The Emperor and the Pope - cont.
IV. SILENCE AT SAVONA
Savona is a small port on the Riviera coast of Italy. Behind the town, to the north, the beautiful Letimbro valley rises into the foothills of the Alps. Along the coast, to west and east, the mountains come close to the sea; adjacent to the port itself, immediately to the southwest, rises a spur, offshoot of the Alps, on which a fortress was built by the Genoese overlords of the town in the sixteenth century. By building this fortress, Genoa -- twenty-five miles to the east -- made sure that she controlled the port of Savona; within its massive walls she effectively hid her political prisoners. (It was from the small window of his cell in this fortress that the young Mazzini, looking out over the sea and sky, "two symbols of the infinite," would soon be dreaming his first dream of an Italy united, free, and independent.)
Pius VII was not lodged within the fortress. Imprisonment of that kind was reserved for Cardinal Pacca, in the much grimmer fortress of the Fenestrelle, high up amongst the perishing snows of the Savoy Alps. For the Pope a subtler sort of imprisonment was prepared, within the civilian city of Savona, and along lines laid down by Napoleon personally. The Emperor, who never forgot the places he saw on his campaigns, remembered that, on his first Italian campaign, as a very young general in command of the Army of Italy, he had stayed a day or two at Savona and had seen the bishop's palace there; indeed it is likely enough that he had put up in the building. This was the "large house" which be suggested would make a good place to put the Pope; so this was where they were now taking him.
The house had once been a Franciscan monastery and it still retained, at the back, as it does today, a tiny open cloister, on the second floor, which leads around a little court. On the east side of this court is a suite of five small rooms; these are the ones that were assigned to the Pope. The north wall of this same little back court is formed by the south wall of the cathedral of Savona, a spacious and ornate building of the sixteenth century. For some years the whole monastery had served as the palace of the bishops of Savona, and the ruling bishop was living there at the time of the Pope's arrival. At first he was allowed to remain, but soon the French authorities felt it wise to remove him to a safer distance outside the town, even though he was so discreet that he never had a conversation with the Pope which he did not at once report to the French Prefect.
The Pope's little suite, then, and his cloister, were tucked away in a wing which lies at the back of the main building and has access, through a small door in the cloister wall, to the cathedral. From the front of the main building a broad staircase descends to the entrance, which opens onto a square, and on either side of this square are two large houses; in one was lodged General Cesare Berthier, with the officers of his regiment, and in the other a colonel of police, with his gendarmes. Since the back of the grounds is surrounded by the high city wall, and the Pope's windows were a good twenty feet from the ground, be was not very likely to escape; and since Berthier disposed of some fourteen hundred men, including cavalry and artillery, there was a sufficient show of force not only to "do the honours" for the sovereign pontiff -- the avowed purpose -- but also to make rather unlikely any popular revolt in the little town, designed to rescue the Pope. Even so, the Prince Borghese, from Turin, felt it necessary to issue instructions that, in the event of disturbance, the Pope was to be removed to the fortress at Alessandria.
Since he had no intention of trying to escape, across country or by sea, the number and strength of the armed forces by which he was surrounded was a matter of small moment to the Pope. But to be subjected to constant personal supervision and spying was something that he found as trying as Napoleon, a little later, would find it on Saint Helena. When he walked round his little cloister he could always see the guards in the court below. When he walked in the narrow garden at the back he could see them at the gates of the great wall. When be said his Mass in his tiny chapel General Berthier and the colonel of police, Lagorse, would be present. When, seated on his improvised throne in the modest Hall of Audience, he received visitors from the town, Berthier and Lagorse were there too. Every letter he received and every letter he sent was seen and censored. He was only alone in his bedroom.
Yet the courtesy of his gaolers was impeccable. He was officially the guest of the representative of the Emperor, one Chabrol, prefect of the department of Montenotte. This enlightened and courteous functionary, whom Napoleon bad taken with him to Egypt, and whom be would one day make prefect of Paris, lived across the road in the huge Palazzo Riario, built by Pope Sixtus IV. Every morning Chabrol would step out, preceded by his heralds, to pay a formal call on the Pope. That he did so to assure himself that the prisoner was still present, Pius was well aware; but he could not have been more correct, and since Pius was without news of the outside world it was interesting to be given news of Napoleon's latest doings, even though the statements made by the prefect, like the copies of the Moniteur which he brought with him, gave a one-sided picture, and even though the Pope knew full well that anything be might say in reply would he reported at once to Paris. Conversations with Chabrol were interesting interludes, but with only one visitor at Savona could Pius converse freely, opening his mind without fear of disclosure; this was with Count Sansoni, in whose house he had been allowed to stay for a few days while they were making his room ready at the bishop's house.
It was an odd life, yet observers noticed that, as month succeeded month, the Pope's health and strength improved.
He looked more serene, less drawn and depressed than he had when he first arrived. A contemplative Benedictine by vocation and training, Chiaramonti was returning to his native element and it suited him. Whereas a comparable though freer confinement on Saint Helena would have a corroding effect on the health and character of Napoleon, who was accustomed to the life of camps, courts, and chancelleries, confinement was not in itself irksome to Chiaramonti. Nor did it bother him, as it gravely distressed Count Sansoni, that the carpeting was threadbare and inadequate, the bed linen coarse, and the beds themselves hard; indeed, the rather austere living conditions in this sometime Franciscan monastery only made him feel he was returning to the life he had loved at Pavia, at Cesena, and at Imola, before that terrifying day on the island of San Giorgio had turned him, so suddenly, into the foremost ecclesiastical figure in Christendom and the reluctant foe of the Emperor. Deprived of all means of governing the Church -- lacking even a secretary -- he could enjoy the chance given him to cast care aside, and the blessed leisure to read the books that he borrowed from the local library.
Moreover, by a happy chance, it was by living thus in the utmost simplicity that he could best play his part as Pope in these abnormal times. For it was necessary, as he saw it, that be should make clear beyond doubt that he was a prisoner, under constraint, deprived of his see and his sovereignty, and of all means of governing the Church. If, by any outward show, he were to give the false impression that be was circumstanced in a manner befitting the Head of the Church, that would only create the unfortunate idea that be was not under constraint, that he was willing to reside at Savona, that the Church was not in mourning and travail. And such an impression could only too easily be given. It was not the first time that Popes had resided outside Rome, and always there was the dreadful precedent, in the background, of the "Babylonish Captivity" at Avignon, in the fourteenth century, when Popes had accepted their dependence on the kings of France, and their removal from the Eternal City. Was Savona to be a new Avignon? Was this episcopal house, so closely guarded by French soldiers and police, to supplant the Quirinal? That could happen very easily if the new Emperor were indeed bent upon becoming the ruler of Christendom.
A papacy under Parisian patronage was, in fact, precisely what Napoleon now had in mind. By always according to the Pope the full honours of a sovereign -- Berthier, Lagorse, and Chabrol had strict orders to do so -- and by bringing him out into public view and persuading him to preside over ceremonies in the cathedral, and to say Mass there on Sundays, those who were really his gaolers strove to convey the impression that the Pope was free and in effective possession of his ecclesiastical powers. And to further the same plan a certain Count Salmatoris, one of the Roman nobility who had gone over to the French and had been made "Master of the Imperial Palace" at Turin, where Prince Borghese resided, was sent to Savona with far-reaching proposals. Pius was to be given goldlaced pages and servants, court carriages with royal grooms and caparisoned horses and a hundred thousand lire a month. And he might choose the cardinals and the officers of his chancellery whom he wished to have with him. In short, he was to "play the Pope properly" under French protection at Savona.
These proposals he repudiated.
He wished that the Emperor should be thanked for the offer, but he was concerned not for finery nor for wealth but for his liberty. His physical needs were small and could be met by the few followers he bad with him; his small monetary requirements would be met by the alms of the faithful. He would be glad to be surrounded by the whole Sacred College and by all the officers of his court, at Rome, but he would not fall into the trap of mentioning any particular names as those of ecclesiastics he would specially like to have sent to him at Savona.
But the Emperor's representatives were not easily to be discouraged. The Pope soon saw about the house pages and servants dressed in the new liveries. One morning, when he came in from strolling in the little garden, he found fine new furniture and costly ornaments in the hitherto simple rooms. In vain he pointed out that this sort of thing had been suitable enough when he was the Emperor's guest at Fontainebleau and the Tuileries, but was quite out of place in the present circumstances. Soon he heard that a papal throne was being erected in the cathedral and that magnificent preparations were being made there for a High Mass to be celebrated on Sunday by the Pope and attended by a great gathering of imperial and civic dignitaries. He warned them that he would not appear, but they went ahead with the arrangement, intent upon showing that, if he did not come, it was by his own choice; their only desire was to treat him as Pope.
One way in which they hoped to demonstrate his freedom was by taking him for rides in the country, escorted by a suitable mounted guard of honour. But only once would he agree to ride out in this way.
There was a place five miles behind Savona, in the hills, which it happened that Chiaramonti did particularly want to visit; this was the sanctuary of Our Lady of Pity in the valley of Saint Bernard. His reason for wanting to go there was peculiar. A Genoese priest at Rome, in whom he bad confidence, bad insisted, only a few days before his seizure by Radet, that he would be protected and peace restored to the Church through the intercession of Our Lady of Pity near Savona. When, therefore, against all expectation, he found himself, only a few weeks later, a prisoner at Savona, he showed a natural desire to visit the shrine, which might be described as the Lourdes of the sixteenth century. It had been built over a stream where there bad been apparitions of Our Lady and bad attracted, ever since, great quantities of pilgrims, and those seeking cures, as well as a remarkable collection of gifts.
So, on a hot September day, a rather odd procession set out from Savona consisting of a posse of troops, followed by the Prefect Chabrol and other officials, followed by the Pope and his few companions, and behind them almost the entire population of the town. In the little chapel of the sanctuary, beneath the great church, the Pope said Mass and kissed the feet of the statue of Our Lady, said his prayers, and drank some of the water from the stream, watched by Chabrol and by one or two others. Then, after talking with the patients of the hospital, and blessing them, he was driven back to Savona; nor did be go out again into the country for the remainder of his imprisonment, being unwilling to seem other than the prisoner he was.
Yet he was not altogether inaccessible. The many from along the coast who thronged to catch a glimpse of him could squeeze into the square in front of the cathedral where they would receive his blessing from a little balcony to which he bad access from his cloister. Moreover, this cloister led through the wall of the cathedral onto a balcony above the south aisle, from which the Blessed Sacrament could be seen above the high altar. Here Pius would often go to pray, and anybody standing in the nave could just discern the figure behind the grille far above. And with a little persistence -- for the applicants were many -- access might be gained to the audiences (suitably policed) which he gave, and to the ceremony of the kissing of the feet. Many cures were popularly attributed to him.
On a miniature scale, and in a curious, colourless fashion, the papal establishment at Savona suggested -- but no more -the glory that had been left behind at Rome. There was the antechamber, the modest Hall of Audience, the improvised throne, the tiny balcony for blessing the crowd in the circumscribed square, the occasional appearance of a long-awaited face at window or grille; there were visitors, petitioners, and ceremonial guards, though dressed in the wrong uniforms. It was all like a faded photograph of something splendid. But if it had a strange quality it was also moving; and on the side of both people and Pope it was impressively sincere. Savona took an immense and serious pride in the Pope's presence, even going so far as to restrain, vigorously, the rise in prices which the many visitors and pilgrims tended to promote.
But the abnormal situation could not last. It bad been Napoleon's first idea to set the Pope up in state at Savona, to make of Savona an Avignon. But the Pope had refused the fine servants and the fine carriages. After that the Emperor allowed him to live in the withdrawn way that he preferred, but be exerted pressure, through Chabrol, to persuade him to live at Paris. Determined that he should never return to the Eternal City, Napoleon removed from Rome those-whom Pius bad left in charge of the administration of the Church, together with all the papal archives, papers, seals, and administrative effects that he now took to Paris -- even the tiara he had given to Pius at the time of the Notre Dame coronation; even the Fisherman's Ring -- to the use of which General Radet bad laid claim after he had removed the Pope. But against the removal of himself to Paris, Pius set his face with such stubbornness -- hinting darkly that he would invoke powers undreamed of by his adversaries -- that the Emperor let his. plan drop till a more propitious moment.
V. THE BLACK CARDINALS
It was in the spring of the next year, 1810, that pressure was put once more on the prisoner to make him conform to the Napoleonic pattern.
The Emperor's power was now at its zenith and he was entertaining a number of new ambitions. Having defeated the Austrians for the third time, and concluded a peace that he intended should be final, he was thinking once more about his right divine and about founding a dynasty to perpetuate his name. Josephine bad given him no son, so be would need a new marriage if he were to have a dynasty; and if he were to have a new marriage he could use it as an opportunity to enter more intimately into the magic circle of the hereditary rulers. For a time he thought of marrying the young sister of the Tsar Alexander, but unfortunately the Tsar, though fascinated by the brilliant achievements of the conqueror, looked without favour on an alliance between the Romanovs and a Corsican parvenu who proposed to divorce his wife.
The Hapsburg Emperor Francis of Austria, on the other hand, though he shared the social prejudices of the Romanov, could not afford to be so choosy. He had seen the position of the Hapsburgs reduced until they had become mere rulers of a second-class power and he knew that that power now stood in danger of total elimination. For in those dangerous first months of the year 1810, when Napoleon was still in political alliance with the Tsar, a partition of the remaining Hapsburg provinces between Paris and Moscow seemed possible enough. So when the terrifying tyrant at Paris suddenly and surprisingly made an offer for the hand of Francis's daughter, the Archduchess Marie-Louise, it was not easy for her father to refuse him. Yet he nearly did.
To the Hapsburgs and their court the offer seemed more insulting than even the degrading peace treaties that had been imposed on them. Austrian foreign policy, however, was now in the bands of the subtle young Metternich, and he prevailed on his master to sacrifice his daughter and accept the Corsican ogre as a son-in-law. Austria, he pointed out, must have some years of peace in which to recuperate in security; besides, Napoleon would surely mark his wedding by some political concessions to his bride's family?
So a wedding was arranged. But there were last minute difficulties. In January a Parisian ecclesiastical court granted Napoleon a Decree of Nullity, which declared he had never been married to Josephine, but not everybody was convinced that he had not been. The grounds for the decree were that the hurried ceremony of marriage between Napoleon and Josephine, performed by Cardinal Fesch the day before the coronation in Paris, bad been invalid because there bad not been proper witnesses, and because Napoleon himself had never freely given his consent to what was being done, had not, indeed, understood the full significance of the occasion. Arguments so specious shocked not only the Pope at Savona -- to whom the case should properly have been referred -- but the Archbishop of Vienna, who warned Francis that he believed Napoleon was, in fact, a married man, and in no position to propose to his daughter. In the end, however, the Archbishop's fears were quieted by a letter from the incredible Cardinal Fesch. That convenient uncle of Napoleon told the Archbishop, as he had already told the Parisian ecclesiastical court, that he had himself performed the earlier ceremony and knew it was invalid. Napoleon, he said, had not realized, at the time, that he was committing himself to marriage; he had merely supposed he was going through "a religious ceremony" to "quieten Josephine"; he had been furious when Fesch had afterwards shown him the certificate of marriage. This meant that there had been no true consent on the part of the "husband," and thus no true marriage. Vienna was now satisfied, but, understandably, the Pope was not. He doubted the competence of the Parisian court, and he doubted the validity of its decision. In any case, he was astonished that the Emperor of Austria, of all people, should give his daughter in marriage to a man whom he, the Pope, had excommunicated.
There was a religious ceremony in Vienna at which Napoleon could only be represented. After the new bride bad reached Paris there was both a civil and a religious ceremony there. Most of the cardinals were now at Paris and naturally they were invited, but only some of them accepted the invitation. Others, led by Consalvi, felt it only proper to absent themselves. They made no objection to attending the civil ceremony, as a matter of politeness, and because it had no religious significance. But in view of the attitude of the Pope, and the fact that he had been ignored in favour of a court whose competence they questioned, they did not feel able to attend the religious ceremony.
Their absence did not pass unobserved. As be entered the chapel, Napoleon's eye fell upon the half-empty row of stalls reserved for the cardinals, whose crimson should have lent a full blaze of glory to the scene. He made no attempt to conceal his fury; his face clouded over and he was heard to mutter: "The fools! I see what they want! To protest against the legitimacy of my blood, to ruin my dynasty! The fools!"
The offending cardinals now prepared themselves for the worst. Consalvi, who had resisted hours of flattery, persuasion, and threats from Fouché to induce him to attend the ceremony, supposed they would be shot. But for two days nothing at all happened. Then suddenly all the cardinals -- those who had attended and those who had not -- were invited to a reception at the Tuileries. Arrived at the palace they were kept waiting for two hours in the antechamber close to the throne room. At last an officer appeared. He announced that he was instructed by the Emperor to chase from the palace all those cardinals who had not attended the religious ceremony. What followed was fantastic confusion. In Consalvi's words: "It is easier to imagine than to describe this expulsion of thirteen cardinals, in full ceremonial dress, an expulsion carried out in so public a place, in front of everybody, and with such ignominy. Thc eyes of all were turned on the cardinals who were being pushed out; in confusion they crossed the last of the antechambers, the reception rooms, and the great hall. In the midst of the excitement their carriages had disappeared; they bad to make their own way back to their lodgings."
Those cardinals who had conformed with the will of the Emperor were received courteously by Napoleon, one by one, in the Hall of Audience, where they were given a lecture on the iniquity of the behaviour of their brethren. But to the others Fouché later explained that the only course open to them was to write an abject apology to the Emperor, explaining that only illness or some other unavoidable cause had accounted for their absence. Instead, however, on Consalvi's advice, they wrote a letter to Napoleon in which they explained that they had not wished to set themselves up as judges, nor to cast doubt upon the legitimacy of the Emperor's new union; they bad only refrained from attending because the Pope himself had not been invited or asked for his blessing. The Emperor replied by depriving them of their pensions and their tight to wear their robes and banishing them to provincial places in France; Consalvi was sent to Rheims. Because they had been deprived of their ceremonial dress they were known henceforth as the black cardinals.
The fate of these black cardinals now became a capital cause of the continued quarrel between Emperor and Pope. Every time that Napoleon presented suggestions for a settlement the Pope replied that he would have to take the advice of the "counsellors of his choice" -- the black cardinals. And their advice the Emperor was equally determined he should not be given.
Personal loyalties were beginning to play a large part in the dispute. Pius never forgot that up in the icy fortress of the Fenestrelle lay the faithful companion of his last year at Rome who had been with him on that journey to the Certosa, Cardinal Pacca. And his mind was always turning to those who were suffering for their refusal to take the oath of allegiance demanded by Napoleon in Italy. Though Rome had been incorporated into the French Empire, the braver priests, the braver monks, and the braver nuns had refused the oath and in consequence had been dragged from their presbyteries, their monasteries, their convents, and imprisoned or driven into exile; in large part the religious houses were closed and their treasures confiscated. Those who resisted were often encouraged by the Pope with letters that he smuggled out of Savona, using the services of his valet, Giuseppe Moiraghi. By the same means he warned those who collaborated with the French that they were free to promise to obey the French laws, and to undertake that they would not cause disorder or disturbance; but they were not free to transfer their personal allegiance to Napoleon by what amounted to a new oath of fealty. In return, the Pope would be loyal to them when he was restored to Rome.
Without his advisers, the Pope was also without his experts. Nor had he a secretariat, nor his records, nor his files. All these were at Paris. Without them he could not carry on the administrative business of the Church, and in particular he could not invest new bishops with their episcopal authority, nor new heads of religious congregations with theirs. For these were not matters to be undertaken lightly; they involved a scrutiny of past records and of the qualifications of those nominated; and in the case of those nominated by Napoleon it was especially necessary to look into these matters rather carefully. How was Pius to do all this at Savona? Evidently it was impossible. So all over Europe, indeed all over the world, the business of the Church was left undone and sees were left without bishops.
It was in Napoleon's empire that the confusion was greatest, because the Emperor was forever rearranging dioceses and moving bishops about; yet no new bishop could take over a see without being invested with his spiritual authority by the Pope. But in Austria, too, there was much papal business to be done, which was being left undone, and of this the Emperor Francis's new minister, Metternich, was well aware. So Metternich persuaded Napoleon to allow his new father-in-law, the Emperor Francis, to send an envoy to Savona to settle some of these questions. An excellent envoy lay to hand at Paris in the person of Count Lebzeltern, who was attending the royal wedding with Metternich. The count had been Austrian ambassador at Rome and the Pope was known to be attached to him.
It was hard for Napoleon to refuse this request at such a moment. So Metternich pressed his advantage and suggested that Lebzeltern should be empowered to discuss with the Pope the wider questions affecting his future position when he ceased to be a prisoner. In these matters Metternich was very much interested. He wanted to see the Pope's position regularized because he was greatly afraid that Pius might end by yielding to Napoleon's pressure and so become virtually an instrument in the hands of the "new Charlemagne." And again Napoleon yielded. He calculated that it was always possible that an Austrian might succeed in "softening" the Pope where he and his agents had always failed; in any case the last word would rest with himself at Paris.
Count Lebzeltern's arrival at Savona took everybody there by surprise. His credentials seemed to be in order, but General Berthier, who commanded the so-called guard of honour, supposed it to be still his duty to attend in person at any interview the Pope might give. Lebzeltern was so angry that he announced he would return immediately to Paris and lay the facts before Napoleon and Metternich if he were not allowed to have his talks entirely alone with Pius. Berthier had to give way, and there followed a series of private and friendly conversations between Pius and the count in which the Pope was able to lay bare his feelings more freely and frankly than he had before.
Later on the Austrian reported how far the Pope had been prepared to go. If he were allowed the "counsellors of his choice," if he were allowed to return to Rome, and if he were allowed free communication with the Church, he would reach a settlement without insisting on his political position as ruler of the Papal States. Perhaps, if Napoleon showed a genuine disposition to settle the many religious issues, he would even lift the excommunication. For he would not wish to keep the Emperor excommunicate merely because of his seizure of the Papal States, even though that seizure had been the occasion -but not the only cause -- of the Edict of Excommunication.
Pius was now making it very clear that he distinguished between the political and the religious quarrel. But Napoleon was not interested in what Lebzeltern had to report to him. He did not intend to see the Pope back in Rome, whether as bishop or as ruler. Still less did he mean to see Consalvi or Pacca there. He was prepared to forgo his preference for having Pius at Paris; he would allow him to settle at Avignon. But Avignon, with its unhappy associations in papal history, Pius would never consider.
So Lebzeltern's mission failed. Napoleon had, in truth, no intention of reaching a settlement at this stage. He told Metternich, quite bluntly, that the prisoner was not yet ripe.
Meanwhile the vacant sees and the arrears of necessary business went on multiplying themselves. So did the discontent in Italy, on the Rhine, and most dangerously in Spain. Even in France the bland assurances of the Moniteur that the Pope was quite free to act as he pleased, and that the Emperor was striving for a settlement, failed to carry conviction. The truth, namely that Pius was a prisoner, held in strict isolation, passed along the grapevine of the secret fraternities; his name was whispered by the religious exiles, and medals bearing the imprint of his face were found even in Paris. With the high summer and campaigning season of the year 1810 Napoleon saw that the situation called for settlement soon, and in the hope that the Pope might now be "riper" he sent two cardinals to see him at Savona. He was careful to send Italians, but he would not send a "black" cardinal; both were "red." One was Caselli, but Caselli had accepted the dignity of senator in Napoleon's Empire, so his reception by the Pope was icy. The other was Spina, the friend of Pius VI, but Spina had since become the "Emperor's man"; he had taken up a position alongside the French cardinals at Paris -- Maury, and Fesch, and Bayane; he had become untiring in his efforts to persuade the Pope to yield on every issue. If Napoleon really wanted him to agree to something, Pius reflected, why didn't he send to Savona one of the cardinals whom the Pope trusted? It could only be because such cardinals would not serve the Emperor's plans. Pius was kept in the dark as to what had happened to the black cardinals, but he noticed that they were not sent to see him. Behind the cheerful radiance of these red ones he did not forget the shadow of the black. The conversations were abortive.
I. THIRD DEGREE AT SAVONA
Having failed to secure the settlement he sought, Napoleon now hit on the idea of circumventing the papal authority altogether on the vital investiture question. Why should he not nullify the Pope's refusal to invest his nominees with their authority by causing cathedral chapters to elect them without referring to the Pope? The chapters could not, of course, elect them as bishops, for bishops, all were agreed, could only be invested with their authority by the Pope. But they could elect them as "vicars capitular." A vicar capitular could take charge of the administration of a diocese without having the full spiritual authority of a bishop. He could at least see that the necessary business was done.
A crucial case lay to hand, for it was in this year, 1810, that the see of Paris herself fell to be filled, her archbishop, Belloy, having died at the age of ninety-nine. To fill this vacancy Napoleon caused the canons of Notre Dame to elect Cardinal Maury as vicar capitular. Having heard what was afoot, Pius, in an endeavour to stop the intrigue, smuggled out of Savona a letter of warning to one of the canons on whom he could rely. But the letter was intercepted by Napoleon's police, and the canon was thrown into prison. Maury assumed his new position, and the Emperor secured from a number of cathedral chapters, in Italy as well as in France, letters of approval for the course he was pursuing. These letters, published in the Moniteur, the Prefect Chabrol was at pains to show to Pius.
It was the bitterest pill that the Pope was forced to swallow at Savona. For he found, as he read these letters, that he was being made to appear before Europe as the betrayer of the Church, who failed to provide her with bishops, who "preached sedition" and "instigated revolt" against the Emperor, and whose behaviour was deplored by the chapters even of some of the Italian cathedrals. Could it be, he asked himself, that these chapters, after all, were not merely being servile, but were actually in the right in their protestations of obedience to Napoleon's new procedures? Was it possible that his own seclusion had lost him a true perspective and he had now become merely a stumbling block in the way of obtaining peace for the Church?
On this hideous possibility Pius would now have to brood in a new isolation, for Napoleon had decided he was having too much publicity and seeing too many people. In the winter of 1810-11 the Emperor sent instructions to Chabrol that the Pope was no longer to be treated with so much respect. Whereas he had been trying to suggest to the world that the Pope was living at Savona in much the same manner as he had previously been living at Rome, and to foster this illusion had been encouraging him to appear on his balcony, and in the cathedral, and to accept a suitable retinue, he was now determined to pursue the opposite policy. In future the Pope was to be ignored. The Emperor was going to show that the Church could be run without the Pope, and as part of this policy it would be necessary to withdraw the Pope from view.
The first point to make sure of was that Pius did not write any more letters, letters intended to interfere with the Emperor's own ecclesiastical orders. One night the Pope was awakened by the sound of intruders in his study. Leaving his bed he burst in upon them. They were going through his papers. Agents of Chabrol, they subjected him to a long interrogation, after which they took the papers away. This visit was followed by the removal of his valet, Moiraghi (who, Chabrol rightly suspected, had been acting as his secretary), and of all his little retinue save for two domestic servants of low intelligence and his doctor, Porta; Chabrol had discovered that the doctor was an influence he could count on in his efforts to persuade the Pope to obey the Emperor. Finally, the Pope's writing desk was removed, and with it his pen; there were to be no more letters of any kind.
Having made sure that the Pope could no longer correspond with anybody Chabrol went on to impose the new seclusion required by the Emperor for his life at Savona. The door which led out onto the little balcony from which he had blessed the crowd in the piazza was now sealed up. The door which led from his cloister through the wall of the cathedral to the balcony behind the grille was also closed. Deputations were no longer admitted; audiences were not held. There was only the daily visit from the now coldly correct Chabrol, with a copy of the Moniteur under his arm. Soon the suspicion arose in the town that, when the cook had an afternoon off, the Pope did not even get enough to eat. This deficiency the townspeople took it on themselves to try to remedy by their own efforts, so that when Pius took his stroll in the little garden behind the high wall he was in some danger of being struck on the head by the food offerings of the faithful, as they came flying over from the adjacent street or from the tower of the cathedral.
The new quiet and solitude did not displease the Pope, indeed he preferred them. But Napoleon imagined he was breaking the Pope's morale, that Pius was being "ripened" for submission.
By May of the year 1811 the Emperor was planning a national council of French and Italian bishops, to be held at Paris, at which he proposed to secure their agreement to a new way of getting around the Pope's refusal to invest his nominees as bishops. What he proposed was very simple. If, after a decent interval, the Pope would not invest with their spiritual authority those whom the Emperor had chosen, then they should be invested by the metropolitans -- certain senior bishops in each of the great provinces. In this way the authority of the Church could be maintained without having resource to the Pope. But Napoleon knew that it would be difficult to persuade the assembled bishops to accept this solution unless it first had the approval of the Pope; so he sent another delegation off to Savona to obtain it.
This time the delegation consisted of three French bishops of unimpeachable piety. Pius gave them a sympathetic bearing. But soon the old arguments were revolving in the same old circle. The Pope said he could not make so important a decision without the advice of his counsellors. "But we will be your counsellors!" said the bishops; and they were astonished when the Pope replied that he could not give them his confidence because, coming from the Emperor, they were interested parties.
The little delegation was not to be easily deterred from its purpose; indeed it dared not be, for it dared not return empty-handed to Napoleon. If it could not prevail upon the Pope it would find allies who would put the case more strongly. So the bishops had conversations with Chabrol. They even had conversations with the new captain of the police guard, Lagorse, who was anxious to give them all the help within his power. Nor did they refrain from conversing with a much more influential person, namely the Pope's doctor, Porta, who should have kept his knowledge of the Pope's condition to himself, but whose overriding desire was to see a settlement of the quarrel, so that Pius could leave Savona, and so that he himself could return to his home. Chabrol had already reported to Paris that Porta was a man "we have won by treating him well and who asks for nothing but his freedom." This doctor was now in close attendance, night as well as day, upon Pius, who was suffering from nervous indigestion and sleeping badly.
What part did he play in inducing a change which now took place in the attitude of the Pope? We do not know. But certain evidence, which has engendered serious suspicion, should not be ignored. First, the Pope suffered a serious nervous and physical collapse in the three days between May 15 and May 18. Second, there was a persistent tradition in Savona that doses of morphine had been administered to him under the guise of sedatives. Third, Chabrol reported that Porta had "served them admirably." Fourth, a police report stated that "secret and mysterious instructions" had been given to Chabrol. Fifth, the Pope showed, in the end, symptoms that Chabrol could only describe as "frenzy and madness." And lastly Napoleon, in the following autumn (November 1), wrote to his Minister of Cults: "Tell the doctor, Porta, that...whatever arguments there may have been between the Pope and His Majesty, and however sharp they may have been, His Majesty will always consider personal services rendered to the Pope as if they had been rendered to himself; Doctor Porta has only to make known his wishes and his salary will be paid to him in the same way as when the Pope was at Rome; in consequence he is granted a salary of 12,000 francs, payable from the time when he left Rome, and the same salary will continue to be paid to him so long as he remains with the Pope."
It is perfectly possible that Porta's "usefulness" consisted only in the fact that he tried to ease the strain on his patient by persuading him to give way in the quarrel, and that he believed in administering sedatives freely. He would have been useful enough to Chabrol and to Napoleon if he were doing just those things and no more. But the possibility that he did do more cannot be ruled out.
The result of the deterioration in the Pope's health was that on Sunday, May 19, after repeated interviews with the bishops, interspersed with threats from the prefect, Pius gave his consent to a document which stated that he would invest the bishops already nominated by Napoleon and would in future allow metropolitans to invest any who might still await investiture six months after they had been nominated. These concessions were to pave the way for a general settlement of the government of the Church, to be negotiated after the Pope had been restored to his liberty and given back the counsellors of his choice.
The bishops were so surprised and pleased that they made a hurried departure from Savona at 4:30 the next morning before Pius could change his mind. But meanwhile the Pope had lain sleepless on his bed and at dawn he had sprung from it and demanded Chabrol.
Had the bishops gone?
Then, cried Pius, a messenger must ride after them at speed. He had been mad, quite out of his wits yesterday, to agree in advance to such principles. The messenger must take a note, which Chabrol could pen, which would make it clear that the agreed "principles" only indicated the lines along which an ultimate settlement might be made. Such a settlement would depend upon all sorts of other conditions, such as the Pope's own freedom, and the restoration of his counsellors. Thank heaven he had never actually signed their piece of paper!
Chabrol did as he was asked, though not without much grumbling, and a solemn warning to the Pope that such afterthoughts would do his cause harm with the Emperor. To Paris he wrote that the Pope, that morning, had been "out of his wits." But to the Pope it seemed that it was on the day before, the day when he had agreed to the "principles," that he had been out of his wits, that only during the night had he come to see matters clearly. Certainly during the height of this crisis Pius was a sick man. He had sharp headaches and a rapid pulse, and between his bouts of excitability he would stare ahead of him with a vacant, glassy eye. Whether his condition was induced by a drug, or only by the arguments of the bishops, the threats of Chabrol, and the warnings of the doctor -- all operating on a man deprived of accurate news and disinterested advice -- may never be known. Perhaps Porta had no need to administer any special drug intended to induce submission, but, even so, the case which seems clearly to rest against the doctor is that instead of trying to keep the unwelcome visitors and their demands away from his patient and trying to turn the Pope's mind away from the problem, he added his own aggravation to their pressures, thus helping to produce a nervous collapse. Gradually Pius recovered.
Napoleon's great council of bishops was now meeting at Paris ( June 1811) and the Emperor was telling them that he already had the Pope's approval to the main proposition they were called to discuss, namely, the new arrangements for investing bishops. They didn't quite believe this, but the evidence of the three bishops, back from Savona with their piece of paper, gave a little support to the Emperor, even though the paper was not signed. And they had also brought with them a friendly letter from the Pope to Cardinal Fesch, which Pius had dictated, asking Fesch to give the Pope's greetings to the assembled brethren and to convey his regret that he could not reply individually to those who had written to him; with a flash of humour he asked them to make allowance for the fact that he was in some difficulty about writing letters, being without paper, pen, or ink.
The thought of these bishops at Paris weighed heavily on the Pope's mind. He knew that the three French bishops who had just visited him would be reporting to this so-called "Council of Paris"; that was why he had taken their visit so seriously. The three bishops had told him that, if he did not yield on the points in dispute, Napoleon would win the council over to his side, and this would result in schism and a breach with the papacy. He was not in a position to realize that the envoys were overstating the case, that even the French bishops were by no means all in the Emperor's camp. But he was right in supposing that a real danger existed, and the conciliatory mes- sages which he sent to the council had the important effect of preventing Napoleon from convincing it that the Pope was an unreasonable and intransigent enemy to the true interests of the Church.
For the Emperor was trying to do no less. He told the council that Pius VII "had shown nothing but indifference for the true interests of religion." He contrasted its own authority, as a body of French bishops, "attached to the soil by all the ties of blood," with the "abuses of the spiritual power perpetrated by the popes, which fill the pages of history." Their predecessors, he told them, had rejected the pretensions of Gregory VII and Boniface VIII. It was for them to reject the pretensions of Pius VII.
But these attacks were badly received. The bishops simply did not believe the picture which the Emperor was painting of the Pope. They turned their attention more readily to the Bishop of Troyes, who told them they must "never detach themselves from that first link in the chain without which all the others would fall apart," and they swore an oath of "true obedience to the supreme Roman Pontiff, successor of Saint Peter, prince of the Apostles and Vicar of Jesus Christ." They said that they were gravely disquieted about the way in which the Pope was being treated, and they ended by refusing to discuss the investiture question without the prior consent, in writing, of the Pope.
Napoleon's big attempt to make the Church operate without the Pope had failed. Angrily he dissolved the council. But he had not finished yet. After imprisoning those whom he regarded as the ringleaders amongst the recalcitrant bishops he secured from most of the rest a personal and private opinion in favour of his proposed changes. Then he summoned the rump of the council to meet once more, and coerced it into approving collectively what most of its members had just agreed to in private. But still it insisted that its approval was subject to the approval of the Pope.
So there was nothing for the Emperor to do but to send yet another deputation to Savona.
This new deputation arrived in September 1811. It was a larger and more imposing body than the Pope had received before. There were eight bishops and four cardinals -- the French Cardinal de Bayane and three Italians, all of them "red" -- and they were joined by the Italian Archbishop of Edessa. They styled themselves "deputies from the Paris council" and claimed that they brought with them the decision of that council, on the investiture question, for the Pope's signature.
But Pius could not accept them quite at their face value. Since he could not allow any official status to the council, which had been summoned without his consent, and whose agenda had been provided for it by Napoleon, he was not able merely to "approve the decision of the council." What he did was to write a "Brief to the Bishops of the Empire," in which he gave his own ruling on the matter that they had been discussing. In this way he preserved the independence and authority of the Roman Church, "mother and mistress," as he reminded the bishops, "of the other Churches."
All the same, the content of his brief was entirely conciliatory. He yielded on the essential point at issue, for he accepted the proposal that metropolitans should be empowered to invest bishops with their authority if the Pope had failed to invest them six months after their nomination.
Why had Pius surrendered so easily on an issue that had caused him such anguish less than six months earlier? In the spring something like third-degree methods had been used, and even then it had not proved possible to secure the Pope's signature. Yet now, in the autumn, discussing the same matter with this new delegation, all was easy and amicable, and Pius had soon signed a suitable brief.
The reason for the change was that the Church had now spoken, however unofficially, through the voice of her bishops assembled at Paris. Although the Paris council was no true council -- that point Pius made very clear -- most of the French and Italian bishops had nevertheless expressed their views on the investiture question, and those views had been brought to the Pope by an imposing delegation, so he could no longer say that he had been prevented from hearing the Church's views. Uninformed about the coercive methods employed by Napoleon at Paris, kept in the dark about the confinement of the black cardinals, unwilling to allow the personal fate of his friends Pacca and Consalvi to stand in the way of a settlement, he felt it his duty to concur.
He was confident now, almost gay. Nothing had been said about his sovereignty over Rome and the Papal States, but he told the delegation, informally, that, so far as he was concerned, the temporal power of the Popes in Italy meant nothing to him. "If the temporal power of the Church," he cried, "depended on me, if I were free to dispose of it, I would go and place it on the Emperor's desk to do what he liked with."
There was general rejoicing at Savona. All felt that a final settlement was now in sight. And the delegation was delighted when the Pope decided to follow up his brief with a personal letter to Napoleon:
"Your Majesty will see what We have done to heal the ills of the Church.... We tremble to think of the strict account that God will one day exact from Us in regard to the exercise of Our apostolic ministry. He alone knows how many sighs and tears this thought causes Us, and with what outpouring of affection We would express to Your Majesty the feelings of Our heart....
"The arrival here of the cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, with Your Majesty's agreement, has given Us the highest hopes, from which We draw confidence that the Lord, who has made Your Majesty so powerful, and who has put into your hands a sword for the defence and strengthening of Holy Church, will cause Your Majesty, by deeds worthy of his greatness, to forestall Our wishes, and to direct everything to the honour of God, and to the help of Catholicism, and of the see of Rome...."
To this letter Napoleon never replied. But to the delegation that he had sent to Savona he conveyed his instructions, through his Minister of Cults.
His instructions were only too clear. The delegates were to reject the Pope's brief. They were to reject it because it had not recognized the official status of the council of Paris, because the Emperor disliked the phrase about Rome's being "mother and mistress of the Churches," and especially because the Pope had so worded it as to exclude the bishoprics of the Papal States from the new investiture arrangements. And the Emperor stated that he would enter into no negotiation to restore the Pope to his proper position until the bishops already nominated had received their investiture from the Pope.
The delegates were stunned by the brutal intransigence of this message, conveyed to them through the office of the ministry of cults. It had not seriously occurred to them that the Emperor would not welcome the papal brief. Since Pius had yielded beyond expectation on the substance of the matter, why risk all for the sake of mere formalities?
But Napoleon supposed that there was no risk. He supposed that the Pope was now ripe, that he would go from concession to concession, that he was "on the run." He did not realize that Pius had travelled the full distance he would go to meet the Emperor's wishes; that he would go no further. He did not realize that Pius would never acknowledge the council of Paris as a true council of the Church, nor loose his close hold over the bishops of the Papal States, who were so intimately linked with the Holy See. Napoleon did not realize that by his intransigence, at this moment, he had overstepped the mark, had ruined the chance of a settlement that would have meant much to him. It was the cardinal error in his whole ecclesiastical policy, one of the great errors of his career, contributing as much as any to his eventual downfall. At a time when his hold on the many Catholic peoples of his Empire was soon to be put to the supreme test he was throwing away the chance of conciliating them.
On through the month of November, on till Christmas, and after Christmas, the cardinals and bishops remained at Savona. They were afraid to depart because they dared not return to Paris and face the Emperor empty-handed. They would come singly to see the Pope; they would come as a body. They would send Chabrol; they would even send the captain of police, Lagorse. But Pius, though worn and shaken, would never depart from what he had said in his brief; he would make no further concessions unless he were advised to do so by the Sacred College as a whole.
Astonished and frustrated, Napoleon now threatened to abandon the concordat between Church and State in France and to expose the clergy everywhere to unlimited interference and control. When he heard this Pius, in January, wrote a second letter to the Emperor. If Napoleon, he wrote, would only allow to the Pope free consultation with the Church he, Pius, would undertake to satisfy him in every way that could be reconciled with his apostolic duty. But again he was given no reply. Instead, there arrived a few days later an instruction to the deputation to make its departure. On February 7, 1812, the carriages rolled off, one by one, north into the snows of the Alps.
Soon after their departure Chabrol came round to see the Pope once more. His face was grave, for he had an unpleasant task to perform. He was instructed to' read to the Pope a message which the Minister of Cults had received from the Emperor. He did so slowly and, at Pius's request, in French. The words he was compelled to read were harsh: "...It seems that the advice of a hundred bishops, whose dioceses are drawn from nations forming three quarters of the Christian world, carry no weight with him [the Pope]; that he prefers men like di Pietro [one of the black cardinals] or Pacca, whom the Emperor has been obliged to declare enemies of the State; in other words that he shows himself completely incapable...." By his excommunication, the message con- tinued, by his advice to the cathedral chapters, and by his provocative correspondence with the priests at Rome, Pius had shown a total ignorance of canon law and a refusal to render to Caesar what belonged to Caesar. And the message concluded with these words: "Since the Pope finds himself unable to distinguish what is dogmatic, and thus essential to religion, from what is temporal, and thus subject to change, why does he not resign? If he does not understand this distinction, which is so simple that it would be understood by a novice in a seminary, why does he not come down, of his own free will, from the pontifical chair, so that it may be occupied by a man with a stronger head, and stronger principles, who can be given the chance to remedy all the evils of which the Pope has been guilty in every country of the Christian world?"
Pius had no difficulty in following the French text. He only interrupted once, to defend the integrity of di Pietro and Pacca. Chabrol reported afterwards: "He was much moved, but I do not think he was shaken, so great is his obstinacy."
When he had finished reading, the prefect left the Pope to his own reflections. But two days later he returned to ask if the message had caused the prisoner to change his mind. When Pius replied that it had not, Chabrol informed him that the Emperor regarded the concordat as abrogated and the powers of the papacy as suspended throughout his empire.
II. ORDEAL IN THE ALPS
March and April were quiet months at Savona. There were no more visitors save for Chabrol with his copy of the Moniteur. In the little garden the spring flowers appeared; sometimes it was warm enough to sit outside for half an hour. But spring also meant the beginning of the campaigning season, and by May it was well known whither Napoleon was about to lead his army. His invasion of Russia was at hand. Turning his back on the dangerous situation in the Mediterranean, where the Spaniards were in full revolt against him, French armies were in retreat, and the British navy was patrolling with impunity, he would march east against the Tsar, carrying with him large contingents of Italians and Spaniards whose presence, with the French troops, would provide their countrymen with a strong motive for obeying him. And he would take one other precaution. It would not be very wise to keep the Pope in a place where his own control was weakening; there were rumours of British plots to rescue Pius by sea. He should be moved inland. If he were brought to Fontainebleau he would be conveniently at hand for the Emperor to tackle him on his return from Russia.
So from Dresden, on May 21, 1812, Napoleon wrote to the Prince Borghese at Turin:
"My whole army is now on the Vistula...hostilities have not yet begun. Having heard that English ships are off the coast of Savona I think it is necessary to put the Pope in a safer place. So you will order the prefect and the officer of police to remove him and his companions in two good carriages. The Pope will have his doctor in his carriage. Precautions will be taken to see that he passes through Turin at night, that he stops only at the Mont Cenis, that he passes through Chambéry and Lyon at night, and that in this way he is brought to Fontainebleau, where orders have been given to receive him.... The Pope must not travel in his pontifical robes, but only in ecclesiastical dress, and in such a way that nowhere, except at the Mont Cenis, can he be recognized...."
And to the Pope the Minister of Cults wrote:
"The known plans of the English to make a descent on the coast at Savona, in order to kidnap you, compel the French government to bring Your Holiness to the capital. Consequently orders have been given to bring Your Holiness first to Fontainebleau, where you will occupy the suite which you occupied before, and where you will see the bishops and those cardinals who are in France. Your Holiness will only stay at Fontainebleau while waiting for the work to be completed at the archbishop's palace at Paris, where you will live."
It was while Pius was taking his siesta, on the afternoon of June 9, that Chabrol brought him this letter. He was to leave the same night, clad in the black cassock of a simple priest; it was decided that his white slippers should be inked in black to match, because nobody could find any black ones that fitted him comfortably.
He made no protest. When midnight came he bade farewell to Chabrol, thanking him for the courtesy he had shown for nearly three years, descended the main staircase into the courtyard, and entered the carriage. Silently, in the dark, the doors were closed on himself and Porta. The captain of police, Lagorse, mounted beside the coachman, and the carriage slipped away unheard, for the wheels were bound around with cloth and the horses were unshod. Sleeping Savona was not to know that her royal visitor was leaving. For ten days the pretence was maintained that he was still in his rooms. His meals were conveyed as before. Chabrol went on stepping across from the prefecture carrying his copy of the Moniteur.
In recent weeks the Pope's life had become so secluded that it was not very difficult to maintain the deception. But unfortunately this same seclusion had left him in no condition to undertake an arduous journey over the Alps. Probably he had been suffering, before the journey began, from the digestive complaint that now began to afflict him more and more severely every hour of the ascent round the hairpin bends into the mountains. Some constriction of the bowels and urinary system prevented those organs from performing their natural function and the two-and-a-half days taken by the journey to the top of the pass were a time of increasing agony for Pius. When at last the Benedictine monastery of the Mont Cenis was reached he had a high fever, and the monks supposed him to be at death's door. All were agreed that he could go no farther, and Lagorse sent off a message to the Prince Borghese at Turin, telling him what had happened and insisting that the Pope must be allowed to rest for several days.
It was the second time that Borghese had suffered the embarrassment of finding that the Pope was lodged in his territory, and his one idea, as on the previous occasion, was that Pius must be moved on. Besides, the secrecy on which the Emperor set such store could never be maintained if the Pope were to stay at the monastery. So Borghese sent word back to the captain that the journey must be continued forthwith. If that should prove absolutely impossible he would telegraph to Paris for fresh instructions.
After a few hours Borghese received a fresh message from Lagorse. The Pope was worse. His fever was mounting. He had cried that he would throw himself onto the road and die there if they tried to make him continue the journey. Borghese must explain to the Minister of Police at Paris (the Duc de Rovigo ) that it was impossible to go on. Soon the doctor's bulletins arrived, to corroborate Lagorse's story; and in his covering letter Lagorse pointed out that it would be as well for Borghese to believe these bulletins, for the Emperor himself was paying the doctor at the rate of 12,000 francs a year. The Pope had tried to rise from his bed, but he could not stand. He was constantly crying out with the pain. The syrups administered by Porta had been without effect. It was vital that Borghese should send a competent surgeon, armed with the necessary instruments, including a stomach pump and a syringe. And next day Lagorse wrote once more: "Whatever orders are received from Paris it is impossible even to dream of going on. The Pope has not slept; his bladder is inflamed; the journey would give him gangrene; without being a doctor one can easily foresee a disastrous accident. In any case it would be useless to carry the traveller into the carriage, for it would be impossible for him to endure its movement...."
Borghese had telegraphed to Paris; on the following day he had received a reply from the Minister of Police. It was unambiguous. In no circumstances could a stop be made at the Mont Cenis. A litter must be made up in the carriage and the journey continued. These instructions Borghese sent at once to Lagorse, but he did not send a surgeon. To the minister at Paris, Borghese explained that to have sent a surgeon would only have tended to delay the party on the Mont Cenis. The minister would appreciate that he had now done all he could to expedite matters; the responsibility for any further delay would rest with Lagorse.
Despairing of a surgeon from Turin, Lagorse had managed to obtain one from Lans le Bourg, a little town on the French side of the pass. On receiving the request a valiant man, Claraz by name, had set off at once up the road into the night with his instruments. He had not known on whom he was to operate; when he discovered who it was he was sworn to secrecy on pain of death.
He was able to give Pius some relief, but the Pope's weakness remained acute and Claraz's opinion was that it would be very dangerous to try to move him. Lagorse, however, was now trembling at the thought of the inexorable Emperor. Borghese's note, bearing the message from Paris, had arrived at about the same time as Claraz; the Captain dared not disobey the direct order of the Emperor's Minister of Police. "When orders are absolute a loyal man ceases to reason about them," he wrote to Borghese. "I will leave tonight. This affair is one of such high politics that I could have wished it had been possible for me to be given sovereign orders. So long as my orders seemed to be susceptible of modification I was disturbed; now that they are inexorable I am calm again. I foresee great difficulties; I shall do my best to overcome them. May any disasters recoil on no head but mine! There is no sacrifice that I am not ready to make for my master's sake."
Lagorse was indeed in a dilemma. He believed it would probably kill the Pope to continue the journey and he feared, with some reason, that he would be held responsible for killing him; moreover he was humane enough not to want to see so much suffering. But his fear of the Emperor moved him more strongly, so the Pope was told they must leave that evening. On his bed Pius received Communion from the hands of the abbot. A little later he was borne to the carriage and laid on the litter.
Claraz insisted that he must attend the Pope on the journey; he took it in turns with Porta to sit inside the carriage with the patient. At the first stopping place (Saint-Julien) Pius was able to take a sip of chocolate and a glass of water. By the next night they were at Chambéry. At each stop Claraz was refilling his bottle of drinking water. From time to time he revived the Pope with syrup of violets and a few drops from a bottle of liqueur. Gradually he began to believe that they would bring Pius alive to Fontainebleau.
Napoleon had ordered that the carriage was to pass through Chambéry and Lyon by night. To obey these instructions at the latter city it was necessary for the driver to walk his horses slowly since it was still daylight as they approached the suburbs, but once he had entered the city he took it at a gallop for fear of curious crowds. "The passage through Lyon," Claraz tells us, "was a special hardship for His Holiness; the uneven paving of the streets, together with the speed at which the horses were driven, made the carriage shake abominably. I was obliged with one hand to hold the Holy Father's head, to save it from being violently shaken, and with the other I held his stomach. When we had passed through, and after the horses had slackened their pace, His Holiness asked me if the rushing was over. I assured him that it was, and then the Holy Father murmured these remarkable words, which will always remain engraved on my mind: 'May God pardon him since, for my part, I have already pardoned him!'"
In this manner, with no stop for more than an hour at a time, the carriage reached Fontainebleau at midday on June 20, four-and-a-half days after it had left the Mont Cenis. But the palace gates were closed against it, the guard refused admission, and it was necessary to lay the Pope in a house close by. Though Napoleon had told Borghese that arrangements had been made to receive the Pope at Fontainebleau he had in fact made no such arrangements since they would have been likely to spoil the secrecy. So Lagorse had to send a messenger over to Paris to secure a right of entry from the Minister of Police; by evening Pius could be moved into the palace, though nothing had been made ready for him. Next morning the Minister of Police and the Minister of Cults drove over from Paris to pay their respects, as Napoleon had told them to. The Pope was far too ill to see them, but that was immaterial; they had made the correct diplomatic gesture. That the Pope was still alive, and expected to live, was a relief to the Minister of Police, for, had the prisoner died, he might himself have been blamed for killing him by ordering his departure from the Mont Cenis.
Back at Turin, Borghese was equally relieved. Now he was free to publish in the press his own account of the journey; he chose to describe it as a courtesy visit by one sovereign to another. Readers of the Courrier de Turin were informed: "The Pope arrived at Fontainebleau on June 20. He was received by M. le Duc de Cadore and His Excellency the Minister of Cults.... His Holiness is occupying the same apartments as he occupied seven years ago. He was untired by his journey."
III. THE GRAND ARMY ANNIHILATED
For a month Pius lay on his bed in the palace. He was in much pain, and very weak. But gradually he recovered his strength. By August he was beginning to wonder when the Emperor was coming to see him. He was still subject to close supervision and censorship, but he received more visitors than had been allowed him in recent months at Savona; and al- though only those whom the Minister of Cults regarded as "reliable" (French bishops and red cardinals) were allowed access to his rooms, he could pick up from them a little of the truth.
It seemed that, contrary to expectation, the Tsar had not surrendered. Indeed, as summer turned to autumn, and the leaves of the great forest by which the Pope was now surrounded turned crimson and then fell, the most startling stories of the Emperor's grand army filtered into the gloomy papal apartments.
It has been said that Napoleon lost the Moscow campaign before he ever crossed the Polish frontier into Russia. If this is an exaggeration it is yet certain that he needed to build up his reserves of men, food, guns, and ammunition at the key centres of his long lines of communication, namely at Warsaw and Vilna, both of them Polish cities. Warsaw was the capital of a grand duchy created by Napoleon. Vilna was the capital of Lithuania, that eastern province of Poland which had been occupied by the Russians since the year 1794. In earlier years the Poles in these places had looked upon Napoleon as the great emancipator, who would liberate all Poland from the Russians and restore her ancient independence. But they no longer saw him in that light. Now they regarded him as the great conscriptor, who carried off the youth of the country to fight and to die in his battles. And now, too, he was suspected as an enemy of the Church, determined, with his new-fangled laws, to undermine the religion of the people; he was known as the excommunicated emperor who had kidnapped and imprisoned the Pope. So when he tried to enlist the Poles in his armies, to "crusade" against the "barbarians of the Arctic," their response was disappointing. Only about a third of the 80,000 Poles he had expected followed his flag, and he was obliged to leave garrisons both at Warsaw and at Vilna strong enough to deal with possible Polish uprisings.
If the Catholic Poles hung back from giving the Emperor their support, the contingents he dragged with him from the Rhineland, from Italy, and from Austria (an "ally" since his marriage to Marie-Louise) were even more unreliable; these troops were the first to desert his grande armée as it starved, stumbled, and finally froze in the vast Russian plain. Now that he had shown himself fallible they were much more ready to cast his heresies in his teeth. Even to the Russian priests of the Orthodox Church, Napoleon was "the Excommunicate," and the French troops "heretics," and religious fury enlisted itself behind the defence of Holy Russia as it had already risen in defence of Holy Spain. "Does the Pope suppose," Napoleon had once cried, "that with his excommunication he can cause the weapons to fall from the hands of my soldiers?" Pius had not supposed that. But by the beginning of December it was known at Paris and was whispered in the corridors of Fontainebleau that in fact the weapons were falling from the hands of the Emperor's soldiers, falling from frozen fingers silently into the snow.
It was on December 5, 1812, when he was still in Lithuania, on the retreat from Moscow, that Napoleon issued his famous bulletin announcing the defeat and dissolution of the grande armée and himself took leave of its remaining generals. The day before, he had given orders for a relay of horses to provide for his own escape and return to France in a carriage on runners. Taking with him one companion, Caulaincourt, who kept a diary of their journey, he chatted ceaselessly about politics, government, women; the disaster had not depressed him in the least. Had he not, once before, left an army in the east -- in Syria -- and returned without it to France, only to rise to supreme power there? He would do the same again. Frustrated in the east, he would rise to new pinnacles of glory in the west.
And indeed, as the cold dawn of New Year's Day, 1813, lighted his windows once more at the Tuileries, there was an analogy with twelve years earlier, when he had looked out of those same windows as First Consul of France. Then his new position had depended upon whether he could roll back the forces of the counter-revolution, which had advanced towards the French frontier while he was in Egypt. Now he would only preserve his Imperial crown if he could roll back the forces that would soon be threatening France from eastern and central Europe. Then he had sallied forth and defeated the forces of the second coalition at Marengo; now he would have to sally forth and defeat the forces of a fourth coalition...where? Then, to restore internal peace to France, he had determined, with the aid of a new Pope, elected at the conclave of Venice, to heal the wounds of the Church and to "rebuild the altars"; now, with the aid of that same Pope, he would call off a quarrel that had raised resentment against him everywhere, and exchange the kiss of peace with Pius.
It was the least he could do. He was at bay, and the enemy was still advancing. Somehow he had to reassure his reluctant allies, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, that he was still Charlemagne, that he still defended the Christian West against the Asiatic -- or "Arctic" -- hordes, and against the Protestant, heretic, English, now advancing through Spain and soon to enter southern France. Somehow he must silence the parish priests who were at last taking courage to raise voices of protest, even in France, against the treatment suffered by the Head of the Church at the hands of the Defender of Christendom.
In short, he must go to Fontainebleau.
IV. FACE TO FACE
It was more than six years since Napoleon had written a personal letter to Pius, but it was only one year since he had sent that message to Savona, to be read aloud to the prisoner, in which he had said that the Pope understood less theology than a novice in a seminary, and that it was time he stepped down to make way for someone with a stronger head.
Now he wrote personally and courteously. After saying how "very alarmed" he had been to hear of the Pope's illness in the summer, and how glad he was he had recovered, the Emperor went on: "...Your Holiness's new place of abode makes it possible for us to see each other, and I have it much at heart to tell you that, despite all that has happened, I have always preserved the same feelings for you personally. Perhaps we are approaching that goal so much to be desired, namely an end to the differences that divide the State from the Church. For my part, I am most anxious for it; it depends entirely on Your Holiness. Meanwhile I beg you to believe that the feelings of high esteem and deep respect which I feel for you are unaffected by any events and circumstances. I pray God, Most Holy Father, that He may cherish you for many years, so that you may have the glory of re-establishing the government of the Church, and that you may for long enjoy and benefit from your work."
This new style of letter was followed by a new style of envoy, none other than the Empress Marie-Louise. And her husband himself followed close on her heels.
And so at last it came about that for six days Napoleon was in conference alone with Pius VII in the papal apartments at Fontainebleau. But of this, the most dramatic "summit conference" of the nineteenth century, we have no record. Pius later told how, at one point in their conversations, the Emperor gripped him by the buttons of his soutane and pushed him to and fro as he drove home his arguments, and on another occasion, the Emperor so threatened him that he had replied: "So this affair, which began as a comedy, is to end as a tragedy!" And there is a story that Napoleon, in his fury at the old man's obstinacy, deliberately smashed a priceless set of Sèvres porcelain across the floor. But Pius always insisted afterwards that, though he had been treated with great discourtesy, he had not been physically assaulted.
Violence of speech the Pope certainly had to absorb, a violence cleverly alternated with flattery and persuasion. The Emperor, though he needed a settlement, had not come in a mood to make any concessions. He had come to deliver the final assault in person on a prisoner whom he now regarded as sufficiently ripe. Only a few days before his own arrival he had caused some Gallican bishops and red cardinals to put to the Pope a series of new proposals. These were not confined to the investiture question; they included demands that the papacy be established at Paris, that two-thirds of the cardinals be appointed by "the Catholic sovereigns" ( Napoleon), and that the black cardinals be condemned for their behaviour. These demands the Pope had rejected out of hand. Yet they had been pressed upon him by the whole of his entourage. Those bishops and cardinals whom he was allowed to see continued to impress upon him the need for a settlement on virtually any terms that the Emperor was prepared to offer. So it was a Pope weakened by lack of information, and by interested advice, who found himself alone with Napoleon during those six days.
At last the Emperor departed. He seemed in a good humour. On January 27 he drove back to Paris and that same morning the Moniteur announced the news:
"...His Majesty and the Holy Father have had frequent meetings.
"Finally, on Monday the 25th, at seven o'clock in the evening, His Majesty and the Holy Father, meeting in the great hall of the apartments occupied by the Pope, have signed a concordat which puts an end to the differences that have arisen on account of the affairs of the Church.
"This treaty was signed by the Emperor and by the Pope in the presence of the cardinals and bishops present at Fontainebleau..."
The rejoicings were general. Te Deums were sung.
But what had been agreed?
To some it didn't seem to matter very much what had been agreed. They argued that all must be well since that very day the Emperor was releasing the black cardinals from their detention, since those French bishops whom he had buried in the darkness of the fortress of Vincennes were coming out into the light of day, and since even now word was flying down to the Savoy Alps telling Cardinal Pacca, in the Fenestrelle, that he was free and might rejoin his master at Fontainebleau. Some of the red cardinals had been given the Cross of the Legion of Honour. One had been made a senator. There had been presents for most of those at Fontainebleau. And another six thousand francs had been paid to that useful man, the Pope's doctor, Porta.
Evidently it was peace and reconciliation all around.
But on what terms? This was the first question the cardinal in the Fenestrelle asked himself when they gave him the news. Stiffened in his limbs by three-and-a-half years of the Fenestrelle, but stiffened still harder in his resolution to resist the Emperor, and all who would appease him, Pacca was more concerned about the character of the new concordat than he was about his own release. For five days he chose to remain in his prison. Then he set out for Fontainebleau. The Pope would be needing his help; he must not withhold it. But his heart was heavy with a deep foreboding: "Knowing as I did the quiet and gentle disposition of the Pope, and that he was battered and brought low by illness, suffering, and the hardship of a long imprisonment, and knowing him to be surrounded by people who had either sold themselves altogether to the Emperor, or were miserably timid and behaved like courtiers, I realized at once that the struggle between Gregory Barnabas Chiaramonti and Napoleon Bonaparte would be conducted between forces too unequal in strength, and I saw which side would gain the victory."
Across the Alps the cardinal was following the route that had been taken by Lagorse. But now it was midwinter, with blue skies and the snow brilliant in the sun. His progress was a triumph. In each village, as he passed, the church bells were rung. At Pinerolo there were touching scenes when he was greeted by a group of priests, exiled from Rome, who had refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Emperor. But at Rivoli he met the well-informed Marchese d'Azeglio, who gave him, over dinner, some scraps of gloomy information from Paris about the new concordat. At the top of the pass he called at the Mont Cenis monastery, where the Benedictines told him of the Pope's stay in June; and at Lans le Bourg, while a wheel on his coach was being mended, he sought out the doctor Claraz, from whom he heard the details of the rest of the Pope's journey. So on to Chambéry, where he called to congratulate the bishop, who had stood out against Napoleon at the council of Paris, and from there to Lyon, where the largest demonstration awaited him. But it was at Lyon that he heard again -- and this time with more circumstantial detail - ugly news about the new concordat.
On a bitterly cold morning, February 18, he reached the gates of Fontainebleau. Here, for the first time on his journey, was no welcoming crowd; nobody appeared in the great courtyard; all the doors were closed and all the windows shuttered. When at last he crossed to the other side and mounted the main staircase, there was still nobody to be seen save a sentry at the top. The famous royal palace felt as cheerless as the Fenestrelle. At last one of his servants found an attendant who was attached to the Pope's service, and word was brought to the cardinal that Pius would like to see him at once, before he changed his clothes.
Prepared as he was for the worst, Pacca yet was sharply shocked when he found himself standing once more before the Pope. He found Pius "bent, pale, emaciated, with his eyes sunk deep into his head, and motionless as though he were dazed. He greeted me, and said very distantly that he had not expected me so soon. When I told him that I had made haste, so as to have the joy of placing myself at his feet and bearing witness to my admiration for the heroic constancy with which he had suffered so long and grievous an imprisonment, he was filled with distress and replied in these precise words: 'But, in the end, I was defiled. Those cardinals... they dragged me to the table and made me sign.'"
And what had he signed?
He had signed a short paper, which Napoleon agreed to treat as confidential, and on which were listed ten points to serve as the basis for a new concordat. The only one of these points which represented a concession by the Pope was the fourth, in which Pius yielded once again on the investiture question, allowing investiture by metropolitans after a delay of six months. For the rest, the paper represented a series of concessions by Napoleon. All the cardinals were to be released and restored to the Pope; there was no more mention of Paris or of Avignon; the Pope was recognized as a sovereign, with special rights of nominating as well as investing bishops in the area of Rome -an indication of his sovereignty there, although its extent was not defined. In short, in reaching this understanding Pius had remained exactly in the position he had taken up with the delegation at Savona a year before, whereas Napoleon had retreated from the position he had adopted in rejecting the Pope's brief from Savona.
Yet in one vital respect the Pope had departed from the principles that had guided him at Savona. There he had never signed an agreement; now he had been persuaded to sign one. It might be only a provisional understanding that he had signed, and it might be confidential; but it bore his signature and it contained a clause about investiture which the Pope knew was dubious, and which the black cardinals would never accept. So when the Emperor proceeded to present the paper to the senate for ratification as the "new concordat," and to publish its terms, the Pope's remorse and distress knew no bounds. "He has betrayed me," Pius cried; and, taking the whole blame upon himself, regarding himself as "defiled," he entered on a rigorous fast and even refrained from saying Mass.
On the evening of the day Pacca had arrived at Fontainebleau, Consalvi reached the palace from Rheims. At once these two stalwart ultramontanes settled down to survey the situation together, and they were soon in agreement as to what must be done. By mutual consent Consalvi assumed the leadership, as his talents deserved. Behind him, di Pietro, then most of the black cardinals, immediately ranged themselves. But amongst the twenty-four surviving members of the Sacred College, now gathered together at Fontainebleau, this vigorous clique could seldom count on more than a dozen, for the course it proposed was bold and dangerous. First, the Pope's personal morale was to be restored by assuring him that the mistake' he had made in giving his signature was not irretrievable. Then the paper itself was to be denounced by the Pope on the grounds that it had been extorted from him when he was not a free agent and when he was deprived of his counsellors.
Pius was profoundly relieved to find that those whose judgment he most fully trusted considered that his mistake was not irretrievable; his health and spirits rallied visibly from that moment. He was ready now to pen a letter to the Emperor in which he reproached Napoleon with having deceived him by announcing a new concordat, and publishing its terms, when no such concordat in fact existed. He admitted his own mistake, his "human frailty," with an almost naïve candour, which must have made the Emperor smile -- a bitter smile, for Napoleon would see at a glance the consequences of his own mistake in releasing the black cardinals, and especially Consalvi and Pacca, and allowing them to go to Fontainebleau and influence the Pope.
Pius was not unaware how the Emperor was likely to react to the letter he was penning, so he thought it prudent to mollify him a little in advance by sending Consalvi and Pacca to the Tuileries, to put in a courtesy appearance at one of Napoleon's receptions. Neither cardinal wanted to go, but Pius insisted, because he did not want to seem to be breaking off relations with the Emperor. For Consalvi the Tuileries held painful associations of his expulsion from the palace on the occasion of his last visit, while for Pacca the occasion would mean exchanging courtesies with the man who had put him in the Fenestrelle. Proud, angry, and reserved, the two princes of the Church put in the required appearance, awaiting their turn in the assembly line as the Emperor strolled round to speak to each of his guests.
"This is Cardinal Pacca," the Emperor said, when he reached him; then added, rather indelicately: "Tell me, Pacca, did you stay a long time in the fortress?"
"Three-and-a-half years, Sir," the Cardinal replied. Then the Emperor did a mime with his right hand, as though he were writing: "It was you, I am told, who wrote the Bull of Excommunication?"
This time Pacca remained silent.
Napoleon turned to Consalvi: "Ah, here is Consalvi, I know him ...and where have you been staying?"
"At Rheims, Sir."
"A good city."
And so the Emperor passed on.
It had not been an enjoyable interview, but it had probably been worth-while, for a few days later Napoleon received the Pope's letter of retraction and rumour had it -- a rumour which reached Pacca -- that Napoleon swore, when he read it, that he would send the offending cardinals, who had influenced the Pope, to the guillotine. If, in fact, he refrained from taking action against them, it may have been partly because they, for their part, had swallowed their pride and had come to the Tuileries to pay their respects.
The Wheel Full Circle
I. NAPOLEON AT BAY
The military and diplomatic situation was now such that it was a bad moment for the Emperor to think about guillotining cardinals. Indeed it was so serious that he took no action on receipt of the Pope's letter, preferring to ignore it and to keep up the pretence that an understanding had been reached, even though this pretence meant leaving the black cardinals at liberty and free to see the Pope.
His special anxiety was now Austria. The alliance he had achieved with the Austrian Empire by his marriage to MarieLouise had been strained to breaking point during the Moscow campaign, and he knew well enough that his imperial fatherin-law's chancellor, Metternich, would break it off and join Russia and Prussia and England against him just as soon as he dared. He was trying, during the summer of 1813, to persuade Metternich that the true interests of Austria lay in maintaining her new alliance with France. The real danger to Austria, he was urging her chancellor, came not from France but from Russia and from Prussia, now in alliance against the French; the Slavic and the German provinces of the Austrian Empire would both be threatened, he pointed out, if this new northern alliance, backed by England, were successful. And it was part of his argument that the Austrian-French alliance, so happily cemented by his own marriage to Marie-Louise, and by their infant son, was a Catholic Christian alliance against Protestant and schismatic "hordes." So it was not a moment when he could well afford to guillotine cardinals; on the contrary it was important for him to try to persuade everybody that the "concordat of Fontainebleau," though repudiated by the Pope, was a reality and constituted a true peace.
But Metternich had too keen an appreciation of realities to fall for Napoleon's new thesis. Moreover he saw that Austria, though four times defeated by Napoleon, now held a key position as arbiter between Paris and Moscow.
During May Napoleon had some military successes in Saxony, and a two-months' armistice was concluded between the contestants at the beginning of June, so as to give an international conference a chance to arrange a peace. Until August 12 this conference attempted, at Prague, to agree on a basis for a general settlement. But Napoleon would make only trifling concessions, and the allied position was strengthened by the successful resistance of the Spaniards, who forced the French to evacuate Madrid. This Spanish resistance, though made possible by the successes of the Duke of Wellington's British army in Portugal and Spain, was in itself a religious-patriotic rising. The reality, in Spain as elsewhere, was that people and priests had come to regard Napoleon both as a foreign tyrant and as the persecutor of Pope and Church.
On August 12 the Emperor Francis joined the Allies and declared war on his son-in-law. The Russian, Prussian, and Austrian forces now prepared to drive Napoleon from his position at Dresden, in Saxony; he withdrew to Leipzig, and there he made his stand. He had managed, by conscripting youths before their time, to muster some 400,000 men, but they were untrained; his seasoned troops had been lost in Russia, and of the old guard he only had a few whom he had withdrawn from Spain. And he was lamentably short of cavalry. Many of his allies deserted as soon as the fighting began, and in this decisive engagement -- known as the Battle of the Nations -- his army was overwhelmed; he lost as many men as he had lost on the retreat from Moscow. With a mere 40,000 he retired across the Rhine.
The moment had now come when, on any reasonable military calculation, Napoleon's war against the Allies was irretrievably lost and peace had become an absolute necessity to him and to France. He had abandoned eastern and central Europe, hitherto part of his empire or associated with it, and the allied armies were standing on the Rhine ready to cross and to march on Paris. In the south the French troops were already pouring back from Spain across the Pyrenees. Resistance could only have been successfully continued by means of some sort of levée en masse, and this was out of the question because the French countryside, even in the eastern provinces, was prepared for nothing of the sort. The mood of the peasantry was one of sullen and obstinate hostility to any further appeals by the Emperor, and in many places -- especially in the critical Franche comté -- the priests were working for a return of the Bourbons. An appeal to the people of France to rise and slaughter the invaders or to destroy the food supplies was not in fact attempted by Napoleon because he knew it would be ignored; he preferred, rather, to scrape together a few more followers by conscripting mere boys, boys whose elder brothers now lay dead in the great central European plain.
Yet such was Napoleon's military prestige, and such was the disinclination of Metternich to see the Tsar and the Russian army enter Paris, that Napoleon could still, in November 1813, have obtained terms which would have left him in possession of Belgium and the Rhine frontier, those "natural frontiers" of France for which the Bourbon Louis XIV had fought in vain and which, to Frenchmen, were the prize that really mattered. Metternich was offering no less. But Napoleon refused to make peace on such terms; and by refusing, he betrayed France. Not even Hitler, in the winter of 1944-5, prolonged the agony of war with a more cynical disregard for the true interests of his country than did Napoleon in that winter of 1813-14. So at the end of December the invasion of France began.
It was now that Murat, King of Naples, decided to abandon his master. Though he had been one of Napoleon's earliest companions in arms, who owed everything to the Emperor, he calculated that his only chance of retaining his kingdom lay in throwing in his lot with the Allies. So he signed a secret treaty with Metternich, who promised him gains at the expense of the Papal States, and marched north, driving the French from Rome. It was thus that General Miollis, who had ruled the Eternal City since Radet had removed the Pope, was forced at last to relinquish it. And it was thus that Napoleon, who for so long had refused to allow Pius to be at Rome, decided that the moment had come when it might be useful for the Pope to return. Not with a view to appeasing the Church, or to giving freedom to the papacy, but simply to frustrate Murat and his treachery did Napoleon at last decide to restore Pius to his States. His letter makes this clear:
"Most Holy Father ...the King of Naples having concluded with the coalition an alliance, one of whose objects appears to be the reunion of Rome with his own States, His Majesty the Emperor and King has considered that the political interests of his Empire and those of the people of Rome require that he should give back the Roman States to Your Holiness.... Consequently I am authorized to sign a treaty by which peace will be reestablished between the Emperor and the Pope...."
But Pius refused. Advised by Consalvi and Pacca, he declined to negotiate with Napoleon. What would be the use, he asked the envoy, of negotiating a treaty that the Allies would not recognize? If the Emperor chose to have him conveyed back to Rome well and good, but a treaty must wait upon the restoration of a general peace to Europe. So the envoy took his leave and Pius remained at Fontainebleau.
But not for long.
By January 1814 the Allies had crossed the Rhine in force. It became clear that Fontainebleau might soon be indefensible, and Napoleon did not want to lose his prisoner. So he gave a rapid order: "Arrange for the departure of the Pope tonight [ January 21/22 ] before five o'clock in the morning, for Savona."
When the inevitable Lagorse presented himself once more at Fontainebleau to carry out this order he announced that he was taking the Pope to Rome. But it soon became clear that his real instructions were to take him, by a westerly route, to Savona; he was to run no risk of letting him fall into the hands of the Allies. And on the following day the cardinals were all to be taken to different places in the interior of France.
After an early Mass the Pope spoke to the cardinals. He told them to continue to mourn for the wrongs done to the Church and for the captivity of her chief, to make no agreement with the Emperor's government, and to accept no place, position, or pension from him. And he advised them to try to avoid publicity. Then he descended to the courtyard and found himself once more entering a carriage conducted by Lagorse. Though by now he knew he was not being taken to Rome he did not know where he would be taken. Grouped around, the cardinals bade him farewell in the icy air of a January dawn; once more they were all to be separated and scattered.
At the date of the Pope's departure from Fontainebleau, Napoleon was still insisting that he would not make peace without the Rhine frontier and Belgium. But the actual fighting was now being conducted only sixty miles east of Paris, and some of France's richest provinces were already in the hands of the enemy. With prodigious energy, during February and March, the Emperor used his strong geographical position east of Paris to strike first in the centre, at the flanks of the advancing Russians, then north, across the Marne, at General Blücher's Prussians, then south, on the Seine, at the main Austrian army. And all this time at Châtillon, on the Seine, south of Troyes, his friend and envoy Caulaincourt tried to reach an agreement with the Allies. Even at that eleventh hour Caulaincourt might have done so, for the Austrians dreaded the Russian advance towards Paris, but the Allies, understandably, now insisted that French power would have to be withdrawn not merely behind the Rhine frontier but behind the traditional pre-revolutionary frontiers of France, and that was something Napoleon refused to concede. So he fought on, pushing always eastwards, in a bold attempt to sever the communications of the advancing armies, until he realized, too late, that the Russians had pushed past him, up the Marne, to the gates of Paris. Then he dashed back towards the capital, only to hear that General Marmont, in charge of the defence of its northeastern approaches, and hopelessly outnumbered, had surrendered on March 30.
So Napoleon withdrew from the outskirts of the capital to Fontainebleau, and the Tsar Alexander and King Frederick William of Prussia entered Paris. The Emperor Francis was moving up from Lyon, and his daughter Marie-Louise, with Napoleon's little boy, the King of Rome, had already left the capital; asserting his position, both as father and conqueror, Francis now ordered his daughter to go to Rambouillet and not to rejoin her husband.
Napoleon had with him at Fontainebleau the remnant of his army, perhaps as many as 60,000 men; he was not likely to be disturbed there for some days. But what could he do? His instinct was to march straight on Paris and raise the populace, but his marshals prevented that form of suicide. It was now that they started deserting him. Marmont surrendered his corps to the Allies. Even the bravest of the brave, Ney, who had saved the nucleus of the old guard on the retreat from Moscow, made his peace with the occupying powers at Paris. Silently men slipped away to the capital. Even the faithful Mameluke servant, who slept on the floor outside his master's bedroom door, disappeared, as did the Emperor's valet. But most of the officers of the old guard remained.
And so did General Caulaincourt.
Caulaincourt had been Napoleon's companion on that return journey by sleigh from Russia. He had listened to his master's irrational, optimistic prophecies then, and to many more roseate calculations since, even since the Battle of the Nations. It had been his lot to try to negotiate terms, and to have his every effort frustrated by Napoleon's refusal ever to offer more than too little, too late. Now that Paris had fallen the only questions left for Caulaincourt to argue with the Allies were the personal future of the Emperor himself and that of his wife and child. But he continued to endure his master's wrath, for Napoleon was insisting that the Allies ought to set up a regency in favour of the little boy, whereas they had already decided to restore the Bourbons to France.
Caulaincourt was a faithful friend, and he stood by his master during those last terrible ten days; it was Caulaincourt who nursed him back to health when he tried to commit suicide by swallowing a phial of opium, Caulaincourt who held the basin as he vomited over and over again, Caulaincourt who frustrated the Emperor's odd plan to stoke up the coals beneath the bathtub and suffocate himself in the steam trapped by the tent curtains surrounding it. And it was the same friend who bade him put away his pistols when he considered blowing his brains out. This last was what France was expecting of him. Since he had failed to die in battle, in a last charge into the face of the enemy, it was thought that his only honourable end was to shoot himself. But he recoiled from that form of suicide because he had a horror of physical disfigurement of the kind that he had seen so often on the battlefield. His body would lie in state; must it not lie serene, calm, imperious, as it always had been? He could not endure the thought of its lying brutally disfigured before the public gaze.
In this perishing winter, when the great rivers froze, and the poverty-stricken peasants, who had lost their sons in his battles, were cursing their ruler and demanding, as spring returned, a return to peace, peace at any price, Napoleon became a prey, in the gloom of Fontainebleau, to a ghoulish melancholia. The great palace which had witnessed, only a few months earlier, the deepest dejection of the Pope, was now witnessing that of the Emperor. But whereas Pius had been suffering the bitter self-reproach of a man who feels he has betrayed the cause of truth, Napoleon was suffering the remorse of the gambler who has lost all. And whereas Pius never ceased to blame himself, and only himself, and did penance for his fault, Napoleon never blamed himself. His generals had made all the mistakes. Why had Marmont placed his cannon at Paris uselessly on the Champ de Mars, instead of on the hill of Montmartre? Why had Augereau not moved against the Austrians from the south?...and so on.
And as the two men suffered at Fontainebleau so differently, so they sought to end their pain by taking opposite paths; for the one the path of repentance, for the other the path of suicide. And as the one became hollow-eyed and emaciated with fasting, so the other became wild, dishevelled, restless, and voluble. The British Commissioner, Neil Campbell, sent to Fontainebleau by his government, saw Napoleon pacing up and down unshaven, his hair unbrushed, his clothes filthy with snuff. Campbell also saw him at Mass, unable to keep still, pushing his fingers in and out of his mouth, gnawing his nails.
And now it was Napoleon's turn to bid farewell to his friends in the courtyard at Fontainebleau, as Pius had bid farewell to his only a few months before. It was a moving ceremony, with the Emperor pressing his lips to the eagles on the flag that his armies had so often carried to victory.
He had abdicated.
In his last moments at Fontainebleau he had shown a dignity that history has not forgotten. But on his journey south to Fréjus, whence he was to embark by allied order for Elba, he was not able to maintain so dignified a poise, for he felt the full force of his rear. To avoid the hostile crowds at Lyon his coach took the city at a gallop, and by night -- as he had ordered another coach to traverse it, not long ago, in the opposite direction. And like that other coach this one had its blinds drawn, though not for fear of popular demonstrations of sympathy. They were drawn for fear of hostile demonstrations, fear of those who were throwing stones at it. For this was not a joyful journey, through cheering crowds, such as Pius had just been enjoying along more westerly French roads to Savona. The ex-Emperor was running the gauntlet now. For part of the way he disguised himself in Russian uniform and rode ahead of his coach with his escort. There was a place in Provence where he saw himself burnt in effigy. He was afraid now, very afraid.
It was the French Napoleon feared, not the English. He feared those from whom he had taken everything, their sons, their small wealth, their labour, offering in return glory, but failing, in the end, to give them glory, sacrificing them, in the end, in a last effort to save his own glory. He feared the French so much that he insisted on an English ship to convey him from Fréjus to Elba, though the Allies had arranged for him to be transported on a French one.
While Napoleon had been trying to defend Paris, Lagorse, in charge of the Pope, had been trying to carry out the Emperor's instructions. But despite all his efforts the papal journey through France had become a slow triumphal progress, culminating in scenes of fantastic excitement at Nice, with illuminations in the streets and on the ships in the harbour; and there was the same gaiety at the other cities of the Riviera coast as the Pope was conveyed towards Savona. Amongst the visitors Pius received was Napoleon's favourite sister, Pauline; she was the wife of Prince Borghese, who had controlled the Mont Cenis pass.
At Savona Pius found himself back in the same little suite of rooms which had been his home for three years. After the grandeur and gloom of Fontainebleau it seemed almost like home; with all its sinister memories it also had some happy ones; it was quiet, almost cosy; above all it was Italy, and spring had returned.
But it was still confinement. There was a new prefect, in place of Chabrol, and he treated the Pope with great respect. But Pius was still a prisoner; Lagorse was still his gaoler. When the Pope wanted to celebrate the feast of Our lady of Deliverance in the cathedral he was not allowed to do so; Lagorse was now very nervous of letting him appear in public. Napoleon had not yet surrendered; at the time of the Pope's arrival at Savona he was fighting his last battles east of Paris and Lagorse was thinking about the safety of the Emperor's communications along the coast with the Army of Italy. He warned Paris that, if the Pope chose, he could cause the whole coast line to be "up," and those communications would be cut; if Pius gave the sign, nothing could prevent this from happening. But Pius had no such motives. He was not taking any part in the war. Until peace was restored he would not negotiate with either side. He demanded only his return to Rome.
Then on March 17, two weeks before the surrender of Paris, orders reached Savona from the Emperor that the Pope was to be taken farther into Italy, as far as Parma, where he would meet the advance guard of Murat's Neapolitan troops; in short, he was to be used as a means of embarrassing the traitor who had joined the Allies. Napoleon calculated that the presence of the Pope in central Italy would make Murat's position very difficult at Rome.
No doubt he was right. But events had overtaken him. When Pius reached the outskirts of Parma he and his escort found themselves within the Austrian lines.
The Pope was at liberty.
After visiting his friends and relatives at Imola and at Cesena, Pius reached Rome on May 24, 1814, where his arrival, after nearly five years in exile, occasioned scenes of wild excitement. His carriage was drawn into the city by the sons of the patricians of Rome. Beside him sat the Cardinals Pacca and Mattei. Consalvi, now reappointed Secretary of State, had gone to Paris to meet the Allies. Down the Corso the coach rolled under triumphal arches, then it crossed the Tiber into the piazza san Pietro; accompanied by the two cardinals the Pope gave thanks at the tomb of Saint Peter. Then he took possession again of the Quirinal. He found it in good repair, for Napoleon had always intended to make a sojourn there himself, but he found he would have to refurnish and redecorate it. The French had filled the rooms and corridors with Empire-style urns and vases; it was necessary to remove some of these to make room for the crucifixes and statues they had banished. They had also painted classical gods and goddesses on the walls, but not all of these were removed. With a dry smile Pius remarked that those of the goddesses who were not too indecent might be made into Madonnas.
Soon he granted a general amnesty to those who had supported the French, but his political problem was not yet settled. At the Congress which sat from October 1814 at Vienna, the Austrians were claiming the Legations of Bologna, Ravenna, and Ferrara, as they had when the Pope was elected, while their embarrassing new ally Murat, still reigning at Naples, was insisting on his pound of flesh in return for his help against Napoleon, and it seemed that he could only he given it at the expense of the Papal States.
By now the Allies were tired of Murat. He had served their purpose; now they wanted to restore the Bourbon King Ferdinand to Naples. Furious, Murat entered into correspondence again with Napoleon, who had been put, so unwisely, too close to the Italian coast on the Isle of Elba. If the Allies would not give Murat the position he coveted in Italy the traitor would ally himself with his old master again. And Napoleon, determined to make a comeback, and needing any allies he could get, was ready to promise Murat what he wanted.
It was in February 1815 that Europe was startled by the news that Napoleon had landed once more at Fréjus. The famous Hundred Days had begun and they did not end till Wellington and Blücher had defeated the Corsican adventurer on June 18 at Waterloo and despatched him to a more distant exile on Saint Helena in the South Atlantic. And during these Hundred Days, Murat made his fling in support of his master and in quest of a new Kingdom of Italy for himself. It was a reckless adventure, and the Austrians made short work of him, as the British and Prussians made short work of Napoleon.
But for the Pope, momentarily, the adventure was disturbing. Being without any troops he was obliged to withdraw, for some weeks, from Rome to Genoa; in the end, however, the episode greatly benefited his position. For the Allies, at Vienna, saw that they must restore order in Italy and so decided to yield to Consalvi's demand that they should give back the whole Papal States, including the Legations, to the Pope. And for Pius, personally, his brief stay at Genoa had one happy consequence: it gave him the opportunity to visit, once again, the shrine of Our Lady of Savona, to give thanks there, and to place a crown on the head of the statue -- a crown which still adorns it.
The Allies had provided for Napoleon on Saint Helena; to Marie-Louise they gave the Duchy of Parma. But the exEmperor's mother, and the rest of his own family, were now outcasts from Europe. In one city alone were they made welcome, and that was the city whose ruler had suffered most severely at the hands of the family. Pius made a point of extending his hospitality to Napoleon's mother, Laetitia, and to her brother Cardinal Fesch, who were installed at the Falconieri palace. Napoleon's brother Lucien was made Prince of Canino -- near Rome -- and brought his family to live there. And asylum was given to Joseph Bonaparte, who had been chased from Spain, and to Elisa, lately Grand Duchess of Tuscany. Gratitude was not a virture of the Bonapartes; especially did it make itself felt but hardly in the breast of the ambitious Elisa. Yet she may have remembered with a little shame a night in July 1809, when Pius had been brought, exhausted, to the Certosa, near Florence, and she had denied him one night's sleep.
Even Napoleon's Minister of Police, the Duc de Rovigo, who had ordered the Pope's departure from the Mont Cenis, was now given shelter at Rome.
For Napoleon himself Pius could do little.
Yet he tried, and he may have achieved something, since the British government did not entirely ignore the various suggestions that they should improve the conditions under which the ex-Emperor was detained.
It was in October 1817 that Pius intervened on Napoleon's behalf. His intervention was the last action undertaken by either of these two men in the strange drama of their relations with each other; within six years both of them would be dead.
This action took the form of an instruction to Consalvi which deserves to be quoted in full, since it provides the Pope's final verdict on the whole struggle:
" Napoleon's family," Pius tells Consalvi, "have made known to Us through Cardinal Fesch that the craggy island of Saint Helena is mortally injurious to health, and that the poor exile is dying by inches. We have been deeply grieved to hear this, as without doubt you will be, for We ought both to remember that, after God, it is to him chiefly that is due the reshyestablishment of religion in the great kingdom of France. The pious and courageous initiative of 1801 has made Us long forget and pardon the wrongs that followed. Savona and Fontainebleau were only mistakes due to temper, or the frenzies of human ambition. The concordat was a healing act, Christian and heroic. Napoleon's mother and family have appealed to Our pity and Our generosity; We think it right to respond to that appeal. We are certain that We shall only be ordering you to act as you would wish to act when We instruct you to write on Our behalf to the allied sovereigns, and in particular to the Prince Regent. He is your dear and good friend, and We wish you to ask him to lighten the sufferings of so hard an exile. Nothing would give Us greater joy than to have contributed to the lessening of Napoleon's hardships. He can no longer be a danger to anybody. We would not wish him to become a cause for remorse."
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