King of Rome


Napoleon’s advice to his son


The Duc de Reichstadt, by M.-M. Daffinger.

(Watercolor given by the Duke to Prince François-Joseph Dietrichstein.

Château de Nickolsburg.)


Highest on the list of mental tortures inflicted on Napoleon on Saint Helena was his being deprived of all news of his son, who was being held at the Viennese Court.


The Emperor was nevertheless able to request that his companions in exile transmit his recommendations to him; here are some excerpts:


“I advise my son never to forget that he was born a French prince and never to let himself become an instrument in the hands of the triumvirate that is oppressing the people of Europe. He must never take up arms against France, nor harm it in any way.


My son must not think of avenging my death, but must benefit from it. May he never forsake the memory of what I have done; his every effort must be directed toward reigning in peace. By continuing my work of peace, he will demonstrate the solidity of the foundation, and explain the entire plan of the edifice that existed only in outline. May my son bring to fruition all that I have sowed; may he promote prosperity in every facet of life. Then he will be a great sovereign.


My son will arrive in a time of civil disorder. He should not be guided by the leaders of parties but by the masses of the people. Except for those who have betrayed their country, he must forget the past transgressions of all men, and reward talent, merit and service wherever he finds them.


My son’s reign will support freedom of the press. Freedom of the press must become a potent tool in disseminating healthy doctrines and good principles everywhere. My son must be a champion of new ideas.


You will publish all that I have written or dictated and you will urge my son to read and contemplate it. You will tell him to protect all those who have served me well, and their numbers are great. My poor soldiers: so magnanimous, so devoted, they may be without bread. What courage, what good, common sense among the people! May my son study history and meditate upon it often; it is the only philosophy.”