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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 11

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On the 29tli of March, whilst Ferdinand was vacillating betwixt the recommendations of Savary and his own fears, Buonaparte wrote a remarkable letter to Murat. In this letter he showed how he had weighed the enterprise in which he was engaged in every point of view, and how careful he was not to have the Spanish people rise before he had the royal family all safely enclosed in his nets. "Not a match," lie said, " must be burnt; if war once break out, all is lost! " He scouted the idea of reinstating Charles, who, he observed, was so unpopular that he would not keep the throne for three months. He equally rejected the idea of setting up Ferdinand, who, he declared, was the enemy of Franco, and that a matrimonial alliance was no bond at ail. In fact, lie showed that nothing would satisfy him but the seizure of the kingdom. But, to effect that quietly, ail parties must be flattered till the right moment; and he blamed Murat for having entered the city instead of halting ten miles off, as by that means he had alarmed the nation prematurely. To amuse the court whilst he made all secure, he intimated, through Duroc to Izquierdo, that he desired no advantages from Spain except the exchange of Navarre and some part of the northern frontier for the whole of Portugal, which he would cede to Spain.

Soothed by such proposals, and yet trembling for his safety, on the 8th of April Ferdinand set out to proceed to Burgos to meet Napoleon. He made his uncle, Don Antonio, président of the council during his absence, which, he said, would only be for a few days, and, before setting out, he endeavoured to open a communication with the king, his father, but lie was told that the king was gone to bed, and could not be disturbed.

Savary accompanied Ferdinand to conduct him safely into the snare. He spoke positively of meeting Napoleon at Burgos; but, when they arrived there, they received the information that Napoleon was only yet at Bourdeaux, about to proceed to Bayonne. Savary seemed so sure of his victim, that he ventured to leave Ferdinand at Vittoria, and went on to see Napoleon and report progress; probably, also, to receive fresh instructions. The opportunity was not lost by some faithful Spaniards to warn Ferdinand to make his escape during Savary's absence, and to get into one of his distant provinces, where he could, at least, negotiate with Napoleon independently. Don Mariano Urquijo, a nobleman who had penetrated the designs of Napoleon, assured him and his counsellors that Napoleon meant nothing less than to secure the persons of the royal family, and to give the crown of Spain to one of his own brothers. Don Joseph Hervas, the brother-in-law of general Duroc, and a man well acquainted with Savary, confirmed this information. Ferdinand was astounded, but persuaded himself that Napoleon could not contemplate such treachery, as if his whole career had not been one of contempt for every consideration but his own ambition. Instead of flying, the prince was in the condition of the bird fascinated by the rattlesnake. He wrote to Napoleon reminding him of how firm a friend of France lie was, and imploring his decision in his favour. In reply, appeared the ominous Savary, bearing a letter, in which Ferdinand was not styled king, but only prince of Asturias. Napoleon blamed him for using the people to usurp his father's throne, and informed him that he had taken the prince of Peace under his protection, and advised Ferdinand not to expose the follies of his mother, as it might affect his own legitimacy. At the same time, not to frighten him into escape, he added that, should he be convinced that the abdication of the king had been voluntary, he should be quite satisfied, and invited him to meet him, that they might examine this point. Once more Cevallos urged him to get away out of the immediate reach of Buonaparte, but Savary kept the trembling simpleton to his purpose, and they prepared to start from Vittoria. At the moment when all was ready, and Ferdinand was in his carriage, a fierce-looking and stalwart fellow advanced to the horses, seized the traces, and cut them at a single stroke with a hedge-bill. The people opposed the prince's going, but Savary prevailed, and on they went.

When Buonaparte heard that Ferdinand had arrived, he is said to have exclaimed - " What! is the fool really come? 1 could scarcely have thought it possible! " He received him, however, with a great show of courtesy and even kind- ness. He invited him to dinner, and treated him with ail the deference of a crowned head; but, the same evening, he sent Savary to inform him that he had determined that the Bourbons should cease to reign, and the crown should be transferred to his own family.

He now treated Ferdinand as such a fool that he scarcely directed any argument to him, but discussed the point with the canon Escoiquiz, a man of uncommon talents and spirit. Escoiquiz protested boldly and plainly against Buonaparte's intentions. Napoleon cut him short, saying, " Canon, tell me whether I should lose sight of the fact that it is to the interests of my house that the Bourbons should cease to reign? " and with that he pulled the canon's ear in the manner in which lie indulged himself on such occasions, and burst into a laugh. Escoiquiz told him he could not reign half so securely in Spain as if Ferdinand were king, particularly if he were married to a niece of Napoleon's. "Pshaw!" retorted Napoleon. "Canon, you amuse me with fables - with mere chateaux en Espagne. Do you think that with any Bourbon on the throne I can be as secure as with the sceptre in the hands of one of my own family? Let Ferdinand," he added, " follow the wise example of his father, and he shall have the crown of Etruria and my niece in marriage."

Escoiquiz warned Napoleon of the perils of the course he contemplated. He told him that lie might win the esteem of the Spanish people by protecting Ferdinand, but that he would find it a fearful undertaking to reduce the nation to a foreign yoke. He called to his remembrance what dreadful wars all such had been in Spain. Buonaparte declared that he would carry through his intentions though it cost him two hundred thousand men. "Then," said Escoiquiz, " the new dynasty will seat itself on a volcano; it would require constantly two hundred thousand men to command a nation of discontented slaves." Buonaparte, again pulling the canon's ear, and with an air of good humour, said, " Well, canon, you do not, then, enter into my views?" "On the contrary," replied Escoiquiz, "I would rather bring you over to mine, though it were at the expense of my ears," which Buonaparte was painfully pinching. Cevallos confirmed the views of Escoiquiz, and Buonaparte impatiently told him that the Spaniards troubled themselves too much with their points of honour and their fantastic loyalty. In fact, he talked in the most barefaced manner, using the language of a mere bandit who has his victims in his power.

To bring the matter to a crisis, Don Pedro de Labrador put the plain question whether king Ferdinand was at liberty, and if so, why he was not permitted to return to his country and Cevallos then presented a note stating that the king was about to depart. This removed the little of mask that remained; the guards were immediately doubled on Ferdinand and his brother, Don Carlos j ail the outlets from the town were strictly watched, and a number of Savary's gendarmes, in plain clothes, were placed about the royal captives. Don Carlos, attempting to pass out of one of the gates, was forcibly stopped by a gendarme, who was, for form's sake, reprimanded, but the prince remained equally under restraint. It was now made manifest to the public, and this was the intention of Cevallos' note, that Ferdinand had been regularly kidnapped, and the despair and agitation of his retinue might have forewarned Buonaparte of the resistance that the nation would make for the honour of their royal family. He wished, too late, that he had listened to the solemn words of Escoiquiz and Cevallos.

Possessed of the prince of Asturias, Buonaparte now proceeded to complete his kidnapping, and make himself master of the king and queen. He was sure that if he brought Godoy to Bayonne he should quickly draw the infatuated queen after him, and that she would bring the king with her. He therefore ordered Murat to send on Godoy under a strong guard. This was executed with such rapidity that he was conveyed from Aranjuez to the banks of the Bidasoa in a couple of days. Buonaparte received Godoy in the most flattering manner, told him that he regarded the abdication of Charles as most unjustifiable, and that lie would be glad to see the king and queen at Bayonne, to arrange the best mode of securing them on the throne, Godoy communicated this intelligence with alacrity, and Napoleon very soon had the two remaining royal fools in his safe keeping. On the 30th of April a train of old, lumbering carriages, the first drawn by eight Biscayan mules, was seen crossing the draw bridge at Bayonne. The arrival consisted of the king and queen of Spain, with three or four un- important grandees. Godoy welcomed Charles and his queen, and assured them of the friendly disposition and intentions of Buonaparte. There was much curiosity amongst the French at Bayonne to see this descendant of Louis XIV., and the outside they found all very well. He possessed the regal carriage and manners of his ancestry, though he could only speak French imperfectly. He dined with Napoleon the same day, and, as he found some difficulty in ascending the steps to the saloon, Buonaparte offered him his arm, saying, " Let me support you; I have strength enough for both." On which the imbecile old king stopped, stared at the emperor, and replied, " I believe and hope so!" On seeing his sons, who waited to receive him, he would have passed them without notice, but as he passed close to Don Carlos, he said, laconically, " Good morning, Carlos," but he frowned at Ferdinand and passed on.

Charles now loudly protested that his abdication of the 19th of March had been forcibly wrung from him. Ferdinand replied to this charge in a letter drawn up by Cevallos and Escoiquiz, that, on the contrary, it was perfectly voluntary, and quoted the king's declaration to 1 that effect; and he added that, if they were permitted to return to Madrid, where they would be free, be would renounce all the rights conferred on him by the abdication. Charles replied that he was free enough where he was, and as for the Cortes, he repudiated its decisions regarding the crown. " Everything," he asserted, " ought to be done by the sovereigns for the people, but the people ought not to be suffered to carve for themselves," Finally, he asserted that Napoleon could only be the saviour of Spain, and that the emperor was resolved that Ferdinand should never enjoy the crown of that kingdom. He accused his son of wanting filial affection, and, still worse, of wanting affection for Napoleon and the interests of France.

Ferdinand, on the 3rd of May, replied that the situation in which he now found himself proved the unbounded confidence which he had entertained towards France, and that, since the conditions which he had attached to his resignation were rejected, he would abdicate unconditionally, only stipulating that both parties should first return to their own country, and leave a place where no deed on which either could enter could be held by the world to be valid This proposition was equally unwelcome to the king and queen and to Buonaparte. They all knew that the Spanish nation, in free action, would neither allow the prince of the Peace to return to Spain, Charles to be reinstated, or Buonaparte to usurp the crown. The next day, therefore, Ferdinand was summoned to the presence of his parents and of Buonaparte. They received him seated, and left him standing like a criminal; and then a scene took place which has, perhaps, no parallel in the history of royal houses. If the relation of it was from the French alone, we might well doubt its odious accuracy; bat it is fully confirmed by the canon Escoiquiz and Cevallos, Ferdinand's chief friends and counsellors. Charles overwhelmed Ferdinand with the utmost abuse, calling him traitor and parricide, and seemed as though he would strike him with his cane in his fury. Ferdinand replied by denying the plots that were attributed to him, and reminding them that be had saved the life of the prince of the Peace when in the hands of the mob. But this did not mollify the queen, whom Buonaparte afterwards compared to a fury on the Grecian stage. She reviled her son in the most indecent language, and in the face of the king and of Buonaparte declared that he was a bastard, and that the king was not his father at all. Buonaparte professed, in after years, to have been shocked at this most revolting scene; but there can be no doubt that he chuckled at the time over the open degradation of those whom he meant to depose. Ferdinand, confounded, hastened to complete his abdication; but even in this he is said to have been quickened by a communication from Savary, the executioner of D'Enghien, who informed him that, if he did not use dispatch, he would be shut up in some horrible dungeon, or tried as a traitor, and shot.

On the 6th of May he signed an act restoring the crown to his father. But, the day before this was done, Charles had already, as king, issued a proclamation appointing Murat lieutenant - general of the kingdom, and calling on the Spaniards to obey him in all things, and to be especially on their guard against the agents of England, who might excite them against France. Immediately after - the same day - he signed an act of abdication for himself, resigning the crown of Spain and the Indies, with its rights and honours, to his friend and faithful ally, the emperor of France, only stipulating, for the integrity and independence of the kingdom, that it should not be held by the same sovereign as the crown of France; that the catholic religion only should be tolerated; and that all confiscations and penalties pronounced since the révolution of Aranjuez shouid be null and void.

There wanted but one more act to complete this most audacious usurpation - the forced abdication of Ferdinand. To this, poor and unheroic creature as he was, he made a stout résistance, probably under the advice of Escoiquiz and Cevallos. It is said that the dark hints of Savary were repeated; and as he was completely in the power of Buonaparte, and, as his advisers told him, no abdication, under the circumstances, was of any force, he complied, but not till the 10th of May, five days after the abdication of his father.

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