Part 17 out of 21
carefully taught not to like me, and by the curious spectators waiting to
see what was to be hatched out of so profound a secret, in such an
important assembly, summoned so hastily. Moreover, nobody was ignorant
that I knew all, at least from the Council of the Regency I had just
I did not deceive myself. As soon as I appeared, all eyes were fixed
upon me. I slowly advanced towards the chief greffier, and introducing
myself between the two seats, I traversed the length of the room, in
front of the King's people, who saluted me with a smiling air, and I
ascended over three rows of high seats, where all the peers were in their
places, and who rose as I approached the steps. I respectfully saluted
them from the third row.
Seated in my elevated place, and with nothing before me, I was able to
glance over the whole assembly. I did so at once, piercing everybody
with my eyes. One thing alone restrained me; it was that I did not dare
to fix my eyes upon certain objects. I feared the fire and brilliant
significance of my looks at that moment so appreciated by everybody: and
the more I saw I attracted attention, the more anxious was I to wean
curiosity by my discreetness. I cast, nevertheless, a glittering glance
upon the Chief-President and his friends, for the examination of whom I
was admirably placed. I carried my looks over all the Parliament,
and saw there an astonishment, a silence, a consternation, such as I had
not expected, and which was of good augury to me. The Chief-President,
insolently crest-fallen, the other presidents disconcerted, and attentive
to all, furnished me the most agreeable spectacle. The simply curious
(among which I rank those who had no vote) appeared to me not less
surprised (but without the bewilderment of the others), calmly surprised;
in a word, everybody showed much expectation and desire to divine what
had passed at the Council.
I had but little leisure for this examination, for the King immediately
arrived. The hubbub which followed his entrance, and which lasted until
his Majesty and all who accompanied him were in their places, was another
singularity. Everybody sought to penetrate the Regent, the Keeper of the
Seals, and the principal personages. The departure of the bastards from
the cabinet of the Council had redoubled attention, but everybody did not
know of that departure; now everybody perceived their absence. The
consternation of the Marechals--of their senior--(the governor of the
King) was evident. It augmented the dejection of the Chief-President,
who not seeing his master the Duc du Maine, cast a terrible glance upon
M. de Sully and me, who exactly occupied the places of the two brothers.
In an instant all the eyes of the assembly were cast, at the same time,
upon us; and I remarked that the meditativeness and expectation increased
in every face. That of the Regent had an air of gentle but resolute
majesty completely new to it, his eyes attentive, his deportment grave,
but easy. M. le Duc, sage, measured, but encircled by I know not what
brilliancy, which adorned all his person and which was evidently kept
down. M. le Prince de Conti appeared dull, pensive, his mind far away
perhaps. I was not able during the sitting to see them except now and
then, and under pretext of looking at the King, who was serious,
majestic, and at the same time as pretty as can be imagined; grave, with
grace in all his bearing, his air attentive, and not at all wearied,
playing his part very well and without embarrassment.
When all was ready, Argenson, the Keeper of the Seals, remained some
minutes at his desk motionless, looking down, and the fire which sprang
from his eyes seemed to burn every breast. An extreme silence eloquently
announced the fear, the attention, the trouble, and the curiosity of all
the expectants. The Parliament, which under the deceased King had often
summoned this same Argenson, and as lieutenant of police had often given
him its orders, he standing uncovered at the bar of the house; the
Parliament, which since the regency had displayed its ill-will towards
him so far as to excite public remark, and which still detained prisoners
and papers to vex him; this Chief President so superior to him, so
haughty, so proud of his Duc du Maine; this Lamoignon, who had boasted he
would have him hanged at his Chamber of justice, where he had so
completely dishonoured himself: this Parliament and all saw him clad in
the ornaments of the chief office of the robe, presiding over them,
effacing them, and entering upon his functions to teach them their duty,
to read them a public lesson the first time he found himself at their
head! These vain presidents were seen turning their looks from a man who
imposed so strongly upon their pride, and who annihilated their arrogance
in the place even whence they drew it, and rendered them stupid by
regards they could not sustain.
After the Keeper of the Seals (according to the manner of the preachers)
had accustomed himself to this august audience, he uncovered himself,
rose, mounted to the King, knelt before the steps of the throne, by the
side of the middle of the steps, where the grand chamberlain was lying
upon cushions, and took the King's orders, descended, placed himself in
his chair and covered himself. Let us say it once for all, he performed
the same ceremony at the commencement of each business, and likewise
before and after taking the opinion upon each; at the bar of justice
neither he nor the chamberlain ever speaks otherwise to the King; and
every time he went to the King on this occasion the Regent rose and
approached him to hear and suggest the orders. Having returned back into
his place, he opened, after some moments of silence, this great scene by
a discourse. The report of the Bed of justice, made by the Parliament
and printed, which is in the hands of everybody, renders it unnecessary
for me to give the discourse of the Keeper of the Seals, that of the
Chief-President, those of the King's people, and the different papers
that were read and registered. I will simply content myself with some
observations. This first discourse, the reading of the letters of the
Keeper of the Seals, and the speech of the Advocate-General Blancmesnil
which followed, the opinions taken, the order given, sometimes reiterated
to keep the two double doors open, did not surprise anybody; served only
as the preface to all the rest; to sharpen curiosity more and more as the
moment approached in which it was to be satisfied.
This first act finished, the second was announced by the discourse of the
Keeper of the Seals, the force of which penetrated all the Parliament.
General consternation spread itself over their faces. Scarcely one of
the members dared to speak to his neighbour. I remarked that the Abbe
Pucelle, who, although only counsellor-clerk, was upon the forms in front
of me, stood, so that he might hear better every time the Keeper of the
Seals spoke. Bitter grief, obviously full of vexation, obscured the
visage of the Chief-President. Shame and confusion were painted there.
After the vote, and when the Keeper of the Seals had pronounced, I saw
the principal members of the Parliament in commotion. The Chief-
President was about to speak. He did so by uttering the remonstrance of
the Parliament, full of the most subtle and impudent malice against the
Regent, and of insolence against the King. The villain trembled,
nevertheless, in pronouncing it. His voice broken, his eyes constrained,
his flurry and confusion, contradicted the venomous words he uttered;
libations he could not abstain from offering to himself and his company.
This was the moment when I relished, with delight utterly impossible to
express, the sight of these haughty lawyers (who had dared to refuse us
the salutation), prostrated upon their knees, and rendering, at our feet,
homage to the throne, whilst we sat covered upon elevated seats, at the
side of that same throne. These situations and these postures, so widely
disproportioned, plead of themselves with all the force of evidence, the
cause of those who are really and truly 'laterales regis' against this
'vas electum' of the third estate. My eyes fixed, glued, upon these
haughty bourgeois, with their uncovered heads humiliated to the level of
our feet, traversed the chief members kneeling or standing, and the ample
folds of those fur robes of rabbit-skin that would imitate ermine, which
waved at each long and redoubled genuflexion; genuflexions which only
finished by command of the King.
The remonstrance being finished, the Keeper of the Seals mentioned to the
King their wishes, asking further opinions; took his place again; cast
his eyes on the Chief-President, and said: The King wishes to be obeyed,
and obeyed immediately.
This grand speech was a thunder-bolt which overturned councillors and
presidents in the most marked manner. All of them lowered their heads,
and the majority kept them lowered for a long time. The rest of the
spectators, except the marshals of France, appeared little affected by
But this--an ordinary triumph--was nothing to that which was to follow.
After an interval of some few minutes, the Keeper of the Seals went up
again to the King, returned to his place, and remained there in silence
some little time. Then everybody clearly saw that the Parliamentary
affair being finished, something else must be in the wind. Some thought
that a dispute which the Dukes had had with the Parliament, concerning
one of its usurpations, was now to be settled in our favour. Others who
had noticed the absence of the bastards, guessed it was something that
affected them; but nobody divined what, much less its extent.
At last the Keeper of the Seals opened his mouth, and in his first
sentence announced the fall of one brother and the preservation of the
other. The effect of this upon every one was inexpressible. However
occupied I might be in containing mine, I lost nothing. Astonishment
prevailed over every other sentiment. Many appeared glad, either from
hatred to the Duc du Maine, or from affection for the Comte de Toulouse;
several were in consternation. The Chief-President lost all countenance;
his visage, so self-sufficient and so audacious, was seized with a
convulsive movement; the excess alone of his rage kept him from swooning.
It was even worse at the reading of the declaration. Each word was
legislative and decreed a fresh fall. The attention was general; every
one was motionless, so as not to lose a word; all eyes were fixed upon
the 'greffier' who was reading. A third of this reading over, the Chief-
President, gnashing the few teeth left in his head, rested his forehead
upon his stick that he held in both hands, and in this singular and
marked position finished listening to the declaration, so overwhelming
for him, so resurrectionary for us.
Yet, as for me, I was dying with joy. I was so oppressed that I feared I
should swoon; my heart dilated to excess, and no longer found room to
beat. The violence I did myself, in order to let nothing escape me, was
infinite; and, nevertheless, this torment was delicious. I compared the
years and the time of servitude; the grievous days, when dragged at the
tail of the Parliamentary car as a victim, I had served as a triumph for
the bastards; the various steps by which they had mounted to the summit
above our heads; I compared them, I say, to this court of justice and of
rule, to this frightful fall which, at the same time, raised us by the
force of the shock. I thanked myself that it was through me this had
been brought about. I had triumphed, I was revenged; I swam in my
vengeance; I enjoyed the full accomplishment of desires the most vehement
and the most continuous of all my life. I was tempted to fling away all
thought and care. Nevertheless, I did not fail to listen to this
vivifying reading (every note of which sounded upon my heart as the bow
upon an instrument), or to examine, at the same time, the impressions it
made upon every one.
At the first word the Keeper of the Seals said of this affair, the eyes
of the two bishop-peers met mine. Never did I see surprise equal to
theirs, or so marked a transport of joy. I had not been able to speak to
them on account of the distance of our places; and they could not resist
the movement which suddenly seized them. I swallowed through my eyes a
delicious draught of their joy, and turned away my glance from theirs,
lest I should succumb beneath this increase of delight. I no longer
dared to look at them.
The reading finished, the other declaration in favour of the Comte de
Toulouse was immediately commenced by the 'greffier', according to the
command of the Keeper of the Seals, who had given them to him both
together. It seemed to complete the confusion of the Chief-President and
the friends of the Duc du Maine, by the contrast between the treatment of
the two brothers.
After the Advocate-General had spoken, the Keeper of the Seals mounted to
the King, with the opinions of the Princes of the Blood; then came to the
Duc de Sully and me. Fortunately I had more memory than he had, or
wished to have; therefore it was exactly my affair. I presented to him
my hat with a bunch of feathers in the front, in an express manner very
marked, saying to him loudly enough: "No, Monsieur, we cannot be judges;
we are parties to the cause, and we have only to thank the King for the
justice he renders us."
He smiled and made an excuse. I pushed him away before the Duc de Sully
had time to open his mouth; and looking round I saw with pleasure that my
refusal had been marked by everybody. The Keeper of the Seals retired as
he came, and without taking the opinions of the peers, or of the bishop-
peers, went to the marshals of France; thence descended to the Chief-
President and to the 'presidents a mortier', and so to the rest of the
lower seats; after which, having been to the King and returned to his
place, he pronounced the decree of registration, and thus put the
finishing touch to my joy.
Immediately after M. le Duc rose, and having made his reverences to the
King forgot to sit down and cover himself to speak, according to the
uninterrupted right and usage of the peers of France; therefore not one
of us rose. He made, then, slowly and uncovered, the speech which has
been printed at the end of the preceding ones, and read it not very
intelligibly because his organ was not favourable. As soon as he had
finished, M. le Duc d'Orleans rose, and committed the same fault. He
said, also standing and uncovered, that the request of M. le Duc appeared
to him just; and after some praises added, that M. le Duc du Maine was
now reduced to the rank given to him by his peerage, M. le Marechal de
Villeroy, his senior, could no longer remain under him, which was a new
and very strong reason in addition to those M. le Duc had alleged. This
request had carried to the highest point the astonishment of the assembly
and the despair of the Chief-President, and the handful of people who
appeared by their embarrassment to be interested in the Duc du Maine.
The Marechal de Villeroy, without knitting his brow, had a disturbed
look, and the eyes of the chief accuser oftener were inundated with
tears. I was not able to distinguish well his cousin and intimate friend
the Marechal d'Huxelles, who screened himself beneath the vast brim of
his hat, thrust over his eyes, and who did not stir. The Chief-
President, stunned by this last thunder-bolt, elongated his face so
surprisingly, that I thought for a moment his chin had fallen upon his
However, the Keeper of the Seals having called upon the King's people to
speak, they replied that they had not heard the proposition of M. le Duc,
therefore his paper was passed to them from hand to hand, during which
the Keeper of the Seals repeated very kindly what the Regent had added
upon the seniority of the Marechal de Villeroy over the Duc du Maine.
Blancmesnil merely threw his eyes upon the paper of M. le Duc, and spoke,
after which the Keeper of the Seals put it to the vote. I gave mine loud
enough, and said, "As for this affair I vote with all my heart for giving
the superintendence of the King's education to M. le Duc."
The votes being taken, the Keeper, of the Seals called the chief
'greffier', ordered him to bring his paper and his little bureau near
his, so as to do all at once; and in presence of the King register
everything that had been read and resolved, and signed also. This was
done without any difficulty, according to forms, under the eyes of the
Keeper of the Seals, who never raised them: but as there were five or six
documents to register they took up a long time.
I had well observed the King when his education was in question, and I
remarked in him no sort of alteration, change, or constraint. This was
the last act of the drama: he was quite lively now the registrations
commenced. However, as there were no more speeches to occupy him, he
laughed with those near, amused himself with everything, even remarking
that the Duc de Louvigny had on a velvet coat, and laughed at the heat he
must feel, and all this with grace. This indifference for M. du Maine
struck everybody, and publicly contradicted what his partisans tried to
publish, viz., that his eyes had been red, but that neither at the Bed of
justice, nor since, he had dared to show his trouble. The truth is he
had his eyes dry and serene the whole time, and pronounced the name of
the Duc du Maine only once since, which was after dinner the same day,
when he asked where he had gone, with a very indifferent air, without
saying a word more, then or since, or naming his children, who took
little trouble to see him; and when they went it was in order to have
even in his presence their little court apart, and to divert themselves
among themselves. As for the Duc du Maine, either from policy or because
he thought it not yet time, he only, saw the King in the morning,
sometimes in his bed, and not at all during the rest of the day, except
when obliged by his functions.
During the registration I gently passed my eyes over the whole assembly.,
and though I constantly constrained them, I could not resist the
temptation to indemnify myself upon the Chief-President; I perseveringly
overwhelmed him, therefore, a hundred different times during the sitting,
with my hard-hitting regards. Insult, contempt, disdain, triumph, were
darted at him from my eyes,--and pierced him to the very marrow often he
lowered his eyes when he caught my gaze once or twice he raised his upon
me, and I took pleasure in annoying him by sly but malicious smiles which
completed his vexation. I bathed myself in his rage, and amused myself
by making him feel it. I sometimes played with him by pointing him out
to my two neighbours when he could perceive this movement; in a word, I
pressed upon him without mercy, as heavily as I could.
At last the registration finished, the King descended the throne, and was
followed by the Regent, the two Princes of the Blood, and the necessary
gentlemen of the suite. At the same time the Marshals of France
descended, and while the King traversed the room, accompanied by the
deputation which had received him, they passed between the seats of the
councillors opposite us, to follow him to the door by which his Majesty
departed; and at the same time the two bishop-peers, passing before the
throne, came to put themselves at our head, and squeezed my hands and
my head (in passing before me) with warm gratification.
We followed them two by two according to seniority, and went straight
forward to the door. The Parliament began to move directly afterwards.
Place was made for us to the steps. The crowd, the people, the display
contrasted our conversation and our joy. I was sorry for it.
I immediately gained my coach, which I found near, and which took me
skilfully out of the court, so that I met with no check, and in a quarter
of an hour after leaving the sitting, I was at home.
I had need of a little rest, for pleasure even is fatigue, and happiness,
pure and untroubled as it may be, wearies the spirit. I entered my
house, then, at about two o'clock in the afternoon, intending to repose
myself, and in order to do so in security, I closed my door to everybody.
Alas! I had not been many minutes at home when I was called away to
perform one of the most painful and annoying commissions it was ever my
ill fortune to be charged with.
A little while before leaving the Cabinet of the Council for the Bed of
Justice, M. le Duc d'Orleans had begged me to go to the Palais Royal with
the Keeper of the Seals immediately after the ceremony had ended. As I
saw that nothing had been undertaken, I thought myself free of this
conference, and was glad to avoid a new proof that I had been in a
secret which had excited envy. I went, therefore, straight home,
arriving between two and three. I found at the foot of the steps
the Duc d'Humieres, Louville, and all my family, even my mother, whom
curiosity had drawn from her chamber, which she had not left since the
commencement of the winter. We remained below in my apartment, where,
while changing my coat and my shirt, I replied to their eager questions;
when, lo! M. de Biron, who had forced my door which I had closed against
everybody, in order to obtain a little repose, was announced.
Biron put his head in at my door, and begged to be allowed to say a word
to me. I passed, half-dressed, into my chamber with him. He said that
M. le Duc d'Orleans had expected me at the Palais Royal immediately after
the Bed of justice, and was surprised I had not appeared. He added that
there was no great harm done; and that the Regent wished to see me now,
in order that I might execute a commission for him. I asked Biron what
it was? He replied that it was to go to Saint-Clerc to announce what had
taken place to Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans!
This was a thunder-bolt for me. I disputed with Biron, who exhorted me
to lose no time, but to go at once to the Palais Royal, where I was
expected with impatience. I returned into my cabinet with him, so
changed in aspect that Madame de Saint-Simon was alarmed. I explained
what was the matter, and after Biron had chatted a moment, and again
pressed me to set out at once, he went away to eat his dinner. Ours was
served. I waited a little time in order to recover myself, determined
not to vex M. le Duc d'Orleans by dawdling, took some soup and an egg,
and went off to the Palais Royal.
It was in vain that, using all the eloquence I could command and all the
liberty I dared employ, I protested against being employed for this duty.
I represented to the Regent what an ill-chosen messenger I should be to
carry to Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans news of the disgrace of her brother
the Duc du Maine; I, who had always been such an open and declared enemy
to the bastards! I represented to him that people would say I went on
purpose to triumph over her at what had been done, and that she herself
would look upon my presence as a kind of insult. In vain! in vain! were
my arguments, my entreaties, my instances. M. le Duc d'Orleans had
determined that I should go on this errand, and go I must.
As I left his house to execute my luckless commission, I found one of
Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans' pages, booted and spurred, who had just
arrived from Saint-Cloud. I begged him to return at once, at a gallop,
and say, on arriving, to the Duchesse Sforze (one of Madame la Duchesse
d'Orleans' ladies) that I should be there soon with a message from M. le
Duc d'Orleans, and to ask her to meet me as I descended from my coach.
My object was to charge her with the message I had to deliver, and not to
see Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans at all. But my poor prudence was
confounded by that of the page, who had not less than I. He took good
care not to be the bearer of such ill news as he had just learned at the
Palais Royal, and which was now everywhere public. He contented himself
with saying that I was coming, sent by M. le Duc d'Orleans, spoke not a
word to the Duchesse Sforze, and disappeared at once. This is what I
afterwards learned, and what I saw clearly enough on arriving at Saint-
I went there at a gentle trot, in order to give time to the page to
arrive before me, and to the Duchesse Sforze to receive me. During the
journey I applauded myself for my address, but feared lest I should be
obliged to see Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans after Madame Sforze. I could
not imagine that Saint-Cloud was in ignorance of what had occurred, and,
nevertheless, I was in an agony that cannot be expressed, and this
increased as I approached the end of my journey. If it is disagreeable
to announce unpleasant news to the indifferent, how much more is it to
announce them to the deeply interested!
Penetrated with this dolorous sentiment I arrived in the grand court of
Saint-Cloud, and saw everybody at the windows, running from all parts.
I alighted, and asked the first comer to lead me to the Duchesse Sforze,
the position of whose apartments I am unacquainted with. I was told that
Madame Sforze was in the chapel with Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans. Then
I asked for the Marechale de Rochefort, and after a time she arrived,
hobbling along with her stick. I disputed with her, wishing to see
Madame Sforze, who was not to be found. I was anxious at all events to
go to her room and wait, but the inexorable Marechale pulled me by the
arm, asking what news I brought. Worn out at last, I said, "News? news
that you are acquainted with."
"How, acquainted with?" she asked. "We know nothing, except that a Bed
of justice has been held, and we are expiring to know why, and what has
My astonishment at this ignorance was extreme, and I made her swear and
repeat four times over that nothing was known at Saint-Cloud. I told her
thereupon what had happened, and she, in her turn, astonished, almost
fell backwards! But where was Madame Sforze? she came not, and do what
I must, say what I might, I was forced to carry, my message to Madame la
Duchesse d'Orleans. I was sorely loth to do so, but was dragged by the
hand almost as a sheep is led to the slaughter.
I stood before Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans after having passed through
an apartment filled with her people, fear painted upon all their faces.
I saluted her; but, oh! how differently from my usual manner! She did
not perceive this at first, and begged me, with a cheerful natural air,
to approach her; but seeing my trouble, she exclaimed, "Good Heavens,
Monsieur, what a face you wear! What news bring you?"
Seeing that I remained silent and motionless, she became more moved, and
repeated her questions. I advanced a few steps towards her, and at her
third appeal, I said: "Madame, you know nothing then?"
"No, Monsieur; I simply know that there has been a Bed of justice: what
has passed there I am quite ignorant of."
"Ah, Madame," I replied, half turning away; "I am more unhappy, then,
than I thought to be."
"What is the matter?" exclaimed she; "what has happened?" (rising and
sitting bolt upright on the sofa she was stretched upon.) "Come near and
I approached; stated that I was in despair. She, more and more moved,
said to me, "But speak; better to learn bad news from one's friend than
This remark pierced me to the heart, and made me sensible of the grief I
was going to inflict upon her. I summoned up courage, and I told her
The tears of Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans flowed abundantly at my
recital. She did not answer a word, uttered no cry, but wept bitterly.
She pointed to a seat and I sat down upon it, my eyes during several
instants fixed upon the floor. Afterwards I said that M. le Duc
d'Orleans, who had rather forced upon me this commission, than charged me
with it, had expressly commanded me to tell her that he had very strong
proofs in his hands against M. du Maine; that he had kept them back a
long time, but could no longer do so now. She gently replied to me that
her brother was very unfortunate and shortly afterwards asked if I knew
what his crime was. I said that M. le Duc d'Orleans had not told me; and
that I had not dared to question him upon a subject of this nature,
seeing that he was not inclined to talk of it.
More tears shortly afterwards filled her eyes. Her brother must be very
criminal, she said, to be so treated.
I remained some time upon my seat, not daring to raise my eyes, in the
most painful state possible, and not knowing whether to remain or go
away. At last I acquainted her with my difficulty; said I fancied she
would like to be alone some little time before giving me her orders, but
that respect kept me equally in suspense as to whether I should go or
stay. After a short silence, she said she should like to see her women.
I rose, sent them to her, and said to them, if her Royal Highness asked
for me, I should be with the Duchesse Sforze, or the Marechale Rochefort;
but I could find neither of these two ladies, so I went up to Madame.
She rose as soon as I appeared, and said to me, with eagerness, "Well,
Monsieur, what news?" At the same time her ladies retired, and I was left
alone with her.
I commenced by an excuse for not coming to see her first, as was my duty,
on the ground that M. le Duc d'Orleans had assured me she would not
object to my commencing with Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans. She did not
object, in fact, but asked me for my news with much eagerness. I told
her what had happened. Joy spread over her face. She replied with a
mighty, "At last!" which she repeated, saying, her son long since ought
to have struck this blow, but that he was too good. I mentioned to her
that she was standing, but for politeness she remained so. After some
further talk she begged me to state all the details of this celebrated
I again recalled to her mind that she was standing, and represented that
what she desired to learn would take a long time to relate; but her ardor
to know it was extreme. I began then my story, commencing with the very
morning. At the end of a quarter of an hour, Madame seated herself, but
with the greatest politeness. I was nearly an hour with her, continually
telling and sometimes replying to her questions. She was delighted at
the humiliation of the Parliament, and of the bastards, and that her son
had at last displayed some firmness.
At this point the Marechale de Rochefort entered, and summoned me back to
Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans. I found that princess extended upon the
sofa where I had left her, an inkstand upon her knees and a pen in her
hand. She had commenced a reply to M. le Duc d'Orleans, but had not been
able to finish it. Looking at me with an air of gentleness and of
friendship, she observed, "Tears escape me; I have begged you to descend
in order to render me a service; my hand is unsteady, I pray you finish
my writing for me;" and she handed to me the inkstand and her letter. I
took them, and she dictated to me the rest of the epistle, that I at once
added to what she had written.
I was infinitely amazed at the conciseness and appropriateness of the
expressions she readily found, in the midst of her violent emotion, her
sobs, and her tears. She finished by saying that she was going to
Montmartre to mourn the misfortunes of her brother, and pray God for his
prosperity. I shall regret all my life I did not transcribe this letter.
All its expressions were so worthy, so fitting, so measured, everything
being according to truth and duty; and the letter, in fact, being so
perfectly well written, that although I remember it roughly, I dare not
give it, for fear of spoiling it. What a pity that a mind capable of
such self-possession, at such a moment, should have become valueless from
its leaning towards illegitimacy.
After this I had another interview with Madame, and a long talk with my
sure and trusty friend Madame Sforze. Then I set out for Paris, went
straight to the Palais Royal, and found M. le Duc d'Orleans with Madame
la Duchesse de Berry. He was delighted when he heard what Madame had
said respecting him; but he was not particularly pleased when he found
that Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans (who after telling me she would go to
Montmartre, had changed her mind), was coming to the Palais Royal.
I learned afterwards that she came about half an hour after I left. At
first she was all humility and sorrow, hoping to soften the Regent by
this conduct. Then she passed to tears, sobs, cries, reproaches,
expecting to make him by these means undo what he had done, and reinstate
M. du Maine in the position he had lost. But all her efforts proving
vain, she adopted another course: her sorrow turned to rage,--her tears
to looks of anger. Still in vain. She could gain nothing; vex and annoy
M. le Duc d'Orleans as she might by her conduct. At last, finding there
was no remedy to be had, she was obliged to endure her sorrow as best she
As for me, I was erased entirely from her books. She looked upon me as
the chief cause of what had occurred, and would not see me. I remained
ever afterwards at variance with her. I had nothing to reproach myself
with, however, so that her enmity did not very deeply penetrate me.
It was scarcely to be expected, perhaps, that M. du Maine would remain
altogether quiet under the disgrace which had been heaped upon him by the
proceedings at the Bed of Justice. Soon indeed we found that he had been
secretly working out the most perfidious and horrible schemes for a long
time before that assembly; and that after his fall, he gave himself up
with redoubled energy to his devilish devices.
Towards the end of this memorable year, 1718, it was discovered that
Alberoni, by means of Cellamare, Spanish Ambassador at our Court, was
preparing a plot against the Regent. The scheme was nothing less than to
throw all the realm into revolt against the government of M. le Duc
d'Orleans; to put the King of Spain at the head of the affairs of France,
with a council and ministers named by him, and a lieutenant, who would in
fact have been regent; this self-same lieutenant to be no other than the
Duc du Maine!
This precious plot was, fortunately, discovered before it had come to
maturity. Had such not happened, the consequences might have been very
serious, although they could scarcely have been fatal. The conspirators
counted upon the Parliaments of Paris and of Brittany, upon all the old
Court accustomed to the yoke of the bastards, and to that of Madame de
Maintenon; and they flung about promises with an unsparing hand to all
who supported them. After all, it must be admitted, however, that the
measures they took and the men they secured, were strangely unequal to
the circumstances of the case, when the details became known; in fact,
there was a general murmur of surprise among the public, at the
contemptible nature of the whole affair.
But let me relate the circumstances accompanying the discovery of M. du
Maine's pitiable treachery.
Cellamare, as I have said, was Spanish Ambassador at our Court. He had
been one of the chief movers in the plot. He had excited, as much as lay
in his power, discontent against the Regent's government; he had done his
best to embroil France with Spain; he had worked heart and soul with M.
du Maine, to carry out the common end they had in view. So much
preparation had been made; so much of the treason train laid, that at
last it became necessary to send to Alberoni a full and clear account of
all that had been done, so as to paint exactly the position of affairs,
and determine the measures that remained to be taken. But how to send
such an account as this? To trust it to the ordinary channels of
communication would have been to run a great risk of exposure and
detection. To send it by private hand would have been suspicious, if the
hand were known, and dangerous if it were not: Cellamare had long since
provided for this difficulty.
He had caused a young ecclesiastic to be sent from Spain, who came to
Paris as though for his pleasure. There he was introduced to young
Monteleon, son of a former ambassador at our Court, who had been much
liked. The young ecclesiastic was called the Abbe Portocarrero, a name
regarded with favour in France. Monteleon came from the Hague, and was
going to Madrid. Portocarrero came from Madrid, and was going back
there. What more natural than that the two young men should travel in
company? What less natural than that the two young men, meeting each
other by pure accident in Paris, should be charged by the ambassador with
any packet of consequence, he having his own couriers, and the use, for
the return journey, of those sent to him from Spain? In fact, it may be
believed that these young people themselves were perfectly ignorant of
what they were charged with, and simply believed that, as they were going
to Spain, the ambassador merely seized the occasion to entrust them with
some packet of no special importance.
They set out, then, at the commencement of December, furnished with
passports from the King--(for Alberoni had openly caused almost a rupture
between the two Courts)--with a Spanish banker, who had been established
in England, where he had become bankrupt for a large amount, so that the
English government had obtained permission from the Regent to arrest him,
if they could, anywhere in France. It will sometimes be perceived that I
am ill-instructed in this affair; but I can only tell what I know: and as
for the rest, I give my conjectures. In fact, the Abbe Dubois kept
everybody so much in the dark, that even M. le Duc d'Orleans was not
informed of all.
Whether the arrival of the Abbe Portocarrero in Paris, and his short stay
there, seemed suspicious to the Abbe Dubois and his emissaries, or
whether he had corrupted some of the principal people of the Spanish
Ambassador and this Court, and learned that these young men were charged
with a packet of importance; whether there was no other mystery than the
bad company of the bankrupt banker, and that the anxiety of Dubois to
oblige his friends the English, induced him to arrest the three
travellers and seize their papers, lest the banker should have confided
his to the young men, I know not: but however it may have been, it is
certain that the Abbe Dubois arrested the three travellers at Poitiers,
and carried off their papers, a courier bringing these papers to him
Great things sometimes spring from chance. The courier from Poitiers
entered the house of the Abbe Dubois just as the Regent entered the
opera. Dubois glanced over the papers, and went and related the news of
this capture to M. le Duc Orleans, as he left his box. This prince, who
was accustomed to shut himself up with his roues at that hour, did so
with a carelessness to which everything yielded, under pretext that
Dubois had not had sufficient time to examine all the papers. The first
few hours of the morning he was not himself. His head, still confused by
the fumes of the wine and by the undigested supper of the previous night,
was not in a state to understand anything, and the secretaries of state
have often told me that was the time they could make him sign anything.
This was the moment taken by Dubois to acquaint the Regent with as much
or as little of the contents of the papers as he thought fit. The upshot
of their interview was, that the Abbe was allowed by the Duc d'Orleans to
have the control of this matter entirely in his own hands.
The day after the arrival of the courier from Poitiers, Cellamare,
informed of what had occurred, but who flattered himself that the
presence of the banker had caused the arrest of the young men, and the
seizure of their papers, hid his fears under a very tranquil bearing, and
went, at one o'clock in the day, to M. le Blanc, to ask for a packet of
letters he had entrusted to Portocarrero and Monteleon on their return to
Spain. Le Blanc (who had had his lesson prepared beforehand by the Abbe
Dubois) replied that the packet had been seen; that it contained
important things, and that, far from being restored to him, he himself
must go back to his hotel under escort, to meet there M. l'Abbe Dubois.
The ambassador, who felt that such a compliment would not be attempted
with out means having been prepared to put it in execution, made no
difficulty, and did not lose for a moment his address or his
During the three hours, at least, passed in his house, in the examination
of all his bureaux and his boxes, and his papers, Cellamare, like a man
who fears nothing, and who is sure of his game, treated M. le Blanc very
civilly; as for the Abbe Dubois, with whom he felt he had no measure to
keep (all the plot being discovered), he affected to treat him with the
utmost disdain. Thus Le Blanc, taking hold of a little casket, Cellamare
cried, "M. le Blanc, M. le Blanc, leave that alone; that is not for you;
that is for the Abbe Dubois" (who was then present). Then looking at
him, he added, "He has been a pander all his life, and there are nothing
but women's letters there."
The Abbe Dubois burst out laughing, not daring to grow angry.
When all was examined, the King's seal, and that of the ambassador, were
put upon all the bureaux and the caskets which contained papers. The
Abbe Dubois and Le Blanc went off together to give an account of their
proceedings to the Regent, leaving a company of musketeers to guard the
ambassador and his household.
I heard of the capture effected at Poitiers, at home, the morning after
it occurred, without knowing anything of those arrested. As I was at
table, a servant came to me from M. le Duc d'Orleans, summoning me to a
council of the regency, at four o'clock that day. As it was not the
usual day for the council, I asked what was the matter. The messenger
was surprised at my ignorance and informed me that the Spanish ambassador
was arrested. As soon as I had eaten a morsel, I quitted my company, and
hastened to the Palais Royal, where I learnt from M. le Duc d'Orleans all
that I have just related. Our conversation took up time, and, when it
was over, I went away to the Tuileries. I found there astonishment
painted upon several faces; little groups of two, three, and four people
together; and the majority struck by the importance of the arrest, and
little disposed to approve it.
M. le Duc d'Orleans arrived shortly after. He had, better than any man I
have ever known, the gift of speech, and without needing any preparation
he said exactly what he wanted to say, neither more nor less; his
expressions were just and precise, a natural grace accompanied them with
an air of proper dignity, always mixed with an air of politeness. He
opened the council with a discourse upon the people and the papers seized
at Poitiers, the latter proving that a very dangerous conspiracy against
the state was on the eve of bursting, and of which the Ambassador of
Spain was the principal promoter. His Royal Highness alleged the
pressing reasons which had induced him to secure the person of this
ambassador, to examine his papers, and to place them under guard. He
showed that the protection afforded by the law of nations did not extend
to conspiracies, that ambassadors rendered themselves unworthy of that
protection when they took part in them, still more when they excited
people against the state where they dwelt. He cited several examples of
ambassadors arrested for less. He explained the orders he had given so
as to inform all the foreign ministers in Paris of what had occurred, and
had ordered Dubois to render an account to the council of what he had
done at the ambassador's, and offered to read the letters from Cellamare
to Cardinal Alberoni, found among the papers brought from Poitiers.
The Abbe Dubois stammered out a short and ill-arranged recital of what he
had done at the ambassador's house, and dwelt upon the importance of the
discovery and upon that of the conspiracy as far as already known. The
two letters he read left me no doubt that Cellamare was at the head of
this affair, and that Alberoni had entered into it as far as he. We were
much scandalised with the expressions in these letters against M. le Duc
d'Orleans, who was in no way spared.
This prince spoke again, to say he did not suspect the King or Queen of
Spain to be mixed up in this affair, but that he attributed it all to the
passion of Alberoni, and that of his ambassador to please him, and that
he would ask for justice from their Catholic Majesties. He showed the
importance of neglecting no means in order to clear up an affair so
capital to the repose and tranquillity of the kingdom, and finished by
saying, that until he knew more he would name nobody who was mixed up in
the matter. All this speech was much applauded, and I believe there were
some among the company who felt greatly relieved when they heard the
Regent say he would name nobody nor would he allow suspicions to be
circulated until all was unravelled.
Nevertheless the next day, Saturday, the loth of December, more than one
arrest was made. Others took place a few days afterwards.
On Tuesday, the 13th of December, all the foreign ministers went to the
Palais Royal, according to custom; not one made any complaint of what had
happened. A copy of the two letters read at the council was given to
them. In the afternoon, Cellamare was placed in a coach with a captain
of cavalry and a captain of dragoons, chosen to conduct him: to Blois,
until Saint-Aignan, our ambassador in Spain, should arrive in France.
The position of our ambassador, Saint-Aignan, at Madrid, was, as may be
imagined, by no means agreeable. The two courts were just upon the point
of an open rupture, thanks to the hatred Alberoni had made it a principle
to keep up in Spain against M. le Duc d'Orleans, by crying down his
actions, his government, his personal conduct, his most innocent acts,
and by rendering suspicious even his favourable proceedings with regard
to Spain. Alberoni for a long time had ceased to keep on even decent
terms with Saint-Aignan, scandalising thus even the most unfavourably
disposed towards France. Saint-Aignan only maintained his position by
the sagacity of his conduct, and he was delighted when he received orders
to return to France. He asked for his parting audience, and meanwhile
bade adieu to all his friends and to all the Court. Alberoni, who every
moment expected decisive news from Cellamare respecting the conspiracy,
wished to remain master of our ambassador, so as, in case of accident,
to have a useful hostage in his hands as security for his own ambassador.
He put off therefore this parting audience under various pretexts. At
last, Saint-Aignan, pressed by his reiterated orders (orders all the more
positive because suspicion had already begun to foresee a disturbance
ever alarming), spoke firmly to the Cardinal, and declared that if this
audience were not at once accorded to him, he would do without it!
Therefore the Cardinal, in anger, replied with a menace, that he knew
well enough how to hinder, him, from acting thus.
Saint-Aignan wisely contained himself; but seeing to what sort of a man
he was exposed, and judging rightly why he was detained at Madrid, took
his measures so secretly and so well, that he set out the same night,
with his most necessary equipage, gained ground and arrived at the foot
of the Pyrenees without being overtaken and arrested; two occurrences
which he expected at every moment, knowing that Alberoni was a man who
would stick at nothing.
Saint-Aignan, already so far advanced, did not deem it advisable to
expose himself any longer, bothered as he would be among the mountains by
his carriages. He and the Duchess, his wife, followed by a waiting-woman
and three valets, with a very trusty guide, mounted upon mules and rode
straight for Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port without stopping a moment more on
the road than was necessary. He sent on his equipages to Pampeluna at a
gentle pace, and placed in his carriage an intelligent valet de chambre
and a waiting-woman, with orders to pass themselves off as the ambassador
and ambassadress of France, and in case they were arrested to cry out a
good deal. The arrest did not fail to happen. The people despatched by
Alberoni soon came up with the carriage. The pretended ambassador and
ambassadress played their parts very well, and they who had arrested them
did not doubt for a moment they had made a fine capture, sending news of
it to Madrid, and keeping the prisoners in Pampeluna, to which the party
This device saved M. and Madame de Saint-Aignan, and gave them means to
reach Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port; as soon as they arrived there they sent
for assistance and carriages to Bayonne, which they gained in safety, and
reposed after their fatigue. The Duc de Saint-Aignan sent word of all
this to M. le Duc d'Orleans by a courier, and, at this arrival in
Bayonne, despatched a message to the Governor of Pampeluna, begging him
to send on his equipages. Alberoni's people were very much ashamed of
having been duped, but Alberoni when he heard of it flew into a furious
rage, and cruelly punished the mistake. The equipages were sent on to
To return now to what took place at Paris.
On Sunday, the 25th of December, Christmas Day, M. le Duc d'Orleans sent
for me to come and see him at the Palais Royal, about four o'clock in the
afternoon. I went accordingly, and after despatching some business with
him, other people being present, I followed him into his little winter
cabinet at the end of the little gallery, M. le Duc being present.
After a moment of silence, the Regent told me to see if no one was
outside in the gallery, and if the door at the end was closed. I went
out, found the door shut, and no one near.
This being ascertained, M. le Duc d'Orleans said that we should not be
surprised to learn that M. and Madame du Maine had been mixed up all
along with this affair of the Spanish Ambassador Cellamare; that he had
written proofs of this, and that the project was exactly that which I
have already described. He added, that he had strictly forbidden the
Keeper of the Seals, the Abbe Dubois, and Le Blanc, who alone knew of
this project, to give the slightest sign of their knowledge, recommended
to me the same secrecy, and the same precaution; and finished by saying
that he wished, above all things, to consult M. le Duc and me upon the
course he ought to adopt.
M. le Duc at once went to the point and said M. and Madame du Maine must
at once be arrested and put where they could cause no apprehension. I
supported this opinion, and showed the perilous annoyances that might
arise if this step were not instantly taken; as much for the purpose of
striking terror into the conspirators, as for disconcerting their
schemes. I added that there was not a moment to lose, and that it was
better to incur uncertain danger than to wait for that which was certain.
Our advice was accepted by M. le Duc d'Orleans, after some little debate.
But now the question arose, where are the prisoners to be put? The
Bastille and Vincennes both seemed to me too near to Paris. Several
places were named without one appearing to suit. At lasts M. le Duc
d'Orleans mentioned Dourlens. I stopped him short at the name, and
recommended it warmly. I knew the governor, Charost, and his son to be
men of probity, faithful, virtuous, and much attached to the state. Upon
this it was agreed to send M. du Maine to Dourlens.
Then we had to fix upon a place for his wife, and this was more
difficult; there were her sex, her fiery temper, her courage; her
daring,--all to be considered; whereas, her husband, we knew, so
dangerous as a hidden enemy, was contemptible without his mask, and would
fall into the lowest state of dejection in prison, trembling all over
with fear of the scaffold, and attempting nothing; his wife, on the
contrary, being capable of attempting anything:
Various places discussed, M. le Duc d'Orleans smiled, and proposed the
chateau of Dijon! Now, the joke of this suggestion was, that Dijon
belonged to M. le Duc, and that he was nephew of Madame du Maine, whom
the Regent proposed to lock up there! M. le Duc smiled also, and said it
was a little too bad to make him the gaoler of his aunt! But all things
considered, it was found that a better choice than Dijon could not be
made, so M. le Duc gave way. I fancy he had held out more for form's
sake than for any other reason. These points settled, we separated, to
meet another time, in order to make the final arrangements for the
We met accordingly, the Monday and Tuesday following, and deliberated
with the same secrecy as before. On Wednesday we assembled again to put
the final touch to our work. Our conference was long, and the result of
it was, that M. and Madame du Maine were to be arrested on the morrow;
all the necessary arrangements were made, and, as we thought, with the
utmost secrecy. Nevertheless, the orders given to the regiment of the
guards, and to the musketeers somehow or other transpired during the
evening, and gave people reason to believe that something considerable
was in contemplation. On leaving the conference, I arranged with Le
Blanc that, when the blow was struck, he should inform me by simply
sending a servant to inquire after my health.
The morrow, about ten o'clock in the morning, having noiselessly and
without show placed the body-guard around Sceaux, La Billardiere,
lieutenant of the regiment, entered there, and arrested the Duc du Maine
as he was leaving his chapel after hearing mass, and very respectfully
begged him not to re-enter the house, but to mount immediately into a
coach which he had brought. M. du Maine, who had expected this arrest,
and who had had time to put his papers in order, mad not the slightest
resistance. He replied that he had anticipated this compliment for some
days, and at once moved into the coach. La Billardiere placed himself by
his side, and in front was an exempt of the bodyguards, and Favancourt,
brigadier in the first company of musketeers, destined to guard him in
As these two latter persons did not appear before the Duc du Maine until
the moment he entered the coach, be appeared surprised and moved to see
He would not have been at the exempt, but the sight of the other
depressed him. He asked La Billardiere what this meant. Billardiere
could not dissimulate that Favancourt had orders to accompany him, and to
remain with him in the place to which they were going. Favancourt
himself took this moment to pay his compliments as best he might to the
Duc du Maine, to which the Duke replied but little, and that in a civil
and apprehensive manner. These proceedings conducted them to the end of
the avenue of Sceaux, where the bodyguards appeared. The sight of them
made the Duc du Maine change colour.
Silence was but little interrupted in the coach. Now and then M. du
Maine would say that he was very innocent of the accusation which had
been formed against him; that he was much attached to the King, and not
less so to M. le Duc d'Orleans, who could not but recognise it; and that
it was very unfortunate his Royal Highness should put faith in his
enemies (he never named anybody). All this was said in a broken manner,
and amid many sighs; from time to time signs of the cross; low mumblings
as of prayers; and plunges at each church or each cross they passed. He
took his meals in the coach, ate very little, was alone at night, but
with good precautions taken. He did not know until the morrow that he
was going to Dourlens. He showed no emotion thereupon. All these
details I learnt from Favancourt, whom I knew very well, and who was in
the Musketeers when I served in that corps.
At the moment of the arrest of M. du Maine, Ancenis, captain of the body-
guard, arrested the Duchesse du Maine in her house in the Rue St.
Honore. A lieutenant, and an exempt of the foot body-guards, with other
troops, took possession of the house at the same time, and guarded the
doors. The compliment of the Duc d'Ancenis was sharply received. Madame
du Maine wished to take away some caskets. Ancenis objected. She
demanded, at the least, her jewels; altercations very strong on one side,
very modest on the other: but she was obliged to yield. She raged at the
violence done to a person of her rank, without saying anything too
disobliging to M. d'Ancenis, and without naming anybody. She delayed her
departure as long as she could, despite the instances of d'Ancenis, who
at last presented his hand to her, and politely, but firmly, said she
must go. She found at her door two six-horse coaches, the sight of which
much shocked her. She was obliged, however, to mount. Ancenis placed
himself by her side, the lieutenant and the exempt of the guard in front,
two chambermaids whom she had chosen were in the other coach, with her
apparel, which had been examined. The ramparts were followed, the
principal streets avoided; there was no stir, and at this she could not
restrain her surprise and vexation, or check a tear, declaiming by fits
and starts against the violence done her. She complained of the rough
coach, the indignity it cast upon her, and from time to time asked where
she was being led to. She was simply told that she would sleep at
Essonne, nothing more. Her three guardians maintained profound silence.
At night all possible precautions were taken. When she set out the next
day, the Duc d'Ancenis took leave of her, and left her to the lieutenant
and to the exempt of the body-guards, with troops to conduct her. She
asked where they were leading her to: he simply replied,
"To Fontainebleau." The disquietude of Madame du Maine augmented as she
left Paris farther behind, but when she found herself in Burgundy, and
knew at last she was to go to Dijon, she stormed at a fine rate.
It was worse when she was forced to enter the castle, and found herself
the prisoner of M. le Duc. Fury suffocated her. She raged against her
nephew, and the horrible place chosen for her. Nevertheless, after her
first transports, she returned to herself, and began to comprehend that
she was in no place and no condition to play the fury. Her extreme rage
she kept to herself, affected nothing but indifference for all, and
disdainful security. The King's lieutenant of the castle, absolutely
devoted to M. le Duc, kept her fast, and closely watched her and her
chambermaids. The Prince de Dombes and the Comte d'Eu (her sons) were at
the same time exiled to Eu, where a gentleman in ordinary always was near
them; Mademoiselle du Maine was sent to Maubuisson.
Several other people were successively arrested and placed either in the
Bastille or Vincennes. The commotion caused by the arrest and
imprisonment of M. and Madame du Maine was great; many faces, already
elongated by the Bed of justice, were still further pulled out by these
events. The Chief-President, D'Effiat, the Marechal de Villeroy, the
Marechal de Villars, the Marechal d'Huxelles, and other devoted friends
of M. du Maine, were completely terrified; they did not dare to say a
word; they kept out of the way; did not leave their houses except from
necessity; fear was painted upon their faces. All their pride was put
aside; they became polite, caressing, would have eaten out of your hand;
and by this sudden change and their visible embarrassment betrayed
As for the Comte de Toulouse he remained as upright and loyal as ever.
The very day of the double arrest he came to M. le Duc d'Orleans and said
that he regarded the King, the Regent, and the State as one and the same
thing; that he should never be wanting in his duty or in his fidelity
towards them; that he was very sorry at what had happened to his brother,
but that he was in no way answerable for him. The Regent stated this to
me the same day, and appeared, with reason, to be charmed with such
This arrest of M. and Madame du Maine had another effect. For some time
past, a large quantity of illicit salt had been sold throughout the
country. The people by whom this trade was conducted, 'faux sauniers',
as they were called, travelled over the provinces in bands well armed and
well organized. So powerful had they become that troops were necessary
in order to capture them. There were more than five thousand faux
saumers, who openly carried on their traffic in Champagne and Picardy.
They had become political instruments in the hands of others, being
secretly encouraged and commanded by those who wished to sow trouble in
the land. It could not be hidden that these 'faux sauniers' were
redoubtable by their valour and their arrangements; that the people were
favourable to them, buying as they did from them salt at a low price, and
irritated as they were against the gabelle and other imposts; that these
'faux sauniers' spread over all the realm, and often marching in large
bands, which beat all opposed to them, were dangerous people, who incited
the population by their examples to opposition against the government.
I had proposed on one occasion the abolition of the salt tax to the
Regent, as a remedy for these evils; but my suggestion shared the fate of
many others. It was favourably listened to, and nothing more. And
meanwhile the 'faux sauniers' had gone on increasing. I had no
difficulty in discovering by whom they were encouraged, and the event
showed I was right. Directly after the arrest of M. and Madame du Maine,
the 'faux sauniers' laid down their arms, asked, and obtained pardon.
This prompt submission showed dearly enough by whom they had been
employed, and for what reason. I had uselessly told M. le Duc d'Orleans
so long before, who admitted that I was right, but did nothing. It was
his usual plan.
Let me finish at once with all I shall have to say respecting M. and
Madame du Maine.
They remained in their prisons during the whole of the year 1719,
supplied with all the comforts and attentions befitting their state, and
much less rigorously watched than at first, thanks to the easy
disposition of M. le Duc d'Orleans, whose firmness yielded even more
rapidly than beauty to the effects of time. The consequence of his
indulgence towards the two conspirators was, that at about the
commencement of the following year, 1720, they began to play a very
ridiculous comedy, of which not a soul was the dupe; not even the public,
nor the principal actors, nor the Regent.
The Duc and Duchesse du Maine, thanks to the perfidy of the Abbe Dubois,
had had time to hide away all their papers, and to arrange together the
different parts they should play. Madame du Maine, supported by her sex
and birth, muffled herself up in her dignity, when replying to the
questions addressed to her, of which just as many, and no more, were read
to the replying counsel as pleased the Abbe Dubois; and strongly accusing
Cellamare and others; protected as much as possible her friends, her
husband above all, by charging herself with all; by declaring that what
she had done M. du Maine had no knowledge of; and that its object went no
farther than to obtain from the Regent such reforms in his administration
as were wanted.
The Duc du Maine, shorn of his rank and of his title of prince of the
blood, trembled for his life. His crimes against the state, against the
blood royal, against the person of the Regent, so long, so artfully, and
so cruelly offended, troubled him all the more because he felt they
deserved severe punishment. He soon, therefore, conceived the idea of
screening himself beneath his wife's petticoats. His replies, and all
his observations were to the same tune; perfect ignorance of everything.
Therefore when the Duchess had made her confessions, and they were
communicated to him, he cried out against his wife,--her madness, her
felony,--his misfortune in having a wife capable of conspiring, and
daring enough to implicate him in everything without having spoken to
him; making him thus a criminal without being so the least in the world;
and keeping him so ignorant of her doings, that it was out of his power
to stop them, to chide her, or inform M. le Duc d'Orleans if things had
been pushed so far that he ought to have done so!
From that time the Duc du Maine would no longer hear talk of a woman who,
without his knowledge, had cast him and his children into this abyss; and
when at their release from prison, they were permitted to write and send
messages to each other, he would receive nothing from her, or give any
signs of life. Madame du Maine, on her side, pretended to be afflicted
at this treatment; admitting, nevertheless, that she had acted wrongfully
towards her husband in implicating him without his knowledge in her
schemes. They were at this point when they were allowed to come near
Paris. M. du Maine went to live at Clagny, a chateau near Versailles,
built for Madame de Montespan. Madame du Maine went to Sceaux. They
came separately to see M. le Duc d'Orleans at Paris, without sleeping
there; both played their parts, and as the Abbe Dubois judged the time
had come to take credit to himself in their eyes for finishing their
disgrace, he easily persuaded M. le Duc d'Orleans to, appear convinced of
the innocence of M. du Maine.
During their stay in the two country-houses above named, where they saw
but little company, Madame du Maine made many attempts at reconciliation
with her husband, which he repelled. This farce lasted from the month of
January (when they arrived at Sceaux and at Clagny) to the end of July.
Then they thought the game had lasted long enough to be put an end to.
They had found themselves quit of all danger so cheaply, and counted so
much upon the Abbe Dubois, that they were already thinking of returning
to their former considerations; and to work at this usefully, they must
be in a position to see each other, and commence by establishing
themselves in Paris, where they would of necessity live together.
The sham rupture had been carried to this extent, that the two sons of
the Duc du Maine returned from Eu to Clagny a few days after him, did not
for a long time go and see Madame du Maine, and subsequently saw her but
rarely, and without sleeping under her roof.
At last a resolution being taken to put an end to the comedy, this is how
it was terminated by another.
Madame la Princesse made an appointment with the Duc du Maine, at
Vaugirard on the last of July, and in the house of Landais, treasurer of
the artillery. She arrived there a little after him with the Duchesse du
Maine, whom she left in her carriage. She said to M. du Maine she had
brought a lady with her who much desired to see him. The thing was not
difficult to understand; the piece had been well studied. The Duchesse
du Maine was sent for. The apparent reconcilement took place. The three
were a long time together. To play out the comedy, M. and Madame du
Maine still kept apart, but saw and approached each other by degrees,
until at last the former returned to Sceaux, and lived with his wife as
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARK:
He was often firm in promises
MEMOIRS OF LOUIS XIV AND HIS COURT AND OF THE REGENCY
BY THE DUKE OF SAINT-SIMON
Anecdote of Madame de Charlus.--The 'Phillippaques'.--La Grange.--
Pere Tellier.--The Jesuits.--Anecdote----Tellier's Banishment.--Death of
Madame de Maintenon.--Her Life at Saint-Cyr.
Mode of Life of the Duchesse de Berry.--Her Illness.--Her Degrading
Amours.--Her Danger Increases.--The Sacraments Refused.--The Cure Is
Supported by the Cardinal de Noailles.--Curious Scene.--The Duchess
Refuses to Give Way.--She Recovers, and Is Delivered.--Ambition of Rion.
--He Marries the Duchess.--She Determines to Go to Meudon.--Rion Sent to
the Army.--Quarrels of Father and Daughter.--Supper on the Terrace of
Meudon.--The Duchess Again Ill.--Moves to La Muette.--Great Danger.--
Receives the Sacrament.--Garus and Chirac.--Rival Doctors.--Increased
Illness.--Death of the Duchess.--Sentiments on the Occasion.--Funeral
Ceremonies.--Madame de Saint-Simon Fails Ill.--Her Recovery.--We Move to
Meudon.--Character of the Duchesse de Berry.
The Mississippi Scheme.--Law Offers Me Shares.--Compensation for Blaye.--
The Rue Quincampoix.--Excitement of the Public.--Increased Popularity of
the Scheme.--Conniving of Law.--Plot against His Life--Disagreement with
Argenson.--Their Quarrel.--Avarice of the Prince de Conti.--His
Audacity.--Anger of the Regent.--Comparison with the Period of Louis
XIV.--A Ballet Proposed.--The marechal de Villeroy.--The Young King Is to
Dance.--Young Law Proposed.--Excitement.--The Young King's Disgust.--
Extravagant Presents of the Duc d'Orleans.
System of Law in Danger.--Prodigality of the Duc d'Orleans.--Admissions
of Law.--Fall of His Notes.--Violent Measures Taken to Support Them.--
Their Failure.--Increased Extravagance of the Regent.--Reduction of the
Fervour.--Proposed Colonies.--Forced Emigration.--Decree on the Indian
Company.--Scheming of Argenson. Attitude of the Parliament.--Their
Remonstrance.--Dismissal of Law.--His Coolness--Extraordinary Decree of
Council of State.--Prohibition of jewellery.--New Schemes.
The New Edict.--The Commercial Company.--New Edict.--Rush on the Bank.--
People Stifled in the Crowd.--Excitement against Law.--Money of the
Bank.--Exile of the Parliament to Pontoise.--New Operation.--The Place
Vendome.--The Marechal de Villeroy.--Marseilles.--Flight of Law.--
Character of Him and His Wife.--Observations on His Schemes.--Decrees of
Council on the Finances.--Departure of Law--A Strange Dialogue.--M. le
Duc and the Regent.--Crimes Imputed to Law during His Absence.--Schemes
Proposed.--End, of the Council.
Character of Alberoni.--His Grand Projects.--Plots against Him.--The
Queen's Nurse.--The Scheme against the Cardinal.--His Fall.--Theft of a
Will.--Reception in Italy.--His Adventures There.
Meetings of the Council.--A Kitten.--The Archbishopric of Cambrai.--
Scandalous Conduct of Dubois.--The Consecration.--I Persuade the Regent
Not to Go.--He Promises Not.--Breaks His Word.--Madame de Parabere.--The
Ceremony.--Story of the Comte de Horn.
To go back, now, to the remaining events of the year 1719.
The Marquise de Charlus, sister of Mezieres, and mother of the Marquis de
Levi, who has since become a duke and a peer, died rich and old. She was
the exact picture of an "old clothes" woman and was thus subject to many
insults from those who did not know her, which she by no means relished.
To relieve a little the seriousness of these memoirs, I will here relate
an amusing adventure of which she was heroine.
She was very avaricious, and a great gambler. She would have passed the
night up to her knees in water in order to play. Heavy gambling at
lansquenet was carried on at Paris in the evening, at Madame la Princesse
de Conti's. Madame de Charlus supped there one Friday, between the
games, much company being present. She was no better clad than at other
times, and wore a head-dress, in vogue at that day, called commode, not
fastened, but put on or taken off like a wig or a night-cap. It was
fashionable, then, to wear these headdresses very high.
Madame de Charlus was near the Archbishop of Rheims, Le Tellier. She
took a boiled egg, that she cracked, and in reaching for some salt, set
her head dress on fire, at a candle near, without perceiving it. The
Archbishop, who saw her all in flames, seized the head-dress and flung it
upon the ground. Madame de Charlus, in her surprise, and indignant at
seeing her self thus uncovered, without knowing why, threw her egg in the
Archbishop's face, and made him a fine mess.
Nothing but laughter was heard; and all the company were in convulsions
of mirth at the grey, dirty, and hoary head of Madame de Charlus, and the
Archbishop's omelette; above all, at the fury and abuse of Madame de
Charlus, who thought she had been affronted, and who was a long time
before she would understand the cause, irritated at finding herself thus
treated before everybody. The head-dress was burnt, Madame la Princesse
de Conti gave her another, but before it was on her head everybody had
time to contemplate her charms, and she to grow in fury. Her, husband
died three months after her. M. de Levi expected to find treasures;
there had been such; but they had taken wing and flown away.
About this time appeared some verses under the title of Philippiques,
which were distributed with extraordinary promptitude and abundance. La
Grange, formerly page of Madame la Princesse de Conti, was the author,
and did not deny it. All that hell could vomit forth, true and false,
was expressed in the most beautiful verses, most poetic in style, and
with all the art and talent imaginable. M. le Duc d'Orleans knew it, and
wished to see the poem, but he could not succeed in getting it, for no
one dared to show it to him.
He spoke of it several times to me, and at last demanded with such
earnestness that I should bring it to him, that I could not refuse. I
brought it to him accordingly, but read it to him I declared I never
would. He took it, therefore, and read it in a low tone, standing in the
window of his little cabinet, where we were. He judged it in reading
much as it was, for he stopped from time to time to speak to me, and
without appearing much moved. But all on a sudden I saw him change
countenance, and turn towards me, tears in his eyes, and himself ready to
"Ah," said he, "this is too much, this horrible poem beats me
He was at the part where the scoundrel shows M. le Duc d'Orleans having
the design to poison the King, and quite ready to execute his crime.
It is the part where the author redoubles his energy, his poetry, his
invocations, his terrible and startling beauties, his invectives, his
hideous pictures, his touching portraits of the youth and innocence of
the King, and of the hopes he has, adjuring the nation to save so dear a
victim from the barbarity of a murderer; in a word, all that is most
delicate, most tender, stringent, and blackest, most pompous, and most
moving, is there.
I wished to profit by the dejected silence into which the reading of this
poem had thrown M. le Duc d'Orleans, to take from him the execrable
paper, but I could not succeed; he broke out into just complaints against
such horrible wickedness, and into tenderness for the King; then finished
his reading, that he interrupted more than once to speak to me. I never
saw a man so penetrated, so deeply touched, so overwhelmed with injustice
so enormous and sustained. As for me, I could not contain myself. To
see him, the most prejudiced, if of good faith, would have been convinced
he was innocent of the come imputed to him, by the horror he displayed at
it. I have said all, when I state that I recovered myself with
difficulty, and that I had all the pains in the world to compose him a
This La Grange, who was of no personal value, yet a good poet--only that,
and never anything else--had, by his poetry, insinuated himself into
Sceaux, where he had become one of the great favourites of Madame du
Maine. She and her husband knew his life, his habits, and his mercenary
villainy. They knew, too, haw to profit by it. He was arrested shortly
afterwards, and sent to the Isle de Sainte Marguerite, which he obtained
permission to leave before the end of the Regency. He had the audacity
to show himself everywhere in Paris, and while he was appearing at the
theatres and in all public places, people had the impudence to spread the
report that M. le Duc d'Orleans had had him killed! M. le Duc d'Orleans
and his enemies have been equally indefatigable; the latter in the
blackest villainies, the Prince in the most unfruitful clemency, to call
it by no more expressive name.
Before the Regent was called to the head of public affairs, I recommended
him to banish Pere Tellier when he had the power to do so. He did not
act upon my advice, or only partially; nevertheless, Tellier was
disgraced, and after wandering hither and thither, a very firebrand
wherever he went, he was confined by his superiors in La Fleche.
This tyrant of the Church, furious that he could no longer move, which
had been his sole consolation during the end of his reign and his
terrible domination, found himself at La Fleche, reduced to a position as
insupportable as it was new to him.
The Jesuits, spies of each other, and jealous and envious of those who
have the superior authority, are marvellously ungrateful towards those
who, having occupied high posts, or served the company with much labour
and success, become useless to it, by their age or their infirmities.
They regard them with disdain, and instead of bestowing upon them the
attention merited by their age, their services, and their merit, leave
them in the dreariest solitude, and begrudge them even their food!
I have with my own eyes seen three examples of this in these Jesuits, men
of much piety and honour, who hid filled positions of confidence and of
talent, and with whom I was very intimate. The first had been rector of
their establishment at Paris, was distinguished by excellent works of
piety, and was for several years assistant of the general at Rome, at the
death of whom he returned to Paris; because the rule is, that the new
general has new assistants. Upon his return to the Paris establishment
he was put into a garret, at the very top of the house, amid solitude,
contempt, and want.
The direction of the royal conscience had been the principal occupation
of the two others, one of whom had even been proposed as confessor to
Madame la Dauphine. One was long ill of a malady he died of. He was not
properly nourished, and I sent him his dinner every day, for more than
five months, because I had seen his pittance. I sent him even remedies,
for he could not refrain from admitting to me that he suffered from the
treatment he was subjected to.
The third, very old and very infirm, had not a better fate. At last,
being no longer able to hold out, he asked to be allowed to pay a visit
to my Versailles house (after having explained himself to me), under
pretext of fresh air. He remained there several months, and died at the
noviciate in Paris. Such is the fate of all the Jesuits, without
excepting the most famous, putting aside a few who having shone at the
Court and in the world by their sermons and their merit, and having made
many friends--as Peres Bordaloue, La Rue, Gaillard--have been guaranteed
from the general disgrace, because, often visited by the principal
persons of the Court and the town, policy did not permit them to be
treated like the rest, for fear of making so many considerable people
notice what they would not have suffered without disturbance and scandal.
It was, then, in this abandonment and this contempt that Pere Tellier
remained at La Fleche, although he had from the Regent four thousand
livres pension. He had ill-treated everybody. When he was confessor of
the King, not one of his brethren approached him without trembling,
although most of them were the "big-wigs" of the company. Even the
general of the company was forced to bend beneath the despotism he
exercised upon all. There was not a Jesuit who did not disapprove the
violence of his conduct, or who did not fear it would injure the society.
All hated him, as a minister is hated who is coarse, harsh, inaccessible,
egotistical, and who takes pleasure in showing his power and his disdain.
His exile, and the conduct that drew it upon him, were fresh motives for
hatred against him, unveiling, as they did, a number of secret intrigues
he had been concerned in, and which he had great interest in hiding. All
these things together did not render agreeable to Tellier his forced
retirement at La Fleche. He found there sharp superiors and equals,
instead of the general terror his presence had formerly caused among the
Jesuits. All now showed nothing but contempt for him, and took pleasure
in making him sensible of it. This King of the Church, in part of the
State, and in private of his society, became a common Jesuit like the
rest, and under superiors; it may be imagined what a hell this was to a
man so impetuous and so accustomed to a domination without reply, and
without bounds, and abused in every fashion. Thus he did not endure it
long. Nothing more was heard of him, and he died after having been only
six months at La Fleche.
There was another death, which I may as well mention here, as it occurred
about the same time.
On Saturday evening, the 15th of April, 1719, the celebrated and fatal
Madame de Maintenon died at Saint-Cyr. What a stir this event would have
made in Europe, had it happened a few years earlier. It was scarcely
mentioned in Paris!
I have already said so much respecting this woman, so unfortunately
famous, that I will say but little more now. Her life at Saint-Cyr was
divided between her spiritual duties, the letters she received, from her
religious correspondents, and the answers she gave to them. She took the
communion twice a-week, ordinarily between seven and eight o'clock in the
morning; not, as Dangeau says in his Memoires, at midnight or every day.
She was very rich, having four thousand livres pension per month from the
Regent, besides other emoluments. She had, too, her estate at Maintenon,
and some other property. With all this wealth, too, she had not a
farthing of expense at Saint-Cyr. Everything was provided for herself
and servants and their horses, even wood, coals, and candles. She had
nothing to buy, except dress for herself and for her people. She kept a
steward, a valet, people for the horses and the kitchen, a coach, seven
or eight horses, one or two others for the saddle, besides having the
young ladies of Saint-Cyr, chambermaids, and Mademoiselle d'Aumale to
wait upon her.
The fall of the Duc du Maine at the Bed of justice struck the first blow
at her. It is not too much to presume that she was well informed of the
measures and the designs of this darling, and that this hope had
sustained her; but when she saw him arrested she succumbed; continuous
fever seized her, and she died at eighty-three years of age, in the full
possession of all her intellect.
Regret for her loss, which was not even universal in Saint-Cyr, scarcely
passed the walls of that community. Aubigny, Archbishop of Rouen, her
pretended cousin, was the only man I ever heard of, who was fool enough
to die of grief on account of it. But he was so afflicted by this loss,
that he fell ill, and soon followed her.
Madame la Duchesse de Berry was living as usual, amid the loftiest pride,
and the vilest servitude; amid penitence the most austere at the
Carmelite convent of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, and suppers the most
profaned by vile company, filthiness, and impiety; amid the most
shameless debauchery, and the most horrible fear of the devil and death;
when lo! she fell ill at the Luxembourg.
I must disguise nothing more, especially as what I am relating belongs to
history; and never in these memoirs have I introduced details upon
gallantry except such as were necessary to the proper comprehension of
important or interesting matters to which they related. Madame la
Duchesse de Berry would constrain herself in nothing; she was indignant
that people would dare to speak of what she did not take the trouble to
hide from them; and nevertheless she was grieved to death that her
conduct was known.
She was in the family way by Rion, but hid--it as much as she could.
Madame de Mouchy was their go-between, although her conduct was as clear
as day. Rion and Mouchy, in fact, were in love with each other, and had
innumerable facilities for indulging their passion. They laughed at the
Princess, who was their dupe, and from whom they drew in council all they
could. In one word, they were the masters of her and of her household,
and so insolently, that M. le Duc and Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans, who
knew them and hated them, feared them also and temporised with them.
Madame de Saint-Simon, sheltered from all that, extremely loved and
respected by all the household, and respected even by this couple who
made themselves so much dreaded and courted, only saw Madame la Duchesse
de Berry during the moments of presentation at the Luxembourg, whence she
returned as soon as all was finished, entirely ignorant of what was
passing, though she might have been perfectly instructed.
The illness of Madame la Duchesse de Berry came on, and this illness, ill
prepared for by suppers washed down by wine and strong liquors, became
stormy and dangerous. Madame de Saint-Simon could not avoid becoming
assiduous in her attendance as soon as the peril appeared, but she never
would yield to the instances of M. le Duc and Madame la Duchesse
d'Orleans, who, with all the household; wished her to sleep in the
chamber allotted to her, and which she never put foot in, not even during
the day. She found Madame la Duchesse de Berry shut up in a little
chamber, which had private entrances--very useful just then, with no one
near her but La Mouchy and Rion, and a few trusty waiting-women. All in
attendance had free entrance to this room. M. le Duc and Madame la
Duchesse d'Orleans were not allowed to enter when they liked; of course
it was the same with the lady of honour, the other ladies, the chief
femme de chambre, and the doctors. All entered from time to time, but
ringing for an instant. A bad headache or want of sleep caused them
often to be asked to stay away, or, if they entered, to leave directly
afterwards. They did not press their presence upon the sick woman,
knowing only too well the nature of her malady; but contented themselves
by asking after her through Madame de Mouchy, who opened the door to
reply to them, keeping it scarcely ajar: This ridiculous proceeding
passed before the crowd of the Luxembourg, of the Palais Royal, and of
many other people who, for form's sake or for curiosity, came to inquire
the news, and became common town-talk.
The danger increasing, Languet, a celebrated cure of Saint-Sulpice, who
had always rendered himself assiduous, spoke of the sacraments to M. le
Duc d'Orleans. The difficulty was how to enter and propose them to
Madame la Duchesse de Berry. But another and greater difficulty soon
appeared. It was this: the cure, like a man knowing his duty, refused to
administer the sacrament, or to suffer it to be administered, while Rion
or Madame de Mouchy remained in the chamber, or even in the Luxembourg!
He declared this aloud before everybody, expressly in presence of M. le
Duc d'Orleans, who was less shocked than embarrassed. He took the cure
aside, and for a long time tried to make him give way. Seeing him
inflexible, he proposed reference to the Cardinal de Noailles. The cure
immediately agreed, and promised to defer to his orders, Noailles being
his bishop, provided he was allowed to explain his reasons. The affair
passed, and Madame la Duchesse de Berry made confession to a Cordelier,
her confessor. M. le Duc d'Orleans flattered himself, no doubt, he would
find the diocesan more flexible than the cure. If he hoped so he
The Cardinal de Noailles arrived; M. le Duc d'Orleans took him aside with
the cure, and their conversation lasted more than half an hour. As the
declaration of the cure had been public, the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris
judged it fitting that his should be so also. As all three approached
the door of the chamber, filled with company, the Cardinal de Noailles
said aloud to the cure, that he had very worthily done his duty, that he
expected nothing less from such a good, experienced, and enlightened man
as he was; that he praised him for what he had demanded before
administering the sacrament to Madame la Duchesse de Berry; that he
exhorted him not to give in, or to suffer himself to be deceived upon so
important a thing; and that if he wanted further authorisation he, as his
bishop, diocesan, and superior, prohibited him from administering the
sacraments, or allowing them to be administered, to Madame la Duchesse de
Berry while Rion and Madame de Mouchy were in the chamber, or even in the
It may be imagined what a stir such inevitable scandal as this made in a
room so full of company; what embarrassment it caused M. le Duc
d'Orleans, and what a noise it immediately made everywhere. Nobody, even
the chiefs of the constitution, the mass without, enemies of the Cardinal
de Noailles, the most fashionable bishops, the most distinguished women,
the libertines even--not one blamed the cure or his archbishop: some
because they knew the rules of the Church, and did not dare to impugn
them; others, the majority, from horror of the conduct of Madame la
Duchesse de Berry, and hatred drawn upon her by her pride.
Now came the question between the Regent, the Cardinal, and the cure,
which should announce this determination to Madame la Duchesse de Berry,
who in no way expected it, and who, having confessed, expected every
moment to see the Holy Sacrament enter, and to take it. After a short
colloquy urged on by the state of the patient, the Cardinal and the cure
withdrew a little, while M. le Duc d'Orleans slightly opened the door and
called Madame de Mouchy. Then, the door ajar, she within, he without, he
told her what was in debate. La Mouchy, much astonished, still more
annoyed, rode the high horse, talked of her merit, and of the affront
that bigots wished to cast upon her and Madame la Duchesse de Berry, who
would never suffer it or consent to it, and that she would die--in the
state she was--if they had the impudence and the cruelty to tell it to
The conclusion was that La Mouchy undertook to announce to Madame la
Duchesse de Berry the resolution that had been taken respecting the
sacraments--what she added of her own may be imagined. A negative
response did not fail to be quickly delivered to M. le Duc d'Orleans
through the half-opened door. Coming through such a messenger, it was
just the reply he might have expected. Immediately after, he repeated it
to the Cardinal, and to the cure; the cure, being supported by his
archbishop, contented himself with shrugging his shoulders. But the
Cardinal said to M. le Duc d'Orleans that Madame de Mouchy, one of the
two who ought to be sent away, was not a fit person to bring Madame la
Duchesse to reason; that it was his duty to carry this message to her,
and to exhort her to do her duty as a Christian shortly about to appear
before God; and the Archbishop pressed the Regent to go and say so to
her. It will be believed, without difficulty, that his eloquence gained
nothing. This Prince feared too much his daughter, and would have been
but a feeble apostle with her.
Reiterated refusals determined the Cardinal to go and speak to Madame la
Duchesse de Berry, accompanied by the cure, and as he wished to set about
it at once, M. le Duc d'Orleans, who did not dare to hinder him, but who
feared some sudden and dangerous revolution in his daughter at the sight
and at the discourses of the two pastors, conjured him to wait until
preparations could be made to receive him. He went, therefore, and held
another colloquy through the door with Madame de Mouchy, the success of
which was equal to the other. Madame la Duchesse de Berry flew into
fury, railed in unruly terms against these hypocritical humbugs, who took
advantage of her state and their calling to dishonour her by an unheard-
of scandal, not in the least sparing her father for his stupidity and
feebleness in allowing it. To have heard her, you would have thought
that the cure and the Cardinal ought to be kicked downstairs.
M. le Duc d'Orleans returned to the ecclesiastics, looking very small,
and not knowing what to do between his daughter and them. However, he
said to them that she was so weak and suffering that they must put off
their visit, persuading them as well as he could. The attention and
anxiety of the large company which filled the room were extreme:
everything was known afterwards, bit by bit, during the day.
The Cardinal de Noailles remained more than two hours with M. le Duc
d'Orleans, round whom people gathered at last. The Cardinal, seeing that
he could not enter the chamber without a sort of violence, much opposed
to persuasion, thought it indecent and useless to wait any longer. In
going away, he reiterated his orders to the cure, and begged him to watch
so as not to be deceived respecting the sacraments, lest attempts were
made to administer them clandestinely. He afterwards approached Madame
de Saint-Simon, took her aside, related to her what had passed, and
deplored with her a scandal that he had not been able to avoid. M. le
Duc d'Orleans hastened to announce to his daughter the departure of the
Cardinal, at which he himself was much relieved. But on leaving the
chamber he was astonished to find the cure glued against the door, and
still more so to hear he had taken up his post there, and meant to
remain, happen what might, because he did not wish to be deceived
respecting the sacraments. And, indeed, he remained there four days and
four nights, except during short intervals for food and repose that he
took at home, quite close to the Luxembourg, and during which his place
was filled by two priests whom he left there. At last, the danger being
passed, he raised the siege.
Madame la Duchesse de Berry, safely delivered of a daughter, had nothing
to do but to re-establish herself; but she remained firm against the cure
and the Cardinal de Noailles, neither of whom she ever pardoned. She
became more and more bewitched by the two lovers, who laughed at her, and
who were attached to her only for their fortune and their interest. She
remained shut up without seeing M. and Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans,
except for a few moments; no one, commencing with Madame de Saint-Simon,
showed any eagerness to see her, for everybody knew what kept the door
Madame la Duchesse de Berry, infinitely pained by the manner in which
everybody, even the people, looked upon her malady, thought to gain a
little lost ground by throwing open the gardens of the Luxembourg to the
public, after having long since closed them. People were glad: they
profited by the act; that was all. She made a vow that she would give
herself up to religion, and dress in white--that is, devote herself to
the service of the Virgin--for six months. This vow made people laugh a
Her illness had begun on the 26th of March, 1719, and Easter-day fell on
the 9th of April. She was then quite well, but would not see a soul. A
new cause of annoyance had arisen to trouble her. Rion, who saw himself
so successful as the lover of Madame la Duchesse de Berry, wished to
improve his position by becoming her husband. He was encouraged in this
desire by his uncle, M. de Lauzun, who had also advised him to treat her
with the rigour, harshness--nay, brutality, which I have already
described. The maxim of M. de Lauzun was, that the Bourbons must be ill-
used and treated with a high hand in order to maintain empire over them.
Madame de Mouchy was as strongly in favour of this marriage as Rion. She
knew she was sure of her lover, and that when he became the husband of
Madame la Duchesse de Berry, all the doors which shut intimacy would be
thrown down. A secret marriage accordingly took place.
This marriage gave rise to violent quarrels, and much weeping. In order
to deliver herself from these annoyances, and at the same time steer
clear of Easter, the Duchess resolved to go away to Meudon on Easter
Monday. It was in vain that the danger was represented to her, of the
air, of the movement of the coach, and of the change of place at the end
of a fortnight. Nothing could make her endure Paris any longer. She set
out, therefore, followed by Rion and the majority of her ladies and her
M. le Duc d'Orleans informed me then of the fixed design of Madame la
Duchesse de Berry to declare the secret marriage she had just made with
Rion. Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans was at Montmartre for a few days, and
we were walking in the little garden of her apartments. The marriage did
not surprise me much, knowing the strength of her passion, her fear of
the devil, and the scandal which had just happened. But I was
astonished, to the last degree, at this furious desire to declare the
marriage, in a person so superbly proud.
M. le Duc d'Orleans dilated upon his troubles, his anger, that of Madame
(who wished to proceed to the most violent extremities), and the great
resolve of Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans. Fortunately the majority of the
officers destined to serve against Spain, (war with that country had just
been declared) were leaving every day, and Rion had remained solely on
account of the illness of Madame la Duchesse de Berry, M. le Duc
d'Orleans thought the shortest plan would be to encourage hope by delay,
in forcing Rion to depart, flattering himself that the declaration would
be put off much more easily in his absence than in his presence. I
strongly approved this idea, and on the morrow, Rion received at Meudon a
curt and positive order to depart at once and join his regiment in the
army of the Duc de Berwick. Madame la Duchesse de Berry was all the more
outraged, because she knew the cause of this order, and consequently felt
her inability to hinder its execution. Rion on his side did not dare to
disobey it. He set out, therefore; and M. le Duc d'Orleans, who had not
yet been to Meudon, remained several days without going there.
Father and daughter feared each other, and this departure had not put
them on better terms. She had told him, and repeated it, that she was a
rich widow, mistress of her own actions, independent of him; had flown
into a fury, and terribly abused M. le Duc d'Orleans when he tried to
remonstrate with her. He had received much rough handling from her at
the Luxembourg when she was better; it was the same at Meudon during the
few visits he paid her there. She wished to declare her marriage; and
all the art, intellect, gentleness, anger, menace, prayers, and interest
of M. le Duc d'Orleans barely sufficed to make her consent to a brief
If Madame had been listened to, the affair would have been finished
before the journey to Meudon; for M. le Duc d'Orleans would have thrown
Rion out of the windows of the Luxembourg!
The premature journey to Meudon, and quarrels so warm, were not
calculated to re-establish a person just returned from the gates of
death. The extreme desire she had to hide her state from the public, and
to conceal the terms on which she was with her father ( for the rarity of
his visits to her began to be remarked), induced her to give a supper to
him on the terrace of Meudon about eight o'clock one evening. In vain
the danger was represented to her of the cool evening air so soon after
an illness such as she had just suffered from, and which had left her
health still tottering. It was specially on this account that she stuck
more obstinately to her supper on the terrace, thinking that it would
take away all suspicion she had been confined, and induce the belief that
she was on the same terms as ever with M. le Duc d'Orleans, though the
uncommon rarity of his visits to her had been remarked.
This supper in the open air did not succeed. The same night she was
taken ill. She was attacked by accidents, caused by the state in which
she still was, and by an irregular fever, that the opposition she met
with respecting the declaration of her marriage did not contribute to
diminish. She grew disgusted with Meudon, like people ill in body and
mind, who in their grief attribute everything to the air and the place.
She was annoyed at the few visits she received from M. le Duc and Madame
la Duchesse d'Orleans,-her pride, however, suffering more than her
In despite of all reason, nothing could hinder her from changing her
abode. She was transferred from Meudon to the Muette, wrapped up in
sheets, and in a large coach, on Sunday, the 14th of May, 1719. Arrived
so near Paris, she hoped M. le Duc and Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans would
come and see her more frequently, if only for form's sake.
This journey was painful by the sufferings it caused her, added to those
she already had, which no remedies could appease, except for short
intervals, and which became very violent. Her illness augmented; but
hopes and fears sustained her until the commencement of July. During all
this time her desire to declare her marriage weakened, and M. le Duc and
Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans, as well as Madame, who passed the summer at
Saint-Cloud, came more frequently to see her. The month of July became
more menacing because of the augmentation of pain and fever. These ills
increased so much, in fact, that, by the 14th of July, fears for her life
began to be felt.
The night of the 14th was so stormy, that M. le Duc d'Orleans was sent to
at the Palais Royal, and awakened. At the same time Madame de Pons wrote
to Madame de Saint-Simon, pressing her to come and establish herself at
La Muette. Madame de Saint-Simon, although she made a point of scarcely
ever sleeping under the same roof as Madame la Duchesse de Berry (for
reasons which need no further explanation than those already given),
complied at once with this request, and took up her quarters from this
time at La Muette.
Upon arriving, she found the danger great. Madame la Duchesse de Berry
had been bled in the arm and in the foot on the 10th, and her confessor
had been sent for. But the malady still went on increasing. As the pain
which had so long afflicted her could not induce her to follow a regimen
necessary for her condition, or to think of a future state, relations and
doctors were at last obliged to speak a language to her, not used towards
princesses, except at the most urgent extremity. This, at last, had its
effect. She submitted to the medical treatment prescribed for her, and
received the sacrament with open doors, speaking to those present upon
her life and upon her state, but like a queen in both instances. After
this sight was over, alone with her familiars, she applauded herself for
the firmness she had displayed, asked them if she had not spoken well,
and if she was not dying with greatness and courage.
A day or two after, she wished to receive Our Lord once more. She
received, accordingly, and as it appeared, with much piety, quite
differently from the first time.
At the extremity to which she had arrived, the doctors knew not what to
do; everybody was tried. An elixir was spoken of, discovered by a
certain Garus, which made much stir just then, and the secret of which
the King has since bought. Garus was sent for and soon arrived. He
found Madame la Duchesse de Berry so ill that he would answer for
nothing. His remedy was given, and succeeded beyond all hopes. Nothing
remained but to continue it. Above all things, Garus had begged that
nothing should, on any account, be given to Madame la Duchesse de Berry
except by him, and this had been most expressly commanded by M. le Duc
and Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans. Madame la Duchesse de Berry continued
to be more and more relieved and so restored, that Chirac, her regular
doctor, began to fear for his reputation, and taking the opportunity when
Garus was asleep upon a sofa, presented, with impetuosity, a purgative to
Madame la Duchesse de Berry, and made her swallow it without saying a
word to anybody, the two nurses standing by, the only persons present,
not daring to oppose him.
The audacity of this was as complete as its villainy, for M. le Duc and
Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans were close at hand in the salon. From this
moment to that in which the patient fell into a state worse than that
from which the elixir had drawn her, there was scarcely an interval.
Garus was awaked and called. Seeing this disorder, he cried that a
purgative had been given, and whatever it might be, it was poison in the
state to which the princess was now reduced. He wished to depart, he was
detained, he was taken to Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans. Then followed a
great uproar, cries from Garus, impudence and unequalled hardihood of
Chirac, in defending what he had done.
He could not deny it, for the two nurses had been questioned, and had
told all. Madame la Duchesse de Berry drew near her end during this
debate, and neither Chirac nor Garus could prevent it. She lasted,
however, the rest of the day, and did not die until about midnight.
Chirac, seeing the death-agony advance, traversed the chamber, made an
insulting reverence at the foot of the bed, which was open, and wished
her "a pleasant journey" (in equivalent terms), and thereupon went off to
Paris. The marvel is that nothing came of this, and that he remained the
doctor of M. le Duc d'Orleans as before!
While the end was yet approaching, Madame de Saint-Simon, seeing that
there was no one to bear M. le Duc d'Orleans company, sent for me to
stand by him in these sad moments. It appeared to me that my arrival
pleased him, and that I was not altogether useless to him in relieving
his grief. The rest of the day was passed in entering for a moment at a
time into the sick-chamber. In the evening I was nearly always alone
He wished that I should charge myself with all the funeral arrangements,
and in case Madame la Duchesse de Berry, when opened, should be found to
be enceinte, to see that the secret was kept. I proposed that the
funeral should be of the simplest, without show or ceremonial. I
explained my reasons, he thanked me, and left all the orders in my hands.
Getting rid of these gloomy matters as quickly as possible, I walked with
him from time to time in the reception rooms, and in the garden, keeping
him from the chamber of the dying as much as possible.
The night was well advanced, and Madame la Duchesse de Berry grew worse
and worse, and without consciousness since Chirac had poisoned her. M.
le Duc d'Orleans returned into the chamber, approached the head of the
bed--all the curtains being pulled back; I allowed him to remain there
but a few moments, and hurried him into the cabinet, which was deserted
just then. The windows were open, he leaned upon the iron balustrade,
and his tears increased so much that I feared lest they should suffocate
him. When this attack had a little subsided, he began to talk of the
misfortunes of this world, and of the short duration of its most
agreeable pleasures. I urged the occasion to say to him everything God
gave me the power to say, with all the gentleness, emotion, and
tenderness, I could command. Not only he received well what I said to
him, but he replied to it and prolonged the conversation.
After we had been there more than an hour, Madame de Saint-Simon gently
warned me that it was time to try and lead M. le Duc d'Orleans away,
especially as there was no exit from the cabinet, except through the
sick-chamber. His coach, that Madame de Saint-Simon had sent for, was
ready. It was without difficulty that I succeeded in gently moving away
M. le Duc d'Orleans, plunged as he was in the most bitter grief. I made
him traverse the chamber at once, and supplicated him to return to Paris.
At last he consented. He wished me to remain and give orders, and
begged, with much positiveness, Madame de Saint-Simon to be present when
seals were put upon the effects, after which I led him to his coach, and
he went away. I immediately repeated to Madame de Saint-Simon the orders
he had given me respecting the opening of the body, in order that she
might have them executed, and I hindered her from remaining in the
chamber, where there was nothing now but horror to be seen.
At last, about midnight, on the 21st of July, 1819, Madame la Duchesse de
Berry died, ten days after Chirac had consummated his crime. M. le Duc
d'Orleans was the only person touched. Some people grieved; but not one
of them who had enough to live upon appeared ever to regret her loss.
Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans felt her deliverance, but paid every
attention to decorum. Madame constrained herself but little. However
affected M. le Duc d'Orleans might be, consolation soon came. The yoke
to which he had submitted himself, and which he afterwards found heavy,
was severed. Above all, he was free from all annoyance on the score of
Rion's marriage, and its results, annoyance that would have been all the
greater, inasmuch as at the opening of the poor princess she was found to
be again enceinte; it was also found that her brain was deranged. These
circumstances were for the time carefully hidden. It may be imagined
what a state Rion fell into in learning at the army the death of Madame
la Duchesse de Berry. All his romantic notions of ambition being
overturned, he was more than once on the point of killing himself, and
for a long time was always kept in sight by his friends. He sold out at
the end of the campaign. As he had been gentle and polite to his
friends, they did not desert him. But he ever afterwards remained in
On account of this death the theatres were closed for eight days.
On Saturday, the 22nd of July, the heart of Madame la Duchesse de Berry
was taken to the Val-de-Grace.
On Sunday, the 23rd of July, her body was carried in an eight-horse coach
to Saint-Denis. There was very little display; only about forty torches
were carried by pages and guards.
The funeral service was performed at Saint-Denis in the early part of
September. There was no funeral oration.
Madame de Saint-Simon had been forced, as I have shown, to accept the
post of lady of honour to Madame la Duchesse de Berry, and had never been
able to quit it. She had been treated with all sorts of consideration,
had been allowed every liberty, but this did not console her for the post
she occupied; so that she felt all the pleasure, not to say the
satisfaction, of a deliverance she did not expect, from a princess
twenty-four years of age. But the extreme fatigue of the last days of
the illness, and of those which followed death, caused her a malignant
fever, which left her at death's portal during six weeks in a house at
Passy. She was two months recovering herself.
This accident, which almost turned my head, sequestered me from anything
for two months, during which I never left the house, scarcely left the
sick-chamber, attended to nothing, and saw only a few relatives or
When my wife began to be re-established, I asked M. le Duc d'Orleans for
a lodging at the new chateau at Meudon. He lent me the whole chateau;
completely furnished. We passed there the rest of this summer, and
several other summers afterwards. It is a charming place for rides or
drives. We counted upon seeing only our friends there, but the proximity
to Paris overwhelmed us with people, so that all the new chateau was
sometimes completely filled, without reckoning the people of passage.
I have little need to say anything more of Madame la Duchesse de Berry.
These pages have already painted her. She was a strange mixture of pride
and shamelessness. Drunkenness, filthy conversation, debauchery of the
vilest kind, and impiety, were her diversions, varied, as has been seen,
by occasional religious fits. Her indecency in everything, language,
acts, behaviour, passed all bounds; and yet her pride was so sublime that
she could not endure that people should dare to speak of her amid her
depravity, so universal and so public; she had the hardihood to declare
that nobody had the right to speak of persons of her rank, or blame their
most notorious actions!
Yet she had by nature a superior intellect, and, when she wished, could
be agreeable and amiable. Her face was commanding, though somewhat
spoiled at last by fat. She had much eloquence, speaking with an ease
and precision that charmed and overpowered. What might she not have
become, with the talents she possessed! But her pride, her violent
temper, her irreligion, and her falsehood, spoiled all, and made her what
we have seen her.
Law had established his Mississippi Company, and now began to do marvels
with it. A sort of language had been invented, to talk of this scheme,
language which, however, I shall no more undertake to explain than the
other finance operations. Everybody was mad upon Mississippi Stock.
Immense fortunes were made, almost in a breath; Law, besieged in his
house by eager applicants, saw people force open his door, enter by the
windows from the garden, drop into his cabinet down the chimney! People
talked only of millions.
Law, who, as I have said, came to my house every Tuesday, between eleven
and twelve, often pressed me to receive some shares for nothing, offering
to manage them without any trouble to me, so that I must gain to the
amount of several millions! So many people had already gained enormously
by their own exertions that it was not doubtful Law could gain for me
even more rapidly. But I never would lend myself to it. Law addressed
himself to Madame de Saint-Simon, whom he found as inflexible. He would
have much preferred to enrich me than many others; so as to attach me to
him by interest, intimate as he saw me with the Regent. He spoke to M.
le Duc d'Orleans, even, so as to vanquish me by his authority. The
Regent attacked me more than once, but I always eluded him.
At last, one day when we were together by appointment, at Saint-Cloud,
seated upon the balustrade of the orangery, which covers the descent into
the wood of the goulottes, the Regent spoke again to me of the
Mississippi, and pressed me to receive some shares from Law.
The more I resisted, the more he pressed me, and argued; at last he grew
angry, and said that I was too conceited, thus to refuse what the King
wished to give me (for everything was done in the King's name), while so
many of my equals in rank and dignity were running after these shares.
I replied that such conduct would be that of a fool, the conduct of
impertinence, rather than of conceit; that it was not mine, and that
since he pressed me so much I would tell him my reasons. They were,
that since the fable of Midas, I had nowhere read, still less seen,
that anybody had the faculty of converting into gold all he touched;
that I did not believe this virtue was given to Law, but thought that all
his knowledge was a learned trick, a new and skilful juggle, which put
the wealth of Peter into the pockets of Paul, and which enriched one at
the expense of the other; that sooner or later the game would be played
out, that an infinity of people would be ruined; finally, that I abhorred
to gain at the expense of others, and would in no way mix myself up with
the Mississippi scheme.
M. le Duc d'Orleans knew only too well how to reply to me, always
returning to his idea that I was refusing the bounties of the King.
I said that I was so removed from such madness, that I would make a
proposition to him, of which assuredly I should never have spoken, but
for his accusation.
I related to him the expense to which my father had been put in defending
Blaye against the party of M. le Prince in years gone by. How he had
paid the garrison, furnished provisions, cast cannon, stocked the place,
during a blockade of eighteen months, and kept up, at his own expense,
within the town, five hundred gentlemen, whom he had collected together.
How he had been almost ruined by the undertaking, and had never received
a sou, except in warrants to the amount of five hundred thousand livres,
of which not one had ever been paid, and that he had been compelled to
pay yearly the interest of the debts he had contracted, debts that still
hung like a mill-stone upon me. My proposition was that M. le Duc
d'Orleans should indemnify me for this loss, I giving up the warrants, to
be burnt before him.
This he at once agreed to. He spoke of it the very next day to Law: my
warrants were burnt by degrees in the cabinet of M. le Duc d'Orleans, and
it was by this means I paid for what I had done at La Ferme.
Meanwhile the Mississippi scheme went on more swimmingly than ever. It
was established in the Rue Quincampoix, from which horses and coaches
were banished. About the end of October of this year, 1817, its business
so much increased, that the office was thronged all day long, and it was
found necessary to place clocks and guards with drums at each end of the
street, to inform people, at seven o'clock in the morning, of the opening
of business, and of its close at night: fresh announcements were issued,
too, prohibiting people from going there on Sundays and fete days.
Never had excitement or madness been heard of which approached this.