FRIDAY, DECEMBER 12
Suzanne did my Word Press 2. 7 upgrade. I like it. It makes a heck of a lot more sense. There are still a few little glitches, but I sure like it.
Pin-Up Queen, Betty Page has died.
A fascinating clue to the breakup of the original continent has been discovered.
The obligatory Christmas Star link.
The 2000 year old brain sounds more like a sci fi title than an archaeological discovery!
Born: Nicholas Sanson, geographer, 1599, Abbeville; Samuel, Viscount Hood, British admiral, 1724, Butley, Somersetshire; Dr. Erasmus Darwin, poet and physiologist, 1731, Elston, near Newark; Sir William Beechey, artist, 1753; Archduchess Maria Louisa, second wife of Napoleon, 1791.
Died: Darius Nothus, of Persia, 405 B.C.; Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, political and philosophical writer, 1751, Battersea; Colley Cibber, dramatist, 1757, Islington; Sir Mark Isamhard Brunel, engineer of Thames Tunnel, 1849, London.
Feast Day: Saints Epimachus, Alexander, and others, martyrs, 250. St. Corentin, bishop and confessor, 5th century. St. Columba, abbot in Ireland, 548. St. Finian, or Finan, confessor, bishop of Clonard, in Ireland, 6th century. St. Cormac, abbot in Ireland. St. Valery, abbot, 622. St. Colman, abbot in Ireland, 659. St. Eadburge, abbess of Menstrey, in Thanet, 751.
THE TWO EMPRESSES, JOSEPHINE AND MARIA LOUISA
An historical parallel has sometimes been drawn between Queen Catharine and the Empress Josephine: the one having been divorced by Henry VIII, in order that he might marry Anne Boleyn; and the other divorced by the Emperor Napoleon, in order that he might marry the Arch-duchess Maria Louisa. But, beyond these points of similarity, the parallel fails. Henry sought to throw a stigma on her of whom he was tired as a wife; Napoleon had political reasons only for what he did. Josephine bowed meekly to her fate; but Catharine felt keenly that she was an injured woman. A little has been said, in a former article, concerning a prophecy or fortune-teller’s story to which Josephine gave credence; but something may be added here relating more nearly to Maria Louisa.
In 1809, Napoleon was approaching the zenith of his power. His conquests had made nearly all the sovereigns of Europe suppliants for his favour. Austria had long held out, but the terrible defeat at Wagram had brought her, too, into subjection. Napoleon’s ambition, never satisfied, sought for still more and more of the adjuncts of imperial power. He had married a lady with no royal blood in her veins, and by this lady he had no child to inherit his imperial throne; thus a double reason was afforded to a man of his character for getting rid of his poor wife. And, in addition, the French themselves were uneasy at the future prospects of their country, in the event of the emperor dying without issue. M. Thiers, though a glorifier of Napoleon, does not hide the real character of the line of conduct adopted by him on this occasion. On the 26th of October 1809, Napoleon stated his views to the Chancellor Cambacérès:
‘He loved that old companion of his life, Josephine,’ says the historian, ‘though he was not scrupulously faithful to her, and it wrung his heart to part from her; but, as his popularity declined, he liked to suppose that it was not his fault, but the want of a future, which menaced his glorious throne with premature decay. To consolidate what he felt trembling under his feet, was his engrossing thought; if a new wife were chosen, obtained, placed in the Tuileries, and became the mother of a male heir, the faults which had set all the world against him might, perchance, be disarmed of their consequences. It was well, no doubt, to have an indisputable heir; but better, a hundredfold better, would it have been to be prudent and wise! However this may be, Napoleon, who, notwithstanding his want of a son, at the zenith of his glory and power after Tilsit, had been unable to bring himself to sacrifice Josephine, now at last resolved to do so; because he felt the empire shaken, and was about to seek, in a new marriage, the security which he ought to have derived from an able and moderate course of conduct.’
Cambacérès ventured to urge that the proceeding was in various ways objectionable; but Napoleon haughtily silenced him. The emperor had long before secretly sounded Alexander concerning an alliance with the House of Russia. On the 9th of December, at a painful interview between Napoleon, Josephine, and her son and daughter by her first marriage, the separation was agreed upon—the inflexible will of the emperor overbearing all opposition. On the 15th, the civil contract of marriage was formally dissolved, in presence of most of the emperor’s relations; and a conclave of obsequious bishops soon afterwards found arguments for annulling the spiritual or religious marriage. Meanwhile negotiations were going on between Napoleon and Alexander for the marriage of the former to the Princess Anna of Russia, the Emperor Alexander’s sister. Austria and Saxony had each thrown out hints that an alliance with the great military conqueror would be acceptable; and as there was some hesitation on the part of Russia, Napoleon suddenly changed his plan, and, on the 5th of February 1810, demanded in marriage the youthful Archduchess Maria Louisa of Austria.
The demand was eagerly responded to by the court of Vienna, and the lady herself seems to have urged no objection. M. Thiers states that the emperor, Francis II, delighted at the prospect, nevertheless desired that the wishes of his daughter should be consulted, and sent M. Metternich to tell her the news.
‘The young princess was eighteen, of a good figure, excellent health, and a fair German complexion. She had been carefully educated, had some talent, and a placid temper; in short, the qualities desirable in a mother. She was surprised and pleased, far from being dismayed, at going into that France where, but lately, the revolutionary monster devoured kings; and where a conqueror, now mastering the revolutionary monster, made kings tremble in his turn. She accepted with becoming reserve, but with much delight, the brilliant lot offered to her. She consented to become the consort of Napoleon, and mother to the heir of the greatest empire in the world.’
A marriage by proxy took place in Vienna on the 11th of March; a civil marriage at St. Cloud on the 1st of April; and a final spiritual marriage at the Tuileries on the 2nd.
Maria Louisa became a mother in due course, and Napoleon seems to have had no particular affection for her in any other light. She was a princess of neutral or negative qualities, kind in private life, but a little embarrassed when her husband wished her to take the lead in splendid court-ceremonies. Poor Josephine, of course, was not likely to be brought into her society. There was nearly thirty years’ difference in their ages (Josephine was born June 24th, 1763, and Maria Louisa December 12th, 1791); and still more difference in their antecedents. Both empresses were alike in this, they ceased to be empresses while Napoleon was still alive; though Maria Louisa succeeded still in retaining a certain rank, being made Duchess of Parma by the allies, after the fall of Bonaparte.