The emperor, dismayed by the odious reports in circulation concerning Hortense, and already enchained in the mystic glittering web with which Madame de Kruedener had enveloped him, and separated from the reality of the world, acceded to the wishes of the Bourbons, and abandoned the queen. This was the signal that let loose the general wrath of the royalists; they could now freely utter their scorn and malice. By low calumnies they could now compensate themselves for their humiliation of the past, for having been compelled to approach the daughter of Viscountess de Beauharnais with the reverence due to a queen.
They could pursue the step-daughter of the emperor with boundless fury, for this very fury proved their royalism, and to hate and calumniate Bonaparte and his family was to love and flatter the Bourbons.
Day by day these royalists hurled new accusations against the duchess, whose presence in Paris unpleasantly recalled the days of the empire, and whom they desired to remove from their sight, as well as the column on the Place Vendome.
While the poor queen was living in the retirement of her apartments, in sadness and desolation, the report was circulated that she was again conspiring, and that she was in the habit of leaving her house every evening at twilight, in order to incite the populace to rise and demand the emperor’s return, or at least the instalment of the little King of Rome on the throne instead of Louis de Bourbon.
When the queen’s faithful companion, Louise de Cochelet, informed her of these calumnies, Hortense remained cold and indifferent.
“Madame,” exclaimed Louise, “you listen with as much composure as if I were reciting a story of the last century!”
“And it interests me as little,” said Hortense, earnestly; “we have lost all, and I consider any blow that may still strike us, with the composure of an indifferent spectator. I consider it natural that they should endeavor to caluminate me, because I bear a name that has made the whole world tremble, and that will still be great, though we all be trodden in the dust. But I will shield myself and children from this hatred. We will leave France and go to Switzerland, where I possess a little estate on the Lake of Geneva.”
But time was not allowed the duchess to prepare for her departure. The dogs of calumny and hatred were let loose upon her to drive her from the city. A defenceless woman with two young children seemed to be an object of anxiety and terror to the government, and it made haste to get rid of her.
On the morning of the 17th of July, an adjutant of the Prussian General de Mueffling, the allied commandant of Paris, came to the dwelling of the Duchess of St. Leu, and informed her intendant, M. Deveaux, that the duchess must leave Paris within two hours, and it was only at the urgent solicitation of the intendant, that a further sojourn of four hours was allowed her.