August 1 1815: Madame Bertrand Has Few Opinions

…. On   [August 1 1815]  returning on board after being with Lord Keith, I went into Madame Bertrand’s cabin to see how she was, and found her in bed. I asked her, how she could be so indiscreet as to attempt to destroy herself? “Oh! I am driven to desperation,” she said; “I do not know what I do; I cannot persuade my husband to remain behind, he being determined to accompany the Emperor to St Helena.” She then ran into a great deal of abuse of Napoleon, saying, “If his ends are served, he does not care what becomes of other people. ‘Tis true he has always given Bertrand lucrative and honourable situations, but the expense attending them is such, that it was impossible to save money; and he has never given him a grant of land, or any thing that permanently bettered our fortune.” On another occasion, she came into the cabin which I occupied, when I was writing, and, after exacting a promise of secrecy towards the remainder of the suite, she entreated I would take measures to prevent her husband from accompanying Buonaparte, and begged me to write a letter in her name to Lord Keith, to induce him to interfere. I told her it would appear extremely officious in me to write on such a subject, but that any thing she chose to put on paper I would deliver to his Lordship. She did write, and I carried the letter; but his Lordship declined interfering, desiring me to say, he considered it the duty of every good wife to follow the fortunes of her husband.

In the course of the conversation above-mentioned, she became extremely warm in speaking of Napoleon, saying, “He deserves nothing at our hands; and, indeed, there is not one of his people who would not most gladly quit him.” Whenever she became animated, she could not pour out her feelings in the English language fast enough, (though she spoke it remarkably well, having received her education partly in England,) when she had always recourse to French; and though I frequently reminded her that there was nothing but a piece of canvass between us and the ward-room, where there were generally some of the French officers, I could by no means keep her within bounds. The consequence of which was, that all she said was heard and understood by one of them. When Madame Bertrand had left me, Count Montholon requested to speak with me in private. He carried me up to his cabin on the quarter-deck, where I found Generals Gourgaud and Lallemand, who told me they had been informed of what Madame Bertrand had said to me; and they had requested to see me, for the purpose of contradicting her assertion, that they were desirous of quitting Buonaparte: that, so far from that being the case, there was not one of them that would not follow him with pleasure wherever he might be sent, or that would not lay down his life to serve him: they also required secrecy towards the Countess. I answered, “Why really, gentlemen, this is very extraordinary; you pretend to know all that passed in a private conversation I have had with Madame Bertrand, and then to bind me to secrecy: you may depend upon it, I will enter into no such engagement, until I know by what means you obtained your information.” They then told me that one of them had been in the quarter-gallery, and overheard all she said.

— Captain Maitland of H.M.S. Bellerophon writes about August 1 1815.

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