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Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter XXXII


THE declaration of St. Ouen had a wonderful effect upon the King's entry, which took place on May . A great majority of the population, even from the environs, crowded into the capital and greeted him with hearty acclamations. The Marshals had been summoned to join the procession. We surrounded the royal carriage, containing the Duchesse d'Angoulême on the left of the King, and the Prince de Condd and the Duc de Bourbon facing him. His Majesty bowed graciously, and from time to time pointed out the Duchess to the longing eyes of the crowd, as though to say

'See this unfortunate Princess; here she is, the only one who escaped the revolutionary axe!'

I saw some ladies at windows in the Rue St. Hohoré so moved that they either fainted, or else pretended to.

The procession went to the Cathedral, where the King was present at the solemnization of a Te Deum to return thanks, and then to the palace of the Tuileries. What memories must have recurred to the royal family at sight of those walls, which still bore traces of the fury of August 10!

There was a grand parade of troops in the courtyard, and among them were the remains of the Old Guard, who had been brought by a forced march, and, I believe, in one journey, from Fontainebleau. They had first been drawn up in line at the Porte St. Denis, without being allowed time to shave or wash themselves, and thence they had been brought at the double into the courtyard. It was believed that the King would pass through their ranks, but, whether from fatigue or indifference, he would pay no attention to this troop, although much pressed to do so. It was a great mistake, and sowed the first seeds of that discontent of which, ten months later, the fatal consequences were felt. This famous regiment was not even permitted to take the duty at the Tuileries, although one of their battalions had given every satisfaction at Cornpiêgne, and had been on duty all the time the King remained there.

Such neglect was deeply felt by these brave fellows, who had formerly had alone the privilege of guarding Napoleon and the Cheáteau. By another fatality, which was not without its influence upon their discontent, no lodgings or quarters had been provided for them ; and when at length they succeeded in obtaining private billets, every door was shut. There was no ill-will in this; the fact was that everyone had gone out to see the King's entry, and had taken advantage of the fine weather to remain out-of-doors.

I was informed by a lady of my acquaintance, possessed both of good sense and courage, that on her return from a visit to her parents she found several grenadiers disputing with the porter, who refused to admit them, notwithstanding that their billets were in perfect order, because his masters had not come home. They merely asked leave to rest in his lodge until their return. In refusing this the inflexible Cerberus had apparently made use of some contemptuous expressions, for the soldiers had laid hands on him, and he would have had a very disagreeable experience had not, luckily for him, my friend appeared. On learning the reason of the dispute she scolded the porter, threatened to have him dismissed, and, turning to the soldiers, said

'My friends, it is a shame that you should be treated thus! Come in. You need refreshment, but everything is shut up. Porter, hasten to the baker, the pork-butcher, and the wine-merchant, and see that these gallant fellows have everything they require immediately!'

Her presence and consideration disarmed the anger of these veterans of the Guard, but she could not get them to cry, 'Long live the King!'

I suppose that many incidents of a similar nature occurred that day in Paris, and were not forgotten; and consequently) at the first news of Napoleon's landing, these soldiers remounted the tricoloured cockades and flocked to him. Much mistrust and many mistakes and follies contributed to increase the discontent.

The Dukes of Berry and Angoulême arrived soon after. The first, like his father, had had the good sense to put on the uniform of the National Guard; the second, on the other hand, was dressed in an English uniform! The Marshals had been commanded to go and meet him. The sight of his impolitic costume displeased us no less than his cold reception of us. He scarcely saluted us, and roughly asked his brother, at the same time pointing at us in turn

'Who is this? What is that man's name?' and so on.

He was also very coldly greeted himself, although there were many people in the streets; but they went rather out of curiosity, and the warmest feelings were frozen by the sight of the uniform of our bitterest. enemies. This was perhaps increased by a rumour which had gained wide circulation, that he ill-treated, and even beat, the Princess. I repeat this statement, or rather this gossip, for what it is worth, because those who have the best opportunities of observing, remark on the contrary that this couple seem very fond of each other, full of sympathy and thought for each other; and this is especially noticeable in the Princess, for whom my respect, attachment and devotion are very deep.

A Council of War had just been created, I know not whether by the will of the King or whether his minister, having heard of the conversation at Compiègne, and fearing that one might be forced UOfl him, took the initiative. I incline towards the latter belief, simply on account of the various selections made among the lower grades, whereas it had been stated at Compigne that it should only necessarily include the heads of the army, the Marshals, principal Controllers of Ordnance and Supplies, and some Generals who had commanded army-corps.

few days later I went to the Gháteau. The King was on his throne, but not in state; some few persons were in the hall, amongst others the Duke of Wellington. His Majesty, seated, wearing his hat and playing with his walking-stick, desired me to approach, and, after introducing the Duke to me, with whom I exchanged a few polite words, said:

'Well, you ought to be satisfied. I have formed a Council of War; what do you think of it?'

'Your Majesty's object has not been attained,' I answered. 'The Minister has composed it of soldiers dependent on him who are in want of employment or promotion, and who, on that very account, will be his very humble servants, docile to the opinions and wishes of his Excellency, so that your Majesty will never know anything except what it pleases the Minister to show.'

'You are right,' replied the King; 'I will change and correct that.'

The modification consisted in the addition of three Marshals, and I afterwards learned that the King insisted upon my being one of them. Dupont [It seems strange that such a man should have been put over the greatest Marshals and Generals of France! Vide infra, . 303, note. - Translator.] had long known my independence, and our intimacy enabled me to superintend everything and say what I pleased. He would no doubt have been glad to avoid this alteration, which later on would have been of great service to him; but he could not keep me out after the formal expression of the King's wishes.

At length we met. The Minister entered, holding a sort of provisional plan, the nature of which we could not learn, for he said that his Majesty demanded the immediate attendance of the Council.

'You want to play us a trick, my friend,' said I; 'but take care, I will speak out before the King.'

On reaching the Chateau our meeting began, under the presidency of the King, who had beside him Monsieur and his sons. Dupont sent to beg me to make no objection. He read his report, after which his Majesty asked for our opinions. When my turn came, I remarked that the report had been read too quickly for me to form any opinion, and asked that it might be printed, which was granted.

The Council of War was summoned to the Cháteau for the second and last time. The printed copies of the report had been circulated just as we were starting for the Tuileries. Matters had been carefully arranged so that there should be no discussion.

In opening the meeting the King said that the breaking up of the armies had become so important that, since our first meeting, he had been obliged to order it, and to partition the regiments among the garrisons; that consequently our meeting became objectless for the moment; that he begged us to study the plan of organization; and, finally, that he would let us know his intentions later. We were never summoned again.

Thus vanished this dream of a Council of War, which, over and above the advantage of bringing together valuable opinions and experience, would have assured to the army that unity which is always so desirable—uniform instruction, precision, good fellowship, and, above all, the best choice of officers. Instead of this, preference was given to favouritism, decorations and promotion were lavished upon the incapable and careless, while merit languished and vegetated in subordinate ranks; the old noblesse invaded everything, and deep-seated discontent began to ferment. The Princes also dispossessed, without any compensation, those who held the post of chief inspectors of the different Arms of the Service, and who ranked immediately after the Marshals.

The Legion of Honour, institutedas a reward for merit of every kind, was thrown open to everybody, and it became evident that the intention was to discredit and deprive it of any value. But I must say that the Order of St. Louis was distributed with equal prodigality. The royal Government behaved like an invalid, who allows everything to take its chance without any supervision.

I have anticipated events, however, and travelled far from my Council of War. The sitting was occupied with narratives of military events, and parallels drawn between opposing Generals. The King took considerable interest in the conversation, and after some hours declared the sitting closed.

During the brief existence of the Council of War, another political body was deliberating upon and discussing the constitutional Charter, based upon the declarations of St. Ouen. The Legislative Body of the Empire had been temporarily preserved. The ancient peerage, re-established but enlarged, formed, as in England, the Upper Chamber; the other one took the name of Chamber of Departmental Deputies.
I was created a peer, and at the royal sitting of June 4 took the oath ; at the first business meeting of the Upper Chamber, I was elected one of the Secretaires du bureau. The drawback to this distinction is that one must be very assiduous, and that one is very much tied, and I soon became so tired of it that, notwithstanding many requests, I have always since declined the honour.

The military divisions were erected into governorships. I had the twenty-first, of which the principal town was Bourges. I had been given my choice, and had taken that, as it brought me near my property. At the same time all the Marshals were appointed Knights of St. Louis, and successively Commanders and Grand-Crosses of this military Order, which was revived, as were the other ancient Orders, without abrogation of the law abolishing them: such was the tendency to absolutism.

The object of the first Bill brought before the Chamber of Peers was to correct the abuses of the press. I fancied I discovered in it a violation of Article 8 of the Charter. I spoke and voted against it, and my little speech was considered very military. Notwithstanding strong opposition, the Bill passed by a majority of one, the numbers being fifty- six for and fifty-five against! This happened merely because one of my intimate friends, who had promised to vote with us against it, wrote 'yes' on his voting-paper. I saw him do it, and tried to seize the paper, but he had just time to drop it into the ballot-box. We should have had the majority on our side but for that. By what little threads do the destinies of Bills hang!

It is one of the functions of the Secrétaires du bureau to lay before the King the Bills that have passed. On receiving us, and after a few words addressed to one or two amongst us, Louis XVIII. spoke to me in a severe tone, fixing upon me his eyes. which were penetrating as those of a lynx.

'Monsieur le Maréchal, I am surprised at your having spoken and voted against this measure. When I take the trouble to draft a Bill, I have good reasons for wishing it to pass.'

'Sire,' I replied, 'your Majesty did not take me into confidence with regard to your Bills. They ought all to pass if they are drawn up by your Majesty. If the initiative is to belong to your Majesty alone, they might as well simply be registered, and we might remain dumb like the former Legislative Body. If, however, I have correctly understood the intentions of the Charter, it gives to every individual freedom of opinion and vote. I fancied that in this Bill I discovered a violation of Article 8, and I employed that liberty conscientiously, as I shall always do.'

The King made no answer, bowed to us, and we retired. Scarcely had we left the presence, when the Chancellor said to me:

'Monsieur le Maréchal, was that the proper way to address the King?'

'What do you mean?' I retorted; 'did I fail in respect to his Majesty?'

'No, not exactly; but you should have been more reserved, less blunt.'

'By which you mean that I should either have concealed the truth or displayed regret. I have never learned to twist myself, and I pity the King if what he ought to know be kept from him. I shall always speak to him honestly, and serve him in the same manner.'

The King showed me his resentment for some time, but afterwards treated me with the same politeness as heretofore, and, when he came to know me better, was not displeased with my bluntness, although he was King. I have been told of his saying on several occasions:

'His Outspokenness tells me such and such a thing.'

The Court was daily losing ground in public opinion. It seemed as though the Ministry and their agents were vying with each other as to which should give proof of the greatest folly, and the surroundings of the King as to which should exhibit the greatest haughtiness and conceit.

At this time the office of the Legion of Honour was presided over by a priest, the Abbé de Pradt, formerly chaplain of the god Mars. He suppressed the orphanages, which are now branches of the royal house at St. Denis- The relations of the pupils, their friends, and the members of the Order complained aloud, and numerous petitions were presented to the Chambers. I was a member of the committee of my Chamber, and was ordered to report upon those which put forward just complaints.

I conferred with the representative chosen by the other Chamber to report, and we proceeded to make inquiries— first at the Legion of Honour itself. The Chancellor of the Order informed us that economy alone had prompted the King to take this step. The reason was a weak one, as educational establishments had as much right to public money as the members of the Order. Had they been treated with the barest justice, the subscriptions to them should only have been reduced by half; but more consideration should have been shown to widows and their children, because, in losing their husbands and fathers, they had lost their only means of support. We said that we should state to the proper quarter our reasons for advising the repeal of this impolitic order of suppression. The Abbé admitted that there was some truth in what we said but he thought that the order was too recent to allow of its revocation by the King, and begged us to let a short time elapse before bringing it about.

'No doubt,' I said ironically, 'and meanwhile the children will be sent away, the furniture sold, and later on it will be said that the funds are so Iowthat they will not admit of the reestablishment of these houses ! Monsieur Abbé,' I continued, 'you are concealing your real motives from us; we have a duty to perform; how we perform it must largely depend upon the amount of confidence you place in us. Speak frankly.'

He again protested that there were no reasons save that of economy; but from his hesitating wanner we saw that he was deceiving us.

As we could get nothing more out of him, we went to the Superioress of the Orphanage. She had as good grounds for complaint against the Chancellor as Madame Campan, whose establishment at Ecouen had been suppressed, but most of the pupils in her house had been, at any rate, transferred to that of St. Denis. The suppression of the house at Ecouen had been hurried on, in order that the property might be given to the Prince de Condé, although it had been given in perpetuity to the Legion of
Honour by the sinking-fund (caisse d'amortissemeizt), which had, I believed, purchased it from the State.

The Superioress had had difficulties with the Chancellor, and attributed the suppressions to the personal dislike of the Abbé. She told us that, having gone one day to the Grand Almoner to ask his protection for her community and pupils, the Chancellor had come in, and had been very angry with her for giving any information or details without his knowledge. She felt certain that the Abbé's action arose from motives of personal animosity and a desire to avenge himself. She also complained of his correspondence, saying that she was thwarted in every attempt she made to improve the position of her pupils. It was quite likely that some of her complaints were tinctured by feminine bitterness; we took heed of nothing, except what could help us to discover the real reasons for this suppression.

We went next to the Grand Almoner, who told us that the Chancellor had been very much irritated at the visit paid to him by the Superioress, and at her prayers for support and protection, but added that the Abbe had always told him that the pecuniary position of the Legion required this economical step.

We agreed to take no notice of the complaints of the Superioress, seeing that they were personal, and perhaps exaggerated, and to take as the basis of our respective reports the arbitrary manner in which the, suppression had been effected, for, as I have already said, the educational houses had the same privileges as the members of the Order, having been created at the same time. Moreover, a few years later public money had been specially devoted to them, independently of their general funds. This annual contribution still exists, but other needs and circumstances appear to have interfered with its application.

The feelings of the members of the Order and of all the soldiers were clearly expressed; a portion of the public echoed them, not only in connection with this administrative action, but with many other causes of complaint. What was the use of nourishing this discontent? It seemed to me that the important thing for us was to obtain the repeal of the order. Would speeches help us? They would probably only increase the opposition. The idea then recurred to me of negotiating the matter with the Minister responsible for the Legion of Honour. I suggested this to my colleague. He was a warm partisan of the opposition, a good fellow at heart, with excellent qualities; I had known him a long time. At the first mention of my proposal, he shook his head, but I soon brought him round, and without very much difficulty, adding that, if our negotiation failed, our hands would be strengthened. We agreed, therefore, to draw up our reports as though they were to be laid before our respective Chambers, and to seek an audience with the Minister of the King's household.

Monsieur de Blacas received us immediately, and seemed surprised, because he believed, as he told us, that the measure had been taken in the interests of the Order; he had not really investigated the matter, and had confined himself to laying before the King the report and proposed ordinance that the Chancellor had sent him. He opened a drawer and showed us the original report, and also the budget of the Order, which had not required him to make any profound calculations, for the proposal to reduce the salaries by half could be carried out by a stroke of the pen. We asked him to lay our reports before the King, and to let us know his Majesty's intentions with regard to our request for the repeal of the ordinance.

Some hours later the King sent for us, but the deputy of the other Chamber was nowhere to be found. As punctuality was necessary at the audience, I went alone. Monsieur de Blacas was with the King, and no one else. When I entered his Majesty rose, gave me his hand, and said

'My dear Marshal, I thank you for the delicate manner in which you have set to work to enlighten and inform me of the truth. I only approved the measure because I was assured that it was in the interests of the Order; the true reasons, which you have put in so clear a light, were not placed before me. Therefore, it is with the greatest pleasure and alacrity that I revoke my ordinance.'

I thanked the King in the name of the Order and of the families interested, and added

'Had your Majesty been better informed, you would, I feel sure, have maintained, or even created, these establishments, had they not been already in existence.'

'Certainly I would,' said the King; 'and in order to give you, my dear Marshal, a token of my satisfaction and confidence, I charge you with the task of drawing up the ordinance and re-establishing the orphanages'

I withdrew highly pleased. On reaching home, I found my colleague, Baron Lefebvre, formerly Intendant-General of the army, and at that time occupying the same post in the Parisian National Guard. When he heard my story and the success of our joint inquiry, he lost his temper because he had thus missed his opportunity of declaiming against the arbitrary abuse of power, and had had nothing for his pains but the trouble of drawing up his report.

When my work was done, I took it to the Minister, who said

'The Abbé de Pradt knows all that has been going on, and is very uneasy. He has asked the King for temporary leave of absence, and his Majesty is much inclined to comply with his request, only with an extension to perpetuity.'

The ordinance was published in the next day's Monii'eur, and produced great delight, especially among those interested; but this triumph cost the Legion a large sum of money. Most of the pupils had been sent, with all their outfit, to their relations, who did not care to bring them back to school, and preferred to enjoy, until their twenty- first year, the modest pension of 250 francs (£10) which was allowed them to continue their education. It was, therefore, necessary to nominate fresh pupils, and provide each with an outfit.

Shortly afterwards a golden bridge was built for the Abbt de Pradt to bring about his resignation. He was granted a pension of 10,000 francs (£400) and the grand cordon, and this produced a very bad effect, which was heightened by the appointment of his successor, a general officer, a former emigre attached to the Court, and the favourite, it was said, of the heir to the Crown.


 


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