I have already said that the Emperor often superintended the toilet of the Empress, and even that of her ladies. In fact, he liked all the persons surrounding him to be well and even richly dressed.
But about this time he gave an order the wisdom of which I much admired. Having often to hold at the baptismal font the children of his grand officers, and foreseeing that the parents would not fail to dress their new-born babes in magnificent toilets, the Emperor ordered that children presented for baptism should wear only a simple long linen robe. This prudent measure spared at the same time the purse and the vanity of the parents. I remarked during this ceremony that the Emperor had some trouble in paying the necessary attention to the questions of the officiating priest. The Emperor was usually very absentminded during the services at church, which were not long, as they never lasted more than ten or fifteen minutes; and yet I have been told that his Majesty asked if it were not possible to perform them in less time.—He bit his nails, took snuff oftener than usual, and looked about him constantly, while a prince of the church uselessly took the trouble to turn the leaves of his Majesty’s book, in order to follow the service.
The pregnancy of Marie Louise had been free from accident, and promised a happy deliverance, which was awaited by the Emperor with an impatience in which France had joined for a long while. It was a curious thing to observe the state of the public mind, while the people formed all sorts of conjectures, and made unanimous and ardent prayers that the child should be a son, who might receive the vast inheritance of Imperial glory. The 19th of March, at seven o’clock in the evening, the Empress was taken ill; and from that moment the whole palace was in commotion. The Emperor was informed, and sent immediately for M. Dubois, who had been staying constantly at the chateau for some time past, and whose attentions were so valued at such a time.
All the private household of the Empress, as well as Madame de Montesquieu, were gathered in the apartment, the Emperor, his mother, sisters, Messieurs Corvisart, Bourdier, and Yvan in an adjoining room.