« AnkstesnisTęsti »
console a clock from Toledo, given the Empress by the late King Alfonso XII and Queen Christina of Spain. The case is most elaborately worked in steel and gold, which gives a curious but rich effect.
Now for the dinner-table itself. In the centre is a silver basket, well-filled with growing ferns, with cut camelias from the greenhouse stuck in between; wine and water decanters, as well as salt-cellars and finger bowls are placed round the table for every couvert.
The chef sends in very good and varied dinners, but never too long. The carving is done at a side table, and the food handed round in silver dishes by the maitre d'hôtel, old Schmidt. The plates (with the exception of a few Sèvres china ones, used at dessert are all plain silver, and have a large N and imperial crown engraved on the edge. This "simple" service, as the Empress calls it, now in every-day use, belonged formerly to the Emperor's campaigning kit. The regular table silver, used at the Tuileries, was, so the Empress told us, stolen before the burning of the palace. At Farnborough for grand days, when, for instance, the Queen dines here, there appears a lovely and very complete vermeil service, which once belonged to Queen Hortense, the Emperor's mother. I, for my part, do not enjoy using it; unaccustomed as I am to eating off such precious metal, I never can quite get over the impression that it is brass my food is resting on instead of gold.
All the men-servants, except an English under-butler, have been soldiers in the French army and are anciens serviteurs des Tuileries. They look very trim standing behind the chairs, with their immaculately white gloves, and a table napkin rolled up like a policeman's truncheon in their right hands, soldierly, but still less stiff and more human than the English flunky; and they wait so well! every want is instantly noticed if not even anticipated. Poor old Schmidt, the maitre d'hôtel, makes us all laugh sometimes, for as he hands round each dish his duty is to name it, and being very deaf and unable to control his own voice well, he often screams it out rather louder than necessary, to the surprise and amusement of every one in the room. The menu is always headed thus:
"Dinner (ou Dejeuner) de Sa Majesté l'Imperatrice" (the date). The two meals are exactly alike in composition, except that
there is no soup at luncheon and the coffee afterward is served at table, whereas after dinner it is brought into the gallery, where we drink it standing around, or walking up and down before going into the drawing
On Saturday the Empress is going to Windsor to stay a couple of days with the Queen, accompanied as usual on these occasions by Mme. de A- and the dear old Duc de Bassano. We shall be delighted when the Empress returns, for she and the Duke are the soul of the house, and all their conversation is so interesting.
February 22nd, 1886 The other day, as we were leaving our little Salon d'études and following the Empress up-stairs to the chapel, she said to me: "Vous devez trouver, Mademoiselle, que c'est un peu la vie du couvent ici!" To which I answered playfully: "Madame, je trouve que c'est un couvent fort beau et intéressant; si tous étaient aussi charmants, je n'hesiterarais pas à me faire religeuse!" and she laughed!
The rosary over, and before tea, the Empress having discovered that I had not yet seen the state bedrooms, went all through them with us, for my benefit.
Except for the presence of a splendid toilette table (d'apparat) covered with gold fittings, things she never by any chance uses, -formerly the property of the Queen Hortense, the Empress's bedroom is very simple, compared with the rooms of most women of fashion. A large bed-two or three cane chairs,-a prie-dieu, over which hang a crucifix and rosary, on the walls a few sketches of the late Emperor's room, done by herself; a glass case with family souvenirs of an intimate kind, among others the Emperor's hat criblé de trous, worn the night of the Orsini attentat, a small table with a few books of devotion, and that is all.
None of my letters seems to speak of the empress's dressing-room, so I supplement from memory now (1907). I remember nothing particularly unique about this very plain room, which, however, contained all the toilet essentials. In one corner, covered with muslin over blue silk, was a large table with a circular mirror at the back; on it absolutely nothing but an enormous flat wickerwork basket, also lined with muslin. This, I believe, was the basket given
her, filled with flowers, by the "Dames de la Halle" on her wedding-day. In this, every morning and evening, her maid used to lay out a set of fresh underclothes. Simple almost to shabbiness as her plain outer garments sometimes were, her underclothes were very beautiful, daintily made, and of the most exquisite materials, and she used to don her things with the most wonderful speed. The only other thing I remember besides in the room was a screen, which made a secluded spot for her to dress in; her porcelain bath-tub, with curtains. drawn round it; an upright wooden "portmanteau" on which her clothes were hung temporarily while dressing; and a large armoire à glace, partly filled with exquisite linen, and where also, in a compartment amid delicate sachets, she kept dainty stores of personal things, such as packets of gloves made for her formerly in great quantities in Spain and Italy.
She never went near her bedroom or dressing-room except just to dress or sleep, and kept none of her personal belongings there. She liked a rather hard bed, and used only a small hair pillow; always had her window open, kept the temperature very low, and would allow no fire in the room at night, though, in the depth of winter she consented reluctantly to have a little to dress by in the morning. About ten o'clock was her usual time for coming down-stairs of a morning, except on Sundays, when we had to start for church earlier.
The turret chamber, called chambre de l'Empereur, was shown me one day by Uhlmann at the empress's behest. It contained, undisturbed, many of his personal things and the four-post bed he died in, covered now with artificial memorial wreaths, from one of which Uhlmann gave me a spray of white roses and white lilacs and some violets.
The house chapel was very simple, just a large room with the high roof and rafters showing; but it contained the most interesting of all the historical souvenirs in the house, an antiquité over a thousand years old, and the only thing personally saved, or, rather, put in safety by the empress before leaving the Tuileries after that eventful "4 Septembre"
which was her adieu to the throne of France.
In a very old chiseled iron châsse, or shrine, about twenty inches by twelve, with niches, wherein were tiny metal saints, the whole ornamented with precious stones, and pearls very much worn and discolored by age, were three interior partitions. In that, on the right hand, was a tiny portion of a veil supposed to have belonged to the Blessed Virgin; in the left partition, a piece supposed to be of the holy winding-sheet of our Lord; and in the center a curious old gold reliquary, about three inches in diameter, suspended by a short chain, having in the middle a pale-green, polished, translucent stone, through which one can clearly distinguish the relic of the true cross beneath.
This talisman, as it was called in those days, belonged to the great Charlemagne, and was prized and worn by him during the greater part of his lifetime, and he was buried with it. Without explanation it hardly seems possible that these facts should be authentic, and that this priceless treasure should have found its way from Germany to France, and finally to a little English village. This is how it was brought about.
When Charlemagne died, he was buried in a vault beneath the "Dom," or cathedral, of his favorite town of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle). Curiosity as to the truth of a tradition that stated that the emperor was buried seated in a chair, with crown and scepter, led Charles Quint to violate the tomb of his great ancestor and namesake. This much history tells us; the rest of the story is the empress's version. The vault was opened, and for one instant the sitting figure was discernible; then it crumbled to dust! The talisman was taken out, with scepter, crown, and other non-destructible things, and deposited in the "treasure" of the cathedral, where they remained till Napoleon I's aggressive wars. Then, so the empress told us, during some visit to Aachen, the conqueror intimated to the trembling custodians of the "treasure" that he wished the reliquary presented to him for the Empress Josephine! It was promptly done! At her death at Malmaison, she bequeathed it to her
daughter, Queen Hortense, mother of Napoleon III, by whom in turn it was given to his wife, Eugénie.
When "4 Septembre" dawned, and the empress left the Tuileries hurriedly, she with her own hands took the talisman out of its châsse and confided it to the keeping of a faithful servant whose home was in Paris, and who all through the dark days of the "Commune" kept it in his kitchen, hidden in a placard over which he had pasted a map of Paris. No one ever suspected this kitchen cupboard of containing anything precious, and so the talisman was saved.
Later on, when, under MacMahon, second president of the republic, affairs had calmed down, and a great deal of the empress's private property was courteously sent over to her in England, the talisman came, too, and was put back in its châsse, which also happily had escaped destruction. All this the empress herself told us one evening during our constitutional after dinner, and before going to bed I made ample notes of the interesting facts, and so can vouch for my accuracy.
By the way, I have never yet described the salon de travail de l'imperatrice. I sat in that room for the last time in 1889, the day my husband and I lunched at Farnborough Hill on our wedding tour. One then entered the room on the left from the gallery. In the middle was a large library table, and the empress generally sat at this when not using a low wicker chair on the right of the fireplace, writing on a buvard resting on her knees, which was a favorite way with her.
This writing-table had on it all the necessary paraphernalia for the empress's immense correspondence, besides several portraits, one of her son, and a miniature of her father, Don Cipriano, then Conde de Teba, and later Conde de Montijo. This miniature shows a very fine face, rather spoiled by having a large black patch covering one eye. Together with this eye, he had lost also a leg in the Battle of Salamanca in fighting for Napoleon I.
On smaller tables were, besides objets d'art, a great number of photographs of different royalties and friends. The English dynasty was well represented,
and nearly all the portraits had autograph signatures. Opposite was a mullioned window, which looked out over a terrace. All around the room were book-shelves about breast-high, containing many of her imperial Majesty's favorite books, saved from the Tuileries. Turning one's back to the fireplace, on the right wall hung a life-sized portrait of the emperor in court dress, with his Légion d'Honneur ribbon. I think the painting is by Cabanel, and I have heard from friends who knew his imperial Majesty intimately that it was extremely like him. A large bay window with tiled jardinières was constantly replenished from the hothouses with exotic flowers, which gave forth a delicious perfume. Here were placed two or three wicker easy-chairs, in which the empress used to be very fond of taking a sun-bath whenever the stingy English sun-god permitted. Here also grew some pampas grass brought by the empress from Zululand, and which formed a kind of screen in front of the conservatory windows. The whole character of the room was one of luxurious comfort, joined with daintiness and good taste of arrangement.
Beyond the conservatory bay was another door, which opened into the cabinet de travail of the empress, a sort of inner sanctum, her workshop, so to speak, where she kept her embroidery and silks and the frames of her larger pieces of work.
There was nothing very worthy of notice in this room except, on the table, a small picture of Queen Marie Antoinette, drawn from life, at the age of fourteen years. This portrait, I know, the empress valued very much. She drew my attention, the day she first showed it me, to the interesting fact of the little archduchess pointing to a thin red line, marked around her neck by a narrow ribbon, such as was fashionable in those days, which seemed almost prophetic of her cruel fate. In conversation on the subject of Marie Antoinette the empress invariably drew parallels between the ill-fated queen and herself. She told us one day about her visiting Marie Antoinette's prison, incognito, on a certain Palm Sunday during the empire. To avoid crowds and recognition,
she passed herself and her ladies off as a party of English tourists, she herself being thickly veiled. The empress said she was about the same height as Marie Antoinette, and knew the story of the queen's knocking her head as she entered the low-ceiled prison, and the scornful "Baisse-toi, fière Autrichienne!"' of the jailer; but in the painful interest of the moment, nevertheless, forgot the similarity of stature, and, on entering the poor queen's cell, met with the very same accident herself. This impressed the empress very unpleasantly. She was So overcome for a minute or two that the custodian who was showing the party over the prison noticed it and said to the other ladies, "Vraiment, cette dame est bien émotionée!"
these are really magnificent. The coach the Empress drove in to be married-lined most beautifully with white satin and large enough for six or eight people; another carriage built, I forget whether she said for her coronation or the baptismal ceremonial of the poor little Prince Imperial, and which is much more splendid, more magnificent still than the
near the coach-house, for the housing of numbers of beautiful things, too voluminous for her already well stocked Farnborough Hill, but things which are really too interesting to continue any longer stowed away, where they now are unseen by any one. The galacarriages are at present in the remiso; 1"Stoop, proud Austrian!"
The prince imperial
first, both interiorly and exteriorly. The hangings of the coachman's seat (or hammercloth, as they are called, I think), are in crimson velvet, most splendidly embroidered in solid gold and embossed with pearls and precious stones. The Bonaparte family arms and eagles are a magnificent piece of work.
Mme. Poussin, or "Marie," as the empress used to call her, was the housekeeper. She was the wife of Poussin, favorite servant of the empress. A special man was kept for cleaning silver, and the entire daily dinner-service, besides numberless other pieces, being of that precious metal, his office was no sinecure. The men-servants took entire care of all the sitting-rooms, as is usual in France, the housemaids officiating only on the bedroom floors.
There was a chef and one assistant. The kitchen was a marvel. Several times I went through it with Mme. Le Breton when she was ordering dinner, and it hardly seemed possible to think work was going on in the place, all was in such perfect array. Numberless copper marmites were all hanging in their respective places, looking like burnished gold. One end of the huge central table was used as a chopping-board, the other end was covered with a spotless linen cloth, on which were arranged with exquisite neatness, all the cutting-up and carvingknives. All the practical working details of the establishment, management of servants, care of linen and furniture were supervised by Mme. Le Breton.
The servants' hall was a large, pleasant room, opening with long French windows on the entrance courtyard. It was simply and comfortably furnished. Here the special valet de service of the week and Poussin, who was always de service, held themselves in readiness to admit visitors or be summoned by the empress. There was a central table, with books and newspapers and periodicals of the day; on the walls were several large paintings of the imperial master and mistress of the house. There was a library under lock and key in a glass case, containing a goodly selection of standard French books, and English ones for the under-servants of the latter
nationality. Poussin or Uhlmann, I forget which, was the librarian. It was arranged by a regular catalogue system, and books had to be accurately returned.
Schmidt, an Alsatian, the old maître d'hôtel at Farnborough, whose duties, on account of infirmity and old age, had become almost nominal even in 1886, was a tall, fine old man, stooping slightly, and with his white hair and kindly beaming eye was pleasant to look upon. He had been in the service of the Tuileries, and as soon as the empress settled at Camden Place, came at once, with several other of the domestics, to tender his services. When telling me about it one day, the empress said how much this devotion touched her in that hour of general abandonment general abandonment and betrayal. She said these servants had nothing to gain by coming, offered to work for lower wages than they had been accustomed to, and several of them had to leave their own families, besides the pleasanter life in France, to settle in an absolutely dull English village.
Uhlmann, an Alsatian, filled at Farnborough the position of steward, paid all the wages, the tradespeople, and the farm bills, and attended to repairs, etc. He was directly under the orders of M. Pietri, who supervised his work, reports, and accounts before submitting them at stated times to the empress. Uhlmann had been valet and body-servant of the prince. I had several talks with him about the prince. Uhlmann had been with the prince nearly all his life, at Chislehurst and at Woolwich, where the prince was following his military training; he also went out to Zululand, and was with his young master till the very eve of his death. He was a most excellent person for any young man to have near him, perfectly straightforward, sincere, and earnest.
I never heard any one say a disparaging word of the prince imperial all the time I was at Farnborough. He seems by common consensus of opinion to have been a wonderfully fine young fellow; those who had known him intimately were just as loud in his praises as others who, having only the opportunity of seeing the surface, might have flattered possibly. Uhlmann, who had had the greatest possible facilities for observa