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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Queen Victoria’s Journal - The Investiture Emperor Napoleon III with the Order of the Garter, 18th April 1855

On the 18th April 1855, Queen Victoria invested Napoleon III with the Order of the Garter.

The French Emperor and Empress had arrived on a State Visit to Windsor on 16 April 1855. Two days later, in the afternoon, a Chapter of the Order of the Garter was held in the Throne Room in order to invest the Emperor with the insignia of the Garter.

The Investiture of Napoleon III with the Order of the Garter, 18 April 1855 © Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III 2024

Queen Victoria's Journal:

"The same brilliant weather. — Breakfast as yesterday, Aunt Cambridge & Mary, being the additions. During breakfast the Emperor received a telegraphic Despatch announcing the death of his Minr of Marine, which grieved him very much, though he had expected it. — At ½ p. 10 we walked out with the Emperor, George, & Charles, going round the Terrace & then over the stables. We came in by 11, & Albert went to join the Conference, or "Counseil de Guerre", which was held in the Emperor's apartment, & at which Lds Clarendon, Palmerston, Panmure, Hardinge & Cowley, — Maréchal Vaillant, Ct Walewski, & Sir J. Burgoyne were present. — I rested. — Despatches had came from the Crimea, but nothing very new. — At 1, the dear sweet Empress came over to see me, I meeting her in the corridor & taking her into my room, where she was pleased & interested with all the pictures. She remained with me nearly ½ an hour. At 2 I went over to fetch her for luncheon. The Conference was still going on, though luncheon had been announced. After waiting a little while, the Empress knocked at the door & told Ld Cowley how late it was getting. We only sat down to luncheon after ½ p. 2. The Emperor & Empress had a table, covered with toys they had brought for our Children & a beautiful little picture of a dog, in Gobelin tapestry, for Vicky. Finally, 2 beautiful models of the 9 pounders, the Emperor had himself mounted, & which he showed off with great pleasure. He is so natural, quiet, good humoured & amusing.

Source: Public Domain

We had a great scramble for dressing. At ½ p. 3, we went over in the usual manner to the Throne Room. The Empress was seated at the other end, opposite to me, — with her suite, Vicky & Bertie on one side, & Aunt Cambridge, with Alice & Affie on the other. The forms having been gone through, Albert & George went out of the room to fetch in the Emperor, who walked between them, wearing his General's uniform with white shorts. We all rose & remained standing. I then announced to him, that he was elected a Knight of the most Noble Order of the Garter, & Albert buckled on the garter round his leg, during which the Bishop of Oxford read the Admonition; the Emperor then put his foot on to a cushion, I, pulling the Garter through the knot. He kissed my hand, & I kissed him on the cheek, after which we put the ribbon on (we were all very nervous including himself) & this done he once more kissed my hand & I embraced him. Then, he shook hands with all the Knights, in turn & sat down in the arm chair of state prepared for him. The Knights were called over, & I, taking the Emperor's arm & Albert the Empress, we walked through the rooms to their apartments.

A watercolour of Queen Victoria investing Napoleon III with the Order of the Garter. Signed and dated George Housman Thomas 1855 © Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III 2024

As we were going along, the Emperor said "Je rever cie bien V.M. C'est un lieu de plus. J'ai prêté servient de fidélité à V.M. et je le garderai saigreusement. C'est un grand évènement pour moi, et j'espère pouvoir prouver ma reconnaissance à Votre Majesté et à son Pays." These words are valuable, from [a] man like him, who is not profuse in phrases, & who is very steady of purpose. — We left the Imperial couple, he wishing to walk with Albert, but she, fearing the cold. — I took a drive with Aunt Cambridge, Mary & Charles. It was very cold. On coming home, I ran out to meet Albert & the Emperor, who were walking on the Terrace, & had been taking a long walk in the Slopes. He admires Windsor excessively, in short, everything that is English has a great attraction for him. — Dinner was at ½ p. 7, & it was such a scramble ready, & always so much to do & think of. We went over to the Emperor & Empress's apartment, but they met us already in the Throne Room, & we went in at once to dinner. The Empress wore a pearl diadem & pearls & diamond, & was dressed in white, I, in a gold brocade, with a diamond diadem the Koh-I-Noor & my Indian Pearls. Mama sat on the Emperor's other side, & George on my left. — I showed the Emperor a telegraphic account I had from Vienna.

Studies of the Queen’s attire, sketched by Henrietta Mary Ada Ward for Edward Matthew Ward’s painting ‘The Investiture’ © Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III 2024

The Austrians make proposals. We heard yesterday from the Crimea, that the batteries had maintained the superiority over the enemy & were advancing nearer. The Emperor talked of the dreadful refugees in London, saying, he thought that when assassination was loudly & openly advocated by them, they ought not to enjoy our hospitality. He told me that Victor Hugo, who had written in his praise, had dined at his table & had wished to become Minister, was now one of the very worst & one of the most dangerous. We talked of the various attempts on my life, which he thought too atrocious, against a woman. As for himself, he said he held the same opinion as his Uncle said, which was, that when there was a conspiracy, which became known, there was no danger, but that when a fanatic chose to attack one & to sacrifice his own life, then little, or nothing could be done to prevent it. This is very true. Speaking of the want of the hand of liberty attacking to our position, he said the Empress felt this much, & called the Tuileries "une belle prison". He himself felt it deeply: J'ai pleuré de chaudes larenes en quittant l'Angleterre. — I must now speak of the Emperor & Empress's suite. 1rst the Ladies: the Psse d'Essling, (Gde Maitresse) past 40 with the remains of good looks, quiet & ladylike, — the Csse de Montebello, pleasing, & rather nice-looking & gentle, her grandmother was one of Marie Antoinette's ladies & guillotined, — the Baronne de Mallaret, tall, & rather handsome, very Russian looking, — ladylike & pleasing; her mother was the daughter of Rostopchin, who set fire to Moscow. The 2 last named ladies are Dames du Palais & wear the Empress's chiffre on a box on their shoulders. — The Gentlemen: Maréchal Vaillant, tall & very large, quite in the style of Lablache, a charming, amusing, clever, & honest old man, who is a universal favourite, the Duc de Bassano, tall, quiet & gentlemanlike, was a long time in Diplomacy at Brussels, — the Gen: Cte de Montebello, a good sort of man, about 44, — was here at the time of the Camp at Chatham; — Col: Fleury, A.D.C. & Ecuger de l'Empereur, commanding the Guides, & in charge of the stables, — is very devoted to the Emperor, — tall & soldier-like, but rather rough; — le Cte Edgar Ney, youngish, an "élégant" & gentlemanlike, — the youngest son of Marshal Ney; — le Marquis de Toulonjeon, a quiet, unassuming man, of about 30; — le Cte Charles Tascher de la Pagerie, whose father was 1rst cousin to the Empress Joséphine, — settled in Germany. The son was born there & is completely German in appearance & manner; — le Col: Rancher, A.D.C. to Marshal Vaillant, is a quiet very retiring young man. — I had some conversation with the Maréchal after dinner, & found him much against the Emperor's going to the Crimea, & hoping that I had spoken to the Emperor. I said "j'ai osé faire quelques observations," to which he replied "Mon Dieu!, over, quand un est ensemble, il faut parler vettement". — That the danger was very great; that the Emperor's plan was a very good one, — were it executed by any other General, & it failed, it would not signify, but the Emperor, — the Sovereign, that was too serious a risk to be run; that even for us, though it could not injure us in the same way as France, still an "echec" would be very serious, as "vous êtes dans le même bateau;" — lastly, that he thought there was great danger to France in the Emperor's absence. He hoped however that the Conference had had some effect on him; "le Prince, Votre Epoux a parle bien sens" & had always brought people back to the point, when they digressed. Had it not been for Albert nothing would have been done or settled. Col: Fleury, to whom I afterwards spoke, expressed the greatest alarm at the Emperor's intention to go, & said "nous espérous que V. M. pourra empêcher le voyage", — that it would be a serious danger for France, & that he was sure this could not be a matter of indifference to us; — that the risk was immense & that this was the opinion of all those who had any weight in France, — "l'édifice n'est pas encore si sûre, & that it was the prayer of all who had the welfare of France at heart, that this expedition might be presented. — There was a Concert (only of orchestral music) in the Music Room, everybody being already seated when we came in. I sat between the Emperor & Empress. Everyone was in full dress. At the conclusion of the Concert, the Company went by, as the preceding evening, & we then went to supper in St. George's Hall."

© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2012

© Bodleian Libraries © ProQuest

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