“So many vexations…”

Part 5 of my translation of Albert Vandal’s Le Roi et la Reine de Naples. Caroline Murat has been specially chosen by Napoleon to go and retrieve Marie-Louise, his soon-to-be second wife and new Empress, from the Austrian border, and accompany her back to France for the upcoming wedding. It is an exhausting journey for Caroline, who nevertheless takes advantage of it by trying to bond with her new sister-in-law. She also tries to allay the fears of Murat, who worries that he has already made an enemy of Napoleon’s new bride by having been one of the only people to openly oppose the marriage.

This section is from pages 498-502 of the Revue des Deux Mondes, Tome 55, 1910.

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

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III.

On the 16th of March, Caroline is at Braunau, where she brings with her court the entire house of the Empress, in nineteen carriages. After the ceremony of the remise, after Marie-Louise is passed into the hands of the French authorities with all the usual ceremony, Caroline is introduced to her, and in concert with Berthier takes the lead of the journey. In accordance to the Emperor’s instructions, and in response to his impatience, it is a rapid, breathless journey, although surrounded by the greatest pageantry: sixteen hours on the road per day, the Empress and the Queen alone in the same carriage, the procession following in one file of equipages, in pompous convoy, and to frame this rolling pomp, squires, pages on horseback, and detachments of cavalry. 

The first night was spent in Munich, with the King and Queen of Bavaria. There, Caroline finally finds letters from her husband; but now Murat is imagining that the Empress, instructed of his opposition to the marriage, is going to abhor him and do him harm. The Queen must strive to reassure him by writing and lifting this eternal worry. In her response, she tells him she is enchanted by her first contat with Marie-Louise; she undoubtedly forces and exaggerates her impression:

“My friend, I am back from Braunau and I find, on arriving, your three letters together, dated the 21st, 25th and 28th of the month of February. I am going to respond to them letter by letter, and I assure you that I needed to receive them for my tranquility, because since my departure from Paris I haven’t received a word from you, which puts me in an awful uneasiness.

“You tell me in your letter of the 24th that there is talk of my leaving to meet the Empress and that I had not told you anything about it. I swear to you that you are mistaken and that, as soon as there was a certainty, I told you, because before, as there were only the it is said and some probabilities, I had not wanted tell you about all these uncertainties, so that you don’t worry unnecessarily; but, at the same time that it was decided, you had my first thought to write it to you. I have written to you equally and long on all other articles and I have already responded to your letter of the 24th with details before receiving it, having foreseen all the objections to an event that will make (I am sure of this, not that I know the Empress) the happiness of the Emperor and, consequently, that of us all.

“I’m responding now to your letter of the 25th. I sighed at the description you make me of your dinner with our dear children, and I am quite sure that you thought of me; my whole heart and soul go continually among and with you. I am charmed that Achille is satisfied with his electric machine; it seems our dear Louise will still read before Lucien, but it is not astonishing: this poor little one is always slow in his studies by some indisposition. I hope that your stay in Calabria will not be long and that you are already back and on your way to Paris.

“I hope that this little fever you speak to me of will not have followed; take care of yourself, I implore you, spare me these worries, because I know that happiness is incompatible with me when I know you are suffering. 

“I have returned from Braunau I have been perfectly received here and the Emperor of Austria sent me the Archduke Antoine in order to compliment me. I’ve found the Empress of a beautiful manner, of a noble stature, of a great freshness; furthermore she has a charming sweetness in her character and asks only to please and to be loved. I am sure that the Emperor will be perfectly happy and what you say about her not loving you, and other things, will never happen. This morning, having told her I was going to write you: ‘I beg you, my sister, to tell the King of Naples to give me his friendship, I desire it so much, I have heard a lot about him, I hope that he will come to Paris and I will be happy to meet him.’ She is excessively good and sweet and only calls me ‘her sister the Queen of Naples,’ and every time that she sees a letter brought to me, she always asks me: ‘Is it from the King of Naples?’ She repeats to me how happy she will be if the Emperor takes her to Naples, which is said to be so beautiful a country that she much desires to see it. I promise you that this one will not get involved in any manner of intrigue[1].

“We spend all day, 16 hours together in the same coach, and I swear to you that I find her charming, of an angel’s sweetness, and one has a lot of time to judge someone when they stay together for so long. The King and Queen of Bavaria are very kind as are the Princes. They speak to me unceasingly of you, they know it is a way to please me. I also want to speak to you of my health. I am very tired, though I’m only on the first day of the journey, but staying 16 hours without being able to get out of the coach a single time, and having nothing comfortable, and being surrounded by equerries and guards, it is terrible, this is the reason one cannot take any precaution. For the Empress, who is young, she bears it marvelously, but I who have had children, suffer from this very much. But I willingly forget all my fatigues if the Empress pleases the Emperor, that she makes him happy and especially that she makes us a big boy.”[2]

The voyage continues by Stuttgart and Carlsruhe, through the German courts, the vassal courts, staggered on the passage. Everywhere, the receptions and the galas, the stiff embraces, the minutiae of the etiquette repeat and resemble each other. The Rhine crossed, it is the cordial enthusiasm of Alsace and all hearts flying before the new sovereign; but it is necessary to undergo the lengths of the entry, the official lyricism, the prefect, the general council, the constituted bodies, the picturesque procession of the trades and finally the night fête, with the illumination of the cathedral. Caroline is overwhelmed with honors, literally exhausted, and to increase her fatigue, she has to write to the Emperor or the King at each stage, giving the master precise and concise details, and dissipating her husband’s worries. In Lunéville, she learns that Murat has just arrived in Paris and she rejoices, but what a hassle to write when you still have in your ear the rolling of carriages, the insipid modulations of harangues, the cries of the people, and for eight days an incessant rumor of a fête!

Lunéville, 24 March at 10 o’clock in the evening. –I am delighted that you are with the Emperor and that you have arrived in good health; I hope to see you again soon and to kiss you with all my heart. I have acquitted myself of your commission with the Empress who much desires to see you, she is charming and she pleases me more and more. The Empress loves macaroni very much and we eat it every time we find it, she has a great desire to go to Naples and to see a city she’s been told is so beautiful. The Emperor finds that I’m not writing him enough, but they sometimes don’t give me ten minutes to write him and I am so dizzy with visits, noise, shouts, that if the couriers did not leave until the next day, I would write at night, but I’d hardly gotten out of the coach with the Prince of Neuchâtel sent his courier off, and I have to write with a headache. After all, I hear so much shouting from six o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night and all along the road “Long live the Empress,” that all night, while sleeping, I hear in my ears shouting “Long live the Empress,” that I awake with a start and as if I’m forced to shout “Long live the Empress,” I start shouting the same thing. I beg you to warn Paulette and all the family that when they see me, at the first question they ask me, I will respond with “Long live the Empress,” because that’s the only thing I know how to say anymore and I am just like Agnelet[3].

 “All the fêtes are charming everywhere and the Empress is received with an enthusiasm which is delirious. Besides, I can’t repeat it enough, she is sweet, spiritual, charming, and will make, I am sure, the Emperor’s happiness.

“I have read in the newspaper in Munich, that the evening when I was at the performance with the King and Queen of Bavaria, I had gallantly worn the colors of Bavaria, I find it an unparalleled absurdity and I would have been incapable of doing it. I had that night a dress of green satin (which you know) with a white belt. So if the Emperor speaks to you about it, you will be able to instruct him of the fact. I would like to know who is always amusing himself writing lies.”

From Nancy, from Vitry-le François, she writes again. In the tone of her letters, one perceives that in many things Murat always shows little haste to indulge her and lacks attention:

Nancy, 25 March 1810. –We have just arrived in Nancy, the Empress and I; we are in perfect health. It pained me not to receive a letter from you for my birthday, I am also very upset that Mme Caramanica is making the journey, I thought I had told you that this was a thing that would displease me. I hoped that when it came to a lady from the Palace, it wasn’t too great an act of power to name the one I liked best. But patience! I have in my life supported so many vexations that I can also support this little one. I don’t know why you did not permit Mme Belvedere to come, because she is very rich and is a very lovely woman. You don’t tell me if you brought Medici either.

“I just received my package from Paris and not a letter from you, but Baudus tells me that you have a letter from my son and you aren’t sending it to me. I would have a great pleasure to read it en route.

“I hope that the Emperor is content with the letters that I write him, I fear that he imagines that the Empress is beautiful, because all these young people who see her from afar have all said that she was beautiful.

“Farewell, I am sad, because I am vexed that you did not do what I wanted, but that doesn’t prevent me from loving you tenderly. If you had more grace and you sought more often to please me, you would be too perfect, and I would be too happy. Kiss the whole family for me.”

Vitry was the final stage of the voyage. We know that near Soissons the Emperor came to surprise Marie-Louise and abduct her from his escort to take her to Compiègne, where he hastened the outcome. The Queen and the marshal, following with less precipitation, rejoined the imperial couple at Compiègne first, then at Saint Cloud and in Paris, where the celebration of the marriage would be accomplished; it is there that the spouses would appear before the people in the apparel of omnipotence.

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[1] (Translator’s note) Interestingly, this last sentence is missing from the version of this letter presented in Vol 8 of Paul Le Brethon’s Lettres et docucments pour servir à l’histoire de Joachim Murat.  

[2] (Translator’s note) Caroline to Murat, 18 March 1810

[3] (Author’s note) The Agnelet of the farce of Maître Pathelin, who responds to every question with the same bleating.

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