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Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter XXXI


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.

Prince Hardenberg 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 meeting.

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 henceforward.'

At 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 he did.

The Emperor 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 dominions.'

Such 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.


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