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Paris to the King, begging him that it might become the residence of his Majesty's grandson, the Comte de Provence (the future Louis XVIII.). Little by little the Marquis de Marigny, brother of the late châtelaine, sold off the wonderful collection of objets d'art, which had made of the house a veritable museum. For a whole year the connoisseurs of Paris competed for the bronzes, statues, pictures, tapestries and engravings that had been brought together with so much taste and at such immense cost. As to the house, it was occasionally used by Louis XV. to lodge foreigners of distinction, and later as gardemeuble. In 1774 it was sold to Monsieur Beaujon, the Court banker, he whose name is borne by a street and a hospital in Paris.
The tradition of magnificence was still kept up, and this is a description given of the Hôtel Beaujon by Baroness d'Oberkirch, a lady who accompanied the Comte and Comtesse du Nord (the future Paul I. of Russia and his wife) when that illustrious couple visited Paris incognito :
Monsieur Beaujon's house, which he calls his hermitage, is situated in the middle of a garden occupying an immense space near the Chaillot gate in the Champs Elysées. It is quite countrified, with a menagerie, a laiterie, and even a chapel. The interior of the house is magnificent. The furniture curious and beautiful . . . the library is celebrated and contains editions of the greatest rarity. Princes of the Blood have all presented their portraits to M. Beaujon, I do not know why, perhaps because of the beauty of his salons, which, though not large, are perfect in every detail, and splendid throughout.
Though altering nothing in the structure of the house, M. Beaujon had made considerable changes in the garden and park, where the stately terraces in the style of Lenôtre gave place to what was called in those days a jardin à l'anglaise. This was the eve of the Revolution, when the romantic doctrines of Jean Jacques Rousseau had affected the minds of all classes, and the culte of nature manifested itself in a strangely exaggerated taste for grottoes, broken columns, sylvan groves, laiteries, and other accompaniments of rustic life. A fashion that was sanctioned by Marie Antoinette could not fail to have its imitators amongst the courtiers, and the Petit Trianon was thus reproduced in the gardens of most French seigneurs. About 1786 the hotel, now known as the Elysée Bourbon, was bought by the Duchesse de Bourbon, the mother of the Duc d'Enghien, whose execution by Napoleon in 1804 sent a thrill of horror through Europe, and was to put an end to the line of Bourbon Condé. The Duchess was then living apart from her husband, Louis Henri Joseph, Duc du Bourbon, whose end, by the way, was also a violent one.” She was a woman of great intelligence and character, and is often quoted for her bons mots by the same Baroness d’Oberkirch, from whose Memoirs so much of the life of the period is to be gleaned. A member of the Orléans family, it was of course inevitable that the Duchess should share their fate, and 1794 saw her in prison with her sister-in-law, the wife of Philippe Égalité. The principle of liberté, égalité et fraternité did not save the neck of the royal exponent of these doctrines— the Duc d'Orléans was guillotined, and a decree of banishment was issued against “Veuve Orléans and Citoyenne Bourbon.” As for the house and grounds in the Faubourg Saint Honoré, they were let to a man called Hovyn, who turned the place into a public garden, and it became the resort of all that was elegant in revolutionary France. No city in the world's history, perhaps, has ever presented such a contrast as did Paris during the months that followed the downfall of the monarchy. In 18oo saloons nightly crowds assembled and held mad revelry, regardless of the tragedies that were being enacted daily on the Place de la Révolution. They danced and laughed, pausing only, perhaps, when the hoarse voice of the newsvendor shouted out : “Liste complète des conspirateurs qui ont gagné à la loterie de Sainte Guillotine.” Curiosity satisfied, the dance began again, though the gayest of the gathering might be “suspected ” to-morrow, and take his place in the tumbrils within the week. We read even that a very select dancing club existed by the rules of which no one was eligible for election unless he or she could prove having lost a near relative, father, mother, brother, or sister, by the guillotine—so callous had men's minds become to the horrors of the times. During the Directoire, gaiety was still the order of the day, and the Goncourts thus describe the scene presented by the ci-devant Elysée Bourbon, now known as the Hameau de Chantilly. (Mlle. Hovyn was now the proprietor, having bought the property when the Government put it up to auction as bien publique.) Great jets of light and coloured transparencies are erected amongst the beautiful marble statues; the mirrors which in former days met the gaze of Madame de Pompadour now reflect a motley crowd of guests who have paid their entrance. A throng of dancers fills the ball-room, which reaches to the
end of the garden bounded by the Rond Point. Dandies and their partners occupy a triple row of chairs, talking and laughing.
Thus did the new régime succeed to the old, and the salons and gardens forming this ever-varied stage saw fresh actors play
* The Duc de Bourbon was found hanged in his ‘room at the Château de Chantilly, 1830. He was the last Prince de Condé. WOL. XLIII 6
their part and vanish, leaving it free for the greatest rôle in history—that of Napoleon I. In March 1805 the Emperor bought the hotel for his sister Caroline, wife of Prince Murat, and these two came into residence the following year, after spending four millions of francs in furniture and works of art. It is possible that sisterly competition with Pauline, who owned the fine house which is now the British Embassy, prompted this lavishness, but in any case Caroline did not long enjoy the fruits of her labours, for when Murat was promoted to the kingdom of Naples her despotic brother insisted on their giving up all property in France, and he himself took possession of the Elysée with the whole of its contents. The dining-room on the ground floor remains as it was arranged by the Murats, their initials are on the panels and the pictures represent subjects chosen by the Prince. The Palais de l'Elysée became Napoleon's favourite spring and autumn residence, and Joséphine, then in the height of her prosperity, played with consummate charm the part of hostess in its brilliant rooms. A few years later the Creole's star had set, and Fortune had begun to turn its back on the conqueror of Europe. War claimed him who had set it loose, and tearing himself away from the newly married wife and the son whose birth had seemed to make his dynasty secure, Napoleon left Paris for the campaign that was to end in Leipsic. Before leaving he called a Council at the Elysée, and formally appointed Marie Louise regent. In the presence of the Ministers assembled in the Salle du Conseil (where President Loubet presides over the destinies of France to-day), the High Chancellor Cambacérès read the patent by which Napoleon “wishing to bestow on his beloved Consort, the Empress and Queen, every mark of his confidence, conferred on her the right to assist at all the Cabinet Councils and the title of Regent.” This document having been read, Marie Louise rose and pronounced the following words: “I swear fidelity to the Emperor, I swear to maintain the laws of the Constitution, and to conform to those measures which have been or shall be determined by the Emperor, my Consort, in the exercise of that authority which he has been pleased to delegate me.” The first abdication which followed the campaign of France was signed at Fontainebleau, the second, which followed Waterloo, was signed in the same room which witnessed the scene described above. On June 20, Lucien, the least self-seeking of Napoleon's brothers, was waiting at the Elysée for his vanquished chief, news of the defeat having just become known in Paris. Thiers (the historian of these troubled days) writes thus:
The Avenue de Marigny was full of people, attracted hither by rumours of the disaster at Waterloo. The wall which divided the garden of the Elysée from the Avenue was then much lower than it is now, and the crowd was only separated from Napoleon by the smallest of barriers. When the people caught sight of him they gave vent to frantic shouts of “Vive l'Empereur.” Many individuals pushed close up to the wall and stretched over to shake hands with him, egging him to lead them to the enemy. Napoleon acknowledged their acclamations, and, looking at them affectionately but sadly, made signs to them to keep calm, then, turning away, he continued his conversation with Lucien.
The following day a Council of Ministers was convoked and the situation laid before them. The illustrious Carnot, he who in 1793–94 had organised victory, advised the Emperor to declare the country in danger, call upon the nation to make every sacrifice, and place himself once more at the head of the army. Lucien was for still more energetic measures: he urged his brother to proclaim a military dictatorship, which would immediately proceed, if need were, to turn out the Chamber of Representatives. “Dare everything,” he said. “I have dared too much already,” answered the Emperor, and the next day he dictated to his Ministers the act of abdication. “I offer myself as a sacrifice to the enemies of France . . . my career is finished.”
One of Napoleon's nephews, he who became Napoleon III.,
related to Victor Hugo in 1848 how it was at the Elysée that he saw the great hero and head of his family for the last time. “The Emperor bade me advance, and placed his hands on my head, I was then seven years old.” From that day Hortense's son brooded over the Napoleonic tradition, and when by the death of the Duc de Reichstadt and of his own elder brother he became the legal heir" of the Bonaparte pretensions, that tradition became to him a religion, and an obsession, which made of his career the counterpart on a smaller scale of his predecessors on the Imperial throne. During the occupation of Paris by the allies, the Tsar Alexander I. and the Duke of Wellington lodged at the Elysée. Both the Tsar and the Duke used every means to reassure the inhabitants, and to convince them that their mission was accomplished with the re-establishment of Louis XVIII.'s Government. Both exerted their influence with Blucher to prevent the Pont d'Iéna from being blown up by the Prussian troops, who saw in it a reminder of their humiliation in 1806. A harder task in which the two peacemakers also succeeded, was the reduction of the indemnity suggested by Blucher, and of the exorbitant territorial demands by which the Prussians would have forestalled the fruits of their victory in 1870–71.
On Louis XVIII.'s restoration, the Duc de Berry, second son of the Comte d'Artois, and nephew of the King, was given the
* By a decree of the Senate the Imperial dignity, failing male issue from Napoleon I., was to descend first to the family of his brother Joseph, subsequently to that of Louis. Joseph having no sons, and Lucien’s family being passed over, Louis Napoleon became the legal heir.
Elysée, and lived there till his death, which happened on Sunday, February 13, 1820. On that day the Duke had gone to the Opera with the Duchess. When I o o'clock came, her Royal Highness rose to go home, the Duke accompanying her to her carriage. Just at the moment when he was turning away to go back to the Opera, a man brushed against him and stabbed him in the breast. The assassin ran off but was arrested and subsequently put to death. He appears to have been a maniac who had conceived the idea that all the Bourbons ought to be exterminated because they had been imposed on France by foreign intervention. He declared that had he escaped he would have killed the Duc d’Angoulême, thus removing the two heirs presumptive to the throne. At that time neither of Louis XVIII.'s nephews had a son, though the Duchessede Berry was enciente, and a few months later gave birth to the enfant du miracle, the child who was known successively as Duc de Bordeaux, Henri V., and Comte de Chambord. As for the Duc de Berry, he was carried to the room of the Director, where the members of the Royal family, hastily summoned, could hear as in a nightmare the music of the ballet and the applause of the crowd, while they watched the agony of the dying Prince. The knife had penetrated to the heart and nothing could save him. Towards morning the old King arrived, only to assist at the last ceremony of the Sacraments, and in the grey dawn, while Paris still slept, unwitting of the tragedy, the body was taken to the Louvre. Here the widowed Duchess took up her residence, returning to the Elysée no more. The palace therefore remained uninhabited till Louis Philippe offered its hospitality to Marie Christine, Queen of Spain, widow of Ferdinand VII. and mother of Queen Isabella. The next occupant was Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, who took up his abode there on December 20, 1848, ten days after his nomination as President of the Republic. Here he gave his first dinner party, December 23, an entertainment which is described by Victor Hugo (himself one of the invited)." There were about fifteen guests present, amongst whom were General Changarnier and Lucien Murat. After dinner, the Prince begged Victor Hugo to excuse the deficiencies in the service. “I’m not yet properly installed,” he said, “in fact, the day before yesterday, when I arrived, there was hardly a mattress to my bed.” Victor Hugo goes on to say: “The Prince was right to excuse himself, for the dinner was moderate, the china and glass common, and the silver such as would be seen on a middle-class table. In the centre was rather a fine vase in ‘ craquelé,' but mounted
* Choses vues. By Victor Hugo.