On June 7 1815, John Cam Hobhouse watches as Napoleon is present at the opening of the new Chamber of Deputies. He writes:
Wednesday June 7th 1815:573 Went at half-past nine and breakfasted with
Bruce, who had a ticket to dispose of. At two went to the palais du corps
legislatif, and after much trouble at the doors, at last got into the gallery or
tribunes of the Chamber of Deputies, which was soon occupied by ladies and
gentlemen, the former in evening dresses. There was a tribune boarded off
for the Princess Hortense and Madame Mère,574 in which came in the
Duchesses of Bassano, Rovigo, and Vicenza. I had a good seat, but at last
with bad grace gave it up to a lady, highly painted, who complained of the
difference of present and former times and the loss of the age of chivalry.
After this a Frenchman modestly asked me to change places with him, and
stand behind the column instead of himself, then pushed and quarrelled – the
Duchess of Dalmatia (Fanny),575 in blond lace, was next to my madame. She
said she had actually seen some Englishwomen who were polite – I believe
her grace is but little received.
The deputies began to arrive, and filled all but the four lower range of
benches. Madame Mère and the Princess Hortense arrived, the former a fine,
regular-featured, genteel-looking woman, very young of her age. The peers
began to make their appearance mostly in uniform, and nearly all in cordons
– the Councillors of State, in fancy dresses, Constant among them, arrived,
and took their places on the last bench on the left but one – at four o’clock
we heard the cannon of the Tuileries, and in about twenty minutes the
cannon near the palace, then the doors of the theatre opposite the throne,
opened, and the deputation of the Chamber of Deputies, which was to
receive the Emperor, walked down the steps. Afterwards followed ministers
of state and marshals. The former took their places on benches on the steps
to the right of the throne, the latter on them to the left
Then came down chamberlains, &c., then the pages, and lastly a man
shouted with a loud voice, “L’Empereur!” and in marched Napoleon in his
fancy dress (bonnet of plumes) and Imperial mantle, surrounded with his marshals in waiting and aide-de-camps – his grand almoner, Cardinal
Cambacères, the Arch-Chancellor Cambacères in his order of bees, &c.
The Emperor walked downstairs, then up the steps to the throne – there
was a good deal of shouting – he turned round – bowed – sat down – Lucien
was at his left in a chair, Joseph on his right – Jérôme’s chair was vacant,576
as were two stools one on each side. The Princesses were in white robes, as
on the Champ de Mai. All the assembly was standing – when the Comte de
Segur, Grand Master of the Ceremonies, communicating with the Emperor,
informed them they might sit down, and all took their seats.
Then the Arch-Chancellor, advancing in front of the throne, informed the
Emperor that the members of the two houses could proceed to take the oath
of acceptance and fidelity. Accordingly the names of the peers were first
called over, beginning with Prince Joseph, who, standing up, turning round
to his Imperial brother, and stretching out his hand towards him, exclaimed
“Je jure!” which was followed by Lucien and all the Peers, so that I saw and
remarked all the men of note – Marshals Lefèvbre, Masséna, and Moncey –
old-looking gentlemen – Lefèvbre Desnouëttes, the runaway, young
Caulaincourt had his baton and boots of office – he is bald – Montesquiou,
grand chamberlain, is a mean-looking man – Carnot, in his brown brutus wig
and white fancy dress, looked mesquin et médiocre – Davout’s bald head
savage. The peers did not look noble, nor numerous.
Ney was standing behind the throne on Napoleon’s left. After the “Je
jure!” of all the lords, came the commons. Their oaths lasted a tedious time.
Napoleon from time to time took pastilles – he is enrheumé, and
appeared to labour in his chest. He is well-made about the legs, with calves
rather large, which is singular for one who has worn boots so much. He
spoke twice to Joseph, and no more. When the oaths were finished,
Napoleon adjusted himself, turned to the left, pulled off his hat, and saluted
the assembly, recovered himself and began his speech from a paper. His
Imperial mantle embarrassed him – he turned it behind his shoulders – his
voice was distinct and clear, but rather feeble towards the end. I was rather
surprised when I heard him mention the taking of the Melpomène. At his
last sentence – “La sainte cause de la patrie triomphera!” – he gave a little
jerk, a half flourish with his left hand, and, then rising instantly, bowed to
the assembly amidst thunders of applause, which accompanied him down
from the throne and up the stairs out of the theatre, much to his satisfaction.
I also was happy to hear as much of “Vive la patrie! Vive la France!” as
“Vive l’Empereur!” A few voices exclaimed “Vive l’armee!”
Have I seen this wonderful man for the last time?
I ran downstairs and saw his state carriage depart amidst cannon and
shoutings, then walked through the Tuileries gate, where I met two
batallions of the Old Guard. The Imperial Guard has nearly all marched –
only the depots remain – the National Guard do duty at the Tuileries.
Bruce and I dined at Very’s. Gaudelle Geary came to us after dinner with
a Marsellois friend of his, and told us that last Sunday the Emperor, as they
passed before him in the Muséum with the Electoral colleges, asked him
how many electors there were for Marseilles and its departments. “Thirteen”.
– “Eh? Comment? How many deputies?” – “Six”. – “L’ésprit est bien
mauvais là – il faut le ranimer!” said Napoleon,579 making sundry contortions
of mouth. “Oui Sire”, said Gaudelle.580
Gaudelle and Bruce ended with quarrelling – I went nowhere in the evening but to the blacksmith.