The Emperor cursed every moment the ceremonials and fetes which delayed the arrival of his young wife. A camp had been formed near Soissons for the reception of the Empress. The Emperor was now at Compiegne, where he made a decree containing several clauses of benefits and indulgences on the occasion of his marriage, setting at liberty many condemned, giving Imperial marriage dowries to six thousand soldiers, amnesties, promotions, etc. At length his Majesty learned that the Empress was not more than ten leagues from Soissons, and no longer able to restrain his impatience, called me with all his might, “Ohe ho, Constant! order a carriage without livery, and come and dress me.” The Emperor wished to surprise the Empress, and present himself to her without being announced; and laughed immoderately at the effect this would produce. He attended to his toilet with even more exquisite care than usual, if that were possible, and with the coquetry of glory dressed himself in the gray redingote he had worn at Wagram; and thus arrayed, the Emperor entered a carriage with the King of Naples. The circumstances of this first meeting of their Imperial Majesties are well known.
In the little village of Courcelles, the Emperor met the last courier, who preceded by only a few moments the carriages of the Empress; and as it was raining in torrents, his Majesty took shelter on the porch of the village church. As the carriage of the Empress was passing, the Emperor made signs to the postilions to stop; and the equerry, who was at the Empress’s door, perceiving the Emperor, hastily lowered the step, and announced his Majesty, who, somewhat vexed by this, exclaimed, “Could you not see that I made signs to you to be silent?” This slight ill-humor, however, passed away in an instant; and the Emperor threw himself on the neck of Marie Louise, who, holding in her hand the picture of her husband, and looking attentively first at it, then at him, remarked with a charming smile, “It is not flattered.” A magnificent supper had been prepared at Soissons for the Empress and her cortege; but the Emperor gave orders to pass on, and drove as far as Compiegne, without regard to the appetites of the officers and ladies in the suite of the Empress.
On their Majesties’ arrival at Compiegne, the Emperor presented his hand to the Empress, and conducted her to her apartment. He wished that no one should approach or touch his young wife before himself; and his jealousy was so extreme on this point that he himself forbade the senator de Beauharnais, the Empress’s chevalier of honor, to present his hand to her Imperial Majesty, although this was one of the requirements of his position. According to the programme, the Emperor should have occupied a different residence from the Empress, and have slept at the hotel of the Chancellerie; but he did nothing of the sort, since after a long conversation with the Empress, he returned to his room, undressed, perfumed himself with cologne, and wearing only a nightdress returned secretly to the Empress.