Did Napoleon Bonaparte ever visit Mexico
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Second chapter. Joseph and Julie
Defamers have accused Napoleon of inhumanity against his brothers and of criminal relationships with his sisters. The one as the other is unfounded. The last allegation is nothing but scandalous slander, the source of which can be found in the diatribes of the Englishman Goldsmith and in the memoirs of Rémusat. Goldsmith wrote with the sole purpose of defiling the Emperor of the French, and Mrs von Rémusat does not have valid evidence to support her claims. Other pamphlets during the Restoration helped to condense these rumors.
Napoleon was at times strict and implacable towards his siblings, but they had to put it down to themselves. Not only was there the greatest disagreement among them, but each wanted to do as he pleased. All considered themselves born kings who did not need a teacher. Everyone believed they had become something through themselves, through their own genius. None of Napoleon's siblings, with the possible exception of Pauline, later thanked their brother for the benefits he had allowed them to enjoy. Sometimes these benefits were mixed with a downer, but Napoleon was only able to achieve the greatness that he had achieved through energetic means. However, before he was forced to sacrifice certain family considerations to state policy, he always showed himself to be a caring, helpful brother. The well-being of the family has always been most important to him. Later he had more trouble "to rule his family than his whole empire."
Incidentally, especially towards his brothers, Napoleon sometimes showed a weakness, an indulgence, which hardly seems comprehensible. It can only be justified by his strong Corsican sense of family. When, as a result of his position and reputation, he became the head of the family, he wanted to raise his brothers also to the height on which he himself stood. He gave them offices, titles and influence. His genius carried him to the highest peak of fame and power. There he smashed old thrones built on the traditions of the sexes and installed his brothers as rulers. They didn't deserve it by their skills or by their deeds. A man like Napoleon knew that. He realized how incapable of ruling all his brothers were. But they were his brothers! As such, he held them on an equal footing with himself. As such, they were not to be obscured in any less brilliant office! However, he did not think that he should have to find retirement for them. On the contrary, he wanted them to do something, if only in front of the world. Hence its severity, which often bordered on tyranny. His vast experience in all political, diplomatic, and military affairs, his astuteness and genius should have served as a guide; but his advice was almost never or badly followed.
All of Napoleon's siblings, without exception, made sure that he had to complain about them. He was only able to influence them and maintain his power by force. How much good he did them anyway! How did he take care of her without pursuing a selfish purpose! After all, you cannot accuse a young lieutenant who raises one of his brothers with his pay for selfishness! Nor can one call the brother heartless who, in his youthful letters, stands up for Joseph and Lucien with such great care and affection. And later, Napoleon's life with his family is brilliant proof that he ceaselessly endeavored to maintain unity and contentment among his people. But he continually met with resistance, envy, greed and self-arrogance. And the higher he raised his siblings, the more demanding, the more hateful, divided and ungrateful they became, the more they exposed him. Many of Napoleon's contemporaries, such as Miot de Mélito, Girardin, Caulaincourt, Rapp, Bourrienne, Stendhal, Roederer, the Avrillon and others, agree that it would have been better for the emperor not to have had a family.
For the family members themselves, his tremendous genius, to which alone they owed their splendor and advancement, seemed a burden and an obstacle. And verily, their "I" had to disappear at the side of such a superman, who tore everything to himself, who only accepted his strength, his might and his greatness! But would they have become something if it had not been for Napoleon? Perhaps only Lucien would have stood out from this family circle; the others would all have sunk into mediocrity.
Napoleon was always viewed by his siblings as a means to an end. If this was reached, then their wings grew. None of them have ever been satisfied with their lot. Joseph complains that he has to be king. But he would also have complained if Napoleon had ignored him. Louis pretends to be a martyr because Napoleon does not approve of his way of government. Lucien complains that he does not play a royal role, but at every opportunity he pulls out the republican and does not at all want to submit to the wishes of his mighty brother. Jérôme complains about insufficient appanage; but had it been ten times larger, it would never have satisfied his extravagance. Elisha is too limited in her duchy; she considers herself to be on par with her brother Genie and capable of ruling a great empire. For Caroline, the Kingdom of Naples was too small. Pauline at last was indignant that Napoleon was making presentations to her because of her pleasure-addicted and eccentric way of life.
But all these Bonaparte had extraordinary ambition, great self-confidence, or rather, great imagination. Nothing astonished them, nothing impressed them. All considered themselves entitled to hold the highest offices and dignities. When one step on the ladder of fame was reached, they were already striving for the next. But nobody wanted to acknowledge that he owed his power and prestige only to Napoleon! Neither Joseph, Louis, nor Lucien remember once in their memories of the brother's favor, which raised them to the greatness that they achieved. On the contrary: Napoleon is far lower in their eyes than they, who can do everything and combine all abilities. He is neither a good speaker nor a good writer nor a philosopher; he's just a good soldier! In their opinion that is precious little.
Napoleon, on the other hand, raises his brothers above their merits; he shows them forbearance and patience. Neither to his brothers-in-law nor to Eugen Beauharnais nor to his marshals was he as blind as he was to his brothers. All others had to acquire their positions through skills, deeds, and merit; his brothers received it without their having done anything! All they could do was toss their extraordinary self-confidence. But that served them admirably. It easily overcame all the difficulties of their positions. She could be found in all situations with snake-like suppleness. In their needs, in their conviction that everything that flowed to them was due to them by nature and by right, they were true princes!
Marmont's description of Joseph's character was an excellent match for the type of Napoleon's brothers. “I found in him,” writes the Marshal, “always the same feelings, the same amiability. But one has no idea to what extent he drove his carelessness, the slackness of his morals. Sensuality dominated him completely. He completely and utterly forgot his parentage and did not feel the slightest need to justify the favor with which Fortuna bestowed him. He seemed to have been born on the throne and was preoccupied with enjoying the joys of such a position. He might have been mistaken for the weak offspring of a worn-out dynasty. He, who a few years ago regarded the offer of royal office as a humiliation, had made progress!
Joseph, who was not a stupid man, gave himself up to such a delusion that he considered himself a very important general. He who had neither inclination nor understanding for the soldier's profession! He who did not even have the most elementary knowledge, who did not understand the simplest applications of the art of war! He often spoke of his military abilities and dared to claim that the emperor only withdrew his command in Spain because he was jealous of him! Such assertions escaped him more than once ... Joseph often complained about his brother, criticized his policy, his contradiction, as well as the indecency that Napoleon allowed to rule in the Spanish armies. Joseph was right about that. But it was too funny to hear him, who could only sleep peacefully in the shadow of the French flag, say: "In the army, even without my brother, I will be King of Spain, and the whole empire will recognize me as such!" So were they all, Napoleon's brothers! Let us begin with this very brother who was called to play a role in the history of the French Empire.
Joseph was born on January 7, 1768 in Corte, Corsica, so he was only a year and a half older than his brother Napoleon. For a long time he was the younger man's only playmate, the big brother, the superior one, who didn’t reciprocate the little man’s tricks and tricks. Napoleon could entrust him with all his childish secrets and pranks if he did not prefer to carry them out with him. With the other siblings, on the other hand, the boy Napoleon already took the place of the father.
Joseph also shared his first lessons in France with Napoleon. Carlo Bonaparte had bought a vacancy for both of them in the school in Autun and personally introduced the sons there in the first days of January 1779.
However, one could think of no greater contrast than the characters of these two brothers. As domineering and violent as the young Napoleon was, Joseph was gentle and amiable. It was in his good-natured nature to protect those of his comrades who were attacked and reviled. If someone teased him about his Corsican origin, he accepted it with equanimity. Napoleon, on the other hand, became angry and angry at the slightest allusion. The elder's gentle nature acted like a lightning rod on the passionate, irrepressible temperament of the younger.
Joseph continued his studies in Autun until 1784, while Napoleon stayed there for only three months before moving to Brienne. The intention was to prepare the eldest son for a spiritual career. His gentle, somewhat shy character seemed best suited to this profession. He was by no means a mediocre student either. Rather, he was extremely easy to grasp and was particularly interested in languages and literature. Although he did not understand a word of French when he entered school, he learned the language and the basics of Latin so quickly that he became one of the first students in the class and received an award. Only he should have been a little more diligent. Working and studying did not seem to give him much pleasure.
When he was fifteen years old, he was supposed to be transferred from Unterprima to the Aix seminary, but suddenly he had completely different plans for the future. To the great astonishment and, of course, also to the great sadness of the family, the gentle, quiet youth showed very warlike intentions. Suddenly one saw the beautiful career of the elder, which the Bishop of Autun had promised to smooth out so smoothly, sink into nothingness! So Joseph wanted to be a soldier like his brother Napoleon. The boy, who was otherwise so devoted to everything, developed a very unusual willpower, a completely incomprehensible ambition and egoism. He declared that he wanted to become an artillery officer or an officer of genius because those two regiments had to work the most. All objections of the father and the uncle Archdeacon Luciano as well as the young Napoleon did not help. Joseph stuck to his decision. The father managed only one thing: that the son should return to Corsica with him in 1784, when Carlo had visited his second son in Brienne. Joseph was to spend his vacation in Ajaccio and only later entered the military school in Metz. He therefore accepted it as a particularly favorable stroke of fate when he was allowed to travel to France again with his father at the end of the same year.
Carlo Bonaparte was not to see his home island again. The long-standing stomach sickness, which he intended to have the personal physician of Queen Marie Antoinette, Doctor de la Sonde, cured in Paris in France, wiped him out prematurely. And so Joseph knelt on February 24, 1785 in Montpellier in front of his father's deathbed. Carlo blessed the son and, as the elder, urged him to care for his mother and young siblings. Joseph also had to promise his father that he would give up the military profession and become a lawyer. So the seventeen year old was already confronted with the seriousness of life; his military plans for the future were destroyed for this time!
After a short stay with the Permons, the parents of the later wife Junot, Duchess of Abrantes, as well as with other friends and acquaintances in Montpellier and Aix, Joseph returned to Ajaccio to fulfill his father's last wish, as far as he was young fulfill. Many years later, in 1826, he wrote to his uncle Fesch: "We supported our good mother in word and deed during the first days of her widowhood." That was how he was until the moment when Napoleon's luck and genius changed everything the head of the family, at least in form.
Although Joseph had only attended school for five years, he had acquired some knowledge. He spoke and wrote French just as correctly as he later did Italian, and being naturally intelligent, he showed a particular fondness for literature and science. His mind wasn't exactly sparkling, but what he said was sensible and wise. He pondered every sentence he uttered, striving to always write a pure style. His jokes and jokes were clumsy at times, but he knew how to use them skillfully and at the right moment. Joseph also tried his hand at writing, making anacreontic verse.
One more attempt was made to get the talented young man on the path of the spiritual profession. Marbeuf, the friend and patron of the Bonaparte family, and also his brother, Bishop Marbeuf, promised him their help to get him up quickly. But Joseph showed no inclination to become a priest. He was now mainly familiar with the language and literature of his homeland. He also stood by the widowed mother's side and took care of the administration of his father's property, on which agriculture had been neglected. He and his aunt Gertruda Paravicini undertook long rides every day after the remote leases. And so Joseph soon made many friends at home by striving to ease his mother's worries as much as possible. Above all, he closely followed the young legal scholar Pozzo di Borgo, who later became Napoleon's mortal enemy. He did not think in the slightest of putting on the king's coat.
At that time, Joseph and his brother Napoleon were in lively correspondence, which was not without influence on the rapprochement between these two fundamentally different characters. Joseph at least owed some of the influences of Napoleon to these youthful years. Back then, they were not only brothers but friends too. Only in later years this friendship bond loosened on the part of the elder. Napoleon, however, always retained the same feelings for his brother. How he was especially attached to him in those youthful days emerges from the letter he wrote to him a few years later when Joseph went to Genoa. It says: "You know, my friend, that you cannot have a better friend, to whom you are dearer and who sincerely wishes your luck, than me ... If you go away and think it will be for a long time, then send me your picture. We have lived in close communion with one another for so many years that our hearts have become one. You know better than anyone that mine is entirely yours. As I write these lines I am moved in a way that I have never been in my life. I feel that we will not see each other again anytime soon ... I can't go on ...! 'And as soon as Napoleon was able to be of use to his brother, he did it.
Joseph had finally decided to pursue a legal career after all. On the advice of old uncle Luciano, he went to Pisa to study law and, as he himself writes, to study Italian.As a Corsican patriot, he made many acquaintances there with people who, like himself, were inflamed for the liberation of his compatriots from the French yoke. Clemente Paoli, Savelli, Saliceti, Pietri and other young patriots formed Joseph's circle of friends. The young student also followed the lectures of the famous Lampredi on popular rule with great enthusiasm, which fueled his republicanism to ever greater enthusiasm. This is how the pamphlet "Letters Pasquale Paoli to His Compatriots", glowing with a true love of freedom, came about in Pisa and was written by Joseph. He dedicated this little work to Giubega, the secretary general of the Corsican estates, a friend of his father's. The first letter dealt with the conditions in Corsica and the disadvantages caused by the location of the island. The second pointed to the means by which Corsica's rebirth could be achieved.
Not long afterwards, in 1788, Joseph received his doctorate "in utroque jure" in canonical and civil law. This title and his native script were enough to get him a job in his home country soon. He became a lawyer at the Higher Court in Bastia. His brilliant defense - incidentally the only one he ever held - of a man accused of murder who had acted out of self-defense, brought the young legal scholar at one stroke a reputation and dignity. He was then offered various honorary positions. He was elected to the local council, made president of the district of Ajaccio and in 1791 sent with a delegation to Lyons to call Paoli back to Ajaccio. But Paoli first went to Bastia after warmly greeting Joseph, the son of his old friend Carlo Bonaparte. A few days earlier he had even sent him his picture, which Joseph's father had once drawn on a playing card in 1766, as a gift, as proof of how much he valued him. Joseph was greatly flattered to be so honored by the celebrated hero and returned to Corsica with a sublime sense of pride.
In Ajaccio he found his brother Napoleon, who was spending his vacation at home. With him and the young Lucien Joseph went on long and long walks in the evening to the salt pans in the area. There was a lot of talk and a lot of arguments on these hikes. Politics, of course, was the main topic of conversation among the young fireheads. Napoleon particularly valued the political views of his older brother and continually pushed him to play a leading role. “Don't let yourself be amazed,” he wrote him one day, “you have to be at the next Legislative Assembly or you are just a drunk ... Insist on being a member of parliament or you will always be a silly role in Corsica Another time, however, he advised him to make himself very popular, especially with his compatriots, and to keep Paoli's favor.
What plans for the future Joseph himself forged and what views he harbored about the political events of the time is clear from a letter he wrote from Ajaccio to his friend, the merchant James in France. Among other things, it said: "It is easy for me to look at things with the cold-bloodedness of the philosopher." (He was referring to the French Revolution.) "I am separated from the scene of events by the sea; we ourselves have experienced breakdowns here that cannot be compared with yours ...
You speak to me so openly about the situation of your family that I also no longer need to remain silent ... Since we were in Corsica, we have connected with the first families on the island, like the Ornano, the Colonna, etc. Since our submission to French rule, my father was a member of the Corsican nobility. That was the highlight of the state of humiliation Corsica found itself in. But in spite of all this incense, I must confess to you that I am an ardent supporter of the revolution and the change of things. We are very many children. You know three of them, and one is in Paris (Elisa). My brother, the officer, takes another brother (Louis) with him, who is also supposed to be an artilleryman. As for my fortune, there are no riches in Corsica right now. The richest citizens barely have a pension of CHF 20,000 a year. However, since everything is relative, my wealth is one of the most important in the city ... You know how old I am; I am younger than you (22 years). Still, I was a voter in the last Orezza meeting. I could have become a member of the department administration; I left that to my friends and contented myself with the district administration in which I was appointed president ... I will be able to tell you within a short time whether I am running for the seat of parliament in the National Assembly ... «
During the revolution, however, the Bonapartes did not lack zeal and activity for the national cause. As president of the district, Joseph had no less influence over the residents of Ajaccio than his uncle Fesch as clergyman and Napoleon as commander of the National Guard.
The year 1792 brought new honors to Joseph. With Mario Peraldi, Philippo Ponte, Tartaroli, Colonna and Rossi, he became Ajaccio's deputy in the Paolis Consult in Orezza, which opened on September 9th. Napoleon and Fesch accompanied him. In Pontenuovo they were lucky enough to meet Paoli himself and now continued their journey at the side of the hero they admired.
As a deputy, Joseph conjured up the French constitution of 1791 in Orezza and spoke three times. But the return of the brothers to Ajaccio was necessary. The presence of Napoleon was particularly necessary, because unrest had broken out in Ajaccio. More than ever he was now working to increase Joseph's influence. To his great regret, however, his brother was not, as he had hoped, elected as a member of the National Assembly; yes, it wasn't even voted on. The Corsicans chose the priest Multedo, a friend of Joseph. Soon afterwards, however, Joseph and several of his compatriots became a member of the board of directors of Corte and a little later a judge of Ajaccio. Napoleon reconciled this to some extent with his brother's misfortune. Now Joseph at least had an influential position at home. And Napoleon did not fail to provide him with good advice from Ajaccio. Joseph was very proud of all of these awards. As a true Corsican, he was very much into the idea of not only being the head of a large family, but also of having a say in the political affairs of the country, of being one of the "authority"!
Paoli's connection with the English, however, distanced the Bonaparte brothers more and more from the national cause for which they had been so passionate. The zealous patriot Joseph, the author of that patriotic pamphlet, also sided with the French. Soon the flame of bitter hostility burned brightly between him and the Paolists. Even his trusted friend Pozzo di Borgo turned away from him. As a substitute, Joseph established a close friendship with the French representative Saliceti and secretly went to see him in Bastia. In the meantime he maintained an eager correspondence with Napoleon and informed him of everything that was going on. But Joseph's French revolutionary ideas only touched the intellectual in him, so to speak. In the heart of his heart he remained a Corsican, although he was firmly convinced that the theories he was advancing at the time were those of a sincere republican devoted to France. His Corsican patriotism, however, was less enthusiastic than that of his brother Napoleon. Joseph was in and of itself a calm, almost phlegmatic character who did not seek out events, but let them approach him.
Persecuted by the angry patriots who wanted to take revenge on the apostates, Joseph was forced in the spring of 1793 to go to Ajaccio with the representatives of the people on French ships in order to rush to the aid of the family in great danger with Napoleon. Lucien had already reached Marseille happily. Finally, under various dangers, the two brothers succeeded in bringing Letizia and the younger siblings to France. Thereupon Joseph hurried to Paris with his compatriot and friend Meuron and on July 9 presented a memorandum to the executive council, which in general resembled Napoleon's memoir of June 1.
The French government received Joseph Bonaparte most cordially and promised to obey his urgent request to bring Corsica back under French rule. As a true Bonaparte, he naturally did not forget the interests of the family as well as politics. In its zealous efforts, the convent voted to support 600,000 francs for the immigrant Corsican families, among which the Bonaparte were the first.
In the meantime Joseph's friend Saliceti had also returned to France and had completely undermined the influence of the Paolists in Paris. Paoli was declared a traitor and "outlawed", and Saliceti was commissioned to rush to the aid of the Corsican seaside towns with 4,000 men. He took Joseph with him.
Meanwhile, the events in Toulon became more and more serious. Any plan regarding Corsica had to be given up for the time being. Joseph and Saliceti reached Toulon in a roundabout way and not without danger, because Lyon was in a state of revolt. There Joseph took part in the siege as battalion chief and member of the general staff of Carteaux, at least as an eyewitness, and was slightly wounded during the attack on Cap Brun. Since he performed adjutant services at Carteaux, he was often compelled to go to see the representatives of the people in Marseilles, where his mother and siblings were staying. His appointment as war commissioner, first class, on September 4, 1793, was due solely to the representatives of the people Escudier, Albitte, Gasparin and Saliceti. It finally put him in a position to support his family, whose upkeep had until then been almost entirely up to Napoleon. Joseph was assigned to the money orderer Chauvet and received an annual salary of 6000 francs, in addition he received free accommodation, board and an office allowance. At that time he was far better off than his brother Napoleon.
He was to be even happier in Marseille. There he made the acquaintance of a respected family of merchants, whose head, Francois Clary, had made a considerable fortune as a silk merchant. How the relations of the poor Bonaparte to the rich Clary were established has been explained in the most varied of ways. Some claim that Napoleon was billeted with the Clary when the Convention soldiers entered Marseilles. However, that is unlikely. Others say that Marianna and Paoletta were both educators (!) In the Clary family. But that is even more unlikely. Not only were the young women very unsuitable for such a position, but at that time they were in Antibes with their mother. In addition, Pauline, who was 14 years old at the time, would have been a very young educator. She still had to be educated herself. Rather, chance will have played a role, which the Clary did not allow to pass unused in order to win Joseph and Napoleon Bonaparte, who nevertheless held influential posts, as protectors in those turbulent revolutionary times. A lot of people had just been executed in Marseilles who belonged to the wealthy merchant class, some of whom belonged to the Clary family. In addition, Mrs. Clary's brother, an officer of genius, had emigrated because of his involvement in the federal uprising. One son of the family was the Neapolitan consul in Marseilles and, because of the behavior of the Neapolitans in Toulon, was also a suspect of the French government; no less were the daughters because of their marriages to noble men. Reason enough that the Clary became especially friends with the war commissioner Joseph Bonaparte. He was also the intimate of the almighty Saliceti, the brother of General Bonaparte, the friend of the younger Robespierre! A member of the Clary family, Etienne Clary, arrested on the orders of the Revolutionary Court, had his freedom only thanks to the intervention of Joseph.
The price for all of these favors was the older daughter Julie. She was 23 years old and was neither beautiful nor attractive. The small, undeveloped figure, the much too short face with the leathery, unhealthy skin gave her the appearance of a sickly person. In addition, she had a very misshapen nose and large, round eyes that stood out unusually. Outwardly, then, Julie was not an attractive creature. But if you got to know her better, one discovered in her many good qualities that made her lovable. She was gentle, charitable, and pious, and could be very lively and witty when she wanted to.
The twenty-six year old Joseph was quite the opposite in appearance. He was tall, slender, and well-built, had a regular, elegant face, and was far more beautiful than his brother Napoleon. Of course, Joseph's outward appearance did not have the characteristics of genius and drive, but he looked very much like his brother, especially in later years.
Joseph's patriarchal origins and upbringing prevented anyone from noticing anything of Sansculottism in him, even though he was an avid republican and, after the example of his brother Lucien, had taken on the Roman surname "Scaevola". He always looked like an aristocrat. And this was one of the reasons why Mrs. Clary - her father had died January 20, 1794 - gave her consent to her daughter's association with Joseph Bonaparte. The wedding took place on the 14th Thermidor of the year II (August 1, 1794) near Marseille, in Cuge, where the Clary had a country residence. The "Almanach Impérial de 1806 à 1808" incorrectly states September 24, 1794 as the date of Joseph's marriage. One of the groomsmen of the future King of Spain signed the certificate as: Joseph Roux, wig maker! A few days later, on August 16, this union was secretly blessed by the Church, and the Abbé Reimonet also performed the act in a country house near Marseille, in Saint-Jean-du-Désert. Joseph was never opposed to religion and was therefore not reluctant to grant his bride's wish. But he dared a lot with this act. Had it come public, not only would he have lost his position and influence, but he would have had to pay for his indulgence with his life.
By and large, the marriage was a stroke of luck for Joseph. Julie Clary brought him a dowry of about 150,000 francs in the marriage, a fortune that was enormous by Corsican standards. In addition, through this connection he came into contact with the richest and most distinguished families of the Marseilles money aristocracy and suddenly belonged to their caste. Napoleon remarked: "This fellow from Joseph is a lucky guy!" Letizia especially welcomed her son's marriage to the gentle, rich Julie with joy. She would have liked to see her Napoleon marry her younger sister Désirée, who was just as pretty as Julie ugly. However, a different crown should be destined for her.
Meanwhile, Toulon had been taken. Joseph's long-awaited expedition to Corsica was preparing slowly. On 11 Ventôse (March 2, 1795), Joseph, who in the meantime had become close friends with Commissioner Miot de Mélito, who had been sent to Corsica by the Directory, went under sail with Rear Admiral Martin. However, this time the plan failed due to the inexperience and the low discipline of the crew of the squadron.
Joseph therefore went to Genoa with his wife and sister-in-law Désirée. From there he intended to settle family affairs and to save the few belongings that the Bonaparte had left in Corsica. He also wanted to stir up the uprising at home in favor of France, because he certainly hoped to bring the island under French control. "I was convinced," he said on this occasion, "that as soon as the tricolor saw it, Corsica would enter the bosom of the republic!"
At that time an interesting exchange of letters took place again between the brothers Napoleon and Joseph. Joseph's advancement was undeniably important to Napoleon. Whenever he could, he stood by his side with his advice; he was also concerned with the advantageous investment of the married fortune. On May 25, 1795, he wrote to Semur's brother: “Yesterday I went to the Ragny estate, which belongs to Herr von Montigny. If you were a good businessman, you would buy this property with eight million assignats. The assignats were so low at this time that they were only 1 percent of their face value. You could invest 60,000 francs from your wife's dowry on them. This is what I wish and I advise you ... You cannot find France in foreign countries.Climbing up from step to step is a little like the adventurer and the man who seeks to make his fortune. 'Napoleon spoke from experience. He himself had no job and a few weeks later asked the government to go to Turkey to organize the sultan's artillery. But soon things should turn in his favor! Soon he should regain prestige and influence! But then he did everything to ease Joseph's steps in Genoa. Letters of recommendation, passports, everything his brother asked for and what could be of use to him, Napoleon got him. Joseph would have liked to have accepted a post as consul for life. Napoleon was immediately ready to promise him one; maybe even in one of the port cities of Italy. When he decided to go to Turkey in September, he wanted to take Joseph with him as consul to the island of Chio. But the brother didn't want to know anything about an island. He was hoping for something better in Italy.
And right, something better was soon found! Napoleon had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Army in Italy on March 2, 1796, and joined the Army on the 11th. When Joseph learned in Genoa that his brother had arrived in Italy, he hurried to the headquarters in Albenga in April and accompanied the general on his first triumphs. He shouldn't regret joining the brother. The influential general used his growing reputation to give Joseph his share of it. He was extremely happy to see his favorite brother with him, who had only recently become a father. However, Joseph's first child died a few days after birth. Napoleon himself was still completely under the spell of his young marital happiness! "My brother is here," he wrote in delight of Josephine. "He was delighted to learn of my marriage and is eager to get to know you ... His wife has had a daughter."
Joseph was, of course, far from delighted with his new sister-in-law. Not only that he had learned a lot of negative things about Josephine de Beauharnais, but he must also have seen in Napoleon a husband for Désirée Clary. But he made a good face for the bad game, for he knew only too well that it was only his advantage if he remained on good terms with his brother. And he was right. Not long afterwards, on April 25, 1796, Joseph received a great award in Paris. He had been sent there with Napoleon's adjutant Junot to present to the Directory the trophies taken from the enemy and a report on the last victories. In the capital, they were received with indescribable jubilation and great honors by both the people and the members of the board of directors. During a dinner at Carnot's, which Joseph was attending, the director tore open his waistcoat and showed the twenty guests the picture of General Bonaparte which he wore on his heart. “Tell your brother,” he turned to Joseph, “that he is in my heart. I see in him the savior of France; let him know that he has only admirers and friends on the Directory. ”The armistice was approved, and Joseph was the subject of general accolades.
Meanwhile, in spite of all the victories and honors in Italy, General Bonaparte faced the most terrible torments of jealousy. Josephine was unfaithful to him and preferred to stay in Paris instead of rushing to her husband and sweetening the toil of the campaign. And then it was Joseph again, to whom Napoleon took refuge, from whom he sought consolation and certainty about the terrible doubts. He made him the protector of his wife. "I am in despair," he wrote to him from Tortona on June 15th; ... »I don't know where my head is anymore. Terrible premonitions worry my heart. I swear you to devote your care to all of her. Next to my Josephine, you're the only one who still arouses any interest in me. Calm down, speak frankly to me ... If Josephine is well and can go on the trip, I dearly wish that she would come; I have to see her, press her to my heart. I love them to the point of madness and I can't live without them. ”A few days later, on June 24th, the two messengers of peace, accompanied by those who were eagerly awaited, set out for Italy. And while Josephine shortened her trip with the amusing adjutant Hippolyte Charles to replace the fact that she had to leave beautiful Paris, and the cheeky Junot gave the general's pretty chambermaid a cure, Joseph passed the time writing his novella » Moïna, ou la Villageoise du Mont Cenis «. On the 21st Messidor (July 9th) they arrived in Milan at the headquarters of General Bonaparte.
Thanks to the influence of Napoleon, who had not given up his intentions in Corsica, Joseph was sent two months later, in October, from Modena with troops to the island to wrest it from the English violence. In Bastia and also in Ajaccio, his compatriots greeted him with joy and granted him special honors. The three-colored flag was already waving everywhere. Paoli was forced to seek refuge with the English for the second time. Corsica was now French for good!
Joseph stayed at home for three months. He had the badly damaged parental home repaired and took care of the other family affairs. As a real Bonaparte, he put all his relatives, all his friends, in short the whole clan, into the offices of the new administration in Corsica. He later made himself a member of the Council of Five Hundred. The election took place with a majority of 103 votes against 1 vote. He then returned to his brother's headquarters, where he had just arrived in Leoben on April 17, 1796, while the preliminary peace was being concluded. Then he went to Mombello. There he found the whole family gathered around the victor, who held court like a ruler.
Napoleon had already proposed him to the Directory in October 1796 as Minister Plenipotentiary at the Court of Parma, and on March 27, 1797 Joseph was appointed to this post. However, he never did it. Napoleon had higher plans for his eldest brother. Joseph's skills seemed too important to him to fill such a minor diplomatic post. Thus, on May 15, before Joseph even thought of going to Parma, a new decision was taken by the Directory, which appointed him envoy to Rome instead of Minister Plenipotentiary in Parma. As such, Joseph received an income of 60,000 francs a year. It was good to have such an influential brother!
It was not until August 31, 1797 that the ambassador took up his difficult post. The regulations of the Directory and the instructions of his brother obliged him "to do everything to introduce parliamentary popular rule without violence, without disturbances in Rome and to prevent the disorder which the revolution could bring about in the Pope's states". Above all, however, he should demand that the Holy Father recognize the Cisalpine Republic and induce him to use his ecclesiastical influence in the Vendée and Brittany to suppress the unrest of the royalists.
Joseph's role as envoy in Rome is not completely clear, for it is not known whether he really played the "instigator" of the republicans in the Papal States, or whether he was brought into play by the Roman patriots. His position and situation certainly drew the attention of the hostile party in Corsica to him. In any case, everything went quite well in the beginning. Joseph, Julie and Caroline, who had come with them, were received by the papal government not only with tact, but with a certain distinction. They were given feast after feast. The house of the French ambassador was almost like a small court. Julie and Karoline were given a private audience by Pius VI. received, and this stretched longer than usual. Désirée Clary and her mother, who arrived in Rome a little later, were also honored by the Pope. Joseph almost felt himself to be a prince in the Palazzo Corsini, like Napoleon in Mombello.
However, the envoy did not succeed in maintaining unity and peace between the papal and French governments. The enormous war taxes that France imposed on the Papal States, the appointment of the Austrian General Provera as commander of the papal troops and the refusal of the Pope to recognize the Cisalpine Republic brought the friction to a head and finally led to the uprising of December 7, 1797 which resulted in the death of the brave General Duphot and the departure of Joseph from Rome.
The Directory received the former envoy with great kindness and offered him an embassy in Berlin. However, Joseph turned down the offer. He preferred to join the Council of Five Hundred. This satisfied his ambition to some extent. He could not have won it over if he had been less respected than Napoleon, who, because of his genius, increasingly attracted the attention of the world. This professional equality seemed to be absolutely necessary for his calm.
A member of the Council of Five Hundred while Napoleon was in Egypt, Joseph lived with his mother on Rue Rocher in Paris. Around this time he acquired the beautiful estate of Mortefontaine, whose wonderfully landscaped gardens gained a very special reputation. Joseph loved this stay very much and liked to retire there after work. He was a very moderate member of the council. He did his brother Napoleon a service by defending him brilliantly when the general was most violently attacked in a committee of the two councils, and finally winning the majority on his side.
6. General Bonaparte.
Drawn from nature and engraved by G. Werner. Portrait collection of the National Library, Vienna
Since he was the oldest and most reliable of the family, Napoleon had entrusted him with the administration of his money and the order of the other family affairs. So Joseph now resumed his old rights as head of the family, which the fame and position of the younger had robbed him for some time. He was very fond of playing the master, especially to his siblings. All of them, with the exception of Napoleon, had to address him as "you". For Napoleon, however, Joseph was still the only friend to whom he could pour out his heart when he worried about the faithless Josephine. "Above all, I recommend my interests to you," he wrote to him on July 25, 1798, very desperate. “I have much domestic grief, for the veil is completely lifted. Napoleon had learned of Josephine's infidelity through Junot. You alone remain on earth for me. Your friendship is very dear to me. All that was missing was for me to lose her and for you to become a traitor to me too, in order to turn me into a complete hater! "
Joseph repaid Napoleon's devotion by marrying his brother's worst enemy, General Bernadotte, to Désirée. However, on the 18th of Brumaire, although he was no longer a member of the Council of Five Hundred, he also used all his influence to bring about the success of Napoleon's coup. The happiness of the whole family was at stake, and Joseph never forgot that either. A defeat of Napoleon would have meant the defeat of all Bonaparte.
Joseph's character is most clearly revealed in the appointment of his brother as consul. He was never satisfied with what he owned. Sometimes he censured the actions of Napoleon openly, sometimes in secret. He was definitely hoping to become a second consul. When this did not happen and Cambacérès was elected in his place, Joseph played the offender. Because when Napoleon offered him the Ministry of the Interior, he turned down the offer. Not long afterwards, however, he was admitted to the legislature and, a little later, to the Council of State.
Joseph was not satisfied with that either. Like all other siblings, he always wanted the opposite of what Napoleon wanted. In everything he suspiciously saw a trap set for destroying him. But what did he complain about? Napoleon had done everything to raise him to his height. At the age of thirty, Joseph was able to look back on a brilliant career. He had been ambassador to one of the oldest courts, had acted as a representative of the people, was in possession of a large fortune, a splendid property in Paris and in the country. But after all this he did not claim to strive. Only for the sake of Napoleon had he accepted all the awards and high offices! Just to help his brother out of his embarrassment! It was a mercy on his part to hold the positions which Napoleon gave him. In his eyes these were all small things, far too low posts for a man like him, for the head of a large family! He was called to take the first place in the state! That Napoleon did not see this hurt him bitterly.
He took his revenge on him, because he seemed to find a very special charm in drawing the enemies of Napoleon into his circle. He declared quite openly and in front of the world that Frau von Staël, Bernadotte, Benjamin Constant and others were among his most intimate friends. Only to them did he show his true, envious, ambitious character. In front of the world, and especially in front of his brother, he played the humble, undemanding man who never made demands. It was by no means easy for Napoleon to work with Joseph on the state work. Later he spoke out against Roederer about it and said: “If Joseph had wanted, he would have stood by me; but he refuses to do what I want. "
7. The city of Ajaccio in Corsica.
After a lithograph by G. Engelmann
As calm and moderate as the relationship between the two brothers appeared to the outside world, the intimate, stormy appearances proved how opposite both characters were. Among other things, Lucien reports that one day Joseph got into such a violent argument with the First Consul about the cession of Louisiana and became so angry that he threw an inkwell at Napoleon's head. After Napoleon fled to Josephine, Joseph had another fit of anger and cut everything short and sweet in the room he was in. However, it is questionable whether Lucien can be absolutely believed in this regard. However, this case is by no means there in isolated cases. As gentle and calm as Joseph was in general, he knew little of the limits of passionate anger. But Napoleon never seemed to hold such outbursts of anger against him. On the contrary, despite all contradictions, Joseph exercised a certain influence on Napoleon. Joseph was most keenly interested in anything that concerned the brother. He was his secret agent, so to speak. The English newspapers always referred to him as the "influencer". Since he always had the fullest confidence and affection of Napoleon, he was better suited than anyone else to instruct him about everything that happened. Joseph was able to do this all the more easily because he had many and extensive relationships. Of course, he did not always give Napoleon the best advice. So the foolish farewell to the Minister of War Carnot happened at the instigation of Joseph, who together with Lucien had worked with Napoleon.
8. Bonaparte's birth house in Ajaccio.
Lithograph by Rauch after Despois
Although Joseph knew little or nothing of the soldier's profession, he still took part in the second Italian campaign. His ambition strove for military as well as diplomatic honors. Without question, Napoleon had a high opinion of his brother's abilities at the time, for even before the Treaty of Lunéville, to which he was sent as Minister Plenipotentiary, Joseph signed with Roederer and Fleurien at his castle Mortefontaine on September 30, 1800 with the American envoys the Paris Convention, which made France and America friends. He then hurried to Lunéville to make peace with Austria there. He fulfilled his task to the complete satisfaction of Napoleon, who preferred to use him for such diplomatic missions. Joseph played a fine figure with his elegant appearance; he was also not lacking in intelligence or skill for such things. His conciliatory kindness, his politeness and his willing courtesy in important diplomatic negotiations earned him the respect and affection of the foreign ambassadors at all times. Count Ludwig Cobenzl was his friend and guest after the peace treaty.
Negotiations of the Concordat followed almost immediately after the Treaty of Lunéville was signed. It was signed on July 15, 1801, this time in Joseph's apartment in Paris, Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, at two o'clock in the morning by Joseph, the Abbé Bernier, the Council of State Cretet on the one hand and the Cardinals Caselli, Spina and Consalvi on the other. At the same hour of the night a daughter is said to have been born to Joseph, on which happy occasion the ambassadors congratulated him. That's what the legend says. The reality is a little different.The child, Joseph's second daughter Zénaide Letizia Julie, was born eight days before the conclusion of the Concordat, on July 8th.
Napoleon also entrusted the conclusion of the Peace of Amiens to his brother. Joseph signed this peace, which was almost entirely his work, with Lord Cornwallis on January 25, 1802, and had the satisfaction of having reconciled the two hereditary enemies.
However, what preoccupied Joseph's disaffected nature and ambition most was who would take the post of First Consul after ten years of office. He would have liked best if Napoleon had chosen him as his successor. As the eldest of the family, he only considered it his right. But the First Consul was not authorized to do so by the Constitution. Only the consulate for life put him in a position to appoint his successor. Together with Lucien, Joseph therefore voted for this form of government, because it gave them the hope of playing a role as head of state again. In public, of course, Joseph acted as if he were very uncomfortable if Napoleon called him his successor. One day he even said: “I don't want to be his successor at all; I want to be free! ”And he added modestly,“ I am not strong enough to be compared with him or to face the difficulties. ”That was a true word, but inside Joseph thought very differently.
9. Joseph Bonaparte.
Engraving by Schleich after Bonneville. Portrait collection of the National Library, Vienna
The presidency of the Cisalpine Republic, which Napoleon offered him, was also not good enough for him: he aspired to higher things. He therefore refused, but accepted the title of senator with an annual income of 120,000 francs; at the same time he became a member of the Legion of Honor. He also did not disdain certain gratuities of 200,000 and 300,000 francs that his brother granted him. But the honors and awards weren't enough! Napoleon had not yet chosen him as his successor. How longingly did Joseph want a son! Then everything would have turned out differently. But just now, in October 1802, Julie had given him another girl, Charlotte. What a disappointment! And the hurtful mockery of Napoleon. “Tell Madame Joseph,” wrote the First Consul, “my best congratulations. She gives birth to girls so beautiful that one can comfort oneself that she is not giving you a boy. ”That was bitter for Joseph's ambition.
10. Queen Julie of Spain, wife of Joseph Bonaparte, with her daughter.
After a painting by Lefèvre
So for the time being there was nothing with the successor. He had to find another field where he could gain fame and honor. Following the example of Napoleon, he believed that the quickest way to achieve this was as a soldier. The First Consul also complied with this wish of Joseph. In 1803 he offered him the post of Colonel General in the Swiss regiment in the French service. Joseph refused. He wanted to see himself as the leader of another, more distinguished force. Napoleon willingly sent him to the newly formed camp in Boulogne in 1804 and handed him command of the 4th Line Regiment. He didn't just want to give in to Joseph's whim, however. On the contrary, his brother should put his heart and soul into it and take his role seriously. As always, Napoleon proceeded from the principle that if his brothers wanted to satisfy their ambitions in an office, they would have to try to achieve this through extensive knowledge of their profession. On April 14, 1804, the First Consul wrote to General Soult, the commander of the camp at Saint-Omer, about Joseph's appointment: “Like me, he is a soldier with body and soul, for in our time it is not just the state with his advice in the most difficult of negotiations, but one must also be able to serve him with his sword if circumstances so require ... Joseph will arrive in Boulogne before the first of the next month. He should practice his profession with the greatest seriousness. It is true that on his arrival you can give him all the honors that one owes a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor, a senator and a person so dear to me; that's why he'll be staying at my headquarters. As soon as one has shown him these honors, however, he is to put on his colonel's coat and subordinate himself exactly as the military law prescribes the officers. 'And in order to give this military career a semblance of justice, Napoleon issued his brother a roster that qualified him as follows: “Artillery student in 1783; in 1792 staff officer; in 1793 Adjutant General and Battalion Commander. It was also noted that Joseph had participated in the campaigns of 1793 and 1794 and had been wounded during the siege of Toulon. That’s what it said on paper. In truth, it was as follows: if Joseph held the title of "battalion chief" in 1793, it was just a title, because the Paris National Guard, to which he belonged, was never organized. And what part he took in the campaigns is known; in any case, as a soldier, Joseph did no deeds!
Now that he had never been a soldier, all he could do in Boulogne with the best will is parading a little in his beautiful white uniform, which, by the way, flattered his vanity. For the rest he lived as he liked, without paying much attention to the service. He left the camp without leave, liked to play the commander-in-chief, and abused his position as Napoleon's brother to such an extent, especially later when he was a prince, that the emperor was repeatedly compelled to reprimand him. Among other things, on May 20, 1805, when Joseph was in Boulogne for the second time, Napoleon wrote to Marshal Berthier: Tell Soult about my dissatisfaction that Prince Joseph was in a different capacity than he was during the various parades in his camp a colonel has appeared. Nothing in an army can obscure the commander in chief! The prince can take over the parades through his regiment as he likes, but on the day of a troop display it is due to him general and not that Princesto give a meal; that is closely related to the ministry! The main principle is: a princely colonel is just a colonel at the troop display! The prince can only leave Boulogne with the general's permission. Write to Joseph that I learned that he had left the camp without leave, about which I could only express my dissatisfaction. The military discipline does not tolerate change! An army is a whole! The one who commands them is everything! Joseph is to go to his regiment immediately and fulfill his duties as a colonel in the true sense of the word. Tell him, too, that he is utterly mistaken if he thinks he has the skills necessary to lead his regiment. "
Nevertheless, in 1804, Napoleon increased Joseph's income from 120,000 francs to 300,000 francs. With all the presents, Joseph received from his brother 900,000 francs, almost a million francs, to support himself over a period of eleven months!
His first stay in Boulogne did not last long. He soon returned to Paris, which at that time was a veritable hotbed of conspiracies against the life of the First Consul. Pichegru, Cadoudal and Moreau had already been arrested. Soon it was the turn of the young rungs of the House of Condé, the Duke of Enghien. Joseph deplored his brother's action, but did justice to him by citing politics as the necessity of this action.
When the empire was established, Napoleon initially found no greater opposition than Joseph did. He did not want to accept the title "Imperial Highness" or "Prince" and at first stubbornly refused to appear at the coronation ceremonies. Nonetheless, his vanity was somewhat satisfied when he and his male descendants were designated heirs to the throne. It was not to be assumed that Napoleon would father children with the aging Josephine. Joseph now bore the title "Imperial Prince" and was electoral elector. However, that did not prevent him from ridiculing Napoleon's monarchy at every opportunity. His daughters persistently called the emperor "First Consul." The Million Apanage, however, did not disdain Joseph. He also put up with the income that his sinecure brought him as a grand elector; they amounted to 333,000 francs a year! The emperor also gave him another 350,000 francs and the Luxembourg Palace. And how gladly the undemanding Joseph saw himself in the magnificent gala costume of the Grand Elector! How gladly he adorned himself with the white, gold-embroidered atlas tunic, the long, dragging, crimson coat, which was also gold-embroidered and lined with ermine. It almost looked like a coronation gown!
But Joseph saw the greatest insult in the fact that Napoleon expected Frau Julie to wear Josephine's train at the coronation with the emperor's sisters. Joseph told Fouche that such service would be "extremely embarrassing" for a virtuous woman. And when Fouché replied that such difficulties had not been caused even with Marie Antoinette, Joseph said that it was something completely different. So he did not consider Josephine worthy of such an honor.
Napoleon, on the other hand, believed his brother big enough to be worthy of a crown. After the coronation celebrations, he offered him the Lombard royal crown. But such a plan did not fit into Joseph's policy. He would rather be the heir of the French Empire than a Lombard prince and his brother feudal man. In addition, the undertaking that he was supposed to enter into to pay 30 million aid money to France seemed to him to be too unfair for Lombardy. After all, he was probably also afraid of responsibility. Joseph preferred a leisurely private life in which he could pursue his inclinations undisturbed. It was therefore extremely uncomfortable for him when, after Napoleon's ascension to the throne, the confidential tone which the First Consul had maintained in dealings with his family ceased. Everything was now subordinated to the ceremonial. At first, because of his modest rank, Joseph even saw himself transferred to the most distant antechamber, while the children of the hated Josephine, Eugen and Hortense, enjoyed all the advantages of imperial rungs. This offended Joseph deeply, and he took revenge for it. Instead of surrounding himself with the old aristocracy, as Napoleon wished, he usually chose people from the bourgeoisie or the simple nobility, his friends from earlier times, for his household. Napoleon knew exactly where the wind was blowing from. "You (his family) are jealous of my wife, of Eugen and Hortense, of everything around me!" He said one day, "Well, my wife has diamonds and debts, that's all. Eugene barely has a pension of CHF 20,000. I love these children because they always try to please me ... They say my wife is wrong, that the children's zeal is rehearsed. Well! Be it. You treat me like an old uncle, and at least that makes my life sweeter. I'm getting old; i am 36 years old; I want to rest."
Nevertheless, the emperor also retained the greatest affection for his eldest brother, with whom he had spent the best years of his youth. On Joseph's head there should be a different royal crown, if not the Lombard one!
Shortly after the brilliant victory at Austerlitz and the Treaty of Pressburg, on December 31, 1805, he ordered Joseph to invade the Kingdom of Naples at the head of an army. King Ferdinand IV had broken the treaty that bound him with France. Before all of Europe Napoleon had declared in the famous Manifesto of Schönbrunn on December 27, 1805 that the Bourbons of Naples had ceased to rule over this part of Italy. However, the manifesto wasn't published until a month later. On December 25, 1805, however, the famous 27th Bulletin was published, which was for the time being directed only against Queen Marie Karoline and in which it said: “And should hostilities begin again and the people suffer a thirty years' war, such a cruel one Infidelity cannot be forgiven. The Queen of Naples has ceased to rule. This last offense determined their fate, and so on. ”He was determined to give this throne to his brother. For as early as January 19, 1806 he wrote to Joseph: “I want a prince of my house on this throne; preferably you, if you like it; if not, then someone else. "
For the time being, the emperor appointed his brother Joseph divisional general and his "lieutenant général", a title that was created from scratch and gave him the supreme command of Napoleon's marshals. Massena, who until then had been in command of the army in Italy, was furious about this measure by the emperor. Now he should submit to the orders of a man who until recently had been a colonel of a line regiment! But this time Joseph was so discerning and followed the wise advice of a soldier as experienced as Masséna; the emperor's brother took it upon himself to be in command in name only; incidentally, the march to Naples did not require a particularly difficult strategy either. It was more of a military walk that Joseph took with 40,000 French into the kingdom on January 8th. The Pope supported him wherever possible. Joseph had spoken to Pius VII personally in Rome on January 25th and had received a promise from him to facilitate the passage of his troops through the Roman states. That way everything went smoothly. Capua opened the gates for him after weak resistance. After Reynier had triumphed at San Lorenzo, Lago Negro and Campo Jenese, and the royal family had embarked for Sicily after emptying all public coffers, Joseph moved on February 15, 1806 to the sound of music, the ringing of all bells and the thunder of the cannons in the Neapolitan capital. Only the fortress of Gaeta still stood under the orders of the brave Prince Ludwig of Hesse-Philippsthal.
The inhabitants of Naples welcomed Joseph like the Italians once did to General Bonaparte as the liberator from foreign yokes. Opinions were divided in the country itself. The higher classes were favorably disposed towards him, the patriots looked forward to the reprisals which they could now exert, and the crowd was either suspicious or indifferent.
Joseph did not stay long in the capital. He wanted to personally convince himself of the state of the country and, if necessary, undertake a sortie to Sicily. He therefore set out on the march with a corps commanded by General Lamarque, but everywhere he saw decay and misery. The rich, fertile soil lay fallow, and the people of this sunny land were wrapped in rags. The coffers were empty, the military supplies dragged away and the officials fled. There was a lot to sort out here, a lot to do better. Joseph really had the best will to do so now. But he lacked the great energy that his brother possessed to such an extent, and which would have been absolutely necessary to really create order.
During this journey through the conquered land, Joseph received the March 30th resolution appointing him King of Naples. And this time he did not refuse to accept the crown. On this occasion, however, he did not fail to emphasize in particular that his inclinations were much more aimed at the quiet bourgeois life.
Napoleon gave his brother a new proof of his confidence with this crown, the best he had at the time. “I'm giving,” he said to Miot de Mélito, “a fine opportunity for my brother to distinguish himself. May he rule wisely and with firmness in his new states! May he show himself worthy of everything I give him! 'Naples was indeed at that time a central place in the Emperor's plans. It was to become the basis for great projects that had been fermenting in the conqueror's brain since Egypt. Naples should give him the opportunity to rule the Mediterranean in order to then affect Egypt, Persia and India.
It seemed as if the new king wanted to take Napoleon's advice seriously. When he returned to his capital on May 11th, he was mainly concerned with establishing order in the administration of the country and promoting prosperity. He intended to do this without harming the people themselves by having Napoleon advance the necessary funds. The emperor, of course, disagreed and wanted Joseph to draw all resources from the country itself. In his eyes the new King of Naples acted much too mildly and good-naturedly as ruler. Napoleon knew the peoples: if one wanted to win their love, one had to rule them with severity."One does not win the peoples with flattery and meekness," he once wrote to him; and another time he advised him to shoot down all the unruly lazzaroni. But Joseph's gentle mind did not agree with this. He wanted to be a kind king and win the love of his people through leniency.
The fortress of Gaeta finally surrendered on July 18, but Joseph had to refrain from an expedition to Sicily for the time being. All the enemy forces had gathered on the Strait of Messina. All vehicles, except for the smallest boats, were there ready to fight. Penetration would have been impossible. He therefore had to postpone this undertaking until a more favorable moment.
By and large, Joseph's reign in Naples was a good one, despite some of the mistakes made by the inexperienced king. At least he was now showing the best will to act for the good of his country. In Naples he was not quite as dependent on Napoleon as has always been portrayed. He was neither a pretend king nor a mere prefect. He always chose his ministers at his own discretion; Napoleon never forced an official on him. Despite some criticism, the emperor trusted Joseph. Of course, he also asked a lot of him. Again and again he roused him out of his kindness and forbearance. Again and again he warned him not to trust his Neapolitan officials too much. He wrote to him on July 30, 1806: “All of Europe will recognize you as King of Naples and Sicily. But if you do not take stricter measures than the previous ones, you will be shamefully dethroned in the first continental war. You are too good, especially for the country you are in ... if you make yourself a weak king, if you do not lead the reins of government with a firm and determined hand, if you listen to the opinion of the people, that only knows what it wants to know, if you do not abolish the old abuses in a way that will make you rich, if you do not impose such conditions that you can entertain French, Corsican, Swiss and Neapolitans in your service, you will achieve nothing in your whole life. And in four years, instead of being useful to me, you will harm me! "Unfortunately, both in Naples and in Spain, Joseph made the mistake of believing that by being entitled" King "he had already done his duty as such. Napoleon, on the other hand, knew only too well that this was just a title and that the throne had to be maintained in a completely different way, through deeds and work.
On military questions, which the Emperor understood better than the inexperienced Joseph, Napoleon naturally wanted his advice to be followed unconditionally. But it was precisely in this that the new king assumed knowledge that he did not have, and thus caused the most hopeless confusion. The emperor was most indignant when Joseph, who, in his capacity as commander in chief, believed he was entitled to commands, issued orders that were contrary to Napoleon's or his policies. "I can only prove to you my dissatisfaction," he said angrily on July 31, 1807, "that you should add Neapolitan officers to my army... It is a strange policy to give arms into the hands of my enemies!"
Joseph incurred the worst reproach of Napoleon when one day he had the Roman cardinals turned back. In this letter of wrath from the Emperor of March 25, 1808, which is neither in Joseph's memoirs nor in Napoleon's correspondence, it says, among other things: “If you wanted to show Europe your independence, you were looking for a very stupid opportunity to do so. You can be King of Naples, but I also have a little right to give orders where I have 40,000 men. Wait until you run out of French troops in your kingdom. Then you can give orders contrary to mine. But I advise you not to do this often! "
After such outbursts of anger, one might think that Joseph always had to fear his brother's knuckle. But just when he was King of Naples this claim is not true. Joseph was not an independent character; it had to be guided in a certain way. And yet he was freer than any of his brothers and sisters-in-law on his throne. Again and again the younger and more powerful gave in to the older and weaker. Just read what Napoleon wrote of his brother's government in Italy that was worthy of praise, and how he justified his criticism. “I ask you to be convinced,” it says in a letter from 1806, “that although I sometimes criticize your actions, I recognize much of what you have done. It is with pleasure that I see the great confidence you instill in the reasonable sections of the people. "Or, when Joseph complained that he was no longer the brother of yore, Napoleon probably wrote to him:" It is very natural that one should go along 40 years no longer feels the same as when I was 12 years old. But now I have more real, stronger feelings for you: my friendship for you comes from the soul. "
Indeed, Joseph had succeeded in winning the trust of his subjects. Even those previously favored, such as the nobility and clergy, were full of praise about the king's moderate and just reign. His first minister, Roederer, wrote to his wife in 1808: “The result of his government will be an honorable one for him. He has shown firmness in all great things, stability in all useful undertakings, and here he has planted the germ of new growth, of new greatness! 'Even if a little too enthusiastic, Roederer's sayings are partly fair. Even Napoleon, in that stormy conversation with this minister on February 11, 1809, admitted that Joseph had done his best in Naples.
Nevertheless he scolded and reproached the king incessantly; he knew that if Joseph let the reins loose, he would not do the same. He incessantly urged him to seize Sicily and to cover Corfu with a fleet. Such armaments cost a lot of money that the king could not raise from the country. As a result, he was repeatedly forced to take Napoleon's help. The imperial treasure, the crown treasure and the amortization fund of France paid several million annually to Naples. In addition there was the king's own need for luxury, which increased from day to day. He afforded himself an extremely expensive bodyguard, donated medals and gifts out of vanity, etc. In February 1808 he founded the Order of the Two Sicilies with a pension of 100,000 ducats, although he never owned Sicily. He was, of course, completely king and knew how to appear elegantly. Nothing in him betrayed the upstart. Its luxury, its magnificence were not intrusive. Joseph himself was by nature amiable, gracious, not haughty; in short, he acted as if he had sat on the throne all his life. His chivalry towards women was like that of the old kings of France: somewhat artificial and graceful, but elegant and tactful. Every evening he received the most beautiful, youngest, and most graceful ladies of the old aristocracy of Naples in his drawing room. They did not need to kiss His Majesty's hand in greeting, as the etiquette prescribed, but the King himself greeted them first with a gracious bow of his head and a few amiable words for each. He was a great lover of women, but his love affairs were not without ideal, as is so often the case with princes. He knew how to dress his feelings in delicate words and how to tactfully describe his wishes. He did not give orders like a king, but prayed like a man. He wrote to one of his friends, probably to the Duchess of Atri: “It has been as many months as days since I met you. Since yesterday every hour seems to have consisted of 60 months ... It is absolutely necessary for my rest that I do not see you until you have answered me. When I raise my eyes to you again for the first time, I must be able to defend myself impartially against the insults and suspicions, and all alone in front of you, my only absolute mistress! "
A king who spoke so humbly to women must please them. But they also cost him a lot of money because Joseph was generous with his girlfriends. Nonetheless, he was a good family man. His marriage to Julie was a happy one and he loved his children tenderly. The Queen had finally gone to see her husband with her daughters in March 1808 and soon won the love and respect of the Neapolitans. Unfortunately their arrival in Naples was marred by an assassination attempt on the king, the second during his reign, which was prevented in time.
Julie wasn't suited to play a royal role. She was not comfortable on the throne. She was shy and timid in public, so that some thought she was stupid and illiterate. But it was by no means; on the contrary, she had a very keen mind, a lot of wit, and could be extraordinarily funny. But she eschewed etiquette and court ceremonies. She knew that she did not look good in the sumptuous, diamond-draped court dresses; she felt uncomfortable in it. Even in her youth she hadn't been beautiful, but now, as a 35-year-old woman, she was even less so. Her small, inconspicuous figure seemed to have grown together. So much the better and kinder was her heart. She gave the poor 20,000 francs a year from her own pocket. She was very fond of her husband. She was a good influence on him. Despite her ugly appearance, she was always the first woman in his heart, the mother of his children.
It is certain that Joseph and Julie could have done many good things together in Naples if this throne had been their longer. The king was already beginning to reap the fruits of his work. Then Napoleon called him to Spain.
As early as December 1807, during a meeting with his brother in Venice, Joseph learned of the political embarrassment of the Spanish royal family. Even Napoleon had expressed the possibility that Joseph should get this throne. At that time, however, the King of Naples refused. He wanted to stay in his kingdom. Now in May 1808, he received orders from Bayonne, where Charles IV was staying with the Queen with Napoleon, to march immediately on Bayonne. With a heavy heart, Joseph set out on May 23rd. He was reluctant to part with his family, whom he had only recently had with him. A few hours before Bayonne he met Napoleon. The emperor explained to him the whole political necessity of overthrowing the Spanish dynasty from the throne, and now told him frankly that he had designated him for this throne. He was welcome to the junta and also to the Spanish people. He shouldn't refuse such an offer. There are many obstacles to overcome on a throne like the Spanish one, but one can also do an infinite amount of good and earn great honors. When the members of the junta, whom Joseph received individually during his stay in Bayonne, swore him to accept the crown, the king's weak, good-natured character prevailed. He agreed. He gave up the throne of Naples to ascend the Spanish one. One thing, however, he made a condition for himself: his institutions and reforms in his former empire had to remain in place. The Neapolitans retained the constitution given to them by King Joseph. Although he was King of Spain, he himself exercised the functions of King of Naples for a month and had the Neapolitan coffers at his disposal. And Murat, who took this throne after him, had to put up with it!
It is often said that on his march to Bayonne Joseph had no idea that he was about to ascend the Spanish royal throne. This contradicts not only the fact that, as already mentioned, he had already discussed it with Napoleon in Venice, but also a conversation between the King of Naples and Girardin in Italy. "The emperor intends to put the Spanish crown on my head," said Joseph at the time. "And will you accept it?" Asked Girardin. - "Without doubt. Why not? But I am entrusting this to you in secret. You mustn't tell anyone. "
On June 6th, although Joseph had not yet reached Madrid, Napoleon had him proclaimed King of Spain and India in the capital. But when the king arrived the next day, he found the residents of Madrid extremely upset about the events of May 2nd. From the bottom of their hearts, the people hated this forced ruler. There was a rebellious spirit among the Spanish population. The French were assassinated on the country roads. On July 14th Joseph wrote to his brother: “There are murderers on the highways.” And a few days later, when he took possession of the escurial: “There were 2,000 employees in the royal stables. All gave the same opinion at the same hour and withdrew. (They didn't want to serve the new king.) As of 9 o'clock yesterday morning I haven't been able to find a single coachman in all the stables. The farmers burn the wheels of their wagons so that they cannot be forced to carry out any kind of transport. Even the servants, people I suspected would stay with me, have left their duties ... 'Napoleon did not want to see the danger. He comforted the brother with phrases. "You have a large number of followers in Spain," he wrote to him on July 19, 1808 in response to the complaints; “They're just too intimidated. But they are all righteous people ... you shouldn't find it so extraordinary to conquer your kingdom. Philip V and Henry IV were also forced to conquer theirs. Be cheerful and do not let yourself be saddened. Don't doubt for a moment that things will end faster and better than you think. "
Joseph could only hope. Building on his good intentions, the very next day he arrived in Madrid he called a meeting of all classes. The delegates of the Spanish grandees, the heads of religious orders, the members of the tribunal, the commanders of the army, capitalists and representatives of the working class appeared. All the halls of the castle were filled with an enormous crowd. The new king spoke freely and openly about the events that brought him to Spain. He made the best impression on the assembled, although not all of them had come to him with the most amicable feelings.
Unfortunately, this first favorable impression was soon destroyed by the defeat the French suffered at Bailen on July 22nd. Joseph was crushed by it. He was with Bessières' army when the retreat to Burgos was undertaken.
In the meantime General Junot had had to evacuate Portugal. Now that all English and Portuguese forces were available, the Spanish armies flooded from all sides against the French armies. The king wrote the most desperate letters to his brother, complaining that here in Spain he was struggling with elements that were beyond his strength. Napoleon found words of consolation again and again; he never blamed Joseph for what had happened. The defeats of the army were the fault of the leaders; only on these did the emperor's wrath fall.
It was not until November that the French were able to take the offensive again. Napoleon himself had rushed to Spain earlier this month to take command of his armies. After meeting his brother in Vitoria on November 5th, he knew what to expect from him as a general. "I have found the king completely changed," he said. “He lost his head. He has become completely king. He wants people to flatter him. He has a spirit and values me very much, I know that; yet he does not forgive me when I tell him the truth. I told him he wasn't a soldier and even proved it to him. He couldn't stand the evidence and yet he is offended at the bottom of his heart. He's angry about what I told him. His chief of staff, Jourdan, gives him bad advice ... The king says that you are a general as soon as you prepare to be one. He keeps talking about the layman's nature of the command ... The king has a lot of sense, but he is undecided ... He doesn't even know the beginnings of the soldier's profession. He doesn't know what situation plans are. ”Shouldn't the emperor have thought about that before handing over such a responsible post to his brother?
As soon as Napoleon had taken matters into his own hands, the gates of Madrid opened again after the battles of Burgos, Judella and Somo Sierra, and King Joseph was able to go on 22.January 1809 to take possession of his capital again. In response to his insistent requests, Napoleon had given him command of the army again, for he himself had to go to Germany as quickly as possible in order to lead the Austrians.
The first military events under the orders of the king were fortunate. With generals like Victor, Soult, Sébastiani, Mortier, Junot, Ney, Gouvion Saint-Cyr, Lannes, Kellermann and others. after all, it wasn't difficult to achieve victories. Lannes had conquered Zaragoza. Victor defeated the enemy at Medelin, and Joseph himself forced the Spanish under Venegas to retreat behind the Sierra Morena. Then followed the bloody but undecided battle of Talavera, according to which the enemy abandoned the train to Madrid. The success of the French at Almonacid on August 11th completely destroyed all plans of the Spaniards.
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