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Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter XXXVI


It would take too long to report our conversation during the journey. It first turned upon the chief event of the day and its causes; the discontent which was universal, but especially rife in the army; the choice of ministers, their incapacity for governing, their untimely opinions, their uselessness, and that of their agents. I must do Monsieur and his officers the justice to say that they seemed thoroughly alive to the mistakes that had been made. Were they in good faith? I think so; fear had worked wonders. Monsieur said that he would enlighten the King, and ask him to improve matters.

'It is too late,' I said; 'the impetus is given. But I cannot hide from myself all the misfortunes that are about to assail France at once—the smallest, which, at another time, and under different circumstances, would be the greatest, will be civil war in the departments of the West. You yourself, Monseigneur, what have you learned of public opinion in the journeys undertaken by you or your sons? Nothing, except the opinions held by your partisans, who are blinded by their momentary grasp of power. You despised the men who could have advised and assisted you to good purpose. They understand matters, and to them the Restoration ought to have gone for its strength, or, at any rate, for a better direction. You should have attracted the army, received it well, identified yourself with it, noticed your officers; they would have fraternized together. Confidence once established, intimacy would soon have followed. They would have become the links in a great chain, and more openness and loyalty, if not attachment, could not fail to have resulted.'

All these remarks were considered true and sensible. My hearers answered:

'True, quite true.'

Monsieur added:

'Well, I myself have often thought of taking general officers as aides-de-camp; forty or fifty offered me their services, but the fear of hurting the feelings of the majority of them induced me to postpone my decision.'

'It would have been better,' I replied, 'to run the risk of offending a few people. You would have been compensated by the advantages accruing from the establishment of friendly relations, which would have been valuable to you on your rounds of inspection, by bringing into stronger relief the good qualities of the Royal Family.'

This conversation bore fruit, for, on his arrival in Paris, Monsieur took as his aides-de-camp Viscount Digeon and Count Bordesoulle.

We stopped to dine at Roanne, at the house of a certain Flandre, the post-master. I only cite this fact, as he afterwards fell a victim to a lying denunciation, which the authorities never took the trouble to verify. At that time —I am now speaking of the Second Restoration—sentences of dismissal were very common. Flandre was accused of having refused to supply Monsieur with horses, whereas, on rising from dinner, we found the carriages harnessed, and were able to start at once. I know not what were the political opinions of Flandre, but he was so overjoyed at having received Monsieur under his roof that, while the Prince was entering the carriage, he offered us a glass of some most delicious home-made liqueur, which Monsieur regretted having missed.

He was deprived of his appointment by the Prefect of the department, either from motives of personal vengeance of his own or of someone else, or upon false reports that might easily have been verified, as the majority of the inhabitants witnessed the arrival and departure. What made me so angry was that all niv efforts, all my attempts to bring about the revocation of this unjust sentence, were useless. At the moment of writing, my indignation is as great as it ever was.

Can anyone be surprised that people at length became embittered by so much injustice? I do not know whether application was made for the intervention of Monsieur or his officers; this, however, I do know, that 500 other postmasters simultaneously suffered the same fate.

We continued our journey without hearing any more of our pursuers. Monsieur reviewed a regiment of dragoons that was on its way to Lyons, and made it turn back. We only made a short halt at Moulins, to give us time to eat a very scanty breakfast, the Prefect having been taken by surprise, and we being in a hurry. We reached Xevers that evening, and there the Prince dined, and remained several hours consulting with the authorities as to the best means of defending the Loire. A very boastful General, Du Coëtlosquet, was in command of this subdivision of my government. He told his Royal Highness, and repeated it to me, that he was thoroughly in touch with the country; that, if he were provided with funds, he could immediately raise 4,000 men, and put the bridge in a proper condition of defence; in short, that he would answer for the future.

Monsieur asked my opinion. I shook my head; but noticing that his Royal Highness seemed to fancy this project, or rather this assistance, as a drowning man will clutch at anything, I replied that if in reality the General had as much influence as he said, we would not hesitate, although I considered the expense useless, seeing that in all probability Napoleon would take the direction of Burgundy, where he was more sure of finding public opinion in his favour— and that is what happened.

Even supposing he had followed our road, he would not have met the obstacles that Du Coëtlosquet said he could put in his way, for a few days later we learned that either the very evening of; or the evening after, our departure a small boat containing a light, and apparently prepared for fishing purposes, had come near the bridge; that the news had spread that the General was going to set fire to it— the bridge was at that time on piles—and that thereupon a great riot had taken place. Du Coitlosquet only escaped popular fury by hastening across country to Bourges without stopping. So this man, who had the effrontery to boast that he could dispose of the population, could not find a shelter in the whole length and breadth of his command.

After settling everything at Nevers, we reached Briare. It was Sunday. The Prince wishing to hear Mass, I sent a request to the priest to celebrate a Low one. We went to church, but as it was the hour of High Mass, it was hopeless to persuade the priest, and not only had we to assist at High Mass, preceded by the sprinkling with holy water, but also at the sermon, with all the notices, etc. The priest was old, and very slow. Monsieur, pious and devout as he was, was much annoyed at it all; he displayed great impatience, and was red with anger, but, nevertheless, he very kindly received the priest afterwards while he was at breakfast. At length we started, and reached Paris next morning at five o'clock. The King was not awakened.

Monsieur de Blacas, Minister of the King's Household, was waiting in Monsieur's apartments for his arrival. He said that the excitement was great; that the evacuation of Lyons was differently interpreted, as no details had as yet come to hand, and that there was much anxiety among the soldiers. He asked me what I thought about it. I replied that in all probability the story would increase like a snowball, and that, just as at Lyons, the troops would not attack one another, but that, all the same, measures should be taken, as a favourable opportunity might occur.

Monsieur begged inc to go and rest. I went home, in truth sadly in want of it. I was in considerable pain from the chafing occasioned by bad saddles and indifferent horses. I had not taken off my clothes since March 8, and it was now the 13th. I went to bed, but was unable to sleep, for, notwithstanding the care I had taken to forbid my door, it was forced open, and many people came, rather from curiosity than interest.

Next day, to my great astonishment, my carriage, which I thought had been taken at Lyons and lost, was restored to me; it was a very pleasant surprise. Everything was intact, and my aides-de-camp told me they had met with no difficulties whatever. I had taken a considerable sum in gold with me, as I thought that I was going to keep house for some time at Bourges, and later at Nimes, for which place I was bound when events stopped me at Lyons, and compelled me to retreat.

In the course of the day I went to pay a visit to Monsieur. His Royal Highness asked whether I had seen the King. I answered that I had not.

'Go to him ; he will be delighted to see you; he is very pleased with your conduct. Here,' he added, 'is a paper which his Majesty desired me to give you.'

'What does it contain?' I asked in astonishment.

'The King,' he said, 'has learned that you have lost your carriage, with all your effects and money. He does not wish that you should suffer for your devotion and good services.'

I replied that I was profoundly touched by his Majesty's kindness, but that, as I had lost nothing, my pride would not allow me to accept it.

'Take it, all the same,' said Monsieur; 'the King will be very vexed if you refuse.'

I stood out, and told his Royal Highness that my carriage had been restored to me without the slightest loss.

I then went to the King. His Majesty rose and gave me his hand, praised and thanked me for my zeal. I, in my turn, thanked him, and spoke to him of the conversation I had just had with Monsieur. The King pressed me to accept his offer, but ceased insisting when I told him that my devotion needed no encouragement, and that I did not consider I deserved a reward for having done my duty.

The King then told me he was organizing a corps of which he intended to give the command to the Due de Berry; that I was to be his first Lieutenant, and that a council of war was to be established.

'That is quite right,' I said; 'but as we have good reason to fear that our troops may desert, whither will your Majesty retire in case of being compelled to momentarily abandon your capital?'

The King exhibited great surprise, as though this idea had never crossed his mind.

'But,' said he, 'surely we have not come to that?'

'No,' I replied; 'but we may come to it in five or six days. Your Majesty must know what Napoleon's activity is. It will not take him longer than that to reach Paris. Unless he he stopped on the road, he will push forward rapidly, and there is no reason to believe, after what occurred at Lyons, that any regiment will show resistance.'

'I have great confidence in Marshal Ney,' said the King; he has promised to seize and bring him to me in an iron cage.'

'I believe,' I answered, 'that he will do his utmost to carry out his promise—he is a man of his word; but his troops may desert. Bad example is catching, and, unfortunately, the contagion is spreading.'

I will think it over,' said the King, as he dismissed me. 'My Ministers are coming; I will speak to them Uupon the subject.'

They were absolutely incapable of giving any sensible advice, as they were panic-stricken.

At this council a royal sitting of the Senate was decided upon for the next day. I was summoned to take part in the procession, and the King, as he passed me, pointed to the medal of the Legion of Honour that he had been advised to wear. Nobody was likely to remark or be pleased by it This Order, which was the reward of all services, and during the last years of the Empire almost exclusively of military services, held a high place in public opinion; it was conecrated by an article in the Charter; but after the Restoration the intention seemed to have been to debase it by the prodigality with which it was distributed.

The King was received with acclamation; he made a very touching speech. Monsieur and his sons threw themselves into his arms, swearing fidelity to the Charter. This scene electrified the Senate and the public. The King had declared that he would die upon his throne, and four days later he abandoned it. It must be said in fairness that he could not count upon any resistance being made to Napoleon.

The first council of war was much too numerously attended ; there was too much discussion and too little action. I agreed with nobody; they all seemed to me too timid, as usually happens at meetings of this kind. Everything was afterwards concealed from me, although I was second in command; and the poor Duc de Berry, who was inexperienced, was bullied in order to induce him to do what was for the interest of individuals without regard for that of the public.

I desired to give him some private information. I went to him on March i8; I criticised several measures, and spoke also about the steps that had been taken to keep me aloof, as people feared my vigilant eye, my honesty, and uprightness. The Prince, already entangled, received my remarks and plain observations very badly. An excited discussion followed, which ended in my resignation, which I sent to the King with an explanation of my reasons for the step. The King was grieved, and would not accept it; but I was absolutely determined to take no further part whatever beyond loyally carrying out what I had sworn.

I begged his Majesty to tell me to which department he intended to withdraw in case -of necessity. This time he was less reticent, and replied:

'To La Vendée.'

All will be lost,' I said, if your Majesty goes thither. No doubt you have more partisans- there than elsewhere, but the majority will take no active part, being tired and worn out with civil war. You will be pursued, the coast will be seized, and your retreat will become impossible. Go rather to Flanders. Feeling in the northern departments and in the Pas-de-Calais is better than anywhere else. Lille or Dunkirk offer you absolute security. You have exits by land and sea, close to the frontier, whence you can easily gain a foreign country in case you are threatened with a siege. Raise some battalions of royal volunteers ; garrison the towns with them, if you can count upon none of the regular troops. One or other of these places will serve as a rallying-point for your adherents, and you can establish your government there for the time being.'

The King reflected, and said:

'The plan is not bad we will wait for further news.'

The courtiers, who were not long in learning what had passed between the Due de Berry and me, were sorry, especially for my resignation. I had become to them a sort of guarantee for my principles, since I had recently given proofs of them at Lyons.

In the evening of the same day the Due de Berry sent for me; I was somewhat surprised at the message. On entering his room he offered me his hand, embraced me, and said:

'Let us forget all that passed this morning. The King has ordered me to put into your hands the management of military matters. We will work together. Henceforward you are in charge of everything.'

'It cannot be done so quickly as that,' I answered. 'Put on the orders that to-morrow, at ten o'clock, I will take over the command, and that all correspondence is to be addressed to me.'

At seven o'clock next morning the Prince summoned me to come at once. I found him much agitated. His first words were

'We are betrayed by Marshal Ney.'

'Impossible!' I exclaimed; 'the Marshal is a man of honour. His troops have perhaps abandoned him, and taken him with them by force.'

'No, it is he who took them over to Bonaparte.'

'What proof have you?'

'Generals Lecourbe, Bourmont, and Clouet, the Marshal's aides-de-camp, who have quitted him, have just arrived, and are gone to convey the news to the King. And my regiment too Galbois has taken it over as well, and only yesterday he was swearing and protesting on his soul and body that he was loyal! I had treated them so well. They have deceived me abominably ! But what are we to do now?'

'Come to a speedy resolution,' I answered; 'we must first send all the troops out of Paris to Essonne or Corbeil, on the two roads to Fontainebleau. All resistance is now out of the question. We must save the King and the Royal Family, and not expose them to be kept by force in Paris as hostages for Napoleon, for I feel confident that they would suffer no personal injury.'

While orders were being sent out, I was informed of the treasonable remarks that were being made in barracks. Just then Monsieur entered, and said that the King wanted me. I followed the Prince to his presence.

His Majesty was calm; he gave me his hand, and said: 'Well, you know what has happened. What is to be done now?'

'Sire, you must go to Lille. I advise that the troops should be ordered to quit Paris with the view of favouring your departure. Assemble your military Household on the Champ de Mars, and announce your intention of reviewing your troops at Essonne. Once in the military school, you will be in safety.'

Several Ministers were present. The Minister of War had ordered the garrisons of the North to advance, and had assembled them at Péronne under the command of the Duke of Orleans; the Duke of Bourbon was sent into the West. The other Ministers had taken no steps and made no preparations, such, for instance, as the emptying of the Treasury, for funds were very necessary, whether to raise a large number of royal volunteers, to attract the partisans of the King's cause, or to establish the Government at Lille. It was discovered later that a great deal, on the other hand, had been distributed to the Generals, officers, and soldiers, the latter of whom were employing it in toasting Napoleon in the public-houses with loud shouts of 'Vive l'Empereur:' There was good ground for fearing a mutiny. I sent word to the Generals and officers that I should hold them responsible if the marching orders were not executed. I also recommended that, after the review, the King should return to the Tuileries, if the population of Paris remained calm, as his presence would restore confidence, and give time to make further arrangements; the proposal was approved.

The Generals who had quitted Ney had reported to the King that he had said in announcing his determination, All the Marshals are of my opinion.' [In 1815 the attitude of the Marshals was as follows: Macdonald, Oudinot, St. Cyr, Victor, Marrnont, and Ptrignon were on the side of the Bourbons—Augereau and Berthier were in retreat; and rather more than half and the ablest of the Marshals were on the side of Napoleon, viz., Davockt, Soult, Ney, Suchet, Grouchy; and less actively, Murat, Mortier, Masséna, Moncey, Jourdan, Lefèbvre, Brune, and Sérurier. Bernadotte was on the throne of Sweden, and Lannes, Bessières, and Prince Poniatowski were dead.]

They exhibited doubt and surprise, and one of them answered:

'Surely you do not include the Duke of Tarentum, for he has just shown at Lyons that his loyalty can be depended upon.

'Oh, as for him,' answered Ney, 'we do not count him and, what is more, we do not want him.

As the King had told this story in presence of the Princes, some of the Ministers and myself, I fancied that his intention was to flatter me, and answered that I was delighted that the Marshal was so well informed as to the sentiments governing my conduct; that certainly he had had a proof of them the preceding year, during the negotiations relative to the abdication, and that while he had deserted his Master. I had remained faithful to him until the last moment. I had many preparations to make and orders to give, so I asked the King's permission to retire.


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