Laure Junot Abrantès.

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

. (page 19 of 24)
Online LibraryLaure Junot AbrantèsMemoirs of Madame Junot (Duchesse D'Abrantès) (Volume 3) → online text (page 19 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

General, yet has the courage to tell him the truth, as he
views it, was too little in harmony with Napoleon's new
impressions not to have introduced to the mind of the
latter seeds that could only be productive of evil fruits.
All, however, would have gone well, but for the number
of evil-disposed persons who surrounded the First Consul.
I speak only of his household, for Junot had numerous
friends, especially in the army. He was kind, faithful,


valiant, and as susceptible as a woman — qualities which,
when combined, could not fail to find an echo in the
hearts which, at least in those days, composed the
French phalanxes.

Of those attached to the household I could reckon only
on Duroc and Eapp as active friends ; there were, besides,
Lemarrois, Lacude, and Lauriston, who would not injure
Junot ; as for Berthier, he might be a true friend, but he
was very inefficient ! There were other men whose attach-
ment showed that they had rightly understood Junot's
character : such as Est^ve, and a few more, who, loving
the First Consul for his own sake and for his glory, felt
a sympathy for one who loved him with so much tender-
ness. But friendship, in the circle of a Court (and the
Tuileries w^as already one), opposes but a feeble barrier
against malice and envy.

An affair that had occurred some time before at
Garchi's was recalled to the First Consul's mind; the
venomous poison of slander was infused into it, and it
was then presented in a light attaching so much suspicion
to the Commandant of Paris that Napoleon, who, though a
great man, was not an angel, willing to give the com-
mand of Paris to General Murat, sent Junot to command
the grenadiers assembled at Arras. The Senatus Consul-
turn for the erection of the Empire was already under
consideration, and I think the First Consul was not sorry
to find a pretext for removing to a distance such of his
former brothers-in-arms as still cherished the old Eepub-
lican notions. He knew mankind, and had no doubt that
circumstances would reconcile them to what was irrevo-
cable, but the first shock was to be avoided : that is but an
idea of my own, .but I believe it to be just.

Junot, charged with the honourable task of forming
that fine corps of grenadiers, set out for Arras in the
winter of 1803-4. A speedy journey was expected, and


Junot did not choose to expose me and my children to
useless fatigue. I set off, therefore, at the same time for
Burgundy with my young family, to spend the interval
of Junot's absence with his father and mother. But
finding at the end of some weeks that the moment of
departure was indefinitely postponed, Junot sent M.
Limoges, his secretary, to fetch me ; and I accompanied
him to Arras, where I took up my abode in the house
which the Prince of Cond^ had occupied. Many remark-
able events occurred in the year 1804, some of which I
did not witness, being absent from Paris ; but I saw The
Empekoe in the midst of the camp, surrounded by his
soldiers, and by those Generals formerly his comrades,
now his subjects.


We had been at Arras about three months, when Junot
received the following letter :

" My dear Junot, — If your occupations permit, -write to
Berthier to obtain leave of absence for four or five days. I
wish particularly to see you. I will explain to you why when
we meet. Do not mention that I have written to you. —
Yours, DuROC.

"February 14th, 1804."

On perusing this communication a presentiment came
across the mind of Junot. He would not even write to
Berthier; and at the risk of being severely reprimanded
by the First Consul, he mounted his horse, and, under
the pretext of going to Saint Pol, a small town a few
leagues from Arras, he set off full gallop to Paris, where
he arrived just at the moment of Moreau's arrest.

The conspiracy of Georges and Pichegru was a most
extraordinary affair, not only on account of the mode in
which it was planned and almost brought to execution,
but because there was invloved in it a man who had pre-
viously been an object of respect in the eyes of France,
and whose character was thenceforward totally changed.
This man was General Moreau. Moreau was arrested on
the 15th of February, Georges Cadoudal on the 9th of
March, and Pichegru on the 28th of February, 1804.
The latter was immediately confined in the Temple.


The affair of the Due d'Enghien is covered with so
mysterious and terrible a veil that the hand trembles in
attempting to withdraw it. But history admits of no res-
ervation ; it demands that everj^thing should be candidly
disclosed. How various have been the versions of this
unfortunate event!

It cannot be doubted that the Imperial crown, placed
by the unanimous wish of France on the head of Napo-
leon, would have been no less solid and legitimate — that
the compact agreed on between the conqueror of the
sovereigns of Europe and the men of the Eepublic would
have been no less sacred and indestructible — had the
Due d'Enghien never stirred from Ettenheim. But
unfortunately Bonaparte had about him men who medi-
tated his downfall, because the spoil was already worth
dividing. These men found it their interest to lead into
error one whose own judgment was rarely at fault, but
who unfortunately lent too ready an ear to the sugges-
tions of those about him.

Some time elapsed after the discovery of the conspiracy
before the two leaders, Georges and Pichegru, were
arrested. Papers seized by the agents of Keguier, then
Chief Judge and Minister of the Police, excited fresh
alarm. The investigation was pursued with renewed
activity, and endeavours were made to imbue Napoleon
with a degree of uneasiness and suspicion which his mind
would not naturally have conceived. The papers above
mentioned related to Mr. Drake, the English Minister at
the Court of Munich. This man had written a letter
referring to the English conspiracy, as it was called, and
the letter, which contained the following passage, excited
additional alarm : " It matters little by whom the animal
is overthrown. It is sufficient that you be ready to join
in the chase, when the moment arrives for putting him
to death. "


In the different reports of this conspiracy which were
transmitted to Napoleon, mention was invariably made
of a tall man, who had visited the places of rendezvous
which were known to the police. This man was wrapped
in a large cloak, and when in the street, a hat slouched
over his forehead entirely concealed his features. He had
fair hair, a pale complexion, his figure was thin and
slender, and his deportment elegant. When he presented
himself amidst the conspirators, none of them sat down
until he desired them ; and his manner, though affable
and kind, was nevertheless marked by a certain degree of

" Who can this man be ? " was the question asked
from the chiefs down to the subordinate agents of the
police. Inquiries were set on foot in Germany, in Eng-
land, and in Switzerland, and there appeared good reason
to believe that the mysterious indivdiual whom the rest
of the conspirators treated with so much respect was no
other than the Due d'Enghien. This information w^as
communicated to the First Consul, who was also furnished
with proofs that the Prince occasionally absented himself
for five or six days from Ettenheim. Forty-eight hours to
come from Strasburg, forty-eight to stay in Paris, and
forty-eight to return — thus the interval of time was
accounted for. It had already been ascertained that the
Prince visited Paris during the events of the 18th

When this information was laid before the First Consul,
he frowned and looked thoughtful. The possibility of
thus coming to brave him in the very heart of Paris
appeared not only a serious offence in itself, but one
which might lead to consequences fatal to the interests
of the State. I know that the determination which was
drawn from him by renewed importunity was formed
principally through these alarming reports.


General Picliegru was arrested on the 18th February ;
but it was not until the whole affair of the Due d'Enghien
had been decided that the mysterious personage was ascer-
tained to have been Pichegru, and not the Prince. The
latter had not been in Paris, and he had spent the six
days alluded to in hunting, and in amusements of a more
agreeable nature than attending the meetings of conspira-
tors in a garret or a cellar.

On his arrival in Paris, Junot found the old friends of
Napoleon in a state of anxiety and alarm, in which the
affection he cherished for his General made him readily
participate. In his interview with the First Consul, the
latter said to him : " You were wrong to leave Arras at
the present moment. It is possible that this arrest, to
which I have been constrained to give my assent, may
produce some sensation in the army, and every one should
be at his post. My old friend, you must set off again
this afternoon ; your presence will be more useful to me
in Arras than in Paris. " Junot looked sorrowfully at
Napoleon, and represented that he had left behind him
men fully competent to act in his absence. He then
earnestly entreated to be allowed to join his old comrades
in protecting Napoleon at the present juncture.

Napoleon remained silent for a few moments ; then,
advancing to Junot, he took his hand and pressed it,
which, as I have already observed, was a mark of affec-
tion he rarely showed to any one. At length he said :
" Junot, I understand you, my friend ; and you will, I
am sure, understand me when I repeat that you will at
present be more useful to me at Arras than in Paris. I
am surrounded by dangers, it is true ; but I have friends
who will watch over my safety. And, after all, " added
he, smiling, " my enemies are less numerous than is
imagined. " " I am aware of that, " replied Junot, " and
I am only anxious that the few you really have should be


punished. How can you, General, entertain a thought
of extending mercy to men who conspire not only against
you, but against their country ? " " What do you mean ? "
inquired the First Consul in a tone of astonishment.

" I mean to say, General, that I know you have re-
solved to solicit the legal authorities to be indulgent to
General Moreau. You are not justified in doing this.
Moreau is guilty. He is as guilty now as he was in the
affair of 1797, when he sent to the Directory the papers
containing the proofs of the culpability of Pichegru. He
is the same man — at once a traitor to the Eepublic and to
his old friend. He had had the papers in his possession
for several months. This he confessed to Barthelemy.
Why, then, did he not send them sooner ? The Army of
Italy has been accused of not liking Moreau. That is
true ; but it has been alleged that we did not like him
because his glory rivalled ours. This is false, and the
accusation is contemptible. Moreau might wear his
crown of glory without its rendering ours the less bril-
liant or the less pure. For my own part, I swear, upon
my honour, that such an idea never once entered my
mind. I love the Eepublic too well not to rejoice in
seeing any one of her sons valiant and victorious. "

Napoleon, who was walking up and down his cabinet
with his arms crossed, had listened to Junot with pre-
found attention, and without interrupting him even by a
gesture. But when Jimot uttered the words, " / love the
Republic too well, " etc. , Napoleon stopped him, j^oked at
him steadfastly, and seemed almost to interrogate him.
But this movement, whatever it meant, was only of a
second's duration. He again walked up and down, and
merely said : " You are too severe upon Moreau. He is
perfectly inefficient, absolutely nothing, except when he is
at the head of an army. This is all that can be said of


"As to his inefficiency, General, there can be no doubt
of that; but his conduct as a citizen, to say nothing of
him as a statesman, is such as a true patriot and a loyal
soldier cannot approve. When Moreau, having learned
hy ordinary means the events of the 18th Fructidor, made
a proclamation to his troops, he said. General Pichcgru
has betrayed the country ! Now, Pichegru was his friend.
He had even served under his command. It was Pichegru
who raised Moreau to his first grade in the army, who pro-
tected and maintained him. "

Junot spoke with unusual warmth. Napoleon advanced
towards him, and said, with a smile : " You allude to the
18th Brumaire, do you not ? " He smiled again, and took
several pinches of snuff. " Yes, General, " replied Junot,
somewhat astonished at the gaiety of the First Consul.
" Certainly, " resumed Napoleon, " the conduct of Moreau
on that occasion was as extraordinary as that of Berna-
dotte and some others. Bernadotte exclaimed loudly that
he was a Eepuhlican — that he would not betray the
Republic. And at that time whoever thought of betray-
ing it, save himself and two or three others invested
with the Eepublican toga, beneath which the cloak of
the tyrant was better disguised than under my greatcoat !

" As to Moreau, who, having received a dismissal as
the reward of his tardy disclosures, was idling about
Paris, and who possessed neither talent nor decision, I
can very well appreciate his deterviination to deliver
Prance from a corrupt Government. On the 19th
Brumair^ he served me as an aide-de-camp, with no
very good grace, to be sure, because he had the will but
not the power to be the hero of the fete. I have heard
that he never forgave me for the position in which he
stood, and in which he had been the means of placing
himself. I am sorry for it. If it be possible that in
this last affair he has joined hands with a traitor against

TOL. III. — 16


me, rather than against the country, I pity him, hut I
will not revenge myself. "

" But, General, let this affair take its natural course.
Do not influence the judges. From the information I
received within these few hours, I am convinced how
necessary it is that this case should be decided with the
utmost impartiality and rigour of the law. Surely,
General, you would not encourage treason — " " Junot, "
said Napoleon, grasping my husband's arm, " would you
have it said that I had him put to death because I was
jealous of him ? " ^ Junot stood motionless with aston-
ishment. The First Consul rapidly paced up and down
the room, and appeared much excited ; but he soon re-
covered himself, and, advancing to Junot, made some
remarks upon the fine division of grenadiers which was
forming at Arras, and ended by enjoining Junot to re-
turn thither immediately.

Just as Junot had opened the door to go out. Napoleon
called him back, and asked him how he had learned a
fact which the Moniteur had announced only that same
morning — viz. , the arrest of Moreau. Junot hesitated
to reply, and the First Consul repeated the question in a
tone of impatience. My husband then reflected that
Duroc's letter could only be regarded as creditable to the
writer, and he immediately presented it to Bonaparte.
He read it over twice, and then returned it with a pleas-
ing smile on his countenance ; for good-humour had now
entirely superseded the momentary feeling of irritation.
He blamed Duroc, but it was easy to perceive that his
displeasure was not very severe. Indeed, he could not
fail to be touched by this proof of Duroc's attachment,

^ These were Napoleon's words as reported to me by Junot. I have
given the above conversation at length, because it appears to me curious
and important. The last observation respecting Moreau explains the
reason why he did not suffer death, which, according to the strict letter
of the Code, was the punishment due to his offence.


and in spite of all that M. Bourrienne says, Napoleon at
that time felt and appreciated the devotedness he

Jimot went to Duroc and informed him that he had
shown his letter to Napoleon. Then, without taking
time even to call on his own sister, who resided in our
hotel in the Rue Champs-Elysdes, he started at full gallop
for Arras, where he arrived in the middle of the follow-
ing night, without his absence having been perceived by
any one except the Chief Officer of his Staff, who was
necessarily informed of it. Junot's friends transmitted
to him regular information of the progress of Moreau's
affair. Thus we learned the arrest of Pichegru, which
took place a fortnight after that of Moreau, and the cap-
ture of Georges, who was taken on the 9th of March,
while driving in a cabriolet through the Rue de

Shortly after we were made acquainted with the
tragical fate of the Due d'Enghien. On the 22nd of
March, a person who was in the confidence of Duroc
arrived at daybreak in the courtyard of the house in
which we resided. He was the bearer of some de-
spatches which Junot hastily read. As he perused the
papers, I observed him first redden, then turn pale. At
length, striking his forehead with his hand, he ex-
claimed : " How happy it is for me that I am no longer
Commandant of Paris ! " These despatches announced
the death of the Due d'Enghien.

The expedition to England, as it was termed, which
was preparing along the coast of Normandy, in the De-
partment of the Pas-de-Calais, and in the ports of Hol-
land and Belgium, proceeded with extraordinary activity.
The camp of Arras, formed of the famous division of
chosen grenadiers, twelve thousand men strong, and com-
manded by Junot, was destined to form a sort of advanced


guard, and to commence the descent. I witnessed the
formation of that magnificent corps, which the Emperor
himself pronounced to be almost finer than his Guards. ^
I know the unremitting attention which Junot bestowed
on those admirable troops ; I saw Napoleon in the midst
of them ; and the recollections connected with that period
are deserving of a place in these Memoirs.

During the time he was at Arras, Junot effected some
changes in the dress of the grenadiers, which were at the
time considered very important, and subsequently ex-
tended to the whole army.

While reviewing the troops one very rainy day, he
could not help remarking that the cocked hats which the
men then wore were not only very absurd, but very in-
convenient. On his return home, Junot began to muse
on the miserable condition of his poor grenadiers, who
were drenched to the skin in consequence of the rain drip-
ping from their cocked hats. It was Junot 's wish that
all troops of the line should wear either shakos or grena-
dier caps, and that this regulation should extend even to
the cavalry, with the exception of the dragoon helmets.
But a formidable difficulty presented itself, which was
to get rid of queues and hair-powder in the army ; for,
to tell the truth, the introduction of cropped hair was
Junot's principal object in endeavouring to reform the
hats, the inconvenient form of which wonderfully aided
his plan,

" What an odious thing it is, " said he, " to see a sol-
dier on a rainy day, his coat covered with white greasy
paste, his straggling hair tied by a knot of dirty ribbon,
and his head surmounted by an ugly felt hat, which pro-
tects the wearer neither from wind, sun, nor rain ! And

1 These were Napoleon's words the first time he reviewed the troops.
The guards he alluded to were subsequently called la vieille Garde, and
were the finest corps in the army.


for all this the soldier has an allowance of ten sous per
week, which might be much better applied to the pur-
chase of linen and shoes. Cropped hair, too, would be
conducive both to health and cleanliness. The change is
therefore desirable from every point of view. "

Junot mentioned his scheme to the officers of his Staff,
and all decidedly approved of it. For a considerable
time previously cropped hair had been almost universally
adopted among the officers of the army, from the General-
in-Chief down to the sub-lieutenant. Of all the military
men who surrounded the First Consul, Generals Lannes
and Bessiferes were, I believe, the only two who retained
the absurd old-fashioned coiffure.^

Junot then proceeded to Paris to confer with Napoleon
on the subject, who told him that his plan was good, but
that he would not have the troops constrained to cut their
hair. Junot joyfully returned to Arras, and immediately
proclaimed in the barracks that those soldiers who would
have their hair cut off would do what was agreeable to
their General, but that no compulsion would be resorted
to. Next day the hairdressers of Arras had cut off more
than two thousand queues ; but in the evening there were
two duels.

Junot was greatly vexed, for he foresaw that these
quarrels would be made a subject of misrepresentation to
Napoleon. This proved to be the case, for Junot received
a letter wirtten in Napoleon's own hand, and containing
these few lines :

" Junot, — I approved your plan, because I conceived it to be
useful 3 but I forbid aU Prussian measures. I will have no im-
provements effected in my array either by fighting or flogging.
Adieu ! — Bonaparte."

^ Lannes and Bessieres at the time here alluded to, were scarcely
thirty years of age, and yet, notwithstaudiug the general fashion, they
petinaciously adhered to hair-powder and queues.


Junot immediately wrote to the First Consul, explain-
ing the facts as they really were, and he observed that, in
a camp so numerous as that which he commanded, it
would be extraordinary indeed if any change, however
trivial, could be effected without a few private quarrels.
But Junot had vowed to bring his enterprise to a success-
ful issue, and that without any violence. He was be-
loved by his soldiers, and he went to their barracks
and addressed them personally. As soon as they heard
from his own- mouth that they would displease him
by resisting the proposed measure, there ensued, if I
may so express myself, a perfect revolution. The new
regulation was fully complied with before the end of
the week.

We had been a few months at AiTas. when one morn-
ing the Moniteur announced to us that a motion had been
made in the Tribunate for confiding the government of
the Eepublic to an Emperor, and declaring the Empire
hereditary in the family of the First Consul Bonaparte.
The Senate followed the example of the Tribunate, and
the motion was adopted. It has been alleged that Napo-
leon, in this most important passage of his life, made
Cromwell and Augustus the models of his conduct. This
is an absurd mistake. As to his choice of the title of
Emperor, that title was, of all others, most congenial to
the feelings of the army, while it conveyed no offence to
the ears of the citizens. France at that period would
have shuddered at the very name of King. The people
would never have accepted a compact presented in the
name of royalty.

When General Davout returned to France with the
Army of the East, Junot said to me : " There is an old
comrade whom I should wish to see better welcomed than
he will be. The First Consul does not like Davout,
because when in Egypt he associated with all those who


were hostile to Bonaparte. I do not know that Davout
can be justly ranked among the First Consul's enemies ; ^
but it is certain that he has inspired him with an antip-
athy as complete as one man can entertain for another.
I am the more sorry for this, inasmuch as Davout is my
comrade and a clever man. "

This dislike, of which all who were with Bonaparte in
Egypt might have seen proofs, had a singular source. It
originated in the personal appearance of Davout, who, by
the way, was at that time the most dirty and ill-dressed
man imaginable — a fault Napoleon, always himself
particularly neat and clean, held in aversion. Davout
was an intelligent man, but the First Consul did not like
his critical disposition, or the sardonic smile with which
he was wont to accompany an ironical compliment; in
short, Bonaparte disliked him, and he took no pains to
conceal his feelings. Junot and Marmont, who were the
two oldest of Bonaparte's officers, and who would have
wished to see Davout well received by their General,
especially as his career had not been fortunate, greeted

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryLaure Junot AbrantèsMemoirs of Madame Junot (Duchesse D'Abrantès) (Volume 3) → online text (page 19 of 24)