Hortense - John S. C. Abbott

Peaceful Days, Yet Sad


As the spring of the year 1816 opened upon Europe, Hortense was found residing undisturbed, with her son, Louis Napoleon, in their secluded home upon the shores of Lake Constance. The Allies seemed no longer disposed to disturb her. Still, she had many indications that she was narrowly watched. She was much cheered by a visit which she made to her brother at Berg, on the Wurmsee, where she was received with that warmth of affection which her wounded heart so deeply craved. Her health being still very frail, she, by the advice of her physicians, spent the heat of summer at the baths of Geiss, among the mountains of Appenzell. Her son, Louis Napoleon, was constantly with her. Nearly the whole attention of the mother was devoted to his education.

She had the general superintendence of all his studies, teaching him herself drawing and dancing, often listening to his recitations and guiding his reading. Her own highly-cultivated mind enabled her to do this to great advantage. The young prince read aloud to his mother in the evenings, the selections being regulated in accordance with his studies in geography or history. Saturday Hortense devoted the entire day to her son, reviewing all the reading and studies of the week. In addition to the Abbé Bertrand, another teacher was employed, M. Lebas, a young professor of much distinction from the Normal School of Paris.

Thus the summer and autumn of 1816 passed tranquilly away. But the eagle eye of the Bourbons was continually upon Hortense. They watched every movement she made, she could not leave her home, or receive a visit from any distinguished stranger, without exciting their alarm. Their uneasiness at length became so great that, early in the year 1817, the Duke of Baden received peremptory orders that he must immediately expel Hortense and her child from his territory. The Bourbons could not allow such dangerous personages to dwell so near the frontiers of France. Hortense was a feeble, heart-broken woman. Her child was but eight years of age. But they were representatives of the Empire. And the Bourbons were ever terror-stricken lest the French people should rise in insurrection, and demand the restoration of that Empire, of which foreign armies had robbed them.

In the extreme north-eastern portion of Switzerland, on the southern shores of the Lake of Constance, there was the small Swiss canton of Thurgovia. The gallant magistrates of the canton informed Hortense that if she wished to establish herself in their country, she should be protected by both the magistrates and the people. The ex-queen had occasionally entered the canton in her drives, and had observed with admiration a modest but very beautiful chateau called Arenemberg, very picturesquely located on the borders of the lake. She purchased the estate for about sixty thousand francs. This became a very delightful summer residence, though in winter it presented a bleak exposure, swept by piercing winds. Until the death of Hortense, Arenemberg continued to be her favorite place of residence.

To add to this transient gleam of happiness, there was now a partial reconciliation between Hortense and her husband; and, to the unspeakable joy of the mother and Louis Napoleon, they enjoyed a visit of several months from Napoleon Louis. It is not easy to imagine the happiness which this reunion created, after a separation of nearly three years.

The judicious mother now thought it important that her sons should enjoy the advantages of a more public education than that which they had been receiving from private tutors at home. She accordingly took them both to Augsburg, in Bavaria, where they entered the celebrated college of that city. Hortense engaged a handsome residence there, that she might still be with her sons, whom she loved so tenderly. A French gentleman of distinction, travelling in that region, had the honor of an introduction to her, and gives the following account of his visit:

"Returning to France in 1819, after a long residence in Russia, I stopped at Augsburg, where the Duchess of St. Leu was then a resident. I had hitherto only known her by report. Some Russian officers, who had accompanied the Emperor Alexander to Malmaison in 1814, had spoken to me of Hortense with so much enthusiasm, that for the first few moments it appeared as if I saw her again after a long absence, and as if I owed my kind reception to the ties of ancient friendship. Every thing about her is in exact harmony with the angelic expression of her face, her conversation, demeanor, and the sweetness of her voice and disposition.

"When she speaks of an affecting incident, the language becomes more touching through the depths of her sensibility. She lends so much life to every scene, that the auditor becomes witness of the transaction. Her powers of instructing and delighting are almost magical; and her artless fascination leaves on every heart those deep traces which even time can never efface.

"She introduced me to her private circle, which consisted of the two children and their tutors, some old officers of her household, two female friends of her infancy, and that living monument of conjugal devotion, Count Lavallette. The conversation soon became general. They questioned me about the Ukraine, where I long had resided, and Greece and Turkey, through which I had lately travelled.

"In return, they spoke of Bavaria, St. Leu, the Lake of Constance, and, by degrees, of events deriving their chief interest from the important parts played by the narrators themselves. We dined at five. I afterwards accompanied the duchess into the garden, and, in the few moments then enjoyed of intimate conversation, I saw that no past praises had ever been exaggerated. How admirable were her feelings when she recalled the death of her mother, and in her tragic recital of the death of Madame Broc.

"But when she spoke of her children, her friends, and the fine arts, her whole figure seemed to glow with the ardor of her imagination. Goodness of heart was displayed in every feature, and gave additional value to her other estimable qualities. In describing her present situation it was impossible to avoid mentioning her beloved France.

"'You are returning,' said she, 'to your native country;' and the last word was pronounced with a heartfelt sigh. I had been an exile from my cradle, yet my own eager anxiety to revisit a birth-place scarcely remembered, enabled me to estimate her grief at the thoughts of an eternal separation. She spoke of the measures adopted for her banishment with that true resignation which mourns but never murmurs. After two hours of similar conversation, it was impossible to decide which was the most admirable, her heart, her good sense, or her imagination.

"We returned to the drawing-room at eight, where tea was served. The duchess observed that this was a habit learned in Holland, 'though you are not to suppose,' she added, with a slight blush, 'that it is preserved as a remembrance of days so brilliant, but now already so distant. Tea is the drink of cold climates, and I have scarcely changed my temperature.'

"Numerous visitors came from the neighborhood, and some even from Munich. She may, indeed, regard this attention with a feeling of proud gratification. It is based upon esteem alone, and is far more honorable than the tiresome adulation of sycophants while at St. Cloud or the Hague. In the course of the evening we looked through a suite of rooms containing, besides a few master-pieces of the different schools, a large collection of precious curiosities. Many of these elegant trifles had once belonged to her mother; and nearly every one was associated with the remembrance of some distinguished personage or celebrated event. Indeed, her museum might almost be called an abridgment of contemporary history. Music was the next amusement; and the duchess sang, accompanying herself with the same correct taste which inspires her compositions. She had just finished the series of drawings intended to illustrate her collection of romances. How could I avoid praising that happy talent which thus personifies thought? The next day I received that beautiful collection as a remembrance.

"I took my leave at midnight, perhaps without even the hope of another meeting. I left her as the traveller parts from the flowers of the desert, to which he can never hope to return. But, wherever time, accident, or destiny may place me, the remembrance of that day will remain indelibly imprinted alike on my memory and heart. It is pleasing to pay homage to the fallen greatness of one like Hortense, who joins the rare gift of talents to the charms of the tenderest sensibility."

Hortense as Arenberg


The residence of Hortense in Augsburg was in a mansion, since called Pappenheim Palace, in Holy Cross Street. After the graduation of her children, Hortense, with Louis Napoleon, spent most of their time at Arenemberg, interspersed with visits to Rome and Florence. The beautiful chateau was situated upon a swell of land, with green lawns and a thick growth of forest trees, through which there were enchanting views of the mountain and of the lake. The spacious grounds were embellished with the highest artistic skill, with terraces, trellis-work woodbines, and rare exotics.

"The views," writes an English visitor, "which were in some places afforded through the woods, and in others, by their rapid descent, carried over them, were broken in a manner which represented them doubly beautiful. From one peep you caught the small vine-clad island of Reichman, with its cottage gleams trembling upon the twilighted lake. From another you had a noble reach of the Rhine, going forth from its brief resting-place to battle its way down the Falls of Schaffhausen; and beyond it the eye reposed upon the distant outline of the Black Forest, melting warmly in the west. In a third direction you saw the vapory steeples of Constance, apparently sinking in the waters which almost surrounded them; and far away you distinguish the little coast villages, like fading constellations, glimmering fainter and fainter, till land and lake and sky were blended together in obscurity."

Not far distant was the imposing chateau of Wolfberg, which had been purchased by General Parguin, a young French officer of the Empire of much distinction. He had married Mademoiselle Cochelet, and became one of the most intimate friends of Louis Napoleon.

Prince Eugene had also built him a house in the vicinity, that he might be near his sister and share her solitude. Just as the house was finished, and before he moved into it, Eugene died. This was another crushing blow to the heart of Hortense. She was in Rome at the time, and we shall have occasion to refer to the event again.

Hortense, in her retirement, was no less a queen than when the diadem was upon her brow. Though at the farthest possible remove from all aristocratic pride, her superior mind, her extraordinary attainments, and her queenly grace and dignity, invested her with no less influence over the hearts of her friends than she enjoyed in her days of regal power. A visitor at Wolfberg, in the following language, describes a call which Hortense made upon Madame Parguin and her guests at the chateau:

"One fine evening, as we were all distributed about the lawn at Wolfberg, there was an alarm that Hortense was coming to visit Madame Parguin. As I saw her winding slowly up the hill, with all her company, in three little summer carriages, the elegance of the cavalcade, in scenes where elegance was so rare, was exceedingly striking.

"The appearance of Hortense was such as could not fail to excite admiration and kind feeling. Her countenance was full of talent, blended with the mild expression of a perfect gentlewoman. Her figure, though not beyond the middle height, was of a mould altogether majestic. She lamented that she had not sooner known of the purposed length of our stay in that part of Switzerland, as, having conceived that we were merely passing a few days, she had been unwilling to occupy our time. She then spoke of her regret at not being able to entertain us according to her wishes. And, finally, she told us that she had in agitation some little theatricals which, if we could bear with such trifles, we should do her pleasure in attending. All this was said with simple and winning eloquence."

The room for this little theatric entertainment was in a small building, beautifully decorated, near the house. Many distinguished guests were present; many from Constance; so that the apartment was crowded to its utmost capacity. There were two short plays enacted. In one Hortense took a leading part in scenes of trial and sorrow, in which her peculiar powers were admirably displayed. Even making all suitable allowance for the politeness due from guests to their host, it is evident that Hortense possessed dramatic talent of a very high order.

From the theatre the guests returned to the chateau, where preparations had been made for dancing. In the intervals between the dances there was singing, accompanied by the piano. "Here, again," writes one of the guests, "Hortense was perfectly at home. She sang several songs, of which I afterwards found her to be the unacknowledged composer. Among these was the beautiful air, Partant pour la Syrie, which will be a fair guaranty that I do not say too much for the rest."

At the close of the evening, as the guests began to depart, the remainder were dispersed through the suite of rooms, admiring the various objects of curiosity and of beauty with which they are decorated. There were some beautiful paintings, and several pieces of exquisite statuary. Upon the tables there were engravings, drawing-books, and works of belles-lettres.

"I chanced," writes the visitor from whom we have above quoted, "to place my hand upon a splendid album, and had the further good-fortune to seat myself beside a beautiful young dame de compagnie of the duchess, who gave me the history of all the treasures I found therein. Whatever I found most remarkable was still the work of Hortense. Of a series of small portraits, sketched by her in colors, the likeness of those of which I had seen the subjects would have struck me, though turned upside down. She had the same power and the same affectionate feeling for fixing the remembrance of places likewise.

"The landscapes which she had loved in forbidden France, even the apartments which she had inhabited, were executed in a manner that put to shame the best amateur performances I had ever seen. There was a minute attention to fidelity in them, too, which a recollection of her present circumstances could not fail to bring home to the spectator's heart.

"I know not when my interest would have cooled in this mansion of taste and talent. Towards morning I was obliged to take my leave; and I doubt if there were any individual who returned home by that bright moonlight, without feeling that Hortense had been born some century and a half too late. For an age of bigots and turncoats she, indeed, seemed unsuited. In that of true poetry and trusty cavaliers, she would have been the subject of the best rhymes and rencontres in romantic France.

"After this I saw her frequently, both at her own house and at Wolfberg, and I never found any thing to destroy the impression which I received on my introduction. Independently of the interest attached to herself, she had always in her company some person who had made a noise in the world, and had become an object of curiosity. At one time it was a distinguished painter or poet; again, it was a battered soldier, who preferred resting in retirement to the imputation of changing his politics for advancement; then a grand duke or duchess who had undergone as many vicissitudes as herself; and, finally, the widow of the unfortunate Marshal Ney.

"There was something in the last of these characters, particularly when associated with Hortense, more interesting than all the others. She was a handsome, but grave and silent woman, and still clad in mourning for her husband, whose death, so connected with the banishment of the duchess, could not fail to render them deeply sympathetic in each other's fortunes. The amusements provided for all this company consisted of such as I have mentioned—expeditions to various beautiful spots in the neighborhood, and music parties on the water. The last of these used sometimes to have a peculiarly romantic effect; for on féte days the young peasant girls, all glittering in their golden tinsel bonnets, would push off with their sweethearts, like mad things, in whatever boats they could find upon the beach. I have seen them paddling their little fleet round the duchess's boat with all the curiosity of savages round a man-of-war.

"At length the time arrived for me to bid adieu to Switzerland. It was arranged that I should set out for Italy with a small party of my Wolfberg friends. An evening or two before we departed we paid a leave-taking visit to the duchess. She expressed much polite regret at our intention, and gave us a cordial invitation to renew our acquaintance with her in the winter at Rome. Her care, indeed, to leave a good impression of her friendly disposition upon our minds, was exceedingly gratifying. She professed to take an interest in the plans which each of us had formed, and, when her experience qualified her, gave us instructions for our travels.

"When we rose to depart, the night being fine, she volunteered to walk part of the way home with us. She came about a quarter of a mile to where she could command an uninterrupted view of the lake, above which the moon was just then rising, a huge red orb which shot a burning column to her feet. 'I will now bid you adieu,' she said; and we left her to the calm contemplation of grandeur which could not fade, and enjoyments which could not betray. This was the last time I saw, and perhaps shall ever see Hortense; but I shall always remember my brief acquaintance with her as a dip into days which gave her country the character of being the most polished of nations."

Hortense, with her son Louis Napoleon, had been in the habit of passing the severity of the winter months in the cities of Augsburg or Munich, spending about eight months of the year at Arenemberg. But after the death of her brother Eugene, the associations which those cities recalled were so painful that she transferred her winter residence to Rome or Florence. An English lady who visited her at Arenemberg writes:

"The style of living of the Duchess of St. Leu is sumptuous, without that freezing etiquette so commonly met with in the great. Her household still call her Queen, and her son Prince Napoleon or Prince Louis. The suite is composed of two ladies of honor, an equerry, and the tutor of her younger son. She has a numerous train of domestics, and it is among them that the traces are still observable of bygone pretensions, long since abandoned by the true nobleness of their mistress. The former queen, the daughter of Napoleon, the mother of the Imperial heir-apparent, has returned quietly to private life with the perfect grace of a voluntary sacrifice.

"The duchess receives strangers with inexpressible kindness. Ever amiable and obliging, she is endowed with that charming simplicity which inspires, at first sight, the confidence of intimate affection. She speaks freely of the brilliant days of her prosperity. And history then flows so naturally from her lips, that more may be learned as a delighted listener, than from all the false or exaggerated works so abundant everywhere. The deposed queen considers past events from such an eminence that nothing can interpose itself between her and the truth. This strict impartiality gives birth to that true greatness, which is a thousand times preferable to all the splendors she lost in the flower of her age.

"I have been admitted to the intimacy of the Duchess of St. Leu, both at Rome and in the country. I have seen her roused to enthusiasm by the beauties of nature, and have seen her surrounded by the pomp of ceremony; but I have never known her less than herself; nor has the interest first inspired by her character ever been diminished by an undignified sentiment or the slightest selfish reflection.

"It is impossible to be a more ardent and tasteful admirer of the fine arts than is the duchess. Every one has heard her beautiful romances, which are rendered still more touching by the soft and melodious voice of the composer. She usually sings standing; and, although a finished performer on the harp and piano, she prefers the accompaniment of one of her attendant ladies. Many of her leisure hours are employed in painting. Miniatures, landscapes, and flowers are equally the subjects of her pencil. She declaims well, is a delightful player in comedy, acts proverbs with uncommon excellence, and I really know no one who can surpass her in every kind of needle-work.

"The Duchess of St. Leu never was a regular beauty, but she is still a charming woman. She has the softest and most expressive blue eyes in the world. Her light flaxen hair contrasts beautifully with the dark color of her long eyelashes and eyebrows. Her complexion is fresh and of an even tint; her figure elegantly moulded; her hands and feet perfect. In fine, her whole appearance is captivating in the extreme. She speaks quickly with rapid gestures, and all her movements are easy and graceful. Her style of dress is rich, though she has parted with most of her jewels and precious stones."

Hortense was almost invariably accompanied by her son, Louis Napoleon, whether residing in Italy or in Switzerland. When at Arenemberg, the young prince availed himself of the vicinity to the city in pursuing a rigorous course of study in physics and chemistry under the guidance of a very distinguished French philosopher. He also connected himself, in prosecuting his military studies, with a Baden regiment garrisoned at Constance. He was here recognized as the Duke of St. Leu, and was always received with much distinction. At Rome, the residence of Hortense was the centre of the most brilliant and polished society of the city. Here her son was introduced to the most distinguished men from all lands, and especially to the old friends of the Empire, who kept alive in his mind the memory of the brilliant exploits of him whose name he bore. Pauline Bonaparte, who had married for her second husband Prince Borghese, and who was immensely wealthy, also resided in the vicinity of Rome, in probably the most magnificent villa in Europe. Hortense and her son were constant visitors at her residence.

Madame Récamier, who had ever been the warm friend of the Bourbons, and whom Hortense had befriended when the Bourbons were in exile, gives the following account of an interview she had with Queen Hortense in Rome, early in the year 1824. The two friends had not met since the "Hundred Days" in 1815. We give the narrative in the words of Madame Récamier:

"I went one day to St. Peter's to listen to the music, so beautiful under the vaults of that immense edifice. There, leaning against a pillar, meditating under my veil, I followed with heart and soul the solemn notes that died away in the depths of the dome. An elegant-looking woman, veiled like myself, came and placed herself near the same pillar. Every time that a more lively feeling drew from me an involuntary movement my eyes met those of the stranger. She seemed to be trying to recognize my features. And I, on my side, through the obstacle of our veils, thought I distinguished blue eyes and light hair that were not unknown to me. 'Madame Récamier!' 'Is it you, madame?' we said almost at the same moment. 'How delighted I am to see you!' said Queen Hortense, for she it was. 'You know,' she added, smiling, 'that I would not have waited until now to find you out; but you have always been ceremonious with me.'

"'Then, madame,' I replied, 'my friends were exiled and unfortunate. You were happy and brilliant, and my place was not near you.'

"'If misfortune has the privilege of attracting you,' replied the queen, 'you must confess that my time has come and permit me to advance my claims.'

"I was a little embarrassed for a reply. My connection with the Duke de Laval, our ambassador at Rome, and with the French Government in general, was a barrier to any visiting between us. She understood my silence.

"'I know,' she said, sadly, 'that the inconveniences of greatness follow us still, when even our prerogatives are gone. Thus, with loss of rank, I have not acquired liberty of action. I can not to-day even taste the pleasures of a woman's friendship, and peaceably enjoy society that is pleasant and dear to me.'

"I bowed my head with emotion, expressing my sympathy only by my looks.

"'But I must talk to you,' said the queen, more warmly. 'I have so many things to say to you. If we can not visit each other, nothing prevents us from meeting elsewhere. We will appoint some place to meet. That will be charming.'

"'Charming indeed, madame,' I replied, smiling; 'and especially for me. But how shall we fix the time and place for these interviews?'

"'It is you,' Hortense replied, 'who must arrange that; for, thanks to the solitude forced upon me, my time is entirely at my own disposal. But it may not be the same with you. Sought for as you are, you mix, no doubt, a great deal in society.'

"'Heaven forbid!' I replied. 'On the contrary, I lead a very retired life. It would be absurd to come to Rome to see society, and people everywhere the same. I prefer to visit what is peculiarly her own—her monuments and ruins.'

"'Well, then, we can arrange every thing finely,' added Hortense; 'if it is agreeable to you I will join you in these excursions. Let me know each day your plans for the next; and we will meet, as if by accident, at the appointed places.'

"I eagerly accepted this offer, anticipating much pleasure in making the tour of old Rome with so gracious and agreeable a companion, and one who loved and understood art. The queen, on her side, was happy in the thought that I would talk to her of France; whilst to both of us the little air of mystery thrown over these interviews gave them another charm.

"'Where do you propose to go to-morrow?' asked the queen.

"'To the Coliseum.'

"'You will assuredly find me there,' Hortense replied. 'I have much to say to you. I wish to justify myself in your eyes from an imputation that distresses me.'

"The queen began to enter into explanations; and the interview threatening to be a long one, I frankly reminded her that the French ambassador, who had brought me to St. Peter's, was coming back for me; for I feared that a meeting would be embarrassing to both.

"'You are right,' said the queen. 'We must not be surprised together. Adieu, then. To-morrow at the Coliseum;' and we separated."

Madame Récamier, the bosom-friend of Chateaubriand, was in entire political sympathy with the illustrious poet. She regarded legitimacy as a part of her religion, and was intensely devoted to the interests of the Bourbons. She was one of the most beautiful and fascinating women who ever lived. Napoleon at St. Helena, in allusion to this remarkable lady, said:

"I was scarcely First Consul ere I found myself at issue with Madame Récamier. Her father had been placed in the Post-office Department. I had found it necessary to sign, in confidence, a great number of appointments; but I soon established a very rigid inspection in every department A correspondence was discovered with the Chouans, going on under the connivance of M. Bernard, the father of Madame Récamier. He was immediately dismissed, and narrowly escaped trial and condemnation to death. His daughter hastened to me, and upon her solicitation I exempted M. Bernard from taking his trial, but was resolute respecting his dismissal. Madame Récamier, accustomed to obtain every thing, would be satisfied with nothing less than the reinstatement of her father. Such were the morals of the times. My severity excited loud animadversions. It was a thing quite unusual. Madame Récamier and her party never forgave me."

The home of Madame De Staél, who was the very intimate friend of Madame Récamier, became, in the early stages of the Empire, the rendezvous of all those who were intriguing for the overthrow of the government of Napoleon. The Emperor, speaking upon this subject at St. Helena, said:

"The house of Madame De Staél had become quite an arsenal against me. People went there to be armed knights. She endeavored to raise enemies against me, and fought against me herself. She was at once Armida and Clorinda. It can not be denied that Madame de Staél is a very distinguished woman. She will go down to posterity. At the time of the Concordat, against which Madame de Staél was violently inflamed, she united at once against me the aristocrats and the republicans. Having at length tired out my patience, she was sent into exile. I informed her that I left her the universe for the theatre of her achievements; that I reserved only Paris for myself, which I forbade her to approach, and resigned the rest of the world to her."

The banishment of Madame de Staél from Paris excited as much bitterness in the soul of Madame Récamier as it was possible for a lady of such rare amiability and loveliness of character to feel. Madame Récamier, in giving an account of this transaction, says:

"I had a passionate admiration for Madame de Staél; and this harsh and arbitrary act showed me despotism under its most odious aspect. The man who banished a woman, and such a woman,—who caused her such unhappiness, could only be regarded by me as an unmerciful tyrant; and from that hour I was against him."

The result was that Madame Récamier was forbidden to reside within one hundred and twenty miles of Paris. The reason which Napoleon assigned for these measures was, that Madame de Staél, with the most extraordinary endowments of mind, and Madame Récamier, with charms of personal loveliness which had made her renowned through all Europe, were combining their attractions in forming a conspiracy which would surely deluge the streets of Paris in blood. Napoleon affirmed that though the Government was so strong that it could certainly crush an insurrection in the streets, he thought it better to prohibit these two ladies any further residence in Paris, rather than leave them to foment rebellion, which would cost the lives of many thousands of comparatively innocent persons.

When the Bourbons, at the first restoration, returned to Paris, in the rear of the batteries of the Allies, Madame Récamier again took up her residence in Paris. Her saloons were thronged with the partisans of the old regime, and she was universally recognized as the queen of fashion and beauty. She was in the enjoyment of a very large income, kept her carriage, had a box at the opera, and on opera nights had receptions after the performances. The wheel of fortune had turned, and she was now in the ascendant. Lord Wellington was among her admirers. But the brusque, unpolished duke disgusted the refined French lady by his boast to her, "I have given Napoleon a good beating."

Still the wheel continued its revolution. Napoleon returned from Elba. The Bourbons and their partisans fled precipitately from France. But, in the interim, Madame Récamier and Madame de Staél had dined with the Duchess of St. Leu, at her estate a few leagues from Paris. The return of Napoleon plunged Madame Récamier and her friend into the utmost consternation. She was very unwilling again to leave Paris. In this emergency, Hortense, who was then at the Tuileries, wrote to her under date of March 23, 1815:

"I hope that you are tranquil. You may trust to me to take care of your interests. I am convinced that I shall not have occasion to show you how delighted I should be to be useful to you. Such would be my desire. But under any circumstances count upon me, and believe that I shall be very happy to prove my friendship for you.


The "Hundred Days" passed away. The Bourbons were re-enthroned. Madame Récamier was again a power in Paris. Hortense, deprived of the duchy of St. Leu, was driven an exile out of France. Fifteen years had rolled away, and these two distinguished ladies had not met until the accidental interview to which we have alluded beneath the dome of St. Peter's Cathedral. They were friends, though one was the representative of aristocracy and the other of the rights of the people.

According to the arrangement which they had made, Hortense and Madame Récamier met the next day at the Coliseum. Though it is not to be supposed that Madame Récamier would make any false representations, it is evident that, under the circumstances, she would not soften any of the expressions of Hortense, or represent the conversation which ensued in any light too favorable to Napoleon. We give the narrative, however, of this very interesting interview in the words of Madame Récamier:

"The next day, at the Ave Maria, I was at the Coliseum, where I saw the queen's carriage, which had arrived a few minutes before me. We entered the amphitheatre together, complimenting each other on our punctuality, and strolled through this immense ruin as the sun was setting, and to the sound of distant bells.

"Finally we seated ourselves on the steps of the cross in the centre of the amphitheatre, while Charles Napoleon Bonaparte and M. Ampére, who had followed us, walked about at a little distance. The night came on—an Italian night. The moon rose slowly in the heavens, behind the open arcades of the Coliseum. The breeze of evening sighed through the deserted galleries. Near me sat this woman, herself the living ruin of so extraordinary a fortune. A confused and undefinable emotion forced me to silence. The queen also seemed absorbed in her reflections.



"'How many events have contributed to bring us together,' she said finally, turning towards me, 'events of which I often have been the puppet or the victim, without having foreseen or provoked them.'

"I could not help thinking that this pretension to the réle of a victim was a little hazardous. At that time I was under the conviction that she had not been a stranger to the return from the island of Elba. Doubtless the queen divined my thoughts, since it is hardly possible for me to hide my sentiments. My bearing and face betray me in spite of myself.

"'I see plainly,'she said earnestly, 'that you share an opinion that has injured me deeply; and it was to controvert it that I wanted to speak to you freely. Henceforth you will justify me, I hope; for I can clear myself of the charge of ingratitude and treason, which would abase me in my own eyes if I had been guilty of them.'

"She was silent a moment and then resumed. 'In 1814, after the abdication of Fontainebleau, I considered that the Emperor had renounced all his rights to the throne, and that his family ought to follow his example. It was my wish to remain in France, under a title that would not give umbrage to the new Government. At the request of the Emperor of Russia, Louis XVIII. gave me authority to assume the title of Duchess of St. Leu, and confirmed me in the possession of my private property. In an audience that I obtained to thank him, he treated me with so much courtesy and kindness that I was sincerely grateful; and after having freely accepted his favors I could not think of conspiring against him.

"'I heard of the landing of the Emperor only through public channels, and it gave me much more annoyance than pleasure. I knew the Emperor too well to imagine that he would have attempted such an enterprise without having certain reasons to hope for success. But the prospect of a civil war afflicted me deeply, and I was convinced that we could not escape it. The speedy arrival of the Emperor baffled all my previsions.

"'On hearing of the departure of the king, and picturing him to myself old, infirm, and forced to abandon his country again, I was sensibly touched. The idea that he might be accusing me of ingratitude and treason was insupportable to me; and, notwithstanding all the risk of such a step, I wrote to him to exculpate myself from any participation in the events which had just taken place.

"'On the evening of the 20th of March, being advised of the Emperor's approach by his old minister, I presented myself at the Tuileries to await his coming. I saw him arrive, surrounded, pressed, and borne onward by a crowd of officers of all ranks. In all this tumult I could scarcely accost him. He received me coldly, said a few words to me, and appointed an interview for next day. The Emperor has always inspired me with fear, and his tone on this occasion was not calculated to reassure me. I presented myself, however, with as calm a bearing as was possible. I was introduced into his private room; and we were scarcely alone when he advanced toward me quickly, and said brusquely,

"'"Have you then so poorly comprehended your situation that you could renounce your name, and the rank you held from me, to accept a title given by the Bourbons?"

"'"My duty sire," I replied, summoning up all my courage to answer him, "was to think of my children's future, since the abdication of your Majesty left me no longer any other to fulfill."

"'"Your children," exclaimed the Emperor, "your children! Were they not my nephews before they were your sons? Have you forgotten that? Had you the right to strip them of the rank that belonged to them?" And as I looked at him, all amazed, he added, with increasing rage, "Have you not read the Code, then?"

"'I avowed my ignorance, recalling to myself that he had formerly considered it reprehensible, in any woman, and especially in members of his own family, to dare to avow that they knew any thing about legislation. Then he explained to me with volubility the article in the law prohibiting any change in the state of minors, or the making of any renunciation in their name. As he talked he strode up and down the room, the windows of which were open to admit the beautiful spring sun. I followed him, trying to make him understand that, not knowing the laws, I had only thought of the interests of my children, and taken counsel of my heart. The Emperor stopped all of a sudden, and turning roughly towards me, said,

"'"Then it should have told you, Madame, that when you shared the prosperity of a family, you ought to know how to submit to its misfortunes."

"'At these last words I burst into tears. But at this moment our conversation was interrupted by a tremendous uproar which frightened me. The Emperor, while talking, had unconsciously approached the window looking upon the terrace of the Tuileries, which was filled with people, who, upon recognizing him, rent the air with frantic acclamations. The Emperor, accustomed to control himself, saluted the people electrified by his presence, and I hastened to dry my eyes. But they had seen my tears, without the slightest suspicion of their cause. For the next day the papers vied with each other in repeating that the Emperor had shown himself at the windows of the Tuileries, accompanied by Queen Hortense, and that the Queen was so moved by the enthusiasm manifested at the sight of her that she could scarcely restrain her tears.'

"This account," adds Madame Récamier, "had an air of sincerity about it, which shook my previous convictions, and the regard I felt for the Queen was heightened. From that time we became firm friends. We met each other every day, sometimes at the Temple of Vesta, sometimes at the Baths of Titus, or at the Tomb of Cecilia Metella; at others, in some one of the numerous churches of the Christian city, in the rich galleries of its palaces, or at one of the beautiful villas in its environs; and such was our punctuality, that our two carriages almost always arrived together at the appointed place.

"I found the queen a very fascinating companion. And she showed such a delicate tact in respecting the opinions she knew I held, that I could not prevent myself saying that I could only accuse her of the one fault of not being enough of a Bonapartist. Notwithstanding the species of intimacy established between us, I had always abstained from visiting her, when news arrived of the death of Eugene Beauharnais. The Queen loved her brother tenderly. I understood the grief she must feel in losing her nearest relation and the best friend she had in the world, and came quickly to a decision. I immediately went to her, and found her in the deepest affliction. The whole Bonaparte family was there, but that gave me little uneasiness. In such cases it is impossible for me to consider party interests or public opinion. I have been often blamed for this, and probably shall be again, and I must resign myself to this censure, since I shall never cease to deserve it."

Hortense, immediately upon receiving the tidings of the dangerous sickness of her brother, had written thus to Madame Récamier. The letter was dated,

"Rome, Friday morning, April, 1824.

MY DEAR MADAME,—It seems to be my fate not to be able to enjoy any pleasures, diversions, or interest without the alloy of pain. I have news of my brother. He has been ill. They kindly assure me that he was better when the letter was sent, but I can not help being extremely anxious. I have a presentiment that this is his last illness, and I am far from him. I trust that God will not deprive me of the only friend left me—the best and most honorable man on earth. I am going to St. Peter's to pray. That will comfort me perhaps, for my very anxiety frightens me. One becomes weak and superstitious in grief. I can not therefore go with you to-day, but I shall be happy to see you, if you would like to join me at St. Peter's. I know that you are not afraid of the unhappy, and that you bring them happiness. To wish for you now is enough to prove to you my regard for you.


Soon after the death of Prince Eugene, Hortense returned to Arenemberg. From that place she wrote to Madame Récamier, under date of June 10th, 1824:

"You were kind enough, Madame, to wish to hear from me. I can not say that I am well, when I have lost every thing on this earth. Meanwhile I am not in ill health. I have just had another heart-break. I have seen all my brother's things. I do not recoil from this pain, and perhaps I may find in it some consolation. This life, so full of troubles, can disturb no longer the friends for whom we mourn. He, no doubt, is happy. With your sympathies you can imagine all my feelings.

"I am at present in my retreat. The scenery is superb. In spite of the lovely sky of Italy, I still find Arenemberg very beautiful. But I must always be pursued by regrets. It is undoubtedly my fate. Last year I was so contented. I was very proud of not repining, not wishing for any thing in this world. I had a good brother, good children. To-day how much need have I to repeat to myself that there are still some left to whom I am necessary!

"But I am talking a great deal about myself, and I have nothing to tell you, if it be not that you have been a great comfort to me, and that I shall always be pleased to see you again. You are among those persons to whom it is not needful to relate one's life or one's feelings. The heart is the best interpreter, and they who thus read us become necessary to us.

"I do not ask you about your plans, and nevertheless I am interested to know them. Do not be like me, who live without a future, and who expect to remain where fate puts me; for I may stay at my country-place all winter, if I can have all the rooms heated. Sometimes the wind seems to carry the house off, and the snow, I am told, is of frightful depth. But it requires little courage to surmount these obstacles. On the contrary, these great effects of nature are sometimes not without their charms. Adieu. Do not entirely forget me. Believe me, your friendship has done me good. You know what a comfort a friendly voice from one's native country is, when it comes to us in misfortune and isolation. Be kind enough to tell me that I am unjust if I complain too much of my destiny, and that I have still some friends left.


Just about this time M. de Chateaubriand, the illustrious friend of Madame Récamier, was quite insultingly dismissed from the ministry for not advocating a law of which the king approved. The disgrace of the minister created a very deep sensation. In allusion to it, Hortense wrote to Madame Récamier, from Arenemberg, Sept. 11, 1824, as follows:

"I expected to hear from you on your return from Naples, and as I have not heard, I know not where to find you. I have fancied that you were on the road to Paris, because I always imagine that we go where the heart goes, and where we can be useful to our friends. It is curious to think what a chain the affections are. Why, I myself, secluded from the world, stranger to every thing, am sorry to see so distinguished a man shut out from public life. Is it on account of the interest you have made me take in that quarter, or is it, rather, because, like a Frenchwoman, I love to see merit and superiority honored in my country?

"At present I am no longer alone. I have my cousin with me, the Grand Duchess of Baden, a most accomplished person. The brilliancy of her imagination, the vivacity of her wit, the correctness of her judgment, together with the perfect balance of all her faculties, render her a charming and a remarkable woman. She enlivens my solitude and softens my profound grief. We converse in the language of our country. It is that of the heart, you know, since at Rome we understood each other so well.

"I claim your promise to stop on the way at Arenemberg. It will always be to me very sweet to see you. I can not separate you from one of my greatest sorrows; which is to say that you are very dear to me, and that I shall be happy to have an opportunity to assure you of my affection.


Madame Récamier, after leaving Rome, kept up her friendly relations and correspondence with Queen Hortense.

The winter of 1829 Hortense spent with her sons in Rome. Chateaubriand was then French ambassador in that city. Upon his leaving, to return to Paris, Hortense wrote to Madame Récamier the following letter, in which she alludes to his departure:

"Rome, May 10, 1829.

DEAR MADAME,—I am not willing that one of your friends should leave the place where I am living, and where I have had the pleasure of meeting you, without carrying to you a token of my remembrance. I also wish you to convey to him my sentiments. Kindnesses show themselves in the smallest things, and are also felt by those who are the object of them, without their being equal to the expression of their feelings. But the benevolence which has been able to reach me has made me regret not being permitted to know him whom I have learned to appreciate, and who, in a foreign land, so worthily represented to me my country, at least such as I always should like to look upon her, as a friend and protectress.

"I am soon to return to my mountains, where I hope to hear from you. Do not forget me entirely. Remember that I love you, and that your friendship contributed to soothe one of the keenest sorrows of my life. These are two inseparable memories. Thus never doubt my tender love, in again assuring you of which I take such pleasure.


The year 1830 came. Louis Napoleon was then twenty-two years of age. An insurrection in Paris overthrew the old Bourbon dynasty, and established its modification in the throne of Louis Philippe. This revolution in France threw all Europe into commotion. All over Italy the people rose to cast off the yoke which the Allies, who had triumphed at Waterloo, had imposed upon them. The exiled members of the Bonaparte family met at Rome to decide what to do in the emergency. Hortense attended the meeting with her two sons. The eldest, Napoleon Louis, had married his cousin, the daughter of Joseph Bonaparte. Both of the young princes, with great enthusiasm, joined the patriots. Hortense was very much alarmed for the safety of her sons. She could see but little hope that the insurrection could be successful in Italy, for the "Holy Alliance" was pledged to crush it. She wrote imploringly to her children. Louis Napoleon replied,

"Your affectionate heart will understand our determination. We have contracted engagements which we can not break. Can we remain deaf to the voice of the unfortunate who call to us? We bear a name which obliges us to listen."

We have not here space to describe the conflict. The Italian patriots, overwhelmed by the armies of Austria, were crushed or dispersed. The elder of the sons of Hortense, Napoleon Louis, died from the fatigue and exposure of the campaign, and was buried at Florence. The younger son, Louis Napoleon, enfeebled by sickness, was in the retreat with the vanquished patriots to Ancona, on the shores of the Adriatic. The distracted mother was hastening to her children when she heard of the death of the one, and of the sickness and perilous condition of the other. She found Louis Napoleon at Ancona, in a burning fever. The Austrians were gathering up the vanquished patriots wherever they could be found in their dispersion, and were mercilessly shooting them. Hortense was in an agony of terror. She knew that her son, if captured, would surely be shot. The Austrians were soon in possession of Ancona. They eagerly sought for the young prince, who bore a name which despots have ever feared. A price was set upon his head. The sagacity of the mother rescued the child. She made arrangements for a frail skiff to steal out from the harbor and cross the Adriatic Sea to the shores of Illyria. Deceived by this stratagem, the Austrian police had no doubt that the young prince had escaped. Their vigilance was accordingly relaxed. Hortense then took a carriage for Pisa. Her son, burning with fever and emaciate from grief and fatigue, mounted the box behind in the disguise of a footman. In this manner, exposed every moment to the danger of being arrested by the Austrian police, the anxious mother and her son traversed the whole breadth of Italy. As Louis Napoleon had, with arms in his hands, espoused the cause of the people in their struggle against Austrian despotism, he could expect no mercy, and there was no safety for him anywhere within reach of the Austrian arm.

By a law of the Bourbons, enacted in 1816, which law was re-enacted by the Government of Louis Philippe, no member of the Bonaparte family could enter France but under the penalty of death. But Napoleon I., when in power, had been very generous to the House of Orleans. Hortense, also, upon the return of Napoleon from Elba, when the Royalists were flying in terror from the kingdom, had protected and warmly befriended distinguished members of the family. Under these circumstances, distracted by the fear that her only surviving child would be arrested and shot, and knowing not which way to turn for safety, the mother and the son decided, notwithstanding the menace of death suspended over them, to seek a momentary refuge, incognito, in France.

Embarking in a small vessel, still under assumed names, they safely reached Cannes. At this port Napoleon had landed sixteen years ago, in his marvellous return from Elba. The mother and son proceeded immediately to Paris, resolved to cast themselves upon the generosity of Louis Philippe. Louis Napoleon was still very sick, and needed his bed rather than the fatigues of travel. It was the intention of his mother, so soon as the health of her son was sufficiently restored, to continue their journey and cross over to England.

Hortense, in her "Memoires," speaking of these hours of adversity's deepest gloom, writes:

"At length I arrived at the barrier of Paris. I experienced a sort of self-love in exhibiting to my son, by its most beautiful entrance, that capital, of which he could probably retain but a feeble recollection. I ordered the postillion to take us through the Boulevards to the Rue de la Paix, and to stop at the first hotel. Chance conducted us to the Hotel D'Hollande. I occupied a small apartment on the third floor, du premier, first above the entresol. From my room I could see the Boulevard and the column in the Place Vendéme. I experienced a sort of saddened pleasure, in my isolation, in once more beholding that city which I was about to leave, perhaps forever, without speaking to a person, and without being distracted by the impression which that view made upon me."

Twenty-two years before, Hortense, in this city, had given birth to the child who was now sick and a fugitive. Austria was thirsting for his blood, and the Government of his own native land had laid upon him the ban of exile, and it was at the peril of their lives that either mother or son placed their feet upon the soil of France. And yet the birth of this prince was welcomed by salvos of artillery, and by every enthusiastic demonstration of public rejoicing, from Hamburg to Rome, and from the Pyrenees to the Danube.

Louis Napoleon was still suffering from a burning fever. A few days of repose seemed essential to the preservation of his life. Hortense immediately wrote a letter to King Louis Philippe, informing him of the arrival of herself and son, incognito, in Paris, of the circumstances which had rendered the step necessary, and casting themselves upon his protection. Louis Philippe owed Hortense a deep debt of gratitude. He had joined the Allies in their war against France. He had come back to Paris in the rear of their batteries. By French law he was a traitor doomed to die. When Napoleon returned from Elba he fled from France in terror, again to join the Allies. He was then the Duke of Orleans. The Duchess of Orleans had slipped upon the stairs and broken her leg. She could not be moved. Both Hortense and Napoleon treated her with the greatest kindness. Of several letters which the Duchess of Orleans wrote Hortense, full of expressions of obligation and gratitude, we will quote but one.

The Duchess of Orleans to Queen Hortense.
"April 19, 1815.

MADAME,—I am truly afflicted that the feeble state of my health deprives me of the opportunity of expressing to your majesty, as I could wish, my gratitude for the interest she has manifested in my situation. I am still suffering much pain, as my limb has not yet healed. But I can not defer expressing to your majesty, and to his majesty, the Emperor, to whom I beg you to be my interpreter, the gratitude I feel I am, madame, your majesty's servant,


The Emperor, in response to the solicitations of Hortense, had permitted the Duchess of Orleans to remain in Paris, and also had assured her of a pension of four hundred thousand francs ($80,000). The Duchess of Bourbon, also, aunt of the Duke of Orleans, was permitted to remain in the city. And she, also, that she might be able to maintain the position due to her rank, received from the Emperor a pension of two hundred thousand francs ($40,000). The Duchess of Bourbon had written to Hortense for some great favors, which Hortense obtained for her. In reply to the assurance of Hortense that she would do what she could to aid her, the duchess wrote, under date of April 29th, 1815:

"I am exceedingly grateful for your kindness, and I have full confidence in the desire which you express to aid me. I can hardly believe that the Emperor will refuse a demand which I will venture to say is so just, and particularly when it is presented by you. Believe me, madame, that my gratitude equals the sentiments of which I beg you to receive, in advance, the most sincere attestation."

Under these circumstances Hortense could not doubt that she might venture to appeal to the magnanimity of the king.