Pièce 58 - Récit par William Shepherd de sa visite à Saint-Germain-en-Laye

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Récit par William Shepherd de sa visite à Saint-Germain-en-Laye


  • 1814 (Production)

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Historien et homme politique anglais.

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« [p. 167] At the extremity of the forest, we found the town of St. Germaine, where we took breakfast, and then repaired to the terrace of the palace, which commands a charming view of the adjacent country. On the left and in the centre of the prospect we saw St. Denis and Paris ; and on the right Malmaison, St. Cloud, and the district of Versailles. On the ever memorable 30th of March, this spot was crowded with people, who distinctly saw, with various and undescribable emotions, the battle which preceded the surrender of Paris. We found the palace, which is a gloomy and inelegant brick building, surrounded by stone walls and a deep ditch, over which, opposite [p. 168] the gate, was thrown a draw-bridge. The whole edifice had the air of a state prison ; and, on enquiry, we found, that it might well class with buildings of that description. It was Napoleon’s principal military school ; and his method of supplying it with pupils, affords an instance of that tyranny in detail, which was, no doubt, one of the primary causes of his ruin. Whenever he was apprised, by his agents that any individual of rank and wealth had a son who was strong, active, and spirited, and the youth had attained the age of sixteen or seventeen, the Emperor addressed a letter to the parent, congratulating him on the early promise of his child, and gracioulsy offering, if he destined him for the army, to admit him into his school at St. Gemaine ; and promising, on his good behaviour, to cause him to make his way rapidly in the service. This letter was well understood to be a command. The young man was accordingly severed from his domestic connections. He was shut up in the palace, where, for the space of three [p. 169] years, he was precluded from personal communication with his friends ; and employed, from five in the morning till ten at night, in studying, scientifically and practically, the military art. At the expiration of that time he was liberated from confinement, and sent, with a commission in his pocket, to join the regiment to which it was thought expedient to attach him. When we consider the waste of life which was occasioned by Bonaparte’s campaigns, we may easily conceive that the pupils of his military academies were regarded ad for ever lost to their relatives and friends. Four hundred youths were at this time immured in the palace, and were to be restored to their parents on the breaking up of the establisment, which we undestood was to take place in two days from the period of our visit. What a subject must this gaol-delivery afford to the pen of a sentimental traveller, should any such character witness the transaction ! Our guide, from whom we obtained this information, was a retired soldier who had an allowance [p. 170] as an invalid, of eight sous a day. He acknowledged that most of the military were friendly to Bonaparte, but still was of opinion, that the sentiments of the nation at large would preclude his re-establishment on the throne. »

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William Shepherd, Paris in eighteen hundred and two and eighteen hundred and fourteen, Londres, Longman, 1814, p. 167-170. http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k105359m/f175.image

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