Part 16 out of 21
"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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Scarcely any history has been written at first hand
MEMOIRS OF LOUIS XIV AND HIS COURT AND OF THE REGENCY
BY THE DUKE OF SAINT-SIMON
Policy and Schemes of Alberoni.--He is Made a Cardinal.--Other Rewards
Bestowed on Him.--Dispute with the Majordomo.--An Irruption into the
Royal Apartment.--The Cardinal Thrashed.--Extraordinary Scene.
Anecdote of the Duc d'Orleans.--He Pretends to Reform --Trick Played upon
Me.--His Hoaxes.--His Panegyric of Me.--Madame de Sabran.--How the Regent
Treated His Mistresses.
Encroachments of the Parliament.--The Money Edict.--Conflict of Powers--
Vigorous Conduct of the Parliament.--Opposed with Equal Vigour by the
Regent.--Anecdote of the Duchesse du Maine.--Further Proceedings of the
Parliament.--Influence of the Reading of Memoirs.--Conduct of the
Regent.--My Political Attitude.--Conversation with the Regent on the
Subject of the Parliament.--Proposal to Hang Law.--Meeting at My House.--
Law Takes Refuge in the Palais Royal.
Proposed Bed of Justice.--My Scheme.--Interview with the Regent.--
The Necessary Seats for the Assembly.--I Go in Search of Fontanieu.--
My Interview with Hini.--I Return to the Palace.--Preparations.--
Proposals of M. le Duc to Degrade M. du Maine.--My Opposition.--My Joy
and Delight.--The Bed of Justice Finally Determined On.--A Charming
Messenger.--Final Preparations.--Illness of the Regent.--News Given to
M. du Maine.--Resolution of the Parliament.--Military Arrangements.--I Am
Summoned to the Council.--My Message to the Comte de Toulouse.
The Material Preparations for the Bed of Justice--Arrival of the Duc
d'Orleans:--The Council Chamber.--Attitude of the Various Actors.--The
Duc du Maine.--Various Movements.--Arrival of the Duc de Toulouse.--
Anxiety of the Two Bastards.--They Leave the Room.--Subsequent
Proceedings.--Arrangement of the Council Chamber.--Speech of the Regent.
--Countenances of the Members of Council.--The Regent Explains the Object
of the Bed of Justice.--Speech of the Keeper of the Seals.--Taking the
Votes.--Incidents That Followed.--New Speech of the Duc d'Orleans.--
Against the Bastards.--My Joy.--I Express My Opinion Modestly.--Exception
in Favour of the Comte de Toulouse.--New Proposal of M. le Duc.--Its
Effect.--Threatened Disobedience of the Parliament.--Proper Measures.--
The Parliament Sets Out.
Continuation of the Scene in the Council Chamber.--Slowness of the
Parliament.--They Arrive at Last.--The King Fetched.--Commencement of the
Bed of Justice.--My Arrival.--Its Effect.--What I Observed.--Absence of
the Bastards Noticed.--Appearance of the King. The Keeper of the Seals.--
The Proceedings Opened.--Humiliation of the Parliament.--Speech of the
Chief-President.--New Announcement.--Fall of the Duc du Maine Announced.
--Rage of the Chief-President.--My Extreme joy.--M. le Duc Substituted
for M. du Maine.--Indifference of the King.--Registration of the Decrees.
My Return Home.--Wanted for a New Commission.--Go to the Palais Royal.--
A Cunning Page.--My journey to Saint-Cloud.--My Reception.--Interview
with the Duchesse d'Orleans.--Her Grief.--My Embarrassment.--Interview
with Madame.--Her Triumph.--Letter of the Duchesse d'Orleans.--She Comes
to Paris.--Quarrels with the Regent.
Intrigues of M. du Maine.--And of Cellamare, the Spanish Ambassador.--
Monteleon and Portocarrero.--Their Despatches.--How Signed.--The
Conspiracy Revealed.--Conduct of the Regent.--Arrest of Cellamare.--His
House Searched.--The Regency Council.--Speech of the Duc d'Orleans.--
Resolutions Come To.--Arrests.--Relations with Spain.--Alberoni and
Saint-Aignan.--Their Quarrel.--Escape of Saint-Aignan.
The Regent Sends for Me.--Guilt of the Duc de Maine.--Proposed Arrest.--
Discussion on the Prison to Be Chosen.--The Arrest.--His Dejection.--
Arrest of the Duchess.--Her Rage.--Taken to Dijon.--Other Arrests.--
Conduct of the Comte de Toulouse.--The Faux Sauniers.--Imprisonment of
the Duc and Duchesse du Maine.--Their Sham Disagreement.--Their
The Abbe Alberoni, having risen by the means I have described, and
acquired power by following in the track of the Princesse des Ursins,
governed Spain like a master. He had the most ambitious projects. One
of his ideas was to drive all strangers, especially the French, out of
the West Indies; and he hoped to make use of the Dutch to attain this
end. But Holland was too much in the dependence of England.
At home Alberoni proposed many useful reforms, and endeavoured to
diminish the expenses of the royal household. He thought, with reason,
that a strong navy was the necessary basis of the power of Spain; and to
create one he endeavoured to economise the public money. He flattered
the King with the idea that next year he would arm forty vessels to
protect the commerce of the Spanish Indies. He had the address to boast
of his disinterestedness, in that whilst working at all manner of
business he had never received any grace from the King, and lived only
on fifty pistoles, which the Duke of Parma, his master, gave him every
month; and therefore he made gently some complaints against the
ingratitude of princes.
Alberoni had persuaded the Queen of Spain to keep her husband shut up,
as had the Princesse des Ursins. This was a certain means of governing a
prince whose temperament and whose conscience equally attached him to his
spouse. He was soon completely governed once more--under lock and key,
as it were, night and day. By this means the Queen was jailoress and
prisoner at the same time. As she was constantly with the King nobody
could come to her. Thus Alberoni kept them both shut up, with the key of
their prison in his pocket.
One of the chief objects of his ambition was the Cardinal's hat. It
would be too long to relate the schemes he set on foot to attain his end.
He was opposed by a violent party at Rome; but at last his inflexible
will and extreme cunning gained the day. The Pope, no longer able to
resist the menaces of the King of Spain, and dreading the vengeance of
the all-powerful minister, consented to grant the favour that minister
had so pertinaciously demanded. Alberoni was made Cardinal on the 12th
of July, 1717. Not a soul approved this promotion when it was announced
at the consistory. Not a single cardinal uttered a word in praise of the
new confrere, but many openly disapproved his nomination. Alberoni's
good fortune did not stop here. At the death, some little time after,
of the Bishop of Malaga, that rich see, worth thirty thousand ecus a
year, was given to him. He received it as the mere introduction to the
grandest and richest sees of Spain, when they should become vacant.
The King of Spain gave him also twenty thousand ducats, to be levied upon
property confiscated for political reasons. Shortly after, Cardinal
Arias, Archbishop of Seville, having died, Alberoni was named to this
In the middle of his grandeur and good luck he met with an adventure that
must have strangely disconcerted him.
I have before explained how Madame des Ursins and the deceased Queen had
kept the King of Spain screened from all eyes, inaccessible to all his
Court, a very palace-hermit. Alberoni, as I have said, followed their
example. He kept the King even more closely imprisoned than before, and
allowed no one, except a few indispensable attendants, to approach him.
These attendants were a small number of valets and doctors, two gentlemen
of the chamber, one or two ladies, and the majordomo-major of the King.
This last post was filled by the Duc d'Escalone, always called Marquis de
Villena, in every way one of the greatest noblemen in Spain, and most
respected and revered of all, and justly so, for his virtue, his
appointment, and his services.
Now the King's doctors are entirely under the authority of the majordomo-
major. He ought to be present at all their consultations; the King
should take no remedy that he is not told of, or that he does not
approve, or that he does not see taken; an account of all the medicines
should be rendered to him. Just at this time the King was ill. Villena
wished to discharge the duties attached to his post of majordomo-major.
Alberoni caused it to be insinuated to him, that the King wished to be at
liberty, and that he would be better liked if he kept at home; or had the
discretion and civility not to enter the royal chamber, but to ask at the
door for news. This was language the Marquis would not understand.
At the end of the grand cabinet of the mirrors was placed a bed, in which
the King was laid, in front of the door; and as the room is vast and
long, it is a good distance from the door (which leads to the interior)
to the place where the bed was. Alberoni again caused the Marquis to be
informed that his attentions were troublesome, but the Marquis did not
fail to enter as before. At last, in concert with the Queen, the
Cardinal resolved to refuse him admission. The Marquis, presenting
himself one afternoon, a valet partly opened the door and said, with much
confusion, that he was forbidden to let him enter.
"Insolent fellow," replied the Marquis, "stand aside," and he pushed the
door against the valet and entered. In front of him was the Queen,
seated at the King's pillow; the Cardinal standing by her side, and the
privileged few, and not all of them, far away from the bed. The Marquis,
who, though full of pride, was but weak upon his legs, leisurely
advanced, supported upon his little stick. The Queen and the Cardinal
saw him and looked at each other. The King was too ill to notice
anything, and his curtains were closed except at the side where the Queen
was. Seeing the Marquis approach, the Cardinal made signs, with
impatience, to one of the valets to tell him to go away, and immediately
after, observing that the Marquis, without replying, still advanced, he
went to him, explained to him that the King wished to be alone, and
begged him to leave.
"That is not true," said the Marquis; "I have watched you; you have not
approached the bed, and the King has said nothing to you."
The Cardinal insisting, and without success, took him by the arm to make
him go. The Marquis said he was very insolent to wish to hinder him from
seeing the King, and perform his duties. The Cardinal, stronger than his
adversary, turned the Marquis round, hurried him towards the door, both
talking the while, the Cardinal with measure, the Marquis in no way
mincing his words. Tired of being hauled out in this manner, the Marquis
struggled, called Alberoni a "little scoundrel," to whom he would teach
manners; and in this heat and dust the Marquis, who was weak, fortunately
fell into an armchair hard by. Angry at his fall, he raised his little
stick and let it fall with all his force upon the ears and the shoulders
of the Cardinal, calling him a little scoundrel--a little rascal--
a little blackguard, deserving a horsewhipping.
The Cardinal, whom he held with one hand, escaped as well as he could,
the Marquis continuing to abuse him, and shaking the stick at him. One
of the valets came and assisted him to rise from his armchair, and gain
the door; for after this accident his only thought was to leave the room.
The Queen looked on from her chair during all this scene, without
stirring or saying a word; and the privileged few in the chamber did not
dare to move. I learned all this from every one in Spain; and moreover I
asked the Marquis de Villena himself to give me the full details; and he,
who was all uprightness and truth, and who had conceived some little
friendship for me, related with pleasure all I have written. The two
gentlemen of the chamber present also did the same, laughing in their
sleeves. One had refused to tell the Marquis to leave the room, and the
other had accompanied him to the door. The most singular thing is, that
the Cardinal, furious, but surprised beyond measure at the blows he had
received, thought only of getting out of reach. The Marquis cried to him
from a distance, that but for the respect he owed to the King, and to the
state in which he was, he would give him a hundred kicks in the stomach,
and haul him out by the ears. I was going to forget this. The King was
so ill that he saw nothing.
A quarter of an hour after the Marquis had returned home, he received an
order to retire to one of his estates at thirty leagues from Madrid. The
rest of the day his house was filled with the most considerable people of
Madrid, arriving as they learned the news, which made a furious sensation
through the city. He departed the next day with his children. The
Cardinal, nevertheless, remained so terrified, that, content with the
exile of the Marquis, and with having got rid of him, he did not dare to
pass any censure upon him for the blows he had received. Five or six
months afterwards he sent him an order of recall, though the Marquis had
not taken the slightest steps to obtain it. What is incredible is, that
the adventure, the exile, the return, remained unknown to the King until
the fall of the Cardinal! The Marquis would never consent to see him, or
to hear him talked of, on any account, after returning, though the
Cardinal was the absolute master. His pride was much humiliated by this
worthy and just haughtiness; and he was all the more piqued because he
left nothing undone in order to bring about a reconciliation, without any
other success than that of obtaining fresh disdain, which much increased
the public estimation in which this wise and virtuous nobleman was held.
I must not omit to mention an incident which occurred during the early
part of the year 1718, and which will give some idea of the character of
M. le Duc d'Orleans, already pretty amply described by me.
One day (when Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans had gone to Montmartre, which
she quitted soon after) I was walking alone with M. le Duc d'Orleans in
the little garden of the Palais Royal, chatting upon various affairs,
when he suddenly interrupted me, and turning towards me; said, "I am
going to tell you something that will please you."
Thereupon he related to me that he was tired of the life he led, which
was no longer in harmony with his age or his desires, and many similar
things; that he was resolved to give up his gay parties, pass his
evenings more soberly and decently, sometimes at home, often with Madame
la Duchesse d'Orleans; that his health would gain thereby, and he should
have more time for business; that in a little while I might rely upon it
--there would be no more suppers of "roues and harlots" (these were his
own terms), and that he was going to lead a prudent and reasonable life
adapted to his age and state.
I admit that in my extreme surprise I was ravished, so great was the
interest I took in him. I testified this to him with overflowing heart,
thanking him for his confidence. I said to him that he knew I for a long
time had not spoken to him of the indecency of his life, or of the time
he lost, because I saw that in so doing I lost my own; that I had long
since despaired of his conduct changing; that this had much grieved me;
that he could not be ignorant from all that had passed between us at
various times, how much I desired a change, and that he might judge of
the surprise and joy his announcement gave me. He assured me more and
more that his resolution was fixed, and thereupon I took leave of him,
the hour for his soiree having arrived.
The next day I learned from people to whom the roues had just related it,
that M. le Duc d'Orleans was no sooner at table than he burst out
laughing, and applauded his cleverness, saying that he had just laid a
trap for me into which I had fallen full length. He recited to them our
conversation, at which the joy and applause were marvellous. It is the
only time he ever diverted himself at my expense (not to say at his own)
in a matter in which the fib he told me, and which I was foolish enough
to swallow, surprised by a sudden joy that took from me reflection, did
honour to me, though but little to him. I would not gratify him by
telling him I knew of his joke, or call to his mind what he had said to
me; accordingly he never dared to speak of it.
I never could unravel what fantasy had seized him to lead him to hoax me
in this manner, since for many years I had never opened my mouth
concerning the life he led, whilst he, on his side, had said not a word
to me relating to it. Yet it is true that sometimes being alone with
confidential valets, some complaints have escaped him (but never before
others) that I ill-treated him, and spoke hastily to him, but all was
said in two words, without bitterness, and without accusing me of
treating him wrongfully. He spoke truly also; sometimes, when I was
exasperated with stupidity or error in important matters which affected
him or the State, or when he had agreed (having been persuaded and
convinced by good reasons) to do or not to do some essential thing, and
was completely turned from it by his feebleness, his easy-going nature
(which he appreciated as well as I)--cruelly did I let out against him.
But the trick he most frequently played me before others, one of which my
warmth was always dupe, was suddenly to interrupt an important argument
by a 'sproposito' of buffoonery. I could not stand it; sometimes being
so angry that I wished to leave the room. I used to say to him that if
he wished to joke I would joke as much as he liked, but to mix the most
serious matters with tomfoolery was insupportable. He laughed heartily,
and all the more because, as the thing often happened, I ought to have
been on my guard; but never was, and was vexed both at the joke and at
being surprised; then he returned to business. But princes must
sometimes banter and amuse themselves with those whom they treat as
friends. Nevertheless, in spite of his occasional banter, he entertained
really sincere esteem and friendship for me.
By chance I learnt one day what he really thought of me. I will say it
now, so as to leave at once all these trifles. M. le Duc d'Orleans
returning one afternoon from the Regency Council at the Tuileries to the
Palais Royal with M. le Duc de Chartres (his son) and the Bailli de
Conflans (then first gentleman of his chamber) began to talk of me,
passing an eulogium upon me I hardly dare to repeat. I know not what had
occurred at the Council to occasion it. All that I can say is that he
insisted upon his happiness in having a friend so faithful, so unchanging
at all times, so useful to him as I was, and always had been; so sure, so
true, so disinterested, so firm, such as he could meet with in no one
else, and upon whom he could always count. This eulogy lasted from the
Tuileries to the Palais Royal, the Regent saying to his son that he
wished to teach him how to make my acquaintance, as a support and a
source of happiness (all that I relate here is in his own words); such as
he had always found in my friendship and counsel. The Bailli de
Conflans, astonished at this abundant eloquence, repeated it to me two
days after, and I admit that I never have forgotten it. And here I will
say that whatever others might do, whatever I myself (from disgust and
vexation at what I saw ill done) might do, the Regent always sought
reconciliation with me with shame, confidence, confusion, and he has
never found himself in any perplexity that he has not opened his heart to
me, and consulted me, without however always following my advice, for he
was frequently turned from it by others.
He would never content himself with one mistress. He needed a variety in
order to stimulate his taste. I had no more intercourse with them than
with his roues. He never spoke of them to me, nor I to him. I scarcely
ever knew anything of their adventures. His roues and valets were always
eager to present fresh mistresses to him, from which he generally
selected one. Amongst these was Madame de Sabran, who had married a man
of high rank, but without wealth or merit, in order to be at liberty.
There never was a woman so beautiful as she, or of a beauty more regular,
more agreeable, more touching, or of a grander or nobler bearing, and yet
without affectation. Her air and her manners were simple and natural,
making you think she was ignorant of her beauty and of her figure (this
last the finest in the world), and when it pleased her she was
deceitfully modest. With much intellect she was insinuating, merry,
overflowing, dissipated, not bad-hearted, charming, especially at table.
In a word, she was all M. le Duc d'Orleans wanted, and soon became his
mistress without prejudice to the rest.
As neither she nor her husband had a rap, they were ready for anything,
and yet they did not make a large fortune. One of the chamberlains of
the Regent, with an annual salary of six thousand livres, having received
another appointment, Madame de Sabran thought six thousand livres a year
too good to be lost, and asked for the post for her husband. She cared
so little for him, by the way, that she called him her "mastiff." It was
she, who, supping with M. le Duc d'Orleans and his roues, wittily said,
that princes and lackeys had been made of one material, separated by
Providence at the creation from that out of which all other men had been
All the Regent's mistresses had one by one their turn. Fortunately they
had little power, were not initiated into any state secrets, and received
but little money.
The Regent amused himself with them, and treated them in other respects
exactly as they deserved to be treated.
It is time now that I should speak of matters of very great importance,
which led to changes that filled my heart with excessive joy, such as it
had never known before.
For a long time past the Parliament had made many encroachments upon the
privileges belonging to the Dukes. Even under the late King it had begun
these impudent enterprises, and no word was said against it; for nothing
gave the King greater pleasure than to mix all ranks together in a
caldron of confusion. He hated and feared the nobility, was jealous of
their power, which in former reigns had often so successfully balanced
that of the crown; he was glad therefore of any opportunity which
presented itself that enabled him to see our order weakened and robbed of
The Parliament grew bolder as its encroachments one by one succeeded.
It began to fancy itself armed with powers of the highest kind. It began
to imagine that it possessed all the authority of the English Parliament,
forgetting that that assembly is charged with the legislative
administration of the country, that it has the right to make laws and
repeat laws, and that the monarch can do but little, comparatively
speaking, without the support and sanction of this representative
chamber; whereas, our own Parliament is but a tribunal of justice, with
no control or influence over the royal authority or state affairs.
But, as I have said, success gave it new impudence. Now that the King
was dead, at whose name alone it trembled, this assembly thought that a
fine opportunity had come to give its power the rein. It had to do with
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