The marriage ceremony, 1810, and the episode of the sixteen cardinals

Author(s) : GIRARDIN Stanislas-Cécile de
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The religious marriage ceremony, 2 April, 1810

“Galleries were erected in the Louvre's salon des tableaux. Without the altar, it was an exceedingly elegant ballroom; considered in this light, it made for a decidedly pleasant sight, although the decoration was not as appealing as it should have been.
Despite suffering greatly from gout, M. de Kourakin, the Russian ambassador, was carried to the diplomatic gallery. However, his pain became so great that he was obliged to retire before the Emperor's arrival.
The Louvre Galerie offered one of the most beautiful spectacles ever seen, yet the ladies matched it for beauty and brilliance. The Emperor appeared radiant. The Empress' cloak was borne by her sisters and sisters-in-law. Marie-Louise wore a crown of the greatest expense [and] a dress covered in diamonds. A certain pallor [about her] seemed to suggest that Napoleon had been just as impatient in Compiègne as Henry IV had been previously with Marie de' Medici.
Cardinal Fesch married them; during the ceremony a most delicious music could be heard. One could not fail to notice the most delicious voice of Madame Duret.

The episode of the sixteen cardinals

Whispered discussion of the sixteen cardinals' who refused to attend the Emperor's marriage could be heard. The next morning (3 April), they arrived at the Tuileries to pay their respects to Their Majesties; the Emperor had them dismissed, obliged the cardinals who had dioceses to resign them, removed their allowance of thirty thousand francs (for which he charged them) and forbad them from appearing in public with the distinguishing marks of their rank.
This scene, when it became public, made it clear to everyone that the Pope had excommunicated the emperor. The cardinals announced that for this reason they were unable to attend the ceremony, for someone who is excommunicated cannot make a religious commitment.
What a spectacle it must have been, to see these sixteen old men sacrifice everything they have rather than go against their conscience! To have them killed would have been to make martyrs of them! And to imprison them would have been to make them an object for public pity. But in politics it is not exactly the same thing. The emperor has begun to regret re-establishing the religion: he feels that he has given rise to a power that seeks to dominate his own. And from this clash between altar and throne, there will be the most dreadful consequences for this country. A sovereign is lost if he allows the scepter to dominate the crown; he can expect nothing less than to find a leash around his neck, like Louis the Debonair, or to languish as the weakest and most unhappy of monarchs, caught between his fear of hell and the discontent of the people.”

(Tr. & ed. H.D.W.)

Publication Title :
Mémoires de S. Girardin
Year of publication :
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