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|T was early on the morning of the 20th of April 1808, that
the roar of cannon announced to the people of Paris that a second heir-presumptive to the imperial throne of France was born ; and his birth was hailed with
joy through the length and breadth of France. Its people were proud of the emperor of their choice ; and in this child they recognised a fresh pledge of the permanence of that dynasty which they identified with the honour and happiness of the nation.
The child of whom we write is the youngest and only surviving son of Louis, younger brother of the Emperor Napoleon, the same who, by favour of his brother, was for some years king of Holland, but who resigned his throne, not long after the birth of this child, in consequence of an honourable and high-minded feeling, that he could not hold it consistently with the interests of Holland and the ties which bound him to his brother and, through him, to France. His mother was Queen Hortense, the beautiful, amiable, and accomplished daughter of the Empress Josephine by her first husband, the Vicomte de Beauharnais. The marriage of Hortense de Beauharnais with Louis Bonaparte was blessed by the church in the person of the Cardinal Caprera ; for the stepfather of the bride, as First Consul, had already become convinced of the expediency of ecclesiastical re-establishment in France. The marriage, however, was not a happy one. At first the newly wedded pair resided in a small house situated in the Rue de la Victoire in Paris (the same house, in fact, as that which had been the home of Napoleon and Josephine during the first years of their own wedded life); but it was at the Tuileries, and in the society of her mother, that Hortense first became a popular favourite in Paris. Her husband, though possessed of many good and even great qualities, was shy and reserved in manner; and his outward appearance scarcely partook of the lustre which then began to display itself in a social point of view at the court of his brother; for his scholastic tastes were not in harmony with the martial display in which the first Napoleon delighted. But Hortense, young, handsome, a poetess, a musician, graceful and kind in manner, like her mother, and soon known to the people of France as the composer of the song and march entitled Va t'en Guerrier-at the stirring tones of which the heart of many a brave man thrilled both in the camp and at the court of France-she, Hortense, soon became an object of popular enthusiasm ; and all the more so because she was the daughter of Josephine, the childless empress,
who, up to and for some time after his accession to the throne of France, was habitually spoken of by the emperor as the guiding star of his eventful life, the brightest ornament of his dazzling destiny. Napoleon I. knew that Hortense, by obedience to his will regarding her marriage with his brother Louis, had in some sort been made a sacrifice to his own political expediency; and, as though to compensate to her for this sacrifice on the one hand, and at the same time to strengthen his own interests on the other, he eagerly showered down upon her husband various honours and emoluments. At first, Louis Bonaparte was appointed grand connetable of France, by which rank he occupied a marked place near the imperial throne; afterwards he was created governor of Piedmont; and subsequently, when great part of Europe was partitioned out amongst the various members of the modern Cæsar's family, he, as we have said, was made king of Holland.
Meantime, three sons were successively born to Louis and Hortense. The first of these sons first saw the light about the time of the coronation of Napoleon I. and Josephine ; and the pope, who had come to Paris to perform that ceremony, supplemented it by subsequently baptising the infant nephew of the newly-made emperor and empress at St-Cloud. This child, however, was destined not long to survive. His early death (from measles) was a heavy blow not only to his parents and to the emperor and empress themselves, but to all ardent imperialists who desired the perpetuation of the then newly founded dynasty in France ; for during his short life he had been looked upon as the heir-presumptive to the throne. Certainly, as before said, two other sons were born to Hortense ; but, after the death of the eldest, Napoleon seems to have regarded their lives as too precarious for the stability of his own political views, and it was then that he resolved on divorcing Josephine, with a view to forming another alliance which should make him the father of a son.
One year before that divorce was carried into effect, the subject of this present memoir was born. It was in Paris, and at the palace of the Tuileries, that he was born ; and it was at the palace of Fontainebleau, one of the most ancient and historical in France, that he was baptised on the 10th of November 1810, by the names of Charles Louis Napoleon. Napoleon I. as his godfather, and Marie Louise, the then new empress, as his godmother, presented him at the font; and the ceremony was performed by Cardinal Fesch. The first of his three names seems soon by family consent to have been dropped ; and it was therefore by the latter two names, now familiar to the whole world, that the prince, who was destined to play so remarkable a part in the world, was known in childhood. And here it may be observed that the greater part of that childhood, at least in its earliest phases, was passed in the country over which he was one day to be called to reign ; for when King Louis abdicated his throne of Holland, Queen Hortense found herself free to return to her native France.
From infancy upwards, Louis Napoleon was strongly attached to his uncle, the emperor; and as the young prince increased in years, strength, and intelligence, it was the delight of his imperial majesty to make him take part in the martial pageantry which represented to the delighted eyes of France the glory which he had achieved for her. Nor, despite the emperor's second marriage, was the young son of Hortense excluded from the presence of his grandmother, the gracious ex-empress, who then resided chiefly at the château of Malmaison, situated within an easy distance from Paris. Josephine, though divorced for political reasons, as above glanced at, was still dear as ever to the heart of France. Her deeds of charity, her beneficent acts of kindness to all classes of French subjects, caused her popularity to remain undiminished; and in the society of her daughter Hortense, and Hortense's two surviving sons (the younger especially), did she seek consolation for the fact that political circumstances had separated her from the illustrious man to whom in heart she was still devoted.
Louis Napoleon, indeed, was at that early period of his life a link between the emperor and the ex-empress; and his affections seem to have been almost equally divided between them; for many readers will here remember that, whilst his whole life has been consecrated by act, word, and deed to his uncle's memory, it was in the name of his grandmother, Josephine, as we shall see hereafter, that he first formally announced to the senate of France his own intended marriage with his present empress.
But to return to the childhood of Louis Napoleon. His father, after his abdication from the throne of Holland, lived the life of a private gentleman; at first at Grätz in Styria, and afterwards in Italy. Queen Hortense, as has been stated, resided chiefly in Paris, where, when the restoration of the Bourbons was effected (1814), she was known as Duchesse de St-Leu-a territorial title derived from an estate formerly purchased by her husband.
The Empress Josephine died at Malmaison in 1814, at the very time when the allied sovereigns of Europe had succeeded in overthrowing, for a time, the power of Bonaparte. Of a broken heart, it is supposed, she died; for, although no longer by his side as his wife, Josephine loved the emperor too well to survive his abdication and exile to Elba. Her son, Eugène de Beauharnais—he who long since, as a mere youth, had begged his father's sword from Bonaparte -had been made Viceroy of Italy. The restoration of the Bourbons to the throne of France recalled the brave Eugène to Paris, and there every honour due to a noble enemy was paid to him, as well as to his sister Hortense and her sons; and it was at that time that the child Louis Napoleon was saluted as “ Your Imperial Highness' by the Emperor Alexander of Russia and the King of Prussia.
The boy looked from the Russian emperor to the Prussian king, who stood near him, and then turning to Mademoiselle de Cochelet, his governess, he asked : ‘Mademoiselle, are these two gentlemen my uncles also ? How must we call them?' She told him that they, unlike the monarchs he had been accustomed to see, were not his uncles; but that, nevertheless, he must address them as 'Sire.' 'But are they the enemies of my uncle ?' asked the boy. 'If so, why did the Emperor of Russia embrace me?' Mademoiselle de Cochelet explained to the young prince that the Emperor of Russia was a private friend, although a political enemy; and with such success did she make her charge understand this lesson, never afterwards to be forgotten by him, that upon the next occasion when Alexander reappeared at Malmaison the boy voluntarily presented his imperial majesty with the thing which at that time he most valued, namely, a ring which his uncle Eugène de Beauharnais had given to him. This ring the Emperor of Russia fastened to his watch-chain, and cherished for the sake of its young donor as long as he lived.
When, in the year 1815, Napoleon escaped from Elba, and reappeared before the dazzled eyes of his subjects for the Hundred Days,' Queen Hortense did the honours of the palace of the Tuileries. The ex-empress Josephine, as above mentioned, was then dead; the Empress Marie Louise had fled from Paris, with her infant son, the king of Rome (afterwards called Duc de Reichstadt), and had placed herself under the protection of her father, the Emperor of Austria. To Hortense and her children, therefore, was left the duty and the privilege of consoling Napoleon I. for the defalcation of some whom he had trusted when at the height of his glory.
Hortense and her two sons were with him when, on the eve of his departure for Waterloo, he distributed the imperial eagles of France to his troops on the Champ de Mars. The young Louis Napoleon beheld and participated in that celebrated scene, and was close to his illustrious kinsman when, with drums beating, bells ringing, and martial music resounding, all France seemed to echo with the shouts of Vive l'empereur ! They were with him too when, defeated at Waterloo, he returned for a brief moment to France, and then prepared to leave her for his last exile ; they were with him at the last moment when he bade farewell for ever to that country which by him had for a time been made almost omnipotent—that country which to the last he loved with a love which perhaps by a great conqueror can be given only to a land to which he has also given glory.
It was from Malmaison, the late home of the dead Empress Josephine, that Napoleon 1. started on the fatal journey which resulted in his captivity at St Helena. Louis Napoleon then beheld the tears of his mother, the sombre aspect of his illustrious uncle; he was too young to comprehend all the dire purport of that dread farewell ; but when the moment came for him to share by word in it, he clung, it is said, in childish agony to the man he loved, and to whose name as emperor he was destined to succeed. The story is told that on this occasion Louis Napoleon, then a boy of seven years old, climbed on the emperor's knee, and entreated him to remain at home ; for that if he went, his enemies would take him away, and that he should never see him again. The emperor was much affected by the child's speech, and handed him back to his mother, saying: 'Take your son, Hortense, and look well to him ; perhaps after all he is the hope of my race.' What a comment on these prophetic words the after-life of the nephew has proved, we will presently go on to shew.
Like the rest of the Bonapartes, the ex-king of Holland and his queen Hortense found themselves obliged to withdraw from Paris. The mother now retired to Bavaria, taking with her the two children, and the subject of our memoir studied for some time at the Gymnasium of Augsburg. But political bitterness pursued her thither, and the court of Munich was compelled, by the emissaries