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The Historic Court Memoirs of France, complete

Part 26 out of 62

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the truth of the matter, ordered Madame de Montbazon to make the
collection for the poor at the next fete that took place. Although very
well, Madame de Montbazon pretended to be ill, stopped in bed half a day,
and excused herself on this ground from performing the duty. Madame de
Bourgogne was annoyed, but she did not dare to push matters farther; and,
in consequence of this refusal, none of the Duchesses would make the
collection. Other ladies of quality soon perceived this, and they also
refused to serve; so that the collection fell into all sorts of hands,
and sometimes was not made at all. Matters went on so far, indeed, that
the King at last grew angry, and threatened to make Madame de Bourgogne
herself take this office. But refusals still followed upon refusals, and
the bomb thus at length was ready to burst.

The King, who at last ordered the daughter of M. le Grand to take the
plate on New Year's Day, 1704., had, it seems, got scent of the part I
was taking in this matter, and expressed himself to Madame de Maintenon,
as I learnt, as very discontented with me and one or two other Dukes.
He said that the Dukes were much less obedient to him than the Princes;
and that although many Duchesses had refused to make the collection, the
moment he had proposed that the daughter of M. le Grand should take it,
M. le Grand consented. On the next day, early in the morning, I saw
Chamillart, who related to me that on the previous evening, before he had
had time to open his business, the King had burst out in anger against
me, saying it was very strange, but that since I had quitted the army I
did nothing but meddle in matters of rank and bring actions against
everybody; finishing, by declaring that if he acted well he should send
me so far away that I should be unable to importune him any more.
Chamillart added, that he had done all in his power to appease the King,
but with little effect.

After consulting with my friends, I determined to go up to the King and
boldly ask to speak to him in his cabinet, believing that to be the
wisest course I could pursue. He was not yet so reconciled to me as he
afterwards became, and, in fact, was sorely out of humour with me. This
step did not seem, therefore, altogether unattended with danger; but,
as I have said, I resolved to take it. As he passed, therefore, from his
dinner that same day, I asked permission to follow him into his cabinet.
Without replying to me, he made a sign that I might enter, and went into
the embrasure of the window.

When we were quite alone I explained, at considerable length, my reasons
for acting in this matter, declaring that it was from no disrespect to
his Majesty that I had requested Madame de Saint-Simon and the other
Duchesses to refuse to collect for the poor, but simply to bring those to
account who had claimed without reason to be exempt from this duty.
I added, keeping my eyes fixed upon the King all the time, that I begged
him to believe that none of his subjects were more submissive to his will
or more willing to acknowledge the supremacy of his authority in all
things than the Dukes. Until this his tone and manner had been very
severe; but now they both softened, and he said, with much goodness and
familiarity, that "that was how it was proper to speak and think," and
other remarks equally gracious. I took then the opportunity of
expressing the sorrow I felt at seeing, that while my sole endeavour was
to please him, my enemies did all they could to blacken me in his eyes,
indicating that I suspected M. le Grand, who had never pardoned me for
the part I took in the affair of the Princesse d'Harcourt, was one of the
number. After I had finished the King remained still a moment, as if
ready to hear if I had anything more to say, and then quitted me with a
bow, slight but very gracious, saying it was well, and that he was
pleased with me.

I learnt afterwards that he said the same thing of me in the evening to
Chamillart, but, nevertheless, that he did not seem at all shaken in his
prejudice in favour of M. le Grand. The King was in fact very easy to
prejudice, difficult to lead back, and most unwilling to seek
enlightenment, or to listen to any explanations, if authority was in the
slightest degree at stake. Whoever had the address to make a question
take this shape, might be assured that the King would throw aside all
consideration of justice, right, and reason, and dismiss all evidence.
It was by playing on this chord that his ministers knew how to manage him
with so much art, and to make themselves despotic masters, causing him to
believe all they wished, while at the same time they rendered him
inaccessible to explanation, and to those who might have explained.

I have, perhaps, too much expanded an affair which might have been more
compressed. But in addition to the fact that I was mixed up in it, it is
by these little private details, as it seems to me, that the characters
of the Court and King are best made known.

In the early part of the next year, 1704., the King made La Queue, who
was a captain of cavalry, campmaster. This La Queue was seigneur of the
place of which he bore the name, distant six leagues from Versailles, and
as much from Dreux. He had married a girl that the King had had by a
gardener's wife. Bontems, the confidential valet of the King, had
brought about the marriage without declaring the names of the father or
the mother of the girl; but La Queue knew it, and promised himself a
fortune. The girl herself was tall and strongly resembled the King.
Unfortunately for her, she knew the secret of her birth, and much envied
her three sisters--recognised, and so grandly married. She lived on very
good terms with her husband--always, however, in the greatest privacy--
and had several children by him. La Queue himself, although by this
marriage son-in-law of the King, seldom appeared at the Court, and, when
there, was on the same footing as the simplest soldier. Bontems did not
fail from time to time to give him money. The wife of La Queue lived
very melancholily for twenty years in her village, never left it, and
scarcely ever went abroad for fear of betraying herself.

On Wednesday, the 25th of June, Monseigneur le Duc de Bourgogne had a son
born to him. This event caused great joy to the King and the Court.
The town shared their delight, and carried their enthusiasm almost to
madness, by the excess of their demonstration and their fetes. The King
gave a fete at Marly, and made the most magnificent presents to Madame la
Duchesse de Bourgogne when she left her bed. But we soon had reason to
repent of so much joy, for the child died in less than a year--and of so
much money unwisely spent, in fetes when it was wanted for more pressing
purposes. Even while these rejoicings were being celebrated, news
reached us which spread consternation in every family, and cast a gloom
over the whole city.

I have already said that a grand alliance, with the Emperor at its head,
had been formed against France, and that our troops were opposing the
Allies in various parts of Europe. The Elector of Bavaria had joined his
forces to ours, and had already done us some service. On the 12th of
August he led his men into the plain of Hochstedt, where, during the
previous year, he had gained a victory over the Imperialists. In this
plain he was joined by our troops, who took up positions right and left
of him, under the command of Tallard and Marsin. The Elector himself had
command of all. Soon after their arrival at Hochstedt, they received
intelligence that Prince Eugene, with the Imperialist forces, and the
Duke of Marlborough with the English were coming to meet them. Our
generals had, however, all the day before them to choose their ground,
and to make their dispositions. It would have been difficult to succeed
worse, both with the one and the other. A brook, by no means of a miry
kind, ran parallel to our army; and in front of it a spring, which formed
a long and large quagmire, nearly separated the two lines of Marshal
Tallard. It was a strange situation for a general to take up, who is
master of a vast plain; and it became, as will be seen, a very sad one.
At his extreme right was the large village of Blenheim, in which, by a
blindness without example, he had placed twenty-six battalions of
infantry, six regiments of dragoons, and a brigade of cavalry. It was an
entire army merely for the purpose of holding this village, and
supporting his right, and of course he had all these troops the less to
aid him in the battle which took place. The first battle of Hochstedt
afforded a lesson which ought to have been studied on this occasion.
There were many officers present, too, who had been at that battle; but
they were not consulted. One of two courses was open, either to take up
a position behind the brook, and parallel to it, so as to dispute its
passage with the enemies, or to take advantage of the disorder they would
be thrown into in crossing it by attacking them then. Both these plans
were good; the second was the better; but neither was adopted. What was
done was, to leave a large space between our troops and the brook, that
the enemy might pass at their ease, and be overthrown afterwards, as was
said. With such dispositions it is impossible to doubt but that our
chiefs were struck with blindness. The Danube flowed near enough to
Blenheim to be of sufficient support to our right, better indeed than
that village, which consequently there was no necessity to hold.

The enemies arrived on the 13th of August at the dawn, and at once took
up their position on the banks of the brook. Their surprise must have
been great to see our army so far off, drawn up in battle array. They
profited by the extent of ground left to them, crossed the brook at
nearly every point, formed themselves in several lines on the side to
which they crossed, and then extended themselves at their ease, without
receiving the slightest opposition. This is exact truth, but without any
appearance of being so; and posterity will with difficulty believe it.
It was nearly eight o'clock before all these dispositions, which our
troops saw made without moving, were completed. Prince Eugene with his
army had the right; the Duke of Marlborough the left. The latter thus
opposed to the forces of Tallard, and Prince Eugene to those of Marsin.

The battle commenced; and in one part was so far favourable to us that
the attack of Prince Eugene was repulsed by Marsin, who might have
profited by this circumstance but for the unfortunate position of our
right. Two things contributed to place us at a disadvantage. The second
line, separated by the quagmire I have alluded to from the first line,
could not sustain it properly; and in consequence of the long bend it was
necessary to make round this quagmire, neither line, after receiving or
making a charge, could retire quickly to rally and return again to the
attack. As for the infantry, the twenty-six battalions shut up in
Blenheim left a great gap in it that could not fail to, be felt. The
English, who soon perceived the advantage they might obtain from this
want of infantry, and from the difficulty with which our cavalry of the
right was rallied, profited by these circumstances with the readiness of
people who have plenty of ground at their disposal. They redoubled their
charges, and to say all in one word, they defeated at their first attack
all this army, notwithstanding the efforts of our general officers and of
several regiments to repel them. The army of the Elector, entirely
unsupported, and taken in flank by the English, wavered in its turn.
All the valour of the Bavarians, all the prodigies of the Elector, were
unable to remedy the effects of this wavering. Thus was seen, at one and
the same time, the army of Tallard beaten and thrown into the utmost
disorder; that of the Elector sustaining itself with great intrepidity,
but already in retreat; and that of Marsin charging and gaining ground
upon Prince Eugene. It was not until Marsin learnt of the defeat of
Tallard and of the Elector, that he ceased to pursue his advantages, and
commenced his retreat. This retreat he was able to make without being

In the mean time the troops in Blenheim had been twice attacked, and had
twice repulsed the enemy. Tallard had given orders to these troops on no
account to leave their positions, nor to allow a single man even to quit
them. Now, seeing his army defeated and in flight, he wished to
countermand these orders. He was riding in hot haste to Blenheim to do
so, with only two attendants, when all three were surrounded, recognised,
and taken prisoners.

These troops shut up in Blenheim had been left under the command of
Blansac, camp-marshal, and Clerembault, lieutenant-general. During the
battle this latter was missed, and could nowhere be found. It was known
afterwards that, for fear of being killed, he had endeavoured to escape
across the Danube on horseback attended by a single valet. The valet
passed over the river in safety, but his master went to the bottom.
Blansac, thus left alone in command, was much troubled by the disorders
he saw and heard, and by the want which he felt of fresh orders. He sent
a messenger to Tallard for instructions how to act, but his messenger was
stopped on the road, and taken prisoner. I only repeat what Blansac
himself reported in his defence, which was equally ill-received by the
King and the public, but which had no contradictors, for nobody was
witness of what took place at Blenheim except those actually there, and
they all, the principals at least, agreed in their story. What some of
the soldiers said was not of a kind that could altogether be relied upon.

While Blansac was in this trouble, he saw Denonville, one of our officers
who had been taken prisoner, coming towards the village, accompanied by
an officer who waved a handkerchief in the air and demanded a parley.
Denonville was a young man, very handsome and well made, who being a
great favourite with Monseigneur le Duc de Bourgogne had become
presumptuous and somewhat audacious. Instead of speaking in private to
Blansac and the other principal officers--since he had undertaken so
strange a mission--Denonville, who had some intellect, plenty of fine
talk, and a mighty opinion of himself, set to work haranguing the troops,
trying to persuade them to surrender themselves prisoners of war, so that
they might preserve themselves for the service of the King. Blansac, who
saw the wavering this caused among the troops, sharply told Denonville to
hold his tongue, and began himself to harangue the troops in a contrary
spirit. But it was to late. The mischief was done. Only one regiment,
that of Navarre, applauded him, all the rest maintained a dull silence.
I remind my readers that it is Blansac's version of the story I am

Soon after Denonville and his companion had returned to the enemy, an
English lord came, demanding a parley with the commandant. He was
admitted to Blansac, to whom he said that the Duke of Marlborough had
sent him to say that he had forty battalions and sixty pieces of cannon
at his disposal, with reinforcements to any extent at command; that he
should surround the village on all sides; that the army of Tallard was in
flight, and the remains of that of the Elector in retreat; that Tallard
and many general officers were prisoners; that Blansac could hope for no
reinforcements; and that, therefore, he had better at once make an
honourable capitulation, and surrender, himself with all his men
prisoners of war, than attempt a struggle in which he was sure to be
worsted with great loss. Blansac wanted to dismiss this messenger at
once, but the Englishman pressed him to advance a few steps out of the
village, and see with his own eyes the defeat of the Electoral army, and
the preparations that were made on the other side to continue the battle.
Blansac accordingly, attended by one of his officers, followed this lord,
and was astounded to see with his own eyes that all he had just heard was
true. Returned into Bleinheim, Blansac assembled all his principal
officers, made them acquainted with the proposition that had been made,
and told them what he had himself seen. Every one comprehended what a
frightful shock it would be for the country when it learnt that they had
surrendered themselves prisoners of war; but all things well considered,
it was thought best to accept these terms, and so preserve to the King
the twenty-six battalions and the twelve squadrons of dragoons who were
there. This terrible capitulation was at once, therefore, drawn up and
signed by Blansac, the general officers, and the heads of every corps
except that of Navarre, which was thus the sole one which refused.

The number of prisoners that fell to the enemy in this battle was
infinite. The Duke of Marlborough took charge of the most distinguished,
until he could carry them away to England, to grace his triumph there.
He treated them all, even the humblest, with the utmost attention,
consideration, and politeness, and with a modesty that did him even more
honour than his victory. Those that came under the charge of Prince
Louis of Baden were much less kindly treated.

The King received the cruel news of this battle on the 21st of August, by
a courier from the Marechal de Villeroy. By this courier the King learnt
that a battle had taken place on the 13th; had lasted from eight o'clock
in the morning until evening; that the entire army of Tallard was killed
or taken prisoners; that it was not known what had become of Tallard
himself, or whether the Elector and Marsin had been at the action. The
private letters that arrived were all opened to see what news they
contained, but no fresh information could be got from them. For six days
the King remained in this uncertainty as to the real losses that had been
sustained. Everybody was afraid to write bad news; all the letters which
from time to time arrived, gave, therefore, but an unsatisfactory account
of what had taken place. The King used every means in his power to
obtain some news. Every post that came in was examined by him, but there
was little found to satisfy him. Neither the King nor anybody else could
understand, from what had reached them, how it was that an entire army
had been placed inside a village, and had surrendered itself by a signed
capitulation. It puzzled every brain. At last the details, that had
oozed out little by little, augmented to a perfect stream, by the,
arrival of one of our officers, who, taken prisoner, had been allowed by
the Duke of Marlborough to go to Paris to relate to the King the
misfortune that had happened to him.

We were not accustomed to misfortunes. This one, very reasonably, was
utterly unexpected. It seemed in every way the result of bad
generalship, of an unjustifiable disposition of troops, and of a series
of gross and incredible errors. The commotion was general. There was
scarcely an illustrious family that had not had one of its members
killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. Other families were in the same
case. The public sorrow and indignation burst out without restraint.
Nobody who had taken part in this humiliation was spared; the generals
and the private soldiers alike came in for blame. Denonville was
ignominiously broken for the speech he had made at Blenheim. The
generals, however, were entirely let off. All the punishment fell upon
certain regiments, which were broken, and upon certain unimportant
officers--the guilty and innocent mixed together. The outcry was
universal. The grief of the King at this ignominy and this loss, at the
moment when he imagined that the fate of the Emperor was in his hands,
may be imagined. At a time when he might have counted upon striking a
decisive blow, he saw himself reduced to act simply on the defensive, in
order to preserve his troops; and had to repair the loss of an entire
army, killed or taken prisoners. The sequel showed not less that the
hand of God was weighty upon us. All judgment was lost. We trembled
even in the midst of Alsace.

In the midst of all this public sorrow, the rejoicing and the fetes for
the birth of the Duc de Bretagne son of Monseigneur le Duc de Bourgogne,
were not discontinued. The city gave a firework fete upon the river,
that Monseigneur, the Princes, his sons, and Madame la Duchesse de
Bourgogne, with many ladies and courtiers, came to see from the windows
of the Louvre, magnificent cheer and refreshments being provided for
them. This was a contrast which irritated the people, who would not
understand that it was meant for magnanimity. A few days afterwards the
King gave an illumination and a fete at Marly, to which the Court of
Saint Germain was invited; and which was all in honour of Madame la
Duchesse de Bourgogne. He thanked the Prevot des Marchand for the
fireworks upon the river, and said that Monseigneur and Madame had found
them very beautiful.

Shortly after this, I received a letter from one of my friends, the Duc
de Montfort, who had always been in the army of the Marechal de Villeroy.
He sent word to me, that upon his return he intended to break his sword,
and retire from the army. His letter was written in such a despairing
tone that, fearing lest with his burning courage he might commit some
martial folly, I conjured him not to throw himself into danger for the
sake of being killed. It seemed that I had anticipated his intentions.
A convoy of money was to be sent to Landau. Twice he asked to be allowed
to take charge of this convoy, and twice he was told it was too
insignificant a charge for a camp-marshal to undertake. The third time
that he asked this favour, he obtained it by pure importunity. He
carried the money safely into Landau, without meeting with any obstacle.
On his return he saw some hussars roving about. Without a moment's
hesitation he resolved to give chase to them. He was with difficulty
restrained for some time, and a last, breaking away, he set off to attack
them, followed by only two officers. The hussars dispersed themselves,
and retreated; the Duc de Montfort followed them, rode into the midst of
them, was surrounded on all sides, and soon received a blow which
overturned him. In a few moments after, being carried off by his men, he
died, having only had time to confess himself, and to arrive at his
quarters. He was infinitely regretted by everybody who had known him.
The grief of his family may be imagined.


The King did not long remain without some consolation for the loss of the
battle of Hochstedt (Blenheim). The Comte de Toulouse--very different in
every respect from his brother, the Duc du Maine--was wearied with
cruising in the Mediterranean, without daring to attack enemies that were
too strong for him. He had, therefore, obtained reinforcements this
year, so that he was in a state to measure his forces with any opponent.
The English fleet was under the command of Admiral Rooks. The Comte de
Toulouse wished above all things to attack. He asked permission to do
so, and, the permission being granted, he set about his enterprise. He
met the fleet of Admiral Rooks near Malaga, on the 24th of September of
this year, and fought with it from ten o'clock in the morning until eight
o'clock in the evening. The fleets, as far as the number of vessels was
concerned, were nearly equal. So furious or so obstinate a sea-fight had
not been seen for a long time. They had always the wind upon our fleet,
yet all the advantage was on the side of the Comte de Toulouse, who could
boast that he had obtained the victory, and whose vessel fought that of
Rooks, dismasted it, and pursued it all next day towards the coast of
Barbary, where the Admiral retired. The enemy lost six thousand men; the
ship of the Dutch Vice-Admiral was blown up; several others were sunk,
and some dismasted. Our fleet lost neither ship nor mast, but the
victory cost the lives of many distinguished people, in addition to those
of fifteen hundred soldiers or sailors killed or wounded.

Towards evening on the 25th, by dint of maneuvers, aided by the wind, our
fleet came up again with that of Rooks. The Comte de Toulouse was for
attacking it again on the morrow, and showed that if the attack were
successful, Gibraltar would be the first result of the victory. That
famous place, which commands the important strait of the same name, had
been allowed to fall into neglect, and was defended by a miserable
garrison of forty men. In this state it had of course easily fallen into
the hands of the enemies. But they had not yet had time to man it with a
much superior force, and Admiral Rooks once defeated, it must have
surrendered to us.

The Comte de Toulouse urged his advice with all the energy of which he
was capable, and he was supported in opinion by others of more experience
than himself. But D'O, the mentor of the fleet, against whose counsel he
had been expressly ordered by the King never to act, opposed the project
of another attack with such disdainful determination, that the Comte had
no course open but to give way. The annoyance which this caused
throughout the fleet was very great. It soon was known what would have
become of the enemy's fleet had it been attacked, and that Gibraltar
would have been found in exactly the same state as when abandoned. The
Comte de Toulouse acquired great honour in this campaign, and his stupid
teacher lost little, because he had little to lose.

M. de Mantua having surrendered his state to the King, thereby rendering
us a most important service in Italy, found himself ill at ease in his
territory, which had become the theatre of war, and had come incognito to
Paris. He had apartments provided for him in the Luxembourg, furnished
magnificently with the Crown furniture, and was very graciously received
by the King. The principal object of his journey was to marry some
French lady; and as he made no secret of this intention, more than one
plot was laid in order to provide him with a wife. M. de Vaudemont,
intent upon aggrandizing the house of Lorraine, wished. M de Mantua to
marry a member of that family, and fixed upon Mademoiselle d'Elboeuf for
his bride. The Lorraines did all in their power to induce M. de Mantua
to accept her. But M. le Prince had also his designs in this matter. He
had a daughter; whom he knew not how to get off his hands, and he thought
that in more ways than one it would be to his advantage to marry her to
the Duke of Mantua. He explained his views to the King, who gave him
permission to follow them out, and promised to serve him with all his
protection. But when the subject was broached to M. de Mantua, he
declined this match in such a respectful, yet firm, manner that M. le
Prince felt he must abandon all hope of carrying it out. The Lorraines
were not more successful in their designs. When M. de Vaudemont had
first spoken of Mademoiselle d'Elboeuf, M. de Mantua had appeared to
listen favourably. This was in Italy. Now that he was in Paris he acted
very differently. It was in vain that Mademoiselle d'Elboeuf was thrust
in his way, as though by chance, at the promenades, in the churches; her
beauty, which might have touched many others, made no impression upon
him. The fact was that M. de Mantua, even long before leaving his state,
had fixed upon a wife.

Supping one evening with the Duc de Lesdiguieres, a little before the
death of the latter, he saw a ring with a portrait in it; upon the Duke's
finger. He begged to be allowed to look at the portrait, was charmed
with it, and said he should be very happy to have such a beautiful
mistress. The Duke at this burst out laughing, and said it was the
portrait of his wife. As soon as the Duc de Lesdiguieres was dead,
de Mantua thought only of marrying the young widowed Duchess. He sought
her everywhere when he arrived in Paris, but without being able to find
her; because she was in the first year of her widowhood. He therefore
unbosomed himself to Torcy, who reported the matter to the King. The
King approved of the design of M. de Mantua, and charged the Marechal de
Duras to speak to the Duchesse de Lesdiguieres, who was his daughter.
The Duchess was equally surprised and afflicted when she learned what was
in progress. She testified to her father her repugnance to abandon
herself to the caprices and the jealousy of an old Italian 'debauche' the
horror she felt at the idea of being left alone with him in Italy; and
the reasonable fear she had of her health, with a man whose own could not
be good.

I was promptly made acquainted with this affair; for Madame de
Lesdiguieres and Madame de Saint-Simon were on the most intimate terms.
I did everything in my power to persuade Madame de Lesdirguieres to
content to the match, insisting at once on her family position, on the
reason of state, and on the pleasure of ousting Madame d'Elboeuf,--but it
was all in vain. I never saw such firmness. Pontchartrain, who came and
reasoned with her, was even less successful than I, for he excited her by
threats and menaces. M. le Prince himself supported us--having no longer
any hope for himself, and fearing, above all things, M. de Mantua's
marriage with a Lorraine--and did all he could to persuade Madame de
Lesdiguieres to give in. I renewed my efforts in the same direction, but
with no better success than before. Nevertheless, M. de Mantua,
irritated by not being able to see Madame de Lesdirguieres, resolved to
go and wait for her on a Sunday at the Minimes. He found her shut up in
a chapel, and drew near the door in order to see her as she went out. He
was not much gratified; her thick crape veil was lowered; it was with
difficulty he could get a glance at her. Resolved to succeed, he spoke
to Torcy, intimating that Madame de Lesdiguieres ought not to refuse such
a slight favour as to allow herself to be seen in a church. Torcy
communicated this to the King, who sent word to Madame de Lesdiguieres
that she must consent to the favour M. de Mantua demanded. She could not
refuse after this. M. de Mantua went accordingly, and waited for her in
the same place, where he had once already so badly seen her. He found
her, in the chapel, and drew near the door, as before. She came out, her
veil raised, passed lightly before him, made him a sliding courtesy as
she glided by, in reply to his bow, and reached her coach.

M. de Mantua was charmed; he redoubled his efforts with the King and M.
de Duras; the matter was discussed in full council, like an affair of
state--indeed it was one; and it was resolved to amuse M. de Mantua, and
yet at the same time to do everything to vanquish this resistance of
Madame de Lesdiguieres, except employing the full authority of the King,
which the King himself did not wish to exert. Everything was promised to
her on the part of the King: that it should be his Majesty who would make
the stipulations of the marriage contract; that it should be his Majesty
who would give her a dowry, and would guarantee her return to France if
she became a widow, and assure her his protection while she remained a
wife; in one word, everything was tried, and in the gentlest and most
honourable manner, to persuade her. Her mother lent us her house one
afternoon, in order that we might speak more at length and more at our
ease there to Madame de Lesdiguieres than we could at the Hotel de Duras.
We only gained a torrent of tears for our pains.

A few days after this, I was very much astonished to hear Chamillart
relate to me all that had passed at this interview. I learnt afterwards
that Madame de Lesdiguieres, fearing that if, entirely unsupported, she
persisted in her refusal, it might draw upon her the anger of the King,
had begged Chamillart to implore his Majesty not to insist upon this
marriage. M. de Mantua hearing this, turned his thoughts elsewhere; and
she was at last delivered of a pursuit which had become a painful
persecution to her. Chamillart served her so well that the affair came
to an end; and the King, flattered perhaps by the desire this young
Duchess showed to remain his subject instead of becoming a sovereign,
passed a eulogium upon her the same evening in his cabinet to his family
and to the Princesses, by whom it was spread abroad through society.

I may as well finish this matter at once. The Lorraines, who had watched
very closely the affair up to this point, took hope again directly they
heard of the resolution M. de Mantua had formed to abandon his pursuit of
Madame de Lesdiguieres. They, in their turn, were closely watched by
M. le Prince, who so excited the King against them, that Madame d'Elboeuf
received orders from him not to continue pressing her suit upon M. de
Mantua. That did not stop them. They felt that the King would not
interfere with them by an express prohibition, and sure, by past
experience, of being on better terms with him afterwards than before,
they pursued their object with obstinacy. By dint of much plotting and
scheming, and by the aid of their creatures, they contrived to overcome
the repugnance of M. de Mantua to Mademoiselle d'Elboeuf, which at bottom
could be only caprice--her beauty, her figure, and her birth taken into
account. But Mademoiselle d'Elboeuf, in her turn, was as opposed to
marriage with M. de Mantua as Madame de Lesdiguieres had been. She was,
however, brought round ere long, and then the consent of the King was the
only thing left to be obtained. The Lorraines made use of their usual
suppleness in order to gain that. They represented the impolicy of
interfering with the selection of a sovereign who was the ally of France,
and who wished to select a wife from among her subjects, and succeeded so
well, that the King determined to become neutral; that is to say, neither
to prohibit nor to sanction this match. M. le Prince was instrumental in
inducing the King to take this neutral position; and he furthermore
caused the stipulation to be made, that it should not be celebrated in
France, but at Mantua.

After parting with the King, M. de Mantua, on the 21st of September, went
to Nemours, slept there, and then set out for Italy. At the same time
Madame and Mademoiselle d'Elboeuf, with Madame de Pompadour, sister of
the former, passed through Fontainebleau without going to see a soul, and
followed their prey lest he should change his mind and escape them until
the road he was to take branched off from that they were to go by; he in
fact intending to travel by sea and they by land. On the way their fears
redoubled. Arrived at Nevers, and lodged in a hostelrie, they thought it
would not be well to commit themselves further without more certain
security: Madame de Pompadour therefore proposed to M. de Mantua not to
delay his happiness any longer, but to celebrate his marriage at once.
He defended himself as well as he could, but was at last obliged to give
in. During this indecent dispute, the Bishop was sent to. He had just
died, and the Grand Vicar, not knowing what might be the wishes of the
King upon this marriage, refused to celebrate it. The chaplain was
therefore appealed to, and he at once married Mademoiselle d'Elboeuf to
M. de Mantua in the hotel. As soon as the ceremony was over, Madame
d'Elboeuf wished to leave her daughter alone with M. de Mantua, and
although he strongly objected to this, everybody quitted the room,
leaving only the newly married couple there, and Madame de Pompadour
outside upon the step listening to what passed between them. But finding
after a while that both were very much embarrassed, and that M. de Mantua
did little but cry out for the company to return, she conferred with her
sister, and they agreed to give him his liberty. Immediately he had
obtained it, he mounted his horse, though it was not early, and did not
see them again until they reached Italy--though all went the same road as
far as Lyons. The news of this strange celebration of marriage was soon
spread abroad with all the ridicule which attached to it.

The King was very much annoyed when he learnt that his orders had been
thus disobeyed. The Lorraines plastered over the affair by representing
that they feared an affront from M. de Mantua, and indeed it did not seem
at all unlikely that M. de Mantua, forced as it were into compliance with
their wishes, might have liked nothing better than to reach Italy and
then laugh at them. Meanwhile, Madame d'Elboeuf and her daughter
embarked on board the royal galleys and started for Italy. On the way
they were fiercely chased by some African corsairs, and it is a great
pity they were not taken to finish the romance.

However, upon arriving in Italy, the marriage was again celebrated, this
time with all the forms necessary for the occasion. But Madame d'Elboeuf
had no cause to rejoice that she had succeeded in thus disposing of her
daughter. The new Duchesse de Mantua was guarded by her husband with the
utmost jealousy. She was not allowed to see anybody except her mother,
and that only for an hour each day. Her women entered her apartment only
to dress and undress her. The Duke walled up very high all the windows
of his house, and caused his wife to, be guarded by old women. She
passed her days thus in a cruel prison. This treatment, which I did not
expect, and the little consideration, not to say contempt, shown here for
M. de Mantua since his departure, consoled me much for the invincible
obstinacy of Madame de Lesdiguieres. Six months after, Madame d'Elboeuf
returned, beside herself with vexation, but too vain to show it. She
disguised the misfortune of her daughter, and appeared to be offended if
it was spoken of; but all our letters from the army showed that the news
was true. The strangest thing of all is, that the Lorraines after this
journey were as well treated by the King as if they had never undertaken
it; a fact which shows their art and ascendency.

I have dwelt too long perhaps upon this matter. It appeared to me to
merit attention by its singularity, and still more so because it is by
facts of this sort that is shown what was the composition of the Court of
the King.

About this time the Comtesse d'Auvergne finished a short life by an
illness very strange and uncommon. When she married the Comte d'Auvergne
she was a Huguenot, and he much wanted to make her turn Catholic.
A famous advocate of that time, who was named Chardon, had been a
Huguenot, and his wife also; they had made a semblance, however, of
abjuring, but made no open profession of Catholicism. Chardon was
sustained by his great reputation, and by the number of protectors he had
made for himself.

One morning he and his wife were in their coach before the Hotel-Dieu,
waiting for a reply that their lackey was a very long time in bringing
them. Madame Chardon glanced by chance upon the grand portal of Notre
Dame, and little by little fell into a profound reverie, which might be
better called reflection. Her husband, who at last perceived this, asked
her what had sent her into such deep thought, and pushed her elbow even
to draw a reply from her. She told him then what she was thinking about.
Pointing to Notre Dame, she said that it was many centuries before Luther
and Calvin that those images of saints had been sculptured over that
portal; that this proved that saints had long since been invoked; the
opposition of the reformers to this ancient opinion was a novelty; that
this novelty rendered suspicious other dogmas against the antiquity of
Catholicism that they taught; that these reflections, which she had never
before made, gave her much disquietude, and made her form the resolution
to seek to enlighten herself.

Chardon thought his wife right, and from that day they laid themselves
out to seek the truth, then to consult, then to be instructed. This
lasted a year, and then they made a new abjuration, and both ever
afterwards passed their lives in zeal and good works. Madame Chardon
converted many Huguenots. The Comte d'Auvergne took his wife to her.
The Countess was converted by her, and became a very good Catholic. When
she died she was extremely regretted by all the relatives of her husband,
although at first they had looked upon her coldly.

In the month of this September, a strange attempt at assassination
occurred. Vervins had been forced into many suits against his relatives,
and was upon the point of gaining them all, when one of his cousins-
german, who called himself the Abbe de Pre, caused him to be attacked as
he passed in his coach along the Quai de la Tournelle, before the
community of Madame de Miramion. Vervins was wounded with several sword
cuts, and also his coachman, who wished to defend him. In consequence of
the complaint Vervins made, the Abbe escaped abroad, whence he never
returned, and soon after, his crime being proved, was condemned to be
broken alive on the wheel. Vervins had long been menaced with an attack
by the Abbe. Vervins was an agreeable, well-made man, but very idle.
He had entered the army; but quitted it soon, and retired to his estates
in Picardy. There he shut himself up without any cause of disgust or of
displeasure, without being in any embarrassment, for on the contrary he
was well to do, and all his affairs were in good order, and he never
married; without motives of piety, for piety was not at all in his vein;
without being in bad health, for his health was always perfect; without a
taste for improvement, for no workmen were ever seen in his house; still
less on account of the chase, for he never went to it. Yet he stayed in
his house for several years, without intercourse with a soul, and, what
is most incomprehensible, without budging from his bed, except to allow
it to be made. He dined there, and often all alone; he transacted what
little business he had to do there, and received while there the few
people he could not refuse admission to; and each day, from the moment he
opened his eyes until he closed them again, worked at tapestry, or read a
little; he persevered until his death in this strange fashion of
existence; so uniquely singular, that I have wished to describe it.


There presents itself to my memory an anecdote which it would be very
prudent perhaps to be silent upon, and which is very curious for anybody
who has seen things so closely as I have, to describe. What determines
me to relate it is that the fact is not altogether unknown, and that
every Court swarms with similar adventures. Must it be said then? We
had amongst us a charming young Princess who, by her graces, her
attentions, and her original manners, had taken possession of the hearts
of the King, of Madame de Maintenon, and of her husband, Monseigneur le
Duc de Bourgogne. The extreme discontent so justly felt against her
father, M. de Savoie, had not made the slightest alteration in their
tenderness for her. The King, who hid nothing from her, who worked with
his ministers in her presence whenever she liked to enter, took care not
to say a word in her hearing against her father. In private, she clasped
the King round the neck at all hours, jumped upon his knees, tormented
him with all sorts of sportiveness, rummaged among his papers, opened his
letters end read them in his presence, sometimes in spite of him; and
acted in the same manner with Madame de Maintenon. Despite this extreme
liberty, she never spoke against any one: gracious to all, she
endeavoured to ward off blows from all whenever she could; was attentive
to the private comforts of the King, even the humblest: kind to all who
served her, and living with her ladies, as with friends, in complete
liberty, old and young; she was the darling of the Court, adored by all;
everybody, great and small, was anxious to please her; everybody missed
her when she was away; when she reappeared the void was filled up; in a
word, she had attached all hearts to her; but while in this brilliant
situation she lost her own.

Nangis, now a very commonplace Marshal of France, was at that time in
full bloom. He had an agreeable but not an uncommon face; was well made,
without anything marvellous; and had been educated in intrigue by the
Marechale de Rochefort, his grandmother, and Madame de Blansac, his
mother, who were skilled mistresses of that art. Early introduced by
them into the great world of which they were, so to speak, the centre,
he had no talent but that of pleasing women, of speaking their language,
and of monopolising the most desirable by a discretion beyond his years,
and which did not belong to his time. Nobody was more in vogue than he.
He had had the command of a regiment when he was quite a child. He had
shown firmness, application, and brilliant valour in war, that the ladies
had made the most of, and they sufficed at his age; he was of the Court
of Monseigneur le Duc de Bourgogne, about the same age, and well treated
by him.

The Duc de Bourgogne, passionately in love with his wife, was not so well
made as Nangis; but the Princess reciprocated his ardor so perfectly that
up to his death he never suspected that her glances had wandered to any
one else. They fell, however, upon Nangis, and soon redoubled. Nangis
was not ungrateful, but he feared the thunderbolt; and his heart, too,
was already engaged. Madame de la Vrilliere, who, without beauty, was
pretty and grateful as Love, had made this conquest. She was, as I have
said, daughter of Madame de Mailly, Dame d'Atours of Madame la Duchesse
de Bourgogne; and was always near her. Jealousy soon enlightened her as
to what was taking place. Far from yielding her conquest to the Duchess;
she made a point of preserving it, of disputing its possession, and
carrying it off. This struggle threw Nangis into a terrible
embarrassment. He feared the fury of Madame de la Vrilliere, who
affected to be more ready to break out than in reality she was. Besides
his love for her, he feared the result of an outburst, and already saw
his fortune lost. On the other hand, any reserve of his towards the
Duchess, who had so much power in her hands--and seemed destined to have
more--and who he knew was not likely to suffer a rival
--might, he felt, be his ruin. This perplexity, for those who were aware
of it, gave rise to continual scenes. I was then a constant visitor of
Madame de Blansac, at Paris, and of the Marechale de Rochefort, at
Versailles; and, through them and several other ladies of the Court, with
whom I was intimate, I learnt, day by day, everything that passed. In
addition to the fact that nothing diverted me more, the results of this
affair might be great; and it was my especial ambition to be well
informed of everything. At length, all members of the Court who were
assiduous and enlightened understood the state of affairs; but either
through fear or from love to the Duchess, the whole Court was silent, saw
everything, whispered discreetly, and actually kept the secret that was
not entrusted to it. The struggle between the two ladies, not without
bitterness, and sometimes insolence on the part of Madame de la
Vrilliere, nor without suffering and displeasure gently manifested on the
part of Madame de Bourgogne, was for a long time a singular sight.

Whether Nangis, too faithful to his first love, needed some grains of
jealousy to excite him, or whether things fell out naturally, it happened
that he found a rival. Maulevrier, son of a brother of Colbert who had
died of grief at not being named Marshal of France, was this rival. He
had married a daughter of the Marechal de Tesse, and was not very
agreeable in appearance--his face, indeed, was very commonplace. He was
by no means framed for gallantry; but he had wit, and a mind fertile in
intrigues, with a measureless ambition that was sometimes pushed to
madness. His wife was pretty, not clever, quarrelsome, and under a
virginal appearance; mischievous to the last degree. As daughter of a
man for whom Madame de Bourgogne had much gratitude for the part he had
taken in negotiating her marriage, and the Peace of Savoy, she was easily
enabled to make her way at Court, and her husband with her. He soon
sniffed what was passing in respect to Nangis, and obtained means of
access to Madame de Bourgogne, through the influence of his father-in-
law; was assiduous in his attentions; and at length, excited by example,
dared to sigh. Tired of not being understood, he ventured to write. It
is pretended that he sent his letters through one of the Court ladies,
who thought they came from Tesse, delivered them, and handed him back the
answers, as though for delivery by him. I will not add what more was
believed. I will simply say that this affair was as soon perceived as
had been the other, and was treated, with the same silence.

Under pretext of friendship, Madame de Bourgogne went more than once--on
account of the speedy departure of her husband (for the army), attended
some, times by La Maintenon,--to the house of Madame de Maulevrier, to
weep with her. The Court smiled. Whether the tears were for Madame de
Maulevrier or for Nangis, was doubtful. But Nangis, nevertheless,
aroused by this rivalry, threw Madame de la Vrilliere into terrible
grief, and into a humour over which she was not mistress.

This tocsin made itself heard by Maulevrier. What will not a man think
of doing when possessed to excess by love or ambition? He pretended to
have something the matter with his chest, put himself on a milk diet,
made believe that he had lost his voice, and was sufficiently master of
himself to refrain from uttering an intelligible word during a whole
year; by these means evading the campaign and remaining at the Court.
He was mad enough to relate this project, and many others, to his friend
the Duc de Lorges, from whom, in turn, I learnt it. The fact was, that
bringing himself thus to the necessity of never speaking to anybody
except in their ear, he had the liberty of speaking low to--Madame la
Duchesse de Bourgogne before all the Court without impropriety and
without suspicion. In this manner he said to her whatever he wished day
by day, and was never overheard. He also contrived to say things the
short answers to which were equally unheard. He so accustomed people to
this manner of speaking that they took no more notice of it than was
expressed in pity for such a sad state; but it happened that those who
approached the nearest to Madame la Duchesse de Bourgogne when Maulevrier
was at her side, soon knew enough not to be eager to draw near her again
when she was thus situated. This trick lasted more than a year: his
conversation was principally composed of reproaches--but reproaches
rarely succeed in love. Maulevrier, judging by the ill-humour of Madame
de la Vrilliere, believed Nangis to be happy. Jealousy and rage
transported him at last to the extremity of folly.

One day, as Madame de Bourgogne was coming from mass and he knew that
Dangeau, her chevalier d'honneur, was absent, he gave her his hand. The
attendants had accustomed themselves to let him have this honour, on
account of his distinguished voice, so as to allow him to speak by the
way, and retired respectfully so as not to hear what he said. The ladies
always followed far behind, so that, in the midst of all the Court, he
had, from the chapel to the apartments of Madame de Bourgogne, the full
advantages of a private interview--advantages that he had availed himself
of several times. On this day he railed against Nangis to Madame de
Bourgogne, called him by all sorts of names, threatened to tell
everything to the King and to Madame de Maintenon, and to the Duc de
Bourgogne, squeezed her fingers as if he would break them, and led her in
this manner, like a madman as he was, to her apartments. Upon entering
them she was ready to swoon. Trembling all over she entered her
wardrobe, called one of her favourite ladies, Madame de Nogaret, to her,
related what had occurred, saying she knew not how she had reached her
rooms, or how it was she had not sunk beneath the floor, or died. She
had never been so dismayed. The same day Madame de Nogaret related this
to Madame de Saint-Simon and to me, in the strictest confidence. She
counselled the Duchess to behave gently with such a dangerous madman, and
to avoid committing herself in any way with him. The worst was, that
after this he threatened and said many things against Nangis, as a man
with whom he was deeply offended, and whom he meant to call to account.
Although he gave no reason for this, the reason was only too evident.
The fear of Madame de Bourgogne at this may be imagined, and also that of
Nangis. He was brave and cared for nobody; but to be mixed up in such an
affair as this made him quake with fright. He beheld his fortune and his
happiness in the hands of a furious madman. He shunned Maulevrier from
that time as much as possible, showed himself but little, and held his

For six weeks Madame de Bourgogne lived in the most measured manner, and
in mortal tremors of fear, without, however, anything happening. I know
not who warned Tesse of what was going on. But when he learnt it he
acted like a man of ability. He persuaded his son-in-law, Maulevrier, to
follow him to Spain, as to a place where his fortune was assured to him.
He spoke to Fagon, who saw all and knew all. He understood matters in a
moment, and at once said, that as so many remedies had been tried
ineffectually for Maulevrier, he must go to a warmer climate, as a winter
in France would inevitably kill him. It was then as a remedy, and as
people go to the waters, that he went to Spain. The King and all the
Court believed this, and neither the King nor Madame de Maintenon offered
any objections. As soon as Tesse knew this he hurried his son-in-law out
of the realm, and so put a stop to his follies and the mortal fear they
had caused. To finish this adventure at once, although it will lead me
far beyond the date of other matters to be spoken of after, let me say
what became of Maulevrier after this point of the narrative.

He went first to Spain with Tesse. On the way they had an interview with
Madame des Ursins, and succeeded in gaining her favour so completely,
that, upon arriving at Madrid, the King and Queen of Spain, informed of
this, welcomed them with much cordiality. Maulevrier soon became a great
favourite with the Queen of Spain. It has been said, that he wished to
please her, and that he succeeded. At all events he often had long
interviews with her in private, and these made people think and talk.

Maulevrier began to believe it time to reap after having so well sown.
He counted upon nothing less than being made grandee of Spain, and would
have obtained this favour but for his indiscretion. News of what was in
store for him was noised abroad. The Duc de Grammont, then our
ambassador at Madrid, wrote word to the King of the rumours that were in
circulation of Maulevrier's audacious conduct towards the Queen of Spain,
and of the reward it was to meet with. The King at once sent a very
strong letter to the King of Spain about Maulevrier, who, by the same
courier, was prohibited from accepting any favour that might be offered
him. He was ordered at the same time to join Tesse at Gibraltar. He had
already done so at the instance of Tesse himself; so the courier went
from Madrid to Gibraltar to find him. His rage and vexation upon seeing
himself deprived of the recompense he had considered certain were very
great. But they yielded in time to the hopes he formed of success, and
he determined to set off for Madrid and thence to Versailles. His
father-in-law tried to retain him at the siege, but in vain. His
representations and his authority were alike useless. Maulevrier hoped
to gain over the King and Queen of Spain so completely, that our King
would be forced, as it were, to range himself on their side; but the Duc
de Grammont at once wrote word that Maulevrier had left the siege of
Gibraltar and returned to Madrid. This disobedience was at once
chastised. A courier was immediately despatched to Maulevrier,
commanding him to set out for France. He took leave of the King and
Queen of Spain like a man without hope, and left Spain. The most
remarkable thing is, that upon arriving at Paris, and finding the Court
at Marly, and his wife there also, he asked permission to go too, the
husbands being allowed by right to accompany their wives there, and the
King, to avoid a disturbance, did not refuse him.

At first everything seemed to smile upon Maulervrier. He had, as I have
said, made friends with Madame des Ursins when he was on the road to
Spain. He had done so chiefly by vaunting his intimacy with Madame de
Bourgogne, and by showing to Madame des Ursins that he was in many of the
secrets of the Court. Accordingly, upon his return, she took him by the
hand and showed a disposition towards him which could not fail to
reinstate him in favour. She spoke well of him to Madame de Maintenon,
who, always much smitten with new friends, received him well, and often
had conversations with him which lasted more than three hours. Madame de
Maintenon mentioned him to the King, and Maulevrier, who had returned out
of all hope, now saw himself in a more favourable position than ever.

But the old cause of trouble still existed, and with fresh complications.
Nangis was still in favour, and his appearance made Maulevrier miserable.
There was a new rival too in the field, the Abbe de Polignac.

Pleasing, nay most fascinating in manner, the Abbe was a man to gain all
hearts. He stopped at no flattery to succeed in this. One day when
following the King through the gardens of Marly, it came on to rain.
The King considerately noticed the Abbe's dress, little calculated to
keep off rain. "It is no matter, Sire," said De Polignac, "the rain of
Marly does not wet." People laughed much at this, and these words were a
standing reproach to the soft-spoken Abbe.

One of the means by which the Abbe gained the favour of the King was by
being the lover of Madame du Maine. His success at length was great in
every direction. He even envied the situations of Nangis and Maulevrier;
and sought to participate in the same happiness. He took the same road.
Madame d'O and the Marechale de Coeuvres became his friends.

He sought to be heard, and was heard. At last he faced the danger of the
Swiss, and on fine nights was seen with the Duchess in the gardens.
Nangis diminished in favour. Maulevrier on his return increased in fury.
The Abbe met with the same fate as they: everything was perceived: people
talked about the matter in whispers, but silence was kept. This triumph,
in spite of his age, did not satisfy the Abbe: he aimed at something more
solid. He wished to arrive at the cardinalship, and to further his views
he thought it advisable to ingratiate himself into the favour of Monsieur
de Bourgogne. He sought introduction to them through friends of mine,
whom I warned against him as a man without scruple, and intent only upon
advancing himself. My warnings were in vain. My friends would not heed
me, and the Abbe de Polignac succeeded in gaining the confidence of
Monsieur de Bourgogne, as well as the favour of Madame de Bourgogne.

Maulevrier had thus two sources of annoyance--the Abbe de Polignac and
Nangis. Of the latter he showed himself so jealous, that Madame de
Maulevrier, out of pique, made advances to him. Nangis, to screen
himself the better, replied to her. Maulevrier perceived this. He knew
his wife to be sufficiently wicked to make him fear her. So many
troubles of heart and brain transported him. He lost his head.

One day the Marechale de Coeuvres came to see him, apparently on some
message of reconciliation. He shut the door upon her; barricaded her
within, and through the door quarrelled with her, even to abuse, for an
hour, during which she had the patience to remain there without being
able to see him. After this he went rarely to Court, but generally kept
himself shut up at home.

Sometimes he would go out all alone at the strangest hours, take a fiacre
and drive away to the back of the Chartreux or to other remote spots.
Alighting there, he would whistle, and a grey-headed old man would
advance and give him a packet, or one would be thrown to him from a
window, or he would pick up a box filled with despatches, hidden behind a
post. I heard of these mysterious doings from people to whom he was vain
and indiscreet enough to boast of them. He continually wrote letters to
Madame de Bourgogne, and to Madame de Maintenon, but more frequently to
the former. Madame Cantin was their agent; and I know people who have
seen letters of hers in which she assured Maulevrier, in the strongest
terms, that he might ever reckon on the Duchess.

He made a last journey to Versailles, where he saw his mistress in
private, and quarrelled with her cruelly. After dining with Torcy he
returned to Paris. There, torn by a thousand storms of love, of
jealousy, of ambition, his head was so troubled that doctors were obliged
to be called in, and he was forbidden to see any but the most
indispensable persons, and those at the hours when he was least ill.
A hundred visions passed through his brain. Now like a madman he would
speak only of Spain, of Madame de Bourgogne, of Nangis, whom he wished to
kill or to have assassinated; now full of remorse towards M. de
Bourgogne, he made reflections so curious to hear, that no one dared to
remain with him, and he was left alone. At other times, recalling his
early days, he had nothing but ideas of retreat and penitence. Then a
confession was necessary in order to banish his despair as to the mercy
of God. Often he thought himself very ill and upon the point of death.

The world, however, and even his nearest friends persuaded themselves
that he was only playing a part; and hoping to put an end to it, they
declared to him that he passed for mad in society, and that it behoved
him to rise out of such a strange state and show himself. This was the
last blow and it overwhelmed him. Furious at finding that this opinion
was ruining all the designs of his ambition, he delivered himself up to
despair. Although watched with extreme care by his wife, by particular
friends, and by his servants, he took his measures so well, that on the
Good Friday of the year 1706, at about eight o'clock in the morning, he
slipped away from them all, entered a passage behind his room, opened the
window, threw himself into the court below, and dashed out his brains
upon the pavement. Such was the end of an ambitious man, who, by his
wild and dangerous passions, lost his wits, and then his life, a tragic
victim of himself.

Madame de Bourgogne learnt the news at night. In public she showed no
emotion, but in private some tears escaped her. They might have been of
pity, but were not so charitably interpreted. Soon after, it was noticed
that Madame de Maintenon seemed embarrassed and harsh towards Madame de
Bourgogne. It was no longer doubted that Madame de Maintenon had heard
the whole story. She often had long interviews with Madame de Bourgogne,
who always left them in tears. Her sadness grew so much, and her eyes
were so often red, that Monsieur de Bourgogne at last became alarmed.
But he had no suspicion of the truth, and was easily satisfied with the
explanation he received. Madame de Bourgogne felt the necessity,
however, of appearing gayer, and showed herself so. As for the Abbe de
Polignac, it was felt that that dangerous person was best away. He
received therefore a post which called him away, as it were, into exile;
and though he delayed his departure as long as possible, was at length
obliged to go. Madame de Bourgogne took leave of him in a manner that
showed how much she was affected. Some rather insolent verses were
written upon this event; and were found written on a balustrade by
Madame, who was not discreet enough or good enough to forget them. But
they made little noise; everybody loved Madame de Bourgogne, and hid
these verses as much as possible.


At the beginning of October, news reached the Court, which was at
Fontainebleau, that M. de Duras was at the point of death. Upon hearing
this, Madame de Saint-Simon and Madame de Lauzun, who were both related
to M. Duras, wished to absent themselves from the Court performances that
were to take place in the palace that evening. They expressed this wish
to Madame de Bourgogne, who approved of it, but said she was afraid the
King would not do the same. He had been very angry lately because the
ladies had neglected to go full dressed to the Court performances. A few
words he had spoken made everybody take good care not to rouse his anger
on this point again. He expected so much accordingly from everybody who
attended the Court, that Madame de Bourgogne was afraid he would not
consent to dispense with the attendance of Madame de Saint-Simon and
Madame de Lauzun on this occasion. They compromised the matter,
therefore, by dressing themselves, going to the room where the
performance was held, and, under pretext of not finding places, going
away; Madame de Bourgogne agreeing to explain their absence in this way
to the King. I notice this very insignificant bagatelle to show how the
King thought only of himself, and how much he wished to be obeyed; and
that that which would not have been pardoned to the nieces of a dying
man, except at the Court, was a duty there, and one which it needed great
address to escape from, without seriously infringing the etiquette

After the return of the Court from Fontainebleau this year, Puysieux came
back from Switzerland, having been sent there as ambassador. Puysieux
was a little fat man, very agreeable, pleasant, and witty, one of the
best fellows in the world, in fact. As he had much wit, and thoroughly
knew the King, he bethought himself of making the best of his position;
and as his Majesty testified much friendship for him on his return, and
declared himself satisfied with his mission in Switzerland, Puysieux
asked if what he heard was not mere compliment, and whether he could
count upon it. As the King assured him that he might do so, Puysieux
assumed a brisk air, and said that he was not so sure of that, and that
he was not pleased with his Majesty.

"And why not?" said the King.

"Why not?" replied Puysieux; "why, because although the most honest man
in your realm, you have not kept to a promise you made me more than fifty
years ago."

"What promise?" asked the King.

"What promise, Sire?" said Puysieux; "you have a good memory, you cannot
have forgotten it. Does not your Majesty remember that one day, having
the honour to play at blindman's buff with you at my grandmother's, you
put your cordon bleu on my back, the better to hide yourself; and that
when, after the game, I restored it to you, you promised to give it me
when you became master; you have long been so, thoroughly master, and
nevertheless that cordon bleu is still to come."

The King, who recollected the circumstance, here burst out laughing, and
told Puysieux he was in the right, and that a chapter should be held on
the first day of the new year expressly for the purpose of receiving him
into the order. And so in fact it was, and Puysieux received the cordon
bleu on the day the King had named. This fact is not important, but it
is amusing. It is altogether singular in connection with a prince as
serious and as imposing as Louis XIV.; and it is one of those little
Court anecdotes which are curious.

Here is another more important fact, the consequences of which are still
felt by the State. Pontchartrain, Secretary of State for the Navy, was
the plague of it, as of all those who were under his cruel dependence.
He was a man who, with some-amount of ability, was disagreeable and
pedantic to an excess; who loved evil for its own sake; who was jealous
even of his father; who was a cruel tyrant towards his wife, a woman all
docility and goodness; who was in one word a monster, whom the King kept
in office only because he feared him. An admiral was the abhorrence of
Pontchartrain, and an admiral who was an illegitimate son of the King,
he loathed. There was nothing, therefore, that he had not done during
the war to thwart the Comte de Toulouse; he laid some obstacles
everywhere in his path; he had tried to keep him out of the command of
the fleet, and failing this, had done everything to render the fleet

These were bold strokes against a person the King so much loved, but
Pontchartrain knew the weak side of the King; he knew how to balance the,
father against the master, to bring forward the admiral and set aside the
son. In this manner the Secretary of State was able to put obstacles in
the way of the Comte de Toulouse that threw him almost into despair, and
the Count could do little to defend himself. It was a well-known fact at
sea and in the ports where the ships touched, and it angered all the
fleet. Pontchartrain accordingly was abhorred there, while the Comte de
Toulouse, by his amiability and other good qualities, was adored.

At last, the annoyance he caused became so unendurable, that the Comte de
Toulouse, at the end of his cruise in the Mediterranean, returned to
Court and determined to expose the doings of Pontchartrain to the King.

The very day he had made up his mind to do this, and just before he
intended to have his interview with the King, Madame Pontchartrain,
casting aside her natural timidity and modesty, came to him, and with
tears in her eyes begged him not to bring about the ruin of her husband.
The Comte de Toulouse was softened. He admitted afterwards that he could
not resist the sweetness and sorrow of Madame de Pontchartrain, and that
all his resolutions, his weapons, fell from his hands at the thought of
the sorrow which the poor woman would undergo, after the fall of her
brutal husband, left entirely in the hands of such a furious Cyclops.
In this manner Pontchartrain was saved, but it cost dear to the State.
The fear he was in of succumbing under the glory or under the vengeance
of an admiral who was son of the King determined him to ruin the fleet
itself, so as to render it incapable of receiving the admiral again.
He determined to do this, and kept to his word, as was afterwards only
too clearly verified by the facts. The Comte de Toulouse saw no more
either ports or vessels, and from that time only very feeble squadrons
went out, and even those very seldom. Pontchartrain, had the impudence
to boast of this before my face.

When I last spoke of Madame des Ursins, I described her as living in the
midst of the Court, flattered and caressed by all, and on the highest
terms of favour with the King and Madame de Maintenon. She found her
position, indeed, so far above her hopes, that she began to waver in her
intention of returning to Spain. The age and the health of Madame de
Maintenon tempted her. She would have preferred to govern here rather
than in Spain. Flattered by the attentions paid her, she thought those
attentions, or, I may say, rather those servile adorations, would
continue for ever, and that in time she might arrive at the highest point
of power. The Archbishop of Aix and her brother divined her thoughts,
for she did not dare to avow them, and showed her in the clearest way
that those thoughts were calculated to lead her astray. They explained
to her that the only interest Madame de Maintenon had in favouring her
was on account of Spain. Madame des Ursins--once back in that country,
Madame de Maintenon looked forward to a recommencement of those relations
which had formerly existed between them, by which the government of Spain
in appearance, if not in reality, passed through her hands. They
therefore advised Madame des Ursins on no account to think of remaining
in France, at the same time suggesting that it would not be amiss to stop
there long enough to cause some inquietude to Madame de Maintenon, so as
to gain as much advantage as possible from it.

The solidity of these reasons persuaded Madame des Ursins to follow the
advice given her. She resolved to depart, but not until after a delay by
which she meant to profit to the utmost. We shall soon see what success
attended her schemes. The terms upon which I stood with her enabled me
to have knowledge of all the sentiments that had passed through her mind:
her extreme desire, upon arriving in Paris, to return to Spain; the
intoxication which seized her in consequence of the treatment she
received, and which made her balance this desire; and her final
resolution. It was not until afterwards, however, that I learnt all the
details I have just related.

It was not long before Madame de Maintenon began to feel impatient at the
long-delayed departure of Madame des Ursins. She spoke at last upon the
subject, and pressed Madame des Ursins to set out for Spain. This was
just what the other wanted. She said that as she had been driven out of
Spain like a criminal, she must go back with honour, if Madame de
Maintenon wished her to gain the confidence and esteem of the Spaniards.
That although she had been treated by the King with every consideration
and goodness, many people in Spain were, and would be, ignorant of it,
and that, therefore, her return to favour ought to be made known in as
public and convincing a manner as was her disgrace. This was said with
all that eloquence and persuasiveness for which Madame des Ursins was
remarkable. The effect of it exceeded her hopes.

The favours she obtained were prodigious. Twenty thousand livres by way
of annual pension, and thirty thousand for her journey. One of her
brothers, M. de Noirmoutiers, blind since the age of eighteen or twenty,
was made hereditary duke; another, the Abbe de la Tremoille, of exceeding
bad life, and much despised in Rome, where he lived, was made cardinal.
What a success was this! How many obstacles had to be overcome in order
to attain it! Yet this was what Madame des Ursins obtained, so anxious
was Madame de Maintenon to get rid of her and to send her to reign in
Spain, that she might reign there herself. Pleased and loaded with
favour as never subject was before, Madame des Ursins set out towards the
middle of July, and was nearly a month on the road. It may be imagined
what sort of a reception awaited her in Spain. The King and the Queen
went a day's journey out of Madrid to meet her. Here, then, we see again
at the height of power this woman, whose fall the King but a short time
since had so ardently desired, and whose separation from the King and
Queen of Spain he had applauded himself for bringing about with so much
tact. What a change in a few months!

The war continued this year, but without bringing any great success to
our arms. Villars, at Circk, outmanoeuvred Marlborough in a manner that
would have done credit to the greatest general. Marlborough, compelled
to change the plan of campaign he had determined on, returned into
Flanders, where the Marechal de Villeroy was stationed with his forces.
Nothing of importance occurred during the campaign, and the two armies
went into winter quarters at the end of October.

I cannot quit Flanders without relating another instance of the pleasant
malignity of M. de Lauzun. In marrying a daughter of the Marechal de
Lorges, he had hoped, as I have already said, to return into the
confidence of the King by means of the Marechal, and so be again
entrusted with military command. Finding these hopes frustrated, he
thought of another means of reinstating himself in favour. He determined
to go to the waters of Aix-la-Chapelle, not, as may be believed, for his
health, but in order to ingratiate himself with the important foreigners
whom he thought to find there, learn some of the enemy's plans, and come
back with an account of them to the King, who would, no doubt, reward him
for his zeal. But he was deceived in his calculation. Aix-la-Chapelle,
generally so full of foreigners of rank, was this year, owing to the war,
almost empty. M. de Lauzun found, therefore, nobody of consequence from
whom he could obtain any useful information. Before his return, he
visited the Marechal de Villeroy, who received him with all military
honours, and conducted him all over the army, pointing out to him the
enemy's post; for the two armies were then quite close to each other.
His extreme anxiety, however, to get information, and the multitude of
his questions, irritated the officers who were ordered to do the honours
to him; and, in going about, they actually, at their own risk, exposed
him often to be shot or taken. They did not know that his courage was
extreme; and were quite taken aback by his calmness, and, his evident
readiness to push on even farther than they chose to venture.

On returning to Court, M. de Lauzun was of course pressed by everybody to
relate all he knew of the position of the two armies. But he held
himself aloof from all questioners, and would not answer. On the day
after his arrival he went to pay his court to Monseigneur, who did not
like him, but who also was no friend to the Marechal de Villeroy.
Monseigneur put many questions to him upon the situation of the two
armies, and upon the reasons which had prevented them from engaging each
other. M. de Lauzun shirked reply, like a man who wished to be pressed;
did not deny that he had well inspected the position of the two armies,
but instead of answering Monseigneur, dwelt upon the beauty of our
troops, their gaiety at finding themselves so near an enemy, and their
eagerness to fight. Pushed at last to the point at which he wished to
arrive, "I will tell you, Monseigneur," said he, "since you absolutely
command me; I scanned most minutely the front of the two armies to the
right and to the left, and all the ground between them. It is true there
is no brook, and that I saw; neither are there any ravines, nor hollow
roads ascending or descending; but it is true that there were other
hindrances which I particularly remarked."

"But what hindrance could there be," said Monseigneur, "since there was
nothing between the two armies?"

M. de Lauzun allowed himself to be pressed upon this point, constantly
repeating the list of hindrances that did not exist, but keeping silent
upon the others. At last, driven into a corner, he took his snuff-box
from his pocket.

"You see," said he, to Monseigneur, "there is one thing which much
embarrasses the feet, the furze that grows upon the ground, where M. le
Marechal de Villeroy is encamped. The furze, it is true, is not mixed
with any other plant, either hard or thorny; but it is a high furze, as
high, as high, let me see, what shall I say?"--and he looked all around
to find some object of comparison--"as high, I assure you, as this

Monseigneur burst out laughing at this sally, and all the company
followed his example, in the midst of which M. de Lauzun turned on his
heel and left the room. His joke soon spread all over the Court and the
town, and in the evening was told to the King. This was all the thanks
M. de Villeroy obtained from M. de Lauzun for the honours he had paid
him; and this was M. de Lauzun's consolation for his ill-success at Aix-

In Italy our armies were not more successful than elsewhere. From time
to time, M. de Vendome attacked some unimportant post, and, having
carried it, despatched couriers to the King, magnifying the importance
of the exploit. But the fact was, all these successes led to nothing.
On one occasion, at Cassano, M. de Vendome was so vigorously attacked by
Prince Louis of Baden that, in spite of his contempt and his audacity,
he gave himself up for lost. When danger was most imminent, instead of
remaining at his post, he retired from the field of battle to a distant
country-house, and began to consider how a retreat might be managed.
The Grand Prieur, his brother, was in command under him, and was ordered
to remain upon the field; but he was more intent upon saving his skin
than on obeying orders, and so, at the very outset of the fight, ran away
to a country-house hard by. M. de Vendome strangely enough had sat down
to eat at the country-house whither he had retired, and was in the midst
of his meal when news was brought him that, owing to the prodigies
performed by one of his officers, Le Guerchois, the fortunes of the day
had changed, and Prince Louis of Baden was retiring. M. Vendome had
great difficulty to believe this, but ordered his horse, mounted, and,
pushing on, concluded the combat gloriously. He did not fail, of course,
to claim all the honours of this victory, which in reality was a barren
one; and sent word of his triumph to the King. He dared to say that the
loss of the enemy was more than thirteen thousand; and our loss less than
three thousand--whereas, the loss was at least equal. This exploit,
nevertheless, resounded at the Court and through the town as an advantage
the most complete and the most decisive, and due entirely to the
vigilance, valour, and capacity of Vendome. Not a word was said of his
country-house, or the interrupted meal. These facts were only known
after the return of the general officers. As for the Grand Prieur, his
poltroonery had been so public, his flight so disgraceful--for he had
taken troops with him to protect the country-house in which he sought
shelter--that he could not be pardoned. The two brothers quarrelled upon
these points, and in the end the Grand Prieur was obliged to give up his
command. He retired to his house at Clichy, near Paris; but, tiring of
that place, he went to Rome, made the acquaintance there of the Marquise
de Richelieu, a wanderer like himself, and passed some time with her at
Genoa. Leaving that city, he went to Chalons-sur-Saone, which had been
fixed upon as the place of his a exile, and there gave himself up to the
debaucheries in which he usually lived. From this time until the Regency
we shall see nothing more of him. I shall only add, therefore, that he
never went sober to bed during thirty years, but was always carried
thither dead drunk: was a liar, swindler, and thief; a rogue to the
marrow of his bones, rotted with vile diseases; the most contemptible and
yet most dangerous fellow in the world.

One day-I am speaking of a time many years previous to the date of the
occurrences just related-one day there was a great hunting party at Saint
Germain. The chase was pursued so long, that the King gave up, and
returned to Saint Germain. A number of courtiers, among whom was M. de
Lauzun, who related this story to me, continued their sport; and just as
darkness was coming on, discovered that they had lost their way. After a
time, they espied a light, by which they guided their steps, and at
length reached the door of a kind of castle. They knocked, they called
aloud, they named themselves, and asked for hospitality. It was then
between ten and eleven at night, and towards the end of autumn. The door
was opened to them. The master of the house came forth. He made them
take their boots off, and warm themselves; he put their horses into his
stables; and at the same time had a supper prepared for his guests, who
stood much in need of it. They did not wait long for the meal; yet when
served it proved excellent; the wines served with it, too, were of
several kinds, and excellent likewise: as for the master of the house, he
was so polite and respectful, yet without being ceremonious or eager,


His great piety contributed to weaken his mind
Of a politeness that was unendurable
Reproaches rarely succeed in love
Spoil all by asking too much
Teacher lost little, because he had little to lose
There was no end to the outrageous civilities of M. de Coislin





A Hunting Adventure.--Story and Catastrophe of Fargues.--Death and
Character of Ninon de l'Enclos.--Odd Adventure of Courtenvaux.--Spies at
Court.--New Enlistment.--Wretched State of the Country.--Balls at Marly.


Arrival of Vendome at Court.--Character of That Disgusting Personage.--
Rise of Cardinal Alberoni.--Vendome's Reception at Marly.--His Unheard-of
Triumph.--His High Flight.--Returns to Italy.--Battle of Calcinato.--
Condition of the Army.--Pique of the Marechal de Villeroy.--Battle of
Ramillies.--Its Consequences.


Abandonment of the Siege of Barcelona.--Affairs of Italy.--
La Feuillade.--Disastrous Rivalries.--Conduct of M. d'Orleans.--The Siege
of Turin.--Battle.--Victory of Prince Eugene.--Insubordination in the
Army.--Retreat.--M. d'Orleans Returns to Court.--Disgrace of La Feuillade


Measures of Economy.--Financial Embarrassments.--The King and
Chamillart.--Tax on Baptisms and Marriages.--Vauban's Patriotism.--
Its Punishment.--My Action with M. de Brissac.--I Appeal to the King.--
The Result.--I Gain My Action.


My Appointment as Ambassador to Rome.--How It Fell Through.--Anecdotes of
the Bishop of Orleans.--A Droll Song.--A Saint in Spite of Himself.--
Fashionable Crimes.--A Forged Genealogy.--Abduction of Beringhen.--
The 'Parvulos' of Meudon and Mademoiselle Choin.


Death and Last Days of Madame de Montespan.--Selfishness of the King.--
Death and Character of Madame de Nemours.--Neufchatel and Prussia.--
Campaign of Villars.--Naval Successes.--Inundations of the Loire.--Siege
of Toulon.--A Quarrel about News.--Quixotic Despatches of Tesse.


Two very different persons died towards the latter part of this year.
The first was Lamoignon, Chief President; the second, Ninon, known by the
name of Mademoiselle de l'Enclos. Of Lamoignon I will relate a single
anecdote, curious and instructive, which will show the corruption of
which he was capable.

One day--I am speaking of a time many years previous to the date of the
occurrences just related--one day there was a great hunting party at
Saint Germain. The chase was pursued so long, that the King gave up,
and returned to Saint Germain. A number of courtiers, among whom was
M. de Lauzun, who related this story to me, continued their sport; and
just as darkness was coming on, discovered that they had lost their way.
After a time, they espied a light, by which they guided their steps, and
at length reached the door of a kind of castle. They knocked, they
called aloud, they named themselves, and asked for hospitality. It was
then between ten and eleven at night, and towards the end of autumn.
The door was opened to them. The master of the house came forth.
He made them take their boots off, and warm themselves; he put their
horses into his stables; and at the same time had a supper prepared for
his guests, who stood much in need of it. They did not wait long for the
meal; yet when served it proved excellent; the wines served with it, too,
were of several kinds, and excellent likewise: as for the master of the
house, he was so polite and respectful, yet without being ceremonious or
eager, that it was evident he had frequented the best company. The
courtiers soon learnt that his name vitas Fargues, that the place was
called Courson, and that he had lived there in retirement several years.
After having supped, Fargues showed each of them into a separate bedroom,
where they were waited upon by his valets with every proper attention.
In the morning, as soon as the courtiers had dressed themselves, they
found an excellent breakfast awaiting them; and upon leaving the table
they saw their horses ready for them, and as thoroughly attended to as
they had been themselves. Charmed with the politeness and with the
manners of Fargues, and touched by his hospitable reception of them, they
made him many offers of service, and made their way back to Saint
Germain. Their non-appearance on the previous night had been the common
talk, their return and the adventure they had met with was no less so.

These gentlemen were then the very flower of the Court, and all of them
very intimate with the King. They related to him, therefore, their
story, the manner of their reception, and highly praised the master of
the house and his good cheer. The King asked his name, and, as soon as
he heard it, exclaimed, "What, Fargues! is he so near here, then?"
The courtiers redoubled their praises, and the King said no more; but
soon after, went to the Queen-mother, and told her what had happened.

Fargues, indeed, was no stranger, either to her or to the King. He had
taken a prominent part in the movements of Paris against the Court and
Cardinal Mazarin. If he had not been hanged, it was because he was well
supported by his party, who had him included in the amnesty granted to
those who had been engaged in these troubles. Fearing, however, that the
hatred of his enemies might place his life in danger if he remained in
Paris, he retired from the capital to this country-house which has just
been mentioned, where he continued to live in strict privacy, even when
the death of Cardinal Mazarin seemed to render such seclusion no longer

The King and the Queen-mother, who had pardoned Fargues in spite of
themselves, were much annoyed at finding that he was living in opulence
and tranquillity so near the Court; thought him extremely bold to do so;
and determined to punish him for this and for his former insolence. They
directed Lamoignon, therefore, to find out something in the past life of
Fargues for which punishment might be awarded; and Lamoignon, eager to
please, and make a profit out of his eagerness, was not long in
satisfying them. He made researches, and found means to implicate
Fargues in a murder that had been committed in Paris at the height of the
troubles. Officers were accordingly sent to Courson, and its owner was

Fargues was much astonished when he learnt of what he was accused. He
exculpated himself, nevertheless, completely; alleging, moreover, that as
the murder of which he was accused had been committed during the
troubles, the amnesty in which he was included effaced all memory of the
deed, according to law and usage, which had never been contested until
this occasion. The courtiers who had been so well treated by the unhappy
man, did everything they could with the judges and the King to obtain the
release of the accused. It was all in vain. Fargues was decapitated at
once, and all his wealth was given by way of recompense to the Chief-
President Lamoignon, who had no scruple thus to enrich himself with the
blood of the innocent.

The other person who died at the same time was, as I have said, Ninon,
the famous courtesan, known, since age had compelled her to quit that
trade, as Mademoiselle de l'Enclos. She was a new example of the triumph
of vice carried on cleverly and repaired by some virtue. The stir that
she made, and still more the disorder that she caused among the highest
and most brilliant youth, overcame the extreme indulgence that, not
without cause, the Queen-mother entertained for persons whose conduct was
gallant, and more than gallant, and made her send her an order to retire
into a convent. But Ninon, observing that no especial convent was named,
said, with a great courtesy, to the officer who brought the order, that,
as the option was left to her, she would choose "the convent of the
Cordeliers at Paris;" which impudent joke so diverted the Queen that she
left her alone for the future. Ninon never had but one lover at a time--
but her admirers were numberless--so that when wearied of one incumbent
she told him so frankly, and took another: The abandoned one might groan
and complain; her decree was without appeal; and this creature had
acquired such an influence, that the deserted lovers never dared to take
revenge on the favoured one, and were too happy to remain on the footing
of friend of the house. She sometimes kept faithful to one, when he
pleased her very much, during an entire campaign.

Ninon had illustrious friends of all sorts, and had so much wit that she
preserved them all and kept them on good terms with each other; or, at
least, no quarrels ever came to light. There was an external respect and
decency about everything that passed in her house, such as princesses of
the highest rank have rarely been able to preserve in their intrigues.

In this way she had among her friends a selection of the best members of
the Court; so that it became the fashion to be received by her, and it
was useful to be so, on account of the connections that were thus formed.

There was never any gambling there, nor loud laughing, nor disputes, nor
talk about religion or politics; but much and elegant wit, ancient and
modern stories, news of gallantries, yet without scandal. All was
delicate, light, measured; and she herself maintained the conversation by
her wit and her great knowledge of facts. The respect which, strange to
say, she had acquired, and the number and distinction of her friends and
acquaintances, continued when her charms ceased to attract; and when
propriety and fashion compelled her to use only intellectual baits. She
knew all the intrigues of the old and the new Court, serious and
otherwise; her conversation was charming; she was disinterested,
faithful, secret, safe to the last degree; and, setting aside her
frailty, virtuous and full of probity. She frequently succoured her
friends with money and influence; constantly did them the most important
services, and very faithfully kept the secrets or the money deposits that
were confided to her.

She had been intimate with Madame de Maintenon during the whole of her
residence at Paris; but Madame de Maintenon, although not daring to
disavow this friendship, did not like to hear her spoken about.

She wrote to Ninon with amity from time to time, even until her death;
and Ninon in like manner, when she wanted to serve any friend in whom she
took great interest, wrote to Madame de Maintenon, who did her what
service she required efficaciously and with promptness.

But since Madame de Maintenon came to power, they had only seen each
other two or three times, and then in secret.

Ninon was remarkable for her repartees. One that she made to the last
Marechal de Choiseul is worth repeating. The Marechal was virtue itself,
but not fond of company or blessed with much wit. One day, after a long
visit he had paid her, Ninon gaped, looked at the Marechal, and cried:

"Oh, my lord! how many virtues you make me detest!"

A line from I know not what play. The laughter at this may be imagined.
L'Enclos lived, long beyond her eightieth year, always healthy, visited,
respected. She gave her last years to God, and her death was the news of
the day. The singularity of this personage has made me extend my
observations upon her.

A short time after the death of Mademoiselle de l'Enclos, a terrible
adventure happened to Courtenvaux, eldest son of M. de Louvois.
Courtenvaux was commander of the Cent-Suisses, fond of obscure debauches;
with a ridiculous voice, miserly, quarrelsome, though modest and
respectful; and in fine a very stupid fellow. The King, more eager to
know all that was passing than most people believed, although they gave
him credit for not a little curiosity in this respect, had authorised
Bontems to engage a number of Swiss in addition to those posted at the
doors, and in the parks and gardens. These attendants had orders to
stroll morning, noon, and night, along the corridors, the passages, the
staircases, even into the private places, and, when it was fine, in the
court-yards and gardens; and in secret to watch people, to follow them,
to notice where they went, to notice who was there, to listen to all the
conversation they could hear, and to make reports of their discoveries.
This was assiduously done at Versailles, at Marly, at Trianon, at
Fontainebleau, and in all the places where the King was. These new
attendants vexed Courtenvaux considerably, for over such new-comers he
had no sort of authority. This season, at Fontainebleau, a room, which
had formerly been occupied by a party of the Cent-Suisses and of the
body-guard, was given up entirely to the new corps. The room was in a
public passage of communication indispensable to all in the chateau, and
in consequence, excellently well adapted for watching those who passed
through it. Courtenvaux, more than ever vexed by this new arrangement,
regarded it as a fresh encroachment upon his authority, and flew into a
violent rage with the new-comers, and railed at them in good set terms.
They allowed him to fume as he would; they had their orders, and were too
wise to be disturbed by his rage. The King, who heard of all this, sent
at once for Courtenvaux. As soon as he appeared in the cabinet, the King
called to him from the other end of the room, without giving him time to
approach, and in a rage so terrible, and for him so novel, that not only
Courtenvaux, but Princes, Princesses, and everybody in the chamber,
trembled. Menaces that his post should be taken away from him, terms the
most severe and the most unusual, rained upon Courtenvaux, who, fainting
with fright, and ready to sink under the ground, had neither the time nor
the means to prefer a word. The reprimand finished by the King saying,
"Get out." He had scarcely the strength to obey.

The cause of this strange scene was that Courtenvaux, by the fuss he had
made, had drawn the attention of the whole Court to the change effected
by the King, and that, when once seen, its object was clear to all eyes.
The King, who hid his spy system with the greatest care, had counted upon
this change passing unperceived, and was beside himself with anger when
he found it made apparent to everybody by Courtenvaux's noise. He never
regained the King's favour during the rest of his life; and but for his
family he would certainly have been driven away, and his office taken
from him.

Let me speak now of something of more moment.

The war, as I have said, still continued, but without bringing us any
advantages. On the contrary, our losses in Germany and Italy by
sickness, rather than by the sword, were so great that it was resolved to
augment each company by five men; and, at the same time, twenty-five
thousand militia were raised, thus causing great ruin and great
desolation in the provinces. The King was rocked into the belief that
the people were all anxious to enter this militia, and, from time to
time, at Marly, specimens of those enlisted were shown to him, and their
joy and eagerness to serve made much of. I have heard this often; while,
at the same time, I knew from my own tenantry, and from everything that
was said, that the raising of this militia carried despair everywhere,
and that many people mutilated themselves in order to exempt themselves
from serving. Nobody at the Court was ignorant of this. People lowered
their eyes when they saw the deceit practised upon the King, and the
credulity he displayed, and afterwards whispered one to another what they
thought of flattery so ruinous. Fresh regiments, too, were raised at
this time, and a crowd of new colonels and staffs created, instead of
giving a new battalion or a squadron additional to regiments already in
existence. I saw quite plainly towards what rock we were drifting. We
had met losses at Hochstedt, Gibraltar, and Barcelona; Catalonia and the
neighbouring countries were in revolt; Italy yielding us nothing but
miserable successes; Spain exhausted; France, failing in men and money,
and with incapable generals, protected by the Court against their faults.
I saw all these things so plainly that I could not avoid making
reflections, or reporting them to my friends in office. I thought that
it was time to finish the war before we sank still lower, and that it
might be finished by giving to the Archduke what we could not defend, and
making a division of the rest. My plan was to leave Philip V.
possession of all Italy, except those parts which belonged to the Grand
Duke, the republics of Venice and Genoa, and the ecclesiastical states of
Naples and Sicily; our King to have Lorraine and some other slight
additions of territory; and to place elsewhere the Dukes of Savoy, of
Lorraine, of Parma, and of Modem. I related this plan to the Chancellor
and to Chamillart, amongst others. The contrast between their replies
was striking. The Chancellor, after having listened to me very
attentively, said, if my plan were adopted, he would most willingly kiss
my toe for joy. Chamillart, with gravity replied, that the King would
not give up a single mill of all the Spanish succession. Then I felt the
blindness which had fallen upon us, and how much the results of it were
to be dreaded.

Nevertheless, the King, as if to mock at misfortune and to show his
enemies the little uneasiness he felt, determined, at the commencement of
the new year, 1706, that the Court should be gayer than ever. He
announced that there would be balls at Marly every time he was there this
winter, and he named those who were to dance there; and said he should be
very glad to see balls given to Madame de Bourgogne at Versailles.
Accordingly, many took place there, and also at Marly, and from time to
time there were masquerades. One day, the King wished that everybody,
even the most aged, who were at Marly, should go to the ball masked; and,
to avoid all distinction, he went there himself with a gauze robe above
his habit; but such a slight disguise was for himself alone; everybody
else was completely disguised. M. and Madame de Beauvilliers were there
perfectly disguised. When I say they were there, those who knew the
Court will admit that I have said more than enough. I had the pleasure
of seeing them, and of quietly laughing with them. At all these balls
the King made people dance who had long since passed the age for doing
so. As for the Comte de Brionne and the Chevalier de Sully, their
dancing was so perfect that there was no age for them.


In the midst of all this gaiety, that is to say on the 12th of February,
1706, one of our generals, of whom I have often spoken, I mean M. de
Vendome, arrived at Marly. He had not quitted Italy since succeeding to
Marechal de Villeroy, after the affair of Cremona. His battles, such as
they were, the places he had taken, the authority he had assumed, the
reputation he had usurped, his incomprehensible successes with the King,
the certainty of the support he leaned on,--all this inspired him with
the desire to come and enjoy at Court a situation so brilliant, and which
so far surpassed what he had a right to expect. But before speaking of
the reception which was given him, and of the incredible ascendancy he
took, let me paint him from the life a little more completely than I have
yet done.

Vendome was of ordinary height, rather stout, but vigorous and active:
with a very noble countenance and lofty mien. There was much natural
grace in his carriage and words; he had a good deal of innate wit, which
he had not cultivated, and spoke easily, supported by a natural boldness,
which afterwards turned to the wildest audacity; he knew the world and
the Court; was above all things an admirable courtier; was polite when
necessary, but insolent when he dared--familiar with common people--in
reality, full of the most ravenous pride. As his rank rose and his
favour increased, his obstinacy, and pig-headedness increased too, so
that at last he would listen to no advice whatever, and was inaccessible
to all, except a small number of familiars and valets. No one better
than he knew the subserviency of the French character, or took more
advantage of it. Little by little he accustomed his subalterns, and then
from one to the other all his army, to call him nothing but
"Monseigneur," and "Your Highness." In time the gangrene spread, and
even lieutenant-generals and the most distinguished people did not dare
to address him in any other manner.

The most wonderful thing to whoever knew the King--so gallant to the
ladies during a long part of his life, so devout the other, and often
importunate to make others do as he did--was that the said King had
always a singular horror of the inhabitants of the Cities of the Plain;
and yet M. de Vendome, though most odiously stained with that vice--so
publicly that he treated it as an ordinary gallantry--never found his
favour diminished on that account. The Court, Anet, the army, knew of
these abominations. Valets and subaltern officers soon found the way to
promotion. I have already mentioned how publicly he placed himself in
the doctor's hands, and how basely the Court acted, imitating the King,
who would never have pardoned a legitimate prince what he indulged so
strangely in Vendome.

The idleness of M. de Vendome was equally matter of notoriety. More than
once he ran the risk of being taken prisoner from mere indolence. He
rarely himself saw anything at the army, trusting to his familiars when
ready to trust anybody. The way he employed his day prevented any real
attention to business. He was filthy in the extreme, and proud of it.
Fools called it simplicity. His bed was always full of dogs and bitches,
who littered at his side, the pops rolling in the clothes. He himself
was under constraint in nothing. One of his theses was, that everybody
resembled him, but was not honest enough to confess it as he was. He
mentioned this once to the Princesse de Conti--the cleanest person in the
world, and the most delicate in her cleanliness.

He rose rather late when at the army. In this situation he wrote his
letters, and gave his morning orders. Whoever had business with him,
general officers and distinguished persons, could speak to him then. He
had accustomed the army to this infamy. At the same time he gobbled his
breakfast; and whilst he ate, listened, or gave orders, many spectators
always standing round.... (I must be excused these disgraceful details,
in order better to make him known).... On shaving days he used the same
vessel to lather his chin in. This, according to him, was a simplicity
of manner worthy of the ancient Romans, and which condemned the splendour
and superfluity of the others. When all was over, he dressed; then
played high at piquet or hombre; or rode out, if it was absolutely
necessary. All was now over for the day. He supped copiously with his
familiars: was a great eater, of wonderful gluttony; a connoisseur in no
dish, liked fish much, but the stale and stinking better than the good.
The meal prolonged itself in theses and disputes, and above all in praise
and flattery.

He would never have forgiven the slightest blame from any one. He wanted
to pass for the first captain of his age, and spoke with indecent
contempt of Prince Eugene and all the others. The faintest contradiction
would have been a crime. The soldier and the subaltern adored him for
his familiarity with them, and the licence he allowed in order to gain
their hearts; for all which he made up by excessive haughtiness towards
whoever was elevated by rank or birth.

On one occasion the Duke of Parma sent the bishop of that place to
negotiate some affair with him; but M. de Vendome took such disgusting
liberties in his presence, that the ecclesiastic, though without saying a
word, returned to Parma, and declared to his master that never would he
undertake such an embassy again. In his place another envoy was sent,
the famous Alberoni. He was the son of a gardener, who became an Abbe in
order to get on. He was full of buffoonery; and pleased M. de Parma as
might a valet who amused him, but he soon showed talent and capacity for
affairs. The Duke thought that the night-chair of M. de Vendome required
no other ambassador than Alberoni, who was accordingly sent to conclude
what the bishop had left undone. The Abbe determined to please, and was
not proud. M. de Vendome exhibited himself as before; and Alberoni, by
an infamous act of personal adoration, gained his heart. He was
thenceforth much with him, made cheese-soup and other odd messes for him;
and finally worked his way. It is true he was cudgelled by some one he
had offended, for a thousand paces, in sight of the whole army, but this
did not prevent his advancement. Vendome liked such an unscrupulous
flatterer; and yet as we have seen, he was not in want of praise. The
extraordinary favour shown him by the King--the credulity with which his
accounts of victories were received--showed to every one in what
direction their laudation was to be sent.

Such was the man whom the King and the whole Court hastened to caress and
flatter from the first moment of his arrival amongst us. There was a
terrible hubbub: boys, porters, and valets rallied round his postchaise
when he reached Marly. Scarcely had he ascended into his chamber, than
everybody, princes, bastards and all the rest, ran after him. The
ministers followed: so that in a short time nobody was left in the salon
but the ladies. M. de Beauvilliers was at Vaucresson. As for me, I
remained spectator, and did not go and adore this idol.

In a few minutes Vendome was sent for by the King and Monseigneur. As
soon as he could dress himself, surrounded as he was by such a crowd, he
went to the salon, carried by it rather than environed. Monseigneur
stopped the music that was playing, in order to embrace him. The King
left the cabinet where he was at work, and came out to meet him,
embracing him several times. Chamillart on the morrow gave a fete in his
honour at L'Etang, which lasted two days. Following his example,
Pontchartrain, Torcy, and the most distinguished lords of the Court, did
the same. People begged and entreated to give him fetes; people begged
and entreated to be invited to them. Never was triumph equal to his;
each step he took procured him a new one. It is not too much to say,
that everybody disappeared before him; Princes of the blood, ministers,
the grandest seigneurs, all appeared only to show how high he was above
them; even the King seemed only to remain King to elevate him more.

The people joined in this enthusiasm, both in Versailles and at Paris,
where he went under pretence of going to the opera. As he passed along
the streets crowds collected to cheer him; they billed him at the doors,
and every seat was taken in advance; people pushed and squeezed
everywhere, and the price of admission was doubled, as on the nights of
first performances. Vendome, who received all these homages with extreme
ease, was yet internally surprised by a folly so universal. He feared
that all this heat would not last out even the short stay he intended to
make. To keep himself more in reserve, he asked and obtained permission
to go to Anet, in the intervals between the journeys to Marly. All the
Court, however, followed him there, and the King was pleased rather than
otherwise, at seeing Versailles half deserted for Anet, actually asking
some if they had been, others, when they intended to go.

It was evident that every one had resolved to raise M. de Vendome to the
rank of a hero. He determined to profit by the resolution. If they made
him Mars, why should he not act as such? He claimed to be appointed
commander of the Marechals of France, and although the King refused him
this favour, he accorded him one which was but the stepping-stone to it.
M. de Vendome went away towards the middle of March to command the army
in Italy, with a letter signed by the King himself, promising him that if
a Marechal of France were sent to Italy, that Marechal was to take
commands from him. M. de Vendome was content, and determined to obtain
all he asked on a future day. The disposition of the armies had been
arranged just before. Tesse, for Catalonia and Spain; Berwick, for the
frontier of Portugal; Marechal Villars, for Alsace; Marsin, for the
Moselle; Marechal de Villeroy, for Flanders; and M. de Vendome, as I have
said, for Italy.

Now that I am speaking of the armies, let me give here an account of all
our military operations this year, so as to complete that subject at

M. de Vendome commenced his Italian campaign by a victory. He attacked
the troops of Prince Eugene upon the heights of Calcinato, drove them
before him, killed three thousand men, took twenty standards, ten pieces
of cannon, and eight thousand prisoners. It was a rout rather than a
combat. The enemy was much inferior in force to us, and was without its
general, Prince Eugene, he not having returned to open the campaign. He
came back, however, the day after this engagement, soon re-established
order among his troops, and M. de Vendome from that time, far from being
able to recommence the attack, was obliged to keep strictly on the
defensive while he remained in Italy. He did not fail to make the most
of his victory, which, however, to say the truth, led to nothing.

Our armies just now were, it must be admitted, in by no means a good
condition. The generals owed their promotion to favour and fantasy.
The King thought he gave them capacity when he gave them their patents.
Under M. de Turenne the army had afforded, as in a school, opportunities
for young officers to learn the art of warfare, and to qualify themselves
step by step to take command. They were promoted as they showed signs of
their capacity, and gave proof of their talent. Now, however, it was
very different. Promotion was granted according to length of service,
thus rendering all application and diligence unnecessary, except when M.
de Louvois suggested to the King such officers as he had private reasons
for being favourable to, and whose actions he could control. He
persuaded the King that it was he himself who ought to direct the armies
from his cabinet. The King, flattered by this, swallowed the bait, and
Louvois himself was thus enabled to govern in the name of the King, to
keep the generals in leading-strings, and to fetter their every movement.
In consequence of the way in which promotions were made, the greatest
ignorance prevailed amongst all grades of officers. None knew scarcely
anything more than mere routine duties, and sometimes not even so much as
that. The luxury which had inundated the army, too, where everybody
wished to live as delicately as at Paris, hindered the general officers
from associating with the other officers, and in consequence from knowing
and appreciating them. As a matter of course, there were no longer any
deliberations upon the state of affairs, in which the young might profit
by the counsels of the old, and the army profit by the discussions of
all. The young officers talked only of pay and women; the old, of forage
and equipages; the generals spent half their time in writing costly
despatches, often useless, and sending them away by couriers. The luxury
of the Court and city had spread into the army, so that delicacies were
carried there unknown formerly. Nothing was spoken of but hot dishes in
the marches and in the detachments; and the repasts that were carried to
the trenches, during sieges, were not only well served, but ices and
fruits were partaken of as at a fete, and a profusion of all sorts of
liqueurs. Expense ruined the officers, who vied with one another in
their endeavours to appear magnificent; and the things to be carried, the
work to be done, quadrupled the number of domestics and grooms, who often
starved. For a long time, people had complained of all this; even those
who were put to the expenses, which ruined them; but none dared to spend
less. At last, that is to say, in the spring of the following year, the
King made severe rules, with the object of bringing about a reform in
this particular. There is no country in Europe where there are so many
fine laws, or where the observance of them is of shorter duration. It
often happens, that in the first year all are infringed, and in the
second, forgotten. Such was the army at this time, and we soon had
abundant opportunities to note its incapacity to overcome the enemies
with whom we had to contend.

The King wished to open this campaign with two battles; one in Italy, the
other in Flanders. His desire was to some extent gratified in the former
case; but in the other he met with a sad and cruel disappointment. Since
the departure of Marechal de Villeroy for Flanders, the King had more
than once pressed him to engage the enemy. The Marechal, piqued with
these reiterated orders, which he considered as reflections upon his
courage, determined to risk anything in order to satisfy the desire of
the King. But the King did not wish this. At the same time that he
wished for a battle in Flanders, he wished to place Villeroy in a state
to fight it. He sent orders, therefore, to Marsin to take eighteen
battalions and twenty squadrons of his army, to proceed to the Moselle,
where he would find twenty others, and then to march with the whole into
Flanders, and join Marechal de Villeroy. At the same time he prohibited
the latter from doing anything until this reinforcement reached him.
Four couriers, one after the other, carried this prohibition to the
Marechal; but he had determined to give battle without assistance, and he
did so, with what result will be seen.

On the 24th of May he posted himself between the villages of Taviers and
Ramillies. He was superior in force to the Duke of Marlborough, who was
opposed to him, and this fact gave him confidence. Yet the position
which he had taken up was one which was well known to be bad. The late
M. de Luxembourg had declared it so, and had avoided it. M. de Villeroy
had been a witness of this, but it was his destiny and that of France
that he should forget it. Before he took up this position he announced
that it was his intention to do so to M. d'Orleans. M. d'Orleans said
publicly to all who came to listen, that if M. de Villeroy did so he
would be beaten. M. d'Orleans proved to be only too good a prophet.

Just as M. de Villeroy had taken up his position and made his
arrangements, the Elector arrived in hot haste from Brussels. It was
too late now to blame what had been done. There was nothing for it but
to complete what had been already begun, and await the result.

It was about two hours after midday when the enemy arrived within range,
and came under our fire from Ramillies. It forced them to halt until
their cannon could be brought into play, which was soon done. The
cannonade lasted a good hour. At the end of that time they marched to
Taviers, where a part of our army was posted, found but little
resistance, and made themselves masters of that place. From that moment
they brought their cavalry to bear. They perceived that there was a
marsh which covered our left, but which hindered our two wings from
joining. They made good use of the advantage this gave them. We were
taken in the rear at more than one point, and Taviers being no longer
able to assist us, Ramillies itself fell, after a prodigious fire and an
obstinate resistance. The Comte de Guiche at the head of the regiment of
Guards defended it for four hours, and performed prodigies, but in the
end he was obliged to give way. All this time our left had been utterly
useless with its nose in the marsh, no enemy in front of it, and with
strict orders not to budge from its position.

Our retreat commenced in good order, but soon the night came and threw us
into confusion. The defile of Judoigne became so gorged with baggage and
with the wrecks of the artillery we had been able to save, that
everything was taken from us there. Nevertheless, we arrived at Louvain,
and then not feeling in safety, passed the canal of Wilworde without
being very closely followed by the enemy.

We lost in this battle four thousand men, and many prisoners of rank, all
of whom were treated with much politeness by Marlborough. Brussels was
one of the first-fruits he gathered of this victory, which had such grave
and important results.

The King did not learn this disaster until Wednesday, the 26th of May,
at his waking. I was at Versailles. Never was such trouble or such
consternation. The worst was, that only the broad fact was known; for
six days we were without a courier to give us details. Even the post was
stopped. Days seemed like years in the ignorance of everybody as to
details, and in the inquietude of everybody for relatives and friends.
The King was forced to ask one and another for news; but nobody could
tell him any. Worn out at last by the silence, he determined to despatch
Chamillart to Flanders to ascertain the real state of affairs.
Chamillart accordingly left Versailles on Sunday, the 30th of May, to the
astonishment of all the Court, at seeing a man charged with the war and
the finance department sent on such an errand. He astonished no less the
army when he arrived at Courtrai, where it had stationed itself. Having
gained all the information he sought, Chamillart returned to Versailles
on Friday, the 4th of June, at about eight o'clock in the evening, and at
once went to the King, who was in the apartments of Madame de Maintenon.
It was known then that the army, after several hasty marches, finding
itself at Ghent, the Elector of Bavaria had insisted that it ought at
least to remain there. A council of war was held, the Marechal de
Villeroy, who was quite discouraged by the loss he had sustained, opposed
the advice of the Elector. Ghent was abandoned, so was the open country.
The army was separated and distributed here and there, under the command
of the general officers. In this way, with the exception of Namur, Mons,
and a very few other places, all the Spanish Low Countries were lost, and
a part of ours, even. Never was rapidity equal to this. The enemies
were as much astonished as we.

However tranquilly the King sustained in appearance this misfortune, he
felt it to the quick. He was so affected by what was said of his body-
guards, that he spoke of them himself with bitterness. Court warriors
testified in their favour, but persuaded nobody. But the King seized
these testimonies with joy, and sent word to the Guards that he was well
contended with them. Others, however, were not so easily satisfied.

This sad reverse and the discontent of the Elector made the King feel at
last that his favourites must give way to those better able to fill their
places. Villeroy, who, since his defeat, had quite lost his head, and
who, if he had been a general of the Empire, would have lost it in
reality in another manner, received several strong hints from the King
that he ought to give up his command. But he either could not or would
not understand them, and so tired out the King's patience, at length.
But he was informed in language which admitted of no misapprehension that
he must return. Even then, the King was so kindly disposed towards him,
that he said the Marechal had begged to be recalled with such obstinacy
that he could not refuse him. But M. de Villeroy was absurd enough to
reject this salve for his honour; which led to his disgrace. M. de
Vendome had orders to leave Italy, and succeed to the command in
Flanders, where the enemies had very promptly taken Ostend and Nieuport.


Meanwhile, as I have promised to relate, in a continuous narrative, all
our military operations of this year, let me say what passed in other
directions. The siege of Barcelona made no progress. Our engineers were
so slow and so ignorant, that they did next to nothing. They were so
venal, too, that they aided the enemy rather than us by their movements.
According to a new rule made by the King, whenever they changed the
position of their guns, they were entitled to a pecuniary recompense.
Accordingly, they passed all their time in uselessly changing about from

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