Josephine - John S. C. Abbott
During the whole month succeeding the coronation, Paris was surrendered to fetes, illuminations, and all manner of public rejoicing. One morning the empress found in her apartment, as a present from the municipality of the capital, a toilet service, with table, ewer, and basin of massive gold, wrought with most exquisite workmanship. An enormous balloon, in the form of the imperial crown, brilliantly illuminated, was launched, the evening of the coronation, from Paris. The vast structure, weighing five hundred pounds, floated most majestically over the city, for a time the object of the gaze of a million of eyes, till, borne away by the wind toward the south, it disappeared. The next evening it fell near the city of Rome, nine hundred miles from Paris. "Sire," said a courtier, announcing the fact to Napoleon, "your imperial crown has appeared in the two great capitals of the world within the space of twenty-four hours."
As soon as Napoleon was crowned Emperor of France, the senators of the Italian Republic, over which he had been elected president, sent an earnest petition that he would be crowned their king at Milan. Napoleon had rescued them from the hated dominion of the Austrians, and they regarded him as their greatest benefactor. The emperor was in the habit of setting out on his various tours without any warning. One evening, when the festivities of the baptism of the second son of Hortense had been kept up until midnight, Napoleon said quietly, upon retiring, "Horses at six for Italy." Josephine accompanied her husband upon this tour. The road bridging the Alps, which Napoleon subsequently constructed, was then but contemplated. It was only by a rugged and dangerous foot-path that the ascent of these awful barriers of nature could be surmounted. Two beautiful sedans had been constructed in Turin for the emperor and empress. The one for Napoleon was lined with crimson silk, richly ornamented with gold. Josephine's was trimmed with blue satin, similarly ornamented with silver. The sedans were, however, but little used, except in places where walking was dangerous, as the empress very much preferred leaning upon the arm of her husband, and, in conversation with him, gazing upon the wild sublimities with which they were surrounded. This must have been to Josephine, independently of those inward anxieties which weighed so heavily upon her heart, as delightful a journey as a mortal can enjoy. All Europe was bowing in homage before her illustrious husband. He was in the possession of power such as the proudest of the Caesars might have envied. Illuminations, and triumphal arches, and enthusiastic acclamations met them every step of their way. Josephine was in the possession of every possible acquisition earth could give to make her happy, save only one—her husband was not a father. But Josephine forgot her solicitudes in the exultant hours when her husband, from the pinnacles of the Alps, pointed out to her the glories of sunny Italy—the scenes of past perils, and conflict, and renown—the fields in which he had led the armies of France to the most brilliant victories. Napoleon was in fine spirits, and in these gilded hours he looked lovingly upon her, and they both were truly happy. It is difficult for the imagination to conceive any thing more attractive for a warm-hearted and an enthusiastic woman than to pass over these most sublime of the barriers of nature, with Napoleon for a guide and a confiding friend. Pope Pius VII., who had formed a very strong friendship for Josephine, accompanied them as far as Turin. When parting, the empress made him a present of a beautiful vase of Sevres china, embellished with exquisite paintings of the coronation.
From Turin Napoleon took Josephine to the field of Marengo. He had assembled upon that great battle plain, which his victory has immortalized, thirty thousand troops, that Josephine might behold, in the mimicry of war, the dreadful scenes which had deluged those fields in blood. It was the fifth of May, and a bright Italian sun shone down upon the magnificent pageant. A vast elevation was constructed in the middle of the plain, from which, seated upon a lofty throne, the emperor and empress overlooked the whole field. Napoleon decorated himself upon the occasion with the same war-worn garments—the battered hat, the tempest-torn cloak, the coat of faded blue, and the long cavalry saber which he had worn amid the carnage and the terror of that awful day. Many of the veterans who had been engaged in the action were present. Napoleon and Josephine came upon the ground in a magnificent chariot, drawn by eight horses. The moment he appeared upon the plain, one general shout of acclamation from thirty thousand adoring voices rent the sky. After the mimic battle was ended, the soldiers defiled before the emperor and empress, while he conferred, upon those who had signalized themselves in the day of Marengo, the decorations of the Legion of Honor. The gorgeous uniform of the men, the rich caparisons and proud bearing of the horses, the clangor of innumerable trumpets and martial bands, the glitter of gold and steel, the deafening thunders of artillery and musketry, filling the air with one incessant and terrific war; the dense volumes of sulphurous smoke rolling heavily over the plain, shutting out the rays of an unclouded sun, all combined to produce an effect upon the spectators never to be effaced.
On the eighth of May, 1805, they made their triumphal entry into the city of Milan. While the whole city was absorbed in those fetes and rejoicings which preceded the coronation, the inexhaustible mind of Napoleon was occupied in planning those splendid public buildings and those magnificent improvements which still commemorate the almost superhuman energy of his reign. The iron crown of Charlemagne, which for a thousand years had pressed no brow, was brought forth from its mausoleum to add the attraction of deep poetic sentiment to the coronation. The ceremony took place on the twenty-sixth of May, in the Cathedral of Milan. The coronation was conducted with magnificence not even surpassed by the ceremony in Notre Dame. The empress first made her appearance, most gorgeously dressed, and glittering with diamonds. She was personally loved by the Milanese, and was greeted with the most enthusiastic acclamations. A moment after, the emperor himself entered, by another door. He was arrayed in imperial robes of velvet, purple, and gold, with the diadem upon his brow, and the iron crown and scepter of Charlemagne in his hands. Napoleon, as in the coronation at Paris, refused to receive the crown from the hands of another, but placed it himself upon his head, repeating aloud the historical words, "God has given it to me; woe to him who touches it." Josephine then knelt upon an altar at his feet, and was again crowned by her husband.
Josephine remained with the emperor in Milan for nearly a month. He was busy night and day in commencing improvements of the most majestic character. The Italians still look back to the reign of Napoleon as the brightest period in their history. The gay Milanese surrendered themselves, during his stay, to one continued scene of festivity. One day Josephine and Napoleon had broken away from courtiers and palaces, and all the pageantry of state, and had retreated for a few hours to the retirement and solitude of a beautiful little island in one of the lakes in that vicinity. They entered the cabin of a poor woman. She had no idea of the illustrious character of her guests, and, in answer to their kind inquiries, opened to them the story of her penury, her toils, and her anxiety to bring up her three children, as the father often could obtain no work. "Now how much money, my good woman," inquired Napoleon, "would you like to have to make you perfectly happy?" "Ah! sir," she replied, "a great deal of money I should want." "But how much should you desire if you could have your wish." "Oh, sir, I should want as much as twenty louis (about eighty dollars); but what prospect is there of our ever having twenty louis?" The emperor poured into her lap three thousand francs (about six hundred dollars) in glittering gold. For a few moments she was speechless in bewilderment; at length, trembling with emotion, she said, "Ah! sir—ah! madam, this is a great deal too much. And yet you do not look as if you could sport with the feelings of a poor woman." "No!" Josephine replied, in the most gentle accents. "The money is all yours. With it you can now rent a piece of ground, purchase a flock of goats, and I hope you will be able to bring up your children comfortably."
From Milan the emperor and empress continued their tour to Genoa. The restless mind of Napoleon was weary even of the swiftest speed of the horses, and though they drove from post to post with the utmost possible rapidity, so that it was necessary continually to throw water upon the glowing axle, he kept calling from his carriage, "On! on! we do not go fast enough." Their reception at Genoa was unequaled by any thing they had before witnessed. In the beautiful bay a floating garden of orange-trees and rare plants and shrubbery was constructed in honor of Josephine. In the principal church of "Genoa the Superb," the emperor and empress received the allegiance of the most prominent inhabitants. The fetes on this occasion almost surpassed the creations of fancy. The senses were bewildered by the fairy illusions thrown around the gorgeous spectacle. The city, with all its picturesque beauty of embattled forts and craggy shores—the serenity and brilliance of Italian skies in May—the blue expanse of the Mediterranean—the marble palaces and glittering domes which embellished the streets—the lovely bay whitened with sails—all combined to invest the gorgeous spectacle with attractions such as are rarely witnessed. From Genoa they proceeded to Paris, every where accompanied by the thunders of artillery and the blaze of illuminations.
Josephine was not unfrequently under the necessity of taking journeys unaccompanied by the emperor. On such occasions the tireless mind of Napoleon arranged every particular with the utmost precision. A manuscript was placed in her hand, describing the route she was to take, the places at which she was to stop, the addresses or replies she was to make to public functionaries, the expenses she was to incur, and even the presents she was to make. On such excursions, Josephine every morning most carefully studied her lesson for the day. She took great pleasure in obeying his directions exactly, exposing herself to great inconveniences rather than to allow herself to deviate in the slightest particular from the written directions. She was ever unwilling to listen to any suggestions for change. A very interesting illustration of her scrupulous adherence to manuscript instructions occurred in her journey to Liege.
Napoleon, in the directions given to Josephine, had marked out her route by a road through the forest of Ardennes. Napoleon had ordered that road to be constructed, and supposed that it was completed. It was, however, only partially made, and it was considered quite unsafe to attempt to pass over it with carriages. She inquired if it were possible to pass. Being told that it was possible, perhaps, but that the attempt would be attended with great difficulty and danger, she replied, "Very well, then; we will at least try." Some of the ladies accompanying her entreated her to take another route. "No," she replied; "Napoleon has requested me to take this road, and his wishes are my law." Josephine persevered in the attempt, and accomplished the passage through, though with very great difficulty. In many places the workmen on the road had to support the carriages with ropes and poles to prevent an overturn. It rained during much of the journey. Josephine and her ladies were often compelled to alight, and to walk for some distance nearly ankle deep in mud and water. Josephine endured all with the utmost good nature. She was cheered by the assurance that she was following the wishes of her husband. Many of her attendants, however, were excessively annoyed by the hardships they encountered. The carriage of the first femme-de-chambre was actually overturned, and the irritated serving-woman could not restrain her expressions of impatience and displeasure. At last one of the distinguished ladies of the court took it upon herself to lecture the empress so roundly for her blind subservience to the directions of Napoleon, that Josephine burst into tears.
Josephine, by conversation, observation, and reading, was continually storing her mind with valuable information. In the various journeys she took, she was always accompanied by persons of intelligence, and who were well acquainted with the country. While traveling, she directed her conversation almost exclusively upon the scenes through which they were passing. Every thing of interest was carefully treasured up in her memory, and if she learned any incident connected with the past fortunes of any of the families of the ladies who were with her, she never failed to send a special messenger with the information, and to point out the places where such incidents occurred. She seemed thus to be continually studying for opportunities of manifesting kind and delicate attentions to the ladies of her household. She thus secured a universality and a fervor of affection such as has rarely been attained. On these pleasure excursions, the restraints of the court were laid aside, and there were all the joyous commingling and affectionate familiarity which prevail among intimate friends.
Napoleon, aware of the vast influence which the pomp of regal state exerts upon the human mind, was very particular in his court in the observance of all the etiquette of royalty. Josephine, however, was always disposed to escape from the exactions of the code ceremonial whenever she could do so with propriety. A curious instance of this occurred at Aix la Chapelle, where the empress was passing a few days for the benefit of the baths. One evening she was sitting, with her ladies around her, weary of the lassitude of a fashionable watering-place, when some one suggested that, to while away an hour, they should visit a celebrated model of Paris, which was then on exhibition. The chevalier of honor was about to order the imperial carriages and the cortege, when Josephine, to his utter consternation, proposed that they should go on foot. She was sure, she said, that the citizens of Aix la Chapelle were so kindly disposed toward her, that there could be no possible danger. The chevalier, as far as he dared to do, urged his remonstrances against such a breach of imperial decorum; but the ladies of the court were all delighted with the plan of Josephine, and they set out on foot, a brilliant party of ladies and gentlemen, to visit the exhibition. As the citizens, of course, knew nothing about this unexpected movement, there was no crowd in the streets to impede their way, and they proceeded without any difficulty, and very pleasantly, to the place of their destination. But the intelligence of the adventure of the court, so novel and so unprecedented, was immediately noised throughout the town. From every section of the city, throngs, allured by curiosity and love for Josephine, began to pour into the streets through which they were to pass to see them return. The citizens occupying the dwellings and the shops which lined the streets, instantly, and as if by magic, illuminated their windows. A thousand hands were busy in the eager and love-incited toil. The party spent an hour examining the beautiful model of the metropolis, and then emerged again into the street. To their surprise, and not a little to their consternation, they found their path blazing with illuminations. Their whole route was filled with a dense throng of men, women, and children, all eager to catch a glimpse of their beloved empress, and of the brilliant suite which accompanied her.
The ladies recoiled from attempting the passage on foot through such a crowd, and proposed sending for the carriages and escort. Josephine, apprehensive that some accident might occur in attempting to drive the horses through such a dense mass of people, would not listen to the suggestion. "Were any one to be injured," she said, "of these friends whom our imprudence has assembled, I never could forgive myself." Taking the arm of the chevalier, she led the way through the crowd. The ladies all followed, each supported by the arm of some nobleman of the court. The populace respectfully opened before them, and closed up behind. The plumes, and diamonds, and gay attire of the court shone brilliantly in the blaze of light which was shed upon them from the illuminated windows. The enthusiastic acclamations of the populace greeted the empress until she arrived, in perfect safety, at her residence. As soon as she entered her saloon, with her accustomed frankness she thanked the chevalier for the advice which he had given, and confessed that, in not following it, she had been guilty of imprudence, which might have been attended by very serious consequences.
When traveling unaccompanied by the emperor, she was fond of breakfasting in the open air, upon some green lawn, beneath the shade of venerable trees, or upon some eminence, where her eye could feast upon the sublimities of Nature, which are so attractive to every ennobled mind. The peasantry, from a respectful distance, would look upon the dazzling spectacle perfectly bewildered and awe-stricken. The service of silver and of gold, the luxurious viands, the gorgeous display of graceful female attire, and uniforms and liveries, all combined to invest the scene, in their eyes, with a splendor almost more than earthly.
On one occasion, a mother's love and pride triumphed over even her scrupulous obedience to the wishes of Napoleon. Napoleon and Josephine, accompanied by Eugene and a very magnificent retinue, were at Mayence. There was to be a grand presentation of the German princes to the emperor and empress. Eugene, the son of the empress, according to the laws of court etiquette, should have been included with Napoleon and Josephine in the presentation. By some oversight, his name was omitted. As Josephine glanced her eye over the programme, she noticed the omission, and pointed it out to Napoleon. As the arrangements had all been made by him, he was not a little piqued in finding himself at fault as to a point of etiquette, and insisted upon following the programme. Josephine, ever ready to make any personal sacrifice to meet the wishes of Napoleon, could not be induced to sacrifice the sensitive feelings of her son. "I had no desire," she said, "for the honors of coronation; but, since I have been crowned, my son must be treated as the son of an empress." Napoleon yielded, not, however, with very good grace.
Two of the princesses of Baden, on this occasion, accompanied Josephine to the opera. The evening air was chilly, and the empress, observing that they were very thinly clad, spread over the shoulders of each of them one of her rich white Cashmere shawls. These shawls were of the most costly texture, and had been purchased at an expense of several thousand dollars. The next morning the elder of the princesses sent a note, full of complimentary terms, to Josephine, expressing their infinite obligation for her kindness, and stating that they would keep the shawls in remembrance of one they so greatly admired.
On these journeys Napoleon was full of pleasantry, and very agreeable. Josephine often spoke of this excursion to Mayence in particular as the most delightful that she had ever made with the emperor. They were met at every step on their route with the most enthusiastic testimonials of a nation's love and gratitude. And Napoleon had at this time conferred benefits upon France which richly entitled him to all this homage. In subsequent years, when intoxicated by the almost boundless empire he had obtained, and when, at a still later period, he was struggling, with the energies of despair, against Europe, in arms to crush him, he resorted to acts which very considerably impaired his good name. Josephine, in her journal during this journey, speaks of the common, but erroneous impression, that Napoleon could work constantly and habitually with very few hours devoted to sleep. She says that this was an erroneous impression. If the emperor rose at a very early hour in the morning, he would frequently retire at nine o'clock in the evening. And when, on extraordinary occasions, he passed many nights together in almost sleepless activity, he had the faculty of catching short naps at intervals in his carriage, and even on horseback. After many days and nights of preparation for some great conflict, he has been known even to fall asleep upon the field of battle, in the midst of all the horrors of the sanguinary scene. At the battle of Bautzen, for instance, Napoleon was extremely fatigued by the exertions and sleeplessness of the two preceding days and nights. He fell asleep several times when seated on an eminence, overlooking the field of battle, and which was frequently reached by the cannon balls of the enemy. Napoleon, at St. Helena, when alluding to this fact, said that Nature had her rights, which could not be violated with impunity; and that he felt better prepared to issue fresh orders, or to consider the reports which were brought, when awaking from these momentary slumbers. Though Napoleon could not set at defiance the established workings of our mental and physical nature, words can hardly convey an adequate idea of the indefatigable activity of his mind, or of his extraordinary powers of enduring mental and bodily fatigue. Few have ever understood better the art of concentrating the attention upon one thing at a time. Often, on his campaigns, after reading the dispatches, and dictating orders to one set of secretaries during the whole day, he would throw himself, for an hour, upon his sofa, instantly fall into the soundest sleep, and then, summoning to his presence a new relay of secretaries, would keep them incessantly occupied till morning. To keep himself awake on such occasions, he resorted to strong coffee. It was only under the pressure of great necessity that he thus overtasked his Herculean powers.
Occasionally, when Napoleon was absent on his campaigns, Josephine would retire to Malmaison, and become deeply interested in rural occupations. She had a large and very fine flock of merino sheep, and she took great pleasure in superintending their culture. A detachment of the imperial guard was, on such occasions, appointed to do duty at Malmaison. One evening the empress, sitting up till a later hour than usual, heard the sound of footsteps passing to and fro beneath her window. She sent for the officer of the guard, and inquired what it meant. He informed her that it was the sentry, who was appointed to keep watch beneath her window all night. "Sir," she replied, "I have no need of a night-guard. These brave soldiers have enough to suffer from the hardships of war when they are under the necessity of going to the field of battle. In my service they must have repose. I wish them here to have no sleepless nights."
It is said that rather a ludicrous occurrence took place in one of the cities of the Rhine, in reference to a visit which the emperor and empress were about to make to that place. One of the distinguished ladies of the city, who was anticipating the honor of a presentation, wrote to obtain from the master of the ceremonies instructions respecting the etiquette to be observed. The answer contained very minute directions, and was couched in terms which conveyed a deep impression of their importance. Among other things, it was stated that three courtesies were to be made; one immediately upon entering the saloon, one in the middle of the room, and a third, en pirouette, when having arrived within a few paces of the emperor and empress. The familiar signification of en pirouette is whirling the body around rapidly upon the toes of one foot, the other foot being rather indecorously raised. The ladies assembled to study these instructions; and though some of the young, the beautiful, and the graceful were not unwilling thus to display their lightness of limb, there were others who read en pirouette with consternation. The vast importance which Napoleon attached to every form of etiquette was well known. There was no alternative; the fat and the lean, the tall and the short, the graceful and the awkward, all were to approach their majesties en pirouette, or to lose the honor of a presentation. "We have a fortnight for practice," said one of the ladies; "let us prepare ourselves." For fifteen days all the drawing-rooms of Cologne seemed to be filled with dancing dervishes. Venerable dowagers were twirling like opera girls, and not unfrequently measuring their portly length upon the carpet. En pirouette was the theme of every tongue, and the scene, morning, noon, and evening, in every ambitious saloon.
On the evening of the arrival of the emperor and empress, the same lady who had written the letter for instructions called upon one of the ladies of the court for still more precise directions. She then learned that, in court phrase, en pirouette simply indicated a slight inclination of the body toward their majesties, accompanying the courtesy. The intelligence was immediately disseminated through Cologne, to the great relief of some, and, probably, not a little to the disappointment of others. Josephine was exceedingly amused at the recital of this misunderstanding.
Josephine was often accused of extravagance. Her expenditures were undoubtedly very great. She attached no value to money but as a means of promoting happiness. She was, perhaps, too easily persuaded to purchase of those who were ever urging upon her the most costly articles, and appealing powerfully to her sympathies to induce her to buy. It was difficult for Josephine to turn a deaf ear to a tale of distress. Napoleon was ever ready to spend millions upon millions in great public improvements, but he was not willing to have any money wasted. Josephine gave away most liberally in charity, and the emperor, at times, complained a little of the large sums which escaped through her hands. In replying once to a friend, who told her that she was deemed extravagant, she said, "When I have money, you know how I employ it. I give it principally to the unfortunate, who solicit my assistance, and to the poor emigrants. But I will try to be more economical in future. Tell the emperor so if you see him again. But is it not my duty to bestow as much charity as I can?"
On one occasion Napoleon was much displeased by hearing that Josephine had suffered General Lorges, the commandant at Aix la Chapelle, a young and handsome man, to be guilty of the indiscretion of sitting upon the same sofa with the empress. He reproached her with much severity for permitting such indecorum. Josephine explained the circumstances. Instead of its being General Lorges who had thus violated the rules of courtly propriety, it was one of the aged and veteran generals of Napoleon's army, who, inured to the hardships of the camp, was entirely unacquainted with the politeness of courts. He had been presented to Josephine, and, without any consciousness of the impropriety of which he was guilty, immediately seated himself upon the same sofa with the empress. Josephine was unwilling to wound the feelings of the honest-hearted old soldier, and permitted him to retain his seat until he withdrew. Napoleon was perfectly satisfied with the explanation, and, upon receiving it, manifested renewed indications of the affection and esteem with which he regarded the empress.
About this time Josephine was informed of the contemplated alliance between Eugene and the Princess-royal of Bavaria. She was soon summoned to Munich to attend their nuptials, and there again was united to those she so dearly loved. The bride of Eugene was in every respect worthy of him, and Josephine rejoiced over the happiness of her son. The victorious emperor and empress then returned to Paris, accompanied by a crowd of princes from the various courts of Germany. Josephine was now upon the very summit of earthly grandeur. Europe lay prostrate at the feet of her husband. Hortense was Queen of Holland. Eugene was Viceroy of Italy, and son-in-law to the King of Bavaria. Napoleon, fixing his affections upon the eldest child of Hortense, appeared to have relinquished the plan of the divorce, and to have contemplated the recognition of this child—the brother of Louis Napoleon, now President of the French Republic—as the heir of his crown. The embarrassment which had at times accompanied their interviews had consequently passed away. Napoleon was proud of Josephine, and often said that there was no woman in the world to be compared with her. The empress was happy. All France was filled with stories of her active benevolence and her sympathy with the sorrowful. Wherever she made her appearance, she was greeted with the acclamations of the most enthusiastic attachment.
Of the many tours which Josephine took with Napoleon, she frequently kept a journal, noting down the events of interest which occurred. The fragments of these journals, which have appeared before the public, beautifully exhibit the literary taste and the benevolence of heart of the empress. The following is an extract:
"About two leagues from Bayonne the emperor was presented with a spectacle worthy of him. On the declivity of a mountain, gently scooped out in different parts of its descent, is pitched one of those camps which the foresight of the country has provided for its defenders. It is composed of seven handsome barracks, different in form and aspect, each isolated, surrounded with an orchard in full bearing, a well-stocked poultry-yard, and, at different distances, a greater or less quantity of arable land, where a diversity of soil yields a variety of produce. One side of the mountain is wild, but picturesque, with rocks and plants. The other seems covered with rich tapestry, so varied and numerous are the plots of highly-cultivated ground. The summit is clothed with an ever-verdant forest. Down the center, in a deep channel, flows a limpid stream, refreshing and fertilizing the whole scene. On this spot, the veterans who occupy it gave a fete to the emperor which was at once military and rural. The wives, daughters, and little children of these brave men formed the most pleasing, as they were themselves the noblest ornament of the festival. Amid piles of arms were seen beautiful shrubs covered with flowers, while the echoes of the mountain resounded to the bleating of flocks and the warlike strains of a soldiery intoxicated on thus receiving their chief. The emperor raised this enthusiasm to the highest pitch by sitting down at a table at once quite military and perfectly pastoral. I dare not mention the attentions of which I was the object. They affected me deeply. I regarded them as proofs of that veneration which France has vowed to the emperor."
The infamous Ferdinand of Spain, who was then claiming the throne, in a disgraceful quarrel with his equally infamous father, sent an embassador to Bayonne to meet the emperor. Ferdinand, with the utmost servility, was courting the support of Napoleon. The embassador possessed, some leagues from Bayonne, an extensive farm, on which were bred numerous flocks of merinoes. "Thither," writes Josephine, "under a plausible pretext, we were conducted to-day. After a feast of really rustic magnificence, we made the tour of the possession on foot. At the bottom of a verdant dell, surrounded on all sides by rocks, covered with moss and flowers, all of a sudden a picturesque cot appeared, lightly suspended on a projecting point of rock. Around it were feeding seven or eight hundred sheep of the most beautiful breed. We could not restrain a cry of admiration. Upon the emperor addressing some compliments to the embassador, he declared that these flocks belonged to me. 'The king, my master,' he added, 'knows the empress's taste for rural occupations, and as this species of sheep is little known in France, and will constitute the principal ornament, and, consequently, wealth of a farm, he entreats her not to deprive herself of an offering at once so useful and so agreeable.' 'Don Pedro,' replied the emperor, with a tone of severity, 'the empress can not accept a present save from the hand of a king, and your master is not yet one. Wait, before making your offering, till your own nation and I have decided.'"
The ordinary routine of life with her, as empress, was as follows. Constant, the valet de chambre of Napoleon, gives the following account of the commencement of the day. "I had a regular order to enter the emperor's apartment at seven o'clock. When the empress passed the night there, it was a very unusual occurrence not to find the august spouses awake. The emperor commonly asked for tea or an infusion of orange-flowers, and rose immediately after. In the course of a few minutes the empress rose also, and, putting on a loose morning-gown, either read the journals while the emperor dressed, or retired by a private access to her own apartments, but never without addressing some kind and condescending words to myself."
Josephine invariably commenced her morning toilet at nine o'clock. This occupied an hour, and then she passed into a saloon where she received those who had obtained the favor of a morning presentation. A great many petitions were presented her on such occasions, and, with unvarying kindness, she manifested great firmness in rejecting those which appeared unworthy of her support. These audiences occupied an hour, and then she met, at eleven o'clock, the most distinguished ladies of the court at the breakfast-table. Napoleon, entirely engrossed by those majestic plans he was ever conceiving and executing, usually breakfasted alone in his cabinet, very hastily, not allowing more than seven or eight minutes to be occupied by the meal. After breakfast, Josephine, with her ladies, took a short walk, if the weather was fair, or for half an hour played a game of billiards. The remainder of the morning, until three o'clock, she passed in her apartment, with her chosen female friends, reading, conversing, and embroidering. Josephine herself was an admirable reader, and the book they were perusing was passed alternately from hand to hand. No works were read but those of real value. By common consent, all novels were banished from the circle, as Napoleon inveterately abominated every work of that kind. If he happened to find a novel in the hands of any of the attendants of the palace, he unhesitatingly tossed it into the fire, and roundly lectured the reader upon her waste of time. If Josephine had been a novel reader, she never could have acquired that mental energy which enabled her to fill with dignity and with honor every position she was called to occupy.
Occasionally Napoleon would leave his cabinet and enter the apartment of the empress where the ladies were reading. His presence was ever cordially greeted, and, with great sociability, he would for a few moments converse with his friends, and then return to his work. Not unfrequently the emperor wished to confer with Josephine upon some subject of moment. A gentle tap from his hand at the door of private communication announced to the empress the summons, which she ever most joyfully obeyed. Occasionally these interviews were protracted for several hours, for the emperor had learned to repose great confidence in many matters upon the sound judgment of Josephine.
At three o'clock the carriages were at the door, and Josephine, with her ladies, rode out. It was very seldom that Napoleon could find time to accompany them. On returning from the drive, she dressed for dinner. Napoleon attached much importance to this grand toilet, for he was fully aware of the influence of costume upon the public mind, and was very fond of seeing Josephine dressed with elegance and taste. It is reported that he not unfrequently recreated himself by entering her boudoir on such occasions, and suggesting the robe or the jewelry he would like to have her wear. Her waiting-women were not a little embarrassed by the manner in which his unskillful hands would throw about the precious contents of the caskets, and the confusion into which he would toss all the nameless articles of a lady's wardrobe.
Dinner was appointed at six o'clock. It was, however, served when Napoleon was ready to receive it. Not unfrequently, when much engrossed with business, he would postpone the hour until nine, and even ten o'clock. The cook, during all this time, would be preparing fresh viands, that a hot dinner might be ready at a moment's warning. A chicken, for instance, was put upon the spit every fifteen minutes. Napoleon and Josephine always dined together, sometimes alone, more frequently with a few invited guests. There was a grand master of ceremonies, who, on all such occasions, informed the grand marshal of the necessary arrangements, and of the seat each guest was to occupy.
Occasionally the emperor and empress dined in state. Rich drapery canopied the table, which was placed upon a platform, slightly elevated, with two arm-chairs of gorgeous workmanship, one for Napoleon, and the other, upon his left, for Josephine. Other tables were placed upon the floor of the same room for illustrious guests. The grand marshal announced to the emperor when the preparations for them to enter the room was completed. A gorgeous procession of pages, marshals, equeries, and chamberlains accompanied the emperor and empress into the hall. Pages and stewards performed the subordinate parts of the service at the table, in bringing and removing dishes, while noblemen of the highest rank felt honored in ministering to the immediate wants of their majesties. Those who sat at the surrounding tables were served by servants in livery.
Josephine passed the evening in her apartment almost invariably with a party either of invited guests, or of distinguished ministers and officers of the empire, who, having called on business, were awaiting the pleasure of Napoleon. There were frequent receptions and levees, which filled the saloons of the palace with a brilliant throng. At midnight all company retired, and the palace was still. Josephine loved the silence of these midnight hours, when the turmoil of the day had passed, and no sounds fell upon her ear but the footfalls of the sentinel in the court-yard below. She often sat for an hour alone, surrendering herself to the luxury of solitude and of undisturbed thought.
Such was the general routine of the life of Josephine while empress. She passed from one to another of the various royal residences, equally at home in all. At the Tuilleries, St. Cloud, Versailles, Rambouillet, and Fontainebleau, life was essentially the same. Occasionally, at the rural palaces, hunting parties were formed for the entertainment of distinguished guests from abroad. Napoleon himself took but little personal interest in sports of this kind. On such occasions, the empress, with her ladies, usually rode in an open caleche, and a pic-nic was provided, to be spread on the green turf, beneath the boughs of the forest. Once a terrified, panting stag, exhausted with the long chase, when the hounds in full bay were just ready to spring upon him, by a strange instinct sought a retreat beneath the carriage in which the gentle heart of Josephine was throbbing. The appeal was not in vain. Josephine plead for the life of the meek-eyed, trembling suppliant. To mark it as her favorite, and as living under the shield of her protection, she had a silver collar put around its neck. The stag now roamed its native glades unharmed. No dog was permitted to molest it, and no sportsman would injure a protege of Josephine. Her love was its talisman.
The following letter, which at this time she wrote to Caroline, the sister of Napoleon, who had married Murat, will show the principles, in the exercise of which Josephine won to herself the love of all hearts.
"Our glory, the glory of woman, lies in submission; and if it be permitted us to reign, our empire rests on gentleness and goodness. Your husband, already so great in the opinion of the world through his valor and exploits, feels as if he beheld all his laurels brought to the dust on appearing in your presence. You take a pride in humbling him before your pretensions; and the title of being the sister of a hero is, with you, reason for believing yourself a heroine. Believe me, my sister, that character, with the qualities which it supposes, becomes us not. Let us rejoice moderately in the glory of our husbands, and find our glory in softening their manners, and leading the world to pardon their deeds. Let us merit this praise, that the nation, while it applauds the bravery of our husbands, may also commend the gentleness bestowed by Providence on their wives to temper their bravery."
The palace ever seemed desolate when Napoleon was absent, and Josephine was always solicitous to accompany him upon his tours. Napoleon loved to gratify this wish, for he prized most highly the companionship of his only confidential friend. Upon one occasion, when he had promised to take the empress with him, circumstances arose demanding special speed, and he resolved to set out secretly without her. He ordered his carriage at one o'clock in the morning—an hour in which he supposed she would be most soundly asleep. To his amazement, just as he had stepped into his carriage, Josephine, in all the dishabille of her night-dress, with some slight drapery thrown over her person, and without even stockings upon her feet, threw herself into his arms. Some noise had at the moment awoke her, she caught an intimation of what was going on, and, without a moment's thought, sprang from her bed, threw over her a cloak, rushed down stairs, and burst into the carriage. Napoleon fondly embraced her, rolled her up warmly in his own capacious traveling pelisse, gave orders for suitable attendants to follow with the wardrobe of the empress, and the horses, with lightning speed, darted from the court-yard. "I could sooner," Napoleon would jocosely say, "transport the whole artillery of a division of my grand army, than the bandboxes of Josephine's waiting-women."
The visit which Josephine made with Napoleon to Spain gave her such an insight into the Spanish character, that she looked with much alarm upon his endeavor to place one of his brothers upon the Spanish throne. "Napoleon," said she one day to her ladies, "is persuaded that he is to subjugate all the nations of the earth. He cherishes such a confidence in his star, that should he be abandoned to-morrow by family and allies, a wanderer, and proscribed, he would support life, convinced that he should triumph over all obstacles, and accomplish his destiny by realizing his mighty designs. Happily, we shall never have an opportunity of ascertaining whether I am right. But of this you may rest assured, Napoleon is more courageous morally than physically. I know him better than any one else does. He believes himself predestinated, and would support reverses with as much calmness as he manifests when confronting danger on the field of battle."
Little did Josephine imagine, when uttering these sentiments, that her proud husband, before whose name the world seemed to tremble, was to die in poverty and imprisonment on the most barren island of the ocean.
The astounding energy of Napoleon was conspicuously displayed about this time in his Spanish campaign. He had placed Joseph upon the throne of Spain, and had filled the Peninsula with his armies. The Spaniards had every where risen against him, and, guided by English councils, and inspirited by the tremendous energy of English arms, they had driven Joseph from his capital, had massacred, by the rage of the mob, thousands of French residents who were dwelling in the Spanish cities, and were rapidly driving the French army over the Pyrenees. Napoleon had but just returned from the treaty of Tilsit when he was informed of this discouraging state of affairs.
He immediately, without a moment allowed for repose, set out for Spain. Josephine earnestly entreated permission to accompany the emperor. She assured him that she was fully aware of the difficulties, fatigue, and peril she must encounter, but that most cheerfully could she bear them all for the sake of being with him. She said that she should neither feel hunger nor cold, nor the need of repose, if she could but be by the side of her husband, and that all the privations of the camp would be happiness when shared with one who was all the world to her. Napoleon was deeply moved by this exhibition of her love, but, aware of the incessant activity with which it would be necessary for him to drive by night and by day, he firmly but kindly denied her request. Josephine wept bitterly as they parted.
One morning, early in November, 1808, the glittering cavalcade of the emperor, at the full gallop, drove into the encampment of the retreating French at Vittoria. The arrival of an angel, commissioned from heaven to their aid, could not have inspired the soldiers with more enthusiasm. The heavens rang with the shouts of the mighty host, as they greeted their monarch with cries of "Vive l'Empereur!" Not one moment was lost. Napoleon placed himself at the head of his concentrated army, and turning them, now inspirited with the utmost confidence, against the foes before whom they had been retreating, with the resistlessness of an avalanche overwhelmed the Spanish forces. Wherever he appeared, resistance melted away before him. In the pride of achievements almost miraculous, he marched into Madrid, and there, in the capital of Spain, re-established his fallen throne. But he tarried not there an hour for indulgence or repose. The solid columns of the English army, under Sir John Moore, were still in Spain. Napoleon urged his collected forces, with all the energy which hatred could inspire, upon his English foes, and the Britons, mangled and bleeding, were driven into their ships. The conqueror, feeling that he was indeed the man of destiny, looked for a moment complacently upon Spain, again in subjection at his feet, and then, with the speed of the whirlwind, returned to Josephine at St. Cloud, having been absent but little more than two months.
In the mean time, while Napoleon was far away with his army, upon the other side of the Pyrenees, Russia, Sweden, and Austria thought it a favorable moment to attack him in his rear. They brought no accusations against the emperor, they issued no proclamation of war, but secretly and treacherously conspired to march, with all the strength of their collected armies, upon the unsuspecting emperor. It was an alliance of the kings of Europe against Napoleon, because he sat upon the throne, not by hereditary descent, the only recognized divine right, but by the popular vote. The indignation of the emperor, and of every patriotic Frenchman, had been roused by the totally unjustifiable, but bold and honest avowal of England, that peace could only be obtained by the wresting of the crown from the brow of Napoleon, and replacing it upon the head of the rejected Bourbon.
The emperor had been at St. Cloud but a short time, when, early one spring morning, a courier came dashing into the court-yard of the palace at his utmost speed, bringing the intelligence to Napoleon that Austria had treacherously violated the treaty of peace, and, in alliance with Russia, Sweden, and England, was marching her armies to invade the territory of France. The emperor, his eye flashing with indignation, hastily proceeded to the apartment of the empress with the papers communicating the intelligence in his hand. Josephine was asleep, having but just retired. He approached her bed, and, awaking her from sound slumber, requested her to be ready in two hours to accompany him to Germany. "You have played the part of an empress," said he, playfully, "long enough. You must now become again the wife of a general. I leave immediately. Will you accompany me to Strasburg?" This was short notice, but, with the utmost alacrity, she obeyed the joyful summons.
She was so accustomed to the sudden movements of the emperor that she was not often taken by surprise. Promptness was one of the most conspicuous of her manifold virtues. "I have never," she has been heard to say, "kept any one waiting for me half a minute, when to be punctual depended upon myself. Punctuality is true politeness, especially in the great."
The emperor was in glowing spirits. He had no doubt that he should be entirely victorious, and Josephine was made truly happy by that suavity and those kind attentions which he in this journey so signally displayed. Their route conducted them through some of the most beautiful and fertile valleys of France. Every where around them they saw the indications of prosperity and happiness. Napoleon was in the height of glory. The most enthusiastic acclamations of love and homage greeted the emperor and empress wherever the panting steeds which drew them rested for a moment. As they stopped for a new relay of horses in one of the little villages of Lorraine, Josephine beheld a peasant woman kneeling upon the steps of the village church, with her countenance bathed in tears. The aspect of grief ever touched the kind heart of the empress. She sent for the poor woman, and inquired into the cause of her grief.
"My poor grandson, Joseph," said she, "is included in the conscription, and, notwithstanding all my prayers, he must become a soldier. And more than this, his sister Julie was to have been married to Michael, a neighbor's son, and now he refuses to marry her because Joseph is in the conscription. And should my son purchase a substitute for poor Joseph, it would take all his money, and he would have no dowry to give Julie. And her dowry was to have been a hundred and twenty dollars."
"Take that," said the emperor, presenting the woman with a purse. "You will find enough who will be ready to supply Joseph's place for that amount. I want soldiers, and, for that purpose, must encourage marriages." Josephine was so much interested in the adventure, that, as soon as she arrived at Strasburg, she sent a valuable bridal present to Julie. The good woman's prayers were answered. From Strasburg Josephine returned to Paris, while Napoleon pressed on to encounter the combined armies of Austria and Russia in the renowned campaign of Wagram.
It was in 1805, some years before the events we have just described, that Napoleon, with his enthusiastic troops, embarked in the celebrated campaign of Ulm and Austerlitz. At Ulm he surrounded thirty thousand of his foes, and almost without a skirmish compelled them to lay down their arms. "Your master," said he to the Austrian generals, as, almost dying with mortification, they surrendered their swords, "your master wages against me an unjust war. I say it candidly, I know not for what I am fighting. I know not what he desires of me. He has wished to remind me that I was once a soldier. I trust he will find that I have not forgotten my original avocation. I will, however, give one piece of advice to my brother, the Emperor of Austria. Let him hasten to make peace. This is the moment to remember that there are limits to all empires, however powerful. The idea that the house of Lorraine may come to an end should inspire him with distrust of fortune. I want nothing on the Continent. I desire ships, colonies, and commerce. Their acquisition would be as advantageous to you as to me."
From Ulm, Napoleon, with two hundred thousand men, flushed with victory, rushed like a tempest down the valley of the Danube, driving the terrified Austrians before him like chaff swept by the whirlwind. Ten thousand bomb-shells were rained down upon the roofs of Vienna, till the dwellings and the streets were deluged with the blood of innocence, and then the gates were thrown open for the entrance of the conqueror. Alexander, the Emperor of all the Russias, was hastening down from the North, with his barbarian hordes, to aid the beleaguered city. Napoleon tarried not at Vienna. Fearlessly pushing on through the sleet and the hail of a Northern winter, he disappeared in the distance from the eyes of France. Austria, Sweden, Russia, were assembling their innumerable legions to crush him. He was far from home, in a hostile country. Rumors that his rashness had led to his ruin began to circulate throughout Europe.
Josephine was almost distracted with anxiety respecting her husband. She knew that a terrible battle was approaching, in which he was to encounter fearful odds. The most gloomy forebodings pervaded Paris and all France. Several days had passed, during which no intelligence whatever had been received from the distant army. Ominous whispers of defeat and ruin filled the air. The cold blasts of a December night were whistling around the towers of St. Cloud, as Josephine and a few of her friends were assembled in the saloon, anxiously awaiting tidings from Napoleon. It was no time for hilarity, and no one attempted even to promote festive enjoyment. The hour of nine o'clock had arrived, and yet no courier appeared. All hopes of any tidings on that day were relinquished. Suddenly the clatter of iron hoofs was heard as a single horseman galloped into the court-yard. Josephine almost fainted with emotion as she heard the feeble shout, "Victory—Austerlitz!" She rushed to the window and threw it open. The horse of the courier had fallen dead upon the pavement, and the exhausted rider, unable to stand, was half reclining by his side. In the intensity of her impatience, Josephine rushed down the stairs and into the court-yard, followed by all her ladies. The faithful messenger was brought to her in the arms of four men. He presented to the empress a blurred and blotted line, which the emperor had written amid the thunder and the smoke, the uproar and the carnage of the dreadful day of Austerlitz. As soon as Napoleon saw the field covered with the slain, and the routed armies of his foes flying in dismay before their triumphant pursuers, in the midst of all the horrors of that most horrible scene, he turned the energies of his impetuous mind from the hot pursuit to pen a line to his faithful Josephine, announcing the victory. The empress, with tears almost blinding her eyes, read the billet where she stood, by the light of a torch which an attendant had brought her. She immediately drew from her finger a valuable diamond ring, and presented it to the bearer of the joyful message. The messenger was Moustache the Mameluke, who had accompanied Napoleon from Egypt, and who was so celebrated for the devotion of his attachment to the emperor. He had ridden on horseback one hundred and fifty miles within twelve hours.
Napoleon was exceedingly sensitive to any apparent want of affection or attention on the part of Josephine. A remarkable occurrence, illustrative of this sensitiveness, took place on his return from his last Austrian campaign. When he arrived at Munich, where he was delayed for a short time, he dispatched a courier to Josephine, informing her that he would be at Fontainebleau on the evening of the twenty-seventh, and expressing a wish that the court should be assembled there to meet him. He, however, in his eagerness, pressed on with such unanticipated speed, that he arrived early in the morning of the twenty-sixth, thirty-six hours earlier than the time he had appointed. He had actually overtaken his courier, and entered with him the court-yard at Fontainebleau. Very unreasonably annoyed at finding no one there to receive him, he said to the exhausted courier, as he was dismounting from his horse, "You can rest to-morrow; gallop to St. Cloud, and announce my arrival to the empress." It was a distance of forty miles. Napoleon was very impatient all the day, and, in the evening, hearing a carriage enter the court-yard, he eagerly ran down, as was his invariable custom, to greet Josephine. To his great disappointment, the carriage contained only some of her ladies. "And where is the empress?" he exclaimed, in surprise. "We have preceded her by perhaps a quarter of an hour," they replied. The emperor was now in very ill humor. "A very happy arrangement," said he, sarcastically; and, turning upon his heel, he ascended to the little library, where he had been busily employed.
Soon Josephine arrived. Napoleon, hearing the carriage enter the court, coldly asked who had come. Being informed that it was the empress, he moved not from his seat, but went on very busily with his writing. The attendants were greatly surprised, for he never before had been known to omit meeting the empress at her carriage. Josephine, entirely unconscious of any fault, and delighted with the thought of again meeting her husband, and of surprising him in his cabinet, hastened up stairs and entered the room. Napoleon looked up coldly from his papers, and addressed her with the chilling salutation, "And so, madame, you have come at last! It is well. I was just about to set out for St. Cloud." Josephine burst into tears, and stood silently sobbing before him. Napoleon was conquered. His own conscience reproved him for his exceeding injustice. He rose from his seat, exclaiming, "Josephine, I am wrong; forgive me;" and, throwing his arms around her neck, embraced her most tenderly. The reconciliation was immediate and perfect, for the gentle spirit of Josephine could retain no resentment.
Napoleon had a very decided taste in reference to Josephine's style of dress, and her only ambition was to decorate her person in a manner which would be agreeable to him. On this occasion she retired very soon to dress for dinner. In about half an hour she reappeared, dressed with great elegance, in a robe of white satin, bordered with eider down, and with a wreath of blue flowers, entwined with silver ears of corn, adorning her hair. Napoleon rose to meet her, and gazed upon her with an expression of great fondness. Josephine said, with a smile, "You do not think that I have occupied too much time at my toilet?" Napoleon pointed playfully to the clock upon the mantel, which indicated the hour of half past seven, and, taking the hand of his wife, entered the dining-room.
Though Napoleon often displayed the weaknesses of our fallen nature, he at times exhibited the noblest traits of humanity. On one occasion, at Boulogne, he was informed of a young English sailor, a prisoner of war, who had escaped from his imprisonment in the interior of France, and had succeeded in reaching the coast near that town. He had secretly constructed, in an unfrequented spot, a little skiff, of the branches and bark of trees, in which fabric, almost as fragile as the ark of bulrushes, he was intending to float out upon the storm-swept channel, hoping to be picked up by some English cruiser and conveyed home. Napoleon was struck with admiration in view of the fearlessness of the project, and, sending for the young man, questioned him very minutely respecting the motives which could induce him to undertake so perilous an adventure. The emperor expressed some doubt whether he would really have ventured to encounter the dangers of the ocean in so frail a skiff. The young man entreated Napoleon to ascertain whether he was in earnest by granting him permission to carry his design into execution. "You must doubtless, then," said the emperor, "have some mistress to revisit, since you are so desirous to return to your country?" "No!" replied the sailor, "I wish to see my mother. She is aged and infirm." The heart of the emperor was touched. "You shall see her," he energetically and promptly replied. He immediately gave orders that the young man should be thoroughly furnished with all comforts, and sent in a cruiser, with a flag of truce, to the first British vessel which could be found. He also gave the young man a purse for his mother, saying, "She must be no common parent who can have trained up so affectionate and dutiful a son."