Queen Hortense eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 341 pages of information about Queen Hortense.

Josephine, as we have said, was a good royalist; and, as empress, she still mourned over the fate of the unfortunate Bourbons, and esteemed it her sacred duty to assist and advise those who, true to their principles and duties, had followed the royal family, or had emigrated, in order that they might, at least, not be compelled to do homage to the new system.  Her purse was always at the service of the emigrants; and, if Josephine continually made debts, in spite of her enormous monthly allowance, her extravagance was not alone the cause, but also her kindly, generous heart; for she was in the habit of setting apart the half of her monthly income for the relief of poor emigrants, and, no matter how great her own embarrassment, or how pressing her creditors, she never suffered the amount devoted to the relief of misfortune and the reward of fidelity to be applied to any other purpose[13].

[Footnote 13:  Memoires sur la reine Hortense, par le Baron van Schelten, vol. i., p. 145.]

Now that Josephine was an empress, her daughter, the wife of the High Constable of France, took the second position at the brilliant court of the emperor.  The daughter of the beheaded viscount was now a “Princess of France,” an “imperial highness,” who must be approached with reverence, who had her court and her maids of honor, and whose liberty and personal inclinations, as was also the case with her mother, were confined in the fetters of the strict etiquette which Napoleon required to be observed at the new imperial court.

But neither Josephine nor Hortense allowed herself to be blinded by this new splendor.  A crown could confer upon Josephine no additional happiness; glittering titles could neither enhance Hortense’s youth and beauty, nor alleviate her secret misery.  She would have been contented to live in retirement, at the side of a beloved husband; her proud position could not indemnify her for her lost woman’s happiness.

But Fate seemed to pity the noble, gentle being, who knew how to bear misery and grandeur with the same smiling dignity, and offered her a recompense for the overthrow of her first mother’s hope—­a new hope—­she promised to become a mother again.

Josephine received this intelligence with delight, for her daughter’s hope was a hope for her too.  If Hortense should give birth to a son, the gods might be reconciled, and misfortune be banished from the head of the empress.  With this son, the dynasty of the new imperial family would be assured; this son could be the heir of the imperial crown, and Napoleon could well adopt as his own the child who was at the same time his nephew and his grandson.

Napoleon promised Josephine that he would do this; that he would rather content himself with an adopted son, in whom the blood of the emperor and of the empress was mixed, than be compelled to separate himself from her, from his Josephine.  Napoleon still loved his wife; he still compared with all he thought good and beautiful, the woman who shed around his grandeur the lustre of her grace and loveliness.

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Queen Hortense from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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