CHAPTER IV. TEN YEARS OF THE REIGN OF THE CITIZEN KING.
The coffin, having been landed, was placed upon a catafalque, the cannon gave the signal to begin the march, and the procession started. The public was given to understand that in a sort of funeral casket blazing with gold and purple, on the top of the catafalque, twenty feet from the ground, was enclosed the coffin of the Emperor; but it was not so. The sailors of the "Belle Poule" protested that the catafalque was too frail, and the height too great. They dared not, they said, attempt to get the lead-lined coffin up to the place assigned for it, still less try to get it down again. It was consequently deposited, for fear of accident, on a low platform between the wheels.
First came the gendarmes, or mounted police, with glittering brazen breastplates, waving horse-hair crests, fine horses, and a band of trumpeters; then the mounted Garde Municipale; then Lancers; then the Lieutenant-General commanding the National Guard of Paris, surrounded by his staff, and all officers, of whatever grade, then on leave in the capital. These were followed by infantry, cavalry, sappers and miners, Lancers, and Cuirassiers, staff-officers, etc., with bands and banners. Then came a carriage containing the chaplain who had had charge of the body from the time it left St. Helena, following whom were a crowd of military and naval officers. Next appeared a led charger, son of a stallion ridden by Napoleon, and soon after came a bevy of the marshals of France. Then all the banners of the eighty-six departments, and at last the funeral catafalque.
As it passed under the Arch of Triumph, erected by Napoleon in commemoration of his victories, there were hundreds in the crowd who expected to see the Emperor come to life again.
Strange to say, the universal cry was "Vive l'empereur!" One heard nowhere "Vive le roi!"
The funeral car was hung with purple gauze embroidered with golden bees. As I said, the coffin of the Emperor was suffered to repose upon a gilded buckler supported by four golden caryatides; but it was, as the sailors would have said, "stowed safely in the hold."
The catafalque was hung all over with wreaths, emblems, and banners. It had solid gilded wheels, and was drawn by eight horses covered with green velvet, embroidered with gold bees; each horse was led by a groom in the Bonaparte livery. At the four corners of the car, holding the tassels of the pall, rode two marshals, an admiral, and General Bertrand, who had shared the captivity of the Emperor. Count Montholon was not suffered to leave his imprisonment for the occasion, though he also had been a companion of the Emperor at St. Helena. Around the catafalque marched the five hundred sailors of the "Belle Poule," headed by their captain, the Prince de Joinville, - slender, tall, and dark, a very naval-looking man. He was supposed to be intensely hostile to England, and only to be kept in check by a strong hand. Then came all the Emperor's aides-de-camp who were still living, and all the aged veterans in Paris who had served under him. This was the most touching feature of the procession. Many tears were shed by the spectators, and a thrill ran through the hearts of eight hundred thousand people as the catafalque creaked onward, passing under the arch which celebrated Napoleon's triumphs, and beneath which at other times no carriage was allowed to pass. But enthusiasm rose to the highest point at the sight of the veterans in every kind of faded uniform, - Grenadiers of the Guard, Chasseurs, Dragoons of the Empress, Red Lancers, Mamelukes, Poles, and, above all, the Old Guard. "Vive la Vieille Garde!" shouted the multitude; "Vive les Polonais! Vive l'empereur!"
The funeral was a political blunder. It stirred up the embers of Napoleonism. Ten years later they blazed into a consuming fire.
The procession passed through the Place de la Concorde, beneath the shadow of the obelisk of Luxor, which of old had looked on triumphs and funeral processions in Egypt; then it crossed the Seine. On the bridge were eight colossal statues, representing prudence, strength, justice, war, agriculture, art commerce, and eloquence.
The statues along the Champs Elysees were Victories, each inscribed with the name of some Napoleonic battle. Great haste had been required to get them ready. At the last moment Government had had to order from certain manufactories pairs of wings by the dozen, and bucklers and spears in the same way. All night the artists had been fixing these emblems on their statues. A statue of Marshal Ney, which had been ordered among those of the other marshals, was found to be, not of colossal, but of life size. It had to be hurriedly cut into three parts. The deficiency in the torso was concealed by flags, and the "bravest of the brave" took his place on a par with his comrades.
On the steps of the Chamber of Deputies was a colossal statue of Immortality, designed for the top of the Pantheon, but pressed into service on this occasion, holding forth a gilded crown as if about to place it on the coffin of the Emperor.
At the gate of the Invalides was another genuine statue, Napoleon in his imperial robes was holding forth the cordon of the Legion of Honor. This statue had been executed for the Pillar at Boulogne commemorative of the Army of England. It was surrounded by plaster statues of the departments of France, and was approached through a long line of marshals, statesmen, and the most illustrious of French kings, among them Louis XIV., who would have been much astonished to find himself rendering homage to a soldier of barely gentlemanly birth, born on an island which was not French in his time.
The coffin was borne by sailors into the Chapelle Ardente at the Invalides. "Sire," said Prince de Joinville to his father, "I present to you the body of the Emperor Napoleon."
"I receive it in the name of France," replied the king.