Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna

Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna

by Adam Zamoyski


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Following Napoleon's defeat and exile in 1814, the future of the European continent hung in the balance. Eager to negotiate a lasting, workable peace, representatives of Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia—along with a host of lesser nations—gathered in Vienna for an eight-month-long political carnival, combining negotiations with balls, tournaments, picnics, artistic performances, and other sundry forms of entertainment for the thousands of assembled aristocrats. While the Congress of Vienna resulted in an unprecedented level of European stability, the price of peace would be shockingly high, with many crucial questions ultimately decided on the battlefield or in squalid roadside cottages amid the vagaries of war.

Internationally bestselling author Adam Zamoyski's Rites of Peace is a meticulously researched, masterfully told account of these extraordinary events and their profound historical consequences, featuring a cast of some of the most influential and powerful figures in history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060775193
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/24/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 672
Sales rank: 460,656
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Adam Zamoyski was born in New York and educated at Oxford. He is the author of Moscow 1812. He lives in London.

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Rites of Peace
The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna

Chapter One

The Lion at Bay

The clock of the Tuileries had begun striking the last quarter before midnight when a mud-spattered carriage of the ungainly kind known as a chaise de poste, drawn at the gallop by four tired horses, swung onto the parade ground in front of the palace. Ignorant of court etiquette, the coachman drove under the central span of the triumphal arch of the Carrousel, reserved exclusively for the Emperor, before the drowsy sentries had time to bar his way. 'That is a good omen,' exclaimed one of the two men sitting inside the carriage, a plump man in a voluminous pelisse with a fur bonnet hiding much of his face.

The vehicle came to a stop at the main doorway, under the clock, and its occupants clambered down. The first, who was the taller of the two, had unbuttoned his greatcoat, revealing a chest covered in gold braid, so the sentries let him and his companion through unchallenged, assuming them to be senior officers bearing urgent despatches.

The two men walked briskly down to the end of the vaulted passage and knocked at a large door. After a while, the concierge appeared in his nightshirt, holding a lantern. The taller of the two men identified himself as the Imperial Master of the Horse, but the concierge and his sleepy wife, who had joined him, took some convincing that the man standing before them was indeed General de Caulaincourt. The uniform was right, but the man's hair was long and unkempt, his face was weatherbeaten and covered with a two-weeks' growth of stubble, and he looked more like a stage bandit than a seniordignitary of the imperial court.

The concierge's wife opened the door, saying that the Empress had just retired for the night, while her husband went off to summon the duty footmen so they could show in the newcomers. Yawning and rubbing her eyes, she shifted her attention to the other man. Although the flickering lantern lit up only a small part of his face, between the high collar of the pelisse and the fur bonnet pressed over his brow, she thought she recognised the Emperor. That seemed impossible. Only two days before, Paris had been stunned by the twenty-ninth Bulletin de la Grande Armée, which announced that he was struggling through the snows of Russia with his beleaguered army.

The two men were led down a gallery, open to the gardens on the right, and turned left into the Empress's apartments. They came in just as her ladies-in-waiting were emerging from her private apartment, having attended her to bed. The ladies started with fright at the sight of the bearded man in his dirty greatcoat, but when he announced that he was the bearer of news from the Emperor they recognised Caulaincourt, and one of them went back into the Empress's apartment to announce the Master of the Horse.

Unable to control his impatience, the shorter of the two men brushed past his companion and made for the door to the Empress's apartment. His pelisse had fallen open, revealing the uniform of the Grenadiers of the Old Guard, and as he marched confidently across the room there was no mistaking the Emperor Napoleon. 'Good night, Caulaincourt,' he said over his shoulder. 'You also need rest.'1 It was something of an understatement. The General had not slept in a bed for over eight weeks, and had hardly lain down in the past two; he had travelled over 3,000 kilometres in unspeakable conditions, often under fire, all the way from Moscow. Before that he had taken part in the gruelling advance into Russia, which wasted the finest army in Europe, and seen his adored younger brother killed at the battle of Borodino. He had watched Moscow burn. He had borne the hardships and witnessed the horrors of the disastrous retreat, which had brought the death toll to over half a million French and allied soldiers.

Perhaps the most difficult thing to bear for the thirty-nine-year-old General Armand de Caulaincourt, Duke of Vicenza, an accomplished soldier and diplomat, was that he had been obliged to watch all his worst prophecies come true. As Napoleon's ambassador to Russia from 1807 to 1811 he had done everything in his power to keep the two empires fromconflict.He had repeatedly beggedNapoleon not to make war on Russia, warning him that it was impossible to win against such an opponent.He had continued to make his case as they travelled across Europe to join the army massing against Russia. Once the campaign had begun he had attempted time and again to persuade Napoleon to cut his losses—while remaining utterly loyal, Caulaincourt was never afraid to speak his mind. All to no avail.

On 5 December 1812, as the remnants of his army struggled along the last leg of the retreat, Napoleon had decided to leave it and race back to Paris. He handed over command to his brother-in-law Joachim Murat, King of Naples, with firm instructions to rally the Grande Arme´e at Vilna (Vilnis) in Lithuania, which was well stocked with supplies and reinforcements, and to hold that at all costs.

He had set off with Caulaincourt in his travelling coupé, which was followed by two other carriages bearing three generals and a couple of valets. They were escorted by a squadron of Chasseurs and another of Polish Chevau-Le´gers of the Old Guard, and briefly by some Neapolitan cavalry. At one point the convoy narrowly missed being intercepted by marauding Russian cossacks. Napoleon had a pair of loaded pistols placed in his coupe´ and instructed his companions to kill him if he failed to do so himself in the event of capture.2

Caulaincourt remained constantly at his side, even when they left their escort and companions behind, changing from carriage to improvised sleigh to carriage and to sleigh once again, breaking axles and running half a dozen vehicles into the ground as they flew . . .

Rites of Peace
The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna
. Copyright © by Adam Zamoyski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations     vii
List of Maps     xi
Introduction     xiii
The Lion at Bay     1
The Saviour of Europe     15
The Peacemakers     35
A War for Peace     49
Intimate Congress     64
Farce in Prague     82
The Play for Germany     98
The First Waltzes     118
A Finger in the Pie     137
Battlefield Diplomacy     151
Paris Triumph     169
Peace     185
The London Round     204
Just Settlements     218
Setting the Stage     238
Points of Order     260
Notes and Balls     280
Kings' Holiday     296
A Festival of Peace     314
Guerre de Plume     329
Political Carrousel     341
Explosive Diplomacy     358
Dance of War     371
War and Peace     385
The Saxon Deal     404
Unfinished Business     420
The Flight of the Eagle     442
The Hundred Days     455
The Road to Waterloo     470
Wellington'sVictory     487
The Punishment of France     499
Last Rites     515
Discordant Concert     531
The Arrest of Europe     550
Notes     571
Bibliography     599
Index     619

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Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
MaowangVater on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For two decades the scourge of the ancien régime Napoleon Bonaparte has been the fear and master of the crowned heads of Europe, but his attempt to add Russia to his list of conquests proved the beginning of his downfall. In December 1812 he was forced back to Paris in advance of his retreating army by the Russians, who as they advanced across Europe, turned his former allies Prussia, Austria, and the other German states into theirs. In April 1813 the allied armies joined by England and several exiled kings arrived in Paris and forced Napoleon¿s surrender. But months before the question of how to undo what revolutionary and then imperial France had done to Europe occupied the minds of the kings and their diplomats as much as defeating the French army. Following victory parades and triumphal visits they convened in the Austrian capital in 1814 to work out the details of the peace. They were filled with a hope for a lasting peace and the new ideal of international law. They even invited the defeated power, France, represented by newly restored monarchy to attend the Congress. Ironically the French ambassador, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, had previously done the same job for the last French ruler, Napoleon. The Congress with its multiple attending sovereigns immediately became the new center of European diplomacy and social life, compete with accompanying diversions. As the author puts it, ¿Perhaps the most striking aspect of the great charade known as the Congress of Vienna is the continuous interplay between the serious and the frivolous, an almost parasitical co-existence of activities which might appear to be mutually exclusive. The rattling of sabres and talk of blood mingled with the strains of the waltz and court gossip, and the most ridiculously trivial pursuits went hand in hand with impressive work.¿ Page 385Zamonyski has plowed though voluminous official archives and memoires of the participants to give a detailed, highly readable, account of the preparation for and the proceedings of the Congress, both official and social, followed by his own assessment of what it accomplished: consultation and cooperation between multiple states, what we would now call a Summit Meeting, as a means of resolving an international crisis, and what it failed to accomplish: a permanent peace and stable boundaries.