Charles-Éloi Vial: L’Adieu à l’Empereur. Journal de Marie-Louise (Farewell to the Emperor: the journal of Marie-Louise)
Tuesday, March 27, 1810, at three o’clock in the afternoon, on the road from Soissons to Reims, the forty-year-old emperor jumped into a carriage, to the surprise of a young eighteen year old princess. Napoleon Bonaparte has just met his future wife, Marie Louise, daughter of Francis I of Austria. For this young woman, raised in hatred of the French Revolution, it was a shock. He wasn’t one for ceremonials: he had been divorced for only a few weeks and was determined to seal the alliance with an old European monarchy, he is impatient to meet the one that will give him an heir. Whilst neither of them was quite expecting it, the flame is ignited between them.
After the “incomparable” Josephine, who has seen both the rise and fall of the Empire, Marie-Louise has often been seen as a spoiled child, quick to abandon her husband after his defeat and hasten back to her own family. Yet between the shy girl of 1810 and the fallen sovereign sent home four years later to her father under military protection, she had come a long way. These various travel diaries, published here together for the first time, take us behind the scenes of the Napoleonic Empire, but give an insight into the intimate movements and the complex personality of this amazing young woman, faithful and capricious, mocking and loving, and sometimes melancholic.
Paris: Editions of the Fondation Napoléon – Vendémiaire Editions, coll. Bibliothèque du XIXe siècle, January 2015