On the twenty-second day of June the emperor sent in his abdication in favor of his son, the King of Rome, to the chambers; and a week later the chambers proclaimed Napoleon’s son Emperor of France, under the name of Napoleon II.
But this emperor was a child of four years, and was, moreover, not in France, but in the custody of the Emperor of Austria, whose army was now marching on Paris with hostile intent!
Napoleon, now no longer Emperor of France, had been compelled to take the crown from his head a second time; and for the second time he quitted Paris to await the destiny to be appointed him by the allies.
This time he did not repair to Fontainebleau, but to Malmaison—to Malmaison, that had once been Josephine’s paradise, and where her heart had at last bled to death. This charming resort had passed into the possession of Queen Hortense; and Napoleon, who but yesterday had ruled over a whole empire, and to-day could call nothing, not even the space of ground on which he stood, his own, Napoleon asked Hortense to receive him at Malmaison.
Hortense accorded his request joyfully, and, when her friends learned this, and in their dismay and anxiety conjured her not to identify in this manner herself and children with the fate of the emperor, but to consider well the danger that would result from such a course, the queen replied resolutely: “That is an additional reason for holding firm to my determination. I consider it my sacred duty to remain true to the emperor to the last, and the greater the danger that threatens the emperor, the happier I shall be in having it in my power to show him my entire devotion and gratitude.”
And when, in this decision, when her whole future hung in the balance, one of her most intimate lady-friends ventured to remind the queen of the disgraceful and malicious reports that had once been put in circulation with regard to her relation to Napoleon, and suggested that she would give new strength to them by now receiving the emperor at Malmaison, Hortense replied with dignity: “What do I care for these calumnies? I fulfil the duty imposed on me by feeling and principle. The emperor has always treated me as his child; I shall therefore ever remain his devoted and grateful daughter; it is my first and greatest necessity to be at peace with myself.”
[Footnote 52: Cochelet, vol. iii., p. 149.]
Hortense therefore repaired with the emperor to Malmaison, and the faithful, who were not willing to leave him in his misfortune, gathered around him, watched over his life, and gave to his residence a fleeting reflection of the old grandeur and magnificence. For they who now stood around Napoleon, guarding his person from any immediate danger that threatened him at the hands of fanatic enemies or hired assassins, were marshals, generals, dukes, and princes.