdlle. Le Normand.
It is enriched with copious notes, for many of
which documents owing their origin to the Empress
herself have furnished the material.

The work originally appeared in French in
1818, and comprises the whole period of the
Empress's life. An American, Jacob M. Howard,
translated it into English in 1848, and it was then
published in Philadelphia. A second edition ap-
peared in 1852. Since that date, these Memoirs
have not until now appeared in English.

This edition has been prepared from the first
of those above mentioned, many notes, which, it
is trusted, will enhance its value, having been

London, 315^ /»6'> 1895.


To His Majesty Alexanuek, Emperor of all the
RussL^s, King of Poland.

Sire, — Your Majesty, wholly occupied in promoting
the happiness of your subjects, daily adds to your fame
the glory which is reflected by enlightened princes who
deign to protect literature and the arts ; but the trump
of fame will never cease to repeat — future generations
will learn with surprise and admiration — the fact that
Your Majesty, anxious to establish, in a durable manner,
the happiness of nations, tore himself from a people by
whom he was adored, to achieve the overthrow and
humiliation of that celebrated man who had reached the
summit of power, and established his empire on the ruins
of republican factions. How did he reach that elevation ?
What did he do to attain so much greatness ? Surely
he was gifted with an active, energetic mind, a capacity
for great things. He was not among the murderers of
his King; and yet the blood of the virtuous Louis XVI.
was the original cement of the throne of the modern
Gengis-Khan. For years had France stood in need of a
master. Her citizens were depressed and discouraged.
Napoleon, environed with military glory, appeared ; he
astonished all; and the different parties which, in 1814,
united to overthrow him, then all concurred in the estab-
lishment of his power.

The dark policy of Bonaparte knew no arbiter but the


sword. Strength enabled him to overcome virtue ; and
justice, often down-trodden, disappeared beneath the con-
queror's steel.

Precious monuments and museums attested the con-
queror's taste for magnificence and luxury, enriched as
he was by the spoils of Europe ; but the giant who
sought to rule the whole world was not even master of
his own will. A slave to the caprices of his flatterers,
he often fell into their snares without perceiving them.
At a time when fortune seemed to favour Napoleon, while
he still thought himself happy and successful, unforeseen
reverses overtook him, and extinguished, by degrees, the
brightness of his glory. He surely might have displayed
more courage in adversity ; but he was not endowed with
that constancy which characterises and forms a hero. His
movements were out of the ordinary line ; they were by
turns brilliant, obscure, bold, pusillanimous, changeful,
incomprehensible. The future alone will show the true
cause which impelled him, and the real object he wished
to attain.

Your Majesty has presented to the world a sublime
spectacle of kindness and generosity. When your enemy's
vessel was under full sail you deigned to warn him of the
hidden rocks which lay in his course ; and when he had
hurled himself into the abyss, you stretched forth a help-
ing hand to the people of France. Master of their capital,
you saved it, actuated by the interests with which a brave
and unhappy people inspired you. The illustrious grand-
son of the immortal Catherine wore upon our ramparts the
loops of Minerva only to protect our arts, our workshops,
our academies, and to diffuse around him sentiments of
joy and admiration. From age to age will our contempo-
raries and our posterity recall those memorable events.
Men will never forget the august and generous Alex-
ander deigned to visit the forsaken wife of Bonaparte,
and that, in honouring her with his presence, he proved
how much and how sincerely he admired her, not only


for the good she had done, but the evil she had prevented
in the country which was her home.

Such evidences of Your Majesty's especial kindness were
a heahng balm to the wounds of her afflicted heart ; they
soothed the last troubled moments of her life ; and when
she left this world— a world in which she had nothing more
to expect or to hope — she had, at least, the consolation of
carrying with her, into the tomb, the consciousness of
having relieved misfortune ; and also that other conscious-
ness, still dearer to every feeling heart — as she herself said
with her dying breath — of never having caused a tear to flow.

The Secret Memoirs of her life, which I am about to
publish, were, in a great measure, prepared by herself, and
this is the reason which has determined me to place them
under the special protection of Your Majesty. I have
presumed to dedicate them, less to the Sovereign of all the
Russias, than to that enlightened man who needs not the
radiance of a throne to add to the splendour of his cha-
racter ; it is to the philosophic hero who, after having
furnished to kings examples of true policy, and to warriors
high evidences of attainment in their art, might dictate,
even to the best writers, lessons of true taste and refinement.

Permit me to hope that the work which I have the
honour to present to you, may make its appearance under
the auspices and patronage of the greatest of Sovereigns.

But, Sire, however you may regard this request, you
have here before you the historical collection which
Josephine undertook. She consecrated it to France, and
I lay this homage at the feet of Your Majesty. Although
the different epochs in the private and public life of the
first wife of Bonaparte may appear like detached sketches,
yet it will be found that they are so connected together by
a succession of events, prepared by an inscrutable Provi-
dence, as to be all founded, so to speak, one upon another.
Allow me to hope. Sire, that you will find the moral of the
work at once touching, consoling, religious, and eminently

VOL. I b


Prince ! born to promote the happiness of nations,
Destiny, which sometimes seems to conceal, in obscurity,
those bright geniuses whose labours contribute to illustrate
the reign of princes, has reserved a particular glory for that
of Your Majesty ! Awake ! shade of Josephine, awake
from the sleep of the tomb. Now, more than ever, do I
stand in need of thine aid ! How shall I, without thee, call
to mind all the great deeds which do honour to Alexander,
and transmit his virtues and his fame to an impartial pos-
terity ? Oh, for the genius of the immortal Maro !— then
would I, like him, sing your praises " at dawn and dewy
eve.''^ But there is no force nor richness of style that will
suffice to paint, I will not say with brilliancy but with
fidelity, the great actions which you have performed. Yet
I may be permitted to say, without offence to Your
Majesty, that the glory of those actions does not eclipse
that which you have acquired by protecting and defending
the rights of a nation as warlike as France, intoxicated
by great successes, yet fortunate, indeed, and proud to
acknowledge the fact that to you they are indebted for
the olive branch of peace, and the preservation of their
rich and vast territory.

Seated upon a throne where the world with admiration
beholds you, the fires of your genius will enlighten and
electrify your subjects ; for 'tis by the examples of heroes
that great men are formed. The arts that you have trans-
planted into your empire will one day form the principal
basis of the prosperity of your estates, and become the
cause of that veneration which gratitude will engrave upon
all hearts, to the memory of so enlightened and benevolent
a Prince. The sons of fame shall astonish the future with
the story of your great deeds, and delight to extol the
glorious actions which have already signalised your reign,
and those which are yet to give it additional lustre. They
will say, " His country boasted of his clemency, the grace-

I Te veniente die, te descendente canebat. — Georgics, lib. iv.


fulness of his manners, the wisdom of his counsels. She
will for ever celebrate his triumphs, and the innumerable
blessings he has lavished upon her," The voice of poetry
shall proclaim to the world that, under his reign, the
people enjoyed a wise and just liberty, and that by his
munificence, the germs of talent and art are daily de-
veloping themselves throughout the vast Empire of all
the Russias.

Condescend, great Prince, to receive benignly my sin-
cere homage, and the assurance of the profound respect
with which I am.

Your Majesty's most humble

and most obedient servant,


[Reply to the foregoing.]

[Letter addressed to Mademoiselle Lenormand, by order
of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor Alexander.]

His Imperial Majesty having been made acquainted
with the letter which you have addressed to him, has
charged me to testify to you. Mademoiselle, his thanks
for the work you have sent him ; he accepts with pleasure
the dedication of the " Historical Memoirs of the Empress
Josephine,'" and presents to you, as a souvenir, a ring
enriched with diamonds. In fulfilling his orders by these
presents, I hasten to thank you for the copy of your works
which you have sent me, and to express to you my high

(Signed) Le Prince Valkousky.

(1336, Aix-la-Chapelle, the 6th— i8th Oct., 1S18.
To Mademoiselle Lenormand.)



I AM about to recount to Frenchmen the principal
events in the hfe of Josephine. Perhaps, alas ! I attempt
a task beyond my strength ; but what mortal so well
knows himself as not to undertake too much ? Yet I
shall not have to reproach myself with having omitted
any effort to merit the approbation of the people she
loved. Should I not attain it, I shall be doubly afflicted ;
for, in whatever I say, I aim only to speak the truth,
not solely for the honour of speaking it, but because
truth is useful to men. If I sometimes happen to wander
from it I shall find in my errors some consoling motives.
For the rest, if I have deceived myself, and if any of
my principles be not conformable to the general interest,
it will be an error of the head, but not of the heart ;
and I declare in advance that I disavow them.

It is pleasant to read a good book ; but it is not so
very easy to write one. The first condition, and the one
which is the most rarely observed, is unity of object and
interest ; the second, and which must be reconciled with
the first, is to describe events well, and to seize the
different shades of each picture. I ask only one favour
of the reader, and that is, to understand before he con-
demns me, to follow out the chain of my ideas — to be
my judge, and not my accuser. This request is not the
effect of a rash confidence.

Some of my maxims may seem adventurous. Should
certain critics believe them false, I beg them to consider,
while they condemn them, that the most useful discoveries


are often due only to the boldness of endeavour, and that
the fear of advancing an error ought not to deter us from
prosecuting our search after truth. In vain do weak and
cowardly men seek to proscribe truth by giving to it the
odious name of licence ; for such is human frailty, that
there is no truth which may not become dangerous. Yet,
woe to the man who shall, on that account, deprive man-
kind of it ! I repeat, the moment the investigation of
certain truths shall be interdicted in France, it will not
be permitted to utter truths of any kind. Unhappily,
there are some men indefatigable in their ambition, who
will never give over ; who persist in believing that truth
can never make itself heard, and that courage in a his-
torian does not suffice to make him respected.

How many powerful persons were there who figured
at Napoleon's Court, and who, under the idea that it is
sometimes wise to conceal the truth, wished to banish
it from the earth ! But I intend to strip off the veil
which conceals those crafty politicians ; I will paint the
ancient courtiers, who —

" 'Neath Caesar's eye, composed their face to smiles."

Among the qualities of the heart, according to my
ideas, that which will always most challenge our admira-
tion, is that elevation of soul which scorns to tell a lie ;
errors cease to be dangerous while it is permitted to com-
bat them. Discussion exposes them, and they soon fall
into the depths of oblivion, while truth alone remains
supernatant upon the vast surface of ages.

When one is about to design plans for building, he
does not content himself with an examination of the
house which he inhabits ; he goes abroad and views
the winding walks of some smiling and fertile garden,
which furnish the leading ideas — or wanders forth amid
romantic scenery. He creates around him the most
novel and varied prospects. Thus, when we open a
book on morals, or set about sketching history, we must


leave the narrow circle of our previous ideas and place
ourselves in a point of view where we may survey the
whole range of events and of human passions. The
" Memoirs of Josephine " cannot, I am persuaded, fail to
present to the mind of the reader reflections which are
new and interesting, and to furnish aid in the study of
the human heart.

They will renew the memory of the first wife of the
most astonishing man of his age. A new world will be
opened to those who shall deign to peruse them. I see
the tears fall from their eyes, and their souls catch new
inspiration, as they peruse the important events I am
about to narrate. I pity those who, more severe than
posterity can with justice be, shall dare blacken the public
life of a woman who, by a freak of Fortune's wheel, that
never ceases its revolutions, was borne upwards to one
of the mightiest thrones in the universe. Bonaparte pre-
tended not to be subject to the opinions of men. Alas !
his interest and ambition destroyed in a moment the charm
of his existence and sundered the bonds which united him
to Josephine. Is it possible that his courtiers could have
succeeded in their guilty projects had he possessed the
courage to withdraw from their influence ? At that epoch
every obstacle vanished beneath his tread ; he thought
himself able to oppose a serene brow to the storm, and
brave in their turn both men and destiny. Josephine's
love for that remarkable man, her too blind confidence
in the means he possessed, finally induced her to applaud
his designs. But never did she share that boundless
power whose weight hung so heavily upon an unhappy

Permit me to describe Josephine such as she presented
herself to my imagination ; that is, at the age when, still
young, she lost her first husband. There was an ex-
pression of sadness about her countenance, giving her an
appearance of melancholy. Her mind was filled with
recollections of the past ; she knew perfectly the part


she had acted, but was then ignorant of what she was
one day to perform.

Her bearing was noble, her stature majestic ; she was
nevertheless kind and compassionate, enamoured of glory,
Avhich she hoped to espouse — if I may be allowed the ex-
pression — in the person of the man who was to engage her

With pleasure shall I describe her maternal love, the
heroic courage which she displayed at the period of her
divorce. I shall relate the most secret events of her life.
I shall speak of the enthusiasm of that admirable woman
for whatever bore an impress of the sublime ; of her
husband's crooked policy, and of her respect for certain
illustrious but unfortunate persons.

Josephine had a kind of towering pride in her composi-
tion. The love of the beautiful exalted her soul, and
whatever was noble and generous was sure to obtain her

She possessed, moreover, but without any show, the
art of captivating hearts. By means of her goodness,
and the graciousness of her demeanour, she conciliated
even the enemies of her second husband. Instead of
leaving him upon a throne, surrounded by abysses, in
which sleepless crime kept watch in the hope of dragging
him into the depths, she gained him friends and parti-
sans, who became his firmest supporters.

I shall also enquire whether it was a subject of reproach
for Bonaparte to have forgotten the debt of gratitude he
owed to Josephine. 'Tis the ordinary effect of ambition
to destroy the natural sentiments of the heart, and to
hide them beneath a veil of black ingratitude. Soon, too
soon, did he realise the dream which it was his duty to
banish from his mind : he chose a new companion.
Unhappy Maria Louisa ! Thine august father, to ensure
the tranquillity of his empire, consented to give to his
daughter a master as he had given one to himself,
by associating Napoleon in the empire of the world.


Josephine witnessed the triumph of her rival, without
making the sHghtest attempt to disturb her repose. The
loss of her husband was sufficient of itself to render her
insensible to whatever passed around her. Nothing but
great passions produce extreme suffering and lasting
sorrow. She remained several days buried in profound
meditation ; but to the recollections of the heart, which
seemed to overcome her, she joined the noblest fortitude,
the most patient resignation. A new Ariadne, she seemed
to forget the perfidious Theseus who had abandoned her.
And yet she \ittered in secret her prayers for a husband
who was perjured to his vows.

Alone at Malmaison, Josephine no longer took notice
of the agitating factions of the times, nor the increasing
popular disturbances ; she heard not the long-stifled groans
of the people, nor the preparations of the nations for the
tumult of arms. Afar from the frightful spectacle of so
many evils, and the appalling arrangements to remedy
them ; far from the headlong and criminal manoeuvres
by which her husband's political system devoted men to
mutual destruction, and opposed fury to fury, her heart,
wholly consecrated to doing good, preferred the silent,
but instructive, communion of the children of Nature to
the society of courtiers, Avho thronged in multitudes
around her. She might have been seen breathing, in its
voluptuous freshness, the morning air in the poplar's silent
shade, round which the rose and the honeysuckle entwined
themselves, hanging like rich crowns above her head.
Here, with pencil in hand, she would sketch the various
pictures which Nature unfolded to her view. Her imagi-
nation would speed its flight towards that happy isle, the
witness of the bright days of her childhood — days the
memory of which she loved to cherish. Here her heart
melted with tenderness ; here she poured forth her tears
as she reflected upon the past. And yet, even here, she
began to enjoy a momentary felicity. For fifteen years
she was thought to be the happiest of women ; she seemed


seated for ever upon the car of Fortune ; and yet a day, a
single day, had already sufficed to scatter all those seduc-
tive illusions. Thus, alas ! the years roll on.

Although she must have felt the necessity of banishing
all memory of her irreparable loss, she, nevertheless, at
times, grasped an enchanted cup, from which she drew
long draughts of nectar ; still was she sensible to the
pleasure of being loved, and was ravished with delight
when she heard, confidentially, that the new spouse of
Bonaparte appeared not to occupy in his heart the same
place as herself.

During her moments of leisure at Malmaison, she
sketched the different events of her life ; she preserved
the most secret particulars of her husband's reign, and
destined those precious manuscripts for posterity. I will
fulfil her most cherished vow. With such materials I
am permitted to undertake this interesting work. Would
that, for its execution, I held the insinuating, persuasive
pen of the immortal author of " Malthide." But, though
unsustained by such advantages, I shall offer, at least, to
my readers several chapters written entirely by Josephine's
own hand ; and, as a complement to the work, they will,
I trust, content themselves with the curious notes which
she deposited in my hands.

O ye who are still plucking the flowers of youth ^ —
noble Eugene, kind-hearted Hortense — ye whose minds
are still surrounded by the dark clouds which conceal
your future lot ; ye who, to heroic sentiments, unite
the celestial enthusiasm of private virtue ; may the ex-
ample of your illustrious mother lead you ever to sustain
becomingly the reverses of fortune, and make you sensible
of this important truth, that, without the resources of
genius and sentiment, a man is poor in the midst of
treasures, and alone in the midst of society !

Permit me, children of Josephine — permit me, at least,
to present to posterity the history of her life ; permit me
to display the picture of her heart, and the annals of the


times in which she lived. To men I will resign the
perilous career of politics ; but I will not suffer certain
authors with impunity to sharpen the dart of satire
against the memory of a woman whom they ought to
adore. I shall endeavour to avoid the shoals which
surround me on every side. Too just to be influenced
by fear, I shall invoke the testimony of those who, like
myself, knew how to appreciate her understanding, the
charms of her conversation, and the pleasures of her
society. My principal object is, not only to awaken in-
teresting reflections in the minds of Frenchmen, but, like
her, to inspire them with the love of whatever is great,
noble and generous. And let those who, following in the
footsteps of her husband, dare still to entertain the luck-
less and fatal ambition of reigning over a divided people,
learn from her what are the hidden rocks among which
they sail.

I shall likewise enter into some details connected with
the too famous affair of her divorce. As I am afraid to
have my readers misled by false conjectures, and as they
may not, from a want of proper investigation, be able to

Online LibraryMarie-Anne Adélaïde LenormandThe historical and secret memoirs of the Empress Josephine (Marie Rose Tascher de La Pagerie) (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 34)