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Memoirs And Historical Chronicles Of The Courts Of Europe by Various

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uneasiness. She was a woman of quality, and the wife of one of
the most assiduous courtiers.

A man in immediate attendance on the King's person, and who had
the care of his clothes, came to me one day, and told me that,
as he was very much attached to Madame, because she was good
and useful to the King, he wished to inform me that, a letter
having fallen out of the pocket of a coat which His Majesty had
taken off, he had had the curiosity to read it, and found it to
be from the Comtesse de ----, who had already yielded to the
King's desires. In this letter, she required the King to give
her fifty thousand crowns in money, a regiment for one of her
relations, and a bishopric for another, and to dismiss, Madame
in the space of fifteen days, etc. I acquainted Madame with what
this man told me, and she acted with singular greatness of mind.
She said to me, "I ought to inform the King of this breach of
trust of his servant, who may, by the same means, come to the
knowledge of, and make a bad use of, important secrets; but I
feel a repugnance to ruin the man: however, I cannot permit him
to remain near the King's person, and here is what I shall do:
Tell him that there is a place of ten thousand francs a year
vacant in one of the provinces; let him solicit the Minister of
Finance for it, and it shall be granted to him; but, if he should
ever disclose through what interest he has obtained it, the King
shall be made acquainted with his conduct. By this means, I think
I shall have done all that my attachment and duty prescribe. I rid
the King of a faithless domestic, without ruining the individual."
I did as Madame ordered me: her delicacy and address inspired
me with admiration. She was not alarmed on account of the lady,
seeing what her pretensions were. "She drives too quick," remarked
Madame, "and will certainly be overturned on the road." The lady

"See what the Court is; all is corruption there, from the highest
to the lowest," said I to Madame, one day, when she was speaking
to me of some facts that had come to my knowledge. "I could tell
you many others," replied Madame; "but the little chamber, where
you often remain, must furnish you with a sufficient number."
This was a little nook, from whence I could hear a great part
of what passed in Madame's apartment. The Lieutenant of Police
sometimes came secretly to this apartment, and waited there.
Three or four persons, of high consideration, also found their
way in, in a mysterious manner, and several devotees, who were,
in their hearts, enemies of Madame de Pompadour. But these men
had not petty objects in view: one required the government of a
province; another, a seat in the Council; a third, a Captaincy of
the Guards; and this man would have obtained it if the Marechale
de Mirepoix had not requested it for her brother, the Prince de
Beauvan. The Chevalier du Muy was not among these apostates;
not even the promise of being High Constable would have tempted
him to make up to Madame, still less to betray his master, the
Dauphin. The Prince was, to the last degree, weary of the station
he held. Sometimes, when teased to death by ambitious people,
who pretended to be Catos, or wonderfully devout, he took part
against a Minister against whom he was prepossessed; then relapsed
into his accustomed state of inactivity and ennui.

The King used to say, "My son is lazy; his temper is Polonese--hasty
and changeable; he has no tastes; he cares nothing for hunting,
for women, or for good living; perhaps he imagines that if he
were in my place he would be happy; at first, he would make great
changes, create everything anew, as it were. In a short time
he would be as tired of the rank of King as he now is of his
own; he is only fit to live _en philosophe_, with clever people
about him." The King added, "He loves what is right; he is truly
virtuous, and does not want understanding."

M. de St. Germain said, one day, to the King, "To think well of
mankind, one must be neither a Confessor, not a Minister, nor
a Lieutenant of Police." "Nor a King," said His Majesty. "Ah!
Sire," replied he, "you remember the fog we had a few days ago,
when we could not see four steps before us. Kings are commonly
surrounded by still thicker fogs, collected around them by men
of intriguing character, and faithless Ministers--all, of every
class, unite in endeavouring to make things appear to Kings in
any light but the true one." I heard this from the mouth of the
famous Comte de St. Germain, as I was attending upon Madame, who
was ill in bed. The King was there; and the Count, who was a
welcome visitor, had been admitted. There were also present, M.
de Gontaut, Madame de Brancas, and the Abbe de Bernis. I remember
that the very same day, after the Count was gone out, the King
talked in a style which gave Madame great pain. Speaking of the
King of Prussia, he said, "That is a madman, who will risk all to
gain all, and may, perhaps, win the game, though he has neither
religion, morals, nor principles. He wants to make a noise in
the world, and he will succeed. Julian, the Apostate, did the
same." "I never saw the King so animated before," observed Madame,
when he was gone out; "and really the comparison with Julian,
the Apostate, is not amiss, considering the irreligion of the
King of Prussia. If he gets out of his perplexities, surrounded
as he is by his enemies, he will be one of the greatest men in

M. de Bernis remarked, "Madame is correct in her judgment, for
she has no reason to pronounce his praises; nor have I, though
I agree with what she says." Madame de Pompadour never enjoyed
so much influence as at the time when M. de Choiseul became one
of the Ministry. From the time of the Abbe de Bernis she had
afforded him her constant support, and he had been employed in
foreign affairs, of which he was said to know but little. Madame
made the Treaty of Vienna, though the first idea of I it was
certainly furnished her by the Abbe. I have been informed by
several persons that the King often talked to Madame upon this
subject; for my own part, I never heard any conversation relative
to it, except the high praises bestowed by her on the Empress
and the Prince de Kaunitz, whom she had known a good deal of.
She said that he had a clear head, the head of a statesman. One
day, when she was talking in this strain, some one tried to cast
ridicule upon the Prince on account of the style in which he
wore his hair, and the four _valets de chambre_, who made the
hair-powder fly in all directions, while Kaunitz ran about that
he might only catch the superfine part of it. "Aye," said Madame,
"just as Alcibiades cut off his dog's tail in order to give the
Athenians something to talk about, and to turn their attention
from those things he wished to conceal."

Never was the public mind so inflamed against Madame de Pompadour
as when news arrived of the battle of Rosbach. Every day she received
anonymous letters, full of the grossest abuse; atrocious verses,
threats of poison and assassination. She continued long a prey to
the most acute sorrow, and could get no sleep but from opiates.
All this discontent was excited by her protecting the Prince of
Soubise; and the Lieutenant of Police had great difficulty in
allaying the ferment of the people. The King affirmed that it
was not his fault. M. du Verney was the confidant of Madame in
everything relating to war; a subject which he well understood,
though not a military man by profession. The old Marechal de
Noailles called him, in derision, the General of the flour, but
Marechal Saxe, one day, told Madame that du Verney knew more
of military matters than the old Marshal. Du Verney once paid
a visit to Madame de Pompadour, and found her in company with
the King, the Minister of War, and two Marshals; he submitted to
them the plan of a campaign, which was generally applauded. It
was through his influence that M. de Richelieu was appointed to
the command of the army, instead of the Marechal d'Estrees. He came
to Quesnay two days after, when I was with him. The Doctor began
talking about the art of war, and I remember he said, "Military
men make a great mystery of their art; but what is the reason
that young Princes have always the most brilliant success? Why,
because they are active and daring. When Sovereigns command their
troops in person what exploits they perform! Clearly, because
they are at liberty to run all risks." These observations made
a lasting impression on my mind.

The first physician came, one day, to see Madame: he was talking
of madmen and madness. The King was present, and everything relating
to disease of any kind interested him. The first physician said
that he could distinguish the symptoms of approaching madness
six months beforehand. "Are there any persons about the Court
likely to become mad?" said the King. "I know one who will be
imbecile in less than three months," replied he. The King pressed
him to tell the name. He excused himself for some time. At last
he said, "It is M. de Sechelles, the Controller-General." "You
have a spite against him," said Madame, "because he would not
grant what you asked." "That is true," said he, "but though that
might possibly incline me to tell a disagreeable truth, it would
not make me invent one. He is losing his intellects from debility.
He affects gallantry at his age, and I perceive the connection in
his ideas is becoming feeble and irregular." The King laughed;
but three months afterwards he came to Madame, saying, "Sechelles
gives evident proofs of dotage in the Council. We must appoint
a successor to him." Madame de Pompadour told me of this on the
way to Choisy. Some time afterwards, the first physician came to
see Madame, and spoke to her in private. "You are attached to M.
Berryer, Madame," said he, "and I am sorry to have to warn you that
he will be attacked by madness, or by catalepsy, before long. I saw
him this morning at chapel, sitting on one of those very low little
chairs, which are only meant to kneel upon. His knees touched his
chin. I went to his house after mass; his eyes were wild, and
when his secretary spoke to him, he said, '_Hold your tongue,
pen. A pen's business is to write, and not to speak._'" Madame,
who liked the Keeper of the Seals, was very much concerned, and
begged the first physician not to mention what he had perceived.
Four days after this, M. Berryer was seized with catalepsy, after
having talked incoherently. This is a disease which I did not
know even by name, and got it written down for me. The patient
remains in precisely the same position in which the fit seizes
him; one leg or arm elevated, the eyes wide open, or just as it
may happen. This latter affair was known to all the Court at
the death of the Keeper of the Seals.

When the Marechal de Belle-Isle's son was killed in battle, Madame
persuaded the King to pay his father a visit. He was rather
reluctant, and Madame said to him, with an air half angry, half

----"Barbare! dont l'orgueil
Croit le sang d'un sujet trop paye d'un coup d'oeil."

The King laughed, and said, "Whose fine verses are those?"
"Voltaire's," said Madame ----. "As barbarous as I am, I gave
him the place of gentleman in ordinary, and a pension," said
the King.

The King went in state to call on the Marshal, followed by all the
Court; and it certainly appeared that this solemn visit consoled
the Marshal for the loss of his son, the sole heir to his name.

When the Marshal died, he was carried to his house on a common
hand-barrow, covered with a shabby cloth. I met the body. The
bearers were laughing and singing. I thought it was some servant,
and asked who it was. How great was my surprise at learning that
these were the remains of a man abounding in honours and in riches.
Such is the Court; the dead are always in fault, and cannot be
put out of sight too soon.

The King said, "M. Fouquet is dead, I hear." "He was no longer
Fouquet," replied the Duc d'Ayen; "Your Majesty had permitted
him to change that name, under which, however, he acquired all
his reputation." The King shrugged his shoulders. His Majesty
had, in fact, granted him letters patent, permitting him not to
sign Fouquet during his Ministry. I heard this on the occasion
in question. M. de Choiseul had the war department at his death.
He was every day more and more in favour. Madame treated him with
greater distinction than any previous Minister, and his manners
towards her were the most agreeable it is possible to conceive,
at once respectful and gallant. He never passed a day without
seeing her. M. de Marigny could not endure M. de Choiseul, but
he never spoke of him, except to his intimate friends. Calling,
one day, at Quesnay's, I found him there. They were talking of
M. de Choiseul. "He is a mere _petit maitre_," said the Doctor,
"and, if he were handsome just fit to be one of Henri the Third's
favourites." The Marquis de Mirabeau and M. de La Riviere came
in. "This kingdom," said Mirabeau, "is in a deplorable state.
There is neither national energy, nor the only substitute for

"It can only be regenerated," said La Riviere, "by a conquest,
like that of China, or by some great internal convulsion; but
woe to those who live to see that! The French people do not do
things by halves." These words made me tremble, and I hastened out
of the room. M. de Marigny did the same, though without appearing
at all affected by what had been said. "You heard De La Riviere,"
said he,--"but don't be alarmed, the conversations that pass
at the Doctor's are never repeated; these are honourable men,
though rather chimerical. They know not where to stop. I think,
however, they are in the right way; only, unfortunately, they
go too far." I wrote this down immediately.

"The Comte de St. Germain came to see Madame de Pompadour, who was
ill, and lay on the sofa. He shewed her a little box, containing
topazes, rubies, and emeralds. He appeared to have enough to
furnish a treasury. Madame sent for me to see all these beautiful
things. I looked at them with an air of the utmost astonishment,
but I made signs to Madame that I thought them all false. The
Count felt for something in his pocketbook, about twice as large
as a spectacle-case, and, at length, drew out two or three little
paper packets, which he unfolded, and exhibited a superb ruby.
He threw on the table, with a contemptuous air, a little cross
of green and white stones. I looked at it and said, "That is
not to be despised." I put it on, and admired it greatly. The
Count begged me to accept it. I refused--he urged me to take it.
Madame then refused it for me. At length, he pressed it upon me
so warmly that Madame, seeing that it could not be worth above
forty louis, made me a sign to accept it. I took the cross, much
pleased at the Count's politeness and, some days after, Madame
presented him with an enamelled box, upon which was the portrait
of some Grecian sage (whose name I don't recollect), to whom
she compared him. I shewed the cross to a jeweller, who valued
it at sixty-five louis. The Count offered to bring Madame some
enamel portraits, by Petitot, to look at, and she told him to
bring them after dinner, while the King was hunting. He shewed
his portraits, after which Madame said to him, "I have heard a
great deal of a charming story you told two days ago, at supper,
at M. le Premier's, of an occurrence you witnessed fifty or sixty
years ago." He smiled and said, "It is rather long." "So much
the better," said she, with an air of delight. Madame de Gontaut
and the ladies came in, and the door was shut; Madame made a
sign to me to sit down behind the screen. The Count made many
apologies for the ennui which his story would, perhaps, occasion.
He said, "Sometimes one can tell a story pretty well; at other
times it is quite a different thing."

"At the beginning of this century, the Marquis de St. Gilles
was Ambassador from Spain to the Hague. In his youth he had been
particularly intimate with the Count of Moncade, a grandee of
Spain, and one of the richest nobles of that country. Some months
after the Marquis's arrival at the Hague, he received a letter
from the Count, entreating him, in the name of their former
friendship, to render him the greatest possible service. 'You
know,' said he, 'my dear Marquis, the mortification I felt that
the name of Moncade was likely to expire with me. At length, it
pleased heaven to hear my prayers, and to grant me a son: he
gave early promise of dispositions worthy of his birth, but he,
some time since, formed an unfortunate and disgraceful attachment
to the most celebrated actress of the company of Toledo. I shut my
eyes to this imprudence on the part of a young man whose conduct
had, till then, caused me unmingled satisfaction. But, having learnt
that he was so blinded by passion as to intend to marry this girl,
and that he had even bound himself by a written promise to that
effect, I solicited the King to have her placed in confinement. My
son, having got information of the steps I had taken, defeated
my intentions by escaping with the object of his passion. For
more than six months I have vainly endeavoured to discover where
he has concealed himself, but I have now some reason to think he
is at the Hague.' The Count earnestly conjured the Marquis to
make the most rigid search, in order to discover his son's retreat,
and to endeavour to prevail upon him to return to his home. 'It
is an act of justice,' continued he, 'to provide for the girl,
if she consents to give up the written promise of marriage which
she has received, and I leave it to your discretion to do what
is right for her, as well as to determine the sum necessary to
bring my son to Madrid in a manner suitable to his condition.
I know not,' concluded he, 'whether you are a father; if you
are, you will be able to sympathise in my anxieties.' The Count
subjoined to this letter an exact description of his son, and the
young woman by whom he was accompanied. On the receipt of this
letter, the Marquis lost not a moment in sending to all the inns
in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and the Hague, but in vain--he could find
no trace of them. He began to despair of success, when the idea
struck him that a young French page of his, remarkable for his
quickness and intelligence, might be employed with advantage. He
promised to reward him handsomely if he succeeded in finding the
young woman, who was the cause of so much anxiety, and gave him
the description of her person. The page visited all the public
places for many days, without success; at length, one evening, at
the play, he saw a young man and woman, in a box, who attracted
his attention. When he saw that they perceived he was looking
at them, and withdrew to the back of the box to avoid his
observation, he felt confident that they were the objects of
his search. He did not take his eyes from the box, and watched
every movement in it. The instant the performance ended, he was
in the passage leading from the boxes to the door, and he remarked
that the young man, who, doubtless, observed the dress he wore,
tried to conceal himself, as he passed him, by putting his
handkerchief before his face. He followed him, at a distance,
to the inn called the _Vicomte de Turenne_, which he saw him
and the woman enter; and, being now certain of success, he ran
to inform the Ambassador. The Marquis de St. Gilles immediately
repaired to the inn, wrapped in a cloak, and followed by his
page and two servants. He desired the landlord to show him to
the room of a young man and woman, who had lodged for some time
in his house. The landlord, for some time, refused to do so,
unless the Marquis would give their name. The page told him to
take notice that he was speaking to the Spanish Ambassador, who
had strong reasons for wishing to see the persons in question.
The innkeeper said they wished not to be known, and that they had
absolutely forbidden him to admit anybody into their apartment
who did not ask for them by name; but that, since the Ambassador
desired it, he would show him their room. He then conducted them
up to a dirty, miserable garret. He knocked at the door, and
waited for some time; he then knocked again pretty loudly, upon
which the door was half-opened. At the sight of the Ambassador
and his suite, the person who opened it immediately closed it
again, exclaiming that they had made a mistake. The Ambassador
pushed hard against him, forced his way in, made a sign to his
people to wait outside, and remained in the room. He saw before
him a very handsome young man, whose appearance perfectly
corresponded with the description, and a young woman, of great
beauty, and remarkably fine person, whose countenance, form,
colour of the hair, etc., were also precisely those described by
the Count of Moncade. The young man spoke first. He complained
of the violence used in breaking into the apartment of a stranger,
living in a free country, and under the protection of its laws.
The Ambassador stepped forward to embrace him, and said, 'It
is useless to feign, my dear Count; I know you, and I do not
come here to give pain to you or to this lady, whose appearance
interests me extremely.' The young man replied that he was totally
mistaken; that he was not a Count, but the son of a merchant of
Cadiz; that the lady was his wife; and, that they were travelling
for pleasure. The Ambassador, casting his eyes round the miserably
furnished room, which contained but one bed, and some packages
of the shabbiest kind, lying in disorder about the room, 'Is
this, my dear child (allow me to address you by a title which
is warranted by my tender regard for your father), is this a
fit residence for the son of the Count of Moncade?' The young
man still protested against the use of any such language, as
addressed to him. At length, overcome by the entreaties of the
Ambassador, he confessed, weeping, that he was the son of the
Count of Moncade, but declared that nothing should induce him
to return to his father, if he must abandon a woman he adored.
The young woman burst into tears; and threw herself at the feet
of the Ambassador, telling him that she would not be the cause
of the ruin of the young Count; and that generosity, or rather,
love, would enable her to disregard her own happiness, and, for
his sake, to separate herself from him. The Ambassador admired her
noble disinterestedness. The young man, on the contrary, received
her declaration with the most desperate grief. He reproached his
mistress, and declared that he would never abandon so estimable
a creature, nor suffer the sublime generosity of her heart to be
turned against herself. The Ambassador told him that the Count
of Moncade was far from wishing to render her miserable, and
that he was commissioned to provide her with a sum sufficient
to enable her to return into Spain, or to live where she liked.
Her noble sentiments, and genuine tenderness, he said, inspired
him with the greatest interest for her, and would induce him
to go to the utmost limits of his powers, in the sum he was to
give her; that he, therefore, promised her ten thousand florins,
that is to say, about twelve hundred louis, which would be given
her the moment she surrendered the promise of marriage she had
received, and the Count of Moncade took up his abode in the
Ambassador's house, and promised to return to Spain. The young
woman seemed perfectly indifferent to the sum proposed, and wholly
absorbed in her lover, and in the grief of leaving him. She seemed
insensible to everything but the cruel sacrifice which her reason,
and her love itself, demanded. At length, drawing from a little
portfolio the promise of marriage, signed by the Count, 'I know
his heart too well,' said she, 'to need it.' Then she kissed it
again and again, with a sort of transport, and delivered it to
the Ambassador, who stood by, astonished at the grandeur of soul
he witnessed. He promised her that he would never cease to take
the liveliest interest in her fate, and assured the Count of his
father's forgiveness. 'He will receive with open arms,' said he,
'the prodigal son, returning to the bosom of his distressed family;
the heart of a father is an exhaustless mine of tenderness. How
great will be the felicity of my friend on the receipt of these
tidings, after his long anxiety and affliction; how happy do I
esteem myself, at being the instrument of that felicity!' Such
was, in part, the language of the Ambassador, which appeared to
produce a strong impression on the young man. But, fearing lest,
during the night, love should regain all his power, and should
triumph over the generous resolution of the lady, the Marquis
pressed the young Count to accompany him to his hotel. The tears,
the cries of anguish, which marked this cruel separation, cannot
be described; they deeply touched the heart of the Ambassador,
who promised to watch over the young lady. The Count's little
baggage was not difficult to remove, and, that very evening,
he was installed in the finest apartment of the Ambassador's
house. The Marquis was overjoyed at having restored to the
illustrious house of Moncade the heir of its greatness, and of
its magnificent domains. On the following morning, as soon as
the young Count was up, he found tailors, dealers in cloth, lace,
stuffs, etc., out of which he had only to choose. Two _valets
de chambre_, and three laquais, chosen by the Ambassador for
their intelligence and good conduct, were in waiting in his
antechamber, and presented themselves, to receive his orders. The
Ambassador shewed the young Count the letter he had just written
to his father, in which he congratulated him on possessing a son
whose noble sentiments and striking qualities were worthy of his
illustrious blood, and announced his speedy return. The young lady
was not forgotten; he confessed that to her generosity he was
partly indebted for the submission of her lover, and expressed
his conviction that the Count would not disapprove the gift he
had made her, of ten thousand florins. That sum was remitted, on
the same day, to this noble and interesting girl, who left the
Hague without delay. The preparations for the Count's journey
were made; a splendid wardrobe and an excellent carriage were
embarked at Rotterdam, in a ship bound for France, on board which
a passage was secured for the Count, who was to proceed from that
country to Spain. A considerable sum of money, and letters of
credit on Paris, were given him at his departure; and the parting
between the Ambassador and the young Count was most touching.
The Marquis de St. Gilles awaited with impatience the Count's
answer, and enjoyed his friend's delight by anticipation. At
the expiration of four months, he received this long-expected
letter. It would be utterly impossible to describe his surprise
on reading the following words. 'Heaven, my dear Marquis, never
granted me the happiness of becoming a father, and, in the midst
of abundant wealth and honours, the grief of having no heirs,
and seeing an illustrious race end in my person, has shed the
greatest bitterness over my whole existence. I see, with extreme
regret, that you have been imposed upon by a young adventurer,
who has taken advantage of the knowledge he had, by some means,
obtained, of our old friendship. But your Excellency must not
be the sufferer. The Count of Moncade is, most assuredly, the
person whom you wished to serve; he is bound to repay what your
generous friendship hastened to advance, in order to procure
him a happiness which he would have felt most deeply. I hope,
therefore, Marquis, that your Excellency will have no hesitation
in accepting the remittance contained in this letter, of three
thousand louis of France, of the disbursal of which you sent
me an account.'"

The manner in which the Comte de St. Germain spoke, in the characters
of the young adventurer, his mistress, and the Ambassador, made
his audience weep and laugh by turns. The story is true in every
particular, and the adventurer surpasses Gusman d'Alfarache in
address, according to the report of some persons present. Madame
de Pompadour thought of having a play written, founded on this
story; and the Count sent it to her in writing, from which I
transcribed it.

M. Duclos came to the Doctor's, and harangued with his usual
warmth. I heard him saying to two or three persons, "People are
unjust to great men, Ministers and Princes; nothing, for instance,
is more common than to undervalue their intellect. I astonished
one of these little gentlemen of the corps of the _infallibles_,
by telling him that I could prove that there had been more men
of ability in the house of Bourbon, for the last hundred years,
than in any other family." "You prove that?" said somebody,
sneeringly. "Yes," said Duclos; "and I will tell you how. The
great Conde, you will allow, was no fool; and the Duchesse de
Longueville is cited as one of the wittiest women that ever lived.
The Regent was a man who had few equals, in every kind of talent
and acquirement. The Prince de Conti, who was elected King of
Poland, was celebrated for his intelligence, and, in poetry,
was the successful rival of La Fare and St. Aulaire. The Duke of
Burgundy was learned and enlightened. His Duchess, the daughter
of Louis XIV., was remarkably clever, and wrote epigrams and
couplets. The Duc du Maine is generally spoken of only for his
weakness, but nobody had a more agreeable wit. His wife was mad,
but she had an extensive acquaintance with letters, good taste in
poetry, and a brilliant and inexhaustible imagination. Here are
instances enough, I think," said he; "and, as I am no flatterer,
and hate to appear one, I will not speak of the living." His
hearers were astonished at this enumeration, and all of them
agreed in the truth of what he had said. He added, "Don't we daily
hear of _silly D'Argenson_, because he has a good-natured air,
and a _bourgeois_ tone? and yet, I believe, there have not been
many Ministers comparable to him in knowledge and in enlightened
views." I took a pen, which lay on the Doctor's table, and begged
M. Duclos to repeat to me all the names he had mentioned, and
the eulogium he had bestowed on each. "If," said he, "you show
that to the Marquise, tell her how the conversation arose, and
that I did not say it in order that it might come to her ears,
and eventually, perhaps, to those of another person. I am an
historiographer, and I will render justice, but I shall, also,
often inflict it." "I will answer for that," said the Doctor,
"and our master will be represented as he really is. Louis XIV.
liked verses, and patronised poets; that was very well, perhaps,
in his time, because one must begin with something; but this
age will be very superior to the last. It must be acknowledged
that Louis XV., in sending astronomers to Mexico and Peru, to
measure the earth, has a higher claim to our respect than if he
directed an opera. He has thrown down the barriers which opposed
the progress of philosophy, in spite of the clamour of the devotees:
the Encyclopaedia will do honour to his reign." Duclos, during
this speech, shook his head. I went away, and tried to write
down all I had heard, while it was fresh. I had the part which
related to the Princes of the Bourbon race copied by a valet,
who wrote a beautiful hand, and I gave it to Madame de Pompadour.
But she said to me, "What! is Duclos an acquaintance of yours? Do
you want to play the _bel esprit_, my dear good woman? That will
not sit well upon you." The truth is, that nothing can be further
from my inclination. I told her that I met him accidentally at
the Doctor's, where he generally spent an hour when he came to
Versailles. "The King knows him to be a worthy man," said she.

Madame de Pompadour was ill, and the King came to see her several
times a day. I generally left the room when he entered, but,
having stayed a few minutes, on one occasion, to give her a glass
of chicory water, I heard the King mention Madame d'Egmont. Madame
raised her eyes to heaven, and said, "That name always recalls
to me a most melancholy and barbarous affair; but it was not my
fault." These words dwelt in my mind, and, particularly, the
tone in which they were uttered. As I stayed with Madame till
three o'clock in the morning, reading to her a part of the time,
it was easy for me to try to satisfy my curiosity. I seized a
moment, when the reading was interrupted, to say, "You looked
dreadfully shocked, Madame, when the King pronounced the name
of D'Egmont." At these words, she again raised her eyes, and
said, "You would feel as I do, if you knew the affair." "It must,
then, be deeply affecting, for I do not think that it personally
concerns you, Madame." "No," said she, "it does not; as, however,
I am not the only person acquainted with this history, and as
I know you to be discreet, I will tell it you. The last Comte
d'Egmont married a reputed daughter of the Duc de Villars; but
the Duchess had never lived with her husband, and the Comtesse
d'Egmont is, in fact, a daughter of the Chevalier d'Orleans.
At the death of her husband, young, beautiful, agreeable, and
heiress to an immense fortune, she attracted the suit and homage
of all the most distinguished men at Court. Her mother's director,
one day, came into her room and requested a private interview; he
then revealed to her that she was the offspring of an adulterous
intercourse, for which her mother had been doing penance for
five-and-twenty years. 'She could not,' said he, 'oppose your
former marriage, although it caused her extreme distress. Heaven
did not grant you children; but, if you marry again, you run
the risk, Madame, of transmitting to another family the immense
wealth, which does not, in fact, belong to you, and which is
the price of crime.'

"The Comtesse d'Egmont heard this recital with horror. At the
same instant, her mother entered, and, on her knees, besought
her daughter to avert her eternal damnation. Madame d'Egmont
tried to calm her own and her mother's mind. 'What can I do?'
said she, to her. 'Consecrate yourself wholly to God,' replied the
director, 'and thus expiate your mother's crime.' The Countess,
in her terror, promised whatever they asked, and proposed to
enter the Carmelites. I was informed of it, and spoke to the
King about the barbarous tyranny the Duchesse de Villars and the
director were about to exercise over this unhappy young woman;
but we knew not how to prevent it. The King, with the utmost
kindness, prevailed on the Queen to offer her the situation of
Lady of the Palace, and desired the Duchess's friends to persuade
her to endeavour to deter her daughter from becoming a Carmelite.
It was all in vain; the wretched victim was sacrificed."

Madame took it into her head to consult a fortune-teller, called
Madame Bontemps, who had told M. de Bernis's fortune, as I have
already related, and had surprised him by her predictions. M. de
Choiseul, to whom she mentioned the matter, said that the woman
had also foretold fine things that were to happen to him. "I know
it," said she, "and, in return, you promised her a carriage,
but the poor woman goes on foot still." Madame told me this,
and asked me how she could disguise herself, so as to see the
woman without being known. I dared not propose any scheme then,
for fear it should not succeed; but, two days after, I talked
to her surgeon about the art, which some beggars practise, of
counterfeiting sores, and altering their features. He said that
was easy enough. I let the thing drop, and, after an interval
of some minutes, I said, "If one could change one's features,
one might have great diversion at the opera, or at balls. What
alterations would it be necessary to make in me, now, to render
it impossible to recognise me?" "In the first place," said he,
"you must alter the colour of your hair, then you must have a
false nose, and put a spot on some part of your face, or a wart,
or a few hairs." I laughed, and said, "Help me to contrive this
for the next ball; I have not been to one for twenty years; but
I am dying to puzzle somebody, and to tell him things which no
one but I can tell him. I shall come home, and go to bed, in a
quarter of an hour." "I must take the measure of your nose,"
said he; "or do you take it with wax, and I will have a nose
made: you can get a flaxen or brown wig." I repeated to Madame
what the surgeon had told me: she was delighted at it. I took
the measure of her nose, and of my own, and carried them to the
surgeon, who, in two days, gave me the two noses, and a wart,
which Madame stuck under her left eye, and some paint for the
eyebrows. The noses were most delicately made, of a bladder, I
think, and these, with the other disguises, rendered it impossible
to recognize the face, and yet did not produce any shocking
appearance. All this being accomplished, nothing remained but
to give notice to the fortune-teller; we waited for a little
excursion to Paris, which Madame was to take, to look at her
house. I then got a person, with whom I had no connection, to
speak to a waiting-woman of the Duchesse de Ruffec, to obtain an
interview with the woman. She made some difficulty, on account
of the Police; but we promised secrecy, and appointed the place of
meeting. Nothing could be more contrary to Madame de Pompadour's
character, which was one of extreme timidity, than to engage in
such an adventure. But her curiosity was raised to the highest
pitch, and, moreover, everything was so well arranged that there
was not the slightest risk. Madame had let M. de Gontaut, and
her _valet de chambre_, into the secret. The latter had hired
two rooms for his niece, who was then ill, at Versailles, near
Madame's hotel. We went out in the evening, followed by the _valet
de chambre_, who was a safe man, and by the Duke, all on foot.
We had not, at farthest, above two hundred steps to go. We were
shown into two small rooms, in which were fires. The two men
remained in one, and we in the other. Madame had thrown herself
on a sofa. She had on a night-cap, which concealed half her face,
in an unstudied manner. I was near the fire, leaning on a table,
on which were two candles. There were lying on the chairs, near
us, some clothes, of small value. The fortune-teller rang--a
little servant-girl let her in, and then went to wait in the
room where the gentlemen were. Coffee-cups, and a coffee-pot,
were set; and I had taken care to place, upon a little buffet,
some cakes, and a bottle of Malaga wine, having heard that Madame
Bontemps assisted her inspiration with that liquor. Her face,
indeed, sufficiently proclaimed it. "Is that lady ill?" said
she, seeing Madame de Pompadour stretched languidly on the sofa.
I told her that she would soon be better, but that she had kept
her room for a week. She heated the coffee, and prepared the two
cups, which she carefully wiped, observing that nothing impure
must enter into this operation. I affected to be very anxious
for a glass of wine, in order to give our oracle a pretext for
assuaging her thirst, which she did, without, much entreaty.
When she had drunk two or three small glasses (for I had taken
care not to have large ones), she poured the coffee into one
of the two large cups. "This is yours," said she; "and this is
your friend's; let them stand a little." She then observed our
hands and our faces; after which she drew a looking-glass from
her pocket, into which she told us to look, while she looked at
the reflections of our faces. She next took a glass of wine,
and immediately threw herself into a fit of enthusiasm, while
she inspected my cup, and considered all the lines formed by
the dregs of the coffee she had poured out. She began by saying,
"_That is well--prosperity--but there is a black mark--distresses.
A man becomes a comforter. Here, in this corner, are friends,
who support you. Ah! who is he that persecutes them? But justice
triumphs--after rain, sunshine--a long journey successful. There,
do you see these little bags! That is money which has been paid--to
you, of course, I mean. That is well. Do you see that arm?" "Yes."
"That is an arm supporting something: a woman veiled; I see her;
it is you. All this is clear to me. I hear, as it were, a voice
speaking to me. You are no longer attacked. I see it, because the
clouds in that direction are passed off_ (pointing to a clearer
spot). _But, stay--I see small lines which branch out from the
main spot. These are sons, daughters, nephews--that is pretty
well."_ She appeared overpowered with the effort she was making.
At length, she added, _"That is all. You have had good luck
first--misfortune afterward. You have had a friend, who has exerted
himself with success to extricate you from it. You have had
law-suits--at length fortune has been reconciled to you, and
will change no more._" She drank another glass of wine. "Your
health, Madame," said she to the Marquise, and went through the
same ceremonies with the cup. At length, she broke out, "_Neither
fair nor foul. I see there, in the distance, a serene sky; and
then all these things that appear to ascend--all these things
are applauses. Here is a grave man, who stretches out his arms.
Do you see?--look attentively." "That is true,"_ said Madame de
Pompadour, with surprise (there was, indeed, some appearance
of the kind). "_He points to something square--that is an open
coffer.--Fine weather.--But, look! there are clouds of azure
and gold, which surround you. Do you see that ship on the high
sea? How favourable the wind is! You are on board; you land in
a beautiful country, of which you become the Queen. Ah! what
do I see! Look there--look at that hideous, crooked, lame man,
who is pursuing you--but he is going on a fool's errand. I see a
very great man, who supports you in his arms. Here, look! he is
a kind of giant. There is a great deal of gold and silver--a few
clouds here and there. But you have nothing to fear. The vessel
will be sometimes tossed about, but it will not be lost. Dixi._"
Madame said, "When shall I die, and of what disease?" "I never
speak of that," said she; "_see here, rather--but fate will not
permit it. I will shew you how fate confounds everything_"--shewing
her several confused lumps of the coffee-dregs. "Well, never
mind as to the time, then, only tell me the kind of death." The
fortune-teller looked in the cup, and said, "_You will have time
to prepare yourself._" I gave her only two louis, to avoid doing
anything remarkable. She left us, after begging us to keep her
secret, and we rejoined the Duc de Gontaut, to whom we related
everything that had passed. He laughed heartily, and said, "Her
coffee-dregs are like the clouds--you may see what you please
in them."

There was one thing in my horoscope which struck me, that was
the comforter; because one of my uncles had taken great care of
me, and had rendered me the most essential services. It is also
true that I afterwards had an important lawsuit; and, lastly,
there was the money which had come into my hands through Madame de
Pompadour's patronage and bounty. As for Madame, her husband was
represented accurately enough by the man with the coffer; then the
country of which she became Queen seemed to relate to her present
situation at Court; but the most remarkable thing was the crooked
and lame man, in whom Madame thought she recognized the Duc de
V----, who was very much deformed. Madame was delighted with her
adventure and her horoscope, which she thought corresponded very
remarkably with the truth. Two days after, she sent for M. de St.
Florentin, and begged him not to molest the fortune-teller. He
laughed, and replied that he knew why she interceded for this woman.
Madame asked him why he laughed. He related every circumstance of
her expedition with astonishing exactness; but he knew nothing
of what had been said, or, at least, so he pretended. He promised
Madame that, provided Bontemps did nothing which called for notice,
she should not be obstructed in the exercise of her profession,
especially if she followed it in secret. "I know her," added he,
"and I, like other people, have had the curiosity to consult
her. She is the wife of a soldier in the guards. She is a clever
woman in her way, but she drinks. Four or five years ago, she
got such hold on the mind of Madame de Ruffec, that she made
her believe she could procure her an elixir of beauty, which
would restore her to what she was at twenty-five. The Duchess
pays high for the drugs of which this elixir is compounded; and
sometimes they are bad: sometimes, the sun, to which they were
exposed, was not powerful enough; sometimes, the influence of a
certain constellation was wanting. Sometimes, she has the courage
to assure the Duchess that she really is grown handsomer, and
actually succeeds in making her believe it." But the history of
this woman's daughter is still more curious. She was exquisitely
beautiful, and the Duchess brought her up in her own house. Bontemps
predicted to the girl, in the Duchess's presence, that she would
marry a man of two thousand louis a year. This was not very likely
to happen to the daughter of a soldier in the guards. It did
happen, nevertheless. The little Bontemps married the President
Beaudouin, who was mad. But, the tragical part of the story is,
that her mother had also foretold that she would die in child-birth
of her first child, and that she did actually die in child-birth,
at the age of eighteen, doubtless under a strong impression of her
mother's prophecy, to which the improbable event of her marriage
had given such extraordinary weight. Madame told the King of the
adventure her curiosity had led her into, at which he laughed,
and said he wished the Police had arrested her. He added a very
sensible remark. "In order to judge," said he, "of the truth or
falsehood of such predictions, one ought to collect fifty of
them. It would be found that they are almost always made up of
the same phrases, which are sometimes inapplicable, and sometimes
hit the mark. But the first are rarely mentioned, while the others
are always insisted on."

I have heard, and, indeed, it is certainly true, that M. de Bridge
lived on terms of intimacy with Madame, when she was Madame
d'Etioles. He used to ride on horseback with her, and, as he is
so handsome a man that he has retained the name of _the handsome
man_, it was natural enough that he should be thought the lover
of a very handsome woman. I have heard something more than this.
I was told that the King said to M. de Bridge, "Confess, now,
that you were her lover. She has acknowledged it to me, and I
exact from you this proof of sincerity." M. de Bridge replied,
that Madame de Pompadour was at liberty to say what she pleased
for her own amusement, or for any other reason; but that he, for
his part, could not assert a falsehood; that he had been her
friend; that she was a charming companion, and had great talents;
that he delighted in her society; but that his intercourse with
her had never gone beyond the bounds of friendship. He added,
that her husband was present in all their parties, that he watched
her with a jealous eye, and that he would, not have suffered him
to be so much with her if he had conceived the least suspicion
of the kind. The King persisted, and told him he was wrong to
endeavour to conceal a fact which was unquestionable. It was
rumoured, also, that the Abbe de Bernis had been a favoured lover
of hers. The said Abbe was rather a coxcomb; he had a handsome
face, and wrote poetry. Madame de Pompadour was the theme of
his gallant verses. He sometimes received the compliments of
his friends upon his success with a smile which left some room
for conjecture, although he denied the thing in words. It was,
for some time, reported at Court that she was in love with the
Prince de Beauvau: he is a man distinguished for his gallantries,
his air of rank and fashion, and his high play; he is brother
to the little Marechale: for all these reasons, Madame is very
civil to him, but there is nothing marked in her behaviour. She
knows, besides, that he is in love with a very agreeable woman.

Now that I am on the subject of lovers, I cannot avoid speaking
of M. de Choiseul. Madame likes him better than any of those I
have just mentioned, but he is not her lover. A lady, whom I
know perfectly well, but whom I do not choose to denounce to
Madame, invented a story about them, which was utterly false.
She said, as I have good reason to believe, that one day, hearing
the King coming, I ran to Madame's closet door; that I coughed in
a particular manner; and that the King having, happily, stopped
a moment to talk to some ladies, there was time to adjust matters,
so that Madame came out of the closet with me and M. de Choiseul,
as if we had been all three sitting together. It is very true
that I went in to carry something to Madame, without knowing
that the King was come, and that she came out of the closet with
M. de Choiseul, who had a paper in his hand, and that I followed
her a few minutes after. The King asked M. de Choiseul what that
paper was which he had in his hand. He replied that it contained
the remonstrance from the Parliament.

Three or four ladies witnessed what I now relate, and as, with
the exception of one, they were all excellent women, and greatly
attached to Madame, my suspicions could fall on none but the
one in question, whom I will not name, because her brother has
always treated me with great kindness. Madame de Pompadour had
a lively imagination and great sensibility, but nothing could
exceed the coldness of her temperament. It would, besides, have
been extremely difficult for her, surrounded as she was, to keep
up an intercourse of that kind with any man. It is true that
this difficulty would have been diminished in the case of an
all-powerful Minister, who had constant pretexts for seeing her
in private. But there was a much more decisive fact--M. de Choiseul
had a charming mistress--the Princesse de R----, and Madame knew
it, and often spoke of her. He had, besides, some remains of
liking for the Princesse de Kinski, who followed him from Vienna.
It is true that he soon after discovered how ridiculous she was.
All these circumstances combined were, surely, sufficient to
deter Madame from engaging in a love affair with the Duke; but
his talents and agreeable qualities captivated her. He was not
handsome, but he had manners peculiar to himself, an agreeable
vivacity, a delightful gaiety; this was the general opinion of
his character. He was much attached to Madame, and though this
might, at first, be inspired by a consciousness of the importance
of her friendship to his interest, yet, after he had acquired
sufficient political strength to stand alone, he was not the
less devoted to her, nor less assiduous in his attentions. He
knew her friendship for me, and he one day said to me, with great
feeling, "I am afraid, my dear Madame du Hausset, that she will
sink into a state of complete dejection, and die of melancholy.
Try to divert her." What a fate for the favourite of the greatest
monarch in existence! thought I.

One day, Madame de Pompadour had retired to her closet with M.
Berryer. Madame d'Amblimont stayed with Madame de Gontaut, who
called me to talk about my son. A moment after, M. de Gontaut came
in and said, "D'Amblimont, who shall have the Swiss guards?" "Stop
a moment," said she; "let me call my council----, M. de Choiseul."
"That is not so very bad a thought," said M. de Gontaut, "but
I assure you, you are the first person who has suggested it."
He immediately left us, and Madame d'Amblimont said, "I'll lay
a wager he is going to communicate my idea to M. de Choiseul."
He returned very shortly, and, M. Berryer having left the room,
he said to Madame de Pompadour, "A singular thought has entered
d'Amblimont's head." "What absurdity now?" said Madame. "Not
so great an absurdity neither," said he. "She says the Swiss
guards ought to be given to M. de Choiseul, and, really, if the
King has not positively promised M. de Soubise, I don't see what
he can do better." "The King has promised nothing," said Madame,
"and the hopes I gave him were of the vaguest kind. I only told
him it was possible. But though I have a great regard for M.
de Soubise, I do not think his merits comparable to those of
M. de Choiseul." When the King came in, Madame, doubtless, told
him of this suggestion. A quarter of an hour afterwards, I went
into the room to speak to her, and I heard the King say, "You
will see that, because the Duc du Maine, and his children, had
that place, he will think he ought to have it, on account of
his rank as Prince (Soubise); but the Marechal de Bassompierre
was not a Prince; and, by the bye, the Duc de Choiseul is for him
to be. Her name was Romans. She was Majesty is better acquainted
with the history of France than anybody," replied Madame. Two
days after this, Madame de ---- said to me, "I have two great
delights; M. de Soubise will not have the Swiss guards, and Madame
de Marsan will be ready to burst with rage at it; this is the
first: and M. de Choiseul will have them; this is the greatest."

There was a universal talk of a young lady with whom the King was
as much in love as it was possible for him to be. Her name was
Romans. She was said to be a charming girl. Madame de Pompadour
knew of the King's visits, and her confidantes brought her most
alarming reports of the affair. The Marechale de Mirepoix, who
had the best head in Madame's council, was the only one who
encouraged her. "I do not tell you," said she, "that he loves
you better than her; and if she could be transported hither by
the stroke of a fairy's wand; if she could entertain him this
evening at supper; if she were familiar with all his tastes,
there would, perhaps, be sufficient reason for you to tremble
for your power. But Princes are, above all, pre-eminently the
slaves of habit. The King's attachment to you is like that he
bears to your apartment, your furniture. You have formed yourself
to his manners and habits; you know how to listen and reply to
his stories; he is under no constraint with you; he has no fear
of _boring_ you. How do you think he could have resolution to
uproot all this in a day, to form a new establishment, and to
make a public exhibition of himself by so striking a change in
his arrangements?" The young lady became pregnant; the reports
current among the people, and even those at Court, alarmed Madame
dreadfully. It was said that the King meant to legitimate the
child, and to give the mother a title. "All that," said Madame
de Mirepoix, "is in the style of Louis XIV.--such dignified
proceedings are very unlike those of our master." Mademoiselle
Romans lost all her influence over the King by her indiscreet
boasting. She was even treated with harshness and violence, which
were in no degree instigated by Madame. Her house was searched,
and her papers seized; but the most important, those which
substantiated the fact of the King's paternity, had been withdrawn.
At length she gave birth to a son, who was christened under the
name of Bourbon, son of Charles de Bourbon, Captain of Horse.
The mother thought the eyes of all France were fixed upon her,
and beheld in her son a future Duc du Maine. She suckled him
herself, and she used to carry him in a sort of basket to the
Bois de Boulogne. Both mother and child were covered with the
finest laces. She sat down upon the grass in a solitary spot,
which, however, was soon well known, and there gave suck to her
royal babe. Madame had great curiosity to see her, and took me,
one day, to the manufactory at Sevres, without telling me what
she projected. After she had bought some cups, she said, "I want
to go and walk in the Bois de Boulogne," and gave orders to the
coachman to stop at a certain spot where she wished to alight.
She had got the most accurate directions, and when she drew near
the young lady's haunt she gave me her arm, drew her bonnet over
her eyes, and held her pocket-handkerchief before the lower part
of her face. We walked, for some minutes, in a path, from whence
we could see the lady suckling her child. Her jet black hair was
turned up, and confined by a diamond comb. She looked earnestly
at us. Madame bowed to her, and whispered to me, pushing me by the
elbow, "Speak to her." I stepped forward, and exclaimed, "What
a lovely child!" "Yes, Madame," replied she, "I must confess
that he is, though I am his mother." Madame, who had hold of my
arm, trembled and I was not very firm. Mademoiselle Romans said
to me, "Do you live in this neighbourhood?" "Yes, Madame," replied
I, "I live at Auteuil with this lady, who is just now suffering
from a most dreadful toothache." "I pity her sincerely, for I
know that tormenting pain well." I looked all around, for fear
any one should come up who might recognise us. I took courage
to ask her whether the child's father was a handsome man. "Very
handsome, and, if I told you his name, you would agree with me."
"I have the honour of knowing him, then, Madame?" "Most probably
you do." Madame, fearing, as I did, some rencontre, said a few
words in a low tone, apologizing for having intruded upon her,
and we took our leave. We looked behind us, repeatedly, to see
if we were followed, and got into the carriage without being
perceived. "It must be confessed that both mother and child are
beautiful creatures," said Madame--"not to mention the father;
the infant has his eyes. If the King had come up while we were
there, do you think he would have recognised us?" "I don't doubt
that he would, Madame, and then what an agitation I should have
been in, and what a scene it would have been for the bystanders!
and, above all, what a surprise to her!" In the evening Madame
made the King a present of the cups she had bought, but she did
not mention her walk, for fear Mademoiselle Romans should tell
him that two ladies, who knew him, had met her there such a day.
Madame de Mirepoix said to Madame, "Be assured, the King cares
very little about children; he has enough of them, and he will
not be troubled with the mother or the son. See what sort of
notice he takes of the Comte de L----, who is strikingly like
him. He never speaks of him, and I am convinced that he will
never do anything for him. Again and again I tell you, we do not
live under Louis XIV." Madame de Mirepoix had been Ambassadress
to London, and had often heard the English make this remark.

Some alterations had been made in Madame de Pompadour's rooms,
and I had no longer, as heretofore, the niche in which I had
been permitted to sit, to hear Caffarelli, and, in later times,
Mademoiselle Fel and Jeliotte. I, therefore, went more frequently
to my lodgings in town, where I usually received my friends: more
particularly when Madame visited her little hermitage, whither
M. de Gontaut commonly accompanied her. Madame du Chiron, the
wife of the Head Clerk in the War-Office, came to see me. "I
feel," said she, "greatly embarrassed, in speaking to you about
an affair, which will, perhaps, embarrass you also. This is the
state of the case. A very poor woman, to whom I have sometimes
given a little assistance, pretends to be a relation of the Marquise
de Pompadour. Here is her petition." I read it, and said that
the woman had better write directly to Madame, and that I was
sure, if what she asserted was true, her application would be
successful. Madame du Chiron followed my advice. The woman wrote
she was in the lowest depth of poverty, and I learnt that Madame
sent her six louis until she could gain more accurate information
as to the truth of her story. Colin, who was commissioned to
take the money, made inquiries of M. de Malvoisin, a relation
of Madame, and a very respectable officer. The fact was found to
be as she had stated it. Madame then sent her a hundred louis,
and promised her a pension of sixty louis a year. All this was
done with great expedition, and Madame had a visit of thanks from
her poor relation, as soon as she had procured decent clothes
to come in. That day the King happened to come in at an unusual
hour, and saw this person going out. He asked who it was. "It
is a very poor relation of mine," replied Madame. "She came,
then, to beg for some assistance?" "No," said she. "What did
she come for, then?" "To thank me for a little service I have
rendered her," said she, blushing from the fear of seeming to
boast of her liberality. "Well," said the King; "since she is
your relation, allow me to have the pleasure of serving her too.
I will give her fifty louis a year out of my private purse, and,
you know, she may send for the first year's allowance to-morrow."
Madame burst into tears, and kissed the King's hand several times.
She told me this three days afterwards, when I was nursing her
in a slight attack of fever. I could not refrain from weeping
myself at this instance of the King's kindness. The next day,
I called on Madame du Chiron to tell her of the good fortune
of her protegee; I forgot to say that, after Madame had related
the affair to me, I told her what part I had taken in it. She
approved my conduct, and allowed me to inform my friend of the
King's goodness. This action, which showed no less delicate
politeness towards her than sensibility to the sufferings of
the poor woman, made a deeper impression on Madame's heart than
a pension of two thousand a year given to herself.

Madame had terrible palpitations of the heart. Her heart actually
seemed to leap. She consulted several physicians. I recollect that
one of them made her walk up and down the room, lift a weight,
and move quickly. On her expressing some surprise, he said, "I
do this to ascertain whether the organ is diseased; in that case
motion quickens the pulsation; if that effect is not produced,
the complaint proceeds from the nerves." I repeated this to my
oracle, Quesnay. He knew very little of this physician, but he
said his treatment was that of a clever man. His name was Renard;
he was scarcely known beyond the Marais. Madame often appeared
suffocated, and sighed continually. One day, under pretence of
presenting a petition to M. de Choiseul, as he was going out,
I said, in a low voice, that I wished to see him a few minutes
on an affair of importance to my mistress. He told me to come as
soon as I pleased, and that I should be admitted. I told him that
Madame was extremely depressed; that she gave way to distressing
thoughts, which she would not communicate; that she, one day,
said to me, "The fortune-teller told me I _should have time to
prepare myself_; I believe it, for I shall be worn to death by
melancholy." M. de Choiseul appeared much affected; he praised
my zeal, and said that he had already perceived some indications
of what I told him; that he would not mention my name, but would
try to draw from her an explanation. I don't know what he said to
her; but, from that time, she was much more calm. One day, but
long afterwards, Madame said to M. de Gontaut, "I am generally
thought to have great influence, but if it were not for M. de
Choiseul, I should not be able to obtain a Cross of St. Louis."

The King and Madame de Pompadour had a very high opinion of Madame
de Choiseul. Madame said, "She always says the right thing in
the right place." Madame de Grammont was not so agreeable to
them; and I think that this was to be attributed, in part, to
the sound of her voice, and to her blunt manner of speaking;
for she was said to be a woman of great sense, and devotedly
attached to the King and Madame de Pompadour. Some people pretended
that she tried to captivate the King, and to supplant Madame:
nothing could be more false, or more ridiculously improbable.
Madame saw a great deal of these two ladies, who were extremely
attentive to her. She one day remarked to the Duc d'Ayen, that
M. de Choiseul was very fond of his sisters. "I know it, Madame,"
said he, "and many sisters are the better for that." "What do
you mean?" said she. "Why," said he, "as the Duc de Choiseul
loves his sister, it is thought fashionable to do the same; and
I know silly girls, whose brothers formerly cared nothing about
them, who are now most tenderly beloved. No sooner does their
little finger ache, than their brothers are running about to fetch
physicians from all corners of Paris. They flatter themselves
that somebody will say, in M. de Choiseul's drawing-room, "How
passionately M. de ---- loves his sister; he would certainly
die if he had the misfortune to lose her." Madame related this
to her brother, in my presence, adding, that she could not give
it in the Duke's comic manner. M. de Marigny said, "I have had
the start of them all, without making so much noise; and my dear
little sister knows that I loved her tenderly before Madame de
Grammont left her convent. The Duc d'Ayen, however, is not very
wrong; he has made the most of it in his lively manner, but it
is partly true." "I forgot," replied Madame, "that the Duke said,
'I want extremely to be in the fashion, but which sister shall
I take up? Madame de Caumont is a devil incarnate, Madame de
Villars drinks, Madame d'Armagnac is a bore, Madame de la Marck
is half mad.'" "These are fine family portraits, Duke," said
Madame. The Duc de Gontaut laughed, during the whole of this
conversation, immoderately. Madame repeated it, one day, when
she kept her bed. M. de G---- also began to talk of his sister,
Madame du Roure. I think, at least, that is the name he mentioned.
He was very gay, and had the art of creating gaiety. Somebody
said, he is an excellent piece of furniture for a favourite. He
makes her laugh, and asks for nothing either for himself or for
others; he cannot excite jealousy, and he meddles in nothing. He
was called the White Eunuch. Madame's illness increased so rapidly
that we were alarmed about her; but bleeding in the foot cured
her as if by a miracle. The King watched her with the greatest
solicitude; and I don't know whether his attentions did not
contribute as much to the cure as the bleeding. M. de Choiseul
remarked, some days after, that she appeared in better spirits.
I told him that I thought this improvement might be attributed
to the same cause.




The figure of Catherine de Medici is remarkable in history as being
the pivotal point for more controversy than has ever centred about
any other Queen of France. Of Italian descent, she became the wife
of one French monarch, the mother of three others, and the dominant
force behind that glittering Court which Brantome eulogises. Both
of her daughters likewise ascended thrones,--Elisabeth, became
the wife of Philip II. of Spain; while Marguerite (whose memoirs
are found elsewhere in this volume) wedded Henry of Navarre, the
life-long rival of the ambitious Queen Mother, who was destined
to become Henry IV., displacing her tottering dynasty.

Brantome's tribute to this famous Queen will be read with great
interest, but it is unnecessary to caution the reader to accept
it _cum grana salis_, for Brantome's likes and dislikes are at
all times apt to run away with his historical judgment. Says
Louis Moland in an introduction to the French edition of the
Abbe's works: "The admiration which he professes for these grand
princesses whom he has the honour of depicting so influences him
that, despite his notorious credulity on this point, he shows
them all, or nearly all, as perfectly virtuous." Nevertheless,
his portraits, though coloured with the most favourable tints,
are of great value as portraits from life. "I saw it," "I was
there," are his favourite expressions in narrating an incident.

The study of Catherine is a typical example of his work. He had
lived at her Court and received many favours at her hands. He now
sets himself the task of answering her calumniators and paying
a tribute to her memory. This spirit of chivalry is certainly
admirable, albeit the results may show as more partisan than
accurate. It is interesting to compare this with Honore de Balzac's
more extended work, "Sur Catherine de Medicis," which is designated
as a romance but is actually a careful historical portrait of
the Queen.

Catherine's whole life may be said to have combined romance with
history. She was the daughter of Lorenzo de Medici, that famous
ruler of Florence for whom Machiavelli wrote his "Prince." Having
been left an orphan at an early age, she was sent to a convent to
be educated, but left there at fourteen to become the wife of the
Dauphin, afterwards Henry II. of France. Her royal father-in-law
was the celebrated Francis I., the life-long rival of Henry VIII.
of England, on the one hand, and the Emperor Charles V., on the
other. During his reign Catherine remained in obscurity, and
was even threatened with divorce, as for ten years she remained
childless. On hearing that Francis was considering this decree for
state reasons, she planned her first bold stroke. With Italian
finesse she made her way to the King at a favourable moment, threw
herself at his feet, and expressed her willingness to submit to
the royal will. "Do with me as you choose, sire," she said; "let
me remain the dutiful wife of your son; or if it may please you to
choose another, let me serve as one of her humblest attendants."
Her speech won the heart of Francis, she was reinstated in favour,
and finally had the happiness of bringing him grandchildren ere
he died. This was one reason for the great veneration in which
Catherine always held his memory, and to which Brantome alludes.

Indeed, the dominant trait with her throughout her long life was
loyalty to her family and their interests,--a loyalty fine in the
abstract, but which was to lead her along many doubtful and devious
ways. It caused her to match prince against prince, party against
party, religion against religion, until the culminating horror
of St. Bartholomew's Massacre was reached,--chargeable directly
to her, despite the strenuous denials of Brantome. Henry IV.,
the royal son-in-law who suffered so much at her hands, was
broad-minded enough to palliate her offences on the ground of
this family loyalty. Claude Grouard quotes him as saying to a
Florentine ambassador in regard to Catherine: "I ask you what
a poor woman could do, left by the death of her husband, with
five little children on her arms, and two families in France
who were thinking to grasp the crown,--ours and the Guiges. Was
she not compelled to play strange parts to deceive first one and
then the other, in order to guard, as she has done, her sons
who have successively reigned through the wise conduct of that
shrewd woman? I am only surprised that she never did worse.

Sainte-Beuve in his "Causeries du Lundi" gives us additional
glimpses of this Queen, basing his views upon those of Mezeray,
author of the older "History of France": Mezeray, who never thinks
of the dramatic, nevertheless makes known to us at the start his
principal personages; he shows them more especially in action,
without detaching them too much from the general sentiment and
interests of which they are the leaders and representatives,
while, at the same time, he leaves to each his individual
physiognomy.... Catherine de Medici is painted there in all her
dissimulation and her network of artifices, in which she herself
was often caught; ambitious of sovereign power without possessing
either the force or the genius for it; striving to obtain it by
craft, and using for this purpose a continual system of what
we should call today 'see-sawing'--'rousing and elevating for a
time one faction, putting to sleep or lowering another; uniting
herself sometimes with the feeblest side out of caution, lest
the stronger should crush her; sometimes with the stronger from
necessity; at times standing neutral when she felt herself strong
enough to command both sides, but without intention to extinguish
either.' Far from being always too Catholic, there are moments when
she seems to lean to the Reformed religion and to wish to grant
too much to that party; and this with more sincerity, perhaps,
than belonged to her naturally. The Catherine de Medici, such
as she presents herself and is developed in plain truth on the
pages of Mezeray is well calculated to tempt a modern writer."

It is precisely to this temptation that Balzac has yielded, in
his book already mentioned. His summing-up of her character is
as follows: "Catherine de Medici has suffered more from popular
error than almost any other woman... and yet she saved the throne
of France, she maintained the royal authority under circumstances
to which more than one great prince would have succumbed. Face to
face with such leaders of the factions, and ambitions of the houses
of Guise and of Bourbon as the Cardinals de Lorraine and the two
'Balafres,' the two Princes de Conde, Henry IV., Montmorency, the
Colignys, she was forced to put forth the rarest fine qualities,
the most essential gifts of statesmanship, under the fire of the
Calvinist press. These, at any rate, are indisputable facts. And
to the student who digs deep into the history of the sixteenth
century in France, the figure of Catherine de Medici stands out
as that of a great king...

"Hemmed in between a race of princes who proclaimed themselves
the heirs of Charlemagne, and a factious younger branch that was
eager to bury the Constable de Bourbon's treason under the throne;
obliged too, to fight down a heresy on the verge of devouring the
monarchy, without friends, and aware of treachery in the chiefs
of the Catholic party and of republicanism in the Calvinists,
Catherine used the most dangerous but the surest of political
weapons--Craft. She determined to deceive by turns the party
that was anxious to secure the downfall of the house of Valois,
the Bourbons who aimed at the Crown, and the Reformers.... Indeed,
so long as she lived, the Valois sat on the throne. The great
M. de Thou understood the worth of this woman when he exclaimed
on hearing of her death: 'It is not a woman, it is Royalty that
dies in her'!"

On the contrary, if one will follow the genial Dumas through
the pages of his Valois Romances, he will find a French writer
who, while loyal to the kingly line, does not hesitate to paint
this woman in unlovely colors. She is here the low intriguer who
does not stop at assassination to gain her ends. On only one
point, indeed, do historians and romancers seem to agree: she
is always interesting--never commonplace. She fills a definite
niche in an important period, and her personal reputation must
be handled as a thing apart.

This portrait of her by Brantome is one of a series of papers
comprising his "Lives of Illustrious Ladies,"--or as he preferred
to call it, "Book of the Ladies." Brantome himself lived an
adventurous life. Born in Perigord in 1537, he was only eighteen
years younger than the queen he here discusses. His family, the
de Bourdeilles, was one of the oldest and most respected in that
province. "Not to boast of myself," he says, "I can assert that
none of my race has ever been home-keeping; they have spent as
much time in travels and wars as any, no matter who they be,
in France." The young Pierre had his first experience in Court
life, at the Court of Marguerite, sister of Francis I., to whom
his mother was lady-in-waiting. As he was the youngest of the
family, he was destined for the priesthood--which he always regarded
from the militant, rather than the spiritual side--and when only
sixteen King Henry II. bestowed upon him the Abbey of Brantome.

The record of his life thereafter is one of travel and adventure
in many lands. It is the period of the Renaissance, when wars and
conquests, intrigues and romances, poetry and song flourish,--in
all of which our Abbe is equally at home! He goes with the Duc
de Guise to escort the young widowed Queen, Mary, back to her
Scottish throne. He visits Marguerite de Valois in her retirement
and is so smitten by her beauty that he dedicates all his books to
her. And during his busy, adventurous life he finds time to set
down many things which he sees and hears. Some of these stories
smack of the scandalous, but all undoubtedly reflect the spirit
and manners of the time.

After a long life, Brantome passed away in 1614, and although a
clause in his will expressly related to the publication of his
works they were left in MS. form, in his castle of Richemont,
for half a century. They were finally published in Leyden, in
1665, and have been frequently reprinted since.


I have wondered a hundred times, and been astonished, that, with
so many good writers as we have had in France in our day, none
of them have been inquisitive enough to bring out some sketches
on the life and deeds of the Queen-Mother, Catherine de Medici,
since she has given ample material, and did as much fine work
as ever was done by a queen--as once said the Emperor Charles
to Paolo Giovio on his return from his triumphant voyage in the
"Goulette," when wishing to declare war against King Francis,
that it was only necessary to be provided with paper and ink,
to supply him with any amount of work.

True it is that this Queen cut out so much work, that any clever
and industrious writer might build from it a complete Iliad;
but the writers have all proven lazy or ungrateful, although
she was never niggardly to learned men, or those writers of her
times. I could name several who derived favors from the Queen,
and for this reason do I accuse them of ingratitude.

There was one, however, who did attempt to write of her, and
who brought out a little book which he called "The Life of
Catherine," but it is an imposture and not worthy of belief,
since it is more full of lies than truth, as she herself said,
when she saw the book. The errors are so glaring as to be apparent
to all, and are thus easily noted and rejected.

The author wished her mortal harm, and was inimical to her name,
to her station, to her life, to her honor and to her nature,
and for this reason he should be rejected.

As for myself, I would that I could speak well, or that I had
a fluent pen at my command that I might exalt and praise her
as she deserves.

At any rate, be my pen what it may, I shall use it at all hazards.

This Queen is descended, on her father's side, from the race of
the Medici, one of the noblest and most illustrious families,
not only in Italy but in Christendom.

Whatever may be said, she was a foreigner to these parts, since
the alliances of the royal houses cannot commonly be made with
those within their kingdoms. Nor is it often for the best, since
foreign marriages are often more advantageous than those made
nearer home.

The House of the Medici has ever been allied with the Crown of
France, and still bears the _fleur-de-lys_ that King Louis XI
granted that house as a token of alliance and perpetual

On her mother's side she is descended from one of the noblest
houses of France; a house truly French in race, in heart and
in affection, that great house of Boulogne and of the County of

Thus it is difficult to say or to decide which of these two houses
is the grander, or which is the more memorable by its deeds.

Here is what is said of them by the Archbishop of Bourges, he of
the house of Beaune, as great a scholar and as worthy a prelate
as there is in Christendom (although there are some who say that
he was a trifle unsteady in belief, and of little worth in the
scales of M. Saint-Michel, who weighs good Christians for the
day of judgment, or so 'tis said). It is found in the funeral
oration which the Archbishop made upon the said Queen at Blois.

In the days when that great captain of the Gauls, Brennus, led
his forces through Italy and Greece, there were in his troop
two French nobles, one named Felsinus, the other named Bono,
who seeing the wicked designs of Brennus to invade and desecrate
the temple of Delphos, after his great conquests, withdrew their
forces and passed into Asia with their ships and followers.

They pushed on until they entered the sea of Medes, which is near
Lydia and Persia.

Thence, after gaining many victories and obtaining many conquests,
they retired, and while returning through Italy on their way to
France, Felsinus stopped on the site of what is now Florence,
beside the river Arno, a place which he saw was beautiful and
commanding and situated much as another place which had pleased
him much in the country of the Medes.

There he built the city which to-day is Florence.

His companion, Bono, built a second, and neighboring city which
he called Bononia, the modern Bologna.

Henceforth Felsinus was called Medicus by his intimates, in
commemoration of his victories and conquests among the Medes, a
name that became the family name, just as we read of Paulus being
surnamed Macedonicus, on account of his conquest of Macedonia
from Perseus, and of Scipio being called Africanus for doing the
like in Africa.

I do not know from what source M. de Beaune got his history,
but it is very probable, that, speaking as he did before the
King and such an august assembly, there convened for the funeral
of the Queen, M. de Beaune would not have made the statement
without good authority.

This descent is very different from the modern story invented
and attributed without cause to the Medici family, according to
that lying book on the life of the Queen, which I have mentioned.

Furthermore, continues the aforementioned Sieur de Beaune, one
reads in the chronicles that a certain Everard de Medici, Sieur
of Florence, many years afterwards, went with many of his subjects
to the assistance of Charlemagne in his expedition in Italy against
Didier, king of the Lombards, and having courageously succoured
and assisted him was granted and invested with the lordship of

Many years later, one Anemond de Medici, also a Sieur of Florence,
accompanied, with many of his subjects, Godefroy de Bouillon to
the Holy Land, where he died at the siege of Nicaea in Asia.

Such greatness continued in that family down to the time when
Florence was reduced to a republic by the internecine wars in
Italy between the emperors and the people, the illustrious members
of this family continually manifesting their valour and grandeur
from time to time, as we see in these later days, how Cosmo de
Medici, with his arms, his navy and ships struck terror into
the Turks on the Mediterranean and even in the distant East;
so that none since his time, no matter how great he may have
been, has surpassed him in strength, valour and wealth, as has
been recorded by Raffaelle Volaterano.

The temples and sacred shrines built by him, the hospitals founded
by him, even as far as Jerusalem, all give ample proof of his
piety and magnanimity.

Then there was Lorenzo de Medici, surnamed the Great on account
of his virtuous deeds, and the two great popes, Leo and Clement,
besides many cardinals and great personages of the name, including
the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosmo de Medici, a wise and wary man,
if there ever was one.

He succeeded in retaining his duchy, which he found invaded and
in great distress when he inherited it.

In short, nothing can rob this house of the Medici of its lustre,
and of its nobleness and grandeur in all ways.

As to the house of Boulogne and Auvergne, who can deny its greatness,
descending as it does from that noble Eustache de Boulogne, whose
brother, Godefroy de Bouillon, who bore his arms and escutcheons
with that vast number of princes, seigneurs, chevaliers, and
Christian soldiers even to Jerusalem and to the sepulchre of
our Saviour, where he would have made himself, by his sword and
by the favour of God, king, not only of Jerusalem, but also of
the greater part of the East, to the confusion of Mahomet, the
Saracens, and the Mahometans, to the amazement of all the rest
of the world, and would have replanted Christianity in Asia when
it had fallen to the lowest depths?

Besides this house had ever been sought in alliance by all the
monarchies of Christendom and by the great families, such as
those of France, England, Scotland, Hungary, and Portugal, which
latter kingdom belonged to it of right, as I have heard President
de Thou say, and as the Queen herself did me the honor to tell
me at Bordeaux, when she heard of the death of King Sebastian.
The Medici were even allowed to argue the justice of their claims
at the last Assembly of States previous to the death of King

And it was for this reason that she armed M. de Strozzi for an
invasion of Portugal, where the King of Spain had usurped the
kingdom. She was prevented from carrying out her well-chosen
plans by reasons which I will explain at another time.

I will leave it to you, therefore, whether the house of Boulogne
was great: yea, so great it is that I once heard Pope Pius IV
say, while sitting at table at a dinner he gave after he had
made Ferrara and Guise cardinals, that the house of Boulogne
was so great and noble he knew none in France, no matter which,
that could surpass it in antiquity, valour, and grandeur.

All this is much against those malicious detractors, who have
said that this Queen was a Florentine of lowly birth, as one
can see the contrary to be the case.

Moreover, she was not so poor since she brought to France as
portion of her marriage estates which are valued to-day twenty-six
thousand livres, such as the Counties of Auvergne and Lauragais, the
seigneuries of Leverons, Donzenac, Boussac, Gorreges, Hondecourt,
and other lands--all inherited from her mother.

Her dowry included also more than two hundred thousand ducats,
which are worth to-day over four hundred thousand; as well as
great quantities of furniture, precious stones, jewels, including
the finest and the largest pearls ever seen in such quantities,
pearls that she afterwards gave to the Queen of Scotland [Mary
Stuart], her daughter-in-law, whom I have seen wearing them.
Besides all this, many manors, houses, deeds, and claims which
she possessed in Italy.

But, more than all else, her marriage caused a strengthening
in the fortunes of France, which had been so shaken by the
imprisonment of the King and by his losses at Milan and Naples.

King Francis, it is well known, knew that such a marriage greatly
helped his interests. Therefore there was given to this Queen, as
a device, a rainbow, which she bore as long as she was married,
with these words in Greek, _phos pherei aede galaenaen_, which is
the equivalent of saying that just as this fire and bow in the
heavens brings and signifies good weather, just so this Queen was
a true sign of clearness, of serenity and of the tranquillity of
peace. The Greek is thus translated: _Lucem fert et serenitatem_--she
brings light and serenity.

After that the Emperor [Charles V] no longer dared to push forward
his ambitious motto: "Ever farther." For, notwithstanding the
truce which existed between himself and King Francis, he was
nursing his ambition with the plan of gaining always from France
whatever he could; and he was much surprised at this alliance with
the Pope [Clement VII], yet recognising the latter as an able,
a courageous man, but vindictive on account of his imprisonment
by the imperial troops at the sack of Rome.

Such a marriage was displeasing to him so much that I have heard
a truthful lady of the Court say that if he had not been married
to the Empress, he would have made an alliance with the Pope
himself, and espoused his niece [Catherine de Medici], as much
for the help of so strong a party as because he feared the Pope
would help in losing for him Naples, Milan and Genoa; for the
Pope had promised King Francis, in an authentic document, when
he had delivered the money of his niece's dowry and her rings and
jewels, that he would make the dowry worthy of such a marriage
by adding to it three pearls of inestimable value, the excessive
splendour of which caused envy and covetousness among the greatest
of kings, meaning the three cities of Naples, Milan and Genoa.
And it cannot be doubted that if the Pope had lived the natural
span of his life he would have sold out the Emperor too, and
made him pay well for that imprisonment, in order to enrich his
niece and the kingdom to which she was joined. But Clement VII
died too soon and all these expected gains could not withstand
this blow. So that our Queen, having lost her mother, Magdelaine
de Boulogne, and Lorenzo de Medici, Duke of Urbino, her father,
in her early life, was given in marriage to France by her uncle,
Pope Clement VII, and was brought by sea in great triumph to
Marseilles, where at the age of fourteen she was wedded with great

She made herself so beloved by the King, her father-in-law, and
by King Henry, her husband, that after ten years had passed and
still no heir being born to her, and though many persons endeavoured
to persuade the King and the Dauphin, her husband, to divorce
her, neither one would consent, so greatly did they love her.
But after ten years, in accordance with the nature of the women
of the Medici family, who were ever slow in conceiving, she began
to furnish heirs, the first being King Francis II.

After him was born the Queen of Spain, and then consecutively,
that fine and illustrious progeny whom we have all seen, besides
others who were no sooner born than they died, by great misfortune
and fatality. For this reason the King, her husband, loved her
more and more, and in such manner that he, who was naturally
of an amorous temperament, and who greatly liked to make love
and to vary his loves, often said that of all the women in the
world there was none who excelled his wife for love-making, nor
did any equal her.

He had good cause for saying this, for she truly was a princess
beautiful as well as lovable. She was of fine and stately presence;
of great majesty, at the same time gentle when occasion required
it; of noble appearance and good grace, her face handsome and
agreeable, her bosom full, beautiful, and exquisitely fair, her
body also very fair, the flesh firm, the skin smooth, as I have
heard from several ladies-in-waiting; of a good plumpness as
well, the leg and thigh well formed (as I have heard too from
the same ladies).

She also took great pride in being well shod and in having her
stockings tightly drawn up without wrinkles. Besides all this
she possessed the most beautiful hand that was ever seen, as I
believe. The poets once praised Aurora for her fine hands and
tapering fingers; but I think our Queen would surpass her in
that; and she carefully guarded and maintained this beauty to
her dying day.

King Henry III, her son, inherited much of this beauty of the

Moreover she always dressed herself well and superbly, often
with some new and pretty conceit. In short, she had many charms
in herself to make her well loved. I remember that at Lyons one
day she went to see a painter named Corneille who had painted
and exhibited in a spacious room portraits of all the great
seigneurs, princes, cavaliers, queens, princesses, ladies and
maids of honour of the Court, and she being in this room with us
we all saw there her portrait painted true to life, showing her
in all her beauty and perfection, apparelled as a Frenchwoman with
a cap, showing her great pearls, and a gown whose wide sleeves of
silver tissue were trimmed with lynx--the whole picture, which
also showed the portraits of her three daughters, was so perfect
that speech alone seemed lacking.

The Queen took great pleasure in seeing the portrait, and the
assembled company did likewise, and praised and admired her beauty
above all.

She herself was so ravished at the sight of the portrait that
she could not take her gaze from it, until M. de Nemours came to
her and said, "Madame, I think you are so well portrayed there
that there remains nothing more to be said, and it seems to me,
too, that your daughters do you great honour, for they do not
excel you, nor surpass you."

To this the Queen replied, "My cousin, I think you can remember
the period, the age, and the dress represented in this portrait,
so that you can judge better than anyone present, you who have
seen me dressed as I am represented in this portrait, and can
say whether I was esteemed as much as they say, and whether I
ever looked as I am portrayed there."

There was not one in the whole company who did not lavish praise
and estimate her beauty highly, and who did not say that the mother
was worthy of the daughters and the daughters of the mother. And
this beauty remained her portion through life, while married and
while widowed, until her death; not that she had the freshness
of her more blooming and younger years, but still she remained
well preserved, always agreeable, always desirable.

Besides she was very good company, always of a good humour; loving
any becoming exercise, such as dancing, in which she exhibited
great grace and dignity.

She also greatly loved hunting; about which I heard a lady of the
Court tell this tale: King Francis having chosen and gathered a
few of his Court whom he called "the little band of Court ladies,"
which included the handsomest, daintiest and most favoured, often
escaped from the Court and went to other estates to hunt deer
and while away the time, sometimes staying thus in retreat eight
days, ten days, sometimes more, sometimes less, just as the humour
took him.

Our Queen (who was then simply Madame la Dauphine) seeing that
such parties were made up without her, and that even Mesdames her
sisters-in-law were included while she was left at home, begged
the King to always take her with him, and to further honour her
by never allowing her to go about without being accompanied by

It's said that she, who was always shrewd and clever, did this
as much or more to watch the King's movements and to learn his
secrets and to be able to hear and know all that went on, as
she did it from pure liking for the chase.

King Francis was so pleased with this request, showing, as it
seemed, the love she had for his company, that he heartily granted
her request. He loved her more now than ever before and showed
delight in giving her the pleasures of the hunt, which she followed,
riding at full speed and ever by his side.

She was a good and fearless horseback rider, sitting her horse
with easy grace, and was the first to ride with the leg around
the pommel, which was more graceful and becoming than the former
mode of sitting with feet upon a board. She loved to ride horseback
even up to the time she was sixty years old and over, and when
her growing feebleness prevented her riding she pined for it. It
was one of her greatest pleasures to ride far and fast, though
she had many falls, even breaking her leg and bruising her head
so severely that it had to be trepanned. After she became a widow
and had charge of the King and the kingdom, she accompanied the
King everywhere and took all her children with her; and when the
King, her husband, was still living she generally accompanied
him to the stag and other hunts. If he played pall-mall she often
watched him, and sometimes played herself. She was also fond of
shooting baked clay balls with a cross-bow, and she shot well
too; so that she always took with her her cross-bow when riding,
in order if any game was seen she could shoot it. When she was
kept indoors by bad weather she was forever devising some new
dance or beautiful ballet. She invented games as well and passed
her time by these devices, being quite unreserved, but knowing
how to be grave and austere when occasion demanded it.

She was fond of seeing comedies and tragedies enacted, but after
"Sophonisbe," a tragedy written by M. de Saint-Gelais, was well
presented at Blois by her daughters, maids-of-honor and other
ladies as well as gentlemen of her Court during the celebration
attendant on the marriages of M. du Cypiere and the Marquis
d'Elboeuf, she took the notion that tragedies were unlucky for
state affairs and so would not let them be played again. But she
still listened readily enough to comedies and tragi-comedies,
even such as "Zani" and "Pantaloon" and took great pleasure in
them, laughing as heartily as anyone, for she liked laughter,
being naturally of a happy disposition, loving a witty word and
being ever ready with a witty rejoinder, knowing well when to
cast a jest or a stone, and when to withhold it.

In the afternoons she passed her time at work on her silk
embroideries, in which she was as perfect as possible.

In short the Queen liked and practiced all healthy exercises,
and there was not one that was worthy of herself or her sex that
the Queen did not wish to essay and practice.

This is a brief description, avoiding prolixity, of the beauty
of her person and of her various exercises.

When she called anyone "my friend" it was because she either
thought him a fool or was angry with him. This was so well known
that once when she had thus addressed one of her attendant gentlemen,
named M. de Bois-Fevrier, he made reply, "Alas, Madame, I would
rather have you call me 'enemy,' for to call me your friend is
the equivalent of saying either I am a fool or that you are angry
with me, for I have long known your nature."

As for her mind, it was great and admirable, as is shown by so
many fine and striking acts, by which her life has been made
illustrious forever.

The King, her husband, as well as his Council of State esteemed
her so highly that when the King left the kingdom on his journey
to Germany, he established and placed her as Regent and Governor
throughout his dominions during his absence by royal declaration
solemnly made before the Houses of Parliament in Paris. This
trust she exercised so wisely that there was no disturbance,
change, nor alteration in the State because of the King's absence;
but, on the contrary, the Queen so carefully saw to affairs that
she was able to assist the King with money, means, and men, and
other kinds of aid; which greatly aided him in his return and for
the conquest which he made of cities in the duchy of Luxembourg,
such as Yvoy, Montmedy, Dampvilliers, Chimay and others.

I leave it to you what must be thought of him who wrote that
fine life when he slanders her by saying that never did the King,
her husband, allow her to put her nose into matters of state.

Was not this making her Regent in his absence giving her ample
opportunities to have full knowledge of them? And she did this
during all the trips he made yearly in going to his armies.

What did she do after the battle of Saint-Laurens, when the state
was so shaken and the King had hastened to Compiegne to raise
a new army?

She became so wrapped up in state affairs that she so aroused
and stirred up the gentlemen of Paris that they gave prompt aid
to their King, which came at a good time, and included money
and other things very necessary in war.

Furthermore, when the King, her husband, was wounded, persons
who were there and saw it cannot be uninformed of the great care
she took for his cure, and the vigils she kept by his bedside; the
prayers she offered continuously; the processions and visitations
she made to the churches; and the hurried journeys she made in
all directions for doctors and surgeons. But the King's hour
had come; and when he passed from this world to the next, her
grief was so great and she shed so many tears that it would seem
she never could control them, and ever after, whenever his name
was spoken the tears welled up from the depths of her eyes. For
this reason she assumed a device in keeping and suitable to her
tears and mourning, namely, a mound of quicklime over which the
drops from heaven fall abundantly, with these words in Latin as
a motto: _Adorem extincta testantur vivere flamma_ (Although
the flame is extinguished, this testifies that the fire still
lives). The drops of water, like her tears, show ardour, though
the flame has been extinguished. This device is allegorical of
the nature of quicklime, which when watered burns strangely and
shows its fire though the flame is wanting. Thus did our Queen
show her zeal and affection by her tears, though the flame, which
typified her husband, was now extinct. And this was the same as
saying that, although he was dead, she wished to show by her
tears that she could never forget him, but would love him always.

A similar device was formerly borne by Madame Valentine de Milan,
Duchess d'Orleans, after the death of her husband, who was killed
in Paris, for whom she grieved so much, that as a solace and
comfort in her mourning, she assumed as device a watering pot,
above which was an S, meaning, it is said, _Seule, souvenir,
soucis, soupirer_ (Lonely, remembrance, solicitude, sighing).
And around the watering-pot were inscribed these words, _Rien
ne m'est plus; plus ne m'est rien_ (Nought is more to me; more
is to me nothing). This device is still to be seen in her chapel
in the Church of the Franciscans at Blois.

Good King Rene of Sicily having lost his wife Isabel, Duchess
de Lorraine, suffered such great grief that he never was happy
afterwards; and when his intimate friends and favourites tried
to console him he was wont to lead them to his bedroom and there
show them a picture, painted by himself (for he was an excellent
painter), depicting a Turkish bow unstrung, beneath, which was
written, _Arco per lentare piaga non sana_ (The bow although
unstrung heals not the wounds).

Then King Rene would thus address them: "My friends, with this
picture I answer all your arguments. By unstringing a bow, or
by breaking the string, the harm done by the arrow can quickly
be prevented, but the life of my dear spouse being broken and
extinguished by death, the wound to the loyal love that ever
filled my heart for her while she lived cannot be cured." In
various places in Angers these Turkish bows with broken strings
can be seen, with these words inscribed beneath, _Arco per lentare
piaga non sana_ (The loosened bow does not heal the wound). The same
is seen on the Franciscan church, in the Chapel of Saint-Bernardin,
which he decorated. He assumed this device after the death of
his Queen, although during her lifetime he had used another one.

Our Queen, around her device, which I have described, placed many
trophies, such as cracked mirrors, fans, rumpled plumes, pearls,
broken quivers, precious stones and jewels scattered about, bits
of broken chains, the whole to signify the abandoning of all
worldly pomp, since, now that her husband was dead, her mourning
for him was never to cease, and without the grace of God and the
courage which He had given her, she would have succumbed to her
great grief and distress. But she saw that her young children, as
well as France, needed her aid, as we ourselves have seen since
by experience; for, like a Semiramis, or a second Athalie, she
foiled, saved, guarded and preserved these same young children
from many enterprises planned against them during their early
years; and accomplished this with so much prudence and industry
that all thought her wonderful.

She was Regent of this kingdom after the death of King Francis,
her son, and during the minority of our kings by the ordinance
of the Estates of Orleans, and this, which well might have been
given to the King of Navarre, who as premier prince of the blood
wished to be Regent in her place, and to be Governor over all.
But she won over so easily and dexterously the said Estates that
if the King of Navarre had not gone elsewhere, she would have
had him attainted of the crime of _lese-majeste_.

And it is possible that but for Madame de Montpensier, who had
great influence over her, she would still have done so on account
of the intrigue against the Estates into which he forced the
Prince de Conde.

So the aforementioned King was obliged to content himself to
serve under her, and this was one of the shrewd and subtle moves
she made in the beginning of her management of affairs. Afterwards
she knew how to maintain her rank and authority so imperiously
that no one dared deny it, no matter how grand or how strenuous
he might be, as was shown after a period of three months when,
during a stay of the Court at Fontainebleau, this same King of
Navarre, wishing to show the resentment still in his heart, took
offence because M. de Guise had the keys of the King's palace
brought to him each night, and kept them all night in his room
exactly like a grand master of the household (for that was one
of his appointments), so that no one could go out without his

This angered greatly the King of Navarre, who himself wished
to keep the keys. On being refused the keys, he grew spiteful
and rebellious to such an extent that one morning he suddenly
came to the King and Queen and announced his intention of taking
leave of the Court, and of taking with him all the princes of
the blood, whom he had won over, including M. le Connetable de
Montmorency, his children and nephew.

The Queen, who did not expect this move, was astounded at first,
and did all in her power to avert the blow, giving assurances
to the King of Navarre that if he would but be patient he would
some day be satisfied with affairs.

But fair words gained her nothing with the King, who was determined
to leave.

It was then that our Queen decided on this shrewd plan: She sent
orders to M. le Connetable, as principal, first and oldest officer
of the crown, to remain near the person of the King, his master,
as then his office demanded, and not to take his departure.

M. le Connetable, being a wise and judicious man, and being zealous
for his master's interests as well as alert to his grandeur and
honour, after reflecting on his duty and the orders sent him,
went to the King and announced himself ready to fulfil his office.

This greatly astonished the King of Navarre, who was on the point
of mounting his horse, waiting only the arrival of M. le Connetable
to depart.

M. le Connetable when he came explained his duty and the
responsibility of his office and endeavoured to persuade the
King of Navarre himself not to budge or take his departure. This
he did so well that the King of Navarre at his urging went to see
the King and Queen, and after conferring with their majesties he
gave up his journey and countermanded his orders for his mules,
they having by that time arrived at Melun.

So peace once more reigned, to the great joy of the King of Navarre.

Not that M. de Guise diminished any of his claims pertaining to
his office, or yielded one atom of his honour, for he retained
his pre-eminence and all that belonged to him, without being
shaken in the least, although he was not the stronger; but in
such affairs he was a man of the world and was never bewildered,
but knew well how to face things courageously and to keep to
his rank, and to hold what he had.

It cannot be doubted, as all the world knows, but that, if the
Queen had not bethought herself of this scheme regarding M. le
Connetable, all that party would have gone to Paris and stirred
up trouble for us, for which reason great credit should be given
the Queen for her makeshift.

I know, for I was there, that many said that the plan was not
of her invention, but rather that of Cardinal de Tournon, a wise
and judicious prelate; but this is false, for, old hand as he was
for prudence and counsel, my faith, the Queen knew more tricks
than he, or all the Council of the King put together.

For often, when he was at fault, she would help him and put him
on the track of what he ought to know, of which I might give
many examples; but it will be enough to cite this one instance,
which is recent, and about which the Queen herself did me the
honour to disclose.

It is as follows:

When she went to Guyenne, and, later, to Coignac to reconcile the
princes of the Religion and those of the League, and so give peace
to the kingdom again--for she saw that it would soon be ruined
by this division--she determined to declare a truce in order to
formulate this peace; because of which the King of Navarre and
the Prince de Conde became very discontented and mutinous--for
the reason, they said, that this proclamation did them great
harm because of their foreign troops, who, having heard of it,
might repent of their coming, or might delay in coming, thinking
that the Queen had made it with that very intention.

And they declared and resolved not to see the Queen nor to treat
with her until the said truce was revoked.

Her Council, whom she had with her, though composed of able men,
she found to be without much sense and weak, because they could
find no means by which this truce could be rescinded.

The Queen then said to them, "Truly, you are very stupid as to
finding a remedy. Don't you know any better? There is only one
solution to this. You have at Maillezais the Huguenot regiment
of Neufvy and of Sorlu. Send for me from here, from Niort, all
the arquebusiers you can muster and cut the regiment to pieces
and so you will have the truce broken and rescinded without any
further trouble."

And as soon as she commanded it, it was done, the arquebusiers
started, led by Captain l'Estelle, and forced their fort and
barricades so well that the Huguenot regiment was defeated, Sorlu
killed, who was a valiant man, Neufvy taken prisoner and many
others killed. Their flags were all captured and brought to the
Queen at Niort. She showed her accustomed clemency by pardoning
all, and sent them away with their ensigns and flags, which,
as regards flags, is a very rare thing.

But she wished to make this concession, she told me, on account
of its very rarity, so that the princes would now know that they
had to deal with a very able princess, and that they should not
apply to her such mockery as to make her revoke a truce by the
very heralds who had proclaimed it. For while they were planning
to give her this insult, she had fallen upon them, and now sent
word to them by the prisoners that it was not for them to affront
her by demanding of her unseemly and unreasonable things, since
it remained in her power to do them good or evil.

In this manner this Queen knew how to give and drill in a lesson
to her Council. I might tell of other instances, but I have other
points to treat upon, the first of which will be to answer those
whom I have often heard accuse her of being the first to fly
to arms, thus being the cause of our civil wars.

Whoever will look to the source of the thing will not believe
it; for, the triumvirate being created, with the King of Navarre
at its head, she, seeing the plots that were being concocted,
and knowing the change of faith made by the King of Navarre--who
from being Huguenot and very strict, had turned Catholic--and
knowing by this change she had cause to fear for the King, for
the kingdom, and for herself, and that he might move against
them, she reflected and wondered to what tended such plots, such
numerous meetings, colloquies and secret audiences; and, not being
able to fathom the mystery, it is said that one day she bethought
herself to go to the room above which the secret session was
being held, and there, by means of a tube which she had caused
to be surreptitiously inserted under the tapestry, she listened
unperceived to all their plans.

Among other things she heard one that was very terrible and bitter
for her, and that was when Marechal de Saint-Andre, one of the
triumvirate, proposed that the Queen be taken, put in a sack and
flung into the river, since otherwise they would never succeed
in their plans.

But the late M. de Guise, who was always fair and generous, said
that such a thing must not be, for it was going too far, and
was too unjust to thus cruelly slay the wife and mother of our
kings, and that he was utterly opposed to the plan.

For this the said Queen has always loved him, and proved it by
her treatment of his children, after his death, by giving them
his entire possessions.

I leave to your imagination what such a sentence meant to the
Queen, hearing it as she did with her own ears, and also whether
she did not have cause for fear, notwithstanding her defence
by M. de Guise.

From what I have heard told by one of the Queen's intimates,
the Queen feared, as indeed she had cause to, that they would
strike the blow without the knowledge of M. de Guise. For, in
a deed so detestable, an upright man is to be distrusted, and
should never be informed of the act. She was thus compelled to
look out for her own safety, and to employ for it those who were
already under arms (the Prince de Conde and the leaders of the
Protestant party), imploring them to have pity for a mother and
her children.

Such as it was, this was the sole cause of the Civil War.

For this reason she would never go, with the others, to Orleans,
nor allow them to have the King and her children, as she could
have done; and she felt glad, and with reason, that amongst the
uproar and rumour of strife, she and the King, her son, and her
other children were in safety.

Moreover she begged and obtained the promise from others, that
when she should summon them to lay down their arms that they
would do so, but this they would not do when the time came,
notwithstanding the appeals she made to them, and the trouble
she took, and the great heat she endured at Talsy, trying to

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