THE HEIR (1808-1831)
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee!
Yea, from the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there;
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix'd with baser matter. Hamlet, I, v
The place; No. 17 rue Cérutti (note Lafitte), Paris: the time; the night of April 20th-21st, 1808.
THE family, the country, and the continent into which Louis Napoleon was born were dominated by a single will: that of his uncle, the Emperor Napoleon. Nine years ago the Corsican exile had made himself master of Paris. Four years ago he had been crowned Emperor of the French people. In less than ten years, by efficient autocracy and a series of military successes, he had ordered France, Italy, the Netherlands, and western Germany under his rule, and had dictated terms to Prussia, Austria, and Russia. His code of law, his economic system, his garrisons and officials, his ambassadors and spies were in action all over Europe. There was hardly a man, from general to merchant, from bishop to statesman, who must not consider, before he made a decision, what Napoleon would think of it; or, more probably, what he should do in view of some decision that Napoleon had already made. For without any question the Emperor held the initiative: his was the master mind.
Napoleon's seven brothers and sisters called him Sire and Votre Majesté. Joseph was King of Naples, and would soon be King of Spain. Louis was King of Holland, Jérôme King of Westphalia. Elisa and Pauline became Princesses, Caroline a Queen. Only Lucien refused the obedience that could have earned a crown. Napoleon dictated their marriages, their divorces, and the names of their children. They had to come when and where he summoned them, and could not travel without his leave. In return they had wealth, palaces, and flattery; but all just so long as his favour might