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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

The chief trouble was caused by Lucien


For

the present, however, the chief trouble was caused by Lucien, whose address had saved matters at the few critical minutes of Brumaire. Gifted with a strong vein of literary feeling and oratorical fire he united in his person the obstinacy of a Bonaparte, the headstrong feelings of a poet, and the dogmatism of a Corsican republican. His presumptuous conduct had already embroiled him with the First Consul, who deprived him of his Ministry and sent him as ambassador to Madrid.[276] He further sinned, first by hurrying on peace with Portugal--it is said for a handsome present from Lisbon--and later by refusing to marry the widow of the King of Etruria. In this he persisted, despite the urgent representations of Napoleon and Joseph: "You know very well that I am a republican, and that a queen is not what suits me, an ugly queen too!"--" What a pity your answer was not cut short, it would have been quite Roman," sneered Joseph at his younger brother, once the Brutus of the Jacobin clubs. But Lucien was proof against all the splendours of the royal match; he was madly in love with a Madame Jouberthon, the deserted wife of a Paris stockbroker; and in order to checkmate all Napoleon's attempts to force on a hated union, he had secretly married the lady of his choice at the village of Plessis-Chamant, hard by his country house (October 26th, 1803).

The letter which divulged the news of this affair reached the First Consul at St. Cloud on an interesting

occasion.[277] It was during a so-called family concert, to which only the choicest spirits had been invited, whence also, to Josephine's chagrin, Napoleon had excluded Madame Tallien and several other old friends, whose reputation would have tainted the air of religion and morality now pervading the Consular Court. While this select company was enjoying the strains of the chamber music, and Napoleon alone was dozing, Lucien's missive was handed in by the faithful if indiscreet Duroc. A change came over the scene. At once Napoleon started up, called out "Stop the music: stop," and began with nervous strides and agitated gestures to pace the hall, exclaiming "Treason! it is treason!" Round-eyed, open-mouthed wonder seized on the disconcerted musicians, the company rose in confusion, and Josephine, following her spouse, besought him to say what had happened. "What has happened--why--Lucien has married his--mistress."[278]

The secret cause for this climax of fashionable comedy is to be sought in reasons of state. The establishment of hereditary power was then being secretly and anxiously discussed. Napoleon had no heirs: Joseph's children were girls: Lucien's first marriage also had naught but female issue: the succession must therefore devolve on Lucien's children by a second marriage. But a natural son had already been born to him by Madame Jouberthon; and his marriage now promised to make this bastard the heir to the future French imperial throne. That was the reason why Napoleon paced the hall at St. Cloud, "waving his arms like a semaphore," and exclaiming "treason!" Failing the birth of sons to the two elder brothers, Lucien's marriage seriously endangered the foundation of a Napoleonic dynasty; besides, the whole affair would yield excellent sport to the royalists of the Boulevard St. Germain, the snarling Jacobins of the back streets, and the newspaper writers of hated Albion.

In vain were negotiations set on foot to make Lucien divorce his wife. The attempt only produced exasperation, Joseph himself finally accusing Napoleon of bad faith in the course of this affair. In the following springtime Lucien shook off the dust of France from his feet, and declared in a last letter to Joseph that he departed, hating Napoleon. The moral to this curious story was well pointed by Joseph Bonaparte: "Destiny seems to blind us, and intends, by means of our own faults, to restore France some day to her former rulers." [279]


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