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Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
Chapter XXXVII


IN the course of the day the King sent for me just as I was on my way to the Cháteau, to inform him of the departure of the troops, who had obeyed their orders, but grumbling and with very discouraging remarks. On reaching the Tuileries I perceived the Royal carriages harnessed, an enormous crowd collected, greedy for news, officers hurrying hither and thither, pack-horses laden with portmanteaux. Everything looked prepared for departure, though the carriages were harnessed as though for an ordinary drive.

The King had desired me to come in civil dress, so as not to be observed or remarked. He told me he intended to go to the Champ de Mars, and that, according to the report I sent him of what passed, he would decide what to do.

After his departure I mingled with the crowd, and approached different groups. I heard no disloyal language, but various expressions of opinion upon the state of affairs, upon the effect likely to be produced on the troops by the King's presence, upon the absurdity of fifty old men armed with guns and halberds, most of them in the uniform of general officers and wearing various orders outside their coats, who were marching two and two towards the Tuileries to offer their services. I must admit that they did not look martial, and gave reasonable ground for amusement to the crowd that always finds something to laugh at even in the gravest circumstances.

The King had been gone scarcely half an hour when I. saw him come back. Surprised at so speedy a return, I went to the cháteau. The crowd was increasing every moment, and made the King anxious; I told him that from what I had been able to see and hear it meant nothing but very natural curiosity that it was, moreover, a Sunday, and that the day was sufficiently fine to attract a large number of people to the Tuileries gardens. The carriages for the King and his suite were still standing in the courtyard. I begged him to send them away, because then the larger number of the inquisitive crowd would depart, and when the palace returned to its ordinary quietude the remainder would disperse at dinner-time, and my words proved correct.

The King had returned owing to a misunderstanding. He had met his military Household marching towards St. Denis, a warning that they were, in case of necessity, to advance in that direction having been transformed into an order for immediate execution. The King had commanded it to retire, and, after marching past him, it had returned to the military school.

It was known that Napoleon would reach Fontainebleau that very day; he might travel post, cause himself to be recognized by the troops along the road, and bring them up with him; but not having positive information as to their feelings towards him, and not knowing how he would be received in Paris, although he had plenty of supporters there, he might naturally conclude that, as the King was still there, some measures of defence would have been taken.

These reasons, when I put them forward, were appreciated, and had the effect of tranquillizing the Royal Family for the moment. I then proposed to clothe a Swiss regiment in French uniform, to place it in advance of the troops at Essonne with orders to march upon Fontainebleau, as though to join itself to Bonaparte. The disguise would have deceived every eye, and had it succeeded in seizing his person or even in crossing swords, how many calamities would have been thereby spared to France! The l)uc de Berry rejected the idea; the King said that if this regiment failed it would be very seriously exposed I replied, crossly, that that would be better than compromising the monarchy.

Not only was the plan given up, but the King added:

'I see that all is now over. Do not, therefore, let us engage in useless resistance. I am determined to start. Try to bring our supporters into Flanders, and to get the regiments that went out this morning to follow us. No fighting, Monsieur le Maréchal! Recall to St. Denis all the troops that wish to return.'

'Allow me to point out, Sire,' I replied, 'that this determination is premature. The troops have barely reached the places to which they were ordered we must let them rest. I will go to the headquarters at Villejuif, whither a courier can be sent to me with orders to hold myself ready to march. No one- will know whether it is to be an advance or a retreat. An hour later, another express might bring me an order to follow you. I alone shall know the direction you have taken. Meanwhile, your Majesty will have prepared everything for your departure, and will enter your carriage between eleven o'clock and midnight.'
But,' said the Duc de Berry, 'what if the sentinels of the National Guard, who are on duty at the palace, prevent our departure, as they did at the beginning of the Revolution to the unfortunate Louis XVI., when he wished to go to St. Cloud What are we to do then? Are we to scatter them with the bodyguard?'

'No, nephew,' said the King hastily; 'we must not alienate the inhabitants of Paris.'

'I do not think,' said I, 'that the sentinels will oppose any resistance or put any obstacles in the way of the King wishing to review the troops at Essonne. But I have a scheme whereby every pretext for insubordination can be avoided. The King can place absolute reliance upon his Household and servants. Very good. Let the gates and doors be shut at ten or eleven o'clock. The carriages can draw up at some distance off; or, if necessary, outside Paris. The King, on leaving his apartments, will gain the Pavilldn Marsan through the palace; thence he will be carried in a sedan-chair to a hackney-coach, which will take him to his own carriage.'

The Duc de Berry suddenly interrupted me by saying:

'Pray, sir, where do you suppose we can find a chair large enough to contain, or two men strong enough to carry, his Majesty?'

This unexpected outburst made even the King laugh. He said that he would think it over, and commanded me to come that evening to receive the password which would be given as usual.

On leaving his room, the Duc de Berry asked me if I should start for Villejuif after the password was given. Upon my answering affirmatively, he said he should go thither also, and we separated.

As the inquisitive crowd noticed no further preparations at the Château, it dispersed, as I had foreseen, about six o'clock. When I returned to the palace at half-past eight, I found the usual quiet reigning in the courtyards, but the interior presented a very different spectacle. It was with great difficulty that I could pass through the drawing-rooms to reach the King's study; they were full of courtiers, some devoted, some curious, but all entitled to the entree. The King came in, talked for a few minutes, gave the password, and withdrew, beckoning me to follow him. The Princes were assembled in his stud)'. On entering it the King said

'My departure is fixed for eleven o'clock; I will carry it out according to your advice.'

'In that case, Sire,'. I answered, 'I will take leave of your Majesty. As soon as I reach Villejuif I will give orders to the troops to hold themselves in readiness to march, but I will not move them until I receive instructions from your Majesty.'

'I am going there too,' said the Duc de Berry.

'Monseigneur,' I answered, 'I have been thinking that it is unnecessary for you to disturb yourself, as the troops are to come back. Your Royal Highness may follow the King to St. Denis, where I expect the troops to arrive between seven and eight to-morrow morning --if they will obey orders, that is. In any case, I shall he there at that hour with the staff.'

The King said that I was right. The Prince replied that there was no reason why he should wait at St. Denis, as the troops were to continue their march, and that he would accompany Monsieur to place himself at the head of the King's Household, who were to start from the Champ de Mars. As I was about to withdraw, the King warmly pressed my hand, and said:

'Au revoir, my dear Marshal; I shall never forget your zeal and devotion.'

The drawing-rooms were not yet empty. A General who had formerly emigrated, and who was worthy of respect by reason of his great age and services—Monsieur de Viomésnil —asked me for advice. He afterwards became a Marshal of France, but at that time my acquaintance with him was very slight. His honesty pleased me. He had been given the command of a sort of battalion collected at Vincennes, composed of 700 or 800 half-pay officers of all ranks. The plan was to enrol them among the Royal volunteers who were being raised, or at least so it was believed, in Normandy.

'These officers,' said he to me, 'are very excited, and I can do nothing with them. I have written three letters, and paid the same number of visits to the Minister for War, and can neither see him nor get any answer. What had I better do? Give me some instructions.'

'You are a good man,' I answered. 'Don't give another thought to your battalion of officers; pack up your things and leave Paris to-night.'

'What!' he exclaimed in surprise; 'is the King going?'

'I cannot tell you more than that. You ask me for orders; I give you advice. Say nothing about it, I count upon your discretion;' and so saying, I left him for Villejuif.

I did not find the staff there, but only Generals Ruty, of the artillery, and Haxo, of the engineers. General Maison, Governor of Paris, and Commandant of one of the divisions, wrote to me that, as he had learned from the Duc de Berry that the troops were to return, he would join his division at St. Denis.

I issued the warnings and orders agreed upon, and as soon as I was certain they would be executed, and being warned that the head of a column was approaching Yulejuif, I quitted it with the two Generals just named. The staff was not to be found at St. Denis any more than at Villejuif, but all the members of it, without exception, had received the largesse paid at the commencement of a campaign, and promises of handsome presents according to their future services.

I waited in vain till one o'clock for the arrival of the troops. An aide-de-camp from General Rapp, who commanded a division, came up, just as I was starting, to ask for orders. I gave him some for his General and for the other divisions, and they were simply to continue their march next day.

This battalion of officers, which the day before had been at Vincennes, now appeared, I know not how, at St. Denis. General St. Sulpice, who commanded it, told me that they were much excited and in a state of ferment, and as this condition of mind might have momentous results, I ordered him to direct them towards towards Rouen, so as to avoid any contact with the troops that were supposed to be arriving. He warned me that they would refuse to obey. I told him to try. He did so, but in vain.

Just as a detachment of artillery from La Fere entered the town, I was informed that it was approaching. I sent General Ruty to order it to retreat, but the half-pay officers, beside themselves, joined with the artillery, and Ruty, in trying to compel obedience to my orders, nearly fell a victim to them. I learned at the same time that General Maison was being pursued, I do not know why, and had been obliged to flee.

Shortly afterwards another similar scene presented itself to my eyes. The carriages belonging to the 1)uc de Berry passed through St. Denis on their way from Villejuif. The mutineers seized them, compelled the postilions by threats of violence to dismount, mounted the horses in their place, and I felt ashamed to see French officers in uniform, epaulettes on their shoulders and forage-caps on their heads, behave as they did. They were mostly drunk and excited ; and if there is any excuse for their conduct, it is to be found in that fact. I still blush for them.

Tired of waiting vainly at St. Denis, I started at one o'clock for Beaumont, where I established my headquarters for the time being. A large number of half-pay officers were assembled in front of the inn where I was staying, the first on the left beyond the square. I anticipated some opposition from them, but was absolutely determined not to allow myself to be insulted with impunity, even though I should get into difficulties; but they remained quiet, and were polite, even respectful.

At Beaumont I found the rear-rank of the King's Household, dismounted body-guards, some leading their horses by the bridle, others lying down in carts, others on foot, their knapsacks under their arms. It all looked like a rout after a defeat; and, as I did not stop at Beaumont, I found the road similarly garnished as far as Noailles. I left at Beaumont the same orders as at St. Denis, and hired post- horses to rejoin the Princes at the head of the King's Household.

About half-way I had the pleasure of meeting your sister, De Massa, and her children. Her husband was Prefect of Beauvais. Fearing what might happen, he was sending all he held dearest to Paris; but as the party might run some risk, either on the road or at St. Denis, or even in the capital itself, I took them back with me, convinced that they would be safer at Beauvais.

The Princes intended to pass the night at Nôailles; I arrived just as they were about to sit down to table. They invited me to join them. After giving them an account of what I had seen and heard, I said that they must not trust to the troops, and strongly urged them to continue their march, in spite of the disorder among the King's House. hold. On learning that my daughter was in the village, they had the kindness to send some dinner to her. When the repast was finished, I asked where the King was. Monsieur knew that he had started for Lille, but did not know whether, on leaving Beauvais, he had taken the road to Abbeville. I asked for orders, and he desired me to try and rejoin the King, to whom I might be of great service.

I took leave of their Royal Highnesses and, with your sister, started for Beauvais, which we reached between eleven o'clock and midnight. Your brother-in-law was much surprised at the return of his wife, but, after hearing my explanations, was delighted to see her. He told me that the King had taken the Abbeville road. I was sorry to hear it, as his enemies might believe and spread the report that he intended to withdraw into England, and thus cause discouragement among his supporters.

After remaining a few hours at Beauvais, and leaving fresh orders for the troops (as though they were likely to reach there), I was just about to depart, when an aide-de-camp from General Grundler, permanent Secretary at the War Office, entered and handed me a letter, informing me that the Minister had not appeared since the previous day, stating that they did not know what to do, and begging for my orders. I told the messenger that by the time my orders reached General Grundler he would no longer require them. As a matter of fact, he had left the War Office by the time his aide-de-camp reached Paris
Nobody along the road could tell me whether the King had halted, or whether he was still moving forward, and in this state of uncertainty I entered Abbeville. Nothing indicated the presence of his Majesty; no guards at the gate; no life in the streets.

On my way to the inn I passed and recognized the Comte de Jaucourt. I stopped and called to him. He was one of the King's ministers, and, if I remember rightly, had charge of the Foreign Office in the absence of Monsieur de Talleyrand. He informed mc that the King had been in the town since the previous day, and that he had received no news since he left the capital. He also begged me to go straight to him. I said I must first go to the inn to change my clothes and have some breakfast. I had not undressed for several days. While I was dressing, Monsieur de Jaucourt went to announce me, and summonses came in rapid succession.

I found the King as calm as when tranquilly reigning in the Tuileries. He received me with the utmost kindness, and questioned me concerning all that had occurred. No means of communication, either by courier or estafettes, had been established but they had omitted to destroy the telegraphic communication, a circumstance likely to be made use of in Paris. I then asked the King what he was doing in Abbeville.

'I am waiting here,' he answered, 'for my brother and my Household, who ought to arrive this morning.'

'Your Majesty,' I replied, 'does not know that your Household will only reach Beauvais to-day (March 22). It will require two days more to arrive here, and will then probably be in the same disorderly condition as it was when I saw it yesterday.'

I implored the King to start, because he would not be in safety until he reached Lille, and to take the shortest road by Hesdin and Bethune. His Majesty displayed great objection to that road, preferring the longer one by Boulogne, Calais, and Dunkirk. I pointed out that this road, running as it did by the sea. would give colour to the rumour that he was about to leave his kingdom and embark; that orders might be sent from Paris to forbid his admission into those towns, whereas the road to Bethune was still clear, and that to Péronne covered by the Duke of Orleans, who had collected there all the garrisons of the neighbouring towns, even that of Lille. I added that he had not a moment to lose.

The King yielded at last, but insisted upon dining first, and the utmost that I could manage was that dinner was ordered for an hour earlier. He desired me to precede him, with full powers to prepare the way for him, and to order horses. He had no courier, only two footmen on the box of the carriage in the liveries they wore at the Tuileries. I started.

The post-house of St. Pol was some distance away, outside the town. It took some time to procure horses, and meanwhile, towards one in the morning, I ordered some food. Scarcely had I seated myself at table when the King was announced. The news of his arrival having suddenly spread abroad, a large portion of the population collected and rushed into the room of a poor woman, whither he had been conducted to rest. The worthy soul had torn down some old bed-hangings to serve as a carpet for the feet of her guest. The homage of the inhabitants was so noisy and inconvenient that, to save the King from being

Ob stifled, the Prince de Neuchâtel and Monsieur de Blacas, Minister of the Household, were obliged to stand guard over the door with their drawn swords. The latter looked exceedingly comic in that attitude.

The same devotion was displayed at Bethune. I waited there for the King in order to receive his final orders, as that was the last stage before Lille. His Majesty alighted in the public square while the horses were being changed It was five o'clock in the morning. The whole population turned out, men and women in very slight costumes. The Sub-prefect himself stood by the carriage-door, one leg half bare, his feet in slippers, his coat under his arm, his waistcoat and shirt unbuttoned, and his hat on his head! He could not take it off, as his hands were fully occupied in trying to keep his sword in place and to fasten his necktie.


 


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