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

Once renowned for their Jacobinism


The

stately procession began with an odd incident: Napoleon and Josephine, misled apparently by the all-pervading splendour of the new state carriage, seated themselves on the wrong side, that is, in the seats destined for Joseph and Louis: the mistake was at once made good, with some merriment; but the superstitious saw in it an omen of evil.[319] And now, amidst much enthusiasm and far greater curiosity, the procession wound along through the Rue Nicaise and the Rue St. Honore--streets where Bonaparte had won his spurs on the day of Vendemiaire--over the Pont-Neuf, and so to the venerable cathedral, where the Pope, chilled by long waiting, was ready to grace the ceremony. First he anointed Emperor and Empress with the holy oil; then, at the suitable place in the Mass he blessed their crowns, rings, and mantles, uttering the traditional prayers for the possession of the virtues and powers which each might seem to typify. But when he was about to crown the Emperor, he was gently waved aside, and Napoleon with his own hands crowned himself. A thrill ran through the august assembly, either of pity for the feelings of the aged pontiff or of admiration at the "noble and legitimate pride" of the great captain who claimed as wholly his own the crown which his own right arm had won. Then the _cortege_ slowly returned to the middle of the nave, where a lofty throne had been reared.

Another omen now startled those who laid store by trifles. It was noticed

that the sovereigns in ascending the steps nearly fell backwards under the weight of their robes and trains, though in the case of Josephine the anxious moment may have been due to the carelessness, whether accidental or studied, of her "mantle-bearers." But to those who looked beneath the surface of things was not this an all-absorbing portent, that all this religious pomp should be removed by scarcely eleven years from the time when this same nave echoed to the shouts and gleamed with the torches of the worshippers of the newly enthroned Goddess of Reason?

Revolutionary feelings were not wholly dead, but they now vented themselves merely in gibes. On the night before the coronation the walls of Paris were adorned with posters announcing: _The last Representation of the French Revolution--for the Benefit of a poor Corsican Family._ And after the event there were inquiries why the new throne had no _glands d'or;_ the answer suggested because it was _sanglant_.[320] Beyond these quips and jests the Jacobins and royalists did not go. When the phrase _your subjects_ was publicly assigned to the Corps Legislatif by its courtier-like president, Fontanes, there was a flutter of wrath among those who had hoped that the new Empire was to be republican. But it quickly passed away; and no Frenchman, except perhaps Carnot, made so manly a protest as the man of genius at Vienna, who had composed the "Sinfonia Eroica," and with grand republican simplicity inscribed it, "Beethoven a Bonaparte." When the master heard that his former hero had taken the imperial crown, he tore off the dedication with a volley of curses on the renegade and tyrant; and in later years he dedicated the immortal work to the _memory_ of a great man.

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CHAPTER XXI

THE BOULOGNE FLOTILLA

The establishment of the Empire, as has been seen, provoked few signs of opposition from the French armies, once renowned for their Jacobinism; and by one or two instances of well-timed clemency, the Emperor gained over even staunch republicans. Notably was this the case with a brave and stalwart colonel, who, enraged at the first volley of cheers for the Empire, boldly ordered "Silence in the ranks." At once Napoleon made him general and appointed him one of his aides-de-camp; and this brave officer, Mouton by name, was later to gain glory and the title of Comte de Lobau in the Wagram campaign. These were the results of a timely act of generosity, such as touches the hearts of any soldiery and leads them to shed their blood like water. And so when Napoleon, after the coronation, distributed to the garrison of Paris their standards, topped now by the imperial eagles, the great Champ de Mars was a scene of wild enthusiasm. The thunderous shouts that acclaimed the prowess of the new Frankish leader were as warlike as those which ever greeted the hoisting of a Carolingian King on the shields of his lieges. Distant nations heard the threatening din and hastened to muster their forces for the fray.


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