April 30 1815: More Napoleon Nose Picking

On April 30 1815, John Cam Hobhouse goes to mass at the Imperial Chapel in the Tuileries. Napoleon is also present. Hobhouse again comments on Napoleon’s habit of picking his nose. HISTORY!! 

Hobhouse writes in his diary:

Sunday April 30th 1815: Macnamara having procured tickets from Marshal Bertrand, he and I went at eleven to the Imperial Chapel in the Tuileries,where were a crowd of ladies on benches in the centre, and a press of gentlemen either side, that is, shopkeepers and others. In the gallery above, on a level with the Emperor’s pew, several court ladies appeared in plumes – some decent-looking.

We waited, squeezed together, for an hour and a half. A person next to me complained of the pushing of another – he was in the way. “I know it,” said he. “Can I put monsieur dans ma poche?” At last the grenadiers, some four or five of the Imperial Guard, who were regulating the aisle, gave a sort of signal with their guns – presented arms – and in came Napoleon, and with him his brother the King of Spain, in a broad red ribbon. Napoleon was as usual simple, in green.

He was towards me [most] of the time, and I being opposite below, enjoyed the sight of him during the whole mass. I looked at nothing else – thought of nothing else – the fine music in the gallery opposite occupied me not, the priests and ceremony I thought nothing of – though warned by the clash of the muskets, which, it seems, was the signal for praying, or some part of the mass – the presenting of arms was the reverence to the host.

Napoleon was perpetually swaying about – not still for an instant – he took up the mass book once, opened it, and put it down on its face, then took it up, turned over the leaves without looking, and put it down again. He took snuff often, and continued half-picking, half-playing with his nose. He fixed his eye on myself – I stared him out as before – he was perpetually restless – my bourgeois near me were free of remark on his manner: “Ah what a head he must have!” – “I could not do with two hours and a half sleep!” – “He has got Belgium in his nose – and wants to get at it!” – “What battles that man has seen!”

Another clash of muskets gave the signal of the Emperor’s departure and the end of the mass, which lasted about fifteen minutes. This, perhaps, is the last sight I shall ever have of Napoleon the Great.

I should say that the folks near me laughed at the different comportment of sa majesté – “Très chrétienne!” – and of the Emperor at the mass – “His brother the King of Spain is something like him in the face, but not so handsome!” – the freshness of his look is remarkable, and was remarked by my neighbours. He told Macnamara that he had long to live, and much to do – he told him also that from the Battle of Leipzig he knew the Allies would get to Paris if they followed up their success, and when asked by Macnamara why he did not make peace at Chatillon, said, because he could not; the Allies were never sincere. Bertrand told Macnamara that the King of Naples (against whom, by the way, England has declared war), had not acted in concert with the French court, and that the Emperor was displeased with his conduct, which he considered hasty and inconsiderate.

Leaving the chapel, I looked about me of the gates of and in the Tuileries to see the carriages return from the Emperor’s levée. There was no review – that took place yesterday, and half the garrison of Paris left the town. There I bought a report from the Minister of the Interior, in which he recommends the institution of primary schools after the manner of Bell and Lancaster, whom he cites. It is observable that he calls Napoleon the chief of the French nation, and signs himself simply Carnot – no “count”.

Rumours of the Emperor’s leaving Paris not true, apparently – Colonel Wardle arrived from England. He tells me everything is going on so badly in England that a revolution is expected daily, and determines me not to go to Switzerland yet, but stay here. I dine at Massinots, walk, &c.

(The image above is from Napoleon Bunny-Part, a Warner Bros. animated cartoon of the Looney Tunes series, directed by Friz Freleng.)

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