The emperor had quickly reconciled himself to the queen; he had been compelled to yield to her gentle and yet decided explanations; he had comprehended that Hortense had sacrificed herself for her children, in continuing to remain in France notwithstanding her reluctance. After this reconciliation had taken place, Napoleon extended his hand to Hortense, with his irresistible smile, and begged her to name a wish, in order that he might fulfil it.
Queen Hortense, who had been so bitterly slandered and scorned by the royalists, and who was still considered by the fleeing Bourbons to be the cause of their overthrow—this same queen now entreated the emperor to permit the Duchess d’Orleans, who had not been able to leave Paris on account of a broken limb, to remain, and to accord her a pension besides. She told the emperor that she had received a letter from the duchess, in which she begged for her intercession in obtaining some assistance from the emperor, assuring her that it was urgently Deeded, in her depressed circumstances.
The emperor consented to grant this wish of his step-daughter Hortense; and it was solely at her solicitation that Napoleon accorded a pension of four hundred thousand francs to the Duchess d’Orleans, the mother of King Louis Philippe.
[Footnote 49: La Reine Hortense en Italie, en France, et en Angleterre. Ecrit par elle-meme, p. 185.]
A few days later, at Hortense’s request, a pension of two hundred thousand francs was also accorded to the Duchess of Bourbon, who had also besought the queen to exert her influence in her behalf; and both ladies now hastened to assure Hortense of their everlasting gratitude. The fulfilment of her wish filled Hortense with delight; she was as proud of it as of a victory achieved.
“I considered it a sacred duty,” said she, “to intercede for these ladies. They were as isolated and desolate as I had been a few clays before, and I know how sad it is to be in such a state!”
But Hortense’s present state was a very different one. She was now no longer the Duchess of St. Leu, but the queen and the ornament of the court once more; all heads now bowed before her again, and the high-born ladies, who had seemed oblivious of her existence during the past year, now hastened to do homage to the queen.
“Majesty,” said one of these ladies to the queen, “unfortunately, you were always absent in the country when I called to pay my respects during the past winter.”
The queen’s only response was a gentle “Indeed madame,” which she accompanied with a smile.
Hortense, as has before been said, was now again the grand point of attraction at court, and, at Napoleon’s command, the public officials now also hastened to solicit the honor of an audience, in order to pay their respects to the emperor’s step-daughter. Each day beheld new fetes and ceremonies.
The most sublime and imposing of all these was the ceremony of the Champ de Mai, that took place on the first of June, and at which the emperor, in the presence of the applauding populace, presented to his army the new eagles and flags, which they were henceforth to carry into battle instead of the lilies of the Bourbons.