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QUEEN HORTENSE

A Life picture of the Napoleonic Era

BY

L. MÜHLBACH

AUTHOR OF PRINCE EUGENE AND HIS TIMES, JOSEPH II, AND HIS COURT,
MERCHANT OF BERLIN, ETC.

TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY

CHAPMAN COLEMAN

1910




CONTENTS.


BOOK I.

_DAYS OF CHILDHOOD AND OF THE REVOLUTION._

CHAPTER

I. - Days of Childhood.
II. - The Prophecy.
III. - Consequences of the Revolution.
IV. - General Bonaparte.
V. - The Marriage.
VI. - Bonaparte in Italy.
VII. - Vicissitudes of Destiny.
VIII. - Bonaparte's Return from Egypt.


BOOK II.

_THE QUEEN OF HOLLAND._

CHAPTER

I. - A First Love.
II. - Louis Bonaparte and Duroc.
III - Consul and King.
IV. - The Calumny.
V. - King or Emperor.
VI. - Napoleon's Heir.
VII. - Premonitions.
VIII. - The Divorce.
IX. - The King of Holland.
X. - Junot, the Duke d'Abrantes.
XI. - Louis Napoleon as a Vender of Violets.
XII. - The Days of Misfortune.
XIII. - The Allies in Paris.
XIV. - Correspondence between the Queen and Louise de Cochelet.
XV. - Queen Hortense and the Emperor Alexander.
XVI. - The New Uncles.
XVII. - Death of the Empress Josephine.


BOOK III.

_THE RESTORATION._

CHAPTER

I. - The Return of the Bourbons.
II. - The Bourbons and the Bonapartes.
III. - Madame de Staël.
IV. - Madame de Staël's Return to Paris.
V. - Madame de Staël's Visit to Queen Hortense.
VI. - The Old and New Era.
VII. - King Louis XVIII.
VIII. - The Drawing-room of the Duchess of St. Leu.
IX. - The Burial of Louis XVI. and his Wife.
X. - Napoleon's Return from Elba.
XI. - Louis XVIII.'s Departure and Napoleon's Arrival.
XII. - The Hundred Days.
XIII. - Napoleon's Last Adieu.


BOOK IV.

_THE DUCHESS OF ST. LEU._

CHAPTER

I. - The Banishment of the Duchess of St. Leu.
II. - Louis Napoleon as a Child.
III. - The Revolution of 1830.
IV. - The Revolution in Rome and the Sons of Hortense.
V. - The Death of Prince Napoleon.
VI. - The Flight from Italy.
VII. - The Pilgrimage.
VIII. - Louis Philippe and the Duchess of St. Leu.
IX. - The Departure of the Duchess from Paris.
X. - Pilgrimage through France.
XI. - Fragment from the Memoirs of Queen Hortense.
XII. - The Pilgrim.
XIII. - Conclusion.




ILLUSTRATIONS.

General Bonaparte suppressing the Revolt of the Sections, _Frontispiece_.

View of the Tuileries.

Portrait of Queen Hortense.

Portrait of Madame de Staël.



QUEEN HORTENSE.

BOOK I.

_DAYS OF CHILDHOOD AND OF THE REVOLUTION._



CHAPTER I.

DAYS OF CHILDHOOD.

"One moment of bliss is not too dearly bought with death," says our
great German poet, and he may be right; but a moment of bliss purchased
with a long lifetime full of trial and suffering is far too costly.

And when did it come for her, this "moment of bliss?" When could
Hortense Beauharnais, in speaking of herself, declare, "I am happy? Now,
let suffering and sorrow come upon me, if they will; I have tasted
felicity, and, in the memories it has left me, it is imperishable
and eternal!"

Much, very much, had this daughter of an empress and mother of an
emperor to endure.

In her earliest youth she had been made familiar with misfortune and
with tears; and in her later life, as maiden, wife, and mother, she was
not spared.

A touchingly-beautiful figure amid the drama of the Napoleonic days was
this gentle and yet high-spirited queen, who, when she had descended
from the throne and had ceased to be a sovereign, exhausted and weary of
life, found refuge at length in the grave, yet still survived among us
as a queen - no longer, indeed, a queen of nations, but the Queen
of Flowers.

The flowers have retained their remembrance of Josephine's beautiful
daughter; they did not, like so many of her own race, deny her when she
was no longer the daughter of the all-powerful emperor, but merely the
daughter of the "exile." Among the flowers the lovely Hortense continued
to live on, and Gavarni, the great poet of the floral realm, has reared
to her, as Hortensia, the Flower Queen, an enchanting monument, in his
"_Fleurs Animées_." Upon a mound of Hortensias rests the image of the
Queen Hortense, and, in the far distance, like the limnings of a
half-forgotten dream, are seen the towers and domes of Paris. Farther in
the foreground lies the grave of Hortense, with the carved likeness of
the queenly sister of the flowers. Loneliness reigns around the spot,
but above it, in the air, hovers the imperial eagle. The imperial
mantle, studded with its golden bees, undulates behind him, like the
train of a comet; the dark-red ribbon of the Legion of Honor, with the
golden cross, hangs around his neck, and in his beak he bears a
full-blooming branch of the crown imperial.

It is a page of world-renowned history that this charming picture of
Gavarni's conjures up before us - an historical pageant that sweeps by
us in wondrous fantastic forms of light and shadow, when we scan the
life of Queen Hortense with searching gaze, and meditate upon her
destiny. She had known all the grandeur and splendor of earth, and had
seen them all crumble again to dust. No, not all! Her ballads and poems
remain, for genius needs no diadem to be immortal.

When Hortense ceased to be a queen by the grace of Napoleon, she none
the less continued to be a poetess "by the grace of God." Her poems are
sympathetic and charming, full of tender plaintiveness and full of
impassioned warmth, which, however, in no instance oversteps the bounds
of womanly gentleness. Her musical compositions, too, are equally
melodious and attractive to the heart. Who does not know the song, "_Va
t'en, Guerrier_," which Hortense wrote and set to music, and then, at
Napoleon's request, converted into a military march? The soldiers of
France once left their native land, in those days, to the sound of this
march, to carry the French eagles to Russia; and to the same warlike
harmony they have marched forth more recently, toward the same distant
destination. This ballad, written by Hortense, survived. At one time
everybody sang it, joyously, aloud. Then, when the Bourbons had
returned, the scarred and crippled veterans of the _Invalides_ hummed it
under their breath, while they whispered secretly to each other of the
glory of _La Belle France_, as of a beautiful dream of youth, now
gone forever.

To-day, that song rings out with power again through France, and mounts
in jubilee to the summit of the column on the Place Vendôme. The bronze
visage of the emperor seems to melt into a smile as these tremulous
billows of melody go sweeping around his brow, and the Hortensias on the
queen's grave raise dreamingly their heads of bloom, in which the dews
of heaven, or the tears of the departed one, glisten like rarest gems,
and seem to look forth lovingly and listen to this ditty, which now for
France has won so holy a significance - holy because it is the
master-chant of a religion which all men and all nations should
revere - the "religion of our memories." Thus, this "_Va t'en,
Guerrier_," which France now sings, resounds over the grave of the
queen, like a salute of honor over the last resting-place of some
brave soldier.

She had much to contend with - this hapless and amiable queen - but she
ever proved firm, and ever retained one kind of courage that belongs to
woman - the courage to smile through her tears. Her father perished on
the scaffold; her mother, the doubly-dethroned empress, died of a broken
heart; her step-father, the Emperor Napoleon, pined away, liked a caged
lion, on a lone rock in the sea! Her whole family - all the dethroned
kings and queens - went wandering about as fugitives and pariahs,
banished from their country, and scarcely wringing from the clemency of
those to whom _they_ had been clement, a little spot of earth, where,
far from the bustle and intercourse of the world, they might live in
quiet obscurity, with their great recollections and their mighty
sorrows. Their past lay behind them, like a glittering fairy tale,
which no one now believed; and only the present seemed, to men and
nations, a welcome reality, which they, with envenomed stings, were
eager to brand upon the foreheads of the dethroned Napoleon race.

Yet, despite all these sorrows and discouragements, Hortensia had the
mental strength not to hate her fellow-beings, but, on the contrary, to
teach her children to love them and do good to them. The heart of the
dethroned queen bled from a thousand wounds, but she did not allow these
wounds to stiffen into callousness, nor her heart to harden under the
broad scars of sorrow that had ceased to bleed. She cherished her
bereavements and her wounds, and kept them open with her tears; but,
even while she suffered measureless woes, it solaced her heart to
relieve the woes and dry the tears of others. Thus was her life a
constant charity; and when she died she could, like the Empress
Josephine, say of herself, "I have wept much, but never have I made
others weep."

Hortense was the daughter of the Viscount de Beauharnais, who, against
the wishes of his relatives, married the beautiful Josephine Tascher de
la Pagerie, a young Creole lady of Martinique. This alliance, which love
alone had brought about, seemed destined, nevertheless, to no happy
issue. While both were young, and both inexperienced, passionate, and
jealous, both lacked the strength and energy requisite to restrain the
wild impulses of their fiery temperaments within the cool and tranquil
bounds of quiet married life. The viscount was too young to be not
merely a lover and tender husband, but also a sober counsellor and
cautious instructor in the difficult after-day of life; and Josephine
was too innocent, too artless, too sportive and genial, to avoid all
those things that might give to the watchful and hostile family of her
husband an opportunity for ill-natured suspicions, which were whispered
in the viscount's ear as cruel certainties. It may readily be conceived,
then, that such a state of things soon led to violent scenes and bitter
grief. Josephine was too beautiful and amiable not to attract attention
and admiration wherever she went, and she was not yet _blasée_ and
hackneyed enough to take no pleasure in the court thus paid to her, and
the admiration so universally shown her, nor even to omit doing her part
to win them. But, while she was naive and innocent at heart, she
required of her husband that these trifling outside coquetries should
not disquiet him nor render him distrustful, and that he should repose
the most unshaken confidence in her. Her pride revolted against his
suspicions, as did his jealousy against her seeming frivolity; and both
became quite willing, at last, to separate, notwithstanding the love
they really bore each other at the bottom of their hearts, had not their
children rendered such a separation impossible. These children were a
son, Eugene, and a daughter, Hortense, four years younger than the boy.
Both parents loved these children with passionate tenderness; and often
when one of the stormy scenes at which we have hinted took place in the
presence of the young people, an imploring word from Eugene or a caress
from little Hortense would suffice to reconcile their father and
mother, whose anger, after all, was but the result of excessive
attachment.

But these domestic broils became more violent with time, and the moment
arrived when Eugene was no longer there to stand by his little sister in
her efforts to soothe the irritation of her parents. The viscount had
sent Eugene, who was now seven years of age, to a boarding-school; and
little Hortense, quite disheartened by the absence of her brother, had
no longer the means or the courage to allay the quarrels that raged
between her parents, but would escape in terror and dismay, when they
broke out, to some lonely corner, and there weep bitterly over a
misfortune, the extent of which her poor little childish heart could not
yet estimate.

In the midst of this gloomy and stormy period, the young viscountess
received a letter from Martinique. It was from her mother, Madame
Tascher de la Pagerie, who vividly depicted to her daughter the terrors
of her lonely situation in her huge, silent residence, where there was
no one around her but servants and slaves, whose singularly altered and
insubordinate manner had, of late, alarmed the old lady, and filled her
with secret apprehensions for the future. She, therefore, besought her
daughter to come to her, and live with her, so that she might cheer the
last few years of her mother's existence with the bright presence of her
dazzling youth.

Josephine accepted this appealing letter from her mother as a hint from
destiny; and, weary of her domestic wrangles, and resolved to end them
forever, she took her little daughter, Hortense, then scarcely four
years old, and with her sailed away from France, to seek beyond the
ocean and in her mother's arms the new happiness of undisturbed
tranquillity.

But, at that juncture, tranquillity had fled the world. The mutterings
and moanings of the impending tempest could be heard on all sides. A
subterranean rumbling was audible throughout all lands; a dull
thundering and outcry, as though the solid earth were about to change
into one vast volcano - one measureless crater - that would dash to atoms,
and entomb, with its blazing lava-streams and fiery cinder-showers, the
happiness and peace of all humanity. And, finally, this terrific crater
did, indeed, open and hurl destruction and death on all sides, over the
whole world, uprooting, with demoniac fury, entire races and nations,
and silencing the merry laugh and harmless jest with the overpowering
echoes of its awful voice!

This volcano was the revolution. In France, the first and most fearful
explosion of this terrific crater occurred, but the whole world shook
and heaved with it, and, on all sides, the furious masses from beneath
overflowed on the surface, seeking to reverse the order of things and
place the lowest where the highest had been. Even away in Martinique
this social earthquake was felt, which had already, in France, flung out
the bloody guillotine from its relentless crater. This guillotine had
become the altar of the so-called enfranchisement of nations, and upon
this altar the intoxicated, unthinking masses offered up to their new
idol those who, until then, had been their lords and masters, and by
whose death they now believed that they could purchase freedom
for evermore.

"_Egalité! fraternité! liberté!_" Such was the battle-cry of this
howling, murdering populace. Such were the three words which burned in
blood-red letters of fire above the guillotine, and their mocking emblem
was the glittering axe, that flashed down, to sever from their bodies
the heads of the aristocrats whom, in spite of the new religion
represented in those three words, they would not recognize as brethren
and equals, or admit to the freedom of life and of opinion. And this
battle-cry of the murderous French populace had penetrated as far as
Martinique, where it had aroused the slaves from their sullen obedience
to the point of demanding by force that participation in freedom,
equality, and brotherhood, that had so long been denied them. They, at
last, rose everywhere in open insurrection against their masters, and
the firebrands which they hurled into the dwellings of the whites served
as the bridal torches to their espousal of liberty.

The house of Madame Tascher de la Pagerie was one of the abodes in which
these firebrands fell.

One night Josephine was awakened by the blinding light of the flames,
which had already penetrated to her chamber. With a shriek of terror,
she sprang from her bed, caught up little Hortense in her arms from the
couch where the child lay quietly slumbering, wrapped her in the
bedclothes, and rushed, in her night-attire, from the house. She burst,
with the lion-like courage of a mother, through the shouting, fighting
crowds of soldiers and blacks outside, and fled, with all the speed of
mortal terror, toward the harbor. There lay a French vessel, just ready
to weigh anchor. An officer, who at that moment was stepping into the
small boat that was to convey him to the departing ship, saw this young
woman, as, holding her child tightly to her bosom, she sank down, with
one last despairing cry, half inanimate, upon the beach. Filled with the
deepest compassion, he hastened to her, and, raising both mother and
child in his arms, he bore them to his boat, which then instantly put
out from land, and bounded away over the billows with its lovely burden.

The ship was soon reached, and Josephine, still tightly clasping her
child to her breast, and happy in having saved this only jewel, climbed
up the unsteady ladder to the ship's decks. Until this moment all her
thoughts remained concentrated upon her child, and it was only when she
had seen her little Hortense safely put to bed in the cabin and free
from all danger - only after she had fulfilled all the duties of a
mother, that the woman revived in her breast, and she cast shamed and
frightened glances around her. Only half-clad, in light, fluttering
night-clothes, without any other covering to her beautiful neck and
bosom than her superb, luxuriant hair, which fell around her and partly
hid them, like a thick black veil, stood the young Viscountess
Josephine de Beauharnais, in the midst of a group of gazing men!

However, some of the ladies on the ship came to her aid, and, so soon as
her toilet had been sufficiently improved, Josephine eagerly requested
to be taken back to land, in order that she might fly to her mother's
assistance.

But the captain opposed this request, as he was unwilling to give the
young fugitive over to the tender mercies of the assassins who were
burning and massacring ashore, and whose murderous yells could be
distinctly heard on board of the vessel. The entire coast, so far as the
eye could reach, looked like another sea - a sea, though, of flame and
smoke, which shot up its leaping billows in long tongues of fire far
against the sky. It was a terrible, an appalling spectacle; and
Josephine fled from it to the bedside of her little sleeping daughter.
Then, kneeling there by the couch of her child, she uplifted to heaven
her face, down which the tears were streaming, and implored God to spare
her mother.

But, meanwhile, the ship weighed anchor, and sped farther and farther
away from this blazing coast.

Josephine stood on the deck and gazed back at her mother's burning home,
which gradually grew less to her sight, then glimmered only like a tiny
star on the distant horizon, and finally vanished altogether. With that
last ray her childhood and past life had sunk forever in the sea, and a
new world and a new life opened for both mother and child. The past was,
like the ships of Cortez, burned behind her; yet it threw a magic light
far away over into her future, and as Josephine stood there with her
little Hortense in her arms, and sent her last farewell to the island
where her early days had been spent, she bethought her of the old
mulatto-woman who had whispered in her ear one day:

"You will go back to France, and, ere long after that, all France will
be at your feet. You will be greater there than a queen."



CHAPTER II.

THE PROPHECY.

It was toward the close of the year 1790 that Josephine, with her little
daughter, Hortense, arrived in Paris and took up her residence in a
small dwelling. There she soon received the intelligence of the rescue
of her mother, and of the re-establishment of peace in Martinique. In
France, however, the revolution and the guillotine still raged, and the
banner of the Reign of Terror - the red flag - still cast its bloody
shadow over Paris. Its inhabitants were terror-stricken; no one knew in
the evening that he would still be at liberty on the following day, or
that he would live to see another sunset. Death lay in wait at every
door, and reaped its dread harvest in every house and in every family.
In the face of these horrors, Josephine forgot all her earlier griefs,
all the insults and humiliations to which she had been subjected by her
husband; the old love revived in her breast, and, as it might well be
that on the morrow death would come knocking at her own door, she wished
to devote the present moment to a reconciliation with her husband, and a
reunion with her son.

But all her attempts in this direction were in vain. The viscount had
felt her flight to Martinique to be too grave an injury, too great an
insult, to be now willing to consent to a reconciliation with his wife.
Sympathizing friends arranged a meeting between them, without, however,
previously informing the viscount of their design. His anger was
therefore great when, on entering the parlor of Count Montmorin, in
response to that gentleman's invitation, he found there the wife he had
so obstinately and wrathfully avoided. He was about to retire hastily,
when a charming child rushed forward, greeted him tenderly in silvery
tones, and threw herself into his arms. The viscount was now powerless
to fly; he pressed his child, his Hortense, to his heart, and when the
child, with a winning smile, entreated him to kiss her mamma as he had
kissed her; when he saw the beautiful countenance of Josephine wet with
tears; when he heard his father's voice saying, "My son, reconcile
yourself with my daughter! Josephine is my daughter, and I would not
call her so if she were unworthy," and when he saw his handsome son,
Eugene, gazing at him wistfully, his head resting on his mother's
shoulder, his heart relented. Leading little Hortense by the hand, he
stepped forward to his wife, and, with a loud cry of joy and a blissful
greeting of love, Josephine sank on his bosom.

Peace was re-established, and husband and wife were now united in a
closer bond of love than ever before. The storms seemed to have spent
their rage, and the heaven of their happiness was clear and cloudless.
But this heaven was soon to be overcast with the black shadow of the
revolution.

Viscount Beauharnais, returned by the nobility of Blois to the new
legislative body, the Estates-General, resigned this position, in order
to serve his country with his sword instead of his tongue. With the rank
of adjutant-general, he repaired to the Army of the North, accompanied
by Josephine's blessings and tears. A dread premonition told her that
she would never see the general again, and this premonition did not
deceive her. The spirit of anarchy and insurrection not only raged among
the people of Paris, but also in the army. The aristocrats, who were
given over to the guillotine in Paris, were also regarded with distrust
and hatred in the army, and Viscount Beauharnais, who, for his gallantry
on the battle-field of Soissons, had been promoted to the position of
commanding general, was accused by his own officers of being an enemy of
France and of the new order of things. He was arrested, taken back to
Paris, and thrown into the prison of the Luxembourg, where so many other
victims of the revolution lay in confinement.

The sad intelligence of her husband's misfortune soon reached Josephine,
and aroused her love to energetic action in his behalf. She mentally
vowed to liberate her husband, the father of her children, or to die
with him. She courageously confronted all dangers, all suspicions, and
was happy when she found him in his prison, where she visited him,
whispering words of consolation and hope in his ear.

But at that time love and fidelity were also capital crimes, and
Josephine's guilt was twofold: first, because she was an aristocrat
herself, and secondly, because she loved and wept for the fate of an
aristocrat, and an alleged traitor to his country. Josephine was
arrested and thrown into the prison of St. Pelagie.

Eugene and Hortense were now little better than orphans, for the
prisoners of the Luxembourg and St. Pelagie, at that time, only left
their prisons to mount the scaffold. Alone, deprived of all help,
avoided by all whom they had once known and loved, the two children were
threatened with misery, want, and even with hunger, for the estate of
their parents had been confiscated, and, in the same hour in which
Josephine was conducted to prison, the entrances and doors of their
dwelling were sealed, and the poor children left to find a sheltering
roof for themselves. But yet they were not entirely helpless, not quite
friendless, for a friend of Josephine, a Madame Ho1stein, had the


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