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crowned by him, and was solemnly consecrated Empress of the French. What
a moment! ... what a homage! What a proof of love manifested to her from
him who so much loved her!

"David's painting, and many other pictures taken during the coronation,
at the very spot and time, have well represented the empress at the
feet of Napoleon, who crowns her; then the pope, the priests, and
even persons who were four hundred miles away - as, for instance, the
emperor's mother, who was then in Rome, but whom David nevertheless
brings into his picture. But nothing, however, can give us a true
description, or even an approximate idea, of this alike touching and
lofty scene, where a great man by his own efforts ascends a throne, for
on this occasion he was full of gratitude and emotion.

"When the moment had come for Josephine to take her part in the great
drama, the empress rose from the throne and approached the altar, where
the emperor was waiting for her; she was followed by the ladies of the
palace and by her whole court, while the Princesses Caroline, Julie (the
wife of Joseph), the Princess Elise, and Louis Bonaparte, carried the
trail of her robe. One of the most admirable features in the beauty of
the Empress Josephine was not her fine, graceful figure, but the bearing
of her head - the gracious and noble manner in which she moved and
walked. I have had the honor to be introduced to many 'real princesses,'
as they are termed, in the Faubourg St. Germain, and I can in all
sincerity say that I have never seen one who appeared to me so imposing
as the Empress Josephine. In her, grace and majesty were blended. When
she put on the grand imperial robes there was no woman whose appearance
could be more royal in demeanor, and, in reality, none who understood
the art of occupying a throne as well as she, though she never had been
instructed in it.

"I read all that I have now said in the eyes of Napoleon. He watched
with delight the empress as she moved toward him; and as she knelt
before him, ... as the tears she could not restrain streamed down her
folded hands, which were lifted up to him more than to God, at that
moment, when Napoleon, or, much more, when Bonaparte was for her the
real and visible Providence, there passed over these two beings one of
those fugitive minutes, unique in its kind, and never to be recalled
in a whole life, and which fills to overflowing the void of many long
years. The emperor performed with an unexcelled grace the most minute
details of every part of the subsequent ceremony, especially when the
moment came to crown the empress.

"This ceremony was to be performed by the emperor himself, who, after
he had received the small closed crown surmounted by a cross, placed it
first on his own head, and then afterward on the head of the empress. He
performed these two movements with a most exquisite slowness, which was
indeed admirable. But at the moment when he was to crown her who was for
him, according to a prophecy, 'the star of happiness,' he made himself,
if I dare use the expression, coquettish. He arranged this little crown
which was to stand over her coronet of diamonds, and placed it on her
head, then lifted it up to replace it in another way, as if to promise
her that this crown would be light and pleasant to her." [Footnote:
Abrantes, "Memoires."]

After this twofold crowning performed by Napoleon himself, the pope,
surrounded by cardinals and prelates, approached the throne, and
arriving upon the platform pronounced in a loud voice, spreading his
hands over their imperial majesties, the ancient Latin formula of
enthronization: "In hoc solio confirme vos Deus, et in regno aeterno
secum regnare faciat Christus." (God establish you on this throne, and
Christ make you reign with Him in His everlasting kingdom.) He then
kissed the emperor on the cheeks, and turning himself to the audience,
cried with a loud voice: "Vivat imperator in aeternum!"

The immense cathedral resounded with one glad shout of thousands of
voices: "Long live the emperor! long live the empress!" Napoleon, calm
and reserved, answered this acclamation with a friendly motion of the
head. Josephine stood near him, pale, deeply moved, her eyes, full of
tears, fixed on the emperor, as if she would pray to him, and not to
God, for the prosperity and blessing of the future.

Meanwhile the pope had descended from his throne, and while he
approached the altar, the bands played "Long live the emperor," which
the Abbe Kose had composed for this solemnity. Then the pope, standing
before the altar, intoned the Te Deum, which was at once executed by
four choirs and two orchestras, and which completed the ecclesiastical
part of the ceremony.

This was followed by a secular one. The emperor took, on the Bible
which Cardinal Fesch presented to him, the oath prescribed in the
constitution, and whereby he pledged himself solemnly to maintain "the
most wise results of the revolution, to defend the integrity of the
territory, and to rule only in the interest of the happiness and glory
of the French people." After he had taken this oath, a herald approached
the edge of the platform, and, according to ancient custom, cried out in
a loud voice: "The most mighty and glorious Emperor Napoleon, Emperor of
the French, is crowned and enthroned! Long live the emperor!"

A tremendous, prolonged shout of joy followed this proclamation: "Long
live the emperor! Long live the empress!" and then an artillery
salute thundered forth from behind the cathedral, and a similar salute
responded from the Tuileries, and from the Invalides, and proclaimed to
all Paris that France had again found a ruler, that a new dynasty had
been lifted up above the French people.

At this moment from the Place de Carrousel ascended an enormous air
balloon surmounted by an ornamental, gigantic crown, and which, on the
wings of the wind, was to announce to France the same tidings proclaimed
to Paris by bell and cannon: "The republic of France is converted into
an empire! The free republicans are now the subjects of the Emperor
Napoleon I.!"

The gigantic balloon arose amid the joyous shouts of the crowd, and soon
disappeared from the gaze of the spectators. It flew, as a trophy of
victory of Napoleon I., all over France. Thousands saw it and understood
its silent and yet eloquent meaning, but no one could tell where it
had fallen, finally, after many weeks, the emperor, who had often asked
after the balloon's fate, received the wished-for answer. The balloon
had fallen in Rome, upon Nero's grave!

Napoleon remained silent a moment at this news: a shadow passed over his
countenance; then his brow brightened again, and he exclaimed: "Well, I
would sooner see it there, than in the dust of the streets!"


The prophecy of the old woman in Martinique had now been fulfilled:
Josephine was more than a queen, she was an empress! She stood on life's
summit, and a world lay at her feet. Before the husband who stood at her
side, the princes and the people of Europe bowed in the dust, and paid
him homage - the hero who by new victories had won ever-increasing fame
and fresh laurels, who had defeated Austria, Prussia, and Russia, and
who had engraven on the rolls of French glory the mighty victories of
Austerlitz, Jena, and Eylau!

Josephine stood on the pinnacle of life; she saw the princes of foreign
states come to France as conquered, as captives, and as allies, to bring
to her husband and to herself the homage of subjects; she saw devoted
courtiers and flatterers; pomp and splendor surrounded her on every

Amid this glory she remained simple and modest - she never gave up her
cheerful gentleness and mildness; she never forgot the days which had
been; she never allowed herself to be exalted by the brilliancy of the
moment to an ambitious pride or to a lofty self-conceit. The friends of
the widow Josephine de Beauharnais always found in the empress Josephine
a thankful, obliging friend, ever ready to appeal to her husband, and
intercede with him in their behalf. To the royalists, when weary of
their long exile, though poor and helpless still loyal to the royal
family - when they returned to France with bleeding feet and wounded
hearts, to implore from the Emperor of the French the privilege of
dying in their native country - to them all Josephine was a counsellor,
a helper, a compassionate protectress. With deep interest she inquired
from them how it fared with the Count de Lille, whom her heart yet
named as the King of France, though her lips dared not utter it. All the
assistance she gave to the royalists, and the protection she afforded
them, oftentimes despite Napoleon's anger, all the loyalty, the
generosity, and self-denial she manifested, were the quiet sacrifice
which she offered to God for her own happiness, and with which she
sought to propitiate the revengeful spirit of the old monarchy,
loitering perchance in the Tuileries, where she now, in the place of the
wife of the Count de Lille, was enthroned as sovereign.

Josephine's heart was unwearied and inexhaustible in well-doing and in
liberality; if Napoleon was truly the emperor and the father of the army
and of the soldiers, Josephine was equally the empress and the mother of
the poor and unfortunate.

But she was also, in the true sense of the word, the empress of the
happy. No one understood so well as she did how to be the leader at
festivals, to preside at a joyous company, to give new attractions by
her gracious womanly sweetness and amiableness, or to receive homage
with such beaming eyes, and to make others happy while she herself
seemed to be made happy by them.

Amid this life full of splendor and grandeur there were sad hours,
when the sun was shadowed by clouds, and the eyes of the Empress of the
French filled with such bitter tears as only the wife and the widow of
General Beauharnais could shed.

Three things especially contributed to draw these tears from the eyes of
the Empress Josephine: her jealousy, her extravagance, and, lastly, her
childlessness. Josephine was jealous, for she not only loved Napoleon,
she worshipped him as her providence, her future, her happiness. Her
heart was yet so full of passion, and so young, that it hoped for much
happiness, and could not submit to that resignation which is
satisfied to give more love than it receives, and instead of the
warm, intoxicating cup of love, to receive the cool, sober beverage of
friendship. Josephine wanted not merely to be the friend, but to remain
Napoleon's beloved one; and she looked upon all these beautiful women
who adorned the imperial court of the Tuileries as enemies who came to
dispute with her the love of her husband.

And, alas! she had too often to acknowledge herself defeated in this
struggle, to see her rivals triumph, and for weeks to retreat into
the background before the victorious one who may have succeeded in
enchaining the inconstant heart of Napoleon, and to make the proud
Caesar bow to her love. But afterward, when love's short dream had
vanished, Napoleon, penitent, would come back with renewed love to
his Josephine, whom he still called "the star of his happiness;" and
oftentimes, touched by her tears, he sacrificed to her anxiety and
jealousy a love-caprice, and became more affectionate, more agreeable
even, than when he had forsaken her; for then, to prove to her
how unreserved was his confidence, he often told her of his new
love-adventures, and was even indiscreet enough at times to betray all
his gallantries to her.

The second object of the constant solicitude and trials of the empress
was her extravagance. She did not understand how to economize; her
indolent creole nature found it impossible to calculate, to bring
numbers into columns, or to question tedious figures, to see if debt and
purse agreed - if her generous heart must be prevented from giving to
the poor - from rendering assistance to the helpless, or from spending
handfuls for the suffering; to see if her taste for the arts was no
longer to be gratified with pictures, paintings, statues, cameos,
and other objects of vertu, which filled her with so much joy and
admiration; if her elegant manners and fondness for finery and dress
were to be denied all that was costly, all that was fashionable, and
which seemed to have been expressly invented for the adorning of an
empress. And when, in some of those grave, melancholy hours of internal
anxiety, the cruel phantoms of the future reckonings arose before her
and warned her to stop purchasing, Josephine comforted herself with the
idea that it was Napoleon himself who had requested her to be to all the
ladies of his court a pattern of elegance, and to be distinguished above
all by the most brilliant, the choicest, the costliest toilet.

The emperor would often come into the cabinet of the empress, and to the
great astonishment of her ladies-in-waiting would enter into the most
minute details of her dress, and designate the robes and ornaments which
he desired her to wear on some special festivity. It even happened in
Aix-la-Chapelle that Napoleon, who had come into the toilet-room of the
empress and found that she had put on a robe which did not please him,
poured ink on the costly dress of silver brocade, so as to compel her
to put on another. [Footnote: Avrillon, "Memoires," vol. i., p. 98; and
Constant, "Memoires," vol. iii., p. 103.]

And then how was it possible to resist the temptation of purchasing
all those beautiful things which were constantly brought to her for
inspection? Josephine loved what was beautiful, tasteful, and artistic;
all works of art which she admired must be purchased, whatever price was
asked; and when the merchants came to offer to the empress their superb
and splendid articles of luxury, how could she have the cruel courage
to repel them? How often did she purchase objects of extraordinary value
for which she had no need, simply to please herself and the merchant!
Every thing that was beautiful and tasteful pleased her, and she must
possess it. No one had a more remarkably fine taste than Josephine, but
the artists, the manufacturers, the merchants, also had fine taste,
and they came to the empress with the best they had; it was therefore
natural that she should purchase from them But unfortunately the happy
moment of the purchase was followed by the unhappy one of the payment,
and the outlay was constantly beyond the income of the empress, whose
treasury, besides, was so often emptied in charities, pensions, and
presents. Then when the merchants urged payment, and the purse was
empty, Josephine had recourse to the emperor, and had to entreat him to
meet her expenses, and then came violent scenes, reproaches, and
bitter words. The emperor was angry, Josephine wept, and payment and
reconciliation followed these scenes. Josephine promised to the emperor
and to herself to be more economical in the future, and no longer to
purchase what she could not pay for, but ever came the temptation, with
all its inviting treasures, and being no saintly Anthony, she would fall
a prey to the temptation.

The third and thickest cloud which often darkened the serene sky of
her happiness after her marriage was, as already said, Josephine's
childlessness. This was the bitter drop which was mixed in the golden
cup of her joy - this was the sting which, however deeply hid under the
roses, still reached her heart and wounded it painfully. She had no
children who could call Napoleon father, no offspring to prolong the
future of the new dynasty. And therefore the firmer the emperor's
power became, the higher he stood above all other princes, the more
distressing and the more anxious were the emotions which filled the
heart of Josephine, the louder was the warning voice which ceased not to
whisper to her heart, and which she forgot only now and then under the
glow of Napoleon's assurances of love, or amid the noise of festivities.
This voice whispered: "You must give place to another. Napoleon will
reject you, to marry a wife of princely birth, who will give an heir to
his empire!"

How Josephine strove to silence these agonizing whisperings of her
heart! With what restlessness of sorrow she rushed into the gayeties and
amusements of a court life! How she sought, in charitable occupations,
in the joys of society, in every thing which was congruous to the life
of a woman, of an empress, to obtain the forgetfulness of her torments!
With what envious attention she listened to the whispers of courtiers,
scrutinized their features, read their looks, to find out if they still
believed in the existence of an empress in the wife of Napoleon! With
what jealous solicitude she observed all the families on European
thrones, and considered what princesses among them were marriageable,
and whether Napoleon's relations with the fathers of such princesses
were more intimate than those with the other princes!

And then she ever sought to deafen this vigilant, warning voice, by
comforting herself with the thought that the emperor had adopted his
brother's son, the son of Hortense, and that he had made him his heir,
and consequently the throne and the dynasty were secure in a successor.

But alas! Fate would not leave this last comfort to the unfortunate
empress. In May of the year 1807, Prince Napoleon, the crown prince
of Holland, Napoleon's adopted son and successor, died of a child's
disease, which in a few days tore him away from the arms of his
despairing mother.

Josephine's anguish was boundless, and in the first hours of this
misfortune, which with such annihilating force fell upon her, the
empress, as if in a state of hallucination, gazed into the future,
and, with prophetic voice, exclaimed: "Now I am lost! Now is divorce

Yes, she was lost! She felt it, she knew it! Nothing the emperor did
to pacify her anguish - the numerous expressions of his love, of his
sympathy, of his winning affection - nothing could any longer deceive
Josephine. The voices which had so long whispered in her breast now
cried aloud: "You must give place to another! Napoleon will reject you,
so as to have a son!"

But the emperor seemed still to try to dispel these fears, and, to give
to his Josephine a new proof of his love and faithfulness, he chose
Eugene de Beauharnais, the son of Josephine, for his adopted heir, and
named him Vice-King of Italy, and gave him in marriage the daughter of
the King of Bavaria; he thus afforded to Europe the proof that he still
considered Josephine as his wife, and that he desired to be shown to
her all the respect due to her dignity, for he travelled to Munich in
company with her in order to be present at the nuptials.

This journey to attend her son's marriage was the last pleasure of
Josephine - her last days of honors and happiness. Once more she saw
herself surrounded by all the splendor and the pomp of her rank; once
more she was publicly honored and admired as the wife of the first and
greatest ruler of the world, the wife of the Emperor Napoleon.

Perhaps Josephine, in these hours of happiness, when as empress, wife,
and mother, she enjoyed the purest and most sacred pleasure, forgot the
sad forebodings and fears of her soul. Perhaps she now believed that,
since Napoleon had adopted her Eugene as his son, and had given to this
son a wife of royal extraction, Fate would be propitious to her; that
the emperor would be satisfied with the son of his choice, and that the
future scions of the royal princess would be the heirs of his throne.

But one word of Napoleon frightened her out of this ephemeral security
into which happiness had lulled her.

Josephine wept as she bade farewell to her son; she was comfortless when
with his young wife Eugene left for Italy. She complained to Napoleon,
in justification of her tears, that she should seldom see her son, that
now he was lost to his mother's heart.

The emperor, who at first had endeavored to comfort her felt at last
wounded by her sorrow.

"You weep, Josephine," said he, hastily, "but you have no reasonable
motives to do so; you weep simply because you are separated from your
son. If already the absence of your children causes you so much sorrow,
think then what I must endure! The tenderness which you feel for your
children makes me cruelly experience how unhappy it is for me to have
none." [Footnote: Avrillon, "Memoires sur l'Imperatrice Josephine," vol.
i., p. 202.]

Josephine trembled, and her tears ceased flowing in the presence of the
emperor, but only to fall more abundantly as soon as he had left her.
Now she wept no longer at her separation from her son; her tears were
still more bitter and painful - she grieved over the coming future; she
wept because those voices which happiness for a moment had deafened, now
spoke more loudly - more fearfully and menacingly shouted: "Napoleon will
reject you! He will choose for himself a wife of royal birth, who will
give an heir to his throne and his empire."


It was at last decided! The storm which had so long and so fearfully
rolled over Josephine's head was to burst, and with one single flash
destroy her earthly happiness, her love, her future!

The peace of Vienna had been ratified on the 13th of October, 1809.
Napoleon passed the three long months of peace negotiations in Vienna
and in Schonbrunn, while Josephine, solitary and full of sad misgivings,
lived quietly in the retreat of Malmaison.

Now that peace was signed, Napoleon returned to France with fresh
laurels and new crowns of victory. But not, as usual after so long
an absence, did he greet Josephine with the tenderness and joy of a
home-returning husband. He approached her with clouded brow; with a
proud, cold demeanor; with the mien of a ruling master, before whom all
must bow, even his wife, even his own heart.

At Fontainebleau, whither the emperor in a few, short, commanding
words - in a letter of three lines - had invited the empress, did the
first interview of Josephine and Napoleon take place. She hastened to
meet her husband with a cheerful face and beaming eyes. He, however,
received her coldly, and endeavored to hide his feelings of uneasiness
and shame under a repulsive, domineering manner.

He returned to his home victorious; the whole world lay conquered at
his feet; he was triumphant. He had so deeply humiliated the pride of
Austria that she not only accepted his harsh terms of peace, but, as
once men had appeased the Minotaur by the sacrifice of the most amiable
and most beautiful maiden, so Austria had asked in a low voice whether
the daughter of the emperor, Maria Louisa might not give to the
alliance of Austria and France the consecration of love. Napoleon
eagerly entered into the scheme; and while Josephine, as his married
wife before God and man, stood yet at his side, he already had begun
negotiations, the object of which was to make the daughter of the
Austrian emperor his wife, and before Napoleon returned to France those
negotiations had been brought to a satisfactory result.

The ambitious Maria Louisa was to be the wife of the Emperor of the
French. Nothing more was wanted but that Napoleon should reject his
legitimate wife, whom the pope had anointed! He had but to disenthrone
her who for fifteen years, with true and tender love, had shared his
existence. He had only to be divorced publicly and solemnly, so as
immediately to possess a bride, the daughter of an emperor!

Napoleon came to Fontainebleau to accomplish this cruel task, to break
at once his marriage with Josephine and her heart. He knew what terrible
sufferings he was preparing for her; he himself quailed under the
anguish she was to endure; his heart was full of sorrow and woe, and
yet his resolution was irrevocable. Policy had controlled his heart,
ambition had conquered his love, and the man was determined to sacrifice
his wife to the emperor.

Josephine felt this at the first word he addressed her, at the first
look he gave her, after so long a separation, and her heart shrank
within itself in bitter anguish, while a stream of tears started from
her eyes.

But Napoleon asked not for the cause of these tears; he had not the
courage to wage an open war with this brave, loving heart, and to subdue
her love and despair with the two-edged sword of his state policy and
craftiness. He did not wish to utter the word; he wanted to make her
feel what an abyss was now open between them; all confidential and
social intercourse was to be avoided, so that the empress might become
conscious that love and fellowship of hearts had ceased also.

Online LibraryL. MühlbachEmpress Josephine → online text (page 37 of 40)