“The affairs in Spain were only due to
Napoleon to his principal private secretary,
After the two last chapters in which we described the members of the Bonaparte family who were all – with the exception of Pauline - prejudicial to their older brother in spite the fact that they owed him everything, and before joining Napoleon again as he assumes his familiar role of commander-in-chief which he hated, we shall very briefly mention two of the important legal and administrative reforms which he introduced in 1807:
-The publication of the Code du Commerce, on 11 September;
-The creation, on the 16th of the same month, of the Cour des Comptes, an administrative jurisdiction which was to assist both parliament and the government in supervising public expenditure as well as the government's various transactions, and to give their judgement on the administration of public money. The Cour des Comptes still plays the same role today, which shows if needs be, the modernity and continuity of the Emperor's legal and administrative reforms.
And as 2007 marks the two-hundredth anniversary of both of these reforms, they well deserve to be mentioned here!
Another one of Napoleon's major achievements in 1807 was the publication of a decree on the status of Jews granting them full citizenship, and the celebration in Paris of the Great Sanhedrin, the supreme political, religious and judicial council of the people of Israel. Thus, they assembled for the first time since 70 A.D. when the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the legions of the Roman Emperor, Titus. This is a theme we shall not deal with in the “Life of Napoleon”, as it has already been examined under a different heading on this website and it is not proposed to repeat this information here.
PUTTING AN END TO BRITISH
But the year 1807 was especially marked by Napoleon's iron determination to put an end to the presence of the English on the Continent.
And as England with its hostile policy was a constant menace to France, he wanted to rid the Continent of every single English representative.
And especially so in Portugal, which was not only a haunt for exiled French émigrés who were all fanatically hostile to the Imperial regime, but worse, a colony from London which manipulated the Braganza who ruled the country.
For Napoleon, the presence of the English in Portugal meant that there was a vast gap in the flank of the Continental Blockade, and for this reason which was vital in his struggle against Albion he judged it necessary to drive the English out.
And just after Tilsit, he had written to the King of Spain that he wanted “above all to tear Portugal away from its alliance with England .”
“THE HOUSE OF BRAGANZA WILL
Thus, in early September the court of Lisbon received an official proposition from the court of the Tuileries in Paris to adhere to the Continental Blockade. But it was also informed that in the event of a refusal, Portugal would be considered an enemy of France.
At the end of October 1807, the official envoy of Portugal in France, Count Lima, was told by Napoleon in the presence of the diplomatic corps:
“I will not tolerate a single English representative in Europe. If Portugal does not do as I wish, the house of Braganza will no longer reign in Europe two months hence.”
The diplomat was visibly shaken by the warning he received.
Although the admonishment was blunt and unconventional according to custom in diplomatic circles, it was nevertheless – relatively – acceptable, and it is appropriate here to draw a parallel between this and the savage attack of Copenhagen by the English fleet (See chapter 39).
What did Napoleon want exactly?
He wanted all Portuguese ports to be tightly closed to merchant navy ships flying English colours!
Let us remind those of our visitors who may have forgotten that the Emperor's determination to cut Albion down to size was motivated by the repeated refusals he received to his proposals of peace and in particular the offer which had been put forward in a letter dated 2nd January 1805, addressed to King George III, which had never received a positive answer (See Chapter 9).
As it was impossible for Portugal to break off relations with England upon whom she depended entirely, and equally impossible to offer any resistance to her powerful opponent, the country had no other choice than to prepare for the inevitable: the arrival on its territory of the 22,000 men commanded by Junot, who were drawn up around Bayonne.
SPAIN : A CONSENTING BUT UNRELIABLE ALLY
Spain, on the other hand, consented to this invasion and Napoleon had already signed a secret clause with Charles IV which had been negotiated by the Spanish envoy in France on this very point: the invasion of Portugal. By this treaty, Spain agreed to supply two divisions, one of which was to head for Porto and the other to proceed to the south of the River Tage, while Junot's army had the mission of occupying the strategic point: Lisbon.
In exchange for their cooperation, the north of the country was to be allotted to the Spanish sovereigns' daughter, the Queen of Etruria, whose little kingdom had just been seized by Napoleon who had given it to one of his sisters, Elisa, while he south of the country was to become a principality and given to Manuel Godoy. As for the central part of the country, which was by far the largest geographically, its destiny was as yet undecided.
Napoleon who had no intention of divulging his intentions, kept the agreement secret.
For a simple reason. He distrusted his ally who was far too obliging to be sincere. And not without reason.
During the Third Coalition it was true that Spain had been France's staunch ally and, at sea, the Spanish fleet had been entirely destroyed together with the French fleet off the Cape Trafalgar, on 21 October 1805, by the vessels of the Royal Navy commanded by Admiral Nelson who had been killed during the battle.
So after this common sacrifice why was Napoleon suddenly suspicious of yesterday's ally?
In 1806, just after crushing Prussia at Jena, Napoleon had discovered in the Castle of Charlottenburg, which had just been hastily abandoned by Frederick-William and Louise of Prussia, written proof (See chapter 26) of a collusion between the Russians, Prussians and the “Prince of the Peace”, Godoy, and worse still, a personal letter from Charles IV to Frederick-William in which he promised to attack France from the rear.
In short, a good and trustworthy ally!
A FAMILY OF DEGENERATES
The daughter of the Duke of Parma, his wife, Maria-Luisa of Parma, aged 57, was also his cousin. She was described as being “miraculously ugly” (a fine expression which speaks for itself), and what was worse, excessively fond of sensual pleasure, a trait which her ugliness made even more, what we shall charitably call, “picturesque”.
THE QUEEN OF SPAIN'S “BULL”
To crown it all in 1795, after the Spanish Army had been badly defeated by the French troops of the Convention, Godoy, after negotiating the Treaty of Bâle with France which was far from favourable to his own country – he had among other concessions been forced to surrender Santo Domingo - received the distinguished order of the “Golden Fleece” and the title of “Prince of the Peace”!
But who was Godoy really?
And these same sources also describe him as being a tireless worker who was open-minded and interested in everything.
Named Prime Minister in 1792, his ambition was to modernise his country and to help the poverty-stricken peasants by distributing land which belonged to the crown, and above all by putting an end to the monstrous and sordid Inquisition which was still in effect.
But in a country which was entirely under the influence of a backward religion in which monks and priests who were as degenerate as their sovereigns reigned over unenlightened souls, it was inevitable that an initiative such as this should stir up a great deal of hostility towards its innovator. And we shall see some precise examples of this in the following chapters.
If we add to Godoy's credit that he also aspired to persuade the King to abolish serfdom, it is not very difficult to understand why he was considered dangerous!
Yet Godoy, who was to play a decisive role in provoking the crisis which ultimately led Napoleon into the disastrous adventure of the war in Spain also had many failings. His cupidity and dishonesty were as notorious as his dissolute ways and the Queen, who looks like a shrew in the famous portrait of the Royal family by Goya, apparently did not satisfy his appetite. Which is easily understood. But it seems that she bore him no grudge and, perhaps so that she could keep an eye on her “bull”, she married him to one of the King's nieces, the infanta Maria-Theresa of Spain.
HATE AND CONTEMPT
As for his parents, Ferdinand held them in contempt, and this feeling was absolutely mutual.
With regard to Godoy, whom he considered as an upstart, he felt only hatred, but his hatred was tinged with hypocritical fear as he knew that the favourite was powerful and protected.
And it was this mutual contempt and hatred which was to lay the seeds of what was to become the Spanish tragedy.
After several centuries of great power, Spain had declined and become a miserable country with a government whose leaders had become decrepit, inefficient and corrupt, and in this context of poverty Godoy stood out ostentatiously showing off his wealth and riches which he owed to the indecent passion of the wife of Charles IV for him.
In short the King governed behind the Queen, and the Queen behind Godoy, who the real and unique master of Spain.
This – very roughly outlined – was the portrait of the lamentable and horrible Spanish royal family that Napoleon, who was a methodical man with conventional ideas had before his eyes, and which could not fail to disgust him.
With an example such as this the Emperor came to the conclusion that a nation which was under the subjection of a king and queen who were as pitiful as this could only be like its sovereigns, and thus, he made an error of judgement because he failed to distinguish between the Spanish sovereigns, whom he knew only too well, and the Spanish people, of whom he knew nothing.
It was to be his error.
To be continued…