THE LESSONS OF PRINCE NAPOLEON'S FUNERAL.
THE splendid gathering at the funeral of the Prince Im- perial testifies strongly to two of the great changes which have passed over Europe in recent years,—the extinction of the English hostility to France, and the decay of Legitimist feeling even among Kings. A century hence, when distance of time has made the years of this epoch seem to crowd together, few events will appear more picturesque than a great honour paid by the English voluntarily, and upon their own soil, to the representative of the Napoleons. The change of feeling will seem to have been so sudden and so complete. A hundred years after it has passed a lifetime seems nothing, and a full lifetime has not elapsed since Englishmen as a body believed France to be "the natural enemy" of their country, as half of them now hold Russia ; regarded her people with a loathing which found its expression in Nelson's celebrated sentence ; and held her ruler, the First Napoleon, to be a wicked usurper, whose death would be a sensible relief to mankind. The present writer has talked to persons, otherwise fairly informed, who once firmly believed that Napoleon murdered Marie Antoinette, that if he had landed in England he would have killed every- body, and that he was in every relation of life a monster of iniquity, whom it would be pardonable to kill. The hatred of France in England was a passion, all the more intense because it could express itself 'kin loathing for an individual, the Corsican usurper, General Buonaparte. Now even diplomatists write of the "Western Powers" as if they constituted an in- divisible entity in Europe. And last Saturday, sixty- four years after the " usurper's" fall, the greatest persons in England crowded to Chislehurst to do honour to the remains of his grandson, the heir, though in exile, of his throne. We recognise, of course, all that may be said about the circumstances, about the respect for misfortune, and the sympathy felt for the Empress, and the popularity of the lad himself ; but, nevertheless, if the hatred felt for France and the Napoleons had not been dead, the demonstration would have taken a very different form. The feeling that Frenchmen had become allies instead of enemies, and that the Napoleons were friendly instead of hostile to Great Britain, weighed deeply with the multitude, and was felt even by the greatest person- ages on the scene. Englishmen do not, we fear, love their enemies as much as Christianity enjoins, and certainly they do not often respect them, or even sympathise with their grief. That change, the possibility of France and England cordially liking one another, and of Napoleons and Englishmen being friends, is the greatest of its kind that this generation has seen, and may yet have the greatest political consequences. It is much that Englishmen can appreciate and work with France as a Republic, but something, too, that they have no inner and, as it were, personal horror of the only dynasty which has even a slight chance of replacing it. England may not, and does not, wish the I3onapartists to succeed; but the extinction of the old half-insane prejudice against all who bore the name nevertheless adds to her power of comprehending French parties, French diffi- culties, and French affairs,—and it is in that comprehension that the roots of alliance must be sought. There can be no alliance with a people believed to be always plotting injury, or likely, in certain circumstances, to raise a sort of hostile demon to the throne.
The decay of the idea of Legitimacy, even among Kings, is even still more remarkable. The old idea of the European monarchs was that they must, as against the rest of the world, adhere to each other ; that thrones were inter- linked ; that usurpations were immoral ; and that Kings not only "could feel for Kings," but were bound to feel for them. A. Republic was detestable, of course, but less detest- able, or rather less detested, than a usurper. It was not policy only which induced Louis XIV. to acknowledge James III.; or provoked George IV. to ask Castlereagh if he thought he was sent to Vienna to upset ancient dynasties ; or that made the present Emperor of Germany feel so keenly the blow, which nevertheless he inflicted, on the House of Guelph ; or that induced Czar Nicholas to address Napoleon III. as "my friend," instead of "my brother," and refuse him full admis- sion into the European pale. Nor was it policy which made it impossible for Napoleon III. to marry into the charmed circle of dynasties. There was, in the feeling of Kings, a "European Family," a Royal caste, whose destiny was linked together by a tie other than mere policy. It is rumoured that this tie is felt, even now, when one of the caste is attacked by an assassin, but the feeling in its old strength is dead, No King interfered for Charles X., or for George V. of Hanover, or for Isabella of Spain, sympathy taking at the outside only the form of according an honorific asylum, and even that is not invariably granted. The honours paid to the Prince Imperial go, however, far beyond submission to the inevitable. In every possible way the Royal Family of Great Britain ex- pressed their view that, although dethroned, they considered the deceased Prince Royal. The Queen, as she placed her wreath upon his coffin, is said to have added, "Poor boy, there at least is a crown they cannot take away l" Five English Princes of the Blood, with the Prince of Wales at their head, were among the pall-bearers, a sixth, fully recognised in that rank, being the Crown Prince of Sweden, the representative of the marine Bernadotte. Yet Prince Napoleon had, according to Legitimist ideas, absolutely no claim to a throne, and would not himself have pleaded any except popular election, which in 1807 still left his great-uncle, in the opinion of all the Royalties of Europe, only a successful General and usurper. It is vain to talk of personal liking and friendship, as if those sentiments explained all. Had the Prince been regarded as less than Royal, Princes would not have been his pall-bearers. Be it remembered that the Prince was not only Napoleon, but, unlike some of his kinsfolk, was not in any way by birth of the old Royal caste, Prince Jerome, were he a Protestant, would stand, in however remote a way, within the English succession, and but for the Salic law, within that of Wiirtem- burg ; but the Prince Imperial's forefathers and foremothers, without an exception, were, from the Legitimist point of view, subjects, and outside the pale. His claim, in fact, is the Caner claim,—that a throne, however gained, once accepted by the people, is a legal throne, the idea which of all others is most fatal to Legitimacy, as it used to be understood. The first fatal blow to that doctrine, once a dogma with Courts, was the.
marriage of Napoleon L, the second the recognition of Berna- dotte—which gave Lord Beaconsfield, by the way, his best chapter in " Contarini Fleming "—and another is this cere- monial at Chislehurst, which, if a people cannot make a Sovereign, is an inexplicable anomaly. The decay of the old feeling is so complete, that it will strike many of our readers as unimportant ; but the historic change is very great, and of great political effect. The loathing of Legitimate Sovereigns for a Republic or for a new Sovereign was, till a very recent period, a powerful factor in politics, and its decay distinctly tends to liberate the peoples, to remove one definite obstacle from their path when select- ing Governments for themselves. That obstacle was once most serious, as was seen in the invasion of France by the coalition of 1792, and is even now not without its effect, as witness the difficulty Denmark and Holland would have in making themselves Republics, the failure of Greece to step beyond the dynastic circle, and the com- paratively strong position of Prince Charles of Roumania, as compared with Prince Milan of Servia. If it dies away wholly, we shall, in the East of Europe, at all events, see new families seated on new thrones ; and the right to establish a dynasty, as well as to make a Republic, is a new right accorded to the people. Nothing oppeses the right now but the feeling of the Sovereigns,—and that, as we say, it is evident from a hundred symptoms, is dying rapidly away. It is only by the popular will that the Napoleons or the Bernadottes are royal, and that will has become so efficacious, that it gives rank to the families it selects, even when the throne has been lost, and they have been driven into exile. It is not the world as it was, but a new world which is represented, when the Prince of Wales and the Crown Prince of Sweden keep step as pall-bearers to a Prince whose claim to be royal is that his father was enthroned by eight million "Ayes.'