There are ghosts and to spare in the beautiful Tuileries gardens, east of the Place de la Concorde, with their trees and their statues and their subtle suggestion of that Parisian life which is unlike the life of any other city. Here in the summers of 179o and 1791 a flaxen-haired small boy might have been seen walking with his mother or playing with his father, the passers-by regarding them with respect and almost with affection. He was the little Dauphin. It was in October 1789 that Louis XVI. came, against his will, from Versailles to the Tuileries Palace, which had for years been uninhabited and neglected. It was a tragic and menacing change. ” Everything is dirty here, Mama,” said the bay, and the King replied bitterly to the obsequious decorators and councillors who asked what alterations he suggested, ” Each may lodge as he can. I am well enough.” The royal family stayed for forty-one months at the Tuileries, guarded by Lafayette. They were months of illusion, when men still thought that revolutions could be peaceful and constitutional.
Disillusionment had come by the summer of 1792 when a tri color ribbon was stretched across the gardens, marking the boundary between what was royal and what was national. The royal part, satirically called Coblentz, was generally empty and silent. Admission was only obtainable with a ticket of entry, and the ticket-holders were vastly suspected by patriotic Republicans. Inside the palace there were constant plotting’s for the escape of the King ; Louis always hesitating when the time for action approached. He had made one attempt in the summer before, the famous flight to Varennes, only to be brought back to Paris, passing through silent crowds awed by the official placards : ” Whoever applauds the King shall be thrashed, whoever insults him, hung.” So Louis stayed on until the fatal 10th of August 1792, when the revolutionary mob stormed the palace and massacred the Swiss Guard, staunch mercenaries, true, as Carlyle says, to a king who was not their own. Three days afterwards the King and Queen and their children were in the Temple prison, and in the following May the Convention moved from the Salle de Manege, that stood in the Rue Castiglione on the other side of the Rue de Rivoli, to the Tuileries, destined to be for the next year or two the scene of the Revolutionary Government. But first Louis XVI. had been brought back to his palace to be tried and condemned.
In June 1794 the Tuileries gardens were packed with citizens and their families in holiday dress. Robespierre, ” in sky-blue coat and black breeches,” led the members of the Convention from their hall, with his own hand to light the pyre on which was a painted figure representing Atheism. It was the Fete of the Supreme Being, the new God of Robespierre’s invention-a fatal innovation among a people so impatient of sentimentality and the unreal. ” Avec ton Etre Supreme,” said one of his colleagues to Robespierre, ” tu commences a m’embeter.” Let it be recorded in slight mitigation of his many sins that it was Robespierre who ordered stone benches to be fixed in the Tuileries gardens on which the aged and the weary might rest.
Two years passed. Danton and Robespierre had followed the King and the Girondins into the unknown, and again the Paris crowd surged round the Tuileries. The Revolution had grown unpopular. The more prosperous Paris was vaguely royalist, and the Faubourgs, suspicious and resentful, surged west for the last time. The new men headed by Paul Barras, that clever scoundrel from Provence, were fearful for their places. A strong man was wanted, and the strong man was found. Bonaparte skilfully disposed his cannon. The Sectionnaires, most of them, so Napoleon declared, Chouans de charette, having been repulsed from the Tuileries, made their last stand on the steps of the Church of St. Roch before they were dispersed by the famous whiff of grape shot. ” The thing we specifically call the French Revolution,” says Carlyle, ” is blown into space by it and becomes a thing that was.”
By November 1799 the Directory had run its course. Napoleon, now with the glory of a conqueror, backed by the army and aided by competent generals-Bernadotte alone hanging back-called together certain members of the Council of Ancients at the Tuileries at seven o’clock in the morning of November the 9th, the famous 18th Brumaire, and at three o’clock the next morning, the Consulate was proclaimed in the palace at St. Cloud. Two days afterwards Napoleon was living at the Luxembourg, where Bourrienne records that the word Citoyenne was dropped, and Josephine was addressed as Madame.
Less than six months afterwards Bonaparte removed to the Tuileries. Proceeding in a great procession with three thousand picked soldiers, and with his generals and his ministers, he entered the palace under the inscription, ” Royalty is abolished in France and shall never be reestablished.” And in the entrance hall was a bust of Brutus, set there that no one should falsely suppose that Bonaparte hoped to be a king. The soldiers were reviewed in the gardens and, I quote Bourrienne, ” a number of elegant females, dressed in the Grecian costume which was then the fashion, filled the windows.” The inscription remained, and the bust, but the caps of liberty that had been painted on the walls were removed. ” Wash all those things out,” said Napoleon to the architect, ” I won’t have any such fooleries.” In the morning, after his first night in a king’s bedroom, he said: ” Bourrienne, to be at the Tuileries is not all. We must remain here.”
The day after Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor, he held the first Imperial levee at the Tuileries, the Parisians laughing loudly at the awkwardness of the new courtiers with their new high-sounding names. Pope Plus VII. had apartments in the Temple of Flora in the Tuileries when he came to Paris to crown Napoleon at Notre-Dame. ” I must own that I never saw a man with a finer countenance or a more respectable appearance,” said Rapp, the revolutionary soldier, who was to live to command a corps at Waterloo.
Saint Denis, Napoleon’s valet de chambre, has left an interesting account of domestic life in the Tuileries after the marriage with Marie Louise and the birth of the King of Rome. It was the duty of Saint Denis to serve the Emperor at breakfast. He says :
” A few moments after His Majesty had sat down the Empress would appear. She would give her husband a kiss and sit down at his right. It was my duty to place a chair for her. Most frequently when the Emperor came out of his room he would be accompanied by some important person-a minister or some one-with whom he would continue his conversation till the Empress arrived, for when she was present all serious discussion was banished and playful chat took its place. At dessert the King of Rome was announced and Madame de Montesquiou, followed by an under-governess, would come in, carrying the young Prince in her arms. The Emperor would kiss his son and the talk would continue with the Empress, Madame de Montesquiou, and the person who was present.
” When breakfast was over the Emperor would take the little king in his arms and go to the window, to show him the people passing and a group of curious men and women who habitually stood under the window during breakfast. The little scenes of paternal love did not cease till the Emperor and Empress returned to the salon. . . .
” One day the Emperor took the little king in his arms after his breakfast, as was his custom, caressed him, played some little tricks on him, and said to the Empress, turning toward her, ` Here ! kiss your son ! ‘ I do not remember now whether the Empress kissed the prince, but she replied in a tone almost of repugnance and disgust, `I do not see how anybody can kiss a child.’ The father was very different ; he never stopped kissing and caressing his beloved son.”
Poor little boy, for whom so much was planned and to whom so little was given !
After the battle of Leipzig, the prelude to the break-up of the Empire and Napoleon’s banishment to Elba, Louis XVIII. took up his residence in the Tuileries Palace, but his stay was short. In March 1815 Napoleon landed in France, and great was the perturbation in Paris, councillors and ministers sitting all night discussing whether the King should flee, only Marmont, hard-bitten old marshal, suggesting that he should lock himself in the palace and stand a siege-a proceeding by no means to the stomach of the elderly Bourbon. On the night of the 20th March Napoleon was back in the Tuileries for the Hundred Days, and Louis was at Ghent. The second Restoration came, and with it the return to the palace of the King, who died there in 1834.
So the story goes on, revolution following revolution, poor Louis Philippe escaping in 1848 by an underground passage to his four-wheeled cab in the Place de la Concorde.
In 1853 Napoleon III. was installed at the Tuileries with his raffish Court. There was a smell of booty in the air, and the people who collected it were not of the nicest.
It was in the Tuileries that Napoleon and Haussmann planned the rebuilding of Paris, and the rebuilding made the fortune of every inhabitant of the palace, from the great officers of State to the scullery maids, with the sole exception of Haussmann and the Emperor.
Life at the Tuileries during the Second Empire was exactly like an operette of Offenbach, with its chief characters the Emperor with his heavy moustache and constant cigarette, infinitely tolerant and infinitely bored, the Empress often sad and apprehensive, the Prince Imperial, born in the Tuileries, as the son of the first Napoleon had been, and fated for almost as tragic an end. The days saw a constant round of dances, private theatricals and tableaux vivants, with the Comte Tacher de la Pagerie, the Emperor’s kinsman, supplying the comic relief with realistic imitations of barnyard fowls and barking dogs. All pure Offenbach. And Paris outside the Tuileries caught the note of the Court, with courtesans as popular heroines, laughing along the years, until Sedan and the Commune should bring it back to its senses.
It was on September 3, 1870, that the news came to Eugenie as she stood on the little staircase in the Tuileries reaching from her husband’s study to her rooms, that Sedan was lost and Napoleon a prisoner. Outside the railings of the palace gardens the Paris crowd was chanting Dechedance, Decheance. The next day Gambetta declared in the Chamber of Deputies that the dynasty had ceased to reign and, that afternoon, Eugenie slipped away by the gallery that led from the Tuileries to the Louvre, out into the Rue de Rivoli, where she took a closed cab to the house of an American dentist. As she drove along the street she saw workmen already busy taking down the Imperial eagles. ” Deja,” was her bitter comment.
Paris was sore and humiliated, and the bitterness increased when the conquering Germans marched through the Arc de Triomphe, to bivouac on the Place de la Con corde. Paris was indeed very angry. She felt she had been betrayed. She had been the victim of the Emperor. She was now the victim of Gambetta and Thiers. The provinces were indifferent to her sufferings, but Paris was still Paris, she would govern herself. The Faubourgs should rise again. There should be another revolution. So menacing were the people that M. Thiers, the President of the new Republic, and his ministers withdrew from Paris to Versailles, and another siege began, this time Frenchmen fighting against Frenchmen.
There was enthusiasm enough in the ranks of the Communists, but their leaders were inept, and their General Cluseret was a super-incompetent. ” It was this military pamphlet-maker,” says the Communist historian, Lissagaray, ” with no pledge but his decoration won against the Socialists in 1848, who had played the marionette in three insurrections, whom the Socialists in 1871 charged with the defence of their revolution.” It was a pitiful business, hopeless from the beginning, but only brought to an end after bitter and often heroic struggles.
The oddest and most futile of the Communards was Paul Verlaine, the poet. Verlaine had married the eminently respectable, rather dull Mathilde Mautet, in the summer of 1870. He was neither a brave man nor in any sense a patriot, and when he was told that the Germans might enter Paris, he merely remarked : ” Well, at least we shall have some good music.” When the siege actually began he was compelled to enlist in the National Guard, but he spent most of his time on the fortifications getting drunk with his comrades. So badly indeed did he behave that his young wife left him and returned to her parents. Although he knew nothing of politics, Verlaine had many Bohemian friends among the Communards, and their revolt against respectability and the bourgeoisie struck him as an amusing adventure. He had been before in the Government service, and he returned to his old employment, acting as censor of the press and dealing drastically with the anti-revolutionist papers. How little or how much he actually had to do with the Commune no one really knows. He used to say that he and he alone saved Notre-Dame from destruction, but that probably was a mere boast. Anyhow, when the end came, Verlaine was in a state of terror, hiding himself in his wife’s parents’ flat and eventually succeeding in escaping from Paris.
The adventure was a mock-heroic episode in the life of a poet, sadder perhaps than that of any other poet except his countryman, Francois Villon. All Paris mourned when Paul Verlaine died in 1896, and five thousand people stood around his grave with its pall of orchids and lilac in the cemetery of Batignolles ; but Mr. Nicholson has well said that the homage was ” an apology, almost an expiation to a great writer who had been neglected and unappreciated, the tragedy being that it was impossible for a person with his qualities not to be neglected and unappreciated.” Genius is not necessarily respectable. Verlaine was a drunkard, a drug maniac, and worse. But he was one of the greatest of the French poets. Anatole France has said :
” Certes il est fou. Mais prenez garde que ce pauvre insense a cree un art nouveau et qu’il y a quelque chance qu’on dise un jour : ` c’etait le meilleur poete de son temps.’ ”
Verlaine was a great sinner, and, like many another great sinner, he ” got religion.” The conversion was not enduring, but Anatole France was convinced of its sincerity. ” As sincere in sin as in repentance, he accepted the alternatives’ with cynical innocence,” and he has written some of the finest Christian poetry in the French language; witness the poem that begins :
O mon Dieu, vous m’avez blesse d’amour
Et la blessure est encore vibrante ;
O mon Dieu, vous m’avez blesse d’amour.
Voici mon front qui n’a pu que rougir,
Pour l’escabeau de vos pieds adorables,
Voici mon front qui n’a pu que rougir.
Voici mes mains qui n’ont pas travaille
Pour les charbons ardents et 1′encens rare,
Voici mes mains qui Wont point travaille.
To return to the Commune, the Government troops from Versailles invaded Paris on the morning of May 25, 1871, and barricade fighting took place all through the day. First Montmartre was captured, and the troops fought their way down the hill. There was a pitched battle in the Rue Haussmann, near the great Printemps stores. There was fighting in the Faubourg St. Honore, and blazing houses in the Rue Royale. The Place de la Concorde was a shambles. The Place Vendome was captured, and there was fighting in the Rue de Rivoli, and at nightfall the Tuileries Palace was ablaze. The building that has recalled so many moving historical events, which Catherine de Medicis built, where Louis XVI. suffered, and where the two Napoleons had their few years of glory, was completely destroyed. Perhaps the ghost of the little Dauphin watched the burning walls of a palace which had been his childhood’s prison, and, may be, the little sad ghost smiled a little as he watched.