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Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter XXVIII


WE all knew the Generalissimo Personally; he had been Ambassador from his Court to the Emperor, of whom he had formerly been the very humble servant and courtier. It was he who, in 18io, had taken the most pains to bring about the rupture of the marriage-negotiations with Russia, and to play the principal part in making the Emperor marry the Archduchess, by letting it be known secretly that he had plenary powers to accept proposals, which were eventually made.

Astonished at finding the Generalissimo at the outposts, and concluding that he intended to attack us, I expressed my surprise at finding him there, adding that if his intentions were hostile, we trusted to his honour to tell us so, in order that we might break off our mission and return to our posts. He replied by protesting that he had merely come to Petit-Bourg to pay his respects to the Crown Prince. He added that he had but just arrived when our messenger came to ask for a safe conduct for us, and that he had taken upon himself to receive us at the headquarters of his advance-guard. We could not go on to Paris without permission from the Emperor of Russia, he said, but he had sent to let him know of our arrival, and was sure that his answer would arrive ere Iong.

He was very polite to us, and our conversation naturally turned upon passing events and the object of our mission. We expected to find in him a strong partisan for the right of the King of Rome to succeed his father, and for the regency of the Empress. We were soon undeceived by hearing the Prince pronounce himself warmly in favour of the general cause of the allies as against the private interests of the House of Austria. His language was certainly that held at his Court, hut it was impossible to believe that the Emperor Francis would sacrifice his daughter in this catastrophe, and help in precipitating her from the throne that he had eagerly assisted her to mount. it appeared to us the less likely, as it was said that this Archduchess was his favourite daughter.

During this conversation someone came and called the Prince ; he left us, and returned a quarter of an hour later, accompanied by the Duke of Ragusa. As the latter observed our surprise, he came to me in an off-hand manner, smiling, and as though relieved of a great weight. He told us that, having, without, making himself known, discovered who were in the castle, he had learned that the Generalissimo had preceded us, and that the Crown Prince had just retired to his own apartments. it then occurred to him to ask for Prince Schvartzenberg, and he begged him to allow their convention to have no sequel, as we, his comrades, were come to treat for the whole army inclusively, but on avowable and very different bases. To this the Generalissimo had consented without difficulty. Had all things passed in this manner our discretion would have thrown an impenetrable veil over this fault ; the destiny of the Duke of Ragusa decided it otherwise.

The conversation, or, to express it better, the discussion, UOfl the subject of the rights of the King of Rome, recommenced with even more warmth, and with no less resistance on the part of the Generalissimo. His servants rescued him from his difficulty by announcing that supper was ready; it was between ten and eleven o'clock at night, and he told us that he had not dined. He invited us to share his supper, but we took no part in this German meal, for the reason that we had dined at Essonne a few hours previously. Supper was silent and melancholy; everyone kept his eyes on his plate: we observed each other. On rising from table we were informed that the Emperor of Russia was expecting us in Paris. The Generalissimo came to see us off, and we started.

The Emperor Alexander was staying in the house belonging to the Prince de Talleyrand. We were immediately ushered into his presence; but before allowing us to lay before him the object of our mission, he begged us first to hear what he had to say. Thereupon he expressed warmly, and in the most chivalrous manner, his admiration for the French armies, the great glory with which they had covered themselves, notwithstanding the reverses they had met with, which in nowise detracted from their valour. He admitted that they had only yielded compulsorily to superior force, of which he had had an example recently at Fere-Champenoise, where a mere detachment, consisting for the most part of raw recruits, in blouses and round hats, had immortalized itself by its courageous resistance to all the forces collected at that point he told us that he was deeply distressed at the loss of so many brave men, and that, after making every effort to save them from certain death, he had at last succeeded in inducing them to surrender as prisoners of war. He said further that he was no longer an enemy of Napoleon, now that he was unfortunate; that he had previously been his greatest admirer, his friend and his ally; that, oil side, he had faithfully carried out their treaty against England, that was, against her commerce, even though the said treaty caused cruel suffering to his own subjects (whose only means of obtaining what was necessary for their wants and comfort was by means of exchange), although they murmured aloud, and there was some danger of a revolution in his States. It had, however, come to his certain knowledge, he said, that, contrary to the treaty of prohibition, his ally permitted licenses to be issued, and that, notwithstanding his representations, which passed unheeded, he continued to issue them. He had therefore been obliged to shut his eyes to some traffic which Napoleon insisted upon closing. Some curt diplomatic notes were exchanged, and seeing himself threatened with a fresh war, he still had preferred to await the effects in his own country rather than provoke it.

'You know the results, gentlemen,' he continued; 'my armies, and the climate of my country, avenged my subjects for the miseries they had undergone. You were but passive instruments. I only esteem you the more for having done your duty, and proved your attachment, your devotion, and your fidelity to your master, of which you are now giving him a fresh proof, instead of doing as many others have done, who have thrown themselves into our arms, and done their best to bring about his downfall, and that of the French Empire. We were willing to treat openly with him at Prague, at Frankfort, and at Châtillon-sur-Seine; he would not consent, and see whither his obstinacy has brought him. We have now declared that we will not treat any further with him, because we can place no reliance upon him; but we do not wish in the smallest degree to take any part' in the government of France, nor to lay her under any contributions, nor to diminish her ancient territory. We will even increase it.'

He recommenced his praises of the French army, of its Marshals, etc. We saw through it, and clearly distinguished how much flattery there was in this long speech, which we did not interrupt.

When he had finished, Marshal Ney began to speak, and said some good things and some useless ones. We tried to stop him, but he replied in an angry voice':

'Let me speak. You will have your turn.'

The Duke of Vicenza was boiling over; it would have been more suitable for him to reply, as he was much better acquainted with the proper forms, and was more moderate. The Emperor listened quietly. At last conversation became general. We praised the generosity of the allies when they had gained the right to avenge themselves upon us; but we referred that generosity to his personal magnanimity. We spoke of the glory and bravery of the Russian troops, and of his own in particular, and made use of the weapons that he had employed to return all that he had with so much liberality and chivalry accorded to us. He seemed much touched.

After these reciprocal compliments we profited by his favourable disposition to ask for his intervention and support in favour of the cause that we had come to submit to him, and the proposals that we had to make to him—that is to say, the abdication of Napoleon, which ought to satisfy the allies, the recognition of his son as his successor, and of the Empress as Regent.

'It is too late,' he said 'opinion has made too great strides. We have not checked it, and it is growing momentarily. Why did you not come to an understanding with the Conservative Senate?'

'By what right did it act?' we exclaimed. It has belied its title; it had no mission ; a crawling. creeping, complaisant slave, it depended for its existence on the constitutions of the Empire. They are now overturned; it therefore is nothing. It is usurping at this moment an authority which can only emanate from national opinion, and that opinion has everything to feat- from the resentment of the Bourbons, the emegris, and the Royalists. Will your Majesty permit us to speak plainly to this vile Senate? Every institution, everything that now exists, will be threatened; those who have acquired national property will be sought out a frightful civil war will be the result. The nation has made too many sacrifices; she has paid too dearly for the little liberty she has secured, not to be ready to do anything to safeguard it. The army will not allow the glory wherewith it has covered itself to be trodden under foot. Unhappy by the fault of its chief, it will, either with or without him, spring again from its ashes, stronger, more ardent than ever for national liberties, institutions, and independence. Henceforward its one aim will be to consolidate these without thinking of conquering or harassing other nations.'

The Emperor of Russia, struck by these arguments, was shaken.

'Be our mediator, Sire; it is a fresh field of glory, and one worthy of the great soul of your Majesty. You have declared that you made war only against one man ; he is vanquished; let your Majesty show that you are a generous conqueror. Earn the gratitude of the great national majority, as you have earned ours by your magnanimous moderation.

The Emperor seemed much moved by our confidence in him, and said 'I have no reason to object to your seeing the Senate. I do not care about the Bourbons; I do not know them. I fear it will be impossible to obtain the Regency. Austria is most opposed to it. Were I alone, I would willingly consent; but I must act in concert with my allies. Since the Bourbons will not do, take a foreign Prince, or choose one of your marshals, as Sweden did Bernadotte; there are plenty of illustrious men in France. Finally, gentlemen, in order to prove the sincere esteem and great regard I entertain for you, I will make your proposals known to my allies, and will support them. I confess I am most anxious to have the matter settled, for there are risings still going on in Lorraine and the Vosges, and they are increasing; people are shooting each other there every day; a column of my troops lost 3,000 men while crossing those departments, and that w/hom seeing a single French soldier. Your outspokenness has encouraged mine, and I do not hesitate to tell you these things. Come back at nine o'clock—we will finish then.'

We withdrew; on entering the great drawing-room we found there the members of the so-called Provisional Government, with the provisional Ministers and other persons. Anxiety and fear were depicted upon every countenance. A discussion had begun, when the members of this Government were summoned to the Emperor's presence. They were all in disgraceful undress, and we had found the Czar in full military uniform.

They remained with him some time. The discussion in the drawing-room increased in animation. At length they reappeared, and wished to take a high hand and authoritative manner with us, which we promptly resented, telling them that they were a set of factious, ambitious men, who were betraying their country, and forswearing the oaths they had sworn.

The Prince de Talleyrand took no part. As the discussion became very noisy, the Duke of Vicenza raised his voice, and said:

'Gentlemen, you forget that you are in the apartments of the Emperor of Russia.'

Silence ensued, and Monsieur de Talleyrand invited everyone to go down to his room, adding that there we might seek, and perhaps find, a means of agreement and conciliation. We answered that we did not recognize their authority, and departed.

On my own account I had overwhelmed with reproaches my friends Beurnonville, and Dupont, who had accepted the Ministry of War. The latter had good reason to complain of Napoleon, who had caused him to be tried by a commission of Ministers and Privy Councillors who were devoted to him, instead of sending him before his proper judges, either the High Court, or a court-martial, for his share in the memorable and unfortunate affair at Bavlen.

I have forgotten to say that as we were leaving the presence of the Emperor of Russia one of his generals began to speak to him in a low voice. I heard the words, to/urn corpus, to which at first I attached no importance, but which gained great significance a few moments later.

We were going to the house of Marshal Ney. Welearned here that our arrival had struck terror into the hearts of all the supporters of the new state of things; more than 2,000 white cockades had been removed from as many hats, and the Senate was trembling.

While we were at breakfast the Duke of Ragusa was called away. He returned a moment later, pale and as if beside himself, and said to us:

'My whole corps went over to the enemy last night.'

He took his sword, disappeared, and we saw him no more.

We deplored this event, which destroyed our last remaining hope, and at the same time gave colour to the assumptions of our enemies. A vast field of conjecture was opened to us by the impression naturally produced by such a sad piece of news, What must it not have been in the army, at the headquarters at Fontainebleau, after such an occurrence? Would others follow his example? Would despair increase? On the one hand we had isolated cases of desertion, which were alarming enough on the other, we had the audacity of those ambitious men who had put themselves at the head of the movement in Paris from motives of personal interest, while our mere presence in the capital had sufficed to cause the disappearance of more than three- fourths of the white cockades. Besides, would not the allies, who had at first shown themselves so pleasant and willing to receive us, and to treat with an army whose broken remains even they dreaded, profit by so unhoped-for a circumstance, which lent such weight to their claims ? However, confident in the chivalrous honour of the Emperor Alexander, we waited, not without anxiety, till he should summon us to hear the result of his conference with his allies.

The message came at length, and we were introduced into his presence. The King of Prussia was with the Emperor, who received us with the kindly, simple manner that has been observed by all who approached him. His face showed symptoms of secret satisfaction—the cause was not far to seek; he knew what had happened at Essonne.

The King of Prussia spoke first, and told us that we were the authors of all the misfortunes of Europe. The Crown Prince of Wurtemberg had apostrophized us in the same strain the previous evening at Petit-burg. The Czar, fearing that this would create discussion, hastily intervened.

'My brother,' said he, 'this is not the time to argue about what is passed,' and immediately entered upon the subject- matter of the conference. He told us that the question had been decided in the negative.

Thus was extinguished the last feeble ray of hope that our first interview had lighted as to the establishment of a Regency, contingent upon the abdication of Napoleon in favour of his son.

Alexander added that opinion in Paris was against it, and that this opinion was being rapidly spread in the provinces.; that wives were always wives—that is to say, weak—and that Napoleon, wherever he might be, and with his authority, would dictate to his ; that it would be easy for him to repossess himself of power, and that the thirst for vengeance would drive him to shake anew the foundations of Europe; that every nation had need of peace and rest, especially France, after so many years of disturbance, so many sacrifices, and so much bloodshed, from all of which she had gained immense glory and nothing else, and that that glory had been too dearly purchased. Nevertheless, her territory should be enlarged, as to secure the political balance and equilibrium of Europe it was necessary that she should he stronger and more powerful than tinder her kings.

Who, on hearing this high-flown language, would not have expected that an extension of her frontier on the Rhine would be granted? The net result of it all was Chambéry and its environs.

The Emperor of Russia added that, as a proof of their respect and admiration for the army, of their esteem and friendship for France, which would soon be sealed, no war indemnity would be imposed or exacted by the allies, except a sum of 30,000,000 francs (£1,200,000), which was intended, I believe, as a little present to the King of Prussia.

They kept their word. It is true that they obtained, not an equivalent, but a considerable, reparation by their seizure of the immense store of war material contained in the garrisoned towns which were not taken by them, but which were made over to them by the disgraceful treaty of April 29. This treaty was published in the Moniteur, without signature, and public opinion protested that it had not been concluded gratuitously.

As we could oppose no further objections to the determination of the allies, the question arose as to their intentions regarding the ultimate fate of Napoleon and his family. Caulaincourt cleverly introduced the question, and I added that Napoleon had expressly enjoined and commanded us neither to discuss nor to agree to anything personal to himself. The Duke of Vicenza's question, therefore, arose partly from curiosity and partly from foresight, as it might happen that Napoleon, forgetting his restrictions, might wish to know beforehand what fate was in store for him.

The Emperor of Russia appeared surprised and incredulous. I showed him my instructions. After reading them over, and convincing himself of the accuracy of my statement, his demeanour became more solemn, and he said:

'I esteem him the more highly for it. Henceforward I cease to he his enemy, and restore my friendship to him. I was formerly his greatest admirer ; I allied myself with him, approved every variation in his policy, recognised all the sovereigns he created and established, and the alliances he formed. I adopted, and faithfully carried out, his Continental system as long as the treaty lasted. He demanded its prolongation, but this treaty was causing the utmost suffering to my country; and while I was ruining my subjects by forbidding all commerce, he was enriching himself by selling licenses. He threatened me. I put myself in a state of defence. He advanced to attack me, invaded my dominions, and drove me back into the very heart of my empire. I will say no more about the calamities which have produced such terrible results for you and for France; they brought about the catastrophe in which we, in our turn, have to play a part—the fall of 'Napoleon and his dynasty. But he is in trouble, To-day I become once more his friend, and I will forget everything. He shall have the island of Elba as his sovereignty, or something else; he shall keep the title by which he is generally recognised his family shall receive pensions and preserve their estates. Tell him, gentlemen, that if he will have none of this sovereignty, or in case he can find no other shelter, he is to come into my dominions. There he shall be received as a sovereign. He may trust Alexander's word.'

During this speech the King of Prussia had, I think, retired. The Emperor declined to give any explanation of the words something else when we asked him what they meant. We then asked for a draft in writing of the proposal, or rather decision, of the allies; but he objected, saying that the matter was one that ought to be treated diplomatically, and through the usual ministerial channels, whereupon we called his attention to the fact that Napoleon might fear false interpretations, or misunderstandings, and we urgently pressed him to have merely written down, without date or signature, what he had condescended to say to us by word of mouth concerning the resolutions of the allies.

He at length consented, left the room, and returned shortly afterwards holding in his hands a minute in every respect corresponding with what he had declared to us. He gave it to Caulaincourt, granted us an armistice of forty-eight hours, in order to allow us time to go and return, furnished in the name of the army with sufficient instructions to admit of our treating upon the basis agreed to, and dismissed us.

We were at least as anxious to return to headquarters as the Emperor Napoleon and the army were to learn the result of our negotiations. The defection of the Duke of Ragusa's corps had naturally caused great excitement there. It was supposed, and rightly, that this occurrence might hinder our mission, and in every respect render its success doubtful. Our return calmed for the moment the most excited as well as the most timorous spirits.


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