In March 1804, by order of Napoleon, a member of the Bourbon royal family, the Duke of Enghien, was arrested and put on trial. On March 20, a military court accused him of preparing an attempt on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte and sentenced him to death. On March 21, the prince of the House of Bourbon, who almost became the husband of Alexander I's sister, Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna, was hastily shot in the ravine of the Vincennes castle.
As soon as Alexander learned of the execution of a member of the august family, he convened the Indispensable Council, this expanded to 13 members of the Secret Committee. After all, it is one thing when the king and queen were executed by the rabble, and quite another if the execution is initiated by a person who does not hide claims to create a new European dynasty. At a meeting of the council, Prince Adam Czartoryski said on behalf of the tsar:
"His Imperial Majesty can no longer maintain relations with a government that is tainted with such a terrible murder that it can only be viewed as a den of robbers."
Already on April 30, 1804, the Russian ambassador to Paris P. Ya. Ubri handed the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Talleyrand a note of protest against "the violation committed in the domain of the Elector of Baden, the principles of justice and law, sacred to all nations." Napoleon reacted instantly:
"An unusually funny man in the role of the guardian of world morality is a man who sent murderers bribed with English money to his father."
Bonaparte ordered Talleyrand to give an answer, the meaning of which was as follows: if Emperor Alexander found out that the murderers of his late father were on foreign territory and arrested them, then Napoleon would not protest against such a violation of international law. It was impossible to call Alexander Pavlovich publicly and officially a parricide more clearly.
Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich believed that "this hint of Napoleon was never forgiven him, despite all the kissing in Tilsit and Erfurt." Alexander began to regard Napoleon as his personal enemy. However, while the Russian emperor needed the support of Napoleon to conquer Poland and Constantinople. Napoleon also needed an alliance with Russia to secure a continental blockade of England and subjugate Central and Southern Europe.
For some time, Alexander I tried to use the contradictions between England and France and their common interest in Russian assistance. "You need to take such a position to become desirable for everyone, without taking any obligations in relation to anyone else." The inner circle of the emperor, who constituted the "English party", inspired him that "the debauchery of the minds, marching in the footsteps of the successes of France", threatened the very existence of the Russian Empire.
The point of view of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Prince Adam Czartoryski, who hated Russia, in his own words, so much that he turned his face away when meeting with the Russians, and wished only the independence of his homeland of Poland, which could be facilitated by the agreement between Russia and England, is indicative of the point of view of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Prince Adam Czartoryski. It was this Polish friend who suggested to the tsar more than once:
“We need to change our policy and save Europe! Your Majesty will open a new era for all states, will become the arbiter of the civilized world. The alliance between Russia and England will become the axis of the great European politics”.
But Alexander was the least like a fighter against a revolutionary infection, he struck with pretentious speeches against "despotism" and admiration for the ideas of freedom, law and justice. Moreover, Russia had no real reason to participate in the Napoleonic wars. The European fight did not concern her. Who rules in France, the king was indifferent. If only not Napoleon.
Alexander became obsessed with his idiot fix. “Napoleon or me, me or him, but together we cannot reign,” he said to Colonel Michaud in 1812, and to his sister, Maria Pavlovna, long before that he inspired: “There is no place for both of us in Europe. Sooner or later, one of us has to leave. " A week before the surrender of Paris, he said to Tol: "This is not about the Bourbons, but about the overthrow of Napoleon." Obviously, the obsession with hostility to Napoleon was purely personal.
For whom the sun of Austerlitz rose
In early 1804, Alexander I began to form a coalition. Its main participants were three powers, one of which undertook to supply gold, and the other two - "cannon fodder". Russia, Austria, as well as Prussia were supposed to deploy 400 thousand soldiers, England - to put into operation its fleet and pay annually 1 million 250 thousand pounds sterling for every 100 thousand coalition soldiers annually.
On September 1, 1805, Alexander I, in a decree to the Senate, announced that the "only and indispensable goal" of the coalition was "to establish peace in Europe on solid foundations." France was supposed to be thrown beyond its borders in 1789, although this was not specifically mentioned. And, of course, numerous declarations were silent about the capture of Constantinople, Poland, Finland, planned by Alexander I, the division of Germany - between Russia, Prussia and Austria - with the transfer of the lion's share to Russia.
Beginning the war of 1805, Alexander I called on the Russian troops to "push to raise the glory they had acquired and supported," and the Russian regiments headed for Rügen and Stralsund, Kutuzov's army went in the direction of Austria, the Austrian troops of Mack - to Ulm, General Michelson - to the Prussian border … Prussia at the last moment refused to join the coalition, and the Austrians began military operations without waiting for the approach of the Russian troops.
On October 14, 1805, the Austrians were defeated at Elchingen, on October 20 Mack surrendered at Ulm, on November 6, Alexander I arrived in Olmutz, on December 2, the battle of Austerlitz took place, which could have ended in disaster for Napoleon, but became his greatest triumph. The tsar did not want to listen to General Kutuzov, who begged to wait for the reserve corps of Bennigsen and Essen, as well as Archduke Ferdinand, who was approaching from Bohemia. The main danger for Napoleon's troops came from Prussia, which had come into motion, ready to strike him in the rear.
"I was young and inexperienced," Alexander I lamented later. "Kutuzov told me that he had to act differently, but he should have been more persistent!" Before the battle, Kutuzov tried to influence the tsar through the chief marshal Tolstoy: “Persuade the sovereign not to give battle. We will lose it. " Tolstoy reasonably objected: “My business is sauces and roasts. War is your business."
Shishkov and Czartoryski were convinced that only the "court bearing" prevented Kutuzov from challenging the Tsar's obvious desire to fight Napoleon. The hero of Austerlitz, the future Decembrist Mikhail Fonvizin, was of the same opinion:
"Our commander-in-chief, out of man-pleasing, agreed to carry out other people's thoughts, which in his heart did not approve."
In the last days of the Patriotic War of 1812, Kutuzov, seeing the banner repulsed from the French with the inscription "For Victory at Austerlitz", will tell his officers:
"After everything that is happening now before our eyes, one victory or one failure, more or less, all the same for my glory, but remember: I am not to blame for the Battle of Austerlitz."
On the way to Tilsit
The defeat of Austerlitz was a personal shock for the tsar. For most of the night after the battle, he cried, experiencing the death of the soldiers and his humiliation. After Austerlitz, his character and behavior changed. “Before that, he was meek, trusting, affectionate,” recalled General L. N. Engelhardt, "and now he became suspicious, stern to the extreme, unapproachable and could no longer tolerate anyone telling him the truth."
In turn, Napoleon was looking for ways of reconciliation with Russia. He returned the Russian prisoners taken at Austerlitz, and one of them - Prince Repnin - ordered to convey to the tsar: “Why are we fighting each other? We can still get closer. Later, Napoleon wrote to Talleyrand:
“The calmness of Europe Will be stable only when France and Russia walk together. I believe that an alliance with Russia would be very beneficial if it were not so capricious and if it were possible to rely on this court for at least something."
Even the Anglophile Czartoryski advised Alexander to seek rapprochement with Napoleon. But the king rejected such advice. All his actions were determined by only one feeling - revenge. And although on July 8, 1806, the representative of Alexander Ubri signed in Paris an agreement between France and Russia on "peace and friendship for eternity", on July 12 the tsar signed a secret declaration on the alliance of Russia with Prussia against France. Until the last moment, Napoleon believed that the Russian-French treaty would be approved, and even gave Marshal Berthier, Chief of the General Staff, an order to ensure the return of the army to France. But on September 3, upon learning that Alexander had refused to ratify the treaty, Berthier ordered the return of the army to be delayed.
On September 15, Russia, England and Prussia formed a new coalition against Napoleon, which Sweden also joined, and on November 16 Alexander declared war on France. Messages were read in all churches, denouncing Napoleon as the Antichrist, “a creature burned by conscience and worthy of contempt”, who committed the most heinous crimes, and restored the worship of idols in his country. He was also charged with the preaching of the Koran, the construction of synagogues and altars to the glory of the walking girls.
The 60,000th Bennigsen corps was sent to the aid of Prussia, followed by the 40,000th Buxgewden. The Battle of Pultusk, which did not bring victory to either side, preceded the Battle of Eylau on February 8, 1807, during which Russia lost 26 thousand killed and wounded. “It was a massacre, not a battle,” Napoleon will say about her. The two armies froze in anticipation of the summer company. Eylau was not a defeat for Napoleon, but neither was it a decisive victory for the Russians.
Nevertheless, Alexander felt confident again. On April 26, the Bartenstein Agreement was signed, according to which Russia promised Prussia the complete liberation and return of its territories, but already on June 14, the Russian army under the command of Bennigsen was defeated near Friedland, having lost up to 18 thousand soldiers and 25 generals.
“The boasting of the Russians has come to an end! My banners crowned with eagles flutter over the Neman! " - declared Napoleon about his victory won on the anniversary of the battle of Marengo, glorious for him. On this day, he "won the Russian Union with his sword."
Following this, Konigsberg fell, the last Prussian fortress. Napoleon approached the Neman and stood at Tilsit on the border of the Russian Empire. The remnants of the Russian troops beyond the Neman were demoralized. The king's brother, Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich, declared: “Sovereign! If you do not want to make peace with France, then give each of your soldiers a well-loaded pistol and command them to put a bullet in their foreheads. In this case, you will get the same result as a new and last battle would give you."
On June 20, it was decided that the two emperors should meet. On June 22, Alexander sent to Napoleon one of Catherine's eagles, Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky, with a proposal and authority to conclude an armistice.
"Tell Napoleon that the alliance between France and Russia was the object of my desires and that I am confident that he alone can ensure happiness and peace on earth."
Napoleon approved the armistice act on the same day, stressing that he wanted not only peace, but also an alliance with Russia, and offered Alexander a personal meeting. Alexander, of course, agreed. So that he would not have to go to the left bank of the Nemunas occupied by the French, and Napoleon to the Russian, right bank, the sovereigns agreed to meet in the middle of the river on a raft.