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Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter XXX


I WILL now return to our negotiations and our line of demarcation. The annoyances and delays we had had to put up with were but a prelude to one much more serious annoyance.

While we were busied about sending out the couriers to settle the demarcations that had been altered upon our instance, we received an urgent message from the Emperor of Russia, demanding our immediate attendance upon him.

On arriving we noticed his severe manner and threatening tone.

'I am indignant, gentlemen,' he said, 'at learning the part you are playing here. Was it to deceive my good faith that you came hither as negotiators? Was it in order that you might assist Napoleon's escape?'

From our dismayed manner he could see that we were not affecting surprise. Indeed, we were confounded by this improbable news.

'What!' I said, can your Majesty believe that? After your generosity has been made known to and realized by Napoleon, after his acceptance of your offers guaranteeing his safety, can you believe that he would expose himself to seizure by the allied troops, that he would risk being taken by a band of Cossacks, and spending the rest of his life in captivity, if not worse? No,' I continued with warmth, 'that cannot be; it is not true. This piece of news is false, invented; someone has wickedly deceived your Majesty, in order to check your kindness towards Napoleon!'

'Here is the report,' he returned, 'addressed to me, and signed by-I think, Prince Repnine, who commands my forces at La Ferté-Aleps; and I am bound to believe him.'

'Someone has deceived or led him into error,' I replied.

The report was in Russian; the Emperor translated it. In it his General informed him that the French General D—, who was opposed to him, had sent him word that he had just received intelligence that Napoleon, with fifty mounted chasseurs of his Guard, had fled, no one knew whither; that not knowing to whom to apply, he begged him to obtain orders for him and his cavalry from the Provisional Government.
This may all have arisen from the ill-will, misunderstanding, and intrigues of this same Provisional Government, which had numerous agents at all the points occupied by the army, to deceive the leaders as to the course of affairs, to discourage and alienate the men, and instigate defections. This was done to a large extent.

I proposed to the Emperor to send one of his aides-de- camp with one of mine to Fontainebleau, to verify this news, and to assure themselves of Napoleon's presence there. He agreed, and the officers started; but while awaiting their return he suspended all negotiations, as well as the execution of the demarcation agreed upon at the armistice.

On reaching Marshal Ney's house we had proof positive of the falsity of the news, for a letter had arrived from the Emperor Napoleon, dated that very day (and he was said to have taken flight the day before), demanding the return of his act of abdication, and revoking our powers. We could not imagine what had induced him to go back upon his previous determination, and we, in our turn, indignant that he should think us capable of lending ourselves to such folly (I might use a much stronger word), refused point blank.

This demand, however, had one advantage, inasmuch as it proved to us that Napoleon was still at Fontainebleau; but we vainly strove to find the answer to the riddle of the flight, as well as the motives that had induced him to re- demand his act of abdication.

The aides-de-camp returned, and confirmed our assertion that there was no truth in the report of the Emperor's flight. The suspension was removed ; we hurried on the tracing of the lines of demarcation, with directions that they were to be carried out forthwith, for our troops were very badly off in their bivouacs, and crowded in their cantonments for supplies. Rations were very seldom distributed, and this augmented discontent and discouragement, and increased desertion, to the great satisfaction of the allies and the Provisional Government, so awed were they by these skeleton remains of troops who had shown their valour in so many battles and had more than once made Europe tremble.

I cannot say the same for their leaders. They vied with each other in displaying anxiety to submit themselves, in spite of all our entreaties and advice. Scarcely had each one made peace for himself in the name of his troops, who were ignorant of what was going on, than he abandoned them, and hurried to Paris, down to General Molitor even, whom I had left in charge of my titulary corps, and who, despite my injunctions, made terms for himself behind my back.

I may repeat here what I have already said, that the honour of the Emperor Alexander would not allow him to profit by these desertions and to make them a pretext for breaking off negotiations with us, for we now only represented a fictitious army. He kept all his promises, all his engagements to Napoleon, and always recognized us as Commissioners.

While the negotiations were in progress, I questioned my aide-de-camp who had accompanied the Emperor's to Fontainebleau. He had learned there that a certain General Allix, commanding at Sens, had seen an Austrian Major pass on his way to Paris from Dijon, where his Sovereign was. It appears that this Major told him that his master, from whom he was bearing despatches to the Emperor of Russia, disapproved strongly of all that had been and was still being done in Paris; that he had taken up arms against Napoleon in order to put a check upon his ambition and reduce his power ; that he was quite willing, as he had undertaken, to enclose him within the ancient limits of France; but that he did not, and never would, consent to the dethronement of his son-in-law, his daughter, and the proper arid direct heir to their crown.

According to this real or invented story, the General had immediately sent notice to Napoleon, whose hopes were raised for a moment, but were quickly dashed again, for he learned from a better and more trustworthy source that his father-in-law approved of his deposition and the recall of the Bourbons. it was by the light of this will-o'-the-wisp that he had written to demand the return of his act of abdication. I have never been able to get to the bottom of the story of his flight. I might have questioned the French General who told it to the Russian, but for the sake of his honour I would not ask him to enlighten me.

At length, on April 11, the last signature was affixed to the treaty between the Foreign Ministers and ourselves. That same evening we handed over the act of abdication to the Provisional Government in return for their guarantee that the clauses should be carried out as far as concerned them, and under the guarantee of the allied Powers. The exchange of ratifications was fixed for the 14th, at eleven o'clock in the morning, at the house of Prince Hardenberg. I was charged to hand in ours.

The members of the Provisional Government had wished to impart some solemnity to the reception of the act of abdication ; they had summoned their ministers and the members of their party. After we had handed in this document, rightly regarded as the last and most important ever signed by a Sovereign once the most powerful in the world, Monsieur de 'l'alleyrancl advanced towards us and said

'Now that all is concluded, we ask you, gentlemen, to give in your adhesion to the new order of things that has been established.'

Marshal Ney hastened to say that he had already done so. I do not address myself to you, but to the Dukes of Tarentum and Vicenza.'

I simply answered that I refused; Caulaincourt did likewise. Talleyrand could neither change colour nor turn paler, but his face swelled, as though he were bursting with rage. However, he contained himself, and merely said to me:

But, Monsieur Ie Maréchal, your Personal adhesion is of importance to us, for it cannot fail to exercise great influence upon the army and upon France. All your engagements are now terminated, and you are free.'

'No,' I replied, 'and no one ought to know better than yourself that as long as a treaty is not ratified it may be annulled; when that formality, has been fulfilled, I shall know what to do.'

'I'alleyrand made no answer, stepped back several paces, and we withdrew. [It was not until after Bonaparte had written and signed his formal abdication that Marshal Macdonald sent to the Provisional Government his recognition expressed in the following dignified and simple manner: 'Being released from my allegiance by the abdication of the Emperor Napoleon, I declare that I conform to the Acts of the Senate and the Provisional Government.' - Bourrienne's 'Memoirs of Napoleon,' standard edition of 188, vol. iii., p. 170.]

Ney informed us that, as his mission was now at an end, he should not return with us to Fontainebleau and then, apparently addressing me, he said

'I shall not go there in search of rewards.'

'I am not in the habit of receiving, still less of asking for them,' I answered ; 'and ' (with an allusion to the 15,000 francs) neither have I received any in advance. I am returning thither to perform a duty, to keep to the end my engagements and the promises I have made to the Emperor.'

Next day, April 12, Caulaincourt and I started together for Fontainebleau. The Count d'-Artois entered Paris, I believe, at the same moment with the title of Lieutenant- General of the kingdom.

We found Napoleon calm and tranquil, although he learned that all was concluded. He again thanked us affectionately for all that we had done for him and his family. Not seeing Marshal Ney, he merely asked, without further remark

'Did not the Marshal return with you?'

It was easy for him to interpret the silence with which we received this suggestive inquiry, because he had noticed plainly that he was not there. It was nearly six o'clock. He kept us to dinner, but postponed it for an hour, in order to draw up the ratifications.

Just as we were going in to dinner he sent us word to begin without him, as he felt unwell and was going to bed; food was, however, sent to him. He also settled nine o'clock in the morning as the hour at which we were to come to receive the ratifications.

An aide-de-camp arrived from the Emperor of Russia, I know not whether before, during, or after dinner. He was the bearer of the ratified treaty, sent by his master to Napoleon out of courtesy. This aide-dc-camp was, I believe, Monsieur de Schuvaloff, one of Alexander's favourites. He was admitted, I believe, but I do not know what passed between him and Napoleon. If the Duke of Vicenza ever writes his Memoirs, no doubt he will mention the subject.

All those who had remained at Fontainebleau, and who were for the most part attached to the service of the house and person of the Emperor, were overjoyed at seeing the termination of this great drama. They had nothing further to hope for from him decency had kept them at their posts, but they longed for the moment of dismissal.

Next morning, at nine o'clock, I was introduced into the Imperial presence. The Dukes of l3assano and Vicenza were with Napoleon. He was seated before the fire, clothed in a simple dimity dressing-gown, his legs bare, his feet in slippers, his neck uncovered, his head buried in his hands, and his elbows resting on his knees. He did not stir when I entered, although my name was announced in a loud voice. After some minutes of silent waiting the Duke of Vicenza said to him

'Sire, the Marshal Duke of Tarentum has come in obedience to your orders; it is important that he should start again for Paris.'

The Emperor appeared to wake from a dream, and to be surprised at seeing me. He got up and gave me his hand with an apology for not having heard me enter. As soon as he uncovered his face I was struck by his appearance; his complexion was yellow and greenish.

'Is your Majesty not well?' I asked.

'No,' answered Napoleon; 'I have been very ill all night.' [It is alleged that Napoleon took poison on the night of March 12. [see Baron Fain's ' Memoirs'; also Bourrienne's' Memoirs of Napoleon,' Eng. edit., vol. iii., P 233.1 It is probable, however, that the Emperor had taken an overdose of opium, with the intention of obtaining artificial sleep for his overtaxed system, exhausted physically by his recent rapid journey to Fontainebleau, and mentally by the strain and anxiety of the previous weeks.]

Thereupon he seated himself again, dropped into his former attitude, and appeared once more plunged in his reveries. The two other spectators and I looked at each other without speaking. At last, after a somewhat lengthy pause, the Duke of Vicenza again said:

'Sire, the Duke of Tarentum is waiting. The deeds which he is to take with him ought to be delivered to him, seeing that the delay will expire in twenty-four hours, and that the exchange is to be made in Paris.'

The Emperor, rousing himself a second time from his meditations, got up more briskly, but his colour had not changed, and his face was melancholy.

''I feel rather better,' he said to us, and then added: 'Duke of Tarentum, I cannot tell you how touched by, and grateful for, your conduct and devotion I am. I did not know you well; I was prejudiced against you. I have done so much for, and loaded with favours, so many others, who have abandoned and neglected me; and you, who owed me nothing, have remained faithful to me I appreciate your loyalty all too late, and I sincerely regret that I am no longer in a position to express my gratitude to you except by words. I know that your delicacy and disinterestedness have left you without fortune; and I am not unaware of the generous manner in which you refused to accept a present of considerable value at Gratz in 1809, which the States of the province offered you in token of their gratitude for the strict discipline and order you maintained among my troops, and where your impartial rule did justice to all. Formerly I was rich and powerful; now I am poor.'

'I flatter myself;' I answered, 'that your Majesty thinks too well of me to believe that I would accept any reward in your present position; my conduct, upon which you place too high a value, has been entirely disinterested.'

'I know it,' he said, pressing my hand; 'but, without hurting your delicacy, you can accept a present of another kind, the sword of Mourad-Bey which I wore at the battle of Mont-Thabor; keep it in remembrance of me and of my friendship for you.'

He had it brought to him, and offered it to me. I thought I might accept this present. I thanked him very warmly; we threw ourselves into each other's arms, and embraced one another effusively. He begged me to come and see him in Elba if any chance took me into Italy; I promised. At length we separated. The documents that I was to carry were given to me. I made my preparations for departure, and since then I have never seen Napoleon again.


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