While Napoleon was absent in Russia, General Claude-François de Malet (1754-1812) made a vain attempt to overthrow the régime in Paris by persuading the Prefect of the Seine to believe that Napoleon had died in Russia. As the following letter from a conscript to his parents shows, he also managed to convince most of the garrison commanders in Paris, who obediently followed his orders. When he shot a general who asked to see his credentials, he was seized and imprisoned. He was tried that night, along with seventeen other conspirators, and shot the next day. Although the plot never seriously threatened the régime, it had a bad impact on public opinion, demonstrating just how precarious the dynasty was.
Paris, 25 October 1812
M. Pourcelle, Bailiff at Breteuil (Oise)
My dear Papa,
At the moment I am writing to you, I am at my cousin's from whom I asked a bed and supper, our cohort having left Versailles today. We received our marching orders this morning and that prevented me from informing you about them.
On the 23rd of this month at three in the morning we were suddenly awoken and received the order to immediately take up arms, without any exceptions.
In the blink of an eye the cohort had assembled in the courtyard of the barracks with rifles and baggage.
A general in full uniform [that is, Malet], appeared among us and read out a proclamation which in substance said that His Majesty the emperor had died under the walls of Moscow on the 7th of this month; that in order to replace