Jean-Roch Coignet could not join Napoleon Bonaparte on Elba because
the emperor knew he was not one of the Old Guard. He records how
at Fontainebleau, Bonaparte paraded his guardsmen one last time
and called: "Bring me my eagle." He cradled it in his
arms and kissed it, sending a moan of despair through the ranks
of his most long-serving and staunch troops.
of my Old Guard, I bid you farewell. For 20 years I have constantly
accompanied you on the road to honor and glory.
these latter times, as in the days of our prosperity, you have
invariably been models of courage and fidelity.
men such as you our cause could not be lost; but the war would
have been interminable; it would have been civil war, and that
would have entailed deeper misfortunes on France.
have sacrificed all of my interests to those of the country.
go, but you, my friends, will continue to serve France.
happiness was my only thought. It will still be the object of
not regret my fate; if I have consented to survive, it is to serve
intend to write the history of the great achievements we have
my friends. Would I could press you all to my heart. I embrace
you all in the person of your general. Come, General Petit, that
I may press you to my heart!
me, the eagle that I may embrace it also!
my children! Be always gallant and good.
not forget me.'