Part 2 out of 2
at its own expense. This lasted only a day or two. The Duc de Noailles
spoke to the Chamber; the members felt they could gain nothing by their
strike, and that if they were obstinate they would be dispensed with, and
others found to perform their duties. They recommenced their labours
then, and the Parliament gained nothing by its attack, but only showed
its ill-will, and at the same time its powerlessness.
I have forgotten something which, from its singularity, deserves
recollection, and I will relate it now lest it should escape me again.
One afternoon, as we were about to take our places at the regency
council, the Marechal de Villars drew me aside and asked me if I knew
that Marly was going to be destroyed. I replied, "No;" indeed, I had not
heard speak of it; and I added that I could not believe it. "You do not
approve of it?" said the Marechal. I assured him I was far from doing
so. He repeated that the destruction was resolved on, that he knew it
beyond all doubt, and that if I wished to hinder it, I had not a moment
to lose. I replied that when we took our places I would speak to M. le
Duc d'Orleans. "Immediately," quickly replied the Marechal; "speak to
him this instant, for the order is perhaps already given."
As all the council were already seated I went behind to M. le Duc
d'Orleans, and whispered in his ear what I had just learnt without naming
from whom, and begged him, if my information was right, to suspend
execution of his project until I had spoken to him, adding that I would
join him at the Palais Royal after the council. He stammered a little,
as if sorry at being discovered, but nevertheless agreed to wait for me:
I said so in leaving to the Marechal de Villars, and went to the Palais
Royal, where M. le Duc d'Orleans admitted the truth of the news I had
heard. I said I would not ask who had given such a pernicious counsel.
He tried to show it was good by pointing to the saving in keeping up that
would be obtained; to the gain that would accrue from the sale of so many
water-conduits and materials; to the unpleasant situation of a place to
which the King would not be able to go for several years; and to the
expense the King was put to in keeping up so many other beautiful houses,
not one of which admitted of pulling down.
I replied to him, that these were the reasons of the guardian of a
private gentleman that had been presented to him, the conduct of whom
could in no way resemble that of the guardian of a King of France; that
the expenses incurred in keeping up Marly were necessary, and that,
compared with the total of those of the King, they were but as drops in
the ocean. I begged him to get rid of the idea that the sale of the
materials would yield any profit,--all the receipts would go in gifts and
pillage, I said; and also that it was not these petty objects he ought to
regard, but that he should consider how many millions had been buried in
this ancient sewer, to transform it into a fairy palace, unique as to
form in all Europe--unique by the beauty of its fountains, unique also by
the reputation that the deceased King had given to it; and that it was an
object of curiosity to strangers of every rank who came to France; that
its destruction would resound throughout Europe with censure; that these
mean reasons of petty economy would not prevent all France from being
indignant at seeing so distinguished an ornament swept away; that
although neither he nor I might be very delicate upon what had been the
taste and the favourite work of the late King, the Regent ought to avoid
wounding his memory,--which by such a long reign, so many brilliant
years, so many grand reverses so heroically sustained, and escaped from
in so unhoped-for a manner--had left the entire world in veneration of
his person: in fine, that he might reckon all the discontented, all the
neutral even, would join in chorus with the Ancient Court, and cry
murder; that the Duc du Maine, Madame de Ventadour, the Marechal de
Villeroy would not hesitate to look upon the destruction of Marly as a
crime against the King,--a crime they would not fail to make the best of
for their own purposes during all the regency, and even after it was at
an end. I clearly saw that M. le Duc d'Orleans had not in the least
reflected upon all this. He agreed that I was right: promised that Marly
should not be touched, that it should continue to be kept up, and thanked
me for preserving him from this fault.
When I was well assured of him, "Admit," said I, "that the King, in the
other world, would be much astonished if he could know that the Duc de
Noailles had made you order the destruction of Marly, and that it was who
"Oh! as to that," he quickly replied, "it is true he could not believe
it." In effect Marly was preserved and kept up; and it is the Cardinal
Fleury, with his collegiate proctor's avarice, who has stripped it of its
river, which was its most superb charm.
I hastened to relate this good resolve to the Marechal de Villars.
The Duc de Noailles, who, for his own private reasons, had wished the
destruction of Marly, was furious when he saw his proposal fail.
To indemnify himself in some degree for his vexation, he made the Regent
agree, in the utmost secrecy, for fear of another failure, that all the
furniture, linen, etc., should be sold. He persuaded M. le Duc d'Orleans
that all these things would be spoiled and lost by the time the King was
old enough to use them; that in selling them a large sum would be gained
to relieve expenses; and that in future years the King could furnish
Marly as he pleased. There was an immense quantity of things sold, but
owing to favour and pillage they brought very little; and to replace them
afterwards, millions were spent. I did not know of this sale, at which
anybody bought who wished, and at very low prices, until it had
commenced; therefore I was unable to hinder this very damaging
The Regent just about this time was bestowing his favours right and left
with a very prodigal hand; I thought, therefore, I was fully entitled to
ask him for one, which, during the previous reign, had been so rare, so
useful, and accordingly so difficult to obtain; I mean the right of
entering the King's room--the 'grandes entrees'--as it was called, and I
attained it at once.
Since the occasion offers, I may as well explain what are the different
sorts of entrees. The most precious are called the "grand," which give
the right to enter into all the retired places of the King's apartments,
whenever the grand chamberlain and the chief gentlemen of the chamber
enter. The importance of this privilege under a King who grants
audiences with difficulty, need not be insisted on. Enjoying it, you can
speak with him, tete-a-tete, whenever you please, without asking his
permission, and without the knowledge of others; you obtain a
familiarity, too, with him by being able to see him thus in private.
The offices which give this right are, those of grand chamberlain, of
first gentleman of the chamber, and of grand master of the wardrobe on
annual duty; the children, legitimate and illegitimate, of the King, and
the wives and husbands of the latter enjoy the same right. As for
Monsieur and M. le Duc d'Orleans they always had these entrees, and as
sons of France, were at liberty to enter and see the King at all hours,
but they did not abuse this privilege. The Duc du Maine and the Comte de
Toulouse had the same, which they availed themselves of unceasingly, but
by the back stairs.
The second entrees, simply called entrees, were purely personal; no
appointment or change gave them. They conferred the right to see the
King at his rising, after the grandes, and also to see him, but under
difficulties, during all the day and evening.
The last entrees are those called chamber entrees. They also give the
right to see the King at his rising, before the distinguished courtiers;
but no other privilege except to be present at the booting of the King.
This was the name employed when the King changed his coat, in going or
returning from hunting or a walk. At Marly, all who were staying there
by invitation, entered to see this ceremony without asking; elsewhere,
those who had not the entree were excluded. The first gentleman of the
chamber had the right, and used it sometimes, to admit four or five
persons at the most, to the "booting," if they asked, and provided they
were people of quality, or of some distinction.
Lastly, there were the entrees of the cabinet which gave you the right to
wait for the King there when he entered after rising, until he had given
orders for the day, and to pay your court to him, and to enter there when
he entered to change his coat. Beyond this, the privilege attached to
these admissions did not extend. The Cardinals and the Princes of the
blood had the entrees of the chamber and those of the cabinet, so had all
the chief officials.
I was the first who had the 'grandes entrees' from the Regent. D'Antin
asked for them next. Soon after, upon this example, they were accorded
to D'O. M. le Prince de Conti, the sole prince of the blood who had them
not, because he was the sole prince of the blood who did not come from
Madame de Montespan, received them next, and little by little the
privilege was completely prostituted as so many others were.
By extremely rare good fortune a servant employed in the diamond mines of
the Great Mogul found means to secrete about his person a diamond of
prodigious size, and what is more marvellous, to gain the seashore and
embark without being subjected to the rigid and not very delicate ordeal,
that all persons not above suspicion by their name or their occupation,
are compelled to submit to, ere leaving the country. He played his cards
so well, apparently, that he was not suspected of having been near the
mines, or of having had anything to do with the jewel trade. To complete
his good fortune he safely arrived in Europe with his diamond. He showed
it to several princes, none of whom were rich enough to buy, and carried
it at last to England, where the King admired it, but could not resolve
to purchase it. A model of it in crystal was made in England, and the
man, the diamond, and the model (perfectly resembling the original) were
introduced to Law, who proposed to the Regent that he should purchase the
jewel for the King. The price dismayed the Regent, who refused to buy.
Law, who had in many things much grandour of sentiment, came dispirited
to me, bringing the model. I thought, with him, that it was not
consistent with the greatness of a King of France to be repelled from the
purchase of an inestimable jewel, unique of its kind in the world, by the
mere consideration of price, and that the greater the number of
potentates who had not dared to think of it, the greater ought to be his
care not to let it escape him. Law, ravished to find me think in this
manner, begged me to speak to M. le Duc d'Orleans. The state of the
finances was an obstacle upon which the Regent much insisted. He feared
blame for making so considerable a purchase, while the most pressing
necessities could only be provided for with much trouble, and so many
people were of necessity kept in distress. I praised this sentiment,
but I said that he ought not to regard the greatest King of Europe as he
would a private gentleman, who would be very reprehensible if he threw
away 100,000 livres upon a fine diamond, while he owed many debts which
he could not pay: that he must consider the honour of the crown, and not
lose the occasion of obtaining, a priceless diamond which would efface
the lustre of all others in Europe: that it was a glory for his regency
which would last for ever; that whatever might be the state of the
finances the saving obtained by a refusal of the jewel would not much
relieve them, for it would be scarcely perceptible; in fact I did not
quit M. le Duc d'Orleans until he had promised that the diamond should be
Law, before speaking to me, had so strongly represented to the dealer the
impossibility of selling his diamond at the price he hoped for, and the
loss he would suffer in cutting it into different pieces, that at last he
made him reduce the price to two millions, with the scrapings, which must
necessarily be made in polishing, given in. The bargain was concluded on
these terms. The interest upon the two millions was paid to the dealer
until the principal could be given to him, and in the meanwhile two
millions' worth of jewels were handed to him as security.
M. le Duc d'Orleans was agreeably deceived by the applause that the
public gave to an acquisition so beautiful and so unique. This diamond
was called the "Regent." It is of the size of a greengage plum, nearly
round, of a thickness which corresponds with its volume, perfectly white,
free from all spot, speck, or blemish, of admirable water, and weighs
more than 500 grains. I much applauded myself for having induced the
Regent to make so illustrious a purchase.
In 1716 the Duchesse de Lesdiguieres died at Paris in her fine hotel.
She was not old, but had been long a widow, and had lost her only son.
She was the last relic of the Gondi who were brought into France by
Catherine de' Medici, and who made so prodigious a fortune. She left
great wealth. She was a sort of fairy, who, though endowed with much
wit, would see scarcely anybody, still less give dinners to the few
people she did see. She never went to Court, and seldom went out of her
house. The door of her house was always thrown back, disclosing a
grating, through which could be perceived a true fairy palace, such as
is sometimes described in romances. Inside it was nearly desert, but of
consummate magnificence, and all this confirmed the first impression,
assisted by the singularity of everything, her followers, her livery,
the yellow hangings of her carriage, and the two great Moors who always
followed her. She left much to her servants, and for pious purposes, but
nothing to her daughter-in-law, though poor and respectful to her. Others
got magnificent legacies.
Cavoye died about the same time. I have said enough about him and his
wife to have nothing to add. Cavoye, away from Court, was like a fish
out of water; and he could not stand it long. If romances have rarely
produced conduct like that of his wife towards him, they would with still
greater difficulty describe the courage with which her lasting love for
her husband sustained her in her attendance on his last illness, and the
entombment to which she condemned herself afterwards. She preserved her
first mourning all her life, never slept away from the house where he
died, or went out, except to go twice a day to Saint-Sulpice to pray in
the chapel where he was buried. She would never see any other persons
besides those she had seen during the last moments of her husband, and
occupied herself with good works also, consuming herself thus in a few
years without a single sign of hesitation. A vehemence so equal and so
maintained is perhaps an example, great, unique, and assuredly very
Peter I., Czar of Muscovy, has made for himself, and justly, such a great
name, in his own country, in all Europe, and in Asia, that I will not
undertake to describe so grand, so illustrious a prince--comparable to
the greatest men of antiquity--who has been the admiration of his age,
who will be that of years to come, and whom all Europe has been so much
occupied in studying. The singularity of the journey into France of so
extraordinary a prince, has appeared to me to deserve a complete
description in an unbroken narrative. It is for this reason that I place
my account of it here a little late, according to the order of time, but
with dates that will rectify this fault.
Various things relating to this monarch have been seen in their place;
his various journeys to Holland, Germany, Vienna, England, and to several
parts of the North; the object of those journeys, with some account of
his military actions, his policy, his family. It has been shown that he
wished to come into France during the time of the late King, who civilly
refused to receive him. There being no longer this obstacle, he wished
to satisfy his curiosity, and he informed the Regent through Prince
Kourakin, his ambassador at Paris, that he was going to quit the Low
Countries, and come and see the King.
There was nothing for it but to appear very pleased, although the Regent
would gladly have dispensed with this visit. The expenses to be defrayed
were great; the trouble would be not less great with a prince so powerful
and so clear-sighted, but full of whims, with a remnant of barbarous
manners, and a grand suite of people, of behaviour very different from
that common in these countries, full of caprices and of strange fashions,
and both they and their master very touchy and very positive upon what
they claimed to be due or permitted to them.
Moreover the Czar was at daggers drawn with the King of England, the
enmity between them passing all decent limits, and being the more bitter
because personal. This troubled not a little the Regent, whose intimacy
with the King of England was public, the private interest of Dubois
carrying it even to dependence. The dominant passion of the Czar was to
render his territories flourishing by commerce; he had made a number of
canals in order to facilitate it; there was one for which he needed the
concurrence of the King of England, because it traversed a little corner
of his German dominions. From jealousy George would not consent to it.
Peter, engaged in the war with Poland, then in that of the North, in
which George was also engaged, negotiated in vain. He was all the more
irritated, because he was in no condition to employ force; and this
canal, much advanced, could not be continued. Such was the source of
that hatred which lasted all the lives of these monarchs, and with the
Kourakin was of a branch of that ancient family of the Jagellons, which
had long worn the crowns of Poland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. He was
a tall, well-made man, who felt all the grandeur of his origin; had much
intelligence, knowledge of the way of managing men, and instruction. He
spoke French and several languages very fairly; he had travelled much,
served in war, then been employed in different courts. He was Russian to
the backbone, and his extreme avarice much damaged his talents. The Czar
and he had married two sisters, and each had a son. The Czarina had been
repudiated and put into a convent near Moscow; Kourakin in no way
suffered from this disgrace; he perfectly knew his master, with whom he
kept on very free terms, and by whom he was treated with confidence and
consideration. His last mission had been to Rome, where he remained
three years; thence he came as ambassador to Paris. At Rome he was
without official character, and without business except a secret one,
with which the Czar had entrusted him, as to a sure and enlightened man.
This monarch, who wished to raise himself and his country from barbarism,
and extend his power by conquests and treaties, had felt the necessity of
marriages, in order to ally himself with the chief potentates of Europe.
But to form such marriages he must be of the Catholic religion, from
which the Greeks were separated by such a little distance, that he
thought his project would easily be received in his dominions, if he
allowed liberty of conscience there. But this prince was sufficiently
sagacious to seek enlightenment beforehand upon Romish pretensions. He
had sent for that purpose to Rome a man of no mark, but capable of well
fulfilling his mission, who remained there five or six months, and who
brought back no very satisfactory report. Later he opened his heart in
Holland to King William, who dissuaded him from his design, and who
counselled him even to imitate England, and to make himself the chief of
his religion, without which he would never be really master in his own
country. This counsel pleased the Czar all the more, because it was by
the wealth and by the authority of the patriarchs of Moscow, his
grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, that his father had attained the
crown, although only of ordinary rank among the Russian nobility.
These patriarchs were dependent upon those of the Greek rite of
Constantinople but very slightly. They had obtained such great power,
and such prodigious rank, that at their entry into Moscow the Czar held
their stirrups, and, on foot, led their horse by the bridle: Since the
grandfather of Peter, there had been no patriarch at Moscow. Peter I.,
who had reigned some time with his elder brother, incapable of affairs,
long since dead, leaving no son, had, like his father, never consented to
have a patriarch there. The archbishops of Novgorod supplied their place
in certain things, as occupying the chief see after that of Moscow, but
with scarcely any authority that the Czar did not entirely usurp, and
more carefully still after King William had given him the counsel before
alluded to; so that by degrees he had become the real religious chief of
his vast dominions.
Nevertheless, the passionate desire he had to give to his posterity the
privilege of marrying with Catholic princes, the wish he had, above all,
for the honour of alliances with the house of France, and that of
Austria, made him return to his first project. He tried to persuade
himself that the man whom he had secretly sent to Rome had not been well
informed, or had ill understood; he resolved, therefore, to fathom his
doubts, so that he should no longer have any as to the course he ought to
It was with this design that he chose Prince Kourakin, whose knowledge
and intelligence were known to him, and sent him to Rome under pretence
of curiosity, feeling that a nobleman of his rank would find the best,
the most important, and the most distinguished society there ready to
receive him; and that by remaining there, under pretext of liking the
life he led, and of wishing to see and admire at his ease all the marvels
of so many different kinds collected there, he should have leisure and
means to return perfectly instructed upon everything he wished to know.
Kourakin, in fact, remained in Rome three years, associating with the
savans on the one hand and the best company on the other, whence by
degrees he obtained all he wished to know; all the more readily because
this Court boasts of its temporal pretensions and of its conquests of
this kind, instead of keeping them secret. In consequence of the long
and faithful report that Kourakin made to the Czar, that prince heaved a
sigh, saying that he must be master in his own country, and could not
place there anybody greater than himself; and never afterwards did he
think of turning Catholic.
This fact respecting the Czars and Rome, Prince Kourakin did not hide.
Everybody who knew him has heard him relate it. I have eaten with him
and he with me, and I have talked a good deal with him, and heard him
talk, with pleasure, upon many things.
The Regent, informed by him of the forthcoming arrival in France of the
Czar by sea, sent the King's equipages; horses, coaches, vehicles,
waggons, and tables and chambers with Du Libois, one of the King's
gentlemen in ordinary, to go and wait for the Czar at Dunkerque, pay the
expenses incurred by him and his suite on the way to Paris, and
everywhere render him the same honour as to the King. The Czar proposed
to allot a hundred days to his journey. The apartment of the Queen-
mother at the Louvre was furnished for him, the councils usually held
there taking place in the houses of the chiefs of these councils.
M. le Duc d'Orleans discussing with me as to the nobleman best fitted to
be appointed to wait upon the Czar during his stay, I recommended the
Marechal de Tesse, as a man without occupation, who well knew the
language and usages of society, who was accustomed to foreigners by his
journeys and negotiations in Spain, Turin, Rome, and in other courts of
Italy, and who, gentle and polite, was sure to perform his duties well.
M. le Duc d'Orleans agreed with me, and the next day sent for him and
gave him his orders.
When it was known that the Czar was near Dunkerque, the Regent sent the
Marquis de Neelle to receive him at Calais, and accompany him until they
met the Marechal de Tesse, who was not to go beyond Beaumont to wait for
him. At the same time the Hotel de Lesdiguieres was prepared for the
Czar and his suite, under the idea that he might prefer a private house,
with all his people around him, to the Louvre. The Hotel de Lesdiguieres
was large and handsome, as I have said at the commencement of this
chapter, adjoined the arsenal, and belonged by succession to the Marechal
de Villeroy, who lodged at the Tuileries. Thus the house was empty,
because the Duc de Villeroy, who was not a man fond of display, had found
it too distant to live in. It was entirely refurnished, and very
magnificently, with the furniture of the King.
The Czar arrived at Beaumont on Friday, the 7th of May, 1717, about mid-
day. Tesse made his reverences to him as he descended from his coach,
had the honour of dining with him, and of escorting him that very day to
The Czar entered the city in one of Tesse's coaches, with three of his
suite with him, but not Tesse himself. The Marechal followed in another
coach. The Czar alighted at nine o'clock in the evening at the Louvre,
and walked all through the apartments of the Queen-mother. He considered
them to be too magnificently hung and lighted, jumped into his coach
again, and went to the Hotel de Lesdiguieres, where he wished to lodge.
He thought the apartment destined for him too fine also, and had his
camp-bed immediately spread out in a wardrobe. The Marechal de Tesse,
who was to do the honours of his house and of his table, to accompany him
everywhere, and not quit the place where he might be, lodged in an
apartment of the Hotel de Lesdiguieres, and had enough to do in following
and sometimes running after him. Verton, one of the King's maitres
d'hotel, was charged with serving him and all the tables of the Czar and
his suite. The suite consisted of forty persons of all sorts, twelve or
fifteen of whom were considerable people in themselves, or by their
appointments; they all ate with the Czar.
Verton was a clever lad, strong in certain company, fond of good cheer
and of gaming, and served the Czar with so much order, and conducted
himself so well, that this monarch and all the suite conceived a singular
friendship for him.
The Czar excited admiration by his extreme curiosity, always bearing upon
his views of government, trade, instruction, police, and this curiosity
embraced everything, disdained nothing in the smallest degree useful;
it was marked and enlightened, esteeming only what merited to be
esteemed, and exhibited in a clear light the intelligence, justness,
ready appreciation of his mind. Everything showed in the Czar the vast
extent of his knowledge, and a sort of logical harmony of ideas. He
allied in the most surprising manner the highest, the proudest, the most
delicate, the most sustained, and at the same time the least embarrassing
majesty, when he had established it in all its safety with a marked
politeness. Yet he was always and with everybody the master everywhere,
but with gradations, according to the persons he was with. He had a kind
of familiarity which sprang from liberty, but he was not without a strong
dash of that ancient barbarism of his country, which rendered all his
actions rapid; nay, precipitous, his will uncertain, and not to be
constrained or contradicted in anything. Often his table was but little
decent, much less so were the attendants who served, often too with an
openness of kingly audacity everywhere. What he proposed to see or do
was entirely independent of means; they were to be bent to his pleasure
and command. His desire for liberty, his dislike to be made a show of,
his free and easy habits, often made him prefer hired coaches, common
cabs even; nay, the first which he could lay his hands on, though
belonging to people below him of whom he knew nothing. He jumped in, and
had himself driven all over the city, and outside it. On one occasion he
seized hold of the coach of Madame de Mattignon, who had come to gape at
him, drove off with it to Boulogne and other country places near Paris.
The owner was much astonished to find she must journey back on foot. On
such occasions the Marechal de Tesse and his suite had often hard work to
find the Czar, who had thus escaped them.
The Czar was a very tall man, exceedingly well made; rather thin, his
face somewhat round, a high forehead, good eyebrows, a rather short nose,
but not too short, and large at the end, rather thick lips, complexion
reddish brown, good black eyes, large, bright, piercing, and well open;
his look majestic and gracious when he liked, but when otherwise, severe
and stern, with a twitching of the face, not often occurring, but which
appeared to contort his eyes and all his physiognomy, and was frightful
to see; it lasted a moment, gave him a wild and terrible air, and passed
away. All his bearing showed his intellect, his reflectiveness, and his
greatness, and was not devoid of a certain grace. He wore a linen
collar, a round-brown wig, as though without powder, and which did not
reach to his shoulders; a brown coat tight to the body, even, and with
gold buttons; vest, breeches, stockings, no gloves or ruffles, the star
of his order over his coat, and the cordon under it, the coat itself
being frequently quite unbuttoned, his hat upon the table, but never upon
his head, even out of doors. With this simplicity ill-accompanied or ill
mounted as he might be, the air of greatness natural to him could not be
What he ate and drank at his two regular meals is inconceivable, without
reckoning the beer, lemonade, and other drinks he swallowed between these
repasts, his suite following his example; a bottle or two of beer, as
many more of wine, and occasionally, liqueurs afterwards; at the end of
the meal strong drinks, such as brandy, as much sometimes as a quart.
This was about the usual quantity at each meal. His suite at his table
drank more and ate in proportion, at eleven o'clock in the morning and at
eight at night. There was a chaplain who ate at the table of the Czar,
who consumed half as much again as the rest, and with whom the monarch,
who was fond of him, much amused himself. Prince Kourakin went every day
to the Hotel de Lesdiguieres, but lodged elsewhere.
The Czar well understood French, and I think could have spoken it, if he
had wished, but for greatness' sake he always had an interpreter. Latin
and many other languages he spoke very well. There was a detachment of
guards in his house, but he would scarcely ever allow himself to be
followed by them. He would not set foot outside the Hotel de
Lesdiguieres, whatever curiosity he might feel, or give any signs of
life, until he had received a visit from the King.
On Saturday, the day after his arrival, the Regent went in the morning to
see the Czar. This monarch left his cabinet, advanced a few paces,
embraced Monsieur d'Orleans with an air of great superiority, pointed to
the door of the cabinet, and instantly turning on his heel, without the
slightest compliment, entered there. The Regent followed, and Prince
Kourakin after him to serve as interpreter. They found two armchairs
facing each other, the Czar seated himself in the upper, the Regent in
the other. The conversation lasted nearly an hour without public affairs
being mentioned, after which the Czar left his cabinet; the Regent
followed him, made him a profound reverence, but slightly returned, and
left him in the same place as he had found him on entering.
On Monday, the 10th of May, the King went to see the Czar, who received
him at the door, saw him alight from his coach, walked with him at his
left into his chamber, where they found two armchairs equally placed.
The King sat down in the right-hand one, the Czar in the other, Prince
Kourakin served as interpreter. It was astonishing to see the Czar take
the King under both arms, hoist him up to his level, embrace him thus in
the air; and the King, young as he was, show no fear, although he could
not possibly have been prepared for such a reception. It was striking,
too, to see the grace which the Czar displayed before the King, the air
of tenderness he assumed towards him, the politeness which flowed as it
were naturally, and which nevertheless was mixed with greatness, with
equality of rank, and slightly with superiority of age: for all these
things made themselves felt. He praised the King, appeared charmed with
him, and persuaded everybody he was. He embraced him again and again.
The King paid his brief compliment very prettily; and M. du Maine, the
Marechal de Villeroy, and the distinguished people present, filled up the
conversation. The meeting lasted a short quarter of an hour. The Czar
accompanied the King as he had received him, and saw him to his coach.
On Tuesday, the 11th of May, between four and five o'clock, the Czar went
to see the King. He was received by the King at his carriage door, took
up a position on his right, and was conducted within. All these
ceremonies had been agreed on before the King went to see him. The Czar
showed the same affection and the same attentions to the King as before;
and his visit was not longer than the one he had received, but the crowd
much surprised him.
He had been at eight o'clock in the morning to see the Place Royal, the
Place des Victoires, and the Place de Vendome, and the next day he went
to the Observatoire, the Gobelins, and the King's Garden of Simples.
Everywhere he amused himself in examining everything, and in asking many
On Thursday, the 13th of May, he took medicine, but did not refrain after
dinner from calling upon several celebrated artificers. On Friday, the
14th, he went at six o'clock in the morning into the grand gallery of the
Louvre, to see the plans in relief of all the King's fortified places,
Hasfield, with his engineers, doing the honours. The Czar examined all
these plans for a long time; visited many other parts of the Louvre, and
descended afterwards into the Tuileries garden, from which everybody had
been excluded. They were working then upon the Pont Tournant. The Czar
industriously examined this work, and remained there a long time. In the
afternoon he went to see, at the Palais Royal, Madame, who had sent her
compliments to him by her officer. The armchair excepted, she received
him as she would have received the King. M. le Duc d'Orleans came
afterwards and took him to the Opera, into his grand box, where they sat
upon the front seat upon a splendid carpet. Sometime after, the Czar
asked if there was no beer to be had. Immediately a large goblet of it
was brought to him, on a salver. The Regent rose, took it, and presented
it to the Czar, who with a smile and an inclination of politeness,
received the goblet without any ceremony, drank, and put it back on the
salver which the Regent still held. In handing it back, the Regent took
a plate, in which was a napkin, presented it to the Czar, who without
rising made use of it, at which the house appeared rather astonished.
At the fourth act the Czar went away to supper, but did not wish the
Regent to leave the box. The next morning he jumped into a hired coach,
and went to see a number of curiosities among the workmen.
On the 16th of May, Whit Sunday, he went to the Invalides, where he
wished to see and examine everything. At the refectory he tasted the
soldiers' soup and their wine, drank to their healths, struck them on the
shoulders, and called them comrades. He much admired the church, the
dispensary, and the infirmary, and appeared much pleased with the order
of the establishment. The Marechal de Villars did the honours; the
Marechale went there to look on. The Czar was very civil to her.
On Monday, the 17th, he dined early with Prince Ragotzi, who had invited
him, and afterwards went to Meudon, where he found some of the King's
horses to enable him to see the gardens and the park at his ease. Prince
Ragotzi accompanied him.
On Tuesday, the 18th, the Marechal d'Estrees took him, at eight o'clock
in the morning, to his house at Issy, gave him a dinner, and much amused
him during the day with many things shown to him relating to the navy.
On Monday, the 24th, he went out early to the Tuileries, before the King
was up. He entered the rooms of the Marechal de Villeroy, who showed him
the crown jewels. They were more beautiful and more numerous than he
suspected, but he said he was not much of a judge of such things. He
stated that he cared but little for the beauties purely of wealth and
imagination, above all for those he could not attain. Thence he wished
to go and see the King, who spared him the trouble by coming. It had
been expressly arranged thus, so that his visit should appear one of
chance. They met each other in a cabinet, and remained there. The King,
who held a roll of paper in his hand, gave it to him, and said it was the
map of his territories. This compliment much pleased the Czar, whose
politeness and friendly affectionate bearing were the same as before,
with much grace and majesty.
In the afternoon he went to Versailles, where the Marechal de Tesse left
him to the Duc d'Antin. The apartment of Madame la Dauphine was prepared
for him, and he slept in the room of Monseigneur le Dauphin (the King's
father), now made into a cabinet for the Queen.
On Tuesday, the 25th, he had traversed the gardens, and had been upon the
canal early in the morning, before the hour of his appointment with
D'Antin. He saw all Versailles, Trianon, and the menagerie. His
principal suite was lodged at the chateau. They took ladies with them,
and slept in the apartments Madame de Maintenon had occupied, quite close
to that in which the Czar slept. Bloin, governor of Versailles, was
extremely scandalised to see this temple of prudery thus profaned. Its
goddess and he formerly would have been less shocked. The Czar and his
people were not accustomed to restraint.
The expenses of this Prince amounted to six hundred crowns a day, though
he had much diminished his table since the commencement.
On Sunday, the 30th of May, he set out with Bellegarde, and many relays,
to dine at Petit Bourg, with D'Antin, who received him there, and took
him in the afternoon to see Fontainebleau, where he slept, and the morrow
there was a stag-hunt, at which the Comte de Toulouse did the honours.
Fontainebleau did not much please the Czar, and the hunt did not please
him at all; for he nearly fell off his horse, not being accustomed to
this exercise, and finding it too violent. When he returned to Petit
Bourg, the appearance of his carriage showed that he had eaten and drunk
a good deal in it.
On Friday, the 11th of June, he went from Versailles to Saint-Cyr, where
he saw all the household, and the girls in their classes. He was
received there like the King. He wished to see Madame de Maintenon, who,
expecting his curiosity, had buried herself in her bed, all the curtains
closed, except one, which was half-open. The Czar entered her chamber,
pulled back the window-curtains upon arriving, then the bed-curtains,
took a good long stare at her, said not a word to her,--nor did she open
her lips,--and, without making her any kind of reverence, went his way.
I knew afterwards that she was much astonished, and still more mortified
at this; but the King was no more. The Czar returned on Saturday, the
12th of June, to Paris.
On Tuesday, the 15th of June, he went early to D'Antin's Paris house.
Working this day with M. le Duc d'Orleans, I finished in half an hour; he
was surprised, and wished to detain me. I said, I could always have the
honour of finding him, but not the Czar, who was going away; that I had
not yet seen him, and was going to D'Antin's to stare at my ease. Nobody
entered except those invited, and some ladies with Madame la Duchesse and
the Princesses, her daughters, who wished to stare also. I entered the
garden, where the Czar was walking. The Marechal de Tesse, seeing me at
a distance, came up, wishing to present me to the Czar. I begged him to
do nothing of the kind, not even to perceive me, but to let me gape at my
ease, which I could not do if made known. I begged him also to tell this
to D'Antin, and with these precautions I was enabled to satisfy my
curiosity without interruption. I found that the Czar conversed
tolerably freely, but always as the master everywhere. He retired into a
cabinet, where D'Antin showed him various plans and several curiosities,
upon which he asked several questions. It was there I saw the convulsion
which I have noticed. I asked Tesse if it often happened; he replied,
"several times a day, especially when he is not on his guard to prevent
it." Returning afterwards into the garden, D'Antin made the Czar pass
through the lower apartments, and informed him that Madame la Duchesse
was there with some ladies, who had a great desire to see him. He made
no reply, but allowed himself to be conducted. He walked more gently,
turned his head towards the apartment where all the ladies were under
arms to receive him; looked well at them all, made a slight inclination
of the head to the whole company at once, and passed on haughtily. I
think, by the manner in which he received other ladies, that he would
have shown more politeness to these if Madame la Duchesse had not been
there, making her visit too pretentious. He affected even not to inquire
which she was, or to ask the name of any of the others. I was nearly an
hour without quitting him, and unceasingly regarding him. At last I saw
he remarked it. This rendered me more discreet, lest he should ask who I
was. As he was returning, I walked away to the room where the table was
laid. D'Antin, always the same, had found means to have a very good
portrait of the Czarina placed upon the chimney-piece of this room, with
verses in her praise, which much pleased and surprised the Czar. He and
his suite thought the portrait very like.
The King gave the Czar two magnificent pieces of Gobelins tapestry. He
wished to give him also a beautiful sword, ornamented with diamonds, but
he excused himself from accepting it. The Czar, on his side, distributed
60,000 livres to the King's domestics, who had waited upon him; gave to
D'Antin, Marechal d'Estrees, and Marechal Tesse, his portrait, adorned
with diamonds, and five gold and eleven silver medals, representing the
principal actions of his life. He made a friendly present to Verton,
whom he begged the Regent to send to him as charge d'affaires of the
King, which the Regent promised.
On Wednesday, the 16th of June, he attended on horseback a review of the
two regiments of the guards; gendarmes, light horse, and mousquetaires.
There was only M. le Duc d'Orleans with him; the Czar scarcely looked at
these troops, and they perceived it. He partook of a dinner-supper at
Saint Ouen, at the Duc de Tresmes, where he said that the excessive heat
and dust, together with the crowd on horseback and on foot, had made him
quit the review sooner than he wished. The meal was magnificent; the
Czar learnt that the Marquise de Bethune, who was looking on, was the
daughter of the Duc de Tresriles; he begged her to sit at table; she was
the only lady who did so, among a crowd of noblemen. Several other
ladies came to look on, and to these he was very civil when he knew who
On Thursday, the 17th, he went for the second time to the Observatoire,
and there supped with the Marechal de Villars.
On Friday, the 18th of June, the Regent went early to the Hotel de
Lesdiguieres, to say adieu to the Czar, remaining some time with him,
with Prince Kourakin present. After this visit the Czar went to say
goodbye to the King at the Tuileries. It had been agreed that there
should be no more ceremonies between them. It was impossible to display
more intelligence, grace, and tenderness towards the King than the Czar
displayed on all these occasions; and again on the morrow, when the King
came to the Hotel de Lesdiguieres to wish him a pleasant journey, no
ceremony being observed.
On Sunday, the 20th of June, the Czar departed, and slept at Ivry, bound
straight for Spa, where he was expected by the Czarina. He would be
accompanied by nobody, not even on leaving Paris. The luxury he remarked
much surprised him; he was moved in speaking upon the King and upon
France, saying, he saw with sorrow that this luxury would soon ruin the
country. He departed, charmed by the manner in which he had been
received, by all he had seen, by the liberty that had been left to him,
and extremely desirous to closely unite himself with the King; but the
interests of the Abbe Dubois, and of England, were obstacles which have
been much deplored since.
The Czar had an extreme desire to unite himself to France. Nothing would
have been more advantageous to our commerce, to our importance in the
north, in Germany, in all Europe. The Czar kept England in restraint as
to her commerce, and King George in fear for his German states. He kept
Holland respectful, and the Emperor measured. It cannot be denied that
he made a grand figure in Europe and in Asia, or that France would have
infinitely profited by close union with him. He did not like the
Emperor; he wished to sever us from England, and it was England which
rendered us deaf to his invitations, unbecomingly so, though they lasted
after his departure. Often I vainly pressed the Regent upon this
subject, and gave him reasons of which he felt all the force, and to
which he could not reply. He was bewitched by Dubois, who panted to
become Cardinal, and who built all his hopes of success upon England.
The English saw his ambition, and took advantage of it for their own
interests. Dubois' aim was to make use of the intimacy between the King
of England and the Emperor, in order that the latter might be induced by
the former to obtain a Cardinalship from the Pope, over whom he had great
power. It will be seen, in due time, what success has attended the
intrigues of the scheming and unscrupulous Abbe.
Courson, Intendant, or rather King of Languedoc, exercised his authority
there so tyrannically that the people suffered the most cruel oppressions
at his hands. He had been Intendant of Rouen, and was so hated that more
than once he thought himself in danger of having his brains beaten out
with stones. He became at last so odious that he was removed; but the
credit of his father saved him, and he was sent as Intendant to Bordeaux.
He was internally and externally a very animal, extremely brutal,
extremely insolent, his hands by no means clean, as was also the case
with those of his secretaries, who did all his work for him, he being
very idle and quite unfit for his post.
Amongst other tyrannic acts he levied very violent and heavy taxes in
Perigueux, of his own good will and pleasure, without any edict or decree
of the Council; and seeing that people were not eager to satisfy his
demands, augmented them, multiplied the expenses, and at last threw into
dungeons some sheriffs and other rich citizens. He became so tyrannical
that they sent a deputation to Paris to complain of him. But the
deputies went in vain the round of all the members of the council of the
regency, after having for two months kicked their heels in the ante-
chamber of the Duc de Noailles, the minister who ought to have attended
to their representations.
The Comte de Toulouse, who was a very just man, and who had listened to
them, was annoyed that they could obtain no hearing of the Duc de,
Noailles, and spoke to me on the subject. I was as indignant as he.
I spoke to M. le Duc d'Orleans, who only knew the matter superficially.
I showed him the necessity of thoroughly examining into complaints of
this nature; the injustice of allowing these deputies to wear out hope,
patience, and life, in the streets of Paris, without giving some
audience; the cruelty of suffering honest citizens to languish in
dungeons, without knowing why or by what authority they were there. He
agreed with me, and promised to speak to the Duc de Noailles. At the
first finance council after this, I apprised the Comte de Toulouse, and
we both asked the Duc de Noailles when he meant to bring forward the
affair of these Perigueux people.
He was utterly unprepared for this question, and wished to put us off. I
said to him that for a long time some of these people had been in prison,
and others had wandered the streets of Paris; that this was shameful, and
could not be longer endured. The Comte de Toulouse spoke very firmly, in
the same sense. M. le Duc d'Orleans arrived and took his place.
As the Duc de Noailles opened his bag, I said very loudly to M. le Duc
d'Orleans that M. le Comte de Toulouse and I had just asked M. de
Noailles when he would bring forward the Perigueux affair; that these
people, innocent or guilty, begged only to be heard and tried; and that
it appeared to me the council was in honour bound to keep them in misery
no longer. On finishing, I looked at the Comte de Toulouse, who also
said something short but rather strong. M. le Duc d'Orleans replied that
we could not have done better. The Duc de Noailles began muttering
something about the press of business; that he had not time, and so
forth. I interrupted him by saying that he must find time, and that he
ought to have found it long before; that nothing was so important as to
keep people from ruin, or to extricate others from dungeons they were
remaining in without knowing why. M. le Duc d'Orleans said a word to the
same effect, and ordered the Duc de Noailles to get himself ready to
bring forward the case in a week.
From excuse to excuse, three weeks passed over. At last I said openly to
M. le Duc d'Orleans that he was being laughed at, and that justice was
being trodden under foot. At the next council it appeared that M. le Duc
d'Orleans had already told the Duc de Noailles he would wait no longer.
M. le Comte de Toulouse and I continued to ask him if at last he would
bring forward the Perigueux affair. We doubted not that it would in the
end be brought forward, but artifice was not yet at an end.
It was on a Tuesday afternoon, when M. le Duc d'Orleans often abridged
the council to go to the opera. Knowing this, the Duc de Noailles kept
all the council occupied with different matters. I was between him and
the Comte de Toulouse. At the end of each matter I said to him, "And the
Perigueux affair?"--"Directly," he replied, and at once commenced
something else. At last I perceived his project, and whispered so to the
Comte de Toulouse, who had already suspected it, and resolved not to be
its dupe. When the Duc de Noailles had exhausted his bag, it was five
o'clock. After putting back his papers he closed his bag, and said to M.
le Duc d'Orleans that there was still the Perigueux affair which he had
ordered him to bring forward, but that it would be long and detailed;
that he doubtless wished to go to the opera; that it could be attended to
next week; and at once, without waiting for a reply, he rises, pushes
back his stool, and turns to go away. I took him by the arm.
"Gently," said I. "You must learn his highness's pleasure. Monsieur,"
said I to M. le Duc d'Orleans, still firmly holding the sleeve of the Duc
de Noailles, "do you care much to-day for the opera?"
"No, no," replied he; "let us turn to the Perigueux affair."
"But without strangling it," replied I.
"Yes," said M. le Duc d'Orleans: then looking at M. le Duc, who smiled;
"you don't care to go there?"
"No, Monsieur, let us see this business," replied M. le Duc.
"Oh, sit down again then, Monsieur," said I to the Duc de Noailles in a
very firm tone, pulling him sharply; "take your rest, and re-open your
Without saying a word he drew forward his stool with a great noise, and
threw himself upon it as though he would smash it. Rage beamed from his
eyes. The Comte de Toulouse smiled; he had said his word, too, upon the
opera, and all the company looked at us; nearly every one smiling, but
The Duc de Noailles displayed his papers, and began reading them. As
various documents were referred to, I turned them over, and now and then
took him up and corrected him. He did not dare to show anger in his
replies, yet he was foaming. He passed an eulogy upon Basville (father
of the Intendant), talked of the consideration he merited; excused
Courson, and babbled thereupon as much as he could to extenuate
everything, and lose sight of the principal points at issue. Seeing that
he did not finish, and that he wished to tire us, and to manage the
affair in his own way, I interrupted him, saying that the father and the
son were two people; that the case in point respected the son alone, and
that he had to determine whether an Intendant was authorised or not, by
his office, to tax people at will; to raise imposts in the towns and
country places of his department, without edicts ordering them, without
even a decree of council, solely by his own particular ordonnances, and
to keep people in prison four or five months, without form or shadow of
trial, because they refused to pay these heavy taxes, rendered still more
heavy by expenses. Then, turning round so as to look hard at him, "It is
upon that, Monsieur," added I, "that we must decide, since your report is
over, and not amuse ourselves with a panegyric upon M. de Basville, who
is not mixed up in the case."
The Duc de Noailles, all the more beside himself because he saw the
Regent smile, and M. le Duc, who looked at me do the same, but more
openly, began to speak, or rather to stammer. He did not dare, however,
to decide against the release of the prisoners.
"And the expenses, and the ordonnance respecting these taxes, what do you
do with them?"
"By setting the prisoners at liberty," he said, "the ordonnance falls to
I did not wish to push things further just then. The liberation of the
prisoners, and the quashing of the ordonnance, were determined on: some
voices were for the reimbursement of the charges at the expense of the
Intendant, and for preventing him to do the like again.
When it was my turn to speak, I expressed the same opinions, but I added
that it was not enough to recompense people so unjustly ill-treated; that
I thought a sum of money, such as it should please the council to
name, ought to be adjudged to them; and that as to an Intendant who
abused the authority of his office so much as to usurp that of the King
and impose taxes, such as pleased him by his own ordinances, and who
threw people into dungeons as he thought fit by his private authority,
pillaging thus a province, I was of opinion that his Royal Highness
should be asked to make such an example of him that all the other
Intendants might profit by it.
The majority of those who had spoken before me made signs that I was
right, but did not speak again. Others were against me. M. le Duc
d'Orleans promised the liberation of the prisoners, broke Courson's!,
ordonnance, and all which had followed it; said that as for the rest, he
would take care these people should be well recompensed, and Courson well
blamed; that he merited worse, and, but for his father, would have
received it. As we were about to rise, I said it would be as well to
draw up the decree at once, and M. le Duc d'Orleans approved. Noailles
pounced, like a bird of prey, upon paper and ink, and commenced writing.
I bent down and read as he wrote. He stopped and boggled at the
annulling of the ordonnance, and the prohibition against issuing one
again without authorisation by edict or decree of council. I dictated
the clause to him; he looked at the company as though questioning all
"Yes," said I, "it was passed like that--you have only to ask again."
M. le Duc d Orleans said, "Yes." Noailles wrote. I took the paper, and
read what he had written. He received it back in fury, cast it among the
papers pell-mell into his bag, then shoved his stool almost to the other
end of the room, and went out, bristling like a wild boar, without
looking at or saluting anybody--we all laughing. M. le Duc and several
others came to me, and with M. le Comte de Toulouse, were much diverted.
M. de Noailles had, in fact, so little command over himself, that, in
turning to go out, he struck the table, swearing, and saying he could
endure it no longer.
I learnt afterwards, by frequenters of the Hotel de Noailles, who told it
to my friends, that when he reached home he went to bed: and would not
see a soul; that fever seized him, that the next day he was of a
frightful temper, and, that he had been heard to say he could no longer
endure the annoyances I caused him. It may be imagined whether or not
this softened me. The Duc de Noailles had, in fact, behaved towards me
with such infamous treachery, and such unmasked impudence, that I took
pleasure at all times and at all places in making him feel, and others
see, the sovereign disdain I entertained for him. I did not allow my
private feelings to sway my judgment when public interests were at stake,
for when I thought the Duc de Noailles right, and this often occurred,
I supported him; but when I knew him to be wrong, or when I caught him
neglecting his duties, conniving at injustice, shirking inquiry, or
evading the truth, I in no way spared him. The incident just related is
an illustration of the treatment he often received at my hands. Fret,
fume, stamp, storm, as he might, I cared nothing for him. His anger to
me was as indifferent as his friendship. I despised both equally.
Occasionally he would imagine, after there had been no storm between us
for some time, that I had become reconciled to him, and would make
advances to me. But the stern and terrible manner in which I met them,
--or rather refused to meet them, taking no more notice of his politeness
and his compliments, than as if they made no appeal whatever to my eyes
or ears,--soon convinced him of the permanent nature of our quarrel, and
drove him to the most violent rage and despair.
The history of the affair was, apparently, revealed by somebody to the
deputies of Perigueux (for this very evening it was talked of in Paris),
who came and offered me many thanks. Noailles was so afraid of me, that
he did not keep their business unsettled more than two days.
A few months afterwards Courson was recalled, amid the bonfires of his
province. This did not improve him, or hinder him from obtaining
afterwards one of the two places of councillor at the Royal Council of
Finance, for he was already Councillor of State at the time of this
affair of Perigueux.
An amusement, suited to the King's age, caused a serious quarrel. A sort
of tent had been erected for him on the terrace of the Tuileries, before
his apartments, and on the same level. The diversions of kings always
have to do with distinction. He invented some medals to give to the
courtiers of his own age, whom he wished to distinguish, and those
medals, which were intended to be worn, conferred the right of entering
this tent without being invited; thus was created the Order of the
Pavilion. The Marechal de Villeroy gave orders to Lefevre to have the
medals made. He obeyed, and brought them to the Marechal, who presented
them to the King. Lefevre was silversmith to the King's household, and
as such under the orders of the first gentleman of the chamber. The Duc
de Mortemart, who had previously had some tiff with the Marechal de
Villeroy, declared that it devolved upon him to order these medals and
present them to the King. He flew into a passion because everything had
been done without his knowledge; and complained to the Duc d'Orleans.
It was a trifle not worth discussing, and in which the three other
gentlemen of the chamber took no part. Thus the Duc de Mortemart,
opposed alone to the Marechal de Villeroy, stood no chance. M. le Duc
d'Orleans, with his usual love for mezzo termine, said that Lefevre had
not made these medals, or brought them to the Marechal as silversmith,
but as having received through the Marechal the King's order, and that
nothing more must be said. The Duc de Mortemart was indignant, and did
not spare the Marechal.
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