IV. Napoleon at Dresden

Joy, happiness, and love, reigned at the court of the King of Saxony, Napoleon had honored the royal house of Saxony with a visit; he had come to Dresden to spend a few days in the family circle of Frederick Augustus, whom he flatteringly called his "cher papa." He had also come to embrace his father-in-law, the Emperor of Austria, before setting out for Russia, and to shake hands with his ally the King of Prussia; and, finally, to gather around him again his vassals, the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine, and, in the face of Europe, to receive the homage of kings, emperors, and princes.

Amid the ringing of bells and the light of torches, Napoleon and Maria Louisa made their entry into Dresden. The late hour of the night, when the imperial couple arrived, prevented the population from greeting them with cheers. But the good people of the Saxon capital were not to be deprived of the happiness of bidding Napoleon welcome, and seeing his beautiful young empress. The court, therefore, arranged a drive in open calashes on the day after; and everywhere on the streets through which the procession passed the people stood in vast crowds. The windows of the houses were opened, and beautiful ladies looked out of them. The imperial and royal carriages made but slow headway, for thousands of excited spectators preceded them, and thousands more surrounding the carriages looked up with inquisitive eyes to the distinguished persons who, greeting and smiling, bowed to them on all sides. But the multitude were silent; not a cheer resounded--not a "Vive l'empereur"--and the praise of Napoleon, that was uttered by the lips of princes, lacked the wonted accompaniment of popular enthusiasm.

Good-natured King Frederick Augustus felt all this as a rebuke administered to himself, as a reflection on his hospitality, and he looked with an expression full of uneasiness and affection at the emperor, who was sitting beside him. But Napoleon's countenance was as calm and cold as it always was. Not a flash of inward anger was seen in those unfathomable eyes. He conversed quietly and almost smilingly with his consort, the Empress Maria Louisa, and did not even seem to notice that the people received him in silence.

"Well, he shall have a most gratifying compensation at the theatre to-night," said Frederick Augustus to himself. "The audience will there at least receive the great Napoleon with enthusiastic cheers; and when, on his return, he sees all Dresden glittering in the illumination that is to take place, he will have to admit, after all, that my good Saxons, like their king, love and admire him."

King Frederick Augustus was not mistaken.--The vast and brilliant audience, that in the evening assembled at the royal theatre, received the members of the court, on their appearance, with deafening cheers; all rose from their seats and shouted with constantly recurring enthusiasm, "Long live Napoleon: Long live the Emperor Francis! Long live our dear King Frederick Augustus!" The band accompanied these cheers, the ladies waved their bouquets, and the gentlemen their hats and handkerchiefs, and when this outburst subsided, hundreds of eyes were fixed on the royal box, to watch every motion of Napoleon's countenance, and admire him in the circle of his family; for this large gathering of princes and kings were now his family, and the son of the Corsican lawyer was its head. There was the Emperor Francis of Austria, who had arrived but a few hours before, to greet his beloved son-in-law, whom he had not seen since the battle of Austerlitz. The emperor was accompanied by his young consort, the Empress Ludovica. Every one knew that she hated Napoleon; that her proud heart never could forgive him the humiliations which he had inflicted on Austria, and that she had consented only with the utmost reluctance, and with bitter tears, to the marriage of her step-daughter, the Archduchess Maria Louisa, with the conqueror of Austria. And yet, notwithstanding her hatred, grief, and humiliated pride, the Empress Ludovica had likewise come to Dresden to witness the triumph of Napoleon, to be the second lady at this court, and the first in the suite of the Empress Maria Louisa. There were the King and Queen of Westphalia, sister-in-law of Napoleon and daughter of the King of Wurtemberg, who deemed himself happy that Napoleon was a relative of his. There were, besides, the Grand-Duke of Wurzburg, brother of the Emperor Francis, and now uncle of Bonaparte; the Grand-Duke of Baden, Napoleon's nephew, and the King of Saxony, the cher papa of Napoleon; and finally, the crowd of the petty German princes of the Confederation of the Rhine, who had eagerly hurried to Dresden in order to do homage to their protector, and seek after new gifts of territories and titles from the all-powerful master of Germany. But these personages formed only part of the suite; no one paid attention to them; they stood humbly and modestly in the background, and only the two emperors and empresses, the Queens of Saxony and Westphalia, and the King of Saxony, occupied front seats. The King of Saxony conducted Napoleon to the first gilded easy-chair on the right side; to him belonged the seat of honor here as everywhere. He was first in the line of emperors and kings. By his side sat Maria Louisa, sparkling with diamonds, which covered her head, neck, arms, and the golden belt around her slender waist. Her countenance was joyful, and never had she feasted her eyes on her husband with more heart- felt pride than during this evening, when, sitting beside him, she eclipsed her imperial step-mother in the magnificence of her toilet and the splendor of her rank. It was only when Napoleon had taken his seat that the Emperor and Empress of Austria, and all the other kings and princes, followed his example. The band immediately commenced the overture, and the festive cantata began. On the stage was seen the radiant temple of the sun, surrounded by the brilliantly-adorned crowd of priests and priestesses. They raised their arms, not to the temple of the sun, but toward Napoleon's box, and, amid their soul-stirring chorus, the high-priest stepped forth from the temple. Advancing to the edge of the stage, he bowed to the imperial sun, and commenced singing in a powerful voice, "The sun rises gloriously on the firmament, illuminating and heating the world; but thou, his greater brother, thou conquerest him, and he drives back his car, acknowledging that, since thou art here, the world needs no other sun." While the high-priest sang these words the temple on the stage suddenly paled, and over its entrance the following words appeared in large letters of gold: "Di Lui men grande e men chiaro il Sole." [Footnote: "Less great and brilliant than he is the sun." The author of this cantata, performed in honor of Napoleon, was Orlandi, an Italian; Morlacchi bad composed the music.]

At this sight, cheers burst from all sides of the brilliantly decorated house; the audience rose from their seats and turned toward the imperial box to salute Napoleon; the Emperor of Austria, the King of Saxony, and the princes of the Confederation of the Rhine, joined in the applause. But Napoleon, to whom these cheers were addressed, did not even seem to notice them. He had suddenly risen and turned his back to the stage, regardless of the high- priest and his emphatic words. Heedless of the cheers and applause, he left his place and hastened to the Emperor Francis, who was sitting on the left side, close to the two empresses. "Sire," said Napoleon, "I request your majesty to exchange seats with me, and pardon me for erroneously taking the chair that was intended for you."

"No, no; it is no mistake at all," exclaimed the Emperor Francis, hastily. "It is all right as it is, and your majesty must stay there, for that easy-chair is the seat of honor."

"That is precisely the reason why it should be occupied by your majesty, the august Emperor of Austria, my beloved and revered father-in-law," said Napoleon, bowing his head lower than he had ever before done to any prince in the world. "Come, sire, permit me to conduct you to the seat that is due to you alone." With gentle violence he took the emperor's hand and conducted him to the seat at the right side of Maria Louisa.

"My dear Louisa," he said, turning to his consort, "I renounce the happiness of sitting beside you, because this seat is due to the head of our family, the father of my consort, the grandfather of my son. You may embrace the opportunity to tell our dear papa all about the little King of Rome." He greeted Maria Louisa with a beaming smile, and then repaired to the seat which the Emperor Francis had occupied, at the left side of the Empress Ludovica. The smile was still on his face; he sat down on this chair, and, turning to the empress, his mother-in-law, asked her, almost humbly, if she would grant him the happiness of sitting by her side.

Ludovica felt flattered; the gentle, suppliant voice of the emperor, his smile, and flashing eyes, exerted their wonted charm upon her. She had armed her heart against the arrogant master of the world, but, before the kind and almost humble bearing of Napoleon, her arms sank to the ground, and she who had hitherto felt nothing but hatred against him, regarded him now with mingled astonishment and admiration.

Napoleon seemed to have read the depths of her heart, for his face grew even milder, and his smile more fascinating. "Your majesty has hated me intensely, I suppose?" he asked, in a low voice. "Oh, do not deny it; I have been portrayed to you in very repulsive colors?"

Ludovica looked at him admiringly. "I must confess, sire," she said, "that not one of the portraits of your majesty which I have seen, is like you."

"Oh, I believe so," exclaimed Napoleon, hastily; "they have always painted me too dark, and the portraits shown to your majesty doubtless have been of that description; but before you, madame, the Moor would like to wash his face, and I wish you could see me painted less repulsively."

"Sire," said the empress, smiling, "did we not see but a few minutes since that your image is even more radiant than the sun?"

"Ah, those are silly coups de theatre," exclaimed Napoleon. "It is no great honor, indeed, to surpass the splendor of a sun made out of paper. If the lamplighter had approached too close to it it would have burned, while I think that I can stand in fire without running the risk of perishing. However, the fire of anger flashing from your eyes, madame, would annihilate me, and I pray you, therefore, to have mercy on me. Pray, let us be frank. Why do you hate me?" He looked at the empress with so mild and smiling an expression, that she felt confused by it, and a faint blush suffused her beautiful face.

"No," she said, in a low voice, "who tells you that? How would it be possible to hate the man to whom all Europe bows in admiration?"

"I have put my foot on the neck of Europe; I have tamed the wild horse, and it acknowledges me as its master," said Napoleon, proudly. "But is that a reason why you should hate me? Let all lie in the dust before me, but Austria shall stand erect by my side, for the Emperor of Austria is my father-in-law, and though I do not venture to say that the beautiful young Empress of Austria is my mother-in-law, I may be allowed to say that she is the mother of my consort, and that I admire and esteem her with all my heart. Austria has nothing to fear, so long as she is friendly toward me. She shall share my triumphs; and, when at last all Europe is prostrate, the Emperors of France and Austria will stand side by side, and divide the world between them."

"And one will take his Herculaneum, and the other his Pompeii," said the empress, sarcastically.

"Ah, you mean to say that the world we shall have conquered will consist only of ruined cities and dead subjects?" asked Napoleon, gloomily.

"Sire," said Ludovica, gently, "I mean that when Vesuvius shows itself to the wondering world in its whole majesty and beauty, it cannot prevent the molten lava, which rises from its crater, as a natural consequence, from rushing down its sides, and spreading everywhere death and destruction."

"Well," exclaimed Napoleon, smiling, "if your simile is correct, the molten lava will soon inundate Russia, and carry terror, death, and destruction into the empire of the arrogant czar."

"Ah, sire," said Ludovica, gravely, "Russia is so very cold that I believe even the fires of Vesuvius would be extinguished there, the molten lava would freeze, or, flowing back, injure Vesuvius itself."

"Oh, no, madame," exclaimed Napoleon, hastily, "Vesuvius will not be extinguished, for divine fire is burning in its heart."

"And Russia will not thaw, for it is a divine frost that freezes every thing approaching her," said Ludovica, gently.

Napoleon cast on her one of his quick, angry glances. "Madame," he said, "I--"

At this moment the whole audience burst into loud and enthusiastic cheers, and shouted, "Long live the emperor! Long live the hero who conquers the world!"

Napoleon interrupted himself, and turned his eyes toward the stage. The temple of the sun was still dark, but a new brilliant light was beaming over it; in its middle was the word "Napoleon" in large flaming letters, which illumined the whole scene. In this sight the audience were unable to restrain their delight, and burst into the deafening cheers which had interrupted Napoleon's words.

The King of Saxony was evidently pleased with this outburst of enthusiasm. "Now," he thought, "the great Napoleon will forget the disagreeable scene of this morning. The people then were silent, and admired, but to-night they have recovered their speech; and when we leave the theatre, and behold the whole city in a flood of light, Napoleon will feel convinced that my subjects love him sincerely.-- But what is that? The emperor rises. Does he intend already to leave the theatre?" And he hastened to Napoleon, who advanced toward him. "Let us leave, sire," he said. "These flatteries are more than enough. You see the sun has set here."

"But he is still among us, sire," said Frederick Augustus. "And if it has grown dark on the stage, the reason is simply, that all the light now fills the streets of Dresden, to prove to the great Napoleon that there is no night where he is--that his presence turns darkness into light, and night into day."

"Ah," said Napoleon, in a tired, wearied tone, "an illumination then has been arranged?"

"Sire, my people, as well as I, cannot find words to utter to your majesty the transports with which your visit has filled our hearts, and I hope you will see this in the lights shining at every window. I request your majesty not to return directly to the palace, but first ride through the city."

Napoleon nodded assent. "Let us do so, cher papa," he said; "let us take a look at your illumination!" He offered his arm to Maria Louisa, and left the box with her. The crowd of kings, dukes, and princes, followed him in haste.

As the King of Saxony descended the staircase with his consort, Chamberlain von Planitz met him with a pale and frightened face.

"Well," asked the king, "I suppose the illumination has already commenced? It must be a splendid spectacle!"

"Your majesty," said the chamberlain, in a low voice, "the royal palace and the public buildings are brilliantly lit up, but the houses of the citizens are dark, and the streets are deserted."

"But," exclaimed the king, in dismay, "did not the police command the citizens to illuminate their houses?"

"Yes, your majesty, the police have done their duty."

"And yet--"

"And yet, sire, all the houses are dark. It is as if the whole population had conspired to disobey the order. The police have again given orders; they received everywhere the same reply, that neither oil nor candles were to be had any where."

"The stubborn people ought to have been told that they would be punished for this."

"The police tried this, too, your majesty, threatening that every citizen who did not obey should be fined a dollar, and all declared their readiness to pay rather than illuminate."

"That is open rebellion," said the king, sighing. "The streets, then, are dark?"

"Yes, sire."

"Then we must not take the intended ride through the city," exclaimed the king, anxiously. "Make haste, baron, countermand the ride, and--"

At this moment the first carriage rolled from the portal. "It is too late," groaned the king. "The emperor has already started. He will witness our humiliation."

"Possibly, he may drive immediately to the palace," said the queen. "He seemed tired and exhausted--"

"No, no," said the king, "he consented to see the illumination, and the outriders are instructed accordingly. I myself marked out the route. But, an expedient occurs to me. Quick, Baron von Planitz! Go to the outrider of my carriage. Tell him to follow the imperial carriage as fast as he can ride. He must overtake it, though his horse die under him. He must order the driver to turn and pass down Augustus Street to the Linden, and then slowly across the square, to the palace. Make haste!" The chamberlain hastened to carry out the king's orders.

"And we?" asked the queen--"shall we also follow him?"

"No, we return to the palace, and will wait for him there. The others, of course, will follow the imperial carriage, and I hope we shall soon see the two emperors again." Profoundly sighing, the king conducted his consort to the carriage, and drove with her toward the palace. A flood of light beamed upon them in the palace square. Huge pillars, covered with festoons of colored lamps, stood in front of the long palace bridge, and were connected with each other by brilliant girandoles. Four similar pillars were in front of the main portal of the Catholic church at the entrance of Augustus Street. Around the square altars were erected, on which naphtha was burning. On the royal palace the Austrian and French coats-of-arms displayed all their colors with heraldic accuracy. It was a dazzling spectacle, and even the king himself rejoiced at the beautiful and imposing effect. "I think," he said, pointing to the pillars, "I think this will be agreeable to him."

"Yes, but I am afraid that will be disagreeable to him," said the queen, pointing to the Neustadt, lying dark on the other side of the Elbe.

"Heaven grant that he may not see it!" said the king, sighing; he then leaned back and closed his eyes until they halted in front of the portal. "I shall remain here until the emperors arrive," he added, bowing to his consort. With anxious eyes he gazed upon the place, and listened in suspense to any distant noise. After waiting fifteen minutes, the roll of approaching wheels was heard, and now they thundered across the square and entered the palace portal. King Frederick Augustus, hat in hand, stepped up with a most submissive air to the first carriage, the door of which was just opened by lackeys in gorgeous liveries. He lifted the young empress Maria Louisa out, and then offered his hand almost timidly to Napoleon to assist him also. With a quick wave of his hand he refused assistance, and alighted. Anger was burning in his eyes.

"We left the theatre at an earlier hour than the citizens expected," said the king, timidly, "and that is the reason why the illumination has not yet generally commenced."

"Oh, no," said Napoleon, in a petulant voice; "YOUR illumination is magnificent; as to the inhabitants of Dresden, it seems to me, they are the children of the sun that we saw at the theatre--their lights have gone out." And the emperor, coldly bowing to the king, and offering his arm to his consort, walked with her into the palace.

"He is not in good humor," muttered Frederick Augustus, in dismay. "Oh, he is incensed at me!"

At this moment the Emperor Francis, with his consort, met him. "A very pretty idea," said the emperor, with a laughing face, "to unite the coats-of-arms of Austria and France in such a blaze of variegated light! It gladdens one's heart to behold them. I thank your majesty for having thus exhibited my coat-of-arms. It looks admirably by the side of that of France."

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches Napoleon and Blücher