Fire and Sword
Copyright © 2009 Simon Scarrow
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First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2008
All characters in this publication - other than the obvious
historical characters - are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons,
living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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eISBN : 978 0 7553 5343 9
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Table of Contents
To Murray, Gareth and Mark,
in the hope that we can keep up with Glynne!
Paris, December 1804
As Napoleon’s carriage pulled up in front of Notre-Dame, the vast crowd that had been waiting in the chill air let out a cheer that echoed off the massive grey walls.The buildings that had once surrounded the great cathedral had been cleared to make space for the coronation procession, and the citizens of Paris had pressed tightly into the area cordoned off by the Emperor’s grenadiers.The soldiers stood, two ranks deep, along the entire route, and their tall bearskins obscured much of the view, leaving those behind them to snatch glimpses of the ornately decorated carriages and their robed passengers as they trundled past. In between the carriages trotted squadrons of cuirassiers, their breastplates so carefully polished that they captured the surrounding scene in distorted reflections on their gleaming surfaces. The Emperor, his Empress, the imperial family and the marshals and ministers occupied over forty carriages that had been constructed specially for the coronation. Paris had never seen a sight like it, and at one stroke Napoleon had eclipsed the pomp and grandeur of his Bourbon predecessors.
He smiled with satisfaction at the thought.While the kings of France owed their crowns to an accident of birth, Napoleon had won his through ability, courage, and the love of the French people. It was the people who had given him the imperial crown, in a popular vote where only a few thousand souls in the whole of France had denied him their support. In return for the crown Napoleon had given them victory and glory, and already his mind was filled with plans to extend that glory even further.
There was a brief delay as a pair of elaborately dressed footmen scurried over to the carriage with a small flight of steps and then pulled the handle down and opened the door. Napoleon, sitting on the silk-covered seat in splendid isolation, took a deep breath and rose up, emerging into view of the crowd. His grey eyes swept across the sea of adoring faces and his lips parted in a grin. Another great cheer rent the air and beyond the ranks of the grenadiers a sea of waving arms and plumed hats flickered in a confused storm of colours and motion.
Glancing round, Napoleon saw Talleyrand, his foreign minister, frown with disapproval as he stood with the other ministers on the approach to the cathedral. Napoleon could not help a slight chuckle at the sight of the aristocrat’s discomfort over the Emperor’s lack of decorum. Well, let him disapprove, Napoleon reflected. The old regime was gone, swept away by the revolution, and a new order had risen in its place. An order based upon the will of the people. Napoleon was grateful enough, and astute enough, to return their greeting as he turned to each side and waved back to the delighted crowd before he descended from the carriage. At once the footmen took up the train of his gold-embroidered red robes and followed him at a steady pace as he strode across the carpet towards the entrance of the cathedral.
Most of the guests, and his family, had already made their way inside and been ushered to their appointed seats. The ministers, as the senior servants of the state, would follow the Emperor and take up the most prestigious places close to the heart of the ceremony. Originally Napoleon had intended to lead his generals into the cathedral, but his brother, Joseph, and Talleyrand had urged him to present the coronation as a primarily civilian celebration. Even though the army had been the means by which Napoleon had assumed power over France, it was important that he present himself to the world as a political and not a military leader.Talleyrand still held out hope that a lasting peace might be achieved in Europe, as long as the other powers could be persuaded that the new Emperor was a statesman first, and a soldier second.
After so many years of war the short-lived Treaty of Amiens had given the people an appetite for peace and stability. Stability above all, and that meant the establishment of a new, permanent form of government. Napoleon had prepared the ground skilfully, proceeding from consul to First Consul, then First Consul for life, before he presented the people with the opportunity to approve his assumption of a new throne. Of course the senators had dressed it up as a necessary expedient to protect the Republic from its foreign and domestic enemies, but the Republic was no more. It had died in the birth throes of the empire. Already Napoleon had surrounded himself with the gaudy panoply of royalty and whittled down the powers of the senators, tribunes and representatives of the people. And there were plans to introduce a host of new aristocratic titles and awards to bolster the new regime. In time, Napoleon hoped, the empire would be accepted by the other European powers and there would be an end to the attempts on his life by Frenchmen in the pay of foreign nations.
As he neared the entrance Napoleon paused and turned, then raised his hands and gestured towards the crowd, with a brilliant smile beneath the dark hair that framed his face.They let out a roar of joy and affection for their Emperor and surged forward so that the line of grenadiers bowed under the pressure and their boots scrabbled on the cobbles as they braced themselves against the surge and thrust back at the crowd with the lengths of their muskets.
Napoleon turned away and resumed his progress towards the high arched door. As he passed Talleyrand he inclined his head towards the foreign minister.
‘It would appear that the people approve.’
‘Yes, sire,’ Talleyrand nodded.
‘So, are you still concerned over my decision to accept this honour?’
Talleyrand shrugged faintly. ‘No, sire.You have their trust, and I am sure that they will see that you honour it.’
Napoleon’s smile froze as he nodded slowly.‘Today, I am France, and France is me. How can there be any dissent?’
‘As you say, sire.’ Talleyrand bowed his head and gestured faintly towards the entrance. ‘Your crown awaits you.’
Napoleon straightened up, so that he rose to his full height, determined to look as regal as his slight frame permitted. It had been over four years since he had last been on campaign and the fine living he had enjoyed since then had added a slight paunch to his frame. Josephine had been tactless enough to point it out on more than one occasion, gently poking him in the side as they lay in each other’s arms. He felt a lightness in his heart at the thought and glanced through the door, down the length of the cathedral to where he knew she would be sitting. It was nine years since they had met, when he had first emerged from obscurity. She could never have guessed that the slim, lank-haired young brigadier would one day become the ruler of France, nor that she would sit beside him as Empress. Napoleon felt his heart quicken with pride at his achievement. At first he had feared that she was too good for him, and would realise it all too quickly. But his rise to fame and fortune had killed that fear, and now, even as he loved Josephine as he had never loved another woman, he had begun to wonder if she was worthy of him.
With a last deep intake of the cold air, Napoleon paced forward, into Notre-Dame.The instant he crossed the threshold a choir began to sing from the far end of the cathedral and with a rustle of robes and gowns and scraping of chairs the audience rose to their feet. A length of dark green carpet stretched out before him towards the dais where the Pope stood waiting before the altar.The Emperor’s smile withered at the sight of the Holy Father. Despite his efforts to reduce the role of the Catholic church in France, the common people were stubbornly attached to their religion, and Napoleon had needed the Pope’s blessing to give his coronation the appearance of divine sanction.