Paris And King Edward The Seventh
( Originally Published 1917 )
ONE afternoon in June, 1902, not a vacant chair was to be had on the broad terrace of the Café de la Paix. There, under the awning, shoulder to shoulder, sat Parisians, Englishmen, Americans, Germans, Russians, three or four Japanese, dark-skinned gentlemen from Brazil, the Argentine Republic, Venezuela, a Turk or two in frock-coat and fez, Greeks, Scandinavians—for all I know, Haitians, Greenlanders, Thibetans ; the usual amazing cosmopolitan gathering that inspired an American writer happily to proclaim the leading café in Paris the Centre of the Universe." Thus, all languages, all drinks, and what a mélange of tobacco smoke ! Glasses of turbid and opalescent absinthe, of light and dark beer, of madeira and malaga, of vermouth and cassis, of grenadine and kirsch, of Vichy and Contrexéville waters (these for the dusky, ever-dyspeptic Brazilians and Venezuelans) crowded the round, marble-topped tables ; the fumes of choice, portly Havanas, of the stumpy, democratic three-sou cigar, of Turkish, Egyptian and coarse Maryland cigarettes drifted about hazily and lazily in the warm summer air. As usual, all subjects were being discussed—high, subtle politics down to the latest comic song, and lively anecdotes, tales of personal follies and escapades, related in more or less of an undertone, provoked winks, shrugs of the shoulder and laughter. Far back on the terrace sat Henri Rochefort, sipping milk, scowling and hoarsely declaring that every member of the Government should be strangled. Near by was elegant, impertinent Le Bargy, of the Comédie Française, ridiculing and sneering at M. Jules Claretie, the managing director, and at grand old Mounet-Sully, the doyen, because those gentlemen had very properly reprimanded the vainest of French comedians for breaking the rules of the National Theatre. And conspicuous, too, on this most interesting of café terraces were the caricaturist " Sem " (slyly pencilling down likenesses), the famous surgeon, Dr Doyen (describing an operation), a notorious professional beauty (in ecstasies over a mauve ice), silver-tongued Maître Labori of the Bar (criticising a judgment), thick-lipped Baron Wolff of the Bourse (cursing his rival, Joseph Isidore Kahn) and Marcel Hutin, Labruyère and other yellow journalists, grinning and gesticulating as they narrated their latest lurid achievements. Then, whilst Paris and "the Universe " thus gossiped under the awning, all kinds of well-known personages drove by. " There goes Arthur the Catholic-Jew," croaked Henri Rochefort, as white-whiskered but steady-handed M. ' Arthur Meyer, proprietor of the Royalist Gaulois, piloted his pair of bays through the bewildering traffic of the boulevards. " That is Madame Réjane, the great actress," obligingly explained a waiter to Brazil and Venezuela, when the dark-skinned gentlemen jumped up in amazement from their chairs at the spectacle of a lady in an oddly shaped brougham, drawn by two mules. President Loubet, in an open carriage, set old Rochefort storming ; eccentric, slim Mademoiselle Polaire, in a large blue victoria, provoked exclamations of What eyes ! " and "What a figure ! " and ---
Yells in the distance—the wild, frenzied yell of the camelot when he is the bearer of particularly sensational information. Up dashed half-a-dozen of them, panting and shouting : " Illness of the King of England : postponement of the Coronation." Then, confusion on the terrace ; every-one on his feet, holding forth sous, clamouring for the damp " special editions." Then a din in the " Centre of the Universe " ; everybody reading out aloud the grave, startling announcement and commenting on it excitedly in his own language. Then away to the fashionable Faubourg St Germain, to the gay Latin Quarter, to delirious Montmartre, to sombre Belleville, Villette and Menilmontant, sped the camelots with their news _" Illness of the King of England : postponement of the Coronation."- It staggered, it shocked Paris. It brought the carriages of Ambassadors, Cabinet Ministers, the aristocracy of Paris rattling into the courtyard of the British Embassy. It sent the most brilliant writers on the Paris Press hastening to London (how feelingly they described the removal of the decorations, and what prominence they gave to the Royal command that the banquet to the poor of the metropolis—" his Majesty's 500,000 guests " —should take place as arranged !). It caused the bourgeoisie, the workman, the cocher, the charming midinette, Gavroche the street gamin, the pretty bare-headed girls from the blanchisserie, even the sergent de ville, to assemble before the windows of those newspaper offices in which huge reproductions of the bulletins from England were exhibited. It set the bands in the cafés playing God Save the King. It silenced the mischief-makers on the Anglophobe journals. It provoked, in a word, a unanimous, whole-hearted demonstration of respect, admiration and personal regard for the sick sovereign, who, when Prince of Wales, had so endeared himself to the French nation as to be popularly known as l'ami de la France."
Thus, when at last the Coronation had been solemnised, Parisians rejoiced—and talked for hours at a time of the brilliant fêtes that were taking place in London, and of the, bons mots and geniality of the King, the " exquisite grace " of Queen Alexandra, and the stirring loyal enthusiasm of their subjects. Picture post cards of their Majesties sold by the thousand, and what terrific business did the kinematograph establishments with their dizzy visions of the King in his robes, the King in his gala carriage, the King looking grave, the King laughing, the King acknowledging the cheers of the multitude ! The rapid recovery of His Majesty betokened a fine constitution. " The King is sixty and grey-headed, yet he is younger than many a man of thirty," said the Parisians. The banquet to " the 500,000," held by command of the Royal host whilst he was lying ill in Buckingham Palace, was constantly alluded to. " That is the King of England all over," was the comment. And when, in April, 1903, the day of his Majesty's official visit to Paris drew near, it was unanimously decided to give the " Friend of France " the warmest of welcomes.
No — not entirely unanimously. Certain violent Nationalists agreed that here was an opportunity for a demonstration against England's annexation of the Transvaal. `" We are not hostile to the King ; indeed, he is sympathetic to us," announced the agitators, in the course of an elaborate manifesto. " But upon the present occasion the Royal visitor is coming to France in the capacity of the ruler of the most tyrannical and treacherous of nations ; we have, of course, named England. We call, therefore, upon all humane and justice-loving Frenchmen at least to preserve an attitude of cold disapproval during the King's sojourn in our capital." The " at least " signified, if you shout " À bas l'Angle terre," and groan, and blow whistles, so much the better. Thus the Nationalist manifesto, with its latent incitement to disorder, made M. Lépine, the Chief of the Police, uneasy. What was the reason of M. le Nationaliste's Anglophobia ? Partly his resentment of England's severe criticism of the Dreyfus Affair, but chiefly his consuming desire for noise and notoriety. I do not believe the Nationalists cared a rap for the late Mr Kruger—yet what a reception they gave the deposed President when he landed at Marseilles, and what a hero they made of him in Paris, calling him out on to the balcony of the Hôtel Scribe again and again, chanting the Marseillaise and the Transvaal Hymn, and making the boulevards echo with cries of " Vive Kruger " and " Vivent les Boères " and " A. bas l'Angleterre ! " Those were fine days for MM. les Nationalistes. Their names and photographs appeared in the news-papers ; their own organs published verbatim reports of their own speeches and glowing accounts of their own open-air demonstrations. For it was all a " got-up " affair—the public held aloof, and if it cost money, it was worth it, for the advertisement. It cost money, because MM. les Nationalistes engaged the services of M. Napoleon Hayard, the " Emperor of the Camelots "—the ablest man in France at organising and " con-ducting manifestations. At the rate of two francs a head he provided stalwart, lusty-lunged camelots, warranted to break up meetings, blow ear-splitting whistles, shout themselves hoarse. They appeared, in fine form, at Marseilles ; they reappeared, husky and tired, beneath the balcony of the Hôtel Scribe. But their " Emperor " was present in Paris to encourage them and direct operations. He had only to give the signal, and heavens ! how loyally, how uproariously the two-franc a head camelots—" Messieurs les Quarante Sous responded 1 . . . Well, in April, 1903, it became known to M. Lépine, the Chief of the Police, that the more violent Nationalists were once again in communication with enterprising and obliging Napoleon Hayard. Later it transpired that " les Quarante Sous " had received orders to be ready and busy 'with their whistles on the day of King Edward's official entry into Paris. But MM. les Nationalistes had reckoned without the public, and without the higher-class Press, and without M. Paul Déroulède, their chivalrous if hysterical leader. Indignation amongst the Parisians ;- stern reprimands from the Temps, Figaro and Débats ; and from M. Déroulède (in exile at St Sébastien) a long, eloquent telegram dissociating himself from those of his followers who (" so he had seen reported ") were advocating a hostile demonstration against the Republic's Royal guest. These protests reassured the Chief of the Police ; how M. Lépine's frowns and uneasiness vanished ! Shrewdly, gaily he said : " The Nationalists are done for. Not a camelot will dare to blow his whistle, for fear of being set upon by the crowd. Tout va bien. Messieurs les Nationalistes, good-night." And here, as usual, M. Lépine was right. The Nationalist party abandoned their proposed demonstration. The " Emperor of the Camelots " and the stalwart, lusty-lunged, unshaven "Quarante Sous " witnessed, it is true, the drive down the Champs Élysées of King Edward the Seventh—but in the capacity of spectators only. What cheers, what a waving of handkerchiefs and hats, what an ovation !
Vive le Roi ! " shouted the " Emperor of the Camelots," a good fellow at heart.
Vive le Roi ! " yelled the " Quarante Sous," other good souls.
" There is the King Edward—the Friend of France—look at him well—vive le Roi ! " cried excitedly a Parisian to the small son he had perched, none too securely, on his shoulder.
" Vive le Roi ! "—more enthusiastically than ever when the King Edward smiled, bowed and " saluted."
" Vive le Roi ! "—all along the route, outside the British Embassy, outside the Hôtel de Ville, the Opera, the Comédie Française--wherever and whenever, during his short official visit to Paris, his Majesty appeared in public.
And familiarly, affectionately, on the day of the King's departure—" Vive Edouard ! "
In spite of Mr Balfour's recent words in the House of Commons, Parisians will ever maintain that it was King Edward the Seventh who " made the Entente Cordiale. " It was arranged," MM. Duval, Durand and Dupont will tell you, " at the Élysée. The King and President Loubet discussed it together. Then M. Delcassé, who was in waiting, was called in. Half-an-hour later the Entente was established." Excessive imagination, no doubt, on the part of the three M. D.'s, but it is certain that when, in the early summer of 1903, M. Loubet returned the King's visit, the draft of the Anglo-French Agreement travelled with him to London. The scenes there come back to me : simple, kindly, admirable M. Loubet " saluting " the Londoners from his carriage, and short-sighted, earnest-faced M. Delcassé starting forward from his seat and nervously removing his hat, when now and again the crowd recognised and cheered him. In London, too, was the " Emperor of the Camelots." In London, also, were the " Quarante Sous fifty of them, with picture post cards of the King and M. Loubet, and songs that " celebrated " the meeting of Emile and " Edouard." Soho was decorated, illuminated. French journalists, the Emperor of the Camelots " and the " Forty Sous " made the restaurants in Old Compton and Dean Streets their headquarters, and the " Emperor " (when reminded of Marseilles) exclaimed, Bah ! " and the Sous " (when asked, Where were their whistles ?) frankly admitted :
" Il n'y a plus de sifflets. Le roi Edouard est chic. Tout change. C'est la vie. Que voulez-vous ! " Over to Paris, from the French special correspondents and from the French residents in London, went glowing accounts of M. Loubet's reception. Vain, pompous Félix Faure brought back with him from Russia an Alliance ; modest, admirable Emile Loubet left England with an unsigned but none the less official Agreement ; and of the two Presidents it was the latter who aroused the greater enthusiasm and rejoicing when he returned home through the densely crowded streets to the Elysée.
Edouard ! "
Two years after the Coronation the last Anglo-phobes in Paris admitted themselves converted. Everywhere, symbols of the Entente the Entente boot, the Entente cravat, the Entente shirt, the Entente pair of-braces, the Entente valse, the Entente perfume, the new Entente liqueur--all these articles were displayed in the shop windows, together with portraits of- "the Maker of the Entente—the Friend of France—King Edward the Seventh." Then the " musical Entente " ; when an English band visited Paris, or the band of the Republican Guard went to London. Also the " Municipal Entente," when the Paris County Councillors crossed the Channel and were received by the King. Among the councillors was—positively—M. Emile Massard, proprietor of the once Anglophobe Patrie.- What vitriolic attacks he had made on " perfidious Albion " ! What grotesque, savage caricatures he had, published of " grasping, sinister John Bull " ! No matter—" tout change," as the " Quarante Sous " observe, and " everything " had " changed " (so M. Massard confessed) with the advent of King Edward. " A great man, and entirely affable, sympathetic, irresistible," wrote the proprietor of the Patrie.
" Edouard ! "
Upon the occasions of his private visits to Paris, en route for Biarritz, all Paris turned out, at some hour or another, to see and " salute" the Royal traveller. Crowds assembled to cheer him on his arrival at the Gare du Nord. M. Bertrand, the small bourgeois, and his wife and the little Bertrands " occupied " penny chairs on the Champs Élysées, in order to catch a glimpse of the King as he drove out into the Bois. Numbers of other Parisians loitered outside the abodes of his Majesty's intimate friends—the rez-de-chaussée of General de Galliffet, the fine mansion of the Duc de Talleyrand-Périgord, the vast studio of Edouard Détaille ; old, dear friends the King never failed to visit. The General was crippled with rheumatism, the Duke (formerly the elegant, dashing Prince de Sagan) had been stricken down by the deadliest paralysis. " Edouard remembers his friends. That is Edouard all over," remarked Paris. Then a call upon wonderful Rodin, calls in the Faubourg St Germain, dinner at the Hôtel Bristol or the Café Anglais (the last of the quiet Empire restaurants) and the theatre. Two private boxes were thrown into one for the King and his suite. Murmurs all over the house when his Majesty entered. " How he appreciates the subtleties of our language ! " exclaimed the stallholders, when King Edward laughed. " Edouard s'amuse," said the gallery. " He is the most Parisian of kings," said the upper circle. The fact was, the spectators were more interested in the King than in the play. They waited for him to give (as the French journalist has it) the " signal for applause." They were out of the theatre in time to see " Edouard " step into his electric car. Hats off, more cheers—and a smile of acknowledgment from " l'ami de la France."
" Edouard ! "
The workman, the cocher, the charming midi-nette, Gavroche the street gamin, the sergent de ville, the pretty, bare-headed girls from the blanchisserie, all were devoted admirers of King Edward the Seventh. I have heard a " sergot " say to a colleague Edouard drove by ten minutes ago. Naturally, I saluted. Edouard-I swear it—nodded his head. Well, mon vieux, it is something to be noticed by Edouard." Then this appreciation from a Gavroche to another Gavroche : " Chic, chic, chic. A shining hat, a buttonhole of carnations, a white waistcoat, a big cigar. I cried, ` Vive Edouard,' and he smiled. Mon petit, I assure you he smiled." And next, the charming midinettes who work in the fashion-able dressmaking shops in the neighbourhood of the Hôtel Bristol. (Elsewhere I have already described the doings of the midinettes on the Place Vendôme, but these doings were so delightful that I beg leave to repeat myself.) Well, at noon, their luncheon hour, Mesdemoiselles les Midinettes assembled in front of the Bristol, and there, under the windows of the Royal apartments, Marie the blonde, and Charlotte the brune, and Juliette the rousse devoured hot fried potatoes and galantine sandwiches and quenched their thirst with milk and weak wine-and-water drunk. . out of medicine bottles. Distinguished callers at the hotel—even the solemn porter at the door—smiled upon the scene. Edouard will not drive out for another half-an-hour," said a friendly sergent de ville. " On attendra, voilà tout," replied the girls. " Here he is—attention," excitedly cried the constable, when the thirty minutes were up. And then what shrill cries from Mesdemoiselles Marie, Charlotte, and Juliette, of Vive le Roi ! " and " Vive Edouard ! " ; and what smiles, and what a waving of handkerchiefs, and—yes, what a throwing of penny bunches of violets when the King, himself smiling, raised his hat ! The fashionable dressmakers declared that his Majesty's visits to Paris were disorganising. Returned to their shops, Mesdemoiselles les Midinettes neglected their work in order to describe, at infinite length, the exact impression made on them by King Edward. Said Mademoiselle Marie : "He is all that is most distinguished." Said Mademoiselle Charlotte : " What style, what supreme elegance ! " Said Mademoiselle Juliette : "Épatant—simply épatant." And, sighed faded, sentimental Mademoiselle Berthe, the overseer in the room : " He is incomparable."
" Edouard ! "
Even in sleepy, obscure villages the King's name was honoured. Take the village of Santois, for instance, with a population of four hundred peasants and a rugged, weather-beaten farmer, in sabots and a blue blouse, for mayor. But upon one particular occasion, when I met the Santois official, he was wearing, huge, creaking boots, a fat buttonhole of rustic flowers and a wonderful old frock-coat, and was entertaining a number of villagers to a "lunch" (so he called it) of hard, sugared biscuits and atrocious, sweet champagne in the inn of " The Rabbit that Limps."
You have arrived just in time," said M. le Maire. " I am celebrating the birth of the Entente Cordiale Twins."
Amazement of myself.
Yes, the Entente Twins," reiterated the mayor. " They were born—strong, admirable boys—three days ago. And I have named the one, Armand, after M. Armand Fallières, the President of the Republic, and the second, Edouard, after your great King."
" Vive Armand ! Vive Edouard ! " cried the peasants. " Rosbif — Milord — Pale Ale — You love me ?—Yes, my dear—'Oooray," strangely shouted the landlord, a bibulous soul.
Then toasts, in the atrocious champagne, to Madame Fallières and to Queen Alexandra. Another to " la vieille Angleterre " ; after which, of course, I proposed " la belles France." Pointing to a villager, M. le Maire said : " Hippolyte, you are a musician. So play us the two National Anthems. And on the old, exhausted, yellow-keyed piano of " The Rabbit that Limps " Hippolyte the peasant, with his clumsy, knotted fingers, strummed out the Marseillaise and God Save the King.
" Edouard ! "
Thus, familiarly and affectionately, was King Edward the Seventh called by the Parisians. " Edouard, l'ami de la France."
Thus in Paris to-day, six weeks after his Majesty's swift, startling passing, is the familiar name spoken, not only with affection, but in a spirit that will secure the dead King imperishable sympathy and fame. " I tell Pierre and Paul, my small sons, that King Edward the Seventh resembled our great Henri Quatre," a Frenchman has said to me. A finer tribute he could not pay. For, in France, Henri Quatre stands as the monarch who most excelled in the supreme art of kingship—that of endearing himself to his people by ever having their honour, prosperity and happiness at heart. Listen, for example, to this verse from the stirring Henriade of Voltaire :
Je chante les combats et ce roi généreux, Qui força les Français à devenir heureux, Qui dissipa la ligue et fit trembler l'Ibère Qui fut de ses sujets le vainqueur et le père, Dans Paris subjugué fit adorer ses lois,
Et fut l'amour du monde,et l'exemple des rois.
And now listen to the Frenchman of to-day, who gossips about Henri, Quatre—eulogising his " amiability," his " esprit," yes, even his " chic," just as if Queen Elizabeth's contemporary on the French throne had " flourished " but a short while ago ! I could not say how often I have heard related at the dinner-table of M. le Bourgeois, when the inevitable poulet rôti had been served, the old, old story of how Henri Quatre vowed he never would he satisfied until his subjects ate meat every day and had a fowl boiling cheerfully in the pot on Sundays.
" Ile had a heart. But, in my opinion, a fowl should be roasted, not boiled," stout Madame la Bourgeoise usually observes upon these occasions.
" Did they dance in those days ? If they did, how magnificently Henri Quatre must have led the cotillon ! states her daughter.
Very likely, a school friend of Mademoiselle la Bourgeoise remarks, that Henri Quatre would have been equally efficient and irresistible at golf.
Voyons, voyons," M. le Bourgeois then objects, " we are losing our heads. We shall next imagine Henri Quatre declaring no-trumps at bridge, and cutting amazing angles and figures in the skating-rink of the rue Amsterdam."
Laughter, of course, at M. le Bourgeois' joke ; and our host rubs his square hands and continues :
Voyons, voyons—soyons sérieux, soyons sage."
But when he crosses the Pont Neuf, with his son, M. le Bourgeois pauses before Henri Quatre's statue and exclaims " Mon fils, look at the admirable Henri Quatre. Does he not appear alive ? Were he to descend from his horse I should scarcely be surprised."
Master Bourgeois hates, as a rule, being pulled up before historical monuments and lectured thereon. But Henri Quatre, on his steed, is an exception. Henri Quatre also, when discussed by the master in the inky, stuffy schoolroom, immediately becomes the favourite of the pupils, then their idol. They love, naturally, his bravery, his battles, but they are also taught to admire the human qualities that made him " l'amour du monde et l'exemple des rois." I do not suppose a French schoolboy has ever failed over an examination paper that had Henri Quatre as theme. Most certainly those documents have never lacked exhaustive data, eloquence, force of style. Henri Quatre was Henri Quatre, c'est tout dire," .was the decisive conclusion to a long, terrific essay by a certain Jean-Henri-Gilbert-Louis Dupont, aged thirteen. And I am entirely persuaded that when J. H. G. L. Dupont has grown up and married, and become the proud, fussy father of a son, one of the first stories he will tell Dupont fils will be that of Henri Quatre, the Sunday fowl and the pot, and that many years later Dupont fils, in his turn, will relate the same anecdote to his heir, and that in the far-distant future—the year 2000 ; the twenty-second century—still at a Dupont dinner-table, still in the schools, still on the Pont Neuf, still will Henri Quatre be held up, familiarly and affectionately, as " the model of kings." Why not ? Already he has been dead these three hundred years, and yet M. le Bourgeois can almost see his favourite monarch dismounting that stony, weather-stained horse, while the authors of the topical " revues " actually bring him on to the stage, astride a " property " charger —amidst enthusiastic applause. " Here is Henri Quatre " is the murmur. And what earnest attention, what naïve exclamations of " Ça, c'est bien," and " Ça, c'est chic," when the stage hero proceeds to denounce modern instances of cynicism, selfishness, injustice. And what bravos, what encores, when " Henri Quatre," on his " property " steed, trots off the stage.
Well, King Edward the Seventh is compared to-day to Henri the tolerant, Henri the human, Henri the well-beloved, " our own national Henri "-the finest tribute conceivable in the mind of the admiring Paris public. Was not that banquet to " the 500,000 " somewhat—more than somewhat—reminiscent of the old story of the fowl ? Did not that visit to Ireland, when the King penetrated into the Dublin slums and chatted freely and sympathetically with their ragged, haggard inhabitants—did that not reveal chivalrous solicitude for an unhappy people ? And had not this tact, this kindliness, this bonhomie the effect of destroying the popular superstition that an Englishman must necessarily be arrogant and angular, narrow - minded and querulous, a most unsympathetic person, with a pair of aggressive side-whiskers and a set of fierce, protruding teeth ?
Paris has seen the funeral procession—on the kinematograph—and the spectators have never failed to rise from their seats when, as the hidden orchestra has played Chopin's solemn march, the gun-carriage has passed.
" After it had passed," a French friend tells me, " we all recognised with emotion the dog—Edouard's terrier, who used to be lifted so care-fully, so ceremoniously out of the royal train at the Gare du Nord. Once on the platform it barked at your Ambassador and at M. Lépine, the Chief of the Police. How Edouard laughed ! The smallest human incident interested or amused him ; a policeman, for instance, helping an old woman across the street, a gamin clinging round a lamp-post in order to have a good look at him, a superannuated soldier with a glorious medal, a street accident (upon which he made inquiries), convalescents taking air in a hospital garden, old Crainquebille with his barrow of vegetables, the chiffonier picking up cigar stumps—que sais-je encore ? Ah, le brave homme, le bon roi 1 He was Edward, King of England, but he was also in a measure ` Edouard,' King of Hearts in France. You know a street in Paris is to be named after him ? "
" In which district ? " I ask.
That has not yet been determined," replies my friend. " But it should be in the neighbour-hood of Henri Quatre's statue."