zondag 4 maart 2012

Memoirs of Queen Hortense

In the night of 20/21 April, 1808, I gave birth to a son. I would have preferred a daughter, but the news delighted my mother and the Emperor had a cannon salute fired along the whole of the Spanish border - he was there at the time. He saw the birth of a second prince in his family as a happy event for his policy. To inform him of the event I had sent to him Monsieur de Villeneuve, my French chamberlain, and to my husband, Monsieur, the Count de Bylandt, my Dutch chamberlain. The King had it announced to the people assembled beneath his balcony and received the usual congratulations. I later learned that this surgeon [Baudelocque, ed.] had said in the “salon de service” (servants' salon): «Queens are allowed to give birth before term; they never count like others.”

My son was so weak that I thought I would lose him at birth. He had to be bathed in wine [so as to improved the circulation of the blood, ed.], and I wrapped him in cotton [to warm him up, ed.] to bring him back to life. I was no longer concerned about my own life: dark forebodings gave me nothing other than the certitude that I would die. I was so convinced of this that I asked my obstetrician I would live one more day. My state seemed to him to be inexplicable. And it just got worse.

A visit from Monsieur de Talleyrand heightened my state of nerves. He had to be present for the writing of the certificate of birth of my son. He usually wore a great deal of powder. The smell was so strong that when he came close to me to congratulate me, I nearly suffocated. I did not dare say anything the whole time he was there, but I felt poorly. […] My youngest child […] made me very worried. I nearly lost him: I had to change his wet nurse. I rushed myself to a village to look for one, and I paid for this energy which I had momentarily in this moment of maternal fear, a few days later. I caught a cold caring for my son and had terrible headaches as a result. Would you believe it? I enjoyed the physical suffering. And to make matters worse, the emperor's family worried about my stay in France. The mother of my husband [Madame Mère, ed.] said out loud that I was abandoning her ill and unhappy son, who could not do without me. […] The idea of returning to Holland  made me shudder…»

Mémoires de la Reine Hortense / publiés par le prince Napoléon ; avec notes par Jean Hanoteau. Paris, Plon 1927, 3 v., vol. 2, pp. 3-6 (trans .P.H.) napoleon/birth

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