Wednesday, June 17, 2015

French Etiquette and Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte outdid Louis XIV when it came to etiquette edicts, while ruling France. 

According to author Dr. Philip Mansel: 

"Napoleon was one of the rudest monarchs in history: he attacked in conversation as well as on the battlefield. He insulted foreign ambassadors, taunted Marshal Berthier, his grand huntsman, and General Caulaincourt, his grand equerry, with their wives’ alleged infidelities, and called Talleyrand, his grand chamberlain (who was also foreign minister), “a lump of shit in a silk stocking”. It was said that Napoleon had a “green laugh”.

Among those who knew him well, Napoleon inspired little personal loyalty: almost all his courtiers turned against him after his defeats in 1814 and 1815, and in both years they forced him to abdicate. Almost all those who followed him to Saint Helena were trying to obtain financial rewards, or material for a book of memoirs, rather than acting out of loyalty. Napoleon maintained court etiquette on the island, keeping courtiers standing in his presence and insisting on being treated as an emperor.

Napoleon’s court also shows him to have been more obsessed with status than other monarchs of the day. He wanted more palaces and more formal etiquette, and was more autocratic than the Bourbons. He had more than 100 chamberlains, and a total of around 3,000 men in his household, whereas Louis XVI had had only four first gentlemen of the chamber, and around 2,000 in his household. In January 1814, when speakers in the chamber of representatives demanded peace, he was infuriated. At a reception in the Tuileries palace, he declared: “Everything resides in the throne. I alone represent the people”. He believed that France needed him more than he needed France.

In June 1815, Napoleon alienated opinion by preferring to wear the elaborate embroidered ‘Petit Costume de l’Empereur’ rather than the uniform of the Paris National Guard. He insisted on sending messages to the chamber of representatives through his chamberlains rather than through a responsible minister. After Waterloo, it voted his deposition."