Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Queen of Wurtemberg, 'Nee Princess Royal of England - Napoleon at Wurtemberg - George the Third's Insanity

Stuttgard: Oct. 1823.—In the midst of the incessant gossip of the Queen Dowager, the subject of which is almost always herself and her family, some curious grains may be collected from a quantity of useless chaff. There is no topic on which she seems to me to show such good sense as in speaking of Napoleon. I heard her say, ' It was of course very painful to me to receive him with civility, but I had no choice; the least failure on my part might have been a sufficient pretence for depriving my husband and children of this kingdom. It was one of the occasions on which it was absolutely necessary to faire bonne mine a mauvais jeu. To me, he was always perfectly civil.'

I have since heard that he gave her facilities for correspondence with her own family at the time that the state of Europe would otherwise have made it nearly impossible.

The Queen, who is always trying to puff off the conjugal tenderness of her husband, told my mother that he left it to her option whether she would receive Napoleon. She said, ' I could not hesitate ; it was my duty.'

I do not give her any credit for a determination so perfectly natural; few women would, I think, have hesitated under the same circumstances, even if the option given her was not an order given in a more polite form. I do give her much credit for the honest candour with which she now speaks of the fallen conqueror, though perfectly aware that it is very disagreeable to most of the members of her own family, and especially to the King.

The Queen of Bavaria was not as wise, and upon some occasion
when Napoleon was incensed at some slight from her, he said she should remember what she was but for him, la fille d'un miserable petit Margrave (Baden), and imitate the conduct of the Queen of Wurtemberg, la fille du plus grand Roi de la terre.

The Queen said that the great preparations made in the palaces at Stuttgard Louisbourg for the reception of Napoleon, were not with her approbation, and that she said to the king, ' Mon ami, vous devriez faire le pauvre au lieu d'etaler vos richesses, si vous ne voulez pas avoir des fortes contributions a payer.'

It was ridiculous enough to hear her say how, when Napoleon
admired the Lyons embroidery and said, ' I cannot have such at the Tuileries,' she told him it was her work, adding, ' God forgive me, that was a lie.' When he made the same observation on some other instance of magnificence, she told him it was all done by the ' Duc, mon beaupere,' and in relating this, added the same corrective.

She said the manners of Napoleon were extremely brusque, even when he was making the civil. She had seen both Josephine and Marie Louise with him, and seemed to have been less pleased with the manners of the former than most persons who saw her.

Napoleon used to play at whist in the evening, but not for money, playing ill and inattentively. One evening when the Queen Dowager was playing with him against her husband and his daughter (the Queen of Westphalia, the wife of Jerome) the King stopped Napoleon, who was taking up a trick that belonged to them, saying, ' Sire, on ne joue pas ici en conquerant.’

The Queen spoke much of her father, of his recovery from his first illness: mentioned the story one has often heard of his wish to read 'King Lear,' which the doctors refused him, and which he got in spite of them, by asking for Colman's works, in which he knew he should find the play as altered by Colman for the stage. This I had often heard, but the affecting sequel was quite new to me; and fatiguing as the visits to Louisbourg are, I wished I had been there to have heard it from the Queen's own mouth.

When the three elder princesses went in to the King, he told them what he had been reading. He said, ' It is very beautiful, very affecting,. and very awful;' adding,' I am like poor Lear, but thank: God I have no Regan, no Goneril, but three Cordelias.'

The Queen wept in relating this; and my mother says, she felt as if she could have done the same.


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