The Second Empire

By Octave Aubry; Arthur Livingston | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
Napoleon III

DURING THE NIGHT OF DECEMBER 1, 1852, SENATORS, COUNCILLORS of state, deputies, escorted by cavalry bearing torches, set out in a procession of carriages to hail the Emperor at Saint-Cloud. Billaut made a speech on the theme, " France places herself in your hands." Louis Napoleon replied with the decorum characteristic of his utterances at this period. He appealed to all parties and factions and voiced oneness of interest with the former dynasties. His one wish was to represent the country, and all the country.

"Help me, gentlemen," he pleaded, in a voice husky with emotion, "help me to set up a stable government which shall rest on piety, probity, justice, love for the suffering masses."

The next day was the triple anniversary of Austerlitz, of Napoleon's coronation and of Louis Napoleon's coup d'état. The Emperor entered Paris in all solemnity. He threaded the Arch at l'Etoile, riding between Saint-Arnaud and Persigny. The troops lining the Carrousel welcomed him with unrestrained huzzahs. After all the restoration of the Empire was in a very special way a triumph for the army too. In spite of successes in Algeria the soldiers were still under the depression of Waterloo. Now like horses whinnying at the sound of the trumpet, they raised their heads joyously towards the gleaming eagle, which, as of yore in the days of the Other One, tipped their new battle-flags.

Returning to the Tuileries the Emperor found a gold-braided crowd fawning in homage about him. Bees and crowned N's had reappeared everywhere, on walls, on upholstery, on rugs and tapestries. Twirling the points of his mustache which was sweeping broader and broader, he walked straight ahead, slowly, his eyes halfclosed, his face brightened with just the suggestion of a smile.

He had taken the name of Napoleon III, the only one appro-

-93-

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