For All Nails #243G: Napoleon's Nail (Part 7)
By Raymond A. Speer
October 9, 1798, Tuesday.
Following my victories at Marengo, Florence, Ancona, Chieti, Viterbo and Pontecorvo (twice), even the proud Pope acknowledged my success in the Italian campaign. I bowed and kissed the ring of the old Cardinal whom the Pope had sent to me.
"I am honored that Pope Pio VI sent you as the Church's emissary to me, Your Majesty."
The old man smiled. "I thank your excellency for your courtesy," said Henry Stuart, Cardinal of the Catholic Church, the last of England's Royal House of Stuart. There had been a time long before I was born when it had appeared that Henry's older brother might recoup the family's fortune by the sword, but that opportunity had passed away. "Some voices in Rome had predicted quite another reception for me."
We met in the private chamber of a palace -- no eavesdropper was possible and Cardinal Henry IX had good ears for a man in his seventies. "I had nothing to do with the arrest of the Cardinal de Bourges or his imprisonment in the Bastille," I whispered truthfully.
"Poor Charles Maurice," said Henry, gesturing like the Italians he had lived with throughout his life. "I had warned Talleyrand that Marie Antoinette was too easily corruptable by flattery. Given the path of radicalism she followed for popularity with the mob, I am not surprised that she has spurned Mother Church in her extremity."
In my opinion, taxing the gigantic assets of the Church in France and French conquests was hardly a repudiation of God, Jesus and all the saints. But to a Prince of the Church, the Queen Regent's conduct must seem diabolical.
I nodded my assent. The Cardinal continued. "We have heard for years -- decades -- that the Queen Regent is, uh, perverted in her private entertainments but we have charitably assumed that such tales were defamatory lies. Now we are not so sure."
Incredible! Marie Antoinette may have killed her husband, definitely forged the Queen's Warrant, purged the Army and her court of rivals, and plunged Europe into the century's worst war, and the Vatican feels she may be an unfit leader because she may flick her tongue over the clitoris of intimates.
"Marat may have replaced Cardinal Bourges as the Queen's chief minister," I reflected, "but is that so important now? With the Russians holding Hungary and with the Archduke Charles dead, Vienna is effectively out of the war. That is so plain that every street urchin in Naples realizes the Hapsburg War will soon be concluded."
"There are details left to be resolved," the Cardinal told me. "Presumably the Comte de Provence will replace Marie Antoinette as Regent for Louis XVII and the German speaking provinces of Austria shall be subordinated to the Crown of Prussia. But unsettled details remain, such as the fate of your Army."
"Who now challenges me in Italy?" I asked. "All of the native princelings are helpless and the Austrians are even now withdrawing their troops from Venice and Parma."
"No one challenges you now, General," said Cardinal Stuart. "But in 1799 or 1800, a triumphant Britain, for one, is not likely to allow Italy to continue as a military despotism of an enemy commander."
"Do you think the Church could help me evade that sorry fate?" I asked with a smile.
"After this war, the Hapsburgs are going to be as unpopular as my family became in England. No matter how much we may desire it otherwise, an appeal to the past cannot force people to forget the losses of the present."
"And so . . . ."
"It is possible that the Powers may recognize a new dynasty in Naples, even a dynasty founded by a Corsician who once served Dame Liberty."
"And would the Church have any reservations about the Queen that such a King might have?"
The old man understood me. "I do believe that Sir William Hamilton died gallantly in combat. There are innumerable examples of princes marrying the widows of the vanquished . . . "
Following the Cardinal's departure, I rushed up the steps and to our bedroom. I nearly dropped the key, excited as I was, but I opened the door and there in the bed was Emma in all her beautiful flesh. FN1
We spoke to each other in Italian. "Bonaparte, what is it?"
"Burr has done it. He's persuaded the Church to endorse us as King and Queen of Naples. So what if we cede Sicily to England -- we shall rule half of Italy!"
Emma helped me tear off my clothes. "Put Big Boney into me, my love, and we'll make Naples a new King!"
(Proceed to Napoleon's Nail (Part 8).)
(Return to For All Nails.)