Thursday, May 25, 2006

Jerome, King of Westphalia

Wynnstay, Sept. 1834.—We were talking of the characters of several members of the Buonaparte family. Mrs. Bowles told us a curious anecdote of Jerome. At the period when he was King of Westphalia, Hyde de Neuville — who, I think, was ostensibly French minister, and certainly French spy over him — represented to Napoleon that, in various instances, he was doing wrong; for instance, that his army was ill-disciplined and ill-managed in every respect. Napoleon promised the minister that his representation should be attended to; and that, by the next messenger, a strong remonstrance should be sent to Jerome.

It so happened that the despatches were delivered to him at the table where Hyde de Neuville was dining with him. Of course he, anticipating their contents, watched their effect on the king, he saw a frown gathering on his countenance but very speedily dispersed, and at the same time marked a tall grenadier, who had brought in the despatches, standing behind the chair of the king, and evidently reading over his shoulder.

Hyde de Neuville could bear silence no longer. He hoped his Majesty had received good news from the Emperor, of his health, &c. &c. ' Excellent!' was the reply, ' and towards me his expressions are peculiarly kind and flattering.'

He then read the letter. Compliments on the state of the army, expressions of high approbation, of every point of conduct upon which he anticipated blame, struck Hyde de Neuville dumb with astonishment. He soon after contrived to have a conversation with the tall grenadier on the subject of the Emperor's letter, cautiously expressing surprise at its gracious tenour. In reply, he owned to the having read the letter (this Neuvelle well knew); and said he never had been so astonished as at the readiness with which, in reading it aloud, the king turned all the strong censure which it contained into approbation.

This story was told some years after by Hyde de Neuville to Lord Palmerston, from whom Mrs. Bowles had it.

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