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

The little phial was now on its way


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family, however, did not move. As happened with all the brothers except Lucien, Joseph gave way at the critical moment. After threatening at the Council of State to resign his Grand Electorate and retire to Germany if his wife were compelled to bear Josephine's train at the coronation, he was informed by the Emperor that either he must conduct himself dutifully as the first subject of the realm, or retire into private life, or oppose--and be crushed. The argument was unanswerable, and Joseph yielded. To save his own and his wife's feelings, the wording of the official programme was altered: she was _to support Josephine's mantle_, not _to bear her train_.

In things great and small Napoleon carried his point. Although Roederer pleaded long and earnestly that Joseph and Louis should come next to the Emperor in the succession, and inserted a clause in the report which he was intrusted to draw up, yet by some skilful artifice this clause was withdrawn from the constitutional act on which the nation was invited to express its opinion: and France assented to a _plebiscite_ for the establishment of the Empire in Napoleon's family, which passed over Joseph and Louis, as well as Lucien and Jerome, and vested the succession in the natural or adopted son of Napoleon, and in the heirs male of Joseph or Louis. Consequently these princes had no place in the succession, except by virtue of the _senatus consultant_ of May 18th, which gave them a legal right,

it is true, but without the added sanction of the popular vote. More than three and a half million votes were cast for the new arrangement, a number which exceeded those given for the Consulate and the Consulate for Life. As usual, France accepted accomplished facts.

Matters legal and ceremonial were now approaching completion for the coronation. Negotiations had been proceeding between the Tuileries and the Vatican, Napoleon begging and indeed requiring the presence of the Pope on that occasion. Pius VII. was troubled at the thought of crowning the murderer of the Duc d'Enghien; but he was scarcely his own master, and the dextrous hints of Napoleon that religion would benefit if he were present at Notre Dame seem to have overcome his first scruples, besides quickening the hope of recovering the north of his States. He was to be disappointed in more ways than one. Religion was to benefit only from the enhanced prestige given to her rites in the coming ceremony, not in the practical way that the Pope desired. And yet it was of the first importance for Napoleon to receive the holy oil and the papal blessing, for only so could he hope to wean the affections of royalists from their uncrowned and exiled king. Doubtless this was one of the chief reasons for the restoration of religion by the Concordat, as was shrewdly seen at the time by Lafayette, who laughingly exclaimed: "Confess, general, that your chief wish is for the little phial."[314] The sally drew from the First Consul an obscene disclaimer worthy of a drunken ostler. Nevertheless, the little phial was now on its way.

In order to divest the meeting of Pope and Emperor of any awkward ceremony, Napoleon arranged that it should take place on the road between Fontainebleau and Nemours, as a chance incident in the middle of a day's hunting. The benevolent old pontiff was reclining in his carriage, weary with the long journey through the cold of an early winter, when he was startled to see the retinue of his host. The contrast in every way was striking. The figure of the Emperor had now attained the fullness which betokens abounding health and strength: his face was slightly flushed with the hunt and the consciousness that he was master of the situation, and his form on horseback gained a dignity from which the shortness of his legs somewhat detracted when on foot. As he rode up attired in full hunting costume, he might have seemed the embodiment of triumphant strength. The Pope, on the other hand, clad in white garments and with white silk shoes, gave an impression of peaceful benevolence, had not his intellectual features borne signs of the protracted anxieties of his pontificate. The Emperor threw himself from his horse and advanced to meet his guest, who on his side alighted, rather unwillingly, in the mud to give and receive the embrace of welcome. Meanwhile Napoleon's carriage had been driven up: footmen were holding open both doors, and an officer of the Court politely handed Pius VII. to the left door, while the Emperor, entering by the right, took the seat of honour, and thus settled once for all the vexed question of social precedence.[315]


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