It was Napoleon I who ordered this grand edifice to be restored as nearly as possible to its former condition. Fortunately, a citizen named Alexandre Lenoir had obtained permission from the Government to gather together the fragments of the royal tombs and to exhibit them in a museum. Hence it was possible to restore quite a number of them. Napoleon III, in 1860, carried out still further the purpose of the great Emperor, and after the plans of Viollet-le-Duc completed the restoration of the building on a scale of great magnificence. Thus, each tomb has been either reconstructed or carefully restored, and placed in the position which it occupied before the Revolution. But, as it was impossible to distinguish and identify the ashes of the Kings, mixed as they were with the quicklime that consumed them, they were collected and buried en masse beneath the high altar, together with the supposed relics of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, conveyed here from the cemetery of La Madeleine.
Urn For The Heart Of Francis I.
If one could spend some hours quietly in this historic edifice, going from one tomb to another, and studying the different mausoleums with their elaborate canopies, reliefs, and statues, a visit to St. Denis would be of the greatest possible pleasure and advantage. Unfortunately, however, one is usually hurried through the building, with a crowd of tourists, by an attendant who rattles off in a perfunctory manner the names of the illustrious dead, the years of their reigns, and the names of the sculptors of their monuments. Yet even the most hasty visit here will leave upon the mind a deep impression, as one beholds these splendid monuments and statues, commemorating with pathetic irony those sovereigns of France, whose word decided once the fate of millions, yet whose remains were thrown into the ditch, and whose tombs are, therefore, little else than gorgeous cenotaphs.
As I emerged from this cathedral, and rode slowly back to the great capital, it seemed to me that I had never witnessed such a striking illustration of the vanity of human pride and power.
"For those who husbanded the Golden grain
And those who flung it to the winds like Rain,
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd As, buried once, Men want dug up again."
Twelve miles from Paris, in the little village of Rueil, is an estate of remarkable historical interest, which, nevertheless, is rarely visited by tourists. It is the ruined chateau of Mal-maison, the home of Napoleon when First Consul, and the place where his divorced wife,
Josephine, breathed her last. On my first visit to Malmaison, the guardians of the estate were an old soldier of the empire and his white-haired wife, who seemed delighted that a stranger took sufficient interest in the chateau to come to it from Paris, and showed me through the edifice and its adjacent park with an eagerness and pride almost pathetic. The many recent memoirs of Napoleon I have brought this early home of his into more prominence; but fifteen years ago it was neglected. Malmaison was never a palace; it was a simple country- house, whither the First Consul loved to retire in order to forget for a time the cares of State. Here he and Jose -phine received their friends in unaffected freedom, and frequently upon the spacious lawns, indulged in games like "blind man's buff," and "prisoner's base."The chateau itself has been allowed to fall into a state of great dilapidation. Its floors are disfigured, its walls defaced, and its ceilings broken. Yet the memory of Josephine still pervades the place, like the subtile perfume of which Moore so exquisitely sings:
"You may break, you may shatter the vase if you will, But the scent of the roses will hang round it still."
One still beholds at Malmaison a tree planted by Napoleon and Josephine; and a long shaded avenue, called the "Promenade Solitaire," leads to a little summer-house where the First Consul planned many of the campaigns and dictated many of the decrees destined to change the face of Europe and the history of the world. I have never stayed any length of time in Paris without visiting Malmaison and strolling thoughtfully up and down this solitary path between old trees which formerly cast their shadows on the "Arbiter of Europe" as he walked back and forth in silent revery, or else conversed with the leading statesmen, soldiers, or scientists of France. It was to Malmaison, where she had been so happy as the wife of the First Consul, that Josephine retired after the divorce. She came here, however, with the title of Empress, which she was permitted to retain, and an income of one hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year. For the Emperor insisted that she should maintain her former rank; and once, when he learned that she had been out driving without a uniformed escort, he reproved her. His courtiers also knew that one of the surest passports to his favor was a willingness to go to Malmaison and render homage to his wife, whom nothing but political motives had caused him to discard. Here, too, Josephine continued to receive from him affectionate letters and occasional visits, until disasters came upon him thick and fast. Their last interview took place in those cruel days in 1814, when France was invaded by Austrians, English, Prussians, Swedes, and Saxons. The military genius of the Emperor, though never seen to such advantage, could do but little then to oppose the advancing flood. In ten days he had gained five victories over amazing odds, but overwhelming numbers made his struggles hopeless. In such a frame of mind, he came here for a hurried interview with his former wife. It was their last meeting. At its close the weary Emperor took her hand, and said: " Josephine, I have been as fortunate as any man ever was on this earth; but, in this hour, I have not in the whole wide world any one but you on whom I can rely."