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Memoirs (Vieux Souvenirs) of the Prince de Joinville   By: (1818-1900)

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1818 1830

I was born at Neuilly sur Seine, on the outskirts of Paris, on the 14th of August, 1818. Immediately after my birth, and as soon as the Chancellor of France, M. Dambray, had declared me to be a boy, I was made over to the care of a wet nurse and another attendant. Three years later I passed out of female hands, earlier, somewhat, than is generally the case, for a little accident befell my nurse, in which my eldest brother's tutor, an unfrocked priest, as he was then discovered to be, was also concerned. My earliest memory, and a very hazy one it is, mixed up with some story or other about a parrot, is of having seen my grandmother, the Duchesse d'Orleans Penthievre, at Ivry. After that I recollect being at the Chateau of Meudon with my great aunt, the Duchesse de Bourbon, a tiny little woman; and being taken to see the Princesse Louise de Conde at the Temple, and then I remember seeing Talma act in Charles the Bold, and the great impression his gilt cuirass made upon me.

But the first event that really is exceedingly clear in my recollection is a family dinner given by Louis XVIII. at the Tuileries on Twelfth Night, 1824. Even now, sixty six years after, I can see every detail of that party, as if it had been yesterday. Our arrival in the courtyard of the Tuileries, under the salute of the Swiss Guard at the Pavillon Marsan and the King's Guard at the Pavillon de Flore. Our getting out of the carriage under the porch of the stone staircase to the deafening rattle of the drums of the Cent Suisses. Then my huge astonishment when we had to stand aside halfway up the stairs, to let "La viande du Roi," in other words, his Majesty's dinner, pass by, as it was being carried up from the kitchen to the first floor, escorted by his bodyguard.

At the head of the stairs we were received by a red coated Steward of the Household, who, as I was told, bore the name of de Cosse, and, crossing the Salle des Gardes, we were ushered into the drawing room, where the whole family soon assembled: to wit, Monsieur, who afterwards became Charles X., the Duc and Duchesse d'Angouleme, the Duchesse de Berri, my father and mother, my aunt Adelaide, my two elder brothers, Chartres and Nemours, my three sisters, Louise, Marie, and Clementine, and last and youngest of all, myself. There was only one person present who did not belong to the Royal House of France, and that was the Prince de Carignan, afterwards known as Charles Albert, a tall, thin, severe looking person. He had just served in the ranks of the French army, with all the proverbial valour of his race, through the Spanish campaign of 1823, and he wore on his uniform that evening the worsted epaulettes given him on the field of battle by the men of the 4th Regiment of the Guard, with whom he had fought in the assault on the Trocadero. Presently the door of the King's study opened, and Louis XVIII. appeared, in his wheeled chair, with that handsome white head and in the blue uniform with epaulettes which the pictures of him have rendered so familiar. He kissed each of us in our turn, without speaking to any of us except my brother Nemours, whom he questioned about his Latin lessons. Nemours began to stammer, and was only saved from disgrace by the opportune entrance of the Prince de Carignan.

At dinner the Twelfth Night customs were duly observed, and when I broke my cake I found the bean within it. I must confess the fact had not been altogether unforeseen, and my mother had consequently primed me as to my behaviour. This did not prevent me from feeling heartily shy when I saw every eye fixed on me. I got up from the table, and carried the bean on a salver to the Duchesse d'Angouleme. I loved her dearly even then, that good kind Duchess! for she had always been so good to us, ever since we were babies, and never failed to give us the most beautiful New Year's gifts... Continue reading book >>

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