No sooner had Josephine left him, than the pope asked for an interview with the emperor, to whom he declared, with all the zeal of a true servant of the Church, and the conviction of a devout, God-fearing man, that he was willing to crown him, and to grant him the blessing of the Church, for the state of the conscience of emperors had never been examined before their anointment; but if his wife was to be crowned with him, he must refuse his co-operation, because in crowning Josephine he dare not grant the divine sanction to concubinage.
Napoleon, though inwardly much irritated at Josephine, who, as he at once supposed, had made this confession to the pope in her own interest, was still willing to abide by the circumstances. He did not wish to irritate the pope, who as was well known was unyielding in all matters pertaining to faith; moreover, he could not change any thing in the already published ceremonial of the day, and thus he consented to have the ecclesiastical marriage. After this conversation with the pope, Napoleon went at once to Josephine, and the whole strength of his anger was spent in violent reproaches against her untimely indiscretion.
Josephine endured these silently, and full of inward satisfaction; she did not listen to Napoleon’s angry words; she only heard that he was decided to have his marriage sanctioned by the Church, and now she would be his wife before God, as she had been before men for the last ten years. Now at last her fate was decided, and her marriage made irrevocable; now she would no longer dread that Napoleon would punish her childlessness by a divorce.
During the night which preceded the day of the coronation, the night of the 1st of December, the ecclesiastical marriage of Napoleon and Josephine took place in the chapel of the Tuileries. The only witnesses were Talleyrand and Berthier, from both of whom the emperor had exacted an oath of profound silence. Cardinal Fesch, the emperor’s uncle, performed the ceremony, and pronounced the benediction of the Church over this marriage, which Bonaparte’s love for Josephine had induced him to consent to, and which her love endeavored to make indissoluble.
This marriage, which she desired both as a loving woman and as a devout Christian, was the most glorious triumph which Josephine had ever obtained over the enmity of her husband’s sisters, for it was a new proof of the love and faithfulness of this man, whom neither expediency, nor family, nor state reasons, could remove from her, and who, with the hand of love, had guided her away from all the dangers which had surrounded her.
At last, on the 2d of December, came the day which Napoleon had during many years past longed for within the recesses of his heart; the day which his ambition had hoped for, the day of his solemn coronation. And now the victorious soldier was to see all his laurels woven into an imperial crown—that which Julius Caesar had tried to win, and for which the republic punished him with death.