Sunday, June 27, 2010

HFBRT: FOR THE KING Guest Post By Catherine Delors: The King and the Emperor: Louis XVIII and Napoléon

Please welcome the lovely Catherine Delors to Historically Obsessed for this months Historical Fiction Blogger's Round Table feature "For The King" is due to hit bookstores July 8th 2010. Congratulations Catherine on the new release it is for sure good reads material. With out further delay Catherine Delores please take it away.

The King and the Emperor: Louis XVIII and Napoléon
My novel is called FOR THE KING for a reason (for several reasons, in fact, but I will leave it to the reader to discover those.) 

In 1800 France was still a republic, nominally run by three Consuls. For all intents and purposes, only the First Consul, Napoléon Bonaparte, mattered. He had seized power in a bloodless coup in the fall of 1799.  

At first, royalists indulged in the hope that Bonaparte would step down and restore the monarchy. The pretender to the throne was a younger brother of the late Louis XVI, Louis-Stanislas. He was now known to his followers as Louis XVIII, to allow for the theoretical reign of the young Louis XVII, son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, who had died jailed at the Temple. 

  Louis XVIII

In 1800 Louis XVIII was 45. He had been friendly to reform in the beginnings of the French Revolution. But as it took a more radical turn, he had fled at the same time as the royal couple. Only he had succeeded in reaching Brussels when Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were arrested near the border. 

Since then, Louis XVIII had lived the unhappy life of an exile, at the mercy of the varying generosity of foreign sovereigns and the vagaries of international politics. In 1800 he was living under the protection of the Tsar of Russia. 

Louis XVIII was by all accounts, like his elder brother, a man of superior intelligence, but he was a far more astute politician than Louis XVI. He was patient, ambitious, cunning, and determined to step some day unto the throne of his ancestors. 

This is what he wrote Napoléon in September of 1800: 

You must have long known that you have earned my esteem. If you ever doubted that I was able of gratitude, chose your own place, decide the fate of your friends.  
As for my principles, I am a Frenchman: merciful by nature, I shall be all the more so by reason. 

No, the victor of Lodi, Castiglione, Arcole, le conqueror of Italy and Egypt cannot prefer a vain fame to glory. However you are wasting precious time; we can ensure the peace of France. I say “we” because I need Bonaparte for that, and that he cannot do it without me. 

General, Europe is watching you, glory awaits you, and I am impatient to restore peace to my people.
Keep in mind that Bonaparte had not yet given any indications that he planned to restore monarchy for his own benefit. He would only crown himself Emperor four years later. But he obviously thought the time had come to dash royalist illusions. Here is his response to Louis XVIII: 

I received your letter. I thank you for the kind things you write about me. You must not wish for your return to France. You would have to step upon 500,000 corpses. 
Sacrifice your interest to the peace and happiness of France; history will remember it to your credit. 

I am not indifferent to your family’s misfortunes. I will be happy to contribute to the comfort and tranquility of your retreat.

Bonaparte had dropped the mask! These letters, by the way, provide useful glimpses into the minds of the two men. Note how Louis XVIII flatters Bonaparte, and emphasizes cooperation, and how all but one of Bonaparte’s sentences begin with “I”.

A few months later, royalists will detonate a bomb along the path of Bonaparte’s carriage, in the assassination attempt I describe in FOR THE KING.
As to Louis XVIII, he had to bide his time. But eventually, he was restored to the throne, while Napoléon died in exile on the forlorn island of St. Helena. Twists and turns of history…
Thank you Catherine for dishing us this wonderfully delicious piece of correspondence between the two men. I do have to say though that the secret of the title was one of my favorite parts and my lips are sealed. If you want to know the FOR THE KING secret you will just have to read it.

For more on FOR THE KING check out my review and be sure to stop by the HFBRT group site "For The King" by Catherine Delors.  For the groups detailed schedule of events please go to the schedule.

For More on Catherine Delors FOR THE KING check this out:

Amazon: For the King
Catherine's Website
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  1. GREAT post! I enjoyed reading their correspondence. This period in particular never bores me.

  2. Irena, I have to agree letters open a window into a persons real life. They say much about a persons personality. I always am on the look out for letters to post about.

    Catherine, I am proud to be a part of the event and it has been an honor to have you here. The book was mysteriously lovely.

  3. I was always pleased when I found out the meaning behind the title :) I like Napoleon's response. From all I've read of him I cannot dislike him... The Diamond (which has that same portrait of Napoleon on the cover) is set during his exile on St. Helena).

  4. Mystica, I am glad you enjoyed it, I did also.

    Arleigh, I too have grown fond of the man we have one thing in common. I do not see how could I hate someone who has the same birthday as me. That sounds like a good read I am slowly progressing on my reads involving him. Thank you for the mention you always have good taste in reads.

  5. I had never put 2 and 2 together before that the reason why Louis XVIII was XVIII was because hypothetically the son of MA & LXVI would've been Louis XVII. Ha!

    Patience is certainly a virtue in the case of Louis XVIII...he waited for exactly the right moment. Had he acted too soon he probably would have joined his predecessors.

    These letters are fascinating, and yes VERY telling about their characters...I didn't know that the two of them had corresponded!!

  6. Superb post Catherine! I'm amazed that with all the French history I read, I still don't know that much about Louis XVIII. It all sounds so fascinating. Thanks:)

  7. Excellent post indeed! The tone of each letter is quite interesting and I didn't realize they wrote to each other. I must say Louis portrait does make me think too much of him.

  8. Allie, I can say that it took me a long time to put that together too. My French history obsesses ion stops with MA's son. I have not really read much on Louis XVIII because it was so complicated. I never would have guess that he was in correspondence with him either.

    Lucy, You and me both are in the same boat. I am more into Napoleon than Louis XVIII.

    Jenny, I too picked up on the tone of the letters. A eloquent way of talking smack for sure. He is kind of intimidating versus his brother Louis XVI.

  9. Interesting. I was not aware of the contact between Napoleon and Louis XVIII. Napoleon's letter certainly highlights how ambitious and self-centered he was. Thank you for and interesting and informative post.

  10. Librarypat, I too never would have guess that they actually wrote to each other. Very good overview of him , I could not have put it better.


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