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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsSaunterings - An Imperial Review
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Saunterings - An Imperial Review Post by :jamesc96 Category :Nonfictions Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :824

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Saunterings - An Imperial Review

The Prince and Princess of Wales came up to Paris in the beginning of May, from Italy, Egypt, and alongshore, stayed at a hotel on the Place Vendome, where they can get beef that is not horse, and is rare, and beer brewed in the royal dominions, and have been entertained with cordiality by the Emperor. Among the spectacles which he has shown them is one calculated to give them an idea of his peaceful intentions,-a grand review of cavalry and artillery at the Bois de Boulogne. It always seems to me a curious comment upon the state of our modern civilization, when one prince visits another here in Europe, the first thing that the visited does, by way of hospitality is to get out his troops, and show his rival how easily he could "lick" him, if it came to that.

It is a little puerile. At any rate, it is an advance upon the old fashion of getting up a joust at arms, and inviting the guest to come out and have his head cracked in a friendly way.

The review, which had been a good deal talked about, came off in the afternoon; and all the world went to it. The avenues of the Bois were crowded with carriages, and the walks with footpads. Such a constellation of royal personages met on one field must be seen; for, besides the imperial family and Albert Edward and his Danish beauty, there was to be the Archduke of Austria and no end of titled personages besides. At three o'clock the royal company, in the Emperor's carriages, drove upon the training-ground of the Bois, where the troops awaited them. All the party, except the Princess of Wales, then mounted horses, and rode along the lines, and afterwards retired to a wood-covered knoll at one end to witness the evolutions. The training-ground is a noble, slightly undulating piece of greensward, perhaps three quarters of a mile long and half that in breadth, hedged about with graceful trees, and bounded on one side by the Seine. Its borders were rimmed that day with thousands of people on foot and in carriages,--a gay sight, in itself, of color and fashion. A more brilliant spectacle than the field presented cannot well be imagined. Attention was divided between the gentle eminence where the imperial party stood,--a throng of noble persons backed by the gay and glittering Guard of the Emperor, as brave a show as chivalry ever made,--and the field of green, with its long lines in martial array; every variety of splendid uniforms, the colors and combinations that most dazzle and attract, with shining brass and gleaming steel, and magnificent horses of war, regiments of black, gray, and bay.

The evolutions were such as to stir the blood of the most sluggish. A regiment, full front, would charge down upon a dead run from the far field, men shouting, sabers flashing, horses thundering along, so that the ground shook, towards the imperial party, and, when near, stop suddenly, wheel to right and left, and gallop back. Others would succeed them rapidly, coming up the center while their predecessors filed down the sides; so that the whole field was a moving mass of splendid color and glancing steel. Now and then a rider was unhorsed in the furious rush, and went scrambling out of harm, while the steed galloped off with free rein. This display was followed by that of the flying artillery, battalion after battalion, which came clattering and roaring along, in double lines stretching half across the field, stopped and rapidly discharged its pieces, waking up all the region with echoes, filling the plain with the smoke of gunpowder, and starting into rearing activity all the carriage-horses in the Bois. How long this continued I do not know, nor how many men participated in the review, but they seemed to pour up from the far end in unending columns. I think the regiments must have charged over and over again. It gave some people the impression that there were a hundred thousand troops on the ground. I set it at fifteen to twenty thousand. Gallignani next morning said there were only six thousand! After the charging was over, the reviewing party rode to the center of the field, and the troops galloped round them; and the Emperor distributed decorations. We could recognize the Emperor and Empress; Prince Albert in huzzar uniform, with a green plume in his cap; and the Prince Imperial, in cap and the uniform of a lieutenant, on horseback in front; while the Princess occupied a carriage behind them.

There was a crush of people at the entrance to see the royals make their exit. Gendarmes were busy, and mounted guards went smashing through the crowd to clear a space. Everybody was on the tiptoe of expectation. There is a portion of the Emperor's guard; there is an officer of the household; there is an emblazoned carriage; and, quick, there! with a rush they come, driving as if there was no crowd, with imperial haste, postilions and outriders and the imperial carriage. There is a sensation, a cordial and not loud greeting, but no Yankee-like cheers. That heavy gentleman in citizen's dress, who looks neither to right nor left, is Napoleon III.; that handsome woman, grown full in the face of late, but yet with the bloom of beauty and the sweet grace of command, in hat and dark riding-habit, bowing constantly to right and left, and smiling, is the Empress Eugenie. And they are gone. As we look for something more, there is a rout in the side avenue; something is coming, unexpected, from another quarter: dragoons dash through the dense mass, shouting and gesticulating, and a dozen horses go by, turning the corner like a small whirlwind, urged on by whip and spur, a handsome boy riding in the midst,--a boy in cap and simple uniform, riding gracefully and easily and jauntily, and out of sight in a minute. It is the boy Prince Imperial and his guard. It was like him to dash in unexpectedly, as he has broken into the line of European princes. He rides gallantly, and Fortune smiles on him to-day; but he rides into a troubled future. There was one more show,--a carriage of the Emperor, with officers, in English colors and side-whiskers, riding in advance and behind: in it the future King of England, the heavy, selfish-faced young man, and beside him his princess, popular wherever she shows her winning face,--a fair, sweet woman, in light and flowing silken stuffs of spring, a vision of lovely youth and rank, also gone in a minute.

These English visitors are enjoying the pleasures of the French capital. On Sunday, as I passed the Hotel Bristol, a crowd, principally English, was waiting in front of it to see the Prince and Princess come out, and enter one of the Emperor's carriages in waiting. I heard an Englishwoman, who was looking on with admiration "sticking out" all over, remark to a friend in a very loud whisper, "I tell you, the Prince lives every day of his life." The princely pair came out at length, and drove away, going to visit Versailles. I don't know what the Queen would think of this way of spending Sunday; but if Albert Edward never does anything worse, he does n't need half the praying for that he gets every Sunday in all the English churches and chapels.

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