The coronation of the imperial pair took place on the 2d of December, 1804, in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Not only all Paris, but all France, was in motion on this day. An immense concourse of people surged to and fro in the streets; the windows of all the houses were filled with richly-adorned and beautiful women, the bells were ringing in all the churches, and joyous music, intermixed with the shouts of the people, was heard in every direction. For a moment, however, these shouts were changed into laughter, and that was when the papal procession approached, headed by an ass led by the halter, in accordance with an ancient custom of Rome. While the Pope, with the high dignitaries of the Church, repaired to the cathedral to await there the coming of the imperial couple, Napoleon was putting on the imperial insignia in the Tuileries, enveloping himself in the green velvet mantle, bordered with ermine, and thickly studded with brilliants, and arraying himself in the whole glittering paraphernalia of his new dignity. When already on the point of leaving the Tuileries with his wife, who stood at his side in her imperial attire, Bonaparte suddenly gave the order that the notary Ragideau should be called to the palace, as he desired to see him at once.
A messenger was at once sent, in an imperial equipage, to bring him from his dwelling, and in a quarter of an hour the little notary Ragideau entered the cabinet of the empress, in which the imperial pair were alone, awaiting him in their glittering attire.
His eyes beaming, a triumphant smile on his lips, Napoleon stepped forward to meet the little notary. “Well, Master Ragideau,” said he, gayly, “I have had you called, merely to ask you whether General Bonaparte really possesses nothing besides his hat and his sword, or whether you will now forgive Viscountess Beauharnais for having married me;” and, as Ragideau looked at him in astonishment, and Josephine asked the meaning of his strange words, Bonaparte related how, while standing in Ragideau’s antechamber on a certain occasion, he had heard the notary advising Josephine not to marry poor little Bonaparte; not to become the wife of the general, who possessed nothing but his hat and his sword.
The notary’s words had entered the ambitious young man’s heart like a dagger, and had wounded him deeply. But he had uttered no complaint, and made no mention of it; but to-day, on the day of his supreme triumph, to-day the emperor remembered that moment of humiliation, and, arrayed with the full insignia of the highest earthly dignity, he accorded himself the triumph of reminding the little notary that he had once advised Josephine not to marry him, because of his poverty.
The poor General Bonaparte had now transformed himself into the mighty Emperor Napoleon. Then he possessed nothing but his hat and his sword, but now the Pope awaited him in the cathedral of Notre-Dame, to place the golden imperial crown on his head.