The Queen of Holland considered it her duty, in these days of misfortune and danger, to stand at the side of her whom Napoleon had commanded them to consider the head of the family, and to serve faithfully in life and death. Hortense therefore determined to go to the Empress Marie Louise at Rambouillet, in accordance with the emperor’s commands.
This determination filled the hearts of the queen’s friends with sorrow; and Louise had no sooner received the letter in which the queen announced her impending departure, than she hastened to reply, imploring her to abandon this intention. M. de Marmold, the queen’s equerry, departed with all speed to bring this letter to the queen at Louis, where she was to pass the night, and to add his entreaties to those of Louise.
“M. de Marmold, the bearer of this letter, will deliver it to you at Louis, if he arrives there in good time,” wrote Louise de Cochelet. “If you go to Rambouillet, you will destroy your own position, and also that of your children; this is the conviction of all your friends. I was so happy, for Prince Leopold had written you, in the name of the Emperor Alexander, and begged you to come to Malmaison. You could not have avoided seeing him, as he would even have gone to Novara. Instead, however, of returning with the Empress Josephine, you are on the point of uniting yourself with a family that has never loved you. With them you will experience nothing but distress, and they will not be thankful for the sacrifice you are about to make. You will regret this step when it is too late. I conjure you, do not go to Rambouillet!
“Your course will touch those to whom you are going but little, and will displease the allies, who take so much interest in you.
“The empress is a thorough Austrian at heart, and the visits of members of her husband’s family are regarded with disfavor. I tell you this at the request of Prince Leopold and Madame de Caulaincourt. The latter, if you do not come here soon, will go to you, in spite of her great age. She conjures you not to go to Rambouillet, as your lady of honor, and the friend of your mother; she even forbids your doing so.
“When I informed Prince Leopold of your intention to go to the Empress Marie Louise at Rambouillet, his eyes filled with tears. ’It is beautiful to be proud,’ said he, ’but she can no longer retreat; she is already under obligations to the Emperor of Russia, who effected the treaty of the 11th of April. I await her reply, to deliver it to the emperor: she owes him a reply.’
“I passed an hour with our good friend Lavalette this morning. This excellent man knew nothing of the measures we have been taking to persuade you to return, and said to me: ’How fortunate it would be for her and her children, if the emperor should desire to see her!’ Do come, do come; show your friends this favor; we shall all be in despair if you go to Rambouillet!
“Prince Leopold will write you a few lines. He could not be more devoted to yourself and the Empress Josephine if you were his mother and his sister. Count Tschernitscheff has been to see me. The Emperor of Austria arrives here to-morrow, and the new French princes and the king will soon follow. What a change!