“I’d rather face an army of angry Celts than resist your charms.” Julius Caesar to Cleopatra
While Napoleon was preoccupied with taming the English Channel…or being tamed at that, the Austrians and Prussians reneged on their truce and encroached on French territory, but their armies were in decrepit position. As soon as Napoleon retaliated, the enemies retreated at once. Napoleon’s army easily overran Poland, Germany, and Yugoslavia.
Tw’as a great victory indeed. Napoleon decreed that Holy Roman Empire was abolished. In its place, the Confederation of Rhine was established with its capital in Munich. As such, his archenemy Francis II was reduced to Emperor Francis I of Austria. The Empire that was founded by Charlemagne, whom Napoleon admired, was destroyed by Napoleon himself many centuries later. Finally, Yugoslavia became the Illyrian Provinces. The capital of the Illyrian Provinces was Belgrade.
In the meantime, Napoleon pondered upon the fate of Poland…
As the Emperor and his great Army of Germany marched through the streets of Warsaw in their victory march, the Poles crowded around to see the victors. Poland had no love lost for Austria, for the aristocratic and haughty empire hath conquered them by stealth and treachery, and now they viewed the French as liberators. At that time, Napoleon came across one incredible beauty, whose name was Countess Walewska, and he was greatly bewitched by her.
That night, the Polish nobility arranged a great banquet in the Emperor’s honor. When it was over, the nobles including Marie Walewska’s husband left her alone with Napoleon, and he made love to her like there was no tomorrow. For Walewska was far more beautiful than the Empress Josephine could ever hope to be.
Before he departed, Marie hath grown pregnant with his son. Napoleon made sure that they were well taken care off by her husband, the Count Walewska, and taken as his own to avoid a scandal with Josephine when he got back to France. The Polish nobles succeeded, for Napoleon deigned Poland to be the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and gave them a certain level of autonomy.
The affair between Napoleon and Marie Walewska strained his relationship with Josephine when he returned to Paris. Although it is true that no man, not even a valiant general as he, could resist her charms anymore than the mighty Julius Caesar of Rome resist the charms of fair Cleopatra, women were an unpredictable thing, and Empress Josphine would not understand. They were indeed estranged for many days.
Not only that, Napoleon’s mother, Dowager Letizia, had always felt that Josephine was not worthy of him. In her view, she had only born her ex-husband a son, Prince Eugene de Beauharnais, but had never had a son for Napoleon himself.
After several attempts on his life, it is understandable that Napoleon would want to discourage assassins by setting up his own dynasty. For that, he needed a son. In doing so, he would convince his enemies that killing him would not end the Bonapartist style of ruling France.
While his brother Lucien would have welcomed a nephew, he did not sympathizes with Napoleon’s dynastic ambitions, for he was a democrat to the core. Even though Lucien Bonaparte was Napoleon’s ablest brother and would have been part of this great dynasty, he never welcomed it. Eventually, he fled to the United States, where his grandfather would one day become an American senator.
But if Napoleon was greatly disappointed by Lucien’s departure, his ambitions would never be quenched. He now had great protectorates to the east, and his family members (Joseph, Louis, and Murat) ruled friendly kingdoms to the north and south of France. Napoleon was truly the man at the height of his powers.
But the gods would never favor any man too much, especially one such as Napoleon who did not believe in them. Even as his enemies scurried away from him, his friends, Spain, turned their hearts against him, for Crown Prince Ferdinand was gaining an upper hand in his quest for power against his father, King Charles. One Bourbon split against each other, it seemed Ferdinand was inclined to become an enemy to Napoleon. In fact, it was said that he was in secret contact with enemy nations of France, such as Prussia and Russia. When the king of Sweden offered diplomatic support against those who disobeyed French garrisons in Denmark, Ferdinand applauded Sweden’s independence.
Even though Napoleon sent his disapproval to King Charles many times, the response was not favorable. Clearly, Charles could no longer keep his unruly son under a short leash as before. Even as all of France, Empress Josephine, and Foreign Minister Talleyrand begged Emperor Napoleon for peace, Napoleon replied very simply, “Peace, for now, shall be an elusive goal for France.”
The days of peace were over…the return to war about to begin.