The Memoirs of Madame de Montespan, v5
Madame La Marquise De Montespan
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This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author's ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]
MEMOIRS OF MADAME LA MARQUISE DE MONTESPAN, v5
Written by Herself
Being the Historic Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV.
The Prince de Mont-Beliard.--He Agrees to the Propositions Made Him.--
The King's Note.--Diplomacy of the Chancellor of England.--Letter from
the Marquis de Montespan.--The Duchy in the Air.--The Domain of Navarre,
Belonging to the Prince de Bouillon, Promised to the Marquise.
There was but a small company this year at the Waters of Bourbonne,--
to begin with, at any rate; for afterwards there appeared to be many
arrivals, to see me, probably, and Mademoiselle de Nantes.
The Chancellor Hyde was already installed there, and his establishment
was one of the most agreeable and convenient; he was kind enough to
exchange it for mine. A few days afterwards he informed me of the
arrival of the Prince de Mont-Beliard, of Wurtemberg, who was anxious to
pay his respects to me, as though to the King's daughter. In effect,
this royal prince came and paid me a visit; I thought him greatly changed
for such a short lapse of years.
We had seen each other--as, I believe, I have already told--at the time
of the King's first journey in Flanders. He recalled all the
circumstances to me, and was amiable enough to tell me that, instead of
waning, my beauty had increased.
"It is you, Prince, who embellish everything," I answered him. "I begin
to grow like a dilapidated house; I am only here to repair myself."
Less than a year before, M. de Mont-Billiard had lost that amiable
princess, his wife; he had a lively sense of this loss, and never spoke
of it without tears in his eyes.
"You know, madame," he told me, "my states are, at present, not entirely
administered, but occupied throughout by the officers of the King of
France. Those persons who have my interests at heart, as well as those
who delight at my fears, seem persuaded that this provisional occupation
will shortly become permanent. I dare not question you on this subject,
knowing how much discretion is required of you; but I confess that I
should pass quieter and more tranquil nights if you could reassure me up
to a certain point."
"Prince," I replied to him, "the King is never harsh except with those of
whom he has had reason to complain. M. le Duc de Neubourg, and certain
other of the Rhine princes, have been thick-witted enough to be disloyal
to him; he has punished them for it, as Caesar did, and as all great
princes after him will do. But you have never shown him either coldness,
or aversion, or indifference. He has commanded the Marechal de
Luxembourg to enter your territory to prevent the Prince of Orange from
reaching there before us, and your authority has been put, not under the
domination, but under the protection, of the King of France, who is
desirous of being able to pass from there into the Brisgau."
Madame de Thianges, Madame de Nevers, and myself did all that lay in our
power to distract or relieve the sorrows of the Prince; but the loss of
Mademoiselle de Chatillon, his charming spouse, was much more present
with him than that of his states; the bitterness which he drew from it
was out of the retch of all consolation possible. The Marquise de
Thianges procured the Chancellor of England to approach the Prince, and
find out from him, to a certain extent, whether he would consent to
exchange the County of Mont-Beliard for some magnificent estates in
France, to which some millions in money would be added.
M. de Wurtemberg asked for a few days in which to reflect, and imagining
that these suggestions emanated from Versailles, he replied that he could
refuse nothing to the greatest of kings. My sister wrote on the day
following to the Marquis de Louvois, instead of asking it of the King in
person. M. de Luvois, who, probably, wished to despoil M. de Mont-
Beliard without undoing his purse-strings, put this overture before the
King maliciously, and the King wrote me immediately the following letter:
Leave M. de Mont-Beliard alone, and do not speak to him again of his
estates. If the matter which occupies Madame de Thianges could be
arranged, it would be of the utmost propriety that a principality of
such importance rested in the Crown, at least as far as sovereignty.
The case of the Principality of Orange is a good enough lesson to
me; there must be one ruler only in an empire. As for you, my dear
lady, feel no regret for all that. You shall be a duchess, and I am
pleased to give you this title which you desire. Let M. de
Montespan be informed that his marquisate is to be elevated into a
duchy with a peerage, and that I will add to it the number of
seigniories that is proper, as I do not wish to deviate from the
usage which has become a law, etc.
The prince's decision was definite, and as his character was, there was
no wavering. I wrote to him immediately to express my lively gratitude,
and we considered, the Marquise and I, as to the intermediary to whom we
could entrust the unsavoury commission of approaching the Marquis de
Montespan. He hated all my family from his having obtained no
satisfaction from it for his wrath. We begged the Chancellor Hyde, a
personage of importance, to be good enough to accept this mission; he saw
no reason to refuse it, and, after ten or eleven days, he received the
following reply, with which he was moderately amused:
CHATEAU SAINT ELIX . . . . AT THE WORLD'S END.
I am sensible, my Lord, as I should be, of the honour which you have
wished to do me, whilst, notwithstanding, permit me to consider it
strange that a man of your importance has cared to meddle in such a
negotiation. His Majesty the King of France did not consult me when
he wished to make my wife his mistress; it is somewhat remarkable
that so great a prince expects my intervention today to recompense
conduct that I have disapproved, that I disapprove, and shall
disapprove to my last breath. His Majesty has got eight or ten
children from my wife without saying a word to me about it; this
monarch can surely, therefore, make her a present of a duchy without
summoning me to his assistance. According to all laws, human and
divine, the King ought to punish Madame de Montespan, and, instead
of censuring her, he wishes to make her a duchess! . . . Let him
make her a princess, even a highness, if he likes; he has all the
power in his hands. I am only a twig; he is an oak.
If madame is fostering ambition, mine has been satisfied for forty
years; I was born a marquis; a marquis--apart from some unforeseen
catastrophe--I will die; and Madame la Marquise, as long as she does
not alter her conduct, has no need to alter her degree.
I will, however, waive my severity, if M. le Duc du Maine will
intervene for his mother, and call me his father, however it may be.
I am none the less sensible, my lord, of the honour of your
acquaintance, and since you form one of the society of Madame la
Marquise, endeavour to release yourself from her charms, for she can
be an enchantress when she likes.... It is true that, from what
they tell me, you were not quite king in your England.
I am, from out my exile (almost as voluntary as yours), the most
obliged and grateful of your servants,
DE GONDRIN MONTESPAN.
The Marquise de Thianges felt a certain irritation at the reading of this
letter; she offered all our excuses for it to the English Chancellor, and
said to me: "I begin to fear that the King of Versailles is not acting
with good faith towards you, when he makes your advancement depend on the
Marquis de Montespan; it is as though he were giving you a duchy in the
I sent word to the King that the Marquis refused to assist his generous
projects; he answered me:
"Very well, we must look somewhere else."
Happily, this domestic humiliation did not transpire at Bourbonne; for M.
de la Bruyere had arrived there with Monsieur le Prince, and that model
satirist would unfailingly have made merry over it at my expense.
The best society lavished its attentions on me; Coulanges, whose
flatteries are so amusing, never left us for a moment.
The Prince, after the States were over, had come to relax himself at
Bourbonne, which was his property. After having done all in his power
formerly to dethrone his master, he is his enthusiastic servitor now that
he sees him so strong. He was fascinated with Mademoiselle de Nantes,
and asked my permission to seek her hand for the Duc de Bourbon, his
grandson; my reply was, that the alliance was desirable on both sides,
but that these arrangements were settled only by the King.
In spite of the insolent diatribe of M. de Montespan, the waters proved
good and favourable; my blood, little by little, grew calm; my pains,
passing from one knee to the other, insensibly faded away in both; and,
after having given a brilliant fete to the Prince de Mont-Beliard, the
English Chancellor, and our most distinguished bathers, I went back to
Versailles, where the work seemed to me to have singularly advanced.
The King went in advance of us to Corbeil; Madame de Maintenon, her
pretty nieces, and my children were in the carriage. The King received
me with his ordinary kindness, and yet said no word to me of the
harshness which I had suffered from my husband. Two or three months
afterwards he recollected his royal word, and gave me to understand that
the Prince de Bourbon was shortly going to give up Navarre, in Normandy,
and that this vast and magnificent estate would be raised to a duchy for
It has not been yet, at the moment that I write. Perhaps it is written
above that I shall never be a duchess. In such a case, the King would
not deserve the inward reproaches that my sensibility addresses him,
since his good-will would be fettered by destiny.
It is my kindness which makes me speak so.
The Venetian Drummer.--The Little Olivier.--Adriani's Love.--
His Ingratitude.--His Punishment.--His Vengeance.--
Complaint on This Account.
At the great slaughter of Candia, M. de Vivonne had the pleasure of
saving a young Venetian drummer whom he noticed all covered with blood,
and senseless, amongst the dead and dying, with whom the field was
covered far and wide. He had his wounds dressed and cared for by the
surgeons of the French navy, with the intention of giving him me, either
as a valet de chambre or a page, so handsome and agreeable this young
Italian was. Adriani was his name. He presented him to me after the
return of the expedition to France, and I was sensible of this amiable
attention of my brother, for truly the peer of this young drummer did not
Adrien was admirable to see in my livery, and when my carriage went out,
he attracted alone all the public attention. His figure was still not
all that it might be; it developed suddenly, and then one was not wrong
in comparing him with a perfect model for the Academy. He took small
time in losing the manners which he had brought with him from his
original calling. I discovered the best 'ton' in him; he would have been
far better seated in the interior than outside my equipage.
Unfortunately, this young impertinent gave himself airs of finding my
person agreeable, and of cherishing a passion for me; my first valet de
chambre told me of it at once. I gave him to the King, who had sometimes
noticed him in passing.
Adrien was inconsolable at first at this change, for which he was not
prepared, but his vanity soon came uppermost; he understood that it was
an advancement, and took himself for a great personage, since he had the
honour of approaching and serving the King.
The little Olivier--the first assistant in the shop of Madame Camille, my
dressmaker--saw Adrien, inspired him with love, and herself with much,
and they had to be married. I was good-natured enough to be interested
in this union, and as I had never any fault to find with the intelligent
services and attentions of the little modiste, I gave her two hundred
louis, that she might establish herself well and without any waiting.
She had a daughter whom she was anxious to call Athenais. I thought this
request excessive; I granted my name of Francoise only.
The young couple would have succeeded amply with their business, since my
confidence and favour were sufficient to give them vogue; but I was not
slow in learning that cruel discord had already penetrated to their
household, and that Adrien, in spite of his adopted country, had remained
at heart Italian. Jealous without motive, and almost without love, he
tormented with his suspicions, his reproaches, and his harshness, an
attentive and industrious young wife, who loved him with intense love,
and was unable to succeed in persuading him of it. From her condition,
a modiste cannot dispense with being amiable, gracious, engaging. The
little Olivier, as pretty as one can be, easily secured the homage of the
cavaliers. For all thanks she smiled at the gentlemen, as a well brought
up woman should do. Adrien disapproved these manners,--too French, in
his opinion. One day he dared to say to his wife, and that before
witnesses: "Because you have belonged to Madame de Montespan, do you
think you have the same rights that she has?" And with that he
administered a blow to her.
This indecency was reported to me. I did not take long in discovering
what it was right to do with Adrien. I had him sent to Clagny, where I
happened to be at the time.
"Monsieur the Venetian drummer," I said to him, with the hauteur which it
was necessary to oppose to his audacity, "Monsieur le Marechal de
Vivonne, who is always too good, saved your life without knowing you.
I gave you to the King, imagining that I knew you. Now I am undeceived,
and I know, without the least possibility of doubt, that beneath the
appearance of a good heart you hide the ungrateful and insolent rogue.
The King needs persons more discreet, less violent, and more polite.
Madame de Montespan gave you up to the King; Madame de Montespan has
taken you back this morning to her service. You depend for the future on
nobody but Madame de Montespan, and it is her alone that you are bound to
obey. Your service in her house has commenced this morning; it will
finish this evening, and, before midnight, you will leave her for good
and all. I have known on all occasions how to pardon slight offences;
there are some that a person of my rank could not excuse; yours is of
that number. Go; make no answer! Obey, ingrate! Disappear, I command
At these words he tried to throw himself at my feet. "Go, wretched
fellow!" I cried to him; and, at my voice, my lackeys ran up and drove
him from the room and from the chateau.
Almost always these bad-natured folks have cowardly souls. Adrien, his
head in a whirl, presented himself to my Suisse at Versailles, who,
finding his look somewhat sinister, refused to receive him. He retired
to my hotel in Paris, where the Suisse, being less of a physiognomist,
delivered him the key of his old room, and was willing to allow him to
pass the night there.
Adrien, thinking of naught but how to harm me and give me a memorable
proof of his vengeance, ran and set fire to my two storehouses, and, to
put a crown on his rancour, went and hanged himself in an attic.
About two o'clock in the morning, a sick-nurse, having perceived the
flames, gave loud cries and succeeded in making herself heard. Public
help arrived; the fire was mastered. My Suisse sought everywhere for the
Italian, whom he thought to be in danger; he stumbled against his corpse.
What a scene! What an affliction! The commissary having had his room
opened, on a small bureau a letter was found which he had been at the
pains of writing, and in which he accused me of his despair and death.
The people of Paris have been at all times extravagance and credulity
itself. They looked upon this young villain as a martyr, and at once
dedicated an elegy to him, in which I was compared with Medea, Circe, and
It is precisely on account of this elegy that I have cared to set down
this cruel anecdote. My readers, to whom I have just narrated the facts
with entire frankness, can see well that, instead of having merited
reproaches, I should only have received praise for my restraint and
It is, assuredly, most painful to have to suffer the abuse of those for
whom we have never done aught; but the outrages of those whom we have
succoured, maintained, and favoured are insupportable injuries.
The Equipage at Full Speed.--The Poor Vine-grower.--Sensibility of Madame
de Maintenon.--Her Popularity.--One Has the Right to Crush a Man Who Will
Not Get Out of the Way.--What One Sees.--What They Tell You.--All Ends at
the Opera.--One Can Be Moved to Tears and Yet Like Chocolate.
Another event with a tragical issue, and one to which I contributed even
less, served to feed and foster that hatred, mixed with envy, which the
rabble populace guards always so persistently towards the favourites of
kings or fortune.
Naturally quick and impatient, I cannot endure to move with calm and
state along the roads. My postilions, my coachmen know it, driving in
such fashion that no equipage is ever met which cleaves the air like
I was descending one day the declivity of the Coeur-Volant, between Saint
Germain and Marly. The Marquises de Maintenon and d'Hudicourt were in my
carriage with M. le Duc du Maine, so far as I can remember. We were
going at the pace which I have just told, and my outriders, who rode in
advance, were clearing the way, as is customary. A vine-grower, laden
with sticks, chose this moment to cross the road, thinking himself, no
doubt, agile enough to escape my six horses. The cries of my people were
useless. The imprudent fellow took his own course, and my postilions, in
spite of their efforts with the reins, could not prevent themselves from
passing over his body; the wheels followed the horses; the poor man was
cut in pieces.
At the lamentations of the country folk and the horrified passers-by, we
stopped. Madame de Maintenon wished to alight, and when she perceived
the unfortunate vine-grower disfigured with his wounds, she clasped her
hands and fell to weeping. The Marquise d'Hudicourt, who was always
simplicity itself, followed her friend's example; there was nothing but
groans and sorrowful exclamations. My coachman blamed the postilions,
the postilions the man's obstinacy.
Madame de Maintenon, speaking as though she were the mistress, bade them
be silent, and dared to say to them before all the crowd: "If you
belonged to me, I would soon settle you." At these words all the
spectators applauded, and cried: "Vive Madame de Maintenon!"
Irritated at what I had just heard, I put my head out of the door, and,
turning to these sentimental women, I said to them: "Be good enough to
get in, mesdames; are you determined to have me stoned?"
They mounted again, after having left my purse with the poor relations
of the dead man; and as far as Ruel, which was our destination, I was
compelled to listen to their complaints and litanies.
"Admit, madame," I declared to Madame de Maintenon, "that any person
except myself could and would detest you for the harm you have done me.
Your part was to blame the postilions lightly and the rustic very
positively. My equipage did not come unexpectedly, and my two outriders
had signalled from their horses."
"Madame," she replied, "you have not seen, as I did, those eyes of the
unhappy man forced violently from their sockets, his poor crushed head,
his palpitating heart, from which the blood soaked the pavement; such a
sight has moved and broken my own heart. I was, as I am still, quite
beside myself, and, in such a situation, it is permissible to forget
discretion in one's speech and the proprieties. I had no intention of
giving you pain; I am distressed at having done so. But as for your
coachmen I loathe them, and, since you undertake their defence, I shall
not for the future show myself in your equipage."
[In one of her letters, Madame de Maintenon speaks of this accident,
but she does not give quite the same account of it. It is natural
that Madame de Montespan seeks to excuse her people and herself if
she can.--EDITOR'S NOTE.]
At Ruel, she dared take the same tone before the Duchesse de Richelieu,
who rebuked her for officiousness, and out of spite, or some other
reason, Madame de Maintenon refused to dine. She had two or three
swooning fits; her tears started afresh four or five times, and the
Marquise d'Hudicourt, who dined only by snatches, went into a corner to
sob and weep along with her.
"Admit, madame," I said then to Madame de Maintenon, "your excessive
grief for an unknown man is singular. He was, perhaps, actually a
dishonest fellow. The accident which you come back to incessantly, and
which distresses me also, is doubtless deplorable; but, after all, it is
not a murder, an ambush, a premeditated assassination. I imagine that if
such a catastrophe had happened elsewhere, and been reported to us in a
gazette or a book, you would have read of it with interest and
commiseration; but we should not have seen you clasp your hands over your
head, turn red and pale, utter loud cries, shed tears, sob, and scold a
coachman, postilions, perhaps even me. The event, would, nevertheless,
be actually the same. Admit, then, madame, and you, too, Madame
d'Hudicourt, that there is an exaggeration in your sorrow, and that you
would have made, both of you, two excellent comedians."
Madame de Maintenon, piqued at these last words, sought to make us
understand, and even make us admit, that there is a great difference
between an event narrated to you by a third party, and an event which one
has seen. Madame de Richelieu shut her mouth pleasantly with these
words: "We know, Madame la Marquise, how much eloquence and wit is yours.
We approve all your arguments, past and to be. Let us speak no further
of an accident which distresses you; and since you require to be
diverted, let us go to the Opdra, which is only two leagues off."
She consented to accompany us, for fear of proving herself entirely
ridiculous; but to delay us as much as possible, she required a cup of
chocolate, her favourite dish, her appetite having returned as soon as
she had exhausted the possibilities of her grief.
Charles II., King of England.--How Interest Can Give Memory.--
His Grievances against France.--The Two Daughters of the Duke of York.--
William of Orange Marries One, in Spite of the Opposition of the King.--
Great Joy of the Allies.--How the King of England Understands Peace.--
Saying of the King.--Preparations for War.
The King, Charles Stuart, who reigned in England since the death of the
usurper, Cromwell, was a grandson of Henri IV., just as much as our King.
Charles II. displayed the pronounced penchant of Henri IV. for the ladies
and for pleasure; but he had neither his energy, nor his genial temper,
nor his amiable frankness. After the death of Henrietta of England, his
beloved sister, he remained for some time longer our ally, but only to
take great advantage from our union and alliance. He had made use of it
against the Dutch, his naval and commercial rivals, and had compelled
them, by the aid of the King of France (then his friend), to reimburse
him a sum of twenty-six millions, and to pay him, further, an annual
tribute of twelve or fifteen thousand livres for the right of fishing
round his island domains.
All these things being obtained, be seemed to recollect that Cardinal de
Richelieu had not protected his father, Stuart; that the Cardinal Mazarin
had declared for Cromwell in his triumph; that the Court of France had
indecently gone into mourning for that robber; that there had been
granted neither guards, nor palace, nor homages of state to the Queen,
his mother, although daughter and sister of two French kings; that this
Queen, in a modest retirement--sometimes in a cell in the convent of
Chaillot, sometimes in her little pavilion at Colombesl--had died,
poisoned by her physician, without the orator, Bossuet, having even
frowned at it in the funeral oration;
[Mademoiselle de Montpensier, in her Memoirs, says that this Queen,
already languishing, had lost her sleep, and was given soporific
pills, on account of which Henrietta of France awoke no more; but it
is probable that the servants, and not the doctors, committed this
that the unfortunate Henrietta daughter of this Queen and first wife of
Monsieur had succumbed to the horrible tortures of a poisoning even more
visible and manifest; whilst her poisoners, who were well known, had
never been in the least blamed or disgraced.
On all these arguments, with more or less foundation, Charles II.
managed to conclude that he ought to detach himself from France, who was
not helpful enough; and, by deserting us, he excited universal joy
amongst his subjects, who were constantly jealous of us.
Charles Stuart had had children by his mistresses; he had had none by the
Queen, his wife. The presumptive heir to the Crown was the Duke of York,
his Majesty's only brother.
The Duke of York, son-in-law--as I have noticed already--of our good
Chancellor, Lord Hyde, had himself only two daughters, equally beautiful,
who, according to the laws of those islanders, would bear the sceptre in
Our King, who read in the future, was thinking of marrying these two
princesses conformably with our interests, when the Prince of Orange
crossed the sea, and went formally to ask the hand of the elder of his
Informed of this proceeding, the King at once sent M. de Croissy-Colbert
to the Duke of York, to induce him to interfere and refuse his daughter;
but, in royal families, it is always the head who makes and decides
marriages. William of Orange obtained his charming cousin Mary, and
acquired that day the expectation of the Protestant throne, which was his
At the news of this marriage, the allies, that is to say, all the King's
enemies, had an outburst of satisfaction, and gave themselves up to
puerile jubilations. The King of Great Britain stood definitely on their
side; he made common cause with them, and soon there appeared in the
political world an audacious document signed by this prince, in which,
from the retreat of his island, the empire of fogs, he dared to demand
peace from Louis of Bourbon, his ancient ally and his cousin german,
imposing on him the most revolting conditions.
According to the English monarch, France ought to restore to the
Spaniards, first Sicily, and, further, the towns of Charleroi, Ath,
Courtrai, Condo, Saint Guilain, Tournai, and Valenciennes, as a condition
of retaining Franche-Comte; moreover, France was compelled to give up
Lorraine to the Duke Charles, and places in German Alsace to the Emperor.
The King replied that "too much was too much." He referred the decision
of his difficulties to the fortune of war, and collected fresh soldiers.
Then, without further delay, England and the States General signed a
particular treaty at La Hague, to constrain France (or, rather, her
ruler) to accept the propositions that his pride refused to hear.
The Great Mademoiselle Buys Choisy.--The President Gonthier.--The
Indemnity.--The Salmon.--The Harangue as It Is Not Done in the Academy.
The King had only caused against his own desire the extreme grief which
Mademoiselle felt at the imprisonment of Lauzun. His Majesty was
sensible of the wisdom of the resolution which she had made not to break
with the Court, and to show herself at Saint Germain, or at Versailles,
from time to time, as her rank, her near kinship, her birth demanded.
He said to me one day: "My cousin is beginning to look up. I see with
pleasure that her complexion is clearing, that she laughs willingly at
this and that, and that her good-will for me is restored. I am told that
she is occupied in building a country-house above Vitry. Let us go to-
day and surprise her, and see what this house of Choisy is like."
We arrived at a sufficiently early hour, and had time to see everything.
The King found the situation most agreeable; those lovely gardens united
high up above the Seine, those woods full of broad walks, of light and
air, those points of view happily chosen and arranged, gave a charming
effect; the house of one story, raised on steps of sixteen stairs,
appeared to us elegant from its novelty; but the King blamed his cousin
for not having put a little architecture and ornament on the facade.
"Princes," said he, "have no right to be careless; since universal
agreement has made us Highnesses, we must know how to carry our burden,
and to lay it down at no time, and in no place."
Mademoiselle excused herself on the ground of her remoteness from the
world, and on the expense, which she wished to keep down.
"From the sight of the country," said the King, "you must have a hundred
to a hundred and twelve, acres here."
"A hundred and nine," she answered.
"Have you paid dear for this property?" went on the King. "It is the
President Gonthier who has sold it?"
"I paid for this site, and the old house which no longer exists, forty
thousand livres," she said.
"Forty thousand livres!" cried the King. "Oh, my cousin, there is no
such thing as conscience! You have not paid for the ground. I was
assured that poor President Gonthier had only got rid of his house at
Choisy because his affairs were embarrassed; you must indemnify him, or
rather I will indemnify him myself, by giving him a pension."
Mademoiselle bit her lip and added:
"The President asked sixty thousand first; my men of business offered him
forty, and he accepted it."
Mademoiselle has no generosity, although she is immensely rich; she
pretended not to hear, and it was M. Colbert who sent by order the twenty
thousand livres to the President.
Mademoiselle, vain and petty, as though she were a bourgeoise of
yesterday, showed us her gallery, where she had already collected the
selected portraits of all her ancestors, relations, and kindred; she
pointed out to us in her winter salon the portrait of the little Comte de
Toulouse, painted, not as an admiral, but as God of the Sea, floating on
a pearl shell; and his brother, the Duc du Maine, as Colonel-General of
the Swiss and Grisons. The full-length portrait of the King was visible
on three chimneypieces; she was at great pains to make a merit of it, and
call for thanks.
Having followed her into her state chamber, where she had stolen in
privately, I saw that she was taking away the portrait of Lauzun. I went
and told it to the King, who shrugged his shoulders and fell to laughing.
"She is fifty-two years old," he said to me.
A very pretty collation of confitures and fruits was served us, to which
the King prayed her to add a ragout of peas and a roasted fowl.
During the repast, he said to her: "For the rest, I have not noticed the
portrait of Gaston, your father; is it a distraction on my part, or an
omission on yours?"
"It will be put there later," she answered. "It is not time."
"What! your father!" added the King. "You do not think that, cousin!"
"All my actions," added the Princess, "are weighed in the balance
beforehand; if I were to exhibit the portrait of my father at the head of
these various pictures, I should have to put my stepmother, his wife,
there too, as a necessary pendant. The harm which she has done me does
not permit of that complacence. One opens one's house only to one's
"Your stepmother has never done you any other harm," replied the King,
"than to reclaim for her children the funds or the furniture left by your
father. The character of Margaret of Lorraine has always been sweetness
itself; seeing your irritation, she begged me to arbitrate myself; and
you know all that M. Colbert and the Chancellor did to satisfy you under
the circumstances. But let us speak of something else, and cease these
discussions. I have a service to ask of you: here is M. le Duc du Maine
already big; everybody knows of your affection for him, and I have seen
his portrait with pleasure, in one of your salons. I am going to
establish him; would it be agreeable to you if I give him your livery?"
"M. le Duc du Maine," said the Princess, "is the type of what is
gracious, and noble, and beautiful; he can only do honour to my livery;
I grant it him with all my heart, since you do me the favour of desiring
it. Would I were in a position to do more for him!"
The King perfectly understood these last words; he made no reply to them,
but he understood all that he was meant to understand. We went down
again into the gardens.
The fishermen of Choisy had just caught a salmon of enormous size, which
they had been pursuing for four or five days; they had intended to offer
it to Mademoiselle; the presence of the King inspired them with another
design. They wove with great diligence a large and pretty basket of
reeds, garnished it with foliage, young grass, and flowers, and came and
presented to the King their salmon, all leaping in the basket.
The fisherman charged with the address only uttered a few words; they
were quite evidently improvised, so that they gave more pleasure and
effect than those of academicians, or persons of importance. The
fisherman expressed himself thus:
"You have brought us good fortune, Sire, by your presence, as you bring
fortune to your generals. You arrive on the Monday; on the Tuesday the
town is taken. We come to offer to the greatest of kings the greatest
salmon that can be caught."
The King desired this speech to be instantly transcribed; and, after
having bountifully rewarded the sailors, his Majesty said to
"This man was born to be a wit; if he were younger, I would place him in
a college. There is wit at Choisy in every rank of life."
Departure of the King.--Ghent Reduced in Five Days.--Taking of Ypres.--
Peace Signed.--The Prince of Orange Is at Pains Not to Know of It.--
I have related in what manner Charles II., suddenly pronouncing in favour
of his nephew, the Prince of Orange, had signed a league with his old
enemies, the Dutch, in order to counteract the success of the King of
France and compel him to sign a humiliating and entirely inadmissible
The King left Versailles suddenly on the 4th of February, 1678, taking,
with his whole Court, the road to Lorraine, while waiting for the troops
which had wintered on the frontiers, and were investing at once
Luxembourg, Charlemont, Namur, Mons, and Ypres, five of the strongest and
best provisioned places in the Low Countries. By this march and
manoeuvre, he wished to hoodwink the allied generals, who were very far
from imagining that Ghent was the point towards which the Conqueror's
intentions were directed.
In effect, hardly had the King seen them occupied in preparing the
defence of the above named places, when, leaving the Queen and the ladies
in the agreeable town of Metz, he rapidly traversed sixty leagues of
country, and laid siege to the town of Ghent, which was scarcely
The Spanish governor, Don Francisco de Pardo, having but a weak garrison
and little artillery, decided upon releasing the waters and inundating
the country; but certain heights remained which could not be covered, and
from here the French artillery started to storm the ramparts and the
The siege was commenced on the 4th of March; upon the 9th the town opened
its gates, and two days later the citadel. Ypres was carried at the end
of a week, in spite of the most obstinate resistance. Our grenadiers
performed prodigies, and lost all their officers, without exception.
I lost there one of my nephews, the one hope of his family; my
compliments to the King, therefore, were soon made.
He went to Versailles to take back the Queen, and returned to Ghent with
the speed and promptitude of lightning. The same evening he sent an
order to a detachment of the garrison of Maestricht to hasten and seize
the town and citadel of Leuwe, in Brabant, which was executed on the
instant. It was then that the Dutch sent their deputation, charged to
plead for a suspension of hostilities for six weeks. The King granted
it, although these blunderers hardly merited it. They undertook that
Spain should join them in the peace, and finally, after some
difficulties, settled more or less rightly, the treaty was signed on the
10th of August, just as the six weeks were about to expire.
The Prince of Orange, naturally bellicose, and, above all things,
passionately hostile to France, pretended to ignore the existence of this
peace, which he disapproved. The Marechal de Luxembourg, informed of the
treaty, gave himself up to the security of the moment; he was actually at
table with his numerous officers when he was warned that the Prince of
Orange was advancing against him. The alarm was quickly sounded; such
troops and cavalry as could be were assembled, and a terrible action
At first we were repulsed, but soon the Marshal rallied his men;
he excited their indignation by exposing to them the atrocity of M.
d'Orange, and after a terrible massacre, in which two thousand English
bit the dust, the Marechal de Luxembourg remained master of the field.
He was victorious, but in this unfortunate action we lost, ourselves, the
entire regiment of guards, that of Feuquieres, and several others
besides, with an incredible quantity of officers, killed or wounded.
The name of the Prince of Orange, since that day, was held in horror in
both armies, and he would have fallen into disgrace with the States
General themselves had it not been for the protection of the King of
England, to whom the Dutch were greatly bound.
On the following day, this monster sent a parliamentary officer to the
French generals to inform them that during the night official news of the
peace had reached him.
Mission of Madame de Maintenon to Choisy.--Mademoiselle Gives the
Principalities of Eu and Dombes in Exchange for M. de Lauzun.--
He Is Set at Liberty.
The four or five words which had escaped Mademoiselle de Montpensier had
remained in the King's recollection. He said to me: "If you had more
patience, and a sweeter and more pliant temper, I would employ you to go
and have a little talk with Mademoiselle, in order to induce her to
explain what intentions she may have relative to my son."
"I admit, Sire," I answered him, "that I am not the person required for
affairs of that sort. Your cousin is proud and cutting; I would not
endure what she has made others endure. I cannot accept such a
commission. But Madame de Maintenon, who is gentleness itself, is
suitable--no one more so for this mission; she is at once insinuating and
respectful; she is attached to the Duc du Maine. The interests of my son
could not be in better hands."
The King agreed with me, and both he and I begged the Marquise to conduct
M. du Maine to Choisy.
Mademoiselle de Montpensier received him with rapture. He thanked her
for what she had done for him, in granting him her colours, and upon that
Mademoiselle asked his permission to embrace him, and to tell him how
amiable and worthy of belonging to the King she found him. She led him
to the hall, in which he was to be seen represented as a colonel-general
"I have always loved the Swiss," she said, "because of their great
bravery, their fidelity, and their excellent discipline. The Marechal de
Bassompierre made his corps the perfection which it is; it is for you, my
cousin, to maintain it."
She passed into another apartment, where she was to be seen represented
as Bellona. Two Loves were presenting her, one with his helm adorned
with martial plumes, the other with his buckler of gold, with the
Orleans-Montpensier arms. The laurel crown, with which Triumphs were
ornamenting her head, and the scaled cuirass of Pallas completed her
decoration. M. le Duc du Maine praised, without affectation, the
intelligence of the artist; and as for the figure and the likeness, he
said to the Princess: "You are good, but you are better." The calm and
the naivety of this compliment made Mademoiselle shed tears. Her emotion
was visible; she embraced my son anew.
"You have brought him up perfectly," she said to Madame de Maintenon.
"His urbanity is of good origin; that is how a king's son ought to act
"His Majesty," said Madame de Maintenon, "has been enchanted with your
country-house; he spoke of it all the evening. He even added that you
had ordered it all yourself, without an architect, and that M. le Notre
would not have done better."
"M. le Notre," replied the Princess, "came here for a little; he wanted
to cut and destroy, and upset and disarrange, as with the King at
Versailles. But I am of a different mould to my cousin; I am not to be
surprised with big words. I saw that Le Notre thought only of
expenditure and tyranny; I thanked him for his good intentions, and
prayed him not to put himself out for me. I found there thickets already
made, of an indescribable charm; he wanted, on the instant, to clear them
away, so that one could testify that all this new park was his. If you
please, madame, tell his Majesty that M. le Notre is the sworn enemy of
Nature; that he sees only the pleasures of proprietorship in the future,
and promises us cover and shade just at that epoch of our life when we
shall only ask for sunshine in which to warm ourselves."
She next led her guests towards the large apartments. When she had come
to her bedroom, she showed the Marquise the mysterious portrait, and
asked if she recognised it.
"Ah, my God! 'tis himself!" said Madame de Maintenon at once. "He sees,
he breathes, he regards us; one might believe one heard him speak. Why
do you give yourself this torture?" continued the ambassadress. "The
continual presence of an unhappy and beloved being feeds your grief, and
this grief insensibly undermines you. In your place, Princess, I should
put him elsewhere until a happier and more favourable hour."
"That hour will never come," cried Mademoiselle.
"Pardon me," resumed Madame de Maintenon; "the King is never inhuman and
inexorable; you should know that better than any one. He punishes only
against the protests of his heart, and, as soon as he can relent without
impropriety or danger, he pardons. M. de Lauzun, by refusing haughtily
the marshal's baton, which was offered him in despite of his youth,
deeply offended the King, and the disturbance he allowed himself to make
at Madame de Montespan's depicted him as a dangerous and wrong-headed
man. Those are his sins. Rest assured, Princess, that I am well
informed. But as I know, at the same time, that the King was much
attached to him,--and is still so, to some extent, and that a captivity
of ten years is a rough school, I have the assurance that your Highness
will not be thought importunate if you make today some slight attempt
towards a clemency."
"I will do everything they like," Mademoiselle de Montpensier said then;
"but shall I have any one near his Majesty to assist and support my
undertaking? I have no more trust in Madame de Montespan; she has
betrayed us, she will betray us again; the offence of M. de Lauzun is
always present in her memory, and she is a lady who does not easily
forgive. As for you, madame, I know that the King considers you for the
invaluable services of the education given to his children. Deign to
speak and act in favour of my unhappy husband, and I will make you a
present of one of my fine titled territories."
Madame de Maintenon was too acute to accept anything in such a case;
she answered the Princess that her generosities, to please the King,
should be offered to M. le Duc du Maine, and that, by assuring a part of
her succession to that young prince, she had a sure method of moving the
monarch, and of turning his paternal gratitude to the most favourable
concessions. The Princess, enchanted, then said to the negotiatrix:
"Be good enough to inform his Majesty, this evening, that I offer to
give, at once, to his dear and amiable child the County of Eu and my
Sovereignty of Dombes, adding the revenues to them if it is necessary."
Madame de Maintenon, who worships her pupil, kissed the hand of
Mademoiselle, and promised to return and see her immediately.
That very evening she gave an account to the King of her embassy; she
solicited the liberty of the Marquis de Lauzun, and the King commenced by
granting "the authorisation of mineral waters."
Meanwhile, Mademoiselle, presented by Madame de Maintenon, went to take
counsel with the King. She made a formal donation of the two
principalities which I have named. His Majesty, out of courtesy, left
her the revenues, and, in fine, she was permitted to marry her M. de
Lauzun, and to assure him, by contract, fifty thousand livres of income.
M. de Brisacier and King Casimir.--One Is Never so Well Praised as by
Oneself.--He Is Sent to Get Himself Made a Duke Elsewhere.
The Abbe de Brisacier, the famous director of consciences, possessed
enough friends and credit to advance young Brisacier, his nephew, to the
Queen's household, to whom he had been made private secretary.
Slanderers or impostors had persuaded this young coxcomb that Casimir,
the King of Poland, whilst dwelling in Paris in the quality of a simple
gentleman, had shown himself most assiduous to Madame Brisacier, and that
he, Brisacier of France, was born of these assiduities of the Polish
When he saw the Comte Casimir raised to the elective throne of Poland,
he considered himself as the issue of royal blood, and it seemed to him
that his position with the Queen, Maria Theresa, was a great injustice of
fortune; he thought, nevertheless, that he ought to remain some time
longer in this post of inferiority, in order to use it as a ladder of
The Queen wrote quantities of letters to different countries, and
especially to Spain, but never, or hardly ever, in her own hand. One
day, whilst handling all this correspondence for the princess's
signature, the private secretary slipped one in, addressed to Casimir,
the Polish King.
In this letter, which from one end to the other sang the praises of the
Seigneur Brisacier, the Queen had the extreme kindness to remind the
Northern monarch of his old liaison with the respectable mother of the
young man, and her Majesty begged the prince to solicit from the King of
France the title and rank of duke for so excellent a subject.
King Casimir was not, as one knows, distrust and prudence personified; he
walked blindfold into the trap; he wrote with his royal hand to his
brother, the King of France, and asked him a brevet as duke for young
Brisacier. Our King, who did not throw duchies at people's heads, read
and re-read the strange missive with astonishment and suspicion. He
wrote in his turn to the suppliant King, and begged him to send him the
why and the wherefore of this hieroglyphic adventure. The good prince,
ignorant of ruses, sent the letter of the Queen herself.
Had this princess ever given any reason to be talked about, there is no
doubt that she would have been lost on this occasion; but there was
nothing to excite suspicion. The King, no less, approached her with
precaution, in order to observe the first results of her answers.
"Madame," he said, "are you still quite satisfied with young Brisacier,
your private secretary?"
"More or less," replied the Infanta; "a little light, a little absent;
but, on the whole, a good enough young man."
"Why have you recommended him to the King of Poland, instead of
recommending him to me directly?"
"To the King of Poland!--I? I have not written to him since I
congratulated him on his succession."
"Then, madame, you have been deceived in this matter, since I have your
last letter in my hands. Here it is; I return it to you."
The princess read the letter with attention; her astonishment was
"My signature has been used without authority," she said. "Brisacier
alone can be guilty, being the only one interested."
This new kind of ambitious man was summoned; he was easily confounded.
The King ordered him to prison, wishing to frighten him for a punishment,
and at the end of some days he was commanded to quit France and go and be
made duke somewhere else.
This event threw such ridicule upon pretenders to the ducal state, that I
no longer dared speak further to the King of the hopes which he had held
out to me; moreover, the things which supervened left me quite convinced
of the small success which would attend my efforts.
Compliment from Monsieur to the New Prince de Dombes.--Roman History.--
The Emperors Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, and Verus.--The Danger of Erudition.
Monsieur, having learnt what his cousin of Montpensier had just done for
my Duc du Maine, felt all possible grief and envy at it. He had always
looked to inherit from her, and the harshest enemy whom M. de Lauzun met
with at his wedding was, undoubtedly, Monsieur. When M. le Duc du Maine
received the congratulations of all the Court on the ground of his new
dignity of Prince de Dombes, his uncle was the last to appear; even so he
could not refrain from making him hear these disobliging words,--who
would believe it?--"If I, too, were to give you my congratulation, it
would be scarcely sincere; what will be left for my children?"
Madame de Maintenon, who is never at a loss, replied: "There will be left
always, Monseigneur, the remembrance of your virtues; that is a fair
We complained of it to the King; he reprimanded him in a fine fashion.
"I gave you a condition so considerable," said he, "that the Queen, our
mother, herself thought it exaggerated and dangerous in your hands. You
have no liking for my children, although you feign a passionate affection
for their father; the result of your misbehaviour will be that I shall
grow cool to your line, and that your daughter, however beautiful and
amiable she may be, will not marry my Dauphin."
At this threat Monsieur was quite overcome, and anxious to make his
apologies to the King; he assured him of his tender affection for M. le
Duc du Maine, and would give him to understand that Madame de Maintenon
had misunderstood him.
"It is not from her that your compliment came to us; it is from M. le Duc
du Maine, who is uprightness itself, and whose mouth has never lied."
Monsieur then started playing at distraction and puerility; the medal-
case was standing opened, his gaze was turned to it. Then he came to me
and said in a whisper: "I pray you, come and look at the coin of Marcus
Aurelius; do you not find that the King resembles that emperor in every
"You are joking," I answered him. "His Majesty is as much like him as
you are like me."
He insisted, and his brother, who witnessed our argument, wished to know
the reason. When he understood, he said to Monsieur: "Madame de
Montespan is right; I am not in the least like that Roman prince in face.
The one to whom I should wish to be like in merit is Trajan."
"Trajan had fine qualities," replied Monsieur; "that does not prevent me
from preferring Marcus Aurelius."
"On what grounds?" asked his Majesty.
"On the grounds that he shared his throne with Verus," replied Monsieur,
The King flushed at this reply, and answered in few words: "Marcus
Aurelius's action to his brother may, be called generous; it was none
the less inconsiderate. By his own confession, the Emperor Verus proved,
by his debauchery and his vices, unworthy, of the honour which had been
done him. Happily, he died from his excesses during the Pannonian War,
and Marcus Aurelius could only do well from that day on."
Monsieur, annoyed with his erudition and confused at his escapade, sought
to change the conversation. The King, passing into his cabinet, left him
entirely, in my charge. I scolded him for his inconsequences, and he
dared to implore me to put his daughter "in the right way," to become one
day Queen of France by marrying Monsieur le Dauphin, whom she loved
already with her whole heart.
The Benedictines of Fontevrault.--The Head in the Basin.--The Unfortunate
Delivery.--The Baptism of the Monster.--The Courageous Marriage.--
Foundation of the Royal Abbey of Fontevrault.
Two or three days after our arrival at Fontevrault, the King, who loves
to know all the geographical details of important places, asked me of the
form and particulars of the celebrated abbey. I gave him a natural
description of it.
"They are two vast communities," I told him, "which the founder, for some
inexplicable whim, united in one domain, of an extent which astonishes
The Community of Benedictine Nuns is regarded as the first, because of
the abbotorial dignity it possesses. The Community of Benedictine Monks
is only second,--a fact which surprises greatly strangers and visitors.
Both in the monastery and the convent the buildings are huge and
magnificent, the courts spacious, the woods and streams well distributed
and well kept.
"Every morning you may see a hundred and fifty to two hundred ploughs
issue from both establishments; these spread over the plain and till an
immense expanse of land. Carts drawn by bullocks, big mules, or superb
horses are ceaselessly exporting the products of the fields, the meadows,
or the orchards. Innumerable cows cover the pastures, and legions of
women and herds are employed to look after these estates.
"The aspect of Fontevrault gives an exact idea of the ancient homes of
the Patriarchs, in their remote periods of early civilisation, which saw
the great proprietors delighting in their natal hearth, and finding their
glory, as well as their happiness, in fertilising or assisting nature.
"The abbess rules like a sovereign over her companion nuns, and over the
monks, her neighbours. She appoints their officers and their temporal
prince. It is she who admits postulants, who fixes the dates of
ordinations, pronounces interdictions, graces, and penances. They render
her an account of their administration and the employment of their
revenues, from which she subtracts carefully her third share, as the
essential right of her crosier of authority."
"Have you invited the Benedictine Fathers to your fete in the wood?" the
King asked me, smiling.
"We had no power, Sire," I answered. "There are many young ladies being
educated with the nuns of Fontevrault. The parents of these young ladies
respectful as they are to these monks, would have looked askance at the
innovation. The Fathers never go in there. They are to be seen at the
abbey church, where they sing and say their offices. Only the three
secular chaplains of the abbess penetrate into the house of the nuns; the
youngest of the three cannot be less than fifty.
"The night of the feast the monks draw near our cloister by means of a
wooden theatre, which forms a terrace, and from this elevation they
participate by the eye and ear in our amusements; that is enough."
"Has Madame de Mortemart ever related to you the origin of her abbey?"
resumed the King. "Perhaps she is ignorant of it. I am going to tell
you of it, for it is extremely curious; it is not as it is related in the
books, and I take the facts from good authority. You must hear of it,
and you will see.
"There was once a Comtesse de Poitiers, named Honorinde, to whom fate had
given for a husband the greatest hunter in the world. This man would
have willingly passed his life in the woods, where he hunted, night and
day, what we call, in hunter's parlance, 'big game.' Having won the
victory over a monstrous boar, he cut off the head himself, and this
quivering and bleeding mask he went to offer to his lady in a basin. The
young woman was in the first month of her pregnancy. She was filled with
repugnance and fright at the sight of this still-threatening head; it
troubled her to the prejudice of her fruit.
"Eight, or seven and a half, months afterwards, she brought into the
world a girl who was human in her whole body, but above had the horrible
head of a wild boar! Imagine what cries, what grief, what despair! The
cure of the place refused baptism, and the Count, broken down and
desolate, ordered the child to be drowned.
"Instead of throwing it into the water, his servant scrupulously went
straight to the monastery where your sister rules. He laid down his
closed packet in the church of the monks, and then returned to his lord,
who never had any other child.
"The religious Benedictines, not knowing whence this monster came,
believed there was some prodigy in it. They baptised in this little
person all that was not boar, and left the surplus to Providence. They
brought up the singular creature in the greatest secrecy; it drank and
lapped after the manner of its kind. As it grew up it walked on its
feet, and that without the least imperfection; it could sit down, go on
its knees, and even make a courtesy. But it never articulated any
distinct words, and it had always a harsh and rough voice which howled
and grunted. Its intelligence never reached the knowledge of reading or
writing; but it understood easily all that could be said to it, and the
proof was that it replied by its actions.
"The Comte de Poitiers having died whilst hunting, Honorinde learnt of
her old serving-man in what refuge, in what asylum, he had long ago
deposited the little one. This good mother proceeded there, and the
monks, after some hesitation, confessed what had become of it. She
wished to see it; they showed it her. At its aspect she felt the same
inward commotion which had, years before, perverted nature. She groaned,
fainted, burst into tears, and never had the courage and firmness to
embrace what she had seen.
"Her gratitude was not less lively and sincere; she handed a considerable
sum to the Benedictines of Fontevrault, charging them to continue their
good work and charity.
"The reverend Prior, reflecting that his hideous inmate came of a great
family, and of a family of great property, resolved to procure it as a
wife for his nephew. He sounded the young man, who looked fixedly at his
future bride, and avowed that he was satisfied.
"She is a good Christian," he replied to his uncle, since you have
baptised her here. She is of a good family, since Honorinde has
recognised her. There are many as ugly as she is to be seen who still
find husbands. I will put a pretty mask on her, and the mask will give
me sufficient illusion. Benedicte, so far as she goes, is well-made; I
hope to have fine children who will talk.
"The Prior commenced by marrying them; he then confided in Honorinde,
who, not daring to noise abroad this existence, was compelled to submit
to what had been done.
"The marriage of the young she-monster was not happy. She bit her
husband from morning to night. She did not know how to sit at table,
and would only eat out of a trough. She needed neither an armchair,
a sofa, nor a couch; she stretched herself out on the sand or on the
"Her husband, in despair, demanded the nullification of his marriage;
and as the courts did not proceed fast enough for his impatience,
he killed his companion, Benedicte, with a pistol-shot, at the moment
when she was biting and tearing him before witnesses.
"Honorinde had her buried at Fontevrault, and over her tomb, at the end
of the year, she built a convent, to which her immense property was
given, where she retired herself as a simple nun, and of which she was
appointed first abbess by the Pope who reigned at the time.
"There, madame," added the King, "is the somewhat singular origin of the
illustrious abbey which your sister rules with such eclat. You must have
remarked the boar's head, perfectly imitated in sculpture, in the dome;
that mask is the speaking history of the noble community of Fontevrault,
where more than a hundred Benedictine monks obey an abbess."
Fine Couples Make Fine Children.--The Dauphine of Bavaria.--She
Displeases Madame de Montespan.--First Debut Relating to Madame de
Maintenon, Appointed Lady-in-waiting.--Conversation between the Two
The King, in his moments of effusion and abandonment (then so full of
pleasantness), had said more than once: "If I have any physical beauty,
I owe it to the Queen, my mother; if my daughters have any beauty, they
owe it to me: it is only fine couples who get fine children."
When I saw him decided upon marrying Monseigneur le Dauphin, I reminded
him of his maxim. He fell to smiling, and answered me: "Chance, too,
sometimes works its miracles. My choice for my son is a decided thing;
my politics come before my taste, and I have asked for the daughter of
the Elector of Bavaria, whose portrait I will show you. She is not
beautiful, like you; she is prettier than Benedicte, and I hope that she
will not bite Monseigneur le Dauphin in her capricious transports."
The portrait that the King showed me was a flattering one, as are, in
general, all these preliminary samples. For all that, the Princess
seemed to me hideous, and even disagreeable, especially about her eyes,
that portion of the face which confirms the physiognomy and decides
"Monseigneur will never love that woman," I said to the King. "That
constrained look in the pupil, those drooping eyes,--they make my heart
"My son, happily," his Majesty answered, "is not so difficult as you and
I. He has already seen this likeness, and at the second look he was
taken; and as we have assured him that the young person is well made, he
cries quits with her face, and proposes to love her as soon as he gets
"God grant it!" I added; and the King told me, more or less in detail,
of what important personages he was going to compose his household. The
eternal Abbe Bossuet was to become first chaplain, as being the tutor-in-
chief to the Dauphin; the Duchesse de Richelieu, for her great name, was
going to be lady of honour; and the two posts of ladies in waiting were
destined for the Marquise de Rochefort, wife of the Marshal, and for
Madame de Maintenon, ex-governess of the Duc du Maine. The gesture of
disapproval which escaped me gave his Majesty pain.
"Why this air of contempt or aversion?" he said, changing colour.
"Is it to the Marechale de Rochefort or the Marquise de Maintenon that
you object? I esteem both the one and the other, and I am sorry for you
if you do not esteem them too."
"The Marechale de Rochefort," I replied, without taking any fright, "is
aged, and almost always sick; a lady of honour having her appearance will
make a contrast with her office. As to the other, she still has beauty
and elegance; but do you imagine, Sire, that the Court of Bavaria and the
Court of France have forgotten, in so short a time, the pleasant and
burlesque name of the poet Scarron?"
"Every one ought to forget what I have forgotten," replied the King,
"and what my gratitude will not, and cannot forget, I am surprised that
you, madame, should take pleasure in forgetting."
"She has taken care of my children since the cradle, I admit it with
pleasure," said I to his Majesty, without changing my tone; "you have
given her a marquisate for recompense, and a superb hotel completely
furnished at Versailles. I do not see that she has any cause for
complaint, nor that after such bounty there is more to add."
"Of eight children that you have brought into the world, madame, she has
reared and attended perfectly to six," replied the King. "The estate of
Maintenon has, at the most, recompensed the education of the Comtes de
Vegin, whose childhood was so onerous. And for the remainder of my
little family, what have I yet done that deserves mention?"
"Give her a second estate and money," I cried, quite out of patience,
"since it is money which pays all services of that nature; but what need
have you to raise her to great office, and keep her at Court? She dotes,
she says, on her old chateau of Maintenon; do not deprive her of this
delight. By making her lady in waiting, you would be disobliging her."
"She will accept out of courtesy," he said to me, putting on an air of
mockery. And as the time for the Council was noted by him on my clock,
he went away without adding more.
Since M. le Duc du Maine had grown up, and Mademoiselle de Nantes had
been confided to the Marquise de Montchevreuil, Madame de Maintenon
continued to occupy her handsome apartment on the Princes' Court. There
she received innumerable visits, she paid assiduous court to the Queen,
who had suddenly formed a taste for her, and took her on her walks and
her visits to the communities; but this new Marquise saw me rarely.
Since the affair of the vine-grower, killed on the road, she declared
that I had insulted her before everybody, and that I had ordered her
imperiously to return to my carriage, as though she had been a waiting-
maid, or some other menial. Her excessive sensibility readily afforded
her this pretext, so that she neglected and visibly overlooked me.
As she did not come to me, I betook myself to her at a tolerably early
hour, before the flood of visitors, and started her on the history of the
lady in waiting.
"His Majesty has spoken of it to me," she said, "as of a thing possible;
but I do not think there is anything settled yet in the matter."
"Will you accept," I asked her, "supposing the King to insist?"
"I should like a hundred times better," she replied, "to go and live in
independence in my little kingdom of Maintenon, and with my own hands
gather on my walls those velvet, brilliant peaches, which grow so fine in
those districts. But if the King commands me to remain at Court, and
form our young Bavarian Princess in the manners of this country, have I
the right, in good conscience, to refuse?"
"Your long services have gained you the right to desire and take your
retirement," I said to her; "in your place, I should insist upon the
necessities of my health. And the Court of France will not fall nor
change its physiognomy, even if a German or Iroquois Dauphine should
courtesy awry, or in bad taste."
Madame de Maintenon began to laugh, and assured me that "her post as lady
in waiting would be an actual burden, if the King had destined her for it
in spite of herself, and there should be no means of withdrawing from
At this speech I saw clearly that things were already fixed. Not wishing
to call upon me the reproaches of my lord, I carried the conversation no
The "Powder of Inheritance."--The Chambre Ardente.--The Comtesse de
Soissons's Arrest Decreed.--The Marquise de Montespan Buys Her
Superintendence of the Queen's Council.--Madame de Soubise.--Madame de
Maintenon and the King.
At the time of the poisonings committed by Madame de Brinvilliers,
the Government obtained evidence that a powder, called "the powder of
inheritance," was being sold in Paris, by means of which impatient heirs
shortened the days of unfortunate holders, and entered into possession
before their time.
Two obscure women, called La Vigoureuse and La Voisine, were arrested,
having been caught redhanded. Submitted to the question, they confessed
their crime, and mentioned several persons, whom they qualified as
"having bought and made use of the said powder of inheritance."
We saw suddenly the arrest of the Marechal de Luxembourg, the Princesse
de Tingry, and many others. The 'Chambre Ardente'--[The French Star
Chamber.]--issued a warrant also to seize the person of the Duchesse de
Bouillon and the Comtesse de Soissons, the celebrated nieces of the
Cardinal Mazarin, sisters-in-law, both, of my niece De Nevers, who was
dutifully afflicted thereby.
The Comtesse de Soissons had possessed hitherto an important office,
whose functions suited me in every respect,--that of the superintendence
of the Queen's household and council. I bought this post at a
considerable price. The Queen, who had never cared for the Countess,
did me the honour of assuring me that she preferred me to the other,
when I came to take my oath in her presence.
Madame la Princesse de Rohan-Soubise had wished to supplant me at that
time, and I was aware of her constant desire to obtain a fine post at
Court. She loved the King, who had shown her his favours in more than
one circumstance; but, as she had a place neither in his esteem nor in
his affection, I did not fear her. I despatched to her, very adroitly,
a person of her acquaintance, who spoke to her of the new household of a
Dauphine, and gave her the idea of soliciting for herself the place of
lady in waiting, destined for Madame de Maintenon.
The Princesse de Soubise put herself immediately amongst the candidates.
She wrote to the King, her friend, a pressing and affectionate letter,
to which he did not even reply. She wrote one next in a more majestic
and appropriate style. It was notified to her that she was forbidden to
reappear at Court.
The prince had resolutely taken his course. He wished to put Madame de
Maintenon in evidence, and what he has once decided he abandons never.
I was soon aware that costumes of an unheard-of magnificence were being
executed for the Marquise. Gold, silver, precious stones abounded.
I was offered a secret view of her robe of ceremony, with a long mantle
train. I saw this extraordinarily rich garment, and was sorry in advance
for the young stranger, whose lady in waiting could not fail to eclipse
her in everything.
I then put some questions to myself,--asked myself severely if my
disapproval sprang from natural haughtiness, which would have been
possible, and even excusable, or whether, mingled with all that, was some
little agitation of jealousy and emulation.
I collected together a crowd of slight and scattered circumstances;
and in this union of several small facts, at first neglected and almost
unperceived, I distinguished on the part of the King a gradual and
increasing attachment for the governess, and at the same time a
negligence in regard to me,--a coldness, a cooling-down, at least, and
that sort of familiarity, close parent of weariness, which comes to sight
in the midst of courtesies and attentions the most satisfying and the
The King, in the old days, never glanced towards my clock till as late as
possible, and always at the last moment, at the last extremity. Now he
cast his eyes on it a score of times in half an hour. He contradicted me
about trifles. He explained to me ingeniously the faults, or alleged
faults, of my temper and character. If it was a question of Madame de
Maintenon, she was of a birth equal and almost superior to the rest of
the Court. He forgot himself so far as to quote before me the subtilty
of her answers or the delight of her most intimate conversation. Did he
wish to describe a noble carriage, an attitude at once easy and
distinguished, it was Madame de Maintenon's. She possessed this, she
possessed that, she possessed everything.
Soon there was not the slightest doubt left to me; and I knew, as did the
whole Court, that he openly visited the Marquise, and was glad to pass
some moments there.
These things, in truth, never lacked some plausible pretext, and he chose
the time when Madame de Montchevreuil and Mademoiselle de Nantes were
presenting their homages to Madame de Maintenon.
Marie Louise, Daughter of Henrietta of England, Betrothed to the King of
Spain.--Her Affliction.--Jealousy of the King, Her Husband.
The unfortunate lady, Henrietta of England, had left, at her death, two
extremely young girls, one of them, indeed, being still in the cradle.
The new Madame was seized with good-will for these two orphans to such an
extent as to complain to the King. They were brought up with the
greatest care; they were, both of them, pretty and charming.
The elder was named Marie Louise. It was this one whom Monsieur destined
in his own mind for Monseigneur le Dauphin; and the Princess, accustomed
early to this prospect, had insensibly adapted to it her mind and hope.
Young, beautiful, agreeable, and charming as her mother, she created
already the keenest sensation at Court, and the King felt an inclination
to cherish her as much as he had loved Madame. But the excessive freedom
which this alliance would not have failed to give his brother, both with
his son-in-law and nephew, and with the Ministry, prevented his Majesty
from giving way to this penchunt for Marie Louise. On the contrary, he
consented to her marriage with the King of Spain, and the news of it was
accordingly carried to Monsieur le Duc d'Orleans. He and his wife felt
much annoyance at it. But after communications of that kind there was
scarcely any course open to be taken than that of acquiescence. Monsieur
conveyed the news to his beloved daughter, and, on hearing that she was
to be made Queen of Spain, this amiable child uttered loud lamentations.
When she went to Versailles to thank the King, her uncle, her fine eyes
were still suffused with tears. The few words which she uttered were
mingled with sighing and weeping; and when she saw the indifference of
her cousin, who felicitated her like the rest, she almost fainted with
grief and regret.
"My dear cousin," said this dull-witted young lord, "I shall count the
hours until you go to Spain. You will send me some 'touru', for I am
very fond of it?"
The King could not but find this reflection of his son very silly and out
of place. But intelligence is neither to be given nor communicated by
example. His Majesty had to support to the end this son, legitimate as
much as you like, but altogether in degree, and with a person which
formed a perpetual contrast with the person of the King. It was my Duc
du Maine who should have been in the eminent position of Monseigneur.
Nature willed it so. She had proved it sufficiently by lavishing all her
favours on him, all her graces; but the laws of convention and usage
would not have it. His Majesty has made this same reflection, groaning,
more than once.
Marie Louise, having been married by proxy, in the great Chapel of Saint
Germain, where the Cardinal de Bouillon blessed the ring in his quality
of Grand Almoner of France, left for that Spain which her young heart
Her beauty and charms rendered her precious to the monarch, utterly
melancholy and devout as he was. He did not delay subjecting her to the
wretched, petty, tiresome, and absurd etiquette of that Gothic Court.
Mademoiselle submitted to all these nothings, seeing she had been able to
submit to separation from France. She condemned herself to the most
fastidious observances and the most sore privations, which did not much
ameliorate her lot.
A young Castilian lord, almost mad himself, thought fit to find this
Queen pretty, and publicly testify his love for her. The jealousy of the
religious King flared up like a funeral torch. He conceived a hatred of
his wife, reserved and innocent though she was. She died cruelly by
poison. And Monseigneur le Dauphin probably cried, after his manner:
"What a great pity! She won't send me the touru!"
The Dauphine of Bavaria.--The Confessor with Spurs.--Madame de Maintenon
Disputes with Bossuet.--He Opposes to Her Past Ages and History.--
The Military Absolution.
Eight months after the wedding of Marie Louise, we witnessed the arrival
of Anne Marie Christine, Princess of Bavaria, daughter of the Elector
Ferdinand. The King and Monseigneur went to receive her at Vitry-le-
Francais, and then escorted her to Chalons, where the Queen was awaiting
The Cardinal de Bouillon celebrated the marriage in the cathedral church
of this third-class town. The festivities and jubilations there lasted a
The King had been very willing to charge me with the arrangement of the
baskets of presents destined for the Dauphine; I acquitted myself of this
commission with French taste and a sentiment of what was proper. When
the Queen saw all these magnificent gifts placed and spread out in a
gallery, she cried out, and said:
"Things were not done so nobly for me; and yet, I can say without vanity,
I was of a better house than she."
This remark paints the Queen, Maria Theresa, better than anything which
could be said. Can one wonder, after that, that she should have brought
into the world an hereditary prince who so keenly loves 'touru', and asks
Madame de Maintenon and M. Bossuet had gone to receive the Princess of
Schelestadt. When she was on her husband's territory, and it was
necessary, to confess her for the sacrament of matrimony, she was
strangely embarrassed. They had not remembered to bring a chaplain of
her own nation for her; and she could not confess except in the German
Madame de Maintenon, who is skilled in all matters of religion, said to
the prelate: "I really think, monsieur, that, having educated Monsieur le
Dauphin, you ought to know a little German,--you who have composed the
treatise on universal history."
The Bishop of Meaux excused himself, saying that he knew Greek, Syriac,
and even Hebrew; but that, through a fatality, he was ignorant of the
German language. A trumpeter was then sent out to ask if there was not
in the country a Catholic priest who was a German, or acquainted with the
German tongue. Luckily one was found, and Madame de Maintenon, who is
very, pedantic, even in the matter of toilet and ornaments, trembled with
joy and thanked God for it. But what was her astonishment when they came
to bring her the priest! He was in coloured clothes, a silk doublet,
flowing peruke, and boots and spurs. The lady in waiting rated him
severely, and was tempted to send him back. But Bossuet--a far greater
casuist than she--decided that in these urgent cases one need hold much
less to forms. They were contented with taking away the spurs from this
amphibious personage; they pushed him into a confessional,--the curtain
of which he was careful to draw before himself,--and they brought the
Bavarian Princess, who, not knowing the circumstances, confessed the sins
of her whole life to this sort of soldier.
Madame de Maintenon always had this general confession on her conscience;
she scolded Bossuet for it as a sort of sacrilege, and the latter, who
was only difficult and particular with simple folk, quoted historical
examples in which soldiers, on the eve of battle, had confessed to their
"Yes," said the King, on hearing these quotations from the imperturbable
man; "that must have been to the Bishop of Puy or the Bishop of Orange,
who, in effect, donned the shield and cuirass at the time of the crusades
against the Saracens; or perhaps, again, to the Cardinal de la Valette
d'Epernon, who commanded our armies under Richelieu successfully."
"No, Sire," replied the Bishop; "to generals who were simply soldiers."
"But," said the King, "were the confessions, then, null?"
"Sire," added the Bishop of Meaux, "circumstances decide everything.
Of old, in the time of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and much later still,
confessions of Christians were public,--made in a loud voice; sometimes a
number together, and always in the open air. Those of soldiers that I
have quoted to madame were somewhat of the kind of these confessions of
the primitive Church; and to-day, still, at the moment when battle is
announced, a military almoner gives the signal for confession. The
regiments confess on their knees before the Most High, who hears them;
and the almoner, raised aloft on a pile of drums, holds the crucifix in
one hand, and with the other gives the general absolution to eighty
thousand soldiers at once."
This clear and precise explanation somewhat calmed Madame de Maintenon,
and Madame la Dauphine,--displeased at what she had done on arriving,--
in order to be regular, learned to confess in French.
Pere de la Chaise.--The Jesuits.--The Pavilion of Belleville.--
Pere de la Chaise has never done me good or ill; I have no motives for
conciliating him, no reason to slander him. I am ignorant if he were the
least in the world concerned, at the epoch of the Grand Jubilee, with
those ecclesiastical attempts of which Bossuet had constituted himself
spokesman. Pere de la Chaise has in his favour a great evenness of
temper and character; an excellent tone, which comes to him from his
birth; a conciliatory philosophy, which renders him always master of his
condition and of his metier. He is, in a single individual, the happy
combination of several men, that is to say, be is by turns, and as it may
be needful, a man indulgent or severe in his preaching; a man of
abstinence, or a good feeder; a man of the world, or a cenobite; a man of
his breviary, or a courtier. He knows that the sins of woodcutters and
the sins of kings are not of the same family, and that copper and gold
are not weighed in the same scales.
He is a Jesuit by his garb; be is much more so than they are by his
'savoir-vivre'. His companions love the King because he is the King; he
loves him, and pities him because he sees his weakness. He shows for his
penitent the circumspection and tenderness of a father, and in the long
run he has made of him a spoiled child.
This Pere de la Chaise fell suddenly ill, and with symptoms so alarming
that the cabals each wished to appropriate this essential post of
The Jansenists would have been quite willing to lay hold of it. The
Jesuits, and principally the cordons bleus, did not quit the pillow of
the sick man for an instant.
The King had himself informed of his condition every half-hour. There
was a bulletin, as there is for potentates. One evening, when the
doctors were grave on his account, I saw anxiety and affliction painted
on the visage of his Majesty.
"Where shall I find his like?" said he to me. "Where shall I find such
knowledge, such indulgence, such kindness? The Pere de la Chaise knew
the bottom of my heart; he knew, as an intelligent man, how to reconcile
religion with nature; and when duty brings me to the foot of his
tribunal, as a humble Christian, he never forgets that royalty, cannot be
long on its knees, and he accompanies with his attentions and with
deference the religious commands which he is bound to impose on me."
"I hope that God will preserve him to you," I replied to his Majesty;
"but let us suppose the case in which this useful and precious man should
see his career come to an end; will you grant still this mark of
confidence and favour to the Jesuits? All the French being your
subjects, would it not be fitting to grant this distinction sometimes to
the one and sometimes to the other? You would, perhaps, extinguish by
this that hate or animosity by which the Jesuits see themselves assailed,
which your preference draws upon them."
"I do not love the Jesuits with that affection that you seem to suggest,"
replied the monarch. "I look upon them as men of instruction, as a
learned and well-governed corporation; but as for their attachment for
me, I know how to estimate it. This kind of people, strangers to the
soft emotions of nature, have no affection or love for anything. Before
the triumph of the King my grandfather, they intrigued and exerted
themselves to bring about his fall; he opened the gates of Paris, and the
Jesuits, like the Capuchins, at once recognised him and bowed down before
him. King Henri, who knew what men are, pretended to forget the past; he
pronounced himself decidedly in favour of the Jesuits because this body
of teachers, numerous, rich, and of good credit, had just pronounced
itself in favour of him.
"It was, then, a reconciliation between power and power, and the politics
of my grandfather were to survive him and become mine, since the same
elements exist and I am encamped on the same ground. If God takes away
from me my poor Pere de la Chaise, I shall feel this misfortune deeply,
because I shall lose in him, not a Jesuit, not a priest, but a good
companion, a trusty and proved friend. If I lose him, I shall assuredly
be inconsolable for him; but it will be very necessary for me to take his
successor from the Grand Monastery of the Rue Saint Antoine. This
community knows me by heart, and I do not like innovations."
The successor of the Pere de la Chaise was already settled with the
Jesuit Fathers; but this man of the vanguard was spared marching and
meeting danger. The Court was not condemned to see and salute a new
face; the old confessor recovered his health. His Majesty experienced a
veritable joy at it, a joy as real as if the Prince of Orange had died.
Wishing to prove to the good convalescent how dear his preservation was
to him, the King released him from his function for the rest of the year,
and begged him to watch over his health, the most important of his duties
and his possessions.
Having learnt that they had neither terraces nor gardens at the grand
monastery of the Rue Saint Antoine, his Majesty made a present to his
confessor of a very agreeable house in the district of Belleville, and
caused to be transported thither all kinds of orange-trees, rare shrubs,
and flowers from Versailles. These tasteful attentions, these filial
cares, diverted the capital somewhat; but Paris is a rich soil, where the
strangest things are easily received and naturalised without an effort.
The Pare de la Chaise had his chariot with his arms on it, and his family
livery; and as the income from his benefices remained to him, joined to
his office of confessor, he continued to have every day a numerous court
of young abbes, priests well on in years, barons, countesses, marquises,
magistrates and colonels, who came to Belleville in anxiety about his
health, to congratulate themselves upon his convalescence, to ask of him,
with submission and reverence, a bishopric, an archbishopric,
a cardinal's hat, an important priory, a canonry, or an abbey.
Having myself to place the three daughters of one of my relatives, I went
to see the noble confessor at his pavilion of Belleville. He received me
with the most marked distinction, and was lavish in acts of gratitude for
all the benefits of the King.
As he crossed his salon, in order to accompany me and escort me out, he
let his white handkerchief fall; three bishops at once flung themselves
upon it, and there was a struggle as to who should pick it up to give it
back to him.
I related to the King what I had seen. He said to me: "These prelates
honour my confessor, looking upon him as a second me." In fact, the sins
of the King could only throw his confessor into relief and add to his
Mademoiselle de Fontanges.--The Pavilions of the Garden of Flora.--Rapid
Triumph of the Favourite.--Her Retreat to Val-de-grace.--Her Death.
Madame de Maintenon was already forty-four years old, and appeared to be
only thirty. This freshness, that she owed either to painstaking care or
to her happy and quite peculiar constitution, gave her that air of youth
which fascinated the eyes of the courtiers and those of the monarch
himself. I wished one day to annoy her by bringing the conversation on
this subject, which could not be diverting to her. I began by putting
the question generally, and I then named several of our superannuated
beauties who still fluttered in the smiling gardens of Flora without
having the youth of butterflies.
"There are butterflies of every age and colour in the gardens of Flora,"
said she, catching the ball on the rebound. "There are presumptuous
ones, whom the first breath of the zephyr despoils of their plumage and
discolours; others, more reserved and less frivolous, keep their glamour
and prestige for a much longer time. For the rest, the latter seem to me
to rejoice without being vain in their advantages. And at bottom, what
should any insect gain by being proud?"
"Very little," I answered her, "since being dressed as a butterfly does
not prevent one from being an insect, and the best sustained preservation
lasts at most till the day after to-morrow."
The King entered. I started speaking of a young person, extremely
beautiful, who had just appeared at Court, and would eclipse, in my
opinion, all who had shone there before her.
"What do you call her?" asked his Majesty. "To what family does she
"She comes from the provinces," I continued, "just like silk, silver, and
gold. Her parents desire to place her among the maids of honour of the
Queen. Her name is Fontanges, and God has never made anything so
As I said these words I watched the face of the Marquise. She listened
to this portrayal with attention, but without appearing moved by it, such
is her power of suppressing her natural feeling. The King only added
"This young person needs be quite extraordinary, since Madame de
Montespan praises her, and praises her with so much vivacity. However,
we shall see."
Two days afterwards, Mademoiselle de Fontanges was seen in the salon of
the grand table. The King, in spite of his composure, had looks and
attentions for no one else.
This excessive preoccupation struck the Queen, who, marking the
blandishments of the young coquette and the King's response, guessed the
whole future of this encounter; and in her heart was almost glad at it,
seeing that my turn had come.
Mademoiselle de Fontanges, given to the King by her shameless family,
feigned love and passion for the monarch, as though he had returned by
enchantment to his twentieth year.
As for him, he too appeared to us to forget all dates. I know that he
was only now forty-one years old, and having been the finest man in the
world, he could not but preserve agreeable vestiges of a once striking
beauty. But his young conquest had hardly entered on her eighteenth
year, and this difference could not fail to be plain to the most
inattentive, or most indulgent eyes.
The King, with a sort of anticipatory resignation, had for six or seven
years greatly simplified his appearance. We had seen him, little by
little, reform that Spanish and chivalric costume with which he once
embellished his first loves. The flowing plumes no longer floated over
his forehead, which had become pensive and quite serious. The diagonal,
scarf was suppressed, and the long boots, with gold and silver
embroidery, were no longer seen. To please his new divinity, the monarch
suddenly enough rejuvenated his attire. The most elegant stuffs became
the substance of his garments; feathers reappeared. He joined to them
emeralds and diamonds.
Allegorical comedies, concerts on the waters recommenced. Triumphant
horse-races set the whole Court abob and in movement. There was a fresh
carousal; there was all that resembles the enthusiasms of youthful
affection, and the deliriums of youth. The youth alone was not there,
at least in proportion, assortment, and similarity.
All that I was soliciting for twelve years, Mademoiselle de Fontanges had
only to desire for a week. She was created duchess at her debut; and the
lozenge of her escutcheon was of a sudden adorned with a ducal coronet,
and a peer's mantle.
I did not deign to pay attention to this outrage; at least, I made a
formal resolution never to say a single word on it.
The King came no less from time to time, to pay me a visit, and to talk
to me, as of old, of operas and his hunting. I endured his conversation
with a philosophical phlegm. He scarcely suspected the change in me.
At the chase, one day, his nymph, whom nothing could stop, had her knot
of riband caught and held by a branch; the royal lover compelled the
branch to restore the knot, and went and offered it to his Amazon.
Singular and sparkling, although lacking in intelligence, she carried
herself this knot of riband to the top of her hair, and fixed it there
with a long pin.
Fortune willed it that this coiffure, without order or arrangement,
suited her face, and suited it greatly. The King was the first to
congratulate her on it; all the courtiers applauded it, and this coiffure
of the chase became the fashion of the day.
All the ladies, and the Queen herself, found themselves obliged to adopt
it. Madame de Maintenon submitted herself to it, like the others. I
alone refused to sacrifice to the idol, and my knee, being once more
painful, would not bend before Baal.
With the exception of the general duties of the sovereignty, the prince
appeared to have forgotten everything for his flame. The Pere de la
Chaise, who had returned to his post, regarded this fresh incident with
his philosophic calm, and congratulated himself on seeing the monarch
healed of at least one of his passions.
I had always taken the greatest care to respect the Queen; and since my
star condemned me to stand in her shoes, I did not spare myself the
general attentions which two well-born people owe one another, and which,
at least, prove a lofty education.
The Duchesse de Fontanges, doubtless, believed herself Queen, because she
had the public homage and the King. This imprudent and conceited
schoolgirl had the face to pass before her sovereign without stopping,
and without troubling to courtesy.
The Infanta reddened with disapproval, and persuaded herself, by way of
consolation, that Fontanges had lost her senses or was on the road to
Beautiful and brilliant as the flowers, the Duchess, like them, passed
swiftly away. Her pregnancy, by reason of toilsome rides, hunting
parties, and other agitations, became complicated. From the eighth month
she fell into a fever, into exhaustion and languor. The terror that took
possession of her imagination caused her to desire a sojourn in a convent
as a refuge of health, where God would see her nearer and, perhaps, come
to her aid.
She had herself transported during the night to the House of the Ladies
of Val-de-Grace, and desired that they should place in her chamber
several relics from their altars.
Her confinement was not less laboured and sinister. When she saw that
all the assistance of art could not stop the bleeding, with which her
deep bed was flooded, she caused the King to be summoned, embraced him
tenderly, in the midst of sobs and tears, and died in the night,
pronouncing the name of God and the name of the King, the objects of her
love and of fears.
Madame de Sevigne.--Madame de Grignan.--Madame de Montespan at the
Carmelites.--Madame de la Valliere.--These Two Great Ruins Console One
Another.--An Angel of Sweetness, Goodness, and Kindness.
Fifteen or twenty days before the death of Mademoiselle de Fontanges, my
sister and I were taking a walk in the new woods of Versailles. We met
the Marquise de Sevigne near the canal; she was showing these marvellous
constructions to her daughter, the Comtesse de Grignan. They greeted us
with their charming amiability, and, after having spoken of several
indifferent matters, the Marquise said to me: "We saw, five or six days
ago, a person, madame, of whom you were formerly very fond, and who
charged us to recall her to the memory of her friends. You are still of
that number,--I like to think so, and our commission holds good where you
are concerned, if you will allow it."
Then she mentioned to me that poor Duchesse de la Valliere, to whom I was
once compelled by my unhappy star to give umbrage, and whom, in my fatal
thoughtlessness, I had afflicted without desiring it.
Tears came into my eyes; Madame de Sevigne saw them, and expressed her
regret at having caused me pain. Madame de Thianges and I asked her if
my old friend was much changed. She and Madame de Grignan assured us
that she was fresh, in good health, and that her face appeared more
beautiful. On the next day I wished absolutely to see her, and drove to
On seeing my pretty cripple, who hobbled among us with so great a charm,
I uttered a cry, which for a moment troubled her. She sank down to
salute the crucifix, as custom demands, and, after her short prayer, she
came to me. "I did not mention your name to Mesdames de Sevigne," said
she; "but, however, I am obliged to them, since they have been able to
procure me the pleasure of seeing you once more."
"The general opinion of the Court, and in the world, my dear Duchess,"
answered I, "is that I brought about your disgrace myself; and the
public, that loved you, has not ceased to reproach me with your
"The public is very kind still to occupy itself with me," she answered;
"but it is wrong in that, as in so many other matters. My retirement
from the world is not a misfortune, and I never suspected that the soul
could find such peace and satisfaction in these silent solitudes.
"The first days were painful to me, I admit it, owing to the
inexpressible difference which struck me between what I found here and
what I had left elsewhere. But just as the eye accustoms itself, little
by little, to the feeble glimmer of a vault, in the same way my body has
accustomed itself to the roughness of my new existence, and my heart to
all its great privations.
"If life had not to finish, in fulfilment of a solemn, universal, and
inevitable decree, the constraint that I have put upon myself might at
length become oppressive, and my yoke prove somewhat heavy. But all that
will finish soon, for all undertakings come to an end. I left you young,
beautiful, adored, and triumphant in the land of enchantments. But six
years have passed, and they assure me that your own afflictions have
come, and that you, yourself, have been forced to drink the bitter cup of
At these words, pronounced in a melancholy and celestial voice, I felt as
though my heart were broken, and burst into tears.
"I pity you, Athenais," she resumed. "Is, then, what I have been told
lightly, and almost in haste, only too certain for you? How is it you
did not expect it? How could you believe him constant and immutable,
after what happened to me?
"To-day, I make no secret to you of it, and I say it with the peaceful
indifference which God has generously granted me, after such dolorous
tribulations. I make no secret of it to you, Athenais; a thousand times
you plunged the sword and dagger into my heart, when, profiting by my
confidence in you, by my sense of entire security, you permitted your own
inclination to substitute itself for mine, and a young man seething with
desires to be attracted by your charms. These unlimited sufferings
exhausted, I must believe, all the sensibility of my soul. And when this
corrosive flame had completely devoured my grief, a new existence grew up
in me; I no longer saw in the father of my children other than a young
prince, accustomed to see his dominating will fulfilled in everything.
Knowing how little in this matter he is master of himself, he who knows
so well how to be master of himself in everything to do with his numerous
inferiors, I deplored the facility he enjoys from his attractions, from
his wealth, from his power to dazzle the hearts which he desires to move
"Recognise these truths, my dear Marquise," she added, "and gain, for it
is time, a just idea of your position. After the unhappiness I felt at
being loved no longer, I should have quitted the Court that very instant,
if I had been permitted to bring up and tend my poor children. They were
too young to abandon! I stayed still in the midst of you, as the swallow
hovers and flits among the smoke of the fire, in order to watch over and
save her little ones. Do not wait till disdain or authority mingles in
the matter. Do not come to the sad necessity of resisting a monarch,
and of detesting to the point of scandal that which you have so publicly
loved; pity him, but depart. This kind of intimacy, once broken, cannot
be renewed. However skilfully it may be patched up, the rent always
"My good Louise," I replied to the amiable Carmelite, "your wise counsels
touch me, persuade me, and are nothing but the truth. But in listening
to you I feel overwhelmed; and that strength which you knew how to gain,
and show to the world, your former companion will never possess.
"I see with astonished eyes the supernatural calm which reigns in your
countenance; your health seems to me a prodigy, your beauty was never so
ravishing; but this barbarous garb pierces me to the heart.
"The King does not yet hate me; he shows me even a remnant of respect,
with which he would colour his indifference. Permit me to ask from him
for you an abbey like that of Fontevrault, where the felicities of
sanctuary and of the world are all in the power of my sister. He will
ask nothing better than to take you out, be assured."
"Speak to him of me," answered Louise; "I do not oppose that; but leave
me until the end the role of obedience and humility that his fault and
mine impose on me. Why should he wish that I should command others,--
I who did not know how to command myself at an epoch when my innocence
was so dear to me, and when I knew that, in losing that, one is lost?"
As she said these words two nuns came to announce her Serene Highness,
that is to say, her daughter, the Princesse de Conti. I prayed Madame de
la Valliere to keep between ourselves the communications that had just
taken place in the intimacy of confidence. She promised me with her
usual candour. I made a profound reverence to the daughter, embraced the
mother weeping, and regained my carriage, which the Princess must have
remarked on entering.
Reflections.--The Future.--The Refuge of Foresight.--Community of Saint
Joseph.--Wicked Saying of Bossuet.
I wept much during the journey; and to save the spectacle of my grief
from the passers-by, I was at the pains to lower the curtains. I passed
over in my mind all that the Duchess had said to me. It was very easy
for me to understand that the monarch's heart had escaped me, and that,
owing to his character, all resistance, all contradiction would be vain.
The figure, as it had been supernumerary and on sufferance, which the
Duchess had made in the midst of the Court when she ceased to be loved,
returned to my memory completely, and I felt I had not the courage to
drink a similar cup of humiliation.
I reminded myself of what the prince had told me several times in those
days when his keen affection for me led him to wish for my happiness,
even in the future,--even after his death, if I were destined to survive
"You ought," he said to me, at those moments, "you ought to choose and
assure yourself beforehand of an honourable retreat; for it is rarely
that a king accords his respect or his good-will to the beloved
confidante of his predecessor."
Not wishing to ask a refuge of any one, but, on the contrary, being
greatly set upon ruling in my own house, I resolved to build myself, not
a formal convent like Val-de-Grace or Fontevrault, but a pretty little
community, whose nuns, few in number, would owe me their entire
existence, which would necessarily attach them to all my interests.
I held to this idea. I charged my intendant to seek for me a site
spacious enough for my enterprise; and when he had found it, had showed
it to me, and had satisfied me with it, I had what rambling buildings
there were pulled down, and began, with a sort of joy, the excavations
The first blow of the hammer was struck, by some inconceivable fortuity,
at the moment when the Duchesse de Fontanges expired. Her death did not
weaken my resolutions nor slacken my ardour. I got away quite often to
cast an eye over the work, and ordered my architect to second my
impatience and spur on the numerous workmen.
The rumour was current in Paris that the example of "Soeur Louise" had
touched me, and that I was going to take the veil in my convent. I took
no notice of this fickle public, and persisted wisely in my plan.
The unexpected and almost sudden decease of Mademoiselle de Fontanges had
singularly moved the King. Extraordinary and almost incredible to
relate, he was for a whole week absent from the Council. His eyes had
shed so many tears that they were swollen and unrecognisable. He shunned
the occasions when there was an assembly, buried himself in his private
apartments or in his groves, and resembled, in every trait, Orpheus
weeping for his fair Eurydice, and refusing to be consoled.
I should be false to others and to myself if I were to say that his
extreme grief excited my compassion; but I should equally belie the truth
if I gave it to be understood that his "widowhood" gave me pleasure,
and that I congratulated myself on his sorrow and bitterness.
He came to see me when he found himself presentable, and, for the first
few days, I abstained from all reprisal and any allusion. The
innumerable labours of his State soon threw him, in spite of himself,
into those manifold distractions which, in their nature, despise or
absorb the sensibilities of the soul. He resumed, little by little, his
accustomed serenity, and, at the end of the month, appeared to have got
"What," he asked me, "are those buildings with which you are busy in
Paris, opposite the Ladies of Belle-Chasse? I hear of a convent; is it
your intention to retire?"
"It is a 'refuge of foresight,'" I answered him. "Who can count upon the
morrow? And after what has befallen Mademoiselle de Fontanges, we must
consider ourselves as persons already numbered, who wait only for the
He sighed, and soon spoke of something else.
I reminded myself that, to speak correctly, I had in Paris no habitation
worthy of my children and of my quality. That little hotel in the Rue
Saint Andre-des-Arcs I could count for no more than a little box.
I sought amongst my papers for a design of a magnificent hotel which I
had obtained from the famous Blondel. I found it without difficulty,
with full elevations and sections. The artist had adroitly imitated in
it the beautiful architecture of the Louvre; this fair palace would suit
me in every respect.
My architect, at a cursory glance, judged that the construction and
completion of this edifice would easily cost as much as eighteen hundred
thousand livres. This expense being no more than I could afford, I
commissioned him to choose me a spacious site for the buildings and
gardens over by Roule and La Pepiniere.
Not caring to superintend several undertakings at once, I desired, before
everything, that my house in the Faubourg Saint Germain should be
complete and when the building and the chapel were in a condition to
receive the little colony, I dedicated my "refuge of foresight" to Saint
Joseph, the respectful spouse of the Holy Virgin and foster-father of the
Child Jesus. This agreeable mansion lacked a large garden. I felt a
sensible regret for this, especially for the sake of my inmates; but
there was a little open space furnished with vines and fruit-walls, and
one of the largest courtyards in the whole of the Faubourg Saint Germain.
Having always loved society, I had multiplied in the two principal blocks
of the sleeping-rooms and the entrance-hall complete apartments for the
lady inmates. And a proof that I was neither detested by the world nor
unconsidered is that all these apartments were sought after and occupied
as soon as the windows were put in and the painting done. My own
apartment was simple, but of a majestic dignity. It communicated with
the chapel, where my tribune, closed with a handsome window, was in face
of the altar.
I decided, once for all, that the Superior should be my nomination whilst
God should leave me in this world, but that this right should not pass on
to my heirs. The bell of honour rang for twenty minutes every time I
paid a visit to these ladies; and I only had incense at high mass, and at
the Magnificat, in my quality of foundress.
I went from time to time to make retreats, or, to be more accurate,
vacations, in my House of Saint Joseph. M. Bossuet solicited the favour
of being allowed to preach there on the day of the solemn consecration.
I begged him to preserve himself for my funeral oration. He answered
cruelly that there was nothing he could refuse me.
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