THE STORY OF THE EMPRESS MARIE LOUISE AND COUNT NEIPPERG





There is one famous woman whom history condems while at the same

time it partly hides the facts which might mitigate the harshness

of the judgment that is passed upon her. This woman is Marie

Louise, Empress of France, consort of the great Napoleon, and

archduchess of imperial Austria. When the most brilliant figure in

all history, after his overthrow in 1814, was in tawdry exile on

the petty island of Elba, the empress was already about to become

a mother; and the father of her unborn child was not Napoleon, but

another man. This is almost all that is usually remembered of her

--that she was unfaithful to Napoleon, that she abandoned him in

the hour of his defeat, and that she gave herself with readiness

to one inferior in rank, yet with whom she lived for years, and to

whom she bore what a French writer styled "a brood of bastards."



Naturally enough, the Austrian and German historians do not have

much to say of Marie Louise, because in her own disgrace she also

brought disgrace upon the proudest reigning family in Europe.

Naturally, also, French writers, even those who are hostile to

Napoleon, do not care to dwell upon the story; since France itself

was humiliated when its greatest genius and most splendid soldier

was deceived by his Austrian wife. Therefore there are still many

who know little beyond the bare fact that the Empress Marie Louise

threw away her pride as a princess, her reputation as a wife, and

her honor as a woman. Her figure seems to crouch in a sort of

murky byway, and those who pass over the highroad of history

ignore it with averted eyes.



In reality the story of Napoleon and Marie Louise and of the Count

von Neipperg is one which, when you search it to the very core,

leads you straight to a sex problem of a very curious nature.

Nowhere else does it occur in the relations of the great

personages of history; but in literature Balzac, that master of

psychology, has touched upon the theme in the early chapters of

his famous novel called "A Woman of Thirty."



As to the Napoleonic story, let us first recall the facts of the

case, giving them in such order that their full significance may

be understood.



In 1809 Napoleon, then at the plenitude of his power, shook

himself free from the clinging clasp of Josephine and procured the

annulment of his marriage to her. He really owed her nothing.

Before he knew her she had been the mistress of another. In the

first years of their life together she had been notoriously

unfaithful to him. He had held to her from habit which was in part

a superstition; but the remembrance of the wrong which she had

done him made her faded charms at times almost repulsive. And then

Josephine had never borne him any children; and without a son to

perpetuate his dynasty, the gigantic achievements which he had

wrought seemed futile in his eyes, and likely to crumble into

nothingness when he should die.



No sooner had the marriage been annulled than his titanic ambition

leaped, as it always did, to a tremendous pinnacle. He would wed.

He would have children. But he would wed no petty princess. This

man who in his early youth had felt honored by a marriage with the

almost declassee widow of a creole planter now stretched out his

hand that he might take to himself a woman not merely royal but

imperial.



At first he sought the sister of the Czar of Russia; but Alexander

entertained a profound distrust of the French emperor, and managed

to evade the tentative demand. There was, however, a reigning

family far more ancient than the Romanoffs--a family which had

held the imperial dignity for nearly six centuries--the oldest and

the noblest blood in Europe. This was the Austrian house of

Hapsburg. Its head, the Emperor Francis, had thirteen children, of

whom the eldest, the Archduchess Marie Louise, was then in her

nineteenth year.



Napoleon had resented the rebuff which the Czar had given him. He

turned, therefore, the more eagerly to the other project. Yet

there were many reasons why an Austrian marriage might be

dangerous, or, at any rate, ill-omened. Only sixteen years before,

an Austrian arch-duchess, Marie Antionette, married to the ruler

of France, had met her death upon the scaffold, hated and cursed

by the French people, who had always blamed "the Austrian" for the

evil days which had ended in the flames of revolution. Again, the

father of the girl to whom Napoleon's fancy turned had been the

bitter enemy of the new regime in France. His troops had been

beaten by the French in five wars and had been crushed at

Austerlitz and at Wagram. Bonaparte had twice entered Vienna at

the head of a conquering army, and thrice he had slept in the

imperial palace at Schonbrunn, while Francis was fleeing through

the dark, a beaten fugitive pursued by the swift squadrons of

French cavalry.



The feeling of Francis of Austria was not merely that of the

vanquished toward the victor. It was a deep hatred almost

religious in its fervor. He was the head and front of the old-time

feudalism of birth and blood; Napoleon was the incarnation of the

modern spirit which demolished thrones and set an iron heel upon

crowned heads, giving the sacred titles of king and prince to

soldiers who, even in palaces, still showed the swaggering

brutality of the camp and the stable whence they sprang. Yet, just

because an alliance with the Austrian house seemed in so many ways

impossible, the thought of it inflamed the ardor of Napoleon all

the more.



"Impossible?" he had once said, contemptuously. "The word

'impossible' is not French."



The Austrian alliance, unnatural though it seemed, was certainly

quite possible. In the year 1809 Napoleon had finished his fifth

war with Austria by the terrific battle of Wagram, which brought

the empire of the Hapsburgs to the very dust. The conqueror's rude

hand had stripped from Francis province after province. He had

even let fall hints that the Hapsburgs might be dethroned and that

Austria might disappear from the map of Europe, to be divided

between himself and the Russian Czar, who was still his ally. It

was at this psychological moment that the Czar wounded Napoleon's

pride by refusing to give the hand of his sister Anne.



The subtle diplomats of Vienna immediately saw their chance.

Prince Metternich, with the caution of one who enters the cage of

a man-eating-tiger, suggested that the Austrian archduchess would

be a fitting bride for the French conqueror. The notion soothed

the wounded vanity of Napoleon. From that moment events moved

swiftly; and before long it was understood that there was to be a

new empress in France, and that she was to be none other than the

daughter of the man who had been Napoleon's most persistent foe

upon the Continent. The girl was to be given--sacrificed, if you

like--to appease an imperial adventurer. After such a marriage,

Austria would be safe from spoliation. The reigning dynasty would

remain firmly seated upon its historic throne.



But how about the girl herself? She had always heard Napoleon

spoken of as a sort of ogre--a man of low ancestry, a brutal and

faithless enemy of her people. She knew that this bold, rough-

spoken soldier less than a year before had added insult to the

injury which he had inflicted on her father. In public

proclamations he had called the Emperor Francis a coward and a

liar. Up to the latter part of the year Napoleon was to her

imagination a blood-stained, sordid, and yet all-powerful monster,

outside the pale of human liking and respect. What must have been

her thoughts when her father first told her with averted face that

she was to become the bride of such a being?



Marie Louise had been brought up, as all German girls of rank were

then brought up, in quiet simplicity and utter innocence. In

person she was a tall blonde, with a wealth of light brown hair

tumbling about a face which might be called attractive because it

was so youthful and so gentle, but in which only poets and

courtiers could see beauty. Her complexion was rosy, with that

peculiar tinge which means that in the course of time it will

become red and mottled. Her blue eyes were clear and childish. Her

figure was good, though already too full for a girl who was

younger than her years.



She had a large and generous mouth with full lips, the lower one

being the true "Hapsburg lip," slightly pendulous--a feature which

has remained for generation after generation as a sure sign of

Hapsburg blood. One sees it in the present emperor of Austria, in

the late Queen Regent of Spain, and in the present King of Spain,

Alfonso. All the artists who made miniatures or paintings of Marie

Louise softened down this racial mark so that no likeness of her

shows it as it really was. But take her all in all, she was a

simple, childlike, German madchen who knew nothing of the outside

world except what she had heard from her discreet and watchful

governess, and what had been told her of Napoleon by her uncles,

the archdukes whom he had beaten down in battle.



When she learned that she was to be given to the French emperor

her girlish soul experienced a shudder; but her father told her

how vital was this union to her country and to him. With a sort of

piteous dread she questioned the archdukes who had called Napoleon

an ogre.



"Oh, that was when Napoleon was an enemy," they replied. "Now he

is our friend."



Marie Louise listened to all this, and, like the obedient German

girl she was, yielded her own will.



Events moved with a rush, for Napoleon was not the man to dally.

Josephine had retired to her residence at Malmaison, and Paris was

already astir with preparations for the new empress who was to

assure the continuation of the Napoleonic glory by giving children

to her husband. Napoleon had said to his ambassador with his usual

bluntness:



"This is the first and most important thing--she must have

children."



To the girl whom he was to marry he sent the following letter--an

odd letter, combining the formality of a negotiator with the

veiled ardor of a lover:



MY COUSIN: The brilliant qualities which adorn your person have

inspired in me a desire to serve you and to pay you homage. In

making my request to the emperor, your father, and praying him to

intrust to me the happiness of your imperial highness, may I hope

that you will understand the sentiments which lead me to this act?

May I flatter myself that it will not be decided solely by the

duty of parental obedience? However slightly the feelings of your

imperial highness may incline to me, I wish to cultivate them with

so great care, and to endeavor so constantly to please you in

everything, that I flatter myself that some day I shall prove

attractive to you. This is the end at which I desire to arrive,

and for which I pray your highness to be favorable to me.



Immediately everything was done to dazzle the imagination of the

girl. She had dressed always in the simplicity of the school-room.

Her only ornaments had been a few colored stones which she

sometimes wore as a necklace or a bracelet. Now the resources of

all France were drawn upon. Precious laces foamed about her.

Cascades of diamonds flashed before her eyes. The costliest and

most exquisite creations of the Parisian shops were spread around

her to make up a trousseau fit for the princess who was soon to

become the bride of the man who had mastered continental Europe.



The archives of Vienna were ransacked for musty documents which

would show exactly what had been done for other Austrian

princesses who had married rulers of France. Everything was

duplicated down to the last detail. Ladies-in-waiting thronged

about the young archduchess; and presently there came to her Queen

Caroline of Naples, Napoleon's sister, of whom Napoleon himself

once said: "She is the only man among my sisters, as Joseph is the

only woman among my brothers." Caroline, by virtue of her rank as

queen, could have free access to her husband's future bride. Also,

there came presently Napoleon's famous marshal, Berthier, Prince

of Neuchatel, the chief of the Old Guard, who had just been

created Prince of Wagram--a title which, very naturally, he did

not use in Austria. He was to act as proxy for Napoleon in the

preliminary marriage service at Vienna.



All was excitement. Vienna had never been so gay. Money was

lavished under the direction of Caroline and Berthier. There were

illuminations and balls. The young girl found herself the center

of the world's interest; and the excitement made her dizzy. She

could not but be flattered, and yet there were many hours when her

heart misgave her. More than once she was found in tears. Her

father, an affectionate though narrow soul, spent an entire day

with her consoling and reassuring her. One thought she always kept

in mind--what she had said to Metternich at the very first: "I

want only what my duty bids me want." At last came the official

marriage, by proxy, in the presence of a splendid gathering. The

various documents were signed, the dowry was arranged for. Gifts

were scattered right and left. At the opera there were gala

performances. Then Marie Louise bade her father a sad farewell.

Almost suffocated by sobs and with her eyes streaming with tears,

she was led between two hedges of bayonets to her carriage, while

cannon thundered and all the church-bells of Vienna rang a joyful

peal.



She set out for France accompanied by a long train of carriages

filled with noblemen and noblewomen, with ladies-in-waiting and

scores of attendant menials. The young bride--the wife of a man

whom she had never seen--was almost dead with excitement and

fatigue. At a station in the outskirts of Vienna she scribbled a

few lines to her father, which are a commentary upon her state of

mind:



I think of you always, and I always shall. God has given me power

to endure this final shock, and in Him alone I have put all my

trust. He will help me and give me courage, and I shall find

support in doing my duty toward you, since it is all for you that

I have sacrificed myself.



There is something piteous in this little note of a frightened

girl going to encounter she knew not what, and clinging almost

frantically to the one thought--that whatever might befall her,

she was doing as her father wished.



One need not recount the long and tedious journey of many days

over wretched roads, in carriages that jolted and lurched and

swayed. She was surrounded by unfamiliar faces and was compelled

to meet at every town the chief men of the place, all of whom paid

her honor, but stared at her with irrepressible curiosity. Day

after day she went on and on. Each morning a courier on a foaming

horse presented her with a great cluster of fresh flowers and a

few lines scrawled by the unknown husband who was to meet her at

her journey's end.



There lay the point upon which her wandering thoughts were

focused--the journey's end! The man whose strange, mysterious

power had forced her from her school-room, had driven her through

a nightmare of strange happenings, and who was waiting for her

somewhere to take her to himself, to master her as he had mastered

generals and armies!



What was marriage? What did it mean? What experience still lay

before her! These were the questions which she must have asked

herself throughout that long, exhausting journey. When she thought

of the past she was homesick. When she thought of the immediate

future she was fearful with a shuddering fear.



At last she reached the frontier of France, and her carriage

passed into a sort of triple structure, the first pavilion of

which was Austrian, while the middle pavilion was neutral, and the

farther one was French. Here she was received by those who were

afterward to surround her--the representatives of the Napoleonic

court. They were not all plebeians and children of the Revolution,

ex-stable boys, ex-laundresses. By this time Napoleon had gathered

around himself some of the noblest families of France, who had

rallied to the empire. The assemblage was a brilliant one. There

were Montmorencys and Beaumonts and Audenardes in abundance. But

to Marie Louise, as to her Austrian attendants, they were all

alike. They were French, they were strangers, and she shrank from

them.



Yet here her Austrians must leave her. All who had accompanied her

thus far were now turned back. Napoleon had been insistent on this

point. Even her governess, who had been with her since her

childhood, was not allowed to cross the French frontier. So fixed

was Napoleon's purpose to have nothing Austrian about her, that

even her pet dog, to which she clung as a girl would cling, was

taken from her. Thereafter she was surrounded only by French

faces, by French guards, and was greeted only by salvos of French

artillery.



In the mean time what was Napoleon doing at Paris. Since the

annulment of his marriage with Josephine he had gone into a sort

of retirement. Matters of state, war, internal reforms, no longer

interested him; but that restless brain could not sink into

repose. Inflamed with the ardor of a new passion, that passion was

all the greater because he had never yet set eyes upon its object.

Marriage with an imperial princess flattered his ambition. The

youth and innocence of the bride stirred his whole being with a

thrill of novelty. The painted charms of Josephine, the mercenary

favors of actresses, the calculated ecstasies of the women of the

court who gave themselves to him from vanity, had long since

palled upon him. Therefore the impatience with which he awaited

the coming of Marie Louise became every day more tense.



For a time he amused himself with planning down to the very last

details the demonstrations that were to be given in her honor. He

organized them as minutely as he had ever organized a conquering

army. He showed himself as wonderful in these petty things as he

had in those great strategic combinations which had baffled the

ablest generals of Europe. But after all had been arranged--even

to the illuminations, the cheering, the salutes, and the etiquette

of the court--he fell into a fever of impatience which gave him

sleepless nights and frantic days. He paced up and down the

Tuileries, almost beside himself. He hurried off courier after

courier with orders that the postilions should lash their horses

to bring the hour of meeting nearer still. He scribbled love

letters. He gazed continually on the diamond-studded portrait of

the woman who was hurrying toward him.



At last as the time approached he entered a swift traveling-

carriage and hastened to Compiegne, about fifty miles from Paris,

where it had been arranged that he should meet his consort and

whence he was to escort her to the capital, so that they might be

married in the great gallery of the Louvre. At Compiegne the

chancellerie had been set apart for Napoleon's convenience, while

the chateau had been assigned to Marie Louise and her attendants.

When Napoleon's carriage dashed into the place, drawn by horses

that had traveled at a gallop, the emperor could not restrain

himself. It was raining torrents and night was coming on, yet,

none the less, he shouted for fresh horses and pushed on to

Soissons, where the new empress was to stop and dine. When he

reached there and she had not arrived, new relays of horses were

demanded, and he hurried off once more into the dark.



At the little village of Courcelles he met the courier who was

riding in advance of the empress's cortege.



"She will be here in a few moments!" cried Napoleon; and he leaped

from his carriage into the highway.



The rain descended harder than ever, and he took refuge in the

arched doorway of the village church, his boots already bemired,

his great coat reeking with the downpour. As he crouched before

the church he heard the sound of carriages; and before long there

came toiling through the mud the one in which was seated the girl

for whom he had so long been waiting. It was stopped at an order

given by an officer. Within it, half-fainting with fatigue and

fear, Marie Louise sat in the dark, alone.



Here, if ever, was the chance for Napoleon to win his bride. Could

he have restrained himself, could he have shown the delicate

consideration which was demanded of him, could he have remembered

at least that he was an emperor and that the girl--timid and

shuddering--was a princess, her future story might have been far

different. But long ago he had ceased to think of anything except

his own desires.



He approached the carriage. An obsequious chamberlain drew aside

the leathern covering and opened the door, exclaiming as he did

so, "The emperor!" And then there leaped in the rain-soaked, mud-

bespattered being whose excesses had always been as unbridled as

his genius. The door was closed, the leathern curtain again drawn,

and the horses set out at a gallop for Soissons. Within, the

shrinking bride was at the mercy of pure animal passion, feeling

upon her hot face a torrent of rough kisses, and yielding herself

in terror to the caresses of wanton hands.



At Soissons Napoleon allowed no halt, but the carriage plunged on,

still in the rain, to Compiegne. There all the arrangements made

with so much care were thrust aside. Though the actual marriage

had not yet taken place, Napoleon claimed all the rights which

afterward were given in the ceremonial at Paris. He took the girl

to the chancellerie, and not to the chateau. In an anteroom dinner

was served with haste to the imperial pair and Queen Caroline.

Then the latter was dismissed with little ceremony, the lights

were extinguished, and this daughter of a line of emperors was

left to the tender mercies of one who always had about him

something of the common soldier--the man who lives for loot and

lust. ... At eleven the next morning she was unable to rise and

was served in bed by the ladies of her household.



These facts, repellent as they are, must be remembered when we

call to mind what happened in the next five years. The horror of

that night could not be obliterated by splendid ceremonies, by

studious attention, or by all the pomp and gaiety of the court.

Napoleon was then forty-one--practically the same age as his new

wife's father, the Austrian emperor; Marie Louise was barely

nineteen and younger than her years. Her master must have seemed

to be the brutal ogre whom her uncles had described.



Installed in the Tuileries, she taught herself compliance. On

their marriage night Napoleon had asked her briefly: "What did

your parents tell you?" And she had answered, meekly: "To be yours

altogether and to obey you in everything." But, though she gave

compliance, and though her freshness seemed enchanting to

Napoleon, there was something concealed within her thoughts to

which he could not penetrate. He gaily said to a member of the

court:



"Marry a German, my dear fellow. They are the best women in the

world--gentle, good, artless, and as fresh as roses."



Yet, at the same time, Napoleon felt a deep anxiety lest in her

very heart of hearts this German girl might either fear or hate

him secretly. Somewhat later Prince Metternich came from the

Austrian court to Paris.



"I give you leave," said Napoleon, "to have a private interview

with the empress. Let her tell you what she likes, and I shall ask

no questions. Even should I do so, I now forbid your answering

me."



Metternich was closeted with the empress for a long while. When he

returned to the ante-room he found Napoleon fidgeting about, his

eyes a pair of interrogation-points.



"I am sure," he said, "that the empress told you that I was kind

to her?"



Metternich bowed and made no answer.



"Well," said Napoleon, somewhat impatiently, "at least I am sure

that she is happy. Tell me, did she not say so?"



The Austrian diplomat remained unsmiling.



"Your majesty himself has forbidden me to answer," he returned

with another bow.



We may fairly draw the inference that Marie Louise, though she

adapted herself to her surroundings, was never really happy.

Napoleon became infatuated with her. He surrounded her with every

possible mark of honor. He abandoned public business to walk or

drive with her. But the memory of his own brutality must have

vaguely haunted him throughout it all. He was jealous of her as he

had never been jealous of the fickle Josephine. Constant has

recorded that the greatest precautions were taken to prevent any

person whatsoever, and especially any man, from approaching the

empress save in the presence of witnesses.



Napoleon himself underwent a complete change of habits and

demeanor. Where he had been rough and coarse he became attentive

and refined. His shabby uniforms were all discarded, and he spent

hours in trying on new costumes. He even attempted to learn to

waltz, but this he gave up in despair. Whereas before he ate

hastily and at irregular intervals, he now sat at dinner with

unusual patience, and the court took on a character which it had

never had. Never before had he sacrificed either his public duty

or his private pleasure for any woman. Even in the first ardor of

his marriage with Josephine, when he used to pour out his heart to

her in letters from Italian battle-fields, he did so only after he

had made the disposition of his troops and had planned his

movements for the following day. Now, however, he was not merely

devoted, but uxorious; and in 1811, after the birth of the little

King of Rome, he ceased to be the earlier Napoleon altogether. He

had founded a dynasty. He was the head of a reigning house. He

forgot the principles of the Revolution, and he ruled, as he

thought, like other monarchs, by the grace of God.



As for Marie Louise, she played her part extremely well. Somewhat

haughty and unapproachable to others, she nevertheless studied

Napoleon's every wish. She seemed even to be loving; but one can

scarcely doubt that her obedience sprang ultimately from fear and

that her devotion was the devotion of a dog which has been beaten

into subjection.



Her vanity was flattered in many ways, and most of all by her

appointment as regent of the empire during Napoleon's absence in

the disastrous Russian campaign which began in 1812. It was in

June of that year that the French emperor held court at Dresden,

where he played, as was said, to "a parterre of kings." This was

the climax of his magnificence, for there were gathered all the

sovereigns and princes who were his allies and who furnished the

levies that swelled his Grand Army to six hundred thousand men.

Here Marie Louise, like her husband, felt to the full the

intoxication of supreme power. By a sinister coincidence it was

here that she first met the other man, then unnoticed and little

heeded, who was to cast upon her a fascination which in the end

proved irresistible.



This man was Adam Albrecht, Count von Neipperg. There is something

mysterious about his early years, and something baleful about his

silent warfare with Napoleon. As a very young soldier he had been

an Austrian officer in 1793. His command served in Belgium; and

there, in a skirmish, he was overpowered by the French in superior

numbers, but resisted desperately. In the melee a saber slashed

him across the right side of his face, and he was made prisoner.

The wound deprived him of his right eye, so that for the rest of

his life he was compelled to wear a black bandage to conceal the

mutilation.



From that moment he conceived an undying hatred of the French,

serving against them in the Tyrol and in Italy. He always claimed

that had the Archduke Charles followed his advice, the Austrians

would have forced Napoleon's army to capitulate at Marengo, thus

bringing early eclipse to the rising star of Bonaparte. However

this may be, Napoleon's success enraged Neipperg and made his

hatred almost the hatred of a fiend.



Hitherto he had detested the French as a nation. Afterward he

concentrated his malignity upon the person of Napoleon. In every

way he tried to cross the path of that great soldier, and, though

Neipperg was comparatively an unknown man, his indomitable purpose

and his continued intrigues at last attracted the notice of the

emperor; for in 1808 Napoleon wrote this significant sentence:



The Count von Neipperg is openly known to have been the enemy of

the French.



Little did the great conqueror dream how deadly was the blow which

this Austrian count was destined finally to deal him!



Neipperg, though his title was not a high one, belonged to the old

nobility of Austria. He had proved his bravery in war and as a

duelist, and he was a diplomat as well as a soldier. Despite his

mutilation, he was a handsome and accomplished courtier, a man of

wide experience, and one who bore himself in a manner which

suggested the spirit of romance. According to Masson, he was an

Austrian Don Juan, and had won the hearts of many women. At thirty

he had formed a connection with an Italian woman named Teresa

Pola, whom he had carried away from her husband. She had borne him

five children; and in 1813 he had married her in order that these

children might be made legitimate.



In his own sphere the activity of Neipperg was almost as

remarkable as Napoleon's in a greater one. Apart from his exploits

on the field of battle he had been attached to the Austrian

embassy in Paris, and, strangely enough, had been decorated by

Napoleon himself with, the golden eagle of the Legion of Honor.

Four months later we find him minister of Austria at the court of

Sweden, where he helped to lay the train of intrigue which was to

detach Bernadotte from Napoleon's cause. In 1812, as has just been

said, he was with Marie Louise for a short time at Dresden,

hovering about her, already forming schemes. Two years after this

he overthrew Murat at Naples; and then hurried on post-haste to

urge Prince Eugene to abandon Bonaparte.



When the great struggle of 1814 neared its close, and Napoleon,

fighting with his back to the wall, was about to succumb to the

united armies of Europe, it was evident that the Austrian emperor

would soon be able to separate his daughter from her husband. In

fact, when Napoleon was sent to Elba, Marie Louise returned to

Vienna. The cynical Austrian diplomats resolved that she should

never again meet her imperial husband. She was made Duchess of

Parma in Italy, and set out for her new possessions; and the man

with the black band across his sightless eye was chosen to be her

escort and companion.



When Neipperg received this commission he was with Teresa Pola at

Milan. A strange smile flitted across his face; and presently he

remarked, with cynical frankness:



"Before six months I shall be her lover, and, later on, her

husband."



He took up his post as chief escort of Marie Louise, and they

journeyed slowly to Munich and Baden and Geneva, loitering on the

way. Amid the great events which were shaking Europe this couple

attracted slight attention. Napoleon, in Elba, longed for his wife

and for his little son, the King of Rome. He sent countless

messages and many couriers; but every message was intercepted, and

no courier reached his destination. Meanwhile Marie Louise was

lingering agreeably in Switzerland. She was happy to have escaped

from the whirlpool of politics and war. Amid the romantic scenery

through which she passed Neipperg was always by her side,

attentive, devoted, trying in everything to please her. With him

she passed delightful evenings. He sang to her in his rich

barytone songs of love. He seemed romantic with a touch of

mystery, a gallant soldier whose soul was also touched by

sentiment.



One would have said that Marie Louise, the daughter of an imperial

line, would have been proof against the fascinations of a person

so far inferior to herself in rank, and who, beside the great

emperor, was less than nothing. Even granting that she had never

really loved Napoleon, she might still have preferred to maintain

her dignity, to share his fate, and to go down in history as the

empress of the greatest man whom modern times have known.



But Marie Louise was, after all, a woman, and she followed the

guidance of her heart. To her Napoleon was still the man who had

met her amid the rain-storm at Courcelles, and had from the first

moment when he touched her violated all the instincts of a virgin.

Later he had in his way tried to make amends; but the horror of

that first night had never wholly left her memory. Napoleon had

unrolled before her the drama of sensuality, but her heart had not

been given to him. She had been his empress. In a sense it might

be more true to say that she had been his mistress. But she had

never been duly wooed and won and made his wife--an experience

which is the right of every woman. And so this Neipperg, with his

deferential manners, his soothing voice, his magnetic touch, his

ardor, and his devotion, appeased that craving which the master of

a hundred legions could not satisfy.



In less than the six months of which Neipperg had spoken the

psychological moment had arrived. In the dim twilight she listened

to his words of love; and then, drawn by that irresistible power

which masters pride and woman's will, she sank into her lover's

arms, yielding to his caresses, and knowing that she would be

parted from him no more except by death.



From that moment he was bound to her by the closest ties and lived

with her at the petty court of Parma. His prediction came true to

the very letter. Teresa Pola died, and then Napoleon died, and

after this Marie Louise and Neipperg were united in a morganatic

marriage. Three children were born to them before his death in

1829.



It is interesting to note how much of an impression was made upon

her by the final exile of her imperial husband to St. Helena. When

the news was brought her she observed, casually:



"Thanks. By the way, I should like to ride this morning to

Markenstein. Do you think the weather is good enough to risk it?"



Napoleon, on his side, passed through agonies of doubt and longing

when no letters came to him from Marie Louise. She was constantly

in his thoughts during his exile at St. Helena. "When his faithful

friend and constant companion at St. Helena, the Count Las Casas,

was ordered by Sir Hudson Lowe to depart from St. Helena, Napoleon

wrote to him:



"Should you see, some day, my wife and son, embrace them. For two

years I have, neither directly nor indirectly, heard from them.

There has been on this island for six months a German botanist,

who has seen them in the garden of Schoenbrunn a few months before

his departure. The barbarians (meaning the English authorities at

St. Helena) have carefully prevented him from coming to give me

any news respecting them."



At last the truth was told him, and he received it with that high

magnanimity, or it may be fatalism, which at times he was capable

of showing. Never in all his days of exile did he say one word

against her. Possibly in searching his own soul he found excuses

such as we may find. In his will he spoke of her with great

affection, and shortly before his death he said to his physician,

Antommarchi:



"After my death, I desire that you will take my heart, put it in

the spirits of wine, and that you carry it to Parma to my dear

Marie Louise. You will please tell her that I tenderly loved her--

that I never ceased to love her. You will relate to her all that

you have seen, and every particular respecting my situation and

death."



The story of Marie Louise is pathetic, almost tragic. There is the

taint of grossness about it; and yet, after all, there is a lesson

in it--the lesson that true love cannot be forced or summoned at

command, that it is destroyed before its birth by outrage, and

that it goes out only when evoked by sympathy, by tenderness, and

by devotion.





THE STORY OF THE CARLYLES THE STORY OF THE HUGOS facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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