THE MIKE OF COBURG'S MEMOIRS.*
THE last two volumes of Prince Albert's brother's Memoirs are far more full of interest than the first two were. The author saw much of the men who bore great parts in the political drama which was played in Europe between 1850 and 1870. His own part in that drama was far from insignificant, and his reminiscences of his contemporaries are fresh and full. He ranks the Emperor Nicholas as the most remarkable man of his (the author's) time, and says neatly of that autocrat, that while preserving his prestige better than any other Emperor or King, he was capable of giving to the social expression of his feelings certain good-natured traits, which corresponded to the changes of his uniforms. He fails, however, apparently to perceive that what misled the Emperor Nicholas in his famous conversations with Sir Hamilton Seymour, early in 1853, was his wish to take the second step before the first was taken. Sooner or later, Constantinople will belong to Russia, and Egypt will belong to England ; but the pear was not ripe when the Emperor dreamt of plucking it. Duke Eriest, by-the-way, has not much to tell us of the personal impression made upon him by Nicholas. And the same may be sail of his reminis- cences of Bismarck. The latter was appoisted President of the Ministry and Minister of Foreign Affairs on October 96, 1862, and Duke Ernest is happy, he says, to kave lived to see the time when every German cheerfully ownsthat he regards that day as a fortunate one in the history of Gtermany. The causes and consequences of the six weeks' wir in 1866 are sketched with succinct lucidity; and it seems difficult to doubt that Bismarck's "blood and iron" policy was the only means by which the unification of Germany could have been so early secured. It is pleasant also to notice how soon Ind how com- pletely the wounds left by that sanguinary struggh were healed. So far, however, as we have observed, Duke Ernest records nothing that is absolutely new about the campaign which was ended by Sadowa. It is otherwise with the campaign which was ended by Solferino ; and as the Duke was on intknate terms with the French Emperor, his references to that cunpaign are very noteworthy. Kinglake, it may be remember4d, charges Napoleon III. with showing grievous nervousness at Magenta, and with keeping himself out of harm's way at Solferino, while permitting, and perhaps ordering, the Mmiteur to describe him as having been in the thickest of the fre during that murderous battle. The Duke learnt from Ntpoleon's own lips that he had never once been under fire &ring the whole campaign. " Je n'ai jamais entendu siffier tire balle " were the words he used ; but he said that the Austrians fought better than the French, and that Francis Joseph woukl have taken Solferino if he had let the reserves advance. "The Emperor of Austria," he added, "is a man of great eminence, Inas malheureusement ii lui man que renergie de la ?violate." This criticism may pass for what it is worth, but in any case Louis Napoleon was every inch a civilian. He was alsc a good man of business, and the miserable equipment of his troops caused him to write often and bitterly to the War Minister in Paris. He ended one of his "long-winded letters "with a sentence of which the campaign of 1870 pointed the moral in letters of fire : " Ce n'est pas un reproche que je vous fais. Je ne l'adresse qu'au systeme general qui fait qu'en France nous ne sommes jamais prate pour la guerre." The French Army in 1870 was what it was in 1859, and it is impossible to acquit the French Emperor of allowing it to be so. He was a man of far greater intelligence than he was commonly credited with before the Crimean Wax. He understood thoroughly the art of making money. But his experiences in 1859 led him to regard war as a game too hazardous to be worth the candle ; and he was driven into his last war because, through failing health, he was unable to resist the wishes of his wife and her select circle of blind guides. The Empress, indeed, was, intellectually considered, the worst consort a man like Louis Napoleon could have chosen. He, with all his astuteness, was a dreamer of dreams in cosmopolitan politics. She was of foolish senti- ment all compact. She fostered the so-called revolution of Poland in 1860 to the utmost of her abilities, and she did the same for the "dynastic whim" which her husband carried out in Mexico. He awoke to the absurdity and danger of that whim far sooner than she did. For when the news of Bazaine's • Memoirs of Ernest 11, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Vol. In. and IV. : 1850- 1870. London Remington and Co. 1890. success first reached Europe, Duke Ernest happened to dine with her and with his cousin, the wife of the Emperor Maximilian Both Empresses were fooled to the top of their bent by joyous hopes, and chattered gaily in Spanish, "as if they were desirous of dispelling the apprehensions of their husbands by the beautiful harmonies of the Castilian tongue." But Louis Napoleon took the Duke purposely aside after the dinner, and repeated several times : "ljne tres mauvaise affaire ! Moi, k sa place je n'aurais jamais accepte." The success of that "bad business" depended entirely upon the success of the Southern States, and when Jefferson Davis fell, Maximilian fell with him. It is not quite easy to guess at the causes of the French Emperoesimisgivings at so early a period. It may be noticed, though, that he was a man unfitted by Nature to look on the sunny side of affairs. He regarded the war with Russia, as he told the Duke, as almost sure to be fruitless, and he certainly did his best to ensure its being so by appointing St. Arnaud to command his army. He must have reckoned on that Marshal's early death with great confidence, as did Marshal Magnan, who said of him to Duke Ernest : "La canaille crevera en route." At the Alma, we may remark in passing, it was not "the lack of cavalry on the part of the allies which saved the army of Mentschikoff from total destruction." Lord Raglan had the squadrons which showed their efficiency a, month afterwards at Balaclava, at his dis- posal; but he, like Francis Joseph, strangely lacked renergie de la volonte.
The Duke gives some curious instances of Louis Napoleon's want of nerve. He was at lunch with him and a ring of Kings and Princes at Baden-Baden, when a short but violent thunderstorm occurred. The French Emperor was so frightened that it was found necessary to allay his fears ; and after Orsini's murderous attempt, he remained, long after the Empress had recovered her full composure, in a fearful state of excitement. He was very pale, and showed a nervous trembling which alarmed the Duke, who had previously him- self been "petrified with horror," when the Imperial pair rushed into the hall of the Grand Opera from the little blind- alley which led to their private entrance. That little blind- alley, by-the-way, was shut off by a company of infantry, so that none of the general public could gain access to it. The windows of the houses which opened into it "were all lighted up by gas-flames, like at an illumination, and at each window a policeman was visible." The Duke is able to "truthfully aver" that on that fatal evening not a single person was to be seen in the alley who had not evidently some office to perform there. But he is quite unable to suggest any explanation of the way in which the bombs were thrown. The Emperor and his wife stepped to the front of their box in the first entr'acte, when the whole audience must have heard of the attempt. But they met with no reception, and the Emperor said to the Duke, in German : "There you see the Parisians—they are never treated harshly enough." So early as in 1854, Louis Napo- leon's health was seriously impaired, and it may be that disease, quite as much as nature, undermined his physical courage. The question is of no consequence, nor should we raise it, had not Duke Ernest ventured to say that he possessed "a personal courage by far excelling that of his uncle." This is exaggeration verging on the grotesque, for the foolish stories of the great Napoleon's cowardice are not worth contradiction. Duke Ernest is misled here by friendship, as he is misled by loyalty when he quite as gro- tesquely exaggerates Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia's deeds of war, and as he is misled by brotherly affection when he overpraises Prince Albert's statesmanship and achievements. He gives us the measure of that so-called statesmanship when he quotes his brother's caricature of Lord Palmerston as a man who had embittered the Queen's whole life (sic) and his own, by continually placing before them "the shameful alternative of either sanctioning his own misdeeds through all Europe, and rearing up the Radical Party here to a power under his leadership, or bringing about an open conflict with the Crown, and thus plunging the only country where liberty, order, and lawfulness exist together into the general chaos." This was written in 1852, after Palmerston's fall, and the
• Prince was so bad a judge of English politics as to say that Palmerston had, as it were, cut his own throat, or, with a change of metaphor, had hanged himself as a rogue will do, give him rope enough. Prince Albert, from one cause or another,
understood England and the English very imperfectly ; and the same, it seems, may be said of Duke Ernest, as he ventures to express an opinion that a Herr von Bernhardi may have brought the editors of English newspapers to see the real gist of the interminable and intolerable Schleswig-Holstein question, by giving them grand dinners. Duke Ernest mentions several instances of the way in which his brother's nervous system was liable to be shaken by ap- parently trivial incidents. He was so despondent and melancholy after a fall from his carriage, which did him no great injury, that Baron Stoekmar said to the Duke "God have mercy on us ! If anything serious should ever happen to him, he will die." The Duchess of Kent died at the age of seventy-five, and the Prince, with a wife and a goodly number of children, looked, says Duke Ernest, upon the death of his aunt (and mother-in-law) as isolating him in England. Of the many statues which have been raised in honour of the late Prince Consort, the one at Perth, in which he is repre- sented in large size, and in "Scotch costume," struck Duke Ernest's imagination most. He was strongly moved, too, by "the sough of the moors," of which he had read a great deal in Ossian's poems. He thought that "thin play of Nature" was interesting, but felt that it added a still more melancholy tone to the gloomy landscape. We had marked many passages for quotation in these volumes, but can find room for two short ones only. Metternich, when the Duke visited him, had had abundant experience of "ordinary old age," and of "great age, in the full sense of the term." He distinguished between them by saying that the first was oppressive and wearisome, and the last ultimately agreeable and pleasant. "An old man," he- added, "when he passes the flowers in the garden, only sees their decay, whilst the very old man still finds pleasure in the withering flowers, and beholds in decay merely the power of regeneration. In old age, all duties weigh more heavily on a man, and the tasks of life, which he still thinks it impossible to dispense with, are more than ever difficult to. fulfil ; the modest pretensions of hoary old age afford an undreamed-of source of life's little pleasures and simple enjoyments." These words are significant from the lips of a man who lived such a life as the speaker had lived, and the distinction which he draws is novel, and perhaps well founded. It stands out in cheery contrast to Juvenal's view of "palsied eld." General von Falckenstein, during the campaign of Sadowa, received by telegraph an order to attack a certain position coilte que coilte. When rebuked for not doing so, he pleaded strenuously that he could not understand what was meant by this cv,ttle cattle.
In conclusion, we must characterise these volumes as a trustworthy, and often very interesting contribution to the history of Europe, during one of its most important epochs.