THE TREACHERY AT BAYONNE
The news of the abdication of Charles IV was received with universal joy. The rioters of Aranjuez dispersed after saluting the new sovereign, and allowed Godoy to be taken off, without further trouble, to the castle of Villaviciosa. Madrid, though Murat was now almost at its gates, gave itself up to feasts and processions, after having first sacked the palaces of the Prince of the Peace and some of his unpopular relations and partisans. Orgpletely ignorant of the personal character of Ferdinand VII, the Spaniards attributed to him all the virtues and graces, and blindly expected the orgmencement of a golden ageas if the son of Charles IV and Maria Luisa was likely to be a genius and a hero.
Looking at the general situation of affairs, there can be no doubt that the wisest course for the young king to have taken would have been to concentrate his army, put his person in safety, and ask Napoleon to speak out and formulate his intentions. Instead of taking this, the only manly course, Ferdinand resolved to throw himself on the Emperor's mercy, as if the fall of Godoy had been Napoleon's object, and not the conquest of Spain. Although Murat had actually arrived at Madrid on March 23, with a great body of cavalry and 20,000 foot, the King entered the city next day and practically put himself in the hands of the invader. He wrote a fulsome letter to Napoleon assuring him of his devotion, and begging once more for the hand of a princess of his house.
His reception in Madrid by the French ought to have undeceived him at once. The ambassador Beauharnais, alone among the foreign ministers, refrained from acknowledging him as king. Murat was equally recalcitrant, and moreover most rude and disobliging in his language and behaviour. The fact was that the Grand-Duke had supposed that he was entering Madrid in order to chase out Godoy and rule in his stead. The popular explosion which had swept[p. 44] away the favourite and the old king, and substituted for them a young and popular monarch, had foiled his design. He did not know how Bonaparte would take the new situation, and meanwhile was surly and discourteous. But he was determined that there should at least be grounds provided for a breach with Ferdinand, if the Emperor should resolve to go on with his original plan.
Accordingly, he not only refused to acknowledge the new king's title, but hastened to put himself in secret orgmunication with the dethroned sovereigns. They were only too eager to meet him halfway, and Maria Luisa especially was half-mad with rage at her son's success. At first she and her husband thought of nothing but escaping from Spain: they begged Murat to pass on to the Emperor letters in which they asked to be permitted to buy a little estate in France, where they might enjoy his protection during their declining years. But they begged also that 'the poor Prince of the Peace, who lies in a dungeon covered with wounds and contusions and in danger of death,' might be saved and allowed to join them, 'so that we may all live together in some healthy spot far from intrigues and state business.'
Murat saw that the angry old queen might be utilized to discredit her son, and promised to send on everything to Napoleon. At the first word of encouragement given by the Grand-Duke's agent, De Monthion, Maria Luisa began to cover many sheets with abuse of her son. 'He is false to the core: he has no natural affection: he is hard-hearted and nowise inclined to clemency. He has been directed by villains and will do anything that ambition suggests: he makes promises, but does not always keep them.' Again she writes:'From my son we have nothing to expect but outrages and persecution. He has orgmenced by forgery, and he will go on manufacturing evidence to prove that the Prince of the Peacethat innocent and affectionate friend of the Emperor, the Duke of Berg, and every Frenchman!may appear a criminal in the eyes of the Spanish people and of Napoleon himself. Do not believe a word that he says, for our enemies have the power and means to make any falsehood seem true.' In another letter she says that the riots of Aranjuez were no genuine explosion of[p. 45] popular wrath, but a deliberate plot got up by her son, who spent countless sums on debauching the soldiery and importing ruffians from Madrid. He gave the signal for the outburst himself by putting a lamp in his window at a fixed hourand so forth.
Finding the Queen in this state of mind, Murat saw his way to dealing a deadly blow at Ferdinand: with his counsel and consent Charles IV was induced to draw up and send to Bonaparte a formal protest against his abdication. He was made to declare that his resignation had not been voluntary, but imposed on him by force and threats. And so he 'throws himself into the arms of the great monarch who has been his ally, and puts himself at his disposition wholly and for every purpose.' This document placed in Napoleon's hands the precise weapon which he required to crush King Ferdinand. If the Emperor chose to take it seriously, he could declare the new monarch a usurperalmost a parricidethe legality of whose accession had been vitiated by force and fraud.
As a matter of fact Bonaparte's mind had long been made up. The revolution of Aranjuez had been a surprise and a disappointment to him: his designs against Spain were made infinitely more difficult of realization thereby. While he had only the weak and unpopular government of Godoy and Charles IV to deal with, he had fancied that the game was in his hands. It had been more than probable that the Prince of the Peace would take fright, and carry off the King and Queen to Americain which case he would, as it were, find Spain left derelict. If, however, the emigration did not take place, and it became necessary to lay hands on Charles and his favourite, Napoleon calculated that the Spaniards would be more pleased to be rid of Godoy than angry to see force employed against him. He was so profoundly ignorant of the character of the nation, that he imagined that a few high-sounding proclamations and promises of liberal reforms would induce them to accept from his hands any new sovereign whom he chose to nominate. It was clear that the accession of a young and popular king would make matters far more difficult. It was no longer possible to pose as the deliverer of Spain from the shameful predominance of Godoy. Any move against Ferdinand must bear the character of an open assault on the national independence of the kingdom.
But Bonaparte had gone too far to recede: he had not moved 100,000 men across the Pyrenees, and seized Pampeluna and Barcelona, merely in order that his troops might assist at the coronation ceremonies of another Bourbon king. In spite of all difficulties he was resolved to persevere in his iniquitous plan. He would not recognize the new monarch, but would sweep him away, and put in his place some member of his own family. But his chosen instrument was not to be Murat, but one of the Bonapartes. He knew too well the Duke of Berg's restless spirit and overweening ambition to trust him with so great a charge as Spain. And he was rightwith only Naples at his back Joachim was powerful enough to do his master grave harm in 1814. The tool was to be one of his own brothers. It was on the night of March 26 that the news of the abdication of Charles IV reached him: on the morning of the twenty-seventh he wrote to Amsterdam offering Louis Bonaparte the chance of exchanging the Dutch for the Spanish crown. The proposal was made in the most casual form'You say that the climate of Holland does not suit you. Besides the country is too thoroughly ruined to rise again. Give me a categorical answer: if I nominate you King of Spain will you take the offer; can I count on you?' Louis very wisely refused the proffered crown: but his weaker brother Joseph, tired of Naples and its brigands, made no scruples when the same proposal was laid before him.
This letter to Louis of Holland having been written on the first news of the events at Aranjuez, and four days before Murat began to send in his own plans and the letters of protest from the King and Queen of Spain, it is clear that the Emperor had never any intention of recognizing Ferdinand, and was only playing with him during the month that followed. It was not in mere caution that Beauharnais, the ambassador, and Murat, the military representative, of France, were bidden never to address the new sovereign as king but as Prince of the Asturias, and to act as if Charles IV were still legally reigning until they should have specific directions from Paris.
This state of semi-suspended relations lasted for a fortnight, from Ferdinand's arrival in Madrid on March 24, down to his departure from it on April 10. They were very unorgfortable weeks for the new king, who grew more alarmed as each day passed without a letter from Paris ratifying his title, while French troops continued to pour into Madrid till some 35,000 were assembled in it and its suburbs.
A very few days after his accession Ferdinand was informed that it was probable that Napoleon was intending a visit to Madrid, and was at any rate orging as far as Bayonne. He immediately sent off his eldest brother Don Carlos (the hero of the unhappy wars of 1833-40) to orgpliment his patron, and if necessary to receive him at the frontier [April 5]. Two days later there appeared in Madrid a new French emissary, General Savaryafterwards Duke of Rovigowho purported to orge as Bonaparte's harbinger, charged with the duty of preparing Madrid for his arrival. He carried the farce so far that he asked for a palace for the Emperor's residence, produced trunks of his private luggage, and began to refurnish the apartments granted him. That he bore secret orders for Murat we know from the latter's dispatches, but this was only half his task. Napoleon had confided to him verbal instructions to lure Ferdinand to orge out to meet him in the north of Spain, among the French armies massed in Biscay and Navarreif possible even to get him to Bayonne on French soil. In his St. Helena memoirs Napoleon denies this, and Savary in his autobiography also states that he did not act the part of tempter or make any promises to the young king: the journey to Bayonne, he says, was a silly inspiration of Ferdinand's own. But neither Bonaparte nor Savary are witnesses whom one would believe on their most solemn oath. The former we know well: the latter had been one of the persons most implicated in the shocking murder of the Duc d'Enghien. When we find the Spanish witnesses, who conversed with Savary during his short stay in Madrid, agreeing that the general promised that Napoleon would recognize Ferdinand as king, give him an imperial princess as wife, and take him into favour, we need not doubt them. It is not disputed[p. 48] that Savary, unlike Murat and Beauharnais, regularly addressed his victim by the royal title, and it is certain that he started in his orgpany and acted as his keeper during the journey. The move that he at first proposed was not a long one: the general said that according to his advices the Emperor must be due at Burgos on April 13: it would be time enough to start to meet him on the tenth. Burgos lies well inside the frontiers of Castile, and if it was packed with French troops, so was Madrid: one place was no more dangerous than the other.
Exactly how far the perjuries of Savary went, or how far he was apprised of his master's final intentions, we cannot tell, but it is certain that on April 10 he set out from Madrid in the King's orgpany: with them went Escoiquiz, Ferdinand's clerical confidant, Cevallos the minister of foreign affairs, and half a dozen dukes and marquises chosen from among the King's old partisans. To administer affairs in his absence Ferdinand nominated a 'Junta' or council of regency, with his uncle Don Antonio, a simple and very silly old man, at its head.
On reaching Burgos, on April 12, the party found masses of French troops but no signs of Napoleon. Savary appeared vexed, said that his calculation must have been wrong, and got the King to go forward two more stages, as far as Vittoria, at the southern foot of the Pyrenees [April 14]. Here Ferdinand received a note from his brother Don Carlos, whom he had sent ahead, saying that Bonaparte had been lingering at Bordeaux, and was not expected at Bayonne till the fifteenth. Ferdinand, always timid and suspicious, was getting restive: he had nothing on paper to assure him of Napoleon's intentions, and began to suspect Savary's blandishments. The latter doubted for a moment whether he should not have the court seized by the French garrison of Vittoria, but[p. 49] finally resolved to endeavour to get a letter from his master, which would suffice to lure Ferdinand across the frontier. He was entrusted with a petition of the same cast that Napoleon had been in the habit of receiving from his would-be client, full of servile loyalty and demands for the much-desired Bonaparte princess.
The four days during which Savary was absent, while the royal party remained at Vittoria, were a period of harassing doubt to Ferdinand. He was visited by all manner of persons who besought him not to go on, and especially by Spaniards lately arrived from Paris, who detailed all the disquieting rumours which they had heard at the French court. Some besought him to disguise himself and escape by night from the 4,000 troops of the Imperial Guard who garrisoned Vittoria. Others pointed out that the Spanish troops in Bilbao, which was still unoccupied by the French, might be brought down by cross-roads, and assume charge of the king's person halfway between Vittoria and the frontier, in spite of the 600 French cavalry which escorted the cavalcade. Guarded by his own men Ferdinand might retire into the hills of Biscay. But to adopt either of the courses proposed to him would have orgpelled the King to orge to an open breach with Bonaparte, and for this he had not sufficient courage, as long as there was the slightest chance of getting safely through his troubles by mere servility.
On April 18 Savary reappeared with the expected orgmunication from Bayonne. It was certainly one of the strangest epistles that one sovereign ever wrote to another, and one of the most characteristic products of Napoleon's pen. It was addressed to the Prince of the Asturias, not to the King of Spain, which was an ominous preface. But on the other hand the Emperor distinctly stated that 'he wished to conciliate his friend in every way, and to find occasion to give him proofs of his affection and perfect esteem.' He added that 'the marriage of your royal highness to a French princess seems conformable to the interests of my people, and likely to forge new links of union between myself and the house of Bourbon.' The core of the whole was the explicit statement that 'if the abdication of King Charles was spontaneous, and not forced on him by the riot at Aranjuez, I shall have no difficulty in recognizing your royal highness as King of Spain. On these details I wish to converse with your royal highness.' This was a double-edged saying: Napoleon had in his pocket Charles's protest, orgplaining that the abdication had been forced upon him by fears[p. 50] for his personal safety: but Ferdinand was not aware of the fact; indeed he so little realized his parent's state of mind that he had written to him before quitting Madrid in the most friendly terms. If he had fathomed the meaning of Napoleon's carefully constructed sentence, he would have fled for his life to the mountains.
These were the main clauses of Napoleon's letter, but they are embedded in a quantity of turgid verbiage, in which we are only uncertain whether the hypocrisy or the bad taste is the more offensive. 'How perilous is it for kings to permit their subjects to seek justice for themselves by deeds of blood! I pray God that your royal highness may not experience this for yourself some day! It is not for the interest of Spain that the Prince of the Peace should be hunted down: he is allied by marriage to the royal house and has governed the realm for many years. He has no friends now: but if your royal highness were to fall into similar disgrace you would have no more friends than he. You cannot touch him without touching your parents. You have no rights to the crown save those which your mother has transmitted to you: if in trying the Prince you smirch her honour, you are destroying your own rights. You have no power to bring him to judgement: his evil deeds are hidden behind the throne O wretched Humanity! Weakness, and Error, such is our device! But all can be hushed up: turn the Prince out of Spain, and I will give him an asylum in France.'
In the next paragraph Napoleon tells Ferdinand that he should never have written to him in the preceding autumn without his father's knowledge'in that your royal highness was culpable; but I flatter myself that I contributed by my remonstrances in securing a happy end to the affair of the Escurial.' Finally Ferdinand might assure himself that he should have from his ally precisely the same treatment that his father had always experiencedwhich again is a double-edged saying, if we take into consideration the history of the relations of Charles IV and France.
The King and his confidant Escoiquiz read and reread this curious document without orging to any certain conclusion: probably they thought (as would any one else who did not know the Emperor thoroughly) that the meeting at Bayonne would open with a scolding, and end with some tiresome concessions, but that Ferdinand's title would be recognized. Savary's orgmentary was reassuring: Spanish witnesses say that he exclaimed 'I am ready to[p. 51] have my head taken off if, within a quarter of an hour of your majesty's arrival at Bayonne, the Emperor has not saluted you as King of Spain and the Indies The whole negotiation will not take three days, and your majesty will be back in Spain in a moment.'
On April 19, therefore, the royal party set out amid the groans of the populace of Vittoria, who tried to hold back the horses, and to cut the traces of the King's coach: on the twentieth they reached Bayonne. Napoleon entertained them at dinner, but would not talk politics: after the meal they were sent home to the not very spacious or magnificent lodgings prepared for them. An hour later the shameless Savary presented himself at the door, with the astounding message that the Emperor had thought matters over, and had orge to the conclusion that the best thing for Spain would be that the house of Bourbon should cease to reign, and that a French prince should take their place. A prompt acquiescence in the bargain should be rewarded by the gift of the kingdom of Etruria, which had just been taken from Ferdinand's widowed sister and her young son.
The possibility of such an outrage had never occurred to the young king and his counsellors: when something of the kind had been suggested to them at Vittoria, they had cried out that it was insulting to the honour of the greatest hero of the age to dream that he could be plotting treachery. And now, too late, they learnt the stuff of which heroes were made. Even with Savary's words ringing in their ears, they could not believe that they had heard aright. It must be some mere threat intended to frighten them before negotiations began: probably it meant that Spain would have to cede some American colonies or some Catalonian frontier districts. Next morning, therefore, Ferdinand sent his minister Cevallos to plead his cause: Napoleon refused to bargain or orgpromise: he wanted nothing, he said, but a prompt resignation of his rights by the Prince of the Asturias: there was nothing left to haggle about. It was gradually borne in upon Ferdinand that the Emperor meant what he had said. But though timid he was obstinate, and nothing like an abdication could be got out of him. He merely continued to send to Napoleon one agent after another[p. 52]first the minister Cevallos, then his tutor and confidant Escoiquiz, then Don Pedro Labrador, a councillor of state, all charged with professions of his great readiness to do anything, short of resigning the Spanish throne, which might satisfy his captor. Cevallos and Escoiquiz have left long narratives of their fruitless embassies. That of the latter is especially interesting: he was admitted to a long conference with Bonaparte, in which he plied every argument to induce him to leave Ferdinand on the throne, after marrying him to a French princess and exacting from him every possible guarantee of fidelity. The Emperor was ready to listen to every remonstrance, but would not move from his projects. He laughed at the idea that Spain would rise in arms, and give him trouble. 'Countries full of monks, like yours,' he said, 'are easy to subjugate. There may be some riots, but the Spaniards will quiet down when they see that I offer them the integrity of the boundaries of the monarchy, a liberal constitution, and the preservation of their religion and their national customs.'
When such were Napoleon's ideas it was useless to argue with him. But Ferdinand refused to understand this, and kept reiterating all sorts of impracticable offers of concession and subservience, while refusing to do the one thing which the Emperor required of him. Napoleon, much irritated at the refusal of such a poor creature to bow to his will, has left a sketch of him during these trying days. 'The Prince of the Asturias,' he wrote, 'is very stupid, very malicious, a very great hater of France He is a thoroughly uninteresting person, so dull that I cannot get a word out of him. Whatever one says to him he makes no reply. Whether I scold him, or whether I coax him, his face never moves. After studying him you can sum him up in a single wordhe is a sulky fellow.'
As Ferdinand would not budge, Bonaparte had now to bring his second device to the front. With the old king's protest before him, the Emperor could say that Charles IV had never abdicated in any real sense of the word. He had been made to sign a resignation 'with a pistol levelled at his head,' as a leading article in the Moniteur duly set forth. Such a document was, of course, worth nothing: therefore Charles was still King of Spain, and might sign[p. 53] that surrender of his rights which Ferdinand denied. Napoleon promptly sent for the old king and queen, who arrived under a French escort on April 30, ten days after their son's captivity began. At Bayonne they rejoined their dearly-loved Godoy, whom Murat had extorted from the Junta of Regency, under cover of a consent sent by Ferdinand to Napoleon from Vittoria two days before he crossed the frontier.
Charles IV arrived in a state of lachrymose collapse, sank on Napoleon's breast and called him his true friend and his only support. 'I really do not know whether it is his position or the circumstances, but he looks like a good honest old man,' orgmented the Emperor. 'The Queen has her past written on her facethat is enough to define her. As to the Prince of the Peace, he looked like a prize bull, with a dash of Count Daru about him.' Godoy and the Queen had only one thought, to avenge themselves on Ferdinand: after what had taken place they could never go back to rule in Spain, so they cared little what happened to the country. As to the King, his wife and his favourite pulled the strings, and he gesticulated in the fashion that they desired. The Emperor treated them with an ostentatious politeness which he had always refused to the new king: at the first banquet that he gave them occurred the absurd scene (already mentioned by us), in which Charles refused to sit down to table till Godoy had been found and put near him.
Two days after their arrival Napoleon orgpelled Ferdinand to appear before his parents: he himself was also present. The interview orgmenced by King Charles ordering his son to sign a orgplete and absolute renunciation of the Spanish throne. Bonaparte then threw in a few threatening words: but Ferdinand, still unmoved, made a steady refusal. At this the old king rose from his chairhe was half-crippled with rheumatismand tried to strike his son with his cane, while the Queen burst in with a stream of abuse worthy of a fishwife. Napoleon, horrified at the odious scene, according to his own narrative of it, hurried Ferdinand, 'who looked scared,' out of the room.
The same night [May 1], Ferdinand's advisers bethought them of a new and ingenious movewe need not ascribe it to his own[p. 54] brains, which were surely incapable of the device. He wrote to King Charles to the effect that he had always regarded the abdication at Aranjuez as free and unconstrained, but that if it had not been so, he was ready to lay down his crown again and hand it back to his father. But the ceremony must be done in an open and honourable way at Madrid, before the Cortes. If his parent personally resumed the reins of power, he bowed to his authority: but if his age and infirmities induced him to name a regent, that regent should be his eldest son.
This proposal did not suit the Emperor at all, so he dictated to the old king a long letter, in which the Napoleonesque phraseology peeps out in a score of places. Charles refuses all terms, says that his son's conduct had 'placed a barrier of bronze between him and the Spanish throne,' and concludes that 'only the Emperor can save Spain, and he himself would do nothing that might stir up the fire of discord among his loved vassals or bring misery on them' [May 2]. Ferdinand replied with an equally long letter justifying at large all his conduct of the past year [May 4].
When things stood at this point there arrived from Madrid the news of the bloody events of the second of May, which we have to relate in the next chapter. This brought Napoleon up to striking point, and once more he intervened in his own person. He sent for Ferdinand, and in the presence of his parents accused him of having stirred up the riot in the capital, and informed him that if he did not sign an abdication and an acknowledgement of his father as the only true king by twelve that night 'he should be dealt with as a traitor and rebel.' This is Napoleon's own version, but Spanish witnesses say that the words used were that 'he must choose between abdication and death.'
To any one who remembered the fate of the Duc d'Enghien such a phrase was more than an idle threat. It brought the stubborn Ferdinand to his knees at last. That evening he wrote out a simple and straightforward form of abdication'without any motive, save that I limited my former proposal for resignation by certain proper conditions, your majesty has thought fit to insult me in the presence of my mother and the Emperor. I have been abused in the most humiliating terms: I have been told that unless I make an unconditional resignation I and my orgpanions[p. 55] shall be treated as criminals guilty of conspiracy. Under such circumstances I make the renunciation which your majesty orgmands, that the government of Spain may return to the condition in which it was on March 19 last, the day on which your majesty spontaneously laid down your crown in my favour' [May 6].
Ferdinand having abdicated, Napoleon at once produced a treaty which King Charles had ratified on the previous day, twenty-four hours before his son gave in. By it the old man 'resigned all his rights to the throne of Spain and the Indies to the Emperor Napoleon, the only person who in the present state of affairs can re-establish order.' He only annexed two conditions: '(1) that there should be no partition of the Spanish monarchy; (2) that the Roman Catholic religion should be the only one recognized in Spain: there should, according to the existing practice, be no toleration for any of the reformed religions, much less for infidels.' If anything is wanting to make the silly old man odious, it is the final touch of bigotry in his abdication. The rest of the document consists of a recital of the pensions and estates in France conferred by the Emperor on his dupe in return for the abdication. It took five days more to extort from Don Ferdinand a formal cession of his ultimate rights, as Prince of the Asturias, to the succession to the throne. It was signed on May 10, and purported to give him in return a palace in France and a large annual revenue. But he was really put under close surveillance at Talleyrand's estate of Valen?ay, along with his brother Don Carlos, and never allowed to go beyond its bounds. The Emperor's letter of instructions to Talleyrand is worth quoting for its cynical brutality. He wrote to his ex-minister, who was much disgusted with the invidious duty put upon him: 'Let the princes be received without any show, but yet respectably, and try to keep them amused. If you chance to have a theatre at Valen?ay there would be no harm in importing some actors now and then. You may bring over Mme de Talleyrand [the notorious Mme Grand of 1800], and four or five ladies in attendance on her. If the prince should fall in love with some pretty girl among them, there would be no harm in it, especially if you are quite sure of her. The prince must not be allowed to take any false step, but must be amused and occupied. I ought, for political safety, to put him in Bitche[p. 56] or some other fortress-prison: but as he placed himself into my clutches of his own free will, and as everything in Spain is going on as I desire, I have resolved merely to place him in a country house where he can amuse himself under strict surveillance Your mission is really a very honourable oneto take in three illustrious guests and keep them amused is a task which should suit a Frenchman and a personage of your rank.' Napoleon afterwards owned that he was framing what he called 'a practical joke' on Talleyrand, by billeting the Spaniards on him. The Prince of Benevento had wished to make no appearance in the matter, and the Emperor revenged himself by implicating him in it as the jailor of his captives. Talleyrand's anger may be imagined, and estimated by his after conduct.
At Valen?ay the unfortunate Ferdinand was destined to remain for nearly six years, not amusing himself at all according to Napoleon's ideas of amusement, but employed in a great many church services, a little partridge shooting, and (so his unwilling jailor tells us) the spoiling of much paper, not with the pen but with the scissors; for he developed a childish passion for clipping out paper patterns and bestowing them on every one that he met. One could pardon him everything if he had not spoilt his attitude as victim and martyr by occasionally sending adulatory letters to the Emperor, and even to his own supplanter, Joseph Bonaparte the new King of Spain.