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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 13


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The spring of this year witnessed one of the most important events of the reign of Napoleon, and one which, no doubt, had a decided influence on his fate - his divorce from Josephine and his marriage with Maria Louisa, the princess of Austria. It had long been evident to those about Napoleon that a change of this kind would take place. Josephine had brought the emperor no child, and, ambitious in every way, he was as much so of leaving lineal successors to the throne and empire which he had created, as he was of making that empire co-extensive with Europe. Josephine, strongly attached to him, as well as to the splendour of his position, had long feared such a catastrophe, and had done all in her power to divert his mind from it. She proposed to him that he should adopt an heir, and she recommended to him her own son, Eugene Beauharnais. But this did not satisfy Buonaparte. She then turned his attention on a child of her daughter, Hortense Beauharnais, by his brother Louis, the king of Holland. This would have united her own family to his, and to this scheme Buonaparte appeared to consent. He showed great affection for the child, and especially as the boy displayed great pleasure in looking at arms and military manoeuvres; and, on one occasion of this kind, Buonaparte exclaimed, " There is a child fit to succeed, perhaps to surpass me! " But neither was this scheme destined to succeed. The child sickened and died, and with it almost the last hope of Josephine. She exerted, however, ail her energies and endearments to secure the sliding and political mind of her husband. There is no doubt that there had existed a strong mutual attachment between them; and in ail his fortunes, accepting him at the lowest, Josephine had conducted herself in a manner calculated to promote his interests. During his absence in Egypt she had omitted no measure to keep him in the public mind, and to foster the idea that he was the man on whom the destinies of France hung. When he had risen to the height of empire, she contributed greatly to render his government popular by breaking, by her happy artifices, the effects of his violent acts and bursts of temper. Napoleon himself had a secret persuasion that his fortunes and the prosperous star of Josephine were indissolubly united. To keep this feeling alive in his mind she shunned no labour or sacrifice. She accompanied him in many of his most rapid and abrupt journeys, hesitating at no severity or inclemency of weather, and being always ready at a moment's notice to depart. At home, in the palace, no woman could have acted the part of an empress with more grace and splendour. She had naturally a passion for pageant and display, and, had she been born to the purple, she could not have moved with more dignity and grace in the brilliant scenes of the imperial court.

But ail these circumstances could not avert the dreaded crisis - could not drive from the mind of Napoleon the ever present thought that he had erected a mighty fame and empire, and that there was no child of his own to receive and perpetuate them. Whilst at Erfurt with the emperor Alexander, in 1808, Buonaparte had actually proposed for a Russian arch- duchess; nay, in 1807, he had made such overtures at the treaty of Tilsit. Thus the idea had been settled in his mind three years, at least, before it was realised. The Russian match had on both occasions been evaded, on the plea of the difference of religion; but the truth was, that the notion of such an alliance was by no means acceptable to the imperial family of Russia. The empress and the empress-mother decidedly opposed it; and though the plea of difference of religion was put forward, Buonaparte could not but feel that the real reasons Were very différent - that he was looked on as a successful adventurer, whose greatness might some day dissolve as speedily as it had grown, and that, be this as it might, the Russian family were not disposed to receive him, a parvenu monarch, into their old régal status.

Fouché claims the merit of having first proposed the necessity of a new marriage to his master, but he confessed that Napoleon received the suggestion in such a manner as to let him know that he had already determined on this step. In fact, Fouché was too adroit a courtier to venture on such a course without having assured himself of the safety of it. He came forward, or, perhaps, was put forward to break the disagreeable topic, to Josephine, and to see whether she could not be brought to originate the measure herself, as a noble sacrifice to the good of France and of her husband. Accordingly, Fouché seized the opportunity one evening, at Fontainebleau, to open the delicate matter to Josephine, representing with ail his art the certain necessity of the measure, and how great would be her glory in voluntarily making the sacrifice. Josephine, as may be supposed, was violently agitated. She demanded of Fouché who had authorised him to hold such language to her. He replied, " Nobody; " he had ventured to draw her attention to the question as one which so concerned her happiness and glory. Josephine hastened to Buonaparte, and a most passionate scene took place. Buonaparte disavowed having given Fouché any authority to introduce such a topic; but when Josephine demanded that he should be dismissed, Napoleon declined to discharge him - a sufficient indication to Josephine of the fate which awaited her,

The Austrian campaign, and Buonaparte's sojourn at Schönbrunn, gave him a sight of the archduchess Maria Louisa, and determined his conduct. The house of Haps- burg, however ancient and however proud, was under the foot of the conqueror, and the sacrifice of an archduchess might be considered a cheap one for more favourable terms than Austria was otherwise likely to receive. It had the fate of Prussia before its eyes, and the bargain was concluded.

It might have seemed to require no little courage in an Austrian princess to venture on becoming empress of France after the awful experience of her aunt Marie Antoinette. But Maria Louisa was scarcely eighteen. She had seen Buonaparte, who had endeavoured to make himself agree- able to her; and so young a girl, of a military nation, might be as much dazzled with the conqueror's glory as much older, if not wiser, heads. She made no objection to the match. In appearance she was of light, fair complexion, with light-brown hair, of a somewhat tall figure, blue eyes, and with a remarkably beautiful hand and foot. Altogether, she was an animated and agreeable young lady.

Buonaparte does not seem to have made much delay, after his return to Paris from Schönbrunn, in communicating to Josephine the fact that the business of the divorce and the new marriage was settled. On the 30th of November he opened the unpleasant reality to her in a private interview, and she fell into such violent agitation, and finally into so deep a swoon, as to alarm Napoleon. He hastily called assistance, and M. de Bausset, the prefect of the palace, arrived, and helped him to carry her to her private apartment, where, as soon as they had laid her on a couch, the emperor sent for the physician, for queen Hortense, for Cambacérès, and Fouché. He blamed Hortense for not having broken the matter to her three days before, as he had desired. But however much Napoleon might be affected at this violent disruption of an old and endeared tie, his feelings never stood in the way of hi3 ambitious plans. The preparations for the divorce went on, and on the 15th of December a grand council was held in the Tuileries on the subject. At this important council ail the family of Napoleon, his brothers and sisters, now ail kings and queens, were summoned from their kingdoms to attend, and did attend, except Joseph, from Spain, Madame Bacciochi - that is, Elise - and Lucien, who had refused to be made a king. Cambacérès, now duke of Parma and arch-chancellor of the empire, and St. Jean d'Angély, the minister of state, attended to take the depositions. Napoleon then said a few words expressive of his grief at this sad but necessary act, of affection for and admiration of the wife he was about to put away, and of his hope of a posterity to fill his throne, saying he was yet but forty, and might reason- ably expect to live to train up children who should prove a i blessing to the empire. Josephine, with a voice choked with tears, arose, and made the act a voluntary one on her part, saying - " By the permission of our dear and august consort, I ought to declare that, not perceiving any hope of having children, which may fulfil the wants of his policy and the interests of France, I am pleased to give him the greatest proof of attachment and devotion which has ever been given on earth. I possess all from his bounty; it was his hand which crowned me; and from the height of this throne I have received nothing but proofs of affection and love from the French people. I think I prove myself grateful in consenting to the dissolution of a marriage which heretofore was an obstacle to the welfare of France - which deprived it of the happiness of being one day governed by the descendant of a great man, evidently raised up by Providence to efface the evils of a terrible révolution, and to re-establish the altar, the throne, and social order. But the dissolution of my marriage will in no way change the sentiments of my heart; the emperor will ever have in me his best friend. I know how much this act, demanded by policy and by interests so great, has chilled his heart; but both of us exult in the sacrifice which we make for the good of the country."

After these words, which had, no doubt, been prepared for her, the arch-chancellor presented the written instrument of divorce, which they signed, and to which all the family appended their signatures, Napoleon's mother signing in regal style simply Madame. This act was presented to the Senate the very next day by St. Jean d'Angély, and, strangely enough, Eugene Beauharnais, Josephine's son, was chosen to second it, which he did in a speech of some length. The Senate passed the necessary senatus consultum, certifying the divorce, and conferring on Josephine the title of empress- queen, with the estate of Navarre and two millions of francs per annum. They also voted addresses to both Napoleon and Josephine of the most complimentary character. This being done, Napoleon went off to St. Cloud, and Josephine retired to the beautiful abode of Malmaison, near St. Germains, where she continued to reside for the remainder of her life, and made herself beloved for her acts of kindness and benevolence, of which the English détenus, of whom there were several at St. Germains, were participants. No princess had conducted herself with more grace and goodness during her elevation, and Savary says that she drew all hearts after her to her retirement, for she was endeared to all by a kindness of disposition which was without a parallel. According to her ability she retained the same character to the last. Buonaparte frequently visited her in her retirement, and he added a third million of francs to her dowry, that she might feel no pecuniary difficulties.

Another council was immediately summoned to determine on the choice of the new empress. All had been arranged before betwixt the house of Austria and Napoleon, and the cue was given to the council to suggest accordingly. Eugene Beauharnais was again strangely appointed to propose to prince Schwartzenberg for the hand of the arch- duchess, and, having his instructions, his proposal was accepted, and the whole of this formality was concluded in four-and-twenty hours. Josephine set out for her new estate in Navarre, and marshal Berthier was appointed to act as proxy for his master in the espousals of the bride at Vienna. There were difficulties in the case which, strictly catholic as the Hapsburg family is, it is surprising that they could be so easily got over, and show, at least, how much that imperial family was under the control of what they familiarly, amongst themselves, styled " the upstart." The pope had been too grievously insulted and persecuted by Buonaparte for it to be possible for him to pronounce the former marriage invalid; had it not been also contrary to the canons of the church to abrogate marriage, which it regards as an entirely sacred and indissoluble ceremony. To remove this difficulty, it was stated to the Austrian family that Buonaparte's marriage with Josephine had been merely a revolutionary marriage before a magistrate, and, therefore, no marriage at all - the fact being originally true, but it had ceased to be so some days previous to Buonaparte's coronation, when, to remove the pope's objection, they had been privately married by Buonaparte's uncle, cardinal Fesch.

The wedding took place at Vienna, on the 11th of March, 1810, and a few days afterwards the young empress set out for France, accompanied by the queen of Naples. It was an awkward circumstance, that just as Berthier was officiating as Napoleon's proxy at this marriage, the news arrived at Vienna that the brave Andrew Hofer, the faithful and patriotic subject of the emperor of Austria, had been shot at Mantua, by order of the new French son-in-law! Berthier denied the order of the emperor, and declared it an " unlucky accident." However this explanation might be received within the court, it did not tend to recommend the marriage to the people, who were before sufficiently averse to it. They regarded it as a deep dishonour to the nation. They looked with terror on the union of the young. princess with a man of such restless ambition and covered with so many crimes, and on her entrance into France amongst a people who had heaped on her aunt such un- paralleled miseries and indignities, terminating them only by sending her to the guillotine. As the carriage drove away from the palace, there were loud cries that she was going to be sacrificed as her aunt had been, and it required the calling out of the soldiers to prevent a riot. Buonaparte, with the view of propitiating the catholic people of Austria, and persuading them that the same man who had proclaimed himself a good Mussulman at Cairo, had now become an equally good papist, this year caused the pretended seamless coat of the Saviour, which, during the révolution, had sought refuge at Augsburg, to be carried in magnificent procession to Treves, and to be exposed for eighteen days to two hundred and fifty thousand pilgrims, who flocked from all parts.

Buonaparte - who maintained the strictest etiquette at his court - had had all the ceremonies which were to attend his marriage in Paris arranged with the most minute exactness. He then set out himself to meet the bride, very much in the manner that he had gone to meet the pope. Near Soissons - riding alone, and in an ordinary dress - Buonaparte met the carriage of his new wife, got in, and went on with her to Soissons, and thence to the old château of Compiègne, where they spent the night. Then they proceeded to St. Cloud, where the marriage was again celebrated by cardinal Fesch. Spite of the despotic power of the emperor, the heads of the church generally absented themselves from the ceremony, which, according to their creed, they regarded as in the highest degree wicked, and as simply the performance of an act of bigamy. Buonaparte looked very grimly at that part of the assembled circle which ought to have been occupied by the higher clergy, and, seeing very few, muttered, " The fools! they brave me still!" To give an air of joy to the occasion, the most splendid illuminations, concerts, and festivals took place at St. Cloud and at Paris. In the capital, the prince Schwartzenberg, the Austrian ambassador, gave a great ball in honour of the marriage, at which both Napoleon and the young empress were present. A fire broke out in the dancing-room, which was erected in the garden, and several persons were burnt to death; amongst them the sister-in-law of the ambassador, the princess Pauline Schwartzenberg, who, rushing into the flaming building to rescue her daughter, perished. This ominous event recalled gloomily to the memory of both French and Austrians the like fatal occurrence at the marriage of Marie Antoinette, in 1770, when several hundreds of people lost their lives during a display of fireworks. The gloomiest presages were drawn from it, and Napoleon himself was strongly impressed by it. The people generally augured fresh misfortunes from this alliance: " Austrian alliances," they said, "always produced them." Those who still held in their heads the sentiments of the révolution, observed that it was monstrous for a child of that révolution to ally himself with the " old corporation of tyrants." Mignet, one of the shrewdest of the French historians, characterises this marriage as " a capital mistake." It separated the rule of Napoleon farther from the feelings and sympathies of the people, without depriving the Austrians of the will and determination to fight him again; at the same time, it in no way checked that fatal internal dreaming after fresh campaigns- in himself, which, in the end, overwhelmed him. He was at this moment planning new and more extended enterprises. " The good Citizens rejoice sincerely at my marriage, monsieur?" he said to Decrés, his minister. " Very much, sire! " " I understand they think the lion will go to slumber, eh? " " To speak the truth, sire, they entertain some hopes of that nature." " They are mistaken," said Napoleon; u yet it is not the fault of the lion." But, however he might disguise it to himself, the lion's nature never could rest under any circumstances. So well convinced was Alexander of Russia of this, that he no sooner heard of Napoleon's Austrian match, than he remarked, " Then the next task will be to drive me back to my forests;" for he was certain that he would use his alliance with Austria as a stepping-stone to his designs on Russia. At a later day, Napoleon himself termed the Austrian marriage " a precipice covered with flowers."

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 13

The Battle of Talavera
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Lord Collingwood
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Via Mala
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Execution of Andrew Hofer
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Campo Vaccino
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Pope Pius VIII
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Burdett riots
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Sir Francis Burdett
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Marriage of Napoleon
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The fire at the Austrian ambassadors ball
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Scene in the Peninsula
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Port of Rotterdam
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