Lord Castlereagh and Bernadotte
About forty years ago the following adventure happened to the Marquis
of Londonderry, later Lord Castlereagh. He visited with a kind man, of
one his friends’ acquaintance that lived in a castle in Northern Ireland, one
of those places used by romance writers to impersonate apparitions. Marquis’
apartment was in perfect harmony with the entire building. In fact, the richly
carved wood, blackened by time; the huge arc of the chimney, similar to the
porch of a tomb; the heavy and dusty rugs, covering every spot and surrounding
the bed, all that would really give rise to melancholic thoughts.
Lord Londonderry examined the room, getting to know the former
masters of the castle, who seemed to be standing there, waiting for his
greetings, portrayed in the paintings hanging on the walls. He then dismissed
the room maid and went to bed. He had just put the candle out
when he noticed a spark of light on top of his bed. Convinced that there
was no fire in the fireplace; that the curtains were drawn and that the
room was completely dark minutes earlier, he then supposed that there
was an intruder in the room. Turning his eyes back to the place from
where the light beam came he saw, with great surprise, the figure of a
beautiful child, surrounded by a halo.
Persuaded of the integrity of his own faculties but suspecting a mystification
from one of the many guests of the castle, Lord Londonderry advanced towards the apparition, which moved away from him. The more
he moved closer the more it would move away. It then got to the fireplace’s
somber arch and disappeared in the ground.
Lord Londonderry did not sleep that night.
He decided not to mention what had happened to him, until he had
the chance of carefully examining the facial expressions of everybody who
was at the house. During breakfast he unsuccessfully tried to detect some
disguised smiles, convenient looks and blinks of eyes that generally denounce
the authors of such domestic plots.
The conversation followed its ordinary course. It was animated, not
revealing any mystification. The Marquis finally could no longer resist
the desire of telling the others what he had seen. The owner of the
castle observed that the report given by Lord Londonderry might seem
very strange to those who had not visited the castle for a long time and
did not know about the legends of the family. Then, he turned to Lord
Londonderry and said: “You saw the shining child… Be happy then since
this is a presage of great luck. However, I prefer that we do not talk about
On another occasion Lord Castlereagh saw the shining child in the
House of Commons. He saw a similar apparition on the day of his suicide.* It is a well-known fact that this Lord, one of the most important
Ministers of Harrowby, and one of the most bloodthirsty enemies of
Napoleon, during his setback, cut his own throat, then dying instantly on
August 22nd, 1823.
They say that the amazing fate of Bernadotte had been predicted by a famous
necromancer, who had also announced the fate of Napoleon I, and
that the necromancer enjoyed Empress Josephine’s trust.
Bernadotte was convinced that a kind of tutelary divinity was dedicated
to his protection. Perhaps the wonderful traditions that surrounded his cradle were not strange to this thought that never left him. Truly, an
old chronicle was around in his family about a fairy, the wife of one of
his ancestors, who had predicted that one King would illuminate their
Here is a fact that demonstrates how much the wonderful king had
maintained its domination over the spirit of the King of Sweden. He
wanted to face the difficulties opposed by Norway with the sword, sending
his son Oscar with an army to defeat the rebels. The State Council
strongly opposed that project. One day, when Bernadotte had just had
a heated discussion about this subject, he rode his horse away from the
Capital city. After a long ride he got to the entrance of a dense forest.
Suddenly an old woman appeared before him, dressed in a bizarre way,
showing a disheveled hair.
• What do you want? The King asked bluntly.
The witch then responded impassively:
• If Oscar fights in this war that you plan he will not be the one to
shoot but the one to be shot at.
Bernadotte returned to the palace, touched by the apparition
and her words. On the very next day, still showing in his face the
signs of a long and agitated vigil, he went to the Council and said:
“I changed my mind. I will negotiate peace but I want to establish
In his Vie de M. de Rance, founder of the Order of Trap,
Chateaubriand tells the story that this celebrity was strolling around
the Avenue of the Veretz Castle when he seemed to have seen a huge
fire, destroying the aviary. He dashed there. The fire diminished as
he approached. At a certain distance the inferno was transformed into
a lake of fire; in the middle stood half of the body of a woman, devoured
by the flames.
He rushed home, horrified. He was exhausted, throwing himself
in bed, feeling half dead. It was only much later that he told this vision
whose simple memory made him pale.
Are these mysteries pure madness? It seems that Mr. Brière de
Boismont has attributed them to a more elevated order of things, with
what I agree. This does not displease my friend Dr. Lélut. I prefer to
believe in the genius of Socrates and in the voices of Joan of Arc than
in the madness of the philosopher and in the virgin of Domrémy.
There exist phenomena that go beyond the intelligence; which
embarrass knowledge, but it is necessary that human logic humbly
bow before their evidence. Nothing is more brutal and undeniable
than a fact. Such is our opinion and particularly that of Guizot:
“What is the great question, the question that concerns the spirits
today? It is the question between those who recognize and those who
do not recognize a super natural order, true and sovereign, although impenetrable
to human reason; the question raised to give things their true
name, between the super naturalism and the rationalism. On one side
the incredulous, the pantheists, and the skeptical of all sorts, the pure
rationalist; on the other side the Christians. For our future and present
salvation it is necessary that the faith in the natural order; that the respect
and submission to the super natural order penetrate in the world and in
the human soul; in the great spirits as in the simple ones; in the more
elevated classes as in the most humble. The real, truly efficient and regenerative
influence of the religious beliefs, have such a condition. Outside
that circle they are superficial and very close to become vain.” (Guizot)
No, death does not separate forever, even in this world, the elected
that God received in his heart and the exiled that remained in the
valley of tears, in hac lacrymarum valle, employing the melancholic
words of the Save the Queen. There are mysterious and blessed times
in which the beloved dead lean over those who cry, whispering into
their ears words of consolation and hope. Guizot, this strict and methodical
mind, is right when proclaiming: “Outside that circle the
religious beliefs are superficial and are very close to becoming vain.”
SAM (extracted from the La Patrie, June 5th, 1859)
* Forbes Winslow. Anatomy of Suicide, vol. 1, in-8, page 242. London 1840.