Recollections of Marshall Macdonald, Duke of Tarentum
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
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
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
'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.
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 servicesMonsieur 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
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.
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
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
'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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