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AN UNKNOWN SON
OF NAPOLEON



AN UNKNOWN SON
OF NAPOLEON



BY

HECTOR FLEISCHMANN



LONDON

EVELEIGH NASH

1914






TRANSLATED BY

A. R. ALLINSON, M.A.



PREFATORY NOTE

It is through the notoriety of a succession of
disreputable scandals, of a series of dubious legal
proceedings, that the Second Empire, with its little
secrets, its private and semi-clandestine history, is
connected with the name of the droll and diverting
hero whose biography I have undertaken to unravel.
It is through Le^on, the Comte Ldon, son of an
unknown father, that the reign of Napoleon in.
comes in touch with that of Napoleon i. ; it is a
page of the uncle's history that is here set down
at the same time as the nephew's. It may be the
objection will be raised that the individual dealt
with, insignificant as a political influence, negligible
as playing any official part, did not deserve the
honour of a substantial 8vo volume, that an article
in a Review would have sufficed to exhaust the
subject. This is a poor way of reasoning ; it
betrays an encyclopaedic ignorance to assume that
nothing is known of a life like this, a life that set
all the world talking of the lawsuits, the duels, the
petty rogueries which marked its course, and that
we can rest content with the mere sketch of



296911



6 PREFATORY NOTE

M. Paul Ginisty or the cursory observations of
Dr. Max Billard, the only two authors who have
concerned themselves with the Comte Ldon. . . .

I claim for this book neither more nor less in-
dulgence than for its predecessors. But one thing
I am bound to insist on, — my gratitude towards
those who have given their cordial and affectionate
co-operation in completing the investigations in-
volved in the work. First and foremost, I must
mention all I owe to the Baron de Meneval, who
has graciously consented to draw upon his rich
family archives for what constitutes the essential
and unpublished part of my narrative, — matter
to which History will be indebted for final and
definite information of the consequences of a
fugitive liaison of the great Emperor's. Nor must
I forget to refer to M. Monin, who has provided
me with an invaluable collection of documents
dealing with Leon's imbroglio at Saint- Denis with
the Colonel of the National Guard, — a comic inter-
lude and diverting chapter in a life abounding in
burlesque escapades ; to M. Joachim Kiihn, whose
laborious and ingenious researches have enabled
me to follow the fortunes of Leon's mother and her
third husband to the end ; to M. Pierre Bart, who,
while M. Joachim Kiihn was pushing his inquiries
in Germany, was pursuing similar investigations in
France — investigations that culminated in some
happy finds ; to the MM. Saffroy, brothers, thanks



PREFATORY NOTE 7

to whom I am able to include several hitherto un-
published letters ; in fact, to all the disinterested
collaborators to whom belongs the credit of much
that is new and curious in the book.

H. F.



CONTENTS



PAGH



Prefatory Note ...... 5

List of Illustrations . . . . .11



BOOK I
AN EMPEROR'S CAPRICE

CHAP.

I. Story of a dashing Dragoon, of the tender
Eleonore, and of a Singular Pair of
Parents-in-Law . . . 15

II. The Case for the Emperor . . -44

III. Napoleon and Eleonore . . . -63

IV. Return of the "Avenger of Virtue" . . 92



BOOK II
COUNT LEON'S TRAGI-COMIC HISTORY

I. An Emperor's Son and a "Man about Town" . 147
II. Leon and the Napoleons . . . . 171

III. From Roguery to Mysticism, taking Politics

by the way ..... 199

IV. Deepening Shadows — Ill-Repute and Oblivion 224



io CONTENTS



APPENDIX

ADDITIONS AND SUPPLEMENTARY
DOCUMENTS

PAGE

I. Rogue Revel the Moral Legatee of the

Emperor . . . . .251

II. Napoleon as a Father in Myth and Legend . 264

Index ....... 283



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Count Leon . . . . Frontispiece

From a Lithograph in the Collection of Emile Brouwet.

FACING PAGE

Eleonore Denuelle de la Plaigne . . .26

From a Portrait by Philiberte Ledoux.

Caroline Murat. . . . . .66

From a Lithograph by Hopwood.

Baron Claude-Francois de Meneval . . .82

From a Miniature in the Possession of the de Meneval family.

The Emperor Napoleon . . . .110

From a Picture by DelaroCHE.

Count Leon ...... 156

From a rare Lithograph.

Eleonore in 1838 ..... 166

From a Miniature in the Author's collection.

Baron de Meneval . . . . .198

After a Lithograph by Auguste Bry.

Count Leon in Old Age .... 242



BOOK I

AN EMPEROR'S CAPRICE



M



CHAPTER I

STORY OF A DASHING DRAGOON, OF THE
TENDER ELEONORE, AND OF A SINGULAR
PAIR OF PARENTS-IN-LAW

Revel, his antecedents and character — Curious details of his
military career — A chance meeting at the Theatre de la
Gaiete" — A "Cleopatra of sixteen" — The family Denuelle
de la Plaigne — An interesting group — A pupil of Mme
Campan's " Pension," an establishment greatly favoured in
high quarters — Polite education under the Consulate —
Some of her pupils and their love affairs — Revel makes
himself at home in the Denuelle household — A miraculous
pocket-book — The dragoon a successful suitor — Son-in-law
and mother-in-law — Money squabbles — Mme Campan to
the rescue — The marriage contract signed — A singular
honeymoon — Revel arrested — " Where is Eleonore ? " —
Ask the Emperor !

Five feet nothing in height, " with a slim but well-
knit figure and a very agreeable face," chestnut
hair and eyebrows, a grey eye, an aquiline nose
above a mouth of average proportions, and a
round chin terminating an oval visage, — such is
the description of a certain Jean- Honord- Francois
Revel, who was for cutting a dash at Paris in
the Year xn. He was a regular frequenter of
the places of amusement of the day, — Tivoli, where

IS



**i6 : '*AN'UNKNbWN SON OF NAPOLEON

a nymph was carried up in the air hanging from
the car of a balloon ; Frascati, where loving couples
lost themselves in shady groves after the intoxica-
tion of the "walse"; Garchi, famed for its ices;
the "Estaminet Hollandais," where, crop in hand and
spurs on heel, the exquisite found it easy to per-
suade the company he had just dismounted from
a gallop in the Bois de Boulogne ; — haunts, one and
all, crowded with idlers, light-hearted scamps, girls
dressed in the latest, or all but the latest, fashions,
"pigeons" and clever sharpers to pluck them. In
suchlike resorts, it seems, Revel pursued fortune
and the favour of the fair. A dashing fellow, he
could boast the fascinating graces of a man of
thirty and an imposing dragoon uniform — which,
by the by, he had no right to wear, for since
i Nivose, Year xn, he had ceased to be on the
active list. A native of the South, he still had
all the fondness for fine clothes and bright colours
characteristic of the Meridional, and added addi-
tional touches out of his own head to the brilliancy of
the military dress, of which he was all the prouder
because he was not officially entitled to wear it.

It was at Margins, in the Var, that the son
of Jean Revel and Angelique-Charlotte Achard
his wife, Jean-Honore-Francois, was born Sep-
tember ii, 1773. His father was a "magistrate"
— yes, but what sort of a magistrate ? Our gallant
friend, who has a trick of telling tales it is hard to



REVEL'S ANTECEDENTS 17

verify, has neglected to supply any precise informa-
tion on the point. He observes a like reticence
concerning his marriage with a certain Mademoiselle
Jeanne-Charlotte Ruzot, by whom he had a son and
a daughter. He must have been still very young
at the time, for he was barely twenty when he
enlisted as a soldier, on March 1, 1793, in the
1st battalion of the Alpes-Maritimes. In after
years, in July 18 10, inditing a Plainte a Hart de
la guerre we find him exclaiming —

Je fai, par goUt, au sortir de Penfance,
Sur tous les arts donne la preference,
Issu (Tun pere, autrefois magistrate
Malgre son voeu, je me suis fait so/da t. 1

And he made a pretty good thing of it, to begin
with. On June 24, 1793, he was appointed Lieu-
tenant, and on 9 Ventose, Year 11, Quartermaster.
On 11 Flordal, Year in, he was raised to the
grade of Quartermaster-Captain. He had made
the campaign of 1793 with the Army of the
Pyrdn^es-Orientales, and in Year iv he was ordered
to join the Army of Italy. The mania for writing,
by which he had been possessed from boyhood,
led him at this period to indite a work on the
administration of the military forces. Bonaparte,

1 " I have, from choice, since childhood's days, over all the
arts given thee preference ; born of a father, erstwhile a magis-
trate, despite his wish, I have made myself a soldier " {Archives
administrates du ministere de la guerre : dossier Revel).
2



1 8 AN UNKNOWN SON OF NAPOLEON

at that time General-in-Chief, read it, and invited
him to his table. This military and culinary
triumph Revel has celebrated in verse : —

D'un doux plaisir mon dme fut remplie
Quand le heros vainqueur de VAusonie
Me fit Vhonneur de lire un de mes plans
Et cFapplaudir a mes jeunes talents. 1

These successes, however, were short-lived.
As a result of the reorganization of the Year iv,
Revel was retired as an officer on half-pay.
Thereupon he returned to his native Department,
vegetated there for a while, and eventually removed
to the Saone-et- Loire, where he was appointed
Secretary in chief under the Central Administra-
tion of that Department.

He must have been in low water ; it was a
question now of his daily bread. Yet he found
this hard to digest in civilian employment. Not-
withstanding sundry infirmities contracted in the
service, he cherished hopes of once more girding
on the warrior's sword, and already, in the Year
vn, we see him petitioning for his reinstallation in
the army. The Commissioner of the Executive
Directory in connexion with the Central Adminis-
tration of the Saone-et- Loire recommended him,
1 1 Thermidor, Year vn, to the Minister of War
for a post as commissariat officer. "He is a man

1 "My soul was filled with agreeable pleasure when the
victorious hero of Ausonia did me the honour to read one of my
projects and to applaud my youthful talents."



MILITARY CAREER 19

of irreproachable integrity," he writes. Mark this
recommendation and these words of encomium.
We shall have more to say of the matter. How-
ever, months go by and nothing happens. At last
Revel's patience is exhausted, and one day, on 23
Flor^al, Year vm, he gives in his papers. He
sets off for Paris, where he spends his time
tramping from bureau to bureau and kicking his
heels in ante-chambers. He contrives to secure
the interest of an Inspector-General of Revisions,
General-of-Division Gauthier, who, on 30 Germinal,
Year vm, authorizes the Council of Administration
of the 15th Regiment of Dragoons to accept Revel
as Paymaster. At the same time a memorandum
is appended, which reads : "If the Citoyen Revel
fails in the sequel to justify the confidence of the
Council of Administration, the latter is hereby
authorized to make another selection." The pro-
viso is not for nothing, and we may well ask what
breath of suspicion dictated it ; for in Vend^miaire,
Year x, Revel, being still Paymaster in the 15th
Regiment of Dragoons — the Dragoons of Egypt —
it is proposed to retire him on the ground that " the
conduct of the Citoyen Revel has given rise to
notable complaints, and his citation before a court-
martial, where he appears to be still under examina-
tion, precludes an immediate decision in his case."
What was the issue ? Was Revel acquitted ?
Was influence made on his behalf? These points



20 AN UNKNOWN SON OF NAPOLEON

remain obscure. All I can learn for certain is, that
some months subsequently, on 25 Messidor, Year
xii, General Canclaux reported in a memorandum
to the Inspectors of Revisions : —

" A very able and very clever officer, but
strongly suspected from the point of view of
integrity ; cannot remain in the regiment inasmuch
as he is only there as supernumerary, but still more
on the grounds that he does nothing but intrigue.
Has been, however, indispensable hitherto for
straightening out the accounts of the complementary
squadron. Having no means of livelihood or of
supporting his family, has some claims on the
Government's compassion, if not on its sense of
justice."

Perhaps I am deceiving myself, but I am bound
to say the tone of all these memoranda seems
anything but flattering to Revel. We shall have
an opportunity of examining the point later on.
As for the accounts of the squadron referred to,
these were in fact extremely involved and led to
the suicide of the individual responsible for them.
Occasion for another stave from Revel : —

Au regiment le desordre regnait,
Pour rendre compte un comptable se tue ;
Cette aventure a Versailles connue
Ne rend que mot victime du /or/ait. 1

1 " In the regiment disorder reigned supreme ; to square his
accounts, an accountant officer kills himself. This misadventure
reported at Versailles only renders me victim of the default"



A DUBIOUS RECORD 21

As a matter of fact this date marks the removal
of his name to the retired lists. But, being clever
at straightening out figures and balancing involved
accounts, he found an opportunity of utilizing his
talents and industry in this direction. General
Davrange d'Haugeranville engaged his services
in this capacity provisionally, and Revel came
to Paris, where he took up his abode in the
Rue du Faubourg-Saint- Honore, No. 8. Such
was his situation when one evening in the Year xn
a chance meeting occurred that was destined to
involve the most unexpected consequences for his
future life.

For some years now the Quartermaster had
been a widower. His wife, it appears, had died of
despair ; I conjecture that the not over-scrupulous
ways of her husband had a good deal to do
with it. Be this as it may, the widower was
now seeking consolation and anxious to marry
again, " my worldly interests," he declared,
"necessitating a second marriage." So far, so
good. Well, on this particular evening Revel,
being at a loss for amusement, went to spend
an hour or two at the Theatre de la Gaiete.
Standing on the Boulevard du Temple, the
house had formerly sheltered the King's " Grands

(Plainte d Part de la guerre, par Revel, capitaine au 6i e
regiment de ligne. Worms, July 28, 18 10. — Archives adminis-
tratives du ministere de la guerre : dossier Revel).



22 AN UNKNOWN SON OF NAPOLEON

Danseurs," still known as the "spectacle du
Sieur Nicolet," and had once been the scene
of the brilliant triumphs of the Demoiselle Sophie
Forest, whom Bertin, treasurer of the privy
purse, had established with a houseful of furniture
worth 60,000 francs in the Rue Popincourt-au-
Pont-aux-Choux, the same who was so outrage-
ously vilified in a certain foul-mouthed pamphlet
of the revolutionary time. 1 It was to the
manager of this house that the Citoyen Eve,
known as Maillot, had surrendered the rights
of Madame Angot ou la poissarde parvenue, which,
bought of the author for 500 francs, had filled the
manager's pockets to the tune of 500,000. Since
then its pieces had been less spicy. There had
been Ortalban, a melodrama in three acts, by
Pesay ; Alquif ou la valeur rdconipensde, a panto-
mime which, "thanks to the property man,"
achieved " a certain success " ; the Jugement de
Mon-Salo, " a monstrous dirty production," by
Vilieu and Bouel ; Les Fous Hollandais ; Elisa
ou le triomphe des femmes, and other sparkling
trivialities of the sort. A certain Monsieur
Mayeur, otherwise called Saint- Paul, author of
an obscene libel against Marie Antoinette, actor
and author, was manager of the house, which
was built in 1760, and on whose stage Martainville

1 Les Pantins des boulevards ou bordels de Thalie . . . Paris,
1 79 1, 8vo.



AT THE PLAY 23

was in 1806 to produce his famous and never-to-be-
forgotten Pied de Mouton}

On the evening in question some insipid piece
of the kind typical of the place was billed.
Revel had settled himself in the balcony to enjoy
the play. From there he perceived that an
adjoining box was occupied by persons who
appeared to merit his attention. There was,
to begin with, a lady of a certain age who
struck him as possessing grace, amiability, polite-
ness, and — a subsequent discovery — wit. She was
no niggard in displaying the charms of her fine
person, possibly because she had read the First
Book of Ovid's Ars Amoris, in which certain
women are spoken of who "go to the play to see,
but likewise to be seen themselves." By this lady's
side sat a "Cleopatra of sixteen," having "the
figure of Flora, great dark eyes, a complexion like
the lily, cheeks like the rose," "tall, slender,
graceful, a brunette, vivacious and coquettish to
a degree." An individual of the male sex, much
like anybody else, together with a little girl, com-
pleted the group filling the box. Revel was
fascinated. Providentially, between the acts, he
came upon a friend who was acquainted with

1 Pulled down in 1808, burned down in 1835, the Theatre de
la Gaiete was rebuilt the same year. It disappeared eventually
in the transformations and demolitions of the Boulevard du
Temple. — Nicolas Brozier, Chronique des petits the&tres de Paris.
Paris, 1883.



24 AN UNKNOWN SON OF NAPOLEON

these agreeable persons. Revel leaped at the
chance, and, there and then, was presented to
the occupants of the box. The ladies were
alone, the gentleman having gone for a stroll up
and down the corridors. The newcomer proved
himself a brilliant and fascinating cavalier. The
ladies were unable to retain their admiration, and
soon, the dragoon admits, " I found I had a
difficult part to play between these two divinities."
Fortunately the male member of the party now
appeared to save him from his delicate predicament.
He brought back with him the little girl, — Zulma
she was called, — who soon perched in the friendliest
way on Revel's knee. " I was caught, constrained,
conquered by the charms of a fascinating picture."
Sweet intimacy, delicious spectacle : father,
mother, daughter, little girl sitting on the dragoon's
lap ! He seemed one of the family already. He
talked freely, he says so himself, — he waxed
confidential. He owned to being in the army.
Ah, ha ! Monsieur is a soldier ? No doubt, no
doubt, but some little while since he had retired
from active service, to devote his energies to
business. Business ! — the word had an attractive
ring and promised well ! What sort of business ?
" I was going," he told them, "to be at the head
of an important enterprise established on a far-
reaching plan which I had brought to the favour-
able notice of a body of wealthy capitalists, its



A "CLEOPATRA OF SIXTEEN" 25

object being the supply of all kinds of necessaries
to the troops."

Confidence for confidence, the father of this
simple family then gave his name — Dominique
Denuelle de la Plaigne. He was engaged in
"speculation." What speculations? A delicate
question to answer ! In plain truth, let us out
with it at once, this man Denuelle, who was an
associate of the notorious Pilatre des Rosiers
and had no right to the name of La Plaigne, was
not a "gentleman of means," as represented, but
rather a " speculator, in the grand style of course,"
— a style which had actually led him to the
Conciergerie, where he had once upon a time been
confined. As for his wife, Francoise-Caroline-
Eleonore Couprie, she was an undesirable whose
pretty trade it will be our business to examine into
later on. In a word, these Denuelles were not
quiet people who had been fortunate in their
business dealings, but pleasant-mannered scoundrels,
common cheats and tricksters. Amongst them their
elder daughter, Louise-Catherine-Eteonore, stood
out in pleasant contrast. " Cleopatra " was born
on September 13, 1787, in the parish of Saint-
Eustache. A portrait of her, by Philiberte Ledoux,
shows her a melancholy-eyed, rather languishing
figure, wearing a white frock set off with a mauve
riband and a belt of old gold and holding a letter
inscribed with the words : " Yes, I shall love thee



26 AN UNKNOWN SON OF NAPOLEON

for ever. ..." This was indeed pretty much the
fond wish that filled Revel's heart that evening,
dazzled as he was by the nymph's charms. How
ravishing, how lovable, how sweet and tender she
was ! He was yet more stirred, yet more trans-
ported by the perfections of her beauty, when, in a
discreet undertone, the mother informed him how
the delectable El^onore was still at boarding-school
with Mme Campan and was enjoying a short
holiday for the moment. Mme Campan, protege 'e
of the First Consul, a schoolmistress who was half
a government official, who was training Bonaparte's
own sisters in the way they should go ! Revel was
struck dumb, and there and then fell in love with
the fair EMonore. A pupil at Mme Campan's !
A pupil at that nursery of the old-world Aristocracy !
The deuce ! What were these Denuelles de la
Plaigne then? Revel "pondered these things in
his heart."

At that date the mere name of Mme Campan
was a guarantee of high distinction, a patent of
nobility. Born in Paris on October 6, 1752, the
daughter of Genet, Head Clerk at the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, she had begun her career and found
means to educate herself in the post of first Maid-
in- Waiting and Reader to Marie Antoinette, whose
household she entered in 1 774. Married on May 1 1,
1774, at Versailles, to Francois- Bertholet Campan,
Master of the Wardrobe to the Comtesse d'Artois,




Eleonore Denuelle de la Plaigne.

From a Portrait by Philiberte Ledoux.



MADAME CAMPAN 27

she had obtained on June 4, 1790, a decree of
judicial separation from the Court of the Chatelet
at Paris, and on August 10, 1792, early in the
Revolution, had quitted the Queen's service. Dur-
ing the Terror she lay concealed at Coubertin,
in the Valley of Chevreuse, with her nieces, one of
whom was afterwards to be the wife of Marshal
Ney. Soon after the 9 Thermidor, with nothing
but an assignat of 400 francs in her pocket, she
opened, in the Rue de Poissy at Saint-Germain
(a nun of the Order of St. Thomas of Villeneuve
helping her in the enterprise), a boarding-school
that won a rapid and brilliant success. The old
noble families entrusted their daughters to her
care ; one who had been Maid-in- Waiting to the
Queen could not fail to command their confidence.
The next step, the old premises proving too
cramped, was to lease, 6 Prairial, Year 111, the
erstwhile Hotel de Rohan in the Rue de l'Unite\
on which she bestowed the title of Institution
Nationale de Saint-Germain. In Fructidor fol-
lowing the Vicomtesse de Beauharnais sent her
daughter Hortense to the school. The Consulate
came in due course, and the fortune of the school
was made ! Amongst its pupils were Stephanie
Tascher de la Pagerie, the Princesse d'Arenberg
to be ; Charlotte Bonaparte, daughter of Lucien ;
Annette Murat, who became Princess Hohen-
zollern ; Clotilde Murat, subsequently Duchesse



28 AN UNKNOWN SON OF NAPOLEON

de Corrigliano ; Eugenie Hulot, soon to marry
Marshal Moreau ; Adele Mac Donald, who will
become Duchesse de Massa; Aim^e Leclerc, Nieves
Hervas, Felicite de Faudoas, Sophie de Marbois,
Victorine Masse^na, presently to be wives of Dukes
and Marshals of France — Eckmiihl, Friuli, Rovigo,
Piacenza. Caroline, who will wear the crown of
Naples ; Pauline, who will be Princess Borghese ;
Hortense, Queen of Holland, had been at the
school. " I found myself in charge of a young
brood of kings and queens, without ever suspecting
it," Mme Campan used to say at a later date. " I
must own it was very fortunate for us all that we
knew nothing about it. Their education was just
the same as that of the other girls." To tell truth,
this education was mainly devoted to the arts of
pleasing and the inculcation of a refined and tactful
charity such as befits little girls who will one day
grow into great ladies. 1 They were taught to
dance prettily, to curtsy graciously, to twang the
harp, to play the harpsichord, to sing and draw,
to make music and paint, — and occasionally, by
way of recreation, to visit the poor of Saint-

1 " The young ladies at Mme Campan's school had clubbed
together to make her a present on her birthday, and had a sum
of 30 louis to dispose of. When the day came, they decided,
after consultation, that the most agreeable offering they could
make their mistress would be to devote the amount collected to
an act of charity. Accordingly, they handed the sum in question


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