Metternich’s nobility vs. Napoleon’s rudeness

December 30, 2013

The time had come when [Prince Metternich] felt he could confront the Emperor himself at Dresden; he craved an audience and Napoleon granted it. The latter was also impatient to see Metternich and, if possible, tear the mask from the face of this “knave.”

Napoleon having thrown his hat on the floor during the meeting in Dresden with Prince Metternich.

Napoleon having thrown his hat on the floor during the meeting in Dresden with Prince Metternich.

The interview took place on the 26th of June in the Marcolini Palace where Napoleon was installed. He received Metternich in a long gallery opening out of his own room. At first he was affable, but his expression soon clouded as he surveyed the inscrutable features of his visitor—that “plaster face,” as the Tsar called it…. “You are all aiming at nothing less then the dismemberment of the French Empire!… Yes,” continued Napoleon, “I should have to evacuate Europe, half of which I still occupy, lead back my legions, arms reversed, across the Rhine, the Alps and the Pyrenees, and place myself and my future at the mercy of those whose conqueror I am today! … Ah! Metternich, how much has England paid you for playing a part against me?” It was a slip of the tongue prompted by rage, and, as it escaped his lips, the Emperor, thoroughly exasperated—or wishing to appear so—threw his hat on the floor. In 1811, in the Tuileries, Metternich would have picked it up; now he pretended not to have seen it. Napoleon, pacing up and down the gallery, continued to boast about his armies; he would crush all his enemies as he had done before! Now and again his foot touched the wretched hat, and at last he angrily picked it up.

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Louis Madelin, The Consulate and the Empire: 1809-1815, trans. E. F. Buckley (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1936), Vol. II, 218-20.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 347

 

 

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