The Objects

12th Apr 1815

Source: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France, with permission.

The Converted Royalist: Bonapartist Vaudeville at the Café Montansier

Contributed by: Katherine Hambridge

Housed in a former theatre, the Café Montansier had by mid-March become the place to gather to sing pro-Napoleonic songs, and according to some accounts, it was at this café that the first bouquets of violets were handed out as a Bonapartist badge (see entries for 3 and 20 March). As befitted the venue, the café also hosted small theatrical performances, including this vaudeville, Le royaliste converti. While the term vaudeville would later refer to a variety show, in early nineteenth-century France it referred to a dramatic work in which all the songs were set to old tunes. In the script you can see that only the words are included, and the melody simply named

Le royaliste converti, performed on 12 April 1815 – after Napoleon has arrived in Paris – is a conversation between a ‘patriot’ and a ‘royalist’, in which the patriot gradually convinces the royalist of the Napoleonic cause. They speculate as to the reaction of the allies to Bonaparte’s return to Paris, with each described in turn by the patriot in a song (for texts and recordings of the Russian and British songs shown in the second image, see ‘Further Information’). Once the Bonapartist has compared Louis XVIII and Napoleon, the royalist begins to be converted to the latter – and only then does he begin to sing, declaring himself at the end of the sketch to be no more a royalist, but a Frenchman (and therefore, by implication, a Bonapartist).

Geolocation

Text and Translation of an Extract from Le royaliste converti

This extract comes from the discussion of the reaction of the allied powers to Napoleon’s return. You can listen to a performance of the two songs by clicking here.

Le patriote: Nous savons que l’empereur Alexandre, dès qu’il a appris le retour de NAPOLÉON-LE-GRAND dans sa capital, s’est rendu de sa personne au congrès, et voici à peu près ce qu’il a dit:

[Air: le Magistrat irreprochable!]
 J’ai placé Louis sur le trône;
Il aurait dû s’y maintenir.
Redonne-t-on une couronne
Qu’un roi n’a pas pu soutenir!
Chez les Français, portant la guerre,
Je n’irai point ternir mon nom,
Lorsque je vois la France entière
Heureuse sous Napoléon.

Le royaliste: Passe encore pour la Russie, mais l’Angleterre!

Le patriote:
[Même air]

L’Anglais peut, dans sa politique,
Contre Napoléon s’armer;
Mais la nation britannique
N’a pas cessé de l’estimer;
A ce héros rendant hommage,
Quand le sort trompa sa valeur
L’Anglais achetait son image
Que nous portions dans notre coeur.

The patriot:
We know that when the Emperor Alexander learned of the return of Napoleon-the-great to his capital, he went in person to the Congress, and this is pretty much what he said:

[To the tune: The irreproachable magistrate]
I put Louis on the throne;
He ought to have kept it.
You don’t give a crown back
To a king who couldn’t keep it.
Taking war to the French
Is not something I will tarnish my name with
When I see that the whole of France
Is happy under Napoleon.

The royalist: That might be ok for Russia, but not England!

The patriot:
[to the same tune]
 The English man can in his politics
Arm himself against Napoleon
But the British nation
Has not stopped esteeming him;
Paying homage to this hero
At the same time that fate was ignoring his merit,
Englishmen bought his image -
The one we carry in our hearts.


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