Memoirs of Napoleon— Volume 10

Author: Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne

Chapter XIII. 1807-1808.

Disturbed state of Spain—Godoy, Prince of the Peace—Reciprocal
accusations between the King of Spain and his son—False promise of
Napoleon—Dissatisfaction occasioned by the presence of the French
troops—Abdication of Charles IV.—The Prince of the Peace made
prisoner—Murat at Madrid—Important news transmitted by a
commercial letter—Murat’s ambition—His protection of Godoy—
Charles IV, denies his voluntary abdication—The crown of Spain
destined for Joseph—General disapprobation of Napoleon’s conduct—
The Bourbon cause apparently lost—Louis XVIII. after his departure
from France—As Comte de Provence at Coblentz—He seeks refuge in
Turin and Verona—Death of Louis XVII—Louis XVIII. refused an
asylum in Austria, Saxony, and Prussia—His residence at Mittan and
Warsaw—Alexander and Louis XVIII—The King’s departure from Milan
and arrival at Yarmouth—Determination of the King of England—M.
Lemercier’s prophecy to Bonaparte—Fouche’s inquiries respecting
Comte de Rechteren—Note from Josephine—New demands on the Hanse
Towns—Order to raise 3000 sailors in Hamburg.

The disorders of Spain, which commenced about the close of the year 1807, in a short time assumed a most complicated aspect. Though far from the theatre of events I obtained an intimate knowledge of all the important facts connected with the extraordinary transactions in the Peninsula. However, as this point of history is one of the most generally, though I cannot say the best, known, I shall omit in my notes and memoranda many things which would be but repetitions to the reading portion of the public. It is a remarkable fact that Bonaparte, who by turns cast his eyes on all the States of Europe, never directed his attention to Spain as long as his greatness was confined to mere projects. Whenever he spoke of his future destiny he alluded to Italy, Germany, the East, and the destruction of the English power; but never to Spain. Consequently, when he heard of the first symptoms of disorder in the Peninsula he paid but little attention to the business, and some time elapsed before he took any part in events which subsequently had so great an influence on his fate.

Godoy reigned in Spain under the name of the imbecile Charles IV. He was an object of execration to all who were not his creatures; and even those whose fate depended upon him viewed him with the most profound contempt. The hatred of a people is almost always the just reward of favourites. What sentiments, therefore, must have been inspired by a man who, to the knowledge of all Spain, owed the favour of the king only to the favours of the queen!

—[Manuel Godoy, originally a private in the guards, became the
paramour of Charles IV.’s Queen; then a grandee; and then the
supreme ruler of the State.—Editor of 1836 edition.]—

Godoy’s ascendancy over the royal family was boundless; his power was absolute: the treasures, of America were at his command, and he made the most infamous use of them. In short, he had made the Court of Madrid one of those places to which the indignant muse of Juvenal conducts the mother of Britanicus. There is no doubt that Godoy was one of the principal causes of all the misfortunes which have overwhelmed Spain under so many various forms.

The hatred of the Spaniards against the Prince of the Peace was general. This hatred was shared by the Prince the Asturias,—[Afterwards Ferdinand VII.]— who openly declared himself the enemy of Godoy. The latter allied himself with France, from which he hoped to obtain powerful protection against his enemies. This alliance gave rise to great dissatisfaction in Spain, and caused France to be regarded with an unfavourable eye. The Prince of the Asturias was encouraged and supported by the complaints of the Spaniards, who wished to see the overthrow of Godoy’s power. Charles IV., on his part, regarded all opposition to the Prince of the Peace as directed against himself, and in November 1807 he accused his son of wishing to dethrone him.

The King of Spain did not confine himself to verbal complaints. He, or rather the Prince of the Peace, acting in his name, arrested the warmest partisans of the Prince of the Asturias. The latter, understanding the sentiments of his father, wrote to Napoleon, soliciting his support. Thus the father and son, at open war, were appealing one against another for the support of him who wished only to get rid of them both, and to put one of his brothers in their place, that he might have one junior more in the college of European kings: but, as I have already mentioned, this new ambition was not premeditated; and if he gave the throne of Spain to his brother Joseph it was only on the refusal of his brother Louis (King of Holland) to accept it.

The Emperor had promised to support Charles IV against his son; and, not wishing to take part in these family quarrels, he had not answered the first letters of the Prince of the Asturias. But finding that the intrigues of Madrid were taking a serious turn, he commenced provisionally by sending troops to Spain. This gave offence to the people, who were averse to the interference of France. In the provinces through which the French troops passed it was asked what was the object: of the invasion. Some attributed it to the Prince of the Peace, others to the Prince of the Asturias; but it excited general indignation, and troubles broke out at Madrid accompanied by all the violence peculiar to the Spanish character.

In these fearful circumstances Godoy proposed that Charles IV. should remove to Seville, where he would be the better enabled to visit the factious with punishment. A proposition from Godoy to his master was, in fact, a command, and Charles IV. accordingly resolved to depart. The people now looked upon Godoy as a traitor. An insurrection broke out, the palace was, surrounded, and the, Prince of the Peace was on the point of being massacred in an upper apartment, where he had taken refuge.

—[French troops had appeared in again some months before, on their
way to Portugal, the conquest of which country by Junot was to be
aided by Godoy and a Spanish force of 27,000 men, according to a
treaty (more disgraceful to the Court of Spain than to Bonaparte)
which had been ratified at Fontainebleau on the 27th of October
1807. Charles IV. was little better than an idiot, and Godoy and
the French made him believe that Bonaparte world give part, or the
whole of Portugal, to Spain. At the time of Junot’s march on Lisbon
a reserve of 40,000 French troops were assembled at Bayonne—
a pretty clear indication, though the factious infatuated Court of
Madrid would not see it, that Bonaparte intended to seize the whole
of the Peninsula.—Editor of 1838 edition.]—

One of the mob had the presence of mind to invoke in his favour the name of the Prince of the Asturias: this saved his life.

Charles IV. did not preserve his crown; he was easily intimidated, and advantage was taken of a moment of alarm to demand that abdication which he had not spirit to refuse. He surrendered up his rights to his son, and thus was overthrown the insolent power of the Prince of the Peace; the favourite was made prisoner, and the Spaniards, who, like all ignorant people, are easily excited, manifested their joy on the occasion with barbarous enthusiasm. Meanwhile the unfortunate King, who had escaped from imaginary rather than real dangers, and "who was at first content with having exchanged the right of reigning for the right of living, no sooner found himself in safety than he changed, his mind. He wrote to the Emperor protesting against his abdication, and appealed. to him as the arbiter of his future fate.

During these internal dissensions the French army was continuing its march towards the Pyrenees. Those barriers were speedily crossed, and Murat entered Madrid in the beginning of April 1808. Before I received any despatch from our Government I learned that Murat’s presence in Madrid, far from producing a good effect, had only increased the disorder. I obtained this information from a merchant of Lubeck who came to Hamburg on purpose to show me a letter he had received from his correspondent in Madrid. In this letter Spain was said to be a prey which Murat wished to appropriate to himself; and all that afterwards came to my knowledge served only to prove the accuracy of the writer’s information. It was perfectly true that Murat wished to conquer Spain for himself, and it is not astonishing that the inhabitants of Madrid should have understood his designs, for he carried his indiscretion so far as openly to express his wish to become King of Spain. The Emperor was informed of this, and gave him to understand, in very significant terms, that the throne of Spain was not destined for him, but that he should not be forgotten in the disposal of other crowns.

However, Napoleon’s remonstrances were not sufficient to restrain the imprudence of Murat; and if he did not gain the crown of Spain for himself he powerfully contributed to make Charles IV. lose it. That monarch, whom old habits attached to the Prince of the Peace, solicited the Emperor to liberate his favourite, alleging that he and his family would be content to live in any place of security provided Godoy were with them. The unfortunate Charles seemed to be thoroughly disgusted with greatness.

Both the King and Queen so earnestly implored Godoy’s liberation that Murat, whose vanity was flattered by these royal solicitations, took the Prince of the Peace under his protection; but he at the same time declared that, in spite of the abdication of Charles IV., he would acknowledge none but that Prince as King of Spain until he should receive contrary ,orders from the Emperor. This declaration placed Murat in formal opposition to the Spanish people, who, through their hatred of Godoy, embraced the cause of the heir of the throne; in whose favour Charles IV. had abdicated.

It has been remarked that Napoleon stood in a perplexing situation in this conflict between the King and his son. This is not correct. King Charles, though he afterwards said that his abdication had been forced from him by violence and threats, had nevertheless tendered it. By this act Ferdinand was King, but Charles declared it was done against his will, and he retracted. The Emperor’s recognition was wanting, and he, could give or withhold it as he pleased.

In this state of things Napoleon arrived at Bayonne. Thither Ferdinand was also invited to go, under pretence of arranging with the Emperor the differences between his father and himself. It was some time before he could form his determination, but at length his ill-advised friends prevailed on him to set off, and he was caught in the snare. What happened to him, as well as to his father, who repaired to Bayonne with his inseparable friend the Prince of the Peace is well known. Napoleon, who had undertaken to be arbiter between the father and son, thought the best way of settling the difference was to give the disputed throne to his brother Joseph, thus verifying the fable of the "Two Lawyers and the Oyster." The insurrection in Madrid on the 2d of May accelerated the fate of Ferdinand, who was accused of being the author of it; at least this suspicion fell on his friends and adherents.

Charles IV., it was said, would not return to Spain, and solicited an asylum in France. He signed a renunciation of his rights to the crown of Spain, which renunciation was also signed by the Infantas.

Napoleon now issued a decree, appointing "his dearly beloved brother Joseph Napoleon, King of Naples and Sicily, to the crowns of Spain and the Indies." By a subsequent decree, 15th of July, he appointed "his dearly-beloved cousin, Joachim Murat, Grand Duke of Berg, to the throne of Naples and Sicily, which remained vacant by the accession of Joseph Napoleon to the kingdoms of Spain and the Indies." Both these documents are signed Napoleon, and countersigned by the Minister Secretary of State, Maret.

The Prince Royal of Sweden, who was at Hamburg at this time, and the Ministers of all the European power, loudly condemned the conduct of Napoleon with respect to Spain. I cannot say whether or not M. de Talleyrand advised the Emperor not to attempt the overthrow of a branch of the house of Bourbon; his good sense and elevated views might certainly have suggested that advice. But the general opinion was that, had he retained the portfolio of foreign affairs, the Spanish revolution would have terminated with more decorum and good faith than was exhibited in the tragi-comedy acted at Madrid and Bayonne.

After the Treaty of Tilsit and the bonds of friendship which seemed likely to produce a permanent union between the Emperors of France and Russia, the cause of the Bourbons must have been considered irretrievably lost. Indeed, their only hope consisted in the imprudence and folly of him who had usurped their throne, and that hope they cherished. I will here relate what I had the opportunity of learning respecting the conduct of Louis XVIII. after his departure from France; this will naturally bring me to the end of November 1807, at which time I read in the Abeille du Nord published on the 9th of the same month, that the Comte de Lille and the Due d’Angouleme had set off for England.

The Comte de Provence, as Louis’ title then went, left Paris on the 21st of June 1791. He constantly expressed his wish of keeping as near as possible to the frontiers of France. He at first took up his abode at Coblentz, and I knew from good authority that all the emigrants did not regard him with a favourable eye. They could not pardon the wise. principles he had professed at a period when there was yet time to prevent, by reasonable concession, the misfortunes which imprudent irritation brought upon France. When the emigrants, after the campaign of 1792, passed the Rhine, the Comte de Provence resided in the little town of Ham on the Lippe, where he remained until he was persuaded that the people of Toulon had called him to Provence. As he could not, of course, pass through France, Monsieur repaired to the Court of his father-in-law, the King of Sardinia, hoping to embark at Genoa, and from thence to reach the coast of Provence. But the evacuation of Toulon, where the name of Bonaparte was for the first time sounded by the breath of fame, having taken place before he was able to leave Turin, Monsieur remained there four months, at the expiration of which time his fatherin-law intimated to him the impossibility of his remaining longer in the Sardinian States. He was afterwards permitted to reside at Verona, where he heard of Louis XVI.’s death. After remaining two years in that city the Senate of Venice forbade his presence in the Venetian States. Thus forced to quit Italy the Comte repaired to the army of Conde.

The cold and timid policy of the Austrian Cabinet afforded no asylum to the Comte de Provence, and he was obliged to pass through Germany; yet, as Louis XVIII. repeated over and over again, ever since the Restoration, "He never intended to shed French blood in Germany for the sake of serving foreign interests." Monsieur had, indeed, too much penetration not to see that his cause was a mere pretext for the powers at war with France. They felt but little for the misfortunes of the Prince, and merely wished to veil their ambition and their hatred of France under the false pretence of zeal for the House of Bourbon.

When the Dauphin died, Louis XVIII. took the title of King of France, and went to Prussia, where he obtained an asylum.

—[His brother, Charles X., the youngest of the three grandsons of
Louis XV. (Louis XVI., Louis XVIII. Charles X.), the Comte
d’Artois, afterwards Charles X. emigrated in 1789, and went to
Turin and Mantas for 1789 and 1790. In 1791 and 1792 he lived at
Coblenta, Worms, Brussels, Vienna, and at Turin. From 1792 to 1812
he lived at Ham on the Lippe at Westphalia at London, and for most
of the time at Holyrood, Edinburgh. During this time he visited
Russia and Germany, and showed himself on the coast of France. In
1818 he went to Germany, and in 1814 entered France in rear of the
allies. In risking his person in the daring schemes of the
followers who were giving their lives for the cause of his family he
displayed a circumspection which was characterised by them with
natural warmth.

"Sire, the cowardice of your brother has ruined all;" so Charette is
said to have written to Louis XVIII.]—

But the pretender to the crown of France had not yet drained his cup of misfortune. After the 18th Fructidor the Directory required the King of Prussia to send away Louis XVIII., and the Cabinet of Berlin, it must be granted, was not in a situation to oppose the desire of the French Government, whose wishes were commands. In vain Louis XVIII. sought an asylum in the King of Saxony’s States. There only remained Russia that durst offer a last refuge to the descendant of Louis XIV. Paul I., who was always in extremes, and who at that time entertained a violent feeling of hatred towards France, earnestly offered Louis XVIII., a residence at Mittau. He treated him with the honours of a sovereign, and loaded him with marks of attention and respect. Three years had scarcely passed when Paul was seized with mad enthusiasm for the man who twelve years later, ravaged his ancient capital, and Louis XVIII. found himself expelled from that Prince’s territory with a harshness equal to the kindness with which he had at first been received.

It was during, his three, years’ residence at Mittau that Louis XVIII., who was then known by the title of Comte de Lille, wrote to the First Consul those letters which have been referred to in these Memoirs. Prussia, being again solicited, at length consented that Louis XVIII. should reside at Warsaw; but on the accession of Napoleon to the Empire the Prince quitted that residence in order to consult respecting his new situation with the only sovereign who had not deserted him in his misfortune, viz. the King of Sweden. They met at Colmar, and from that city was dated the protest which I have already noticed. Louis XVIII. did not stay long in the States of the King of Sweden. Russia was now on the point of joining her eagles with those of Austria to oppose the new eagles of imperial France. Alexander offered to the Comte de Lille the asylum which Paul had granted to him and afterwards withdrawn. Louis XVIII. accepted the offer, but after the peace of Tilsit, fearing lest Alexander might imitate the second act of his father as well as the first, he plainly saw that he must give up all intention of residing on the Continent; and it was then that I read in the ’Abeille du Nord’ the article before alluded to. There is, however, one fact upon which I must insist, because I know it to be true, viz. that it was of his own free will that Louis XVIII. quitted Mittau; and if he was afraid that Alexander would imitate his father’s conduct that fear was without foundation. The truth is, that Alexander was ignorant even of the King’s intention to go away until he heard from Baron von Driesen, Governor of Mittau, that he had actually departed. Having now stated the truth on this point I have to correct another error, if indeed it be only an error, into which some writers have fallen. It has been falsely alleged that the King left Mittau for the purpose of fomenting fresh troubles in France. The friends of Louis XVIII., who advised him to leave Mittau, had great hopes from the last war. They cherished still greater hopes from the new wars which Bonaparte’s ambition could not fail to excite, but they were not so ill-informed respecting the internal condition of France as to expect that disturbances would arise there, or even to believe in the possibility of fomenting them. The pear was not yet ripe for Louis XVIII.

On the 29th of November the contents of a letter which had arrived from London by way of Sweden were communicated to me. This letter was dated the 3d of November, and contained some particulars respecting the Comte de Lille’s arrival in England. That Prince had arrived at Yarmouth on the 31st of October 1807, and it was stated that the King was obliged to wait some time in the port until certain difficulties respecting his landing and the continuance of his journey should be removed. It moreover appeared from this letter that the King of England thought proper to refuse the Comte de Lille permission to go to London or its neighbourhood. The palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh was assigned as his place of residence; and Mr. Ross, secretary to Mr. Canning, conveyed the determination of the King of England to Louis XVIII., at Yarmouth.

The precaution of the English Ministry in not permitting the refugee King to go near London appeared to me remarkable, considering the relative position of the Governments of France and England, and I regarded it as a corroboration of what the Prince Wittgenstein had told me respecting Mr. Canning’s inclination for an amicable arrangement. But the moment was approaching when the affairs of Spain were to raise an invincible obstacle to peace, to complicate more than ever the interests of the powers of Europe, and open to Napoleon that vast career of ambition which proved his ruin. He did not allow the hopes of the emigrants to remain chimerical, and the year 1814 witnessed the realization of the prophetic remark made by M. Lemereier, in a conversation with Bonaparte a few days before the foundation of the Empire: "If you get into the bed of the Bourbons, General, you will not lie in it ten year." Napoleon occupied it for nine years and nine months.

Fouche, the grand investigator of the secrets of Europe, did not fail, on the first report of the agitations in Spain, to address to me question on question respecting the Comte de Rechteren, the Spanish Minister at Hamburg, who, however, had left that city, with the permission of his Court, four months after I had entered on my functions. This was going back very far to seek information respecting the affairs of the day. At the very moment when I transmitted a reply to Fouche which was not calculated to please him, because it afforded no ground for suspicion as to the personal conduct of M. de Rechteren, I received from the amiable Josephine a new mark of her remembrance. She sent me the following note:

"M. Milon, who is now in Hamburg, wishes me, my dear Bourrienne, to request that you will use your interest in his favour. I feel the more pleasure in making this request as it affords me an opportunity of renewing the assurance of my regard for you."

Josephine’s letter was dated from Fontainebleau, whither the Emperor used to make journeys in imitation of the old Court of France. During these excursions he sometimes partook of the pleasures of the chase, but merely for the sake of reviving an old custom, for in that exercise he found as little amusement as Montaigne did in the game of chess,

At Fontainebleau, as everywhere else, his mind was engaged with the means of augmenting his greatness, but, unfortunately, the exactions he imposed on distant countries were calculated to alienate the affections of the people. Thus, for example, I received an order emanating from him, and transmitted to me by M. Daru, the Intendant-General of the army, that the pay of all the French troops stationed in the Hanse Towns should be defrayed by these towns. I lamented the necessity of making such a communication to the Senates of Bremen, Lubeck, and Hamburg; but my duty compelled me to do so, and I had long been accustomed to fulfil duties even more painful than this. I tried every possible means with the three States, not collectively but separately, to induce them to comply with the measure, in the hope that the assent of one would help me to obtain that of the two others. But, as if they, had been all agreed, I only received evasive expressions of regret.

Knowing as I did, and I may say better than any one else, the hopes and designs of Bonaparte respecting the north of Germany, it was not without pain, nor even without alarm, that I saw him doing everything calculated to convert into enemies the inhabitants of a country which would always have remained quiet had it only been permitted to preserve its neutrality. Among the orders I received were often many which could only have been the result of the profoundest ignorance. For example, I was one day directed to press 3000 seamen in the Hanse Towns. Three thousand seamen out of a population of 200,000! It was as absurd as to think of raising 500,000 sailors in France. This project being impossible, it was of course not executed; but I had some difficulty in persuading the Emperor that a sixth of the number demanded was the utmost the Hanse Towns could supply. Five hundred seamen were accordingly furnished, but to make up that number it was necessary to include many men who were totally unfit for war service.


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Chicago: Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, "Chapter XIII. 1807-1808.," Memoirs of Napoleon— Volume 10 in Memoirs of Napoleon—Volume 10 Original Sources, accessed October 3, 2022,

MLA: Fauvelet de Bourrienne, Louis Antoine. "Chapter XIII. 1807-1808." Memoirs of Napoleon— Volume 10, in Memoirs of Napoleon—Volume 10, Original Sources. 3 Oct. 2022.

Harvard: Fauvelet de Bourrienne, LA, 'Chapter XIII. 1807-1808.' in Memoirs of Napoleon— Volume 10. cited in , Memoirs of Napoleon—Volume 10. Original Sources, retrieved 3 October 2022, from