March 17 1815: Napoleon’s Progress


“Letter from Cockburn,stating he fears all is over in France – General Marchand has been killed by his own troops, who joined Napoleon. Monsieur retreated from Lyons – which is said to have received Napoleon with open arms – to Clermont. Soult leaves the War Department: Clarke takes it. Monsieur can’t depend on his soldiers, nor Masséna, who is said to be firm to the Bourbons. Measures taken for the defence of Paris. Napoleon is said to be 190 miles only from the capital. Grenoble taken with twenty-four pieces of cannon. Embargo on the shipping in the French ports. By the Morning Post of yesterday it seems Murat26 has marched to the north of Italy and, on the 28th, issued a proclamation to the Italians, from himself and Napoleon, “Emperor of the French and King of Italy”, promising the Independence of Italy. All seems to have been done in concert between the two – the inattention to this probability seems miraculous. Napoleon had an agent at Naples when the British had no minister. Murat kept 80,000 men on foot under pretence of marching against the Pope. His proclamation when he joined the Grand Alliance; his duplicity [of] conduct before that period; the manner in which he has been treated since; everything   justified the suspicion that the new King of Naples would join his relation instantly – the unpopularity of the Austrians in Italy was too apparent to be mistaken for a moment at Milan and Verona. 20,000 are stated to have been massacred, and Bellegarde to have fled. Switzerland too – Switzerland is in arms against the deliverers of Europe. 18,000 soldiers are ready to co-operate with Napoleon in the Pays de Vaud – now shall we see the true merits of Lord Castlereagh. From Baillie I had a letter on last Tuesday, dated Vienna – he says, “Lord Castlereagh, having divided Saxony, given Poland to Russia and Italy to Austria, is returned home to receive the thanks of a grateful parliament”. He tells me that the Emperor Alexander and a Countess Wübra,29 or some such name, have had a dressing match. They met and by signal left a common room – the Countess returned fresh-dressed in one minute and twenty-five seconds – the Emperor in one minute and fifty seconds. General Czernichef and Sophie Zichy had another match. Sir Sidney Smith31 has had a fête at the Angarten, and proposed an expedition against Algiers – in which all the potentates concurred, and which ended in the subscription of a few ducats and the waggeries of the Vienna wits, who said Sir Sidney meant to preserve another lamp for the Holy Sepulchre – whilst these mummeries are performing, Napoleon puts his foot on the French shores and exclaims “Le Congrès est dissous!” I have sent Parsons to London for news.

It seems to me that I have spent last year £732, a fearful sum considering I have been living five months at the expence of others. I have two horses, which may bring in ninety or a hundred pounds.”

— John Cam Hobhouse, writes in his diary for March 17 1815.

note: The Byron quotes of today probably are not from March 17 1815 but rather March 27, 1815. They are from a letter to Thomas Moore, who dates the letter as March 17, 1815. Other sources have the date as March 27 1815. On reflection, the latter seems more appropriate as Byron appears to be marvelling at Napoleon’s complete success in assuming control of France, which only happened after he entered Paris on March 20 1815.


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