Part 14 out of 62
notes into the fire. It was his offices which he wanted, and not these
sums, with which he could do nothing.
The King received him with an easy, kind air; he, always a flatterer
with his lips, cast himself ten times on his knees before the prince,
and gained nothing by all these demonstrations. He went to rejoin
Mademoiselle on the following day at Choisy, and dared to scold her for
having constructed and even bought this pretty pleasure-house.
"This must have cost treasures," said he. "Had you not parks and
chateaus enough? It would have been better to keep all these sums and
give them to me now."
After this exordium, he set himself to criticise the coiffure of the
Queen, on account of the coloured knots that he had remarked in it.
"But you mean, then, to satirise me personally," said the Princess to
him, "since you see my hair dressed in the same fashion, and I am older
than my cousin!
"What became of you on leaving the King?" she asked him. "I waited for
you till two hours after midnight."
"I went," said he, "to visit M. de Louvois, who is not my friend, and who
requires humouring; then to visit M. Colbert, who favours me."
"You ought to have seen Madame de Maintenon, I gave you that advice before
leaving you," she said; "it is to her, above all, that you owe your
"But your Madame de Maintenon," he resumed, "is she, too, one of the
powers? Ah, my God! what a new geography since I left these regions ten
To avoid tete-a-tete, M. de Lauzun was always in a surly humour; he put
his left arm into a sling; he never ceased talking of his rheumatism and
Mademoiselle learned, now from one person, now from another, that he was
dining to-day with one fair lady, to-morrow with another, and the next
day with a third. She finally understood that she was despised and
tricked; she showed one last generosity (out of pride) towards her former
friend,--solicited for him the title of Duke, and begged him, for the
future, to arrange his life to please himself, and to let her alone.
The Marquis de Lauzun took her at her word, and never forgave her for the
cession of the principalities of Dombes and Eu to M. le Duc du Maine; he
wanted them for himself.
Progress of Madame de Maintenon.--The Anonymous Letter.
Since the birth of Mademoiselle de Blois, and the death of Mademoiselle
de Fontanges, the King hardly ever saw me except a few minutes
ceremoniously,--a few minutes before and after supper. He showed himself
always assiduous with Madame de Maintenon, who, by her animated and
unflagging talk, had the very profitable secret of keeping him amused.
Although equally clever, I venture to flatter myself, in the art of
manipulating speech, I could not stoop to such condescensions. You
cannot easily divert when you have a heart and are sincere--a man who
deserts you, who does not even take the trouble to acknowledge it and
The Marquise sailed, then, on the open sea, with all sail set; whilst my
little barque did little more than tack about near the shore. One day I
received the following letter; it was in a pleasant and careful
handwriting, and orthography was observed with complete regularity, which
suggested that a man had been its writer, or its editor:
The person who writes these lines, Madame la Marquise, sees you but
rarely, but is none the less attached to you. The advice which he
is going to give you in writing he would have made it a duty to come
and give you himself; he has been deterred by the fear either of
appearing to you indiscreet, or of finding you too deeply engrossed
with occupations, or with visitors, as is so often the case, in your
These visitors, this former affluence of greedy and interested
hearts, you will soon see revealed and diminishing; probably your
eyes, which are so alert, have already remarked this diminution.
The monarch no longer loves you; coolness and inconstancy are
maladies of the human heart. In the midst of the most splendid
health, our King has for some time past experienced this malady.
In your place, I should not wait to see myself repudiated. By
whatever outward respect such an injunction be accompanied, the
bottom of the cup is always the same, and the honey at the edge is
but a weak palliative. Being no ordinary woman by birth, do not
terminate like an ordinary actress your splendid and magnificent
role on this great stage. Know how to leave before the audience is
weary; while they can say, when they miss you from the scene, "She
was still fine in her role. It is a pity!"
Since a new taste or new caprice of the monarch has led his
affections away, know how to endure a fantasy which you have not the
power to remove. Despatch yourself with a good grace; and let the
world believe that sober reflections have come to you, and that you
return, of your own free will, into the paths of independence, of
true glory, and of honour.
Your position of superintendent with the Queen has been from the
very first almost a sinecure. Give up to Madame de Maintenon, or to
any one else, a dignity which is of no use to you, for which you
will be paid now its full value; which, later, is likely to cause
you a sensible disappointment; for that is always sold at a loss
which must be sold at a given moment.
Nature, so prodigal to you, Madame la Marquise, has not yet
deflowered, nor recalled in the least degree, those graces and
attractions which were lavished on you. Retire with the honours of
Annoyance, vexation, irritation, do not make your veins flow with
milk and honey; you would lose upon the field of battle all those
treasures which it is in your power to save.
This communication, though anonymous, is none the less benevolent.
I desire your peace and your happiness.
Madame de Maintenon at Loggerheads with Madame de Thianges.--The Mint of
the D'Aubigne Family.--Creme de Negresse, the Elixir of Long Life.--
Ninon's Secret for Beauty.--The King Would Remain Young or Become So.--
Good-will of Madame de Maintenon.
This letter was not, in my eyes, a masterpiece, but neither was it from a
vulgar hand. For a moment I suspected Madame de Maintenon. She was
named in it, it is true, as though by the way, but her interest in it was
easy to discover, since the writer dared to try to induce me to sell her,
to give up to her, my superintendence. I communicated my suspicions to
the Marquise de Thianges. She said to me: "We must see her,--her face
expresses her emotions very clearly; she is not good at lying; we shall
easily extract her secret, and make her blush for her stratagem."
Ibrahim, faithful to his old friendship for me, had recently sent me
stuffs of Asia and essences of the seraglio, under the pretence of
politeness and as a remembrance. I wrote two lines to the Marquise,
engaging her to come and sacrifice half an hour to me to admire with me
these curiosities. Suspecting nothing, she came to my apartments, when
she accepted some perfumes, and found all these stuffs divine. My
sister, Madame de Thianges, said to her:
"Madame, I do not wish to be the last to congratulate you on that
boundless confidence and friendship that our Queen accords you.
Assuredly, no one deserves more than you this feeling of preference;
it appears that the princess is developing, and that, at last, she is
taking a liking for choice conversation and for wit."
"Madame," answered the lady in waiting, "her Majesty does not prefer me
to any one here. You are badly informed. She has the goodness to accord
to me a little confidence; and since she finds in me some facility in the
Spanish tongue, of which she wishes to remain the idolater all her life,
she loves to speak that tongue with me, catching me up when I go wrong
either in the pronunciation or the grammar, as she desires to be
corrected herself when she commits some offence against our French."
"You were born," added Madame de Thianges, "to work at the education of
kings. It is true that few governesses or tutors are as amiable. There
is a sound in your voice which goes straight to the heart; and what
others teach rudely or monotonously, you teach musically and almost
singing. Since the Queen loves your French and your Spanish, everything
has been said; you are indispensable to her. Things being so, I dare to
propose to you, Madame, a third occupation, which will suit you better
than anything else in the world, and which will complete the happiness of
"Here is Madame de Montespan, who is growing disgusted with grandeur,
after having recognised its emptiness, who is enthusiastically desiring
to go and enjoy her House of Saint Joseph, and wishes to get rid of her
superintendence forthwith, at any cost."
"What!" said Madame de Maintenon. Then to me, "You wish to sell your
office without having first assured yourself whether it be pleasing to
the King? It appears to me that you are not acting on this occasion with
the caution with which you are generally credited."
"What need has she of so many preliminary cautions," added the Marquise,
"if it is to you that she desires to sell it? Her choice guarantees the
consent of the princess; your name will make everything easy."
"I reason quite otherwise, Madame la Marquise," replied the former
governess of the princes; "the Queen may have her ideas. It is right and
fitting to find out first her intention and wishes."
"Madame, madame," said my sister then, "everything has been sufficiently
considered, and even approved of. You will be the purchaser; you desire
to buy, it is to you that one desires to sell."
Madame de Maintenon began to laugh, and besought the Marquise to believe
that she had neither the desire nor the money for that object.
"Money," answered my sister, "will cause you no trouble on this occasion.
Money has been coined in pour family."
[Constant d'Aubigne, father of Madame de Maintenon, in his wild
youth, was said to have taken refuge in a den of comers.--Ed. Note]
Madame de Maintenon, profoundly moved, said to the Marquise:
"I thought, madame, that I had come to see Madame de Montespan, to look
at her stuffs from the seraglio, and not to receive insults. All your
teasing affects me, because up to to-day I believed in your kindly
feeling. It has been made clear to me now that I must put up with this
loss; but, whatever be your injustice towards me, I will not depart from
my customs or from my element. The superintendence of the Queen's
Council is for sale, or it is not; either way, it is all the same to me.
I have never made any claim to this office, and I never shall."
These words, of which I perceived the sincerity, touched me. I made some
trifling excuses to the lady in waiting, and, tired of all these
insignificant mysteries, I went and took the anonymous letter from my
bureau and showed it to the governess.
She read it thoughtfully. After having read it, she assured me that this
script was a riddle to her.
Madame de Maintenon, on leaving us, made quite a deep courtesy to my
sister, which caused me pain, preserving an icy gravity and exaggerating
her salutation and her courtesy.
When we were alone, I confessed to the Marquise de Thianges that her
words had passed all bounds, and that she could have reached her end by
"I cannot endure that woman," she answered. "She knows that you have
made her, that without you she would be languishing still in her little
apartment in the Maree; and when for more than a year she sees you
neglected by the King and almost deserted, she abandons you to your
destiny, and does not condescend to offer you any consolation. I have
mortified her; I do not repent of it in the least, and every time that
I come across her I shall permit myself that gratification.
"What is she thinking of at her age; with her pretensions to a fine
figure, an ethereal carriage, and beauty? And yet it must be admitted
that her complexion is not made up. She has the sheen of the lily
mingled with that of the rose, and her eyes exhibit a smiling vivacity
which leaves our great coquettes of the day far behind!"
"She is nature unadorned as far as her complexion goes, believe me," said
I to my sister. "During my constant journeys she has always slept at my
side, and her face at waking has always been as at noon and all day long.
She related to us once at the Marechale d'Albret's, where I knew her,
that at Martinique--that distant country which was her cradle--an ancient
negress, well preserved and robust, had been kind enough to take her into
her dwelling. This woman led her one day into the woods. She stripped
of its bark some shrub, after having sought it a long time. She grated
this bark and mixed it with the juice of chosen herbs. She wrapped up
all this concoction in half a banana skin, and gave the specific to the
"This mess having no nasty taste, the little girl consented to return
fifteen or twenty times into the grove, where her negress carefully
composed and served up to her the same feast.
"'Why do you care to give me this green paste?' the young creole asked
her one day.
"The old woman said: 'My dear child, I cannot wait till you have enough
sense to learn to understand these plants, for I love you as if you were
my own daughter, and I want to leave you a secret which will cause you to
live a long time. Though I look as I do, I am 138 years old already. I
am the oldest person in the colony, and this paste that I make for you
has preserved my strength and my freshness. It will produce the same
effect on my dear little girl, and will keep her young and pretty too for
a long time.'
"This negress, unhappily, fell asleep one day under a wild pear-tree in
the Savannah, and a crocodile came out of the river hard by and devoured
"I have heard tell," replied my sister, "that Mademoiselle d'Aubigne,
after the death of her mother, or husband, was bound by the ties of a
close friendship with Ninon de l'Enclos, whose beauty made such a
sensation among the gallants, and still occupies them.
"One was assured, you know, that Ninon possesses a potion, and that in
her generosity to her friend, the fair Indian, she lent her her phial of
"No, no," said I to the Marquise, "that piece of gallantry of Ninon is
only a myth; it is the composition of Martinique, or of the negress,
which is the real recipe of Madame de Maintenon. She talked of it one
day, when I was present, in the King's carriage. His Majesty said to
her: 'I am astonished that, with your natural intelligence, you have not
kept in your mind the nature of this Indian shrub and herbs; with such a
secret you would be able to-day to make many happy, and there are some
kings, who, to grow young again, would give you half their empire.'
"'I am not a worshipper of riches,' said this mistress of talk; 'bad
kings might offer me all the treasures and crowns they liked, and I would
not make them young again.'
"'And me, madame,' said the prince, 'would you consent to make me young
"'You will not need it for a long time,' she replied, cleverly, with a
smile; 'but when the moment comes, or is near, I should set about it with
"The whole carriage applauded this reply, and the King took the hand of
the Marquise and insisted on kissing it."
The Casket of M. de Lauzun.--His Historical Gallery.--He Makes Some Nuns.
--M. de Lauzun in the Lottery.--The Loser Wins.--Queen out of Pique.--
Letter from the Queen of Portugal.--The Ingratitude of M. de Lauzun.
Twice during the captivity of M. de Lauzun the Queen of Portugal had
charged her ambassador to carry to the King that young sovereign's
solicitations in favour of the disgraced gentleman. Each time the
negotiators had been answered with vague and ambiguous words; with those
promises which potentates are not chary of, even between themselves, and
which we poor mortals of the second rank call Court holy water. These
exertions of the Court of Lisbon were speedily discovered, and it then
became known how many women of high degree M. de Peguilain had the honour
of fluttering. The officer of D'Artagnan, who had the task of seizing
his papers when he was arrested to be taken to Pignerol, was obliged, in
the course of his duty, to open a rather large casket, where he found the
portraits of more than sixty women, of whom the greater number lived
almost in the odour of sanctity. There were descriptive or biographical
notes upon all these heroines, and correspondence to match. His Majesty
had cognisance of it, and forbade the publication of the names. But the
Marquis d'Artagnan and his subordinate officer committed some almost
inevitable indiscretions, and all these ladies found their names public
property. Several of them, who were either widows or young ladies,
retired into convents, not daring to show their faces in the light of
The Queen of Portugal, before this scandal, had passionately loved the
Marquis de Lauzun. She was then called Mademoiselle d'Aumale, and her
sister who was soon afterwards Duchess of Savoy was called at Paris
Mademoiselle de Nemours. These two princesses, after having exchanged
confidences and confessions, were astonished and grieved to find
themselves antagonists and rivals. Happily they had a saving wit, both
of them, and made a treaty of peace, by which it was recognised and
agreed that, since their patrimony was small, it should be neither
divided nor drawn upon, in order that it might make of M. de Lauzun, when
he came to marry, a rich man and a great lord. The two rivals, in the
excess of their love, stipulated that this indivisible inheritance should
be drawn for by lot, that the victorious number should have M. de Lauzun
thrown in, and that the losing number should go and bury herself in a
Mademoiselle d'Aumale--that is to say, the pretty blonde--won M. de
Lauzun; but he, being bizarre in his tastes, and who only had a fancy for
the brunette (the less charming of the two), went and besought the King
to refuse his consent.
Mademoiselle d'Aumale thought of dying of grief and pique, and, as a
consequence of her despair, listened to the proposals of the King of
Portugal, and consented to take a crown.
The disgrace and imprisonment of her old friend having reached her ear,
this princess gave him the honour of her tears, although she had two
husbands alive. Twice she had solicited his liberty, which was certainly
not granted in answer to her prayers.
When she learned of the release of the prisoner, she showed her joy
publicly at it, in the middle of her Court; wrote her congratulations
upon it to Mademoiselle, apparently to annoy her, and, a few days
afterwards, indited with her own hand the letter you are going to read,
addressed to the King, which was variously criticised.
TO HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF FRANCE.
BROTHER:--Kings owe one another no account of their motives of
action, especially when their authority falls heavily upon the
officers of their own palace, till then invested with their
confidence and overwhelmed with the tokens of their kindness. The
disgrace of the Marquis de Lauzun can only appear in my eyes an act
of justice, coming as it does from the justest of sovereigns. So I
confined myself in the past to soliciting for this lord--gifted with
all the talents, with bravery and merit--your Majesty's pity and
indulgence. He owed later the end of his suffering, not to my
instances, but to your magnanimity. I rejoice at the change in his
destiny, and I have charged my ambassador at your Court to express
my sincere participation in it. To-day, Sire, I beg you to accept
my thanks. M. de Lauzun, so they assure me, has not been restored
to his offices, and though still young, does not obtain employment
in his country, where men of feeling and of talent are innumerable.
Allow us, Sire, to summon this exceptional gentleman to my State,
where French officers win easily the kindly feelings of my nobles,
accustomed as they are to cherish all that is born in your
illustrious Empire. I will give M. de Lauzun a command worthy of
him, worthy of me,--a command that will enable him to render lasting
and essential services to my Crown and to yours. Do not refuse me
this favour, which does not at all impoverish your armies, and which
may be of use to a kingdom of which you are the protector and the
Accept, Sire, etc.
I did not see the answer which was vouchsafed to this singular letter;
the King did not judge me worthy to enjoy such confidence that he had
made no difficulty in granting to me formerly; but he confided in Madame
de Maintenon, and even charged her to obtain the opinion of Mademoiselle
touching this matter, and Mademoiselle, who never hid aught from me,
brought the details of it to my country-house.
This Princess, now enlightened as to the falseness of Monsieur de Lauzun,
entreated the King to give up this gentleman to the blond Queen, or to
give him a command himself.
The Marquis de Lauzun, having learnt the steps taken by the Queen of
Portugal, whom he had never been able to endure, grew violently angry,
and said in twenty houses that he had not come out of one prison to throw
himself into another.
These were all the thanks the Queen got for her efforts; and, like
Mademoiselle de Montpensier, she detested, with all her soul, the man
she had loved with all her heart.
The Marquis de Lauzun was one of the handsomest men in the world; but his
character spoiled everything.
The Nephews, the Nieces, the Cousins and the Brother of Madame de
Maintenon.--The King's Debut.--The Marshal's Silver Staff.
The family of Madame de Maintenon had not only neglected but despised her
when she was poor and living on her pension of two thousand francs.
Since my protection and favour had brought her into contact with the sun
that gives life to all things, and this radiant star had shed on-her his
own proper rays and light, all her relatives in the direct, oblique, and
collateral line had remembered her, and one saw no one but them in her
antechambers, in her chamber, and at Court.
Some of them were not examples of deportment and good breeding; they were
gentlemen who had spent all their lives in little castles in Angoumois
and Poitou, a kind of noble ploughmen, who had only their silver swords
to distinguish them from their vine-growers and herds. Others, to be
just, honoured the new position of the Marquise; and amongst those I must
place first the Marquis de Langallerie and the two sons of the Marquis de
Villette, his cousin, german. The Abbe d'Aubigne, whom she had
discovered obscurely hidden among the priests of Saint Sulpice, she had
herself presented to the King, who had discovered in him the air of an
apostle, and then to Pere de la Chaise, who had hastened to make him
Archbishop of Rouen, reserving for him 'in petto' the cardinal's hat, if
the favour of the lady in waiting was maintained.
Among her lady relatives who had come from the provinces at the rumour of
this favour, the Marquise distinguished and exhibited with satisfaction
the three Mademoiselles de Sainte Hermine, the daughters of a Villette,
if I am not mistaken, and pretty and graceful all three of them. She had
also brought to her Court, and more particularly attached to her person,
a very pretty child, only daughter of the Marquis de Villette, and
sister, consequently, of the Comte and of the Chevalier de Villette, whom
I have previously mentioned. This swarm of nephews, cousins, and nieces
garnished the armchairs and sofas of her chamber. They served as
comrades and playfellows to the legitimate princes and as pages of honour
to my daughter; and when the carriage of the Marquise came into the
country for her drives, the whole of this pretty colony formed a train
and court for her,--a proof of her credit.
The Marquise had a brother, her elder by four or five years, to whom she
was greatly attached, judging from what we heard her say, and to promote
whom we saw her work from the very first. This brother, who was called
Le Comte d'Aubigne, lacked neither charm nor grace. He even assumed,
when he wished, an excellent manner; but this cavalier, his own master
from his childhood, knew no other law but his own pleasures and desires.
He had made people talk about him in his earliest youth; he awoke the
same buzz of scandal now that he was fifty. Madame de Maintenon, hoping
to reform him, and wishing to constrain him to beget them an heir, made
him consent to the bonds of marriage. She had just discovered a very
pretty heiress of very good family, when he married secretly the daughter
of a mere 'procureur du roi'. The lady in waiting, being unable to undo
what had been done, submitted to this unequal alliance; and as her
sister-in-law, ennobled by her husband, was none the less a countess,
she, too, was presented.
The young person, aged fifteen at the most, was naturally very bashful.
When she found herself in this vast hall, between a double row of persons
of importance, whose fixed gaze never left her, she forgot all the bows,
all the elaborate courtesies,--in fine, all the difficult procedure of a
formal presentation, that her sister-in-law and dancing-masters had been
making her rehearse for twenty days past.
The child lost her head, and burst into tears. The King took compassion
on her, and despatched the Comtesse de Merinville to go and act as her
guide or mistress. Supported by this guardian angel, Madame d'Aubigne
gained heart; she went through her pausing, her interrupted courtesies,
to the end, and came in fairly good countenance to the King's chair, who
smiled encouragement upon her. While these things were taking place in
the gallery, Madame de Maintenon, in despair, her eyes full of tears, had
to make an effort not to weep. With that wit of which she is so proud,
she should have been the first to laugh at this piece of childishness,
which was not particularly new. The embarrassment, the torture in which
I saw her, filled me with a strong desire to laugh. It was noticed; it
was held a crime; and his Majesty himself was kind enough to scold me for
"I felt the same embarrassment," he said to us, "the first time Monsieur
le Cardinal desired to put me forward. It was a question of receiving an
ambassador, and of making a short reply to his ceremonial address. I
knew my reply by heart; it was not more than eight or ten lines at the
most. I was repeating it every minute while at play, for five or six
days. When it was necessary to perform in person before this throng, my
childish memory was confused. All my part was forgotten in my fear, and
I could only utter these words: 'Your address, Monsieur Ambassadeur,--
Monsieur l'Ambassadeur, your address.' My mother, the Queen, grew very
red, and was as confused as I was. But my godfather, the Cardinal,
finished this reply for me, which he had composed himself, and was
pleased to see me out of the difficulty."
This anecdote, evidently related to console the Marquise, filled her with
gratitude. They spoke of nothing else at Versailles for two days; after
which, Madame la Comtesse d'Aubigne became, in her turn, a woman of
experience, who judged the new debutantes severely, perhaps, every time
that the occasion arose.
The Comte d'Aubigne passed from an inferior government to a government of
some importance. He made himself beloved by endorsing a thousand
petitions destined for his sister, the monarch's friend; but his
immoderate expenditure caused him to contract debts that his sister would
only pay five or six times.
The Duc de Vivonne, my brother, laughed at him in society; he unceasingly
outraged by his clumsiness his sister's sense of discretion. One day, in
a gaming-house, seeing the table covered with gold, the Marshal exclaimed
at the door: "I will wager that D'Aubigne is here, and makes all this
display; it is a magnificence worthy of him."
"Yes, truly," said the brother of the favourite; "I have received my
silver staff, you see!" That was an uncouth impertinence, for assuredly
M. de Vivonne had not owed this dignity to my favour. The siege of
Candia, and a thousand other distinguished actions, in which he had
immortalised himself, called him to this exalted position, which I dare
to say he has even rendered illustrious.
The Comte d'Aubigne's saying was no less successful on that account, and
his sister, who did not approve at all of this scandalous scene, had the
good sense to condemn her most ridiculous gamester, and to make excuses
for him to my brother and me.
Political Intrigue in Hungary.--Dignity of the King of the Romans.--The
Good Appearance of a German Prince.--The Turks at Vienna.--The Duc de
Lorraine.--The King of Rome.
Whatever the conduct of the King may have been towards me, I do not write
out of resentment or to avenge myself. But in the midst of the peace
which the leisure that he has given me leaves me, I feel some
satisfaction in inditing the memoirs of my life, which was attached to
his so closely, and wish to relate with sincerity the things I have seen.
What would be the use of memoirs from which sincerity were absent? Whom
could they inspire with a desire of reading them?
The King was born profoundly ambitious. All the actions of his public
life bore witness to it. It would be useless for him to rebut the
charge; all his aims, all his political work, all his sieges, all his
battles, all his bloody exploits prove it. He had robbed the Emperor of
an immense quantity of towns and territories in succession. The
greatness of the House of Austria irritated him. He had begun by
weakening it in order to dominate it; and, in bringing it under his sway,
he hoped to draw to himself the respect and submission of the Germanic
Electoral body, and cause the Imperial Crown to pass to his house, as
soon as the occasion should present itself.
We had often heard him say: "Monseigneur has all the good appearance of a
German prince." This singular compliment, this praise, was not without
motive. The King wished that this opinion and this portrait should go
straight into Germany, and create there a kind of naturalisation and
adoption for his son.
He had resolved to have him elected and proclaimed King of the Romans,
a dignity which opens, as one knows, the road to the imperial greatness.
To attain this result, his Majesty, seconded perfectly by his minister,
Louvois, employed the following means.
By his order M. de Louvois sent the Comte de Nointel to Vienna, at the
moment when that Power was working to extend the twenty years' truce
concluded by Hungary with the Sultan. The French envoy promised secretly
his adhesion to the Turks; and the latter, delighted at the intervention
of the French, became so overbearing towards the Imperial Crown that that
Power was reduced to refusing too severe conditions.
Sustained by the insinuations and the promises of France, the Sultan
demanded that Hungary should be left in the state in which it was in
1655; that henceforward that kingdom should pay him an annual tribute of
fifty thousand florins; that the fortifications of Leopoldstadt and Gratz
should be destroyed; that the chief of the revolted towns--Nitria, Eckof,
the Island of Schutt, and the fort of Murann, at Tekelai--should be
ceded; that there should be a general amnesty and restitution of their
estates, dignities, offices, and privileges without restriction.
By this the infidels would have found themselves masters of the whole of
Hungary, and would have been able to come to the very gates of Vienna,
without fear of military commanders or of the Emperor. It was obvious
that they were only seeking a pretext for a quarrel, and that at the
suggestion of France, which was quite disposed to profit by the occasion.
The Sultan knew very little of our King. The latter had his army ready;
his plan was to enter, or rather to fall upon, the imperial territories,
when the consternation and the danger in them should be at their height;
and then he counted on turning to his advantage the good-will of the
German princes, who, to be extricated from their difficulty, would not
fail to offer to himself, as liberator, the Imperial Crown, or, at least,
the dignity of King of the Romans and Vicar of the Empire to his son,
Monseigneur le Dauphin.
In effect, hostilities had hardly commenced on the part of the Turks,
hardly had their first successes, struck terror into the heart of the
German Empire, when the King, the real political author of these
disasters, proposed to the German Emperor to intervene suddenly, as
auxiliary, and even to restore Lorraine to him, and his new conquests,
on condition that the dignity of the King of the Romans should be
bestowed on his son. France, this election once proclaimed, engaged
herself to bring an army of 60,000 men, nominally of the King of the
Romans, into Hungary, to drive out utterly the common enemy. German
officers would be admitted, like French, into this Roman army; and more,
the King of France and the new King of the Romans engaged themselves to
set back the imperial frontiers on that side as far as Belgrade, or
Weissembourg in Greece. A powerful fleet was to appear in the
Mediterranean to support these operations; and the King, wishing to crown
his generosity, offered to renounce forever the ancient possessions, and
all the rights of Charlemagne, his acknowledged forefather or ancestor.
Whilst these dreams of ambition were being seriously presented to the
unhappy Imperial Court of Vienna, the Turks, to the number of 300,000
men, had swept across Hungary like a torrent. They arrived before the
capital of the Empire of Germany just at the moment when the Court had
left it. They immediately invested this panic-stricken town, and the
inhabitants of Vienna believed themselves lost. But the young Duc de
Lorraine, our King's implacable enemy, had left the capital in the best
condition and pitched outside Vienna, in a position from which he could
severely harass the besieging Turks.
He tormented them, he raided them, while he waited for the saving
reinforcements which were to be brought up by the King of Poland, and the
natural allies of the Empire. This succour arrived at last, and after
four or five combats, well directed and most bloody, they threw the
Ottomans into disorder. The Duc de Lorraine immortalised himself during
this brilliant campaign, which he finished by annihilating the Turks near
France had remained in a state of inaction in the midst of all these
great events. I saw the discomfiture of our ministers and the King when
the success of the Imperialists reached them. But the time had passed
when my affections and those of my master were akin. Free from
henceforth to follow the impulses of my conscience and of my sense of
justice, I rejoiced sincerely at the great qualities of the poor Duc de
Lorraine, and at the humiliation of the cruel Turks, who had been so
The elective princes of the Germanic Empire once more rallied round their
august head, and disavowed almost all their secret communications with
the Cabinet of Versailles. The Emperor, having escaped from these great
perils, addressed some noble and touching complaints to our monarch; and
Monseigneur was not elected King of the Romans,--a disappointment which
he hardly noticed, and by which he was very little disturbed.
The Prince of Orange.--The Orange Coach.--The Bowls of Oranges.--The
Orange Blossoms.--The Town of Orange.--Jesuits of Orange.--Revocation of
the Edict of Nantes.
The King, by the last peace, signed at Nimegue, had engaged to restore
the Principality of Orange to William, Stadtholder and Generalissimo of
the Dutch. This article was one of those which he had found most
repugnant to him, for nothing can be compared with the profound aversion
which the mere name inspired in the monarch. He pushed this hatred so
far that, having one day noticed from the heights of his balcony a superb
new equipage, of which the body was painted with orange-coloured varnish,
he sent and asked the name of the owner; and, on their reporting to him
that this coach belonged to a provincial intendant, a relative of the
Chancellor, his Majesty said, the same evening, to the magistrate-
minister: "Your relative ought to show more discretion in the choice of
the colours he displays."
This coach appeared no more, and the silk and cloth mercers had their
Another day, at the high table, the King, seeing four bowls of big
oranges brought in, said aloud before the public: "Take away that fruit,
which has nothing in its favour but its look. There is nothing more
dangerous or unhealthy."
On the morrow these words spread through the capital, and the courtiers
dared eat oranges only privately and in secret.
As for me, with my love for the scent of orange blossoms, the monarch's
petulance once more affected me extremely. I was obliged for some time
to give it up, like the others, and take to amber, the favourite scent of
my master, which my nerves could not endure.
Before surrendering the town of Orange to the commissioners of the
kinglet of the Dutch, the King of France had the walls thrown down, all
the fortifications razed, and the public buildings, certain convents, and
the library of the town stripped of their works of art. These measures
irritated Prince William, who, on that account alone, wished to
recommence the war; but the Emperor and the allies heard his complaints
with little attention. They even besought him to leave things as they
were. M. d'Orange is a real firebrand; he could not endure the
severities of the King without reprisals, and no sooner was he once more
in possession of his little isolated sovereignty than he annoyed the
Catholics in it, caused all possible alarms to the sisters of mercy and
nuns, imposed enormous taxes on the monks, and drove out the Jesuits with
The King received hospitably all these humiliated or persecuted folk;
and as he was given to understand that the Orange Protestants were
secretly sowing discontent amongst his Calvinists and French Lutherans,
he prepared the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the famous political
measure the abrogation of which took place a short time afterwards.
I saw, in the hands of the King, a document of sixty pages, printed at
Orange, after its restitution, in which it was clearly specified that
Hugh Capet had set himself on the throne irregularly, and in which the
author went to the point of saying that the Catholic religion was only an
idolatry, and that the peoples would only be happy and free after the
general introduction of the Reformation. The Marechal de Vivonne came
and told me, in strict confidence, that the Jesuits, out of resentment,
had forged this document, and printed the pamphlet themselves; but M. de
Louvois, who, through his father, the Chancellor, and his brother, the
Archbishop of Rheims, was associated with them, maintained that the
incendiary libel was really the work of the Protestants.
My residence at the Court having opened my eyes sufficiently to the
wickedness of men, I will not give my opinion, amid these angry charges
and recriminations. I confine myself to relating what I have seen.
Sickness.--Death of the Queen.--Her Last Words.--The King's Affliction.--
His Saying.--Second Anonymous Letter.--Conversation with La Dauphine.--
Madame de Maintenon Intervenes.
While the Turks and the Imperialists were fighting in the plains of
Hungary, the King, followed by all his Court, had made his way towards
the frontiers of Alsace. He reviewed countless battalions, he made
promotions, and gave brilliant repasts and fetes.
The season was a little trying, and the Queen, though born in Spain, did
not accommodate herself to the June heat. As soon as business permitted
they took the road to the capital, and returned to Versailles with some
Scarcely had they arrived, when the Queen fell ill; it did not deserve
the name of sickness. It was only an indisposition, pure and simple,--
an abscess in the armpit; that was all. Fagon, the boldest and most
audacious of all who ever exercised the art of AEsculapius, decided that,
to lessen the running, it was necessary to draw the blood to another
quarter. In spite of the opinion of his colleagues, he ordered her to be
bled, and all her blood rushed to her heart. In a short time the
princess grew worse in an alarming fashion, and in a few moments we heard
that she was in her death-agony; in a few moments more we heard of her
The King wept bitterly at first, as we had seen him weep for Marie de
Mancini, Louise de la Valliere, Henrietta of England, and the Duchesse de
Fontanges,--dead of his excesses. He set out at once for the Chateau of
Saint Cloud, which belonged to his brother; and Monsieur, wishing to
leave the field clear for him, went away to the Palais Royal with his
disagreeable wife and their numerous children.
His Majesty returned two days afterwards to the Chateau of Versailles,
where he, his son, and all the family sprinkled holy water over the
deceased; and this little ceremony being finished, they regained in
silence the Chateau of Saint Cloud.
The aspect of that gloomy Salon of Peace, converted into a catafalque;
the sight of that small bier, on which a beautiful, good, and indulgent
wife was reposing; those silent images, so full of speech, awoke the just
remorse of the King. His tears began once more to flow abundantly, and
he was heard to say these words:
"Dear, kind friend, this is the first grief you have caused me in
The Infanta, as I have already related, had granted in these latter days
her entire confidence and affection to her daughter-in-law's lady in
waiting. Finding herself sick and in danger, she summoned Madame de
Maintenon; and understanding soon that those famous Court physicians did
not know how ill she was, and that she was drawing near her last hour,
she begged this woman, so ready in all things, to leave her no more, and
to be good enough to prepare her for death.
The Marquise wept bitterly, and perhaps even sincerely; for being unable
to foresee, at that period, all that was to befall her in the issue, she
probably entertained the hope of attaching herself for good to this
excellent princess. In losing her, she foresaw, or feared, if not
adversity, at least a decline.
The King was courting her, it is true, and favouring her already with
marked respect; but Francoise d'Aubigne,--thoughtful and meditative as I
knew her to be, could certainly not have failed to appreciate the
voluptuous and inconstant character of the monarch. She had seen several
notorious friendships collapse in succession; and it is not at the age of
forty-six or forty-seven that one can build castles in Spain to dwell in
with young love.
The Queen, before the beginning of her death agony, herself drew a
splendid ring from her finger, and would pass it over the finger of the
Marquise, to whom, some months before, she had already given her
portrait. It was asserted that her last words were these: "Adieu, my
dearest Marquise; to you I recommend and confide the King."
In accordance with a recommendation so binding and so precise, Madame de
Maintenon followed the monarch to Saint Cloud; and as great afflictions
are fain to be understood and shared, these two desolate hearts shut
themselves up in one room, in order to groan in concert.
The Queen having been taken to Saint Denis, the King, Madame de
Maintenon, and the Court returned to Versailles, where the royal family
went into mourning for the period prescribed by law and custom.
The Queen's large and small apartments, so handsome, new, splendid, and
magnificent, became the habitation of Madame la Dauphine; so that the
lady in waiting, in virtue of her office, returned in the most natural
manner to those apartments where she had held authority.
The Queen, without having the genius of conversation and discussion,
lacked neither aplomb nor a taste for the proprieties; she knew how to
support, or, at least, to preside over a circle. The young Dauphine had
neither the desire, nor the patience, nor, the tact.
The prince charged the lady in waiting to do these things for her. We
repaired in full dress to the Princess,--to present our homages to Madame
de Maintenon. One must admit she threw her heart into it; that is to
say, she drew out, as far as possible, the monarch's daughter-in-law,
inspiring into her every moment amiable questions or answers, which she
had taken pains to embellish and adorn in her best manner.
The King arrived; I then had the pleasure of seeing him, not two paces
from me, before my very eyes, saying witty and agreeable things to the
Marquise; while he talked to me only of the rain and the weather, always
It was then that I received a second anonymous letter, in the same
handwriting, the same style, the same tone as that of which mention has
been made. I transcribe it; it is curious.
TO MADAME LA MARQUISE DE MONTESPAN.
MADAME:--You have not followed my former advice. The opportunity
has gone by; it is too late. Your superintendence is left with you,
and there are four or five hundred thousand livres lying idle; for
you will not be able to sell the superintendence of a household, and
of a council, which are in a tomb at Saint Denis! Happily you are
rich, and what would be a disaster to another fortune is scarcely
more than a slight disappointment to you. I take the respectful
liberty of talking once more with the prettiest and wittiest woman
of her century, in order to submit to her certain ideas, and to
offer her a fresh piece of advice, which I believe important.
The Queen, moved by a generosity seldom found in her peers, pardoned
you to some degree your theft of her spouse; she pardoned you in
order to be agreeable to him, and to prove to him that, being his
most sincere friend, she could not bring herself to contest his
affections and his pastimes. But this sublime philosophy is at an
end; the excellent heart of this Queen is at Val-de-Grace; it will
beat no more, neither for her volatile husband, nor for any one
Madame la Dauphine, brought up in German severity, and hardly
accustomed to the atmosphere of her new country, neither likes nor
respects you, nor has any indulgence for you. She barely suffers
the presence of your children, although brothers of her husband.
How should she tolerate yours? It appears, it is plain, Madame la
Marquise, that your name has found no place or footing on her list,
and that she would rather not meet you often in her salons. If one
may even speak to you confidentially, she has thus expressed
herself; it would be cruel for you to hear of it from any other
being but me.
Believe me, believe a man as noted for his good qualities as for his
weaknesses. He will never drive you away, for you are the mother of
his beloved children, and he has loved you himself tenderly.
However, his coldness is going to increase. Will you be
sufficiently light-hearted, or sufficiently imprudent, to await
on a counterscarp the rigours of December and January?
Keep your wit always, Madame la Marquise, and with this wit, which
is such a charming resource, do not divest yourself of your noble
I am, always, your respectful and devoted servant,
THE UNKNOWN OF THE CHATEAU.
At the time of the first letter, when I had hesitated some time, doubtful
between Madame de Maintenon and the King, it occurred to me to suspect
the Queen for a moment; but there was no possibility now of imputing to
this princess, dead and gone, the unbecoming annoyance that an unknown
permitted himself to cause me.
On this occasion I chose my part resolutely; and, not wishing to busy
myself any longer with these pretended friendly counsels which my pride
forbade me to follow, I took these two insolent letters and burned them.
This last letter, after all, spoke very truly. I remarked distinctly,
in the looks and manner of the Dauphine, that ridiculous and clumsy
animosity which she had taken a fancy to lavish on me.
As she was not, in my eyes, so sublime a personage that a lady of quality
might not enter into conversation with her, I approached her armchair
with the intention of upsetting her haughtiness and pride by compelling
her to speak to me before everybody.
I complimented her on her coiffure, and even thanked her for the honour
she did me in imitating me; she reddened, and I entreated her not to put
herself about, assuring her that her face looked much better in its
habitual pallor. These words redoubled her dissatisfaction, and her
redness then became a veritable scarlet flame.
Passing forthwith to another subject, I pronounced in a few words a
panegyric on the late Queen; to which I skilfully added that, from the
first day, she had been able to understand the French graces and assume
them with intelligence and taste.
"Her Spanish accent troubled her for a year or two longer," added I;
"strictly speaking, this accent, derived from the Italian, has nothing
disagreeable in it; while the English, Polish, Russian, and German accent
is inharmonious in itself, and is lost with great difficulty here."
Seeing that my reflections irritated her, I stopped short, and made my
excuses by saying to her, "Madame, these are only general reflections.
Your Highness is an exception, and has struck us all, as you have nothing
German left but memories, and, perhaps, regrets."
She answered me, stammering, that she had not been destined in the first
place for the throne of France, and that this want of forethought had
injured her education; then, feeling a spark of courage in her heart, she
said that the late Queen had more than once confided to her that the
Court of France was disorderly in its fashions, because it was never the
princesses who gave it its tone as elsewhere.
Madame de Maintenon perceived quickly the consequences of this saying;
for the peace of the Princess, she retorted quickly: "In France, the
princesses are so kind and obliging as to follow the fashions; but the
good examples and good tone come to us from our princes, and our only
merit is to imitate them with ingenuity."
Judgment Given by the Chatelet.--The Marquis d'Antin Restored to His
Father.--The Judgment is Not Executed.--Full Mourning.--Funeral Service.
--The Notary of Saint Elig.--The Lettre de Cachet.
The Marquis d'Antin, my son, with the consent of the King, had remained
under my control, and had never consented to quit me to rejoin his
father. M. de Montespan, at the time of the suit for judicial separation
before the Chatelet, had caused his advocate to maintain this barbarous
argument, that a son, though brought into the world by his mother, ought
to side against her if domestic storms arise, and prefer to everybody and
everything the man whose arms and name he bears.
The tribunal of the Chatelet, trampling upon maternal tenderness and
humanity, granted his claim in full; and I was advised not to appeal,
now that I had obtained the thing essential to me, a separation in body
M. de Montespan dared not come himself to Paris in order to execute the
sentence; he sent for that purpose two officers of artillery, his friends
or relatives, who were authorised to see the young Marquis at his
college, but not to withdraw him before the close of his humanities and
classes. These gentlemen, having sent word to the father that the young
D'Antin was my living image, he replied to them, that they were to insist
no longer, to abandon their mission, and to abandon a child who would
never enjoy his favour since he resembled myself. Owing to this happy
circumstance I was able to preserve my son.
Since these unhappy disputes, and the suit which made so much noise, I
had heard no more talk of M. de Montespan in society. I only learned
from travellers that he was building, a short distance from the Pyrenees,
a chateau of a noble and royal appearance, where he had gathered together
all that art, joined with good taste, could add to nature; that this
chateau of Saint Elix, adorned with the finest orange grove in the world,
was ascribed to the liberality of the King. The Marquis, hurt by this
mistake of his neighbours, which he called an accusation, published a
solemn justification in these ingenuous provinces, and he proved, as a
clerk might do to his master, that this enormous expenditure was
exclusively his own.
Suddenly the report of his death spread through the capital, and the
Marquis d'Antin received without delay an official letter with a great,
black seal, which announced to him this most lamentable event. The
notary of Saint Elix, in sending him this sad news, took the opportunity
of enclosing a certified copy of the will.
This testament, replete with malignity, having been freely published in
the capital, I cannot refrain from reproducing it in these writings.
Here are its principal clauses;
In the name of the most blessed Trinity, etc.
Since I cannot congratulate myself on a wife, who, diverting herself
as much as possible, has caused me to pass my youth and my life in
celibacy, I content myself with leaving, her my life-sized portrait,
by Bourdon, begging her to place it in her bedchamber, when the King
ceases to come there.
Although the Marquis de Pardailhan d'Antin is prodigiously like his
mother (a circumstance of which I have been lamentably sensible!),
I do not hesitate to believe him my son. In this quality I give and
bequeath to him all my goods, as my eldest son, imposing on him,
nevertheless, the following legacies, liberalities and charges:
I leave to their Highnesses, M. le Duc du Maine, M. le Comte de
Toulouse, Mademoiselle de Nantes, and Mademoiselle de Blois (born
during my marriage with their mother, and consequently my
presumptive children), their right of legitimacy on the charge and
condition of their bearing in one of their quarterings the
I take the respectful liberty of here thanking my King for the
extreme kindness which he has shown to my wife, nee De Mortemart, to
my son D'Antin, to his brothers and sisters, both dead and living,
and also to myself, who have only been dismissed, and kept in exile:
In recognition of which I give and bequeath to his Majesty my vast
chateau of Montespan, begging him to create and institute there a
community of Repentant Ladies, to wear the habit of Carmelites or of
the Daughters of the Conception, on the special charge and condition
that he place my wife at the head of the said convent, and appoint
her to be first Abbess.
I attach an annuity of sixty thousand livres to this noble
institution, hoping that this will make up the deficiency, if there
DE PARDAILHAN DE GONDRAN MONTESPAN,
Separated, although inseparable spouse.
A family council being held to decide what I must do on this occasion,
Madame de Thianges, M. de Vivonne, and M. de Blanville-Colbert decided
that I must wear the same full mourning as my son D'Antin. As for this
odious will, it was agreed that it should not even be spoken of, and that
the notary of Saint Elix should be written to at once, to place it in the
hands of a third party, of whom he would be presently notified at the
place. The Marquis d'Antin at once had my equipage and his own draped.
We hastened to put all our household into mourning from top to toe, and
the funeral service, with full ritual, was ordered to be performed at the
parish church. The very same day, as the family procession was about to
set out on its way to the church, a sort of sergeant, dressed in black,
handed a fresh letter to the Marquis d'Antin. It contained these words:
The notary of Saint Elix deserves a canonry in the Chapter of
Charenton; it is not the Marquis de Montespan who is dead; they have
played a trick on you.
The only truth in all of it is the will, of which the notary of
Saint Elix has been in too great a hurry to send a copy. A thousand
excuses to M. le Marquis d'Antin and his mother, Madame la Marquise.
It was necessary to send orders at once to the parish church to take away
the catafalque and the drapings. The priests and the musicians were paid
as if they had done what they ought to do; and my widowhood, which, at
another time, might have been of such importance, was, I dare to say,
indifferent to me.
The King was informed of what had just taken place in my family. He
spoke of it as an extremely disagreeable affair. I answered him that it
was far more disagreeable for me than for any one else. His Majesty
"Tell the Marquis d'Antin to go to Saint Elix and pay his respects to his
father. This journey will also enable him to learn if such a ridiculous
will really exists, and if your husband has reached such a pitch of
independence. D'Antin will beg him, on my behalf, to tear up that
document, and to earn my favour by doing so."
My son, after consulting with his Majesty, started indeed for the
Pyrenees. His father at first gave him a cold welcome. The next day
the Marquis discovered the secret of pleasing him; and M. de Montespan,
at this full mourning, this family council, and at the catafalque in the
middle of the church, promised to alter the will on condition that his
'lettre do cachet' should be revoked and quashed within the next
The King agreed to these demands, which did not any longer affect him.
I was the only person sacrificed.
The Duc du Maine Provided with the Government of Languedoc.--The Young
Prince de Conti.--His Piety.--His Apostasy.--The Duc de la Feuillade
Burlesqued.--The Watch Set with Diamonds.--The False Robber.--Scene
amongst the Servants.
The old Duc de Verneuil, natural son of King Henri IV., died during these
incidents, leaving the government of Languedoc vacant. The King summoned
M. le Duc du Maine at once, and, embracing him with his usual tenderness,
he said to him: "My son, though you are very young, I make you governor
of Languedoc. This will make many jealous of you; do not worry about
them, I am always here to defend you. Go at once to Mademoiselle's, who
has just arrived at Versailles, and tell her what I have done for her
I went to thank his Majesty for this favour, which seemed to me very
great, since my son was not twelve years old. The King said to me: "Here
comes the carriage of the Prince de Conti; you may be certain that he
comes to ask me for this place."
In fact, those were the first words of the Prince de Conti.
"The government for which you ask," said the King, "has been for a long
time promised to Madame de Maintenon for her Duc du Maine. I intend
something else for you, my dear cousin. Trust in me. In giving you my
beloved daughter I charged myself with your fortunes; you are on my list,
and in the first rank."
The young Prince changed colour. He entreated the King to believe him
worthy of his confidence and esteem, to which he imprudently added these
words: "My wife was born before M. du Maine."
"And you, too," replied his Majesty; "are you any the more sober for
that? There are some little youthful extravagances in your conduct which
pain me. I leave my daughter in ignorance of them, because I wish her to
be at peace. Endeavour to prevent her being informed of them by
yourself. Govern yourself as a young man of your birth ought to govern
himself; then I will hand a government over to you with pleasure."
The Prince de Conti appeared to me very much affected by this homily and
disappointment. He saluted me, however, with a smile of benevolence and
the greatest amenity. We learnt a short time afterwards that his wife
had shed many tears, and was somewhat set against my children and myself.
This amiable Princess then was not aware that the government of Languedoc
was not granted at my instance, but at the simple desire of Madame de
Maintenon; the King had sufficiently explained it.
Just at this moment M. le Prince de Conti had made himself notable by his
attachment or his deference towards matters of religion and piety. His
superb chariot and his peach-coloured liveries were to be seen, on fete-
days, at the doors of the great churches. He suddenly changed his
manoeuvres, and refused to subject himself to restraints which led him no
whither. He scoffed publicly at the Jesuits, the Sulpicians, and their
formal lectures and confraternities; he refused to distribute the blessed
bread at his parish church, and heard mass only from his chaplains and in
This ill-advised behaviour did not improve his position. Madame, his
wife, continued to come to Versailles on gala-days, or days of reunion,
but he and his brother appeared there less and less frequently. They
were exceedingly handsome, both of them; not through their father, whose
huge nose had rendered him ridiculous, but through the Princess, their
mother, Anna or Felicia de Martinozzi, niece of Cardinal Mazarin. God
had surpassed himself in creating that graceful head, and those eyes will
never have their match in sweetness and beauty.
Free now to follow his own tastes, which only policy had induced him to
dissimulate and constrain, M. de Conti allowed himself all that a young
prince, rich and pleasure-loving, could possibly wish in this world.
In the midst of these reunions, consecrated to pleasure, and even to
debauchery, he loved to signalise his lordly liberality; nothing could
stop him, nothing was too extravagant for him. His passion was to remove
all obstacles and pay for everybody.
His joyous companions cried out with admiration, and celebrated, in prose
and verse, so noble a taste and virtues so rare. The young orphan
inhaled this incense with delight; he contracted enormous debts, and soon
did not know where to turn to pay them.
The King, well informed of these excesses, commanded M. le Duc de la
Feuillade to have the young man followed, and inform himself of all he
One day, when M. de la Feuillade himself had followed him too closely,
and forced him, for the space of an hour, to scour over all Le Marais in
useless and fatiguing zigzags, M. de Conti, who recognised him perfectly,
in spite of his disguise, pretended that his watch, set with diamonds,
had been stolen. He pointed out this man as the thief to his ready
servingmen, who fell upon M. de la Feuillade, and, stripping him to find
the watch, gave the Prince time to escape and reach his place of
The captain was ill for several days, and even in danger, in consequence
of this adventure, which did not improve the credit of M. le Prince de
Conti, much as it needed improvement.
His young and beautiful wife excused him in everything, ignoring, and
wishing to ignore, the extent of his guilt and frivolity.
A Funeral and Diversions.--Sinister Dream.--Funeral Orations of the
It remains for me to relate certain rather curious circumstances in
relation to the late Queen, after which I shall speak of her no more in
She was left for ten days, lying in state, in the mortuary chapel of
Versailles, where mass was being said by priests at four altars from
morning till evening. She was finally removed from this magnificent
Palace of Enchantment to Saint Denis. Numerous carriages followed the
funeral car, and in all these carriages were the high officials, as well
as the ladies, who had belonged to her. But what barbarity! what
ingratitude! what a scandal! In all these mournful carriages, people
talked and laughed and made themselves agreeable; and the body-guards,
as well as the gendarmes and musketeers, took turns to ride their horses
into the open plain and shoot at the birds.
Monsieur le Dauphin, after Saint Denis, went to lie at the Tuileries,
before betaking himself to the service on the following day at Notre
Dame. In the evening, instead of remaining alone and in seclusion in his
apartment, as a good son ought to have done, he went to the Palais Royal
to see the Princess Palatine and her husband, whom he had had with him
all the day; he must have distraction, amusement, and even merry
conversations, such as simple bourgeois would not permit themselves on so
solemn an occasion, were it only out of decorum.
In the midst of these ridiculous and indefensible conversations, the news
arrived that the King had broken his arm. The Marquis de Mosny had
started on the instant in order to inform the young Prince of it; and Du
Saussoi, equerry of his Majesty, arrived half an hour later, giving the
same news with the details.
The King (who was hunting during the obsequies of his wife) had fallen
off his horse, which he had not been able to prevent from stumbling into
a ditch full of tall grass and foliage. M. Felix, a skilful and prudent
surgeon, had just set the arm, which was only put out of joint. The King
sent word to the Dauphin not to leave the Tuileries, and to attend the
funeral ceremony on the morrow.
The fair of Saint Laurence was being held at this moment, although the
city of Paris had manifested an intention of postponing it. They were
exhibiting to the curious a little wise horse which bowed, calculated,
guessed, answered questions, and performed marvels. The King had
strictly forbidden his family and the people of the Court to let
themselves be seen at this fair. Monsieur le Dauphin, none the less,
wished to contemplate, with his own eyes, this extraordinary and
wonderful little horse. Consequently, he had to be taken to the Chateau
des Tuileries, where he took a puerile amusement in a spectacle in itself
trivial, and, at such a time, scandalous.
The poor Queen would have died of grief if the death of her son had
preceded hers, against the order of nature; but the hearts of our
children are not disposed like ours, and who knows how I shall be treated
myself by mine when I am gone?
With regard to the King's arm, Madame d'Orleans, during the service for
the Queen, was pleased to relate to the Grande Mademoiselle that, three
or four days before, she had seen, in a somewhat troublesome and painful
dream, the King's horse run away, and throw him upon the rocks and
brambles of a precipice, from which he was rescued with a broken arm.
A lady observed that dreams are but vague and uncertain indications.
"Not mine," replied Madame, with ardour; "they are not like others.
Five or six days before the Queen fell ill, I told her, in the presence
of Madame la Dauphine, that I had a most alarming dream. I had dreamt
that I was in a large church all draped in black. I advanced to the
sanctuary; a vault was opened at one side of the altar. Some kind of
priests went down, and these folk said aloud, as they came up again, that
they had found no place at first; that the cavity having seemed to them
too long and deep, they had arranged the biers, and had placed there the
body of the lady. At that point I awoke, quite startled, and not
Hardly had the Princess finished her story, when the Infanta, turning
pale, said to her: "Madame, you will see, the dream of the vault refers
to me. At the funeral of the Queen of England I noticed, and remember,
that the same difficulty occurred at Saint Denis; they were obliged to
push up all the coffins, one against the other."
And, in truth, we knew, a few days afterwards, that for this poor Queen,
Maria Theresa, the monks of the abbey had found it necessary to break
down a strong barrier of stones in their subterranean church, to remove
the first wife of Gaston, mother of Mademoiselle, and find a place for
the Spanish Queen who had arrived in those regions.
There were several funeral orations on this occasion. Not a single one
of these official discourses deserved to survive the Queen. There was
very little to say about her, I admit; but these professional
panegyrists, these liars in surplice, in black cassock, or in purple and
mitre, are not too scrupulous to borrow facts and material in cases where
the dead person has neglected to furnish or bequeath it them.
In my own case I congratulated myself on this sort of indifference or
literary penury; an indiscreet person, sustained by zeal or talent, might
have wished to mortify me in a romance combined of satire and religion.
Jean Baptiste Colbert.--His Death.--His Great Works.--His Last Advice to
M. Colbert had been ailing for a long time past. His face bore visible
testimony against his health, to which his accumulated and incessant
labour had caused the greatest injury. We had just married his son
Blainville to my niece, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, heiress of the
house of Rochchouart. Since this union--the King's work--M. Colbert had
somewhat tended in my favour, and I had reason to count on his good
offices and kindness. I said to him one day that my quarrel with him was
that he did not look after himself, that he ignored all his own worth,
treated himself with no more respect than a mere clerk; that he was the
indispensable man, the right hand of the King, his eye of vigilance in
everything, and the pillar of his business and his finance.
Without being precisely what one would call a modest man, M. Colbert was
calm of mind, and by nature without pose or presumption. He cared
sincerely for the King's glory. He held his tongue on the subject of
great enterprises, but employed much zeal and ability in promoting the
success of good projects and ideas, such as, for instance, our Indies and
He had known how to procure, without oppressing any one, the incalculable
sums that had been necessitated, not only by enormous and almost
universal wars, but by all those canals, all those ports in the
Mediterranean or the ocean, that vast creation of vessels, arsenals,
foundries, military houses and hospitals which we had seen springing up
in all parts. He had procured by his application, his careful
calculations, the wherewithal to build innumerable fortresses, aqueducts,
fountains, bridges, the Observatory of Paris, the Royal Hospital of the
Invalides, the chateaus of the Tuileries and of Vincennes, the engine and
chateau of Marly, that prodigious chateau of Versailles, with its Trianon
of marble, which by itself might have served as a habitation for the
richest monarchs of the Orient.
He had founded the wonderful glass factories, and those of the Gobelins;
he had raised, as though by a magic ring, the Royal Library over the
gardens and galleries of Mazarin; and foreigners asked one another, in
their surprise, what they must admire most in that monument, the interior
pomp of the edifice or its rich collection of books, coins, and
To all these works, more than sufficient to immortalise twenty ministers,
M. Colbert was adding at this moment the huge 'salpetriere' of Paris and
the colonnades of the Louvre. Ruthless death came to seize him in the
midst of these occupations, so noble, useful, and glorious.
The great Colbert, worn out with fatigue, watching, and constraint, left
the King, his wife, his children, his honours, his well-earned riches,
and displayed no other anxiety than alarm as to his salvation,--as though
so many services rendered to the nation and to his prince were no more,
in his eyes, than vain works in relation to eternity.
Madame de Maintenon, having become a great lady, could, not reasonably
continue her office of governess to the King's children. M. Colbert,
that man of vigour, that Mount Atlas, capable of supporting all things
without a plaint, had been charged with the care of the two new-born
Because of the third Mademoiselle de Blois, and of the little Comte de
Toulouse, I saw the minister frequently, and I was one of the first to
remark the change in his face and his health.
During his last illness, I visited him more often. One day, of his own
accord, he said to me:
"How do you get on with Madame de Maintenon? I have never heard her
complain of you; but I make you this confidence out of friendship. His
Majesty complains of your attitude towards your former friend. If the
frankness of your nature and the impatience of your humour have sometimes
led you too far, I exhort you to moderate yourself, in your own interest
and in that of your children. Madame de Maintenon is an amiable and
witty person, whose society pleases the King. Have this consideration
for a hard-working prince, whom intellectual recreation relaxes and
diverts, and make a third at those pleasant gatherings where you shone
long before this lady, and where you would never be her inferior. Go
there, and frequently, instead of keeping at a distance in an attitude of
resentment, which, do not doubt, is noticed and viewed unfavourably."
"But, monsieur," I answered M. Colbert, "you are not, then, aware that
every time I am a third person at one of these interminable
conversations, I always meet with some mark of disapproval,
and sometimes with painful mortifications?"
"I have been told so," the sick man replied; "but I have also been told
that you imprudently call down on yourself these outbursts of the King.
What need have you to quarrel with Madame de Maintenon over a look, a
word, a movement or a gesture? You seem to me persuaded that love enters
into the King's friendship for the Marquise. Well, suppose you have
guessed aright his Majesty's sentiments; will your dissatisfaction and
your sarcasms prevent those sentiments from existing, and the prince from
"You know, madame, that he generally gets everything he wants, and M. de
Montespan experienced that when he wished to set himself against your
"I am nearer my end and my release than my doctors think. In leaving
this whirlpool of disappointments, ambitions, errors, and mutual
injustice, I should like to see you free, at peace, reconciled to your
real interests, and out of reach, forever, of the vicissitudes of
fortune. In my eyes, your position is that of a ship-owner whom the
ocean has constantly favoured, and who has reaped great riches. With
moderation and prudence, it depended on himself to profit by his
astonishing success, and at last to enjoy his life; but ambition and vain
desire drive him afresh upon this sea, so fruitful in shipwrecks, and his
last venture destroys all his prosperity and all his many labours.
"Our excellent Queen has gone to rest from her troubles and her journeys;
and I, madame, am going to rest not long after her, having worn out my
strength on great things that are as nothing."
The Marquis de Seignelay, eldest son of this minister, counted on
succeeding to the principal offices of his father. He made a mistake.
The place of secretary of state and controller-general passed to the
President Pelletier, who had been chosen by M. Colbert himself; and the
superintendence of buildings, gardens, and works went to swell the
numerous functions of the Marquis de Louvois, who wished for and counted
MM. de Blainville and Seignelay had good posts, proportioned to their
capacity; the King never ceased to look upon them as the children of his
dear M. Colbert.
[It mast be remembered that the young Marquis de Seignelay was
already Minister of Marine, an office which remained with him.--Ed.]
Before his death, this minister saw his three daughters become duchesses.
The King, who had been pleased to make these marriages, had given each of
them a dowry of a million in cash.
As for the Abbe Colbert, already promoted to the Bishopric of Montpellier
(to which three important abbeys were joined), he had the Archbishopric
of Toulouse, with an immense revenue. It is true that he took a pleasure
in rebuilding his archiepiscopal palace and cathedral out of a huge and
ancient treasure, which he discovered whilst pulling down some old ruin
to make a salon.
One might say that there was some force of attraction attached to this
family and name of Colbert. Treasures arose from the earth to give
themselves up and obey them.
Mesdemoiselles de Mazarin.--The Age of Puberty.--Madame de Beauvais.--
Anger of the Queen-mother.--The Cardinal's Policy.--First Love.--Louis de
Beauvais.--The Abbe de Rohan-Soubise.--The Emerald's Lying-in.--The
Handsome Musketeer.--The Counterfeit of the King.
At the time when the King, still very young, was submitting without
impatience to the authority of the Queen, his mother, and his godfather,
the Cardinal, his strength underwent a sudden development, and this lad
became, all at once, a man. The numerous nieces of Cardinal Mazarin, who
were particularly dear to the Queen, were as much at the Louvre as at
their own home. Anne of Austria, naturally affable, gladly released them
from the etiquette which was imposed upon every one else. These young
ladies played and laughed, sang or frolicked, after the manner of their
years, and the young King lived frankly and gaily in their midst, as one
lives with agreeable sisters, when one is happy enough to have such. He
lived fraternally with these pretty Italian girls, but his intimacy
stopped there, since the Cardinal and the governess watched night and day
over a young man who was greatly subject to surveillance.
At the same time, there was amongst the Queen's women a rather pretty
waiting-maid, well brought up, who was called Madame de Beauvais. Those
brunettes, with black eyes, bright complexions, and graceful plumpness,
are almost always wanton and alluring. Madame de Beauvais noticed the
sudden development of the monarch, his impassioned reveries which
betrayed themselves in his gaze. She thought she had detected intentions
on his part, and an imperious need of explaining himself. A word, which
was said to her in passing, authorised her, or seemed to authorise her,
to make an almost intelligible reply. The young wooer showed himself
less undecided, less enigmatic,--and the understanding was completed.
Madame de Beauvais was the recipient of the prince's first emotions, and
the clandestine connection lasted for three months. Anne of Austria,
informed of what was passing, wished at first to punish her first maid in
waiting; but the Cardinal, more circumspect, represented to her that this
connection, of which no one knew, was an occupation, not to say a
safeguard, for the young King, whose fine constitution and health
naturally drew him to the things of life. "Although eighteen years of
age," he added, "the prince abandons the whole authority to you; whereas
another, in his place, would ardently dispute it. Do not let us quarrel
with him about trifles; leave him his Beauvais lady, so that he may make
no attempt on my pretty nieces nor on your authority, madame, nor on my
important occupations, which are for the good of the State."
Anne of Austria, who was more a Christian and a mother than a diplomatic
woman, found it very painful to appreciate these arguments of the
Cardinal; but after some reflection she recognised their importance, and
things remained as they were.
Madame de Beauvais had a son, whom the husband (whether overconfident or
not) saw brought into the world with much delight, and whom, with a
wealth of royalist respect, they baptised under the agreeable name of
Louis. This child, who had a fine figure and constitution, received a
particularly careful education. He has something of the King about him,
principally in his glance and smile. He presents, however, only the
intellectual habit of his mother, and even a notable absence of grandeur
and elevation. He is a very pretty waiting-woman, dressed out as a
cavalier; in a word, he is that pliant and indefatigable courtier, whom
we see everywhere, and whom town and Court greet by the name of Baron de
His sister is the Duchesse de Richelieu, true daughter of her father, as
ugly, or rather as lacking in charm, as he is; but replete with subtilty
and intelligence,--with that intelligence which perpetually suggests a
humble origin, and which wearies or importunes, because of its ill-
nature. At the age of seventeen, her freshness made her pass for being
pretty. She accused the young Duc de Richelieu of having seduced her,
and made her a mother; and he, in his fear of her indignation and
intrigues, and of the reproaches of the Queen, hastened to confess his
fault, and to repair everything by marrying her.
Baron Louis, her brother, to whom the King could hardly refuse anything,
made her a lady of honour to the Dauphine. Madame de Richelieu delighted
to spread a report in the world that I had procured her this office; she
was deceived, and wished to be deceived. I had asked this eminent
position for the Marquise de Thianges, in whom I was interested very
differently. His Majesty decided that a marquise was inferior to a
duchess, even when that duchess was born a De Beauvais. Another son of
the monarch, well known at the Court as such, is M. l'Abbe de Rohan-
Soubise, to whom the cardinal's hat is already promised. His figure, his
carriage, his head, his attitude, his whole person infallibly reveal him;
and the Prince de Soubise has so thoroughly recognised and understood the
deceit, that he honours the young churchman with all his indifference and
his respect. He acts with him as a sort of guardian; and that is the
limitation of his role.
The Princesse de Soubise, who had resolved to advance her careless
husband, either to the government of Brittany or to some ministry,
persuaded herself that it is only by women that men can be advanced;
and that in order to advance a husband, it is necessary to advance
oneself. Although a little thin, and lacking that of which the King is
so fond, we saw in her a very pretty woman. She knew how to persuade his
Majesty that she cherished for him the tenderest love. That is,
I believe, the one trap that it is possible to set for him. He is
credulous on that head; he was speedily caught. And every time that M.
de Rohan was away, and there was freedom at the Hotel Soubise, the
Princess came in person to Saint Germain or to Versailles, to show her
necklace and pendant of emeralds to the King. Such was the agreed
The Abbe de Rohan was born of these emeralds. The King displays
conscience in all his actions, except in his wars and conquests. When
the little Soubise was grown up, his Majesty signified to the mother that
this young man must enter the Church, not wishing to suffer the formation
of a parasitical branch amongst the Rohans, which would have
participated, without any right, in the legitimate sap. It is asserted
that the Abbe de Rohan only submitted with infinite regret to a sentence
which neutralised him. The King has promised him all possible
consideration; he has even embraced him tenderly, an action which is
almost equivalent to a "declaration of degree" made to the Parliament.
The other child alleged to the King is that handsome musketeer, who is so
like him. But, judging from the King's character, which respects, and in
some fashion almost admires itself, in everything which proceeds from it,
I do not venture to believe in this musketeer. The King wished one day
to see him close by, and even accosted him by the orange-shrubbery; but
this movement seemed to me one of pure curiosity.
The resemblance, I must confess, is the most striking that I have yet
seen; for it is complete, even to the tone of the voice. But a look
might have operated this miracle. Instance the little negress, the
daughter of the poor Queen, that Queen so timid and entirely natural,
who, to her happiness, as much as to her glory, has never looked at,
approached, or distinguished any one except the King.
For the rest, we shall see and know well if the King does anything for
The Young Nobility and the Turks.--Private Correspondence.--The Unlucky
Minister and the Page of Strasburg.--The King Judged and Described in All
the Documents.--The King Humiliated in His Affections.--Scandal at Court.
--Grief of Fathers at Having Given Life to Such Children.--Why Prince
Eugene Was Not a Bishop.--Why He Was Not a Colonel of France.--Death of
the Prince de Conti.
As France was at peace at the moment when the three hundred thousand
Turks swarmed over Hungary and threatened Vienna, our young princes, and
a fairly large number of nobles of about the same age, took it into their
heads to go and exhibit their bravery in Germany; they asked permission
of M. de Louvois to join the Imperialists. This permission was granted
to some amongst them, but refused to others. Those whom it was thought
fit to restrain took no notice of the words of the minister, and departed
as resolutely as though the King had fallen asleep. They were arrested
on the road; but his Majesty, having reflected on the matter, saw that
these special prohibitions would do harm to the intentions which he had
with regard to his deference for Germany, and they were all allowed to go
their own way.
A little later, it was discovered that there was a regular and active
correspondence between these young people in Germany and others who had
remained in Paris or at the Court. The first minister had a certain
page, one of the most agile, pursued; he was caught up with at Strasburg;
his valise was seized. The Marquis de Louvois, desiring to give the King
the pleasure of himself opening these mysterious letters, handed him the
budget, the seals intact, and his Majesty thanked him for this attention.
These thanks were the last that that powerful minister was destined to
receive from his master; his star waned from that hour, never again to
recover its lustre; all his credit failed and crashed to the ground.
This correspondence--spied on with so much zeal, surprised and carried
off with such good fortune--informed the astonished monarch that, in the
Louvois family, in his house and circle, his royal character, his
manners, his affections, his tastes, his person, his whole life, were
derisively censured. The beloved son-in-law of the minister, speaking
with an open heart to his friends, who were travelling, and absent,
represented the King to them as a sort of country-gentleman, given up now
to the domestic and uniform life of the manor-house, more than ever
devoted to his dame bourgeoise, and making love ecstatically at the feet
of this young nymph of fifty seasons.
M. de la Roche-Guyon and M. de Liancourt, sons of La Rochefoucauld, who
expressed themselves with the same boldness, went so far as to say of
their ruler that he was but a stage and tinsel king. The son-in-law of
Louvois accused him of being most courageous in his gallery, but of
turning pale on the eve, and at the moment, of an action; and
D'Alincourt, son of Villeroi, carried his outrages further still.
No one knows better than myself how unjust these accusations were,
and are. I was sensible of the mortification such a reading must have
caused to the most sensitive, the most irritable of princes; but I
rejoiced at the humiliation that the lady in waiting felt for her share
in this unpardonable correspondence. The annoyance that I read for some
days on her handsome face consoled me, for the time being, for her great
success at my expense.
Madame la Princesse de Conti, whom the King, up to this time, had not
only cherished but adored, found also, in those documents, the term of
excessive favour. A letter from her to her husband said: "I have just
given myself a maid of honour, wishing to spare Madame de Maintenon the
trouble, or the pleasure, of giving me one herself."
She was summoned to Versailles, as she may very well have expected. The
King, paying no attention to her tears, said to her: "I believed in your
affection; I have done everything to deserve it; it is lamentable to me
to be unable to count on it longer. Your cruel letter is in Madame de
Maintenon's hands. She will let you read it again before committing it
to the fire, and I beg you to inform her what is the harm she has done
"Madame," said Madame de Maintenon to her, when she saw her before her,
"when your amiable mother left this Court, where the slightest prosperity
attracts envy, I promised her to take some care of your childhood, and I
have kept my word.
"I have always treated you with gentleness and consideration; whence
proceeds your hate against me of to-day? Is your young heart capable of
it? I believed you to be a model of gratitude and goodness."
"Madame," replied the young Princess, weeping, "deign to pardon this
imprudence of mine and to reconcile me with the King, whom I love so
"I have not the credit which you assume me to have," replied the lady in
waiting, coldly. "Except for the extreme kindness of the King you would
not be where you are, and you take it ill that I should be where I am!
I have neither desired nor solicited the arduous rank that I occupy; I
need resignation and obedience to support such a burden." Madame de
Maintenon resumed her work. The Princess, not daring to interrupt her
silence, made the bow that was expected of her and withdrew.
The Marquis de Louvois, when he read what his own son-in-law dared to
write of the monarch, grew pale and swooned away with grief. He cast
himself several times before the feet of his master, asking now the
punishment and now the pardon of a criminal and a madman.
"I believed myself to be loved by your family," cried the King. "What
must I do, then, to be loved? And, great God! with what a set I am
All these things transpired. Soon we saw the father of the audacious De
Liancourt arrive like a man bereft of his wits. He ran to precipitate
himself at the feet of the King.
"M. de La Rochefoucauld," said the prince to him, "I was ignorant, until
this day, that I was lacking in what is called martial prowess; but I
shall at least have, on this occasion, the courage to despise the
slanderous slights of these presumptuous youths. Do not talk to me of
the submissions and regrets of your two sons, who are unworthy of you;
let them live as far away from me as possible; they do not deserve to
approach an honest man, such as their King."
The Prince de Turenne,
[The Prince de Turenne was in bad odour at Court ever since he had
separated Monseigneur from his young wife by exaggerating that
Princess's small failings.--MADAME DE MONTESPAN'S NOTE.]
son of the Duc de Bouillon, and Prince Eugene of Savoy, third or fourth
son of the Comtesse de Soissons (Olympe Mancini), had accompanied their
cousins De Conti on this knightly expedition; all these gentlemen
returned at the conclusion of the war, except Prince Eugene, a violent
enemy of the King.
This young Prince of the second branch, seeing his mother's disgrace
since the great affair of the poison, hated me mortally. He carried his
treachery so far as to attribute to me the misfortunes of Olympe, saying,
and publishing all over Paris, that I had incited accusers in order to be
able to deprive her forcibly of her superintendence. This post, which
had been sold to me for four hundred thousand francs, had been paid for
long since; that did not prevent Eugene from everywhere affirming the
Since the flight or exile of his lady mother, he had taken it into his
head to dream of the episcopate, and to solicit Pere de la Chaise on the
subject. But the King, who does not like frivolous or absurd figures in
high offices, decided that a little man with a deformity would repel
rather than attract deference at a pinnacle of dignity of the priesthood.
Refused for the episcopate, M. de Soissons thought he might offer himself
as a colonel. His Majesty, who did not know the military ways of this
abbe, refused him anew, both as an abbe and as a hunchback, and as a
public libertine already degraded by his irregularities.
From all these refusals and mortifications there sprung his firm resolve
to quit France. He had been born there; he left all his family there
except his mother; he declared himself its undying enemy, and said
publicly in Germany that Louis XIV. would shed tears of blood for the
injury and the affront which he had offered him.
MM. de Conti, after the events in Hungary and at Vienna, returned to
France covered with laurels. They came to salute the King at Versailles.
His Majesty gave them neither a good nor a bad reception. The Princes
left the same day for Chantilly, where M. de Conde, their paternal
uncle, tried to curb their too romantic imaginations and guaranteed their
good behaviour in the future.
This life, sedentary or spent in hunting, began to weary them, when
overruling Providence was pleased to send them a diversion of the highest
importance. M. le Prince de Conti was seized suddenly with that burning
fever which announces the smallpox. Every imaginable care was useless;
he died of it and bequeathed, in spite of himself, a most premature and
afflicting widowhood to his young and charming spouse, who was not, till
long afterwards, let into the secret of his scandalous excesses.
M. de la Roche-sur-Yon, his only brother, was as distressed at his death
as though he had nothing to gain by it; he took immediately the name of
Conti, and doffed the other, which he had hitherto borne as a borrowed
title. The domain and county of La Roche-sur-Yon belongs to the Grande
Mademoiselle. She had been asked to make this condescension when the
young Prince was born. She agreed with a good grace, for the child, born
prematurely, did not seem likely to live.
Ninon at Court.--The King behind the Glass.--Anxiety of the Marquise on
the Subject of This Interview.--Visit to Madame de Maintenon.--Her Reply
and Her Ambiguous Promise.
Mademoiselle de l'Enclos is universally known in the world for the
agreeableness of her superior wit and her charms of face and person.
When Madame de Maintenon, after the loss of her father, arrived from
Martinique, she had occasion to make her acquaintance; and it seems that
it was Ninon who, seeing her debating between the offers of M. Scarron
and the cloister, succeeded in persuading her to marry the rich poet,
though he was a cripple, rather than to bury herself, so young, in a
convent of Ursulines or Bernardines, even were the convent in Paris.
At the death of the poet Scarron (who when he married, and when he died,
possessed only a life annuity), Mademoiselle d'Aubigne, once more in
poverty, found in Mademoiselle de l'Enclos a generous and persevering
friend, who at once offered her her house and table. Mademoiselle
d'Aubigne passed eight or ten months in the intimate society of this
philosophical woman. But her conscience, or her prudery, not permitting
her to tolerate longer a manner of life in which she seemed to detect
license, she quitted Ninon, advising her to renounce coquetry, whilst the
other was advising her to abandon herself to it.
There, where Madame Scarron found the tune of good society with wit, she
looked upon herself as in her proper sphere, as long as no open scandal
was brought to her notice. She consented still to remain her friend; but
the fear of passing for an approver or an accomplice prevented her from
remaining if there were any publicity. It was not exactly through her
scruples, it was through her vanity. I have had proof of this on various
occasions, and I have made no error.
The pretended amours of Mademoiselle d'Aubigne and the Marquis de
Villarceaux, Ninon's friend, are an invention of malicious envy. I
justified Madame Scarron on the matter before the King, when I asked her
for the education of the Princes; and having rendered her this justice,
from conviction rather than necessity, I shall certainly not charge her
with it to-day. Madame de Maintenon possesses a fund of philosophy which
she does not reveal nor confess to everybody. She fears God in the
manner of Socrates and Plato; and as I have seen her more than once make
game, with infinite wit, of the Abbe Gobelin, her confessor, who is a
pedant and avaricious, I am persuaded that she knows much more about it
than all these proud doctors in theology, and that she would be
thoroughly capable of confessing her confessor.
She had remained, then, the friend of Ninon, but at heart and in
recollection, without sending her news or seeing her again. Mademoiselle
de l'Enclos, rich, disinterested, and proud of her independent position,
learned with pleasure the triumph of her former friend, but without
writing to her or congratulating her. Ninon, by the consent of all those
who have come near her, is good-nature itself. One of her relations, or
friends, was a candidate for a vacant post as farmer-general, and
besought her to make some useful efforts for him.
"I have no one but Madame de Maintenon," she replied to this relation.
And the other said to her:
"Madame de Maintenon? It is as though you had the King himself!"
Mademoiselle de l'Enclos, trimming her pen with her trusty knife, wrote
to the lady in waiting an agreeable and polished letter, one of those
letters, careful without stiffness, that one writes, indulging oneself a
little with the intention of getting oneself read.
The letter of solicitation seemed so pretty to the lady in waiting that
she made the King peruse it.
"This is an excellent opportunity for me," said the prince at once, "to
see with my own eyes this extraordinary, person, of whom I have so long
heard talk. I saw her one day at the opera, but just when she was
getting into her carriage; and my incognito did not permit me to approach
her. She seemed to me small, but well made. Her carriage drove off like
To meet this curiosity which the King displayed, it was agreed that
Madame de Maintenon, on the pretext of having a better consultation,
should summon Mademoiselle de l'Enclos to Versailles, and that in one of
the alcoves of the chapel she should be given a place which should put
her almost in front of his Majesty.
She arrived some minutes before mass. Madame de Maintenon received her
with marked attention, mingled with reserve, promised her support with
the ministers when the affair should be discussed, and made her promise
to pass the entire day, at Versailles, for the King was obliged to visit
the new gardens at Marly.
The time for mass being come, Madame de Maintenon said to the fair
Epicurean, with a smile: "You are one of us, are you not? The music will
be delicious in the chapel to-day; you will not have a moment of
Ninon, meeting this slight reproach with a smile of propriety, replied
that she adored and respected everything which the monarch respected.
During the service, the King, tranquilly, secluded in his golden box,
could see and examine the lady at his leisure, without compromising
himself or embarrassing her by his gaze. As for her, her decent and
quite appropriate attitude merited for her the approval of her old
friend, of the King, and of the most critical eyes.
The monarch, in effect, departed, not for the Chateau of Marly, but for
Trianon; and hardly had he reached there before, in a little, very close
carriage, he was brought back to Versailles. He went up to Madame de
Maintenon's apartments by the little staircase in the Prince's Court, and
stole into the glass closet without being observed, except by a solitary
The ladies, believing themselves to be alone and at liberty, talked
without ceremony or constraint, as though they had been but twenty years
old. The King was very much grieved at the things which were said, but
he heard, without losing a word, the following dialogue or interview
NINON DE L'ENCLOS.--It is not my preservation which should surprise you,
since from morning to night I breathe that voluptuous air of independence
which refreshes the blood, and puts in play its circulation. I am
morally the same person whom you came to see in the pretty little house
in the Rue de Tournelles. My dressing-gown, as you well know, was my
preferred and chosen garb. To-day, as then, Madame la Marquise, I should
choose to place on my escutcheon the Latin device of the towns of San
Marino and Lucca,--Libertas. You have complimented me on my beauty; I
congratulate you upon yours, and I am surprised that you have so kept and
preserved it in the midst of the constraints and servitude that grandeur
and greatness involve.
MADAME DE MAINTENON.--At the commencement, I argued as you argue, and
believed that I should never get to the year's end without disgust.
Little by little I imposed silence upon my emotions and my regrets.
A life of great activity and occupation, by separating us, as it were,
from ourselves, extinguishes those exacting niceties, both of our proper
sensibility, and of our self-conceit. I remembered my sufferings,
my fears, and my privations after the death of that poor man;--[It was so
that she commonly spoke of her husband, Scarron.]--and since labour has
been the yoke imposed by God on every human being, I submitted with a
good grace to the respectable labour of education. Few teachers are
attached to their pupils; I attached myself to mine with tenderness, with
delight. It is true that it was my privilege to find the King's children
amiable and pretty, as few children are.
NINON DE L'ENCLOS.--From the most handsome and amiable man in the world
there could not come mediocre offspring. M. du Maine is your idol; the
King has given him his noble bearing, with his intelligence; and you have
inoculated him with your wit. Is it true that Madame de Montespan is no
longer your friend? That is a rumour which has credit in the capital;
and if the thing is true I regret it, and am sorry for you.
MADAME DE MAINTENON.--Madame de Montespan, as all Paris knows, obtained
my pension for me after the death of the Queen-mother. This service,
comparable with a favour, will always remain in my heart and my memory.
I have thanked her a thousand times for it, and I always shall thank her
for it. At the time when the young Queen of Portugal charged herself
with my fate and fortune, the Marquise, who had known me at the Hotel
d'Albret, desired to retain me in France, where she destined for me the
children of the King. I did what she desired; I took charge of his
numerous children out of respect for my benefactor, and attachment to
herself. To-day, when their first education is completed, and his
Majesty has recompensed me with the gift of the Maintenon estate, the
Marquise pretends that my role is finished, that I was wrong to let
myself be made lady in waiting, and that the recognition due to her
imposes an obligation on me to obey her in everything, and withdraw from
NINON DE L'ENCLOS.--Absolutely
MADAME DE MAINTENON.--Yes, really, I assure you.
NINON DE L'ENCLOS.--A departure? An absolute retreat? Oh, it is too
much! Does she wish you, then, to resign your office?
MADAME DE MAINTINON.--I cannot but think so, mademoiselle.
NINON DE L'ENCLOS.--Speaking personally, and for my private satisfaction,
I should be enchanted to see you quit the Court and return to society.
Society is your element. You know it by heart; you have shone there,
and there you would shine again. On reappearing, you would see yourself
instantly surrounded by those delicate and (pardon the expression)
sensuous minds who applauded with such delight your agreeable stories,
your brilliant and solid conversation. Those pleasant, idle hours were
lost to us when you left us, and I shall always remember them. At the
Court, where etiquette selects our words, as it rules our attitudes, you
cannot be yourself; I must confess that frankly. You do not paint your
lovely face, and I am obliged to you for that, madame; but it is
impossible for you to refrain from somewhat colouring your discourse, not
with the King, perhaps, whose always calm gaze transparently reveals the
man of honour, but with those eminences, those grandeurs, those royal and
serene highnesses, whose artificial and factitious perfumes already
filled your chapel before the incense of the sacrifice had wreathed its
clouds round the high altar.
The King, suddenly showing himself, somewhat to the surprise of the
ladies, said: "I have long wished, mademoiselle, this unique and
agreeable opportunity for which I am indebted to Madame de Maintenon.
Be seated, I pray you, and permit 'my Highness', slightly perfumed though
I be, to enjoy for a moment your witty conversation and society. What!
The atmosphere does not meet with your approval, and, in order to have
madame's society, you desire to disgust her with it herself, and deprive
us of her?"
"Sire," answered Ninon, "I have not enough power or authority to render
my intentions formidable, and my long regrets will be excused, I hope,
since, if madame left Versailles, she would cause the same grief there
that she has caused us."
"One has one's detractors in every conceivable locality. If Madame de
Maintenon has met with one at Versailles she would not be exempt from
them anywhere else. At Paris, you would be without rampart or armour,
I like to believe; but deign to grant me this preference,--I can very
well protect my friends. I think the town is ill-informed, and that
Madame de Montespan has no interest in separating madame from her
children, who are also mine.
"You will greatly oblige me, mademoiselle, if you will adopt this opinion
and publish it in your society, which is always select, though it is so
Then the King, passing to other subjects, brought up, of his own accord,
the place of farmer-general, which happened to be vacant; and he said to
Mademoiselle de l'Enclos: "I promise you this favour with pleasure, the
first which you have ever solicited of me, and I must beg you to address
yourself to Madame de Maintenon on every occasion when your relations or
yourself have something to ask from me. You must see clearly,
mademoiselle, that it is well to leave madame in this place, as an agent
with me for you, and your particular ambassadress."
I learnt all these curious details five or six days later from a young
colonel, related to me, to whom Mademoiselle de l'Enclos narrated her
admission and interview at Versailles. In reproducing the whole of this