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NAPOLEON'S FIRST-BORN

*An Unknown Son of Napoleon (Count Leon) * is the name of a new book by Hector Sledschmana. "Unknown” is hardly aware rentable epithet- All close students of Napoleonic literature not only knew of Count Leon’a existence, but knew a good deal about One may read of the Emperor's relations with his mother in The memoirs of the vaJet, Constant; his career is AnfaOiftA jn outline in M. Masson's ‘ Napoleon et lea Femmes ’; Mr Ernest Vizeteliy had something to say about him in his account of the Comet and companions of Napoleon in. - There was no mystery about his origin, no doubt about his parentage, and n< ; shrinking from publicity in his way of life. He obtained publicity even in a London police oonrt by challenging his cousin, tbo future Emperor, to fight a duel with him on Wimbledon Common—a duel which was only prevented by the arrival of constables in the nick of time. Indeed Count Leon was almost as conspicuous a character, albeit m a different way, as his halt-brother, Count, Walewski—at least, until the fall or -he Second Empire, when he fled for refuge to * lodging-house in Oraden Town, and raisec* the wherewithal to pay his rent by selling a bust of Madame Mere to Madame Jus-saim. It was only during the last decade or bis lire under a Republic which had lost al! resrard for the House of Bonaparte that bo lapsed into obscurity—an obscurity so complete that, when he died in 1831, he was buried aa a pauper in the fosso commune at I uutease- M, Fleischmaan has constructed a dramatic ftory of moving interest, and he has based a good deal of it upon impub-

i«w document* communicated to him by the Baron de Meneval. Count Leon’s mother, referred to by most of the biographers by he.* maiden name of Eleonore, was a Mme Revel, nee Dennello do la Plaigne. Her husband was a scamp, a fraudulent quartermaster in the army, who found his way to prison as the result of forging an acceptance of a bill. She had been at Madame Campan’s school with Napoleon's sister Caroline, who befriended her, in her trouble. It was at Caroline’s house that the Emperor met her, and ho lost no time in making her his mistress. All that she wanted was money ; she sold herself foe money, and gave only tba irreducible minimum of affection in return for it. But she bore him a sen, and though Napoleon was never a devout lover, he always had a passion for paternity. Consequently he pensioned his mistress, who presently, having divorced her first husband, married wo 1! and appointed a guardian for his son, and made an adequate provision for him. The vouth who was eventually to die as a pau per—so poor that he could afford neither tobacco nor clean linen —began life with a comfortable competence and every prospect, of a prosperous career. Napoleon used to talk of him, as well as of Walewski, in the melancholy years of his imprisonment at St Helena Ho would like, he said, to see Walewski a soldier and Leon a Judge. Walewski. as we ail know, turned out well. He became French Ambassador at the Com of St. James's. Leon's case was very different. He was a ne’er-do-well, who squandered his substance at the card table, and then tried to replace it by writing begging letters. Napoleon 111. helped him, in spite of the rankling memories of the interrupted duel, bub eventually got tired of helping

him. Walewski also began by helping him, but coded by showing him tbo door. The most faithful of his supporters was poor General Gourgaud, - who felt that ho owed that obligation to the Emperor whom he bad attended in exile, and the letters in which the Empe.-or’s son tells the general that he is reduced to living in a common lodging-house, that his last effects had been seized for arrears of rent, and that the smallest contributions will be thankfully received, are very pitiful. He married beueath him—has wife being a gardener’s daughter—and he gradually fell from poverty to absolute destitution. The portraits which U. Peischmann publishes show that like as a boy and as an old man, Leon was the living imago of Napoleon, and he inherited his father’s megalomania, though not his force of character and capacity. He was always dreaming of colossal enterprises, mainly of a financial or commercial kind; but he never failed to lose all the money entrusted to him in any enterprise in which he engaged. His widow became the housekeeper of a lady who hud once been cook in the household of Napoleon’s Prefect of Police. His son Charles became a mining engineer, and died in Venezuela in 1894 i His son Gaston became a commercial agent at La Hochelle, and was, in 1880, unsuccessfully recommended as a candidate fo- parliamentary honors by M. Maurice Barres: His son Fernand obtained employment in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. His daughter Charlotte, in whom Prince Roland Bonaparte was persuaded to take an interest, became an elementary schrol teacher. One could hardly have a more moving picture of the mutability of human things and the precarious bases of human grandeur.—‘ The Times.’

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141019.2.66

Bibliographic details

NAPOLEON'S FIRST-BORN, Evening Star, Issue 15627, 19 October 1914

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874

NAPOLEON'S FIRST-BORN Evening Star, Issue 15627, 19 October 1914

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