Napoleon's Satellite Kingdoms

Napoleon's Satellite Kingdoms

Napoleon's Satellite Kingdoms

Napoleon's Satellite Kingdoms

Excerpt

In late September 1812 smoke still rose above Moscow. For days the Grande Armée had done nothing more glorious than fight fires. Unable to make the Russians either negotiate or fight, Napoleon pondered retreat. Awaiting his orders were soldiers made morose and short-tempered by the ominous atmosphere, hunger, cold, and inactivity, cheered only by the thought of saving the loot which burdened their knapsacks, saddlebags, caissons, wagons, and carriages. Ready to march also were the French of the Moscow community--men, women, and children--who knew they would be massacred if the army left without them.

In Spain at the same moment a similar group crowded Valencia, recovering from a retreat. King Joseph Bonaparte had lost Madrid to Wellington. With part of his army he had shepherded hundreds of French and Spanish civilians across the blistering plains of La Mancha. Guerrillas had pursued him all the way, butchering his stragglers. His Spanish guard had deserted, silently, a few at a time. His courtiers and their ladies, fainting in the heat, carping at the soldiers, their sullen faces condemning him, had put his patience to a bitter test. But the king was recovering his spirits. Wellington, he said, had struck before his forces were assembled. He was assembling them. Meanwhile he and his splendid court took in the sights of the city.

In Westphalia, King Jérôme Bonaparte, sent home from the Grande Armée in July for disobedience, was dividing his time among three mistresses--two German and one Polish. His devoted queen, Catherine of Württemberg, sedulously avoided noticing her "Frifi's" adventures, but his people did not. His kingdom was peaceful and he was supplying fresh troops to Napoleon. His people did not hate him, or fail to see that he controlled his government and army well. But his playboy's reputation overshadowed his virtues.

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