chapter  2
11 Pages

Preparing for power

The reunion was shortlived. Only the veto o f the Emperor, preoccupied with his own divorce from Josephine, prevented a split in 1808. But in 1810 Louis abdicated, fleeing to Bohemia and leaving Hortense to return to Paris from Holland with her two boys. Napoleon himself took a keen interest in their up­ bringing. Young Louis Napoleon was baptised at Fontainebleau

in 1810 with the Emperor and his new Empress, Marie-Louise o f Austria, as godparents. As the first prince to be born since the proclamation of the Empire, he had a special place in his uncle’s affections and Hortense and her children were regular guests at the Tuileries when Napoleon was in residence. The boy was also spoiled by his grandmother Josephine, now styled the ‘Dowager Empress’ , and living in splendour in the Chateau o f Malmaison. Louis Napoleon grew up a likeable and affection­ ate but timid and sensitive child, adoring his indulgent mother, but perhaps suffering from the lack of a father.