Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry
Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon
Part 2 out of 10
myself with having obtained your confidence, but
the obstinate silence which you have kept with me
has cruelly informed me of my mistake. Allow the
deep interest with which you have inspired me to
offer a suggestion. You know nothing of forms, you
are unacquainted with our usages: you require a friend
who shall direct and counsel you. Why should you not
select a man entirely devoted to you, and as equally
so to the king, the king whose affections you possess--and
who could refuse them to you? I pause. Nothing is more
dangerous than to use a pen where we have a heart
overflowing like mine. Be more gracious towards
me, I ask it of you in charity, and take no pleasure
in driving me to twofold desperation. Adieu,
"Signed, the Duc D'A."
I read and read again this epistle: it delighted me from beginning
to end. I found in it a depth of passion which did not displease
me: I perfectly comprehended the obscurity of the latter phrase.
I needed a sort of mentor superior to comte Jean, and I preferred
the duc d'Aiguillon to any other, because he pleased me. This
feeling decided me, and I replied to him in these terms:--
"You are wrong, monsieur, to be annoyed, and to think
that I am not disposed to grant you my confidence. It
seems to me that I cannot place myself in better hands.
However, we do not know each other well enough for
me to repose in you at once: see me frequently, and
then, with the habit of being in your company, I will
allow myself to glide quietly into that state of
confidence which you desire. Yes, I am indeed a
stranger to all that passes around me; my only support
is the protection with which the king honors me. That
is all-powerful, but I will not employ it unseasonably
or improperly. I know that I need the counsels of
an honorable, prudent, and well-informed man. I accept,
therefore, of yours; I even ask them from you, if your
friendship go along with them. Adieu, monsieur. My
regards are due to your uncle, the maréchal, the
first time you write to him."
This letter filled the duc d'Aiguillon with joy. Some days
afterwards, the prince de Soubise, who also wished to give me
his advice, did not attain the same success. It must be owned,
that, for a man of the world, he went about it in a very clumsy
way. He committed the extreme error of selecting mademoiselle
Guimard as mediatrix between himself and me. This lady came to
me on the strength of our former acquaintance; she had so little
sense as not to perceive the immense distance between us which a
few days had caused, and that the opera-dancer kept by the prince
de Soubise could have no relation with the favorite of the king
of France. I endeavored, in vain, to make her perceive it, without
mortifying her too much. She always called me her dear friend,
and fairly slaughtered me with saying that prince would
protect me. It was singular for her to speak thus to me; to me
from whom prince solicited protection. She did not confine
herself to this, she even insinuated to me that I should be a
gainer in some way. I laughed outright at this, and said to the
, who was stationed at the door, "Call
mademoiselle's servants." This annoyed her excessively; all the
muscles of her face were contracted with rage; but she restrained
her wrath, saluted me with an assumed respect, and went away,
after having so worthily acquitted herself of her foolish embassy.
She had quitted me for an hour, when I received a letter from
him who had sent her. The prince de Soubise begged me to grant
him an interview, in which he could enter into an explanation. I
replied that I would receive him, and he came the same day.
"I am much pained, madame," said he, on entering, "that
mademoiselle Guimard has communicated with so little address
what I wished to say to you."
"Prince, I think you would have done better to have been the bearer
of your own message. You know my station here, and would not
have ridiculed me as she has done."
M. de Soubise, much puzzled to know what she had said, asked me
"Why," I replied, "she said, that if I would follow your counsels,
you would pay me for my condescension."
"Ah! madame," he exclaimed, "she has completely murdered me.
I only charged her to offer my services to you, and throw myself
at your feet, as I do now."
"Rise, prince, I do not accuse you of such folly, and promise
not to mention it: it is necessary, however, that you should know
I have but one part to play here, that of pleasing the king. Any
other character will not suit me. Honor me with your friendship,
and accept mine in return. I cannot, must not, have any other union
Thus terminated this interview; it did not suit me to give the
prince de Soubise any hopes. He and all the Rohans would have
lived on it; they would have turned my confidence to their gain,
and as they were for the most part sharpers, or something akin to
it, my name would soon have been mixed up with some dirty transaction.
His family was a hydra of avarice, and would alone have swallowed
up all the wealth of France. If the king had taken one of the Rohan
family for his mistress, I believe that the finance department
would not have sufficed for one year's expenditure of this prodigal
family. I had no objection to the prince de Soubise coming to
supper with me, but I did not feel myself disposed to give him
any control over my mind. I should have been ill-guided by a
man who had no government of himself.
If M, de Soubise did not depart satisfied, madame de Marsan, his
relative, to whom he related the bad success of his attempt, was
not more so. She was a woman to have governed a kingdom, had she
been allowed to do so. There was in her woman's head a capacity
superior to that of all the men of her family. She had a great deal
of ambition, and all her actions were the results of a premeditated
plan. She would have ruled the king, the princes, the princesses,
favorites, mistresses, the court, the city, the parliaments, and the
army! Nothing would have been impossible to her; she was adequate
to any thing. Circumstances did not give her the opportunity of
displaying her genius. With great talents and keen perception,
she was reduced to the government of her own family alone; that
was but a trifling matter! In spite of her discontent, madame de
Marsan preserved a sort of neutrality towards me. She allowed
all sorts of ill to be spoken of me without ever repressing a word.
She was then mute and motionless. She saw me torn to pieces
without any emotion. However, when we were together she tried to
cajole me in a thousand ways, all the time detesting me in her
heart; and I, who could scarcely endure the sight of her, paid her
a like number of little attentions. Thus surrounded by hypocrites, I
became one myself. We learn to howl in the society of wolves.
The duc de la Vauguyon and the comtesse du Barry--The marquis
de Chauvelin and the comtesse--M. de Montbarrey and the comtesse--
Intrigues--Lebel--Arrival of the du Barry family--The comte
d'Hargicourt--The demoiselles du Barry--Marriage of the comtesse--
The marquis de Bonrepos--Correspondences--The broken glass
The prince de Soubise was not the only person who wished to act
in the capacity of mentor to me. M. the duc de la Vauguyon
attempted also to be the guide of my youth. This nobleman was
too much of a Jesuit not to have a nose of prodigiously fine scent.
He perceived that the wind was in my favor, and approached me in
consequence. I have mentioned to you his first visit, and he made
me a second a few days afterwards. He appeared very affable,
very conciliating, and insisted particularly several times, and
that without any apparent motive, that the king, not being now
engaged in the ties of wedlock, he should choose some agreeable
companion, and assuredly could not do better than select me. The
day after this visit, early in the morning, the duke sent me a
splendid bouquet, a homage which he afterwards repeated, and
then called on me a third time.
During this visit after a conversation on the embarrassments of an
introduction at Versailles, he proposed that I should avoid them.
"You cannot conceal from yourself," he said, "how powerful will
be the cabal against you; and, without including the Choiseuls,
you will have especially to fear the pious party, who will only
see in your intimacy with the king, allow me to say, a crying
scandal, and one not profitable for religion."
"If the pious party unite with those who are not so to destroy
me," I rejoined, laughing, "I shall have all France against me."
"No; but perhaps all the château. But there is a way of averting
the storm. Attach yourself to the party of honest men who have
been so greatly calumniated--the Jesuits. Philosophy, supported
by the duc de Choiseul, has repressed them; but the high clergy and
the are attached strongly to them, and you would
interest them in your fortune by favoring these worthy fathers."
"What! monsieur le duc," cried I, "will the clergy
of France, and and their suite be favorable to
me, if I use my influence with the king in espousing the cause of
the society of Jesus?"
"Certainly, madame, and I am authorized to promise you. I give
you my word for this. Endeavor to re-establish the order, and
there will not be one of us but will be zealous in supporting you."
"I certainly am desirous of pleasing your friends; but I can see
that, from the first moment of my appearance at court, I shall
be at open war with the Choiseuls and the parliaments."
"What matters it? I confess that the victory will not be easy at
first, but there is no need to exaggerate the difficulties. It is
true that the king has esteem for the duc de Choiseul, but he has
much affection for you, which avails much more.
"As for the parliaments, he hates them, and for many years has
been desirous of ridding himself of them entirely, and he will
effect this by the help of God and your interference."
"This will be hard work for one so weak as I am."
"Oh, you are sufficiently powerful, I assure you. Only confide
in me, the intermediary between you and my friends, let me guide
you, and I will steer to the right port. What do you think of
"Oh! monsieur le duc, it is not at a moment that we can give a
positive reply to such grave matters. I content myself in assuring
you, that I have for you as much confidence as respect, and should
be very happy to obtain your protection."
"My protection! Oh, heaven, madame, you are jesting. It is I who
should be honored by your friendship."
"It is yours; but as yet I am nothing at court, and can do nothing
there until I have been presented. It is for my speedy presentation
that my friends should labor now."
"We will not fail, madame; and if you will allow me to come from
time to time to converse with you, we can take our measures."
"Your visits will always be agreeable."
Such was the conversation which I had with the duc de la Vauguyon.
I have given it somewhat at length, because it was the preface to a
deep intrigue which made a vast noise. I think I extricated myself
very well from the net in which the duke sought to catch me. I knew
that his situation at Versailles compelled me to act with caution
towards him. He was in good odor with , had the ear of
the young dauphin and the princes his brothers. He deceived me
like a true Jesuit as he was, in telling me that the
were well disposed towards me ; and on my side I cheated him with
a promise of confidence and, friendship which I never bestowed.
Ah! my friend, again and again must I exclaim, what a villainous
place is a court!
Whilst the duc de la Vauguyon was seeking to enlist me under
the banners of heaven or the Jesuits, the marquis of Chauvelin
also essayed to make me his pupil; but as frank as he was amiable,
this nobleman did not go to work in a roundabout manner. He
came to me loyally, requesting me to consider his interests and mine.
"The king likes me," said he, "and I am attached to him body and
soul. He tenderly loves you, and I should have no difficulty in
doing the same thing; but as I am no longer of an age to inspire
you with the passion which I should feel towards you, I content
myself with your friendship. I have no enemy here, and no wish
to hurt any person. Thus you need not fear that I shall urge you
to any measures that might compromise you. It is the hatred of
the kingdom that you will have to fear. France is about to march
in a better track, and the best plan is to follow its lead. It
pains me, madame, to use language which may appear severe to you;
we ought only to talk to you of your beauty and the love which it
inspires. But in your situation, even that beauty may serve the
interests of France, and it is for that motive that I come to
I replied to M. de Chauvelin with equal frankness. I told him
that my sole intentions were to confine myself to the circle of
my duties; that I had none but to please the king, and no intention
of mixing myself up with state affairs. This was my plan I can
assure you. I flattered myself that I could follow it, not
dreaming of those political nuisances into which I was precipitated
in spite of myself. I added, nevertheless, that in my situation,
which was delicate, I would not refuse the counsels of a faithful
servant of the king, and that under this title M. de Chauvelin
should be consulted on important occasions.
The marquis de Chauvelin had too much good sense, too much
knowledge of the world, not to perceive a refusal concealed under
this politeness. The secret inclination of my heart had already
led me to select the duc d'Aiguillon for my director, and I could
not reconcile myself to any other. He contented himself with
asking me again for my friendship, which I willingly accorded
him, and I have always found myself fortunate in his. Thus did I
accept the offers of service from the prince de Soubise, the duc
de la Vauguyon, and the marquis de Chauvelin.
A fourth sought to swell the ranks; the comte, afterwards prince,
de Montbarrey. This gentleman made up in pretensions for what he
lacked in talent. He was weak, self-important, selfish, fond of
women, and endeavored to preserve all the airs of a man of good
breeding in the midst of the grossest debauchery. He was full of
respect for himself and his house, of which in time of need he
could cite the whole genealogy. His nomination was a real scandal;
no one dreamt of his ever being minister of war. It was one of the
thousand follies of old Maurepas, whom the late king knew well, and
called the ballad-maker of the council.
The comte de Montbarrey, whom I had known at Paris, came to me
one fine day, fully powdered, performed, and apparelled. He had a
smile on his lip, a loud tone, and an insolent look. He came not
to ask my friendship, but my obedience. He told me that he loved
me to distraction, and of course my head must be equally towards
him. He amused me. I let him run out the full length of his line;
and when he had spun it all out, I said to him, "Monsieur, be so
good as to call me to the recollection of madame de Merfort."
She was one of the gambling ladies, and at her house I had
formerly met the chevalier de Montbarrey. My reply confounded
him: he saw that he had gone the wrong way to work with me;
and, raising the siege, he left me excessively embarrassed.
Figure to yourself, my friend, what confidence a man, lost in the
crowd of lower courtiers, could inspire me with; for to judge of
the proceedings of the comte de Montbarrey, it would have been
necessary to have seen him as he then was, and not what he became
since the imbecility of M. de Maurepas. When I told comte Jean
of his visit, he would not believe such insolence. You must know
that my brother-in-law also wished to direct me, but I did not
consider him sufficiently clever. His marvellous genius was
eclipsed in politics. He swore at my ingratitude, and I could
only appease him by an offering of plenty of money.
In the midst of this cross-fire of intrigues, one was devised
against me which might have terminated in my ruin; but, thanks
to the indefatigable activity of comte Jean, only served to fix
me more firmly in my situation. Lebel, of whom I have said
nothing for this age, came to me one day: his face was sad, and
his look serious. By his manner I augured that my reign had
passed, and that I must quit my post. I awaited what he should
say with mortal impatience. At length he began thus:
"Madame, you have many bitter enemies, who are laboring to
effect your ruin with a blood-thirstiness which nothing can assuage.
They have now spread a report that you are not married. This
"Ah, is that all?' said I with joy; "no, my dear Lebel, this time
they do not calumniate me. The worthy creatures for once are right."
"What," said Lebel, in a tone of alarm almost comic, "what, are
you really not married?"
"Are you not the wife of the comte Guillaume du Barry?"
"Then you have deceived the king, and played with me."
"Lebel, my friend, take another tone. No one has any right to
complain. You have given me to the king as a person to please
him; I do so. The rest can be no matter of yours."
"Pardon me, madame; it is a matter of the greatest consequence to
me. I am terribly compromised in this affair, and you with me."
Lebel told me that the duchesse de Grammont had begged him to call
upon her, and had bitterly reproached him about the mistress he had
procured for the king; the duchesse affirmed that I was a nameless
and unmarried creature; and added, that it was his duty to make
the king acquainted with these particulars, unless I, the pretended
wife of du Barry, would consent to go to England when a large
pension should be assured to me.
"No, my dear Lebel, I will not go to England; I will remain in
France, at Versailles, at the château. If I am not married I will
be; the thing is easily managed."
Lebel. somewhat assured, begged me to send for comte Jean, and
when he came he (Lebel) recommenced his tale of grief.
"You are drowning yourself in a glass of water," said my future
brother-in-law to him, beginning to treat him with less ceremony;
"go back to the duchesse de Grammont, and tell her that madame
was married at Toulouse. She will have an inquiry set on foot; in
the mean while my brother will arrive, and the marriage will take
place. Then we will show the rebels a real comtesse du Barry;
and whether my sister-in-law be a lady of six months' standing or
only of yesterday, that is of no consequence to the king of France."
After this conversation Lebel delivered the message to the duchesse
de Grammont, who told him that she should write to Toulouse to the
attorney-general. This was what the comte Jean wished and he was
prepared for her.
But, you will say to me, was it certain that your asserted husband
would marry you? Were there no difficulties to fear? None.
Comte Guillaume was poor, talented, and ambitious; he liked high
living, and would have sold himself to the devil for riches. He
was happy in marrying me. Comte Jean would not have ventured
such a proposal to his other brother, the comte d'Hargicourt, who
had much good sense and great notions of propriety, and who at
Versailles was called the ; a distinction not over
flattering to his two brothers.
The same evening the whole family arrived, and was presented to me
the next day. My two future sisters-in-law frightened me at first
with their provincial manners and southern accent; but, after a
few minutes, I found that this Gascon pronunciation had many charms
with it. Mesdemoiselles du Barry were not handsome but very
agreeable. One was called Isabelle, whom they had nicknamed
, the other's name was Fanchon, and her name had been
abbreviated to "." The latter had much talent, and even
brought to Versailles with her, an instinctive spirit of diplomacy
which would have done honor to a practised courtier. She would
have been thought simple, unsophisticated, and yet was full
of plot and cunning.
I was soon much pleased with her, and the king became equally
so. He was always very much amused at hearing her talk
(provincially), or recite the verses of one Gondouli, a poet of
Languedoc. He used to make her jump upon his knees; and altho'
she had passed the first bloom of youth, he played with her like
a child. But what most particularly diverted the king, was calling
my sister-in-law by her nickname; ","
he was always saying, "do this, go there, come here." Louis XV
did the same with his own daughters: he had amongst them a ,
a , a , and they were the ladies Victoire,
Adélaïde, and Sophie, whom he thus elegantly designated. I so
soon saw the taste of the king for nicknames that I gave him
one, it was Lafrance. So far from being angry with me, he laughed
to tears every time that I called him so. I must confess,
passant>, that the anecdote about the coffee is true.* I will only
justify myself by saying, that if I expressed myself coarsely it
was not in consequence of my vulgar education, but because the
king liked such modes of expression.
*Louis XV had a habit of making his own coffee after
dinner. One day the coffee boiled over the sides of the
pot, and madame du Barry cried out, " Eh, Lafrance,
ton cafe f --- le camp." (author)
Let me revert to my marriage, which was performed secretly at the
parish of Saint Laurent. I believe the king knew of it, altho' he
never alluded to it any more than myself. Thus the malice of my
enemies was completely balked in this affair. Some days afterwards
comte Jean received a letter from the attorney-general of the
parliament of Toulouse, M. the marquis de Bonrepos-Riquet. This
gentleman informed my brother-in-law that he had been applied to,
to institute an inquiry at all the notaries, and amongst all the
registers of the parishes for the proof of my marriage; that he
warned us to be on our guard, and that whatever diligence he
might be desired to employ, he should do nothing without informing
us. We felt the obligation of this proceeding, and my brother-in-law
thanked the attorney-general in my name as well as in his own. He
told him that it was not at Toulouse that the parties interested
should make their researches for my marriage certificate, but at
Paris, either at the parish church of Saint Laurent, or at the
notary's, Lepot d'Auteuil. M. de Bonrepos gave part of this reply
to the duchesse de Grammont. Great was the bustle amongst the
Choiseuls! I leave you to judge of the fury of the lady or ladies,
for the contesse de Grammont was no less irritated than the other,
always prepossessed with the idea, that to please the king was
to wrong their family. The comtesse de Grammont had not half the
talent of the duchesse, she had only her faults. She showed herself
so rude and impertinent towards me, that I was at length compelled,
not to exile her of my own accord, but to allow that she should
be so served. But I anticipate, for this did not occur until the
The king by all his kindnesses endeavored to recompense me for
these attacks: he appeared charmed to see me surrounded by my
husband's family. He placed amongst the pages the vicomte Adolphe
du Barry, son of comte Jean, a young man of great promise, but
whose destiny was so brief and so unfortunate. My husband's family
testified much affection for me, as did the duc d'Aiguillon, to whom
I daily attached myself. He carefully kept from me all that could
give me pain, and took a thousand precautions that no unpleasant
reports should reach me. If we passed a short time without meeting
he wrote to me, and I confess I was delighted with a correspondence
which formed my own style. Mademoiselle Chon, my sister-in-law,
and I also wrote to each other, and that from one room to another.
I remember that one day, having broken a glass of rock crystal which
she had given me, I announced my misfortune in such solemn style,
and with so well feigned a tone of chagrin, that the letter amused
the whole family. The king saw it, and was so much pleased that
he kept it, and next day sent me a golden goblet enriched with
stones, which I gave to Chon, to whom it rightfully belonged.
Journey to Choisy--The comtesse du Barry and Louis XV--The king
of Denmark--The czar Peter--Frederick II--The abbé de la Chapelle--
An experiment--New intrigues--Secret agents-The comtesse and
Louis XV--Of the presentation--Letter of the comtesse to the
duc d'Aiguillon--Reply--Prince de Soubise
Up to this period I had resided constantly at Versailles or Paris,
according to the pleasure of the king, but had never followed his
majesty in any of his journeys. He wished to pass some days at
his delightful château at Choisy, situated on the banks of the
Seine. It was decided that I should be of the party, taking the
name of the baroness de Pamklek, a German lady, as that would
save me from the embarrassment in which I should be placed with
the king in consequence of my non-presentation. The prince de
Soubise, the ducs de la Trimoulle, d'Ayen, d'Aiguillon, and the
marquis de Chauvelin, were also to attend the king. The king
remained nearly the whole time with me, and the < entrée > to my
apartment became a favor not accorded to every body. A small
committee met there, and talked of every thing except what is
rational; and I can assure you that with such conversation time
passes very quickly.
One day the king entered my apartment holding in his hand a letter.
"I am about to receive," said he, "a visit that will not give me
much pleasure. My brother of Denmark is traversing Europe, and
is about to come to France. ! what inconvenient
persons are your travelling kings! Why do they leave their
kingdoms? I think they are very well at home."
"Yes, sire, but there is an excuse for them: they are weary of
admiring your majesty at a distance, and wish for the happiness
of knowing you."
At this compliment the king rubbed his hands with a smile, which
he always did when he was satisfied, and then said,
"There is not in the hearts of foreign potentates the same
affection towards my person as you feel. It is not me but France
they wish to see. I remember that when very young I received a
visit from the czar Peter the Great, Peter the First I mean to
say. He was not deficient in sense, but yet behaved like a boor:
he passed his time in running over the academies, libraries, and
manufactories: I never saw such an ill-bred man. Imagine him
embracing me at our first interview, and carrying me in his arms
as one of my valets would have done. He was dirty, coarse, and
ill-dressed. Well, all the Frenchmen ran after him; one would
have supposed by their eagerness that they had never seen a
"Yet there was no occasion to run very far to see the handsome
face of a king."
"Hold your tongue, madame la baronne de Pamklek, you are a flatterer.
There is a crowned head which for thirty years has desired to visit
France, but I have always turned a deaf ear, and will resist it as
long as possible."
"Who, sire, is the king so unfortunate as to banished by you from
your majesty's presence?"
"Who? The king of philosophers, the rival of Voltaire, my brother
of Prussia. Ah, my dear baronne, he is a bad fellow; he detests me,
and I have no love for him. A king does wisely, certainly, to submit
his works to the judgment of a Freron! It would be outrageous
scandal if he came here. Great and small would crowd around him,
and there would not be twenty persons in my train."
"Ah! sire , do you think so?"
"I am sure of it. The French now-a-days do not care for their
kings, and will be renewed at an early day. After
all, philosophers believe that Frederick II protects them: the
honest man laughs both at them and me."
"At you, sire? Impossible."
"No, no; I know the impertinences he is guilty of towards me:
but let him. I prefer making my court to the pretty women of my
kingdom instead of to my pages. You may depend upon it that if
he came to Versailles he would debauch some of them."
The king, charmed at having said this malicious speech, rubbed
his hands again.
"Really, sire," I replied, "I am astonished that this prince,
having such disgusting inclinations, can have much <éclat>
attached to his name."
"Ah, that is because he has great qualities: he will not allow
himself to be cheated. Do you know that he is acquainted with
the disposal of his finances to the last farthing?"
"Sire, he must be a miser."
"No, madame, he is a man of method. But enough of him. As to his
majesty of Denmark, altho' he would have been as welcome to stay
at home, I shall receive him with as much attention as possible. The
kings of Denmark and Sweden are my natural allies."
The king changed the subject, and said, "There is an abbé, named
la Chapelle, whom I think half cracked. He flatters himself that
he can, thro' the medium of some apparatus, remain on the water
without sinking. He begs my permission to exhibit his experiment
before me; and if it would amuse you, we will have the exhibition
to-morrow." I accepted the king's proposal with pleasure.
On the next day we went in a body to the terrace of the château.
The king was near me with his hat in his hand; the duc de Duras
gave me his arm. M. l' abbé waited us in a boat: he flung himself
bodily into the water, dressed in a sort of cork-jacket, moved in
any direction in the water, drank, ate, and fired off a gun. So far
all went off well, but the poor abbé, to close the affair, wrote a
letter to the king. The letter was carried in great pomp to his
majesty. It contained two verses of Racine, which had some
double allusion to the experiment. This, you may be sure, was
interpreted in the worst manner. The duc d'Ayen gave the finishing
stroke to the whole, on his opinion being asked by the king.
"Sire," said he, "such men ought to be thrown into the water; but
all we can wish for them is, that they should remain there."
The abbé was not more fortunate in the evening. He presented
himself at supper, but the king did not address a word to him, and
he was compelled to bear the malicious jokes of the courtiers. But
let us leave Choisy and the experimentalist, and return to Versailles
My friends were excessively desirous for my presentation, which
would decide my position at the château. As yet I only had an
equivocal existence, having rank neither at play, theatre, or public
festival; so that if the king should be capricious I could be
dismissed as one of the demoiselles of the . The
duc d'Aiguillon, whose attachment to me increased, calculated
accurately all the advantages of this presentation. It would place
me on the same footing with madame de Pompadour, and compel
the ministers to come and work with me. The duke did not doubt
but that M. de Choiseul would refuse to pay his to me,
and that his resistance would lead to his fall. But for my
presentation, it was necessary not only that the king should
consent, for of that I was certain, but that he should desire it,
and his desire could not be depended on.
Louis XV was excessively timid: with an air which appeared of a
dreadnaught quality, he was fearful at heart. The clamors of
Versailles kept him in alarm; and he kept at his own court and
at foreign courts secret agents, whose only care was to report
to him the complaints of the people and the sarcasms and satires
of society. The king was attached to them; and when the force of
circumstances compelled him to abandon them, he still supported
them clandestinely with all his power. A proof of what I advance
may be known as regards the chevalier or chevalière d'Eon, I know
not which. But these secret agents were, unknown to the king, all
devoted to the parliaments, and consequently inimical to courtiers,
favorites, and especially mistresses. God knows how they disposed
of us! By these unpropitious channels the king had learnt all the
hatred which was borne to madame de Pompadour. He was afraid of
exciting the discontent of the people by announcing another mistress,
and was no less intimidated at the severity of madame Louise, and
the ill-humor of his other children. He loved his pleasure much,
but his ease more.
Comte Jean, who was restrained by no considerations, advised me
to overleap all difficulty, by asking the king myself for the favor
which I coveted. His advice seemed rational, and I was besides
urged on to do so. Each day brought to me impertinences said of
me by the noble ladies of the château. I learnt that they boasted
that I should never set foot in the great apartments, but should
remain the obscure mistress of the king. This made me impatient,
and by degrees deprived me of my natural gaiety.
One day when the king was with me, he perceived my want of spirits.
"What ails you?" said be, with the greatest solicitude.
"What ails me!" replied I, "I wish I were dead, rather than see
myself the butt of all the scandal of the foul-mouthed gossips
of your court."
The king, suspecting the confidence I was about to repose in him,
was sorry he had asked for it, and was silent. He began to play
a tattoo with his fingers on the chimney-piece. At this moment
mademoiselle Chon came in. The king, delighted at seeing her,
instantly inquired into her state of health. She, after a profound
"Sire, how can I be well when there is trouble in my family?"
"Ah, ! what is this?" said he, turning to me.
"I am insulted, hooted: they say that I have the misfortune to be
no longer in the good graces of your majesty."
"Ah, tell them they lie in their throats," replied the king,
kissing me on the forehead; "you are the woman of my heart, and
she whom I would fain load with honors. "
"Your majesty speaks to me," I answered, "with great condescension
[my sister-in-law left the room that she might not spoil the
explanation], but yet you are the cause of the insolences which
I am subjected to from the vile crew."
"What is the matter with you to-day? In truth you are a perfect
"I wish I were, that I might punish evil tongues, since there is
no king of France to avenge me."
"You are severe, madame," replied Louis XV, turning his imposing
and handsome face towards me, and to which he vainly endeavored
to give an air of anger. I saw my success, and added,
"Yes, sire, it is insupportable for me to think that I am supposed
not to possess your friendship, and that I only play the part of a
temporary friend. It makes me wretched: you must not be angry if
I complain of you to your royal self."
"Well, well, you madcap, what must I do? Whom must I banish?"
"Oh, sire, no one: with your august support I fear no person;
nothing but appearances."
"You are an excellent creature; in your place madame de Pompadour
would have imprisoned half France."
"That was because she loved revenge better than she loved your
majesty. As for me, I should be miserable if I were the cause of
one single family complaining against you."
The king, delighted at these words, which really came from my
heart, embraced me tenderly two or three times, and said,
"I wish your enemies could understand you, for they would soon
be at your knees. But if we imprison or exile no person, how
shall we strike terror into them?"
"It is not terror but envy that I would excite. Let me be
presented at court, and all my wishes will be satisfied."
"I cannot for the life of me divine why you should lay so much
stress on coming to weary yourself with the ceremonies of myself
and daughters. Heaven preserve you from all the irksomeness of
court ceremony!" And Louis XV sighed. "Did you ever think," he
added, "of all the vanities, all the interests I have to manage;
all the intrigues that are perpetually agitating, and all the opposition
made to me? The court, the city, the people, will rise against
me: they will clamor, groan, complain; verse, prose, epigram, and
pamphlet will appear in uninterrupted succession. You would be
first attacked, and hatred will perhaps extend to me. I shall see
again the times when the Damiens, in the name of the parliaments,
as one party says, in the name of the Jesuits, as the other party
says, and, what is more true, in the name--"
The king suddenly paused; a deep shade of melancholy settled on
his features, his noble head dropped on his bosom. Louis XV
remained for some time motionless; at length,
"Well," he exclaimed, attempting to force a smile, "well! I will
write to the ladies de Grammont, to inform them that they need
not give themselves the trouble to remain near me at the château."
On his saying these words I darted towards the door, and went
into my chamber. The king followed, and finding there mademoiselle
Chon, who was working at some tapestry, said to her,
"Mademoiselle, I confide to your care, and by oral
cachet>, the most amiable little devil in France. And now,
mademoiselle du Barry, having nothing further to add, I pray
God to take you to His powerful and holy keeping."
After this pleasantry the king, delighted at the gay termination
of a somewhat serious scene, went, or rather vanished; for to
use a proverbial expression, he ran like a thief.
As soon as I was alone with my sister-in-law, I told her all that
"I see," said she, "that the king is fearful of offending the duc
de Choiseul, and giving annoyance to his daughters. But a step
must be determined on which will place you out of the reach of
complete disgrace. Would it not be best to get some nobleman,
who can do so with influence, to speak to him on the subject? If
the duc de Richelieu were here--"
"But," I instantly exclaimed, "have we not his nephew, the duc d'
Aiguillon? He is well with the king, and I am certain will take
the most lively interest in all that concerns me."
"I have no doubt of it," said Chon, with a sly look. "Write to
him to come, and you can arrange your ulterior proceedings."
On this advice, which was quite to my taste, I went instantly to
my writing-table, the last present which the king had made me.
It was made of silver gilt, and china slabs beautifully painted.
When I opened it, a glass was lifted which reflected my countenance.
I sat down and wrote the following note to the duc d'Aiguillon:--
"You must be content. I want your assistance, I
really want it. The moment has come for deserving
all my confidence. Will you have it at all risks and
perils? Reflect well before you undertake this: if
you accept, come to-day at five o'clock precisely,
neither later nor sooner."
A little while afterwards the following reply was brought.
"One thing displeases me in your letter which else
enchants me. You appear to doubt my obedience.
Am I not your slave? And when you say to me ,
will I not ? Rely on me as on yourself; even
more: for your vivacity may lead you into error,
and I shall preserve my reason. Yes, madame, I
will, when near you, preserve my reason when your
interests are at stake. At the fixed hour I shall
have the honor to lay at your feet my respectful
homage and boundless devotion."
It was impossible to express a real sentiment with more delicacy.
I was charmed at it, no longer doubting that the duke would
consider my interests as his own. I awaited the hour of five
with impatience, when my good fortune brought the prince de
Soubise. After the first compliments,
"Well, madame la comtesse, when is your presentation to take place?"
"I do not know, monsieur le maréchal; there are obstacles in the
way. I fear that they who wish to injure me abuse their influence
with the king."
"I see that his majesty hesitates, altho' he is desirous of giving
you station. He must be stimulated to know that he is master;
and that if he shows any wavering in this particular, it will be
made use of to govern him hereafter."
Heartily did I applaud the language of M. de Soubise: I did not
suspect that the dear prince had another motive behind. At the
end of the interview he said,
"Madame, you would not have been as you now are had you been
more conciliatory towards me. I know the king, and know how to
manage him. I flatter myself that you would have been now presented
had you deigned to hear my advice."
"Did I reject it? Was I wrong in declining to have mademoiselle
Guimard as ambassadress? Were you assured of her silence?
Might she not have compromised us?"
"You are right; I did as one would have done at your age, and you
have done as I should do at mine; but there is always time to amend."
"You accept my advice, then."
"Yes," I replied, seeing the defile in which he wished to entrap
me, "yes, if I am presented thro' your influence, from that
moment you become my guide and mentor. But it is important
that the presentation be not delayed; I rely on you to speak to
the king this day about it; and I know that he will give me every
particular of the immense service you will render me."
For once the madcap girl got the better of the practised courtier.
M. de Soubise, taken in his own snare, politely excused himself,
and left me with an assurance that he would speak to the king.
He did speak, but obtained nothing more than any other. You
will see in my next letter that I did not arrive at the
accomplishment of my wishes without much trouble. There were
in this affair more intrigues for and against me than were afterwards
set on foot to decide war with America.
The comtesse and the duc d'Aiguillon--M. de Soubise--Louis XV
and the duc d'Aiguillon--Letter from the comtesse to the king--
Answer of the king-The ""--The comtesse and
Louis XV--The supper--The court ladies mystified--The comtesse and
M. de Sartines
I was still triumphing at the skill which I had displayed
in my conference with the prince de Soubise when the
duc d'Aiguillon entered.
"Good heaven," said he, kissing my hand very tenderly, "into
what inquietude did you throw me by your dear and cruel letter.
The ambiguity of your style has caused me inexpressible sorrow;
and you have added to it by not allowing me to come to you at
the first moment."
"I could not: I thought it would be dangerous for you to appear
before the king previously to having seen me."
"Would the king have thought my visit strange?" asked the duke,
not without some emotion.
"That is not the point. The black spite of my enemies has not
yet deprived me of the counsels of a friend. But as it is necessary
to speak to the king in my favor, I wish that he should not know
that you do so at my request."
After this I related to the duke my conversation with the king.
"Your situation is delicate," said he to me, "but it should not
trouble you. The king is weak, we must give him courage. It is
his pliancy of disposition rather than his resistance that we must
contend with, and I go to act upon it. "
I then instructed the duke with what had passed between me and
the prince de Soubise. When I had done, the duke replied :
"Expect nothing from the prince de Soubise: he will speak, no
doubt; but how? In a jesting, laughing way. If, however, you
think he can at all serve you, give him all your confidence."
"No, no, never," I replied with quickness; "it is not a thing to be
done lightly; we do not select a confidant, counsellor, or friend,
at random. Do you not know this, M. le duc? It is requisite that
the heart of the one who speaks should repose itself on the heart
of the friend who listens. I repeat to you that I have no feeling of
confidence towards M. de Soubise. In fact," I added with visible
and troubled emotion, "my choice is made, and you have too much
heroism to wish to combat it."
At these flattering words the duke precipitated himself at my feet,
and swore to support my cause with all his power and interest. I
replied that I fully relied on his devotion and prudence. Comte
Jean entered, and it was agreed between us three that I should say
no more to the king of my presentation before the duc d'Aiguillon
had spoken to him of it; that I should content myself with
complaining without peevishness, and that we should leave the
opening measure to the prince de Soubise, and let him break the
ice to his majesty.
The prince de Soubise behaved exactly as the duke had told me: he
came to me the next morning with a mysterious air, which already
informed me of all he had to say. He said that he had vainly
tormented the king; that his majesty wished things to remain just
as they were, and desired that until a new order of things nothing
should be altered.
"I am sorry for it, monsieur le maréchal," I replied. "Whilst I am
in this precarious situation, whilst I remain in a corner of the
stage as a confidante of tragedy, I can do nothing for my friends,
particularly for you, monsieur le maréchal."
"On the contrary, madame," he replied, "the king will be more
disposed to listen to you whilst he will suppose that your
influence is unknown."
"Oh," cried I with a feeling of anger, "you gentlemen courtiers
think of nothing but politics. As for me, who am a woman, I have
other matters for consideration: I must have honors, title, rank.
My self-love suffers cruelly when I see myself immolated by the
fear which the ladies de Grammont and three or four other intriguers
of their party are able to excite."
The prince was somewhat startled at the freedom of language
which I used towards ladies in such credit at court: he begged me
to moderate my feelings, and be less moved and excited. By this
the prince de Soubise lost the esteem which I might have accorded
him, and the second place in my counsels, which I might have
I told the duke, who came to see me the moment afterwards, of the
failure of the prince's attempt. He told me that he had not hoped
for a better result. He went to the king, flattering himself with
hopes of better success, but did not find him.
The daughters of Louis XV had united against me with a fury
which nothing could justify. They were incessantly talking
scandal of my past life, as if there were only saints at court, as
if they had no pranks of their own to reproach themselves with.
All the château knew of their lovers, and there was
evidence of the tenderness of madame Adélaïde: as for madame
Louise she was an angel upon earth, and was the only one who
did not join in the cry against me. On the other hand, the king,
whilst he had but little love for his dear daughters, preserved
towards them a complaisance and external appearance of kindness
which was a substitute for parental love. When
cried out, he stopped his ears with his two hands, and seemed,
whilst looking proudly at France, to say, "Am not I a good father,
and are not my daughters very happy, for I let them cry out with
all their might?"
The next day the duc d'Aiguillon went again to the king, and found
him bewildered with family scenes and the murmurings of the
Choiseuls. When my ambassador had delivered his message, the
king asked him if he, as well as the prince de Soubise, had been
set upon his haunches by me.
The duke, nothing intimidated at this, told the king that far from
having wished that he should be my interpreter, I had requested
him not to allude to the matter.
"Why, then," said Louis XV laughing, "do you not follow the
advice of the comtesse?"
"Because I entertain a sincere attachment for her, and that I am
vexed to hear it said that there are persons who lead your majesty."
"Who are the insolents that hold such language?"
"They surround you, sire. There is not a female here but affirms
that you dare not decide on the presentation of the comtesse."
"I alone am master, and will let them know it when the opportunity
arrives; but the present moment is not fitting. The comtesse knows
how well I love her; and if she will prove her friendship towards
me, she will remain quiet for some time."
The duke thought it best to be silent, and came to me. After
relating the conversation, he added, "Do not appear at all dejected;
the king would not then visit you lest he should find you out of
temper. Were I you I should write to him; a word of peace would
set him at ease."
I approved this advice, and instantly penned the following letter: --
Sire -They tell me that your majesty has been tormented
on my account. It is a treason of which I alone could
believe myself capable. But why should I complain? You
have done so much for me that I ought to esteem myself
happy: your august friendship consoles me thro' all my
annoyances. Be assured that henceforth I shall pout no
more; I will be the best sheep in the world, relying on
my shepherd for not having my fleece cut too closely;
for after all I think I am the petted ewe, etc."
A short time afterwards a page brought me a splendid box of
with a pair of ruby ear-rings surrounded with diamonds, and this
short billet: --
"Yes, assuredly you are my pet ewe, and always shall
be. The shepherd has a strong crook with which he
will drive away those who would injure you. Rely on
your shepherd for the care of your tranquillity, and
the peace of your future life."
In the evening the king visited me. He was embarrassed, but I set
him at ease by showing him a laughing countenance, talking only
of his present, which I had in my ears, and shaking my head about
to keep the drops in motion, which sparkled with great brilliancy.
He was pleased at this, and did not leave me all the evening. In
the morning we were the best friends in the world.
Some days elapsed, when comte Jean came to me, bringing two
infamous articles which had appeared in the ","
and were directed against me. They were atrocious and deeply
chagrined me: I placed them on the mantel-piece, where all who
came in could see them. The duc de Duras read them, and said,
"Conceal these atrocities from the king."
"No," was my reply, "I wish him to read them, that he may know
how his affections are respected, and how the police of Paris are
employed in doing their duty to the throne."
These last words annoyed M. de Duras, between whom and M. de
Sartines there was a connection: the duke was indebted to the
lieutenant-general of police for the special surveillance which he
kept over a young girl of whom he, the duc de Duras, was foolishly
enamoured. Trembling for his M. de Sartines, he
wrote to him in haste, but had not courage or talent enough to
undertake the defence of the guilty person.
The king came as usual; his general station was at the chimney-piece,
where he amused himself with looking at the baubles that ornamented
it. The "" fell in his way. He read them
once, then again; then, without uttering a word, threw them into
the fire. I observed him, and saw that he was full of emotion
which he sought to conceal, but the anger burst forth soon. The
prince de Soubise, who supped with us that evening, asked the duc
de Duras if he had read the ""
"No," was the reply; "I seldom read such nonsense."
"And you are quite right," said the king. "There is at present a
most inconceivable mania for writing. What is the use, I ask you,
gentlemen, of this deluge of books and pamphlets with which
France is inundated? They only contain the spirit of rebellion:
the freedom of writing ought not to be given to every body.
There should be in a well-regulated state seven or eight writers,
not more; and these under the inspection of government. Authors
are the plague of France; you will see whither they will lead it."
The king spoke this with an animated air, and if at this moment
M. de la Vrillière had come to ask for a
against a writer, the king would not have refused it.
"Besides," added the king, in a tone of less anger, but no less
emphatically, "I see with pain that the police do not do their duty
with regard to all these indignities."
"Yet," said the duc de Duras, "M. de Sartines does wonders."
"Then why does he tolerate such insults? I will let him know
The duc de Duras was alarmed, and kept his mouth closed. The king
then, resuming his gaiety, joked the two gentlemen on their secret
intrigues: then changing the conversation suddenly, he talked of
the expected arrival of the king of Denmark.
"Duc de Duras," said he, "you and your son must do the office of
master of ceremonies to his majesty. I hope you will
endeavor to amuse him."
"Mind, what you undertake is no joke. It is no easy matter to
amuse a king."
This was a truth which I perceived at every moment, and our monarch
was not the one to be amused with trifling exertion. Frequently
when he entered my apartment he threw himself on an ottoman, and
yawned most excessively, yes, yawned in my company. I had but one
mode of rousing him from this apathy, but it was a sure one. I
spoke of the high magistracy and its perpetual resistance to the
throne. Then the king aroused, instantly sprung from his seat,
traversed the room with rapid strides, and declaimed vigorously
against the ; thus he styled the parliaments. I
confess, however, that I only had recourse to the "black gowns"
at the last extremity. Little did I think that at a later period
I should league myself against them. On the one hand, the duc
d'Aiguillon hated them mortally, and on the other, the comte Jean,
like a real Toulousian, would have carried them in his slippers;
so that wavering between the admiration of the one and the hatred
of the other, I knew not which to listen to, or which party to side
with. But to return to present matters.
The king was always thinking of the "< Nouvelles a la Main,>" and
determined to avenge me as openly as I had been attacked. Two
or three days afterwards he gave a supper, to which he invited the
duchesse and comtesse de Grammont, madame de Forcalquier, the
princess de Marsan, the maréchale de Mirepoix, and the comtesses
de Coigny and de Montbarrey. They were seated at table laughing
and amusing themselves; they talked of the pleasure of being to
, of having no ; they pierced me with a
hundred thrusts; they triumphed! And yet the king was laughing in
his sleeve. At a premeditated signal the duc d'Aiguillon, one of
the guests, asked his majesty if he had seen the comtesse du Barry
that day. This terrible name, thrown suddenly into the midst of
my enemies, had the effect of a thunder-clap. All the ladies looked
at each other first and then at the king, and the duc d'Aiguillon,
reserving profound silence. His majesty then replied, that he had
not had the happiness of visiting me that day, not having had one
moment's leisure; then eulogized me at great length, and ended by
saying to the duke, "If you see the comtesse before I do, be sure
to say that I drank this glass of wine to her health."
The ladies did not anticipate this. The duchesse de Grammont
particularly, in spite of long residence at court, turned pale to
her very ears, and I believe but for etiquette she would have
fallen into a swoon. I learnt afterwards from the maréchale de
Mirepoix, that the duchesse, on going home, gave herself up to a
fit of rage, which did not terminate even on the following day.
When the king related this occurrence to me, he was as proud
of it as if he had done a most courageous deed.
But I have omitted a day which was of great importance to me in its
consequences. I mean the day which followed that on which I had
complained to the duc de Duras of M. the lieutenant of police. In
the morning early my sister-in-law came into my room.
"Sister," said she, "comte Jean is here with M. de Sartines, who
begs to pay his respects to you. Will you receive him?"
"M. de Sartines! Yes, let him come in; I will treat him as
Comte Jean then came in, preceded by the lieutenant of police: he
wore a large peruke with white powder, and curled with the utmost
care. Wigs were his mania, and he had a room filled from floor
to ceiling with these ornaments. The duc d'Ayen said, that he
never should be in trouble about the council of state, for in case
of need, it might be found and replenished from the house of the
lieutenant of police. Let us leave wigs and revert to M. de Sartines.
He appeared before me with the air of Tartuffe, and, forgive the
"Madame," said he to me, "I have been informed that I am in
disgrace with you, and have come to inquire how I may extricate
myself from this misfortune."
"You ought to know, sir. Twice in one month have I been shamefully
insulted; and yet the first intimation of such a thing ought to have
put you on your guard."
M. de Sartines, whom my tone had much surprised, endeavored to
justify himself, when comte Jean said to him,
"My dear lieutenant of police, all you have said goes for nothing.
One thing is certain, and that is, that there is a deficiency of
respect towards my sister-in-law. You say that it is not your
fault: what proof do you give us of this? What inquiries have
you made? What measures have you taken? Any? Why do you come
to us if you aid our enemies?"
M. de Sartines would fain have ensconced himself in his own dignity.
"M. du Barry," was his reply, "I shall render an account of my
conduct to the king."
"Very well, sir," I replied, "but do not suppose that either you
or the Choiseuls can give me any cause of fear."
M. de Sartines was thunderstruck; my boldness astonished him. At
length he said,
"Madame, you are angry with me causelessly; I am more negligent
than culpable. It is useless to say this to the king."
"I will not conceal from you, sir, that he knows it all, and is
greatly discontented with you. "
"I am lost then," said M. de Sartines.
"Lost! not precisely," replied comte Jean; "but you must decide
at once and for ever what party you will join. If you are with us
they will use you harshly; if you take the opposite party look to
After some turnings and twistings, accompanied with compliments,
M. de Sartines declared that he would range himself under our
banner. Then I extended to him my hand in token of reconciliation;
he took it with respect, and kissed it with gallantry. Up to this
time we had conversed with feelings of restraint and standing; but
now we seated ourselves, and begun a conference in form, as to the
manner of preventing a recurrence of the offensive outrages against
me. As a proof of good intention M. de Sartines told me the author
of the two articles of which I complained. He was a wretch, named
Ledoux, who for twelve hundred livres per annum wrote down all
those who displeased the duchesse de Grammont. This lady had no
fear of doing all that was necessary to remove every obstacle to the
publication of such infamies.
After M. de Sartines had given us all the details which we desired,
and after I had promised to reconcile him to his master, he went
away delighted with having seen me. Believe me, my friend, it is
necessary to be as handsome as I am, that is to say, as I was, to
seduce a lieutenant of police.
The sieur Ledoux--The --The duc de la Vrillière--
Madame de Langeac--M. de Maupeou--Louis XV--The comte Jean
On that very evening, the king having come to me, I said to him,
"Sire, I have made acquaintance with M. de Sartines."
"What! has he been to make friends with you?"
"Something like it: but he has appeared to me less culpable than I
thought. He had only yielded to the solicitation of my personal enemy."
"You cannot have one at my court, madame; the lieutenant of police
would have done well not to have named her to you."
"Thanks to him, however, I shall now know whom I ought to mistrust.
I know also who is the author of the two scurrilous paragraphs."
"Some scamp, no doubt; some beggarly scoundrel."
"A monsieur Ledoux."
"Ah, I know the fellow. His bad reputation has reached me. It
must be stopped at last."
So saying, Louis XV went to the chimney, and pulled the bell-rope
with so much vehemence that ten persons answered it at once.
"Send for the duc de la Vrillière; if he be not suitably attired let
him come in his night-gown, no matter so that he appear quickly."
On hearing an order given in this manner a stranger might have
supposed the king crazy, and not intent on imprisoning a miserable
libeller. I interceded in his favor, but Louis XV, delighted at an
opportunity of playing the king at a small cost, told me that it
was no person's business, and he would be dictated to by no one.
I was silent, reserving myself until another opportunity when I
could undertake the defence of the poor devil.
The duc de la Vrillière arrived, not in a dressing-gown, as the
king had authorized, but in magnificent costume. He piqued himself
on his expenditure, and always appeared superbly attired, altho'
the splendor of his apparel could not conceal the meanness of his
look. He was the oldest secretary of state, and certainly was the
least skilful, least esteemed, least considered. Some time after
his death some one said of him in the presence of the duc d'Ayen,
that he had been an unfortunate man, for he had been all his life
the butt of public hatred and universal contempt. "Rather say,"
replied the duke, "that he has been a fortunate man; for if justice
had been rendered to him according to his deserts, he would have
been hanged at least a dozen times."
The duc d'Ayen was right: M. de la Vrillière was a brazen-faced
rogue; a complete thief, without dignity, character, or heart. His
cupidity was boundless: the emanated from his
office, and he carried on an execrable trade in them. If any person
wished to get rid of a father, brother, or husband, they only had
to apply to M. de la Vrillière. He sold the king's signature to
all who paid ready money for it. This man inspired me with an
invincible horror and repugnance. For his part, as I was not
disgusting, he contented himself with hating me; he was animated
against me by his old and avaricious mistress, madame de Langeac,
alias Subutin. Langeac could not endure me. She felt that it was
better to be the mistress of Louis XV than that of the
Vrillière >, for so her lover was called at court. I knew that she
was no friend of mine, and that her lover sided with the Choiseuls
against me; and was consequently the more delighted to see the
little scoundrel come to receive the order for avenging me. He
entered with an air of embarrassment; and whilst he made me a
salute as low as to the king, this latter, in a brief severe tone,
ordered him to send the sieur Ledoux to Saint Lazare forthwith.
He departed without reply, and half an hour afterwards returned,
to say that it was done. The king then said to him,
"Do you know this lady?"
"Well, I desire you henceforward to have the greatest consideration
for her as my best friend, and whoever wishes to prove his zeal for
me, will honor and cherish her."
The king then invited him to sup with us, and I am sure that during
the whole repast I was the hardest morsel he had to digest.
Some days afterwards I made acquaintance with a person much more
important than the little duke, and destined to play a great part
in the history of France. I mean M. de Maupeou, the late chancellor,
who, in his disgrace, would not resign his charge. M. de Maupeou
possessed one of those firm and superior minds, which, in spite
of all obstacles, change the face of empires. Ardent, yet cool;
bold, but reflective; the clamors of the populace did not astonish,
nor did any obstacles arrest him. He went on in the direct path
which his will chalked out. Quitting the magistracy, he became its
most implacable enemy, and after a deadly combat he came off
conqueror. He felt that the moment had arrived for freeing royalty
from the chains which it had imposed on itself. It was necessary,
he has said to me a hundred times, for the kings of France in past
ages to have a popular power on which they could rely for the
overturning of the feudal power. This power they found in the
high magistracy; but since the reign of Louis XIII the mission
of the parliaments had finished, the nobility was reduced, and
they became no less formidable than the enemy whom they had
aided in subduing.
"Before fifty years," pursued M. de Maupeou, "kings will be
nothing in France, and parliaments will be everything."
Talented, a good speaker, even eloquent, M. de Maupeou possessed
qualities which made the greatest enterprises successful. He was
convinced that all men have their price, and that it is only to
find out the sum at which they are purchasable.* As brave personally
as a maréchal of France, his enemies (and he had many) called him
a coarse and quarrelsome man. Hated by all, he despised men in
a body, and jeered at them individually; but little sensible to the
charms of our sex, he only thought of us by freaks, and as a means
of relaxation. This is M. de Maupeou, painted to the life. As
for his person, you know it as well as I do. I have no need to
tell you, that he was little, ugly, and his complexion was yellow,
bordering upon green. It must be owned, however, that his face,
full of thought and intelligence, fully compensated for all the rest.
*This gentleman would have been an able coadjutor for
Sir Robert Walpole. -Trans.
You know how, as first president of the parliament of Paris, he
succeeded his father as vice-chancellor. At the resignation of the
titular M. de Lamoignon*, the elder Maupeou received his letters
of nomination, and as soon as they were registered, he resigned
in favor of his son. The Choiseuls had allowed the latter to be
nominated, relying on finding him a creature. I soon saw that the
Choiseuls were mistaken.
*In September, 1768. (au.)
It was in the month of October, that Henriette, always my favorite,
came to me with an air of unusual mystery, to say, that a black*
and ugly gentleman wished to see me; that on the usual reply
that I was not visible, he had insisted, and sent, at the same
time, a cautiously sealed note. I took it, opened, and read
these words: --
*i.e., black-haired and/or dressed in black (Gutenberg ed.)
"The chancellor of France wishes to have the honor
of presenting his respectful homage to madame la
comtesse du Barry."
"Let him come in," I said to Henriette.
"I will lay a wager, madame, that he comes to ask some favor."
"I believe," replied I, "that he is more frequently the solicited
than the solicitor."
Henriette went out, and in a few minutes led in, thro' the private
corridors which communicated with my apartment, his highness
monseigneur Rene Nicolas Charles Augustin de Maupeou, chevalier
and chancellor of France. As soon as he entered I conceived a
good opinion of him, altho' I had only seen him walk. His step
was firm and assured, like that of a man confident in the resources
of his own talents.
"Madame la comtesse du Barry," he said, "would have a right to
complain of me, if I did not come and lay my person at her feet.
I had the more impatience to express to her my devotion, as I
feared she had been prejudiced against me."
"The gate by which I entered the ministry--"
"Is not agreeable to me, as being that of my enemies, but I feel
assured that you will not side with them against me."
"Certainly not, madame; it is my wish to give you pleasure in
every thing, and I flatter myself I may merit your friendship."
After many other compliments, the Chancellor asked me, with much
familiarity, when my presentation was to take place, and why it had
not yet occurred. I replied, that the delay arose from the intrigues
of Choiseul, and the king shrunk from the discontent of a handful
"I am sorry for it," said M. de Maupeou; "in the first place,
madame, because of the interest I take in you, and also because
for his majesty, it would be a means of striking terror into the
opposing party. You know, madame, how annoying parliaments are
to all your friends, and with what bitterness those of Bretagne and
Paris, at this moment, are pursuing the duc d'Aiguillon."
"Do you think," I replied with emotion, "that matters are
unfavorable towards him?"
"I hope not, but he must be warmly supported."
"Ah! I will aid him with all my influence. He is no doubt
innocent of the crimes imputed to him."
"Yes, certainly. He has done no other wrong than to defend the
authority of the crown against the enmity of the parliaments."
We continued some time to talk of parliaments and parliament men:
then we agreed that M. de Maupeou should see me again, accompanied
by the duc d'Aiguillon, who should have the credit of presenting him,
and he left me with as much mystery as he had entered.
When the king came to see me, I said to him, "I have made acquaintance
with your chancellor: he is a very amiable man, and I hope that he
will not conduct himself improperly towards me."
"Where did you see him?"
"Here, sire, and but a short time since."
"He came then to visit you?"
"Yes, in person, that he might obtain the favor of being permitted
to pay his court to me."
"Really what you tell me seems perfectly unaccountable. He has
then burst from the hands of the Choiseuls? It is amusing. Poor
Choiseul, when soliciting for Maupeou, he most tremendously
"At least, sire, you must own that he has given you no fool."
"True. The chancellor is a man full of talents, and I do not
doubt but that he will restore to my crown that power which
circumstances have deprived it of. However, if you see him
familiarly, advise him not to persuade me to extreme measures.
I wish all should work for the best, without violent courses and
without painful struggles."
These last words proved to me the natural timidity of the king.
"I knew very well," added the king, "that Maupeou would not prove
a man for the Choiseuls. The main point is, that he should be mine,
and I am content."
Louis XV was then satisfied with the chancellor, but he was not
equally so with the comte Jean.
"I do not like," said he to me, "your Du Barry monkey. He is a
treacherous fellow, who has betrayed his party, and I hope some
of these mornings we shall hear that the devil has wrung his neck."
The king of Denmark--The courtesans of Paris--The duc de Choiseul and the bishop of
Orleans--Witty repartees of the king of Denmark--
His visit to madame du Barry--"The court of king Petaud," a satire--
Letter of the duc d'Aiguillon to Voltaire--The duchesse de Grammont
mystified--Unpublished letter of Voltaire's
>From this moment, and in spite of all that comte Jean could say
against it, a new counsellor was admitted to my confidence. He
was the chancellor. The duc d'Aiguillon and he were on very good
terms, and these two, with the abbé Teray, of whom I shall speak
to you presently, formed a triumvirate, which governed France from
the disgrace of M. de Choiseul to the death of the king. But
before I enter upon a detail of those politics, of which you will
find that I understand something, allow me to continue the history
of my presentation, and also to give some account of Christian VII.
You know that his Danish majesty was expected with anything but
pleasure by the king of France, and with curiosity by the rest of
the nation. Men and women were impatient to see a king, under
twenty years of age, who was traversing Europe with a design of
attaining instruction. Married to a lovely woman, Caroline Mathilde,
he had left her on the instant, without suspecting that this separation
would prove fatal to both. At Paris, the real character of this
prince was not known, but a confused report of his gallantry was
spread abroad, on which all the courtesans of note in the city
began to try all arts to please him, each hoping to attract him to
herself, and dip into his strong box. M. de Sartines amused us one
evening, the king and myself, by telling us of the plans of these
ladies. Some were going to meet his Danish majesty, others were
to await him at the barrier, and two of the most renowned,
mesdemoiselles Gradi and Laprairie, had their portraits painted,
to send to the young monarch as soon as he should arrive.
Christian VII entered Paris the latter end of the month of October,
1768. MM. de Duras complimented him in the king's name, and
informed him that they were charged with the office of receiving
his commands during his residence in Paris. The interview of the
king and the illustrious stranger took place at Versailles. Christian
VII came thither in the state-carriage, and was conducted by the
duc de Duras into the apartment of the dauphin, where he remained
until Louis XV was prepared to receive him. I had heard much
discussion about this reception. It was said, that to make a
distinction between sovereign of a petty state and that of the
superb kingdom of France, it was requisite that the former should
await for some time the audience which the latter accorded. I am
sure that when the peace with Frederick was agitated, the face of
Louis XV was not more grave and serious than during this puerile
debate about etiquette.
The duc de Choiseul, who had the control of foreign affairs,
was in the apartment to receive his Danish majesty, with his
colleagues, the duc de Praslin, the comte de Saint-Florentin
(whom I have called by anticipation duc de la Vrillière), M.
Bertin, M. Mainon d'Invau, controller of the finances, and M. de
Jarente, bishop of Orleans and one of the ministry. He kept
himself somewhat in the background, as tho' from humility. The
duc de Choiseul came up to him, and said, with a smile,
"Monseigneur, what brings you in contact with a heretic?"
"To watch for the moment of penitence."
"But what will you do if it become necessary to teach him his ?"
M. de Jarente understood the joke, and was the first to jest upon
his own unepiscopal conduct, replying to the duc de Choiseul,
"There is a person present who knows it; he will whisper it to
me, and, if necessary, the also."
The king of Denmark was congratulated by the duc de Choiseul,
who discharged this duty with as much grace as wit. Afterwards M.
Desgranges, master of the ceremonies, having announced that
Louis XV was visible, the king of Denmark, preceded by his
gentlemen and the French ministers and lords, went to the king's
cabinet, in which two arm-chairs precisely alike were prepared,
but his majesty of Denmark positively refused to be seated. He
entered into conversation, and felicitated himself on seeing a
monarch, whose renown filled Europe, and whom he should take as
his model. During this conversation Christian VII displayed the
greatest amiability. Our king, speaking to him, said, "I am old
enough to be your father" ; to which he replied, "All my conduct
towards you shall be that of a son." This was thought admirable;
and at the termination of the interview Louis XV appeared charmed
with his brother of Denmark. "He is a complete Frenchman," said he
to me, "and I should be sorry if he left me dissatisfied."
That same evening Christian VII visited monseigneur the dauphin,
in whom he did not find the urbanity of his grandfather. The
conversation was short and abridged out of regard to our prince,
who only stammered, without being able to find one polished
phrase. Never was there in his youth a more timid and awkwardly
conducted prince than the present king. I shall mention him and
his brothers hereafter, but will now direct my immediate attention
to the king of Denmark. He supped the same evening with Louis XV
at a table with four and twenty ladies of the court, selected from
amongst those most celebrated for the charms of their persons or
their wit. As his Danish majesty was greatly struck with madame
de Flaracourt, the king asked him how old the lady might be in
"Thirty, perhaps," was the reply.
"Thirty, brother! she is fifty."
"Then age has no influence at your court."
I shall not copy the "" to tell you of the
sojourn of Christian VII at Paris. I am not writing the journal
of this prince but of myself. The king one day said to me,
"My brother of Denmark has expressed to the duc de Duras a
great desire to pay his respects to you, if you will accede to his
wishes. I leave you entirely sovereign mistress of yourself, not
without some fear however that the young king will steal away
your heart from me."
"Ah, sire," I replied, "that is an unjust suspicion; I should be
angry about it if it were not a joke, and would refuse to see the
king of Denmark did I not know how fully you are assured of my
attachment to you."
"I should not be so jealous, madame, if I did not set so much value
on it," was the reply of the king, as he kissed my hand.
The duc de Duras came the next day to inform me of the request of
his new king. It was agreed, in order to keep the interview secret,
that I should receive him at my own mansion in the Rue de la
Jussienne, and that he should come there without suite, and with
the strictest incognito. At the day and hour agreed he entered my
house, escorting two strangers of admirable presence. One was the
king of Denmark, under the name of comte de ------, and the other
a nobleman of his suite. Christian VII appeared to me a very
handsome man. He had large and singularly expressive eyes; too
much so, perhaps, for their brilliancy was not of good augury;
and I was not surprised at hearing subsequently that his reason
had abandoned him, altho' he possessed and exerted his wit most
perfectly during our conversation, in which he displayed the
greatest gallantry. I could not reproach him with one single
expression that was objectionable, altho' the subject of conversation
was delicate. He discoursed of the feelings of the king towards
me, and yet said not a word that was unsuited or out of place,
nothing but what was in the best taste, and expressed with the
utmost delicacy. I asked him if the ladies of Denmark were
handsome. "I thought, madame," was his reply, "until now, that
the ladies of my kingdom were the most lovely in Europe."
We did not talk of myself only: Christian VII spoke of Paris with
enthusiasm. "It is the capital of the world," he remarked, "and
our states are but the provinces." He sought out our most celebrated
and , and was particularly delighted with
d'Alembert, Diderot, la Harpe, and M. the comte de Buffon. He
greatly regretted that Voltaire was not in Paris, and expressed
his great desire to see at Ferney the great genius (as he termed
him) who instructed and amused the world. He appeared weary of
the fêtes which were given, and especially with the deadly-lively
company of the two Duras. It was enough to kill you to have only
one of them, and you may imagine the torture of being bored with
both. The duke had promised Louis XV to be as amusing as possible
too! After a conversation of three hours, which his majesty (of
course) said had appeared but of a moment, he left me delighted
with his person, wit, and manners.
When Louis XV saw me, he inquired my opinion of his Danish majesty.
"He is," I replied, "a well-educated king, and that they say is a rarity."
"True," said Louis XV, "there are so many persons who are
interested in our ignorance, that it is a miracle if we escape out
of their hands as reasonable beings."
I went on to tell the king our conversation.
"Ah," cried he, "here is one who will increase the vanity of the
literary tribe: they want it, certainly. All these wits are our
natural born enemies; and think themselves above us; and the
more we honor them, the greater right do they assume to censure
and despise us."
This was the usual burden of his song: he hated men of learning.
Voltaire especially was his detestation, on account of the numerous
epigrams which this great man had written against him; and Voltaire
had just given fresh subject of offence by publishing "
Roi Petaud" ("The Court of the King Petaud," ) a satire evidently
directed as strongly against the king as your humble servant. M.
de Voltaire had doubtless been encouraged to write this libel by
the Choiseul party. He was at a distance, judged unfavorably of
me, and thought he could scourge me without compromising himself.
It was comte Jean who brought me these verses, in which there was
less poetry than malevolence. I read them, was indignant, and
wept. The duc d'Aiguillon came, and finding me in tears, inquired
"Here," said I, giving him the poem, "see if you can bear so gross
an insult." He took the paper, cast his eyes over it, and having
folded it up, put it into his pocket.
"It was ill done," said he, "to show this to you. I knew of it
yesterday, and came now to talk with you of it."
"I rely on you to do me justice."
"" cried the duke, "would you lose yourself in the
eyes of all France? You would place yourself in a fine situation
by declaring yourself the persecutrix of Voltaire. Only an enemy
could have thus advised you."
"That enemy was comte Jean."
"Then your imprudence equals your zeal. Do you not perceive the
advantage it would give to your adversaries were we to act in
this manner? To the hatred of the court would be united that of
the , women, and young persons. Voltaire is a god, who
is not to be smitten without sacrilege."
"Must I then tamely submit to be beaten?"
"Yes, for the moment. But it will not last long; I have just
written this letter to M. de Voltaire, that peace may be made
"SIR,--The superiority of your genius places you
amongst the number of the potentates of Europe.
Every one desires, not only to be at peace with you,
but even, if it be possible, to obtain your esteem.
I flatter myself with being included in the ranks of
your admirers; my uncle has spoken to you many times
of my attachment to your person, and I embrace the
opportunity of proving this by a means that now
"Persons in whom you place too much confidence have
spread abroad, under your name, copies of a poem,
entitled '' In this, wherein
insult is cast on a personage who should be exempt
from such offence, is also outraged, in a most indecent
way, a lovely female, whom you would adore as we do,
if you had the happiness to know her. Is it for the
poet of the lover of Gabrielle to carry desolation into
the kingdom of the Graces?
"Your correspondents use you ill by leaving you in
ignorance, that this young person has immense favor
here; that we are all at her feet; that she is all
powerful, and her anger is to be particularly avoided.
She is the more to be propitiated, as yesterday, in
Presence of a certain person whom your verses had
greatly irritated, she took up your defence with as
much grace as generosity. You see, sir, that you
ought not to be on bad terms with her.
"My uncle allows me to see, as one of the initiated,
what you call your scraps, which are delicious feasts
to us. I read them to the lady in question, who takes
great delight in reciting, or hearing others recite,
your verses, and she begs you will send her some as a
proof of your repentance. Under these circumstances,
if your bellicose disposition urges you on to war, we
hope, before you continue it, that you will loyally and
frankly declare it.
"In conclusion, be assured that I shall defend you to
my utmost, and am for life,
Whilst we were awaiting Voltaire's reply, I determined to avenge
myself on the duchesse de Grammont, who had encouraged him in
his attack; and thus did I serve this lady. Persuaded that she did
not know the writing of his Danish majesty, I wrote the following
letter to her:--
"MADAME LA DUCHESSE,--I have struggled to this time
to avoid confessing to you how I am subdued. Happy
should I be could I throw myself at your feet. My
rank alone must excuse my boldness. Nothing would
equal my joy if this evening, at the theatre at madame
de Villeroi's, you would appear with blue feathers in
your head-dress. I do not add my name; it is one of
those which should not be found at the bottom of a
declaration of love."
In spite of all her penetration, the duchesse de Grammont did not
perceive, in the emphatic tone of this letter, that it was a trick.
Her self-love made her believe that a woman of more than forty
could be pleasing to a king not yet twenty. She actually went
in the evening to madame de Villeroi's dressed in blue, with a
blue plumed head-dress. She was placed next to his Danish majesty.
Christian VII addressed her in most courteous terms, but not one
word of love.
The duchesse imagining that the prince was timid, looked at him
with eyes of tenderness, and endeavored to attract and encourage
him by all means she could devise, but the monarch did not
understand her. The duchesse then addressed a few words, which
she hoped would lead to an explanation, but, to her dismay, his
majesty did not appear to understand her. Madame de Grammont
was furious at this affair. The duc d'Aiguillon, who was close to
her, had seen all, heard all, and related particulars to me. The
same day I told the king of my trick and its success. He laughed
excessively, and then scolded me for at all compromising his
"How, sire?" was my reply. "I did not sign his name; I have not
forged his signature. The vanity of the duchesse has alone caused
all the ridiculous portion of this joke. So much the worse for
her if she did not succeed."
I did not, however, limit my revenge to this. A second letter,
in the same hand, was addressed to my luckless enemy. This time
she was informed that she been made a butt of, and mystified. I
learned from M. de Sartines, who, after our compact, gave me
details of all, the methods she had pursued to detect the author of
these two epistles, and put a termination to all these inquiries,
by denouncing myself to M. de Sartines; who then gave such a
turn to the whole matter, that the duchesse could never arrive
at the truth.
Voltaire, in the meantime, was not slow in reply; and as I imagine
that you will not be sorry to read his letter, I transcribe it for you:--
"MONSIEUR LE DUC,-- I am a lost, destroyed man. If I
had strength enough to fly, I do not know where I
should find courage to take refuge. I! Good God! I
am suspected of having attacked that which, in common
with all France, I respect! When there only remains to
me the smallest power of utterance, but enough to chant
a that I should employ it in howling at
the most lovely and amiable of females! Believe me,
monsieur le duc, that it is not at the moment when a
man is about to render up his soul, that a man of my
good feeling would outrage the divinity whom he adores.
"No, I am not the author of the ''
The verses of this rhapsody are not worth much, it is
true; but indeed they are not mine: they are too
miserable, and of too bad a style. All this vile trash
spread abroad in my name, all those pamphlets without
talent, make me lose my senses, and now I have scarcely
enough left to defend myself with. It is on you,
monsieur le duc, that I rely; do not refuse to be the
advocate of an unfortunate man unjustly accused.
Condescend to say to this young lady, that I have
been before embroiled with madame de Pompadour,
for whom I professed the highest esteem; tell her, that
at the present day especially, the favorite of Caesar is
sacred for me; that my heart and pen are hers, and
that I only aspire to live and die under her banner.
"As to the scraps you ask for, I have not at this moment
any suitable. Only the best viands are served up at the
table of the goddesses. If I had any I would present them
to the person of whom you speak to me. Assure her, that
one day the greatest merit of my verse will be to have them
recited by her lips; and entreat her, until she bestows
immortality on me, to permit me to prostrate myself at
her beautiful feet.
"I will not conclude my letter, monsieur le duc,
without thanking you a thousand times for the advice
you have given me. This proof of your kindness will,
if possible augment the sincere attachment I bear to
you. I salute you with profound respect."
As it is bold to hold the pen after having transcribed anything
of M. de Voltaire's, I leave off here for to-day.
When is the presentation to take place?--Conversation on this
subject with the king--M. de Maupeou and M. de la Vauguyon--
Conversation on the same subject with the king and the duc de
Richelieu--M. de la Vrillière--M. Bertin---Louis XV and the
comtesse--The king's promise--The fire-works, an anecdote--The
marquise de Castellane--M. de Maupeou at the duc de Choiseul's--
The duchesse de Grammont
In spite of the love of the duchesse de Grammont, the king of
Denmark departed at last. Louis XV having resumed his former
habits, I began to meditate seriously on my presentation; and my
friends employed themselves to the utmost in furthering my desires
and insuring my triumph.
The chancellor, who each day became more attached to my interests,
opened the campaign. One day, when the king was in a rage with
the parliaments, the chancellor seized the opportunity to tell him
that the cabal, who were opposed to my presentation, testified so
much resistance, under the idea, and in the hope, that they would
be supported by the parliaments of Paris.
"If your majesty," added the chancellor, "had less condescension
towards these malcontents, they would fear your authority more."
"You will see," replied the king, "that it will be their audacity
which will urge me on to a step, which otherwise I should wish
Whilst the hatred which M. de Maupeou bore towards the parliaments
served me in this way, the love of M. de la Vauguyon for the
Jesuits turned to even more advantage. The good duke incessantly
talked to me of his dear Jesuits; and I as constantly replied, that
my influence would not be salutary until after my presentation, M.
de la Vauguyon had sense enough to perceive the embarrassment of my
situation, and saw that before I could think of others I must think
of myself. Having taken "sweet counsel" with the powerful heads of
his company, he freely gave me all his influence with the king.
Fortune sent me an auxiliary not less influential than these two
gentlemen; I mean the maréchal duc de Richelieu. In the month of
January, 1769, he returned from his government of Guienne to enter
on service. He had much credit with the king, and this (would you
believe it?) resulted from his reputation as a man of intrigue. He
told the king every thing that came into his head: he told him one
day, that the Choiseuls boasted that he, the king of France, never
dared introduce his mistress into the state apartments at Versailles.
"Yes," added the duke, "they boast so loudly, that nothing else is
talked of in the province; and at Bordeaux, for instance, there is
one merchant who, on the strength of the enemies of the comtesse,
has made a bet that she will never be presented."
"And why do you not imprison these persons?" inquired the
"Because, sire, it appears to me injustice to punish the echo of
the fooleries of Paris."
"I will conduct myself as regards the presentation of madame du
Barry in the manner which I think best. But is it not an
inconceivable contrariety, that one party should wish it with the
utmost desire, and another place every obstacle in the way? In
truth, I am very unfortunate, and a cruel tyranny is exercised
The duc de Richelieu, not wishing to appear as one of the tyrants
of the king, gave a different turn to the conversation.
My presentation was, however, a matter of first-rate importance to
me and to my partizans, and the duc de la Vrillière was gained
over to my side, by making him believe that the king would yield
to my desires, and that then I should remember all those who
opposed my elevation. The duc d'Aiguillon also drew over to my
party M. Bertin, who bore no love to the Choiseuls, and who saw
that the preponderance of interest was on my side of the scale.
When I was assured of a considerable number of defenders, I
thought I might venture on the master stroke, and thus I went
One evening the king was with me, and the MM. de Maupeou and de
Richelieu were there also. We were discoursing of different things,
and the king was perfectly tranquillized, little anticipating the
scene that was in store for him. I rose suddenly from my arm-chair,
and going up to his majesty, after a profound courtesy cast myself
at his feet. Louis XV would have raised me, but I said,
"No, I will remain where I am until you have accorded me the
favor I ask."
"If you remain in this posture I shall place myself in a similar one."
"Well, then, since you will not have me at your knees I will place
myself on them"; and I seated myself in his lap without ceremony.
"Listen to me, sire," I said, "and repeat what I say to the king of
France word for word. He must authorize my presentation; for else,
some fine day, in the presence of the whole court, I will go to the
state apartments, and try whether I shall be repulsed at the door."
"Will she have the boldness?" inquired the king to the chancellor.
"I have no doubt of it, sire. A female, young, beautiful, honored
with your kindness, may venture to do anything."
"Is it not distressing to me," I added, "that, graced with your
majesty's favors, I remain thus concealed, whilst women whom
you detest annoy you with their presence."
"Madame is right," replied the duc de Richelieu, "and I see that
you look for her every evening where she is not, and where she
ought to be."
"What! you too, duc de Richelieu, do you join the cry of
"I would tear out the eyes of these gentlemen," I added, "if
they thought differently from me."
"Oh," said the king, laughing, "this punishment would not be one
for M. Maupeou: justice ought to be blind: and as for you, M. de
Richelieu, you have your left."
"Which he has nobly gained," I replied, "by fighting against your
majesty's enemies, and of which he still continues worthy, by now
defending me from my foes."
"This rebellion," said the king, "cannot last, and I see myself
compelled to hold a (a judicial sitting or bed)."
"And I swear to you, that I will receive nobody into mine until I
have been presented."
This sally amused the king, who said, "Well, since it must be so,
you shall be presented."
At this I leaped on the king's neck, giving a cry which might have
been heard by my rivals. After that, I advanced to the two
gentlemen who had advocated my cause so well, extending a hand to
each, which they took and kissed with great gallantry.
Louis XV became thoughtful, and continued to mutter between his
teeth, "I wash my hands of it--they will cry out, they will clamor,
but it must be so." I saw the feelings of the king, and took care
not to allow him to go away in this state. Whilst I sought to
compose him by my caresses, the duc de Richelieu told us one of
his thousand and one adventures, which he told so well. I know
not if it will please you, but such as it is I shall give you an
abridgment of it.
"I was, you know," he began, "a very good-looking, a very wild
fellow: women have no objection to this. I was travelling, and
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