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Queen Hortense A Life Picture of the Napoleonic Era online

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least, gave the letters a perusal, three weeks after they reached him,
indeed; but those three weeks saved him and his secretary, Bourrienne,
much time and labor, for, when they finally went to work on them, time
and circumstances had already disposed of four fifths of them, and thus
only one fifth required answers - a result that made Bonaparte laugh
heartily, and filled him with justifiable pride in what he termed his
"happy idea."

Josephine's letters, however, had not an hour or a minute to wait ere
they were read. Bonaparte always received them with his heart bounding
with delight, and invariably answered them, in such impassioned, glowing
language as only his warm southern temperament could suggest, and
contrasted with which even Josephine's missives seemed a little cool and

Ere long Bonaparte ceased to be satisfied with merely getting letters
from his Josephine. He desired to have her, in person, with him; and
hardly had the tempest of war begun to lull, ere the general summoned
his beloved to his side at Milan. She obeyed his call with rapture, and
hastened to Italy to join him. Now came proud days of triumph and
gratified affection. All Italy hailed Bonaparte as the conquering hero;
all Italy did homage to the woman who bore his name, and whose
incomparable fascination and amiability, gracefulness and beauty, won
all hearts. Her life now resembled a magnificent, glorified, triumphal
pageant; a dazzling fairy festival; a tale from the "Arabian Nights"
that had become reality, with Josephine for its enchanted heroine,
sparkling with stars, and gleaming with golden sunshine.



Resplendent was the triumphal procession with which Bonaparte made his
proud entry into Paris, on his return from Italy. In the front courtyard
of the Luxembourg, the palace occupied by the _Corps Législatif_, was
erected a vast amphitheatre, in which sat all the high authorities of
France; in the centre of the amphitheatre stood the altar of the
country, surmounted by three gigantic statues, representing Freedom,
Equality, and Peace. As Bonaparte stepped into this space, all the
dense crowd that occupied the seats of the amphitheatre rose to their
feet with uncovered heads, to hail the conqueror of Italy, and the
windows of the palace were thronged with handsomely dressed ladies, who
waved welcome to the young hero with their handkerchiefs. But suddenly
this splendid festival was marred by a serious mischance. An officer of
the Directory, who, the better to satisfy his curiosity, had clambered
up on the scaffolding of the right-side wing of the palace, then
undergoing extension, fell from it, and struck the ground almost at
Napoleon's feet. A shout of terror burst almost simultaneously from a
thousand throats, and the ladies turned pale and shrank back,
shuddering, from the windows. The palace, which a moment before had
exhibited such a wealth of adornment in these living flowers, now stood
there bare, with empty, gaping casements. A perceptible thrill ran
through the ranks of the _Corps Législatif_, and here and there the
whisper passed that this fall of an officer portended the early
overthrow of the Directory itself, and that it, too, would soon, like
the unfortunate victim of the accident, be lying in its death agonies at
the feet of General Bonaparte.

But the Directory, nevertheless, hastened to give the victor of Arcola
new _fêtes_ every day; and when these _fêtes_ were over, and Bonaparte,
fatigued with the speeches, the festivities, the toasts, etc., would be
on his way returning homeward, there was the populace of Paris, who
beset his path in crowds, to greet him with hearty cheers; and these
persistent friends he had to recognize, with smiles and shakings of the
hand, or with a nod and a pleasant glance.

A universal jubilee of delight had seized upon the French. Each
individual saw in Bonaparte renown and greatness reflected on himself.
Every one regarded him as the most brilliant impersonation of his own
inner personality, and, therefore, felt drawn toward him with a sort of
reverential exultation.

Josephine gave herself up with her whole soul to the enjoyment of these
glorious occasions. While Bonaparte, almost completely overwhelmed and
disturbed, could have held aloof from these ovations of the people of
Paris, they, on the contrary, filled the heart of his wife with pride
and joy. While in the theatre, he shrank back, abashed, behind his
wife's chair when the audience, learning his presence, filled their
noisy plaudits and clamored to have a glimpse at him, Josephine would
thank the crowd on his behalf with a bewitching smile, and eyes swelling
with tears for this proof of their regard, which to her seemed but a
natural and appropriate tribute to her Achilles, her lion-hearted hero.
But Bonaparte did not allow himself to be blinded by these
demonstrations; and one day, when popular enthusiasm seemed as though it
would never end, and the crowd were untiring in their cries of "_Vive
Bonaparte!_" while Josephine turned her face toward him, glowing with
delight, and called out, exultingly - "See, how they love you, these good
people of Paris!" he replied, with an almost melancholy expression
"Bah! The crowd would be just as numerous and noisy if they were
conducting me to the scaffold!"

However, these festivals and demonstrations at length subsided, and his
life resumed its more tranquil course.

Bonaparte could now once more spend a few secluded days of rest and calm
enjoyment in his (by this time more richly-decorated) dwelling in the
Rue Chautereine, the name of which the city authorities had changed to
_Rue de la Victoire_, in honor of the conqueror at Arcola and Marengo.
He could, after so many battles and triumphs, afford to repose a while
in the arms of love and happiness.

Nevertheless, this inactivity soon began to press heavily on his
restless spirit. He longed for new exploits, for fresh victories. He
felt that he was only at the commencement, and not at the end of his
conquering career; he constantly heard ringing in his ears the notes of
the battle-clarion, summoning him to renewed triumphs and to other paths
of glory. Love could only delight his heart, but could not completely
satisfy it. Repose he deemed but the beginning of death.

"If I remain here inactive any longer, I am lost," said he. "They retain
the resemblance of nothing whatever in Paris; one celebrity blots out
another in this great Babylon; if I show myself much oftener to the
public, they will cease to look at me, and if I do not soon undertake
something new, they will forget me."

And he did undertake something new, something unprecedented, that filled
all Europe with astonishment. He left the shores of France with an army
to conquer, for the French Republic, that ancient land of Egypt, on
whose pyramids the green moss of long-forgotten ages was flourishing.

Josephine did not accompany him. She remained behind in Paris; but she
needed consolation and encouragement to enable her to sustain this
separation, which Bonaparte himself had confessed to her might be just
as likely to last six years as six months. And what could afford better
consolation to a heart so tender as Josephine's than the presence of her
beloved daughter? She had willingly given up her son to her husband, and
he had accompanied the latter to Egypt, but her daughter remained, and
her she would not give up to any one, not even to Madame Campan's

Besides, the education of Hortense was now completed. She who had come
to St. Germain as a child, left the boarding-school, after two years'
stay, a handsome, blooming young lady, adorned with all the charms of
innocence, youth, grace, and refinement.

Although she was now a young lady of nearly sixteen, she had retained
the thoughts and ways of her childhood. Her heart was as a white sheet
of paper, on which no profane hand had ventured to write a mortal name.
She loved nothing beyond her mother, her brother, the fine arts, and
flowers. She entertained a profound but speechless veneration for her
young step-father. His burning gaze made her uneasy and timorous; his
commanding voice made her heart throb anxiously; in fine, she
reverenced him with adoring but too agitated an impression of awe to
find it possible to love him. He was for her at all times the hero, the
lord and master, the father to whom she owed implicit obedience, but she
dared not love him; she could only look up to and honor him from
a distance.

Hortense loved nothing but her mother, her brother, the fine arts, and
flowers. She still looked out, with the expectant eyes of a child, upon
the world which seemed so beautiful and inviting to her, and from which
she hoped yet to obtain some grand dazzling piece of good fortune
without having any accurate idea in what it was to consist. She still
loved all mankind, and believed in their truth and rectitude. No thorn
had yet wounded her heart; no disenchantment, no bright illusion dashed
to pieces, had yet left its shadow on that clear, lofty brow of
transparent whiteness. The expression of her large blue eyes was still
radiant and undimmed, and her laugh was so clear and ringing, that it
almost made her mother sad to hear it, for it sounded to her like the
last echo of some sweet, enchanting song of childhood, and she but too
well knew that it would soon be hushed.

But Hortense still laughed, still sang with the birds, rivalling their
melodies; the world still lay before her like an early morning dream,
and she still hoped for the rising of the sun.

Such was Hortense when her mother took her from Madame Campan's
boarding-school, to accompany her to the baths of Plombières. But there
it was that Hortense came near experiencing the greatest sorrow of her
life, in nearly losing her mother.

She was with Josephine and some other ladies in the drawing-room of the
house they occupied at Plombières. The doors facing the balcony were
open, to let in the warm summer air. Hortense was sitting by the window
painting a nosegay of wild flowers, that she had gathered with her own
hands on the hills of Plombières. Josephine found the atmosphere of the
room too close, and invited some ladies to step out with her upon the
balcony. A moment afterward there was heard a deafening crash, followed
by piercing shrieks of terror; and when Hortense sprang in desperate
fright to the front entrance, she found that the balcony on which her
mother and the other ladies had stood had disappeared. Its fastenings
had given way, and they had been precipitated with it into the street.
Hortense, in the first impulse of her distress and horror, would have
sprung down after her beloved mother, and could only be held back with
the greatest difficulty. But this time fate had spared the young girl,
and refrained from darkening the pure, unclouded heaven of her youth.
Her mother escaped with no other injury than the fright, and a slight
wound on her arm, while one of the ladies had both legs broken.

Josephine's time to die had not yet come, for the prophecy of the
fortune-teller had not yet been fulfilled. Josephine was, indeed, the
wife of a renowned general, but she was not yet "something more than
a queen."



Bonaparte had got back from Egypt. His victory at Aboukir had adorned
his brows with fresh laurels, and all France hailed the returning
conqueror with plaudits of exulting pride. For the first time, Hortense
was present at the festivities which the city of Paris dedicated to her
step-father; for the first time she saw the homage that men and women,
graybeards and children alike, paid to the hero of Italy and Egypt.
These festivities and this homage filled her heart with a tremor of
alarm, and yet, at the same time, with joyous exultation. In the midst
of these triumphs and these ovations which were thus offered to her
second father, the young girl recalled the prison in which her mother
had once languished, the scaffold upon which the head of her own father
had fallen; and frequently when she glanced at the rich gold-embroidered
uniform of her brother, she reminded him with a roguish smile of the
time when Eugene went in a blue blouse, as a carpenter's apprentice,
through the streets of Paris with a long plank on his shoulder.

These recollections of the first terrible days of her youth kept
Hortense from feeling the pride and arrogance of good fortune, preserved
to her modest, unassuming tone of mind, prevented her from entertaining
any overweening or domineering propensity in her day of prosperity, or
from seeming cast down and hopeless when adversity came. She never
lulled herself with the idea of good fortune that could not pass away,
but her remembrances kept her eyes wide open, and hence, when misfortune
came, it did not take her by surprise, but found her armed and ready to
confront it.

Nevertheless, she drank in the pleasure of these prosperous days in full
draughts, delighted as she was to see the mother, of whom she was so
fond, surrounded by such a halo of glory and gratified love; and in the
name of her murdered father she thanked General Bonaparte with double
fervor, from the bottom of her heart, for having been the means of
procuring for her mother, who had suffered so deeply in her first wedded
life, so magnificent a glow of splendor and happiness in her
second marriage.

In the mean while, new days of storm and tumult were at hand to dispel
this brief period of tranquil enjoyment. A fresh revolution convulsed
all France, and, ere long, Paris was divided into two hostile camps,
burning to begin the work of mutual annihilation. On one side stood the
democratic republicans, who looked back with longing regret to the days
of terrorism and bloodshed, perceiving, as they did, that tranquillity
and protracted peace must soon wrest the reins of power from their
grasp, and therefore anxiously desiring to secure control through the
element of intimidation. This party declared that liberty was in danger,
and the Constitution threatened; they summoned the _sans-culottes_ and
the loud-mouthed republicans of the clubs to the armed defence of the
imperilled country, and pointed with menacing hands at Bonaparte as the
man who wished to overthrow the republic, and put France once more in
the bonds of servitude.

On the other side stood the discreet friends of the country, the
republicans by compulsion, who denounced terrorism, and had sworn
fidelity to the republic, only because it was under this reptile
disguise alone that they could escape the threatening knife of the
guillotine. On this side were arrayed the men of mind, the artists and
poets who hopefully longed for a new era, because they knew that the
days of terror and of the tyrannical democratic republic had brought not
merely human beings, but also the arts and sciences, to the scaffold.
With them, too, were arrayed the merchants and artisans, the bankers,
the business-men, the property-owners, all of whom wanted to see the
republic at least established upon a more moderate and quiet foundation,
in order to have confidence in its durability and substantial character,
and to commence the works of peace with a better assurance of success.
And at the head of these moderate republicans stood Bonaparte.

The 18th Brumaire of the year 1798 was the decisive day. It was a
fearful struggle that then began afresh - a struggle, however, in which
little blood was spilt, and not men but principles were slaughtered.

The Council of Elders, the Council of the Five Hundred, the Directory,
and the Constitution of the year III., fell together, and from the ruins
of the bloody and ferocious democratic republic arose the moderate,
rational republic of the year 1798. At its head were the three consuls,
Bonaparte, Cambacères, and Lebrun.

On the day following, the 18th Brumaire, these three consuls entered the
Luxembourg, amid the plaudits of the people, and slept, as conquerors,
in the beds of the Directory of yesterday.

From that day forward a new world began to take shape, and the forms of
etiquette which, during the ascendency of the democratic republic, had
slunk away out of sight into the darkest recesses of the Luxembourg and
the Tuileries, began to reappear, slowly and circumspectly, 'tis true,
in broad daylight. People were no longer required, in accordance with
the spirit of equality, to ignore all distinctions of condition and
culture, by the use of the words "citizen" and "citizeness;" or, in the
name of brotherhood, to endure the close familiarities of every brawling
street ruffian; or, in the name of liberty, to let all his own personal
liberty and inclination be trampled under foot.

Etiquette, as I have said, crept forth from the dark corners again; and
the three consuls, who had taken possession of the Luxembourg, whispered
the word "monsieur" in each other's ears, and greeted Josephine and her
daughter, who were installed in the apartments prepared for them in the
palace on the next day, with the title of "madame." Yet, only a year
earlier, the two words "monsieur" and "madame" had occasioned revolt in
Paris, and brought about bloodshed. A year earlier General Augereau had
promulged the stern order of the day in his division, that, "whoever
should use the word 'monsieur' or 'madame,' orally or in writing, on
pretext whatever, should be deprived of his rank, and declared incapable
of ever again serving in the army of the republic[7]."

[Footnote 7: Bourrienne, vol. i., p. 229.]

Now, these two proscribed words made their triumphant entry, along with
the three consuls, into the palace of the Luxembourg, which had been
delivered from its democratic tyrants.

Josephine was now, at least, "Madame" Bonaparte, and Hortense was
"Mademoiselle" Beauharnais. The wife of Consul Bonaparte now required a
larger retinue of servants, and a more showy establishment. Indeed,
temerity could not yet go so far as to speak of the _court_ of Madame
Bonaparte and the _court ladies_ of Mademoiselle Hortense; they had
still to be content with the limited space of the diminutive Luxembourg,
but they were soon to be compensated for all this, and, if they still
had to call each other _monsieur_ and _madame_, they could, a few years
later, say "your highness," "your majesty," and "monseigneur," in the

The Luxembourg Palace was soon found to be too small for the joint
residence of the three consuls, and too confined for the ambition of
Bonaparte, who could not brook the near approach of the other two men
who shared the supreme control of France with him. Too it was also for
the longings that now spoke with ever louder and stronger accents in
his breast, and pushed him farther and farther onward in this path of
splendor and renown which, at first, had seemed to him but as the magic
mirage of his dreams, but which now appeared as the glittering truth and
reality of his waking hours. The Luxembourg was then too small for the
three consuls, but they had to go very circumspectly and carefully to
work to prepare the way to the old royal palace of the Bourbons. It
would not do to oust the representatives of the people, who held their
sessions there, too suddenly; the distrustful republicans must not be
made to apprehend that there was any scheme on foot to revolutionize
France back into monarchy, and to again stifle the many-headed monster
of the republic under a crown and a sceptre. It was necessary, before
entering the Tuileries, to give the French people proof that men might
still be very good republicans, even although they might wish to be
housed in the bedchamber of a king.

Hence, before the three consuls transferred their quarters to the
Tuileries, the royal palace had to be transformed to a residence worthy
of the representatives of the republic. So, the first move made was to
set up a handsome bust of the elder Brutus - a war-trophy of Bonaparte's,
which he had brought with him from Italy - in one of the galleries of the
Tuileries; and then David had to carve out some other statues of the
republican heroes of Greece and Rome and place them in the saloons. A
number of democratic republicans, who were defeated and exiled on the
13th Vendémiaire, were permitted to return to France, and news of the
death of WASHINGTON, the noblest and wisest of all republicans, arriving
just at that time, Bonaparte ordered that the whole army should wear the
badge of mourning for ten days. Black bands were worn on the arm, and
sable streamers waved from the standards, in honor of the deceased
republican hero.

However, when these ten days were past, and France and her army had
sufficiently expressed their regret, the three consuls entered the
Tuileries through the grand portal, on the two sides of which towered
aloft two liberty-poles that still bore the old inscription of the
republic of 1792. On the tree to the right was the legend "August 10,
1792," and on the one to the left, "Royalty in France is overthrown and
will never rise again." It was between these two significant symbols
that Bonaparte first strode into the Tuileries. It was a very long and
imposing procession of carriages which moved that day toward the palace,
through the streets of the capital. They only lacked the outward pomp
and magnificence which rendered the latter _fêtes_ of the empire so
remarkable. With the exception of the splendid vehicle in which the
three consuls rode, and which was drawn by the six grays presented by
the Emperor of Austria, there were but few good equipages to be seen.
France of the new day had not had the opportunity to build any
state-coaches, and those of old France had been too shamefully misused
to admit of their ever serving again; for it would be out of the
question to employ, in this solemn procession of the three consuls, the
state-carriages of the old aristocracy, that had served as the vehicles
in which the democratic republic had transported dead dogs to their
place of deposit. Such had been the fact in the September days of the
year 1793.

The unclaimed dogs of the fugitive or slaughtered aristocracy at that
time wandered without masters, by thousands, through the streets and
slaked their thirst with the blood which flowed down from the guillotine
and dyed the ground with the purple of the new system of
popular liberty.

The smell of the fresh blood and the ghastly sustenance which the
guillotine yielded them had restored the animals to their original
savage propensities, and hence those who had been so fortunate as to
escape the murderous axe of the _sans-culottes_ had now to apprehend the
danger of falling a victim to the sharp teeth of these wild
blood-hounds; and as the ferocious brutes knew no difference between
aristocrats and republicans, but fell upon both with equal fury, it
became necessary, at last, to annihilate these new foes of the republic.
So, the Champs Elysées were surrounded with troops, and the dogs were
driven into the Rue Royale and the Place Royale, where they were mowed
down by musketry. On that one day the dead carcasses of more than three
thousand dogs lay about in the streets of Paris, and there they
continued to fester for three days longer, because a dispute had arisen
among the city officials as to whose duty it was to remove them. At
length the Convention undertook that task, and intrusted the work to
representative Gasparin, who was shrewd enough to convert the removal of
the dead animals into a republican ceremony. These were the dogs of the
_ci-devants_ and aristocrats that were to be buried, and it was quite
proper, therefore, that they should receive aristocratic honors.

Gasparin, acting upon this idea, caused all the coaches of the fugitive
and massacred aristocracy to be brought from their stables, and the
carcasses of the dogs were flung into these emblazoned and escutcheoned
vehicles of old France. Six grand coaches that had belonged to the king
opened the procession, and the tails, heads, bodies and legs of the
luckless quadrupeds could be seen behind the glittering glass panels
heaped together in wild disorder[8].

[Footnote 8: Mémoires of the Marchioness de Créqui, vol. viii, p. 10.]

After this public canine funeral celebration of the one and indivisible
republic, the gilded state-coaches could not be consistently used for
any human and less mournful occasion, and hence it was that the consular
procession to the Tuileries was so deficient in carriages, and that
public hacks on which the numbers were defaced had to be employed.

With the entry of Bonaparte into the Tuileries the revolution was at an

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Online LibraryL. MühlbachQueen Hortense A Life Picture of the Napoleonic Era → online text (page 4 of 23)