On one occasion, during the congress at Erfurt, all the emperors, kings, and princes, were assembled around Napoleon’s table. He occupied the seat between his enthusiastic friend the Emperor of Russia, and his father-in-law, the Emperor of Austria. Opposite them sat the King of Prussia, his ally, although Napoleon had deprived him of the Rhine provinces; and the Kings of Bavaria and Wuertemberg, to whom Napoleon had given crowns, whose electorate and duchy he had converted into kingdoms, and of whom the first had given his daughter in marriage to Napoleon’s adopted son, Eugene, and the second his daughter to Napoleon’s brother Jerome. There were, further, at the table, the King of Saxony and the Grand-duke of Baden, to the latter of whom Napoleon had given the hand of Josephine’s niece, Stephanie de Beauharnais. All these were princes, “by the grace of God,” of brilliant and haughty dynasties; and in their midst sat the son of the advocate of Corsica—he, the Emperor of France—he, upon whom the gaze of all these emperors and kings was fastened in admiration and respect. Napoleon’s extraordinary memory had just been the topic of conversation, and the emperor was about to explain how he had brought it to such a state of perfection.
“While I was still a sub-lieutenant,” began Napoleon, and instantly his hearers let fall their gaze, and looked down in shame at their plates, while a cloud of displeasure passed over the brow of the emperor of Austria at this mention of the low origin of his son-in-law. Napoleon observed this, and for an instant his eagle glance rested on the embarrassed countenances that surrounded him; he then paused for a moment. He began again, speaking with sharp emphasis: “When I still had the honor of being a sub-lieutenant,” said he, and the Emperor Alexander of Russia, the only one of the princes who had remained unembarrassed, laid his hand on the emperor’s shoulder, smiled approvingly, and listened with interest and pleasure to the emperor’s narrative of the time when he “still had the honor of being a sub-lieutenant.”
[Footnote 21: Bossuet, Memoires, vol. V.]
Napoleon, as we have said, had already mounted so high that for him there was no longer a summit to be attained, and now his heart’s last and dearest wish had been granted by destiny. His wife, Marie Louise, had given birth to a son on the 20th of May, 1811, and the advent of the little King of Rome had fulfilled the warmest desires of Napoleon and of France. The emperor now had an heir; Napoleon’s dynasty was assured.
Festivities were therefore held in honor of this event, in the Tuileries, at the courts, of the Queen of Naples, of the Grand-duchess de Guastalla, of all the dukes of the empire, and of the Queen of Holland.
Hortense was ill and in pain; a nervous headache, that she had been suffering from for some time, betrayed the secret of the pain and grief she had so long concealed from observation. Her cheeks had grown pale, and her eyes had lost their lustre. Her mother wept over her lost happiness in Malmaison, and, when Hortense had wept with and consoled her mother, she was compelled to dry her eyes and hasten to the Tuileries, and appear, with a smiling countenance, before her who was now her empress and her mother’s happy rival.