“Josephine.” [Footnote: Ducrest, “Memoires,” vol. iii., p. 294.]
Happy the man to whom it is granted to close a beautiful and worthy life with a beautiful and worthy death! Happy Josephine, for whom it was not reserved like the rest of the Bonapartes to wander about Europe seeking for a refuge where they might hide themselves from the persecutions and hatred of the princes and people! To her alone, of all the Napoleonic race, was reserved the enviable fate to die under the ruins of the imperial throne, whose fragments fell so heavily upon her heart as to break it.
For France the days of fear had come, for Napoleon the days of vengeance. The nations of Europe had at last risen with the strength of the lion that breaks his chains and is determined to obtain liberty by devouring those who deprived him of it, and so those irritated nations had with the power of their wrath forced their princes, who had been so obediently submissive to Napoleon, to declare war and to fight against him for life or death.
The conflicts, battles, and endless victories of the constantly defeated Austrians, Prussians, Russians, and English, belong to history—this everlasting tribunal where the deeds of men are judged, and where they are written on its pages to be for ages to come as lessons and examples of warning and encouragement.
Josephine, the lonely and rejected one, had nothing to do with those fearful events which shook France; she played no active part in the great drama which was performed before the walls of Paris, and which closed with the fall of the hero whom she had so warmly and so truly loved.
Josephine, during those days of horror and of decisive conflicts, was in her pleasure-castle of Navarra. Her daughter, Queen Hortense, with her two sons, Napoleon Louis and Louis Napoleon, was with her. There she learned the treachery of the marshals, the capitulation of Marmont, the surrender of Paris, and the entrance of the foreign foe into the capital of France.
But where was Napoleon? Where was the emperor? Did Josephine know anything of him? Why did he not come to the rescue of his capital, and drive the foe away?
Such were the questions which afflicted Josephine’s heart, and to which the news, finally re-echoed through Paris, gave her the fearful response.
Napoleon had come too late, and when he had arrived in Fontainebleau with the remnants of the army defeated by Blucher, he learned there that Marmont had capitulated, and that the allies had already entered Paris, and all was lost.
The deputies of the senate and Napoleon’s faithless marshals came from Paris to Fontainebleau to require from him that he should resign his crown, and that he should save France by the sacrifice of himself and his imperial dignity. These men, lately the most humble, devoted courtiers and flatterers of Napoleon, who owed to him everything—name, position, fortune, and rank—had now the courage to approach him with lofty demeanor and to request of him to depart into exile.