Part 36 out of 62
a Regent, notorious for his easy-going disposition, his indifference to
form and rule, his dislike to all vigorous measures. It fancied that
victory over such an opponent would be easy; that it could successfully
overcome all the opposition he could put in action, and in due time make
his authority secondary to its own. The Chief-President of the
Parliament, I should observe, was the principal promoter of these
sentiments. He was the bosom friend of M. and Madame du Maine, and by
them was encouraged in his views. Incited by his encouragement, he
seized an opportunity which presented itself now, to throw down the glove
to M. le Duc d'Orleans, in the name of the Parliament, and to prepare for
something like a struggle. The Parliament of Brittany had recently
manifested a very turbulent spirit, and this was an additional
encouragement to that of Paris.
At first the Parliament men scarcely knew what to lay hold of and bring
forward, as an excuse for the battle. They wished of course to gain the
applause of the people as protectors of their interests--likewise those
who for their private ends try to trouble and embroil the State--but
could not at first see their way clear. They sent for Trudaine, Prevot
des Marchand, Councillor of State, to give an account to them of the
state of the Hotel de Ville funds. He declared that they had never been
so well paid, and that there was no cause of complaint against the
government. Baffled upon this point, they fastened upon a edict,
recently rendered, respecting the money of the realm. They deliberated
thereon, deputed a commission to examine the matter, made a great fuss,
and came to the conclusion that the edict would, if acted upon, be very
prejudicial to the country.
Thus much done, the Parliament assembled anew on Friday morning, the 17th
of June, 1718, and again in the afternoon. At the end they decided upon
sending a deputation to the Regent, asking him to suspend the operation
of the edict, introduce into it the changes suggested by their body, and
then send it to them to be registered. The deputation was sent, and said
all it had to say.
On the morrow the Parliament again assembled, morning and afternoon, and
sent a message to the Regent, saying, it would not separate until it had
received his reply. That reply was very short and simple. The Regent
sent word that he was tired of the meddling interference of the
Parliament (this was not the first time, let me add, that he experienced
it), that he had ordered all the troops in Paris, and round about, to
hold themselves ready to march, and that the King must be obeyed. Such
was in fact true. He had really ordered the soldiers to keep under arms
and to be supplied with powder and shot.
The message did not intimidate the Parliament. The next day, Sunday, the
Chief-President, accompanied by all the other presidents, and by several
councillors, came to the Palais Royal. Although, as I have said, the
leader of his company, and the right-hand man of M. and Madame du Maine,
he wished for his own sake to keep on good terms with the Regent, and at
the same time to preserve all authority over his brethren, so as to have
them under his thumb. His discourse then to the Regent commenced with
many praises and much flattery, in order to smooth the way for the three
fine requests he wound up with. The first of these was that the edict
should be sent to the Parliament to be examined, and to suffer such
changes as the members should think fit to introduce, and then be
registered; the second, that the King should pay attention to their
remonstrances in an affair of this importance, which they believed
prejudicial to the State; the third, that the works recently undertaken
at the mint for recasting the specie should be suspended!
To these modest requests the Regent replied that the edict had been
registered at the Cour des Monnaies, which is a superior court, and
consequently sufficient for such registration; that there was only a
single instance of an edict respecting the money of the realm having been
sent before the Parliament, and then out of pure civility; that the
matter had been well sifted, and all its inconveniences weighed; that it
was to the advantage of the State to put in force this edict; that the
works of the Mint could not be interfered with in any way; finally, that
the King must be obeyed! It was quite true that the edict had been sent
to the Parliament out of courtesy, but at the suggestion of the Regent's
false and treacherous confidants, valets of the Parliament, such as the
Marechals de Villeroy, and Huxelles, and Besons, Canillac, Effiat, and
Notwithstanding the decisive answer they had received, the Parliament met
the very next day, and passed a decree against the edict. The council of
the regency, at its sitting on the afternoon of the same day, abrogated
this decree. Thus, since war was in a measure declared between the
Regent's authority and that of the Parliament, the orders emanating from
the one were disputed by the other, and vice versa. A nice game of
shuttlecock this, which it was scarce likely could last long!
The Regent was determined to be obeyed. He prohibited, therefore, the
printing and posting up of the decree of the Parliament. Soldiers of the
guards, too, were placed in the markets to hinder the refusal of the new
money which had been issued. The fact is, by the edict which had been
passed, the Louis worth thirty livres was taken at thirty-six livres, and
the crown piece, worth a hundred sous, at six livres instead of five. By
this edict also government notes were made legal tender until the new
money should be ready. The finances were thus relieved, and the King
gained largely from the recasting of the coin. But private people lost
by this increase, which much exceeded the intrinsic value of the metal
used, and which caused everything to rise in price. Thus the Parliament
had a fine opportunity for trumpeting forth its solicitude for the public
interest, and did not fail to avail itself of it.
During the night a councillor of the Parliament was surprised on
horseback in the streets tearing down and disfiguring the decree of the
Regency Council, which abrogated that of the Parliament. He was taken to
On Monday, the 27th of June, the Chief-President, at the head of all the
other presidents, and of forty councillors, went to the Tuileries, and in
the presence of the Regent read the wire-drawn remonstrance of the
Parliament upon this famous edict. The Keeper of the Seals said that in
a few days the King would reply. Accordingly on Saturday, the 2nd of
July, the same deputation came again to the Tuileries to hear the reply.
The Regent and all the Princes of the blood were there, the bastards
also. Argenson, who from lieutenant of police had been made keeper of
the seals, and who in his former capacity had often been ill-used--nay,
even attacked by the Parliament--took good care to show his superiority
over that assembly. He answered that deputation in the name of the King,
and concluded by saying that the edict would in no way be altered, but
would receive complete application. The parliamentary gentlemen did not
expect so firm a reply, and withdrew, much mortified.
They were not, however, vanquished. They reassembled on the 11th and
12th of August, and spat forth all their venom in another decree
specially aimed at the authority of the Regent. By this decree the
administration of the finances was henceforth entirely to be at the mercy
of the Parliament. Law, the Scotchman, who, under the favour of M. le
Duc d'Orleans, had been allowed some influence over the State money
matters, was to possess that influence no longer; in fact, all power on
the part of the Regent over the finances was to be taken from him.
After this the Parliament had to take but one step in order to become the
guardian of the King and the master of the realm (as in fact it madly
claimed to be), the Regent more at its mercy than the King, and perhaps
as exposed as King Charles I. of England. Our parliamentary gentlemen
began as humbly as those of England, and though, as I have said, their
assembly was but a simple court of justice, limited in its jurisdiction
like the other courts of the realm, to judge disputes between private
people, yet by dint of hammering upon the word parliament they believed
themselves not less important than their English brethren, who form the
legislative assembly, and represent all the nation.
M. and Madame du Maine had done not a little to bring about these
fancies, and they continued in secret to do more. Madame du Maine, it
may be recollected, had said that she would throw the whole country into
combustion, in order not to lose her husband's prerogative. She was as
good as her word. Encouraged doubtless by the support they received from
this precious pair, the Parliament continued on its mad career of
impudent presumption, pride, and arrogance. It assembled on the 22nd of
August, and ordered inquiry to be made of the Regent as to what had
become of all the state notes that had been passed at the Chamber of
justice; those which had been given for the lotteries that were held
every month; those which had been given for the Mississippi or Western
Company; finally, those which had been taken to the Mint since the change
in the specie.
These questions were communicated to the Regent by the King's officers.
In reply he turned his back upon them, and went away into his cabinet,
leaving these people slightly bewildered. Immediately after this
occurrence it was rumoured that a Bed of justice would soon be held. The
Regent had not then thought of summoning such an important assembly, and
his weakness and vacillation were such that no one thought he would dare
to do so.
The memoirs of Cardinal de Retz, of Joly, of Madame Motteville, had
turned all heads. These books had become so fashionable, that in no
class was the man or woman who did not have them continually in hand.
Ambition, the desire for novelty, the skill of those who circulated these
books, made the majority of people hope to cut a figure or make a
fortune, and persuaded them there was as little lack of personages as in
the last minority. People looked upon Law as the Mazarin of the day--
(they were both foreign)--upon M. and Madame du Maine, as the chiefs of
the Fronde; the weakness of M. le Duc d'Orleans was compared to that of
the Queen-mother, and so on.
To say the truth, all tended towards whatever was extreme--moderation
seemed forgotten--and it was high time the Regent aroused himself from a
supineness which rendered him contemptible, and which emboldened his
enemies and those of the State to brave all and undertake all. This
lethargy, too, disheartened his servants, and made all healthy activity
on their part impossible. It had at last led him to the very verge of
the precipice, and the realm he governed to within an inch of the
greatest confusion. He had need, indeed, to be up and doing!
The Regent, without having the horrible vice or the favourites of Henry
III., had even more than that monarch become notorious for his daily
debauches, his indecency, and his impiety. Like Henry III., too, he was
betrayed by his most intimate councillors and domestics. This treachery
pleased him (as it had pleased that King) because it induced him to keep
idle, now from fear, now from interest, now from disdain, and now from
policy. This torpor was agreeable to him because it was in conformity
with his humour and his tastes, and because he regarded those who
counselled it as good, wise, and enlightened people, not blinded by their
private interests, but seeing clearly things as they were; while he was
importuned with opinions and explanations which would have disclosed the
true state of affairs and suggested remedies.
He looked upon such people as offered these opinions and explanations as
impetuous counsellors, who hurried everything and suggested everything,
who wished to discount the future in order to satisfy their ambition,
their aversion, their different passions. He kept on his guard against
them; he applauded himself for not being their dupe. Now, he laughed at
them; often he allowed them to believe he appreciated their reasoning,
that he was going to act and rouse from his lethargy. He amused them
thus, gained time, and diverted himself afterwards with the others.
Sometimes he replied coldly to them, and when they pressed him too much
he allowed his suspicions to peep out.
Long since I had perceived M. le Duc d'Orleans' mode of action. At the
first movements of the Parliament, of the bastards, and of those who had
usurped the name of nobility, I had warned him. I had done so again as
soon as I saw the cadence and the harmony of the designs in progress. I
had pointed out to him their inevitable sequel; how easy it was to hinder
them at the commencement; how difficult after, especially for a person of
his character and disposition. But I was not the man for such work as
this. I was the oldest, the most attached, the freest spoken of all his
servitors; I had given him the best proofs of this in the most critical
times of his life, and in the midst of his universal abandonment; the
counsels I had offered him in these sad days he had always found for his
good; he was accustomed to repose in me the most complete confidence;
but, whatever opinion he might have of me, and of my truth and probity,
he was on his guard against what he called my warmth, and against the
love I had for my dignity, so attacked by the usurpations of the
bastards, the designs of the Parliament, and the modern fancies of a sham
nobility. As soon as I perceived his suspicions I told him so, and I
added that, content with having done my duty as citizen and as his
servitor, I would say no more on the subject. I kept my word. For more
than a year I had not of myself opened my mouth thereon. If he was
sometimes spoken to before me, and I could not keep quite silent without
being suspected of sulking or pique, I carelessly said something
indefinite, with as little meaning in it as possible, and calculated to
make us drop the subject.
Judge of my surprise, therefore, when as I was working as usual one
afternoon with the Regent, he interrupted me to speak with bitterness of
the Parliament. I replied with my accustomed coldness and pretended
negligence, and continued my business. He stopped me, and said that he
saw very well that I would not reply to him concerning the Parliament.
I admitted it was true, and added that he must long since have perceived
this. Pressed and pressed beyond measure, I coldly remarked that he
could not but remember what I had said to him of the Parliament both
before and after his accession to the regency, that other counsels had
prevailed over mine, and that finding my opinions were misinterpreted by
him, I had resolved to hold my tongue, and had done so. As the subject
was now reopened I reminded him of a prophecy I had uttered long before,
that he had missed the opportunity of governing the Parliament when he
might have done so with a frown, and that step by step he would allow
himself to be conducted by his easy-going disposition, until he found
himself on the very verge of the abyss; that if he wished to recover his
position he must begin at once to retrace his steps, or lose his footing
Such strong words (from my mouth they had been rare of late), pronounced
with a slow, firm coldness, as though I were indifferent to the course he
might adopt, made him feel how little capable I believed him of vigorous
and sustained action, and what trifling trouble I took to make him adopt
my views. Dubois, Argenson, and Law had also spoken to him, urging him
to take strong measures against the Parliament; the effect of my speech
was therefore marvellous.
It was indeed high time to do something, as I have before remarked.
The Parliament, we found, after passing its last decree, had named a
commission to inquire into the financial edict; this commission was
working in the utmost secrecy; a number of witnesses had already been
examined, and preparations were quietly making to arrest Law some fine
morning, and hang him three hours after within the enclosure of the
Palais de justice.
Immediately this fact became known, the Duc de la Force and Fagon
(Councillor of State) went to the Regent--'twas on the 19th of August,
1718--and spoke to him with such effect, that he ordered them to assemble
with Law that very day at my house in order to see what was to be done.
They came, in fact, and this was the first intimation I had that the
Regent had begun to feel the gravity of his position, and that he was
ready to do something. In this conference at my house the firmness of
Law, hitherto so great, was shaken so that tears escaped him. Arguments
did not satisfy us at first, because the question could only be decided
by force, and we could not rely upon that of the Regent. The safe-
conduct with which Law was supplied would not have stopped the Parliament
an instant. On every side we were embarrassed. Law, more dead than
alive, knew not what to say; much less what to do. His safety appeared
to us the most pressing matter to ensure. If he had been taken it would
have been all over with him before the ordinary machinery of negotiation
(delayed as it was likely to be by the weakness of the Regent) could have
been set in motion; certainly, before there would have been leisure to
think of better, or to send a regiment of guards to force open the Palais
de justice; a critical remedy at all times, and grievous to the last
degree, even when it succeeds; frightful, if instead of Law, only his
suspended corpse had been found!
I advised Law, therefore, to retire to the Palais Royal, and occupy the
chamber of Nancre, his friend, then away in Spain. Law breathed again at
this suggestion (approved by de la Force and Fagon), and put it in
execution the moment he left my house. He might have been kept in safety
at the Bank, but I thought the Palais Royal would be better: that his
retirement there would create more effect, and induce the Regent to hold
firm to his purpose, besides allowing his Royal Highness to see the
financier whenever he pleased.
This done I proposed, and the others approved my proposition, that a Bed
of Justice should be held as the only means left by which the abrogation
of the parliamentary decrees could be registered. But while our
arguments were moving, I stopped them all short by a reflection which
came into my mind. I represented to my guests that the Duc du Maine was
in secret the principal leader of the Parliament, and was closely allied
with Marechal de Villeroy; that both would oppose might and main the
assembling of a Bed of justice, so contrary to their views, to their
schemes, to their projects; that to hinder it they, as guardians of the
young King, would plead on his behalf, the heat, which was in fact
extreme, the fear of the crowd, of the fatigue, of the bad air; that they
would assume a pathetic tone in speaking of the King's health, calculated
to embarrass the Regent; that if he persisted they would protest against
everything which might happen to His Majesty; declare, perhaps, that in
order not to share the blame, they would not accompany him; that the
King, prepared by them, would grow frightened, perhaps, and would not go
to the Parliament without them; that then all would be lost, and the
powerlessness of the Regent, so clearly manifested, might rapidly lead to
the most disastrous results.
These remarks stopped short our arguments, but I had not started
objections without being prepared with a remedy for them. I said, "Let
the Bed of justice be held at the Tuileries; let it be kept a profound
secret until the very morning it is to take place; and let those who are
to attend it be told so only a few hours before they are to assemble.
By these means no time will be allowed for anybody to object to the
proceeding, to plead the health of the King, the heat of the weather,
or to interfere with the arrangement of the troops which it will be
necessary to make."
We stopped at this: Law went away, and I dictated to Fagon the full
details of my scheme, by which secrecy was to be ensured and all
obstacles provided against. We finished about nine o'clock in the
evening, and I counselled Fagon to carry what he had written to the Abbe
Dubois, who had just returned from England with new credit over the mind
of his master.
The next day I repaired to the Palais Royal about four o'clock. A moment
after La Vrilliere came and relieved me of the company of Grancey and
Broglio, two roues, whom I had found in the grand cabinet, in the cool,
familiarly, without wigs. When M. le Duc d'Orleans was free he led me
into the cabinet, behind the grand salon, by the Rue de Richelieu, and on
entering said he was at the crisis of his regency, and that everything
was needed in order to sustain him on this occasion. He added that he
was resolved to strike a heavy blow at the Parliament; that he much
approved my proposition respecting the Bed of justice at the Tuileries,
and that it would be held exactly as I had suggested.
I was delighted at his animation, and at the firmness he appeared to
possess, and after having well discussed with him all the inconveniences
of my plan, and their remedy, we came at last to a very important matter,
the mechanical means, so to speak, by which that plan was to be put in
force. There was one thing to be provided for, which may appear an
exceedingly insignificant matter, but which in truth was of no light
importance. When a Bed of justice is held, seats one above another must
be provided for those who take part in it. No room in the Tuileries
possessed such seats and how erect them without noise, without exciting
remarks, without causing inquiries and suspicions, which must inevitably
lead to the discovery and perhaps thereby to the failure of our project?
I had not forgotten this difficulty, however, and I said to the Regent
I would go in secret to Fontanieu, who controlled the crown furniture,
explain all to him, and arrange matters with him so that these seats
should be erected at the very last moment, in time for our purpose, but
too late to supply information that could be made use of by our enemies.
I hurried off accordingly, as soon as I could get away, in search of
I had already had some relations with him, for he had married his
daughter to the son of the sister of my brother-in-law, M. de Lauzun.
I had done him some little service, and had therefore every reason to
expect he would serve me on this occasion. Judge of my annoyance when
upon reaching his house I learned that he had gone almost to the other
end of the town, to the Marais, to conduct a suit at law, in which
Monsieur and Madame de Lauzun were concerned, respecting an estate at
Rondon they claimed!
The porter seeing me so vexed at being obliged to journey so far in
search of Fontanieu, said, that if I would go and speak to Madame
Fontanieu, he would see if his master was not still in the neighbourhood,
at a place he intended to visit before going to the Marais. I acted upon
this suggestion and went to Madame Fontanieu, whom I found alone. I was
forced to talk to her of the suit of Monsieur and Madame de Lauzun, which
I pretended was the business I came upon, and cruelly did I rack my
brains to say enough to keep up the conversation. When Fontanieu
arrived, for he was soon found, fortunately, I was thrown into another
embarrassment, for I had all the pains in the world to get away from
Madame Fontanieu, who, aided by her husband, begged me not to take the
trouble to descend but to discuss the subject where I was as she was as
well informed upon the case as he, I thought once or twice I should never
escape her. At last, however, I led away Fontanieu, by dint of
compliments to his wife, in which I expressed my unwillingness to weary
her with this affair.
When Fontanieu and I were alone down in his cabinet, I remained some
moments talking to him upon the same subject, to allow the valets who had
opened the doors for us time to retire. Then, to his great astonishment,
I went outside to see if there were no listeners, and carefully closed
the doors. After this I said to Fontanieu that I had not come concerning
the affair of Madame de Lauzun, but upon another very different, which
demanded all his industry, a secrecy proof against every trial, and which
M. le Duc d'Orleans had charged me to communicate to him; but that before
explaining myself he must know whether his Royal Highness could certainly
count upon him.
It is strange what an impression the wildest absurdities leave if they
are spread abroad with art. The first thing Fontanieu did was to tremble
violently all over and become whiter than his shirt. With difficulty he
stammered out a few words to the effect that he would do for M. le Duc
d'Orleans as much as his duty would permit him to do. I smiled, looking
fixedly at him, and this smile warned him apparently that he owed me an
excuse for not being quite at ease upon any affair that passed through my
hands; he directly made me one, at all events, and with the confusion of
a man who sees that his first view has dazzled the second, and who, full
of this first view, does not show anything, yet lets all be seen.
I reassured him as well as I could, and said that I had answered for him
to M. le Duc d'Orleans, and afterwards that a Bed of justice was wanted,
for the construction of which we had need of him.
Scarcely had I explained this, than the poor fellow began to take breath,
as though escaping from stifling oppression, or a painful operation for
the stone, and asked me if that was what I wanted?
He promised everything, so glad was he to be let off thus cheaply, and in
truth he kept to his word, both as to the secret and the work. He had
never seen a Bed of justice, and had not the slightest notion what it was
like. I sat down on his bureau, and drew out the design of one. I
dictated to him the explanations in the margin, because I did not wish
them to be in my handwriting. I talked more than an hour with him; I
disarranged his furniture, the better to show to him the order of the
assembly, and explained to him what was to be done, so that all might be
carried to the Tuileries and erected in a very, few moments. When I
found I had made everything sufficiently clear, and he had understood me,
I returned to the Palais Royal as though recollecting something, being
already in the streets, to deceive my people.
A servant awaited me at the top of the staircase, and the concierge of
the Palais Royal at the door of M. le Duc d'Orleans' room, with orders to
beg me to write. It was the sacred hour of the roues and the supper,
at which all idea of business was banished. I wrote, therefore, to the
Regent in his winter cabinet what I had just done, not without some
little indignation that he could not give up his pleasure for an affair
of this importance. I was obliged to beg the concierge not to give my
note to M. le Duc d'Orleans unless he were in a state to read it and to
burn it afterwards.
Our preparations for the Bed of justice continued to be actively but
silently made during the next few days. In the course of the numberless
discussions which arose upon the subject, it was agreed, after much
opposition on my part, to strike a blow, not only at the Parliament, but
at M. du Maine, who had fomented its discontent. M. le Duc, who had been
admitted to our councils, and who was heart and soul against the
bastards, proposed that at the Bed of justice the education of the young
King should be taken out of the control of M. du Maine and placed in his
hands. He proposed also that the title of Prince of the Blood should be
taken from him, with all the privileges it conferred, and that he should
be reduced to the rank of a simple Duke and Peer, taking his place among
the rest according to the date of his erection; thus, at a bound, going
down to the bottom of the peerage!
Should these memoirs ever see the light, every one who reads them will be
able to judge how such a proposition as this harmonised with my personal
wishes. I had seen the bastards grow in rank and importance with an
indignation and disgust I could scarcely contain. I had seen favour
after favour heaped upon them by the late King, until he crowned all by
elevating them to the rank of Princes of the Blood in defiance of all
law, of all precedent, of all decency, if I must say the word. What I
felt at this accumulation of honours I have more than once expressed;
what I did to oppose such monstrous innovations has also been said. No
man could be more against M. du Maine than I, and yet I opposed this
proposition of M. le Duc because I thought one blow was enough at a time,
and that it might be dangerous to attempt the two at once. M. du Maine
had supporters, nay; he was at the head of a sort of party; strip him of
the important post he held, and what might not his rake, his
disappointment, and his wounded ambition lead him to attempt? Civil war,
perhaps, would be the result of his disgrace.
Again and again I urged these views, not only upon M. le Duc d'Orleans,
but upon M. le Duc. Nay, with this latter I had two long stolen
interviews in the Tuileries Gardens, where we spoke without constraint,
and exhausted all our arguments. But M. le Duc was not to be shaken, and
as I could do no more than I had done to move him, I was obliged at last
to give in. It was resolved, however, that disgrace should fall upon M.
du Maine alone; that his brother, the Comte de Toulouse, an account of
the devotion to the State he had ever exhibited, and his excellent
conduct since the death of the late King, should, when stripped of his
title like the other, receive it back again the moment after, in
acknowledgment of the services he had rendered to the Regent as
Councillor of State, and as an expression of personal good feeling
towards him, which his excellent qualities so justly merited.
I returned home from my last interview with M. le Duc, and went to mass
at the Jacobins, to which I entered from my garden. It was not without a
distracted mind. But I prayed to God sincerely and earnestly to guide my
steps, so that I might labour for His glory and the good of the State
without private ends. My prayer was heard, and in the sequel I had
nothing to reproach myself with. I followed the straight road without
turning to the right or to the left.
Fontanieu was waiting for me in my house as I returned home from mass,
and I was obliged to listen to his questions and to reply to them, as
though I had nothing on my mind. I arranged my chamber like a Bed of
Justice, I made him understand several things; connected with the
ceremonial that he had not under stood before, and that it was essential
he should in no way omit. Thus everything went on satisfactorily, and I
began to count the hours, by day as well as by night, until the great day
was to arrive on which the arrogant pride of the Parliament was to
receive a check, and the false plumage which adorned the bastards was to
be plucked from them.
In the midst of the sweet joy that I felt, no bitterness entered. I was
satisfied with the part I had played in this affair, satisfied that I had
acted sincerely, honestly, that I had not allowed my own private motives
to sway me; that in the interests of the State, as opposed to my own
interests, I had done all in my power to save the Duc du Maine. And yet
I did not dare to give myself up to the rosy thoughts suggested by the
great event, now so rapidly approaching. I toyed with them instead of
allowing myself to embrace them. I shrunk from them as it were like a
cold lover who fears the too ardent caresses of his mistress. I could
not believe that the supreme happiness I had so long pined for was at
last so near. Might not M. le Duc d'Orleans falter at the last moment?
Might not all our preparations, so carefully conducted, so cleverly
planned, weigh upon his feebleness until they fell to the ground? It was
not improbable. He was often firm in promises. How often was he firm in
carrying them out? All these questions, all these restless doubts--
natural as it appears to me under the circumstances--winged their way
through my mind, and kept me excited and feverish as though life and
death were hanging on one thread.
In the midst of my reflections, a messenger from M. le Duc d'Orleans,
Millain by name, arrived at my house. It was on the afternoon of
Thursday, the 25th of August, 1718. His message was simple. M. le Duc
d'Orleans was in the same mood as ever, and I was to join him at the
Palais Royal, according to previous agreement, at eight o'clock in the
evening. The Bed of justice was to be held on the morrow.
Never was kiss given to a beautiful mistress sweeter than that which I
imprinted upon the fat old face of this charming messenger! A close
embrace, eagerly repeated, was my first reply, followed afterwards by an
overflow of feeling for M. le Duc, and for Millain even, who had worthily
served in this great undertaking.
The rest of the day I passed at home with the Abbe Dubois, Fagon, and the
Duc de la Force, one after the other finishing up our work. We provided
against everything: If the Parliament refused to come to the Tuileries,
its interdiction was determined on: if any of the members attempted to
leave Paris they were to be arrested; troops were to be assembled in
order to carry out the Regent's orders; we left no accident without its
The Abbe Dubois arranged a little code of signals, such as crossing the
legs, shaking a handkerchief, or other simple gestures, to be given the
first thing in the morning to the officers of the body-guards chosen to
be in attendance in the room where the Bed of Justice was to be held.
They were to fix their eyes upon the Regent, and when he made any of the
above signals, immediately to act upon it according to their written
instructions. The Abbe Dubois also drew out a sort of programme for M.
le Duc d'Orleans, of the different orders he was to give during the
night, fixing the hour for each, so that they might not arrive a minute
too soon or a minute too late, and secrecy thus be maintained to the very
Towards eight o'clock in the evening I went to they Palais Royal. I was
horror-struck to find M. le Duc d'Orleans in bed with fever, as he said;
I felt his pulse. Fever, he had, sure enough; perhaps from excitement
caused by the business in hand. I said to him it was only fatigue of
body and mind, of which he would be quit in twenty-four hours; he, on his
side, protested that whatever it might be, he would hold the Bed of
justice on the morrow. M. le Duc, who had just entered, was at his
pillow; the chamber lighted by a single wax candle. We sat down, M. le
Duc and I, and passed in review the orders given and to give, not without
much apprehension on account of this fever, come so strangely out of
season to the healthiest man in the world, and who had never had it
I exhorted the Regent to take as much repose as he could, so that he
might be fully able to execute the great work of the morrow, the safety
of the Regency itself being at stake. After this I felt his pulse again,
not without fear. I assured him, however, his illness would be nothing;
without, it is true, being too sure of it myself. I took my leave about
ten o'clock, and went out of the room with Millain. When I found myself
alone with him in the cabinet, through which we passed, I embraced him
with an extreme pleasure. We had entered by the backstairs; we descended
by the same, so as not to be observed. It was dark, so that on both
occasions we were obliged to grope our way. Upon arriving at the bottom
I could not refrain from again embracing Millain, so great was my
pleasure, and we separated each to his home.
The arrangements respecting the troops and for summoning the Parliament,
etc., were all carried out to the letter during the night and early
morning. At the hours agreed upon M. le Duc d'Orleans gave the various
orders. About four o'clock in the morning the Duc du Maine, as colonel-
general of the Swiss guards, was aroused. He had not been in bed above
an hour, having just returned from a fete given at the arsenal by Madame
du Maine. He was doubtless much astonished, but contained himself, hid
his fear, and sent at once to instruct his companies of Swiss guards of
the orders they were to execute. I don't think he slept very well after
this, uncertain as he must have been what was going to happen. But I
never knew what he or Madame du Maine did after being thus rudely
Towards five o'clock in the morning drums began to be heard throughout
the town, and soon soldiers were seen in movement. At six o'clock a
message was sent to the Parliament requesting it to attend at the
Tuileries. The reply was that the request should be obeyed. The members
thereupon debated whether they should go to the Tuileries in coaches or
on foot. The last mode was adopted as being the most ordinary, and in
the hope of stirring the people and arriving at the Tuileries with a
yelling crowd. What happened will be related in its place.
At the same time, horsemen went to all the Peers and officers of the
Crown, and to all the chevaliers of the order, the governors and
lieutenant-governors of the provinces (who were to accompany the King),
informing them of the Bed of Justice. The Comte de Toulouse had been to
supper at the house of M. de Nevers, near Saint-Denis, and did not return
until late into the night. The French and Swiss guards were under arms
in various quarters; the watch, the light horse, and the two companies of
musketeers all ready in their barracks; the usual guard at the Tuileries.
If I had slept but little during the last eight days, I slept still less
that night, so near to the most considerable events. I rose before six
o'clock, and shortly after received my summons to the Bed of justice, on
the back of which was a note that I was not to be awakened, a piece of
politeness due to the knowledge of the bearer, who was aware that this
summons would teach me nothing I did not know. All the others had been
awakened, surprised thereby to an extent that may be imagined.
Towards eight o'clock in the morning a messenger from M. le Duc d'Orleans
came to remind me of the Regency Council at eight o'clock, and to attend
it in my mantle. I dressed myself in black, because I had only that suit
with a mantle, and another, a magnificent one in cloth of gold, which I
did not wish to wear lest it should cause the remark to be made, though
much out of season, that I wished to insult the Parliament and M. du
Maine. I took two gentlemen with me in my coach, and I went in order to
witness all that was to take place. I was at the same time full of fear,
hope, joy, reflection, and mistrust of M. le Duc d'Orleans' weakness, and
all that might result from it. I was also firmly resolved to do my best,
whatever might happen, but without appearing to know anything, and
without eagerness, and I resolved to show presence of mind, attention,
circumspection, modesty, and much moderation.
Upon leaving my house I went to Valincourt, who lived behind the hotel of
the Comte de Toulouse. He was a very honourable man, of much intellect,
moving among the best company, secretary-general of the navy, devoted to
the Comte de Toulouse ever since his early youth, and possessing all his
confidence. I did not wish to leave the Comte de Toulouse in any
personal fear, or expose him to be led away by his brother. I sent
therefore for Valincourt, whom I knew intimately, to come and speak to
me. He came half-dressed, terrified at the rumours flying over the town,
and eagerly asked me what they all meant. I drew him close to me and
said, "Listen attentively to me, and lose not a word. Go immediately to
M. le Comte de Toulouse, tell him he may trust in my word, tell him to be
discreet, and that things are about to happen to others which may
displease him, but that not a hair of his head shall be touched. I hope
he will not have a moment's uneasiness. Go! and lose not an instant."
Valincourt held me in a tight embrace. "Ah, Monsieur," said he, "we
foresaw that at last there would be a storm. It is well merited, but not
by M. le Comte, who will be eternally obliged to you." And, he went
immediately with my message to the Comte de Toulouse, who never forgot
that I saved him from the fall of his brother.
Arrived at the grand court of the Tuileries about eight o'clock without
having remarked anything extraordinary on the way. The coaches of the
Duc de Noailles, of Marechal de Villars, of Marechal d'Huxelles, and of
some others were already there. I ascended without finding many people
about, and directed the two doors of the Salle des Gardes, which were
closed, to be opened. The Bed of justice was prepared in the grand ante-
chamber, where the King was accustomed to eat. I stopped a short time to
see if everything was in proper order, and felicitated Fontanieu in a low
voice. He said to me in the same manner that he had arrived at the
Tuileries with his workmen and materials at six o'clock in the morning;
that everything was so well constructed and put up that the King had not
heard a sound; that his chief valet de chambre, having left the room for
some commission about seven o'clock in the morning, had been much
astonished upon seeing this apparatus; that the Marechal de Villeroy had
only heard of it through him, and that the seats had been erected with
such little noise that nobody had heard anything. After having well
examined everything with my eyes I advanced to the throne, then being
finished; wishing to enter the second ante-chamber, some servants came to
me, saying that I could not go in, all being locked up. I asked where I
was to await the assembling of the Council, and was admitted to a room
upstairs, where I found a good number of people already congregated.
After chatting some time with the Keeper of the Seals, the arrival of M.
le Duc d'Orleans was announced. We finished what we had to say, and went
downstairs separately, not wishing to be seen together.
The Council was held in a room which ever since the very hot weather the
King had slept in. The hangings of his bed, and of the Marechal de
Villeroy's were drawn back. The Council table was placed at the foot of
one of the beds. Upon entering the adjoining chamber I found many people
whom the first rumours of such an unexpected occurrence had no doubt led
there, and among the rest some of the Council. M. le Duc d'Orleans was
in the midst of a crowd at the end of the room, and, as I afterwards
learned, had just seen the Duc du Maine without speaking to him, or being
After a passing glance upon this crowd I entered the Council chamber. I
found scattered there the majority of those who composed the Council with
serious and troubled looks, which increased my seriousness. Scarcely
anybody spoke; and each, standing or seated here and there, kept himself
in his place. The better to examine all, I joined nobody. A moment
after M. le Duc d'Orleans entered with a gay, easy, untroubled air, and
looked smilingly upon the company. I considered this of good augury.
Immediately afterwards I asked him his news. He replied aloud that he
was tolerably well; then approaching my ear, added that, except when
aroused to give his orders, he had slept very well, and that he was
determined to hold firm. This infinitely pleased me, for it seemed to me
by his manner that he was in earnest, and I briefly exhorted him to
Came, afterwards, M. le Duc, who pretty soon approached me, and asked if
I augured well from the Regent, and if he would remain firm. M. le Duc
had an air of exceeding gaiety, which was perceptible to those behind the
scenes. The Duc de Noailles devoured everything with his eyes, which
sparkled with anger because he had not been initiated into the secret of
this great day.
In due time M. du Maine appeared in his mantle, entering by the King's
little door. Never before had he made so many or such profound
reverences as he did now--though he was not usually very stingy of them--
then standing alone, resting upon his stick near the Council table, he
looked around at everybody. Then and there, being in front of him, with
the table between us, I made him the most smiling bow I had ever given
him, and did it with extreme volupty. He repaid me in the same coin, and
continued to fix his eyes upon everybody in turn; his face agitated, and
nearly always speaking to himself.
A few minutes after M. le Duc came to me, begging me to exhort M. le Duc
d'Orleans to firmness: then the Keeper of the Seals came forth for the
same purpose. M. le Duc d'Orleans himself approached me to say something
a moment afterwards, and he had no sooner quitted my side than M. le Duc,
impatient and troubled, came to know in what frame of mind was the
Regent. I told him good in a monosyllable, and sent him away.
I know not if these movements, upon which all eyes were fixed, began to
frighten the Duc du Maine, but no sooner had M. le Duc joined the Regent,
after quitting me, than the Duc du Maine went to speak to the Marechal de
Villeroy and to D'Effiat, both seated at the end of the room towards the
King's little door, their backs to the wall. They did not rise for the
Duc du Maine, who remained standing opposite, and quite near them, all
three holding long discourses, like people who deliberate with
embarrassment and surprise, as it appeared to me by the faces of the two
I saw, and which I tried not to lose sight of.
During this time M. le Duc d'Orleans and M. le Duc spoke to each other
near the window and the ordinary entrance door; the Keeper of the Seals,
who was near, joined them. At this moment M. le Duc turned round a
little, which gave me the opportunity to make signs to him of the other
conference, which he immediately saw. I was alone, near the Council
table, very attentive to everything, and the others scattered about began
to become more so. A little while after the Duc du Maine placed himself
where he had been previously: the two he quitted remained as before.
M. du Maine was thus again in front of me, the table between us: I
observed that he had a bewildered look, and that he spoke to himself more
The Comte de Toulouse arrived as the Regent had just quitted the two
persons with whom he had been talking. The Comte de Toulouse was in his
mantle, and saluted the company with a grave and meditative manner,
neither accosting nor accosted: M. le Duc d'Orleans found himself in
front of him and turned towards me, although at some distance, as though
to testify his trouble. I bent my head a little while looking fixedly at
him, as though to say, "Well, what then?"
A short time afterwards the Comte de Toulouse had a conversation with his
brother, both speaking with agitation and without appearing to agree very
well. Then the Count approached M. le Duc d'Orleans, who was talking
again to M. le Duc, and they spoke at some length to each other. As
their faces were towards the wall, nothing but their backs could be seen,
no emotion and scarcely a gesture was visible.
The Duc du Maine had remained where he had spoken to his brother. He
seemed half dead, looked askance upon the company with wandering eyes,
and the troubled agitated manner of a criminal, or a man condemned to
death. Shortly afterwards he became pale as a corpse, and appeared to me
to have been taken ill.
He crawled to the end of the table, during which the Comte de Toulouse
came and said a word to the Regent, and began to walk out of the room.
All these movements took place in a trice. The Regent, who was near the
King's armchair, said aloud, "Now, gentlemen, let us take our places."
Each approached to do so, and as I looked behind mine I saw the, two
brothers at the, door as though about to leave the room. I leaped, so to
speak, between the King's armchair and M. le Duc d'Orleans, and whispered
in the Regent's ear so as not to be heard by the Prince de Conti:
"Monsieur, look at them. They are going."
"I know it," he replied tranquilly.
"Yes," I exclaimed with animation, "but do you know what they will do
when they are outside."
"Nothing at all," said he: "the Comte de Toulouse has asked me for
permission to go out with his brother; he has assured me that they will
"And if they are not?" I asked.
"They will be. But if they are not, they will be well looked after."
"But if they commit some absurdity, or leave Paris?"
"They will be arrested. Orders have been given, and I will answer for
Therefore, more tranquil, I sat down in my place. Scarcely had I got
there than the Regent called me back, and said that since they had left
the room, he should like to tell the Council what was going to be done
with respect to them. I replied that the only objection to this, their
presence, being now removed--I thought it would be wrong not to do so.
He asked M. le Duc in a whisper, across the table, afterwards called to
the Keeper of the Seals; both agreed, and then we really seated
These movements had augmented the trouble and curiosity of every one.
The eyes of all, occupied with the Regent, had been removed from the
door, so that the absence of the bastards was by no means generally
remarked. As soon as it was perceived, everybody looked inquiringly
around, and remained standing in expectation. I sat down in the seat of
the Comte de Toulouse. The Duc de Guiche, who sat on the other side of
me, left a seat between us, and still waited for the bastards. He told
me to approach nearer to him, saying I had mistaken my place. I replied
not a word, looking on at the company, which was a sight to see. At the
second or third summons, I replied that he, on the contrary, must
"And M. le Comte de Toulouse?" replied he.
"Approach," said I, and seeing him motionless with astonishment, looking
towards the Duc du Maine's seat, which had been taken by the Keeper of
the Seals, I pulled him by his coat (I was seated), saying to him, "Come
here and sit down."
I pulled him so hard that he seated himself near me without understanding
"But what is the meaning of all this?" he demanded; "where are these
"I don't know," replied I, impatiently; "but they are not here."
At the same time, the Duc de Noailles, who sat next to the Duc de Guiche,
and who, enraged at counting for nothing in preparations for such a great
day, had apparently divined that I was in the plot, vanquished by his
curiosity, stretched over the table in front of the Duc de Guiche, and
said to me:
"In the name of Heaven, M. le Duc, do me the favour to say what all this
I was at daggers-drawn with him, as I have explained, and had no mercy
for him. I turned, therefore, towards him with a cold and disdainful
air, and, after having heard him out, and looked at him, I turned away
again. That was all my reply. The Duc de Guiche pressed me to say
something, even if it was only that I knew all. I denied it, and yet
each seated himself slowly, because intent only upon looking around, and
divining what all this could mean, and because it was a long time before
any one could comprehend that we must proceed to business without the
bastards, although nobody opened his mouth.
When everybody was in his place M. le Duc d'Orleans after having far a
moment looked all around, every eye fixed upon him, said that he had
assembled this Regency Council to hear read the resolutions adopted at
the last; that he had come to the conclusion that there was no other
means of obtaining the registration of the finance edict recently passed
than that of holding a Bed of justice; that the heat rendering it
unadvisable to jeopardise the King's health in the midst of the crowd of
the Palais de justice, he had thought it best to follow the example of
the late King, who had sometimes sent for the Parliament to the
Tuileries; that, as it had become necessary to hold this Bed of justice,
he had thought it right to profit by the occasion, and register the
'lettres de provision' of the Keeper of the Seals at the commencement of
the sitting; and he ordered the Keeper of the Seals to read them.
During this reading, which had no other importance than to seize an
occasion of forcing the Parliament to recognize the Keeper of the Seals,
whose person and whose commission they hated, I occupied myself in
examining the faces.
I saw M. le Duc d'Orleans with an air of authority and of attention, so
new that I was struck with it. M. le Duc, gay and brilliant, appeared
quite at his ease, and confident. The Prince de Conti, astonished,
absent, meditative, seemed to see nothing and to take part in nothing.
The Keeper of the Seals, grave and pensive, appeared to have too many
things in his head; nevertheless, with bag, wax, and seals near him, he
looked very decided and very firm. The Duc de la Force hung his head,
but examined on the sly the faces of us all. Marechal Villeroy and
Marechal de Villars spoke to each other now and then; both had irritated
eyes and long faces. Nobody was more composed than the Marechal de
Tallard; but he could not hide an internal agitation which often peeped
out. The Marechal d'Estrees had a stupefied air, as though he saw
nothing but a mist before him. The Marechal de Besons, enveloped more
than ordinarily in his big wig, appeared deeply meditative, his look cast
down and angry. Pelletier, very buoyant, simple, curious, looking at
everything. Torcy, three times more starched than usual, seemed to look
at everything by stealth. Effiat, meddlesome, piqued, outraged, ready to
boil over, fuming at everybody, his look haggard, as it passed
precipitously, and by fits and starts, from side to side. Those on my
side I could not well examine; I saw them only by moments as they changed
their postures or I mine; and then not well or for long. I have already
spoken of the astonishment of the Duc de Guiche, and of the vexation and
curiosity of the Duc de Noailles. D'Antin, usually of such easy
carriage, appeared to me as though in fetters, and quite scared. The
Marechal d'Huxelles tried to put a good face on the matter, but could not
hide the despair which pierced him. Old Troyes, all abroad, showed
nothing but surprise and embarrassment, and did not appear to know where
From the first moment of this reading and the departure of the bastards,
everybody saw that something was in preparation against them. What that
something was to be, kept every mind in suspense. A Bed of justice, too,
prepared in secret, ready as soon as announced, indicated a strong
resolution taken against the Parliament, and indicated also so much
firmness and measure in a Prince, usually supposed to be entirely
incapable of any, that every one was at sea. All, according as they were
allied to the Parliament or to the bastards, seemed to wait in fear what
was to be proposed. Many others appeared deeply wounded because the
Regent had not admitted them behind the scenes, and because they were
compelled to share the common surprise. Never were faces so universally
elongated; never was embarrassment more general or more marked. In these
first moments of trouble I fancy few people lent an ear to the letters
the Keeper of the Seals was reading. When they were finished, M. le Duc
d'Orleans said he did not think it was worth while to take the votes one
by one, either upon the contents of these letters or their registration;
but that all would be in favour of commencing the Bed of justice at once.
After a short but marked pause, the Regent developed, in few words, the
reasons which had induced the Council at its last sitting, to abrogate
the decree of the Parliament. He added, that judging by the conduct of
that assembly, it would have been to jeopardise anew the King's
authority, to send for registration this act of abrogation to the
Parliament, which would assuredly have given in public a proof of formal
disobedience, in refusing to register; that there being no other remedy
than a Bed of justice, he had thought it best to assemble one, but in
secret, so as not to give time or opportunity to the ill-disposed to
prepare for disobedience; that he believed, with the Keeper of the Seals,
the frequency and the manner of the parliamentary remonstrances were such
that the Parliament must be made to keep within the limits of its duty,
which, long since, it seemed to have lost sight of; that the Keeper of
the Seals would now read to the Council the act of abrogation, and the
rules that were to be observed in future. Then, looking at the Keeper of
the Seals, "Monsieur," said he, "you will explain this better than I.
Have the goodness to do so before reading the decree."
The Keeper of the Seals then spoke, and paraphrased what his Royal
Highness had said more briefly; he explained in what manner the
Parliament had the right to remonstrate, showed the distinction between
its power and that of the Crown; the incompetence of the tribunals in all
matters of state and finance; and the necessity of repressing the
remonstrances of Parliament by passing a code (that was the term used),
which was to serve as their inviolable guide. All this explained without
lengthiness, with grace and clearness, he began to read the decree, as it
has since been printed and circulated everywhere, some trifling
The reading finished, the Regent, contrary to his custom, showed his
opinion by the, praises he gave to this document: and then, assuming the
Regent's tone and air he had never before put on, and which completed the
astonishment of the company, he added, "To-day, gentlemen, I shall
deviate from the usual rule in taking your votes, and I think it will be
well to do so during all this Council."
Then after a slight glance upon both sides of the table, during which you
might have heard a worm crawl, he turned towards M. le Duc and asked him
his opinion. M. le Duc declared for the decree, alleging several short
but strong reasons. The Prince de Conti spoke in the same sense. I
spoke after, for the Keeper of the Seals had done so directly his reading
was finished. My opinion was given in more general terms so as not to
fall too heavily upon the Parliament, or to show that I arrogated to
myself the right to support his Royal Highness in the same manner as a
prince of the blood. The Duc de la Force was longer. All spoke, but the
majority said but little, and some allowed their vexation to be seen, but
did not dare to oppose, feeling that it would be of no use. Dejection
was painted upon their faces; it was evident this affair, of the
Parliament was not what they expected or wished. Tallard was the only
one whose face did not betray him; but the suffocated monosyllable of the
Marechal d'Huxelles tore off the rest of the mask. The Duc de Noailles
could scarcely contain himself, and spoke more than he wished, with
anguish worthy of Fresnes. M. le Duc d'Orleans spoke last, and with
unusual force; then made a pause, piercing all the company with his eyes.
At this moment the Marechal de Villeroy, full of his own thoughts,
muttered between his teeth, "But will the Parliament come?" This was
gently taken up. M. le Duc d'Orleans replied that he did not doubt it;
and immediately afterwards, that it would be as well to know when they
set out. The Keeper of the Seals said he should be informed. M. le Duc
d'Orleans replied that the door-keepers must be told. Thereupon up jumps
M. de Troyes.
I was seized with such a sudden fear lest he should go and chatter at the
door with some one that I jumped up also, and got the start of him. As I
returned, D'Antin, who had turned round to lay wait for me, begged me for
mercy's sake to tell him what all this meant. I sped on saying that I
knew nothing. "Tell that to others! Ho, ho!" replied he. When he had
resumed his seat, M. le Duc d'Orleans said something, I don't know what,
M. de Troyes still standing, I also. In passing La Vrilliere, I asked
him to go to the door every time anything was wanted, for fear of the
babbling of M. de Troyes; adding, that distant as I was from the door,
going there looked too peculiar. La Vrilliere did as I begged him all
the rest of the sitting.
As I was returning to my place, D'Antin, still in ambush, begged me in
the name of heaven, his hands joined, to tell him something. I kept
firm, however, saying, "You will see." The Duc de Guiche pressed me as
resolutely, even saying, it was evident I was in the plot. I remained
These little movements over, M. le Duc d'Orleans, rising a little in his
seat, said to the company, in a tone more firm, and more like that of a
master than before, that there was another matter now to attend to, much
more important than the one just heard. This prelude increased the
general astonishment, and rendered everybody motionless. After a moment
of silence the Regent said, that the peers had had for some time good
grounds of complaint against certain persons, who by unaccustomed favour,
had been allowed to assume rank and dignity to which their birth did not
entitle them; that it was time this irregularity should be stopped short,
and that with this view, an instrument had been drawn up, which the
Keeper of the Seals would read to them.
A profound silence followed this discourse, so unexpected, and which
began to explain the absence of the bastards. Upon many visages a sombre
hue was painted. As for me I had enough to do to compose my, own visage,
upon which all eyes successively passed; I had put upon it an extra coat
of gravity and of modesty; I steered my eyes with care, and only looked
horizontally at most, not an inch higher. As soon as the Regent opened
his mouth on this business, M. le Duc cast upon me a triumphant look
which almost routed my seriousness, and which warned me to increase it,
and no longer expose myself to meet his glance. Contained in this
manner, attentive in devouring the aspect of all, alive to everything and
to myself, motionless, glued to my chair, all my body fixed, penetrated
with the most acute and most sensible pleasure that joy could impart,
with the most charming anxiety, with an enjoyment, so perseveringly and
so immoderately hoped for, I sweated with agony at the captivity of my
transport, and this agony was of a voluptuousness such as I had never
felt before, such as I have never felt since. How inferior are the
pleasures of the senses to those of the mind! and how true it is that the
balance-weight of misfortunes, is the good fortune that finishes them!
A moment after the Regent had ceased speaking, he told the Keeper of the
Seals to read the declaration. During the reading, which was more than
music to my ears, my attention was again fixed on the company. I saw by
the alteration of the faces what an immense effect this document, which
embodied the resolutions I have already explained, produced upon some of
our friends. The whole of the reading was listened to with the utmost
attention, and the utmost emotion.
When it was finished, M. le Duc d'Orleans said he was very sorry for this
necessity, but that justice must be done to the peers as well as to the
princes of the blood: then turning to the Keeper of the Seals asked him
for his opinion.
This latter spoke briefly and well; but was like a dog running over hot
ashes. He declared for the declaration. His Royal Highness then called
upon M. le Duc for his opinion. It was short, but nervous, and polite to
the peers. M. le Prince de Conti the same. Then the Regent asked me my
opinion. I made, contrary to my custom, a profound inclination, but
without rising, and said, that having the honour to find myself the
eldest of the peers of the Council, I offered to his Royal Highness my
very humble thanks and those of all the peers of France, for the justice
so ardently desired, and touching so closely our dignity and our persons,
that he had resolved to render us; that I begged him to be persuaded of
our gratitude, and to count upon our utmost attachment to his person for
an act of equity so longed for, and so complete; that in this sincere
expression of our sentiments consisted all our opinion, because, being
pleaders, we could not be judges also. I terminated these few words with
a profound inclination, without rising, imitated by the Duc de la Force
at the same moment; all the rest of the Council briefly gave their
opinions, approving what the majority of them evidently did not approve
I had tried to modulate my voice, so that it should be just heard and no
more, preferring to be indistinct rather than speak too loudly; and
confined all my person to express as much as possible, gravity, modesty,
and simple gratitude. M. le Duc maliciously made signs to me in smiling,
that I had spoken well. But I kept my seriousness, and turned round to
examine all the rest.
It would be impossible to describe the aspect of the company. Nothing
was seen but people, oppressed with surprise that overwhelmed them,
meditative, agitated, some irritated, some but ill at ease, like La Force
and Guiche, who freely admitted so to me.
The opinions taken almost as soon as demanded, M. le Duc d'Orleans said,
"Gentlemen, it is finished, then justice is done, and the rights of
Messieurs the Peers are in safety. I have now an act of grace to propose
to you, and I do so with all the more confidence, because I have taken
care to consult the parties interested, who support me; and because, I
have drawn up the document in a manner to wound no one. What I am going
to explain to you, regards the Comte de Toulouse alone.
"Nobody is ignorant how he has disapproved all that has been done in
favour of him and his brother, and that he has sustained it since the
regency only out of respect for the wishes of the late King. Everybody
knows also his virtue, his merit, his application, his probity, his
disinterestedness. Nevertheless, I could not avoid including him in the
declaration you have just heard. Justice furnishes no exception in his
favour, and the rights of the Peers must be assured. Now that they are
no longer attacked, I have thought fitly to render to merit what from
equity I have taken from birth; and to make an exception of M. le Comte
de Toulouse, which (while confirming the rule), will leave him in full
possession of all the honours he enjoys to the exclusion of every other.
Those honours are not to pass to his children, should he marry and have
any, or their restitution be considered as a precedent to be made use of
at any future time.
"I have the pleasure to announce that the Princes of the Blood consent to
this, and that such of the Peers to whom I have been able to explain
myself, share my sentiments. I doubt not that the esteem he has acquired
here will render this proposition agreeable to you." And then turning to
the Keeper of the Seals, "Monsieur, will you read the declaration?"
It was read at once.
I had, during the discourse of his Royal Highness, thrown all my
attention into an examination of the impression it made upon the
assembly. The astonishment it caused was general; it was such, that to
judge of those addressed, it seemed that they understood nothing; and
they did not recover themselves during all the reading. I inwardly
rejoiced at success so pleasingly demonstrated and did not receive too
well the Duc de Guiche, who testified to me his disapprobation. Villeroy
confounded, Villars raging, Effiat rolling his eyes, Estrees beside
himself with surprise, were the most marked. Tallard, with his head
stretched forward, sucked in, so to speak, all the Regent's words as they
were proffered, and those of the declaration, as the Keeper of the Seals
read them. Noailles, inwardly distracted, could not hide his
distraction; Huxelles, entirely occupied in smoothing himself, forgot to
frown. I divided my attention between the declaration and these persons.
The document read, M. le Duc d'Orleans praised it in two words, and
called upon the Keeper of the Seals to give his opinion. He did so
briefly, in favour of the Comte de Toulouse. M. le Duc the same; M. le
Prince de Conti the same. After him, I testified to his Royal Highness
my joy at seeing him conciliate the justice and the safety of the peers
with the unheard-of favour he had just rendered to the virtue of M. le
Comte de Toulouse, who merited it by his moderation, his truthfulness,
his attachment to the State; thus the more he had recognised the
injustice of his elevation to the rank to which he was raised, the more
he had rendered himself worthy of it, and the more it was advantageous to
the peers to yield to merit, (when this exception was confined solely to
his person, with formal and legal precautions, so abundantly supplied by
the declaration) and voluntarily contribute thus to an elevation without
example, (so much the more flattering because its only foundation was
virtue), so as to incite that virtue more and more to the service and
utility of the state; that I declared therefore with joy for the
declaration, and did not fear to add the very humble thanks of the peers,
since I had the honour to be the oldest present.
As I closed my mouth I cast my eyes in front of some, and plainly saw
that my applause did not please, and, perhaps, my thanks still less. The
others gave their opinion with heavy heart, as it were, to so terrible a
blow, some few muttered I know not what between their teeth, but the
thunderbolt upon the Duc du Maine's cabal was more and more felt, and as
reflection succeeded to the first feeling of surprise, so a bitter and
sharp grief manifested itself upon their faces in so marked a manner,
that it was easy to see it had become high time to strike.
All opinions having been expressed, M. le Duc cast a brilliant leer at
me, and prepared to speak; but the Keeper of the Seals, who, from his
side of the table did not see this movement, wishing also to say
something, M. le Duc d'Orleans intimated to him that M. le Duc had the
start of him. Raising himself majestically from his seat, the Regent
then said: "Gentlemen, M. le Duc has a proposition to make to you. I
have found it just and reasonable; I doubt not, you will find it so too."
Then turning towards M. le Duc, he added, "Monsieur, will you explain
The movement these few words made among the company is inexpressible.
'Twas as though I saw before me people deprived of all power, and
surprised by a new assembly rising up from the midst of them in an asylum
they had breathlessly reached.
"Monsieur," said M. le Duc, addressing himself to the Regent, as usual;
"since you have rendered justice to the Dukes, I think I am justified in
asking for it myself. The deceased King gave the education of his
Majesty to M. le Duc du Maine. I was a minor then, and according to the
idea of the deceased King, M. du Maine was prince of the blood, capable
of succeeding to the crown. Now I am of age, and not only M. du Maine is
no longer prince of the blood, but he is reduced to the rank of his
peerage. M. le Marechal de Villeroy is now his senior, and precedes him
everywhere; M. le Marechal can therefore no longer remain governor of the
King, under the superintendence of M. du Maine. I ask you, then, for M.
du Maine's post, that I think my age, my rank, my attachment to the King
and the State, qualify me for. I hope," he added, turning towards his
left, "that I shall profit by the lessons of M. le Marechal de Villeroy,
acquit myself of my duties with distinction, and merit his friendship."
At this discourse the Marechal de Villeroy almost slipped off his chair.
As soon, at least, as he heard the Words, "Superintendence of the King's
education," he rested his forehead upon his stick, and remained several
moments in that posture. He appeared even to understand nothing of the
rest of the speech. Villars and D'Effiat bent their backs like people
who had received the last blow. I could see nobody on my own side except
the Duc de Guiche, who approved through all his prodigious astonishment.
Estrees became master of himself the first, shook himself, brightened up,
and looked at the company like a man who returns from the other world.
As soon as M. le Duc had finished, M. le Duc d'Orleans reviewed all the
company with his eyes, and then said, that the request of M. le Duc was
just; that he did not think it could be refused; that M. le Marechal de
Villeroy could not be allowed to remain under a person whom he preceded
in rank; that the superintendence of the King's education could not be
more worthily filled than by M. le Duc; and that he was persuaded all
would be of one voice in this matter. Immediately afterwards, he asked
M. le Prince de Conti to give his opinion, who did so in two words; then
he asked the Keeper of the Seals, whose reply was equally brief; then he
I simply said, looking at M. le Duc, that I was for the change with all
my heart. The rest, M. de la Force excepted (who said a single word),
voted without speaking, simply bowing; the Marshals and D'Effiat scarcely
moved their eyes, and those of Villars glistened with fury.
The opinions taken, the Regent turning towards M. le Duc, said,
"Monsieur, I think you would like to read what you intend to say to the
King at the Bed of Justice."
Therefore M. le Duc read it as it has been printed. Some moments of sad
and profound silence succeeded this reading, during which the Marechal de
Villeroy, pale and agitated, muttered to himself. At last, like a man
who has made up his mind, he turned with bended head, expiring eyes, and
feeble voice, towards the Regent, and said, "I will simply say these two
words; here are all the dispositions of the late king overturned, I
cannot see it without grief. M. du Maine is very unfortunate."
"Monsieur," replied the Regent, in a loud and animated tone, "M. du Maine
is my brother-in-law, but I prefer an open enemy to a hidden one."
At this great declaration several lowered their heads. The Marechal de
Villeroy nearly swooned; sighs began to make themselves heard near me, as
though by stealth; everybody felt by this that the scabbard was thrown
The Keeper of the Seals, to make a diversion; proposed to read the speech
he had prepared to serve as preface to the decree to be read at the Bed
of justice, abrogating the Parliament decrees; as he was finishing it,
some one entered to say he was asked for at the door.
He went out, returning immediately afterwards, not to his place, but to
M. le Duc d'Orleans, whom he took into a window, meditative silence
reigning around. The Regent having returned back to his place, said to
the company, he had received information that the Chief-President of the
Parliament, notwithstanding the reply previously made, had proposed that
the Parliament should not go to the Tuileries, asking, "What it was to do
in a place where it would not be free?" that he had proposed to send a
message to the King, stating that "his Parliament would hear his wishes
in their ordinary place of meeting, whenever it should please him to come
or to send." The Regent added that these propositions had made
considerable sensation, and that the Parliament were at that moment
debating upon them. The Council appeared much astounded at this news,
but M. le Duc d'Orleans said, in a very composed manner, that he did not
expect a refusal; he ordered the Keeper of the Seals, nevertheless, to
propose such measures as it would be best to take, supposing the motion
of the Chief-President should be carried.
The Keeper of the Seals declared that he could not believe the Parliament
would be guilty of this disobedience, contrary to all law and usage.
He showed at some length that nothing was so pernicious as to expose the
King's authority to a formal opposition, and decided in favour of the
immediate interdiction of the Parliament if it fell into this fault.
M. le Duc d'Orleans added that there was no other course open, and took
the opinion of M. le Duc, which was strongly in his favour. M. le Prince
de Conti the same, mine also, that of M. de la Force and of M. de Guiche
still more so. The Marechal de Villeroy, in a broken voice, seeking big
words, which would not come in time to him, deplored this extremity, and
did all he could to avoid giving a precise opinion. Forced at last by
the Regent to explain himself, he did not dare to oppose, but added that
he assented with regret, and wished to explain the grievous results of
the proposed measure. But the Regent, interrupting him, said he need not
take the trouble: everything had been foreseen; that it would be much
more grievous to be disobeyed by the Parliament than to force it into
obedience; and immediately after asked the Duc de Noailles his opinion,
who replied that it would be very sad to act thus, but that he was for
it. Villars wished to paraphrase, but contained himself, and said he
hoped the Parliament would obey. Pressed by the Regent, he proposed to
wait for fresh news before deciding; but, pressed more closely, he
declared for the interdiction, with an air of warmth and vexation,
extremely marked. Nobody after this dared to hesitate, and the majority
voted by an inclination of the head.
A short time afterwards it was announced to M. le Duc d'Orleans that the
Parliament had set out on foot, and had begun to defile through the
palace. This news much cooled the blood of the company, M. le Duc
d'Orleans more than that of any one else.
After this the Regent, in a cheerful manner, called upon the Presidents
of the Councils to bring forward any business they might have on hand,
but not one had any. The Marechal de Villars said, however, that he had
a matter to produce, and he produced it accordingly, but with a clearness
which, under the circumstances, was extraordinary. I fancy, however,
that very few knew what he was talking about. We were all too much
occupied with more interesting matters, and each voted without speaking.
Bad luck to those who had had business to bring forward this day; they
who conducted it would have known but little what they said: they who
listened, still less.
The Council finished thus, from lack of matter, and a movement was made
to adjourn it as usual. I stepped in front of M. le Prince de Conti to
M. le Duc d'Orleans, who understood me, and who begged the company to
keep their seats. La Vrilliere went out by order for news, but there was
It was now a little after ten. We remained a good half-hour in our
places, talking a little with each other, but on the whole rather silent.
At the end some grew fidgety and anxious, rose and went to the windows.
M. le Duc d'Orleans restrained them as well as he could; but at length
Desgranges entered to say that the Chief-President had already arrived,
in his coach, and that the Parliament was near. So soon as he had
retired, the Council rose by groups, and could no longer be kept seated.
M. le Duc d'Orleans himself at last rose, and all he could do was to
prohibit everybody from leaving the room under any pretext, and this
prohibition he repeated two or three times.
Scarcely had we risen when M. le Duc came to me, rejoiced at the success
that had hitherto been had, and much relieved by the absence of the
bastards. Soon after I quitted him the Duc d'Orleans came to me,
overpowered with the same sentiment. I said what I thought of the
consternation of every one; and painted the expression of M. d'Effiat, at
which he was not surprised. He was more so about Besons. I asked if he
was not afraid the bastards would come to the Bed of justice; but he was
certain they would not. I was resolved, however, to prepare his mind
against that contingency.
I walked about, slowly and incessantly without fixing myself on any one,
in order that nothing should escape me, principally attending to the
doors. I took advantage of the opportunity to say a word here and a word
there, to pass continually near those who were suspected, to skim and
interrupt all conversations. D'Antin was often joined by the Duc de
Noailles, who had resumed his habit of the morning, and continually
followed me with his eyes. He had an air of consternation, was agitated
and embarrassed in countenance--he commonly so free and easy! D'Antin
took me aside to see whether he could not, considering his position, be
excused from attending the Bed of Justice. He received permission from
the Regent on certain conditions.
I went then to break in upon the colloquy of D'Effiat and his friends,
and taking them by surprise, caused D'Effiat to say that he had just
heard strange resolutions, that he did not know who had advised them,
that he prayed that M. d'Orleans would find them advantageous.
I replied, agreeing with him. The Marechal de Villeroy sighed, muttered,
and shook his wig, Villars spoke more at length, and blamed sharply what
had been done. I assented to everything, being there not to persuade but
Nevertheless we grew weary of the slowness of the Parliament, and often
sent out for news. Several of the Council tried to leave the room,
perhaps to blab, but the Regent would allow no one but La Vrilliere to go
out, and seeing that the desire to leave increased, stood at the door
himself. I suggested to him that Madame d'Orleans would be in a great
state of uneasiness, and suggested that he should write to her; but he
could not be persuaded to do it, though he promised.
At last the Parliament arrived, and behold us! like children, all at the
windows. The members came in red robes, two by two, by the grand door of
the court, which they passed in order to reach the Hall of the
Ambassadors, where the Chief-President, who had come in his carriage with
the president Haligre, awaited them.
The Parliament being in its place, the peers having arrived, and the
presidents having put on their furs behind the screens arranged for that
purpose in an adjoining room, a messenger came to inform us that all was
ready. The question had been agitated, whether the King should dine
meanwhile, and I had it carried in the negative, fearing lest coming
immediately after to the Bed of justice, and having eaten before his
usual hour, he might be ill, which would have been a grievous
inconvenience. As soon as it was announced to the Regent that we could
set out, his Royal Highness sent word to the Parliament, to prepare the
deputation to receive the King; and then said aloud to the company, that
it was time to go in search of his Majesty.
At these words I felt a storm of joy sweep over me, at the thought of the
grand spectacle that was going to pass in my presence, which warned me to
be doubly on my guard. I tried to furnish myself with the strongest dose
of seriousness, gravity, and modesty. I followed M. le Duc d'Orleans,
who entered the King's room by the little door, and who found the King in
his cabinet. On the way the Duc d'Albret made me some very marked
compliments, with evident desire to discover something. I put him off
with politeness, complaints of the crowd, of the annoyance of my dress,
and gained thus the King's cabinet.
The King was dressed as usual. When the Duc d'Orleans had been a few
moments with him, he asked him if he would be pleased to go: and the way
was instantly' cleared, a procession formed, and the King moved towards
the Hall of the Swiss Guard.
I now hastened to the chamber, where the Bed of justice was to be held.
The passage to it was tolerably, free. The officers of the body-guard
made place for me and for the Duc de la Force, and Marechal de Villars,
who followed me, one by one. I stopped a moment in the passage at the
entrance to the room, seized with joy upon seeing this grand spectacle,
and at the thought of the grand movement that was drawing nigh, I needed
a pause in order to recover myself sufficiently to see distinctly what
I looked at, and to put on a new coat of seriousness and of modesty.
I fully expected I should be well examined by a company which had been
carefully taught not to like me, and by the curious spectators waiting to
see what was to be hatched out of so profound a secret, in such an
important assembly, summoned so hastily. Moreover, nobody was ignorant
that I knew all, at least from the Council of the Regency I had just
I did not deceive myself. As soon as I appeared, all eyes were fixed
upon me. I slowly advanced towards the chief greffier, and introducing
myself between the two seats, I traversed the length of the room, in
front of the King's people, who saluted me with a smiling air, and I
ascended over three rows of high seats, where all the peers were in their
places, and who rose as I approached the steps. I respectfully saluted
them from the third row.
Seated in my elevated place, and with nothing before me, I was able to
glance over the whole assembly. I did so at once, piercing everybody
with my eyes. One thing alone restrained me; it was that I did not dare
to fix my eyes upon certain objects. I feared the fire and brilliant
significance of my looks at that moment so appreciated by everybody: and
the more I saw I attracted attention, the more anxious was I to wean
curiosity by my discreetness. I cast, nevertheless, a glittering glance
upon the Chief-President and his friends, for the examination of whom I
was admirably placed. I carried my looks over all the Parliament,
and saw there an astonishment, a silence, a consternation, such as I had
not expected, and which was of good augury to me. The Chief-President,
insolently crest-fallen, the other presidents disconcerted, and attentive
to all, furnished me the most agreeable spectacle. The simply curious
(among which I rank those who had no vote) appeared to me not less
surprised (but without the bewilderment of the others), calmly surprised;
in a word, everybody showed much expectation and desire to divine what
had passed at the Council.
I had but little leisure for this examination, for the King immediately
arrived. The hubbub which followed his entrance, and which lasted until
his Majesty and all who accompanied him were in their places, was another
singularity. Everybody sought to penetrate the Regent, the Keeper of the
Seals, and the principal personages. The departure of the bastards from
the cabinet of the Council had redoubled attention, but everybody did not
know of that departure; now everybody perceived their absence. The
consternation of the Marechals--of their senior--(the governor of the
King) was evident. It augmented the dejection of the Chief-President,
who not seeing his master the Duc du Maine, cast a terrible glance upon
M. de Sully and me, who exactly occupied the places of the two brothers.
In an instant all the eyes of the assembly were cast, at the same time,
upon us; and I remarked that the meditativeness and expectation increased
in every face. That of the Regent had an air of gentle but resolute
majesty completely new to it, his eyes attentive, his deportment grave,
but easy. M. le Duc, sage, measured, but encircled by I know not what
brilliancy, which adorned all his person and which was evidently kept
down. M. le Prince de Conti appeared dull, pensive, his mind far away
perhaps. I was not able during the sitting to see them except now and
then, and under pretext of looking at the King, who was serious,
majestic, and at the same time as pretty as can be imagined; grave, with
grace in all his bearing, his air attentive, and not at all wearied,
playing his part very well and without embarrassment.
When all was ready, Argenson, the Keeper of the Seals, remained some
minutes at his desk motionless, looking down, and the fire which sprang
from his eyes seemed to burn every breast. An extreme silence eloquently
announced the fear, the attention, the trouble, and the curiosity of all
the expectants. The Parliament, which under the deceased King had often
summoned this same Argenson, and as lieutenant of police had often given
him its orders, he standing uncovered at the bar of the house; the
Parliament, which since the regency had displayed its ill-will towards
him so far as to excite public remark, and which still detained prisoners
and papers to vex him; this Chief President so superior to him, so
haughty, so proud of his Duc du Maine; this Lamoignon, who had boasted he
would have him hanged at his Chamber of justice, where he had so
completely dishonoured himself: this Parliament and all saw him clad in
the ornaments of the chief office of the robe, presiding over them,
effacing them, and entering upon his functions to teach them their duty,
to read them a public lesson the first time he found himself at their
head! These vain presidents were seen turning their looks from a man who
imposed so strongly upon their pride, and who annihilated their arrogance
in the place even whence they drew it, and rendered them stupid by
regards they could not sustain.
After the Keeper of the Seals (according to the manner of the preachers)
had accustomed himself to this august audience, he uncovered himself,
rose, mounted to the King, knelt before the steps of the throne, by the
side of the middle of the steps, where the grand chamberlain was lying
upon cushions, and took the King's orders, descended, placed himself in
his chair and covered himself. Let us say it once for all, he performed
the same ceremony at the commencement of each business, and likewise
before and after taking the opinion upon each; at the bar of justice
neither he nor the chamberlain ever speaks otherwise to the King; and
every time he went to the King on this occasion the Regent rose and
approached him to hear and suggest the orders. Having returned back into
his place, he opened, after some moments of silence, this great scene by
a discourse. The report of the Bed of justice, made by the Parliament
and printed, which is in the hands of everybody, renders it unnecessary
for me to give the discourse of the Keeper of the Seals, that of the
Chief-President, those of the King's people, and the different papers
that were read and registered. I will simply content myself with some
observations. This first discourse, the reading of the letters of the
Keeper of the Seals, and the speech of the Advocate-General Blancmesnil
which followed, the opinions taken, the order given, sometimes reiterated
to keep the two double doors open, did not surprise anybody; served only
as the preface to all the rest; to sharpen curiosity more and more as the
moment approached in which it was to be satisfied.
This first act finished, the second was announced by the discourse of the
Keeper of the Seals, the force of which penetrated all the Parliament.
General consternation spread itself over their faces. Scarcely one of
the members dared to speak to his neighbour. I remarked that the Abbe
Pucelle, who, although only counsellor-clerk, was upon the forms in front
of me, stood, so that he might hear better every time the Keeper of the
Seals spoke. Bitter grief, obviously full of vexation, obscured the
visage of the Chief-President. Shame and confusion were painted there.
After the vote, and when the Keeper of the Seals had pronounced, I saw
the principal members of the Parliament in commotion. The Chief-
President was about to speak. He did so by uttering the remonstrance of
the Parliament, full of the most subtle and impudent malice against the
Regent, and of insolence against the King. The villain trembled,
nevertheless, in pronouncing it. His voice broken, his eyes constrained,
his flurry and confusion, contradicted the venomous words he uttered;
libations he could not abstain from offering to himself and his company.
This was the moment when I relished, with delight utterly impossible to
express, the sight of these haughty lawyers (who had dared to refuse us
the salutation), prostrated upon their knees, and rendering, at our feet,
homage to the throne, whilst we sat covered upon elevated seats, at the
side of that same throne. These situations and these postures, so widely
disproportioned, plead of themselves with all the force of evidence, the
cause of those who are really and truly 'laterales regis' against this
'vas electum' of the third estate. My eyes fixed, glued, upon these
haughty bourgeois, with their uncovered heads humiliated to the level of
our feet, traversed the chief members kneeling or standing, and the ample
folds of those fur robes of rabbit-skin that would imitate ermine, which
waved at each long and redoubled genuflexion; genuflexions which only
finished by command of the King.
The remonstrance being finished, the Keeper of the Seals mentioned to the
King their wishes, asking further opinions; took his place again; cast
his eyes on the Chief-President, and said: The King wishes to be obeyed,
and obeyed immediately.
This grand speech was a thunder-bolt which overturned councillors and
presidents in the most marked manner. All of them lowered their heads,
and the majority kept them lowered for a long time. The rest of the
spectators, except the marshals of France, appeared little affected by
But this--an ordinary triumph--was nothing to that which was to follow.
After an interval of some few minutes, the Keeper of the Seals went up
again to the King, returned to his place, and remained there in silence
some little time. Then everybody clearly saw that the Parliamentary
affair being finished, something else must be in the wind. Some thought
that a dispute which the Dukes had had with the Parliament, concerning
one of its usurpations, was now to be settled in our favour. Others who
had noticed the absence of the bastards, guessed it was something that
affected them; but nobody divined what, much less its extent.
At last the Keeper of the Seals opened his mouth, and in his first
sentence announced the fall of one brother and the preservation of the
other. The effect of this upon every one was inexpressible. However
occupied I might be in containing mine, I lost nothing. Astonishment
prevailed over every other sentiment. Many appeared glad, either from
hatred to the Duc du Maine, or from affection for the Comte de Toulouse;
several were in consternation. The Chief-President lost all countenance;
his visage, so self-sufficient and so audacious, was seized with a
convulsive movement; the excess alone of his rage kept him from swooning.
It was even worse at the reading of the declaration. Each word was
legislative and decreed a fresh fall. The attention was general; every
one was motionless, so as not to lose a word; all eyes were fixed upon
the 'greffier' who was reading. A third of this reading over, the Chief-
President, gnashing the few teeth left in his head, rested his forehead
upon his stick that he held in both hands, and in this singular and
marked position finished listening to the declaration, so overwhelming
for him, so resurrectionary for us.
Yet, as for me, I was dying with joy. I was so oppressed that I feared I
should swoon; my heart dilated to excess, and no longer found room to
beat. The violence I did myself, in order to let nothing escape me, was
infinite; and, nevertheless, this torment was delicious. I compared the
years and the time of servitude; the grievous days, when dragged at the
tail of the Parliamentary car as a victim, I had served as a triumph for
the bastards; the various steps by which they had mounted to the summit
above our heads; I compared them, I say, to this court of justice and of
rule, to this frightful fall which, at the same time, raised us by the
force of the shock. I thanked myself that it was through me this had
been brought about. I had triumphed, I was revenged; I swam in my
vengeance; I enjoyed the full accomplishment of desires the most vehement
and the most continuous of all my life. I was tempted to fling away all
thought and care. Nevertheless, I did not fail to listen to this
vivifying reading (every note of which sounded upon my heart as the bow
upon an instrument), or to examine, at the same time, the impressions it
made upon every one.
At the first word the Keeper of the Seals said of this affair, the eyes
of the two bishop-peers met mine. Never did I see surprise equal to
theirs, or so marked a transport of joy. I had not been able to speak to
them on account of the distance of our places; and they could not resist
the movement which suddenly seized them. I swallowed through my eyes a
delicious draught of their joy, and turned away my glance from theirs,
lest I should succumb beneath this increase of delight. I no longer
dared to look at them.
The reading finished, the other declaration in favour of the Comte de
Toulouse was immediately commenced by the 'greffier', according to the
command of the Keeper of the Seals, who had given them to him both
together. It seemed to complete the confusion of the Chief-President and
the friends of the Duc du Maine, by the contrast between the treatment of
the two brothers.
After the Advocate-General had spoken, the Keeper of the Seals mounted to
the King, with the opinions of the Princes of the Blood; then came to the
Duc de Sully and me. Fortunately I had more memory than he had, or
wished to have; therefore it was exactly my affair. I presented to him
my hat with a bunch of feathers in the front, in an express manner very
marked, saying to him loudly enough: "No, Monsieur, we cannot be judges;
we are parties to the cause, and we have only to thank the King for the
justice he renders us."
He smiled and made an excuse. I pushed him away before the Duc de Sully
had time to open his mouth; and looking round I saw with pleasure that my
refusal had been marked by everybody. The Keeper of the Seals retired as
he came, and without taking the opinions of the peers, or of the bishop-
peers, went to the marshals of France; thence descended to the Chief-
President and to the 'presidents a mortier', and so to the rest of the
lower seats; after which, having been to the King and returned to his
place, he pronounced the decree of registration, and thus put the
finishing touch to my joy.
Immediately after M. le Duc rose, and having made his reverences to the
King forgot to sit down and cover himself to speak, according to the
uninterrupted right and usage of the peers of France; therefore not one
of us rose. He made, then, slowly and uncovered, the speech which has
been printed at the end of the preceding ones, and read it not very
intelligibly because his organ was not favourable. As soon as he had
finished, M. le Duc d'Orleans rose, and committed the same fault. He
said, also standing and uncovered, that the request of M. le Duc appeared
to him just; and after some praises added, that M. le Duc du Maine was
now reduced to the rank given to him by his peerage, M. le Marechal de
Villeroy, his senior, could no longer remain under him, which was a new
and very strong reason in addition to those M. le Duc had alleged. This
request had carried to the highest point the astonishment of the assembly
and the despair of the Chief-President, and the handful of people who
appeared by their embarrassment to be interested in the Duc du Maine.
The Marechal de Villeroy, without knitting his brow, had a disturbed
look, and the eyes of the chief accuser oftener were inundated with
tears. I was not able to distinguish well his cousin and intimate friend
the Marechal d'Huxelles, who screened himself beneath the vast brim of
his hat, thrust over his eyes, and who did not stir. The Chief-
President, stunned by this last thunder-bolt, elongated his face so
surprisingly, that I thought for a moment his chin had fallen upon his
However, the Keeper of the Seals having called upon the King's people to
speak, they replied that they had not heard the proposition of M. le Duc,
therefore his paper was passed to them from hand to hand, during which
the Keeper of the Seals repeated very kindly what the Regent had added
upon the seniority of the Marechal de Villeroy over the Duc du Maine.
Blancmesnil merely threw his eyes upon the paper of M. le Duc, and spoke,
after which the Keeper of the Seals put it to the vote. I gave mine loud
enough, and said, "As for this affair I vote with all my heart for giving
the superintendence of the King's education to M. le Duc."
The votes being taken, the Keeper, of the Seals called the chief
'greffier', ordered him to bring his paper and his little bureau near
his, so as to do all at once; and in presence of the King register
everything that had been read and resolved, and signed also. This was
done without any difficulty, according to forms, under the eyes of the
Keeper of the Seals, who never raised them: but as there were five or six
documents to register they took up a long time.
I had well observed the King when his education was in question, and I
remarked in him no sort of alteration, change, or constraint. This was
the last act of the drama: he was quite lively now the registrations
commenced. However, as there were no more speeches to occupy him, he
laughed with those near, amused himself with everything, even remarking
that the Duc de Louvigny had on a velvet coat, and laughed at the heat he
must feel, and all this with grace. This indifference for M. du Maine
struck everybody, and publicly contradicted what his partisans tried to
publish, viz., that his eyes had been red, but that neither at the Bed of
justice, nor since, he had dared to show his trouble. The truth is he
had his eyes dry and serene the whole time, and pronounced the name of
the Duc du Maine only once since, which was after dinner the same day,
when he asked where he had gone, with a very indifferent air, without
saying a word more, then or since, or naming his children, who took
little trouble to see him; and when they went it was in order to have
even in his presence their little court apart, and to divert themselves
among themselves. As for the Duc du Maine, either from policy or because
he thought it not yet time, he only, saw the King in the morning,
sometimes in his bed, and not at all during the rest of the day, except
when obliged by his functions.
During the registration I gently passed my eyes over the whole assembly.,
and though I constantly constrained them, I could not resist the
temptation to indemnify myself upon the Chief-President; I perseveringly
overwhelmed him, therefore, a hundred different times during the sitting,
with my hard-hitting regards. Insult, contempt, disdain, triumph, were
darted at him from my eyes,--and pierced him to the very marrow often he
lowered his eyes when he caught my gaze once or twice he raised his upon
me, and I took pleasure in annoying him by sly but malicious smiles which
completed his vexation. I bathed myself in his rage, and amused myself
by making him feel it. I sometimes played with him by pointing him out
to my two neighbours when he could perceive this movement; in a word, I
pressed upon him without mercy, as heavily as I could.
At last the registration finished, the King descended the throne, and was
followed by the Regent, the two Princes of the Blood, and the necessary
gentlemen of the suite. At the same time the Marshals of France
descended, and while the King traversed the room, accompanied by the
deputation which had received him, they passed between the seats of the
councillors opposite us, to follow him to the door by which his Majesty
departed; and at the same time the two bishop-peers, passing before the
throne, came to put themselves at our head, and squeezed my hands and
my head (in passing before me) with warm gratification.
We followed them two by two according to seniority, and went straight
forward to the door. The Parliament began to move directly afterwards.
Place was made for us to the steps. The crowd, the people, the display
contrasted our conversation and our joy. I was sorry for it.
I immediately gained my coach, which I found near, and which took me
skilfully out of the court, so that I met with no check, and in a quarter
of an hour after leaving the sitting, I was at home.
I had need of a little rest, for pleasure even is fatigue, and happiness,
pure and untroubled as it may be, wearies the spirit. I entered my
house, then, at about two o'clock in the afternoon, intending to repose
myself, and in order to do so in security, I closed my door to everybody.
Alas! I had not been many minutes at home when I was called away to
perform one of the most painful and annoying commissions it was ever my
ill fortune to be charged with.
A little while before leaving the Cabinet of the Council for the Bed of
Justice, M. le Duc d'Orleans had begged me to go to the Palais Royal with
the Keeper of the Seals immediately after the ceremony had ended. As I
saw that nothing had been undertaken, I thought myself free of this
conference, and was glad to avoid a new proof that I had been in a
secret which had excited envy. I went, therefore, straight home,
arriving between two and three. I found at the foot of the steps
the Duc d'Humieres, Louville, and all my family, even my mother, whom
curiosity had drawn from her chamber, which she had not left since the
commencement of the winter. We remained below in my apartment, where,
while changing my coat and my shirt, I replied to their eager questions;
when, lo! M. de Biron, who had forced my door which I had closed against
everybody, in order to obtain a little repose, was announced.
Biron put his head in at my door, and begged to be allowed to say a word
to me. I passed, half-dressed, into my chamber with him. He said that
M. le Duc d'Orleans had expected me at the Palais Royal immediately after
the Bed of justice, and was surprised I had not appeared. He added that
there was no great harm done; and that the Regent wished to see me now,
in order that I might execute a commission for him. I asked Biron what
it was? He replied that it was to go to Saint-Clerc to announce what had
taken place to Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans!
This was a thunder-bolt for me. I disputed with Biron, who exhorted me
to lose no time, but to go at once to the Palais Royal, where I was
expected with impatience. I returned into my cabinet with him, so
changed in aspect that Madame de Saint-Simon was alarmed. I explained
what was the matter, and after Biron had chatted a moment, and again
pressed me to set out at once, he went away to eat his dinner. Ours was
served. I waited a little time in order to recover myself, determined
not to vex M. le Duc d'Orleans by dawdling, took some soup and an egg,
and went off to the Palais Royal.
It was in vain that, using all the eloquence I could command and all the
liberty I dared employ, I protested against being employed for this duty.
I represented to the Regent what an ill-chosen messenger I should be to
carry to Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans news of the disgrace of her brother
the Duc du Maine; I, who had always been such an open and declared enemy
to the bastards! I represented to him that people would say I went on
purpose to triumph over her at what had been done, and that she herself
would look upon my presence as a kind of insult. In vain! in vain! were
my arguments, my entreaties, my instances. M. le Duc d'Orleans had
determined that I should go on this errand, and go I must.
As I left his house to execute my luckless commission, I found one of
Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans' pages, booted and spurred, who had just
arrived from Saint-Cloud. I begged him to return at once, at a gallop,
and say, on arriving, to the Duchesse Sforze (one of Madame la Duchesse
d'Orleans' ladies) that I should be there soon with a message from M. le
Duc d'Orleans, and to ask her to meet me as I descended from my coach.
My object was to charge her with the message I had to deliver, and not to
see Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans at all. But my poor prudence was
confounded by that of the page, who had not less than I. He took good
care not to be the bearer of such ill news as he had just learned at the
Palais Royal, and which was now everywhere public. He contented himself
with saying that I was coming, sent by M. le Duc d'Orleans, spoke not a
word to the Duchesse Sforze, and disappeared at once. This is what I
afterwards learned, and what I saw clearly enough on arriving at Saint-
I went there at a gentle trot, in order to give time to the page to
arrive before me, and to the Duchesse Sforze to receive me. During the
journey I applauded myself for my address, but feared lest I should be
obliged to see Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans after Madame Sforze. I could
not imagine that Saint-Cloud was in ignorance of what had occurred, and,
nevertheless, I was in an agony that cannot be expressed, and this
increased as I approached the end of my journey. If it is disagreeable
to announce unpleasant news to the indifferent, how much more is it to
announce them to the deeply interested!
Penetrated with this dolorous sentiment I arrived in the grand court of
Saint-Cloud, and saw everybody at the windows, running from all parts.
I alighted, and asked the first comer to lead me to the Duchesse Sforze,
the position of whose apartments I am unacquainted with. I was told that
Madame Sforze was in the chapel with Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans. Then
I asked for the Marechale de Rochefort, and after a time she arrived,
hobbling along with her stick. I disputed with her, wishing to see
Madame Sforze, who was not to be found. I was anxious at all events to
go to her room and wait, but the inexorable Marechale pulled me by the
arm, asking what news I brought. Worn out at last, I said, "News? news
that you are acquainted with."
"How, acquainted with?" she asked. "We know nothing, except that a Bed
of justice has been held, and we are expiring to know why, and what has
My astonishment at this ignorance was extreme, and I made her swear and
repeat four times over that nothing was known at Saint-Cloud. I told her
thereupon what had happened, and she, in her turn, astonished, almost
fell backwards! But where was Madame Sforze? she came not, and do what
I must, say what I might, I was forced to carry, my message to Madame la
Duchesse d'Orleans. I was sorely loth to do so, but was dragged by the
hand almost as a sheep is led to the slaughter.
I stood before Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans after having passed through
an apartment filled with her people, fear painted upon all their faces.
I saluted her; but, oh! how differently from my usual manner! She did
not perceive this at first, and begged me, with a cheerful natural air,
to approach her; but seeing my trouble, she exclaimed, "Good Heavens,
Monsieur, what a face you wear! What news bring you?"
Seeing that I remained silent and motionless, she became more moved, and
repeated her questions. I advanced a few steps towards her, and at her
third appeal, I said: "Madame, you know nothing then?"
"No, Monsieur; I simply know that there has been a Bed of justice: what
has passed there I am quite ignorant of."
"Ah, Madame," I replied, half turning away; "I am more unhappy, then,
than I thought to be."
"What is the matter?" exclaimed she; "what has happened?" (rising and
sitting bolt upright on the sofa she was stretched upon.) "Come near and
I approached; stated that I was in despair. She, more and more moved,
said to me, "But speak; better to learn bad news from one's friend than
This remark pierced me to the heart, and made me sensible of the grief I
was going to inflict upon her. I summoned up courage, and I told her
The tears of Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans flowed abundantly at my
recital. She did not answer a word, uttered no cry, but wept bitterly.
She pointed to a seat and I sat down upon it, my eyes during several
instants fixed upon the floor. Afterwards I said that M. le Duc
d'Orleans, who had rather forced upon me this commission, than charged me
with it, had expressly commanded me to tell her that he had very strong
proofs in his hands against M. du Maine; that he had kept them back a
long time, but could no longer do so now. She gently replied to me that
her brother was very unfortunate and shortly afterwards asked if I knew
what his crime was. I said that M. le Duc d'Orleans had not told me; and
that I had not dared to question him upon a subject of this nature,
seeing that he was not inclined to talk of it.
More tears shortly afterwards filled her eyes. Her brother must be very
criminal, she said, to be so treated.
I remained some time upon my seat, not daring to raise my eyes, in the
most painful state possible, and not knowing whether to remain or go
away. At last I acquainted her with my difficulty; said I fancied she
would like to be alone some little time before giving me her orders, but
that respect kept me equally in suspense as to whether I should go or
stay. After a short silence, she said she should like to see her women.
I rose, sent them to her, and said to them, if her Royal Highness asked
for me, I should be with the Duchesse Sforze, or the Marechale Rochefort;
but I could find neither of these two ladies, so I went up to Madame.
She rose as soon as I appeared, and said to me, with eagerness, "Well,
Monsieur, what news?" At the same time her ladies retired, and I was left
alone with her.
I commenced by an excuse for not coming to see her first, as was my duty,
on the ground that M. le Duc d'Orleans had assured me she would not
object to my commencing with Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans. She did not
object, in fact, but asked me for my news with much eagerness. I told
her what had happened. Joy spread over her face. She replied with a
mighty, "At last!" which she repeated, saying, her son long since ought
to have struck this blow, but that he was too good. I mentioned to her
that she was standing, but for politeness she remained so. After some
further talk she begged me to state all the details of this celebrated
I again recalled to her mind that she was standing, and represented that
what she desired to learn would take a long time to relate; but her ardor
to know it was extreme. I began then my story, commencing with the very
morning. At the end of a quarter of an hour, Madame seated herself, but
with the greatest politeness. I was nearly an hour with her, continually
telling and sometimes replying to her questions. She was delighted at
the humiliation of the Parliament, and of the bastards, and that her son
had at last displayed some firmness.
At this point the Marechale de Rochefort entered, and summoned me back to
Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans. I found that princess extended upon the
sofa where I had left her, an inkstand upon her knees and a pen in her
hand. She had commenced a reply to M. le Duc d'Orleans, but had not been
able to finish it. Looking at me with an air of gentleness and of
friendship, she observed, "Tears escape me; I have begged you to descend
in order to render me a service; my hand is unsteady, I pray you finish
my writing for me;" and she handed to me the inkstand and her letter. I
took them, and she dictated to me the rest of the epistle, that I at once
added to what she had written.
I was infinitely amazed at the conciseness and appropriateness of the
expressions she readily found, in the midst of her violent emotion, her
sobs, and her tears. She finished by saying that she was going to
Montmartre to mourn the misfortunes of her brother, and pray God for his
prosperity. I shall regret all my life I did not transcribe this letter.
All its expressions were so worthy, so fitting, so measured, everything
being according to truth and duty; and the letter, in fact, being so
perfectly well written, that although I remember it roughly, I dare not
give it, for fear of spoiling it. What a pity that a mind capable of
such self-possession, at such a moment, should have become valueless from
its leaning towards illegitimacy.
After this I had another interview with Madame, and a long talk with my
sure and trusty friend Madame Sforze. Then I set out for Paris, went
straight to the Palais Royal, and found M. le Duc d'Orleans with Madame
la Duchesse de Berry. He was delighted when he heard what Madame had
said respecting him; but he was not particularly pleased when he found
that Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans (who after telling me she would go to
Montmartre, had changed her mind), was coming to the Palais Royal.
I learned afterwards that she came about half an hour after I left. At
first she was all humility and sorrow, hoping to soften the Regent by
this conduct. Then she passed to tears, sobs, cries, reproaches,
expecting to make him by these means undo what he had done, and reinstate
M. du Maine in the position he had lost. But all her efforts proving
vain, she adopted another course: her sorrow turned to rage,--her tears
to looks of anger. Still in vain. She could gain nothing; vex and annoy
M. le Duc d'Orleans as she might by her conduct. At last, finding there
was no remedy to be had, she was obliged to endure her sorrow as best she
As for me, I was erased entirely from her books. She looked upon me as
the chief cause of what had occurred, and would not see me. I remained
ever afterwards at variance with her. I had nothing to reproach myself
with, however, so that her enmity did not very deeply penetrate me.
It was scarcely to be expected, perhaps, that M. du Maine would remain
altogether quiet under the disgrace which had been heaped upon him by the
proceedings at the Bed of Justice. Soon indeed we found that he had been
secretly working out the most perfidious and horrible schemes for a long
time before that assembly; and that after his fall, he gave himself up
with redoubled energy to his devilish devices.
Towards the end of this memorable year, 1718, it was discovered that
Alberoni, by means of Cellamare, Spanish Ambassador at our Court, was
preparing a plot against the Regent. The scheme was nothing less than to
throw all the realm into revolt against the government of M. le Duc
d'Orleans; to put the King of Spain at the head of the affairs of France,
with a council and ministers named by him, and a lieutenant, who would in
fact have been regent; this self-same lieutenant to be no other than the
Duc du Maine!
This precious plot was, fortunately, discovered before it had come to
maturity. Had such not happened, the consequences might have been very
serious, although they could scarcely have been fatal. The conspirators
counted upon the Parliaments of Paris and of Brittany, upon all the old
Court accustomed to the yoke of the bastards, and to that of Madame de
Maintenon; and they flung about promises with an unsparing hand to all
who supported them. After all, it must be admitted, however, that the
measures they took and the men they secured, were strangely unequal to
the circumstances of the case, when the details became known; in fact,
there was a general murmur of surprise among the public, at the
contemptible nature of the whole affair.
But let me relate the circumstances accompanying the discovery of M. du
Maine's pitiable treachery.
Cellamare, as I have said, was Spanish Ambassador at our Court. He had
been one of the chief movers in the plot. He had excited, as much as lay
in his power, discontent against the Regent's government; he had done his
best to embroil France with Spain; he had worked heart and soul with M.
du Maine, to carry out the common end they had in view. So much