The Second Funeral of Napoleon

Author: William Makepeace Thackeray

III. On the Funeral Ceremony.

Shall I tell you, my dear, that when Francois woke me at a very early hour on this eventful morning, while the keen stars were still glittering overhead, a half-moon, as sharp as a razor, beaming in the frosty sky, and a wicked north wind blowing, that blew the blood out of one’s fingers and froze your leg as you put it out of bed;— shall I tell you, my dear, that when Francois called me, and said, "V’la vot’ cafe, Monsieur Titemasse, buvez-le, tiens, il est tout chaud," I felt myself, after imbibing the hot breakfast, so comfortable under three blankets and a mackintosh, that for at least a quarter of an hour no man in Europe could say whether Titmarsh would or would not be present at the burial of the Emperor Napoleon.

Besides, my dear, the cold, there was another reason for doubting. Did the French nation, or did they not, intend to offer up some of us English over the imperial grave? And were the games to be concluded by a massacre? It was said in the newspapers that Lord Granville had despatched circulars to all the English resident in Paris, begging them to keep their homes. The French journals announced this news, and warned us charitably of the fate intended for us. Had Lord Granville written? Certainly not to me. Or had he written to all EXCEPT ME? And was I THE VICTIM—the doomed one?— to be seized directly I showed my face in the Champs Elysees, and torn in pieces by French Patriotism to the frantic chorus of the "Marseillaise?" Depend on it, Madam, that high and low in this city on Tuesday were not altogether at their ease, and that the bravest felt no small tremor! And be sure of this, that as his Majesty Louis Philippe took his nightcap off his royal head that morning, he prayed heartily that he might, at night, put it on in safety.

Well, as my companion and I came out of doors, being bound for the Church of the Invalides, for which a Deputy had kindly furnished us with tickets, we saw the very prettiest sight of the whole day, and I can’t refrain from mentioning it to my dear, tender-hearted Miss Smith.

In the same house where I live (but about five stories nearer the ground) lodges an English family, consisting of— 1. A greatgrandmother, a hale, handsome old lady of seventy, the very bestdressed and neatest old lady in Paris. 2. A grandfather and grandmother, tolerably young to bear that title. 3. A daughter. And 4. Two little great-grand, or grandchildren, that may be of the age of three and one, and belong to a son and daughter who are in India. The grandfather, who is as proud of his wife as he was thirty years ago when he married, and pays her compliments still twice or thrice in a day, and when he leads her into a room looks round at the persons assembled, and says in his heart, "Here, gentlemen, here is my wife—show me such another woman in England,"— this gentleman had hired a room on the Champs Elysees, for he would not have his wife catch cold by exposing her to the balconies in the open air.

When I came to the street, I found the family assembled in the following order of march:—

—No. 1, the great-grandmother walking daintily along, supported by No. 3, her granddaughter.

—A nurse carrying No. 4 junior, who was sound asleep: and a huge basket containing saucepans, bottles of milk, parcels of infants’ food, certain dimity napkins, a child’s coral, and a little horse belonging to No. 4 senior.

—A servant bearing a basket of condiments.

—No. 2, grandfather, spick and span, clean shaved, hat brushed, white buckskin gloves, bamboo cane, brown great-coat, walking as upright and solemn as may be, having his lady on his arm.

—No. 4, senior, with mottled legs and a tartan costume, who was frisking about between his grandpapa’s legs, who heartily wished him at home.

"My dear," his face seemed to say to his lady, "I think you might have left the little things in the nursery, for we shall have to squeeze through a terrible crowd in the Champs Elysees."

The lady was going out for a day’s pleasure, and her face was full of care: she had to look first after her old mother who was walking ahead, then after No. 4 junior with the nurse—he might fall into all sorts of danger, wake up, cry, catch cold; nurse might slip down, or heaven knows what. Then she had to look her husband in the face, who had gone to such expense and been so kind for her sake, and make that gentleman believe she was thoroughly happy; and, finally, she had to keep an eye upon No. 4 senior, who, as she was perfectly certain, was about in two minutes to be lost for ever, or trampled to pieces in the crowd.

These events took place in a quiet little street leading into the Champs Elysees, the entry of which we had almost reached by this time. The four detachments above described, which had been straggling a little in their passage down the street, closed up at the end of it, and stood for a moment huddled together. No. 3, Miss X—, began speaking to her companion the great-grandmother.

"Hush, my dear," said that old lady, looking round alarmed at her daughter. "SPEAK FRENCH." And she straightway began nervously to make a speech which she supposed to be in that language, but which was as much like French as Iroquois. The whole secret was out: you could read it in the grandmother’s face, who was doing all she could to keep from crying, and looked as frightened as she dared to look. The two elder ladies had settled between them that there was going to be a general English slaughter that day, and had brought the children with them, so that they might all be murdered in company.

God bless you, O women, moist-eyed and tender-hearted! In those gentle silly tears of yours there is something touches one, be they never so foolish. I don’t think there were many such natural drops shed that day as those which just made their appearance in the grandmother’s eyes, and then went back again as if they had been ashamed of themselves, while the good lady and her little troop walked across the road. Think how happy she will be when night comes, and there has been no murder of English, and the brood is all nestled under her wings sound asleep, and she is lying awake thanking God that the day and its pleasures and pains are over. Whilst we were considering these things, the grandfather had suddenly elevated No. 4 senior upon his left shoulder, and I saw the tartan hat of that young gentleman, and the bamboo cane which had been transferred to him, high over the heads of the crowd on the opposite side through which the party moved.

After this little procession had passed away—you may laugh at it, but upon my word and conscience, Miss Smith, I saw nothing in the course of the day which affected me more—after this little procession had passed away, the other came, accompanied by gunbanging, flag-waving, incense-burning, trumpets pealing, drums rolling, and at the close, received by the voice of six hundred choristers, sweetly modulated to the tones of fifteen score of fiddlers. Then you saw horse and foot, jack-boots and bear-skin, cuirass and bayonet, National Guard and Line, marshals and generals all over gold, smart aides-de-camp galloping about like mad, and high in the midst of all, riding on his golden buckler, Solomon in all his glory, forsooth—Imperial Caesar, with his crown over his head, laurels and standards waving about his gorgeous chariot, and a million of people looking on in wonder and awe.

His Majesty the Emperor and King reclined on his shield, with his head a little elevated. His Majesty’s skull is voluminous, his forehead broad and large. We remarked that his Imperial Majesty’s brow was of a yellowish color, which appearance was also visible about the orbits of the eyes. He kept his eyelids constantly closed, by which we had the opportunity of observing that the upper lids were garnished with eyelashes. Years and climate have effected upon the face of this great monarch only a trifling alteration; we may say, indeed, that Time has touched his Imperial and Royal Majesty with the lightest feather in his wing. In the nose of the Conqueror of Austerlitz we remarked very little alteration: it is of the beautiful shape which we remember it possessed five-and-twenty years since, ere unfortunate circumstances induced him to leave us for a while. The nostril and the tube of the nose appear to have undergone some slight alteration, but in examining a beloved object the eye of affection is perhaps too critical. Vive l’Empereur! the soldier of Marengo is among us again. His lips are thinner, perhaps, than they were before! how white his teeth are! you can just see three of them pressing his under lip; and pray remark the fulness of his cheeks and the round contour of his chin. Oh, those beautiful white hands! many a time have they patted the cheek of poor Josephine, and played with the black ringlets of her hair. She is dead now, and cold, poor creature; and so are Hortense and bold Eugene, than whom the world never saw a curtier knight," as was said of King Arthur’s Sir Lancelot. What a day would it have been for those three could they have lived until now, and seen their hero returning! Where’s Ney? His wife sits looking out from M. Flahaut’s window yonder, but the bravest of the brave is not with her. Murat too is absent: honest Joachim loves the Emperor at heart, and repents that he was not at Waterloo: who knows but that at the sight of the handsome swordsman those stubborn English "canaille" would have given way. A king, Sire, is, you know, the greatest of slaves—State affairs of consequence—his Majesty the King of Naples is detained no doubt. When we last saw the King, however, and his Highness the Prince of Elchingen, they looked to have as good health as ever they had in their lives, and we heard each of them calmly calling out "FIRE!" as they have done in numberless battles before.

Is it possible? can the Emperor forget? We don’t like to break it to him, but has he forgotten all about the farm at Pizzo, and the garden of the Observatory? Yes, truly: there he lies on his golden shield, never stirring, never so much as lifting his eyelids, or opening his lips any wider.

O vanitas vanitatum! Here is our Sovereign in all his glory, and they fired a thousand guns at Cherbourg and never woke him!

However, we are advancing matters by several hours, and you must give just as much credence as you please to the subjoined remarks concerning the Procession, seeing that your humble servant could not possibly be present at it, being bound for the church elsewhere.

Programmes, however, have been published of the affair, and your vivid fancy will not fail to give life to them, and the whole magnificent train will pass before you.

Fancy then, that the guns are fired at Neuilly: the body landed at daybreak from the funereal barge, and transferred to the car; and fancy the car, a huge Juggernaut of a machine, rolling on four wheels of an antique shape, which supported a basement adorned with golden eagles, banners, laurels, and velvet hangings. Above the hangings stand twelve golden statues with raised arms supporting a huge shield, on which the coffin lay. On the coffin was the imperial crown, covered with violet velvet crape, and the whole vast machine was drawn by horses in superb housings, led by valets in the imperial livery.

Fancy at the head of the procession first of all—

The Gendarmerie of the Seine, with their trumpets and Colonel.

The Municipal Guard (horse), with their trumpets, standard, and Colonel.

Two squadrons of the 7th Lancers, with Colonel, standard, and music.

The Commandant of Paris and his Staff.

A battalion of Infantry of the Line, with their flag, sappers, drums, music, and Colonel.

The Municipal Guard (foot), with flag, drums, and Colonel.

The Sapper-pumpers, with ditto.

Then picture to yourself more squadrons of Lancers and Cuirassiers. The General of the Division and his Staff; all officers of all arms employed at Paris, and unattached; the Military School of Saint Cyr, the Polytechnic School, the School of the Etat-Major; and the Professors and Staff of each. Go on imagining more battalions of Infantry, of Artillery, companies of Engineers, squadrons of Cuirassiers, ditto of the Cavalry, of the National Guard, and the first and second legions of ditto.

Fancy a carriage, containing the Chaplain of the St. Helena expedition, the only clerical gentleman that formed a part of the procession.

Fancy you hear the funereal music, and then figure in your mind’s eye—

THE EMPEROR’S CHARGER, that is, Napoleon’s own saddle and bridle (when First Consul) upon a white horse. The saddle (which has been kept ever since in the Garde Meuble of the Crown) is of amaranth velvet, embroidered in gold: the holsters and housings are of the same rich material. On them you remark the attributes of War, Commerce, Science, and Art. The bits and stirrups are silver-gilt chased. Over the stirrups, two eagles were placed at the time of the empire. The horse was covered with a violet crape embroidered with golden bees.

After this came more Soldiers, General Officers, Sub-Officers, Marshals, and what was said to be the prettiest sight almost of the whole, the banners of the eighty-six Departments of France. These are due to the invention of M. Thiers, and were to have been accompanied by federates from each Department. But the government very wisely mistrusted this and some other projects of Monsieur Thiers; and as for a federation, my dear, IT HAS BEEN TRIED. Next comes—

His Royal Highness, the Prince de Joinville.

The 600 sailors of the "Belle Poule" marching in double file on each side of


[Hush! the enormous crowd thrills as it passes, and only some few voices cry Vive l’Empereur! Shining golden in the frosty sun—with hundreds of thousands of eyes upon it, from houses and housetops, from balconies, black, purple, and tricolor, from tops of leafless trees, from behind long lines of glittering bayonets under schakos and bear-skin caps, from behind the Line and the National Guard again, pushing, struggling, heaving, panting, eager, the heads of an enormous multitude stretching out to meet and follow it, amidst long avenues of columns and statues gleaming white, of standards rainbowcolored, of golden eagles, of pale funereal urns, of discharging odors amidst huge volumes of pitch-black smoke,


The cords of the pall are held by two Marshals, an Admiral and General Bertrand; who are followed by—

The Prefects of the Seine and Police, &c.

The Mayors of Paris, &c.

The Members of the Old Guard, &c.

A Squadron of Light Dragoons, &c.

Lieutenant-General Schneider, &c.

More cavalry, more infantry, more artillery, more everybody; and as the procession passes, the Line and the National Guard forming line on each side of the road fall in and follow it, until it arrives at the Church of the Invalides, where the last honors are to be paid to it.]

Among the company assembled under the dome of that edifice, the casual observer would not perhaps have remarked a gentleman of the name of Michael Angelo Titmarsh, who nevertheless was there. But as, my dear Miss Smith, the descriptions in this letter, from the words in page 298, line 20—THE PARTY MOVED—up to the words PAID TO IT, on this page, have purely emanated from your obedient servant’s fancy, and not from his personal observation (for no being on earth, except a newspaper reporter, can be in two places at once), permit me now to communicate to you what little circumstances fell under my own particular view on the day of the 15th of December.

As we came out, the air and the buildings round about were tinged with purple, and the clear sharp half-moon before-mentioned was still in the sky, where it seemed to be lingering as if it would catch a peep of the commencement of the famous procession. The Arc de Triomphe was shining in a keen frosty sunshine, and looking as clean and rosy as if it had just made its toilette. The canvas or pasteboard image of Napoleon, of which only the gilded legs had been erected the night previous, was now visible, body, head, crown, sceptre and all, and made an imposing show. Long gilt banners were flaunting about, with the imperial cipher and eagle, and the names of the battles and victories glittering in gold. The long avenues of the Champs Elysees had been covered with sand for the convenience of the great procession that was to tramp across it that day. Hundreds of people were marching to and fro, laughing, chattering, singing, gesticulating as happy Frenchmen do. There is no pleasanter sight than a French crowd on the alert for a festival, and nothing more catching than their good-humor. As for the notion which has been put forward by some of the opposition newspapers that the populace were on this occasion unusually solemn or sentimental, it would be paying a bad compliment to the natural gayety of the nation, to say that it was, on the morning at least of the 15th of December, affected in any such absurd way. Itinerant merchants were shouting out lustily their commodities of segars and brandy, and the weather was so bitter cold, that they could not fail to find plenty of customers. Carpenters and workmen were still making a huge banging and clattering among the sheds which were built for the accommodation of the visitors. Some of these sheds were hung with black, such as one sees before churches in funerals; some were robed in violet, in compliment to the Emperor whose mourning they put on. Most of them had fine tricolor hangings with appropriate inscriptions to the glory of the French arms.

All along the Champs Elysees were urns of plaster-of-Paris destined to contain funeral incense and flames; columns decorated with huge flags of blue, red, and white, embroidered with shining crowns, eagles, and N’s in gilt paper, and statues of plaster representing Nymphs, Triumphs, Victories, or other female personages, painted in oil so as to represent marble. Real marble could have had no better effect, and the appearance of the whole was lively and picturesque in the extreme. On each pillar was a buckler, of the color of bronze, bearing the name and date of a battle in gilt letters: you had to walk through a mile-long avenue of these glorious reminiscences, telling of spots where, in the great imperial days, throats had been victoriously cut.

As we passed down the avenue, several troops of soldiers met us: the garde-muncipale a cheval, in brass helmets and shining jack-boots, noble-looking men, large, on large horses, the pick of the old army, as I have heard, and armed for the special occupation of peacekeeping: not the most glorious, but the best part of the soldier’s duty, as I fancy. Then came a regiment of Carabineers, one of Infantry—little, alert, brown-faced, good-humored men, their band at their head playing sounding marches. These were followed by a regiment or detachment of the Municipals on foot—two or three inches taller than the men of the Line, and conspicuous for their neatness and discipline. By-and-by came a squadron or so of dragoons of the National Guards: they are covered with straps, buckles, aguillettes, and cartouche-boxes, and make under their tricolor cock’s-plumes a show sufficiently warlike. The point which chiefly struck me on beholding these military men of the National Guard and the Line, was the admirable manner in which they bore a cold that seemed to me as sharp as the weather in the Russian retreat, through which cold the troops were trotting without trembling and in the utmost cheerfulness and good-humor. An aidede-camp galloped past in white pantaloons. By heavens! it made me shudder to look at him.

With this profound reflection, we turned away to the right towards the hanging-bridge (where we met a detachment of young men of the Ecole de l’Etat Major, fine-looking lads, but sadly disfigured by the wearing of stays or belts, that make the waists of the French dandies of a most absurd tenuity), and speedily passed into the avenue of statues leading up to the Invalides. All these were statues of warriors from Ney to Charlemagne, modelled in clay for the nonce, and placed here to meet the corpse of the greatest warrior of all. Passing these, we had to walk to a little door at the back of the Invalides, where was a crowd of persons plunged in the deepest mourning, and pushing for places in the chapel within.

The chapel is spacious and of no great architectural pretensions, but was on this occasion gorgeously decorated in honor of the great person to whose body it was about to give shelter.

We had arrived at nine; the ceremony was not to begin, they said, till two: we had five hours before us to see all that from our places could be seen.

We saw that the roof, up to the first lines of architecture, was hung with violet; beyond this with black. We saw N’s, eagles, bees, laurel wreaths, and other such imperial emblems, adorning every nook and corner of the edifice. Between the arches, on each side of the aisle, were painted trophies, on which were written the names of some of Napoleon’s Generals and of their principal deeds of arms— and not their deeds of arms alone, pardi, but their coats of arms too. O stars and garters! but this is too much. What was Ney’s paternal coat, prithee, or honest Junot’s quarterings, or the venerable escutcheon of King Joachim’s father, the innkeeper?

You and I, dear Miss Smith, know the exact value of heraldic bearings. We know that though the greatest pleasure of all is to ACT like a gentleman, it is a pleasure, nay a merit, to BE one—to come of an old stock, to have an honorable pedigree, to be able to say that centuries back our fathers had gentle blood, and to us transmitted the same. There IS a good in gentility: the man who questions it is envious, or a coarse dullard not able to perceive the difference between high breeding and low. One has in the same way heard a man brag that he did not know the difference between wines, not he—give him a good glass of port, and he would pitch all your claret to the deuce. My love, men often brag about their own dulness in this way.

In the matter of gentlemen, democrats cry, "Psha! Give us one of Nature’s gentlemen, and hang your aristocrats." And so indeed Nature does make SOME gentlemen—a few here and there. But Art makes most. Good birth, that is, good handsome well-formed fathers and mothers, nice cleanly nursery-maids, good meals, good physicians, good education, few cares, pleasant easy habits of life, and luxuries not too great or enervating, but only refining—a course of these going on for a few generations are the best gentleman-makers in the world, and beat Nature hollow.

If, respected Madam, you say that there is something BETTER than gentility in this wicked world, and that honesty and personal wealth are more valuable than all the politeness and high-breeding that ever wore red-heeled pumps, knights’ spurs, or Hoby’s boots, Titmarsh for one is never going to say you nay. If you even go so far as to say that the very existence of this super-genteel society among us, from the slavish respect that we pay to it, from the dastardly manner in which we attempt to imitate its airs and ape its vices, goes far to destroy honesty of intercourse, to make us meanly ashamed of our natural affections and honest, harmless usages, and so does a great deal more harm than it is possible it can do good by its example—perhaps, Madam, you speak with some sort of reason. Potato myself, I can’t help seeing that the tulip yonder has the best place in the garden, and the most sunshine, and the most water, and the best tending—and not liking him over well. But I can’t help acknowledging that Nature has given him a much finer dress than ever I can hope to have, and of this, at least, must give him the benefit.

Or say, we are so many cocks and hens, my dear (sans arriere pensee), with our crops pretty full, our plumes pretty sleek, decent picking here and there in the straw-yard, and tolerable snug roosting in the barn: yonder on the terrace, in the sun, walks Peacock, stretching his proud neck, squealing every now and then in the most pert fashionable voice and flaunting his great supercilious dandified tail. Don’t let us be too angry, my dear, with the useless, haughty, insolent creature, because he despises us. SOMETHING is there about Peacock that we don’t possess. Strain your neck ever so, you can’t make it as long or as blue as his—cock your tail as much as you please, and it will never be half so fine to look at. But the most absurd, disgusting, contemptible sight in the world would you and I be, leaving the barn-door for my lady’s flower-garden, forsaking our natural sturdy walk for the peacock’s genteel rickety stride, and adopting the squeak of his voice in the place of our gallant lusty cock-a-doodle-dooing.

Do you take the allegory? I love to speak in such, and the above types have been presented to my mind while sitting opposite a gimcrack coat-of-arms and coronet that are painted in the Invalides Church, and assigned to one of the Emperor’s Generals.

Ventrebleu! Madam, what need have THEY of coats-of-arms and coronets, and wretched imitations of old exploded aristocratic gewgaws that they had flung out of the country—with the heads of the owners in them sometimes, for indeed they were not particular—a score of years before? What business, forsooth, had they to be meddling with gentility and aping its ways, who had courage, merit, daring, genius sometimes, and a pride of their own to support, if proud they were inclined to be? A clever young man (who was not of high family himself, but had been bred up genteelly at Eton and the university)—young Mr. George Canning, at the commencement of the French Revolution, sneered at "Roland the Just, with ribbons in his shoes," and the dandies, who then wore buckles, voted the sarcasm monstrous killing. It was a joke, my dear, worthy of a lackey, or of a silly smart parvenu, not knowing the society into which his luck had cast him (God help him! in later years, they taught him what they were!), and fancying in his silly intoxication that simplicity was ludicrous and fashion respectable. See, now, fifty years are gone, and where are shoebuckles? Extinct, defunct, kicked into the irrevocable past off the toes of all Europe!

How fatal to the parvenu, throughout history, has been this respect for shoebuckles. Where, for instance, would the Empire of Napoleon have been, if Ney and Lannes had never sported such a thing as a coat-of-arms, and had only written their simple names on their shields, after the fashion of Desaix’s scutcheon yonder?—the bold Republican who led the crowning charge at Marengo, and sent the best blood of the Holy Roman Empire to the right-about, before the wretched misbegotten imperial heraldry was born, that was to prove so disastrous to the father of it. It has always been so. They won’t amalgamate. A country must be governed by the one principle or the other. But give, in a republic, an aristocracy ever so little chance, and it works and plots and sneaks and bullies and sneers itself into place, and you find democracy out of doors. Is it good that the aristocracy should so triumph?—that is a question that you may settle according to your own notions and taste; and permit me to say, I do not care twopence how you settle it. Large books have been written upon the subject in a variety of languages, and coming to a variety of conclusions. Great statesmen are there in our country, from Lord Londonderry down to Mr. Vincent, each in his degree maintaining his different opinion. But here, in the matter of Napoleon, is a simple fact: he founded a great, glorious, strong, potent republic, able to cope with the best aristocracies in the world, and perhaps to beat them all; he converts his republic into a monarchy, and surrounds his monarchy with what he calls aristocratic institutions; and you know what becomes of him. The people estranged, the aristocracy faithless (when did they ever pardon one who was not of themselves?)—the imperial fabric tumbles to the ground. If it teaches nothing else, my dear, it teaches one a great point of policy—namely, to stick by one’s party.

While these thoughts (and sundry others relative to the horrible cold of the place, the intense dulness of delay, the stupidity of leaving a warm bed and a breakfast in order to witness a procession that is much better performed at a theatre)—while these thoughts were passing in the mind, the church began to fill apace, and you saw that the hour of the ceremony was drawing near.

Imprimis, came men with lighted staves, and set fire to at least ten thousand wax-candles that were hanging in brilliant chandeliers in various parts of the chapel. Curtains were dropped over the upper windows as these illuminations were effected, and the church was left only to the funereal light of the spermaceti. To the right was the dome, round the cavity of which sparkling lamps were set, that designed the shape of it brilliantly against the darkness. In the midst, and where the altar used to stand, rose the catafalque. And why not? Who is God here but Napoleon? and in him the sceptics have already ceased to believe; but the people does still somewhat. He and Louis XIV. divide the worship of the place between them.

As for the catafalque, the best that I can say for it is that it is really a noble and imposing-looking edifice, with tall pillars supporting a grand dome, with innumerable escutcheons, standards, and allusions military and funereal. A great eagle of course tops the whole: tripods burning spirits of wine stand round this kind of dead man’s throne, and as we saw it (by peering over the heads of our neighbors in the front rank), it looked, in the midst of the black concave, and under the effect of half a thousand flashing cross-lights, properly grand and tall. The effect of the whole chapel, however (to speak the jargon of the painting-room), was spoiled by being CUT UP: there were too many objects for the eye to rest upon: the ten thousand wax-candles, for instance, in their numberless twinkling chandeliers, the raw tranchant colors of the new banners, wreaths, bees, N’s, and other emblems dotting the place all over, and incessantly puzzling, or rather BOTHERING the beholder.

High overhead, in a sort of mist, with the glare of their original colors worn down by dust and time, hung long rows of dim ghostlylooking standards, captured in old days from the enemy. They were, I thought, the best and most solemn part of the show.

To suppose that the people were bound to be solemn during the ceremony is to exact from them something quite needless and unnatural. The very fact of a squeeze dissipates all solemnity. One great crowd is always, as I imagine, pretty much like another. In the course of the last few years I have seen three: that attending the coronation of our present sovereign, that which went to see Courvoisier hanged, and this which witnessed the Napoleon ceremony. The people so assembled for hours together are jocular rather than solemn, seeking to pass away the weary time with the best amusements that will offer. There was, to be sure, in all the scenes above alluded to, just one moment—one particular moment— when the universal people feels a shock and is for that second serious.

But except for that second of time, I declare I saw no seriousness here beyond that of ennui. The church began to fill with personages of all ranks and conditions. First, opposite our seats came a company of fat grenadiers of the National Guard, who presently, at the word of command, put their muskets down against benches and wainscots, until the arrival of the procession. For seven hours these men formed the object of the most anxious solicitude of all the ladies and gentlemen seated on our benches: they began to stamp their feet, for the cold was atrocious, and we were frozen where we sat. Some of them fell to blowing their fingers; one executed a kind of dance, such as one sees often here in cold weather—the individual jumps repeatedly upon one leg, and kicks out the other violently, meanwhile his hands are flapping across his chest. Some fellows opened their cartouche-boxes, and from them drew eatables of various kinds. You can’t think how anxious we were to know the qualities of the same. "Tiens, ce gros qui mange une cuisse de volaille!"—"Il a du jambon, celui-la." "I should like some, too," growls an Englishman, "for I hadn’t a morsel of breakfast," and so on. This is the way, my dear, that we see Napoleon buried.

Did you ever see a chicken escape from clown in a pantomime, and hop over into the pit, or amongst the fiddlers? and have you not seen the shrieks of enthusiastic laughter that the wondrous incident occasions? We had our chicken, of course: there never was a public crowd without one. A poor unhappy woman in a greasy plaid cloak, with a battered rose-colored plush bonnet, was seen taking her place among the stalls allotted to the grandees. "Voyez donc l’Anglaise," said everybody, and it was too true. You could swear that the wretch was an Englishwoman: a bonnet was never made or worn so in any other country. Half an hour’s delightful amusement did this lady give us all. She was whisked from seat to seat by the huissiers, and at every change of place woke a peal of laughter. I was glad, however, at the end of the day to see the old pink bonnet over a very comfortable seat, which somebody had not claimed and she had kept.

Are not these remarkable incidents? The next wonder we saw was the arrival of a set of tottering old Invalids, who took their places under us with drawn sabres. Then came a superb drum-major, a handsome smiling good-humored giant of a man, his breeches astonishingly embroidered with silver lace. Him a dozen little drummer-boys followed—"the little darlings!" all the ladies cried out in a breath: they were indeed pretty little fellows, and came and stood close under us: the huge drum-major smiled over his little red-capped flock, and for many hours in the most perfect contentment twiddled his moustaches and played with the tassels of his cane.

Now the company began to arrive thicker and thicker. A whole covey of Conseillers-d’Etat came in, in blue coats, embroidered with blue silk, then came a crowd of lawyers in toques and caps, among whom were sundry venerable Judges in scarlet, purple velvet, and ermine— a kind of Bajazet costume. Look there! there is the Turkish Ambassador in his red cap, turning his solemn brown face about and looking preternaturally wise. The Deputies walk in in a body. Guizot is not there: he passed by just now in full ministerial costume. Presently little Thiers saunters back: what a clear, broad sharp-eyed face the fellow has, with his gray hair cut down so demure! A servant passes, pushing through the crowd a shabby wheelchair. It has just brought old Moncey the Governor of the Invalids, the honest old man who defended Paris so stoutly in 1814. He has been very ill, and is worn down almost by infirmities: but in his illness he was perpetually asking, "Doctor, shall I live till the 15th? Give me till then, and I die contented." One can’t help believing that the old man’s wish is honest, however one may doubt the piety of another illustrious Marshal, who once carried a candle before Charles X. in a procession, and has been this morning to Neuilly to kneel and pray at the foot of Napoleon’s coffin. He might have said his prayers at home, to be sure; but don’t let us ask too much: that kind of reserve is not a Frenchman’s characteristic.

Bang—bang! At about half-past two a dull sound of cannonading was heard without the church, and signals took place between the Commandant of the Invalids, of the National Guards, and the big drum-major. Looking to these troops (the fat Nationals were shuffling into line again) the two Commandants tittered, as nearly as I could catch them, the following words—


At once all the National bayonets were on the present, and the sabres of the old Invalids up. The big drum-major looked round at the children, who began very slowly and solemnly on their drums, Rub-dub-dub—rub-dub-dub—(count two between each)—rub-dub-dub, and a great procession of priests came down from the altar.

First, there was a tall handsome cross-bearer, bearing a long gold cross, of which the front was turned towards his grace the Archbishop. Then came a double row of about sixteen incense-boys, dressed in white surplices: the first boy, about six years old, the last with whiskers and of the height of a man. Then followed a regiment of priests in black tippets and white gowns: they had black hoods, like the moon when she is at her third quarter, wherewith those who were bald (many were, and fat too) covered themselves. All the reverend men held their heads meekly down, and affected to be reading in their breviaries.

After the Priests came some Bishops of the neighboring districts, in purple, with crosses sparkling on their episcopal bosoms.

Then came, after more priests, a set of men whom I have never seen before—a kind of ghostly heralds, young and handsome men, some of them in stiff tabards of black and silver, their eyes to the ground, their hands placed at right angles with their chests.

Then came two gentlemen bearing remarkable tall candlesticks, with candles of corresponding size. One was burning brightly, but the wind (that chartered libertine) had blown out the other, which nevertheless kept its place in the procession—I wondered to myself whether the reverend gentleman who carried the extinguished candle, felt disgusted, humiliated, mortified—perfectly conscious that the eyes of many thousands of people were bent upon that bit of refractory wax. We all of us looked at it with intense interest.

Another cross-bearer, behind whom came a gentleman carrying an instrument like a bedroom candlestick.

His Grandeur Monseigneur Affre, Archbishop of Paris: he was in black and white, his eyes were cast to the earth, his hands were together at right angles from his chest: on his hands were black gloves, and on the black gloves sparkled the sacred episcopal—what do I say?— archiepiscopal ring. On his head was the mitre. It is unlike the godly coronet that figures upon the coach-panels of our own Right Reverend Bench. The Archbishop’s mitre may be about a yard high: formed within probably of consecrated pasteboard, it is without covered by a sort of watered silk of white and silver. On the two peaks at the top of the mitre are two very little spangled tassels, that frisk and twinkle about in a very agreeable manner.

Monseigneur stood opposite to us for some time, when I had the opportunity to note the above remarkable phenomena. He stood opposite me for some time, keeping his eyes steadily on the ground, his hands before him, a small clerical train following after. Why didn’t they move? There was the National Guard keeping on presenting arms, the little drummers going on rub-dub-dub—rub-dubdub—in the same steady, slow way, and the Procession never moved an inch. There was evidently, to use an elegant phrase, a hitch somewhere.

[Enter a fat priest who bustles up to the drum-major.]

Fat priest—"Taisez-vous."

Little drummer—Rub-dub-dub—rub-dub-dub—rub-dub-dub, &c.

Drum-major—"Qu’est-ce donc?"

Fat priest—"Taisez-vous, dis-je; ce n’est pas le corps. Il n’arrivera pas—pour une heure."

The little drums were instantly hushed, the procession turned to the right-about, and walked back to the altar again, the blown-out candle that had been on the near side of us before was now on the off side, the National Guards set down their muskets and began at their sandwiches again. We had to wait an hour and a half at least before the great procession arrived. The guns without went on booming all the while at intervals, and as we heard each, the audience gave a kind of "ahahah!" such as you hear when the rockets go up at Vauxhall.

At last the real Procession came.

Then the drums began to beat as formerly, the Nationals to get under arms, the clergymen were sent for and went, and presently—yes, there was the tall cross-bearer at the head of the procession, and they came BACK!

They chanted something in a weak, snuffling, lugubrious manner, to the melancholy bray of a serpent.

Crash! however, Mr. Habeneck and the fiddlers in the organ loft pealed out a wild shrill march, which stopped the reverend gentlemen, and in the midst of this music—

And of a great trampling of feet and clattering,

And of a great crowd of Generals and Officers in fine clothes,

With the Prince de Joinville marching quickly at the head of the procession,

And while everybody’s heart was thumping as hard as possible,


It was done in an instant. A box covered with a great red cross—a dingy-looking crown lying on the top of it—Seamen on one side and Invalids on the other—they had passed in an instant and were up the aisle.

A faint snuffling sound, as before, was heard from the officiating priests, but we knew of nothing more. It is said that old Louis Philippe was standing at the catafalque, whither the Prince de Joinville advanced and said, "Sire, I bring you the body of the Emperor Napoleon."

Louis Philippe answered, "I receive it in the name of France." Bertrand put on the body the most glorious victorious sword that ever has been forged since the apt descendants of the first murderer learned how to hammer steel; and the coffin was placed in the temple prepared for it.

The six hundred singers and the fiddlers now commenced the playing and singing of a piece of music; and a part of the crew of the "Belle Poule" skipped into the places that had been kept for them under us, and listened to the music, chewing tobacco. While the actors and fiddlers were going on, most of the spirits-of-wine lamps on altars went out.

When we arrived in the open air we passed through the court of the Invalids, where thousands of people had been assembled, but where the benches were now quite bare. Then we came on to the terrace before the place: the old soldiers were firing off the great guns, which made a dreadful stunning noise, and frightened some of us, who did not care to pass before the cannon and be knocked down even by the wadding. The guns were fired in honor of the King, who was going home by a back door. All the forty thousand people who covered the great stands before the Hotel had gone away too. The Imperial Barge had been dragged up the river, and was lying lonely along the Quay, examined by some few shivering people on the shore.

It was five o’clock when we reached home: the stars were shining keenly out of the frosty sky, and Francois told me that dinner was just ready.

In this manner, my dear Miss Smith, the great Napoleon was buried.



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Chicago: William Makepeace Thackeray, "III. On the Funeral Ceremony.," The Second Funeral of Napoleon, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934 in The Second Funeral of Napoleon (Boston: John W. Luce and Company, 1911), Original Sources, accessed March 19, 2019,

MLA: Thackeray, William Makepeace. "III. On the Funeral Ceremony." The Second Funeral of Napoleon, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934, in The Second Funeral of Napoleon, Boston, John W. Luce and Company, 1911, Original Sources. 19 Mar. 2019.

Harvard: Thackeray, WM, 'III. On the Funeral Ceremony.' in The Second Funeral of Napoleon, ed. and trans. . cited in 1911, The Second Funeral of Napoleon, John W. Luce and Company, Boston. Original Sources, retrieved 19 March 2019, from