Memoirs of Napoleon— Volume 13

Author: Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne

Chapter VI. 1815.

Message to Madame de Bourrienne on the 20th of March—Napoleon’s
nocturnal entrance into Paris—General Becton sent to my family by
Caulaincourt—Recollection of old persecutions—General Driesen—
Solution of an enigma—Seals placed on my effects—Useless searches
—Persecution of women—Madame de Stael and Madame de Recamier—
Paris during the Hundred Days—The federates and patriotic songs—
Declaration of the Plenipotentiaries at Vienna.

At Lille, and again at Hamburg, I received letters from my family, which I had looked for with great impatience. They contained particulars of what had occurred relative to me since Bonaparte’s return to Paris. Two hours after my departure Madame de Bourrienne also left Paris, accompanied by her children, and proceeded to an asylum which had been offered her seven leagues from the capital. She left at my house in Paris her sister, two of her brothers, and her friend the Comtesse de Neuilly, who had resided with us since her return from the emigration.

On the very morning of my wife’s departure (namely, the 20th of March) a person, with whom I had always been on terms of friendship, and who was entirely devoted to Bonaparte, sent to request that Madame de Bourrienne would call on him, as he wished to speak to her on most important and urgent business. My sister-in-law informed the messenger that my wife had left Paris, but, begging a friend to accompany her, she went herself to the individual, whose name will be probably guessed, though I do not mention it. The person who came with the message to my house put many questions to Madame de Bourrienne’s sister respecting my absence, and advised her, above all things, to conjure me not to follow the King, observing that the cause of Louis XVIII. was utterly lost, and that I should do well to retire quietly to Burgundy, as there was no doubt of my obtaining the Emperor’s pardon.

Nothing could be more gloomy than Bonaparte’s entrance into Paris. He arrived at night in the midst of a thick fog. The streets were almost deserted, and a vague feeling of terror prevailed almost generally in the capital.

At nine o’clock on the same evening, the very hour of Bonaparte’s arrival at the Tuileries, a lady, a friend, of my family, and whose son served in the Young Guard, called and requested to see Madame de Bourrienne. She refused to enter the house lest she should be seen, and my sister-in-law went down to the garden to speak to her without a light. This lady’s brother had been on the preceding night to Fontainebleau to see Bonaparte, and he had directed his sister to desire me to remain in Paris, and to retain my post in the Prefecture of the Police, as I was sure of a full and complete pardon.

On the morning of the 21st General Becton, who has since been the victim of his mad enterprises, called at my house and requested to speak with me and Madame de Bourrienne. He was received by my wife’s sister and brothers, and stated that he came from M. de Caulaincourt to renew the assurances of safety which had already been given to me. I was, I confess, very sensible of these proofs of friendship when they came to my knowledge, but I did not for a single moment repent the course I adopted. I could not forget the intrigues of which I had been the object since 1811, nor the continual threats of arrest which, during that year, had not left me a moment’s quiet; and since I now revert to that time, I may take the opportunity of explaining how in 1814 I was made acquainted with the real causes of the persecution to which I had been a prey. A person, whose name prudence forbids me mentioning, communicated to me the following letter, the original copy of which is in my possession:

MONSIEUR LE DUC DE BASSANO—I send you some very important documents
respecting the Sieur Bourrienne, and beg you will make me a
confidential report on this affair. Keep these documents for
yourself alone. This business demands the utmost secrecy.
Everything induces me to believe that Bourrienne has carried a
series of intrigues with London. Bring me the report on Thursday.
I pray God, etc.
PARIS, 25th December 1811.

I could now clearly perceive what to me had hitherto been enveloped in obscurity; but I was not, as yet, made acquainted with the documents mentioned in Napoleon’s epistle. Still, however, the cause of his animosity was an enigma which I was unable to guess, but I obtained its solution some time afterwards.

General Driesen, who was the Governor of Mittau while Louis XVIII. resided in that town, came to Paris in 1814. I had been well acquainted with him in 1810 at Hamburg, where he lived for a considerable time. While at Mittau he conceived a chivalrous and enthusiastic friendship for the King of France. We were at first distrustful of each other, but afterwards the most intimate confidence arose between us. General Driesen looked forward with certainty to the return of the Bourbons to France, and in the course of our frequent conversations on his favourite theme he gradually threw off all reserve, and at length disclosed to me that he was maintaining a correspondence with the King.

He told me that he had sent to Hartwell several drafts of proclamations, with none of which, he said, the King was satisfied. On allowing me the copy of the last of these drafts I frankly told him that I was quite of the King’s opinion as to its unfitness. I observed that if the King should one day return to France and act as the general advised he would not keep possession of his throne six months. Driesen then requested me to dictate a draft of a proclamation conformably with my ideas. This I consented to do on one condition, viz. that he would never mention my name in connection with the business, either in writing or conversation. General Driesen promised this, and then I dictated to him a draft which I would now candidly lay before the reader if I had a copy of it. I may add that in the different proclamations of Louis XVIII. I remarked several passages precisely corresponding with the draft I had dictated at Hamburg.

During the four years which intervened between my return to Paris and the downfall of the Empire it several times occurred to me that General Driesen had betrayed my secret, and on his very first visit to me after the Restoration, our conversation happening to turn on Hamburg, I asked him whether he had not disclosed what I wished him to conceal? "Well," said he, "there is no harm in telling the truth now. After you had left Hamburg the King wrote to me inquiring the name of the author of the last draft I had sent him, which was very different from all that had preceded it. I did not answer this question, but the King having repeated it in a second letter, and having demanded an answer, I was compelled to break my promise to you, and I put into the post-office of Gothenberg in Sweden a letter for the King, in which I mentioned your name."

The mystery was now revealed to me. I clearly saw what had excited in Napoleon’s mind the suspicion that I was carrying on intrigues with England. I have no doubt as to the way in which the affair came to his knowledge. The King must have disclosed my name to one of those persons whose situations placed them above the suspicion of any betrayal of confidence, and thus the circumstance must have reached the ear of Bonaparte. This is not a mere hypothesis, for I well know how promptly and faithfully Napoleon was informed of all that was said and done at Hartwell.

Having shown General Drieaen Napoleon’s accusatory letter, he begged that I would entrust him with it for a day or two, saying he would show it to the King at a private audience. His object was to serve me, and to excite Louis XVIII.’s interest in my behalf, by briefly relating to him the whole affair. The general came to me on leaving tile Tuileries, and assured me that the King after perusing the letter, had the great kindness to observe that I might think myself very happy in not having been shot. I know not whether Napoleon was afterwards informed of the details of this affair, which certainly had no connection with any intrigues with England, and which, after all, would have been a mere peccadillo in comparison, with the conduct I thought it my duty to adopt at the time of the Restoration.

Meanwhile Madame de Bourrienne informed me by an express that seals were to be placed on the effects of all the persons included in the decree of Lyons, and consequently upon mine. As soon as my wife received information of this she quitted her retreat and repaired to Paris to face the storm. On the 29th of March, at nine in the evening, the police agents presented themselves at my house. Madame de Bourrienne remonstrated against the measure and the inconvenient hour that was chosen for its execution; but all was in vain, and there was no alternative but to submit.

But the matter did not end with the first formalities performed by Fouche’s alguazils. During the month of May seven persons were appointed to examine, my papers, and among the inquisitorial septemvirate were two men well known and filling high situations. One of these executed his commission, but the other, sensible of the odium attached to it, wrote to say he was unwell, and never came. The number of my inquisitors, ’in domo’, was thus reduced to six. They behaved with great rudeness, and executed their mission with a rigour and severity exceedingly painful to my family. They carried their search so far as to rummage the pockets of my old clothes, and even to unrip the linings. All this was done in the hope of finding something that would commit me in the eyes of the new master of France. But I was not to be caught in that way, and before leaving home I had taken such precautions as to set my mind perfectly at ease.

However, those who had declared themselves strongly against Napoleon were not the only persons who had reason to be alarmed at his return. Women even, by a system of inquisition unworthy of the Emperor, but unfortunately quite in unison with his hatred of all liberty, were condemned to exile, and had cause to apprehend further severity. It is for the exclusive admirers of the Chief of the Empire to approve of everything which proceeded from him, even his rigour against a defenceless sex; it is for them to laugh at the misery of a woman, and a writer of genius, condemned without any form of trial to the most severe punishment short of death. For my part, I saw neither justice nor pleasantry in the exile of Madame de Chevreuse for having had the courage (and courage was not common then even among men) to say that she was not made to be the gaoler of the Queen of Spain. On Napoleon’s return from. the isle of Elba, Madame de Stael was in a state of weakness, which rendered her unable to bear any sudden and violent emotion. This debilitated state of health had been produced by her flight from Coppet to Russia immediately after the birth of the son who was the fruit of her marriage with M. Rocca. In spite of the danger of a journey in such circumstances she saw greater danger in staying where she was, and she set out on her new exile. That exile was not of long duration, but Madame de Stael never recovered from the effect of the alarm and fatigue it occasioned her.

The name of the authoress of Corinne, naturally calls to mind that of the friend who was most faithful to her in misfortune, and who was not herself screened from the severity of Napoleon by the just and universal admiration of which she was the object. In 1815 Madame Recamier did not leave Paris, to which she had returned in 1814, though her exile was not revoked. I know positively that Hortense assured her of the pleasure she would feel in receiving her, and that Madame Recamier, as an excuse for declining the perilous honour, observed that she had determined never again to appear in the world as long as her friends should be persecuted. The memorial de Sainte Helene, referring to the origin of the ill-will of the Chief of the Empire towards the society of Madame de Stael and Madame Recamier, etc., seems to reproach Madame Recamier, "accustomed," says the Memorial, "to ask for everything and to obtain everything," for having claimed nothing less than the complete reinstatement of her father. Whatever may have been the pretensions of Madame Recamier, Bonaparte, not a little addicted to the custom he complains of in her, could not have, with a good grace, made a crime of her ingratitude if he on his side had not claimed a very different sentiment from gratitude. I was with the First Consul at the time M. Bernard, the father of Madame Reamier, was accused, and I have not forgotten on what conditions the re-establishment would have been granted.

The frequent interviews between Madame Recamier and Madame de Stael were not calculated to bring Napoleon to sentiments and measures of moderation. He became more and more irritated at this friendship between two women formed for each other’s society; and, on the occasion of one of Madame Recamier’s journeys to Coppet he informed her, through the medium of Fouche, that she was perfectly at liberty to go to Switzerland, but not to return to Paris. "Ah, Monseigneur! a great man may be pardoned for the weakness of loving women, but not for fearing them." This was the only reply of Madame Recamier to Fouche when she set out for Coppet. I may here observe that the personal prejudices of the Emperor would not have been of a persevering and violent character if some of the people who surrounded him had not sought to foment them. I myself fell a victim to this. Napoleon’s affection for me would perhaps have got the upper hand if his relenting towards me had not been incessantly combated by my enemies around him.

I had no opportunity of observing the aspect of Paris during that memorable period recorded in history by the name of the Hundred Days, but the letters which I received at the time, together with all that, I afterwards heard, concurred in assuring me that the capital never presented so melancholy s picture as: during those three months. No one felt any confidence in Napoleon’s second reign, and it was said, without any sort of reserve, that Fouche, while serving the cause of usurpation, would secretly betray it. The future was viewed with alarm, and the present with dissatisfaction. The sight of the federates who paraded the faubourgs and the boulevards, vociferating, "The Republic for ever!" and "Death to the Royalists!" their sanguinary songs, the revolutionary airs played in our theatres, all tended to produce a fearful torpor in the public mind, and the issue of the impending events was anxiously awaited.

One of the circumstances which, at the commencement of the Hundred Days, most contributed to open the eyes of those who were yet dazzled by the past glory of Napoleon, was the assurance with which he declared that the Empress and his son would be restored to him, though nothing warranted that announcement. It was evident that he could not count on any ally; and in spite of the prodigious activity with which a new army was raised those persons must have been blind indeed who could imagine the possibility of his triumphing over Europe, again armed to oppose him. I deplored the inevitable disasters which Bonaparte’s bold enterprise would entail, but I had such certain information respecting the intentions of the Allied powers, and the spirit which animated the Plenipotentiaries at Vienna, that I could not for a moment doubt the issue of the conflict: Thus I was not at all surprised when I received at Hamburg the minutes of the conferences at Vienna in May 1815.

When the first intelligence of Bonaparte’s landing was received at Vienna it must be confessed that very little had been done at the Congress, for measures calculated to reconstruct a solid and durable order of things could only be framed and adopted deliberately, and upon mature reflection. Louis XVIII. had instructed his Plenipotentiaries to defend and support the principles of justice and the law of nations, so as to secure the rights of all parties and avert the chances of a new war. The Congress was occupied with these important objects when intelligence was received of Napoleon’s departure from Elba and his landing at the Gulf of Juan. The Plenipotentiaries then signed the protocol of the conferences to which I have above alluded.


The following despatch of Napoleon’s to Marshal Davoust (given in Captain Bingham’s Translation, vo1 iii. p. 121), though not strictly bearing upon the subject of the Duke of Bassano’s inquiry (p. 256), may perhaps find a place here, as indicative of the private feeling of the Emperor towards Bourrienne. As the reader will remember, it has already been alluded to earlier in the work:


I have received your letter concerning the cheating of Bourrienne at Hamburg. It will be important to throw light upon what he has done. Have the Jew, Gumprecht Mares, arrested, seize his papers, and place him in solitary confinement. Have some of the other principal agents of Bourrienne arrested, so as to discover his doings at Hamburg, and the embezzlements he has committed there.
(Signed) NAPOLEON.


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Chicago: Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, "Chapter VI. 1815.," Memoirs of Napoleon— Volume 13 in Memoirs of Napoleon—Volume 13 Original Sources, accessed December 11, 2023,

MLA: Fauvelet de Bourrienne, Louis Antoine. "Chapter VI. 1815." Memoirs of Napoleon— Volume 13, in Memoirs of Napoleon—Volume 13, Original Sources. 11 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Fauvelet de Bourrienne, LA, 'Chapter VI. 1815.' in Memoirs of Napoleon— Volume 13. cited in , Memoirs of Napoleon—Volume 13. Original Sources, retrieved 11 December 2023, from