Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
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 oncethe 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.'
'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 Restorationsentences 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 pilesand 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
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
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
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 promisehe 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
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
'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
'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
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?'
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
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 BourbonsAugereau
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
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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