|Inside Chateau de Malmaison|
It has been quite some time since I had to make myself presentable for 'court'. As my good wife will attest, I am a creature of habit and tend to wear a good deal of black. After some consultation with Lt. Ramsey and Mr. Cushing, the two most fashionable gentlemen of my acquaintance, and having a look at some French fashion plates, it was decided that I would wear a purple cut away coat, a while silk waistcoat and black silk breeches. I also purchased a new pair of pumps as it was pointed out to me by my wife that my old pair had become quite worn looking.
Thursday & Friday military camps moved in and set up on the far Northeast end of the property near Château de Bois-Préau. As a special guest lecturer I was freely admitted to most areas, it appeared that the general assumption was that I was well dressed and supposed to be there. Another unexpected weapon in my secret arsenal was my own wife. Mrs. Roberts in her beauty frequently gained me passage where I might otherwise not been allowed. She has a certain air and look that French guards tended not to question.
Friday night there was a Dinner at Chateau de Malmaison with the Emperor and all the local politicians and people of interest. The room was packed tightly, and there was initially some concern that there might not be room for us, but my wife and I were eventually seated at a table directly next to that of the Emperor and some of the ladies of his wife's court. I was within 10 feet of the man himself all evening.
As one would expect, Bonaparte is always flanked by his personal servants and guards. It will be a difficult thing to get close enough to administer my poisonous draught.
Our meal consisted of:
Pâté chaud de caille a la truffe.
Longe de veau dans son jus, fricassee de legumes du moment.
Assiette de fromages affines et sa verdure aux herbes.
Dome de vanille de Madagascar et sa salade d'argrumes.
...and a great deal of Champagne.
The evening was brought to a close by dancing, and I did not have the opportunity to get any closer to Bonaparte.
On Saturday, 100,000 people were estimated to have gathered in the center of the city to see the Emperor's official arrival with great fanfare. Bands and drums played upon his arrival, I could espy it all from the doorway of the town hall building.
There were speeches from local politicians followed by a great Parade through the streets of the town out to the great military encampment. There were soldiers of every sort gathered to participate in the grand show. Being a Surgeon in His Majesty's Navy, I have never borne witness to so many soldiers on the ground in one place. I would estimate over a thousand easily. The Emperor is always surrounded by scads of armed men, with all eyes upon him.
In the middle of the grand encampment was a large roped off area that was set up for the sole use of Bonaparte, Josephine and their court and guests. This area lay at a midpoint on the grounds between Château de Bois-Préau and Château de Malmaison. There was, in the center, a large tent for Napoleon and an even larger one off to the side for Josephine. The ladies and gentlemen of the court and special guests were treated to a sumptuous picnic on rugs placed in the Northeast corner of the roped off area. It was not lost on me that many of the French commanders and generals found their way in to partake in the picnic as well.
Bonaparte was secluded in his tent the entire time and we did not see him.
After eating a little light fare, I wandered the Emperor's roped off area, every corner with a guard posted and several at the entryway. Napoleon and Josephine's tents were guarded as well. There was no getting close to him here. I made some conversation with the guard closest to our picnic area in an attempt to ascertain the guard rotation schedule to no avail.
One of Bonaparte's commanders allowed me into a tent used as a military headquarters of a sort and I was afforded an excellent view of a campaign map. It was pinned showing the forces of various French and English units, he even took the time to explain to me the meanings of the various types of pins and their colours. Each pin bore a little pasteboard placard with the name of the particular commander upon it. I made a careful mental note of each in an effort to carry the information back with me.
to be continued...
Special thanks to the photographers who have allowed me to make use of their amazing pictures: