But Louis was rather appalled than dazzled by this offer, and refused to accept the proposed dignity. In this refusal he was also in perfect harmony with his wife, who did all in her power to strengthen his resolution. Both felt that the crown which it was proposed to place on their heads would be nothing more than a golden chain of dependence; that the King of Holland could be nothing more than the vassal of France; and their personal relations to each other added another objection to this political consideration.
In Paris, husband and wife could forget the chain that bound them together; there they were in the circle of their friends, and could avoid each other. The great, glittering imperial court served to separate and reconcile the young couple, who had never forgiven themselves for having fettered each other in this involuntary union. In Paris they had amusements, friends, society; while in Holland they would live in entire dependence on each other, and hear continually the rattling of the chain with which each had bound the other to the galley of a union without love.
Both felt this, and both were, therefore, united in the endeavor to ward off this new misfortune that was suspended over their heads, in the form of a kingly crown.
But how could they resist successfully the iron will of Napoleon? Hortense had never had the courage to address Napoleon directly on the subject of her wishes and petitions, and Josephine already felt that her wishes no longer exercised the power of earlier days over the emperor. She therefore avoided interceding where she was not sure of being successful.
At the outset, Louis had the courage to resist his brother openly; but Napoleon’s angry glance annihilated his opposition, and his gentle, yielding nature was forced to succumb. In the presence of the deputation of the Batavian Republic, that so ardently longed for a sceptre and crown, Napoleon appealed to his brother Louis to accept the crown which had been freely tendered him, and to be to his country a king who would respect and protect its liberties, its laws, and its religion.
With emotion, Louis Bonaparte declared himself ready to accept this crown, and to be a good and true ruler to his new country.
And to keep this oath faithfully was from this time the single and sacred endeavor to which he devoted his every thought and energy. The people of Holland having chosen him to be their king, he was determined to do honor to their choice; having been compelled to give up his own country and nationality, he determined to belong to his new country with his whole heart and being—to become a thorough Hollander, as he could no longer remain a Frenchman.