Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXII, 16

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XXXII, 15 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXXIII, 1


Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book XXXII, chapter 16
The Republicans at the Palais-Royal.



Philippe was not yet at the end of his trials; he had yet more hands to shake, and more accolades to receive; he had yet to bestow many more kisses, salute the passers-by most humbly, return many times, at the caprice of the crowd, to sing the Marseillaise on the balcony of the Tuileries.

A number of Republicans met on the morning of the 31st at the offices of the National: when they were certain that the Duc d’Orléans had been appointed as Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom, they wished to discover the opinions of this man destined to become king despite them. Messieurs Bastide, Thomas, Joubert, Cavaignac, Marchais, Degousée and Guinard were led to the Palais-Royal by Monsieur Thiers: The prince started by saying some very fine things regarding liberty: ‘You are not king yet’, Bastide replied ‘listen to the truth; you will have no lack of flatterers soon.’ ‘Your father’, added Cavaignac, ‘was a regicide like mine; that distinguishes you from the rest somewhat.’ Mutual congratulations regarding regicide, but Philippe nevertheless made this judicious remark, that there are things one must retain the memory of in order not to repeat them.

Republicans who had not been at the National meeting entered. Monsieur Trélat said to Philippe: ‘The people are your master. Your appointment is provisional; the people must express their will: will you consult them, yes or no?’

Monsieur Thiers tapped Monsieur Thomas on the shoulder and interrupted this dangerous speech: ‘Monseigneur, have we not a fine colonel here?’ – ‘Indeed’, Louis Philippe replied. ‘What was that he said,’ they cried. ‘Does he take us for a crew to be bought?’ and a confused conflict of words arose on all sides: ‘It’s like the tower of Babel! And they call him a citizen king! It’s a Republic? Then govern with Republicans!’ And there was Monsieur Thiers exclaiming: ‘I've made a fine job of being ambassador.’

Then Monsieur de Lafayette arrived at the Palais-Royal: the citizen had to suffer suffocation in his sovereign’s embrace. The whole palace swooned with delight.

There were jackets in the post of honour, caps in the salons, workmen’s blouses at table with the Princes and Princesses; in the council chamber were chairs and not armchairs; anyone who wished could speak; Louis-Philippe, seated between Monsieur de Lafayette and Monsieur Lafitte, an arm round each man’s shoulder, overflowed with equality and good cheer.

I would have liked to add more gravity to my description of these scenes which initiated a grand revolution, or to speak more correctly, these scenes by which a transformation of society was expedited; but I witnessed them; the Deputies who were actors in them could not hide a measure of confusion, in recounting the way in which, on the 31st of July, they went about making – a king.

Objections were made to Henri IV, a non-Catholic, which did not debase him and which even accorded with the elevation of the throne: he was told: ‘that Saint Louis had not been canonised at Geneva but in Rome; that if the King would not become a Catholic, he could not hold the supreme place among Christian kings; that it would not be well if the King prayed in one manner and his people in another; that the king could not be crowned at Rheims and could not be interred in Saint-Denis if he were not a Catholic.’

What objection was made to Philippe before allowing him to pass the final test? The objection was made that he was not enough of a patriot.

Now that the revolution is complete, it is regarded as an offence if one dares to recall what went on at the start; there is a fear of weakening the solidity of the position that has been won, and whoever fails to discover the gravity of the accomplished reality in its initial beginnings is a detractor.

When a dove descended to bring Clovis the sacred oil, when long-haired kings were elevated on shields, when Saint Louis trembled with anticipatory virtue at his coronation on swearing to use his authority purely for the glory of God, and his people’s well-being, when Henri IV, on his entry into Paris, went to prostrate himself at Notre Dame, where a handsome child was seen, or thought to have been seen, at his right hand protecting him, who was taken to be his guardian angel, I consider the crown was sacred; the Oriflamme remained in the tabernacle of heaven. But since a sovereign, in a public place, his hair trimmed, his hands behind his back, has bowed his head beneath the blade to the sound of a drum; since another sovereign, surrounded by the mob, has gone to beg votes for his election, to the sound of the same drum, in another public place, who can retain the least illusion about the Crown? Who believes that this royalty, bruised and soiled can still impose itself on society? Who, feeling their heart still beat, could sip the power in that chalice of shame and disgust, that Philippe has emptied at one gulp, without vomiting? European monarchy would have continued to survive if France had remained the mother of monarchy, daughter of a saint and a great man; but the fecund seed is scattered: nothing of it all will be re-born.