Monday, March 1, 2010

Coronation of Napoleon, December 2, 1804

Throughout her account of the life of her great-grandmother, Marie-Amélie of Naples, it is clear that the Duchesse de Vendôme had no sympathy for Napoleon. A forceful defender of the Bourbon monarchy, Henriette portrays Bonaparte as a usurper, tyrant and vainglorious conqueror responsible for plunging France and Europe into a series of disastrous wars. She repeatedly refers to the execution of the Duc d'Enghien in tones of horror. Here are her pithy remarks on Napoleon's coronation:

Le 2 décembre, le coup de théâtre le plus inouï, se jouait à Paris. Napoléon Ier et Joséphine, se faisaient couronner à Notre-Dame avec une pompe extraordinaire, sous les yeux de Pie VII amené de force, de Rome, pour en être le spectateur. Onze ans après l'exécution du Roi légitime, les révolutionnaires pliaient l'échine, avec une rare servilité, devant un maître absolu et tyrannique, stigmatisé du nom de tyran, affublé de tous les oripeaux monarchiques, mais sans ce qui les auréole, c'est-à-dire le droit et la tradition.

On December 2, the most unheard-of coup de theatre was staged in Paris. Napoleon I and Josephine had themselves crowned at Notre-Dame with extraordinary pomp, under the eyes of Pius VII, brought by force from Rome to be the spectator. Eleven years after the execution of the legitimate King, the revolutionaries, with a rare servility, bowed before an absolute, tyrannical master, stigmatised with the name of tyrant, decked out in all the monarchical finery, but without that which gives it glory, namely, right and tradition. (La jeunesse de Marie-Amélie reine des Français, d'après son journal, 1935, pp. 116-117)
A healthy corrective, I think, to all the adulation Napoleon has received through the decades. The emphasis on tradition and legitimacy, coming from a woman born a Belgian princess, might surprise some. After all, the Belgian monarchy was very recent, and born in a revolution. Yet, throughout her work, Henriette proves to be strikingly conservative.


MadMonarchist said...

Her position is very understandable. I am not as down on the Bonapartes as some, he did end the Terror and brought law and order back to France and it is easy to see how many could be swept up by the many victories he won; every patriot wants their country to be great after all. Yet, at the end of the day, he was occupying a place that was not justly his own and the winning of all that glory brought a great deal of horror across the world.

May said...

Well, I said she 'has no sympathy', for him, but she is also quite a nuanced thinker and so of course she does acknowledge (elsewhere) his talent and brilliance. But on the whole she seems quite disapproving.