Chateaubriand's memoirs, XXXIII, 1

Free texts and images.
Jump to: navigation, search

XXXII, 16 << Chateaubriand's memoirs >> XXXIII, 2

Mémoires d'Outre-tombe

Book XXXII, chapter 1
The King leaves Saint-Cloud –Madame la Dauphine arrives at the Trianon – The diplomatic corps

You have just seen Royalty on the Place de Grève, powdered and breathing hard, marching in the midst of its arrogant supporters; now watch Royalty at Rheims withdrawing at a measured pace in the midst of its chaplains and guards, walking with the correctness prescribed by etiquette, hearing not one disrespectful word, and revered even by those who detest it. The soldier who considered it of little worth, was prepared to die for it; the white banner, draped over his coffin before being folded forever, said to the breeze: Salute me: I was at Ivry; I saw Turenne die; the English knew me at Fontenoy; I fought for freedom’s victory under Washington; I freed Greece, and I still wave above the walls of Algiers!

On the 31st, at daybreak, at the very hour when the Duc d’Orléans, after arriving in Paris, was preparing to accept the Lieutenant-Generalship, the servants from Saint-Cloud presented themselves at the camp near the Pont de Sèvres, declaring that they had been dismissed, and that the King had left at three-thirty in the morning. The soldiers were anxious, but grew calmer on seeing the Dauphin; he appeared on horseback, as if to inspire them with one of those speeches that leads the French to death or victory; he halted in front of the line, stammered a few phrases, turned abruptly and re-entered the Château. It was not courage that failed him, but words. The wretched education that the princes of the elder branch received, since Louis XIV, rendered them incapable of maintaining an argument, expressing themselves like others, or mixing with the rest of mankind.

Meanwhile the heights of Sèvres and the terraces of Bellevue were crowned with representatives of the people: there were several exchanges of fire. The captain who commanded the vanguard at the Pont du Sèvres went over to the enemy: he led a party of soldiers and a piece of cannon to a group gathered on the Point du Jour road. Then the Parisians and the Guards agreed that there would be no hostilities until the evacuation of Saint-Cloud and Sèvres had been achieved. The withdrawal commenced; the Swiss were surrounded by the citizens of Sèvres, and threw down their arms, though they were relieved almost immediately by the Lancers, the Lieutenant-Colonel of whom was wounded. The troops passed through Versailles, where the National Guard had been positioned since the previous day along with La Rochejaquelin’s Grenadiers, the former under the tricolour cockade, the latter under the white. Madame la Dauphine arrived from Vichy and rejoined the Royal Family at Trianon, once Marie-Antoinette’s favourite place. At Trianon, Monsieur de Polignac parted from his master.

It has been said that Madame la Dauphine was opposed to the decrees: the only means of judging such matters is to consider them in their essentials; the people will always be for freedom, princes inclined towards power. It is neither a crime nor a merit in them; it is their nature. Madame la Dauphine would perhaps have desired the decrees to have appeared at a more opportune moment, so that better precautions could have been taken to ensure their success; but in truth they pleased her and ought to have done so. Madame la Duchesse de Berry was delighted by them. Those two Princesses thought that unfettered royalty was at last free of the shackles that representative government attaches to the feet of kings.

It is astonishing that there was no sign of the diplomatic corps during these events of July, they who were consulted far too much by the Court, and were involved in all our affairs. There is twice a reference to foreign ambassadors during the disturbances. A man was arrested at the gates, and the package he was carrying was sent to the Hotel de Ville: it was a despatch from Monsieur de Loevenhielm to the King of Sweden. Monsieur Baude had this despatch returned to the Swedish legation without opening it. Lord Stuart’s correspondence fell into the hands of the popular leaders, it was also returned without being opened, which amazed London. Lord Stuart, like his fellow countrymen, adored disorder abroad: his diplomacy was that of a policeman, his despatches were police reports. He like me when I was Minister, because I dealt with him without any fuss, and because my door was always open; he entered the residence at any hour in his boots, muddy and dressed like a thief, after chasing about the boulevards and through houses of ladies whom he rewarded badly, who called him Stuart.

I had conceived a new way of conducting diplomacy: having nothing to hide, I spoke out loud; I would have shown my despatches to the first-comer, because I had no project for the glory of France that I was not determined to accomplish despite all opposition.

I told Sir Charles Stuart a hundred times, with a smile, yet speaking seriously: ‘Don’t pick a quarrel with me. If you throw down your glove, I shall pick it up. France has never made war on you with a proper understanding of your circumstances; that is why you have beaten us; but don’t rely on it.’ (That is pretty much what I wrote to Mr Canning in 1823. See Le Congrès de Vérone.)

Lord Stuart regarded our July disturbances therefore in a good-natured way while delighting in our misery; but the other members of the diplomatic corps, inimical to the popular cause, had more or less urged Charles X to issue the decrees, and yet, when they appeared, they did nothing to rescue the monarchy; so that if Monsieur Pozzo di Borgo showed anxiety about a Coup d’État it was not on behalf of the king or the people.

Two things are certain:

Firstly, the July Revolution acted against the treaties of the Quadruple Alliance: Bourbon France was party to that alliance: the Bourbons could not be violently dispossessed without placing Europe’s new political rule in danger.

Secondly, in a monarchy, foreign legations are not accredited to the government; but to the monarch. The strict duty of those legations was therefore to gather around Charles X, and follow him wherever he went on French soil.

Is it not strange that the only ambassador who took account of this idea represented Bernadotte, a king who did not belong to an ancient royal family? Monsieur de Loevenheilm converted Baron Werther to his opinion, while Monsieur Pozzo di Borgo opposed a step which would have taxed letters of credit and which demanded they be honoured.

If the diplomatic corps had gone to Saint-Cloud, Charles X’s position would have been different: the partisans of the Legitimacy would firstly have gained the power in the Elective Chamber which they lacked; the fear of possible war had alarmed the industrialists; the idea of keeping the peace while protecting Henri V had brought a considerable mass of people over to the Royal infant’s side.

Monsieur Pozzo do Borgo held back in order not to compromise his funds on the Bourse or with the banks, and especially not to expose his position. He had gambled at five per cent on the death of the Capetian legitimacy, a death which will communicate itself to other living kings. People will be sure, in this age of ours, to attempt, as usual, to pass off this irreparable crime of personal interest as a profound scheme.

Ambassadors who are left at the same Court for too long take on the manners of the country they reside in: charmed to be living in the midst of honours, failing to see things as they are, they fear to let slip in their despatches any reality that might lead to an alteration in their status. It is another thing, in effect, to be Messieurs Apponyi, Werther, and Pozzo in Vienna, Berlin and St Petersburg, than to be their Excellencies the Ambassadors to the Court of France. It is said that Monsieur Pozzo had a grudge against Louis XVIII and Charles X, regarding the blue sash and a peerage. They were wrong not to satisfy his wishes; he had rendered the Bourbons good service, through hatred of Bonaparte his fellow-countryman. But if at Ghent he had decided the issue of the throne by urging the rapid departure of Louis XVIII for Paris, he can pride himself on having contributed, by preventing the diplomatic corps from doing its duty during those July days, to the toppling from Charles X’s head of the crown, which he had helped to place on that of Charles’ brother.

I have thought for a long time that the diplomatic corps born in an age subject to another order of society is no longer in tune with the new order: public government, and swift communication means that nowadays cabinets are able to handle affairs directly or with no other intermediary than the consular agents, whose numbers should be increased and whose lot should be improved: since Europe is now industrialised. Titled spies, with exorbitant pretensions, who interfere in everything in order to acquire an importance they lack, only serve to trouble governments to which they are accredited, and nourish their masters’ illusions. Charles X was wrong, for his part, in not inviting the diplomatic corps to attend his Court; but what he saw resembled a dream to him; he stumbled from astonishment to astonishment. It is thus that he failed to order Monsieur le Duc d’Orléans to join him; since, believing only in dangers from the Republican side, the risk of usurpation never entered his head.