Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine
Book: Life Of Napoleon
Author: Tarbell, Ida
Second Funeral Of Napoleon
Removal Of Napoleon's Remains From St. Helena To Banks Of The Seine In 1840
It is my wish that my ashes may repose on the banks of the Seine, in
the midst of the French people, whom I have loved so well. - Testament of
Napoleon, 2d Clause.
He wants not this; but France shall feel the want
Of this last consolation, thought so scant;
Her honor, fame, and faith demand his bones,
To rear above a pyramid of thrones;
Or carried onward, in the battle's van,
To form, like Guesclin's dust, her talisman.
But be it as it is, the time may come,
His name shall beat the alarm like Ziska's drum.
Byron, in The Age of Bronze.
On May 12, 1840, Louis Philippe being king of the French people, the
Chamber of Deputies was busy with a discussion on sugar tariffs. It had
been dragging somewhat, and the members were showing signs of
restlessness. Suddenly the Count de Remusat, then Minister of the
Interior, appeared, and asked a hearing for a communication from the
"Gentlemen," he said, "the king has ordered his Royal Highness
Monseigneur the Prince de Joinville^* to go with his frigate to the island
of St. Helena, there to collect the remains of the Emperor Napoleon."
[Footnote *: The Prince of Joinville was the Third son of Louis Philippe.]
A tremor ran over the House. The announcement was utterly
unexpected. Napoleon to come back! The body seemed electrified, and the
voice of the minister was drowned for a moment in applause. When he went
on it was to say:
"We have come to ask for an appropriation which shall enable us to
receive the remains in a fitting manner, and to raise an enduring tomb to
"Tres bien! Tres bien!" cried the House.
"The government, anxious to discharge a great national duty, asked
England for the precious treasure which fortune had put into her hands.
"The thought of France was welcomed as soon as expressed. Listen to
the reply of our magnanimous ally:
"'The government of her Majesty hopes that the promptness of her
response will be considered in France as a proof of her desire to efface
the last traces of those national animosities which armed France and
England against each other in the life of the emperor. The government of
her Majesty dares to hope that if such sentiments still exist in certain
quarters, they will be buried in the tomb where the remains of Napoleon
are to be deposited.'"
The reading of this generous and dignified communication caused a
profound sensation, and cries of "Bravo! bravo!" re-echoed through the
hall. The minister, so well received, grew eloquent.
"England is right, gentlemen; the noble way in which restitution has
been made will knit the bonds which unite us. It will wipe out all traces
of a sorrowful past. The time has come when the two nations should
remember only their glory. The frigate freighted with the mortal remains
of Napoleon will return to the mouth of the Seine. They will be placed in
the Invalides. A solemn celebration and grand religious and military
ceremonies will consecrate the tomb which must guard them forever.
"It is important, gentlemen, that this august sepulchre should not
remain exposed in a public place, in the midst of a noisy and
inappreciative populace. It should be in a silent and sacred spot, where
all those who honor glory and genius, grandeur and misfortune, can visit
it and meditate.
"He was emperor and king. He was the legitimate sovereign of our
country. He is entitled to burial at Saint-Denis. But the ordinary royal
sepulchre is not enough for Napoleon. He should reign and command forever
in the spot where the country's soldiers repose, and where those who are
called to defend it will seek their inspiration. His sword will be placed
on his tomb.
"Art will raise beneath the dome of the temple consecrated to the god
of battles a tomb worthy, if that be possible, of the name which shall be
engraved upon it. This monument must have a simple beauty, grand
outlines, and that appearance of eternal strength which defies the action
of time. Napoleon must have a monument lasting as his memory. . . .
"Hereafter France and France alone, will possess all that remains of
Napoleon. His tomb, like his fame, will belong to no one but his country.
The monarchy of 1830 is the only and the legitimate heir of the past of
which France is so proud. It is the duty of this monarchy, which was the
first to rally all the forces and to conciliate all the aspirations of the
French Revolution, fearlessly to raise and honor the statue and the tomb
of the popular hero. There is one thing, one only, which does not fear
comparison with glory - that is liberty."
Throughout this speech, every word of which was an astonishment to
the Chamber, sincere and deep emotion prevailed. At intervals
enthusiastic applause burst forth. For a moment all party distinctions
were forgotten. The whole House was under the sway of that strange and
powerful emotion which Napoleon, as no other leader who ever lived, was
able to inspire.
When the minister followed his speech by the draft of a law for a
special credit of one million francs, a member, beside himself with
excitement, moved that rules be laid aside and the law voted without the
legal preliminaries. The president refused to put so irregular a motion,
but the House would not be quiet. The deputies left their places, formed
in groups in the hemicycle, surrounded the minister, congratulating him
with fervor. They walked up and down, gesticulating and shouting. It was
fully half an hour before the president was able to bring them to order,
and then they were in anything but a working mood.
"The president must close this session," cried an agitated member;
"the law which has just been proposed has caused too great emotion for us
to return now to discussing sugar." But the president replied very
properly, and a little sententiously, that the Chamber owed its time to
the country's business, and that it must give it. And, in spite of their
excitement, the members had to go back to their sugar.
But how had it come about that the French government had dared burst
upon the country with so astounding a communication. There were many
explanations offered. A curious story which went abroad took the credit
from the king and gave it to O'Connell, the Irish agitator. As the story
went, O'Connell had warned Lord Palmerston that he proposed to present a
bill in the Commons for returning Napoleon's remains to France.
"Take care," said Lord Palmerston. "Instead of pleasing the French
government, you may embarrass it seriously."
"That is not the question," answered O'Connell. "The question for me
is what I ought to do. Now, my duty is to propose to the Commons to
return the emperor's bones. England's duty is to welcome the motion. I
shall make my propositions, then, without disturbing myself about whom
they will flatter or wound."
"So be it," said Lord Palmerston. "Only give me fifteen days."
"Very well," answered O'Connell.
Immediately Lord Palmerston wrote to Monsieur Thiers, then at the
head of the French Ministry, that he was about to be forced to tell the
country that England had never refused to return the remains of Napoleon
to France, because France had never asked that they be returned. As the
story goes, Monsieur Thiers advised Louis Philippe to forestall O'Connell,
and thus it came about that Napoleon's remains were returned to France.
The grande pensee, as the idea was immediately called, seems,
however, to have originated with Monsieur Thiers, who saw in it a means of
reawakening interest in Louis Philippe. He believed that the very
audacity of the act would create admiration and applause. Then, too, it
was in harmony with the claim of the regime; that is, that the government
of 1830 united all that was best in all the past governments of France,
and so was stronger than any one of them. The mania of both king and
minister for collecting and restoring made them think favorably of the
idea. Already Louis Philippe had inaugurated galleries at Versailles, and
hung them with miles of canvas, celebrating the victories of all his
predecessors. In the gallery of portraits he had placed Marie Antoinette
and Louis XVI. beside Madame Roland, Charlotte Corday, Robespierre, and
Napoleon and his marshals.
He had already replaced the statute of Napoleon on the top of the
Column Vendome. He had restored cathedrals, churches, and chateaux, put
up statues and monuments, and all this he had done with studied
indifference to the politics of the individuals honored.
Yet while so many little important personages were being exalted, the
remains of the greatest leader France had ever known, were lying in a far-
away island. Louis Philippe felt that no monument he could build to the
heroes of the past would equal restoring Napoleon's remains.
The matter was simpler, because it was almost certain that England
would not block the path. The entente cordiale, whose base had been laid
by Talleyrand nearly ten years earlier, had become a comparatively solid
peace, and either nation was willing to go out of the way, if necessary,
to do the other a neighborly kindness. France was so full of good will
that she was even willing to ask a favor. Her confidence was well placed.
Two days after Guizot, then the French minister to England, had explained
the project to Lord Palmerston, and made his request, he had his reply.
The remains of the "emperor" were at the disposition of the French.
Of the "emperor," notice! After twenty-five years England recalled the
act of her ministers in 1815, and recognized that France made Napoleon
emperor as well as general.
The announcement that Napoleon's remains were to be brought back,
produced the same effect upon the country at large that it had upon the
Chamber - a moment of acute emotion, of all-forgetting enthusiasm. But in
the Chamber and the country the feeling was short-lived. The political
aspects of the bold movement were too conspicuous. A chorus of criticisms
and forebodings arose. It was more of Monsieur Thiers' clap-trap, said
those opposed to the English policy of the government. What particularly
angered this party, was the words "magnanimous ally" in the minister's
The Bonapartes feigned to despise the proposed ceremony. It was
insufficient for the greatness of their hero. One million francs could
not possibly produce the display the object demanded. Another point of
theirs was more serious. The emperor was the legitimate sovereign of the
country, they said, quoting from the minister's speech to the Chamber, and
they added: "His title was founded on the senatus consultum of the year
12, which, by an equal number of suffrages, secured the succession to his
brother Joseph. It was then unquestionably Joseph Bonaparte who was
proclaimed emperor of the French by the Minister of the Interior, and amid
the applause of the deputies."
Scoffers said that Louis Philippe must have discovered that his soft
mantle of popularity was about worn out, if he was going to make one of
the old gray redingote of a man whom he had called a monster. The
Legitimists denied that Napoleon was a legitimate sovereign with a right
to sleep at Saint-Denis like a Bourbon or a Valois. The Orleanists were
wounded by the hopes they saw inspired in the Bonapartists by this
declaration. The Republicans resented the honor done to the man whom they
held up as the greatest of all despots.
There was a conviction among many that the restoration was premature,
and probably would bring on the country an agitation which would endanger
the stability of the throne. It was tempting the Bonaparte pretensions
certainly, and perhaps arousing a tremendous popular sentiment to support
While the press and government, the clubs and cafes, discussed the
political side of the question, the populace quietly revived the Napoleon
legend. Within two days after the government had announced its
intentions, commerce had begun to take advantage of the financial
possibilities in the approaching ceremony. New editions of the "Lives" of
Napoleon which Vernet and Raffet had illustrated, were advertised. Dumas'
"Life" and Thiers' "Consulate and Empire" were announced. Memoirs of the
period, like those of the Duchesse d'Abrantes and of Marmont, were
As on the announcement of Napoleon's death in 1821, there was an
inundation of pamphlets in verse and prose; of portraits and war
compositions, lithographs, engravings, and wood-cuts; of thousands of
little objects such as the French know so well how to make. The shops and
street carts were heaped with every conceivable article a la Napoleon.
The legend grew as the people gazed.
On July 7th the "Belle Poule," the vessel which was to conduct the
Prince de Joinville, the commander of the expedition, to St. Helena,
sailed from Toulon accompanied by the "Favorite." In the suite of the
Prince were several old friends of Napoleon: the Baron las Cases, General
Gourgaud, Count Bertrand, and four of his former servants. All these
persons had been with him at St. Helena.
The Prince de Joinville had not received his orders to go on the
expedition with great pleasure. Two of his brothers had just been sent to
Africa to fight, and he envied them their opportunities for adventures and
glory; and, besides, he was sick of a most plebeian complaint, the
measles. "One day as I lay in high fever," he says in his "Memoirs," "I
saw my father appear, followed by Monsieur de Remusat, then Minister of
the Interior. This unusual visit filled me with astonishment, and my
surprise increased when my father said, 'Joinville, you are to go out to
St. Helena and bring back Napoleon's coffin.' If I had not been in bed
already I should have fallen down flat, and at first blush I felt no wise
flattered when I compared the warlike campaign my brothers were on with
the undertaker's job I was being sent to perform in the other hemisphere.
But I served my country, and I had no right to discuss my orders."
If the young prince was privately a little ashamed of his task,
publicly he adapted himself admirably to the occasion.
A voyage of sixty-six days brought the "Belle Poule," on October 8th,
to St. Helena, where she was welcomed by the English with every honor.
Indeed, throughout the affair the attitude of the English was dignified
and generous. They showed plainly their desire to satisfy and flatter the
pride and sentiment of the French.
It had been decided that the exhumation of the body and its transfer
to the French should take place on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the
arrival of Napoleon at the island. The disinterment was begun at midnight
on October 15th, the English conducting the work, and a number of the
French, including those of the party who had been with Napoleon at his
death, being present. The work was one of extraordinary difficulty, for
the same remarkable precautions against escape were taken in Napoleon's
death as had been in his life.
The grave in the Valley of Napoleon, as the place had come to be
called, was surrounded by an iron railing set in a heavy stone curb. Over
the grave was a covering of six-inch stone which admitted to a vault
eleven feet deep, eight feet long, and four feet eight inches broad. The
vault was apparently filled with earth, but digging down some seven feet a
layer of Roman cement was found; this broken, laid bare a layer of rough-
hewn stone ten inches thick, and fastened together by iron clamps. It
took four and one-half hours to remove this layer. The stone up, the slab
forming the lid of the interior sarcophagus was exposed, enclosed in a
border of Roman cement strongly attached to the walls of the vault. So
stoutly had all these various coverings been sealed with cement and bound
by iron bands, that it took the large party of laborers ten hours to reach
As soon as exposed the coffin was purified, sprinkled with holy
water, consecrated by a De Profundis, and then raised with the greatest
care, and carried into a tent which had been prepared for it. After the
religious ceremonies, the inner coffins were opened. "The outermost
coffin was slightly injured," says an eye witness; "then came one of lead,
which was in good condition, and enclosed two others - one of tin and one
of wood. The last coffin was lined inside with white satin, which, having
become detached by the effect of time, had fallen upon the body and
enveloped it like a winding-sheet, and had become slightly attached to it.
"It is difficult to describe with what anxiety and emotion those who
were present waited for the moment which was to expose to them all that
was left of the Emperor Napoleon. Notwithstanding the singular state of
preservation of the tomb and coffins, we could scarcely hope to find
anything but some misshapen remains of the least perishable part of the
costume to evidence the identity of the body. But when Dr. Guillard
raised the sheet of satin, an indescribable feeling of surprise and
affection was experienced by the spectators, many of whom burst into
tears. The emperor himself was before their eyes! The features of the
face, though changed, were perfectly recognizable; the hands extremely
beautiful; his well-known costume had suffered but little, and the colors
were easily distinguished. The attitude itself was full of ease, and but
for the fragments of satin lining which covered, as with fine gauze,
several parts of the uniform, we might have believed we still saw Napoleon
lying on his bed of state."
A solemn procession was now formed, and the coffin borne over the
rugged hills of St. Helena to the quay. "We were all deeply impressed,"
says the Prince de Joinville, "when the coffin was seen coming slowly down
the mountain side to the firing of cannon, escorted by British infantry
with arms reversed, the band playing, to the dull rolling accompaniment of
the drums, that splendid funeral march which English people call the Dead
March in Saul."
At the head of the quay, the Prince de Joinville, attended by the
officers of the French vessels, was waiting to receive the remains of the
emperor. In the midst of the most solemn military funeral rites the
French embarked with their precious charge. "The scene at that moment was
very fine," continues the prince. "A magnificent sunset had been
succeeded by a twilight of the deepest calm. The British authorities and
the troops stood motionless on the beach, while our ship's guns fired a
royal salute. I stood in the stern of my long-boat, over which floated a
magnificent tricolor flag, worked by the ladies of St. Helena. Beside me
were the generals and superior officers. The pick of my topmen, all in
white, with crape on their arms, and bareheaded like ourselves, rowed the
boat in silence, and with the most admirable precision. We advanced with
majestic slowness, escorted by the boats bearing the staff. It was very
touching, and a deep national sentiment seemed to hover over the whole
But no sooner did the coffin reach the French cutter than mourning
was changed to triumph. Flags were unfurled, masts squared, drums set a-
beating, and salvos poured from ports and vessels. The emperor had come
back to his own!
Three days later the "Belle Poule" was en route for France. One
incident alone marked her return. A passing vessel brought the news that
war had been declared between France and England. The Prince de Joinville
was only twenty-two, a hot-headed youth, and the news of war immediately
convinced him that England had her fleet out watching for him, ready to
carry off Napoleon again. He rose to the height of his fears. The
elegant furnishings of the saloons of his vessel were torn out and thrown
overboard to make room for the batteries; the men were made ready for
fighting, and everybody on board was compelled to take an oath to sink the
vessel before allowing the remains to be taken. This done, the "Belle
Poule" went her way peacefully to Cherbourg, where she arrived on November
30th, forty-three days after leaving St. Helena.
The town of Cherbourg owes much to Napoleon - her splendid harbors,
and great tracts of land rescued from the sea - and she honored the return
of his remains with every pomp. Even the poor of the town were made to
rejoice by lavish gifts in the emperor's honor; and one of the chief
squares - one he had redeemed from the sea - became the Place Napoleon.
The vessels lay eight days at Cherbourg, for the arrival had been a
fortnight earlier than was anticipated, and nothing was ready for the
celebration at Paris; but the time was none too long for the thousands who
flocked in interminable processions to the vessels. When the vessels left
for Havre, Cherbourg was so excited that she did what must have seemed to
the nervous inhabitants an extravagance, even in Napoleon's honor, she
fired a thousand guns!
The passage of the flotilla from Cherbourg to Paris took seven days.
At almost every town and hamlet elaborate demonstrations were made. At
Havre and Rouen they were especially magnificent.
A striking feature of the river cortege was the ceremonies at the
various bridges under which the vessels passed. The most elaborate of
these was at Rouen, where the central arch of the suspension bridge had
been formed into an immense arch of triumph. The decorations were the
exclusive work of wounded legionary officers and soldiers of the Empire.
When the vessel bearing the coffin passed under, the veterans showered
down upon it wreaths of flowers and branches of laurel.
These elaborate and grandiose ceremonies were not, however, the
really touching feature of the passage. The hillsides and river-banks
were crowded with people from all the surrounding country, who sometimes
even pressed into the river in order better to see the vessels. Those on
the flotilla saw aged peasants firing salutes with ancient muskets, old
men kneeling with uncovered heads on the sod, and others, their heads in
their hands weeping - these men were veterans of the Empire paying homage
to the passage of their hero.
It was on the afternoon of December 14th, just as the sun was setting
radiantly behind Mt. Valerian, that the flotilla reached Courbevoie, a few
miles from Paris, where Napoleon's body was first to touch French soil.
The bridge at Courbevoie, the islands of Neuilly, the hills which rise
from the Seine, were crowded, far as the eye could reach, with a throng
drawn from the entire country around.
The flotilla as it approached was a brilliant sight. At the head was
the "Dorade," a cross at her prow, and, behind, the coffin. It was draped
in purple velvet, surrounded by flags and garlands of oak and cypress, and
surmounted by a canopy of black velvet ornamented with silver and masses
of floating black plumes. Between cross and coffin stood the Prince de
Joinville in full uniform, and behind him Generals Bertrand and Gourgaud
and the Abbe Coquereau, almoner of the expedition. The vessels following
the "Dorade" bore the crews of the "Belle Poule" and the "Favorite" and
the military bands. A magnificent funeral boat, on whose deck there was a
temple of bronzed wood, hung with splendid draperies of purple and gold,
brought up the official procession. Behind followed numberless craft of
all descriptions. Majestic funeral marches and salvos of artillery
accompanied the advance.
At Courbevoie the flotilla anchored. Notwithstanding the intense
cold, thousands of people camped all night on the hill-sides and shores,
their bivouac fires illuminating the landscape.
Only those who have seen Paris on the day of a great fete or ceremony
can picture to themselves the 15th of December, 1840. The day was
intensely cold, eight degrees below the freezing point, but at five
o'clock in the morning, when the drums began beating, and the guns
booming, the populace poured forth, taking up their positions along the
line of the expected procession. This line was fully three miles in
length, and ran from Courbevoie to the Arc de Triomphe by way of Neuilly,
thence down the Champs Elysees, across the Place and Bridge de la
Concorde, and along the quai to the Esplanade des Invalides. From one end
to the other it was packed on either side a hundred deep, before nine
o'clock. The journals of the day compute the number of visitors expected
in Paris as about half a million. Inside and outside of the Hotel des
Invalides alone, thirty-six thousand places were given to the Minister of
the Interior, and that did not cover one-tenth of the requests he
received. It is certain that nearly a million persons saw the entry of
Napoleon's remains. The people hung from the trees, crowded the roofs,
stood on ladders of every description, filled the windows, and literally
swarmed over the walks and grass plots. A brisk business went on in
elevated positions. A ladder rung cost five francs ($1.00); the man who
had a cart across which he had laid boards, rented standing-room at from
five to ten francs. As for windows and balconies - they sold for fabulous
prices, in spite of the fact that the placard fenetres et balcons a louer
appeared in almost every house from Neuilly to the Invalides, even in many
a magnificent hotel of the Champs Elysees. Fifty francs ($10.00) was the
price of the meanest window; a good one cost one hundred francs ($20.00);
three thousand francs ($600.00) were paid for good balconies. One
speculator rented a vacant house for the day for five thousand francs
($1,000.00), and made money on his investment.
The crowd made every preparation to keep warm; some of them carried
foot-stoves filled with live coals, others little hand-warmers. At
intervals along the procession great masses of the spectators danced to
keep up their circulation. Vendors of all sorts of articles did a
thriving business. Every article was, of course, Napoleonized; one even
bought gauffrettes and Madeleines cut out in the shape of Napoleons.
There were badges of every form - imperial eagles, bees, crowns, even the
petit chapeau. Many pamphlets in prose and verse had a great sale,
especially those of Casimir Delavigne, Victor Hugo, and Barthelemy; though
all these stately odes were far outstripped by one song, thousands upon
thousands of copies of which were sold. It ran:
"Premier capitaine du monde
Depuis le siege de Toulon,
Tant sur la terre que sur l'onde
Tout redoutait Napoleon.
Du Nil au nord de la Tamise!
Devant lui l'ennemi fuyait,
Avant de combattre, il tremblait
Voyant sa redingote grise."
The cortege which had brought this crowd together was magnificent in
the extreme. A brilliant military display formed the first portion:
gendarmerie, municipal guards, officers, infantry, cavalry, artillery,
cadets from the important schools, national guards. But this had little
effect on the crowd. The genuine interest began when Marengo, Napoleon's
famous battle-horse, appeared - it was not Marengo, but it looked like
him, which for spectacular purposes was just as well; and the saddle and
bridle were genuine. The defile now became exciting. The commission of
St. Helena appeared in carriages, then the Marshals of France, the Prince
de Joinville, the crews of the vessels which had been to St. Helena,
finally the funeral car, a magnificent creation over thirty feet high, its
design and ornaments symbolic. Sixteen black horses in splendid trappings
drew the car, whose funeral pall was held by a marshal and an admiral of
France, by the Duc de Reggio and General Bertrand.
The passing of the car was everywhere greeted with sincere emotion,
profound reverence. Even the opposition recognized the genuineness of the
feeling; many of them owned to sharing it for one moment of self-
forgetfulness, and they began to ask themselves, as Lamartine had asked
the Chamber six months before, what they had been thinking of to allow the
French heart and imagination to be so fired? Even cynical Englishmen who
looked on with stern or contemptuous countenances, said to themselves
meditatively that night, as they sat by their fire resting, "Something
good must have been in this man, something loving and kindly, that has
kept his name so cherished in the popular memory and gained him such
lasting reverence and affection."
Following the car came those who had been intimately associated with
the emperor in his life - his aides-de-camp and civil and military
officers. Many of them had been with him in famous battles; some were at
Fontainebleau in 1814, others at Malmaison in 1815. The veterans of the
Imperial Guard followed; behind them as deputation from Ajaccio.
From Courbevoie to the Hotel des Invalides, one walked through a
hedge of elaborate decorations - of bees, eagles, crowns, N's; of
bucklers, banners, and wreaths bearing the names of famous victories; of
urns blazing with incense; of rostral of flags; flaming tripods;
allegorical statues; triumphal arches; great banks of seats draped in
imperial purple and packed with spectators, and phalanges of soldiers.
On the top of the Arc de Triomphe was an imposing apotheosis of
Napoleon. Each side of the Pont de la Concorde was adorned with huge
statutes. On the Esplanade des Invalides the car passed between an avenue
of thirty-two statute of great French kings, heroes, and heroines -
Charles Martel, Charlemagne, Clovis, Bayard, Jeanne d'Arc, Latour
d'Auvergne, Ney. The chivalry and valor of France welcomed Napoleon home.
Oddly enough, this hedge of statues ended in one of Napoleon himself; the
incongruity of the arrangements struck even the gamins. "Tiens," cried
one urchin, "voila comme l'empereur fait la queue a lui-meme." ("Hello,
see there how the emperor brings up his own procession.")
The procession passed quietly from one end to the other of the route,
to the great relief of the authorities. Difficulty was anticipated from
several sources: from the Anglophobes, the Revolutionists, the
Legitimists, and Bonapartists, and the great mass of dissatisfied, who, no
matter what form of the rule they are under, are always against the
government. The greatest fear seems to have been on the part of the
English. Thackeray, who was in town at the time, gives an amusing picture
of his own nervousness on the morning of the 15th.
"Did the French nation, or did they not, intend to offer up some of
us English over the imperial grave? And were the games to be concluded by
a massacre? It was said in the newspapers that Lord Granville had
despatched circulars to all the English residents in Paris, begging them
to keep their homes. The French journals announced this news, and warned
us charitably of the fate intended for us. Had Lord Granville written?
Certainly not to me. Or had he written to all except me? And was I
victim - the doomed one? to be seized directly I showed my face in the
Champs Elysees, and torn in pieces by French patriotism to the frantic
chorus of the Marseillaise? Depend on it, Madame, that high and low in
this city on Tuesday were not altogether at their ease, and that the
bravest felt no small tremor. And be sure of this, that as his Majesty
Louis Philippe took his nightcap off his royal head that morning, he
prayed heartily that he might at night put it on in safety."
Fortunately Thackeray's courage conquered, and so we have the
entertaining "Second Funeral of Napoleon," by "Michael Angelo Titmarsh."
In spite of all forebodings, the hostile displays were nothing more
than occasional cries of "A bas les Anglais," a few attempts to promenade
the tricolor flag and drown Le Premier Capitaine de Monde by the
Marseillaise, and a strong indignation when it was learned that the
representatives of the allies had refused to be present at the final
Most of the observers of the funeral attributed the good order of the
crowd to the cold. A correspondent of the "National Intelligence" of that
"If this business had fallen in the month of June or July, with all
its excitements, spontaneous and elaborate, I should have deemed a
sanguinary struggle between the government and the mob certain or highly
probable. The present military array might answer for an approaching army
of Cossacks. Forty or fifty thousand troops remain in the barracks within
the camps without, besides the regular soldiery and National Guards in the
field, ready to act against the domestic enemy."
"Providentially the cold increased to the utmost keenness; the genial
currents of the insurrectionary and revolutionary soul were frozen."
The climax of the pageant was in the temple of the Invalides. The
spacious church was draped in the most magnificent and lavish fashion, and
adorned with a perfect bewilderment of imperial emblems. The light was
shut out by hangings of violet velvet; tripods blazing with colored
flames, and thousands upon thousands of waxen candles in brilliant
candelabra lighted the temple. Under the dome, in the place of the altar,
stood the catafalque which was to receive the coffin.
From early in the morning the galleries, choir, and tribunes of the
Invalides were packed by a distinguished company. There were the Deputies
and Senators - neither of which had been represented in the cortege - the
judicial and educational bodies, the officers of army and navy, the
ambassadors and representatives of foreign governments, the king, and the
But none of these dignitaries were of more than passing interest that
day. The centre of attention, until the coffin entered, was the few old
soldiers of the Empire to be seen in the company; most prominent of these
was Marshal Moncey, the decrepit governor of the Invalides.
It was two o'clock in the afternoon when the Archbishop of Paris,
preceded by a splendid cross-bearer, and followed by sixteen incense boys
and long rows of white-clad priests, left the church to meet the
procession. They returned soon. Following them were the Prince de
Joinville and a select few from the grand cortege without, attending
As it passed, the great assemblage was swayed by an extraordinary
emotion. There is no one of those who have described the day who does not
speak of the sudden, intense agitation which thrilled the company, whether
he refers to it half-humorously as Thackeray, who told how "everybody's
heart was thumping as hard as possible," or cries with Victor Hugo:
Sire: En ce monent-la, vouz aurez pour royaume,
Tous les fronts, tous les coeurs qui battront sous le ciel,
Les nations feront asseoir votre fantome,
Au trone universel."
The king descended from his throne and advanced to meet the cortege.
"Sire," said the Prince of Joinville, "I present to you the body of
Napoleon, which, in accordance with your commands, I have brought back to
"I receive it in the name of France," replied Louis Philippe.
Such at least is what the "Moniteur" affirms wa said, but the
"Moniteur" is an official journal whose business is, not to tell what
really happens, but what the government would prefer to have happen. The
Prince de Joinville gives a different version: "The king received the body
at the entrance to the nave, and there rather a comical scene took place.
It appears that a little speech which I was to have delivered when I met
my father, and also the answer he was to give me, had been drawn up in
council, only the authorities had omitted to inform me concerning it. So
when I arrived I simply saluted with my sword, and then stood aside. I
saw, indeed, that this silent salute, followed by retreat, had thrown
something out; but my father after a moment's hesitation, improvised some
appropriate sentence, and the matter was arranged in the 'Moniteur.'"
Beside the king stood an officer, bearing a cushion; on it lay the
sword of Austerlitz. Marshal Soult handed it to the king, who, turning to
"General, I commission you to place the emperor's glorious sword on
And Bertrand, trembling with emotion, laid the sword reverently on
his idol's coffin. The great company watched the scene in deepest
silence. The only sound which broke the stillness was the half-stifled
sobs on the gray-haired soldiers of the Invalides, who stood in places of
honor near the catafalque.
The king and the procession returned to their places, and then
followed a majestic funeral mass. The Requiem of Mozart, as rendered that
day by all the great singers of Paris, is one of the historic musical
performances of France. The archbishop then sprinkled the coffin with
holy water, the king taking the brush from his for the same sacred duty.
The funeral was over. Napoleon lay at last "on the banks of the
Seine, among the people whom he had so loved." For eight days after the
ceremony the church remained open to the public, and in spite of the
terrible cold thousands stood from morning until night waiting patiently
their turn to enter. After hours of waiting, they frequently were sent
away, only to come back earlier the next day In this company were numbers
of veterans of the imperial army who had made the journey to Paris from
distant parts of the kingdom. In the delegation from Belgium were many
who had walked part of the way, not being able to pay full coach fare.
Banquets and dinners followed the funeral. At one of these, a
"sacred toast to the immortal memory" was drunk kneeling. In a dozen
theatres of Paris the translation of the remains was dramatized. At the
Porte Saint-Martin, the actor who took the part of Sir Hudson Lowe had a
season of terror, he being in constant danger of violence from the
The advertising columns of the newspapers of the day blazed for weeks
with announcements of Napoleonized articles; the holiday gifts prepared
for the booths of the boulevards and squares, and for the magnificent
shops of the Palais Royal and the fashionable streets, whatever their
nature - to et, to wear, to look at - were made up as memorials. Paris
seemed to be Napoleon-mad.
In the February following the funeral, the coffin of Napoleon was
transferred from the catafalque in the centre of the church to a chapelle
ardente in the basement at one side. The chapel was richly draped in silk
and gold, and hung with trophies. On the coffin lay the imperial crown,
the emperor's sword, and the hat which he had worn at Eylau, and which he
had given to Gros when he ordered the battle of Eylau painted. Over the
coffin waved the flags taken at Austerlitz.
Here Napoleon's body lay until the mausoleum was finished. This
magnificent structure was designed by Visconti, the eminent architect, who
had planned the entire decorations of the 15th of December. Visconti
utterly ignored the appropriations in executing the monument, ordering
what he wanted, regardless of its cost. For the marble from which Pradier
made the twelve colossal figures around the tomb, he sent to Carrara; the
porphyry which was used to inclose the coffin, he obtained in Finland.
In this magnificent sepulchre Napoleon still sleeps. Duroc and
Bertrand lie on either side of the entrance to the chamber, guarding him
in death as in life; and to the right and left of the entrance to the
church are the tombs of his brothers Jerome and Joseph. On the stones
about him are inscribed the names he made glorious» over him are draped
scores of trophies; attending him are the veterans of the Invalides.
"Qu'il dorme en paix sous cette voute
C'est un casque bien fait, sans doute,
Pour cette tete de geant."