Story of Napoleon - H. E. Marshall

Napoleon in Spain

Besides fighting with Britain Napoleon tried to conquer our islands by ruining our trade. He forbade all the countries on the Continent to trade with Britain.

But in spite of Napoleon's orders Portugal went on trading with Britain. Now, soon after Napoleon returned from Tilsit he sent a message to the Prince Regent of Portugal, telling him that he must stop trading with Britain, must seize all British goods and property in Portugal, and declare war with Britain. If he did not do all this, Napoleon threatened that he would declare war with Portugal.

Portugal is only a little country, quite unable to stand against such a powerful conqueror as Napoleon. So the Prince Regent agreed to all that was asked, except the seizing of British goods. That he would not do. Then Napoleon prepared to fight.

France at this time had hardly any navy. Napoleon had not enough ships in which to send his troops by sea. To make war on Portugal he had to pass through Spain. So he now made a secret treaty with the King of Spain by which his troops were to be allowed to pass through that country. And when by the help of Spanish soldiers he had conquered Portugal, he promised to divide it with Spain.

The kingdom of Portugal was at this time ruled by a Regent. The Queen, Maria I., was mad, and her son, Prince John, ruled for her. Now when the Regent heard that Napoleon was gathering an army to fight him, he made up his mind to leave the war to Britain, and take his poor, mad mother away to Brazil, which was then a Portuguese colony. So, one wet and cold November morning the Queen and Prince and many of the nobles set sail, leaving a sad and mourning people behind.

Meanwhile Napoleon had gathered a large army at Bayonne, a strongly-fortified town close to the Pyrenees, but on the French side of them. This army, under Marshal Junot, now came marching quickly through Spain to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. They crossed the Pyrenees, which, next to the Alps, are the highest mountains in Europe. Over the wind-swept plain they came, across rivers, down rugged valleys, by muddy tracks which could scarcely be called roads. The men grew weary, but Junot urged them onward. The land was barren and bare, and they had often hardly enough to eat. For, as was usual with Napoleon's armies, they carried no supplies with them, but trusted to finding what they needed in the land they passed through. "I will not have the march kept back because of supplies," said the Emperor. "Twenty thousand men can find food anywhere, even in a desert." Most of the soldiers in this army were mere boys, raw recruits, unused to such hardships. Many of them dropped out of the ranks, overcome with weariness, and were left by the wayside to die.

At last, little more than a month after they had set out from Bayonne, they arrived, footsore, hungry, and ragged, at Lisbon, too late. The ship carrying the Queen and Prince was already far out to sea.

The royal family had escaped, but the French took possession of the country. There was little fighting. Had there been in the Portuguese army even a handful of bold and resolute men, it might have gone ill with Junot's raw and worn-out soldiers. But there were none such.

Everywhere the French pulled down the royal arms of Portugal, and set those of Napoleon up. Many of the Portuguese soldiers were sent away to France, so that they might not have a chance of fighting for their country even if a leader should appear. The Portuguese people were made to pay great sums of money to the conqueror, who declared that the House of Braganza—that is, the royal house of Portugal—had, ceased to reign.

And while all this was happening, French troops kept on pouring into Spain, in far greater numbers than were needed to conquer little Portugal.

"Write descriptions of all the provinces through which you pass," said Napoleon, as he sent them away. "Describe the roads and the nature of the land. Send me sketches, that I may see the distance of the villages, the nature of the country, and the resources of the land." All this was not necessary if he merely intended to pass through the land to reach Portugal. No, he had another design, far greater than the conquest of Portugal, in his mind.

Spain at this time was badly ruled. The King, Charles IV., was old and foolish. All the power was in the hands of the Queen, who was not a good woman, and of Manuel Godoy, her favourite. He was not a good man, but he had been given the beautiful name of the Prince of Peace, because at one time he had helped to make, a peace with France.

The King's eldest son, Ferdinand, hated Godoy, and quarrelled with him. So the court of Spain was full of strife. Now both sides appealed to Napoleon for help. It was rather like mice putting their heads into a cat's mouth. The King and Queen began to think so, and they decided to run away, as the Queen and Prince of Portugal had done, and take refuge from all their troubles in America.

But when the people found out what they meant to do, they were very angry, and broke out into a riot. They burst into Godoy's palace in search of the man they hated. They could not find him, so they wreaked their vengeance on the beautiful furniture and pictures, leaving the palace a waste of splinters and rags. Meanwhile, he, trembling in fear, was hiding in a roll of matting in the attic.

There for two days he remained, until at last, driven by hunger, he crept out. He hoped to escape unseen, but at once he was seized, and would have been torn to pieces by the angry mob, had not Prince Ferdinand begged for his life.

Now the weak old King of Spain, trembling for the life of his friend, the Prince of Peace, decided to give up the throne to his son Ferdinand. He hoped in this way to quiet the riot. But the people, when they heard the news, went mad with joy, and to show it, they burned and sacked the houses belonging to Godoy, his friends, and relatives, while they proclaimed Ferdinand King with shouting and cheering.

But their joy was short-lived. Almost at once the old King began to be sorry that he had given up the crown, and wanted it back again. And meanwhile French troops were closing in round Madrid.

Soon it became known that Napoleon himself was coming. And hearing that his father and mother were going to meet the Emperor, Ferdinand resolved to go too, and lay his case before him. The people were very unwilling that he should go, for, they felt sure that some evil would befall their young King. At one place, as he travelled through the land, they cut the traces of his horses, thinking to make him give up his intention. But he went on.

As there was still no sign of Napoleon when Ferdinand reached the border, he crossed into France, and met him at Bayonne.

There too came the old King, the Queen, and Manuel Godoy. Beyond their own borders, surrounded by French soldiers, they were Napoleon's prisoners. They had of free will, it seemed, walked into the trap.

And now Napoleon told them that it was useless to quarrel about who should be King of Spain, as he wanted the throne for one of his own family. "The House of Bourbon has ceased to reign," he said, in his usual grand way.

What could the poor Spanish Kings do? The whole country was in the hands of the French, and they themselves prisoners in a foreign land. So at the bidding of Napoleon they signed away the crown and throne of Spain.

Without striking a blow, Napoleon had added two more kingdoms to his conquests; and with Spain went all her rich colonies. But it had been done by base treachery. Even he himself long after said, "The whole thing wears an ugly look since I have fallen."

Napoleon now made his brother Joseph King of Spain. But the people of Spain would have no Bonaparte to reign over them. The Spaniards, though the most polite and courteous of men, are idle and indolent, seldom showing any energy. But now they were thoroughly roused. To a man they rebelled. From every town and village they flocked, ready to fight for their freedom and their King.

Meanwhile the new King Joseph, guarded by French troops, came to live in the capital.

The Spaniards received him in sullen silence. And as Joseph looked at the dark faces which surrounded him, he felt that he had not a friend among them.

Everywhere there was fighting. Yet so sure was Napoleon that now everything would go on in Spain just as he wished, that he left Bayonne, and set out on a tour through some of the French towns.

But even as Napoleon started, messengers were speeding northward, with the news that General Dupont and all his men had surrendered to the Spaniards.

Napoleon was furiously angry. "Could I have expected that from Dupont!" he cried. "A man I loved! He had no other way to save his soldiers? Better, far better, to have died with arms in their hands. You can always supply the place of soldiers. Honour alone, once lost, can never be regained."

Everywhere all through Spain battles were fought, towns were besieged. One of the most famous sieges was that of Saragossa. The fortifications were poor; but the hearts of the people were stout. Day by day they held out, the women fighting beside the men. One woman, named Maria Augustin, became famous, and was called "the Maid of Saragossa." She fought beside her lover, helping him to fire the cannon of which he was in charge, and when he fell dead, she still went on fighting and worked the cannon herself.

Hunger and disease fought against the brave defenders. Still they held out. But the French at last gained possession of a convent which was almost within the walls. Their leader then sent a summons, to the town. It was short and sharp. "Headquarters, St. Engracia. Surrender," was all it said.

The reply was as sharp. "Headquarters, Saragossa. War to the knife."

At last, hearing of the defeat at Bailee, where Dupont and all his men had laid down their arms to the Spaniards, the French gave up the siege of Saragossa and marched away, "Foiled by a woman's hand, before a battered wall."



Afterwards, when the war of liberation was over, Maria Augustin received medals, as did other soldiers, in reward for her bravery, and her portrait was bought by people all over Europe. It was long ere the name of the Maid of Saragossa was forgotten.

But now Spain was not left to fight her war of liberation unaided. Britain had been at war with Spain. In the battle of Trafalgar the fleet of Spain had been destroyed with that of France. "But the kingdom thus nobly struggling against the usurpation and tyranny of France can no longer be considered as the enemy of Great Britain," said King George. "It is recognised by me as a natural friend and ally."

So British troops were sent to help the Spaniards in their struggle. And thus began for us the war which we call the Peninsular War.

It will be impossible to follow all this war. The story of it belongs to another place, especially as Napoleon himself was very little with his soldiers in Spain. For even while this great struggle was going on he began another war with Austria. Indeed it was not only the Austrians who now fought. In Tyrol the peasants had risen under a brave leader called Hofer. In Germany, in Poland, in Italy, everywhere, the people rose. In many places they won battles. But after all, where Napoleon led, there was the heart of the fight. And he was everywhere victorious.

It was near the village of Wagram that the deciding battle of the war took place. The Austrians fought with splendid courage, and when night came, of the fifty thousand who lay dead, nearly as many were French as Austrian. It was one of the fiercest battles ever fought, and to Napoleon it counted barely a victory.

Yet for the Emperor of Austria it was enough. He was not made of the stern stuff of heroes and patriots. Once more he yielded. And on the 14th of October the treaty of Schönbrunn, so called from the name of the beautiful palace in Vienna where Napoleon was living, was signed.

By this treaty Austria lost still more land. Napoleon took for France the lands lying round the Adriatic. Parts of Upper Austria, Galicia, and Bohemia were given to Napoleon's vassal kings to reward them for having helped him. For it must be remembered that Napoleon's great armies were not made up only of Frenchmen, but of men from every country which he had conquered, or over whose ruler he held sway.

After the treaty of Schönbrunn was signed, Napoleon returned to Paris.

And now one of the strangest things in his life happened. You remember that long ago, when the Emperor was a poor soldier, he had married a beautiful lady, called Josephine de Beauharnais. He had loved her very much. "To live for Josephine—that is the history of my life," he had written then. "I prize honour since you prize it; I prize victory since it pleases you."

Now glory, if not honour, was heaped upon him. He had piled victory upon victory, but he forgot what he had written as a young and eager boy. He put away his beautiful wife, and married the Duchess Marie Louise, the daughter of his late enemy the Emperor of Austria.

One reason why Napoleon did this was that his pride had grown with his power. He still loved Josephine, but he longed to have a great lady for his wife—a princess, the daughter of a long line of kings, to be the mother of his children.

Marie Louise was little more than a girl. She had hated Napoleon, and once when she heard that he had been defeated, she said that she was glad, and hoped that it would happen again. Now she came to be his wife, because her father told her, perhaps, that this marriage would help to bring peace and freedom to her country. So she became the Empress Marie Louise.