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Contemporary account of affairs leading up to the marriage of Napoleon I and Marie-Louise of Austria

(Article by VAN-ESS Willem Lodewyck )

 Bibliographical details

Introduction

Berthier, on behalf of Napoleon, asks for Marie-Louise's hand in marriage
Speech of the French Ambassador Extraordinary
Answer of the Emperor
Speech of the French Ambassador Extraordinary to Her Imperial Highness the Archduchess Maria Louisa
Answer of her imperial Highness the Archduchess Maria Louisa.
Speech of the French Ambassador. Extraordinary to the Empress
Answer of the Empress
Speech of the French Ambassador Extraordinary, to his Imperial Highness the Archduke Charles
Answer of the Archduke Charles
The marriage by proxy
Ceremony observed upon the Empress quitting the Austrian Territory, and being delivered over to the French Commissioners, Braunau, March 18.

  Introduction

 
Willem Lodewyck Van-Ess' The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, vol. VIII, (London: M. Jones, 1813) offers English readers the account of events leading up to the marriage between Napoleon I and Marie-Louise, translated into English. Here he picks up the story with the marriage agreed upon by the two courts (Austria and France), and Berthier in Vienna to make the marriage request and oversee the ceremony.

 


  Berthier, on behalf of Napoleon, asks for Marie-Louise's hand in marriage

 
"Buonaparte's right-hand man, Berthier, Prince of Neufchatel, was appointed Ambassador extraordinary to the Court of Vienna to conduct the. ceremonies, and on the 7th of March, at six in the evenings the French Ambassador proceeded to Court with great ceremony, and was received in the same manner as on a day of audience. Having arrived near his Majesty's throne, he delivered a speech, and demanded in the name of his Majesty, the emperor Napoleon, the hand of her Imperial Highness the Archduchess Maria Louisa.—The Emperor, as chief of his house, having given an answer, and the Grand Chamberlain having been sent to conduct the Archduchess Maria Louisa, her Imperial Highness entered accompanied by the Grand Mistress and Grand Master of her Court, and having approached his Majesty with a profound reverence, she was placed to the left of the Emperor.— The Ambassador then presented to her Imperial Highness the letter and the portrait of the Emperor of the French. Her Imperial Highness having formally consented to the demand made of her, placed the portrait on her bosom. The Ambassador then, conducted by the Commissioner of Audience, and preceded by the whole of his suite, proceeded to an audience of the Empress, and then to the apartment, prepared for the purpose, of his Imperial Highness the Archduke Charles, to whom the Ambassador communicated the desire of the Emperor of the French that his Imperial Highness would represent his person in the solemnity of the marriage.—Having then presented to his Imperial Highness his full powers, he retired to his hotel, accompanied in the same manner as before. At seven in the evening there was a grand assembly and gala at Court, at which the Ambassador and Count Otto were present."

  Speech of the French Ambassador Extraordinary


"Sire, I come in the name of the Emperor, my master, to demand of you the hand of the Archduchess Maria Louisa, your illustrious daughter. The eminent qualities which distinguish that Princess, have assigned her a place upon a great Throne, — She will contribute to the happiness of a great people and of a great man. — The  policy of my Sovereign is in unison with the wishes of his heart.—This union of two powerful families, Sire, will give to two generous nations new assurances of tranquillity and happiness."

  Answer of the Emperor

 
"I regard the demand in marriage of my daughter as a pledge of the sentiments of the Emperor of the French, which I justly appreciate.—My wishes for the happiness of the future marriage cannot be expressed with too much truth; it will be mine-—I shall find in the friendship of the Prince, whom you represent, excellent motives of consolation for the separation of my dear child; our people will see the assured pledge of their mutual welfare.—I grant the hand of my daughter to the Emperor of the French."


  Speech of the French Ambassador Extraordinary to Her Imperial Highness the Archduchess Maria Louisa

 
"Madame, Your august father has fulfilled the wishes of the Emperor, my master.—Political considerations may have influenced the determination of both Sovereigns, but the first consideration is that of your happiness. It is above al! your consent, Madame, that the Emperor, my master, wishes to obtain.—It will be delightful to see united on a great throne to the genius of power those beauties and graces which are so dearly loved.—This day, Madame, will be a happy one for the Emperor, my master, if your imperial Highness orders me to inform him that you participate in the hopes, the wishes, and the sentiments of his heart."


  Answer of her imperial Highness the Archduchess Maria Louisa.

 
"The will of my father has constantly been mine, my happiness will always be involved in his.—It is in these principles that the emperor Napoleon cannot fail to find a pledge of the sentiments which will actuate my conduct towards my husband; happy if I can contribute to his happiness and to that of a great nation. I give, with the permission of my father, my consent to my union with the Emperor Napoleon."


  Speech of the French Ambassador. Extraordinary to the Empress

 
"Madame; The Emperor, my master, has especially charged me to testify to your Imperial Majesty, all those sentiments with which he is penetrated towards you.—He deeply feels the obligation which he owes to you for the good example, and the care which the Archduchess Maria Louisa has received, from you.—He cannot conceive a better model for the union of the Majesty of the Throne with amiability, and the gracious qualities which your Imperial Majesty possesses in so eminent a degree."


  Answer of the Empress

 
"It is in the moment so interesting to my heart, in which the destiny of my dear daughter is fixed for ever, that I am charmed at receiving from your Serene Highness the assurance of the sentiments of the Emperor and King. Habituated on all occasions to conform my wishes, and my opinions to those of the Emperor, my dearly beloved husband, I unite with him in the confidence with which he looks to the results promised by so happy an union, as well as in the most ardent wishes for the future and unalterable happiness of our very dear daughter, which will henceforth only depend, on that of his Majesty the Emperor and King.— Feeling sensibly the opinion, much too favourable, which his Majesty the Emperor and King has conceived of me, I can only attribute it to the excellent natural disposition of my dear daughter, and the mildness of her character. I will answer for her, that her only objects will be to contribute to the happiness of his Majesty the Emperor and King, and to conciliate at the same time the love of the French nation."


  Speech of the French Ambassador Extraordinary, to his Imperial Highness the Archduke Charles

 
"Monseigneur —The Emperor, my master, having obtained from the Emperor, your illustrious Brother, the hand of the Archduchess Maria Louisa, has charged me to express to your Imperial Highness the value which he sets upon it by his wish that you would accept his procuration for the marriage ceremony.—If your Imperial Highness gives your consent, I have the honour to present to you the procuration of my Master."


  Answer of the Archduke Charles


"I accept with pleasure, my Prince, the proposition which his Majesty the Emperor of the French has through you transmitted to me. Equallv flattered by his choice, as penetrated with the delightful presentiment that this alliance will efface every trace of political dissension, repair the evils of war, and produce a future happiness to two nations, who are formed to esteem each other, and who will render each other reciprocal justice.—I shall reckon amongst the most interesting moments of my life, that when in token of a reconciliation as frank as faithful, 1 shall present the hand of the Archduchess Maria Louisa to the Delegate of the Great Monarch whom you represent; and I pray you, my Prince, to publish to all France my ardent wishes that the virtues of the Archduchess may cement for ever the friendship of our Sovereigns, and the happiness of their people."


  The marriage by proxy

 
The Ambassador then presented the Archduke with full powers, after which the Archduke conducted him to the apartment of His Majesty, where all the Imperial Family were assembled, to proceed to a Grand Court Gala. The circle was numerous and brilliant, and the Archduchess, decorated with Napoleon's portrait, attracted every eye. At six o'clock in the evening, the marriage of the Emperor Napoleon, with the Archduchess Maria Louisa, was celebrated in the Church of the Augustins, Vienna. The French Ambassador Extraordinary, proceeded with three of the Court carriages and six, to the Palace where the Arch-Duke Charles was in waiting.. That Prince and the other Archdukes conducted him to the Emperor, with whom was the Empress and the Archduchess. Their Majesties then passed into the grand apartments, where were assembled the Ladies and the Nobles of the Court, and from thence to the church of St, Augustins.—The ceremony was performed with much pomp. Te Deum was sung, and discharges of artillery announced the moment of the nuptial benediction. On returning to the Palace, the Archduchess Maria Louisa, now Empress, was conducted by the Prince of Neufchatel. She was placed under a canopy surrounded by her Ladies and Officers and then received a letter from the Emperor Napoleon, which the Count de Bearn, Chamberlain to his Majesty, had the honour to present to her. —The Prince of Neufchatel then advanced to salute the new Empress, and to be admitted to the honour of kissing: her hand. General Count Lauriston. Count Alexander de Laborde, Secretary of the Embassy and the gentlemen of the embassy, were then presented, whom her majesty kindly received, and admitted to the honour of kissing her hand. Count Otto immediately afterwards presented the Ladies and Officers of the Court. The procession to the Church of St. Augustins was extremely splendid. The covered galleries, through which the procession passed, were very brilliantly illuminated. 'I'he Nobility went first, next the great officers of the Crown, then the Ministers, the French Ambassador Extraordinary, the Archdukes, the Emperor and Empress, the Archduchess Maria Louisa, with the ladies of the palace.—The church was ornamented with the richest, tapestry, and illuminated with great magnificence. The ladies received at Court were placed on seats to the right and left. Benches were placed for the other classes. The Archbishop with several Bishops, and his Clergy, preceded the Emperor. His Majesty placed himself under a canopy on the right of the altar. The Empress, who led the Archduchess Maria Louisa by the hand, giving her the right, conducted her to a pew prepared in front of the altar, and then took her seat under a canopy, to the left of the Emperor. The Archdukes were in a pew to the right of the throne. On the left were the officers of the Emperor and Empress, The Archduke Charles was in a pew to the left of the Empress. On the right of this pew was placed the Prince of Neufchatel, having a chair and a pew similar to those of the archdukes.


  Ceremony observed upon the Empress quitting the Austrian Territory, and being delivered over to the French Commissioners, Braunau, March 18.


"The Empress who had arrived at Ried on the 15th, set out on the 16th at eight in the morning, and arrived about eleven at Altheim, where she stopped to change her dress. An hour afterwards she again set out, followed by the whole procession, and arrived at two at the place destined for her reception.— Near the village of St. Pierre, and at one league beyond Braunau, a building had been constructed, divided into three large saloons, having two entrances, one on the side of Braunau and the other on that of Altheim. It had been carefully furnished and warmed with stoves. The saloon in the middle was ornamented by a canopy, below which was placed upon an elevation, an arm chair of cloth of gold destined for her Majesty. To the left of the canopy and towards the entrance on the side of Braunau, was placed a large table covered with velvet, and destined for the signatures of the Plenipotentiaries. A court had been marked out on both sides to contain the carriages of the double procession. Avenues planted with trees abutted on the two lateral saloons.—At half past one, the Prince of Neufchatel and all the persons forming part of the procession, destined to accompany the Empress, proceeded into the first saloon, the men in full costume and the ladies in court dresses. About two the Empress arrived with all her suite, and alighted in the saloon on the side of Altheim. After resting for a moment, her Majesty was introduced by the Austrian Master of the Ceremonies into the grand saloon, where she placed herself in the chair prepared for her. Around her where ranged the ladies and chamberlains of her suite, the Grand Mistress and the grand Master occupying the first places on the sides of the elevation. The Prince of Trautmansdorff, appointed Commissioner to make the Delivery, placed himself fronting the table, and behind him the Aulic Counsellor Hudelitz, executing the office of Secretary of the Delivery. The bottom and two sides of the hall were occupied by twelve noble Hungarian guards, and as many German guards under arms and in full uniform. As soon as all were thus arranged, the Austrian Master of the Ceremonies, the Baron de Lohr, tapped at the door of the saloon, in which were the Prince of Neufchatel and the French Court, and the French Master of the Ceremonies, the Count de Seyssel, came forth. He then introduced the Prince of Neufchatel, the Commissioner of the Emperor of the French, who entered, followed by the Count de Laborde, executing the office of Secretary of the Delivery. After them came the Duchess of Montebello, Lady of Honour, the Count de Beauharnais, Chevalier of honour, and all the ladies and chevaliers sent to attend the Empress, who ranged themselves at the bottom of the saloon, opposite the Austrian procession. The Prince of Neufchatel then advanced towards her Majesty, and stated in few words the object for which they were assembled in that place. Immediately afterwards the two Commissioners complimented each other and passed to the table where were the Acts of Delivery and Reception. The Coursellor, Hudelitz, read in a loud voice the powers of the Prince of Trautmansdorff and his own. The Count de Laborde also read those of the Prince of Neufchatel and his own. The Secretaries delivered the papers to the two Commissioners, who exchanged them. They passed then to the Act of Delivery, which was read by the Counsellor, Hudelitz, and that of Reception, by M. de Laborde. The two Commissioners and their respective Secretaries signed the two Acts, and having affixed to them the seals of their arms, exchanged them. 'These formalities being finished, the Prince of Trautmansdorff, Commissioner of the emperor of Austria, advanced bowing towards the empress, and requested permission to kiss her hand on taking leave.—Her majesty granted this permission to him, and also to all the Chevaliers and Ladies of her suite who had attended her from Vienna. Each according to their rank approached her Majesty, and kissed her hand with an emotion produced by their bidding a last adieu to a dear Princess. It is difficult to imagine a ceremony more noble or more affecting, Her Majesty could not refrain from tears, at these last marks of respect and attachment from the old servants of her house, and the French who witnessed the scene partook of the general emotion, louring this ceremony the Austrian and French Secretaries took an account of the jewels of the empress, and exchanged an inventory.— The whole procession having resumed their places, the Austrian Commissioner presented his hand to the empress to conduct her to the French Commissioner, who taking her Majesty's hand advanced towards the French Court, and named the different persons composing it. At this moment the door of the first saloon opened, and the Queen of Naples, who had arrived during the ceremony, advanced towards the Empress, who embraced her with tenderness and conversed for some time with her. The Archduke Anthony was then announced, whom the Emperor of Austria had sent to compliment the Queen of Naples, and who was to return immediately with news of the Empress. After the Queen had received and thanked him, the two Princesses got into a carriage, and, followed by the Prince of Neufchatel and their suite, proceeded to Braunau. The sides of the road were lined with troops, and cannon resounded on all sides.

 
     
 
 

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 Bibliographical details

Author :

VAN-ESS Willem Lodewyck

Review:

The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, vol. VIII

Year:

1813

Pages:

419-431

 

 
 

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