While taking leave of the duchess, after a long and cordial conversation, he remarked, with a gentle smile: “I trust you will not take my kingdom away from me on your journey through Belgium?”
While the new government of France, as well as the exiled Bourbons, suspected the Duchess of St. Leu and her son of entertaining plans for the subversion of the French throne, the imperialists and republicans were hoping that Hortense’s influence might be exerted upon the destinies of France. Everywhere in France as well as in England, the people were of the opinion that the new throne of Louis Philippe had no vitality, because it had no support in the heart of the people. The partisans of the Bourbons believed that France longed for the grandson of St. Louis, for its hereditary king, Henry V.; the imperialists were convinced that the new government was about to be overthrown, and that France was more anxious than ever to see the emperors son, Napoleon II., restored. The republicans, however, distrusted the people and the army, and began to perceive that they could only attain the longed-for republican institutions under a Bonaparte. They therefore sent their secret emissaries as well to the Duke de Reichstadt as to Louis Napoleon.
The Duke de Reichstadt, to whom these emissaries proposed that he should come to France and present himself to the people, replied: “I cannot go to France as an adventurer; let the nation call me, and I shall find means to get there.”
To the propositions made to him, Louis Napoleon replied that he belonged to France under all circumstances; that he had proved this by asking permission to serve France, but he had been rejected. It would not become him to force to a decision by a coup d’etat the nation whose decrees he would ever hold sacred.
Hortense regarded these efforts of the imperialists and of the republicans to win her son to their purposes with a sorrowful and anxious heart. She hoped and longed for nothing more than the privilege of living in retirement with her memories; she felt exhausted and sobered by the few steps she had already taken into the great world; she, who had ever felt the most tender sympathy for the misfortunes of others, and the most ardent desire to alleviate them—she had nowhere found in her misfortune any thing but injustice, indifference, and calumny.