Friday, December 7, 2012

French Court Calendar January 1813

In the January 1813 Napoleon Bonaparte was fifteen months from his defeat, and his exile to the island of Elba. And he was twenty-nine months from his ultimate defeat by Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. But in January of 1813 he was all-powerful, and he was taking steps to consolidate his position in Europe. In the January 1813 issue of the European Magazine and London Review, there appeared the following column:
There is more--more dukes, more marshals, more barons and counts of the empire. It is a chilling reminder of the pervasive nature of domination. Not only does the conqueror kill soldiers and civilians and thereby alter the fabric of society, but he rules by changing the leaders of that society.

Many of the dukedoms were 'victory titles'; that is, nominal titles without land attached given to victorious army leaders. Many of them died out in the middle of the nineteenth century. The awards that must have hurt nations most were those where the French used  ancient titles such as the Duke of Istria, Duke of Abrantes, and the Duke of Florence--a title associated with the great Medici family.

This practice was used with great effect by Bonaparte in peopling the royal houses of Europe with his own family members. I find the top of the list chilling: King of Spain, Sovereign of Holland, King of Naples, Viceroy of Italy, and on, and on.
Hortense Bonaparte, Holland
Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Napoleon's empress, Josephine, was married to his brother Louis and became Queen Consort of Holland.

Joseph Bonaparte, Spain
Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's older brother, became first King of Naples and then King of Spain. After Napoleon's defeat and his own abdication, he spent many years in the United States, where he sold the jewels of the Spanish crown, which he had stolen.
Elisa Bonaparte, Tuscany
Elisa Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, was made Grand Duchess of Tuscany--inserted into a position some four hundred years old. She was despised by her 'subjects', and suffered much for her brother's cause. She was even imprisoned for several months.

How many of Bonaparte's family were truly overjoyed by their elevation? How many resented being treated as chess pieces in his game of domination in Europe? The wealth and power would have been difficult to reject no doubt, but the sense of manipulation must have eaten at their hearts and minds.

And ultimately, how many of Bonaparte's pawns benefited in the long term? Many retired into obscurity on his defeat. Some died. Some like the royal family of Sweden, descended from Marshal Bernadotte of France, prospered.

The list that the European Magazine published must have helped the English to keep the French usurpers and puppets straight in their minds. It certainly helps us to see the breadth and depth of Napoleon Bonaparte's subjugation of Europe.

'Til next time,


1 comment:

Anne Gallagher said...

As you said, it is chilling to read what Bonaparte did in his attempt to take over the world. Madness, simply madness.

Thanks for another stunning post.

And thank you so much for your insight into my questions about ARe. I appreciate it.