The Memoirs of Madame de Montespan, Complete
Madame La Marquise De Montespan
Part 2 out of 8
fellow-gossip, reader, Spanish teacher, stewardess, confidante, and
lady-in-waiting. She wrote to me complaining about this, and on taking
leave of the King to go and reign in Portugal, she said, with rather a
forced air of raillery:
"I shall hate you as long as I live, and if ever you do me the honour of
paying me a visit some day at Lisbon, I'll have you burned for your
Then she wanted to embrace me, as if we were equals, but this I
deprecated as much from aversion as from respect.
La Fontaine.--Boileau.--Moliere.--Corneille.--Louis XIV.'s Opinion of
Each of Them.
The King's studies with his preceptor, Perefixe, had been of only a
superficial sort, as, in accordance with the express order of the
Queen-mother, this prelate had been mainly concerned about the health of
his pupil, the Queen being, above all, desirous that he should have a
good constitution. "The rest comes easily enough, if a prince have but
nobility of soul and a sense of duty," as the Queen often used to say.
Her words came true.
I came across several Spanish and Italian books in the library of the
little apartments. The "Pastor Fido," "Aminta," and the "Gerusalemme "
seemed to me, at first, to be the favourite works. Then came Voiture's
letters, the writings of Malherbe and De Balzac, the Fables of La
Fontaine, the Satires of Boileau, and the delightful comedies of Moliere.
Corneille's tragedies had been read, but not often.
Until I came to Court, I had always looked upon Corneille as the greatest
tragic dramatist in the world, and as the foremost of our poets and men
of letters. The King saved me from this error.
Book in hand, he pointed out to me numberless faults of style, incoherent
and fantastic imagery, sentiment alike exaggerated and a thousand leagues
removed from nature. He considered, and still considers, Pierre
Corneille to be a blind enthusiast of the ancients, whom we deem great
since we do not know them. In his eyes, this declamatory poet was a
republican more by virtue of his head than his heart or his
intention,--one of those men more capricious than morose, who cannot
reconcile themselves to what exists, and prefer to fall back upon bygone
generations, not knowing how to live like friendly folk among their
He liked La Fontaine better, by reason of his extreme naturalness, but
his unbecoming conduct at the time of the Fouquet trial proved painful to
his Majesty, who considered the following verses passing strange:
". . . . Trust not in kings Their favour is but slippery; worse than
that, It costs one dear, and errors such as these Full oft bring shame
and scandal in their wake."
"Long live Moliere!" added his Majesty; "there you have talent without
artifice, poetry without rhapsody, satire without bitterness, pleasantry
that is always apt, great knowledge of the human heart, and perpetual
raillery that yet is not devoid of delicacy and compassion. Moliere is a
most charming man in every respect; I gave him a few hints for his
'Tartuffe,' and such is his gratitude that he wants to make out that,
without me, he would never have written that masterpiece."
"You helped him, Sire, to produce it, and above all things, to carry out
his main idea; and Moliere is right in thinking that, without a mind free
from error, such as is yours, his masterpiece would never have been
"It struck me," continued the King, "that some such thing was
indispensable as a counterbalance in the vast machinery of my government,
and I shall ever be the friend and supporter, not of Tartuffes, but of
the 'Tartuffe,' as long as I live."
"And Boileau, Sire?" I continued; "what place among your favourites does
"I like Boileau," replied the prince, "as a necessary scourge, which one
can pit against the bad taste of second-rate authors. His satires, of
too personal, a nature, and consequently iniquitous, do not please me. He
knows it, and, despite himself, he will amend this. He is at work upon
an 'Ars Poetica,' after the manner of Horace. The little that he has
read to me of this poem leads me to expect that it will be an important
work. The French language will continue to perfect itself by the help of
literature like this, and Boileau, cruel though he be, is going to confer
a great benefit upon all those who have to do with letters."
Birth of the Comte de Vegin.--Madame Scarron as Governess.--The King's
Continued Dislike of Her.--Birth of the Duc du Maine.--Marriage of the
The King became ever more attached to me personally, as also to the
peculiarities of my temperament. He had witnessed with satisfaction the
birth of Madame de la Valliere's two children, and I thought that he
would have the same affection for mine. But I was wrong. It was with
feelings of trepidation and alarm that he contemplated my approaching
confinement. Had I given birth to a daughter, I am perfectly certain
that, in his eyes, I should have been done for.
I gave birth to the first Comte de Vegin, and, grasping my hand
affectionately, the King said to me, "Be of good courage, madame; present
princes to the Crown, and let those be scandalised who will!" A few
moments later he came back, and gave me a million for my expenses.
It was, however, mutually arranged that the newborn Infant should be
recognised later on, and that, for the time being, I was to have him
brought up in secrecy and mystery.
When dissuading Madame Scarron from undertaking a journey to Lisbon, I
had my own private ends in view. I considered her peculiarly fitted to
superintend the education of the King's children, and to maintain with
success the air of mysterious reserve which for a while was indispensable
to me. I deputed my brother, M. de Vivonne, to acquaint her with my
proposals,--proposals which came from the King as well,--nor did I doubt
for one moment as regarded her consent and complacency, being, as she
was, alone in Paris.
"Madame," said M. de Vivonne to her, "the Marquise is overjoyed at being
able to offer you an important position of trust, which will change your
life once for all."
"The gentle, quiet life which, thanks to the kindness of the King, I now
lead, is all that my ambition can desire," replied the widow, concealing
her trouble from my brother; "but since the King wishes and commands it,
I will renounce the liberty so dear to me, and will not hesitate to
Accordingly she came. The King had a few moments' parley with her, in
order to explain to her all his intentions relative to the new life upon
which she was about to enter, and M. Bontems--[First Groom of the
Chamber, and Keeper of the Privy Purse.]--furnished her with the
necessary funds for establishing her household in suitable style.
A month afterwards, I went incognito to her lonely residence, situate
amid vast kitchen-gardens between Vaugirard and the Luxembourg. The
house was clean, commodious, thoroughly well appointed, and, not being
overlooked by neighbours, the secret could but be safely kept. Madame
Scarron's domestics included two nurses, a waiting-maid, a physician, a
courier, two footmen, a coachman, a postilion, and two cooks.
Being provided with an excellent coach, she came to Saint Germain every
week, to bring me my son, or else news of his welfare.
Her habitually sad expression somewhat pained the King. As I soon
noticed their mutual embarrassment, I used to let Madame Scarron stay in
an inner room all the time that his Majesty remained with me.
In the following year, I gave birth to the Duc du Maine. Mademoiselle
d'Aubigne, who was waiting in the drawing-room, wrapped the child up
carefully, and took it away from Paris with all speed.
On her way she met with an adventure, comic in itself, and which
mortified her much. When told of it, I laughed not a little; and, in
spite of all my excuses and expressions of regret, she always felt
somewhat sore about this; in fact, she never quite got over it.
Between Marly and Ruel, two mounted police officers, in pursuit of a nun
who had escaped from a convent, bethought themselves of looking inside
Madame Scarron's carriage. Such inquisitiveness surprised her, and she
put on her mask, and drew down the blinds. Observing that she was
closely followed by these soldiers, she gave a signal to her coachman,
who instantly whipped up his horses, and drove at a furious rate.
At Nanterre the gendarmes, being reinforced, cried out to the coachman to
stop, and obliged Madame Scarron to get out. She was taken to a tavern
close by, where they asked her to remove her mask. She made various
excuses for not doing so, but at the mention of the lieutenant-general of
police, she had to give in.
"Madame," inquired the brigadier, "have you not been in a nunnery?"
"Pray, monsieur, why do you ask?"
"Be good enough to answer me, madame; repeat my question, and I insist
upon a reply. I have received instructions that I shall not hesitate to
"I have lived with nuns, but that, monsieur, was a long while ago."
"It is not a question of time. What was your motive for leaving these
ladies, and who enabled you to do so?"
"I left the convent after my first communion. I left it openly, and of
my own free will. Pray be good enough to allow me to continue my
"On leaving the convent, where did you go?"
"First to one of my relatives, then to another, and at last to Paris,
where I got married."
"Married? What, madame, are you married? Oh, young lady, what behaviour
is this? Your simple, modest mien plainly shows what you were before
this marriage. But why did you want to get married?"
As he said this, the little Duc du Maine, suffering, perhaps, from a
twinge of colic, began to cry. The brigadier, more amazed than ever,
ordered the infant to be shown as well.
Seeing that she could make no defence, Madame Scarron began to shed
tears, and the officer, touched to pity, said:
"Madame, I am sorry for your fault, for, as I see, you are a good mother.
My orders are to take you to prison, and thence to the convent specified
by the archbishop, but I warn you that if we catch the father of your
child, he will hang. As for you, who have been seduced, and who belong
to a good family, tell me one of your relatives with whom you are on
friendly terms, and I will undertake to inform them of your predicament."
Madame Scarron, busy in soothing the Duc du Maine, durst not explain for
fear of aggravating matters, but begged the brigadier to take her back to
At this juncture my brother arrived on his way back to Paris. He
recognised the carriage, which stood before the inn, with a crowd of
peasants round it, and hastened to rescue the governess, for he soon
succeeded in persuading these worthy police officers that the sobbing
dame was not a runaway nun, and that the new-born infant came of a good
The Saint Denis View.--Superstitions, Apparitions.--Projected Enlargement
of Versailles.--Fresh Victims for Saint Denis.
One evening I was walking at the far end of the long terrace of Saint
Germain. The King soon came thither, and pointing to Saint Denis, said,
"That, madame, is a gloomy, funereal view, which makes me displeased and
disgusted with this residence, fine though it be."
"Sire," I replied, "in no other spot could a more magnificent view be
found. Yonder river winding afar through the vast plain, that noble
forest divided by hunting roads into squares, that Calvary poised high in
air, those bridges placed here and there to add to the attractiveness of
the landscape, those flowery meadows set in the foreground as a rest to
the eye, the broad stream of the Seine, which seemingly is fain to flow
at a slower rate below your palace windows,--I do not think that any more
charming combination of objects could be met with elsewhere, unless one
went a long way from the capital."
"The chateau of Saint Germain no longer pleases me," replied the King. "I
shall enlarge Versailles and withdraw thither. What I am going to say
may astonish you, perhaps, as it comes from me, who am neither a
whimsical female nor a prey to superstition. A few days before the
Queen, my mother, had her final seizure, I was walking here alone in this
very spot. A reddish light appeared above the monastery of Saint Denis,
and a cloud which rose out of the ruddy glare assumed the shape of a
hearse bearing the arms of Austria. A few days afterwards my poor mother
was removed to Saint Denis. Four or five days before the horrible death
of our adorable Henrietta, the arrows of Saint Denis appeared to me in a
dream covered in dusky flames, and amid them I saw the spectre of Death,
holding in his hand the necklaces and bracelets of a young lady. The
appalling death of my cousin followed close upon this presage.
Henceforth, the view of Saint Denis spoils all these pleasant landscapes
for me. At Versailles fewer objects confront the eye; a park of that
sort has its own wealth of natural beauty, which suffices. I shall make
Versailles a delightful resort, for which France will be grateful to me,
and which my successors can neither neglect nor destroy without bringing
to themselves dishonour."
I sympathised with the reasons which made Saint Germain disagreeable to
his Majesty. Next summer the causes for such aversion became more
numerous, as the King had the misfortune to lose the daughters which the
Queen bore him, and they were carried to Saint Denis.
M. de Lauzun.--His Pretensions.--Erroneous Ideas of the Public.--The War
in Candia.--M. de Lauzun Thinks He Will Secure a Throne for Himself.--The
King Does Not Wish This.
The Marquis de Guilain de Lauzun was, and still is, one of the handsomest
men at Court. Before my marriage, vanity prompted him to belong to the
list of my suitors, but as his reputation in Paris was that of a man who
had great success with the ladies, my family requested him either to come
to the point or to retire, and he withdrew, though unwilling to break
matters off altogether.
When he saw me in the bonds of matrimony, and enjoying its liberty, he
recommenced his somewhat equivocal pursuit of me, and managed to get
himself talked about at my expense. Society was unjust; M. de Lauzun
only dared to pay me homage of an insipid sort. He had success enough in
other quarters, and I knew what I owed to some one as well as what I owed
Ambition is the Marquis's ruling passion. The simple role of a fine
gentleman is, in his eyes, but a secondary one; his Magnificency requires
a far more exalted platform than that.
When he knew that war in Candia had broken out, and which side the kings
of Christendom would necessarily take, his ideas became more exalted
still. He bethought himself of the strange fortunes of certain valiant
warriors in the time of the Crusades. He saw that the Lorraines, the
Bouillons, and the Lusignans had won sceptres and crowns, and he
flattered himself that the name of Lauzun might in this vast adventurous
career gain glory too.
He begged me to get him a command in this army of Candia, wherein the
King had just permitted his own kinsmen to go and win laurels for
themselves. He was already a full colonel of dragoons, and one of the
captains of the guard. The King, who till then liked him well enough,
considered such a proposition indecent, and, gauging or not gauging his
intentions, he postponed until a later period these aspirations of Lauzun
to the post of prince or sovereign.
The Abbe d'Estrees.--Singular Offers of Service.--Madame de Montespan
Declines His Offer of Intercession at the Vatican.--He Revenges Himself
upon the King of Portugal.--Difference between a Fair Man and a Dark.
Since the reign of Gabrielle d'Estrees, who died just as she was about to
espouse her King, the D'Estrees family were treated at Court more with
conventional favour than with esteem. The first of that name was
lieutenant-general, destined to wield the baton of a French marshal, on
account of his ancestry as well as his own personal merit. The Abbe
d'Estrees passed for being in the Church what M. de Lauzun was in
society,--a man who always met with success, and who also was madly
While still very young, he had been appointed to the bishopric of Laon,
which, in conjunction with two splendid abbeys, brought him in a handsome
revenue. The Duc and Duchesse de Vendome were as fond of him as one of
their own kin, doing nothing without first consulting him, everywhere
praising and extolling his abilities, which were worthy of a ministry.
This prelate desired above all things to be made a cardinal. Under Henri
IV. he could easily have had his wish, but at that time he was not yet
born. He imagined that on the strength of my credit he could procure the
biretta for himself.
As soon as he saw me recognised as a mistress, he paid assiduous court to
me, never losing an opportunity of everywhere sounding my praise. One day
he said to me: "Madame, every one pities you on account of the vexation
and grief which the Marquis de Montespan has caused you. If you will
confide in me,--that is, if you will let me represent your interests with
the Cardinals and the Holy Father,--I heartily offer you my services as
mediator and advocate with regard to the question of nullity. At an
early age I studied theology and ecclesiastical law. Your marriage may
be considered null and void, according to this or that point of view. You
know that upon the death of the Princesse de Nemours, Mademoiselle de
Nemours and Mademoiselle d'Aumale, her two daughters, came to reside with
Madame de Vendome, my cousin, a relative and a friend of their mother.
The eldest I first of all married to Duc Charles de Lorraine, heir to the
present Duc de Lorraine. His Majesty did not approve of this marriage,
which was contrary to his politics. His Majesty deigned to explain
himself and open out to me upon the subject. I at once consulted my
books, and found all the means necessary for dissolving such a marriage.
So true, indeed is this, that I forthwith remarried Mademoiselle de
Nemours to the Duc de Savoie. This took place under your very eyes. Soon
afterwards I married her younger sister to the King of Portugal, and
accompanied her to Lisbon, where the Portuguese gave her a fairly warm
reception. Her young husband is tall and fair, with a pleasant,
distinguished face; he loves his wife, and is only moderately beloved in
return. Is she wrong or is she right? Now, I will tell you. The
monarch is well-made, but a childish infirmity has left one whole side of
him somewhat weak, and he limps. Mademoiselle d'Aumale, or to speak more
correctly, the Queen of Portugal, writes letter upon letter to me,
describing her situation. She believed herself pregnant, and had even
announced the news to Madame de Vendome, as well as to Madame de Savoie,
her sister. Now it appears that this is not the case. She is vexed and
disgusted. I am about to join her at Lisbon. She is inclined to place
the crown upon the young brother of the King, requesting the latter to
seek the seclusion of a monastery. I can see that this new idea of the
youthful Queen's will necessitate my visiting the Vatican. Allow me,
madame, to have charge of your interests. Do not have the slightest fear
but that I shall protect them zealously and intelligently, killing thus
two birds with one stone."
"Pray accept my humble thanks," I replied to the Bishop. "The reigning
Sovereign Pontiff has never shown me any favour whatever, and is in
nowise one of my friends. What you desire to do for me at Rome deserves
some signal mark of gratitude in return, but I cannot get you a
cardinal's hat, for a thousand reasons.
"Mademoiselle de Nemours, when leaving us, promised to hate me as long as
she lived, and to have me burnt at an 'auto da fe' whenever she got the
chance. Do not let her know that you have any regard for me, or you
might lose her affection.
"I hope that the weak side of her husband, the King, may get stronger,
and that you will not help to put the young monarch in a convent of
"In any case, my lord Bishop, do not breathe it to a living soul that you
have told me of such strange resolutions as these; for my own part, I
will safely keep your secret, and pray God to have you in his holy
The Bishop of Laon was not a man to be rebuffed by pleasantry such as
this. He declared the King of Portugal to be impotent, after what the
Queen had expressly stated. The Pope annulled the marriage, and the
Queen courageously wedded her husband's brother, who had no congenital
weakness of any sort, and who was, as every one knew, of dark complexion.
At the request of the Queen, the Bishop of Laon was afterwards presented
with the hat, and is, today, my lord Cardinal d'Estrees.
Mademoiselle de Valois.--Mademoiselle d'Orleans.--Mademoiselle
d'Alencon.--M. de Savoie.--His Love-letters.--His Marriage with
Mademoiselle de Valois.--M. de Guise and Mademoiselle d'Alencon.--Their
Marriage Ceremony.--Madame de Montespan's Dog.--Mademoiselle
d'Orleans.--Her Marriage with the Duke of Tuscany.--The Bishop de Bonzy.
By his second wife, Marguerite de Lorraine, Gaston de France had three
daughters, and being devoid of energy, ability, or greatness of
character, they did not object when the King married them to sovereigns
of the third-rate order.
Upon these three marriages I should like to make some remarks, on account
of certain singular details connected therewith, and because of the
joking to which they gave rise.
Mademoiselle de Montpensier had flatly refused the Duc de Savoie, because
Madame de Savoie, daughter of Henri IV., was still living, ruling her
estate like a woman of authority; and therefore, to this stepmother, a
king's daughter, Mademoiselle had to give way, she being but the daughter
of a French prince who died in disgrace and was forgotten.
Being refused by the elder princess, M. de Savoie, still quite young,
sought the hand of her sister, Mademoiselle de Valois. He wrote her a
letter which, unfortunately, was somewhat singular in style, and which,
unfortunately too, fell into the hands of Mademoiselle de Montpensier.
Like her late father, Gaston, she plumed herself upon her wit and
eloquence; she caused several copies of the effusion to be printed and
circulated at Court. I will include it in these Memoirs, as it cannot
but prove entertaining. The heroes of Greece, and even of Troy, possibly
delivered their compliments in somewhat better fashion, if we may judge
by the version preserved for us by Homer.
FROM HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE DUC DE SAVOIE TO HIS MOST HONOURED COUSIN,
MADEMOISELLE DE VALOIS.
MY DEAR COUSIN:--As the pen must needs perform the office of the tongue,
and as it expresses the feelings of my heart, I doubt not but that I am
at great disadvantage, since the depth of these feelings it cannot
express, nor rightly convince you that, having given all myself to you,
nothing remains either to give or to desire, save to find such affection
pleasantly reciprocated. Thus, in these lines, I earnestly beseech you
to return my love,--lines which give you the first hints of that fire
which your many lovely qualities have lighted in my soul. They create in
me an inconceivable impatience closely to contemplate that which now I
admire at a distance, and to convince you by various proofs that, with
matchless loyalty and passion,
I am, dear Cousin, Your most humble slave and servant, EMMANUEL.
Gentle as an angel, Mademoiselle de Valois desired just what everybody
else did. The youngest of the three princesses was named Mademoiselle
d'Alencon. With a trifle more wit and dash, she could have maintained
her position at Court, where so charming a face as hers was fitted to
make its mark; but her fine dark eyes did but express indifference and
vacuity, seemingly unconscious of the pleasure to be got in this world
when one is young, good-looking, shapely, a princess of the blood, and
cousin german of the King besides.
Marguerite de Lorraine, her mother, married her to the Duc de Guise,
their near relative, who, without ambition or pretension, seemed almost
astonished to see that the King gave, not a dowry, but a most lovely
verdure--[Drawing-room tapestry, much in vogue at that time]--, and an
The marriage was celebrated at the chateau, without any special
ceremonies or preparations; so much so that two cushions, which had been
forgotten, had to be hastily fetched. I saw what was the matter, and
motioning the two attendants of the royal sacristy, I whispered to them
to fetch what was wanted from my own apartment.
Not knowing to what use these cushions were to be put, my 'valet de
chambre' brought the flowered velvet ones, on which my dogs were wont to
lie. I noticed this just as their Highnesses were about to kneel down,
and I felt so irresistibly inclined to laugh that I was obliged to retire
to my room to avoid bursting out laughing before everybody.
Fortunately the Guises did not get to know of this little detail until
long after, or they might have imagined that it was a planned piece of
malicious mockery. However, it is only fair to admit that the marriage
was treated in a very off-hand way, and it is that which always happens
to people whose modesty and candour hinder them from posing and talking
big when they get the chance. A strange delusion, truly!
Mademoiselle d'Orleans, the eldest child of the second marriage, is
considered one of the prettiest and most graceful of blondes. Her
endowments were surely all that a princess could need, if one except
reserve in speaking, and a general dignity of deportment.
When it was a question of giving her to Prince de Medici, Grand Duke of
Tuscany, she was all the while sincerely attached to handsome Prince
Charles de Lorraine, her maternal cousin. But the King, who, in his
heart of hearts, wanted to get hold of Lorraine for himself, could not
sanction this union; nay, he did more: he opposed it. Accordingly the
Princess, being urged to do so by her mother, consented to go to Italy,
and as we say at Court, expatriate herself.
The Bishop of Nziers, named De Bonzy, the Tuscan charge d'afaires, came,
on behalf of the Medici family, to make formal demand of her hand, and
had undertaken to bring her to her husband with all despatch. He had
undertaken an all too difficult task.
"Monsieur de Bonzy," said she to the prelate, "as it is you who here play
the part of interpreter and cavalier of honour as it is you, moreover,
who have to drag me away from my native country, I have to inform you
that it is my intention to leave it as slowly as possible, and to
contemplate it at my leisure before quitting it forever."
And, indeed, the Princess desired to make a stay more or less long in
every town en route. If, on the way, she noticed a convent of any
importance, she at once asked to be taken thither, and, in default of
other pastime or pretext, she requested them to say complines with full
If she saw some castle or other, she inquired the name of its owner, and,
though she hardly knew the inmates, was wont to invite herself to dinner
The Bishop of Beziers grew disconsolate. He wrote letters to the Court,
which he sent by special courier, and I said to the King, "Pray, Sire,
let her do as she likes; she will surely have time enough to look at her
husband later on."
Near Saint Fargeau, when the Princess heard that this estate was her
sister's, Mademoiselle sent a gentleman with her compliments, to ask if
she would give her shelter for twenty-four hours. Instead of twenty-four
hours' stay, she proceeded to take up her abode there; and, provided with
a gun and dogs, she wandered all over the fields, always accompanied by
the worthy Bishop, at whose utter exhaustion she was highly amused.
At length she left her native land, and joined her husband, who seemed
somewhat sulky at all this delay.
"I cannot love you just yet," quoth she, weeping; "my heart is still
another's, and it is impossible to break off such attachments without
much time and much pain. Pray treat me with gentleness, for if you are
severe, I shall not do you any harm, but I shall go back to the
Luxembourg to my mother."
Random Recollections.--Madame de Montespan Withdraws from Politics.--The
Queen's Dowry.--First Campaign in Flanders.--The Queen Meets the
King.--Some One Else Sees Him First.--The Queen's Anger at La Valliere.
In compiling these Memoirs, I have never pretended to keep a strictly
regular diary, where events are set down chronologically and in their
proper order. I write as I recollect; some of my recollections are
chronicled sooner, and others later. Thus it happens that the King's
first conquests are only now mentioned in the present chapter, although
they occurred in the year 1667, at the beginning of my credit and my
I was naturally inclined for politics, and should have liked the hazard
of the game; but I suppose that the King considered me more frivolous and
giddy than I really was, for, despite the strong friendship with which he
has honoured me, he has never been gracious enough to initiate me into
the secrets of the Cabinet and the State.
If this sort of exclusion or ostracism served to wound my self-respect,
it nevertheless had its special advantage for me, for in epochs less
glorious or less brilliant (that is to say, in times of failure), they
could never cavil at advice or counsel which I had given, nor blame me
for the shortcomings of my proteges or creatures.
The King was born ambitious. This prince will not admit it; he gives a
thousand reasons in justification of his conquests. But the desire for
conquest proves him to be a conqueror, and one is not a conqueror without
being ambitious. I think I can explain myself by mentioning the treaty
drawn up at the time of his marriage. It was stipulated that the Infanta
should have rights over the Netherlands, then possessed by Don Balthazar,
Prince of Spain. But it was agreed to give the Princess Maria Theresa a
handsome dowry, in lieu of which she signed a paper renouncing her
Her father, King Philip IV., died at the close of the year 1665, and the
Queen-mother besought our King not to take advantage of the minority of
the young Charles II., his brother-in-law, by troubling Spain afresh with
Hardly had Anne of Austria been interred, when the King informed the
Spanish Court of his claims. In the spring of the following year, he
himself led an army into Spanish Flanders, where his appearance was not
expected. These fine provinces, badly provisioned and badly fortified,
made but a merely formal resistance to Conde, Turenne, Crequi, and all
our illustrious generals, who, led by the King in person, wrought the
troops to a wild pitch of enthusiasm.
The King had left the Infanta, his wife, at Compiegne, and it was there
that we awaited either news of the army or orders to advance.
From Compiegne we went to La Fere, where we heard that the King was
coming to receive us. Suddenly it was rumoured that the Duchesse de la
Valliere had just arrived, and that she was acting in accordance with
The Queen began to weep, and, sobbing, bewailed her destiny. She was
seized by convulsions and violent retching, much to the alarm of her
ladies and the physicians.
Next day, after mass, the Duchesse and the Marquise de la Valliere came
to make their courtesy to the Queen, who, staring at them, said not a
word. When dinner-time came, she gave orders that no food should be
served to them, but the officials supplied this to them in secret,
fearing to be compromised.
In the coach, the Queen complained greatly of Mademoiselle de la
Valliere, and the Princesse de Bade, one of the ladies-in-waiting, said
to me, "Could you have believed that, with such gentleness, one could
also display such impudence?" The Duchesse de Montausier, I know not
why, expressed herself to me in the same terms of amazement. I replied
that, "Were I in that fair lady's place, I should dare to show myself
least of all to the Queen, for fear of grieving her Majesty." I was
often rebuked afterwards for this speech, which, I admit, I delivered
On leaving La Fere, the Queen gave particular orders to let the Duchess
have no relays, so that she could not follow; but the Master of the Horse
had caused these to be brought to her from Versailles, so nothing was
On putting my head out of window, when we turned a corner of the road, I
saw that La Valliere's coach, with six horses, was following quite close
behind; but I took care not to tell the Queen, who believed those ladies
were a long way off.
All at once, on a height, we saw a body of horsemen approaching. The
King could be plainly distinguished, riding at their head. La Valliere's
coach immediately left the main road, and drove across country, while the
Queen called out to have it stopped; but the King embraced its occupants,
and then it drove off at a gallop to a chateau already fixed upon for its
I like to be just, and it is my duty to be so. This mark of irreverence
towards the Queen is the only one for which Mademoiselle de la Valliere
can be blamed; but she would never have done such a thing of her own
accord; it was all the fault of the Marquise, blinded as she was by
The King Contemplates the Conquest of Holland.--The Grand Seignior's
Embassy.--Madame de Montespan's Chance of Becoming First Lady of the
Harem.--Anxiety to Conclude Negotiations with so Passionate an
Ambassador.--Help Sent to Candia.--With Disastrous Results.--Death of the
Duc de Beaufort.--Why It Is Good to Carry About the Picture of One's
Having gained possession of the Netherlands in the name of the Infanta,
his consort, the King seriously contemplated the subjugation of the
Dutch, and possibly also the invasion of these rich countries. Meanwhile,
he privately intimated as much to the princes of Europe, promising to
each of them some personal and particular advantage in exchange for a
guarantee of assistance or neutrality in this matter.
The Grand Seignior, hearing that the Pope and the Venetians were urging
our Cabinet to come to the help of Candia,
[This important island of Candia, the last powerful bulwark of
Christendom against the Turk, belonged at that time to Venice. EDITOR'S
lost no time in sending a splendid embassy to Paris, to congratulate the
young King upon his conquest of Flanders, and to predict for him all
success in the paths along which ambition might lead him.
Being naturally fond of show and display, the King left nothing undone
which might give brilliance to the reception of so renowned an embassy.
The Court wore an air of such splendour and magnificence that these
Mussulmans, used though they were to Asiatic pomp, seemed surprised and
amazed at so brilliant a reception, at which nothing, indeed, had been
The ambassador-in-chief was a pleasant young man, tall, shapely, and
almost as good-looking as the King. This Turk had splendidly shaped
hands, and eyes that shone with extraordinary brilliance. He conceived
an ardent passion for me, a passion that went to such lengths that he
sacrificed thereto all his gravity, all his stately Ottoman demeanour.
When I passed by, he saluted me, placing his hand to his heart, stopping
to gaze at me intently, and watch me as long as possible. Being
introduced (either by chance or design) to my Paris jeweller, he seized a
gold box upon which he saw my portrait, and, giving the jeweller a
considerable sum, refused to part with the picture, however much they
begged him to do so.
One fine morning, in spite of his turban, he got into the large chapel of
the chateau during mass, and while the Court of France was adoring the
true God, Ibrahim knelt down in front of me, which made every one laugh,
including the King.
All such absurdities caused the ministers to give him the required reply
with all speed, and they were not backward in granting him a farewell
When the time came for him to go, Ibrahim burst into tears, exclaiming
that, in his country, I should be in the first rank, whereas at Saint
Germain I was only in the second; and he charged his interpreter to tell
the King of France that the unhappy Ibrahim would never get over this
visit to his Court.
The King replied, with a smile, that he had "better become a Christian,
and stay with us."
At these words the ambassador turned pale, and glancing downwards,
withdrew, forgetting to salute his Majesty.
Then he returned, and made all his bows quite nicely; nor would he quit
the capital before he had sent me his portrait, some pretty verses in
Italian, which he had caused to be composed, and besides this, a set of
amber ornaments, the most beautiful of any worn by ladies of the harem.
Despite this imposing and costly embassy, despite the ambassador's
compliment, who referred to the King as "Eldest Son of the Sun," this
same Son of the Sun despatched seven thousand picked troops to help
Venice against the Turks. To this detachment the Venetian Republic sent
fourteen vessels laden with their own soldiers, under the leadership of
our Duc de Beaufort, Grand Admiral of France, and Lieutenant-General Duc
Had these troops arrived in the nick of time, they would have saved
Candia, but by a sudden accident all was lost, and after so terrible a
reverse, the Isle of Candia, wrested from the potentates of Europe and
Christendom, fell a prey to the infidels.
A pistol-shot fired at a Turk blew up several barrels of gunpowder
belonging to a large magazine captured from the enemy. Our troops,
thinking that a mine had been sprung, fled in headlong confusion, never
even caring to save their muskets. The Turks butchered them in the most
frightful manner. In this huge massacre, some of our most promising
officers perished, and the Duc de Beaufort was never found either among
the wounded or the slain.
The young Comte de Guiche, of whom I shall presently speak, had his hand
smashed, and if on his breast he had not worn a portrait of Madame,--[The
ill-fated Duchesse d'Orleans.]--the sword of a Turk would have struck him
to the heart.
The King felt sorry that he had only despatched seven thousand men
thither. But when M. de Louvois informed him that the whole detachment
had been almost annihilated, he regretted having sent so many.
Danger of Harbouring a Malcontent.--The King's Policy with Regard to
Lorraine.--Advice of Madame de Thianges.--Conquest of Lorraine.--The
Lorraines Surrender to the Emperor.
The petty princes placed too near a great potentate are just like the
shrubs that grow beside an old oak tree, whose broad shade blights them,
while its roots undermine and sap them, till at last they are weakened
When young Gaston, son of Henri IV., seeking to get free from Richelieu's
insolent despotism, withdrew to the Duc de Lorraine, the Cardinal uttered
a cry of joy, and remarked to Louis XIII., that vindictive, jealous
prince, "Oh, what a good turn the Duc d'Orleans has just done you to-day!
By going to stay with M. de Lorraine, he will oust him!"
The Court soon got to know that M. de Lorraine had given Monsieur a most
cordial reception, and that the latter, who, like his father, was very
susceptible, had proposed for the hand of the Princesse Marguerite, a
charming person, and sister to the reigning Duke.
King Louis XIII. openly opposed this marriage, which nevertheless was
arranged for, and celebrated partly at Nancy and partly at Luneville.
Such complacence earned for M. de Lorraine the indignation of the King
and his minister, the Cardinal. They waged against him a war of revenge,
or rather of spoliation, and as the prince, being unable then to offer
any serious resistance, was sensible enough to surrender, he got off with
the sacrifice of certain portions of his territory. He also had to
witness the demolition by France of the fine fortifications of Nancy.
Things were at this juncture when our young King assumed the management
of affairs. The policy pursued by Louis XIII. and his Cardinal seemed to
him an advantageous one, also; he lured to his capital M. de Lorraine,
who was still young and a widower, and by every conceivable pretext he
was prevented from marrying again. Lorraine had a nephew,--[Prince
Charles.]--a young man of great promise, to whom the uncle there and then
offered to make over all his property and rights, if the King would
honour him with his protection and marry him to whomsoever he fancied.
The King would not consent to a marriage of any kind, having a firm,
persistent desire in this way to make the line of these two princes
I was talking about this one day in the King's chamber, when my sister De
Thianges had the hardihood to say:
"I hear that the Messieurs de Lorraine are about to take their departure,
and that, having lost all hope of making themselves beloved, they have
resolved to make themselves feared."
The King looked impassively at my sister, showing not a sign of emotion,
and he said to her:
"Do you visit there?"
"Sire," replied Madame de Thianges, unabashed, "augment the number, not
of your enemies, but of your friends; of all policies that is the best."
The King never said a word.
Soon afterwards, the Lorraines appealed secretly to the Empire and the
Emperor. The King was only waiting for such an opportunity; he forthwith
sent Marshal de Crequi at the head of twenty thousand men, who invaded
Lorraine, which had already been ravaged, and the Duchy of Bar, which had
The manifesto stated the motives for such complaint, alleging that the
Duke had not been at the pains to observe the Treaty of Metz with regard
to the surrender of Harsal, and, as a punishment, his entire sovereignty
would be confiscated.
A large army then marched upon Peronne; it had been formed at Saint
Germain, and was divided into two columns. The first went to join the
Duc de Crequi, who occupied Lorraine; the other took up its position near
Sedan, to keep the Flemish and Dutch in check in case of any attempted
The Lorraines, in despair, gave themselves up to the Emperor, who, aware
of their fine soldierly qualities, bestowed upon both high posts of
command. They caused great losses to France and keen anxiety to her
Embassy of the King of Arda.--Political Influence Exercised by the Good
Looks of Madame de Montespan.--Gifts of the Envoys.--What the Comte de
Vegin Takes for a Horse.--Madame de Montespan Entertains Them in Her Own
House.--Three Missionaries Recommend Her to Them.
From the wilds of Africa, the King of Arda sent an embassy no less
brilliant and far more singular than that of the Turks. This African
prince, hearing of the French King's noble character and of his recent
conquests, proposed to form with him a political and commercial alliance,
and sought his support against the English and the Dutch, his near
The King said to me; "Madame, I believe Ibrahim has proclaimed your
charms even to the Africans; you bring embassies to me from the other end
of the globe. For Heaven's sake, don't show yourself, or these new
envoys will utterly lose their heads, too."
The envoys referred to were notable for their rich, semibarbaric dress,
but not one of them was like Ibrahim. They brought the King a present,
in the shape of a tiger, a panther, and two splendid lions. To the Queen
they gave a sort of pheasant covered with gold and blue feathers, which
burst out laughing while looking intensely grave, to the great diversion
of every one. They also brought to the princess a little blackamoor,
extremely well-made, who could never grow any bigger, and of which she,
unfortunately, grew very fond.--[Later on the writer explains herself
more fully.--EDITOR'S NOTE.]
These Africans also came in ceremonious fashion to present their respects
to me. They greeted me as the "second spouse of the King" (which greatly
offended the Queen), and in the name of the King of Arda, they presented
me with a necklace of large pearls, and two bracelets of priceless
value,--splendid Oriental sapphires, the finest in the world.
I gave orders for my children to be brought to them. On seeing these,
they prostrated themselves. The little Comte de Vein, profiting by their
attitude, began to ride pick-a-back on one of them, who did not seem
offended at this, but carried the child about for a little while.
The ceremony of their presentation will, doubtless, have been described
in various other books; but I cannot forbear mentioning one incident. As
soon as the curtains of the throne were drawn aside, and they saw the
King wearing all his decorations and ablaze with jewels, they put their
hands up to their eyes, pretending to be dazzled by the splendour of his
presence, and then they flung themselves down at full length upon the
ground, the better to express their adoration.
I invited them to visit me at the Chateau de Clagny, my favourite
country-seat, and there I caused a sumptuous collation to be served to
them in accordance with their tastes. Plain roast meat they ate with
avidity; other dishes seemed to inspire them with distrust,--they looked
closely at them, and then went off to something else.
I do not interfere in affairs of State, but I wanted to know from what
source in so remote a country they could have obtained any positive
information as to the secrets of the Court of France. Through the
interpreter, they replied that three travellers--missionaries--had stayed
for a couple of months with their master, the King of Arda, and the good
fathers had told them "that Madame de Montespan was the second spouse of
the great King." These same missionaries had chosen the sort of presents
which they were to give me.
Comte de Vegin, Abbe of Saint Germain des Pres.--Revenues Required, but
Not the Cowl.--Discussion between the King and the Marquise.--Madame
Scarron Chosen as Arbiter.--An Unanswerable Argument.
The wealthy abbey of Saint Germain des Pres--[Yielding a revenue of five
hundred thousand livres.]--was vacant; the King appointed thereto his
son, the Comte de Vegin, and as the Benedictine monks secretly complained
that they should have given to them as chief a child almost still in its
cradle, the King instructed the grand almoner to remind them that they
had had as abbes in preceding reigns princes who were married and of
warlike tastes. "Such abuses," said the prelate, "were more than
reprehensible; his Majesty is incapable of wishing to renew them. As to
the Prince's extreme youth, that is in no way prejudicial to you, my
brethren, as monseigneur will be suitably represented by his
vicar-general until such time as he is able to assume the governorship
"Is it your intention to condemn my son to be an ecclesiastic?" I asked
the King, in amazement.
"Madame, these are my views," he answered: "If the Comte de Vegin as he
grows up should continue to show pluck and a taste for things military,
as by birth he is bound to do, we will relieve him of the abbey on the
eve of his marriage, while he will have profited thereby up to that time.
If, on the contrary, my son should show but inferior mental capacity, and
a pusillanimous character, there will be no harm in his remaining among
the Church folk; he will be far better off there than elsewhere. The
essential thing for a parent is to study carefully and in good time the
proper vocation for his children; the essential thing for the ruler of an
Empire is to employ the right people to do the work in hand."
"Will my son, on receiving this abbey, have to wear the dress of his
office?" I asked. "Imagine the Comte de Vegin an abbe!"
"Do not feel the slightest repugnance on that score," added the King.
"The Electors of the German Empire are nearly all of them ecclesiastics;
our own history of France will show you that the sons of kings were
bishops or mere abbes; the grandson of the Duc de Savoie is a cardinal
and an archbishop, and King Charles X., my grandfather's paternal uncle,
nearly became King of France and cardinal at one and the same time."
At this moment Madame Scarron came in. "Madame, we will make you our
judge in the argument that we are now having," said his Majesty. "Do you
think there is any objection to our giving to little Vegin the dress of
"On the contrary, Sire," replied the governess, smiling, "such a dress
will inspire him betimes with reserve and modesty, strengthening his
principles, and making far more profitable to him the excellent education
which he is now receiving."
"I am obliged to you for your opinion," said the King, "and I flatter
myself, madame, that you see things in the same light that I do."
When the King had gone, Madame Scarron asked me why I disapproved of this
"I do not wish to deny so rich a benefice to my son," I replied, "but it
seems to me that he might enjoy the revenues therefrom, without being
obliged to wear the livery. Is not the King powerful enough to effect
"You are hardly just, madame," replied the governess, in a serious tone.
"If our religion be a true one, God himself is at the head of it, and for
so supreme a Chief the sons of kings are but of small account."
With an argument such as this she closed my mouth, leaving me quite
amazed, and next day she smiled with delight when she presented the
little Comte de Vegin dressed as a little abbe.
She was careful to see that the crozier, mitre, and cross were painted on
the panels of his carriage, and let the post of vicar-general be given to
one of her pious friends who was presented to me.
Once a Queen, Always a Queen.--An Anonymous Letter.--The Queen's
Confidence.--She Has a Sermon Preached against Madame de Montespan.--Who
the Preacher was.--One Scandal May Avert Another.
I related how, near La Fere, at the time of the Flanders campaign, Madame
de la Valliere's coach, at the risk of offending the Queen, left the main
road and took a short cut across country, so as to get on ahead, and
arrive before anybody else. By this the Duchess thought to give her
royal friend a great mark of her attachment. On the contrary, it was the
first cause for that coolness which the King afterwards displayed.
"Fain would he be beloved, yet loved with tact."
The very next day his Majesty, prevailed upon La Valliere to say that
such a style of travelling was too fatiguing for her. She had the honour
of dining with the Queen, and then she returned to the little chateau of
Versailles, so as to be near her children.
The King arranged with Madame de Montausier, lady-in-waiting to the
Queen, that I should use her rooms to dress and write in, and that his
Majesty should be free to come there when he liked, and have a quiet chat
with me about matters of interest.
The Queen, whom I had managed to please by my amusing talk, always kept
me close to her side, both when taking long walks or playing cards. At a
given signal, a knock overhead, I used to leave the Queen, excusing
myself on the score of a headache, or arrears of correspondence; in
short, I managed to get away as best I could.
The King left us in order to capture Douai, then Tournay, and finally the
whole of Flanders; while the Queen continued to show me every sign of her
sincere and trustful friendship.
In August, on the Day of Our Lady, while the King was besieging Lille, a
letter came to the Queen, informing her that her husband had forsaken
Madame de la Valliere for her Majesty's lady-in-waiting, the Marquise de
Montespan. Moreover, the anonymous missive named "the prudent Duchesse
de Montausier" as confidante and accomplice.
"It is horrible--it is infamous!" cried the Queen, as she flung aside the
letter. "I shall never be persuaded that such is the case. My dear
little Montespan enjoys my friendship and my esteem; others are jealous
of her, but they shall not succeed. Perhaps the King may know the
handwriting; he shall see it at once!" And that same evening she
forwarded the letter to him.
The Comte de Vegin had been born, and the Queen was absolutely ignorant
of his existence. My pregnancy with the Duc du Maine had likewise
escaped her notice, owing to the large paniers which I took to wearing,
and thus made the fashion. But the Court is a place where the best of
friends are traitors. The Queen was at length convinced, after long
refusing to be so, and from that day forward she cordially detested me.
While the King was conquering Holland, she instructed her chief almoner
to have a sermon of a scandalous sort to be preached, which, delivered
with all due solemnity in her presence, should grieve and wound me as
much as possible.
On the day appointed, a preacher, totally unknown to us, gets into the
pulpit, makes a long prayer for the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and then,
rising gracefully, bows low to the Queen. Raising his eyes to heaven, he
makes the sign of the cross and gives out the following text: "Woman,
arise and sin no more. Go hence; I forgive thee."
As he uttered these words, he looked hard at my pew, and soon made me
understand by his egordium how interesting his discourse would be to me.
Written with rare grace of style, it was merely a piece of satire from
beginning to end,--of satire so audacious that it was constantly levelled
at the King.
The orator brought before us in succession lifelike portraits of the
Queen, of her august spouse, of my children, of M. de Montespan, and of
myself. Upon some he lavished praise; others he vehemently rebuked;
while to others he gave tender pity. Anon he caused the lips of his
hearers to curl in irony, and again, roused their indignation or touched
them to tears.
Any one else would have been bored by such a rigmarole; it rather amused
That evening, and for a week afterwards, nothing else but this sermon was
talked of at Versailles. The Queen had received complete satisfaction.
Before me she was at pains not to laugh, and I was pleased to see that
her resentment had almost disappeared.
Upon his return, the King was for punishing such an offence as this.
Things are not easily hidden from him; his Majesty desired to know the
name and rank of the ecclesiastic. The entire Court replied that he was
a good-looking young Franciscan.
The chief almoner, being forced to state the monastery from which the
preacher came, mentioned the Cordeliers of Paris. There it transpired
that the monk told off by the prior for this enterprise had been too
frightened to execute it, and had sent, as his deputy, a young actor from
Orleans,--a brother of his, who thus could not say no.
So, as it happened, Queen Maria Theresa and her chief almoner (an
exemplary person) had caused virtue to be preached to me by a young
play-actor! The King dared not take further proceedings in so strange a
matter, for fear lest one scandal might beget a far greater one. It was
this that caused Madame Cornuel to remark, "The pulpit is in want of
comedians; they work wonders there!"
The King Alters His Opinion about Madame Scarron.--He Wants Her to Assume
Another Name.--He Gives Her the Maintenon Estates.--She and Madame de
Montespan Visit These.--A Strange Story.
At first the King used to feel afraid of Madame Scarron, and seemingly
laughed at me when I endeavoured to persuade him that there was nothing
affected or singular about her. The Marquis de Beringhen, for some
reason or other, had prejudiced his Majesty against her, so that very
often, when the King heard that she was visiting me, he never got beyond
the vestibule, but at once withdrew. One day she was telling me, in her
pleasant, original way, a funny tale about the famous Brancas, and I
laughed till I cried again,--in fact, until I nearly made myself quite
The King, who was listening at the door, was greatly tickled by the
story. He came in smiling and thoroughly self-possessed. Then,
addressing the governess, he said, "Madame, allow me to compliment you
and to thank you at the same time. I thought you were of a serious,
melancholy disposition, but as I listened to you through the keyhole, I
am no longer surprised that you have such long talks with the Marquise.
Will you do me the favour of being as amusing some other time, if I
venture to make one of the party?"
The governess, courtesying, blushed somewhat; and the King continued,
"Madame, I am aware of your affection for my children; that is a great
recommendation to me; banish all restraint; I take the greatest pleasure
in your company."
She replied, "It was the fear of displeasing you which, despite myself,
caused me to incur your displeasure."
The King continued, "Madame, I know that the late M. de Scarron was a man
of much wit and also of agreeable manners. My cousin, De Beaufort, used
to rave about him, but on account of his somewhat free poems, his name
lacks weight and dignity. In fact, his name in no way fits so charming a
personality as yours; would it grieve you to change it?"
The governess cleverly replied that all that she owed to the memory of
her defunct husband was gratitude and esteem.
"Allow me, then, to arrange matters," added the King. "I am fond of
sonorous names; in this I agree with Boileau."
A few days afterwards we heard that the splendid Maintenon estates were
for sale. The King himself came to inform the widow of this, and, giving
her in advance the fee for education, he counted out a hundred thousand
crowns wherewith instantly to purchase the property.
Forthwith the King compelled her to discard this truly ridiculous
author's name, and styled her before everybody Madame de Maintenon.
I must do her the justice to state that her gratitude for the King's
liberality was well-nigh exaggerated, while no change was perceptible in
her manners and bearing. She had, naturally, a grand, dignified air,
which was in strange contrast to the grotesque buffoonery of her
poet-husband. Now she is exactly in her proper place, representing to
perfection the governess of a king's children.
Spiteful persons were wont to say that I appeared jealous on seeing her
made a marquise like myself. Good gracious, no! On the contrary, I was
delighted; her parentage was well known to me. The Duchesse de
Navailles, my protectress, was a near relative of hers, and M. d'Aubigne,
her grandfather, was one of King Henri's two Chief Gentlemen of the
Madame de Maintenon's father was, in many respects, greatly to blame.
Without being actually dishonest, he squandered a good deal of his
fortune, the greater part being pounced upon by his family; and had the
King forced these harpies to disgorge, Madame de Maintenon could have
lived in opulence, eclipsing several of the personages at Court.
I am glad to be able to do her justice in these Memoirs, to the
satisfaction of my own self-respect. I look upon her as my own
handiwork, and everything assures me that this is her conviction also,
and that she will always bear it in mind.
The King said to us, "Go and see the Chateau de Maintenon, and then you
can tell me all about it. According to an old book, I find that it was
built in the reign of Henri II. by Nicolas de Cointerot, the King's
minister of finance; a 'surintendant's' castle ought to form a noteworthy
feature of the landscape."
Madame de Maintenon hereupon told us a most extraordinary story. The
lady who sold this marquisate had retired two years previously to the
island of Martinique, where she, at the present moment, owned the
residence of Constant d'Aubigne, the same house where the new Marquise de
Maintenon had spent her childhood with her parents, so that while one of
these ladies had quitted the Chateau de Maintenon in order to live in
Martinique, the other had come from Martinique in order to reside at the
Chateau de Maintenon. Truly, the destinies of some are strange in this
The chateau appeared to be large, of solid proportions, and built in a
grandly simple style, befitting a minister of dignity and position. The
governess shed tears of emotion when setting foot there for the first
time. The six priests, whom the surintendant had appointed, officiated
in the large chapel or little church attached to the castle.
They approached us in regular procession, presenting holy water, baskets
of flowers and fruit, an old man, a child, and two little lambs to the
Marquise. The villagers, dressed out with flowers and ribbons, also came
to pay, their respects to her. They danced in the castle courtyard,
under our balcony, to the sound of hautbois and bagpipes.
We gave them money, said pleasant things to everybody, and invited all
the six clerics to sup with us. These gentry spoke with great respect of
the other Madame de Maintenon, who had become disgusted with her
property, and with France generally, because, for two winters running,
her orange-groves and fig-trees had been frost-bitten. She herself,
being a most chilly, person, never left off her furs until August, and in
order to avoid looking at or walking upon snow and ice, she fled to the
other end of the world.
"The other extreme will bring her back to us," observed Madame de
Maintenon to the priests. "Though his Majesty were to give me Martinique
or Saint Domingo, I certainly would never go and live there myself."
When we returned, all these little details greatly amused the King. He,
too, wanted to go and see the castle of another Fouquet, but, as we
complained of the bad roads, he ordered these to be mended along the
The Second Comte de Vexin.--He is made Abbe of Saint Denis.--Priests or
Devils?--The Coronation Diadem.--Royalty Jokes with the Monks.
My poor little Comte de Vegin died. We all mourned for him as he
deserved; his pretty face would have made every one love him; his extreme
gentleness had nothing of the savage warrior about it, but at any rate,
he was the best-looking cardinal in Christendom. He made such funny
speeches that one could not help recollecting them. He was more of a
Mortemart than a Bourbon, but that did not prevent the King from
The King thought of conferring the Abbey of Saint Germain des Pres upon
his younger brother; to this I was opposed, imagining, perhaps without
reason, that such succession would bring bad luck. So the King presented
him to the Abbey of Saint Denis, the revenue of which was equally
considerable, and he conferred upon him the title of Comte de Vexin,
caring nothing for the remarks I made concerning the similarities of such
names and distinctions.
The second Comte de Vegin bid fair to be a man of reflection and of
genius. He obviously disliked his little abbe's dress, and we always
kept saying, "It's only for the time being, my little fellow."
When, after his nomination, the monks of Saint Denis came to make their
obeisance to him, he asked if they were devils, and continually covered
his face so as not to see them.
The King arrived, and with a few flattering words managed to soothe the
priests' outraged dignity, and when they asked the little prince if he
would honour them by a visit of inspection to Suger's room,
[Suger was Abbe of Saint Denis, and a famous minister of Queen Blanche.
which had just been restored, he replied with a sulky smile, "I'll come
and see you, but with my eyes shut."
Then the priests mildly remonstrated because the coronation diadem had
not been brought back to their store of treasures, but was still missing.
"So, in your treasure-house at Saint Denis you keep all the crowns of all
the reigns?" asked the prince.
"Yes, Sire, and where could they be better guarded than with us? Who has
most may have least."
"With all their rubies, diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds?"
"Yes, Sire; and hence the name treasure."
The King replied, "If this be the case, I will send you my coronation
crown. At that time my brow was not so big; you will find the crown
small, I tell you."
Then one of the monks, in the most serious manner, said, "It's not as
small as it was; your Majesty has enlarged it a good deal."
Madame de Maintenon burst out laughing, and I was not slow to follow her
example; we saw that the King could hardly maintain his gravity. He said
to the priest, "My father, you turn a pretty compliment in a most
praiseworthy manner; you ought to have belonged to the Jesuits, not to
We burst out laughing anew, and this convent-deputation, the
gloomiest-looking, most funereal one in the world, managed to cause us
some diversion, after all.
To make amends for our apparent frivolity, his Majesty himself took them
to see his splendid cabinet of medals and coins, and sent them back to
their abbey in Court carriages.
M. de Lauzun Proposes for the Hand of Mademoiselle de Thianges.--Letter
from the Duc de Lorraine.--Madame de Thianges Thinks that Her Daughter
Has Married a Reigning Prince.--The King Disposes Otherwise.--The Duc de
The brilliant Marquis de Lauzun, after paying court to myself, suddenly,
turned his attention to Mademoiselle de Thianges,--my sister's child. If
a fine figure and a handsome face, as well as the polished manners of a
great gentleman, constitute a good match, M. de Lauzun was, in all
respects, worthy of my niece. But this presumptuous nobleman had but a
slender fortune. Extravagant, without the means to be so, his debts grew
daily greater, and in society one talked of nothing but his lavish
expenditure and his creditors. I know that the purses of forty women
were at his disposal. I know, moreover, that he used to gamble like a
prince, and I would never marry my waiting-maid to a gambler and a rake.
Both Madame de Thianges and myself rejected his proposals, and though
resolved to let him have continued proofs of our good-will, we were
equally determined never to accept such a man as son-in-law and nephew.
Hereupon the letter which I am about to transcribe was sent to me by a
PRINCE CHARLES DE LORRAINE TO MADAME LA MARQUISE DE MONTESPAN.
MADAME:--My unfortunate uncle and I have always loved France, but France
has forced us both to break off all relations with her and to become
exiles!!! Despite the kindness and generosity wherewith the Imperial
Court seeks to comfort us in our misfortune, the perpetual cry of our
hearts calls us back to our fatherland,--to that matchless land where my
ancestors have ever been beloved.
My uncle is guilty of no crime but that of having formerly received in
his palace a son of good King Henri IV., after his humiliation by a
shameless minister. My dear uncle proposed to resign all his property in
my favour, and to meet the wishes of his Majesty as to the wife that
should be mine.
When my uncle asked for the hand of Mademoiselle de Montpensier, on my
behalf, my cousin replied that a ruined and dismantled throne did not
augur well for a dowry, and she further remarked that we were not on good
terms with the King.
When I begged Cardinal Mazarin to grant me the hand of the present Madame
de Mazarin, his Eminence replied, "Would you like to be a cardinal? I
can manage that; but as regards my niece, the Queen is going to get her
When, before God and man, I wedded Mademoiselle de Nemours, whose worthy
mother led her to the altar, his Majesty refused to sign the marriage
contract, and told Madame de Nemours that it would never be considered
Soon afterwards the Bishop of Laon, who has complete influence over
Madame de Vendome, declared as null and void--a marriage negotiated and
consecrated by himself, and thus a bond made in heaven has been broken on
Such treatment as this, I confess, seemed to us to exceed the bounds of
humanity and of justice. My uncle and I quitted France,--the France that
persecutes and harasses us, that desires the destruction of our family
and the forcible union of our territory with her own.
The late Queen, of illustrious and glorious memory, disapproved of
Richelieu's injustice towards us. Under the ministry of the Cardinal,
his successor, she often, in noble fashion, held out to us a helping
hand. How comes it that the King, who in face is her living image, does
not desire to be like her in heart?
I address myself to you, madame, who by your beauty and Spiritual charm
hold such imperious sway over his decisions, and I implore you to
undertake our defence. My uncle and I, his rightful and duteous heir,
offer the King devoted homage and unswerving fealty. We offer to forget
the past, to put our hearts and our swords at his service. Let him
withdraw his troops and those standards of his that have brought terror
and grief to our unhappy Lorraine. I offer to marry Mademoiselle de
Thianges, your beautiful and charming niece, and to make her happy, and
to surrender all any estates to the King of France, if I die without male
issue or heirs of any sort.
I know your kind-heartedness, madame, by a niece who is your picture. In
your hands I place her interests and my fate. I await your message with
impatience, and I shall receive it with courage if you fail to obtain
that which you ought to obtain.
Be assured, madame, of my unbounded admiration and respect.
I at once went to my house at Clagny, whither I privately summoned Madame
de Thianges. On reading this letter, my sister was moved to tears, for
she had always deeply felt how unjustly this family had been treated. She
was also personally attached to this same Prince Charles, whom to see was
We read this letter through thrice, and each time we found it more
admirable; the embarrassing thing was how to dare to let his Majesty know
its contents. However temperate the allusions to himself, there was
still the reproach of injustice and barbarity, set against the clemency
of Anne of Austria, and her generous compassion.
My sister said to me, "Go boldly to work in the matter. Despite your
three children, the King leaves you merely a marquise; and for my own
part, if my daughter becomes Duchesse do Lorraine, I promise you the
Principality of Vaudemont."
"It is quite true," I replied; "his conduct is inexplicable. To Madame
Scarron, who was only the governess of his children, he gives one of the
first marquisates of France, while to me, who have borne these three
children (with infinite pain), I admit he has only given some jewelry,
some money, and this pretty castle of Clagny."
"You are as clever as can be, my dear Athenais," said Madame de Thianges,
"but, as a matter of fact, your cleverness is not of a business kind. You
don't look after yourself, but let yourself be neglected; you don't push
yourself forward enough, nor stand upon your dignity as you ought to do.
"The little lame woman had hardly been brought to bed of Mademoiselle de
Blois, when she was made Duchesse de Vaujours and de la Valliere.
"Gabrielle d'Estrees, directly she appeared, was proclaimed Duchesse de
"Diane de Poitiers was Duchesse de Valentinois and a princess. It's only
you who are nobody, and your relations also are about the same! Make the
most of this grand opportunity; help the Prince of Lorraine, and the
Prince of Lorraine will help you."
On our return from the chateau, while our resolution was yet firm, we
went laughing to the King. He asked the reason of our gaiety. My sister
said with her wonted ease, "Sire, I have come to invite you to my
"Your daughter? Don't you think I am able to get her properly married?"
cried the King.
"Sire, you cannot do it better than I can myself. I am giving her a
sovereign as husband, a sovereign in every sense of the term."
It seemed to me the King flushed slightly as he rejoined, "A sovereign on
his feet, or a sovereign overthrown?"
"How do you mean, Sire?" said my sister.
"Madame de Thianges," replied the King, "pray, let us be friends. I was
informed two days ago of the proposals of the Messieurs de Lorraine; it
is not, yet time to give them a definite reply. It behoves, me to give
your daughter in marriage, and I have destined her for the Duc de Nevers,
who is wealthy, and my friend."
"The Duc de Nevers!" cried my sister; "why, he's cracked for six months
in the year."
"Those who are cracked for a whole twelvemonth deserve far more pity,"
replied the King.
Then, turning to me, he observed, "You make no remark, madame? Does your
niece's coronation provide you also with illusions?"
I easily perceived that we had been cherishing an utterly fantastic
scheme, and I counselled Madame de Thianges to prefer to please the King;
and, as she was never able to control her feelings, she sharply replied,
"Madame la Marquise, good day or good night!"
The King, however, did not relax his persistence in giving us the Duc de
Nevers as son-in-law and nephew; and as this young gentleman's one fault
is to require perpetual amusement, partly derived from poetry and partly
from incessant travelling, my niece is as happy with him as a woman who
takes her husband's place well can be. As soon as he gets to Paris, he
wants to return to Rome, and hardly has he reached Rome, when he has the
horses put to for Paris.
Mademoiselle de Mortemart, Abbess of Fontevrault.--She Comes to
Court.--The Cloister.--Her Success at Court.--Her Opinion Respecting
Madame de Montespan's Intimacy with the King.
My second sister, Mademoiselle de Mortemart, was so unfortunate as to
fall in love with a young Knight of Malta, doomed from his birth and by
his family to celibacy. Having set out upon his caravans,--[Sea-fights
against the Turks and the pirates of the Mediterranean.]--he was killed
in combat by the Algerians.
Such was Mademoiselle de Mortemart's grief that life became unbearable to
her. Beautiful, witty, and accomplished, she quitted the world where she
was beloved, and, at the, age of seventeen, took the veil at Fontevrault.
So severely had she blamed the conduct of Mademoiselle de la Valliere,
while often vehemently denouncing that which she termed the disorder at
Court, that, since the birth of the Duc du Maine, I had not gone to the
convent to see her. We were like unto persons both most anxious to break
off an intimacy and yet who had not done so.
The Duc de Lorraine was known to her. He wrote to her, begging her to
make it up with me, so as to further his own ends. To gratify him, and
mainly because of her attachment to Prince Charles, my sister actually
wrote to me, asking for my intervention and what she termed my support.
Nuns always profess to be, and think that they are, cut off from the
world. But the fact is, they care far more for mundane grandeur than we
do. Madame de Thianges and her sister would have given their very
heart's blood to see my niece the bride of a royal prince.
One day the King said to me, "The Marquise de Thianges complains that I
have as yet done nothing for your family; there is a wealthy abbey that
has just become vacant; I am going to give it to your sister, the nun;
since last night she is the Abbess of Fontevrault."
I thanked the King, as it behoved me to do, and he added, "Your brother
shall be made a duke at once. I am going to appoint him general of Royal
Galleys, and after one or two campaigns he will have a marshal's baton."
"And what about me, Sire?" said I. "What, may it please your Majesty,
shall I get from the distribution of all these favours and emoluments?" I
laughingly asked the question.
"You, madame?" he replied. "To you I made a present of my heart, which
is not altogether worthless; yet, as it is possible that, when this heart
shall have ceased to beat, you may have to maintain your rank, I will
give you the charming retreat of Petit-Bourg, near Fontainebleau."
Saying this, his face wore a sad look, and I was sorry that I asked him
for anything. He is fond of giving, and of giving generously, but of his
own accord, without the least prompting. Had I refrained from committing
this indiscretion, he might, possibly, have made me a duchess there and
then, renaming Petit-Bourg Royal-Bourg.
The new abbess of Fontevrault, caring less now for claustral seclusion,
equipped her new residence in very sumptuous style. In a splendid
carriage she came to thank the King and kiss hands. With much tact and
dignity she encountered the scrutiny of the royal family and of the
Court. Her manners showed her to have been a person brought up in the
great world, and possessed of all the tact and delicacy which her
position as well as mine required.
As she embraced me, she sighed; yet, instantly recovering herself, she
made the excuse that so many ceremonious greetings and compliments had
It was not long before the King joined us, who said, "Madame, I never
thought that there was much amusement to be got by wearing the veil. Now,
you must admit that days in a convent seem very long to any one who has
wit and intelligence."
"Sire," replied my sister, "the first fifteen or twenty months are
wearisome, I readily confess. Then comes discouragement; after that,
habit; and then one grows resigned to one's fetters from the mere
pleasure of existence."
"Did you meet with any good friends among your associates?"
"In such assemblies," rejoined the Abbess, "one can form no attachment or
durable friendship. The reason for this is simple. If the companion you
choose is religious in all sincerity, she is perforce a slave to every
little rule and regulation, and to her it would seem like defrauding the
Deity to give affection to any one but to Him. If, by mischance, you
meet with some one of sensitive temperament, with a bright intellect that
matches your own, you lay yourself open to be the mournful sharer of her
griefs, doubts, and regrets, and her depression reacts upon you; her
sorrow makes your melancholy return. Privation conjures up countless
illusions and every chimera imaginable, so that the peaceful retreat of
virgins of the Lord becomes a veritable hell, peopled by phantoms that
groan in torture!"
"Oh, madame!" exclaimed the King. "What a picture is this! What a
spectacle you present to our view!"
"Fortunately," continued Mademoiselle de Mortemart, "in convents girls of
intelligence are all too rare. The greater number of them are colourless
persons, devoid of imagination or fire. To exiles like these, any
country, any climate would seem good; to flaccid, crushed natures of this
type, every belief would seem authoritative, every religion holy and
divine. Fifteen hundred years ago these nuns would have made excellent
vestal virgins, watchful and resigned. What they need is abstinence,
prohibitions, thwartings, things contrary to nature. By conforming to
most rigorous rules, they consider themselves suffering beings who
deserve heavy recompense; and the Carmelite or Trappist sister, who
macerates herself by the hair-shirt or the cilex, would look upon God as
a false or wicked Being, if, after such cruel torment, He did not
promptly open to her the gates of Paradise.
"Sire," added the Abbess de Fontevrault, "I have three nuns in my convent
who take the Holy Communion every other day, and whom my predecessor
could never bring herself to absolve for some old piece of nonsense of
twenty years back."
"Do you think you will be able to manage them, madame?" asked the King,
"I am afraid not," replied my sister. "Those are three whom one could
never manage, and your Majesty on the throne may possibly have fewer
difficulties to deal with than the abbess or the prior of a convent."
The King was obliged to quit us to go and see one of the ministers, but
he honoured the Abbess by telling her that she was excellent company, of
which he could never have too much.
My sister wished to see Madame de Maintenon and the Duc du Maine; so we
visited that lady, who took a great liking to the Abbess, which was
When my sister saw the young Duc du Maine, she exclaimed, "How handsome
he is! Oh, sister, how fond I shall be of such a nephew!"
"Then," said I, "you will forgive me, won't you, for having given birth
"When I reproached you," she answered, "I had not yet seen the King. When
one has seen him, everything is excusable and everything is right.
Embrace me, my dear sister, and do not let us forget that I owe my abbey
to you, as well as my independence, fortune, and liberty."
M. de Lauzun and Mademoiselle de Montpensier.--Marriage of the One and
Passion of the Other.--The King Settles a Match.--A Secret Union.--The
King Sends M. de Lauzun to Pignerol.--The Life He Leads
There.--Mademoiselle's Liberality.--Strange Way of Acknowledging It.
They are forever talking about the coquetry of women; men also have their
coquetry, but as they show less grace and finesse than we do, they do not
get half as much attention.
The Marquis de Lauzun, having one day, noticed a certain kindly feeling
for him in the glances of Mademoiselle, endeavoured to seem to her every
day more fascinating and agreeable. The foolish Princess completely fell
into the snare, and suddenly giving up her air of noble indifference,
which till then had made her life happy, she fell madly in love with a
schemer who despised and detested her.
Held back for some months by her pride, as also by the exigencies of
etiquette, she only disclosed her sentimental passion by glances and a
mutual exchange of signs of approval; but at last she was tired of
self-restraint and martyrdom, and, detaining M. de Lauzun one day in a
recess, she placed her written offer of marriage in his hand.
The cunning Marquis feigned astonishment, pretending humbly to renounce
such honour, while increasing his wiles and fascinations; he even went so
far as to shed tears, his most difficult feat of all.
Mademoiselle de Montpensier, older than he by twelve or fourteen years,
never suspected that such a disparity of years was visible in her face.
When one has been pretty, one imagines that one is still so, and will
forever remain so. Plastered up and powdered, consumed by passion, and
above all, blinded by vanity, she fancied that Nature had to obey
princes, and that, to favour her, Time would stay his flight.
Though tired and bored with everything, Lauzun, the better to excite her
passion, put on timid, languid airs, like those of some lad fresh from
school. Quitting the embraces of some other woman, he played the lonely,
pensive, melancholy bachelor, the man absorbed by this sweet, new mystery
Having made mutual avowal of their passion, which was fill of esteem,
Lauzun inquired, merely from motives of caution, as to the Princess's
fortune; and she did not fail to tell him everything, even about her
plate and jewels. Lauzun's love grew even more ardent now, for she had
at least forty millions, not counting her palace.
He asked if, by the marriage, he would become a prince, and she replied
that she, herself, had not sufficient power to do this; that she was most
anxious to arrange this, if she could; but anyhow, that she could make
him Duc de Montpensier, with a private uncontrolled income of five
hundred thousand livres.
He asked if, on the family coat-of-arms, the husband's coronet was to
figure, or the wife's; but, as she would not change her name, her arms,
she decided, could remain as heretofore,--the crown, the fleur-de-lis,
and so forth.
He inquired if the children of the marriage would rank as princes, and
she said that she saw nothing to prevent this. He also asked if he would
be raised higher in the peerage, and might look to being made a prince at
last, and styled Highness as soon as the contract had been signed.
This caused some doubt and reflection. "The King, my cousin," said
Mademoiselle, "is somewhat strict in matters of this sort. He seems to
think that the royal family is a new arch-saint, at whom one may look
only when prostrate in adoration; all contract therewith is absolutely
forbidden. I begin to feel uneasy about this; yes, Lauzun, I have fears
for our love and marriage."
"Are you, then, afraid?" asked Lauzun, quite crestfallen.
"I knew how to point the Bastille cannon at the troops of the King," she
replied; "but he was very young then. No matter, I will go and see him;
if he is my King, I am his cousin; if he has his crotchets, I have my
love and my will. He can't do anything, my dear Lauzun; I love you as
once he loved La Valliere, as to-day he loves Montespan; I am not afraid
of him. As for the permission, I know our history by heart, and I will
prove to him by a hundred examples that, from the time of Charlemagne up
to the present time, widows and daughters of kings have married mere
noblemen. These nobleman may have been most meritorious,--I only know
them from history,--but not one of them was as worthy as you."
So saying, she asked for her fan, her gloves, and her horses, and
attended by her grooms-in-waiting, she went to the King in person.
The King listened to her from beginning to end, and then remarked, "You
refused the Kings of Denmark, Portugal, Spain, and England, and you wish
to marry my captain of the guard, the Marquis de Lauzun?"
"Yes, Sire, for I place him above all monarchs,--yourself alone
"Do you love him immensely?"
"More than I can possibly say; a thousand, a hundred thousand times more
"Do you think he is equally devoted to you?"--"That would be impossible,"
she tranquilly answered; "but his love for me is delicate, tender; and
such friendship suffices me."
"My cousin, in all that there is self-interest. I entreat you to
reflect. The world, as you know, is a mocking world; you want to excite
universal derision and injure the respect which is due to the place that
"Ah, Sire, do not wound me! I fling myself at your feet. Have
compassion upon M. de Lauzun, and pity my tears. Do not exercise your
power; let him be the consolation of my life; let me marry him."
The King, no longer able to hide his disgust and impatience, said,
"Cousin, you are now a good forty-four years old; at that age you ought
to be able to take care of yourself. Spare me all your grievances, and
do what pleases you."
On leaving Mademoiselle, he came to my apartment and told me about all
this nonsense. I then informed him of what I had heard by letter the day
before. Lauzun, while still carrying on with the fastest ladies of the
Court and the town, had just wheedled the Princess into making him a
present of twenty millions,--a most extravagant gift.
"This is too much!" exclaimed the King; and he at once caused a letter to
be despatched to Mademoiselle and her lover, telling them that their
intimacy must cease, and that things must go no farther.
But the audacious Lauzun found means to suborn a well-meaning simpleton
of a priest, who married them secretly the very same day.
The King's indignation and resentment may well be imagined. He had his
captain of the guard arrested and sent as a prisoner to Pignerol.
On this occasion, M. de Lauzun complained bitterly of me; he invented the
most absurd tales about me, even saying that he had struck me in my own
apartments, after taunting me to my face with "our old intimacy."
That is false; he reproached me with nothing, for there was nothing to
reproach. Shortly after the Princess's grand scene, he came and begged
me to intercede on his behalf. I only made a sort of vague promise, and
he knew well enough that, in the great world, a vague promise is the same
as a refusal.
For more than six months I had to stanch the tears and assuage the grief
of Mademoiselle. So tiresome to me did this prove, that she alone
well-nigh sufficed to make me quit the Court.
Such sorrowing and chagrin made her lose the little beauty that still
remained to her; nothing seemed more incongruous and ridiculous than to
hear this elderly grand lady talking perpetually about "her dearest
darling, the prisoner."
At the time I write he is at Pignerol; his bad disposition is forever
getting him into trouble. She sends him lots of money unknown to the
King, who generally knows everything. All this money he squanders or
gambles away, and when funds are low, says, "The old lady will send us
Hyde, the Chancellor.--Misfortune Not Always Misfortune.--Prince
Comnenus.--The King at Petit-Bourg.--His Incognito.--Who M. de Vivonne
The castle of Petit-Bourg, of which the King made me a present, is
situate on a height overlooking the Seine, whence one may get the
loveliest of views. So pleasant did I find this charming abode, that I
repaired thither as often as possible, and stayed for five or six days.
One balmy summer night, I sat in my dressing-gown at the central balcony,
watching the stars, as was my wont, asking myself whether I should not be
a thousand times happier if I should pass my life in a retreat like this,
and so have time to contemplate the glorious works of Nature, and to
prepare myself for that separation which sooner or later awaited me.
Reason bade me encourage such thoughts, yet my heart offered opposition
thereto, urging that there was something terrifying in solitude, most of
all here, amid vast fields and meadows, and that, away from the Court and
all my friends, I should grow old, and death would take me before my,
time. While plunged in such thoughts, I suddenly heard the sound of a
tocsin, and scanning the horizon, I saw flames and smoke rising from some
hamlet or country-house. I rang for my servants, and told them instantly
to despatch horsemen to the scene of the catastrophe, and bring back
The messengers started off, and soon came back to say that the fire had
broken out at the residence of my lord Hyde, Chancellor of England, who
was but lately convalescent. They had seen him lying upon a rug on the
grass, some little distance from the burning mansion. I forthwith
ordered my carriage to be sent for him, and charged my surgeon and
secretary to invite him to take shelter at my castle.
My lord gratefully accepted the invitation; he entered my room as the
clock struck twelve. As yet he could not tell the cause of the disaster,
and in a calm, patriarchal manner observed, "I am a man marked out for
great misfortune. God forbid, madame, that the mischance which dogs my
footsteps touch you also!"
"I cannot bear to see a fire," said I, in reply to the English nobleman,
"for some dreadful accident always results therefrom. Yet, on the whole,
they are of good augury, and I am sure, my lord, that your health or your
affairs will benefit by this accident."
Hearing me talk thus, my lord smiled. He only took some slight
refreshment,--a little soup,--and heard me give orders for all my
available servants to be sent to the scene of disaster, in order to save
all his furniture, and protect it as well.
After repeated expressions of his gratitude, he desired to withdraw, and
retired to rest. Next day we learnt that the fire had been got under
about one o'clock in the morning; one wing only of the chateau had been
destroyed, and the library, together with all the linen and plate, was
well-nigh intact. Lord Hyde was very glad to hear the news. They told
him that all the labourers living near had gladly come to the help of his
servants and mine. As his private cashbox had been saved, owing to their
vigilance and honesty, he promised to distribute its contents among them
when he returned.
Hardly had he got the words out, when they came to tell me that, on the
highroad, just in front of my gates, a carriage, bound for Paris, had the
traces broken, and the travellers persons of distinction begged the
favour of my hospitality for a short while. I consented with pleasure,
and they went back to take the travellers my answer.
"You see, madame," said the Chancellor, "my bad luck is contagious; no
sooner have I set foot in this enchanting abode than its atmosphere
deteriorates. A travelling-carriage passes rapidly by in front of the
gates, when lo! some invisible hand breaks it to pieces, and stops it
from proceeding any further."
Then I replied, "But how do you know, monsieur, that this mishap may not
prove a most agreeable adventure for the travellers to whom we are about
to give shelter? To begin with, they will have the honour of making your
acquaintance, and to meet with an illustrious person is no common or
The servants announced the Princes Comnenus, who immediately entered the
salon. Though dressed in travelling-costume, with embroidered gaiters,
in the Greek fashion, it was easy to see what they were. The son, a lad
of fourteen, was presented to me by his father, and when both were
seated, I introduced them to the Chancellor.
"The name is well known," observed the Prince, "even in Greece. My lord
married his daughter to the heir-presumptive to the English throne, and
England, being by nature ungrateful, has distressed this worthy parent,
while robbing him of all his possessions."
At these words Lord Hyde became greatly affected; he could not restrain
his tears, and fearing at first to compromise himself, he told us that
his exile was voluntary and self-imposed, or very nearly so.
After complimenting the Chancellor of a great kingdom, Prince Comnenus
thought that he ought to say something courteous and flattering to
"Madame," quoth he, "it is only now, after asking for hospitality and
generously obtaining it, that I and my son have learnt the name of the
lady who has so graciously granted us admission to this most lovely
place. For a moment we hesitated in awe. But now our eyes behold her
whom all Europe admires, whom a great King favours with his friendship
and confidence. What strange chances befall one in life! Could I ever
have foreseen so fortunate a mishap!"
I briefly replied to this amiable speech, and invited the travellers to
spend, at least, one day with us. They gladly accepted, and each retired
to his apartment until the time came for driving out. Dinner was laid,
and on the point of being served, when the King, who was on his way from
Fontainebleau, suddenly entered my room. He had heard something about a
fire, and came to see what had happened. I at once informed him, telling
him, moreover, that I had the Duke of York's father-in-law staying with
me at the moment.
"Lord Hyde, the Chancellor?" exclaimed the King. "I have never seen
him, and have always been desirous to make his acquaintance. The
opportunity is an easy and favourable one."
"But that is not all, Sire; I have other guests to meet you," said I.
"And who may they be?" inquired the King, smiling. "Just because I have
come in rough-and-ready plight, your house is full of people."
"But they are in rough-and-ready plight as well," I answered; "so your
Majesties must mutually excuse each other."
"Are you in fun or in earnest?" asked his Majesty. "Have you really got
some king stowed away in one of your rooms?"
"Not a king, Sire, but an emperor,--the Emperor of Constantinople and
Trebizond, accompanied by the Prince Imperial, his son. You shall see
two Greek profiles of the best sort, two finely cut noses, albeit hooked,
and almond-shaped eyes, like those of Achilles and Agamemnon."
Then the King said, "Send for your groom of the chambers at once, and
tell him to give orders that my incognito be strictly observed. You must
introduce me to these dignitaries as your brother, M. de Vivonne. Under
these conditions, I will join your party at table; otherwise, I should be
obliged to leave the castle immediately."
The King's wishes were promptly complied with; the footmen were let into
the secret, and I introduced "Monsieur de Vivonne" to my guests.
The talk, without being sparkling, was pleasant enough until dessert.
When the men-servants left us, it assumed a very different character. The
King induced the Chancellor to converse, and asked him if his exile were
owing to the English monarch personally, or to some parliamentary
"King Charles," replied his lordship, "is a prince to gauge whose
character requires long study. Apparently, he is the very soul of
candour, but no one is more deceitful than he. He fawns and smiles upon
you when in his heart of hearts he despises and loathe you. When the
Duke of York, unfortunately, became violently enamoured of my daughter,
he did not conceal his attachment from his brother, the King, and at last
asked for his approval to join his fortunes to my daughter's, when the
King, without offering opposition, contented himself by pointing out the
relative distance between their rank and position; to which the Duke
replied, 'But at one time you did everything you possibly could to get
Olympia Mancini, who was merely Mazarin's niece!' And King Charles, who
could not deny this, left his brother complete liberty of action.
"As my daughter was far dearer and more precious to me than social
grandeur, I begged the Duke of York to find for himself a partner of
exalted rank. He gave way to despair, and spoke of putting an end to his
existence; in fact, he behaved as all lovers do whom passion touches to
madness; so this baleful marriage took place. God is my witness that I
opposed it, urged thereto by wisdom, by modesty, and by foresight. Now,
as you see, from that cruel moment I have been exiled to alien lands,
robbed of the sight of my beloved child, who has been raised to the rank
of a princess, and whom I shall never see again. Why did my sovereign
not say to me frankly, I do not like this marriage; you must oppose it,
Chancellor, to please me?
"How different was his conduct from that of his cousin, the French King!
Mademoiselle d'Orleans wanted to make an unsuitable match; the King
opposed it, as he had a right to do, and the marriage did not take
My "brother," the King, smiled as he told his lordship he was right.
Prince Comnenus was of the same opinion, and, being expressly invited to
do so, he briefly recounted his adventures, and stated the object of his
journey to Paris.
"The whole world," said he, "is aware of the great misfortunes of my
family. The Emperors Andronicus and Michael Comnenus, driven from the
throne of Constantinople, left their names within the heart and memory of
Greece; they had ruled the West with a gentle sceptre, and in a people's
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