François de Chateaubriand
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2005 All Rights Reserved.
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the telegraph announced to the soldiers
and an incredulous world that the man had disembarked: Monsieur hastened to
boldness of the enterprise was incredible. From the political viewpoint, it can
be regarded as Napoleon’s unpardonable crime and his capital error. He knew
that the Princes, still gathered at the Congress, and Europe still under arms,
would not permit his return to power; his judgement should have warned him that
success, if he obtained it, could not last more than a moment: to his longing
to reappear on the world’s stage, he was sacrificing the peace of a nation
which had lavished on him its blood and wealth; he was exposing to
dismemberment that country from which he had derived everything he had been in
the past, and all he might be in the future. In this fantastic undertaking
there was a ferocious egoism, and a terrible lack of gratitude and generosity
All this is true according to practical reason, for a man of heart rather than brain; but for beings of Napoleon’s sort, another kind of reason exists; those creatures of great renown have a way of their own: comets describe tracks which escape precise calculation; they are tied to nothing and seem purposeless; if a sphere appears in their path, they shatter it and vanish into the abyss of the sky; their tracks are known to God alone. Extraordinary individuals are monuments to human intellect; they are not its rule.
then, was persuaded to his enterprise by the false reports of his friends,
rather than his genius being driven to it by necessity: he took up the cross by
virtue of the faith within him. For a great man, being born is not everything:
he must also die. Was exile on
Well, he took the world head-on! And, at the beginning, must have believed he had not deceived himself as to the extent of his power.
the night of the 25th and 26th of February 1815, at the end of a ball at which
the Princess Borghèse did the honours, he
escaped with success, long his comrade and accomplice; he crossed a sea covered
with our ships, meeting two frigates, a vessel of seventy-four guns and the
which stopped him and interrogated him; he replied to the captain’s questions
himself; the sea and the waves saluted him and he pursued his course. The deck
of the Inconstant, his little brig,
served him as a study and an exercise-yard; he dictated amongst the breezes,
and had copies made, on that table, of three proclamations to the army and
France; a few feluccas, carrying his companions in fortune, accompanied his
flagship, flying a white flag sprinkled with stars. On the 1st of March, at
three in the morning, he landed on the coast of
astonishing invasion by a single individual, one must set another, a
repercussion of the first: the Legitimacy was seized by stupor; the paralysis
at the heart of the State spread through its limbs and rendered
This torpor on the part
of the Government seemed so much the more deplorable in that public opinion in
‘Having scourged our
nation, he left French soil. Who did not believe he had left forever? Suddenly
he appears again, promising the French liberty, victory and peace. The author
of the most tyrannical constitution ever to bind
Marshal Soult’s order of
the day, dated
That man who recently abdicated, in the sight of all Europe, the power he had usurped, which he had used so fatefully, has landed on French soil which he should never have seen again.
What does he desire? Civil war: what does he seek? Traitors: where will he find them? Shall it be among those soldiers he has deceived and sacrificed so many times, wasting their bravery? Shall it be in the bosoms of those families whom his name alone fills with fear?
Bonaparte despises us enough to believe that we will desert our legitimate and beloved sovereign, to share the fate of a man who is no better than an adventurer. He believes it, the madman! And his last foolish act is to make it known.
Soldiers, the French
army is the bravest in
Let us rally to the banner of the fleur-de-lis, to the voice of the father of the nation, of that worthy heir to the virtues of the great Henry. He himself decreed for you the duties which you have to fulfil. He places at your head that prince, a model of French knighthood, whose happy return to our country has already driven out the usurper, and who now by his presence will destroy the usurper’s sole and final hope.’
Louis XVIII appeared
before the Chamber of Deputies on the 16th of March; it was a question of
‘At this moment of crisis, when a public enemy has penetrated one region of my kingdom and threatens the liberty of all the rest, I come amongst you to tighten further the bonds which, by uniting you and I, create the strength of the State; I come to address you and reveal my feelings and wishes to all France.
I have seen my country once more; I have achieved her reconciliation with the foreign powers, who, be in no doubt, will stay faithful to the treaties which have brought us peace; I have laboured for the happiness of my people; I have received, I do receive, every day the most touching marks of their affection; could I end my career more gloriously, at sixty years of age, than by dying in her defence?
I fear nothing now as regards myself, but I fear for France: he who comes to light the torch of civil war amongst us carries also the scourge of foreign war; he comes to set our country once more beneath his iron yoke; he comes to destroy finally the Constitutional Charter I have granted you, that Charter, which will be my finest title in the eyes of posterity, that Charter which every French person cherishes and which I swear now to maintain: let us rally round it then.’
The King was still speaking when a cloud deepened the gloom in the chamber; all eyes turned to the ceiling to discover the reason for this sudden darkness. When the monarch and legislator ceased to speak, cries of: ‘Long live the King!’ rose again in the midst of tears. ‘The Assembly,’ reported the Moniteur accurately, ‘electrified by the King’s sublime speech, were standing, hands outstretched towards the throne. Nothing could be heard but the words; ‘Long Live the King! Our lives for the King! The King: in life and death!’ repeated in a delirium that all French hearts shared.’
Indeed, the spectacle was filled with pathos: an old infirm King, who, as a reward for the massacre of his family and twenty-three years of exile, had brought France peace, liberty, and an amnesty for all the insults and all the misfortunes; this patriarch of sovereigns came to tell the nation’s Deputies that at his age, having seen his country once more, he could find no finer end to his career than dying in defence of his people! The Princes swore loyalty to the Charter; the belated pledges were terminated by those of the Prince de Condé and the adherence of the father of the Duc d’Enghien. That heroic race about to be extinguished, that race of patrician swords, seeking in liberty a shield against a younger, longer and crueller plebeian sword, offered, in the light of a multitude of memories, something sad in the extreme.
Louis XVIII’s speech,
once known beyond those walls, inspired inexpressible transports of joy.
The young today adore
Bonaparte’s memory, because they are humiliated by the role the present
‘We offer ourselves for
King and country; the whole
In this energetic language, natural and sincere, you can feel the generosity of youth and its love of liberty. Those who tell us today that the Restoration was received by France with sadness and disgust are either ambitious individuals promoting their party, or young men who knew nothing of Bonaparte’s oppression, or old revolutionary and Imperialist liars who, having applauded the return of the Bourbons with everyone else, now insult, according to their custom, whatever has fallen, and return instinctively to assassination, a police state, and servitude.
The King’s speech filled
me with hope. Discussions were held at the residence of the President of the
Chamber of Deputies, Monsieur Lainé. I met
Monsieur de Lafayette there: I
had only seen him at a distance in another epoch, that of the Constituent
Assembly. The proposals varied; for the most part they were spineless, as
happens when danger looms: some wanted the King to quit Paris and retire to Le Havre; others spoke of conveying him to
the Vendée; this group here spewed out words without reaching a conclusion,
that over there said we must wait and see what happens: yet what was happening
was extremely apparent. I expressed a contrary opinion: a singular thing,
Monsieur de Lafayette supported me, and warmly! (Monsieur de Lafayette
confirms, in his Memoirs, precise as to facts, published since his death, the
singular agreement of his opinion and mine concerning Bonaparte’s return.
Monsieur de Lafayette sincerely loves honour and freedom. Note:
‘Let the King keep his
word; let him stay in the capital. The National Guard support us. Let us secure
So I spoke: one is never
welcomed for saying all is lost when nothing has yet been tried. What would
have been finer than an ancient son of
apparently born out of desperation, was in fact quite realistic and offered not
the least risk. I will always remain convinced that Bonaparte, finding
If my plan had been
adopted, there would have been no new foreign invasion of
Why was I born to an epoch to which I was so badly suited? Why was I a Royalist against my instincts at a time when the wretched race at Court neither listened to nor understood me? Why was I thrown amongst that crowd of mediocrities who treated me like an idiot, when I spoke of courage; as a revolutionary if I spoke of freedom?
It was merely a question of self-defence! The king had nothing to fear, and my plan pleased him sufficiently by the grandeur, à la Louis XIV somewhat, that it possessed; but other faces lengthened. The diamonds from the royal coronet were packed away (acquired in the past with the sovereigns’ private funds), leaving thirty-three million crowns in the treasury and forty-two millions of personal effects. These seventy-five millions were the fruits of taxation: they should have been returned to the people rather than left to the tyrant!
A dual procession mounted and descended the stairs of the Pavillon de Flore; people asked what was to be done: there was no reply. The Captain of the Guards was asked; the chaplains, cantors, and priests were interrogated: nothing: idle chatter, idle projects, and an idle flow of news. I have seen young men weep in fury over their vain requests for orders and weapons; I have seen women taken ill in their anger and contempt. Approach the King, impossible; etiquette sealed the door.
The grand measure decreed to counter Bonaparte was an order to charge (courir sus): Louis XVIII, with deficient limbs, to charge a conqueror over-striding the earth! That formula of the ancient law, revived for this occasion, suffices to reveal the mental capacity of the officers of State at that time. To charge in 1815! Charge! Against what: against a wolf, against a brigand chief, against an errant Lord? No: against Napoleon who had himself charged kings, captured them, and branded them on the shoulder forever with his ineffaceable N!
In this decree, when considered more closely, a political truth which no one has observed is revealed: the legitimate race, strangers to the nation for twenty-three years had remained in the hour and place where the Revolution had left them, while the nation had advanced through time and space. From that arose the impossibility of them understanding or re-joining it; religion, ideas, interests, language, heaven and earth, all were different for people and King, because they were no longer at the same point on the road, because they were separated by a quarter of a century, equivalent to many centuries.
But if the order to charge appears strange in its
retention of an ancient legal phrase, had Bonaparte the intention initially to
act in any more effective a way, even though he was employing a new manner of
speech? The papers of Monsieur de Hauterive,
catalogued by Monsieur Artaud, prove that
it took a great deal of effort to prevent Napoleon from having the Duc d’Angoulême shot, despite what the
official statement in the Moniteur said,
a statement issued and left behind for show: he found it unacceptable that the
prince stood up for himself. And yet the fugitive from
That epoch, where
everyone lacked openness, seared the heart: everyone threw a profession of
loyalty before them, like a footbridge over the difficulties of the hour; even
if it meant changing direction, the difficulty was traversed: only youth was
sincere, because it retained traces of the cradle. Bonaparte solemnly declares
that he renounces the crown; he leaves and returns after nine months. Benjamin Constant publishes his vigorous
protest against the tyrant, and changes his mind within twenty-four hours.
Later you will discover, in a further book of these Memoirs, who it was inspired him to this
noble action, to which the changeability of his nature did not allow him to
remain faithful. Marshal Soult stirrs the
troops against their former leader; a few days later he roars with laughter at
his proclamation in Napoleon’s study at the Tuileries, and becomes
Major-General of the Army of Waterloo; Marshal Ney
kisses the King’s hand, swears to bring him Bonaparte in an iron cage, and then
hands over to Bonaparte all the corps he commands. Alas! And the King of
Louis XVIII, on the 20th of March, intended to died at the heart of France; if he had kept his word, the Legitimacy might have endured for a century; nature even seemed to have robbed the aged king of the means of retreat, by saddling him with infirm health; but the future destiny of the human race would have been hindered if the author of the Charter had accomplished his resolution. Bonaparte hastened to the aid of the future; that Christ of evil powers took this latest paralytic by the hand, and said to him: ‘Take up thy bed and go; surge, tolle lectum tuum.’
It was evident that they
were about to decamp: due to the fear of being detained, they did not even warn
those who, like me, might have been shot an hour after Bonaparte entered
Madame de Chateaubriand had sent a servant
to the Carrousel on the evening of the 19th, with orders not to return unless
he was certain of the King’s flight. At , the servant not having returned, I went off
to bed. I was just getting ready for sleep, when Monsieur Clausel de Coussergues entered.
He told us that His Majesty had left and was heading for Lille. He brought me this news on behalf of the
Chancellor, who knowing I was in danger, violated
security on my behalf and brought me twelve thousand francs, due to me on my
appointment as Minister for Sweden. I insisted on staying, not wishing to leave
We left by the Barrière
Saint-Martin. At dawn, I watched the crows, descending peacefully from the elms
by the highway where they had spent the night, about to breakfast in the
fields, without bothering about Louis XVIII or Napoleon: they were not, those
crows, obliged to leave their country, and thanks to their wings, they scorned
the dreadful road I was jolting over. Old friends from Combourg! We were more akin when long ago at daybreak we
dined on blackberries among the dense thickets of
The road had broken up, the weather was wet, and Madame de Chateaubriand felt ill: she looked constantly through the window at the rear of the vehicle to see if we were being pursued. We slept at Amiens, where Du Cange was born; then at Arras, Robespierre’s home city: there, I was recognised. Having despatched a request for horses, on the morning of the 22nd, the post-master said they had been commandeered by a general who was carrying news to Lille of the Emperor’s triumphant entry into Paris; Madame de Chateaubriand was dying of fear, not for herself, but for me. I hastened to the stables and, with money, removed the difficulty.
Arriving beneath the
ramparts of Lille on the 23rd, at two in the
morning, we found the gates closed; the order was not to open them to anybody.
They could not or would not say if the King had entered the city. I engaged a coachman
for a few louis, to take us to the
other side of the city via the exterior of the glacis, and then conduct us to Tournai; in 1792, I had taken this same road,
at night, on foot, with my brother. Reaching Tournai, I learnt that Louis XVIII
had definitely entered
The Duc d’Orléans soon followed the Prince de Condé. Appearing discontented, he was content at heart to find he was out of the fight; the ambiguity of his declaration of support for the Charter and his conduct bore the imprint of his nature. As for the aged Prince de Condé, the Emigration remained his fixed point. He was not afraid of Monsieur de Bonaparte; he would fight if they wished, he would leave if they wished: things were a little confused in his brain; he did not know if he was stopping at Rocroi to give battle, or to go and dine at the Grand-Cerf. He struck camp a few hours before us, telling me to recommend the innkeeper’s coffee to those of his household whom he had left behind. He did not know I had handed in my resignation on the death of his grandson; he only felt about that name a certain halo of glory which may as well have clung to some Condé whom he did not recall.
Do you remember my first passing through Tournai with my brother, during my first emigration? Do you remember, regarding it, the man changed into a donkey, the girl from whose ears sprang ears of corn, the cloud of rooks that spread fire everywhere? In 1815, we were like that cloud of rooks ourselves, except that we spread no fires. Alas! I was no longer accompanied by my unfortunate brother! Between 1792 and 1815, the Republic and the Empire had vanished: what revolutions had taken place in my life also! Time had ravaged me along with all the rest. And you, the younger generations of this age, let twenty-three years go by, and you will ask at my grave where all your present passions and illusions are.
The Bertin brothers had
arrived at Tournai: Monsieur Bertin
de Vaux returned to
From Tournai we
travelled to Brussels: there I found no
Baron de Breteuil, no Rivarol, nor all those young aides-de-camps,
now dead or grown old which are the same thing. There was no sign of the barber
who had given me refuge. I carried a pen and not a musket; I had turned from
soldiering to scribbling on paper. I located Louis
XVIII; he was in Ghent, where Messieurs Blacas and de Duras had escorted him: their intention
at first had been to have the King embark for
Entering a boarding
house to look at a room, I found the Duc de Richelieu, smoking while reclining on
a sofa, in the depths of a darkened chamber. He spoke of the Princes in a
coarse manner, declaring that he was off to
The capital of
An order from the King summoned me to Ghent. The Royal volunteers and the Duc de Berry’s tiny army had been sent away to Béthune, to the mud and mess of a military debacle: there had been moving farewells. Two hundred men of the King’s household remained and were confined to Alost; my two nephews, Louis and Christian de Chateaubriand, were part of that corps.
I was given a billet which I did not take advantage of: a Baroness whose name I forget sought out Madame de Chateaubriand at the inn and offered us a room at her house: she begged us to accept it with such good grace! ‘Pay no attention,’ she said, ‘to what my husband tells you: he has a problem with his mind…you understand? My daughter is also a bit strange; she has terrible fits, poor child! But the rest of the time she is gentle as a lamb. Alas! It is not she who causes me the most grief it is my son Louis, the youngest of my children: if God does not help him, he will be worse than his father.’ Madame de Chateaubriand refused politely to go and live among such reasonable people.
The King, comfortably lodged, having his
servants and his guards around him, formed his council. The empire of this
great monarch comprised a palace of the Kingdom of the
The Abbé de Montesquiou being in
Madame the Duchesse de Duras came to rejoin Monsieur the Duc de Duras among the exiles. I will speak no more of the evils of adversity, since I spent three months with this excellent woman, conversing of all that minds and true hearts can find in an agreement of tastes, ideas, principles and feelings. Madame de Duras was ambitious for me: she alone knew from the start what value I might have politically; she was continually disappointed by the envy and blindness that distanced me from the King’s Council; but she was yet more disappointed by the obstacles that my character placed in the way of my fortunes: she scolded me, she wanted to cure me of my casual attitude, my frankness, my naivety, and make me adopt the methods of the courtiers, which she herself could not stand. Nothing perhaps serves more to cement attachment and gratitude than to feel yourself under the patronage of a superior friendship, which by virtue of its social influence, makes your faults pass for qualities, your imperfections for charms. A man assists you for what it is worth to him, a woman because of what you are worth: which is why of the two empires the first is so hateful, the second so sweet.
Since I lost that most generous individual, of so noble a soul, a mind which united something of the powers of intellect of Madame de Staël with the grace of Madame de Lafayette’s talent, I have not ceased, while weeping, to reproach myself for the changeability with which I may have occasionally distressed those hearts devoted to me. Let us have particular regard to character! Let us consider that we can, despite a profound relationship, nevertheless poison days that we would buy back at the cost of all our blood. When our friends have descended into the grave, what means have we of repairing our mistakes? Are our useless regrets, our vain repentance a remedy for the pain we have given them? They would have loved a smile from us while they were alive more than all our tears for them after their death.
The delightful Clara
(Madame the Duchesse de Rauzan) was in
Marshal Victor came to stand with us, at
Monsieur de Vaublanc and Monsieur Capelle, rejoined us. The former told us he had a bit of everything in his satchel. Do you want some Montesquieu? He’s here: some Bossuet? Here he is. As soon as the assembly seemed to wish for another face, travellers arrived for us.
Louis and Monsieur the Comte Beugnot stayed at the inn where I was
lodging. Madame de Chateaubriand had dreadful fits of breathlessness, and I
stayed up to watch over her. The two new arrivals installed themselves in a
room which was only separated from my wife’s by a thin partition; it was
impossible not to hear, unless one stopped one’s ears: between eleven and
midnight the occupants raised their voices; the Abbé Louis who spoke wolfishly,
and jerkily, said to Monsieur Beugnot: ‘You, a Minister? You won’t be one any
longer! You’ve perpetrated nothing but idiocies!’ I could not hear Monsieur the
Comte Beugnot’s reply clearly, but he spoke of thirty-three millions left behind
in the Royal Treasury. The Abbé pushed a chair over, apparently in anger.
Despite the crash, I grasped these words; ‘The Duc de Angoulême? He must buy
the National assets at the gate of
The Abbé Louis had come
The Very-Christian King was protected from all reproach of that kind: he had a married bishop on his Council, Monsieur de Talleyrand; a priest with a concubine, Monsieur Louis; an Abbé who scarcely practised his religion, Monsieur de Montesquiou.
The latter, a man as feverish as a consumptive, with a certain facility in speaking, had a narrow mind adept at denigration, a heart full of hatred, an embittered nature. One day when I had spoken out in favour of the freedom of the press, the descendant of Clovis, passing in front of me, who only derived from the Breton Mormoran, gave me a shove in the leg with his knee, which was not in good taste; I returned it, which was impolite: we played at being the Coadjutor and the Duc de La Rochefoucauld. The Abbé de Montesquiou amusingly called Monsieur de Lally-Tollendal ‘a creature after the English manner’.
In the rivers around Ghent, they angled for a very delicate white fish: we would eat, tutti quanti (all and sundry) these fine fish in the restaurant, waiting for the battles which end empires. Monsieur Laborie was always present at the rendezvous: I had met him for the first time at Savigny, when, fleeing from Bonaparte, he entered by way of one of Madame de Beaumont’s windows, and exited through another. Tireless in his efforts, proliferating errands and notes, as pleased at rendering a service as others are at receiving them, he has been slandered: the essence of slander is not the accusation of having been slandered but the slanderer’s reasons. I showed weariness with the promises in which Monsieur Laborie was wealthy; but why? Dreams are like torments: they always pass an hour or two. I have often taken in hand, with a golden bridle, vicious old memories which could no longer stand upright, which I had taken for young and dashing hopes.
A Moniteur was established in Ghent: my report to the King of the 12th of May, inserted in this paper, show that my sentiments regarding the freedom of the press and regarding foreign domination have been identical at all times and in all places. I can cite these passages today; they do not contradict my record in any way:
‘Sire, you should begin to set a crown on the institutions whose foundations you have laid…You have specified a date for the commencement of hereditary peerages; the Government should have acquired greater unity; the Ministers should have become members of the two Chambers, according to the true spirit of the Charter; a law should have been proposed whereby one could be elected as a member of the Chamber of Deputies at under forty years of age and citizens could enjoy a genuine political career. Work was going to start on a legal code covering press offences, after the adoption of which the press would have been entirely free, since that freedom is inseparable from representative government………………...
Sire, this is the moment to register a solemn protest: all your Ministers, all the members of your council, are indissolubly attached to wise principles of freedom; they draw from their proximity to you that love of law, order, and justice, without which there is no happiness for a nation. Sire, may we be permitted to say to you, we are ready to shed our last drop of blood for you, to follow you to the ends of the earth, to share with you the tribulations which it may please the Almighty to send you, because we believe before God that you will maintain the constitution you have granted to your people, that the sincerest wish of your royal spirit is the liberty of the French. If it had been otherwise, Sire, we would always have died at your feet in the defence of your sacred person; but we would merely have been your soldiers, we would have ceased to be your councillors and ministers.....
Sire, at this moment we
share your Royal grief; there is not one of your councillors and ministers who
would not give his life to prevent the invasion of
My report, arriving in
I am not sure why Bonaparte
I was received graciously in that Close as the author of Le Génie du Christianisme; everywhere I go, among Christians, priests come to meet me; then the mothers bring their children; the latter recite my chapter on First Communion. Then unfortunates present themselves who tell me the good I have been happy enough to bring them. My passage through a Catholic town is announced like that of the missionary and the doctor. I am moved by this dual reputation: it is the only pleasant memory of self that I preserve; the rest of my personality and my fame displease me.
I was frequently invited to dinners with the family of Monsieur and Madame d’Ops, a venerable father and mother surrounded by thirty or so children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. At Mr Coppens’ house, a gala dinner, which I was prevailed upon to attend, lasted from one in the afternoon to eight in the evening. I counted nine courses: they began with preserves and ended with mutton chops. Only the French know how to dine to a plan, as they are the only ones who know how to structure a book.
My Ministry kept me in
My insignia of the Golden Fleece was not yet at Bruges, Madame de Chateaubriand could not
bring it to me. At
After her trip to
Madame de Chateaubriand
endured a sad night in the inn at
The usual quietness of
The Duke of Wellington visited from time to time to
review the troops. After dinner each day, Louis XVIII went out in a coach and
six with the First Gentleman of the
Bedchamber and his Guards, to make the tour of
Louis XVIII never forgot his pre-eminence in the cradle; he was King everywhere, as God is God everywhere, in the nursery or the temple, at an altar of gold or of clay. He never made a single concession to misfortune; his pride grew with his abasement; his name was his crown; he had the air of saying: ‘Kill me, but you cannot kill the centuries written on my brow.’ If they had chiselled away at his coat of arms on the Louvre what did it matter; were they not engraved on the globe? Had Commisioners been sent to all corners of the world to efface them? Had they been erased in India, at Pondicherry, in the Americas, at Lima and in Mexico; in the East, at Antioch, Jerusalem, Acre, Cairo, Constantinople, Rhodes, and in the Morea; in the West, on the walls of Rome, on the ceilings of the Caserta and the Escorial, in the vaulting of spaces at Ratisbon and Westminster, in the escutcheons of all the kings? Had they scored them from the compass point, where they appear to announce the reign of the fleur-de-lis over scattered regions of the earth?
The obsession Louis
XVIII acquired, with grandeur, antiquity, dignity, and the majesty of his race,
provided Louis XVIII with a veritable empire. One felt his dominance; even
Bonaparte’s generals confessed to it: they felt more intimidated before this
powerless old man than before the terrible master who had commanded them in a
hundred battles. In Paris, when Louis XVIII granted the triumphant monarchs the
honour of dining at his table, he passed without question as the first of those
Princes whose soldiers were camped in the courtyard of the Louvre; he treated
them like vassals who were only doing their duty in leading their troops into
the presence of their sovereign lord. In
The more impolitic this pride of Saint Louis’ descendant (it became fatal in his heirs) the more it fuelled National pride: the French delight in seeing sovereigns who, conquered, carry their chains like men, in order to wear, as conquerors, the yoke of the race.
unshakeable faith in his rank was the real power which granted him the sceptre;
it is that faith, which, twice remembered, set a crown on his head regarding
I took solitary walks in
The inhabitants of
When I had dreamt my way
through the centuries, the sound of a bugle or Scottish bagpipes woke me. I saw
live soldiers hastening to rejoin their battalions buried deeper in
Spanish style has left
its imprint: the buildings in
Madame the Duchesse d’Angoulême, embarking in the Gironde,
reached us via England with General Donnadieu
and Monsieur de Sèze, who had crossed the
sea, his blue ribbon outside his coat. The Duke and Duchess of Lévis had followed the Princess:
they threw themselves into the stagecoach and fled
Madame the Duchess of Lévis was a very beautiful,
very fine person, as calm in spirit as Madame the Duchess de Duras was agitated. She
never left Madame de Chateaubriand’s side; she was our assiduous companion in
She died a few years
later; she is mingled with the dead, as with the source of all rest. I saw her
lowered silently into her grave in the
To the affectionate goodness of Madame de Lévis towards me was joined the friendship of Monsieur the Duke de Lévis, the father: in future I ought only to count in generations. Monsieur de Levis was a fine writer; he had a copious and fecund imagination that felt for his noble race, seen at Quiberon, its ranks spread over the shore.
All shall not end there; it was an impulse of friendship which passed to the second generation. Monsieur the Duke de Lévis, the son, today attached to Monsieur the Comte de Chambord, is close to me; my hereditary affection to him is no less than my fidelity to his august father. The new, delightful, Duchesse de Lévis, his wife, unites with the great name of Aubusson the most brilliant qualities of mind and feeling: it is something to have lived where the graces imprint history with the passage of their un-wearying wings!
When I went to
Monsieur’s, which was rarely, his entourage spoke to me in hushed tones and
with many sighs of a man who (it must be
admitted) has behaved marvellously well: he has hindered all of the Emperor’s
operations; he defended the Faubourg St Germain, etc, etc, etc. The
faithful Marshal Soult was the object of
Monsieur’s predilection too, and after Fouché, the most loyal man in
One day, a carriage
arrived at the door of my inn, and I saw Madame the Baronne de Vitrolles emerge: she was arriving
charged with powers by the Duc d’Otrante.
She brought a note in Monsieur’s own hand, in which the Prince declared that he
would preserve an eternal gratitude towards those who had saved Monsieur de Vitrolles. Fouché needed no more;
armed with this note, he was sure of his future in the event of a second
Restoration. From that moment there was no longer any question in
After the Hundred Days, Madame de Custine pressed me into dining with Fouché at her house. I had met him one before, six months previously, regarding the sentence passed against my poor cousin Armand. The former Minister knew that I had opposed his nomination at Roye, Gonesse, and Arnouville; and as he supposed I possessed some power, he wanted to make peace with me. The best of him was shown in the death of Louis XVI: he was a regicide in all innocence. Verbose, like all the revolutionaries, threshing the air with empty phrases, he churned out a mass of commonplace stuff about destiny, necessity, the law of things, mingling with this nonsensical philosophy other nonsense concerning the advance and progress of society, impudent maxims benefiting the strong in favour of the weak; finding no fault with bold confessions regarding the rightness of success, the worthlessness of severed heads, the fair-mindedness of those who prosper, the unfair attitudes of those who suffer, affecting to speak casually and indifferently of the most terrible disasters, as a genius above such stupidities. There escaped from him, concerning everything, not one choice idea, or remarkable insight. I left shrugging my shoulders at crime.
Monsieur Fouché never
forgave my dryness and the slightness of the effect he had on me. He thought I
would be fascinated by seeing the blade of the fatal machine rising and falling
in front of my eyes, as if it were some glory of Sinai;
he imagined that I would think that lunatic a colossus who, speaking of the
soil of Lyons, said: ‘This soil will be
ploughed over; on the ruins of this proud and rebellious town will be raised
scattered cottages which the friends of equality will hasten to inhabit……We shall have the energy and courage to cross vast graveyards of
conspirators......The blood-stained corpses must be thrown into the
His dreadful embellishments failed to impress me, since Monsieur de Nantes had mixed those Republican crimes with Imperial mud; that the sans-culotte, metamorphosed into a Duke, had twined the lantern-rope with the cord of the Legion of Honour did not seem to me to be either clever or grand. Jacobins detest men who think little of their atrocities and who scorn their murders; their pride is irritated like that of authors whose talent one contests.
At the same time that Fouché was sending Monsieur Gaillard to Ghent to negotiate with Louis XVI’s brother, his agents in Basle were talking to those of Prince Metternich regarding Napoleon II, and Monsieur de Saint-Léon, dispatched by that same Fouché, was arriving in Vienna to discuss the possible coronation of Monsieur the Duke d’Orléans. The friends of the Duke of Otranto could no more count on him than his enemies: on the return of the Legitimate Princes, he kept his old colleague Monsieur Thibaudeau on his list of exiles, while for his part Monsieur de Talleyrand erased from the list or added to the catalogue such and such a proscribed individual, according to whim. Had not the Faubourg Saint-Germain reason to believe in Monsieur Fouché?
Monsieur de Saint-Léon carried three notes to
Monsieur the Duke of Orléans was not conspiring in fact, only by consent; he left intrigue to those of revolutionary affinities: what a lovely society! In the depths of the woods, the plenipotentiary of the King of France leant an ear to Fouché’s overtures.
Regarding Monsieur de Talleyrand’s ‘arrest’ at the Barrière d’Enfer, I have mentioned the objective that Monsieur de Talleyrand had possessed, till then, regarding the ‘Regency’ of Marie-Louise: he was forced to deviate from it, in the event, by the presence of the Bourbons; but he was always ill at ease; it seemed to him that, under the heirs of Saint Louis, a married bishop was never sure of his place. Thus the idea of substituting the cadet branch for the elder branch amused him, and more so because he had previously had relations with the Palais-Royal.
Taking part, without however revealing his
hand completely, he hazarded a few words to Alexander regarding Fouché’s project. The Tsar had lost
interest in Louis XVIII: the latter had offended him in Paris by affecting a
superiority of race; he had also offended him by rejecting the idea of the Duc
de Berry marrying one of the
Emperor’s sisters; the Princess was refused for three reasons: she was a
schismatic; she was not of an ancient enough line; she was from a family with a
history of madness: reasons which were inadequate, were expedients, and which
when they became known triply offended Alexander. As a final matter for
complaint against the old sovereign of exile, the Tsar objected to the proposed
Besnardière, Head of Section in the Foreign Office, called on Monsieur de Caulaincourt; he had with him a
bound report, On the Grievances and
Contradictions in France, aimed at the Legitimacy. The attack having been launched,
Monsieur de Talleyrand found the means to communicate the report to Alexander;
annoyed and volatile, the autocrat was struck by La Besnardière’s pamphlet.
Suddenly, in full Congress, and to everyone’s astonishment, the Tsar asked if
there were not matter for consideration in an examination of the extent to
which Monsieur the Duke of Orléans might suit
Given the obstacle the Tsar had encountered, Monsieur de Talleyrand did an about face: reckoning on word of the attempted coup getting out, he sent an account to Louis XVIII (in a dispatch I have seen bearing the number 25 or 27) of that odd session of Congress (It is claimed that in 1830, Monsieur de Talleyrand removed his correspondence with Louis XVIII from the Crown’s private archives, just as he had removed everything he had written concerning the death of the Duc d’Enghien and the business with Spain from Bonaparte’s archives. Note: Paris, 1840): he thought himself obliged to inform His Majesty of so outrageous a step, since that news, he said, would not be long in reaching the ears of the King: singularly naïve on the part of Monsieur le Prince de Talleyrand.
There had been question of a declaration of
It is obvious that at the second Restoration the Allies cared as little about re-establishing the Legitimacy, as they did at the first: events alone achieved it. What did it matter to those short-sighted sovereigns if the mother of European monarchies had her throat cut? Would that stop them holding dinners, or deploying their Guards? Today monarchy is seated so firmly, the globe in one hand, the sword in the other!
Monsieur de Talleyrand, whose interests, then, lay in Vienna, feared that the English, whose opinion of him was no longer so favourable, might engage their military force before all the armies were in position, and that the Court of St James might thus acquire the dominant position: that is why he wished to persuade the King to return via the south-eastern provinces, so that he would find himself under the protection of the troops of the Austrian Empire and Government. The Duke of Wellington was thus given specific orders not to commence hostilities; thus it was Napoleon who decided upon the battle of Waterloo: nothing can arrest such a destiny.
These historical facts, of the most intriguing nature, have generally been ignored; just as, again, a confused opinion has been gained of the Treaty of Vienna, relative to France: it has been taken as being the iniquitous creation of a group of victorious sovereigns bent on our ruin; unfortunately, if it was harsh, it’s content was aggravated by the hand of a Frenchman: when Monsieur de Talleyrand was not conspiring, he was meddling.
Prussia wanted Saxony, which sooner or later
would become its prey; France should have favoured that desire, since with Saxony
obtaining compensation in the form of the Rhine Circles, we retained Landau and our enclaves; Coblentz and other fortresses passed to a friendly
little State which, situated between us and Prussia, prevented any point of
contact; and the keys of France would not be handed to Frederick’s shade. For the three
millions it would cost Saxony, Monsieur de Talleyrand opposed the schemes of
the Berlin Government; but in order to obtain Alexander’s agreement to the
existence of the former Saxony, our ambassador was obliged to sacrifice Poland
to the Tsar, even though the other Powers would have wished for a Poland that
restricted Muscovite movement in the north in some way. The Bourbons of Naples bought the city back for money, as
did the sovereign of Dresden. Monsieur de
Talleyrand claimed he had the right to a grant in return for his duchy of
Such were the diplomatic transactions taking
I have learnt with great pleasure, Monsieur,
that you are at
You will surely have thought how useful it
would be to refute by strongly argued publications all the new doctrines that
they wish to propagate in the official pieces appearing in
It would have been useful if something appeared
whose object was to establish that the declaration of the 31st of March, signed
in Paris by the Allies, that the deposition, the abdication, the treaty of the
11th April which was its consequence, were in effect preliminary, indispensable
and absolute conditions for the treaty of 30th of May; that is to say that
without those previous conditions the treaty could not have been signed. That
said, whoever violates the aforesaid conditions, or seconds their violation, destroys
the peace the treaty establishes. It is he and his accomplices therefore who
declare war on
For foreign as for home consumption, a discussion conducted in this light would be beneficial; it is only necessary for it to be well done, so do undertake it.
Accept, Monsieur, the homage of my sincere attachment and my highest consideration.
I hope to have the honour of seeing you in a month’s time.’
Our Minister in
what was happening in
I would like to show you a side to events that history does not reveal; history only shows one side, while these Memoirs have the advantage of displaying both sides of the cloth: in that way, they depict humanity more completely in displaying, like Shakespeare’s tragedies, high and low scenes. There are, throughout, cottages neighbouring on palaces, men who weep beside men who laugh, rag-pickers bowed beneath their baskets beside kings who have lost their throne: what does the fall of Darius mean to the slave present at the battle of Arbela?
I have told you the reasons which should have
kept Bonaparte on the
The few mistakes that the law had righted sufficed to make re-establishment of arbitrary justice impossible. Despotism muzzles the masses, and frees individuals within certain limits; anarchy unchains the masses, and subjugates independent individuals. From that it can be seen that despotism appears as liberty, when it succeeds anarchy; it remains wholly what it is when it replaces liberty: a liberator after the Directory constitution, Bonaparte was an oppressor after the Charter. He knew this so well that he thought himself obliged to move further from Louis XVIII and turn to the sources of national sovereignty. He, who had trampled on the people as their master, was reduced to making himself once more a tribune of the people, courting the favour of the suburbs, parodying the birth of the Revolution, stammering out the old language of liberty which brought a grimace to his lips, and every syllable of which made his sword twitch with anger.
His destiny, as a power, was indeed so
fulfilled, that Napoleon’s genius was nowhere evident during the Hundred Days.
That genius was one of victory and order, not one of defeat and freedom: now he
could achieve nothing by victory which had betrayed him, nothing by order since
it existed without him. In his astonishment he said: ‘See what the Bourbons have
And everywhere Bonaparte was forced to
capitulate before ideas which at first sight he could not defeat. Given his
lack of real popularity, workers, paid forty
sous a head, went to the Carrousel at the end of their day’s work to yell: Long Live the Emperor! It was called
going to the shout. His first
proclamations announce miracles of forgiveness and forgetting; individuals are
declared to be free, the nation free, the Press free; nothing is desired but
the peace, liberty, and happiness of the people; the whole Imperial system was
altered; the age of gold was about to be reborn. In order to make practice
conform to theory,
The police, directed by Fouché, tell everyone, by means of solemn proclamations, that they will only serve from now on to spread philosophy, that they will only act in future according to the principles of virtue.
Bonaparte re-establishes, by decree, the
National Guard of the Kingdom, whose name alone once put him in a fever. He is
forced to annul the divorce pronounced under the Empire between despotism and
demagogy, and support their new alliance: from this marriage is to be born, on
the Champ-de-Mai, Liberty, the red cap and
the turban on her head, the Mameluke’s
sabre at her waist, the revolutionary axe in her hand; Liberty surrounded by
the shades of those thousands of victims sacrificed on her scaffolds, or on the
burning plains of Spain and in the frozen wastes of Russia. Before victory,
Mamelukes are Jacobins; after victory Jacobins become Mamelukes:
Bonaparte would have much preferred to take sole authority on himself, but that was not possible; he found men disposed to dispute it with him: firstly Republicans of good faith, delivered from the chains of despotism and the rules of monarchy, desired to keep a freedom which was perhaps no more than a noble error; next there were the furious representatives of the old faction of the Mountain: these latter, humiliated by being no more than police spies for a despot, under the Empire, seemed determined on reclaiming, on their own account, that freedom to do anything whose privilege they had ceded to their master for fifteen years.
But neither the Republicans, nor the revolutionaries, nor Bonaparte’s satellites, were strong enough to establish their power separately, or to subjugate one another. Threatened from outside by invasion, pursued within by public opinion, they realised that if they were divided, they would be lost: in order to escape the danger, they deferred their quarrel; the former brought to their mutual defence their systems and illusions, the latter their terrors and perversities. There was not a scrap of good faith in the pact; each, the crisis over, promised themselves to turn it to their own profit; all seeking in advance to assure themselves of the fruits of victory. In this frightening game of trente et un, three mighty players held the bank in turn: liberty, anarchy, and despotism, all three cheating and trying to win something lost to all.
Filled with this idea, they took no harsh measures against those lost children who urged revolutionary measures: federated clubs were formed in the suburbs and federations organised themselves according to strict pledges in Brittany, Anjou, Lyonnais and Burgundy; the Marseillaise and the Carmagnole were sung; a club, established in Paris, corresponded with other clubs in the provinces; the revival of the Journal des Patriotes was announced. But, as for that, what confidence could the revivalists of 1793 inspire? Did we not know how they interpreted liberty, equality, and the rights of man? Were they more moral, wiser, or more sincere after their enormities than before? Because they were tarnished by all the vices did that make them capable of all the virtues? Crime is not relinquished as easily as a crown; the brow round which a dreadful headband is bound retains its ineffaceable marks.
The idea of a genius with the rank of Emperor lowering his ambitions to those of a Commander-in-Chief or President of the Republic was an illusion: the red cap, which they set on the head of his statues during the Hundred Days, could have announced to Bonaparte the recapture of his crown, only if it were given to athletes who circle the world in order to run the same course twice.
However, prominent liberals promised themselves victory: errant individuals like Benjamin Constant, and fools like Monsieur Simonde de Sismondi, talked of appointing the Prince de Canino as Minister of the Interior, Lieutenant-General Comte Carnot as Minister of War, and Comte Merlin as Justice Minister. Apparently demoralized, Bonaparte made no opposition to the democratic movements which, in the last result, furnished conscripts for his army. He allowed them to attack him in their pamphlets; caricatures repeated Isle of Elba to him as the parrots used to shriek Péronne at Louis XI. They preached liberty and equality to the escapee from gaol while addressing him as tu; he listened to their remonstrances with an air of compunction. Suddenly, breaking the bonds in which it was claimed he was enveloped, he proclaimed, on his own authority, not a plebeian constitution, but an aristocratic one, a Supplementary Act to the constitution of the Empire.
The Republic dreamed of changing itself into
the former Imperial Government, updated with feudalism, by means of this
skilful conjuring trick. The Supplementary
Act robbed Bonaparte of the republican movement and created malcontents in
almost all the other parties. Licence reigned in
This Champ-de-Mai, announced with such pomp and celebrated on the 1st of June, ended up as a simple file past by the troops and a distribution of standards before a disregarded altar. Napoleon, surrounded by his brothers, State dignitaries, Marshals, and the Civil and Judicial Corps, proclaimed the sovereignty of the people in which he had no belief. The citizens imagined they were themselves creating a Constitution on that solemn day; the peaceable bourgeois were expecting someone to declare Napoleon’s abdication in favour of his son; the abdication plotted at Basle between the agents of Fouché and Prince Metternich: it would have been a ridiculous political trap. The Supplementary Act appeared, moreover, to pay homage to the Legitimacy; with some vital differences, above all lacking the abolition of confiscation (of assets), it was the Charter.
These sudden changes, this confusion of all things, announced the death throes of despotism: tyranny retained the instinct for evil but no longer possessed the power. However, the Emperor was not to receive his mortal blow from within, since the power which fought him was as exhausted as himself; the Titan, of Revolution, whom Napoleon had once toppled, had not recovered his natural force; now the two giants dealt each other useless blows; it was no more than the struggle of two shades.
For Bonaparte these general frustrations were
added to the domestic tribulations and anxieties of the Palace: he announced to
Yet could the Emperor trust his erstwhile
supporters and so-called friends? Had they not deserted him shamefully at the
time of his fall? That Senate which crawled at his feet, now ensconced in the
peerage, had it not decreed its benefactor’s deposition? Could he believe those
men when they came to him and said: ‘The interests of
The Minister of the Imperial Police, as you have seen, was in correspondence with Ghent, Vienna, and Basle; the Marshals to whom Bonaparte was forced to entrust the command of his troops had only recently sworn loyalty to Louis XVIII; they had published the most violent proclamations against Bonaparte (see that of Marshal Soult above): since then, it is true, they had wedded themselves to their Sultan once more; but if he had been arrested at Grenoble, what would they have done with him? Does it suffice to break an oath to restore in full force another oath which has been violated? Does double-perjury equate to loyalty?
A few days later, those who had sworn obedience on the Champ-de-Mai would reaffirm their devotion to Louis XVIII at the Tuileries; they would approach the sacred table of the God of Peace, in order to be appointed ministers at the banquet of war; heralds-at-arms and bearers of the royal insignia at Bonaparte’s coronation, they would fulfil the same functions at the coronation of Charles X; then, as agents of another power, they would lead that King to Cherbourg as a prisoner, trying to find a little free corner of their consciences in which to hang the badge of their new oath. It is difficult being born in an age of improbity, in times when two men talking together must take care not to give tongue to certain words, for fear of offending each other or making each other blush.
Those who had not felt able to attach themselves to Napoleon in his glory, who had not been able to adhere from gratitude to the benefactor from whom they had received their wealth, honours and their very names, were they about to sacrifice themselves to his meagre hopes? Were they going to bind themselves to a precarious destiny, at its re-commencement, those ingrates whom a destiny fulfilled by unexampled successes and the spoils of sixteen victorious years had failed to bind? Those many chrysalises, which, between one spring and another, had put off and on, shed and resumed the skins of Legitimist and Revolutionary, follower of Napoleon, follower of the Bourbons; those many promises made and broken; those many crosses switched from the knight’s breast to his horse’s tail, from his horse’s tail to the knight’s breast; the many valiant warriors changing banners, strewing the lists with their false pledges of loyalty; those many noble ladies, waiting in turn on Marie-Louise and Marie-Caroline, were calculated to leave in the depths of Napoleon’s spirit only mistrust, horror and contempt; that great man aged before his time stood alone among all those traitors, his fate and all those human beings, on the trembling earth, beneath a hostile sky, face to face with his completed destiny and the judgement of God.
Napoleon had found not loyal friends but
phantoms of his past glory; they escorted him, as I have said, from the place
where he had disembarked to the capital of
Napoleon does not hurl himself, with an
enthusiastic populace, on
The news of Bonaparte’s landing at
The warmth from the wings of the victor of Marengo and Austerlitz was enough to hatch armies in a
We émigrés, in Charles V’s city, behaved like the women
of that town: sitting beside their windows, they watched, in little angled
mirrors, the soldiers passing by in the street. Louis XVIII was there, in a corner,
completely forgotten; he merely received a note from time to time from the
Prince de Talleyrand on his way
back from Vienna, or a few lines from members of the diplomatic corps residing
with the Duke of Wellington in the role
of commissioners, Messieurs Pozzo di Borgo,
Baron von Vincent, etc., etc. People
had better things to do than think about us! A man strange to politics would
never have dreamed that an invalid, hidden beside the Lys, would be helped back to the throne by the efforts
of thousands of soldiers ready to slit throats: soldiers of whom he was neither
king nor leader, who gave no thought to him, who knew nothing of his name or
his existence. Of two places in such close proximity,
We knew Bonaparte’s
forces were approaching; we had nothing to protect us but two small companies
under the command of the Duc de Berry,
a Prince whose blood would not serve us, since he was already summoned
elsewhere. A thousand cavalry, detached from the French army, would be on us
within a few hours. The fortifications of
Monsieur de Blacas had become sad and anxious; I, poor
man, consoled him. In
On the 18th of June
1815, towards midday, I left Ghent by the
Brussels gate; I was going to finish my walk alone on the highroad. I had taken
Caesar’s Commentaries with me and I strolled along, immersed in my reading.
I was already more than three miles from the city, when I thought I heard a
dull rumble: I stopped and looked up at the cloudy sky, deliberating with
myself whether to go on, or turn back towards
Silent and solitary
listener to the mighty judgement of the fates, I would have been less moved if
I had been in the fray: the peril, the firing, the press of death would have
left me no time for meditation; but alone under a tree, in the Ghent
countryside, like a shepherd of the flocks that grazed around me, I was
overwhelmed by the weight of reflection: What battle was this? Would it be
decisive? Was Napoleon there in person? Were lots being cast for the world, as
they had been for Christ’s garments? What
would be the consequence for the nations, in the event of victory or defeat for
one army or the other, freedom or slavery? Ah, what blood must be flowing! Was
not every sound that reached my ears some Frenchman’s last sigh? Was this a new
Crécy, a new Poitiers, a new Agincourt, to delight
No traveller appeared;
some women in the fields, peaceably hoeing rows of vegetables, did not seem to
have heard the noise. But then I saw a courier approaching: I left the foot of
my tree and stood in the centre of the road; I stopped the courier and questioned
him. He belonged to the Duc de Berry
and was coming from Alost. He told me:
The courier continued on his way.
I followed in haste: I was passed by the carriage of a merchant fleeing with his family; he confirmed the courier’s story.
When I returned to
Monsieur had just
arrived by a circuitous route: he had left
At these reports, the stampede became general: those who had any resources, left; I, who was used to possessing nothing, was ready to go at any time as always. I wanted Madame Chateaubriand, a great Bonapartist but one who hated gunfire, to depart before me: she refused to quit me.
In the evening there was a Council meeting at His Majesty’s: we heard Monsieur’s reports again and the hearsay picked up at the Military Commander’s and at Baron Eckstein’s. The wagon containing the Crown jewels was hitched to the horses: I had no need of a wagon to remove my treasure. I put the black silk handkerchief in which I wrap my head at night into my limp Interior-Ministry portfolio, and placed myself at His Majesty’s disposal, carrying that important document on the affairs of the Legitimacy. I was richer when I first emigrated, when my haversack did duty as a pillow and served as a swaddling band for Atala: but in 1815 Atala was a tall, gawky girl of thirteen or fourteen, who went about all by herself, and who, to her father’s honour, had got herself talked about too much.
On the 19th of June, at
one in the morning, a letter from Monsieur Pozzo,
delivered to the King by courier, established the true facts. Bonaparte had not
On the morning of the
18th, before the first shot had been fired, the Duke of Wellington declared
that he would be able to hold out until three; but that at that time, if the
Prussians had not appeared, he would necessarily be destroyed: forced back on Planchenois and
The French, first
advancing on the enemy’s left flank, took the heights which overlook the Manor of
Hougoumont as far as the farms of La Haye-Sainte and Papelotte; on the right they attacked the
village of Mont Saint-Jean; the farm
of La Haye-Saint, in the centre, was taken by Prince Jerôme. But the Prussian reserves
appeared near Saint-Lambert at six in the evening: a new and furious attack was
made on the
The number of Allied
dead was estimated at eighteen thousand, the number of French dead at
twenty-five thousand; two hundred English officers died; almost all
The French errors were considerable: they were mistaken as to hostile and friendly corps; they occupied the position at Quatre-Bras too late; Marshal Grouchy, who was ordered to hold back the Prussians with his thirty-six thousand men, allowed them to pass him without his catching sight of them; from this stemmed the reproaches that our generals addressed to him. Bonaparte attacked head-on according to his custom instead of turning the English flanks, and concerned himself, with the presumption of a master, about cutting off the retreat of an enemy that had not yet been conquered.
Many falsehoods and a
few rather curious truths have been credited to this catastrophe. The phrase: ‘The
Guard dies but does not surrender’ is an invention which no one dares to defend
any more. It appears certain that at the commencement of the action, Soult made some strategic observations to the
On the 19th of June a
hundred-gun salute from the Invalides
announced the victories at Ligny, the Sambre, Charleroi,
and Quatre-Bras; it celebrated the now-dead
victories of the eve of Waterloo. The
first courier who brought the news of that defeat, one of the greatest in
history considering its results, was Napoleon himself: he entered the gate on
the night of the 21st; one would have said it was his shade returning to tell
his friends he was no more. He halted at the Elysée-Bourbon:
when he arrived from
Fallen to the foreigner in noble combat, Napoleon had to suffer, in Paris, attacks from lawyers who wanted to rake over his misfortunes: he regretted not having dissolved the Chamber before his departure for the army; he was also frequently sorry he had not had Fouché and Talleyrand shot. But it is certain that Bonaparte, after Waterloo, forbade all violence, either in obedience to his usually calm temperament, or because he had been tamed by fate; he no longer said as he had before his first abdication: ‘They will see what a great man’s death is like.’ That eloquence was gone. Antipathetic to liberty, he thought of quashing that Chamber of Representatives presided over by Lanjuinais, of citizens become Senators, of Senators become Peers, of Peers become citizens again, of citizens about to become Peers again. General Lafayette, one of the deputies, read from the rostrum a proposal which declared: ‘The Chamber to be in permanent sitting, for it to be a crime of high treason to make any attempt to dissolve it, and for anyone to be considered a traitor to the country, and judged as such, who renders himself guilty of such.’ (21st of June 1815.)
The General’s speech commenced with these words: ‘Gentlemen, in raising for the first time in many years a voice which the former friends of liberty will still recognise, I feel myself summoned to speak to you of the danger facing the country……………………………………………………..
This is the moment for us to rally to the tricolour, to that of 89, that of liberty, equality and public order.’
The anachronism of that
speech created an illusion for an instant: it was as if one saw the Revolution,
The Chamber of Representatives, after a number of debates in which Manuel spoke, accepted the fresh abdication of its sovereign, but in vague terms and without naming the Regency.
An executive committee was created: the Duke of Otranto presided; three Ministers, a Councillor of State and an Imperial General composed it, and despoiled their master anew: they were Fouché, Caulaincourt, Carnot, Quinette, and Grenier.
transactions, Bonaparte turned over ideas in his head: ‘I no longer have an
army,’ he thought, ‘I have only fugitives. A majority of the Chamber of
Deputies are fine; I only have Lafayette, Lanjuinais and a few others against
me. If the nation rises, the enemy will be wiped out; if instead of raising a
levy, they spend their time arguing, all will be lost. The nation has not sent
the Deputies to overthrow me, but to support me. I fear them not at all,
whatever they do; I will always be the idol of the people and the army: if I
said a word they would yield. But if we quarrel among ourselves instead of
listening to each other, we will meet the fate of the
A deputation from the
Chamber of Representatives arriving to congratulate him on his fresh
abdication, he replied: ‘Thank you: I hope that my abdication will bring
He repented of it soon afterwards, when he realised that the Chamber of Representatives had nominated a committee of five members. He said to the Ministers; ‘I did not abdicate in favour of a new Directory; I abdicated in favour of my son: if he is not proclaimed, my abdication is null and void. It is not by showing the Allies a bowed head, while kneeling on the ground, that the Chambers will force them to recognise national independence.
He complained that Lafayette, Sébastiani, Pontécoulant and Benjamin Constant had conspired against him, and that the rest of the Chamber lacked energy. He said that he alone could renew everything, but that the leaders would never consent to it, that they would rather be swallowed by the abyss than unite with him, Napoleon, to seal it.
On the 27th of June, at Malmaison, he wrote this sublime letter: ‘In abdicating power, I have not renounced the noblest right of a citizen, that of defending my country. In these grave circumstances, I offer my services as a general, regarding myself still as the foremost soldier of the motherland.’
The Duke of Bassano having represented to him that the Chambers would not support him: ‘Well, I can see,’ he said, ‘that I must always concede. That vile Fouché cheats you, only Caulaincourt and Carnot are worth anything; but what can they do, with a traitor, Fouché, and two fools, Quinette and Grenier, and two Chambers that do not know what they want? You all believe like imbeciles at the fine promises made by foreigners; you think they’ll put a chicken in the pot, and give you a prince after their fashion, do you? You are wrong.’
sent to the Allies. On the 29th of June, Napoleon asked for two frigates,
stationed at Rochefort, to carry him away
Discussion was lively in
the Chamber of Peers. A long time enemy of Bonaparte, Carnot, who signed the order for the
executions at Avignon, without taking the
time to read them, had time, during the Hundred Days, to submerge his
republicanism beneath the title of count. On the 22nd of June, at the Luxembourg he had read a letter from the
Minister of War, containing an exaggerated report of French military resources.
Ney, newly arrived, could not listen to it
without anger. Napoleon in his bulletins had spoken of the Marshal with barely
concealed dissatisfaction, and Gourgaud
accused Ney of having been the principal cause of the Battle of Waterloo being
lost. Ney rose and said: ‘The report is false, false on all points. Grouchy could only have had twenty to
twenty-five thousand men under his command at the very most. There was hardly a
single soldier of the Guard to rally: I commanded it; I saw it completely
destroyed before leaving the field of battle. The enemy is at Nivelle with eighty-thousand men; they can be
Flahaut, the aide-de-camp, tried to justify
the Minister of War’s report: Ney replied with fresh vehemence: ‘I repeat; you
have no other means of salvation but negotiation. You must recall the Bourbons.
As for me I will retire to the
At these words, Lavalette and Carnot showered the general with reproaches; Ney replied with scorn: ‘I am not one of those men for whom self-interest is everything: what would I gain from Louis XVIII’s return? To be shot for desertion; but I owe my country the truth.’
In the session of the Peers of the 23rd, General Drouot, recalling that scene, said: ‘I heard with sadness what was said yesterday in diminishment of the glory of our armies, in exaggeration of our disasters and regarding the diminution of our resources. My astonishment was the greater in that those speeches were uttered by a distinguished General (Ney), who by his great courage and military understanding has merited the nation’s recognition on so many occasions.’
In the session on the
22nd, a second storm had erupted after the first: it concerned Bonaparte’s
abdication; Lucien insisted that
his new Emperor be recognised. Monsieur
de Pontécoulant interrupted the
speaker, and demanded by what right Lucien, a foreigner and a Roman prince, was
permitted to select a sovereign for
Napoleon’s abdication is indivisible. If his son is not to be recognised, he must take up his sword, surrounded by Frenchmen who have shed their blood for him, and who are all still covered with wounds.
He will be abandoned by those base generals who have already betrayed him.
But if we declare that every Frenchman who deserts his flag shall be covered in infamy, his house razed, his family proscribed, then there will be no more traitors, no more manoeuvres that have occasioned the recent catastrophes some of whose authors perhaps are sitting here today.’
All the omens of the Second Restoration were threatening: Bonaparte had returned at the head of four hundred Frenchmen, Louis XVIII returned behind four hundred thousand foreigners; he passed by Waterloo’s sea of blood, to go towards Saint-Denis as if towards his tomb.
It was while the
Legitimacy was thus on the march that those shouts rang out in the Chamber of
Peers: there had been who knows how many terrible revolutionary scenes enacted
there in the days of our great evils, when the knife circulated on the benches
in the hands of future victims. Various soldiers, whose fatal fascination had
led to the ruin of
While Bonaparte retired to Malmaison with the Empire in its death throes, we left Ghent with the revitalised monarchy. Pozzo, who knew how little the Legitimacy mattered in high places, hastened to write to Louis XVIII telling him to depart and arrive quickly, if he wanted to reign, before his place was taken: it is to this note that Louis XVIII owed his crown in 1815.
At Mons, I lost my first chance of success in my political career; I was my own worst enemy, and found myself as always to be an obstacle in my way. This time my good qualities did me a worse turn than my faults could have done.
Monsieur de Talleyrand, in all the pride of a
negotiation which had enriched him, claimed to have rendered the Legitimacy the
greatest of services, and returned as master. Astonished that no one has as yet
followed the route he had traced in returning to
Monsieur de Talleyrand
Louis XVIII was in a
state of deep sorrow: he was troubled by the separation from Monsieur de Blacas; the latter could not return to
In the midst of his sycophants
Monsieur de Talleyrand was worse than ever. I made representation to him that
at such a critical moment he could not think of going away. Pozzo preached the same: even though he
had not the least inclination towards him, he preferred at that time to see him
involved as a former acquaintance; moreover he thought he was in close favour
with the Tsar. I gained no sway over Monsieur de Talleyrand’s mind, the
Prince’s habitués prevented me; Monsieur Mounier
even thought that Monsieur de Talleyrand ought to retire. The Abbé
Louis, who snapped at everyone, said to me,
shaking his muzzle three times: ‘If I were the Prince, I wouldn’t remain in
I returned to the King’s residence where I found Monsieur de Blacas. I said to His Majesty, as an excuse for his Minister’s absence, that he was ill, but that he would assuredly have the honour of paying his court to the King the following day. ‘As he wishes,’ Louis XVIII replied: ‘I am leaving at three’; and then he added these words affectionately; ‘I am to be separated from Monsieur de Blacas, the position will be vacant, Monsieur de Chateaubriand.’
The King’s Household was at my feet. No longer burdening himself with Monsieur de Talleyrand, a wise politician would have hitched his horses to the carriage in order to follow or precede the King: I remained stupidly at my inn.
Monsieur de Talleyrand, unable
to convince himself that the King would set out, was asleep: at three they woke
him to tell him that the King was leaving; he could not believe his ears:
‘Tricked! Betrayed!’ he cried. He got up, and there he was, for the first time
in his life, in the street at three in the morning, leaning on Monsieur de
Riccé’s arm. He arrived in front of the King’s residence: the two front horses
of the team were already half-way through the carriage entrance. A wave of the
hand to the coachman to stop; the King asked what was happening; someone called
out: ‘Sire, it is Monsieur de Talleyrand. – He is asleep’, said Louis XVIII. –
‘Here he is, Sire. – Go on!’ the King replied. The horses and carriage backed
up; the door was opened, the King descended, and returned dragging his feet to
his apartment, followed by the limping Minister. There Monsieur de Talleyrand
began an angry explanation. His Majesty listened and replied: ‘Prince de
Benevento, are you leaving us? The waters will do you good: you can send us
your news.’ The King left the Prince dumbfounded, had himself led back to his
Monsieur de Talleyrand
was foaming with anger’ Louis XVIII’s sang-froid had unseated him: he, Monsieur
de Talleyrand, who so often stung others with his calmness, had been beaten on
his home ground, dumped in a square in Mons, like the most insignificant of
men: he couldn’t get over it! He remained silent, watching the departing coach,
then grasping the Duc de Lévis by
his coat-button: ‘Go, Monsieur the Duke, go and tell them how I am treated! I
have placed the crown on the King’s head once more (he always returned to that
crown), and I am going to
Monsieur de Lévis listening distractedly, dancing on tip-toe, said; ‘Prince, I am leaving, there ought to be at least one nobleman with the King.’
Monsieur de Lévis threw
himself into a hired cart carrying the Chancellor
I begged Monsieur de Duras to work at reconciliation, and send
me news at the earliest. ‘What!’ Monsieur de Duras, replied, ‘you are staying
behind after what the King has said to you?’ Monsieur de Blacas, leaving
I found Monsieur de Talleyrand again, embarrassed; he regretted not having followed my advice, and like a muddle-headed sub-lieutenant having refused to go to the King that evening; he feared that agreements would be reached without him, that he would be unable to share political power and profit from the financial conniving which was planned. I told him that, though I disagreed with his views, I would remain no less loyal to him, as an ambassador should to his Minister; that in addition I had friends close to the King, and that I soon hoped to hear some good tidings. Monsieur de Talleyrand felt truly tender, he leant on my shoulder: certainly he thought me a very great man at that instant.
I did not have to wait long to receive a letter from Monsieur de Duras; he wrote to me from Cambrai that everything was arranged, and that Monsieur de Talleyrand would receive the order to set out: this time the Prince did not fail to obey.
What devil possessed me? I had not followed the King who had, so to speak, offered me or rather granted me the Ministry of his Household and who was offended by my obstinacy in staying at Mons: I stuck out my neck for Monsieur de Talleyrand whom I scarcely knew, whom I did not esteem, whom I did not admire; for Monsieur de Talleyrand who would be involved in schemes that were by no means mine, who lived in an atmosphere of corruption in which I could scarcely breathe!
It was from
At Cambrai, it emerged that the Marquis de La Suze, Marshal of Lodgings à la the age of Fénelon, had disposed of the rooms reserved for Madame de Lévis, Madame de Chateaubriand and I: we stood in the street, amidst the bonfires, the crowd milling around us, and the citizens shouting: ‘Long live the King!” A student, discovering I was there, led us to his mother’s house.
Friends of the various monarchies of France began to appear; they came to Cambrai not to join the league against Venice, but to combine against the new constitution; they hastened to lay at the King’s feet their successive loyalties and their hatred for the Charter: a passport they judged necessary to get closer to Monsieur; I and two or three other reasonable Gilles, we already smelt like Jacobins.
On the 28th of June, the
Proclamation of Cambrai appeared. The King said in it: ‘I only wish to banish
from my presence those men whose reputation is a subject of pain to
In Book IV of these Memoirs I have told you that in passing through Canbrai after the Hundred Days, I searched in vain for the lodgings I occupied in my days with the Navarre Regiment, and the café I frequented with La Martinière; all had vanished with my youth.
From Cambrai, we went to stay at Roye: the innkeeper’s wife took Madame de Chateaubriand for Madame la Dauphine; she was led in triumph to a room where there was a table set for thirty: the room, lit by candles, tapers and a large fire, was suffocating. The hostess wished to receive no payment, and said to her: ‘I consider myself at fault for not having found a way of dying on behalf of our monarchy’ It was the last spark of that fire which animated the French for so many centuries.
General Lamothe, Monsieur Laborie’s brother-in-law, arrived,
sent by the authorities in the capital, to inform us that it would be impossible
for us to present ourselves in
At Roye, a council was held: Monsieur de Talleyrand had two old nags harnessed to his carriage and drove to His Majesty’s. His equipage occupied the whole breadth of the square, from the Minister’s inn to the King’s door. He descended from his chariot with a memoir which he read to us: he considered the policy which would have to be adopted on arrival; he ventured a few words on the necessity of allowing everyone, indiscriminately, to participate in the appointments to be made; he took it as understood that it would even extend, generously, to those who had judged Louis XVI. His Majesty flushed, and striking both hands on the arms of his chair, cried: ‘Never!’ A never lasting twenty-four hours.
At Senlis, we presented ourselves at a canon’s house: his servant received us like dogs; as for the canon, who was not St Rieul patron saint of the town, he only wished to avoid seeing us. His maid had orders not to render us any service other than to sell us whatever we wished to eat, for money: the Génie du Christiansime counted for nothing. Yet Senlis ought to have provided us with a good omen, since it was there that Henri IV escaped from the hands of his gaolers in 1576: ‘I only regret,’ wrote the King, a compatriot of Montaigne, after escaping, ‘ two things that I have left behind in Paris: the mass and my wife.’
From Senlis we travelled
to Philippe-Auguste’s cradle,
otherwise known as Gonesse. Approaching
the town, we saw two men advancing towards us; they were Marshal Macdonald and my faithful friend Hyde de Neuville. They stopped our carriage
and asked us where Monsieur de Talleyrand was; they quickly gave me to
understand that they were looking for him in order to inform the King that His
Majesty must not dream of entering the gates of
The King stopped at Gonesse for two hours. I left Madame de Chateaubriand in the middle of the main street in her carriage, and went to the council meeting at the town hall. There a discussion took place on which depended the future fate of the monarchy. The discussion began: I maintained, with only Monsieur Beugnot’s support, that Louis XVIII should not admit Monsieur Fouché to his council under any circumstances. The King listened: I saw that personally he would have stuck to his words at Roye; but he was dominated by Monsieur, and urged on by the Duke of Wellington.
In a chapter of La Monarchie
selon la Charte, I summarised the reasons I put forward at Gonesse. I was inspired;
the spoken word has a power which is lost to the written word: ‘Wherever there
is a public forum,’ I said in that chapter, ‘whoever may be exposed to
reproaches of a certain nature cannot be placed in charge of Government. There have
been certain speeches, certain words, which would oblige a like Minister to
hand in his resignation and leave the Chamber. It is that unacceptability
resulting from the principles of free and representative government that cannot
be confirmed if all illusions combine to carry a well-known individual to
Ministerial power, despite the only too well-founded repugnance of the Crown.
The elevation of this man will produce one of two results: either the abolition
of the Charter, or the fall of the Minister when the session opens. Imagine the
Minister of whom I speak listening, in the Chamber of Deputies, to the debate
of the 21st of January, able to be harangued at every moment by some deputy
These are the things they had chosen to forget!
After all that were they so wretched as to believe that a man of that kind could ever be of benefit? He needed to be left behind the scenes, to meditate on his sad experiences; but to do violence to the Crown and public opinion, to summon bare-facedly such a Minister to office, a man whom Bonaparte, at that very moment, treated as vile, was that not to declare a renunciation of liberty and virtue? Is the Crown worth such a sacrifice? It no longer had the power to banish anyone: who could one banish having accepted Fouché?
The parties acted without considering the form of government they had adopted; everyone spoke of the constitution, liberty, equality, the rights of nations, and no one wanted any of it; fashionable verbiage: they asked, without thinking about it, for news of the Charter, while all hoping it would soon die. Liberals and Royalists inclined towards absolute government, modified by custom: it is the French temperament and style. Material interests dominated; they had no wish to renounce, they said, what they had done during the Revolution; each was responsible for his own life and intended to charge his neighbour with his: wrong-doing, they assured us, had become an element of public life, which from now on was a factor in government, and penetrated society like a vital principle.
My whim, in supporting a Charter directed by religious and moral action, was the source of the ill will certain parties bore towards me: as far as the Royalists were concerned, I loved liberty too much; to the Revolutionaries, I was someone who spurned their crimes too obviously. If, to my great detriment, I had not happened to be there to make myself master of the Constitutionalist school, the Ultras and the Jacobins would, from the start, have stuffed the Charter into the pockets of their morning-coats decorated with fleur-de-lys, or their carmagnoles à la Cassius.
Monsieur de Talleyrand did not like Monsieur Fouché; Monsieur Fouché detested and, what is stranger, despised Monsieur Talleyrand: it was difficult to be successful that way. Monsieur de Talleyrand, who had at first been content not to be coupled with Monsieur Fouché, feeling that it was inevitable, gave his support to the project; he did not realise that given the Charter (especially if he were united with the man who bombarded Lyons) there was hardly a credible position any longer for Fouché.
What I had predicted was quickly born out: no advantage would accrue from the admission of the Duke of Otranto, it would receive only opprobrium; the mere shadow of the Chambers being imminent sufficed to make Ministers who were too exposed to the freedom of the rostrum, vanish.
My opposition was useless: according to the custom of weak characters, the King rose from the session with nothing agreed; the decree was to be decided at the Château d’Arnouville.
No proper council was held in this latter residence; the intimates and affiliates alone met in secret. Monsieur de Talleyrand, having arrived before us, spoke to his friends. The Duke of Wellington arrived; I saw him pass in a barouche; the feathers in his hat waving in the air; he had come to bestow Monsieur Fouché and Monsieur Talleyrand on France, a twofold gift which the victor of Waterloo was granting to our country. When it was suggested to him that the Duke of Otranto’s regicide might perhaps be a drawback, he replied: ‘That’s a mere detail.’ An Irish Protestant, a British General foreign to our way of life and our history, a mind which saw in the France of 1793 only its English antecedent of 1649, was charged with deciding our fate! Bonaparte’s ambition had brought us to this wretched state.
I roamed alone through the gardens from which the Controller General Machault, at the age of ninety-three, went to die in the Madelonnettes; since at that time death in his grand review forgot no one. I was no longer summoned; the familiarities of mutual misfortune had ceased between sovereign and subject: the King was preparing to enter his palace, I my retreat. The void reforms around monarchs as soon as they regain power. I rarely traversed the silent uninhabited halls of the Tuileries that brought me to the King’s bureau, without serious reflection: to me, only deserts of another sort, infinite solitudes where worlds themselves vanish before God, are real.
We lacked bread at
Arnouville; without an officer of the name of Dubourg, driven from
We went on to Saint-Denis: along both sides of the road stretched the bivouacs of the Prussians and English; the spires of the Abbey could be seen far off: into its foundations Dagobert hurled his jewels, within its vaults successive dynasties buried their kings and great men; four months earlier we had deposited the bones of Louis XVI there to replace the dust of his predecessors. When I returned from my first exile in 1800, I had crossed this same plain of Saint-Denis; as yet only Napoleon’s soldiers were camped there; Frenchmen were yet again replacing the old bands of the Constable de Montmorency.
baker housed us. At nine in the evening, I went to pay my court to the King.
His Majesty was lodged in the Abbey buildings: it was all anyone could do to
prevent the little girls of the Legion
of Honour from shouting: ‘Long Live Napoleon!’ I went into the church first; a
piece of wall next to the cloister had fallen: the ancient
On the following day, the Faubourg Saint-Germain arrived: all things were confounded in Fouché’s nomination which had already been achieved, religion with impiety, virtue with vice, royalist with revolutionary, foreigner with Frenchman; on every side the cry went up; ‘Without Fouché there is no security for the King, without Fouché there is no security for France; he alone has already saved the country, he alone can finish the job.’ The old Duchesse de Duras was one of the most animated singers of the hymn; the Bailli de Crussol, a survivor of Malta, made up the chorus; he declared that if his head was still on his shoulders, it was because Monsieur Fouché had allowed it. The timorous had received such a fright under Napoleon they took the perpetrator of the massacre at Lyons for a new Titus. For more than three months the salons of the Faubourg Saint-Germain considered me a miscreant because I disapproved of the nomination of their Ministers. Those poor wretches, they prostrated themselves at the feet of parvenus; they gossiped as ever about their nobility, their hatred for revolutionaries, their unfailing loyalty, the inflexibility of their principles, and they adored Fouché!
Fouché had realised the incompatibility between his ministerial existence and the play of representative monarchy: as he could not involve himself with the elements of legal government, he tried to render the political elements compatible with his own nature. He created an artificial Terror; assuming imaginary dangers, he intended to force the Crown to acknowledge Bonaparte’s two Chambers and receive the declaration of rights which was hurriedly perfected; several words were even muttered concerning the necessity of exiling Monsieur and his sons: the masterwork would have been to isolate the King.
continued to be taken in: the National Guard traversed the walls of
The Provisional Government formed since Bonaparte’s abdication was dissolved by a kind of act of prosecution lodged against the Crown: a foundation stone on which they hoped to construct a new revolution one day.
At the First Restoration I was of the opinion that they should have kept the tricolour cockade: it shone in all its glory; the white cockade was forgotten; retaining the colours which had legitimised so many victories, did not imply readying an emblem to rally around in some anticipated revolution. Not to adopt the white cockade would have been wise; to abandon it even though it had now been worn by Bonaparte’s grenadiers was cowardice: one cannot pass the Caudine Forks with impunity; what dishonours is fatal: a slap in the face does you no lasting physical harm, and yet it may kill you.
‘Well?’ said Louis XVIII, opening the dialogue with this exclamation. – ‘Well, Sire, you have decided on the Duke of Otranto?
– It was essential: from my brother down to the Bailli de Crussol (and he is above suspicion), everyone said we could not do otherwise: what do you think?
– Sire, the thing is done: I ask Your Majesty’s permission to say nothing.
– No, no, speak:
you know how I have resisted it since leaving
– Sire, I am only obeying your command; pardon my loyalty: I think the monarchy is done for.’
The King remained silent; I was beginning to tremble at my boldness, when His Majesty continued:
– ‘Well, Monsieur de Chateaubriand, I am of your opinion.’
This conversation concludes my account of the Hundred Days.
End of Book XXIII
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