Napoleon’s Faithful Soldier: The Story Of Louvel (part 2)

Berri’s carriage approaches. Scenes from Louvel’s past flash before him. The image of his wife and child give way to that of Napoleon with him at Borodino. Louvel rushes forward with his saddler’s awl…

Back in the prison cell Louvel completes the last page of his autobiography with a matter-of-fact sentence: “In the evening I mortally wounded the Duc de Berri. I thus ended the Bourbon dynasty and was therefore able to be of service to His Majesty the Emperor.”

In his quarters, the governor of the prison is discussing Louvel with the priest assigned to him. The priest tells him he is certain that Louvel acted alone, not as part of a conspiracy. He shows no remorse nor willingness to make confession and asks only for writing materials. He is proud of killing the Duc de Berri and has no fear of his impending execution. The priest repeats Louvel’s motive for his crime.

The governor continues his questions. “Does the prisoner Louvel still maintain the illusion that he served in the infantry under Bonaparte?”

“Yes.”

“You have shown him the papers showing that he was repeatedly rejected for military service for weak eyesight? You have shown him his receipts from his trade as a saddle-maker?”

“Indeed, but he talks only of his military career. Inquiries have been made of all the details he has given me and in his papers. They are completely accurate, even to the names of sergeants and corporals, except that he himself was present at none of the engagements.”

“Does he still refuse to see his wife and son?”

“He insists that they are dead, victims of privation.”

“He has seen the petitions from his wife against his desertion?”

“He still insists that she and his son are dead.”

In the prison cell Louvel stands at attention before his image of Napoleon. He murmurs over and over “I did serve you.”

He is still murmuring this as the guillotine descends.

Some months later, in autumn, the bells are ringing. The widowed Duchesse de Berri, already pregnant again when Louvel killed her husband, has given birth to a boy.

18. May 2021 by rkh
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