A SECRET PAINFUL TO REMEMBER, IMPOSSIBLE TO FORGET…
By General Thiebault, Memoirs of General Baron Thiébault Volume 5 pages 370 – 374
" A secret painful to remember, impossible to forget, belonging to the last period of the Hundred Days, finds its place here. I owe the knowledge of that to my complete and long intimacy with Cadet-Gassicourt. This secret, I religiously kept, and if today I stop considering it a secret, it is because Napoleon and Gassicourt, the only two men who were personally interested in it, no longer exist and after long lives have passed into history. Everyone who knew Gassicourt knew him as a beautiful, graceful personality and much more noble than even his royal father, whom he by the way resembled closely, with perfect speech and manners, a man of humour and wide knowledge, no-less remarkable for his kindness, the energy of his character and sublime feelings. I said how I married him and the sad reasons why he separated from his wife; but, as this failure cost him thirty thousand pounds of income, he resolved to make it up by opening a pharmacy which he founded under the name of Cadet, a great pharmaceutical name. By his wealth, his reputation, his membership of the Academy of Science, the husband of her mother had really been first among equals.
It is therefore clear that, for a pharmacy, the name “Cadet” was already a guarantee of success, and with Gassicourt’s superior qualities doing the rest, the result met his expectations. He did not restrict himself to pharmaceutical products. The Emperor had to have a personal pharmacist; Gassicourt was chosen, and for that, he certainly didn’t want the Emperor picking as a personal servant one of the sons of Louis XV, one of the natural uncles of Louis XVIII. In the event, he was immediately given lodgings at the Tuileries and in each of Napoleon's residences; he made the Wagram campaign with the Imperial District, about which he published a report called ”Trip to Vienna”, after which he was decorated and appointed Knight of the Empire , which made of him the first pharmacist with a feudal title ; finally, after returning from the Isle of Elba, he hastened back to Napoleon’s service, adding more and more evidence of a boundless devotion.
Such was his position when, in early June, he was posted to Napoleon’s office, and there, after a few words about the seriousness of the circumstances, the chances of probably unsurvivable setbacks, and the risks of incarceration which he wouldn’t survive, he was ordered, under the utmost secrecy, to prepare a dose of foolproof poison, to make it as small size as possible so it could be completely hidden but always to hand, and put in a charm that could only be opened by a person who know how to do it.
Upset by such an order, Gassicourt begged Napoleon to allow him a few words. He spoke passionately, making forceful arguments with all the proofs he could muster, to which Napoleon listened with kindness but to no effect. The order therefore stood and was carried out; shortly before his departure for Waterloo, Gassicourt personally delivered the charm containing the terrible pill.
However, on the night of June 21 to 22 , a new order brought him in all haste to the Elysee Palace; he ran ; Napoleon had swallow the poison, but then had second thoughts and now asked him to prevent it from working. Although terrified, his hair standing up on the nape of his neck, and in a cold sweat, Gassicourt nonetheless did everything humanly possible; he hoped immediate vomiting and lots of fluids would prevent the poison from being absorbed. However, recounting these facts to me three years after Napoleon arrived at St. Helena, he could not dispel his fear that the poisoning may have side effects contributing to Napoleon’s various sufferings, and when Napoleon died and we knew that the death was from a lesion in the stomach, he kept repeating "We couldn’t get some of the bits of poison out, so, sooner or later, death was inevitable. This is the cause of this painful and so premature end, and the last possible evidence of the atrocious tortures to which the Government of the Hundred Days put the finishing touch, as if its missions were to assassinate Napoleon and France. "