Thursday, 2 April 2015

ENTERTAINING TWO EMPERORS: NAPOLEON AND ALEXANDER I


[As told by Weimar painter Luise Seidler]
I saw Tsar Alexander and Napoleon driving through the streets of Weimar in a small open hunting carriage, Napoleon on the right side, Alexander on the left. Napoleon had brought French actors with him. As a gallant gesture to Duchess Louise, he had Racine’s The Death of Caesar performed in Weimar. The tickets were not for sale, but handed out by the court.

[An acquaintance gave Luise his ticket]
As each of the rulers entered, there was a drum roll befitting his rank. The stage was carpeted. The play was performed without intermission. The curtain wasn’t even lowered. The two emperors sat in red velvet chairs on a raised platform at the front. To their right and left sat the kings of Wurttemberg, Westphalia, Bavaria, and Saxony…and behind them the counts and dukes…diplomats and generals. Starry medals glittered and ribbons glowed on the embroidered uniforms. Everything was splendid and sumptuous.
[The ladies sat in the loges and in the balcony.]
In spite of the masterful performance, Napoleon fell asleep…the rest of the noble audience made an effort not to offend against etiquette.

A day earlier there had been a hunt on the Ettersberg, which I also watched. A hall had been erected on the plateau of the mountain and decorated with branches of fir trees. They were festooned with red berries to lighten the gloomy dark green. On three sides of the hall bleachers had been set up for the audience to watch the proceedings. The monarchs stood at the open end of the hall, and behind them hunters who loaded their guns. The quarry was driven past them within shooting range. First came a beautiful doe. When the poor animal collapsed in its blood, I felt so sad in my heart that I sobbed loudly and hurried back to the city.

(Source: Luise Seidler. Erinnerungen und Leben; my trans.)

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