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occupied by the hero who had subdued the people, slain the revolution
and restored to France peace and glory.

The Tuileries had again found a master - the throne-room was still vacant
and empty, for the first consul of the republic dared not yet lay
claim to this throne which the revolution had destroyed, and which the
republic had forever removed from France. But if there was no throne
in the Tuileries, there was at least a court; and "Madame Etiquette,"
driven away from the royal palace since the days of the unfortunate
Marie Antoinette, had again, though with modest and timid step, slipped
into the Tuileries. It is true, she now clandestinely occupied a
servant's room; but the day was not far distant when, as Egeria,
she would whisper advice and dictate laws to the ear of the new Numa
Pompilius; when all doors would be open to her, and when she alone
would, at all times, have access to the mighty lord of France.

In the Luxemburg, the fraternity and the equality of the revolution had
been set aside, as, long before, on the 13th Vendemiaire, the liberty
of the revolution had been cast away. In the Luxemburg the "citoyenne"
Bonaparte had become "Madame" Bonaparte, and the young daughter of the
citizeness Josephine heard herself called "Mademoiselle" Hortense!

After the entrance into the Tuileries, fraternity and equality
disappeared rapidly, and the distinctions of gentlemen and servants,
rulers and subjects, superiors and subordinates, were again introduced.
The chief of the administration was surrounded with honors and
distinctions; the court, with all its grades, degrees, and titles, was
there; it had its courtiers, flatterers, and defamers; and also its
brilliant festivities, splendors, and pomp!

It is true this was not the work of a moment, nor so rapid an
achievement as the transition from the Luxemburg to the Tuileries, but
the introduction of the words "madame" and "monsieur" removed the first
obstacle which held the whole French nation bound to the same platform;
and a second obstacle had fallen, when permission was granted to all
the emigres, with the exception of the royal family, to return to their
native country.

The aristocrats of old France returned in vast numbers; they, the
bearers of old names of glory, the legitimists, who had fled before the
guillotine, now hoped to win again the throne from the consulate.

They kept themselves, however, aloof from the consul, whose greatness
and power were derived from the revolution, and who was to them a
representative of the rebellious, criminal republic; but they presented
themselves to his wife, they brought their homage to Josephine, the born
aristocrat, the relative and friend of so many emigrant families, and
they hoped, through her influence, to obtain what they dared not
ask from the first consul - the re-establishment of the throne of the
Bourbons.

These aristocrats knew very well that Josephine longed for the return
of the royal family; that in her heart she cherished love and loyalty to
the unfortunate royal couple; and that, without any personal ambition,
without any desire for fame, but with the devotedness of a royalist, and
the affection of a noble, sensitive woman, she sighed for the time when
Bonaparte would again restore to the heir of Louis XVI. the throne of
the lilies, and recall to France the Count de Lille, to replace him as
king on his brother's throne.

In fact, Josephine had faith in this fairy-tale of her royal heart; she
believed in those dreams with which her tender conscience lulled her
to repose, whenever she reproached herself, that she, the subject, now
walked and gave orders as mistress in this palace of royalty! "Why,
indeed, could she not believe in the realization of those dreams, since
Bonaparte himself seemed to cherish no further wishes than to rest on
his laurels, and to enjoy, in delightful privacy, the peace he had given
to France?

"I am looked upon as ambitious," said Bonaparte one day, in the
confidential evening conversations with his friends in Josephine's
drawing-rooms, "I am looked upon as ambitious, and why? Listen, my
friends, to what I am going to tell you, and which you may repeat to
all. In three years I shall retire from public life; I shall then have
about fifty thousand livres income, and that is sufficient for my mode
of living. I will get a country residence, since Josephine loves a
country life. One thing only I need, and this I claim - I want to be the
justice of the peace for my circuit. Now, say, am I ambitious?"

Every one laughed at the strange conceit of Bonaparte, who wished to
exchange his present course for the position of a justice of the peace,
and Bonaparte chimed in heartily with the laughter.

But Josephine believed those words of Bonaparte, and their echoes had
perchance penetrated even to Russia, to the ears of the pretender to
the French throne, the Count de Lille, and to the ears of the Count
d'Artois, his brother, and they both therefore based their hopes on
Josephine's winning her husband to the cause of the Bourbons.

Both sent their secret emissaries to Paris, to enter into some compact
with Josephine, and to prepare their pathway to the throne, after having
failed to negotiate directly with Bonaparte, who had repelled all their
efforts, and with haughty pride had answered the autograph letter of the
Count de Lille.

The Count d'Artois, enlightened by the fruitless efforts of his brother,
resorted to another scheme. He sent a female emissary to Paris - not
to Bonaparte, but to Josephine. Napoleon himself speaks of it, in his
Memorial of St. Helena, as follows:

"The Count d'Artois made his advances in a more eloquent and refined
manner. He sent to Paris the Duchess de Guiche, a charming woman, who
by the elegance of her manners and by her personal attractions was well
calculated to bring to a favorable result the object of her mission. She
easily obtained an introduction to Madame Bonaparte, who was acquainted
with all the persons of the old court. The beautiful duchess was
therefore invited to a dejeuner at Malmaison; and during breakfast, when
the conversation ran upon London, the emigrants, and the princes, Madame
de Guiche stated that a few days before she had called upon the Count
d'Artois. They had spoken of current events, of the future of France,
of the royal family, and one of the confidants had asked the prince
what would be the reward of the first consul if he re-established
the Bourbons! The prince answered: 'First of all he would be created
connetable, with all the privileges attached to that rank, if that were
agreeable to him. But that would not be enough; we would erect to him
on the Place de Carrousel a tall and costly column, and on it we would
raise the statue of Bonaparte crowning the Bourbons.' A short time after
the dejeuner the consul entered, and Josephine had nothing more pressing
to do than to relate to him all these details. 'And have you inquired,'
asked her husband, 'whether this column would have for a pedestal the
corpse of the first consul?' The beautiful duchess was still present,
and with her winning ways she was well calculated to carry her point. 'I
shall ever be happy,' said she, 'and grateful for the kindness of
Madame Bonaparte in having granted me the opportunity of gazing upon and
listening to a great man - a hero.' But it was all in vain; the Duchess
de Guiche the same night received orders to depart immediately; and
the beauty of this emissary appeared to Josephine too dangerous for her
urgently to intercede in her behalf. Early next morning Madame de Guiche
was on her way to the frontier." [Footnote: "Memorial de Ste. Helene,"
vol. i., p. 34.]

The Count de Lille chose for his mediator a very devoted servant, the
most skilful of all his agents, the Marquis de Clermont Gallerande. He
also was kindly received by Josephine, and he found access to her ear.
With intense sympathy, and tears in her eyes, she bade him tell her
the sad wanderings of that unfortunate man, "his majesty the King of
France," and who as a fugitive was barely tolerated, roaming from court
to court, a protege of the good-will of foreign potentates. Drawn away
by her generous heart, and by her unswerving loyalty to the faith of her
childhood, she spoke enthusiastically of the young royal couple who once
had ruled in the Tuileries; and she went so far as to express the hope
that Bonaparte would again make good what the revolution had destroyed,
and that he would restore to the King of France his lost throne.

The Marquis de Clermont, to prove to her what confidence he reposed in
her, and what consideration the King of France entertained for the first
consul and his adored wife, communicated to her a letter from the Count
de Lille to him, which was in itself a masterpiece, well calculated to
move the heart of Josephine.

The Count de Lille portrayed in this letter first the dangers which
would threaten Bonaparte if he should allow himself to be drawn into the
inconsiderate and criminal step of placing the crown of France on his
own head, and then continued:

"Sitting upon a volcano, Bonaparte would sooner or later be destroyed by
it if he hastens not in due time to close the crater. Sitting upon
the first step of the throne restored by his own hand, he would be
the object of a monarch's gratitude; he would receive from France the
highest regards, the more pure since they would be the result of his
administration and of public esteem. No one can convince him of these
truths better than she whose fortune is bound up with his, who can
be happy only in his happiness and honored only in his reputation. I
consider it a great point gained if you can come into some relation
with her. I know her sentiments from days of old. The Count de Vermeuil,
ex-governor of the Antilles, whose judgment as you know is most
excellent, has told me more than once that in Martinique he had often
noticed how her fealty to the crown deepened nearly to distraction; and
the protection which she grants to my faithful subjects who appeal
to her, entitles her justly to the name you give her, 'an angel of
goodness.' Let my sentiments be known to Madame Bonaparte. You will not
surprise her, but I flatter myself that her soul will rejoice to know
them." [Footnote: Thibaudeau, "Histoire de la France, et de Napoleon
Bonaparte," vol. ii., p. 202.]

The Count de Lille was not deceived. Josephine's heart was filled with
joy at this confidence of the "King of France;" she was pleased that the
Marquis de Clermont had fulfilled his wishes, and that he should with
this letter have sent her a present. She read it with a countenance full
of enthusiasm, and with a tremulous voice, to her daughter Hortense,
whom she had educated to be as good a royalist as herself; and both
mother and daughter besieged, with earnest petitions, with tears and
prayers, and every expression of love, the first consul to realize the
hopes of the Count de Lille, and to recall the exiled prince to his
kingdom.

Bonaparte usually replied to all these requests with a silent smile;
sometimes also, when they were too violent and pressing, he repelled
them with unwilling vehemence.

"These women belong entirely to the devil!" said he, in his anger to
Bourrienne, "they are mad for royalty. The Faubourg St. Germain has
turned their heads, they are made the protecting genii of the royalists;
but they do not trouble me, and I am not displeased with them."

Bourrienne ventured to warn Josephine, and to call her attention to
this, that she might not so strongly plead before Bonaparte for the
Count de Lille, but Josephine answered him with a sad smile: "I wish I
could persuade him to call back the king, lest he himself may have the
idea of becoming such; for the fear that he may do this always awakens
in me a foreboding of evil, which I cannot banish from my mind."
[Footnote: Bourrienne, vol. iv., p. 108.]

But until the king was really recalled by the first consul, Josephine
had to be pleased to assume the place of queen in the Tuileries, and to
accept the homage which France and soon all Europe brought to her. For
now that the republic was firmly established, and had made peace with
the foreign powers, they sent their ambassadors to the republic, and
were received in the name of France by the first consul and his wife.

It was indeed an important and significant moment when Josephine for
the first time in her apartments received the ambassadors of the foreign
powers. It is true no one called this "to give audience;" no one spoke
yet in genuine courtier's style of "great levee" or "little levee;" the
appellation of "madame" was yet in use, and there was no court-marshal,
no maids of honor, no chamberlains of the palace. But the substance was
the same, and, instead of the high court-marshal, it was Talleyrand,
the secretary for foreign affairs, who introduced to Josephine the
ambassadors, and who called their names.

This introduction of the ambassadors was the first grand ceremony which,
since the revolution, had taken place in the Tuileries. With exquisite
tact, Josephine had carefully avoided at this festivity any pomp, any
luxury of toilet. In a plain white muslin dress, her beautiful brown
hair bound up in a string of white pearls, and holding Talleyrand's
hand, she entered the great reception hall, in which the foreign
ambassadors, the generals, and the high dignitaries of the republic
were gathered. She came without pretension or ostentation, but at her
appearance a murmur of admiration ran through the company, and brought
on her cheeks the timid blush of a young maiden. With the assurance of
an accomplished lady of the world she received the salutations of the
ambassadors, knew how to speak to each a gracious word, how to entertain
them, not with those worn-out, stereotyped phrases customary at royal
presentations, but in an interesting, intellectual manner, which at once
opened the way to an exciting, witty, and unaffected conversation.

Every one was enchanted with her, and from this day not only the French
aristocracy, but all distinguished foreigners who came to Paris, were
anxious to obtain the honor of a reception in the drawing-room of the
wife of the first consul; from this day Josephine was the admiration of
Europe, as she had already been that of France and Italy. As the wife
of the first consul of France she could be observed and noticed by
all Europe, and it is certainly a most remarkable and unheard-of
circumstance that of all these thousands of eyes directed at her, none
could find in her a stain or blemish; that, though neither beautiful nor
young, her sweet disposition and grace so enchanted every one as to be
accepted as substitutes for them, while on account of her goodness
and generosity her very failings and weaknesses were overlooked, being
interwoven with so many virtues.

Constant, the first chamberlain of Bonaparte, who, at the time Bonaparte
was elected first consul, entered his service, describes Josephine's
appearance and character in the following manner:

"Napoleon's wife was of medium size; her figure was moulded with rare
perfection; her movements had a softness and an elasticity which gave
to her walk something ethereal, without diminishing the majesty of a
sovereign. Her very expressive physiognomy mirrored all the emotions of
her soul without losing aught of the enchanting gentleness which was the
very substance of her character. At the moment of joy or merriment she
was beautiful to behold. Never did a woman more than she justify the
expression that the eyes were the mirror of the soul. Hers were of a
deep-blue color, shadowed by long, slightly-curved lids, and overarched
by the most beautiful eyebrows in the world, and her simple look
attracted you toward her as if by an irresistible power. It was
difficult for Josephine to give to this bewitching look an appearance of
severity, yet she knew how to make it imposing when she chose. Her hair
was beautiful, long, and soft; its light-brown color agreed marvellously
well with her complexion, which was a mixture of delicacy and freshness.
At the dawn of her lofty power the empress was fond of putting on for
a head-dress a red Madras, which gave her the piquant appearance of a
creole. But what more than any thing else contributed to the charm which
invested her whole person was the sweet tone of her voice. How often it
has happened to me and to many others amid our occupations, as soon
as this voice was heard, to remain still for the sake of enjoying the
pleasure of hearing it! It might be said, perhaps, that the empress was
not a beautiful woman; but her countenance, so full of expression and
goodness, the angelic grace which was shed over her whole person, placed
her among the most charming women of the world."

Further on, speaking of her character, he continues:

"Goodness was as inseparable from her character as grace from her
person. Good even to weakness, sensitive beyond all expression, generous
to extravagance, she was the delight of all those who were round about
her; certain it is that there never was a woman more loved and more
deservedly loved by those who approached her than Josephine. As she had
known what adversity was, she was full of compassion for the sorrows
of others; with a pleasant, equable temperament, full of condescension
alike to foe and friend, she carried peace wherever discord or disunion
existed; if the emperor was displeased with his brothers, or with any
other person, she uttered words of affection, and soon restored harmony.
She possessed a wondrous tact, a rare sentiment of what was becoming,
and the soundest and most unerring judgment one can possibly imagine.
Besides all this, Josephine had a remarkable memory, to which the
emperor would often appeal. She was a good reader, and had a peculiar
charm of her own which accorded with all her movements. Napoleon
preferred her to all his other readers." [Footnote: Constant,
"Memoires," vol. i., pp. 21, 39; vol. ii., p. 70.]

The Duke de Rovigo, the Duchess d'Abrantes, Mdlle. Ducrest, the niece of
the Countess de Genlis, Mdlle. d'Avrillon, General Lafayette, in a word,
all who have written about that period who knew Josephine, bear similar
testimony to her amiable disposition and her superior virtues.

In the same manner the man for whom, as Mdlle. Ducrest says, "she would
gladly have given her life," Napoleon, in his conversations with his
confidential friends at St. Helena, ever spoke of her. "In all positions
of life, Josephine's demeanor and actions were always pleasant or
bewitching," said he. "It would have been impossible ever to surprise
her, however intrusive you might be, so as to produce a disagreeable
impression. I always found her in the same humor; she had the same
amiable complacency; she was good, gentle, and ever devoted to her
husband in true affection. He never saw her in bad humor; she was always
constantly busy in endeavoring to please him." [Footnote: "Memorial de
Ste. Helene," vol. i. pp. 38, 79.]

And she pleased him more than any other woman; he loved her in these
happy days of the consulate with all the affection of the first days of
his marriage; his heart might now and then be drawn aside from her to
other women, but it always returned true and loving to her.

And this woman, whom the future King of France called an "angel of
goodness," and the future Emperor of France, "grace in person," is the
one who entered the Tuileries at Bonaparte's side to bring again into
France the tone of good society, refinement of manners, intellectual
conversation, and a love for the arts and sciences.

She was fully conscious of this mission, and devoted herself with
all the strength, energy, and perseverance of her character. Her
drawing-room soon became the central rendezvous of men of science, art,
learning, politics, and diplomacy, and to each Josephine knew how to
address friendly and captivating words; she knew how to encourage every
one by her noble affability, by her respectful interest in their works
and plans - so much so that all strove to do as well as possible, and
in her presence appeared more amiable than they otherwise would perhaps
have been. Alongside of the distinguished men of every rank were seen
the choicest company of ladies, young, beautiful, and captivating; the
most intelligent women of the Faubourg St. Germain were not ashamed to
appear in the drawing-room of the wife of the first consul, and thought
that the glory of their old aristocratic names would not be tarnished
by association with Madame Bonaparte, who by birth belonged to them,
and formed a sort of connecting link between the departed royalty of the
last century and the republicans of the present.

This republicanism was soon to hide itself behind the columns and
mirrors of the large hall of reception in the Tuileries. Bonaparte - the
first consul, and shortly to be consul for life - would have nothing to
do with this republicanism, which reminded him of the days of terrorism,
anarchy, and the guillotine; and the words "Liberty, Equality, and
Fraternity," which the revolution had written over the portals of the
Tuileries, were obliterated by the consul of the republic. France had
been sufficiently bled, and had suffered enough for these three words;
it was now to rest under the shadow of legal order and of severe
discipline, after its golden morning-dream of youth's enchanting hopes.

Bonaparte was to re-establish order and law; Josephine was to remodel
society and the saloon; her mission was to unite the aristocracy of
ancient France with the parvenues of the new; she was to be to the
latter a teacher of refinement, and of the genuine manners and habits of
so-called good society.

To accomplish this, the wife of the first consul needed the assistance
of some ladies of those circles who had remained in lofty, haughty
isolation; she needed the co-operation of the ladies of the Faubourg
St. Germain. It is true they made their morning calls, and invited the
former Viscountess de Beauharnais, with her daughter, to their evening
receptions; but they carefully avoided being present at the evening
circles of Madame Bonaparte, where their exclusiveness was beset with
the danger of coming in contact with some "parvenu," or with some sprig
of the army, or of the financial bureaus. Josephine therefore had to
recruit her troops herself in the Faubourg St. Germain, so as to
bring into her saloon the necessary contingent of the old legitimist
aristocracy, and she found what she desired in a lady with whom she had
been acquainted as Viscountess de Beauharnais, and who then had
ever shown herself kind and friendly. This lady was the Countess de
Montesson, the morganatic wife of the Duke d'Orleans, the father of
the Duke Philippe Egalite, who, after betraying the monarchy to
the revolution, was betrayed by the revolution, and, like his royal
relatives, Louis and Marie Antoinette, had perished on the scaffold!

Soon after his entrance into the Tuileries, the first consul invited,
through his wife, the Countess de Montesson to visit him, and when she
was announced he advanced to meet her with an unusual expression of
friendship, and endeavored with great condescension to make her say in
what manner he could please her or be of service to her.

"General," said Madame de Montesson, much surprised, "I have no right
whatever to claim any thing from you."

Bonaparte smiled. "You are mistaken," said he; "I have been under many
obligations to you for a long time past. Do you not know that to you I
am indebted for my first laurels? You came with the Duke d'Orleans
to Brienne for the purpose of distributing the prizes at the great
examination, and when you placed on my head the laurel-crown, which has
since been followed by others, you said, 'May it bring you happiness!'
It is commonly believed that I am a fatalist; it is therefore very
natural that I should not have forgotten my first coronation, and that
it is still fresh in my memory. It would afford me much pleasure to be
of service to you; besides, you can be useful to me. The tone of good
society has nearly perished in France; we would like to renew it again
with your assistance. I need some of the traditions of days gone by - you
can assist my wife with them; and when a distinguished foreigner comes
to Paris you can give him a reception which will convince him that
nowhere else can so much gentleness and amiableness be found."
[Footnote: "Memoires de Mdlle. Ducrest," vol. i., p. 9.]

That Madame de Montesson might have a striking proof of Bonaparte's
good-will, he renewed her yearly pension of one hundred and eighty



Online LibraryL. MühlbachEmpress Josephine → online text (page 31 of 40)