S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
[Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, son of the Duc de Bourbon, and related to the royal family of France; born 1772; emigrated 1789; fought against the army of the republic until 1801; retired to Baden, where he was arrested by order of Napoleon; after a hurried trial by a military tribunal at Paris, was shot, March, 1804.]
I die for my king and for France!
His last words. It was of this political murder that Fouché in his posthumous “Memoirs” claimed to have originated the mot usually translated, “It is worse than a crime, it is a blunder” (C’est plus qu’un crime, c’est une faute). The authenticity of the “Memoirs” was denied by his family; and the remark is often attributed to Talleyrand, who could hardly have uttered it, if he was, as Napoleon asserted at St. Helena, “the active cause and principal instrument of the duke’s death.” Long before that time, March 6, 1809, the emperor told Roederer that Talleyrand informed him where the duke could be found; and that, after advising his death, he groaned over it among all his acquaintances. This Sainte-Beuve considered decisive of Talleyrand’s participation in the discovery and execution of the prince, but it is not impossible that among his “groans” the remark in question was uttered. Napoleon said to O’Meara at St. Helena, “I have doubtless erred more or less in politics, but a crime I never committed;” and, while he did not mention Enghien, he said that Talleyrand advised him to do every thing he could against the Bourbons, “whom he detests.” One remark attributed to Talleyrand in this connection, when Bonaparte expressed a desire to see the duke before his execution, was, “Don’t compromise yourself with a Bourbon: the wine is drawn, it must be drunk” (N’allez pas vous compromettre avec un Bourbon: le vin est tiré, il faut le boire). Napoleon stated to O’Meara that the Duc d’Enghien wrote him a letter offering him his services, which Talleyrand kept back until two days after the execution. This Lanfrey (“Life of Napoleon,” II. 9) calls “a twofold and shameful calumny” against Talleyrand and the duke.Mme. de Rémusat, who writes with as strong a friendship for Talleyrand as Lanfrey’s hostility to Napoleon, denies that the former approved of the execution: “His enemies and Bonaparte himself have accused him of having advised the murder of the unfortunate prince; but Bonaparte and his enemies can be proved to be in error on this point. The known character of M. de Talleyrand hardly admits the possibility of such violence. He has told me more than once that Bonaparte had informed him, as well as the two consuls, of the arrest of the Duc d’Enghien, and of his unchanging determination: he added, that all three of them had seen the uselessness of words, and had kept silence.”—Memoirs, i. 4. Mme. de Rémusat goes on to say, that, a few days after the first return of Louis XVIII., the Duke de Rovigo (Savary, Napoleon’s aide-de-camp, and minister of police after Fouché), knowing her intimacy with Talleyrand, gave her an account of the arrest of Enghien, by which it seems that he had been mistaken for Pichegru by the conspirators in league with Georges, one of whom had given the information which led to the duke’s arrest, and that when Bonaparte was told of the error he cried out, “Ah, the wretch! What has he made me do?” Lanfrey calls this “the impudent story of Savary.”It is not strange that the names of both Fouché and Talleyrand have been connected with the mot concerning the death of the Duc d’Enghien, when Napoleon found sufficient resemblance between them to say at St. Helena, “Fouché was the Talleyrand of the clubs, and Talleyrand was the Fouché of the drawing-rooms.”