The Memoirs of Madame de Montespan, Complete
Madame La Marquise De Montespan
Part 3 out of 8
grateful remembrance they had their reward. My ancestors, their
descendants, held sway in Trebizond, a quicksand which gave way beneath
their tread. From adversity to adversity, from country to country, we
were finally driven to seclusion in the Isle of Candia, part of the
quondam Minos territory. Venice had allowed Candia to fall before
Mahomet's bloody sword. Europe lost her bulwark, the Cross of the
Saviour was thrown down, and the Candian Christians have been massacred
or forced to flee. I have left in the hands of the conqueror my fields
and forests, my summer palace, my winter palace, and my gardens filled
with the produce of America, Asia, and Europe. From this overwhelming
disaster I managed to save my son; and as my sole fortune I brought away
with me the large jewels of Andronicus, his ivory and sapphire sceptre,
his scimitar of Lemnos, and his ancient gold crown, which once encircled
"These noble relics I shall present to the King of France. They say that
he is humane, generous, fond of glory, and zealous in the cause of
justice. When before his now immovable throne he sees laid down these
last relics of an ancient race, perhaps he will be touched by so
lamentable a downfall, and will not suffer distress to trouble my last
days, and darken the early years of this my child."
During this speech I kept watching the King's face. I saw that he was
interested, then touched, and at last was on the point of forgetting his
incognito and of appearing in his true character.
"Prince," said he to the Greek traveller, "my duties and my devotion make
it easy for me to approach the King of France's person very closely. In
four or five days he will be leaving Fontainebleau for his palace at
Saint Germain. I will tell him without modification all that I have just
heard from you. Without being either prophet or seer, I can guarantee
that you will be well received and cordially welcomed, receiving such
benefits as kings are bound to yield to kings.
"Madame, who respects and is interested in you, is desirous, I feel
certain, for me to persuade you to stay here until her departure; she
enjoys royal favour, and it is my sister herself who shall present you at
Court. You shall show her, you shall show us all, the golden crown of
Theseus, the sceptre of Adronicus, and this brow which I gaze upon and
revere, for it deserves a kingly diamond.
"As for you, my lord," said his Majesty to the English nobleman, "if the
misfortune of last night prove disastrous in more ways than one, pray
wait for a while before you go back to the smouldering ashes of a
half-extinguished fire. My sister takes pleasure in your company;
indeed, the Marquise is charmed to be able to entertain three such
distinguished guests, and begs to place her chateau at your disposal
until such time as your own shall be restored. We shall speak of you to
the King, and he will certainly endeavour to induce King Charles, his
cousin, to recall you to your native country."
Then, after saying one or two words to me in private, he bowed to the
gentlemen and withdrew. We went out on to the balcony to see him get
into his coach, when, to the surprise and astonishment of my guests, as
the carriage passed along the avenue, about a hundred peasants, grouped
near the gateway, threw off their hats and cried, "Long live the King!"
Prince Comnenus and his son were inconsolable; I excused myself by saying
that it was at the express desire of our royal visitor, and my lord
admitted that at last he recollected his features, and recognised him by
his grand and courtly address.
Before I end my tale, do not let me forget to say that the King strongly
recommended Prince Comnenus to the Republic of Genoa, and obtained for
him considerable property in Corsica and a handsome residence at Ajaccio.
He accepted five or six beautiful jewels that had belonged to Andronicus,
and caused the sum of twelve hundred thousand francs to be paid to the
young Comnenus from his treasury.
The Universal Jubilee.--Court Preachers.--King David.--Madame de
Montespan is Obliged to go to Clagny.--Bossuet's Mission.--Mademoiselle
de Mauleon.--An Enemy's Good Faith.
I do not desire to hold up to ridicule the rites of that religion in
which I was born and bred. Neither would I disparage its ancient usages,
nor its far more modern laws. All religions, as I know, have their
peculiarities, all nations their contradictions, but I must be suffered
to complain of the abuse sometimes made in our country of clerical and
A general jubilee was held soon after the birth of my second son, and
among Christian nations like ours, a jubilee is as if one said, "Now all
statutes, divine and earthly, are repealed; by means of certain formula
recited, certain visits paid to the temples, certain acts of abstinence
practised here and there, all sins, misdemeanours, and crimes are
forgiven, and their punishment cancelled." It is generally on the
occasion of the proclamation of a new pontificate at Rome that such great
papal absolutions are extended over the whole universe.
The jubilee having been proclaimed in Paris, the Court preachers worked
miracles. They denounced all social irregularities and friendships of
which the Church disapproved. The opening sermon showed plainly that the
orator's eloquence was pointed at myself. The second preacher showed
even less restraint; he almost mentioned me by name. The third
ecclesiastic went beyond all bounds, actually uttering the following
"Sire, when King David was still but a shepherd, a heifer was stolen from
his flocks; David made complaint to the patriarch of the land, when his
heifer was restored to him, and the thief was punished.
"When David came to the throne, he carried off his servant's wife, and as
an excuse for such an odious deed, he pleaded the young woman's extreme
beauty. The wretched servant besought him to obey the voice, not of
passion, but of justice, and the servant was disgraced and perished
miserably. Oh, David, unhappy David!"
The King, who had found it hard to sit quiet and hear such insults, said
to me that evening:
"Go to Clagny. Let this stormy weather pass by. When it is fine again,
you must come back."
Having never run counter to the wishes of the father of my children, I
acquiesced, and without further delay gladly departed.
Next day, Madame de Montausier came to see me at my country-house; she
told me of the general rumour that was afloat at Court. The news, said
she, of my retirement had begun to get about; three bishops had gone to
congratulate the King, and these gentlemen had despatched couriers to
Paris to inform the heads of the various parishes, inviting them to write
to the prince sympathising references touching an event which God and all
Christendom viewed with complete satisfaction.
Madame de Montausier assured me that the King's bearing was fairly calm
on the whole, and she also added that he had granted an interview of half
an hour at least to the Abbe Bossuet, who had discoursed to him about me
in a strain similar to that of the other clerics.
She was my sincere friend; she promised to come to Clagny every evening,
driving thither incognito.
She had hardly been gone an hour, when my footman announced "Monsieur
Bossuet, Bishop of Condom."
At the mention of this name, I felt momentarily inclined to refuse to see
its owner; but I conquered my disgust, and I did well. The prelate, with
his semi-clerical, semi-courtly air, made me a low bow. I calmly waited,
so as to give him time to deliver his message. The famous rhetorician
proceeded as follows:
"You know, madame, with what health-giving sacrifices the Church is now
engaged. The merits of our Lord doubtless protect Christians at all
times, but the Church has appointed times more efficacious, ceremonies
more useful, springs yet more abounding. Thus it is that we now
celebrate the grand nine days of the jubilee.
"To this mystic pool herdsman and monarchs alike receive summons and
admission. The most Christian King must, for his own sake, accomplish
his own sanctification; his sanctification provides for that of his
"Chosen by God to this royal priesthood, he comprehends the duties
imposed upon him by such noble office. The passions of the heart are
maladies from which man may recover, just as he recovers from physical
disease. The physicians of the soul have lifted up their voice, have
taken sage counsel together; and I come to inform you of the monarch's
miraculous recovery, and at his request, I bring you this important and
"For convalescents, greater care is required than for others; the King,
and the whole of France, beseech you, with my voice, to have respect and
care for the convalescence of our monarch, and I beg you, madame, to
leave at once for Fontevrault."
"For Fontevrault?" I cried, without betraying my emotion. "Fontevrault
is near Poitiers; it is too far away. No, I would rather go to
Petit-Bourg, near the forest of Fontainebleau."
"Fontainebleau is but eighteen leagues from the capital," he answered;
"such proximity would be dangerous. I must insist upon Fontevrault,
"But I cannot take my children to Fontevrault," I retorted; "the nuns,
and the Abbess herself, would never admit them. You know better than I
do that it is a nunnery."
"Your children," said he, "are not necessary to you; Madame de la
Valliere managed to leave here for good and all."
"Yes; and in forsaking them she committed a crime," I answered; "only
ferocious-hearted persons could have counselled her or commanded her to
do so." And saying this, I rose, and gave him a glance of disdain.
He grew somewhat gentler in manner as he slowly went on, "His Majesty
will take care of your children; it behoves you to save their mother.
And, in order to prove to you that I have not come here of my own accord,
but that, on the contrary, I am executing a formal command, here is a
letter of farewell addressed to you by the King."
I took the letter, which was couched in the following terms:
It is but right, madame, that on so solemn an occasion I should set an
example myself. I must ask you henceforth to consider our intimacy
entirely at an end. You must retire to Fontevrault, where Madame de
Montemart will take care of you and afford you distraction by her
charming society. Your children are in good hands; do not be in the
least uneasy about them. Farewell. I wish you all the firmness and
well-being possible. LOUISON
In the first flush of my indignation I was about to trample under foot so
offensive a communication. But the final phrase shocked me less than the
I read it over again, and understood that if the King recommended me to
be firm, it was because he needed to be firm himself. I soon mastered my
emotion, and looked at things in their real light. It was easy to see
that sanctimonious fanatics had forced the King to act. Bossuet was not
sanctimonious, but, to serve his own ends, proffered himself as spokesman
and emissary, being anxious to prove to his old colleagues that he was on
the side of what they styled moral conduct and good example.
For a while I walked up and down my salon; but the least exertion
fatigues me. I resumed my armchair or my settee, leaving the man there
like a sort of messenger, whom it was not necessary to treat with any
respect. He was bold, and asked me for a definite answer which he could
take back to his Majesty. I stared hard at him for about a minute, and
then said: "My Lord Bishop of Condom, the clerics who have been advising
the King are very pleased that he should set an example to his people of
self-sacrifice. I am of their opinion; I think as they do, as you do, as
the Pope does; but feeling convinced that to us, the innocent sheep, the
shepherds ought first to show an example, I will consent to break off my
relationship with his Majesty when you, M. de Condom, shall have broken
off your intimacy with Mademoiselle de Mauleon des Vieux!"
By a retort of this kind I admit that I hoped greatly to embarrass the
Bishop, and enjoy seeing his face redden with confusion. But he was
nowise disconcerted, and I confess to-day that this circumstance proved
to me that there was but little truth in the rumours that were current
with regard to this subject.
"Mademoiselle de Mauleon!" said he, smiling half-bitterly,
half-pityingly. "Surely, madame, your grief makes you forget what you
say. Everybody knows that she is an acquaintance of my youth, and that,
since that time, having confidence in my doctrines and my counsel, she
wished to have me as spiritual monitor and guide. How can you institute
a comparison between such a relationship and your own?" Then, after
walking up and down for a moment, as if endeavouring to regain his
self-possession, he continued:
"However, I shall not insist further; it was signally foolish of me to
speak in the name of an earthly king, when I should have invoked that of
the King of Heaven. I have received an insulting answer. So be it.
"Farewell, madame. I leave you to your own conscience, which, seemingly,
is so tranquil that I blame myself for having sought to disturb it."
With these words he departed, leaving me much amazed at the patience with
which a man, known to be so arrogant and haughty, had received such an
onslaught upon his private life and reputation.
I need scarcely say that, next day, the species of pastoral letter which
my lords the Bishops of Aleth, Orleans, Soissons, and Condom had dictated
to the King was succeeded by another letter, which he had dictated
himself, and by which my love for him was solaced and assured.
He begged me to wait patiently for a few days, and this arrangement
served my purpose very well. I thought it most amusing that the King
should have commissioned M. de Bossuet to deliver this second missive,
and I believe I said as much to certain persons, which perhaps gave rise
to a rumour that he actually brought me love-letters from the King. But
the purveyors of such gossip could surely know nothing of Bossuet's
inflexible principles, and of the subtlety of his policy. He was well
aware that by lending himself to such amenities he would lose caste
morally with the King, and that if by his loyalty he had won royal
attachment and regard, all this would have been irretrievably lost. Thus
M. de Bossuet was of those who say, "Hate me, but fear me," rather than
of those who strive to be loved. Such people know that friendships are
generally frail and transient, and that esteem lasts longer and leads
further. He never interfered again with my affairs, nor did I with his;
I got my way, and he is still where he was.
Madame de Montespan Back at Court.--Her Friends.--Her Enemies.--Edifying
Conversions.--The Archbishop of Paris.
Eight days after the conclusion of the jubilee I returned to Versailles.
The King received me with every mark of sincere friendship; my friends
came in crowds to my apartments; my enemies left their names with my
Swiss servant, and in chapel they put back my seat, chairs, and
footstools in their usual place.
Madame de Maintenon had twice sent my children to Clagny
[The splendid Chateau de Clagny (since demolished) was situated on the
beautiful country surrounding Versailles, near the wood of Millers
with the under-governess; but she did not come herself, which greatly
inconvenienced me. I complained to her about this, and she assured me
the King had dissuaded her from visiting me, "so as to put curious folk
off the scent;" and when I told her of my interview with M. de Bossuet,
she neatly avoided being mixed up in the matter by omitting to blame
anybody. The most licentious women, so she told me, had distinguished
themselves by pious exercises during the observance of the jubilee. She
informed me that the Comtesse de Soissons, the Princesse de Monaco,
Madame de Soubise, and five or six virtuous dames of this type, had given
gold, silver, and enamelled lamps to the most notable churches of the
capital. The notorious Duchesse de Longueville talked of having her own
tomb constructed in a Carmelite chapel. Six leaders of fashion had
forsworn rouge, and Madame d'Humieres had given up gambling. As for my
lord the Archbishop of Paris, he had not changed his way of life a jot,
either for the better or for the worse.
Attempted Abduction.--The Marquise Procures a Bodyguard.--Her Reasons for
So Doing.--Geography and Morals.
The youthful Marquis d'Antin--my son--was growing up; the King showed him
the most flattering signs of his attachment, and as the child had lived
only with me, he dreaded his father's violent temper, of which he had
often heard me speak. In order to have the custody of his son, the
Marquis de Montespan had appealed to Parliament; but partisans of the
King had shelved the matter, which, though ever in abeyance, was still
pending. I had my son educated under my care, being sure of the tender
attachment that would spring up between himself and the princes, his
brothers. At the Montespan chateau, I admit, he would have learned to
ride an unbroken horse, as well as to shoot hares, partridges, and big
game; he would also have learned to talk loud, to use bad language, to
babble about his pedigree, while ignorant of its history or its crest; in
fine, he would have learned to despise his mother, and probably to hate
her. Educated under my eyes, almost on the King's lap, he soon learned
the customs of the Court and all that a well-born gentleman should know.
He will be made Duc d'Antin, I have the King's word for it,--and his mien
and address, which fortunately sort well with that which Fate holds in
store for him, entitle him to rank with all that is most exalted at
The Procureur-General caused a man from Barn to be arrested, who had come
to abduct my son. This individual, half-Spanish and half-French, was
detained in the Paris prisons, and I was left in ignorance of the matter.
It was imprudent not to tell me, and almost occasioned a serious mishap.
One day I was returning from the neighbourhood of Etampes with only my
son, his tutor, and my physician in the carriage. On reaching a steep
incline, where the brake should be put on, my servants imprudently
neglected to do this, and I felt that we were burning the roadway in our
descent. Such recklessness made me uneasy, when suddenly twelve horsemen
rode headlong at us, and sought to stop the postilions. My six horses
were new ones and very fresh; they galloped along at breakneck speed. Our
pursuers fired at the coachman, but missed him, and the report of a
pistol terrified the horses yet further. They redoubled their speed. We
gave ourselves up for lost, as an accident of some sort seemed bound to
ensue, when suddenly my carriage reached the courtyard of an inn, where
we obtained help.
Baulked of their prey, the horsemen turned about and rode away. They had
been noticed the day before, hanging about and asking for Madame de
We stayed that night at the inn, and next day, provided with a stout
escort, we reached Saint Germain.
The King regretted not having provided against similar attempts. He
rewarded my postilions for their neglect to use the brake (a neglect
which, at first, I was going to punish), saying to me, "If they had put
the brake on, you would have been captured and whisked off to the
Pyrenees. Your husband is never going to give in!"
"Such a disagreeable surprise," added he, "shall not occur again.
Henceforth you shall not travel without an adequate escort. In future,
you shall have a guard of honour, like the Queen and myself." I had long
wished for this privilege, and I warmly thanked his Majesty.
Nevertheless, people chose to put a completely false construction upon so
simple an innovation, and my sentiments in the matter were wholly
misunderstood. It was thought that vanity had prompted me to endeavour
to put myself on a level with the Queen, and this worthy princess was
herself somewhat nettled thereat. God is my witness that, from mere
motives of prudence, this unusual arrangement had to be made, and I
entirely agreed to it. After all, if the Infanta of Spain gave birth to
the Dauphin, Athenais de Mortemart is the mother of several princes.
In France, a Catholic realm, for the King to have a second wife is
considered superfluous by the timorous and shrivelled-brained. In
Constantinople, Alexandria, and Ispahan, I should have met with only
homage, veneration, respect. Errors of a purely geographical nature are
not those which cause me alarm; to have brought into the world so perfect
a being as the Duc du Maine will never, as I take it, incur blame at the
tribunal of Almighty God.
Mademoiselle de Nantes, his charming sister, has from her cradle been
destined to belong to one of the royal branches. Mademoiselle de Blois
will also become the mother of several Bourbon princes; I have good
grounds for cherishing such flattering hopes.
The little Comte de Toulouse already bids fair to be a worthy successor
to M. du Maine. He has the same grace of manner, and frank,
When all these princes possess their several escorts, it will seem
passing strange that their mother alone should not have any. That is my
opinion, and it is shared by all people of sense.
Osmin, the Little Moor.--He Sets the Fashion.--The Queen Has a Black
Baby.--Osmin is Dismissed.
I have already told how the envoys of the King of Arda, an African
prince, gave to the Queen a nice little blackamoor, as a toy and pet.
This Moor, aged about ten or twelve years, was only twenty-seven inches
in height, and the King of Arda declared that, being quite unique, the
boy would never grow to be taller than three feet.
The Queen instantly took a great fancy to this black creature. Sometimes
he gambolled about and turned somersaults on her carpet like a kitten, or
frolicked about on the bureau, the sofa, and even on the Queen's lap.
As she passed from one room to another, he used to hold up her train, and
delighted to catch hold of it and so make the Queen stop short suddenly,
or else to cover his head and face with it, for mischief, to make the
He was arrayed in regular African costume, wearing handsome bracelets,
armlets, a necklace ablaze with jewels, and a splendid turban. Wishing
to show myself agreeable, I gave him a superb aigrette of rubies and
diamonds; I was always sorry afterwards that I did so.
The King could never put up with this little dwarf, albeit his features
were comely enough. To begin with, he thought him too familiar, and
never even answered him when the dwarf dared to address him.
Following the fashion set by her Majesty, all the Court ladies wanted to
have little blackamoors to follow them about, set off their white
complexions, and hold up their cloaks or their trains. Thus it came that
Mignard, Le Bourdon, and other painters of the aristocracy, used to
introduce negro boys into all their large portraits. It was a mode, a
mania; but so absurd a fashion soon had to disappear after the mishap of
which I am about to tell.
The Queen being pregnant, public prayers were offered up for her
according to custom, and her Majesty was forever saying: "My pregnancy
this time is different from preceding ones. I am a prey to nausea and
strange whims; I have never felt like this before. If, for propriety's
sake, I did not restrain myself, I should now dearly like to be turning
somersaults on the carpet, like little Osmin. He eats green fruit and
raw game; that is what I should like to do, too. I should like to--"
"Oh, madame, you frighten us!" exclaimed the King. "Don't let all those
whimsies trouble you further, or you will give birth to some monstrosity,
some freak of nature." His Majesty was a true prophet. The Queen was
delivered of a fine little girl, black as ink from head to foot. They
did not tell her this at once, fearing a catastrophe, but persuaded her
to go to sleep, saying that the child had been taken away to be
The physicians met in one room, the bishops and chaplains in another. One
prelate was opposed to baptising the infant; another only agreed to this
upon certain conditions. The majority decided that it should be baptised
without the name of father or mother, and such suppression was
The little thing, despite its swarthy hue, was most beautifully made; its
features bore none of those marks peculiar to people of colour.
It was sent away to the Gisors district to be suckled as a negro's
daughter, and the Gazette de France contained an announcement to the
effect that the royal infant had died, after having been baptised by the
[This daughter of the Queen lived, and was obliged to enter a Benedictine
nunnery at Moret. Her portrait is to be seen in the Sainte Genevieve
Library of Henri IV.'s College, where it hangs in the winter
The little African was sent away, as may well be imagined; and the Queen
admitted that, one day soon after she was pregnant, he had hidden himself
behind a piece of furniture and suddenly jumped out upon her to give her
a fright. In this he was but too successful.
The Court ladies no longer dared come near the Queen attended by their
little blackamoors. These, however, they kept for a while longer, as if
they were mere nick-hacks or ornaments; in Paris they were still to be
seen in public. But the ladies' husbands at last got wind of the tale,
when all the little negroes disappeared.
Monsieur's Second Marriage.--Princess Palatine.--The Court Turnspit.--A
Woman's Hatred.--The King's Mistress on a Par with the First Prince of
the Blood.--She Gives His Wife a Lesson.
In order to keep up appearances at his Palais Royal, Monsieur besought
the King to consent to his remarriage after the usual term of mourning
was at an end.
"Whom have you in view?" asked his brother. He replied that he proposed
to wed Mademoiselle--the grande Mademoiselle de Montpensier--on account
of her enormous wealth!
Just then Mademoiselle was head over ears in love with Lauzun. She sent
the Prince about his business, as I believe I have already stated.
Moreover, she remarked: "You had the loveliest wife in all
Europe,--young, charming, a veritable picture. You might have seen to it
that she was not poisoned; in that case you would not now be a widower.
As it is not likely that I should ever come to terms with your
favourites, I shall never be anything else to you but a cousin, and I
shall endeavour not to die until the proper time; that is, when it shall
please God to take me. You can repeat this speech, word for word, to your
precious Marquis d'Effiat and Messieurs de Remecourt and de Lorraine.
They have no access to my kitchens; I am not afraid of them."
This answer amused the King not a little, and he said to me: "I was told
that the Palatine of Bavaria's daughter is extremely ugly and ill-bred;
consequently, she is capable of keeping Monsieur in check. Through one
of my Rhenish allies, I will make proposals to her father for her hand.
As soon as a reply comes, I will show my brother a portrait of some sort;
it will be all the same to him; he will accept her."
Soon afterwards this marriage took place. Charlotte Elizabeth of
Bavaria, though aware of the sort of death that her predecessor died,
agreed to marry Monsieur. Had she not been lucky enough to make this
grand match, her extreme ugliness would assuredly have doomed her to
celibacy, even in Bavaria and in Germany. It is surely not allowable to
come into the world with such a face and form, such a voice, such eyes,
such hands, and such feet, as this singular princess displayed. The
Court, still mindful of the sweetness, grace, and charm of Henrietta of
England, could not contemplate without horror and disgust the fearful
caricature I have just described. Young pregnant women--after the
Queen's unfortunate experience--were afraid to look at the Princess
Palatine, and wished to be confined before they reappeared at Court.
As for herself, armed with robust, philosophical notions, and a complete
set of Northern nerves, she was in no way disconcerted at the effect her
presence produced. She even had the good sense to appear indifferent to
all the raillery she provoked, and said to the King:
"Sire, to my mind you are one of the handsomest men in the world, and
with few exceptions, your Court appears to me perfectly fitted for you. I
have come but scantily equipped to such an assemblage. Fortunately, I am
neither jealous nor a coquette, and I shall win pardon for my plainness,
I myself being the first to make merry at it."
"You put us completely at our ease," replied the King, who had not even
the courage to be gallant. "I must thank you on behalf of these ladies
for your candour and wit." Ten or twelve of us began to titter at this
speech of hers. The Robust Lady never forgave those who laughed.
Directly she arrived, she singled me out as the object of her ponderous
Palatine sarcasms. She exaggerated my style of dress, my ways and
habits. She thought to make fun of my little spaniels by causing herself
to be followed, even into the King's presence-chamber, by a large
turnspit, which in mockery she called by the name of my favourite dog.
When I had had my hair dressed, ornamented with quantities of little
curls, diamonds, and jewelled pins, she had the impertinence to appear at
Court wearing a huge wig, a grotesque travesty of my coiffure. I was
told of it. I entered the King's apartment without deigning to salute
Madame, or even to look at her.
I had also been told that, in society, she referred to me as "the
Montespan woman." I met her one day in company with a good many other
people, and said to her:
"Madame, you managed to give up your religion in order to marry a French
prince; you might just as well have left behind your gross Palatine
vulgarity also. I have the honour to inform you that, in the exalted
society to which you have been admitted, one can no more say 'the
Montespan woman,' than one can say 'the Orleans woman.' I have never
offended you in the slightest degree, and I fail to see why I should have
been chosen as the favoured object of your vulgar insults."
She blushed, and ventured to inform me that this way of expressing
herself was a turn of speech taken from her own native language, and that
by saying "the," as a matter of course "Marquise" was understood.
"No, madame," I said, without appearing irritated; "in Paris, such an
excuse as that is quite inadmissible, and since you associate with
turnspits, pray ask your cooks, and they will tell you."
Fearing to quarrel with the King, she was obliged to be more careful, but
to change one's disposition is impossible, and she has loathed and
insulted me ever since. Her husband, who himself probably taught her to
do so, one day tried to make apologies for what he ruefully termed her
reprehensible conduct. "There, there, it doesn't matter," I said to him;
"it is easier to offend me than to deceive me. Allow me to quote to you
the speech of Mademoiselle de Montpensier, 'You had a charming and
accomplished wife, you ought to have prevented her from being poisoned,
and then we should not have had this hag at Court.'"
Madame de Montespan's Father-confessor.--He Alters His Opinion.--Madame
de Maintenon Is Consulted.--A General on Theology.--A Country
Priest.--The Marquise Postpones Her Repentance and Her Absolution.
My father-confessor, who since my arrival at Court had never vexed or
thwarted me, suddenly altered his whole manner towards me, from which I
readily concluded that the Queen had got hold of him. This priest, of
gentle, easy-going, kindly nature, never spoke to me except in a tone of
discontent and reproach. He sought to induce me to leave the King there
and then, and retire to some remote chateau. Seeing that he was
intriguing, and had, so to speak, taken up his position, like a woman of
experience I took up mine as well, and politely dismissed him, at which
he was somewhat surprised. In matters of religion, Madame de Maintenon,
who understands such things, was my usual mentor. I told her that I was
disheartened, and should not go to confession again for ever so long. She
was shocked at my resolve, and strove all she could to make me change my
mind and endeavour to lead me back into the right way.
She forever kept repeating her favourite argument, saying, "Good
gracious! suppose you should die in that state!"
I replied that it was not my fault, as I had never ceased to obey the
precepts of the Holy Church. "It was my old father-confessor," said I,
"the Canon of Saint Thomas du Louvre, who had harshly refused to confess
"What he does," replied she, "is solely for your own good."
"But if he has only my well-being in view," I quickly retorted, "why did
not he think of this at first? It would have been far better to have
stopped me at the outset, instead of letting me calmly proceed upon my
career. He is obeying the Queen's orders, or else those of that Abbe
Bossuet de Mauleon, who no longer dares attack me to my face."
As we thus talked, the Duc de Vivonne came into my room. Learning the
topic of our discussion, he spoke as follows: "I should not be general of
the King's Galleys and a soldier at heart and by profession if my opinion
in this matter were other than it is. I have attentively read
controversies on this point, and have seen it conclusively proved that
our kings never kept a confessor at Court. Among these kings, too, there
were most holy, most saintly people, and--"
"Then, what do you conclude from that, Duke?" asked Madame de Maintenon.
"Why, that Madame will do well to respect his Majesty the King as her
"Oh, Duke, you shock me! What dreadful advice, to be sure!" cried the
"I have not the least wish to shock you, madame; but my veneration for
[Theodore Agrippa, Baron d'Aubigne, lieutenant-general in the army of
Henri IV. He persevered in Calvinism after the recantation of the
your illustrious grandfather--is too great to let me think that he is
among the damned, and he never attended confession at all."
"Eternity hides that secret from us," replied Madame de Maintenon. "Each
day I pray to God to have mercy upon my poor grandfather; if I thought he
were among the saved, I should never be at pains to do this."
"Bah, madame! let's talk like sensible, straightforward people," quoth
the General. "The reverend Pere de la Chaise--one of the Jesuit
oracles--gives the King absolution every year, and authorises him to
receive the Holy Sacrament at Easter. If the King's confessor--thorough
priest as he is--pardons his intimacy with madame, here, how comes it
that the other cleric won't tolerate madame's intimacy with the King? On
a point of such importance as this, the two confessors ought really to
come to some agreement, or else, as the Jesuits have such a tremendous
reputation, the Marquise is entitled to side with them."
Hemmed in thus, Madame de Maintenon remarked "that the morals of Jesuits
and lax casuists had never been hers," and she advised me to choose a
confessor far removed from the Court and its intrigues.
The next day she mentioned a certain village priest to me, uninfluenced
by anybody, and whose primitive simplicity caused him to be looked upon
as a saint.
I submitted, and ingenuously went to confess myself to this wonderful
man; his great goodness did not prevent him from rallying me about the
elegance of my costume, and the perfume of my gloves, and my hair. He
insisted upon knowing my name, and on learning it, flew into a passion. I
suppress the details of his disagreeable propositions. Seated sideways
in his confessional, he stamped on the floor, abused me, and spoke
disrespectfully of the King. I could not stand such scandalous behaviour
for long; and, wearing my veil down, I got into my coach, being
thoroughly determined that I would take a good long holiday. M. de
Vivonne soundly rated me for such cowardice, as he called it, while
Madame de Maintenon offered me her curate-in-chief, or else the Abbe
But, for the time being, I determined to keep to my plan of not going to
confession, strengthened in such resolve by my brother Vivonne's good
sense, and the attitude of the King's Jesuit confessor, who had a great
reputation and knew what he was about.
The Comte de Guiche.--His Violent Passion for Madame.--His Despair.--He
Flees to La Trappe.--And Comes Out Again.--A Man's Heart.--Cured of His
Passion, He Takes a Wife.
The Comte de Guiche, son of the Marechal de Grammont, was undoubtedly one
of the handsomest men in France.
The grandeur and wealth of his family had, at an early age, inspired him
with courage and self-conceit, so that in his blind, frivolous
presumption, the only person, as he thought, who exceeded his own
fascination was possibly the King, but nobody else.
Perceiving the wonderful charm of Monsieur's first wife, he conceived so
violent a passion for her that no counsel nor restraint could prevent him
from going to the most extravagant lengths in obedience to this rash,
this boundless passion.
Henrietta of England, much neglected by her husband, and naturally of a
romantic disposition, allowed the young Count to declare his love for
her, either by singing pretty romances under her balcony, or by wearing
ribbons, bunched together in the form of a hieroglyphic, next his heart.
Elegantly dressed, he never failed to attend all the assemblies to which
she lent lustre by her presence. He followed her to Saint Germain, to
Versailles, to Chambord, to Saint Cloud; he only lived and had his being
in the enjoyment of contemplating her charms.
One day, being desirous of walking alongside her sedan-chair, without
being recognised, he had a complete suit made for him of the La Valliere
livery, and thus, seeming to be one of the Duchess's pages, he was able
to converse with Madame for a short time. Another time he disguised
himself as a pretty gipsy, and came to tell the Princess her fortune. At
first she did not recognise him, but when the secret was out, and all the
ladies were in fits of laughter, a page came running in to announce the
arrival of Monsieur. Young De Guiche slipped out by a back staircase,
and in order to facilitate his exit, one of the footmen, worthy of
Moliere, caught hold of the Prince as if he were one of his comrades, and
holding a handkerchief over his face, nearly poked his eye out.
The Count's indiscretions were retailed in due course to Monsieur by his
favourites, and he was incensed beyond measure. He complained to
Marechal de Grammont; he complained to the King.
Hereupon, M. de Guiche received orders to travel for two or three years.
War with the Turks had just been declared, and together with other
officers, his friends, he set out for Candia and took part in the siege.
All did him the justice to affirm that while there he behaved like a
hero. When the fortress had to capitulate, and Candia was lost to the
Christians forever, our officers returned to France. Madame was still
alive when the young Count rejoined his family. He met the Princess once
or twice in society, without being able to approach her person, or say a
single word to her.
Soon afterwards, she gave birth to a daughter. A few days later, certain
monsters took her life by giving her poison. This dreadful event made
such an impression upon the poor Comte de Guiche, that for a long while
he lost his gaiety, youth, good looks, and to a certain extent, his
reason. After yielding to violent despair, he was possessed with rash
ideas of vengeance. The Marechal de Grammont had to send him away to one
of his estates, for the Count talked of attacking and of killing, without
further ado, the Marquis d'Effiat, M. de Remecourt, the Prince's
intendant, named Morel,
[Morel subsequently admitted his guilt in the matter of Madame's death,
as well as the commission of other corresponding crimes. See the Letters
of Charlotte, the Princess Palatine.--EDITOR'S NOTE.]
and even the Duc d'Orleans himself.
His intense agitation was succeeded by profound melancholy, stupor
closely allied to insanity or death.
One evening, the Comte de Guiche went to the Abbey Church of Saint Denis.
He hid himself here, to avoid being watched, and when the huge nave was
closed, and all the attendants had left, he rushed forward and flung
himself at full length upon the tombstone which covers the vast royal
vault. By the flickering light of the lamps, he mourned the passing
hence of so accomplished a woman, murdered in the flower of her youth. He
called her by name, telling her once more of his deep and fervent love.
Next day, he wandered about in great pain, gloomy and inconsolable.
One day he came to see me at Clagny, and talked in a hopeless, desolate
way about our dear one. He told me that neither glory nor ambition nor
voluptuous pleasures could ever allure him or prove soothing to his soul.
He assured me that life was a burden to him,--a burden that religion
alone prevented him from relinquishing, and that he was determined to
shut himself up in La Trappe or in some such wild, deserted place.
I sought to dissuade him from such a project, which could only be the
cause of grief and consternation to his relatives. He pretended to yield
to my entreaties, but the next night he left home and disappeared.
At length he came back. Luckily, the Trappist Abbe de Ranch wished to
take away from him the portrait on enamel of Henrietta of England, so as
to break it in pieces before his eyes. So indignant was the Count that
he was upon the point of giving the hermit a thrashing. He fled in
disgust from the monastery, and this fresh annoyance served, in some
degree, to assuage his grief. Life's daily occupations, the excitements
of society, the continual care shown towards him by his relatives, youth,
above all, and Time, the irresistible healer, at last served to soothe a
sorrow which, had it lasted longer, would have been more disastrous in
The Comte de Guiche consented to marry a wife to whom he was but slightly
attached, and who is quite content with him, praising his good qualities
and all his actions.
Mexica.--Philippa.--Molina.--The Queen's Jester.
In marrying Maria Theresa, Infanta of Spain, the King had made an
advantageous match from a political point of view. For through the
Infanta he had rights with regard to Flanders; she also provided him with
eventual claims upon Spain itself, together with Mexico and Peru. But
from a personal and social point of view, the King could not have
contracted a more miserable alliance. The Infanta, almost wholly
uneducated, had not even such intellectual resources as a position such
as hers certainly required, where personal risk was perpetual, where
authority had to be maintained by charming manners, and respect for power
ensured by elevation of tone and sentiment, which checks the indiscreet,
and imbues everybody with the spirit of consideration and reverence.
Maria Theresa, though a king's daughter, made no more effect at Court
than if she had been a mere middle-class person. The King, in fact, by
his considerateness, splendour, and glory, served to support her dignity.
He hoped and even desired that she should be held in honour, partly for
her own sake, in a great measure for his. But as soon as she started
upon some argument or narration where force of intellect was needed, she
always seemed bewildered, and he soon interrupted her either by finishing
the tale himself, or by changing the conversation. This he did
good-naturedly and with much tact, so that the Queen, instead of taking
offence, was pleased to be under such an obligation to him. From such a
wife this prince could not look to have sons of remarkable talent or
intellect, for that would have been nothing short of a miracle. And thus
the little Dauphin showed none of those signs of intelligence which the
most ordinary commonplace children usually display. When the Queen heard
courtiers repeat some of the droll, witty sayings of the Comte de Vegin,
or the Duc du Maine, she reddened with jealousy, and remarked, "Everybody
goes into ecstasies about those children, while Monsieur le Dauphin is
never even mentioned."
She had brought with her from Spain that Donna Silvia Molina, of whom I
have already spoken, and who had got complete control over her character.
Instead of tranquillising her, and so making her happy, Donna Silvia
thought to become more entertaining, and above all, more necessary to
her, by gossiping to her about the King's amours. She ferreted out all
the secret details, all the petty circumstances, and with such dangerous
material troubled the mind and destroyed the repose of her mistress, who
wept unceasingly, and became visibly changed.
La Molina, enriched and almost wealthy, was sent back to Spain, much to
the grief of Maria Theresa, who for several days after her departure
could neither eat nor sleep.
At the same time, the King got rid of that little she-dwarf, named
Mexica, in whose insufferable talk and insufferable presence the Queen
took delight. But the sly little wretch escaped during the journey, and
managed to get back to the princess again, hidden in some box or basket.
The Queen was highly delighted to see her again; she pampered her
secretly in her private cabinet with the utmost mystery, giving up every
moment that she could spare.
One day, by way of a short cut, the King was passing through the Queen's
closet, when he heard the sound of coughing in one of the cupboards.
Turning back, he flung it open, where, huddled up in great confusion, he
"What!" cried his Majesty; "so you are back again? When and how did you
In a feeble voice Mexica answered, "Sire, please don't send me away from
the Queen any more, and she will never complain again about Madame de
The King laughed at this speech, and then came and repeated it to me. I
laughed heartily, too, and such a treaty of peace seemed to contain queer
compensation clauses: Madame de Montespan and Mexica were mutually bound
over to support each other; the spectacle was vastly droll, I vow.
Besides her little dwarf, the Queen had a fool named Tricominy. This
quaint person was permitted to utter everywhere and to everybody in
incoherent fashion the pseudo home-truths that passed through his head.
One day he went up to the grande Mademoiselle de Montpensier, and said to
her before everybody, "Since you are so anxious to get married, marry me;
then that will be a man-fool and a woman-fool." The Princess tried to
hit him, and he took refuge behind the Queen's chair.
Another time, to M. Letellier, Louvois's brother and Archbishop of
Rheims, he said, "Monseigneur, do let me ascend the pulpit in your
Cathedral, and I will preach modesty and humanity to you." When the
little Duc d'Anjou, that pretty, charming child, died of suppressed
measles, the Queen was inconsolable, and the King, good father that he
is, was weeping for the little fellow, for he promised much. Says
Tricominy, "They're weeping just as if princes had not got to die like
anybody else. M. d'Anjou was no better made than I am, nor of better
Tricominy was dismissed, because it was plain that his madness took a
somewhat eccentric turn; that, in fact, he was not fool enough for his
The Queen had still a Spanish girl named Philippa, to whom she was much
attached, and who deserved such flattering attachment. Born in the
Escurial Palace, Philippa had been found one night in a pretty cradle at
the base of one of the pillars. The palace guards informed King Philip,
who adopted the child and brought it up, since it had been foisted upon
him as his daughter. He grew fond of the girl, and on coming to Saint
Jean de Luz to marry the Infanta to his nephew the King, he made them a
present of Philippa, and begged them both to be very good to her. In
this amiable Spanish girl, the Infanta recognised a sister. She knew she
was an illegitimate daughter of King Philip and one of the palace ladies.
When Molina left the Court, she did everything on earth to induce
Philippa to return with her to Spain, but the girl was sincerely attached
to the Queen, who, holding her in a long embrace, promised to find her a
wealthy husband if she would stay. However, the Queen only gave her as
husband the Chevalier de Huze, her cloak-bearer, so as to keep the girl
about her person and to be intimate with her daily. Philippa played the
mandolin and the guitar to perfection; she, also sang and danced with
Le Bouthilier de Ranch, Abbe de la Trappe.
The Abbe le Bouthilier de Rance,--son of the secretary of state, Le
Bouthilier de Chavigny,--after having scandalised Court and town by his
public gallantries, lost his mistress, a lady possessed of a very great
name and of no less great beauty. His grief bordered upon despair; he
forsook the world, gave away or sold his belongings, and went and shut
himself up in his Abbey of La Trappe, the only benefice which he had
retained. This most ancient monastery was of the Saint Bernard Order,
with white clothing. The edifice spacious, yet somewhat dilapidated was
situated on the borders of Normandy, in a wild, gloomy valley exposed to
fog and frost.
The Abbe found in this a place exactly suitable to his plan, which was to
effect reforms of austere character and contrary to nature. He convened
his monks, who were amazed at his arrival and residence; he soundly rated
them for the scandalous laxity of their conduct, and having reminded them
of all the obligations of their office, he informed them of his new
regulations, the nature of which made them tremble. He proposed nothing
less than to condemn them to daily manual labour, the tillage of the
soil, the performance of menial household duties; and to this he added
the practices of immoderate fasting, perpetual silence, downcast glances,
veiled countenances, the renouncement of all social ties, and all
instructive or entertaining literature. In short, he advocated sleeping
all together on the bare floor of an ice-cold dormitory, the continual
contemplation of death, the dreadful obligation of digging, while alive,
one's own grave every day with one's own hands, and thus, in imagination,
burying oneself therein before being at rest there for ever.
As laws so foolish and so tyrannical were read out to them, the worthy
monks--all of them of different character and age openly expressed their
discontent. The Abbe de Rance allowed them to go and get pleasure in
other monasteries, and contrived to collect around him youths whom it was
easy to delude, and a few elderly misanthropes; with these he formed his
doleful wailing flock.
As he loved notoriety in everything, he had various views of his
monastery engraved, and pictures representing the daily pursuits of his
laborious community. Such pictures, hawked about everywhere by itinerant
vendors of relics and rosaries, served to create for this barbarous
reformer a reputation saintly and angelic. In towns, villages, even in
royal palaces, he formed the one topic of conversation. Several
gentlemen, disgusted either with vice or with society, retired of their
own accord to his monastery, where they remained in order that they might
the sooner die.
Desirous of enjoying his ridiculous celebrity, the Abbe de Rance came to
Paris, under what pretext I do not remember, firmly resolved to show
himself off in all the churches, and solicit abundant alms for his
phantoms who never touched food. From all sides oblations were
forthcoming; soon he had got money enough to build a palace, if he had
It being impossible for him to take the august Mademoiselle de
Montpensier to his colony of monks, he desired at any rate to induce her
to withdraw from the world, and counselled her to enter a Carmelite
convent. Mademoiselle's ardent passion for M. de Lauzun seemed to the
Trappist Abbe a scandal; in fact, his sour spirit could brook no scandal
of any sort. "I attended her father as he lay dying," said he, "and to
me belongs the task of training, enlightening, and sanctifying his
daughter. I would have her keep silence; she has spoken too much."
The moment was ill chosen; just then Mademoiselle de Montpensier was
striving to break the fetters of her dear De Lauzun; she certainly did
not wish to get him out of one prison, and then put herself into another.
Every one blamed this reformer's foolish presumption, and Mademoiselle,
thoroughly exasperated, forbade her servants to admit him. It was said
that he had worked two or three miracles, and brought certain dead people
back to life.
"I will rebuild his monastery for him in marble if he will give us back
poor little Vegin, and the Duc d'Anjou," said the King to me.
The remark almost brought tears to my eyes, just as I was about to joke
with his Majesty about the fellow and his miracles.
Well satisfied with his Parisian harvest, the Abbe le Bouthilier de Rance
went straight to his convent, where the inmates were persevering enough
to be silent, fast, dig, catch their death of cold, and beat themselves
Madame Cormeil, wishing to have a good look at the man, sent to inform
him of her illness. Would-be saints are much afraid of words with a
double meaning. In no whit disconcerted, he replied that he had devoted
his entire zeal to the poor in spirit, and that Madame Cormeil was not of
The Court Goes to Flanders.--Nancy.--Ravon.--Sainte Marie aux
Mines.--Dancing and Death.--A German Sovereign's Respectful Visit.--The
Young Strasburg Priests.--The Good Bailiff of Chatenoi.--The Bridge at
Brisach.--The Capucin Monk Presented to the Queen.
Before relating that which I have to say about the Queen and her
precautions against myself, I would not omit certain curious incidents
during the journey that the King caused us to take in Alsatia and
Flanders, when he captured Maestricht and Courtrai.
The King having left us behind at Nancy, a splendid town where a large
proportion of the nobility grieved for the loss of Messieurs de Lorraine,
their legitimate sovereigns, the Queen soon saw that here she was more
honoured than beloved. It was this position which suggested to her the
idea of going to Spa, close by, and of taking the waters for some days.
If the Infanta was anxious to escape from the frigid courtesies of the
Lorraine aristocracy, I also longed to have a short holiday, and to keep
away from the Queen, as well for the sake of her peace of mind as for my
own. My doctor forbade me to take the Spa waters, as they were too
sulphurous; he ordered me those of Pont-a-Mousson. Hardly had I moved
there, when orders came for us all to meet at Luneville, and thence we
set out to rejoin the King.
Horrible was the first night of our journey spent at Ravon, in the Vosges
Mountains. The house in which Mademoiselle de Montpensier and I lodged
was a dilapidated cottage, full of holes, and propped up in several
places. Lying in bed, we heard the creaking of the beams and rafters.
Two days afterwards the house, so they told us, collapsed.
From that place we went on to Sainte Marie aux Mines, a mean sort of
town, placed like a long corridor between two lofty, well-wooded
mountains, which even at noonday deprive it of sun. Close by there is a
shallow, rock-bound streamlet which divides Lorraine from Alsace. Sainte
Marie aux Mines belonged to the Prince Palatine of Birkenfeld. This
Prince offered us his castle of Reif Auvilliers, an uncommonly beautiful
residence, which he had inherited from the Comtesse de Ribaupierre, his
This lady's father was just dead, and as, in accordance with German
etiquette, the Count's funeral obsequies could not take place for a
month, in the presence of all his relatives and friends, who came from a
great distance, the corpse, embalmed and placed in a leaden coffin, lay
in state under a canopy in the mortuary chapel.
Our equerries, seeing that the King's chamber looked on to the mortuary
chapel, took upon themselves to blow out all the candles, and for the
time being stowed away the corpse in a cupboard.
We knew nothing about this; and as the castle contained splendid rooms,
the ladies amused themselves by dancing and music to make them forget the
boredom of their journey.
The King looked in upon us every now and then, saying, in a low voice,
"Ah! if you only knew what I know!"
And then he would go off, laughing in his sleeve. We did not get to know
about this corpse until five or six days afterwards, when we were a long
way off, and the discovery greatly shocked us.
The day we left Sainte Marie aux Mines, a little German sovereign came to
present his homage to the King. It was the Prince de Mont-Beliard, of
Wurtemberg, whom I had previously met in Paris, on the occasion of his
marriage with Marechal de Chatillon's charming daughter. The luxurious
splendour of Saint Germain and Versailles had certainly not yet succeeded
in turning the heads of these German sovereigns. This particular one
wore a large buff doublet with big copper-gilt buttons. His cravat was
without either ribbons or lace. His rather short hair was roughly combed
over his forehead; he carried no sword, and instead of gold buckles or
clasps, he had little bows of red leather on his black velvet shoes. His
coach, entirely black, was still of old-fashioned make; that is to say,
studded with quantities of gilt nails. Wearing mourning for the Empress,
his six horses were richly, caparisoned, his four lackeys wearing yellow
liveries faced with red. An escort of twenty guardsmen, dressed
similarly, was in attendance; they seemed to be well mounted, and were
A second carriage of prodigious size followed the ducal conveyance; in
this were twelve ladies and gentlemen, who got out and made their
obeisance to the King and Queen.
The Prince de Mont-Beliard did not get into his coach again until ours
were in motion. He spoke French fairly well, and the little he said was
said with much grace. He looked very hard at me, which shocked the Queen
greatly, but not the King.
A little further on, their Majesties were greeted by the delegates of the
noble chapter of Strasburg. These comprised the Count of Manderhall and
two canons. What canons, too! And how astonished we were!
The old Count was dressed in a black cassock, and his hair looked
somewhat like a cleric's, but his cravat was tied with a large
flame-coloured bow, and he wore ill-fitting hose of the same hue. As for
the two canons, they were pleasant young men, good-looking and well-made.
Their light gray dress was edged with black and gold; they wore their
hair long in wavy curls, and in their little black velvet caps they had
yellow and black feathers, and their silver-mounted swords were like
those worn by our young courtiers. Their equipment was far superior to
that of the deputation of the Prince de Mont-Beliard. It is true, they
were churchmen, and churchmen have only themselves and their personal
satisfaction to consider.
These gentlemen accompanied us as far as Chatenoi, a little town in their
neighbourhood, and here they introduced the bailiff of the town to the
King, who was to remain constantly in attendance and act as interpreter.
The bailiff spoke French with surprising ease. He had been formerly
tutor at President Tambonneaux's, an extremely wealthy man, who
entertained the Court, the town, and all the cleverest men of the day.
The King soon became friends with the bailiff, and kept him the whole
time close to his carriage.
When travelling, the King is quite another man. He puts off his gravity
of demeanour, and likes to amuse his companions, or else make his
companions amuse him. Believing him to be like Henri IV. in temper, the
bailiff was for asking a thousand questions. Some of these the King
answered; to others he gave no reply.
"Sire," said he to his Majesty, "your town of Paris has a greater
reputation than it actually deserves. They say you are fond of building;
then Paris ought to have occasion to remember your reign. Allow me to
express a hope that her principal streets will be widened, that her
temples, most of them of real beauty, may be isolated. You should add to
the number of her bridges, quays, public baths, almshouses and
The King smiled. "Come and see us in four or five years," he rejoined,
"or before that, if you like, and if your affairs permit you to do so.
You will be pleased to see what I have already done."
Then the bailiff, approaching my carriage window, addressed a few
complimentary remarks to myself.
"I have often met your father, M. de Mortemart," said he, "at President
Tambonneaux's. One day the little De Bouillons were there, quarrelling
about his sword, and to the younger he said, 'You, sir, shall go into the
Church, because you squint. Let my sword alone; here's my rosary.'"
"Well," quoth the King, "M. de Mortemart was a true prophet, for that
little Bouillon fellow is to-day Cardinal de Bouillon."
"Sire," continued the worthy German, "I am rejoiced to hear such news.
And little Peguilain de Lauzun, of whom you used to be so fond when you
were both boys,--where is he? What rank does he now hold?"
Hereupon the King looked at Mademoiselle, who, greatly confused, shed
"Well, M. Bailiff," said his Majesty, "did you easily recognise me at
"Sire," replied the German, "your physiognomy is precisely the same; when
a boy, you looked more serious. The day you entered Parliament in
hunting-dress I saw you get into your coach; and that evening the
President said to his wife, 'Madame, we are going to have a King. I wish
you could have been there, in one of the domes, just to hear the little
he said to us.'"
Whereupon the King laughingly inquired what reply the President's wife
made. But the bailiff, smiling in his turn, seemed afraid to repeat it,
and so his Majesty said:
"I was told of her answer at the time, so I can let you know what it was.
'Your young King will turn out a despot.' That is what Madame la
Presidente said to her husband."
The bailiff, somewhat confused, admitted that this was exactly the case.
The huge bridge at Brisach, across the Rhine, had no railing; the planks
were in a rickety condition, and through fissures one caught sight of the
impetuous rush of waters below. We all got out of our coaches and
crossed over with our eyes half shut, so dangerous did it seem; while the
King rode across this wretched bridge,--one of the narrowest and loftiest
that there is, and which is always in motion.
Next day the Bishop of Bale came to pay his respects to the Queen, and
was accompanied by delegates from the Swiss cantons, and other
notabilities. After this I heard the "General of the Capucins"
announced, who had just been to pay a visit of greeting to the German
Court. He was said to be by birth a Roman. Strange to say, for that
Capucin the same ceremony and fuss was made as for a sovereign prince,
and I heard that this was a time-honoured privilege enjoyed by his Order.
The monk himself was a fine man, wearing several decorations; his
carriage, livery, and train seemed splendid, nor did he lack ease of
manner nor readiness of conversation. He told us that, at the imperial
palace in Vienna, he had seen the Princesse d'Inspruck,--a relative of
the French Queen, and that the Emperor was bringing her up as if destined
one day to be his seventh bride, according to a prediction. He also
stated that the Emperor had made the young Princess sing to him,--a
Capucin monk; and added genially that she was comely and graceful, and
that he had been very pleased to see her.
The King was very merry at this priest's expense. Not so the Queen, who
was Spanish, and particularly devoted to Capucin friars of all
Moliere.--Racine.--Their Mutual Esteem.--Racine in Mourning.
The King had not much leisure, yet occasionally he gave up half an hour
or an hour to the society of a chosen few,--men famous for their wit and
brilliant talents. One day he was so kind as to bring to my room the
celebrated Moliere, to whom he was particularly attached and showed
special favour. "Madame," said the King, "here you see the one man in
all France who has most wit, most talent, and most modesty and good sense
combined. I thank God for letting him be born during my reign, and I
pray that He may preserve him to us for a long while yet."
As I hastened to add my own complimentary remarks to those of the King, I
certainly perceived that about this illustrious person there was an air
of modesty and simplicity such as one does not commonly find in Apollo's
favourites who aspire to fame. Moreover, he was most comely.
Moliere told the King that he had just sketched out the plot of his
"Malade Imaginaire," and assured us that hypochondriacs themselves would
find something to laugh at when it was played. He spoke very little
about himself, but at great length, and with evident admiration, about
the young poet Racine.
The King asked if he thought that Racine had strength sufficient to make
him the equal of Corneille. "Sire," said the comic poet, "Racine has
already surpassed Corneille by the harmonious elegance of his
versification, and by the natural, true sensibility of his dialogue; his
situations are never fictitious; all his words, his phrases, come from
the heart. Racine alone is a true poet, for he alone is inspired."
The King, continuing, said: "I cannot witness his tragedy of 'Berenice'
without shedding tears. How comes it that Madame Deshoulieres and Madame
de Sevigne, who have so much mind, refuse to recognise beauties which
strike a genius such as yours?"
"Sire," replied Moliere, "my opinion is nothing compared to that which
your Majesty has just expressed, such is your sureness of judgment and
your tact. I know by experience that those scenes of my comedies which,
at a first reading, are applauded by your Majesty, always win most
applause from the public afterwards."
"Is Racine in easy circumstances?" asked the King.
"He is not well off," replied Moliere, "but the tragedies which he has in
his portfolio will make a rich man of him some day; of that I have not
the least doubt."
"Meanwhile," said the King, "take him this draft of six thousand livres
from me, nor shall this be the limit of my esteem and affection."
Five or six months after this interview, poor Moliere broke a
blood-vessel in his chest, while playing with too great fervour the title
part in his "Malade Imaginaire." When they brought the news to the King,
he turned pale, and clasping his hands together, well-nigh burst into
tears. "France has lost her greatest genius," he said before all the
nobles present. "We shall never have any one like him again; our loss is
When they came to tell us that the Paris clergy had refused burial to
"the author of 'Tartuffe,'" his Majesty graciously sent special orders to
the Archbishop, and with a royal wish of that sort they were obliged to
comply, or else give good reasons for not doing so.
Racine went into mourning for Moliere. The King heard this, and publicly
commended such an act of good feeling and grateful sympathy.
Madame de Montausier and the Phantom.--What She Exacts from the
Marquise.--Her Reproaches to the Duke.--Bossuet's Complacency.
Those spiteful persons who told the Queen how obliging the Duchesse de
Montausier had shown herself towards me were also so extremely kind as to
write an account of the whole affair to the Marquis de Montespan.
At that time he was still in Paris, and one day he went to the Duchess
just as she was getting out of bed. In a loud voice he proceeded to
scold her, daring to threaten her as if she were some common woman; in
fact, he caught hold of her and endeavoured to strike her.
The King would not allow M. de Montausier to obtain redress from the
Marquis for such an insult as this. He granted a large pension to the
Duchess, and appointed her husband preceptor to the Dauphin.
Such honours and emoluments partly recompensed the Duchess, yet they
scarcely consoled her. She considered that her good name was all but
lost, and what afflicted her still more was that she never recovered her
health. She used to visit me, as our duties brought us together, but it
was easy to see that confidence and friendship no longer existed.
One day, when passing along one of the castle corridors, which, being so
gloomy, need lamplight at all hours, she perceived a tall white phantom,
which glared hideously at her, and then approaching, vanished. She was
utterly prostrated, and on returning to her apartments was seized with
fever and shivering. The doctors perceived that her brain was affected;
they ordered palliatives, but we soon saw that there was no counting upon
their remedies. She was gradually sinking.
Half an hour before she died the Duchess sent for me, having given
instructions that we should be left alone, and that there should be no
witnesses. Her intense emaciation was pitiful, and yet her face kept
something of its pleasant expression.
"It is because of you, and through you," she exclaimed in a feeble,
broken voice, "that I quit this world while yet in the prime of life. God
calls me; I must die.
"Kings are so horribly exacting. Everything that ministers to their
passions seems feasible to them, and righteous folk must consent to do
their pleasure, or suffer the penalty of being disgraced and neglected,
and of seeing their long years of service lost and forgotten.
"During that unlucky journey in Brabant, you sought by redoubling your
coquetry and fascinations to allure La Valliere's lover. You managed to
succeed; he became fond of you. Knowing my husband's ambitious nature,
he easily got him to make me favour this intrigue, and lend my apartments
as a meeting-place.
"At Court nothing long remains a secret. The Queen was warned, and for a
while would not believe her informants. But your husband, with brutal
impetuousness, burst in upon me. He insulted me in outrageous fashion.
He tried to drag me out of bed and throw me out of the window. Hearing
me scream, my servants rushed in and rescued me, in a fainting state,
from his clutches. And you it is who have brought upon me such
"Ready to appear before my God, who has already summoned me by a spectre,
I have a boon to ask of you, Madame la Marquise. I beg it of you, as I
clasp these strengthless, trembling hands. Do not deny me this favour,
or I will cherish implacable resentment, and implore my Master and my
Judge to visit you with grievous punishment.
"Leave the King," she continued, after drying her tears. "Leave so
sensual a being; the slave of his passions, the ravisher of others' good.
The pomp and grandeur which surround you and intoxicate you would seem
but a little thing did you but look at them as now I do, upon my bed of
"The Queen hates me; she is right. She despises me, and justly, too. I
shall elude her hatred and disdain, which weigh thus heavily upon my
heart. Perhaps she may deign to pardon me when my lawyer shall have
delivered to her a document, signed by myself, containing my confession
As she uttered these words, Madame de Montausier began to vomit blood,
and I had to summon her attendants. With a last movement of the head she
bade me farewell, and I heard that she called for her husband.
Next day she was dead. Her waiting-maid came to tell me that the
Duchess, conscious to the last, had made her husband promise to resign
his appointment as governor to the Dauphin, and withdraw to his estates,
where he was to do penance. M. de Meaux, a friend of the family, read
the prayers for the dying, to which the Duchess made response, and three
minutes before the final death-throe, she consented to let him preach a
funeral sermon in eulogy of herself and her husband.
When printed and published, this discourse was thought to be a fine piece
Over certain things the Bishop passed lightly, while exaggerating others.
Some things, again, were entirely of his own invention; and if from the
depths of her tomb the Duchess could have heard all that M. de Meaux said
about her, she never would have borne me such malice, nor would her grief
at leaving life and fortune have troubled her so keenly.
The King thought this funeral oration excellently well composed. Of one
expression and of one whole passage, however, he disapproved, though
which these were he did not do me the honour to say.
President de Nesmond.--Melladoro.--A Complacent Husband and His Love-sick
President de Nesmond--upright, clear-headed magistrate as he was--was of
very great service to me at the Courts of Justice. He always managed to
oblige me and look after my interests and my rights in any legal dispute
of mine, or when I had reason to fear annoyance on the part of my
I will here relate the grief that his young wife caused him, and it will
be seen that, by the side of this poor President, M. de Montespan might
count himself lucky. Having long been a widower, he was in some measure
accustomed to this state, until love laid a snare for him just at the age
In the garden that lay below his windows--a garden owned by his
neighbour, a farmer--he saw Clorinde. She was this yeoman's only
daughter. He at once fell passionately in love with her, as David once
The President married Clorinde, who was very pleased to have a fine name
and a title. But her husband soon saw--if not with surprise, at least
with pain--that his wife did not love him. A young and handsome
Spaniard, belonging to the Spanish Legation, danced one day with
Clorinde; to her he seemed as radiant as the god of melody and song. She
lost her heart, and without further delay confessed to him this loss.
On returning home, the President said to his youthful consort, "Madame,
every one is noticing and censuring your imprudent conduct; even the
young Spaniard himself finds it compromising."
"Nothing you say can please me more," she replied, "for this proves that
he is aware of my love. As he knows this, and finds my looks to his
liking, I hope that he will wish to see me again."
Soon afterwards there was a grand ball given at the Spanish Embassy.
Madame de Nesmond managed to secure an invitation, and went with one of
her cousins. The young Spaniard did the honours of the evening, and
showed them every attention.
As the President was obliged to attend an all-night sitting at the
Tourelle,--[The parliamentary criminal court.]--and as these young ladies
did not like going home alone,--for their residence was some way
off,--the young Spaniard had the privilege of conducting them to their
coach and of driving back with them. After cards and a little music,
they had supper about daybreak; and when the President returned, at five
o'clock, he saw Melladoro, to whom he was formally introduced by madame.
The President's welcome was a blend of surprise, anger, forced
condescension, and diplomatic politeness. All these shades of feeling
were easily perceived by the Spaniard, who showed not a trace of
astonishment. This was because Clorinde's absolute sway over her husband
was as patent as the fact that, in his own house, the President was
powerless to do as he liked.
Melladoro, who was only twenty years old, thought he had made a charming
conquest. He asked to be allowed to present his respects occasionally,
when Clorinde promptly invited him to do so, in her husband's name as
well as in her own.
It was now morning, and he took leave of the ladies. Two days after this
he reappeared; then he came five or six times a week, until at last it
was settled that a place should be laid for him every day at the
That year it was M. de Nesmond's turn to preside at the courts during
vacation-time. He pleaded urgent motives of health, which made it
imperative for him to have country air and complete rest. Another judge
consented to forego his vacation and take his place on the bench for four
months; so M. de Nesmond was able to leave Paris.
When the time came to set out by coach, madame went off into violent
hysterics; but the magistrate, backed up by his father-in-law, showed
firmness, and they set out for the Chateau de Nesmond, about thirty
leagues from Paris.
M. de Nesmond found the country far from enjoyable. His wife, who always
sat by herself in her dressing-gown and seldom consented to see a soul,
on more than one occasion left her guests at table in order to sulk and
mope in her closet.
She fell ill. During her periods of suffering and depression, she
continually mentioned the Spaniard's name. Failing his person, she
desired to have his portrait. Alarmed at his wife's condition, the
President agreed to write a letter himself to the author of all this
trouble, who soon sent the lady a handsome sweetmeat-box ornamented with
his crest and his portrait.
At the sight of this, Clorinde became like another woman. She had her
hair dressed and put on a smart gown, to show the portrait how deeply
enamoured she was of the original.
"Monsieur," she said to her husband, "I am the only daughter of a wealthy
man, who, when he gave me to a magistrate older than himself, did not
intend to sacrifice me. You have been young, no doubt, and you,
therefore, ought to know how revolting to youth, all freshness and
perfume, are the cuddlings and caresses of decrepitude. As yet I do not
detest you, but it is absolutely impossible to love you. On the
contrary, I am in love with Melladoro; perhaps in your day you were as
attractive as he is, and knew how to make the most of what you then
possessed. Now, will you please me by going back to Paris? I shall be
ever so grateful to you if you will. Or must you spend the autumn in
this gloomy abode of your ancestors? To show myself obedient, I will
consent; only in this case you must send your secretary to the Spanish
Legation, and your coach-and-six, to bring Melladoro here without delay."
At this speech M. de Nesmond could no longer hide his disgust, but
frankly refused to entertain such a proposal for one moment. Whereupon,
his wife gave way to violent grief. She could neither eat nor sleep, and
being already in a weakly state, soon developed symptoms which frightened
M. de Nesmond was frightened too, and at length sent his rival a polite
and pressing invitation to come and stay at the chateau.
This state of affairs went on for six whole years, during which time
Madame de Nesmond lavished upon her comely paramour all the wealth
amassed by her frugal, orderly spouse.
At last the President could stand it no longer, but went and made a
bitter complaint to the King. His Majesty at once asked the Spanish
Ambassador to have Melladoro recalled.
At this news, Clorinde was seized with violent convulsions; so severe,
indeed, was this attack, that her wretched husband at once sought to have
the order rescinded. But as it transpired, the King's wish had been
instantly complied with, and the unwelcome news had to be told to
"If you love me," quoth she to her husband, "then grant me this last
favour, after which, I swear it, Clorinde will never make further appeal
to your kind-heartedness. However quick they have been, my young friend
cannot yet have reached the coast. Let me have sight of him once more;
let me give him a lock of my hair, a few loving words of advice, and one
last kiss before he is lost to me forever."
So fervent was her pleading and so profuse her tears, that M. de Nesmond
consented to do all. His coach-and-six was got ready there and then. An
hour before sunset the belfries of Havre came in sight, and as it was
high tide, they drove right up to the harbour wharf.
The ship had just loosed her moorings, and was gliding out to sea.
Clorinde could recognise Melladoro standing amid the passengers on deck.
Half fainting, she stretched out her arms and called him in a piteous
voice. Blushing, he sought to hide behind his companions, who all begged
him to show himself. By means of a wherry Clorinde soon reached the
frigate, and the good-natured sailors helped her to climb up the side of
the vessel. But in her agitation and bewilderment her foot slipped, and
she fell into the sea, whence she was soon rescued by several of the
pluckiest of the crew.
As she was being removed to her carriage, the vessel sailed out of
harbour. M. de Nesmond took a large house at Havre, in order to nurse
her with greater convenience, and had to stop there for a whole month,
his wife being at length brought back on a litter to Paris.
Her convalescence was but an illusion after all. Hardly had she reached
home when fatal symptoms appeared; she felt that she must die, but showed
little concern thereat. The portrait of the handsome Spaniard lay close
beside her on her couch. She smiled at it, besought it to have pity on
her loneliness, or scolded it bitterly for indifference, and for going
A short time before her death, she sent for her husband and her father,
to whom she entrusted the care of her three children.
"Monsieur," said she to the President de Nesmond, "be kind to my son; he
has a right to your name and arms, and though he is my living image,
dearest Theodore is your son." Then turning to her father, who was
weeping, she said briefly, "All that to-day remains to you of Clorinde
are her two daughters.
"Pray love them as you loved me, and be more strict with them than you
were with me. M. de Nesmond owes these orphans nothing. All that
Melladoro owes them is affection. Tell him, I pray you, of my constancy
and of my death."
Such was the sad end of a young wife who committed no greater crime than
to love a man who was agreeable and after her own heart. M. de Nesmond
was just enough to admit that, in ill-assorted unions, good sense or good
nature must intervene, to ensure that the one most to be pitied receive
indulgent treatment at the hands of the most culpable, if the latter be
also the stronger of the two.
Madame de Montespan's Children and Those of La Valliere.--Monsieur le
I had successively lost the first and second Comte de Vegin; God also
chose to take Mademoiselle de Tours from me, who (in what way I know not)
was in features the very image of the Queen. Her Majesty was told so,
and desired to see my child, and when she perceived how striking was the
resemblance, she took a fancy to the charming little girl, and requested
that she might frequently be brought to see her. Such friendliness
proved unlucky, for the Infanta, as is well known, has never been able to
rear one of her children,--a great pity, certainly, for she has had five,
all handsome, well-made, and of gracious, noble mien, like the King.
In the case of Mademoiselle de Tours, the Queen managed to conquer her
dislike, and also sent for the Duc du Maine. Despite her affection for
M. le Dauphin, she herself admitted that if Monseigneur had the airs of a
gentleman, M. le Duc du Maine looked the very type of a king's son.
The Duc du Maine, Madame de Maintenon's special pupil, was so well
trained to all the exigencies of his position and his rank, that such
premature perfection caused him to pass for a prodigy. Than his, no
smile could be more winning and sweet; no one could carry himself with
greater dignity and ease. He limps slightly, which is a great pity,
especially as he has such good looks, and so graceful a figure; his
lameness, indeed, was entirely the result of an accident,--a sad
accident, due to teething. To please the King, his governess took him
once to Auvez, and twice to the Pyrenees, but neither the waters nor the
Auvez quack doctors could effect a cure. At any rate, I was fortunate
enough to bring up this handsome prince, who, if he treat me with
ceremony, yet loves me none the less.
Brought up by the Duc de Montausier, a sort of monkish soldier, and by
Bossuet, a sort of military monk, Monsieur le Dauphin had no good
examples from which to profit. Crammed as he is with Latin, Greek,
German, Spanish, and Church history, he knows all that they teach in
colleges, being totally ignorant of all that can only be learnt at the
Court of a king. He has no distinction of manner, no polish or
refinement of address; he laughs in loud guffaws, and even raises his
voice in the presence of his father. Having been born at Court, his way
of bowing is not altogether awkward; but what a difference between his
salute and that of the King! "Monseigneur looks just like a German
prince." That speech exactly hits him off,--a portrait sketched by no
other brush than that of his royal father.
Monseigneur, who does not like me, pays me court the same as any one
else. Being very jealous of the pretty Comte de Vermandois and his
brother, the Duc du Maine, he tries to imitate their elegant manner, but
is too stiff to succeed. The Duc du Maine shows him the respect inspired
by his governess, but the Comte de Vermandois, long separated from his
mother, has been less coached in this respect, and being thoroughly
candid and sincere, shows little restraint. Often, instead of styling
him "Monseigneur," he calls him merely "Monsieur le Dauphin," while the
latter, as if such a title were common or of no account, looks at his
brother and makes no reply.
When I told the King about such petty fraternal tiffs, he said, "With
age, all that will disappear; as a man grows taller, he gets a better,
broader view of his belongings."
M. le Dauphin shows a singular preference for Mademoiselle de Nantes, but
my daughter, brimful of wit and fun, often makes merry at the expense of
her exalted admirer.
Mademoiselle de Blois, the eldest daughter of Madame de la Valliere, is
the handsomest, most charming person it is possible to imagine. Her
slim, graceful figure reminds one of the beautiful goddesses, with whom
poets entertain us; she abounds in accomplishments and every sort of
charm. Her tender solicitude for her mother, and their constant close
companionship, have doubtless served to quicken her intelligence and
Like the King, she is somewhat grave; she has the same large brown eyes,
and just his Austrian lip, his shapely hand and well-turned leg, almost
his selfsame voice. Madame de la Valliere, who, in the intervals of
pregnancy, had no bosom to speak of, has shown marked development in this
respect since living at the convent. The Princess, ever since she
attained the age of puberty, has always seemed adequately furnished with
physical charms. The King provided her with a husband in the person of
the Prince de Conti, a nephew of the Prince de Conde. They are devotedly
attached to each other, being both as handsome as can be. The Princesse
de Conti enjoys the entire affection of the Queen, who becomes quite
uneasy if she does not see her for five or six days.
Certain foreign princes proposed for her hand, when the King replied that
the presence of his daughter was as needful to him as daylight or the air
I have here surely drawn a most attractive portrait of this princess, and
I ought certainly to be believed, for Madame de Conti is not fond of me
at all. Possibly she looks upon me as the author of her mother's
disgrace; I shall never be at pains to undeceive her. Until the moment
of her departure, Madame de la Valliere used always to visit me. The
evening before her going she took supper with me, and I certainly had no
cause to read in her looks either annoyance or reproach. Mademoiselle de
Montpensier, who happened to call, saw us at table, and stayed to have
some dessert with us. She has often told me afterwards how calm and
serene the Duchess looked. One would never have thought she was about to
quit a brilliant Court for the hair shirt of the ascetic, and all the
death-in-life of a convent. I grieved for her, I wept for her, and I got
her a grand gentleman as a husband.
[This statement is scarcely reconcilable with the fact that Madame de la
Valliere remained in a convent until her death. This may refer to
Mademoiselle de Blois, La Valliere's daughter, who was given in marriage
to the Prince de Conti.--EDITOR'S NOTE.]
Madame de Maintenon's Character.--The Queen Likes Her.--She Revisits Her
Family.--Her Grandfather's Papers Restored to Her.
As Madame de Maintenon's character happened to please the King, as I have
already stated, he allotted her handsome apartments at Court while
waiting until he could keep her there as a fixture, by conferring upon
her some important appointment. She had the honour of being presented to
the Queen, who paid her a thousand compliments respecting the Duc du
Maine's perfections, being so candid and so good natured as to say:
"You would have been just the person to educate Monseigneur."
Unwilling to appear as if she slighted the Dauphin's actual tutors,
Madame de Maintenon adroitly replied that, as it seemed to her, M. le
Dauphin had been brought up like an angel.
It is said that I have special talent for sustaining and enlivening a
conversation; there is something in that, I admit, but to do her justice,
I must say that in this respect Madame de Maintenon is without a rival.
She has quite a wealth of invention; the most arid subject in her hands
becomes attractive; while for transitions, her skill is unequalled. Far
simpler than myself, she gauges her whole audience with a single glance.
And as, since her misfortunes, her rule has been never to make an enemy,
since these easily crop up along one's path, she is careful never to
utter anything which could irritate the feelings or wound the pride of
the most sensitive. Her descriptions are so varied, so vivacious, that
they fascinate a whole crowd. If now and again some little touch of
irony escapes her, she knows how to temper and even instantly to
neutralise this by terms of praise at once natural and simple.
Under the guise of an extremely pretty woman, she conceals the knowledge
and tact of a statesman. I have, moreover, noticed that latterly the
King likes to talk about matters of State when she is present. He rarely
did this with me.
I think she is at the outset of a successful career. The King made
persistent inquiries with regard to her whole family. He has already
conferred a petty governorship upon the Comte d'Aubigne, her brother, and
the Marquis de la Gallerie, their cousin, has just received the command
of a regiment, and a pension.
Madame de Maintenon readily admits that she owes her actual good fortune
to myself. I also saw one of her letters to Madame de Saint-Geran, in
which she refers to me in terms of gratitude. Sometimes, indeed, she
goes too far, even siding with my husband, and condemning what she dares
to term my conduct; however, this is only to my face. I have always
liked her, and in spite of her affronts, I like her still; but there are
times when I am less tolerant, and then we are like two persons just
about to fall out.
The Comte de Toulouse and Mademoiselle de Blois were not entrusted to her
at their birth as the others were. The King thought that the additional
responsibility of their education would prove too great for the Marquise.
He preferred to enjoy her society and conversation, so my two youngest
children were placed in the care of Madame d'Arbon, a friend or
stewardess of M. de Colbert. Not a great compliment, as I take it.
When, for the second time, Madame de Maintenon took the Duc du Maine to
Barege, she returned by way of the Landes, Guienne, and Poitou. She
wished to revisit her native place, and show her pupil to all her
relations. Perceiving that she was a marquise, the instructress of
princes, and a personage in high favour, they were lavish of their
compliments and their praise, yet forebore to give her back her property.
Knowing that she was a trifle vain about her noble birth, they made over
to her the great family pedigree, as well as a most precious manuscript.
These papers, found to be quite correct, included a most spirited history
of the War of the League, written by Baron Agrippa d'Aubigne, who might
rank as an authority upon the subject, having fought against the Leaguers
for over fifteen years. Among these documents the King found certain
details that hitherto had been forgotten, or had never yet come to light.
And as the Baron was Henri IV.'s favourite aide-decamp, every reference
that he makes to that good king is of importance and interest.
This manuscript, in the simplest manner possible, set forth the
governess's ancestors. I am sure she was more concerned about this
document than about her property.
The Young Flemish Lady.--The Sainte-Aldegonde Family.--The Sage of the
Just at the time of the conquest of Tournai, a most amusing thing
occurred, which deserves to be chronicled. Another episode may be
recorded also, of a gloomier nature.
Directly Tournai had surrendered, and the new outposts were occupied, the
King wished to make his entry into this important town, which he had long
desired to see. The people and the burghers, although mute and silent,
willingly watched the French army and its King march past, but the
aristocracy scarcely showed themselves at any of the windows, and the few
folk who appeared here and there on the balconies abstained from
applauding the King.
Splendidly apparelled, and riding the loveliest of milk-white steeds, his
Majesty proceeded upon his triumphant way, surrounded by the flower of
French nobility, and scattering money as he went.
Before the Town Hall the procession stopped, when the magistrates
delivered an address, and gave up to his Majesty the keys of the city in
a large enamelled bowl.
When the King, looking calmly contented, was about to reply, he observed
a woman who had pushed her way through the French guardsmen, and staring
hard at him, appeared anxious to get close up to him. In fact, she
advanced a step or two, and the epithet that crossed her lips struck the
conqueror as being coarsely offensive.
"Arrest that woman," cried the King. She was instantly seized and
brought before him.
"Why do you insult me thus?" he asked quickly, but with dignity.
"I have not insulted you," replied the Flemish lady. "The word that
escaped me was rather a term of flattery and of praise, at least if it
has the meaning which it conveys to us here, in these semi-French parts."
"Say that word again," added the King; "for I want everybody to bear
witness that I am just in punishing you for such an insult."
"Sire," answered this young woman, "your soldiers have destroyed my
pasture-lands, my woods, and my crops. Heart-broken, I came here to
curse you, but your appearance at once made me change my mind. On
looking closer at you, in spite of my grief, I could not help exclaiming,
'So that's the handsome b-----, is it!'"
The grenadiers, being called as witnesses, declared that such was in fact
her remark. Then the King smiled, and said to the young Flemish lady:
"Who are you? What is your name?"
With readiness and dignity she replied, "Sire, you see before you the
Comtesse de Sainte-Aldegonde."
"Pray, madame," quoth the King, "be so good as to finish your toilet; I
invite you to dine with me to-day."
Madame de Sainte-Aldegonde accepted the honour, and did in fact dine with
his Majesty that day. She was clever, and made herself most agreeable,
so that the King, whose policy it was to win hearts by all concessions
possible, indemnified her for all losses sustained during the war,
besides granting favours to all her relatives and friends.
The Sainte-Aldegonde family appeared at Court, being linked thereto by
good services. It is already a training-ground for excellent officers
and persons of merit.
But for that somewhat neat remark of the Countess's, all those gentlemen
would have remained in poverty and obscurity within the walls or in the
suburbs of Tournai.
Some days after this, the King was informed of the arrest of a most
dangerous individual, who had been caught digging below certain ancient
aqueducts "with a view to preparing a mine of some sort." This person
was brought in, tied and bound like a criminal; they hustled him and
maltreated him. I noticed how he trembled and shed tears.
He was a learned man--an antiquary. A few days before our invasion he
had commenced certain excavations, which he had been forced to
discontinue, and now so great was his impatience that he had been obliged
to go on in spite of the surrounding troops. By means of an old
manuscript, long kept by the Druids, as also by monks, this man had been
able to discover traces of an old Roman highroad, and as in the days of
the Romans the tombs of the rich and the great were always placed
alongside these broad roads, our good antiquary had been making certain
researches there, which for him had proved to be a veritable gold-mine.
Having made confession of all this to the King, his Majesty set him free,
granting him, moreover, complete liberty as regarded the execution of his
A few days afterwards he begged to have the honour of presenting to his
Majesty some of the objects which he had collected during his researches.
I was present, and the following are the funereal curiosities which he
Having broken open a tomb, he had extracted therefrom a large alabaster
vase, which still contained the ashes of the deceased. Next this urn,
carefully sealed up, there was another vase, containing three gold rings
adorned with precious stones, two gold spurs, the bit of a battle-horse,
very slightly rusted, and chased with silver and gold, a sort of seal
with rough coat-of-arms, a necklace of large and very choice pearls, a
stylet or pencil for calligraphy, and a hundred gold and silver coins
bearing the effigy of Domitian, a very wicked emperor, who reigned over
Rome and over Gaul in those days.
When the King had amused himself with examining these trinkets, he turned
to the antiquary and said, "Is that all, sir? Why, where is Charon's
flask of wine?"
"Here, your Majesty," replied the old man, producing a small flask. "See,
the wine has become quite clear."
With great difficulty the flask was opened; the wine it contained was
pale and odourless, but by those bold enough to taste it, was pronounced
When overturning the urn in order to empty out the ashes and bury them,
they noticed an inscription, which the King instantly translated. It ran
"May the gods who guard tombs punish him who breaks open this mausoleum.
The troubles and misfortunes of Aurelius Silvius have been cruel enough
during his lifetime; in this tomb at least let him have peace."
The worthy antiquary offered me his pearl necklace and one of the antique
rings, but I refused these with a look of horror. He sold the coins to
the King, and informed us that his various excavations and researches had
brought him in about one hundred thousand livres up to the present time.
The King said to him playfully, "Mind what you are about, monsieur; that
sentence which I translated for you is not of a very, reassuring nature."
"Yet it will not serve to hinder me in my scientific researches," replied
the savant. "Charon, who by now must be quite a rich man, evidently
disdains all such petty hidden treasures as these. To me they are most
Next time we passed through Tournai, I made inquiries as to this miser,
and afterwards informed the King. It appears that he was surprised by
robbers when despoiling one of these tombs. After robbing him of all
that he possessed, they buried him alive in the very, grave where he was
digging, so as to save expense. What a dismal sort of science! What a
life, and what a death!
The Monks of Sainte Amandine.--The Prince of Orange Entrapped.--The
Drugged Wine.--The Admirable Judith.
After the furious siege of Conde, which lasted only four days, the King,
who had been present, left for Sebourg, whence he sent orders for the
destruction of the principal forts of Liege, and for the ravaging of the
Juliers district. He treated the Neubourg estates in the same ruthless
fashion, as the Duke had abandoned his attitude of neutrality, and had
joined the Empire, Holland and Spain. All the Cleves district, and those
between the Meuse and the Vahal, were subjected to heavy taxation.
Everywhere one saw families in flight, castles sacked, homesteads and
convents in flames.
The Duc de Villa-Hermosa, Governor-General in Flanders for the King of
Spain, and William of Orange, the Dutch leader, went hither and thither
all over the country, endeavouring to rouse the people, and spur them on
to offer all possible resistance to the King of France.
These two noble generalissimi even found their way into monasteries and
nunneries, and carried off their silver plate, actually, seizing the
consecrated vessels used for the sacrament, saying that all such things
would help the good cause.
One day they entered a wealthy Bernardine monastery, where the miraculous
tomb of Sainte Amandine was on view. The great veneration shown for this
saint in all the country thereabouts had served greatly to enrich the
community and bring them in numerous costly offerings. The chapel
wherein the saint's heart was said to repose was lighted by a huge gold
lamp, and on the walls and in niches right up to the ceiling were
thousands of votive offerings in enamel, silver, and gold. The Duc de
Villa-Hermosa (a good Catholic) dared not give orders for the pillage of
this holy chapel, but left that to the Prince of Orange (a good
One evening they came to ask the prior for shelter, who, seeing that he
Back to Full Books