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Memoirs of Madame Junot (Duchesse D'Abrantès) (Volume 3) online

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profligate as a Borgia and as impious as the Fifth Sixtus,
it is impossible that he could so stupidly proclaim it.

All who have been honoured with his acquaintance
know that, whatever political license he might allow
himself in conversation, he never, in the man of the
world or even in the man of gallantry, forgot the dignity
of the Cardinal. I have held frequent and intimate inter-
course with him, and have in my possession more than
thirty of his letters ; and I can affirm that I never heard
him utter an unbecoming word, or received from him a
single line that passed the bounds of decorum.

About this time M. Portalis the elder presented to the
Council of State a brief of Pope Pius VII. , authorizing
M. de Talleyrand to return to a secular life. Eegnault
de Saint Jean-d'Angely asked : " What the Council could
possibly have to do with the conscience of a man : we are
called upon to admit or reject a brief that grants to a
person all indulgence and enjoyment of those civil rights
of which he himself is in possession. I contend that the
Council cannot have anything to do with it. "

Cambacdrfes, the President, put the question to the vote,
and argued that the First Consul would be much dis-
pleased if the registry of the brief were refused. The
permission of the Pope was finally admitted, M. de
Talleyrand was restored to the lay commmiity, and can
now be buried without wrangle or strife whenever he
shall quit his busy path of life.

It was the First Consul's desire that the promulgation


of the Concordat, which had received his definitive ratifi-
cation, should be attended with a religious ceremony, in
all the pomp and circumstance of Eoman worship. The
Concordat concerning religious affairs, after being signed
at Paris on the 15th July, 1801, by the Consuls, was sent
to Eome, where it underwent a critical examination in
the Conclave, and was then signed and ratified in all its
integrity by the Pontiff, which, considering the Pope's
Infallibility, methinks ought to suffice to quiet the con-
sciences of those who should be content with being as
good Christians as their Holy Father.

Fourteen prelates, more attached to remembrance of the
past than to hope of the future, refused to recognise the
Concordat. These fourteen bishops were then in London,
where at least they lived in peace and without care ; they
were right not to change their lot : they would not have
been so well treated in France; for the First Consul
allowed the bishops only a sufficient revenue for main-
taining a creditable establishment.^ " They should not
have reason to blush, " said the First Consul, " in fulfilling
the highest ecclesiastical functions ; they should also
have the means of succouring the unfortunate within
their dioceses; but archbishops and bishops must not
absorb the revenue of a province, excite scandal, and, as
in former days, bring religion into disgrace." Forty
bishops and nine archbishops were instituted by the
First Consul, who imposed the formula of oath to be
taken by them on entering upon their dioceses.

From sixty to eighty ladies were invited to accompany
Madame Bonaparte to Notre Dame. She had then no
ladies of honour ; but four companion ladies had volun-

^ According to a statement made by the committee for regulating the
allowances made by Parliament to be granted to the emigrants in Eng-
land, there were but twelve bishops, who received each £250 annually
from the money voted. This was in 1793.


tarily taken upon them the duties of that office. We
assembled at the Tuileries at half after ten in the morn-
ing of Easter Day, in the year 1S02. The Consuls
occupied but one carriage. The First Consul had issued
no orders, but it was intimated to the principal public
functionaries that he would be pleased to see their ser-
vants in livery on the day of the ceremony. He put his
own household into livery on the occasion: it was cer-
tainly showy, but, as yet, by no means well appointed.
Madame Bonaparte was accompanied by her daughter and
her sister-in-law : the rest of the procession followed pro-

Madame Bonaparte and all the ladies were conducted
to the gallery to hear the Te Deum, and the gallery of
Notre Dame on that day presented an enchanting spec-
tacle : it formed a magnificent conservatory, filled with the
choicest flowers.

Madame Murat's fair, fresh, and spring-like face,
comparable only to a June rose, was surmounted by a
pink satin hat and plume of feathers. She wore a gown
of fine Indian tambour muslin, lined with pink satin and
trimmed with Brussels point, and over her shoulders was
thrown a scarf of the same lace. I have seen her more
richly dressed, but never saw her look more beautiful.

How many young women, hitherto unknown, on this
day took their degree in the realm of beauty, beneath the
brilliant beams of a mid-day sun, rendered more glowing
in their passage through the stained windows of the
cathedral ! The First Consul himself, the same evening,
remarked upon the galaxy of beauty which shone in the

The ceremony was long. Cardinal Caprara, who
officiated, was tedious in the extreme ; and M. de
Boisgelin was equally prolix in his sermon. At near
three o'clock we returned to the Tuileries completely

VOL. III. — 10


tired. One of the most striking circumstances of the
day was the military display. The firing of musketry,
the troops lining the streets, the salvoes of artillery,
which from the earliest dawn had shaken every win-
dow of Paris, mingling the sounds of the camp with
religious chants, and with that ecclesiastical pomp so
justly in accordance with the solemnity, formed a com-
bination truly imposing.

The First Consul was vehemently irritated by the
answer of General Delmas to his question, How he liked
the ceremony ? " It was a very showy harlequinade, "
said the General, " and, to render it complete, wanted
only the presence of the million of men who have shed
their blood for the destruction of that which you have
re -erected. "

My uncle, Bien-Aymd, was Bishop of Metz ; this re-
minds me of a conversation he had with the First Consul
soon after his admission to the College of Episcopal
Prelates. When first Canon of the Cathedral of Evreux,
he had been for many years the intimate friend of M. de
Buffon. The First Consul, whom Junot had informed of
this circumstance, wished to converse with the Bishop of
Metz about this extraordinary man; and my iincle's as-
tonishment at finding him intimately acquainted with the
private life of M. de Buffon, who lived at a distance
from him, and was precluded by all his habits from inter-
course with Bonaparte, was particularly diverting.


A GEEAT misfortune had befallen our family: my
mother had ceased to exist. Her sufferings were over,
but we had lost our friend, our delight. She had occu-
pied all my time and thoughts, and the void produced by
the removal of this adored object occasioned an anguish
to which I know of nothing comparable. The affection-
ate and considerate conduct of Junot on this sad occasion
sweetened the bitterness of my grief.

A proof that Junot well understood the heart of her he
honoured was his liberality to three hundred of the most
distressed amongst the poor of Paris. They were re-
lieved and clothed in the name of her whose funeral
car they surrounded, and for whom they were mourning
and offered prayers of gratitude. How much did this
delicacy in giving and administering the consolation of
which I should be most sensible endear my husband
to me !

The First Consul was very kind at the time of my
affliction. He appeared to bury in oblivion his former
disagreements with my mother. Junot brought me mes-
sages of the most friendly consolation from him, and
Madame Bonaparte did me the honour of a visit, with
Lucien, who had just arrived from Spain. The sight of
Lucien deeply affected me. I knew how dear he was to
my mother. She loved him almost equally with my
brother Albert; she rejoiced in his success, and suffered
in his disasters. His departure for Spain had much


distressed her, and in her greatest agonies she made
Junot repeat to her all the honourable traits of his mis-
sion to Madrid. Junot felt a degree of partiality for
Lueien, as did all who were attached to the First Consul.

I have always been at a loss to account for the schism
between the brothers, and I must in justice declare that
I never heard from Lueien an unkind word against his
brother, although the First Consul frequently made use
of expressions which must have been wounding to him
even in his absence. But Lueien 's conduct in Spain, the
treaty of Badajos, that of Madrid, the secret treaty of St.
Ildefonso, by which Louisiana, surrendered to Spain by
the shameful treaty of 1793, was re-ceded to us, — all
this made one esteem the man who, at a distance from
France as well as in the chamber of her representatives,
invariably defended the interests of his country and
raised his voice in vindication of her glory and her

Meanwhile we had lost Madame Leclerc; she had
been strongly urged by her brother to follow her husband
to Saint Domingo. I believe General Leclerc would
willingly have dispensed with this addition to his bag-
gage, for it was a positive calamity, after the first quarter
of an hour's interview had exhausted the pleasure of sur-
veying her really beautiful person, to have the burden of
amusing, occupying, and taking care of Madame Leclerc.
In public she professed herself delighted to accompany
her little Leclerc, as she called him ; but she was in reality
disconsolate, and I one day found her in a paroxysm of
despair and tears, quite distressing to any one who had
not known her as well as myself.

" Ah, Laurette, " said she, throwing herself into my
arms, " how fortunate you are ! You stay at Paris.
Good heavens, how melancholy I shall be! How can
my brother be so hard-hearted, so wicked, as to send me


into exile amongst savages and serpents ! Besides, I am
ill. Oh ! I shall die before I get there. " Here her
speech was interrupted, for she sobbed with such violence
that for a moment I was fearful she would have fainted.
I approached her sofa, and, taking her hand, endeavoured
to encourage her, as one would a child, by talking of its
playthings or new shoes : telling her she would be queen
of the island ; would ride in a palanquin ; that slaves
would watch her looks to execute her wishes ; that she
would walk in groves of orange-trees ; that she need have
no dread of serpents, as there were none in the Antilles ;
and that savages were equally harmless.

Finally, I summed up my consolatory harangue by
telling her she would look very pretty in the Creole cos-
tume. As I advanced in my arguments, Madame
Leclerc's sobs became less and less hysterical. She still
wept, but her tears were not unbecoming. " You really
think, Laurette, " said she, " that I shall look pretty,
jprettier than usual, in a Creole turban, a short waist,
and a petticoat of striped muslin ? "

Description can give but a faint idea of Madame
Leclerc at the moment when her delight at being pre-
sented with a new hint for the toilet chased away the
remembrance that she was on the eve of departure for a
country where she expected to be devoured. She rang
for her waiting-maid. " Bring me all the bandanas in
the house. " She had some remarkably fine ones, which
my mother had given her from a bale of Indian silks and
muslins brought over by Vice-Admiral Magon. We
chose the prettiest amongst them, and as my mother had
always worn silk handkerchiefs for nightcaps, I was
accustomed from my infancy to the arrangement of the
corners in the most becoming manner ; Madame Leclerc,
therefore, when she examined herself in the glass, was
enraptured with my skill.


" Laurette, " said she, replacing herself on the sofa,
" you know, my dear, how I love you ! You preferred
Caroline, but we shall see if you won't repent yet.
Listen! I am going to show you the sincerity of my
affection. You must come to Saint Domingo — you will
be next to myself in rank. I shall be queen, as you told
me just now, and you shall be vice-queen. I will go
and talk to my brother about it. " " / go to Saint
Domingo, madame ! " I exclaimed. " What in the name
of madness are you thinking of ? " " Oh, I know there
are difficulties in the w^ay of such an arrangement, but I
will talk to Bonaparte about it ; and as he is partial to
Junot, he will let you go to Saint Domingo. "

While I looked at her in perfect amazement, she pro-
ceeded, arranging all the while the folds of her gown and
the fashion of her turban : " We will give balls and form
parties of pleasure amongst those beautiful mountains "
(the serpents and savages were already forgotten) ; " Junot
shall be the commander of the capital. What is its
name ? I will tell Leclerc I expect him to give a fete
every day. We will take Madame Permon too. " And
as she said this she pinched my nose and pulled my ears,
for she liked to ape her brother, and thought such easy
manners had an air of royalty.

But both the ludicrous effect of this scene and the
weariness I was beginning to feel from it fled at once
before the sound of her last words. My mother, who
loved her with a tenderness equal to that of Madame
Lsetitia, — my poor mother, who already lay on a bed of
suffering from which she was never more to rise ! I felt
it possible that I might make an answer harsh enough to
awaken the beautiful dreamer from her reverie ; therefore,
putting on my gloves, I was about to take leave, when
Junot was announced; he had seen my carriage at the
door, and, stopping his cabriolet, came to my rescue.

Caroline Boimparfe.

PhotoEtcliiiig. — AftL-r the Engraving by Hopwood.


" You are just arrived in time, " cried Madame Leclerc ;
" sit down there, my dear General, and let us settle every-
thing ; for it is high time, " said she, turning to me ; " you
will have no more than enough for preparing Mademoi-
selle Despaux, Madame Germon, Le Roi, Copp,i Madame
Eoux — no, Nattier will do better. Mademoiselle L'Olive,
Lenormand, Le Vacher, Foncier, Biennais " (and at each
name of these celebrated contributors to the toilet, as she
counted them on her finger, she cast a glance of triumph
towards us that seemed to say, " See what an excellent
memory I have, and how admirably I can choose my
ministers! "). " As for myself," she added, " my prepa-
rations are made, I am quite ready ; but as we set out
very shortly, you had better make haste. "

Junot's countenance would certainly have diverted any
fourth person who might have been a spectator of the
scene ; his eyes wandered from me to Madame Leclerc,
who, perceiving his perplexity, said : " I am going to take
you both to Saint Domingo, Madame Permon too, and
Albert ; oh, how happy we shall all be together ! " Junot
was for a moment motionless, till a tremendous burst of
laughter interrupted the silence, — not very politely, it
must be confessed ; but I afterwards learned that the ex-
plosion was provoked by a wink of peculiar intelligence.

Madame Leclerc was astonished at such a mode of testi-
fying his gratitude, expecting to see him throw himself
at her feet ; but she reckoned without her host. " Very
pretty, " said she, pouting ; " will you please to explain
the meaning of this gaiety ? Methinks it is not exactly
the way to thank an old friend who intends you a kind-

1 Copp was a famous shoemaker, the same who, after a most attentive
examination of a shoe which one of his customers showed him, complain-
ing that it split before she had worn it an hour, detected at length the
cause of such a misfortune befalling a specimen of his workmanship :

" Ah," said he, with the air of making a discovery, " I see how it is,
madarae : you have been walking ! "


ness. " " Have you had the goodness to mention your
intentions to the First Consul, madame ? " said Junot,
who, though growing more decorous, could not yet
entirely overcome his risible propensities. " No, cer-
tainly not ; for your wife has but just suggested the idea. "

Junot turned to me with an astonishment that nearly
set me laughing in my turn. " What ! my wife go to
Saint Domingo ? " said he. " And why not ? She will
be the first person there next to myself ; she is used to the
world ; she dresses well ; she is elegant. I will give her
some slaves, and Leclerc will make you commandant of

that town — the — the " " The Cape, " said Junot.

" Exactly, the Cape — the Cape. " And she repeated like
a parrot the word which in five minutes she would alto-
gether have forgotten.

" I am infinitely obliged to you, madame, " said Junot,
with comic seriousness ; " but really, with your permis-
sion, I should prefer remaining Commandant of Paris.
Besides, there is a slight obstacle which you do not
appear to have taken into contemplation. " And, throw-
ing his arms round me, he drew me towards him, em-
braced me, and hinted at my being in the family way.

Madame Leclerc opened her eyes even wider than was
usual with her when surprised, and that was not unfre-
quently, — a little mannerism that was not unbecoming,
and said : " I did not think of that. But what of that, "
said she the next moment ; " what does it signify whether
your infant utters his first cry on the waves or on terra
firma ? I will give Laurette a vessel to herself. Ah !
what say you to that, M. Junot ? Am not I a capital
manager ? I will write immediately to Brest, where we
are to embark, and order a vessel to be expressly pre-
pared. Villaret-Joyeuse is a good-natured man ; he will
do anything that I desire. Come, let me embrace you
both. "


" As for embracing you, madame, " said Jiinot, laugh-
ing himself almost out of breath, " I am assuredly too
happy in the permission not to take advantage of it, but
for our voyage we will, if you please, drop that project,
which Laura's friendship for you no doubt inspired.
Besides, " added he, " I do not think the First Consul
would consent to it. You know he likes to nominate his
Generals spontaneously, and without reference to private
feelings, such as would influence this affair. " And he
laughed anew. " But, " he continued, " I am not the
less grateful for your intentions, madame, and be assured
I am fully sensible of them, only " — and again the unfor-
tunate laugh redoubled — " another time be kind enough
to prove them otherwise than by putting my little Laura
to bed on the wide ocean, and giving me the command of
the Cape instead of Paris, and all this for old friendship's
sake. "

Junot, kneeling on a footstool beside Madame Leclerc's
settee, was kissing her hands all the while that he said
this, in a tone which, though (Certainly of derision, and
perhaps of a little innocent impertinence, could not be
offensive. Madame Leclerc was not competent to under-
stand the raillery of his expressions, but, by a sort of in-
stinctive cunning, she perceived that he was making fun
of her, and, whether really distressed at so peremptory
a negative to her project, or at being laughed at in my
presence by Junot, of whose former attachment for her
she had a thousand times boasted to me, the fact is she
repulsed him with such violence as to throw him from
the footstool on the carpet, and said, in a voice choked
with sobs :

" This it is to attach one's self to the ungrateful — I,
who love Laura like a sister ! " (and, in truth, that was
not saying much). " And you too, Junot, who refuse to
accompany and defend me in a country^ where I am to be
deserted ! " And her tears rolled in floods.


" I will never refuse to assist a woman in peril, " said
Junot, rising, and with an expression half in jest and half
earnest ; " but permit me to say that is not your situa-
tion. " " Ah ! " continued she, still weeping, and without
listening to him, " you would not have made all those
reflections when we were at Marseilles ! . . . You would
not so tranquilly have seen me set out to be devoured,
perhaps. . . . How can I tell ? In short, to face all the
dangers of a land filled with savages and wild beasts. I,
who have said so much to Laurette of your attachment
to me. "

This time it was impossible to restrain my laughter.
Such an appeal to a husband in the very presence of his
wife threw me into such a paroxysm of mirth that Junot,
though beginning to be weary of the scene, could not for-
bear joining. "Come, be reasonable," said he to the
beautiful Niobe with the freedom of an old friend ; " do
not weep ; it destroys the lustre of the eyes, the bloom
of the cheek, and renders the prettiest woman almost
ugly — beautiful as you are ! " After our departure we
indulged for several minutes in a most immoderate fit of

" Is it possible, " said Junot at length, " that you can
have said anything tending to inspire her with the bar-
barous notion of your inclination to visit the country of
the blacks ? " I told him the whole story, and he in
return explained to me why he had been so" excessively
amused by the capricious beauty's sudden proposal to
carry me off eighteen hundred leagues from Paris, made
with as much ease as one invites a friend to a week's visit
at a country seat. " She still loves you, then ? " said I

" She ! — in the first place, she never loved me, and in
the next, supposing her to have returned in the slightest
measure a love as passionate as beauty can engender in an
ardent mind and volcanic head at the age of twenty -four,


she has long ago lost all remembrance of it. N"o ; you
visited Madame Leclerc at a moment when she was under
the dominion of one of those nervous affections to which
women, and especially such women, are frequently sub-
ject. The sight of you instinctively redoubled her emo-
tion, simply because it recalled happy days; then you
talked to her of dressing d la Virginia, and she imme-
diately recollected that at Marseilles, when I was madly
in love, when the excellent Madame Bonaparte, the
mother, was willing to accept me as a son-in-law, and
the First Consul, ever prudent and wary, observed, ' You
have neither of you the means of living, ' I, in my delir-
ium, answered : * But, my General, think of Paul and
Virginia — their friends preferred fortune to happiness,
and what was the consequence ? ' The First Consul, who
was never romantic, did but shrug his shoulders and
repeat his usual phrase : * You have neither of you the
means of living. ' "

" But, " said I, " it could not be the bandana and the
fashion in which I turned up its red and green corners
that produced this jargon of unconnected folly. " " You
need seek no deeper for it. Madame Leclerc's imagina-
tion is perfectly stagnant on many points, and compen-
sates itself by an incredibly creative faculty in others.
Her ignorance is unbounded, and equalled only by her
vanity. Well, these two properties, which make up her
whole composition, easily open themselves a way which
the most sprightly imagination, united with a few grains
more of sense, would find it difficult to trace. I know
her well ; her vanity made her veritably believe that I
should be but too happy to join this expedition to Saint
Domingo. " " And you think she would really have
spoken to the First Consul if you had not arrived ? "
" Beyond all doubt, for she is perfectly sincere. She was
convinced that all she was arranging, or rather deranging,


in her pretty little head was entirely for our interests,
and would have requested her brother's permission for
my joining her husband's army as a special favour
towards me. "

I do not know whether it was a suggestion of the female
imagination, ever restless, or perhaps more properly
jealous, that made me observe on the possibility that
Madame Leclerc, tenacious of her project of roaming with
me amongst the blacks in a gown of striped muslin and a
bandana jacket and turban, might yet mention it to her

" Faith ! you are very right, " said Junot. " Beautiful
creature as she is (and good and excellent, moreover, for
her heart is free from malevolence), this affair might
prove a rehearsal of the story of the bear knocking his

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