The Paris Affair, by Teresa Grant
Remember my novel, For The King, where I introduced the rather repulsive (but historically correct) character of Joseph Fouché? Well, fellow author Tracy Grant offers another story featuring Napoléon’s least favorite and most indispensable minister. She kindly agreed to write this guest post for the readers of Versailles and More:
The battle of Waterloo may have ended the major fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, but it was far from bringing an end to the simmering tensions of the past quarter century. When Napoleon escaped from the field at Waterloo, Louis XVIII was still in exile in Ghent. it was by no means a foregone conclusion that he would return to power. Much of the negotiating for France in the immediate aftermath of the battle was done by two men whose careers had been closely intertwined with that of Napoleon Bonaparte and with the Revolution – Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and Joseph Fouché.
Prince Talleyrand, Napoleon’s former foreign minister (though he had left office well before Napoleon’s exile) had survived in the first Bourbon restoration to represent France at the Congress of Vienna and had not rejoined Napoleon when Bonaparte escaped from Elba.
Fouché, Napoleon’s minister of police for much of his rule, had worked with the Allies against Napoleon in 1814 but then rejoined Napoleon after his escape from Elba and served as his minister of police during the Hundred Days. After Napoleon’s resignation was demanded by the Chamber of Deputies following Waterloo, Fouché became head of the provisional government and negotiated with the victorious Allies (whom Talleyrand had joined).
Louis XVIII was a weak king and the Allies saw the need to keep both Talleyrand and Fouché to fill the power vacuum, at least temporarily. In fact it was Talleyrand, the former revolutionary, who argued strenuously for that a restored monarchy would, in his mind, offer the most stability. Talleyrand became Prime Minister and asked Fouché to stay on as Minister of Police.
Emboldened by Napoleon’s second defeat, the Ultra Royalist faction, led by Louis XVIII’s brother the Comte d’Artois, wanted vengeance on those who had gone over to Napoleon during the Hundred Days (and really for everything since the Revolution). Though the Ultra Royalists despised Fouché as a regicide who had voted for the execution of Louis XVI, it was Fouché who recieved denunciations against former Bonapartists.
Fouché, expert at using terror to maintain control (and preserve his own position) played a key role in carrying out the White Terror against Bonapartists (and suspected Bonapartists) who were proscribed from the amnesty, though the Ultra Royalists went too far even for him. Talleyrand advocated a more temperate approach and made the best of a weak hand as he negotiated with the Allies. He exerted his influence to keep his illegitimate son, Charles de Flahaut (also the lover of Hortense Bonaparte), who had fought for Napoleon at Waterloo, off the proscribed list. Charles de la Bédoyère, who had taken his regiment over to Napoleon after his escape from Elba and been one of the last to leave the field after Waterloo, slipped back into Paris to say goodbye to his wife and baby son before going into exile and was arrested and later executed.
Ultra Royalist gangs attacked Bonapartists in the south. Allied soldiers – British, Prussian, Dutch-Belgian, Bavarian – thronged the boulevards and quais of Paris and were encamped in the Bois de Boulogne, leading to frequent tension with the French populace. Many Parisians were far from eager for a return of the Bourbon monarchy, and even those who hadn’t supported Napoleon were not necessarily sanguine about foreign troops thronging the city. Royalist émigrés, many of whom had fled France two decades ago, returned seeking to have their estates restored.
Talleyrand meanwhile faced personal turmoil as well. His nephew’s young wife Dorothée, who had served as Talleyrand’s hostess at the Congress of Vienna, had returned to Paris but had taken up residence with Talleyrand rather than her husband Edmond q. Count Karl Clam-Martinitz, who had become her lover in Vienna, was in Paris as well. But Talleyrand had strong feelings for Dorothée himself and was arguably in love with her. Dorothée’s sister Wilhelmine, the Duchess of Sagan, was also in Paris. The twice-divorced duchess was involved in a liaison with Lord Stewart, the hot-tempered half-brother of Lord Castlereagh, the British foreign secretary. Castlereagh was handling the negotiations for the British, in concert with the Duke of Wellington. .
Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch step into this glittering, simmering cauldron in The Paris Affair. The mystery they investigate twists through the glamorous veneer of Restoration Paris and the smoldering tensions beneath. Talleyrand, Fouché, Dorothée, Wilhelmine, Stewart, Castlereagh, and Wellington are all major characters. I loved writing about Waterloo in Imperial Scandal but I found its aftermath every bit as intriguing to explore.