Josephine - John S. C. Abbott
Early in the year 1802 Josephine accompanied Napoleon in various excursions to distant parts of the empire. She went with him to Lyons to meet the Italian deputies, who had assembled there to confer upon him the dignity of President of the Cisalpine Republic. The entertainments in Lyons upon this occasion were arranged with regal magnificence. Josephine, by her grace and affability, secured universal admiration, and every tongue was eloquent in her praises. Each succeeding month seemed now to bring some new honor to Josephine. Her position as wife of the first consul, her known influence over her husband, and the almost boundless popularity he had acquired over the minds of his countrymen, who were ever conducting him by rapid strides to new accessions of power, surrounded her with multitudes striving in every way to ingratiate themselves into her favor.
From Lyons they returned to their beloved retreat at Malmaison, where they passed several weeks. But place and power had already deprived them of retirement. Napoleon was entirely engrossed with his vast projects of ambition. The avenue to their rural mansion was unceasingly thronged with carriages, and the saloon of Josephine was ever filled with the most illustrious guests.
One day Josephine happened to be in the cabinet with her husband alone. A man, whose coat was much the worse for wear, and whose whole appearance presented many indications of the struggle with poverty, was ushered into the room. He appeared greatly embarrassed, and at length, with much confusion, introduced himself as the writing-master at Brienne who had taught the first consul hand-writing. "And a fine penman you made of me!" exclaimed Napoleon, in affected anger. "Ask my wife there what she thinks of my writing." The poor man stood trembling in trepidation, when Josephine looked up with one of her sweetest smiles, and said, "I assure you, sir, his letters are perfectly delightful." Napoleon laughed at the well-timed compliment, and settled upon the writing-master a small annuity for life. It was a noble trait in the character of the first consul that in his days of power he was ever mindful of those who were the friends of his early years. All the instructors of the school he attended at Brienne were thus remembered by him.
Napoleon and Josephine now made the tour of the northern provinces of France. They were every where received with unbounded enthusiasm. The first consul had, indeed, conferred the greatest blessings on his country. He had effectually curbed the Revolutionary fury. He had established the reign of law. Thousands of exiles he had restored to their homes rejoicing. The discomfited armies of France he had led to new and brilliant victories. Under his administration every branch of business had revived. From every part of the empire Napoleon received the most enthusiastic expressions of gratitude and attachment. He now began more seriously to contemplate ascending the throne of France. Conscious of his own power, and ambitious of the glory of elevating his country to the highest pinnacle of earthly greatness, and witnessing the enthusiasm of admiration which his deeds had excited in the public mind, he no longer doubted that his countrymen would soon be ready to place the scepter of empire in his hands. He thought that the pear was now ripe.
Josephine ever enjoyed most highly accompanying her husband on these tours, and she, on such occasions, manifested, in the most attractive manner, her readiness to sacrifice her own personal comfort to promote the happiness of others. Napoleon was in the habit of moving with such rapidity, and of setting out so unexpectedly upon these journeys, and he was so peremptory in his injunctions as to the places where he intended to halt, that often no suitable accommodations could be provided for Josephine and her attendant ladies. No complaint, however, was ever heard from her lips. No matter how great the embarrassment she encountered, she ever exhibited the same imperturbable cheerfulness and good humor. She always manifested much more solicitude in reference to the accommodation of her attendants than for her own comfort. She would herself visit their apartments, and issue personal directions to promote their convenience. One night, just as she was about to retire to rest, she observed that her waiting-woman had but a single mattress, spread upon the floor, for her repose. She immediately, with her own hands, took from the bed destined for herself another mattress, and supplied the deficiency, that her waiting-woman might sleep more comfortably. Whenever any of her household were sick, Josephine promptly visited their bed-side, and with her own hands ministered to their wants. She would remember them at her own table, and from the luxurious viands spread out before her, would select delicacies which might excite a failing appetite. It often happened, in these sudden and hasty journeys, that, from want of accommodation, some of the party were compelled to remain in the carriages while Napoleon and Josephine dined. In such cases they were never forgotten. This was not policy and artifice on the part of Josephine, but the instinctive dictates of a heart overflowing with benevolence.
On Napoleon's return from this tour he took possession of the palace of St. Cloud. This was another step toward the throne of the Bourbons. This magnificent abode of ancient grandeur had been repaired and most gorgeously furnished. The versatile French, weary of Republican simplicity, witnessed with joy the indications of a return of regal magnificence. A decree also granted to Josephine "four ladies, to assist her in doing the honors of the palace." No occupant of these splendid saloons ever embellished them more richly by the display of queenly graces than did Josephine; and Napoleon, now constituted first consul for life, reigned with pomp and power which none of his predecessors had ever surpassed. The few remaining forms of the Republic rapidly disappeared. Josephine exerted much influence over her husband's mind in inducing him to re-establish the institutions of the Christian religion. Napoleon at that time did not profess to have any faith in the divine origin of Christianity. Infidelity had swept resistlessly over France, and nearly every man of any note in the camp and in the court was an unbeliever. He was, consequently, very bitterly opposed in all his endeavors to reinstate Christianity. One evening he was walking upon the terrace of his garden at Malmaison, most earnestly conversing with some influential members of the government upon this subject.
"Religion," said he, "is something which can not be eradicated from the heart of man. He must believe in a superior being. Who made all that?" he continued, pointing to the stars brilliantly shining in the evening sky. "Last Sunday evening I was walking here alone, when the church bells of the village of Ruel rang at sunset. I was strongly moved, so vividly did the image of early days come back with that sound. If it be thus with me, what must it be with others? Let your philosophers answer that, if they can. It is absolutely indispensable to have a religion for the people. In re-establishing Christianity, I consult the wishes of a great majority of the French nation."
Josephine probably had very little religious knowledge. She regarded Christianity as a sentiment rather than a principle. She felt the poetic beauty of its revelations and its ordinances. She knew how holy were its charities, how pure its precepts, how ennobling its influences, even when encumbered with the grossest superstitions. She had seen, and dreadfully had she felt, what France was without religion—with marriage a mockery, conscience a phantom, and death proclaimed to all an eternal sleep. She therefore most warmly seconded her husband in all endeavors to restore again to desolated France the religion of Jesus Christ.
The next morning after the issuing of the proclamation announcing the re-establishment of public worship, a grand religious ceremony took place in honor of the occasion in the church of Notre Dame. Napoleon, to produce a deep impression upon the public mind, invested the occasion with all possible pomp. As he was preparing to go to the Cathedral, one of his colleagues, Cambaceres, entered the room.
"Well," said the first consul, rubbing his hands in fine spirits, "we go to church this morning; what say they to that in Paris?"
"Many people," replied Cambaceres, "propose to attend the first representation in order to hiss the piece, should they not find it amusing."
"If any one takes it into his head to hiss, I shall put him out of the door by the grenadiers of the consular guard."
"But what if the grenadiers themselves take to hissing like the rest?"
"As to that, I have no fear. My old mustaches will go here to Notre Dame just as at Cairo they would have gone to the mosque. They will remark how I do, and, seeing their general grave and decent, they will be so too, passing the watchword to each other, Decency!"
In the noble proclamation which the first consul issued upon this great event, he says, "An insane policy has sought, during the Revolution, to smother religious dissensions under the ruins of the altar, under the ashes of religion itself. At its voice all those pious solemnities ceased in which the citizens called each other by the endearing name of brothers, and acknowledged their common equality in the sight of Heaven. The dying, left alone in his agonies, no longer heard that consoling voice which calls the Christian to a better world. God himself seemed exiled from the face of nature. Ministers of the religion of peace! let a complete oblivion veil over your dissensions, your misfortunes, your faults. Let the religion which unites you bind you by indissoluble cords to the interests of your country. Citizens of the Protestant faith! the law has equally extended its solicitude to your interests. Let the morality, so pure, so holy, so brotherly, which you profess, unite you all in love to your country and respect for its laws; and, above all, never permit disputes on doctrinal points to weaken that universal charity which religion at once inculcates and commands."
This, surely, is a great triumph of Christianity. A man like Napoleon, even though not at the time a believer in its divine origin, was so perfectly satisfied of its beneficial influence upon mankind, that, as a matter of state policy, he felt compelled to reinstate its observances.
Josephine cherished emotions of the deepest gratitude toward all those who had proved friendly to her in the days of her adversity. Napoleon, with his strong prejudices, often took a dislike to those whom Josephine loved. Madame Tallien, the companion of Josephine in her captivity and her benefactor after her release, was, for some unknown reason, peculiarly obnoxious to Napoleon. She was extremely beautiful and very ambitious, and her exclusion from the splendors of the new court, now daily becoming more brilliant, mortified her exceedingly. Josephine also was greatly troubled. She could not disregard the will of her husband, and her heart recoiled from the thought of ingratitude toward one who had been her friend in adversity. At this time, in Paris, pleasure seemed to be the universal object of pursuit. All the restraints of religion had been swept away, and masked balls, gambling, and every species of dissipation attracted to the metropolis the wealthy and the dissolute from all parts of Europe. Napoleon never made his appearance in any of these reckless scenes of revelry. He ever was an inveterate enemy to gambling in all its forms, and had no relish for luxurious indulgence. Josephine, however, accompanied by Eugene, occasionally looked in upon the dancers at the masked balls. On one of these occasions a noble lady witnessed an incident which she has recorded in the following words:
"Chance rendered me witness of a singular scene at one of these balls. It was near two o'clock in the morning, the crowd immense, and the heat overpowering. I had ascended for a few moments to the apartments above, and, refreshed by the cool air, was about to descend, when the sound of voices in the adjoining room, in earnest conversation, caught my attention. Applying my ear to the partition, the name of Bonaparte, and the discovery that Josephine and Madame Tallien were the speakers, excited a real curiosity. 'I assure you, my dear Theresina,' said Josephine, 'that I have done all that friendship could dictate, but in vain. No later than this morning I made a new effort. Bonaparte would hear of nothing. I can not comprehend what can have prejudiced him so strongly against you. You are the only woman whose name he has effaced from the list of my particular friends; and from fear lest he should manifest his displeasure directly against us have I now come hither alone with my son. At this moment they believe me sound asleep in my bed at the Tuilleries; but I determined on coming to see, to warn, and to console you and, above all, to justify myself.'
"'My dear Josephine,' Madame Tallien replied, 'I have never doubted either the goodness of your heart or the sincerity of your affection. Heaven is my witness that the loss of your friendship would be to me much more painful than any dread of Bonaparte. In these difficult times, I have maintained a conduct that might, perhaps, render my visits an honor, but I will never importune you to receive me without his consent. He was not consul when Tallien followed him into Egypt, when I received you both into my house, when I shared with you—' Here she burst into tears, and her voice became inaudible.
"'Calm yourself, my dear Theresina,' Josephine rejoined; 'be calm, and let the storm pass. I am paving the way for a reconciliation, but we must not irritate him more. You know that he does not love Ouvrard, and it is said that he often sees you.'
"'What, then,' Madame Tallien replied, 'because he governs France, does he expect to tyrannize over our hearts? Must we sacrifice to him our private friendships?'
"At that moment some one knocked at the door, and Eugene Beauharnais entered. 'Madame,' said he to his mother, 'you have been now more than an hour absent. The council of ministers is perhaps over. What will the first consul say, should he not find you on his return?' The two ladies then, arm in arm, descended the stairs, conversing in earnest whispers, followed by Eugene."
This Ouvrard, to whom allusion is made above, was a famous banker in Paris, of enormous wealth, and engaged in the most wild and extravagant speculations.
It now began to be rumored that Napoleon would soon be crowned as king. Very many of the nation desired it, and though there was as yet no public declaration, vague hints and floating rumors filled the air. Josephine was greatly disquieted. It seemed more and more important that Napoleon should have an heir. There was now no prospect that Josephine would ever become again a mother. She heard, with irrepressible anguish, that it had been urged upon her husband that the interests of France required that he should obtain a divorce and marry again; that alliance with one of the ancient royal families of Europe, and the birth of a son, to whom he could transmit his crown, would place his power upon an impregnable foundation. Josephine could not but perceive the apparent policy of the great wrong. And though she knew that Napoleon truly and tenderly loved her, she also feared that there was no sacrifice which he was not ready to make in obedience to the claims of his towering ambition.
One day she softly entered the cabinet without being announced. Bonaparte and Bourrienne were conversing together. The day before, an article appeared in the Moniteur, evidently preparing the way for the throne. Josephine gently approached her husband, sat down upon his knee, affectionately passed her hand through his hair and over his face, and, with moistened eyes and a burst of tenderness, exclaimed, "I entreat you, mon ami, do not make yourself a king. It is Lucien who urges you to it. Do not even listen to him."
Bonaparte, smiling very pleasantly, replied, "Why, my dear Josephine, you are crazy. You must not listen to these tales of the old dowagers. But you interrupt us now. I am very busy."
During the earlier period of Napoleon's consulship, like the humblest citizen, he occupied the same bed-chamber with his spouse. But now that more of regal ceremony and state was being introduced to the consular establishment, their domestic intercourse, to the great grief of Josephine, assumed more of cold formality. Separate apartments were assigned to Josephine at a considerable distance from those occupied by her husband, and it was necessary to traverse a long corridor to pass from one to the other. The chambers of the principal ladies of the court opened upon this corridor from the right and the left. The splendor with which Josephine's rooms were furnished was no compensation to her for the absence of that affectionate familiarity for which her heart ever yearned. She also suspected, with anguish, that this separation was but the prelude of the divorce she so fearfully apprehended. Whenever Napoleon passed the night in the apartment of Josephine, it was known to the whole household. Josephine, at such times, always appeared at a later hour in the morning than usual, for they generally passed half the night in conversation.
"I think I see her still," writes one of the ladies of her household, "coming in to breakfast, looking quite cheerful, rubbing her little hands, as she was accustomed to do when peculiarly happy, and apologizing for having risen so late. On such occasions she was, if possible, more gracious than usual, refused nobody, and we were sure of obtaining every thing we asked, as I have myself many times experienced."
The Bourbons had been for some time in correspondence with Napoleon, hoping, through his agency, to regain the throne. He assured them that their restoration could not possibly be accomplished, even by the sacrifice of the lives of a million of Frenchmen. Josephine, who had suffered so much from anarchy, was a decided Royalist, and she exerted all her powers to induce Napoleon to make the attempt to reinstate the Bourbons. When her friends congratulated her upon the probability that she would soon be Empress of France, with heartfelt sincerity she replied, "To be the wife of the first consul fulfills my highest ambition. Let me remain so." The Bourbons expressed much gratitude at the time in view of Josephine's known intercessions in their behalf.
About this time a serious accident happened to the first consul, which also exposed Josephine to much danger. The inhabitants of Antwerp had made Napoleon a present of six magnificent bay horses. With four of these spirited steeds harnessed to the carriage, Napoleon was one day taking an airing, with Josephine and Cambaceres, the second consul, in the park. Napoleon, taking a fancy to drive four in hand, mounted the coach-box, and Caesar, his favorite coachman, was stationed behind. The horses soon discovered that they had a new and inexperienced driver, and started off at the top of their speed. Napoleon lost all control over them, and the frightened animals, perfectly ungovernable, dashed along the road at a fearful rate. Caesar kept shouting to Napoleon, "Keep in the middle!" Cambaceres, pale with fright, thrust his head out of the window, and shouted "Whoa! whoa!" Josephine, greatly alarmed, sank back in her seat, and in silent resignation awaited the issue. As they approached the avenue to St. Cloud, the imperial driver had not sufficient skill to guide them safely through the gateway. The coach struck against one of the pillars, and was overturned with a terrible crash. Josephine and Cambaceres were considerably bruised. Napoleon was thrown from his seat to the distance of eight or ten paces, and was taken up insensible. He, however, soon recovered. On retiring at night, they amused themselves in talking over the misadventure. "Mon ami," said Josephine, laughing, "you must render unto Caesar the things that be Caesar's. Let him keep his whip. Each to his vocation." The conversation was continued for some time in a tone of pleasantry. Gradually Napoleon became more serious. He seemed to be reflecting deeply, and said that he never before came so near to death. "Indeed," said he, "I was for some moments virtually dead. But what is death? what is death? It is merely a sleep without dreams."
Such were probably, at this time, the views of Napoleon upon immortality. He subsequently professed himself a sincere believer in the divine origin of Christianity, and wished to die within the pale of the Christian Church. That mind which can contemplate death with levity must be either exceedingly weak or hopelessly deranged.
While nearly all who surrounded the first consul were contemplating with the utmost satisfaction his approaching elevation to the throne, the subject awakened in the bosom of Josephine the most agitating emotions. She saw in the splendor of the throne peril to her husband, and the risk of entire downfall to herself. "The real enemies of Bonaparte," said she to Roederer, "are those who put into his head ideas of hereditary succession, dynasty, divorce, and marriage." Again she is represented as saying, "I do not approve the projects of Napoleon. I have often told him so. He hears me with attention, but I can plainly see that I make no impression. The flatterers who surround him soon obliterate all that I have said. The new honors which he will acquire will augment the number of his enemies. The generals will exclaim that they have not fought so long merely to substitute the family of the Bonapartes for that of the Bourbons."
The peace ratified by the treaty of Amiens in 1802 threw open the Continent to travelers from England. There were thousands in that country who were great admirers of Napoleon. The Tuilleries, St. Cloud, and Malmaison were consequently ever thronged with illustrious strangers from the island with which France had so long been engaged in war. The celebrated statesman, Mr. Fox, with Lord and Lady Holland, Lord Erskine, and several others of the most distinguished of the English nobility, were visiting Paris, and one morning were at a breakfast party at Madame Recamier's. Breakfast was nearly concluded, when the sounds of a horseman galloping into the court-yard were heard. Eugene Beauharnais was immediately after announced. After a few words of regret expressed to the lady of the house for having arrived so late, he turned to Mr. Fox and said, "I hope, sir, soon to indemnify myself for the loss of your society which I have this morning sustained. I am commissioned by my mother to attend you to Malmaison. The carriages will be here in a few moments which are for the accommodation of you and your friends, when you can resolve on leaving so many charms as must detain you here. I shall, with much pleasure, act as your guide."
The carriages of the first consul soon arrived, and the whole party proceeded to Malmaison. Josephine received her guests with that courtesy and refined cordiality in which she was unrivaled. Bonaparte, knowing the powerful influence of the illustrious English statesman, was very desirous that he should receive a favorable impression from his visit. It required but little effort on the part of Josephine to excel in the art of pleasing. She banished all parade, and received her guests as family friends. The day was spent at Malmaison, and Mr. Fox afterward stated that he retired from the visit enchanted with the elegance and grace of all that he saw and heard.
Ten years had passed, during which France had been in a state of constant warfare. The short peace which succeeded the treaty of Amiens filled Paris with the best society of Europe. Extravagance and dissipation reigned in the metropolis. But in those scenes of dissipation neither Napoleon nor Josephine ever made their appearance. His mind was ever engrossed with the magnificent plans he was forming and the deeds he was achieving. Josephine was equally engaged in watching over the interests of her husband, and in gaining and confirming friends to his cause.
On the 18th of May, 1804, by a decree of the senate, Napoleon was declared Emperor of France. The decree was sent out to the various departments for the action of the people. The result was, that 3,572,329 voted in the affirmative, while but 2569 were in the negative. A more unanimous expression of a nation's will history never has recorded. The day after his elevation to the imperial throne, the emperor held a grand levee at the Tuilleries, and Josephine, with many fears darkening this hour of exultation, made her first appearance as the Empress of France. The decree announcing Napoleon Bonaparte to be the emperor of France also declared that the imperial dignity should be hereditary in his family. The empress struggled against her fears, but her heart was heavy, and she found but little joy upon this high pinnacle of power. She also plainly foresaw that the throne of her husband, apparently so gorgeous and massive, was erected upon a very frail foundation.
At the grand levee held upon this occasion, the assembly was the most brilliant and numerous that had ever yet been witnessed in Paris. The renown of Napoleon now filled the world, and noted men from every land thronged his saloons. Josephine found herself elevated to the position of the most illustrious of the queens of Europe. The power of her husband was superior to that of any of the surrounding monarchs, and she received the homage of all as occupying an elevation such as no queen had ever attained before.
The second of December, 1804, was appointed for the ceremony of coronation. The pageant was to take place in the church of Notre Dame. The pope came from Rome to place the crown upon this lofty, though plebeian brow. For ten centuries such an honor had not been conferred upon any monarch. The day was clear and brilliant, but intensely cold. The venerable walls of Notre Dame had never before witnessed such luxury and such magnificence as was now displayed. Carriages glittering with gold and purple trappings; horses proudly caparisoned; officers in the richest uniforms, and in court dresses sumptuously embroidered; servants in most gorgeous liveries; and a waving sea of ostrich plumes, bewildered the multitude with the unwonted splendor.
The empress appeared in a robe of white satin, embroidered with gold, and profusely ornamented with diamonds. A mantle of crimson velvet, lined with white satin and ermine, floated over her shoulders, and golden bees were clustered over the dress. The coronation jewels consisted of a crown, a diadem, and a girdle. The coronation crown consisted of eight golden branches, four in imitation of palm, and four of myrtle leaves. The dew-drops glittering upon this foliage were brilliant diamonds. A golden-corded band surrounded the crown, embellished with eight very large emeralds. The bandeau inclosing the head glittered resplendent with amethysts. This was the coronation crown, which was used only upon state occasions. The diadem, which was for more ordinary service, was composed of four rows of pearls interlaced with diamonds. In front were several very large brilliants, one of which weighed one hundred and forty-nine grains. The ceinture or girdle was of pure gold, so pure as to be quite elastic, embellished with thirty-nine rose-colored diamonds.
Napoleon wore a close dress of white velvet, embroidered in gold, with diamond buttons. His stockings were of white silk. The robe and mantle were of crimson velvet, richly embroidered in gold and embellished with diamonds. Napoleon seemed to regret the vast expense attending this display, while at the same time he was conscious of its importance to impress the minds of the Parisians. The emperor was profuse in expenditure to promote the grandeur and glory of the nation, but very frugal in his personal expenses.
The imperial carriage, constructed expressly for the occasion, was the most exquisite piece of workmanship Parisian ingenuity could devise. It was drawn by eight bay horses. The paneling was entirely of glass. As the emperor and empress entered the carriage, they both, by mistake, sat down with their backs toward the horses. Josephine, immediately perceiving the error, lightly changed her seat, at the same time saying smilingly to her husband, as she pointed to the rich cushion at her side, "Mon ami! unless you prefer riding vis-a-vis, this is your seat." Napoleon laughed heartily at the blunder, and changed his seat. Double files of infantry lined the route of more than a mile and a half, extending from the Tuilleries to Notre Dame. Ten thousand horsemen, in most gorgeous uniforms, attended the carriages. Half a million of spectators thronged the way, crowding the windows and balconies, clustered upon the house-tops, and filling up every space from whence any view of the cortege could be gained. The air was filled with the martial strains of a thousand bands, with the thunders of innumerable pieces of artillery, and with the enthusiastic acclamations of the vast multitude. A pageant more sublime this world perhaps has never witnessed.
The throne, which was hung with crimson velvet, was overarched with a canopy of the same rich material. It was ascended by twenty-two circular steps, which were covered with blue cloth, studded with golden bees. The most illustrious officers of the empire crowded the stairs. Napoleon and Josephine sat, side by side, upon the throne. The religious ceremony occupied nearly four hours. It was interspersed with the most soul-stirring music from martial bands and from more than three hundred vocal performers. When the pope was about to place the crown upon the brow of the emperor, Napoleon took it from him, and placed it, with his own hands, upon his head. He then took it off and crowned the empress, also with his own hands, fixing his eye proudly, yet most tenderly, upon her. The heavy crown was soon after laid upon a cushion, while a smaller diadem was placed upon the head of Josephine. She kneeled before her illustrious consort as he placed the crown of France upon her brow. After remaining for a moment in silence in the posture of prayer, with her hands folded over her bosom, she then gracefully rose, her eyes swimming in tears, and turned to her husband with a look of gratitude and of love which the emperor feelingly recognized. It was a touching scene, and in that moment were clustered the memories of years.
But the day was not without its moments of anguish for Josephine. In the brief speech which the emperor made upon the occasion, he said, "My descendants will long sit upon this throne." These words were as a dagger to the heart of the empress. She knew Napoleon's intense desire for an heir. She knew how strong the desire in France was that he should have a son to whom to transmit his throne. She knew how much had been said respecting the necessity of a divorce. The most infamous proposals had been urged upon her by pretended friends, even by one of the brothers of Napoleon, that she might, by unfaithfulness to him, obviate the necessity of Napoleon's seeking another bride. This sentiment, uttered upon the day of coronation, filled her heart with fear and anguish.
The shades of evening had fallen upon the swarming city, and all the streets of the metropolis and the broad facade of the Tuilleries were glittering with illuminations when the emperor and empress returned to the palace. Josephine, overcome with the conflicting emotions which the day had excited, retired to her apartment, and, falling upon her knees, with tears implored the guidance of the King of kings. Napoleon hastened to his room, exclaiming impatiently to an attendant as he entered, "Off, off with these confounded trappings!" He threw the mantle into one corner of the room, and the gorgeous robe into another, and, thus violently disencumbering himself, declared that hours of such mortal tediousness he had never encountered before.
Josephine, in her remonstrances with Napoleon against assuming the crown, predicted, with almost prophetic accuracy, the consequences which would ensue. "Will not your power," she wrote to him, "opposed, as to a certainty it must be, by the neighboring states, draw you into a war with them? This will probably end in their ruin. Will not their neighbors, beholding these effects, combine for your destruction? While abroad such is the state of things, at home how numerous the envious and discontented! How many plots to disconcert, and how many conspiracies to punish."
Soon after the coronation, Josephine was one morning in her garden, when an intimate friend called to see her. She saluted the empress by the title of Your Majesty. "Ah!" she exclaimed, in tones deeply pathetic, "I entreat that you will suffer me, at least here, to forget that I am an empress." It is the unvarying testimony of her friends, that, while she was receiving with surpassing gracefulness the congratulations of France and of Europe, her heart was heavy. She clearly foresaw the peril of their position, and trembled in view of an approaching downfall. The many formal ceremonies which her station required, and upon which Napoleon laid great stress, were exceedingly irksome to one whose warm heart rejoiced in the familiarity of unrestrained friendship. She thus described her feelings: "The nearer my husband approached the summit of earthly greatness, the more dim became my last gleams of happiness. It is true that I enjoyed a magnificent existence. My court was composed of gentlemen and ladies the most illustrious in rank, all of whom were emulous of the honor of being presented to me. But my time was no longer at my command. The emperor was receiving from every part of France congratulations upon his accession to the throne, while I myself sighed in contemplating the immense power he had acquired. The more I saw him loaded with the gifts of Fortune, the more I feared his fall."
The court of France had for ages been the scene of the most voluptuous and unblushing vice. The whole nation had been corrupted by its influence. Dissipation had been rendered attractive by the grace with which it had been robed. The dissolute manners which had prevailed at Versailles, the Tuilleries, and St. Cloud no pen can describe. Napoleon determined that, at all hazards, his court should be reputable at least in outward morality. He was more scrupulous upon this point even than Josephine herself. Believing that the downfall of the Bourbons was caused, in no inconsiderable degree, by the dissolute lives of the nobles and the courtiers, he would give no one an appointment among the royal retinue whose character was not, in his judgment, above reproach.
The Duchess d'Aiguillon had been a fellow-captive of Josephine, and, after their liberation from prison, had greatly befriended her. During the license of those times, in which all the restraints of Christian morality had been swept away, her character had not remained perfectly spotless. She and her husband had availed themselves of the facile liberty of divorce which the laws had encouraged, and had formed other unions. Josephine felt grateful for the many favors she had received from the duchess, and wished to testify this gratitude by receiving her at court. Napoleon peremptorily refused. Josephine wrote to her in the following terms:
"MY DEAR FRIEND,—I am deeply afflicted. My former friends, supposing that I am able to obtain the fulfillment of all my wishes, must suppose that I have forgotten the past. Alas! it is not so. I remember it too well, and my thoughts dwell upon it more than I would have them. The more I think of what my friends did for me, the greater is my sorrow at being unable to do now what my heart dictates. The Empress of France is but the first slave in the empire, and can not pay the debts of Madame de Beauharnais. This constitutes the torture of my life, and will explain why you do not occupy a place near me. The emperor, indignant at the total disregard of morality, and alarmed at the progress it might still make, is resolved that the example of a life of regularity and of religion shall be presented in the palace where he reigns. Desirous of strengthening more and more the Church re-established by himself, and unable to change the laws appointed by her observances, his intention is, at least, to keep at a distance from his court all who may have availed themselves of the opportunity for a divorce. Hence the cause of his refusing the favor I asked of having you with me. The refusal has occasioned me unspeakable regret, but he is too absolute to leave even the hope of seeing him retract. I am thus constrained to renounce the pleasure I had promised myself of being constantly with you, studying to make you forget the sovereign in the friend. Pity my lot in being too public a personage to follow my own inclination, and cherish for me a friendship, the remembrance of which gives me now as much pleasure as its reality afforded consolation in prison. Often do I regret that small, dark, and dismal chamber which we shared together, for there, at least, I could pour out my whole heart, and was sincerely beloved in return."