Birth of the Roi de Rome: letter from Napoleon to Francis I, Austrian emperor

Author(s) : NAPOLEON I
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My brother and father-in-law, yesterday, the 19 [March], seven hours after midday, the empress requested that I come down to see her in her chambers. I found her on her chaise-longue, experiencing the first pains [of labour]. She lay down at eight o’clock, and from that moment until six in the morning, she continued to experience relatively intense pain. Because it was kidney pain, however, it did not further advance the delivery in any way. Individuals of the profession believed that the delivery could be as long as twenty-four hours in coming; this led to my dismissing the court and informing the Senate, the Corps Municipal and the Paris chapter, all of whom had assembled, that they could adjourn. This morning, at eight o’clock, the obstetrician [Dubois] entered my chambers in a most agitated state, and informed me that the child was on its side, that the delivery would be a difficult one, and that the child’s life would be in great danger. The empress, extremely weakened by the pains that she had suffered, continued to display to the very end such courage of which she has already shown herself capable. At nine o’clock, my advisers had decided that there was not a moment to lose, and in the most anxious of circumstances but with the greatest of results, the delivery proceeded. The child is perfectly well. The empress is as well as she can be in her state; she has already slept and taken in a little food. This evening, at eight o’clock, the child will be privately baptised. Intent as I am to see him [officially] baptised no sooner than six weeks from now, I have charged Comte Nicolaï, my chamberlain, who will deliver this letter to Your Majesty, to bring to you another letter asking you to be the godfather to your grandson.

Your Majesty will be in no doubt that, with the satisfaction this event brings me, the notion of preserving the ties that bind us is considerably strengthened.

Letter from Napoleon Bonaparte to Francis I dated 20 March, 1811.

This letter forms part of our close-up on: the birth of the Roi de Rome.

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