I REACHED Paris that
evening, and fulfilled on the following day the mission with which I was
charged—the delivery of the treaty ratified by Napoleon himself. There
was no exchange, for, as I have said, the Emperor Alexander had sent his
personal ratification direct and with great courtesy first.
The Foreign Ministers,
who were assembled at the hotel of Prince Hardenberg, received me with
great demonstrations of politeness, and showed lively satisfaction at
finding the united efforts of the allied Sovereigns crowned with a
success so unexpected for their cause.
appeared to have forgotten the peremptory manner with which I had
treated him in January, 1813, after the desertion of the Prussian corps
under my orders. He confined himself to asking me for news of various
persons whom he had known in the French army, and with speaking to me of
his friend the Count de St. Marsan, whom he had had the pleasure of
The Count de St. Marsan
had spent several years in Berlin, till 1813, as French minister. He had
followed the King of Prussia into Silesia, when he suddenly quitted his
residence at Potsdam on hearing of the final disasters accompanying our
retreat, and of the desertion of his body of troops, for which he
appeared to fear that he might be held responsible. It was afterwards
said that Monsieur de St. Marsan was more devoted to Prussia than to
France, and that long before the catastrophe he had made his peace with
the allies. I have never taken any pains to verify this rumour.
General Dupont, at that time Minister for
War, and a friend of mine of man)' years' standing, [We had made
acquaintance in 1784, in Holland, when we were both serving in
Maillebois' legion; since then we had seldom been long without news of
each other. —Nole by Marshal Macdonald.] having learned that 1 had
delivered the treaty, came to me, in the name of the Comte d'Artois,
Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, to solicit my personal adherence to
the changes that had taken place. I had executed my engagements; I was
no longer bound by oath in a word, I was free. I had no other objections
to make that could carry any weight, and I acted honestly and honourably
in putting my hand to the document that appeared next day in the ,Ifonilezir.
You will observe, my son, that I afterwards faithfully carried out the
fresh engagements I had just contracted; it is an example that I
recommend you to follow.
It was some time ere I went to the Tuileries
to pay my respects to Monsieur, at that time Lieutenant-General of the
kingdom, now King Charles X. My friends urged me. I had no objection to
going, but I thought it more fitting not to show too much anxiety, after
executing a mission not very well calculated to please the Prince, and
especially after having exhibited so much resistance and opposition.
At length I went thither. The drawing -
rooms were furnished as they had been at the zenith of the fallen
Sovereign. Somebody told his Royal Highness that I was there, for I
noticed that he immediately glanced in my direction, and came straight
through the crowd towards me. I bowed; his first and last words were:
'How are you, Monsieur Ic MarchaI? I have
not seen you before.'
Fancying that there was a reproach implied
in his words, I raised my head, and said:
'No, Monseigneur; I had obligations and
duties to perform. I will carry them out equally faithfully
these words, Monsieur turned his back upon me, which at first confirmed
my surmise; but a few days later chance gave me an opportunity of
discovering that his Royal Highness had unintentionally addressed me as
of Russia invited all the Marshals then in Paris, together with the
Minister for War and the Duke of Vicenza, to dinner. No stranger, not
even of his own nation, was present. His Imperial Majesty no doubt
wished to avoid arguments, discussions, and differences of opinion which
might have bad results. Questions of politics and of party are like
questions of religion. Everyone keeps to his own belief, the only
difference being that soldiers argue more hotly.
The Emperor wished to talk freely to us and
put us quite at our ease. The events of the war naturally furnished the
chief topic. His Majesty never ceased praising the virtues of our
soldiers: their obedience, devotion, knowledged, talent, heroic bravery,
nay, rashness, their keenness in battle, their humanity after victory.
He returned again to the subject of the feat of arms at Fre-Champenoise,
and the splendid resistance offered by that handful of conscripts to the
forces that surrounded them. ' I saved their lives in spite of
themselves!' he said.
What astonished him above
all was the manner in which both officers and men endured, without a
murmur, such long and frequent privations, regarding all their fatigues
as nothing. His Majesty spoke kindly of Napoleon, pitying his fallen
enemy for the necessity he had forced upon him (Alexander) of taking the
lead in the coalition.
Someone audaciously asled him whether the
cavalier manner in which Napoleon had broken off, almost as soon as they
were set on foot, the negotiations for the hand of the Grand-Duchess,
his sister, had not contributed to cool his former admiration, and to
decide him to approach England. He replied that such was not the case,
and that, notwithstanding the absolute authority with which the Czars
are invested, they have none whatever over the daughters, who in all
matrimonial matters are exclusively dependent upon their mothers. He
added that he had promised to use his influence with his mother, hut
that Napoleon, knowing what strong resistance would be offered by the
Empress Dowager, and her hatred of him, and wishing to contract
immediately, and at any cost, an alliance which should legitimize his
sovereignty, had drawn back and ordered his Ambassador at Petersburg to
proceed no further with his proposition. He had then given car to the
underhand insinuations that, if he would turn towards Austria, there was
no doubt that the Ambassador representing that Power had authority to
treat for a marriage. The Emperor Alexander had already had wind of this
when Caulaincourt came to him charged with the painful duty of
announcing Napoleon's renunciation of his suit.
'I might,' he added, 'have considered this
rupture as an insult, and have been offended by it, the more so as I
said at the time, and the Duke of Vicenza can bear rue out: "For my own
part, I consider this alliance suitable, but my sister is not yet of a
marriageable age, and I fear that my mother will oppose it strongly.
However, I will try to change her opinion, and in time, which is
necessary, moreover, to my sister's development, we shall perhaps
succeed in overcoming her objections." Napoleon took these remarks as a
refusal, and we heard no more about it, as it was purely a family
question, and not one of government or of politics that touched my
were the explanations given to us by this Sovereign regarding a
circumstance which had, at the time, been very much discussed privately,
and of which very different views were taken. I am satisfied of the
correctness of the story, for it was afterwards corroborated to me by
the Duke of Vicenza, who told me further how extremely difficult his
position had been.
The Emperor then turned the conversation to our official and private
correspondence, which had been intercepted and deciphered so that he
could read it.
'Monsieur le Marchal,' he said, turning to me, 'some of your reports
that we have seen have been very remarkable, as also your letters to
your children, and their answers. They appear to be very fond of you.'
I begged the Emperor to have the goodness to cause them to be restored
to me. He replied that they were in the hands of his sister, the Crown
Princess of Wurternberg, who had been charmed with them, but that he
would ask her for them. I know not whether he forgot his promise, but
the fact remains that they have never been given back to me.
Returning to the subject of the official
correspondence, I said with a smile
'It is not surprising that your Majesty was
able to decipher it. Your Majesty had been given the key.'
He looked very grave, laid one hand on his
heart, and extended the other.
'I give you my word of honour,' he said,
'that that is not the case.'
I alluded to the desertion of General Jomini,
chief of Marshal Ney's staff, who had gone over to the enemy, carrying
with him all the papers and documents relative to the situation, after
the denunciation of the armistice in August, 1813.
Monsieur, Lieutenant-General of the kingdom,
gave, in his turn, a dinner to the Marshals and a few Generals. We were
not yet accustomed to seeing the Tuileries inhabited by a new master,
who had so easily obtained possession of it, and who a few months
previously had certainly had no idea of being there. He must, at times,
have felt as much surprised as we were.
The Prince received me with his well-known
grace, which entirely dissipated the idea that he was prejudiced against
me on account of my last visit.
The dinner was served with Napoleon's plate,
glass, and linen; the imperial monogram did not seem to hurt the eyes of
the newcomer then ; his susceptibilities grew more delicate later.
Monsieur was in very good spirits, did the honours courteously and
kindly, and ate a good dinner. At dessert he proposed the health of the
King. We bowed, and responded by the customary cry of 'Vivat!'
Conversation turned upon various
circumstances of the war, but so as to wound no feelings. Monsieur ended
by praising loudly the virtues of the King his brother, his profound and
extensive knowledge, his wit, and, above all, his prodigious memory,
which was true enough; but what was less true, was the assurance that he
gave us of his admiration for the deeds of arms, and the great talents
of the French Generals during two-and-twenty years, filled with
celebrated and surprising warlike achievements. In this connection the
Prince gave a word of praise to each of us. In short, we were much
pleased with the attentions and politeness of Monsieur.
All they who, like me, have had
opportunities of talking to King Louis XVIII., have been able to
convince themselves of his indifference to military matters. I was one
of the commanders of the Royal Guard, and he never put a question to me
concerning my regiment.
The King was expected at Calais on April 24.
It was intimated to us that his Majesty would have pleasure in receiving
his Marshals at Compiègne; and we went thither accordingly. The Duke of
Ragusa and the Prince of the Moskowa preceded us, the former as bearer
of a mission from the Provisional Government; the latter as having a
mission of his own, namely that of congratulating the King in the name
of the Army and its leaders. They were both in advance, and met the King
a league beyond Compiègne.
We awaited his Majesty's arrival, and
entered the castle behind him. The Prince of Neuchâtel, who was at our
head, made a speech, in which, with better right, he expressed himself
as the real mouthpiece of the army. The King interrupted him, in order
to declare his appreciation of the step we had taken, and the pleasure
he felt at seeing us, adding that he regarded us as the firmest pillars
of the State, and that it would always be a satisfaction to him to lean
upon us. He rose from his chair at thesewords, and emphasized his
meaning by placing one hand on my shoulder and the other upon that of
one of my colleagues. We replied suitably.
The King presented us to the 1)uchesse
d'Angouleme, to the Prince de Condé, and to the 1)uc de Bourbon. The
Princess, whom I observed attentively, was dressed with the utmost
siniplicits ; her demeanour and features were cold, thoughtful, and
stamped with melancholy. I could not help identifying myself with her
sad recollections, which were rendered still more poignant when, some
days later. she went to the Tuileries and occupied the apartments of her
unhappy mother. She herself told me this recently, when I returned to
take up my abode in the Palace of the Legion of Honour, where both you
and I, my son, experienced so terrible a domestic loss.
The two Princes murmured a few words, which
neither my comrades nor I could hear.
The King invited us to dinner with him.
Scarcely were we seated at table than, raising his voice, he said
'Messieurs les Maréchaux. 1. send you some vermouth, and drink to your
health and that of the Army.'
Fearing to neglect the proper etiquette, we
rose and bowed to express our thanks. We ought to have replied by the
cry of 'Vivat!' which was formerly customary but we were not men of
former days, nor brought up at Court. However, we told the Prince de
Poix, Captain of the Guards, that we had been in a difficulty, and that
the fear of doing something incorrect had alone prevented us from
drinking the King's health. He replied that it would have sufficed to
ask his Majesty's permission to do so, but promised to tell him of our
intentions, and of the praise. worthy motives of our discretion. On our
return to the drawing-room the King was most agreeable and gracious to
all of us. After giving the orders, he saluted us, and we retired,
delighted with the reception given to us by his Majesty.
Next day, at the hour of Mass, we returned
to the castle. The King sent for us one by one, and addressed to each
some complimentary words; then, making conversation general, he told us
that he knew the army needed reorgànization, and that, in order to carry
it out, he begged for our opinions. imagine that it was because I was
right in front of the King, and most immediately under his eyes; but
whatever the reason, he said to me:
'Monsieur le Maréchal, hat is yours?'
'Sire,' I replied, if your Majesty wishes
for a plain opinion, deign to create a Council of War, taking the
presidency thereof into your own hands. Every plan will be prepared in a
sectional committee for each branch of the service, discussed and
decided upon by the Council, and remitted to the Minister for execution.
As to appointments, a triple list will be drawn UI) by each section,
discussed and decided upon at a general meeting of the sections, and
transmitted to the Minister. From these lists he should select names for
the approval of the King. This Council should of necessity be composed
of the heads of the army. Their experience in affairs, the knowledge
they possess of the capacity and talents of their subordinates, will be
a guarantee for good selections, and for justice and due regard to all.
The Council, however, should only have a consultative vote, so as to
prevent a possibility of the recurrence of the difficulties experienced
by that of 1787, which impeded Ministerial action. However, much good
resulted from that Council, among other things the exercises and
manoeuvres, which are still employed, and which only need to be modified
and improved. The groundwork is so good that nothing better will ever be
produced, although there are plenty of people quite ready to try.'
The other Marshals having said that that was
also their opinion, the matter dropped.
The King then said that, if we were staying
at Compiègne, he hoped to see us at dinner. We expressed our thanks, but
answered that we were anxious to return to Paris, in order to make his
warm reception of us known to the Army, as well as his kind inclinations
towards it, and so we took our leave. We were absolutely enchanted. We
communicated to the generals and chief officers who had been under our
command our hopes and the spirit with which we were animated.
On May 2 the King came from Compigne to St.
Ouen, where he slept, in order to make his entry into the capital. The
inhabitants of Paris were ready to receive him with sincere and joyful
demonstrations after reading a royal declaration dated from that place.
We were invited thither, but remained forgotten during the reception of
the foreign Monarchs, deputations, etc. At length the King sent for us,
and excused himself by saying that he had not been informed of our
arrival, and that, had he known of it, he certainly would not have kept
us waiting. It would have been impossible to make a better reparation to
us for the carelessness of his Court officials.