Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon — Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 887 pages of information about Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon Complete.

CHAPTER XV.

During the second day of the battle of Dresden, at the end of which the Emperor had the attack of fever I mentioned in the preceding chapter, the King of Naples, or rather Marshal Murat, performed prodigies of valor.  Much has been said of this truly extraordinary prince; but only those who saw him personally could form a correct idea of him, and even they never knew him perfectly until they had seen him on a field of battle.  There he seemed like those great actors who produce a complete illusion amid the fascinations of the stage, but in whom we no longer find the hero when we encounter them in private life.  While at Paris I attended a representation of the death of ‘Hector’ by Luce de Lancival, and I could never afterwards hear the verses recited in which the author describes the effect produced on the Trojan army by the appearance of Achilles without thinking of Prince Murat; and it may be said without exaggeration that his presence produced exactly this effect the moment he showed himself in front of the Austrian lines.  He had an almost gigantic figure, which alone would have sufficed to make him remarkable, and in addition to this sought every possible means to draw attention to himself, as if he wished to dazzle those who, might have intended to attack him.  His regular and strongly marked features, his handsome blue eyes rolling in their orbits, enormous mustaches, and black hair falling in long ringlets over the collar of a kurtka with narrow sleeves, struck the attention at first sight.  Add to this the richest and most elegant costume which one would wear even at the theater,—­a Polish coat richly embroidered, and encircled by a gilded belt from which hung the scabbard of a light sword, with a straight and pointed blade, without edge and without guard; large amaranth-colored pantaloons embroidered in gold on the seams, and nankeen boots; a large hat embroidered in gold with a border of white feathers, above which floated four large ostrich plumes with an exquisite heron aigrette in the midst; and finally the king’s horse, always selected from the strongest and handsomest that could be found, was covered with an elegantly embroidered sky-blue cloth which extended to the ground, and was held in place by a Hungarian or Turkish saddle of the richest workmanship, together with a bridle and stirrups not less magnificent than the rest of the equipment.  All these things combined made the King of Naples a being apart, an object of terror and admiration.  But what, so to speak, idealized him was his truly chivalrous bravery, often carried to the point of recklessness, as if danger had no existence for him.  In truth, this extreme courage was by no means displeasing to the Emperor; and though he perhaps did not always approve of the manner in which it was displayed, his Majesty rarely failed to accord it his praise, especially when he thought necessary to contrast it with the increasing prudence shown by some of his old companions in arms.

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Recollections of the Private Life of Napoleon — Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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