L. Departure of Maria Louisa

On the same day, and nearly at the same hour of the 29th of March, while the emperor was moving with his troops toward Paris, a scene of an entirely different description took place at the rooms of the empress, his consort, in the Tuileries. Napoleon, in his despair, wished for wings to fly to Paris; Maria Louisa, in her anguish, wished for wings to fly away from Paris; for the enemy was at its gates, and it was plain that the city must either capitulate or run the risk of an assault.

As yet Maria Louisa called the allies threatening the throne of her husband, and the inheritance of her son, her enemies, although her own father was among them. She deemed herself in duty bound to stand by her husband, to brave the vicissitudes of fortune jointly with him, and obey his will. The emperor desired that his consort and his son should not remain in the city if any danger should menace them. When the news reached the Tuileries that the allies had arrived at the walls of Paris, and it became obvious that the corps of Marmont and Mortier were not strong enough to withstand the armies of the enemy, King Joseph, the lieutenant of the emperor, summoned the regent, Maria Louisa, and the council of state, to deliberate on the grave question whether or not the empress and the King of Rome should remain, or be withdrawn to a place of safety beyond the Loire.

The decision was left with Maria Louisa; but the regent had declared it was not for her to settle this question; it was for the very purpose of advising her and guiding her steps that the emperor had associated the council of state with her. King Joseph produced a letter from Napoleon of a nature to indicate his wishes. It was dated Rheims, 15th of March, and read:

"In accordance with the verbal instructions which I have
given, and with the spirit of all my letters, you are in no
event to permit the empress and the King of Rome to fall into
the hands of the enemy. I am about to manoeuvre in such a
manner that you may possibly be several days without hearing
from me. Should the enemy advance upon Paris with such
forces as to render all resistance impossible, send off in the
direction of the Loire the empress, the King of Rome, the
great dignitaries, the ministers, the officers of the senate,
the president of the council of state, the great officers of
the crown, and the treasure. Never quit my son; and keep in
mind that I would rather see him in the Seine than in the
hands of the enemies of France! The fate of Astyanax, a
prisoner in the hands of the Greeks, has always appeared to
me the most deplorable in history."

"Your brother, NAPOLEON."

[Footnote: Baron de Meneval, "Marie Louise et Napoleon," vol. ii., p. 230.]

This, of course, put an end to all debate. The emperor's precise and final order, providing for the very case which had occurred, could not be disregarded, and Maria Louisa accordingly determined to leave with her son and her suite for Rambouillet. The morning of the 29th of March was fixed for the departure. The travelling-carriages, loaded with baggage, stood in the court-yard of the Tuileries; but Maria Louisa still hesitated. Her travelling-toilet was completed; her ladies were with her in the reception-room, filled with persons forming the cortege of the empress. All entered in mournful silence, and to their bows the empress responded only with a nod. Her eyes, red with weeping, were fixed on the door; she awaited in suspense the return of King Joseph, who had left the Tuileries at daybreak, and had gone to the gates of Paris to reconnoitre the enemy's position. At first the departure was to have taken place at eight in the morning; now it was past nine, and King Joseph had not yet returned.

This unexpected delay increased the anxiety. None dared interrupt the breathless silence reigning in the apartment; only here and there some one whispered, and, whenever a door opened, all started and turned anxiously toward it, as if expecting a bearer of sad tidings. The face of the empress was pale and agitated; her form trembled; at times she turned toward her ladies, who stood behind her, and addressed to them some almost inaudible question, not waiting for a reply, but looking again toward the door, or inclining her head on her bosom.

Suddenly the door was opened, and on the threshold appeared the little King of Rome, followed by his governess, Madame de Montesquieu. The boy's face did not exhibit today its air of childlike mirth, which usually beamed like sunshine from his beautiful features. No smile was on his fresh lips, and his lustrous eyes were dimmed. With a sullen face and without looking at any one, the child, so intelligent for his years, stepped through the room directly toward his mother. "Mamma empress," he said, in his silvery voice, "my 'Quiou says that we are about to leave Paris, and shall no longer live at the Tuileries. Is that true, mamma?"

"Yes, my son, we must leave," said the empress, in a low voice, "but we shall return."

"We MUST leave?" inquired the little king. "But my papa once said to me, the word 'must' is not for me, and I do not want it either, and I pray my dear mamma not to leave Paris with me."

"But the emperor himself wishes us to leave, Napoleon," said the empress, sighing, and with some displeasure. "Your papa has ordered us to depart if the enemy should come."

"The enemy!" cried the boy; "I am not afraid of the enemy. If he, comes, we do as my papa emperor always does--we beat the enemy, and then he runs away."

But these words of the brave child, which would have delighted his father's heart, seemed to make a disagreeable impression upon his mother. She murmured a few inaudible words, and slightly shrugged her shoulders.

Madame de Montesquiou took the child by the hand, "Come, sire," she said, in a low voice, "do not disturb her majesty. Come!"

"No, no," cried the boy, violently disengaging himself, "I am sure you want to carry me down to the carriage, and I tell you I will not go! Let me stay here with my mother, dear 'Quiou; I do not disturb her, for you see she is not busy, and she does not want to be alone either, for there are a great many persons with her. Therefore, I may stay here, too, may I not, dear mamma empress!"

"Yes, my son, stay here," said the empress, abstractedly, looking again at the door.

"I am not afraid of the enemy," cried the little king, proudly throwing back his head. "My papa will soon come and drive him away. But tell me, mamma, what is the name of the enemy who wants to rob us of our beautiful palace? What is his name?"

"Hush, Napoleon!" said the empress, almost indignantly; "what good would it do you to hear what you do not understand?"

"Oh, dear mamma," cried the child, with a triumphant air, "I can understand very well, for my papa has often played war on the floor with me, and we have built fortresses. And not long ago, papa emperor told me, too, that he was going to the army, and he spoke of his enemies. I remember them very well; they are the Emperor of Russia--who once kissed my papa's hand, and thanked God that papa emperor consented to be his friend; the King of Prussia, from whom my papa could have taken all his states; the crown prince of Sweden, who learned the art of war from my papa, and is a faithless servant; and last, the Emperor of Austria. But tell me, mamma, is not he your father? And did you not tell me that I ought to pray every night for my grandfather, the Emperor of Austria?"

"I did tell you so, Napoleon," whispered the empress, whose eyes filled with tears.

The boy looked down for a moment musingly; and then, lifting his large blue eyes to his mother, "Mamma," he said, "henceforth I shall never again pray for the Emperor of Austria, for he is now my papa's enemy, and, therefore, no longer my grandfather. No, no, I shall not pray for him, but only as my papa likes me to do." And the boy knelt down, lifting up his hands, and exclaiming in a loud voice, "Good God, I pray to Thee for France and for my father!"

Expressions of deep emotion were heard in the room. The empress covered her face with her handkerchief, and wept bitterly. The little king was still on his knees, with his eyes raised toward heaven. Suddenly the door at which the empress had looked so long and anxiously, opened. It was not King Joseph who entered, but the adjutant of General Clarke, the regent's minister of war. Approaching the empress, he begged leave to communicate a message from the minister.

"Speak," said Maria Louisa, hastily, "and loud enough for every one to hear the news."

"His excellency, the minister of war, has commissioned me to implore your majesty in his name to leave without a moment's delay. He believes that every minute increases the danger, and that an hour hence it might be impossible for you to get away, because your majesty would then run the risk of falling into the hands of roving bands of Cossacks. The Russian corps are already near, and we shall soon hear their cannon thunder at the very gates of Paris." [Footnote: Meneval, "Marie Louise," vol. II., p. 266.]

"Well, then," said Maria Louisa, with quivering lips, "be it so! Let us set out."

All felt that the decisive hour was at hand. The empress quickly advanced a few steps. "Come!" she exclaimed, in feverish agitation. "Let us set out for Rambouillet!"

Suddenly her son grasped her hand and endeavored to draw her back. "Dear mamma," he cried, anxiously, "do not go! Rambouillet is an ugly old castle. Let us not go, but stay here!" [Footnote: The little king's words. Ibid.]

"It cannot be, my son; we must go!"

But little Napoleon pushed back her hand with a gesture of indignation. "Well, then, mamma," he said, "go! I will not go. I will not leave my house! As papa is not here, I am the master! and I say I WILL not go!" [Footnote: Meneval, "Marie Louise."]

The empress motioned to the equerry on service. "M. de Comisy," she ordered, "take the prince in your arms and carry him to the carriage."

"The prince! I am no prince, I am the King of Rome," cried the boy, in the most violent anger. "I will not go! I will not leave my house; I do not want you to betray my dear papa!" [Footnote: The king's words.--Vide "Memoires du Due de Rovigo," vol. vii., p. 5.] The empress took no longer any notice of him; M. de Comisy lifted the crying, struggling boy into his arms. "'Quiou, dear 'Quiou!" cried the child, "oh, come to my assistance! I will not leave my house!"

"Sire," said Madame de Montesquieu, weeping, "we must leave: the emperor has ordered us to do so!"

"It is false!" cried the prince, bursting into a flood of tears, and still trying to disengage himself. "My papa never ordered any such thing, for he says that one ought never to flee from the enemy. I will not go, I will not flee!"

"Come, sire; come!" exclaimed M. de Comisy.

"I will not go!" said the boy, and clung to the door. But Madame de Montesqnion, vainly trying to comfort the prince by gentle words, disengaged his tiny hands, and M. de Comisy hurried on. The whole court, the whole travelling cortege thronged, forward, following the empress and the King of Rome.

Soon the brilliant apartment was empty; but the deserted rooms echoed the distant cries of the little King of Rome. All his struggles were in vain. M. de Comisy was not allowed to have pity on him; the will of the empress had to be fulfilled.

At length the preparations were completed, and all had taken their seats. The large clock on the tower of the Tuileries struck eleven as the empress's carriage rolled slowly across the spacious court- yard. The crying of the little king, who sat by the side of his mother, was still heard. With them were also the mistress of ceremonies, the Duchess de Montebello, and the governess. Nine other carriages followed, decorated with the imperial coat-of-arms, and numerous baggage-wagons, and the whole train of a brilliant court. The procession filled the whole length of the court-yard of the Tuilories.

When the carriage of the empress drove through the large iron enclosure, a small crowd of spectators stood near, and gazed in mournful silence. Not a hand was raised to salute the fugitives; not a voice shouted farewell. The sad train passed along, while the people looked after it, as if the funeral procession of the empire. The imperial party disappeared among the trees of the Champs Elysees, and left Paris by the "Gate of Victory."

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches Napoleon and Blücher