After the Empress Josephine’s death, Count d’Artois paid a visit to Malmaison, a place that had hardly existed before the revolution, and which owed its creation to Josephine’s love and taste for art.
The empress, who had a great fondness for botany, had caused magnificent greenhouses to be erected at Malmaison; in these all the plants and flowers of the world had been collected. Knowing her taste, all the princes of Europe had sent her, in the days of her grandeur, in order to afford her a moment’s gratification, the rarest exotics. The Prince Regent of England had even found means, during the war with France, to send her a number of rare West-Indian plants. In this manner her collection had become the richest and most complete in all Europe.
Count d’Artois, as above said, had come to Malmaison to view this celebrated place of sojourn of Josephine, and, while being conducted through the greenhouses, he exclaimed, as though he recognized his old flowers of 1789: “Ah, here are our plants of Trianon!”
And, like their masters the Bourbons, the emigrants had also returned to France with the same ideas with which they had fled the country. They endeavored, in all their manners, habits, and pretensions, to begin again precisely where they had left off in 1789. They had so lively an appreciation of their own merit, that they took no notice whatever of other people’s, and yet their greatest merit consisted in having emigrated.
For this merit they now demanded a reward.
All of these returned emigrants demanded rewards, positions, and pensions, and considered it incomprehensible that those who were already in possession were not at once deprived of them. Intrigues were the order of the day, and in general the representatives of the old era succeeded in supplanting those of the new era in offices and pensions as well as in court honors. All the high positions in the army were filled by the marquises, dukes, and counts, of the old era, who had sewed tapestry and picked silk in Coblentz, while the France of the new era was fighting on the battle-field, and they now began to teach the soldiers of the empire the old drill of 1780.
The etiquette of the olden time was restored, and the same luxurious and lascivious disposition prevailed among these cavaliers of the former century which had been approved in the oeil de boeuf and in the petites maisons of the old era.
These old cavaliers felt contempt for the young Frenchmen of the new era on account of their pedantic morality; they scornfully regarded men who perhaps had not more than one mistress, and to whom the wife of a friend was so sacred, that they never dared to approach her with a disrespectful thought even.
These legitimist gentlemen entertained themselves chiefly with reflections over the past, and their own grandeur. In the midst of the many new things by which they were surrounded, some of which they unfortunately found it impossible to ignore, it was their sweetest relaxation to give themselves up entirely to the remembrance of the old regime, and when they spoke of this era, they forgot their age and debility, and were once more the young roues of the oeil de boeuf.