The memoirs open with Caulaincourt fresh from his stint as ambassador to Russia. The Tzar Alexander was very appealing and seductive. Napoleon has just married the daughter of the Austrian Emperor - one of Nappleon’s most ardent enemies.
Caulaincourt basically says that Napoleon is full of it trying to justify an attack on Russia because Russia was not adhering to the blockade they had agreed to enforce in the treaty the Tzar signed.
Caulaincourt basically tells Napoleon what’s going to happen if he invades Russia. They talk about it for five hours and Caulaincourt fails to persuade Napoleon to his view.
Caulaincourt also accuses Napoleon of being disingenuous regarding the proposal of marriage he had made to Tzar Alexander for the hand of his sister. Napoleon suggests the Russian court felt rejected when he chose the Austrian Archduchess.
Caulaincourt who had been in Russia at the time of the marriage, indicates that the Russian court was relieved when they heard about the somewhat sudden marriage between Napoleon and a member of the Austrian royal family.
Caulaincourt also accuses Napoleon of inflating the value of his gold (incrementally) to a minister during his preparations to raise money for the Russian campaign. It seems as if from Caulaincourt’s perspective that Napoleon thinks he can strike, win and then gain a lasting peace.
Caulaincourt is also furious and threatening to quit because his love interest had been exiled and Napoleon had not let her out of an arranged marriage. Napoleon had recently divorced and he didn’t want any more divorces.
The appearance of morality was very important to Napoleon. Napoleon’s stepdaughter Hortense was also frequently furious with Napoleon for not letting her out of her marriage to Napoleon’s brother Louis. Napoleon also said to Caulaincourt that the other Bonapartes were insanely ambitious, ruinously extravagant and devoid of talent.
My first play was about Napoleon’s final exile on St. Helena. I’m well versed on Napoleon’s defense about the Russian campaign. He said that Russia was not obeying their treaty and that the alliance against him was reforming and that he had to strike first. Napoleon’s defense of his actions on St. Helena are not really incongruent with what Caulaincourt is saying at the opening of these memoirs. The level of writing is very high so far.
The man Napoleon’s stepdaughter Hortense initially wanted to marry, Duroc makes an early appearance in the memoirs asking Caulaincourt to hang on and to not abandon the Emperor.
Napoleon and Hortense’s mother Josephine both did not approve of a match between Hortense and Duroc and Hortense didn’t really insist on it either. She ended up in a miserable marriage with Napoleon’s brother Louis. At the opening of these memoirs, Louis is King of Holland.
Hortense was constantly trying to get away from Louis and Napoleon was frustrated with her inability or unwillingness to keep up appearances. Napoleon was attempting to model morality for the public. The previous rulers of France had been highly debauched.
Napoleon partially blamed Hortense for her unhappy marriage because Napoleon viewed her as too tolerant and submissive in regard to her husband. Napoleon was also annoyed that Hortense refused to appreciate that he gave her the throne of Holland and she lacked the ambition or will to do more with what he had given to her.
Caulaincourt also mentions in his memoirs that Napoleon was aware that Caulaincourt was recording what was happening around him and that Napoleon allowed him to express himself freely - even if Napoleon didn’t like what Caulaincourt was writing.
Both Caulaincourt’s and Hortense’s memoirs agree that Napoleon respected opinions he did not share as long as he felt those views were sincere.
This excerpt below is part of the lengthy discussion between Napoleon and Caulaincourt. The Alexander Napoleon refers to is the youthful and charismatic Tzar of Russia.