Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXII, 15

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Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXXII, chapter 15
Monsieur le Duc d’Orleans goes to the Hôtel de Ville.



The Duke of Orléans having decided to have his title confirmed by the tribunes at the Hôtel de Ville, arrived in the courtyard of the Palais-Royal, surrounded by eighty-nine Deputies in their caps, rounded hats, morning dress, frock coats. The Royal candidate was mounted on a white horse; he was followed by gouty Monsieur Lafitte and lame Benjamin Constant in a sedan chair jolted along by two Savoyards. Messieurs Méchin and Viennet, covered in sweat and powder, marched along between the future monarch’s white horse and the Deputies’ equipage, quarrelling with the two crotchety ones about keeping the required distance between them. A semi-drunken drummer beat a tattoo at the head of the procession. Four ushers served as lictors. The most enthusiastic Deputies lowed: ‘Long live, the Duke of Orléans!’ At the Palais-Royal these shouts met with some success; but the nearer they came to the Hôtel de Ville, the more the spectators either mocked them or fell silent. Philippe pranced about on his triumphal charger, and kept placing himself under Monsieur Lafitte’s protection, receiving from him, along the way, words of reassurance. He smiled at General Gérard, made communicative gestures towards Monsieur Viennet and Monsieur Méchin, begging for the crown by taking a collection from the people with his hat which was adorned with a yard of tricolour ribbon, holding his hand out to whoever wished to place their charity in that hand as he passed by. The travelling monarchy arrived at the Place de Grève, where it was welcomed with cries of: ‘Long live, the Republic!’

When the royal subject for election entered the Hôtel de Ville, more threatening murmurs met the postulant: some zealous followers within who shouted his name welcomed the grasping ones. He entered the Throne Room; there the combatants and casualties from three days of fighting were crowded together: a general exclamation of: ‘No more Bourbons! Long live, Lafayette!’ echoed from the ceiling of the room. The Prince seemed troubled. Monsieur Viennet read the Deputies’ declaration in a loud voice on behalf of Monsieur Lafitte; it was heard in profound silence. The Duc d’Orléans pronounced a few words in support. Then Monsieur Dubourg said brusquely to Philippe: ‘You are taking on a great responsibility. If you are ever found lacking, we are the men to remind you of it.’ And the future King replied movingly: ‘Sir, I am an honest man.’ Monsieur de Lafayette, realising the assembly’s growing indecision, suddenly charged himself with renouncing the Presidency: he handed the Duc d’Orléans a tricolour flag, advanced onto the balcony of the Hôtel de Ville, and embraced the Prince in full view of the astonished crowd, while the latter waved the national flag. Lafayette’s republican kiss made a king. A strange ending to the life of the hero of Two Worlds!

And then, clip, clop! Louis-Philippe’s white horse and the Deputies’ litter returned half-cursed, half-blessed, from the politic-making of the Place de Grève to the Palais-Marchand. ‘On the very same day,’ says Monsieur Louis Blanc once more (the 31st of July), ‘not far from the Hôtel de Ville, a boat moored to the steps of the Morgue, carrying a black flag, was taking on board the corpses laid out on stretchers. The corpses were stacked in layers and covered with straw; and the crowd, gathered along the parapets of the Seine, watched in silence.’

Regarding the States of the League and the making of a king, Palma-Cayet cried: ‘I beg you to imagine what response might have been made by that little gentleman Maître Matthieu Delaunay and by Monsieur Boucher, priest of Saint-Benoît, and others of that ilk, if anyone had told them they were to be involved in installing a king of France at their own whim?....a true Frenchman has always scorned a method of electing kings that makes them at once masters and servants.’