DIRECTLY one says Schonbrunn, to whose mind does not come the picture of a delicate boy, who, fading away with the spring flowers, had such dreaius of France reconquered, as only a Napoleon like himself could dream? Here in Schonbrunn “L’Aiglon,” the King of Rome Napoleon Bonaparte’s only heir, lived and died, for growing weaker day by day he used to sit looking out on the same Gloriette in the distance that is shown in the picture, but to him the view ended not there, for he always saw battle-fields beyond, where his father’s fate should be avengedhis mighty father, the Eagle, who’ had flapped his broken wings in vain against the rock of St Helena, while the frail Eaglet was growing to be a man, and always in a few more weeks the young fellow would be strong enough to start, and always when the appointed time came the Eaglet was too weak to soar.
Schonbrunn is to Vienna what Versailles is to Paris. In 1619 it was a shooting-box for Emperor Matthias, and later Maria Theresa, who never went to any spot that she did not beautify, built the present castle. It is in a park of great magnitude,,through which wide avenues, bound by noble old trees, radiate in every direction. The rich foliate and flower-beds, the fountains and thirty-two marble statues here and there, and an old Roman ruin for picturesqueness are completed by a palm garden and menagerie that make the grounds a model for landscape gardening. The place is named for a beautiful fountainschone brunnenrepresenting a woman resting, while water ripples out from a jug which she holds. Just inside the bronze entrance gates two old obelisks make a dignified watch-guard, while the Gloriette, a peristyle shown in the picture, was the joy of Maria Theresa’s heart, and when dropsy would no longer permit her walking to the top, she had herself lifted by pulleys, that she might still have the extensive view, not only of Vienna but of miles beyond.
The first painting of note in the palace is that of Rosa, of the old castle of Habichtsburg in Switzerland, the homestead that gave its name to the family of Hapsburg. A large portrait of Maria Theresa, by Meytens, shows a pompous, opulent-looking personage, attired in expansive hoopskirts, with such brocade, lace and jewels, that, in the words of dear old Mr. Boffin, she must have been like his wife, the veriest “highflyer for fashion.”
Her dining-table went below through a trap-door, to get the next course, that the Empress’ interv:ews with her minister, Kaunitz, might not be overheard by servants. Two great bronze statues of Hercules were her stoves. They are hollow, and when filled with hot coals gave out heat with the same vigor that is always connected with anything Hercules did.
On the walls of the attractive writing-room are the panels done by her royal children. Some are framed fan shape, some oval, or square, and being set into the wall, they make the room a little gem. The heads done by Marie Antoinette when she lived here in happy girlhood, oblivious of the awaiting guillotine in Paris, are unusually good. Her brother, Joseph II., was no amateur, while Marie Christine’s family group, in water-colors, and the work of their father, Francis I., show how talented all members of a royal family may be.
Another great painting shows the Empress founding the Order of St. Stephen, which she bestows on four nobles, and many an Austrian duke today is proud enough to have an ancestor who wore one of those decorations. There are also pictures of Joseph II.’s marriage to Isabel of Parma, that give the bride’s entrance into Vienna, the church wedding and sup-per. The unsuspecting bridegroom thought she loved him full measure, and she was so good an actress and played her role so perfectly, Joseph never found out until mourning her early death, that she had long before given her heart to a suitor in her old home.
Here came the conquering Napoleon in 1805, after his victory over the Austrians, and in the court-yard one morning, when he was about to review the troops, an anarchist rushed toward him, announcing his desire to kill such an oppressor, but he was promptly despatched before he could carry out his threat. Appreciating the beauty of the place, Napoleon re-turned to Schonbrunn in 1809, and occupied the very room where in 1832 his then unborn son was to die. Could he only have turned over the next page in the Judgment Book, he might have known then that discarding Josephine to marry the Austrian Emperor’s daughter, Marie Louise, was only for a vain glory that would mock him to the last.
There is a Chinese room with walls of light blue silk, curiously designed, and a fetekin room where the wall panels are of costly rosewood, framing minatute sketches from India and Persia, and a Gobelin room, the richest of all with its old chairs, designed to represent the products and sports of each month of the year.
After Napoleon was sent to Elba, his second wife, Marie Louise, returned with her boy to her father in Vienna, and being then in the land of her husband’s enemy, she gave up her title of Empress of France and was given that of Duchess of Parma, and the boy ceasing to be called King of Rome, was acclaimed Duke of Reichstadt by his grandfather; thus the son of an Emperor of France was brought up an Austrian.
Francis gave his daughter Schonbrunn for a residence, but finding life there too remote from the festivities of the Vienna Congress that was tearing apart the kingdoms Napoleon had joined together, this shallow woman used to go into town to see the fetes givers to celebrate his downfall. Even when he escaped from Elba for a last struggle in France, Marie Louise did not go back to Paris to join him, but lingered in Austria, where Count Neipperg made her days absorbingly pleasant. Loyalty is fine in theory, but often uncomfortable in practice, and why leave a castle in Austria perchance to lodge in a’prison in France? So Napoleon had his Waterloo without wife or child, and after his death Marie Louise married Neipperg, who only had one eye, and perhaps in that way could see only her virtues. After he died she ventured into matrimony a third time, and chose the Count of Bombelles.
The cradle that the city of Paris gave Napoleon and Marie Louise for their son, is on exhibition in the treasury in Vienna. It is entirely of silver-gilt, with a figure of Victory at the head holding a laurel leaf, and an eagle rests at the foot. The basket-shaped bed is of mother-of-pearl on which gold bees are fastened, and statuettes of Wisdom and Strengthbut the latter went no farther with the boy than the cradle, and after years of hopeless longing to return to France, he passed away in this little room at Schonbrunn, looking at the same tapestry that was on its walls when his great father had slept there, and thus the king of Rome, the child of great promise, died in exile among his father’s enemies.
The present Emperor’s brother, Maximilian of Mexico, spent many a day here with his wife Carlotta, and Crown Prince Rudolph brought thither his bride, Stephanie, but from the first they were so unsuited to each other, everyone knew it was only the beginning of the end, although the suicide of the Prince in 1889 made a tragic finale indeed. In one of the rooms a fascinating cousin of Francis Joseph was startled by the sudden appearance of her father in the garden below, and while leaning out of the window to talk with him she held a forbidden cigarette behind her, not realizing she had thus ignited her gown into the flames that quickly devoured her.
Yet in spite of these dark shadows there is so much brightness and beauty at Schonbrunn that Francis Joseph spends some time here every summer. It is only three quarters of an hour’s ride from Vienna, and it makes an ideal summer place where he can enjoy the cool of the country and still keep in touch with the affairs of town.