Part 5 out of 8
was shown by me to the Princess on the occasion I have mentioned. It was
natural enough that she should have been shocked at the detection of
having suborned the clergy and others with heavy bribes to avert the
deserved fate of the Cardinal. I kept this part of the packet secret
till the King's two aunts, who had also been warm advocates in favour of
the prelate, left Paris for Rome. Then, as Pius VI. had interested
himself as head of the Church for the honour of one of its members, I
gave them these very papers to deliver to His Holiness for his private
perusal. I was desirous of enabling this truly charitable and Christian
head of our sacred religion to judge how far his interference was
justified by facts. I am thoroughly convinced that, had he been sooner
furnished with these evidences, instead of blaming the royal proceeding,
he would have urged it on, nay, would himself have been the first to
advise that the foul conspiracy should be dragged into open day.
"The Comte de Vergennes told me that the King displayed the greatest
impartiality throughout the whole investigation for the exculpation of
the Queen, and made good his title on this, as he did on every occasion
where his own unbiassed feelings and opinions were called into action, to
great esteem for much higher qualities than the world has usually given
him credit for.
"I have been accused of having opened the prison doors of the culprit
Lamotte for her escape; but the charge is false. I interested myself, as
was my duty, to shield the Queen from public reproach by having Lamotte
sent to a place of penitence; but I never interfered, except to lessen
her punishment, after the judicial proceedings. The diamonds, in the
hands of her vile associates at Paris, procured her ample means to
escape. I should have been the Queen's greatest enemy had I been the
cause of giving liberty to one who acted, and might naturally have been
expected to act, as this depraved woman did.
"Through the private correspondence which was carried on between this
country and England, after I had left it, I was informed that M. de
Calonne, whom the Queen never liked, and who was called to the
administration against her will--which he knew, and consequently became
one of her secret enemies in the affair of the necklace--was discovered
to have been actively employed against Her Majesty in the work published
in London by Lamotte.
"Mr. Sheridan was the gentleman who first gave me this information.
"I immediately sent a trusty person by the Queen's orders to London, to
buy up the whole work. It was too late. It had been already so widely
circulated that its consequences could no longer be prevented. I was
lucky enough, however, for a considerable sum, to get a copy from a
person intimate with the author, the margin of which, in the handwriting
of M. de Calonne, actually contained numerous additional circumstances
which were to have been published in a second edition! This publication
my agent, aided by some English gentlemen, arrived in time to suppress.
"The copy I allude to was brought to Paris and shown to the Queen. She
instantly flew with it in her hands to the King's cabinet.
"'Now, Sire,' exclaimed she, 'I hope you will be convinced that my
enemies are those whom I have long considered as the most pernicious of
Your Majesty's Councillors--your own Cabinet Ministers--your M. de
Calonne!--respecting whom I have often given you my opinion, which,
unfortunately, has always been attributed to mere female caprice, or as
having been biassed by the intrigues of Court favourites! This, I hope,
Your Majesty will now be able to contradict!'
"The King all this time was looking over the different pages containing
M. de Calonne's additions on their margins. On recognising the
hand-writing, His Majesty was so affected by this discovered treachery of
his Minister and the agitation of his calumniated Queen that he could
"'Where,' said he, I did you procure this?'
"'Through the means, Sire, of some of the worthy members of that nation
your treacherous Ministers made our enemy--from England! where your
unfortunate Queen, your injured wife, is compassionated!'
"'Who got it for you?'
"'My dearest, my real, and my only sincere friend, the Princesse de
"The King requested I should be sent for. I came. As may be imagined, I
was received with the warmest sentiments of affection by both Their
Majesties. I then laid before the King the letter of Mr. Sheridan, which
was, in substance, as follows:
"'A work of mine, which I did not choose should be printed, was published
in Dublin and transmitted to be sold in London. As soon as I was
informed of it, and had procured a spurious copy, I went to the
bookseller to put a stop to its circulation. I there met with a copy of
the work of Madame de Lamotte, which has been corrected by some one at
Paris and sent back to the bookseller for a second edition. Though not
in time to suppress the first edition, owing to its rapid circulation, I
have had interest enough, through the means of the bookseller of whom I
speak, to remit you the copy which has been sent as the basis of a new
one. The corrections, I am told, are by one of the King's Ministers. If
true, I should imagine the writer will be easily traced.
"'I am happy that it has been in my power to make this discovery, and I
hope it will be the means of putting a stop to this most scandalous
publication. I feel myself honoured in having contributed thus far to
the wishes of Her Majesty, which I hope I have fulfilled to the entire
satisfaction of Your Highness.
"'Should anything further transpire on this subject, I will give you the
"'I remain, madame, with profound respect, Your Highness' most devoted,
"'very humble servant,
"'RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN.'
[Madame Campan mentions in her work that the Queen had informed her of
the treachery of the Minister, but did not enter into particulars, nor
explain the mode or source of its detection. Notwithstanding the parties
had bound themselves for the sums they received not to reprint the work,
a second edition appeared a short time afterwards in London. This, which
was again bought up by the French Ambassador, was the same which was to
have been burned by the King's command at the china manufactory at
"M. de Calonne immediately received the King's mandate to resign the
portfolio. The Minister desired that he might be allowed to give his
resignation to the King himself. His request was granted. The Queen was
present at the interview. The work in question was produced. On
beholding it, the Minister nearly fainted. The King got up and left the
room. The Queen, who remained, told M. de Calonne that His Majesty had
no further occasion for his services. He fell on his knees. He was not
allowed to speak, but was desired to leave Paris.
"The dismissal and disgrace of M. de Calonne were scarcely known before
all Paris vociferated that they were owing to the intrigues of the
favourite De Polignac, in consequence of his having refused to administer
to her own superfluous extravagance and the Queen's repeated demands on
the Treasury to satisfy the numerous dependants of the Duchess.
"This, however, was soon officially disproved by the exhibition of a
written proposition of Calonne's to the Queen, to supply an additional
hundred thousand francs that year to her annual revenue, which Her
Majesty refused. As for the Duchesse de Polignac, so far from having
caused the disgrace, she was not even aware of the circumstance from
which it arose; nor did the Minister himself ever know how, or by what
agency, his falsehood was so thoroughly unmasked."
[The work which is here spoken of, the Queen kept, as a proof of the
treachery of Calonne towards her and his Sovereign, till the storming of
the Tuileries on the 10th of August, 1792, when, with the rest of the
papers and property plundered on that memorable occasion, it fell into
the hands of the ferocious mob.
M. de Calonne soon after left France for Italy. There he lived for some
time in the palace of a particular friend of mine and the Marquis, my
husband, the Countess Francese Tressino, at Vicenza.
In consequence of our going every season to take the mineral waters and
use the baths at Valdagno, we had often occasion to be in company with M.
de Calonne, both at Vicenza and Valdagno, where I must do him the justice
to say he conducted himself with the greatest circumspection in speaking
of the Revolution.
Though he evidently avoided the topic which terminates this chapter, yet
one day, being closely pressed upon the subject, he said forgeries were
daily committed on Ministers, and were most particularly so in France at
the period in question; that he had borne the blame of various
imprudencies neither authorized nor executed by him; that much had been
done and supposed to have been done with his sanction, of which he had
not the slightest knowledge. This he observed generally, without
specifying any express instance.
He was then asked whether he did not consider himself responsible for the
mischief he occasioned by declaring the nation in a state of bankruptcy.
He said, "No, not in the least. There was no other way of preventing
enormous sums from being daily lavished, as they then were, on herds of
worthless beings; that the Queen had sought to cultivate a state of
private domestic society, but that, in the attempt, she only warmed in
her bosom domestic vipers, who fed on the vital spirit of her
generosity." He mentioned no names.
I then took the liberty of asking him his opinion of the Princesse de
"Oh, madame! had the rest of Her Majesty's numerous attendants possessed
the tenth part of that unfortunate Victim's virtues, Her Majesty would
never have been led into the errors which all France must deplore!
"I shall never forget her," continued he, "the day I went to take leave
of her. She was sitting on a sofa when I entered. On seeing me, she
rose immediately. Before I could utter a syllable, 'Monsieur,' said the
Princess, 'you are accused of being the Queen's enemy. Acquit yourself
of the foul deed imputed to you, and I shall be happy to serve you as far
as lies in my power. Till then, I must decline holding any communication
with an individual thus situated. I am her friend, and cannot receive any
one known to be otherwise.'
"There was something," added he, "so sublime, so dignified, and
altogether so firm, though mild in her manner, that she appeared not to
belong to a race of earthly beings!"
Seeing the tears fall from his eyes, while he was thus eulogising her
whose memory I shall ever venerate, I almost forgave him the mischief of
his imprudence, which led to her untimely end. I therefore carefully
avoided wounding his few gray hairs and latter days, and left him still
untold that it was by her, of whom he thought so highly, that his
uncontradicted treachery had been discovered.
"Of the many instances in which the Queen's exertions to serve those whom
she conceived likely to benefit and relieve the nation, turned to the
injury, not only of herself, but those whom she patronised and the cause
she would strengthen, one of the most unpopular was that of the promotion
of Brienne, Archbishop of Sens, to the Ministry. Her interest in his
favour was entirely created by the Abbe Vermond, himself too superficial
to pronounce upon any qualities, and especially such as were requisite
for so high a station. By many, the partiality which prompted Vermond to
espouse the interests of the Archbishop was ascribed to the amiable
sentiment of gratitude for the recommendation of that dignitary, by which
Vermond himself first obtained his situation at Court; but there were
others, who have been deemed deeper in the secret, who impute it to the
less honourable source of self-interest, to the mere spirit of
ostentation, to the hope of its enabling him to bring about the
destruction of the De Polignacs. Be this as it may, the Abbe well knew
that a Minister indebted for his elevation solely to the Queen would be
supported by her to the last.
"This, unluckily, proved the case. Marie Antoinette persisted in
upholding every act of Brienne, till his ignorance and unpardonable
blunders drew down the general indignation of the people against Her
Majesty and her protege, with whom she was identified. The King had
assented to the appointment with no other view than that of not being
utterly isolated and to show a respect for his consort's choice. But the
incapable Minister was presently compelled to retire not only from
office, but from Paris. Never was a Minister more detested while in
power, or a people more enthusiastically satisfied at his going out. His
effigy was burnt in every town of France, and the general illuminations
and bonfires in the capital were accompanied by hooting and hissing the
deposed statesman to the barriers.
"The Queen, prompted by the Abbe Vermond, even after Brienne's
dismission, gave him tokens of her royal munificence. Her Majesty feared
that her acting otherwise to a Minister, who had been honoured by her
confidence, would operate as a check to prevent all men of celebrity from
exposing their fortunes to so ungracious a return for lending their best
services to the State, which now stood in need of the most skilful
pilots. Such were the motives assigned by Her Majesty herself to me,
when I took the liberty, of expostulating with her respecting the dangers
which threatened herself and family, from this continued devotedness to a
Minister against whom the nation had pronounced so strongly. I could not
but applaud the delicacy of the feeling upon which her conduct had been
grounded; nor could I blame her, in my heart, for the uprightness of her
principle, in showing that what she had once undertaken should not be
abandoned through female caprice. I told Her Majesty that the system
upon which she acted was praiseworthy; and that its application in the
present instance would have been so had the Archbishop possessed as much
talent as he lacked; but, that now it was quite requisite for her to stop
the public clamour by renouncing her protection of a man who had so
seriously endangered the public tranquillity and her own reputation.
"As a proof how far my caution was well founded, there was an immense
riotous mob raised about this time against the Queen, in consequence of
her having, appointed the dismissed Minister's niece, Madame de Canisy,
to a place at Court, and having given her picture, set in diamonds, to
the Archbishop himself.
"The Queen, in many cases, was by far too communicative to some of her
household, who immediately divulged all they gathered from her unreserve.
How could these circumstances have transpired to the people but from
those nearest the person of Her Majesty, who, knowing the public feeling
better than their royal mistress could be supposed to know it, did their
own feeling little credit by the mischievous exposure? The people were
exasperated beyond all conception. The Abbe Vermond placed before Her
Majesty the consequences of her communicativeness, and from this time
forward she never repeated the error. After the lesson she had received,
none of her female attendants, not even the Duchesse de Polignac, to whom
she would have confided her very existence, could, had they been ever so
much disposed, have drawn anything upon public matters from her. With
me, as her superintendent and entitled by my situation to interrogate and
give her counsel, she was not, of course, under the same restriction. To
his other representations of the consequences of the Queen's indiscreet
openness, the Abbe Vermond added that, being obliged to write all the
letters, private and public, he often found himself greatly embarrassed
by affairs having gone forth to the world beforehand. One misfortune of
putting this seal upon the lips of Her Majesty was that it placed her
more thoroughly in the Abbe's power. She was, of course, obliged to rely
implicitly upon him concerning many points, which, had they undergone the
discussion necessarily resulting from free conversation, would have been
shown to her under very different aspects. A man with a better heart,
less Jesuitical, and not so much interested as Vermond was to keep his
place, would have been a safer monitor.
"Though the Archbishop of Sens was so much hated and despised, much may
be said in apology for his disasters. His unpopularity, and the Queen's
support of him against the people, was certainly a vital blow to the
monarchy. There is no doubt of his having been a poor substitute for the
great men who had so gloriously beaten the political paths of
administration, particularly the Comte de Vergennes and Necker. But at
that time, when France was threatened by its great convulsion, where is
the genius which might not have committed itself? And here is a man
coming to rule amidst revolutionary feelings, with no knowledge whatever
of revolutionary principles--a pilot steering into one harbour by the
chart of another. I am by no means a vindicator of the Archbishop's
obstinacy in offering himself a candidate for a situation entirely
foreign to the occupations, habits, and studies of his whole life; but
his intentions may have been good enough, and we must not charge the
physician with murder who has only mistaken the disease, and, though
wrong in his judgment, has been zealous and conscientious; nor must we
blame the comedians for the faults of the comedy. The errors were not so
much in the men who did not succeed as in the manners of the times.
"The part which the Queen was now openly compelled to bear, in the
management of public affairs, increased the public feeling against her
from dislike to hatred. Her Majesty was unhappy, not only from the
necessity which called her out of the sphere to which she thought her sex
ought to be confined, but from the divisions which existed in the Royal
Family upon points in which their common safety required a common scheme
of action. Her favourite brother-in-law, D'Artois, had espoused the side
of D'ORLEANS, and the popular party seemed to prevail against her, even
with the King.
"The various parliamentary assemblies, which had swept on their course,
under various denominations, in rapid and stormy succession, were now
followed by one which, like Aaron's rod, was to swallow up the rest. Its
approach was regarded by the Queen with ominous reluctance. At length,
however, the moment for the meeting of the States General at Versailles
arrived. Necker was once more in favour, and a sort of forlorn hope of
better times dawned upon the perplexed monarch, in his anticipations from
"The night before the procession of the instalment of the States General
was to take place, it being my duty to attend Her Majesty, I received an
anonymous letter, cautioning me not to be seen that day by her side. I
immediately went to the King's apartments and showed him the letter. His
Majesty humanely enjoined me to abide by its counsels. I told him I
hoped he would for once permit me to exercise my own discretion; for if
my royal Sovereign were in danger, it was then that her attendants should
be most eager to rally round her, in order to watch over her safety and
encourage her fortitude.
"While we were thus occupied, the Queen and my sister-in-law, the
Duchesse d'Orleans, entered the King's apartment, to settle some part of
the etiquette respecting the procession.
"'I wish,' exclaimed the Duchess, 'that this procession were over; or
that it were never to take place; or that none of us had to be there; or
else, being obliged, that we had all passed, and were comfortably at home
"'Its taking place,' answered the Queen, 'never had my sanction,
especially at Versailles. M. Necker appears to be in its favour, and
answers for its success. I wish he may not be deceived; but I much fear
that he is guided more by the mistaken hope of maintaining his own
popularity by this impolitic meeting, than by any conscientious
confidence in its advantage to the King's authority.'
"The King, having in his hand the letter which I had just brought him,
presented it to the Queen.
"'This, my dear Duchess,' cried the Queen, I comes from the Palais Royal
manufactory, [Palais d' Orleans. D.W.] to poison the very first
sentiments of delight at the union expected between the King and his
subjects, by innuendoes of the danger which must result from my being
present at it. Look at the insidiousness of the thing! Under a pretext
of kindness, cautions against the effect of their attachment are given to
my most sincere and affectionate attendants, whose fidelity none dare
attack openly. I am, however, rejoiced that Lamballe has been
"'Against what?' replied I.
"'Against appearing in the procession,' answered the Queen.
"'It is only,' I exclaimed, 'by putting me in the grave they can ever
withdraw me from Your Majesty. While I have life and Your Majesty's
sanction, force only will prevent me from doing my duty. Fifty thousand
daggers, Madame, were they all raised against me, would have no power to
shake the firmness of my character or the earnestness of my attachment. I
pity the wretches who have so little penetration. Victim or no victim,
nothing shall ever induce me to quit Your Majesty.'
"The Queen and Duchess, both in tears, embraced me. After the Duchess
had taken her leave, the King and Queen hinted their suspicions that she
had been apprised of the letter, and had made this visit expressly to
observe what effect it had produced, well knowing at the time that some
attempt was meditated by the hired mob and purchased deputies already
brought over to the D'ORLEANS faction. Not that the slightest suspicion
of collusion could ever be attached to the good Duchesse d'Orleans
against the Queen. The intentions of the Duchess were known to be as
virtuous and pure as those of her husband's party were criminal and
mischievous. But, no doubt, she had intimations of the result intended;
and, unable to avert the storm or prevent its cause, had been instigated
by her strong attachment to me, as well as the paternal affection her
father, the Duc de Penthievre, bore me, to attempt to lessen the
exasperation of the Palais Royal party and the Duke, her husband, against
me, by dissuading me from running any risk upon the occasion.
"The next day, May 5, 1789, at the very moment when all the resources of
nature and art seemed exhausted to render the Queen a paragon of
loveliness beyond anything I had ever before witnessed, even in her; when
every impartial eye was eager to behold and feast on that form whose
beauty warmed every heart in her favour; at that moment a horde of
miscreants, just as she came within sight of the Assembly, thundered in
her ears, 'Orleans forever!' three or four times, while she and the King
were left to pass unheeded. Even the warning of the letter, from which
she had reason to expect some commotions, suggested to her imagination
nothing like this, and she was dreadfully shaken. I sprang forward to
support her. The King's party, prepared for the attack, shouted 'Vive le
roi! Vive la reine!' As I turned, I saw some of the members lividly
pale, as if fearing their machinations had been discovered; but, as they
passed, they said in the hearing of Her Majesty, 'Remember, you are the
daughter of Maria Theresa.'--'True,' answered the Queen. The Duc de
Biron, Orleans, La Fayette, Mirabeau, and the Mayor of Paris, seeing Her
Majesty's emotion, came up, and were going to stop the procession. All,
in apparent agitation, cried out 'Halt!' The Queen, sternly looking at
them, made a sign with her head to proceed, recovered herself, and moved
forward in the train, with all the dignity and self-possession for which
she was so eminently distinguished.
"But this self-command in public proved nearly fatal to Her Majesty on
her return to her apartment. There her real feelings broke forth, and
their violence was so great as to cause the bracelets on her wrists and
the pearls in her necklace to burst from the threads and settings, before
her women and the ladies in attendance could have time to take them off.
She remained many hours in a most alarming state of strong convulsions.
Her clothes were obliged to be cut from her body, to give her ease; but
as soon as she was undressed, and tears came to her relief, she flew
alternately to the Princesse Elizabeth and to myself; but we were both
too much overwhelmed to give her the consolation of which she stood so
much in need.
"Barnave that very evening came to my private apartment, and tendered his
services to the Queen. He told me he wished Her Majesty to be convinced
that he was a Frenchman; that he only desired his country might be
governed by salutary laws, and not by the caprice of weak sovereigns, or
a vitiated, corrupt Ministry; that the clergy and nobility ought to
contribute to the wants of the State equally with every other class of
the King's subjects; that when this was accomplished, and abuses were
removed, by such a national representation as would enable the Minister,
Necker, to accomplish his plans for the liquidation of the national debt,
I might assure Her Majesty that both the King and herself would find
themselves happier in a constitutional government than they had ever yet
been; for such a government would set them free from all dependence on
the caprice of Ministers, and lessen a responsibility of which they now
experienced the misery; that if the King sincerely entered into the
spirit of regenerating the French nation, he would find among the present
representatives many members of probity, loyal and honourable in their
intentions, who would never become the destroyers of a limited legitimate
monarchy, or the corrupt regicides of a rump Parliament, such as brought
the wayward Charles the First, of England, to the fatal block.
"I attempted to relate the conversation to the Queen. She listened with
the greatest attention till I came to the part concerning the
constitutional King, when Her Majesty lost her patience, and prevented me
[This and other conversations, which will be found in subsequent pages,
will prove that Barnave's sentiments in favour of the Royal Family long
preceded the affair at Varennes, the beginning of which Madame Campan
assigns to it. Indeed it must by this time be evident to the reader that
Madame Campan, though very correct in relating all she knew, with respect
to the history of Marie Antoinette, was not in possession of matters
foreign to her occupation about the person of the Queen, and, in
particular, that she could communicate little concerning those important
intrigues carried on respecting the different deputies of the first
Assembly, till in the latter days of the Revolution, when it became
necessary, from the pressure of events, that she should be made a sort of
confidante, in order to prevent her from compromising the persons of the
Queen and the Princesse de Lamballe: a trust, of her claim to which her
undoubted fidelity was an ample pledge. Still, however, she was often
absent from Court at moments of great importance, and was obliged to take
her information, upon much which she has recorded, from hearsay, which
has led her, as I have before stated, into frequent mistakes.]
"The expense of the insulting scene, which had so overcome Her Majesty,
was five hundred thousand francs! This sum was paid by the agents of the
Palais Royal, and its execution entrusted principally to Mirabeau,
Bailly, the Mayor of Paris, and another individual, who was afterwards
brought over to the Court party.
"The history of the Assembly itself on the day following, the 6th of May,
is too well known. The sudden perturbation of a guilty conscience, which
overcame the Duc d'Orleans, seemed like an awful warning. He had
scarcely commenced his inflammatory address to the Assembly, when some
one, who felt incommoded by the stifling heat of the hall, exclaimed,
'Throw open the windows!' The conspirator fancied he heard in this his
death sentence. He fainted, and was conducted home in the greatest
agitation. Madame de Bouffon was at the Palais Royal when the Duke was
taken thither. The Duchesse d'Orleans was at the palace of the Duc de
Penthievre, her father, while the Duke himself was at the Hotel Thoulouse
with me, where he was to dine, and where we were waiting for the Duchess
to come and join us, by appointment. But Madame de Bouffon was so
alarmed by the state in which she saw the Duc d'Orleans that she
instantly left the Palais Royal, and despatched his valet express to
bring her thither. My sister-in-law sent an excuse to me for not coming
to dinner, and an explanation to her father for so abruptly leaving his
palace, and hastened home to her husband. It was some days before he
recovered; and his father-in-law, his wife, and myself were not without
hopes that he would see in this an omen to prevent him from persisting
any longer in his opposition to the Royal Family.
"The effects of the recall of the popular Minister, Necker, did not
satisfy the King. Necker soon became an object of suspicion to the Court
party, and especially to His Majesty and the Queen. He was known to have
maintained an understanding with D'ORLEANS. The miscarriage of many
plans and the misfortunes which succeeded were the result of this
connection, though it was openly disavowed. The first suspicion of the
coalition arose thus:
"When the Duke had his bust carried about Paris, after his unworthy
schemes against the King had been discovered, it was thrown into the
mire. Necker passing, perhaps by mere accident, stopped his carriage,
and expressing himself with some resentment for such treatment to a
Prince of the blood and a friend of the people, ordered the bust to be
taken to the Palais Royal, where it was washed, crowned with laurel, and
thence, with Necker's own bust, carried to Versailles. The King's aunts,
coming from Bellevue as the procession was upon the road, ordered the
guards to send the men away who bore the busts, that the King and Queen
might not be insulted with the sight. This circumstance caused another
riot, which was attributed to Their Majesties. The dismission of the
Minister was the obvious result. It is certain, however, that, in
obeying the mandate of exile, Necker had no wish to exercise the
advantage he possessed from his great popularity. His retirement was
sudden and secret; and, although it was mentioned that very evening by
the Baroness de Stael to the Comte de Chinon, so little bustle was made
about his withdrawing from France, that it was even stated at the time to
have been utterly unknown, even to his daughter.
"Necker himself ascribed his dismission to the influence of the De
Polignacs; but he was totally mistaken, for the Duchesse de Polignac was
the last person to have had any influence in matters of State, whatever
might have been the case with those who surrounded her. She was devoid
of ambition or capacity to give her weight; and the Queen was not so
pliant in points of high import as to allow herself to be governed or
overruled, unless her mind was thoroughly convinced. In that respect,
she was something like Catharine II., who always distinguished her
favourites from her Minister; but in the present case she had no choice,
and was under the necessity of yielding to the boisterous voice of a
"From this epoch, I saw all the persons who had any wish to communicate
with the Queen on matters relative to the public business, and Her
Majesty was generally present when they came, and received them in my
apartments. The Duchesse de Polignac never, to my knowledge, entered
into any of these State questions; yet there was no promotion in the
civil, military, or ministerial department, which she has not been
charged with having influenced the Queen to make, though there were few
of them who were not nominated by the King and his Ministers, even
unknown to the Queen herself.
"The prevailing dissatisfaction against Her Majesty and the favourite De
Polignac now began to take so many forms, and produce effects so
dreadful, as to wring her own feelings, as well as those of her royal
mistress, with the most intense anguish. Let me mention one gross and
barbarous instance in proof of what I say.
"After the birth of the Queen's second son, the Duc de Normandie, who was
afterwards Dauphin, the Duke and Duchess of Harcourt, outrageously
jealous of the ascendency of the governess of the Dauphin, excited the
young Prince's hatred toward Madame de Polignac to such a pitch that he
would take nothing from her hands, but often, young as he was at the
time, order her out of the apartment, and treat her remonstrances with
the utmost contempt. The Duchess bitterly complained of the Harcourts to
the Queen; for she really sacrificed the whole of her time to the care
and attention required by this young Prince, and she did so from sincere
attachment, and that he might not be irritated in his declining state of
health. The Queen was deeply hurt at these dissensions between the
governor and governess. Her Majesty endeavoured to pacify the mind of
the young Prince, by literally making herself a slave to his childish
caprices, which in all probability would have created the confidence so
desired, when a most cruel, unnatural, I may say diabolical, report
prevailed to alienate the child's affections even from his mother, in
making him believe that, owing to his deformity and growing ugliness, she
had transferred all her tenderness to his younger brother, who certainly
was very superior in health and beauty to the puny Dauphin. Making a
pretext of this calumny, the governor of the heir-apparent was malicious
enough to prohibit him from eating or drinking anything but what first
passed through the hands of his physicians; and so strong was the
impression made by this interdict on the mind of the young Dauphin that
he never after saw the Queen but with the greatest terror. The feelings
of his disconsolate parent may be more readily conceived than described.
So may the mortification of his governess, the Duchesse de Polignac,
herself so tender, so affectionate a mother. Fortunately for himself,
and happily for his wretched parents, this royal youth, whose life,
though short, had been so full of suffering, died at Versailles on the
4th of June, 1789, and, though only between seven and eight years of age
at the time of his decease, he had given proofs of intellectual
precocity, which would probably have made continued life, amidst the
scenes of wretchedness, which succeeded, anything to him but a blessing.
"The cabals of the Duke of Harcourt, to which I have just adverted,
against the Duchesse de Polignac, were the mere result of foul malice and
ambition. Harcourt wished to get his wife, who was the sworn enemy of De
Polignac, created governess to the Dauphin, instead of the Queen's
favourite. Most of the criminal stories against the Duchesse de
Polignac, and which did equal injury to the Queen, were fabricated by the
Harcourts, for the purpose of excluding their rival from her situation.
"Barnave, meanwhile, continued faithful to his liberal principles, but
equally faithful to his desire of bringing Their Majesties over to those
principles, and making them republican Sovereigns. He lost no
opportunity of availing himself of my permission for him to call whenever
he chose on public business; and he continued to urge the same points,
upon which he had before been so much in earnest, although with no better
effect. Both the King and the Queen looked with suspicion upon Barnave,
and with still more suspicion upon his politics.
"The next time I received him, 'Madame,' exclaimed the deputy to me,
'since our last interview I have pondered well on the situation of the
King; and, as an honest Frenchman, attached to my lawful Sovereign, and
anxious for his future prosperous reign, I am decidedly of opinion that
his own safety, as well as the dignity of the crown of France, and the
happiness of his subjects, can only be secured by his giving his country
a Constitution, which will at once place his establishment beyond the
caprice and the tyranny of corrupt administrations, and secure hereafter
the first monarchy in Europe from the possibility of sinking under weak
Princes, by whom the royal splendour of France has too often been debased
into the mere tool of vicious and mercenary noblesse, and sycophantic
courtiers. A King, protected by a Constitution, can do no wrong. He is
unshackled with responsibility. He is empowered with the comfort of
exercising the executive authority for the benefit of the nation, while
all the harsher duties, and all the censures they create, devolve on
others. It is, therefore, madame, through your means, and the well-known
friendship you have ever evinced for the Royal Family, and the general
welfare of the French nation, that I wish to obtain a private audience of
Her Majesty, the Queen, in order to induce her to exert the never-failing
ascendency she has ever possessed over the mind of our good King, in
persuading him to the sacrifice of a small proportion of his power, for
the sake of preserving the monarchy to his heirs; and posterity will
record the virtues of a Prince who has been magnanimous enough, of his
own free will, to resign the unlawful part of his prerogatives, usurped
by his predecessors, for the blessing and pleasure of giving liberty to a
beloved people, among whom both the King and Queen will find many
Hampdens and Sidneys, but very few Cromwells. Besides, madame, we must
make a merit of necessity. The times are pregnant with events, and it is
more prudent to support the palladium of the ancient monarchy than risk
its total overthrow; and fall it must, if the diseased excrescences, of
which the people complain, and which threaten to carry death into the
very heart of the tree, be not lopped away in time by the Sovereign
"I heard the deputy with the greatest attention. I promised to fulfil
his commission. The better to execute my task, I retired the moment he
left me, and wrote down all I could recollect of his discourse, that it
might be thoroughly placed before the Queen the first opportunity.
"When I communicated the conversation to Her Majesty, she listened with
the most gracious condescension, till I came to the part wherein Barnave
so forcibly impressed the necessity of adopting a constitutional
monarchy. Here, as she had done once before, when I repeated some former
observations of Barnave to her, Marie Antoinette somewhat lost her
equanimity. She rose from her seat, and exclaimed:
"'What! is an absolute Prince, and the hereditary Sovereign of the
ancient monarchy of France, to become the tool of a plebeian faction, who
will, their point once gained, dethrone him for his imbecile
complaisance? Do they wish to imitate the English Revolution of 1648,
and reproduce the sanguinary times of the unfortunate and weak Charles
the First? To make France a commonwealth! Well! be it so! But before I
advise the King to such a step, or give my consent to it, they shall bury
me under the ruins of the monarchy.'
"'But what answer,' said I, 'does Your Majesty wish me to return to the
deputy's request for a private audience?'
"'What answer?' exclaimed the Queen. No answer at all is the best answer
to such a presumptuous proposition! I tremble for the consequences of
the impression their disloyal manoeuvres have made upon the minds of the
people, and I have no faith whatever in their proffered services to the
King. However, on reflection, it may be expedient to temporise. Continue
to see him. Learn, if possible, how far he may be trusted; but do not
fix any time, as yet, for the desired audience. I wish to apprise the
King, first, of his interview with you, Princess. This conversation does
not agree with what he and Mirabeau proposed about the King's recovering
his prerogatives. Are these the prerogatives with which he flattered the
King? Binding him hand and foot, and excluding him from every privilege,
and then casting him a helpless dependant on the caprice of a volatile
plebeian faction! The French nation is very different from the English.
The first rules of the established ancient order of the government broken
through, they will violate twenty others, and the King will be
sacrificed, before this frivolous people again organise themselves with
any sort of regular government.'
"Agreeably to Her Majesty's commands, I continued to see Barnave. I
communicated with him by letter,' at his private lodgings at Passy, and
at Vitry; but it was long before the Queen could be brought to consent to
the audience he solicited.
[Of these letters I was generally the bearer. I recollect that day
perfectly. I was copying some letters for the Princesse de Lamballe,
when the Prince de Conti came in. The Prince lived not only to see, but
to feel the errors of his system. He attained a great age. He outlived
the glory of his country. Like many others, the first gleam of political
regeneration led him into a system, which drove him out of France, to
implore the shelter of a foreign asylum, that he might not fall a victim
to his own credulity. I had an opportunity of witnessing in his latter
days his sincere repentance; and to this it is fit that I should bear
testimony. There were no bounds to the execration with which he expressed
himself towards the murderers of those victims, whose death he lamented
with a bitterness in which some remorse was mingled, from the impression
that his own early errors in favour of the Revolution had unintentionally
accelerated their untimely end. This was a source to him of deep and
There was an eccentricity in the appearance, dress, and manners of the
Prince de Conti, which well deserves recording.
He wore to the very last--and it was in Barcelona, so late as 1803, that
I last had the honour of conversing with him--a white rich stuff dress
frock coat, of the cut and fashion of Louis XIV., which, being without
any collar, had buttons and button-holes from the neck to the bottom of
the skirt, and was padded and stiffened with buckram. The cuffs were
very large, of a different colour, and turned up to the elbows. The
whole was lined with white satin, which, from its being very much
moth-eaten, appeared as if it had been dotted on purpose to show the
buckram between the satin lining. His waistcoat was of rich green striped
silk, bound with gold lace; the buttons and buttonholes of gold; the
flaps very large, and completely covering his small clothes; which
happened very apropos, for they scarcely reached his knees, over which he
wore large striped silk stockings, that came half-way up his thighs. His
shoes had high heels, and reached half up his legs; the buckles were
small, and set round with paste. A very narrow stiff stock decorated his
neck. He carried a hat, with a white feather on the inside, under his
arm. His ruffles were of very handsome point lace. His few gray hairs
were gathered in a little round bag. The wig alone was wanting to make
him a thorough picture of the polished age of the founder of Versailles
He had all that princely politeness of manner which so eminently
distinguished the old school of French nobility, previous to the
Revolution. He was the thorough gentleman, a character by no means so
readily to be met with in these days of refinement as one would imagine.
He never addressed the softer sex but with ease and elegance, and
admiration of their persons.
Could Louis XIV. have believed, had it been told to him when he placed
this branch of the Bourbons on the throne of Iberia, that it would one
day refuse to give shelter at the Court of Madrid to one of his family,
for fear of offending a Corsican usurper!]
"Indeed, Her Majesty had such an aversion to all who had declared
themselves for any innovation upon the existing power of the monarchy,
that she was very reluctant to give audience upon the subject to any
person, not even excepting the Princes of the blood. The Comte d'Artois
himself, leaning as he did to the popular side, had ceased to be welcome.
Expressions he had made use of, concerning the necessity for some change,
had occasioned the coolness, which was already of considerable standing.
"One day the Prince de Conti came to me, to complain of the Queen's
refusing to receive him, because he had expressed himself to the same
effect as had the Comte d'Artois on the subject of the Tiers Etat.
"'And does Your Highness,' replied I, 'imagine that the Queen is less
displeased with the conduct of the Comte d'Artois on that head than she
is with you, Prince? I can assure Your Highness, that at this moment
there subsists a very great degree of coolness between Her Majesty and
her royal brother-in-law, whom she loves as if he were her own brother.
Though she makes every allowance for his political inexperience, and well
knows the goodness of his heart and the rectitude of his intentions, yet
policy will not permit her to change her sentiments.'
"'That may be,' said the Prince, 'but while Her Majesty continues to
honour with her royal presence the Duchesse de Polignac, whose friends,
as well as herself, are all enthusiastically mad in favour of the
constitutional system, she shows an undue partiality, by countenancing
one branch of the party and not the other; particularly so, as the great
and notorious leader of the opposition, which the Queen frowns upon, is
the sister-in-law of this very Duchesse de Polignac, and the avowed
favourite of the Comte d'Artois, by whom, and the councils of the Palais
Royal, he is supposed to be totally governed in his political career.'
"'The Queen,' replied I, 'is certainly her own mistress. She sees, I
believe, many persons more from habit than any other motive; to which,
Your Highness is aware, many Princes often make sacrifices. Your
Highness cannot suppose I can have the temerity to control Her Majesty,
in the selection of her friends, or in her sentiments respecting them.'
"'No,' exclaimed the Prince, 'I imagine not. But she might just as well
see any of us; for we are no more enemies of the Crown than the party she
is cherishing by constantly appearing among them; which, according to her
avowed maxims concerning the not sanctioning any but supporters of the
absolute monarchy, is in direct opposition to her own sentiments.
"'Who,' continued His Highness, 'caused that infernal comedy, 'Le Mariage
de Figaro', to be brought out, but the party of the Duchesse de Polignac?
[Note of the Princesse de Lamballe:--The Prince de Conti never could
speak of Beaumarchais but with the greatest contempt. There was
something personal in this exasperation. Beaumarchais had satirized the
Prince. 'The Spanish Barber' was founded on a circumstance which
happened at a country house between Conti and a young lady, during the
reign of Louis XV., when intrigues of every kind were practised and
almost sanctioned. The poet has exposed the Prince by making him the
Doctor Bartolo of his play. The affair which supplied the story was
hushed up at Court, and the Prince was punished only by the loss of his
mistress, who became the wife of another.]
The play is a critique on the whole Royal Family, from the drawing up of
the curtain to its fall. It burlesques the ways and manners of every
individual connected with the Court of Versailles. Not a scene but
touches some of their characters. Are not the Queen herself and the
Comte d'Artois lampooned and caricatured in the garden scenes, and the
most slanderous ridicule cast upon their innocent evening walks on the
terrace? Does not Beaumarchais plainly show in it, to every impartial
eye, the means which the Comtesse Diane has taken publicly to demonstrate
her jealousy of the Queen's ascendency over the Comte d'Artois? Is it
not from the same sentiment that she roused the jealousy of the Comtesse
d'Artois against Her Majesty?'
"'All these circumstances,' observed I, 'the King prudently foresaw when
he read the manuscript, and caused it to be read to the Queen, to
convince her of the nature of its characters and the dangerous tendency
likely to arise from its performance. Of this Your Highness is aware. It
is not for me to apprise you that, to avert the excitement inevitable
from its being brought upon the stage, and under a thorough conviction of
the mischief it would produce in turning the minds of the people against
the Queen, His Majesty solemnly declared that the comedy should not be
performed in Paris; and that he would never sanction its being brought
before the public on any stage in France.'
"'Bah! bah! madame!' exclaimed De Conti. The Queen has acted like a
child in this affair, as in many others. In defiance of His Majesty's
determination, did not the Queen herself, through the fatal influence of
her favourite, whose party wearied her out by continued importunities,
cause the King to revoke his express mandate? And what has been the
consequence of Her Majesty's ungovernable partiality for these De
"'You know, Prince,' said I, 'better than I do.'
"'The proofs of its bad consequences,' pursued His Highness, 'are more
strongly verified than ever by your own withdrawing from the Queen's
parties since her unreserved acknowledgment of her partiality (fatal
partiality!) for those who will be her ruin; for they are her worst
"'Pardon me, Prince,' answered I, 'I have not withdrawn myself from the
Queen, but from the new parties, with whose politics I cannot identify
myself, besides some exceptions I have taken against those who frequent
"'Bah! bah!' exclaimed De Conti, 'your sagacity has got the better of
your curiosity. All the wit and humour of that traitor Beaumarchais
never seduced you to cultivate his society, as all the rest of the
Queen's party have done.'
"'I never knew him to be accused of treason.'
"'Why, what do you call a fellow who sent arms to the Americans before
the war was declared, without his Sovereign's consent?'
"'In that affair, I consider the Ministers as criminal as himself; for
the Queen, to this day, believes that Beaumarchais was sanctioned by them
and, you know, Her Majesty has ever since had an insuperable dislike to
both De Maurepas and De Vergennes. But I have nothing to do with these
"'Yes, yes, I understand you, Princess. Let her romp and play with the
'compate vous',--[A kind of game of forfeits, introduced for the
diversion of the royal children and those of the Duchesse de
Polignac.]--but who will 'compatire' (make allowance for) her folly?
Bah! bah! bah! She is inconsistent, Princess. Not that I mean by this to
insinuate that the Duchess is not the sincere friend and well-wisher of
the Queen. Her immediate existence, her interest, and that of her
family, are all dependent on the royal bounty. But can the Duchess
answer for the same sincerity towards the Queen, with respect to her
innumerable guests? No! Are not the sentiments of the Duchesses
sister-in-law, the Comtesse Diane, in direct opposition to the absolute
monarchy? Has she not always been an enthusiastic advocate for all those
that have supported the American war? Who was it that crowned, at a
public assembly, the democratical straight hairs of Dr. Franklin? Why
the same Madame Comtesse Diane! Who was 'capa turpa' in applauding the
men who were framing the American Constitution at Paris? Madame Comtesse
Diane! Who was it, in like manner, that opposed all the Queen's
arguments against the political conduct of France and Spain, relative to
the war with England, in favour of the American Independence? The
Comtesse Diane! Not for the love of that rising nation, or for the sacred
cause of liberty; but from a taste for notoriety, a spirit of envy and
jealousy, an apprehension lest the personal charms of the Queen might rob
her of a part of those affections, which she herself exclusively hoped to
alienate from that abortion, the Comtesse d'Artois, in whose service she
is Maid of Honour, and handmaid to the Count. My dear Princess, these
are facts proved. Beaumarchais has delineated them all. Why, then,
refuse to see me? Why withdraw her former confidence from the Comte
d'Artois, when she lives in the society which promulgates antimonarchical
principles? These are sad evidences of Her Majesty's inconsistency. She
might as well see the Duc d'Orleans'
"Here my feelings overwhelmed me. I could contain myself no longer. The
tears gushed from my eyes.
"'Oh, Prince!' exclaimed I, in a bitter agony of grief--'Oh, Prince!
touch not that fatal string. For how many years has he not caused these
briny tears of mine to flow from my burning eyes! The scalding drops
have nearly parched up the spring of life!'"
"The dismissal of M. Necker irritated the people beyond description. They
looked upon themselves as insulted in their favourite. Mob succeeded
mob, each more mischievous and daring than the former. The Duc d'Orleans
continued busy in his work of secret destruction. In one of the popular
risings, a sabre struck his bust, and its head fell, severed from its
body. Many of the rioters (for the ignorant are always superstitious)
shrunk back at this omen of evil to their idol. His real friends
endeavoured to deduce a salutary warning to him from the circumstance. I
was by when the Duc de Penthievre told him, in the presence of his
daughter, that he might look upon this accident as prophetic of the fate
of his own head, as well as the ruin of his family, if he persisted. He
made no answer, but left the room.
"On the 14th of July, and two or three days preceding, the commotions
took a definite object. The destruction of the Bastille was the point
proposed, and it was achieved. Arms were obtained from the old
pensioners at the Hotel des Invalides. Fifty thousand livres were
distributed among the chiefs of those who influenced the Invalides to
give up the arms.
"The massacre of the Marquis de Launay, commandant of the place, and of
M. de Flesselles, and the fall of the citadel itself, were the
"Her Majesty was greatly affected when she heard of the murder of these
officers and the taking of the Bastille. She frequently told me that the
horrid circumstance originated in a diabolical Court intrigue, but never
explained the particulars of the intrigue. She declared that both the
officers and the citadel might have been saved had not the King's orders
for the march of the troops from Versailles, and the environs of Paris,
been disobeyed. She blamed the precipitation of De Launay in ordering up
the drawbridge and directing the few troops on it to fire upon the
people. 'There,' she added, 'the Marquis committed himself; as, in case
of not succeeding, he could have no retreat, which every commander should
take care to secure, before he allows the commencement of a general
[Certainly, the French Revolution may date its epoch as far back as the
taking of the Bastille; from that moment the troubles progressively
continued, till the final extirpation of its illustrious victims. I was
just returning from a mission to England when the storms began to
threaten not only the most violent effects to France itself, but to all
the land which was not divided from it by the watery element. The spirit
of liberty, as the vine, which produces the most luxurious fruit, when
abused becomes the most pernicious poison, was stalking abroad and
revelling in blood and massacre. I myself was a witness to the
enthusiastic national ball given on the ruins of the Bastille, while it
was still stained and reeking with the hot blood of its late keeper,
whose head I saw carried in triumph. Such was the effect on me that the
Princesse de Lamballe asked me if I had known the Marquis de Launay. I
answered in the negative; but told her from the knowledge I had of the
English Revolution, I was fearful of a result similar to what followed
the fall of the heads of Buckingham and Stafford. The Princess
mentioning my observation to the Duc de Penthievre, they both burst into
The death of the Dauphin, the horrible Revolution of the 14th of July,
the troubles about Necker, the insults and threats offered to the Comte
d'Artois and herself,--overwhelmed the Queen with the most poignant
"She was most desirous of some understanding being established between
the government and the representatives of the people, which she urged
upon the King the expediency of personally attempting.
"The King, therefore, at her reiterated remonstrances and requests,
presented himself, on the following day, with his brothers, to the
National Assembly, to assure them of his firm determination to support
the measures of the deputies, in everything conducive to the general good
of his subjects. As a proof of his intentions, he said he had commanded
the troops to leave Paris and Versailles.
"The King left the Assembly, as he had gone thither, on foot, amid the
vociferations of 'Vive le roi!' and it was only through the enthusiasm of
the deputies, who thus hailed His Majesty, and followed him in crowds to
the palace, that the Comte d'Artois escaped the fury of an outrageous
"The people filled every avenue of the palace, which vibrated with cries
for the King, the Queen, and the Dauphin to show themselves at the
"'Send for the Duchesse de Polignac to bring the royal children,' cried I
to Her Majesty.
"'Not for the world!' exclaimed the Queen. 'She will be assassinated,
and my children too, if she make her appearance before this infuriate
mob. Let Madame and the Dauphin be brought unaccompanied.'
"The Queen, on this occasion, imitated her Imperial mother, Maria
Theresa. She took the Dauphin in her arms, and Madame by her side, as
that Empress had done when she presented herself to the Hungarian
magnates; but the reception here was very different. It was not
'moriamur pro nostra regina'. Not that they were ill received; but the
furious party of the Duc d'Orleans often interrupted the cries of 'Vive
le roi! Vive la reine!' etc., with those of 'Vive la nation! Vive d'
Orleans!' and many severe remarks on the family of the De Polignacs,
which proved that the Queen's caution on this occasion was exceedingly
"Not to wound the feelings of the Duchesse de Polignac, I kept myself at
a distance behind the Queen; but I was loudly called for by the mobility,
and, 'malgre moi', was obliged, at the King and Queen's request, to come
"As I approached the balcony, I perceived one of the well-known agents of
the Duc d'Orleans, whom I had noticed some time before in the throng,
menacing me, the moment I made my appearance, with his upreared hand in
fury. I was greatly terrified, but suppressed my agitation, and saluted
the populace; but, fearful of exhibiting my weakness in sight of the
wretch who had alarmed me, withdrew instantly, and had no sooner
re-entered than I sunk motionless in the arms of one of the attendants.
Luckily, this did not take place till I left the balcony. Had it been
otherwise, the triumph to my declared enemies would have been too great.
"Recovering, I found myself surrounded by the Royal Family, who were all
kindness and concern for my situation; but I could not subdue my tremor
and affright. The horrid image of that monster seemed, still to threaten
"'Come, come!' said the King, 'be not alarmed, I shall order a council of
all the Ministers and deputies to-morrow, who will soon put an end to
"We were ere long joined by the Prince de Conde, the Duc de Bourbon, and
others, who implored the King not to part with the army, but to place
himself, with all the Princes of the blood, at its head, as the only
means to restore tranquillity to the country, and secure his own safety.
"The Queen was decidedly of the same opinion; and added, that, if the
army were to depart, the King and his family ought to go with it; but the
King, on the contrary, said he would not decide upon any measures
whatever till he had heard the opinion of the Council.
"The Queen, notwithstanding the King's indecision, was occupied, during
the rest of the day and the whole of the night, in preparing for her
intended; journey, as she hoped to persuade the King to follow the advice
of the Princes, and not wait the result of the next day's deliberation.
Nay, so desirous was she of this, that she threw herself on her knees to
the King, imploring him to leave Versailles and head the army, and
offering to accompany him herself, on horseback, in uniform; but it was
like speaking to a corpse he never answered.
"The Duchesse de Polignac came to Her Majesty in a state of the greatest
agitation, in consequence of M. de Chinon having just apprised her that a
most malicious report had been secretly spread among the deputies at
Versailles that they were all to be blown up at their next meeting.
"The Queen was as much surprised as the Duchess, and scarcely less
agitated. These wretched friends could only, in silence, compare notes
of their mutual cruel misfortunes. Both for a time remained speechless
at this new calamity. Surely this was not wanting to be added to those
by which the Queen was already so bitterly oppressed.
"I was sent for by Her Majesty. Count Fersen accompanied me. He had
just communicated to me what the Duchess had already repeated from M.
Chinon to the Queen.
"The rumour had been set afloat merely as a new pretext for the
continuation of the riots.
"The communication of the report, so likely to produce a disastrous
effect, took place while the King was with his Ministers deliberating
whether he should go to Paris, or save himself and family by joining the
"His Majesty was called from the council to the Queen's apartment, and
was there made acquainted with the circumstance which had so awakened the
terror of the royal party. He calmly replied, 'It is some days since
this invention has been spread among the deputies; I was aware of it from
the first; but from its being utterly impossible to be listened to for a
moment by any one, I did not wish to afflict you by the mention of an
impotent fabrication, which I myself treated with the contempt it justly
merited. Nevertheless, I did not forget, yesterday, in the presence of
both my brothers, who accompanied me to the National Assembly, there to
exculpate myself from an imputation at which my nature revolts; and, from
the manner in which it was received, I flatter myself that every honest
Frenchman was fully satisfied that my religion will ever be an
insurmountable barrier against my harbouring sentiments allied in the
slightest degree to such actions.
"The King embraced the Queen, begged she would tranquilise herself,
calmed the fears of the two ladies, thanked the gentlemen for the
interest they took in his favour, and returned to the council, who, in
his absence, had determined on his going to the Hotel de Ville at Paris,
suggesting at the same time the names of several persons likely to be
well received, if His Majesty thought proper to allow their accompanying
"During this interval, the Queen, still flattering herself that she
should pursue her wished-for journey, ordered the carriages to be
prepared and sent off to Rambouillet, where she said she should sleep;
but this Her Majesty only stated for the purpose of distracting the
attention of her pages and others about her from her real purpose. As it
was well known that M. de St. Priest had pointed out Rambouillet as a fit
asylum for the mob, she fancied that an understanding on the part of her
suite that they were to halt there, and prepare for her reception, would
protect her project of proceeding much farther.
"When the council had broken up and the King returned, he said to the
Queen, 'It is decided.'
"'To go, I hope?' said Her Majesty.
"'No'--(though in appearance calm, the words remained on the lips of the
King, and he stood for some moments incapable of utterance; but,
recovering, added)--'To Paris!'
"The Queen, at the word Paris, became frantic. She flung herself wildly
into the arms of her friends.
"'Nous sommes perdus! nous sommes perdus!' cried she, in a passion of
tears. But her dread was not for herself. She felt only for the danger
to which the King was now going to expose himself; and she flew to him,
and hung on his neck.
"'And what,' exclaimed she, 'is to become of all our faithful friends and
"'I advise them all,' answered His Majesty, 'to make the best of their
way out of France; and that as soon as possible.'
"By this time, the apartments of the Queen were filled with the
attendants and the royal children, anxiously expecting every moment to
receive the Queen's command to proceed on their journey, but they were
all ordered to retire to whence they came.
"The scene was that of a real tragedy. Nothing broke the silence but
groans of the deepest affliction. Our consternation at the counter order
cast all into a state of stupefied insensibility.
"The Queen was the only one whose fortitude bore her up proudly under
this weight of misfortunes. Recovering from the frenzy of the first
impression, she adjured her friends, by the love and obedience they had
ever shown her and the King, to prepare immediately to fulfil his mandate
and make themselves ready for the cruel separation!
"The Duchesse de Polignac and myself were, for some hours, in a state of
agony and delirium.
"When the Queen saw the body-guards drawn up to accompany the King's
departure, she ran to the window, threw apart the sash, and was going to
speak to them, to recommend the King to their care; but the Count Fersen
"'For God's sake, Madame,'--exclaimed he, 'do not commit yourself to the
suspicion of having any doubts of the people!'
"When the King entered to take leave of her, and of all his most faithful
attendants, he could only articulate, 'Adieu!' But when the Queen saw him
accompanied by the Comte d'Estaing and others, whom, from their new
principles, she knew to be popular favourites, she had command enough of
herself not to shed a tear in their presence.
"No sooner, however, had the King left the room than it was as much as
the Count Fersen, Princesse Elizabeth, and all of us could do to recover
her from the most violent convulsions. At last, coming to herself, she
retired with the Princess, the Duchess, and myself to await the King's
return; at the same time requesting the Count Fersen to follow His
Majesty to the Hotel de Ville. Again and again she implored the Count,
as she went, in case the King should be detained, to interest himself
with all the foreign Ministers to interpose for his liberation.
"Versailles, when the King was gone, seemed like a city deserted in
consequence of the plague. The palace was completely abandoned. All the
attendants were dispersed. No one was seen in the streets. Terror
prevailed. It was universally believed that the King would be detained
in Paris. The high road from Versailles to Paris was crowded with all
ranks of people, as if to catch a last look of their Sovereign.
"The Count Fersen set off instantly, pursuant to the Queen's desire. He
saw all that passed, and on his return related to me the history of that
"He arrived at Paris just in time to see His Majesty take the national
cockade from M. Bailly and place it in his hat. He, felt the Hotel de
Ville shake with the long-continued cries of 'Vive le roi!' in
consequence, which so affected the King that, for some moments, he was
unable to express himself. 'I myself,' added the Count, 'was so moved at
the effect on His Majesty, in being thus warmly received by his Parisian
subjects, which portrayed the paternal emotions of his long-lacerated
heart, that every other feeling was paralysed for a moment, in exultation
at the apparent unanimity between the Sovereign and his people. But it
did not,' continued the Ambassador, 'paralyse the artful tongue of
Bailly, the Mayor of Paris. I could have kicked the fellow for his
malignant impudence; for, even in the cunning compliment he framed, he
studied to humble the afflicted Monarch by telling the people it was to
them he owed the sovereign authority.
"'But,' pursued the Count, 'considering the situation of Louis XVI. and
that of his family, agonised as they must have been during his absence,
from the Queen's impression that the Parisians would never again allow
him to see Versailles, how great was our rapture when we saw him safely
replaced in his carriage, and returning to those who were still lamenting
him as lost!
"'When I left Her Majesty in the morning, she was nearly in a state of
mental aberration. When I saw her again in the evening, the King by her
side, surrounded by her family, the Princesse Eizabeth, and yourself,
madame' said the kind Count, 'she appeared to me like a person risen from
the dead and restored to life. Her excess of joy at the first moment was
"Count Fersen might well say the first moment, for the pleasure of the
Queen was of short duration. Her heart was doomed to bleed afresh, when
the thrill of delight, at what she considered the escape of her husband,
was past, for she had already seen her chosen friend, the Duchesse de
Polignac, for the last time.
"Her Majesty was but just recovered from the effects of the morning's
agitation, when the Duchess, the Duke, his sister, and all his family set
off. It was impossible for her to take leave of her friend. The hour
was late--about midnight. At the same time departed the Comte d'Artois
and his family, the Prince de Conde and his, the Prince of Hesse
d'Armstadt, and all those who were likely to be suspected by the people.
"Her Majesty desired the Count Fersen to see the Duchess in her name.
When the King heard the request, he exclaimed:
"'What a cruel state for Sovereigns, my dear Count! To be compelled to
separate ourselves from our most faithful attendants, and not be allowed,
for fear of compromising others or our own lives, to take a last
"'Ah!' said the Queen, 'I fear so too. I fear it is a last farewell to
all our friends!'
"The Count saw the Duchess a few moments before she left Versailles.
Pisani, the Venetian Ambassador, and Count Fersen, helped her on the
coachbox, where she rode disguised.
"What must have been most poignantly mortifying to the fallen favourite
was, that, in the course of her journey, she met with her greatest enemy,
(Necker) who was returning, triumphant, to Paris, called by the voice of
that very nation by whom she and her family were now forced from its
territory,--Necker, who himself conceived that she, who now went by him
into exile, while he himself returned to the greatest of victories, had
thwarted all his former plans of operation, and, from her influence over
the Queen, had caused his dismission and temporary banishment.
"For my own part, I cannot but consider this sudden desertion of France
by those nearest the throne as ill-judged. Had all the Royal Family,
remained, is it likely that the King and Queen would have been watched
with such despotic vigilance? Would not confidence have created
confidence, and the breach have been less wide between the King and his
"When the father and his family will now be thoroughly reconciled, Heaven
alone can tell!"
"Barnave often lamented his having been betrayed, by a love of notoriety,
into many schemes, of which his impetuosity blinded him to the
consequences. With tears in his eyes, he implored me to impress the
Queen's mind with the sad truths he inculcated. He said his motives had
been uniformly the same, however he might have erred in carrying them
into action; but now he relied on my friendship for my royal mistress to
give efficacy to his earnest desire to atone for those faults, of which
he had become convinced by dear-bought experience. He gave me a list of
names for Her Majesty, in which were specified all the Jacobins who had
emissaries throughout France, for the purpose of creating on the same
day, and at the same hour, an alarm of something like the 'Vesparo
Siciliano' (a general insurrection to murder all the nobility and burn
their palaces, which, in fact, took place in many parts of France), the
object of which was to give the Assembly, by whom all the regular troops
were disbanded, a pretext for arming the people as a national guard, thus
creating a perpetual national faction.
"The hordes of every faubourg now paraded in this new democratic livery.
Even some of them, who were in the actual service of the Court, made no
scruple of decorating themselves thus, in the very face of their
Sovereign. The King complained, but the answer made to him was that the
"The very first time Their Majesties went to the royal chapel, after the
embodying of the troops with the national guards, all the persons
belonging to it were accoutred in the national uniform. The Queen was
highly incensed, and deeply affected at this insult offered to the King's
authority by the persons employed in the sacred occupations of the
Church. 'Such persons,' said Her Majesty, 'would, I had hoped, have been
the last to interfere with politics.' She was about to order all those
who preferred their uniforms to their employments to be discharged from
the King's service; but my advice, coupled with that of Barnave,
dissuaded her from executing so dangerous a threat. On being assured
that those, perhaps, who might be selected to replace the offenders might
refuse the service, if not allowed the same ridiculous prerogatives, and
thus expose Their Royal Majesties to double mortification, the Queen
seemed satisfied, and no more was said upon the subject, except to an
Italian soprano, to whom the King signified his displeasure at his
singing a 'salva regina' in the dress of a grenadier of the new faction.
"The singer took the hint and never again intruded his uniform into the
"Necker, notwithstanding the enthusiasm his return produced upon the
people, felt mortified in having lost the confidence of the King. He
came to me, exclaiming that, unless Their Majesties distinguished him by
some mark of their royal favour, his influence must be lost with the
National Assembly. He perceived, he said, that the councils of the King
were more governed by the advice of the Queen's favourite, the Abbe
Vermond, than by his (Necker's). He begged I would assure Her Majesty
that Vermond was quite as obnoxious to the people as the Duchesse de
Polignac had ever been; for it was generally known that Her Majesty was
completely guided by him, and, therefore, for her own safety and the
tranquillity of national affairs, he humbly suggested the prudence of
sending him from the Court, at least for a time.
"I was petrified at hearing a Minister dare presume thus to dictate the
line of conduct which the Queen of France, his Sovereign, should pursue
with respect to her most private servants. Such was my indignation at
this cruel wish to dismiss every object of her choice, especially one
from whom, owing to long habits of intimacy since her childhood, a
separation would be rendered, by her present situation, peculiarly cruel,
that nothing but the circumstances in which the Court then stood could
have given me patience to listen to him.
"I made no answer. Upon my silence, Necker subjoined, 'You must
perceive, Princess, that I am actuated for the general good of the
"'And I hope, monsieur, for the prerogatives of the monarchy also,'
"'Certainly,' said Necker. 'But if Their Majesties continue to be guided
by others, and will not follow my advice, I cannot answer for the
"I assured the Minister that I would be the faithful bearer of his
commission, however unpleasant.
"Knowing the character of the Queen, in not much relishing being dictated
to with respect to her conduct in relation to the persons of her
household, especially the Abbe Vermond, and aware, at the same time, of
her dislike to Necker, who thus undertook to be her director, I felt
rather awkward in being the medium of the Minister's suggestions. But
what was my surprise, on finding her prepared, and totally indifferent as
to the privation.
"'I foresaw,' replied Her Majesty, 'that Vermond would become odious to
the present order of things, merely because he had been a faithful
servant, and long attached to my interest; but you may tell M. Necker
that the Abbe leaves Versailles this very night, by my express order, for
"If the proposal of Necker astonished me, the Queen's reception of it
astonished me still more. What a lesson is this for royal favourites!
The man who had been her tutor, and who, almost from her childhood, never
left her, the constant confidant for fifteen or sixteen years, was now
sent off without a seeming regret.
"I doubt not, however, that the Queen had some very powerful secret
motive for the sudden change in her conduct towards the Abbe, for she was
ever just in all her concerns, even to her avowed enemies; but I was
happy that she seemed to express no particular regret at the Minister's
suggested policy. I presume, from the result, that I myself had
overrated the influence of the Abbe over the mind of his royal pupil;
that he had by no means the sway imputed to him; and that Marie
Antoinette merely considered him as the necessary instrument of her
private correspondence, which he had wholly managed.
[The truth is, Her Majesty had already taken leave of the Abbe, in the
presence of the King, unknown to the Princess; or, more properly, the
Abbe had taken an affectionate leave of them.]
"But a circumstance presently occurred which aroused Her Majesty from
this calmness and indifference. The King came in to inform her that La
Fayette, during the night, had caused the guards to desert from the
palace of Versailles.
"The effect on her of this intelligence was like the lightning which
precedes a loud clap of thunder.
"Everything that followed was perfectly in character, and shook every
nerve of the royal authority.
"'Thus,' exclaimed Marie Antoinette, 'thus, Sire, have you humiliated
yourself, in condescending to go to Paris, without having accomplished
the object. You have not regained the confidence of your subjects. Oh,
how bitterly do I deplore the loss of that confidence! It exists no
longer. Alas! when will it be restored!'
"The French guards, indeed, had been in open insurrection through the
months of June and July, and all that could be done was to preserve one
single company of grenadiers, by means of their commander, the Baron de
Leval, faithful to their colours. This company had now been influenced
by General La Fayette to desert and join their companions, who had
enrolled themselves in the Paris national guard.
"Messieurs de Bouille and de Luxembourg being interrogated by the Queen
respecting the spirit of the troops under their immediate command, M. de
Bouille answered, Madame, I should be very sorry to be compelled to
undertake any internal operation with men who have been seduced from
their allegiance, and are daily paid by a faction which aims at the
overthrow of its legitimate Sovereign. I would not answer for a man that
has been in the neighbourhood of the seditious national troops, or that
has read the inflammatory discussions of the National Assembly. If Your
Majesty and the King wish well to the nation--I am sorry to say it--its
happiness depends on your quitting immediately the scenes of riot and
placing yourselves in a situation to treat with the National Assembly on
equal terms, whereby the King may be unbiassed and unfettered by a
compulsive, overbearing mob; and this can only be achieved by your flying
to a place of safety. That you may find such a place, I will answer with
"'Yes,' said M. de Luxembourg, 'I think we may both safely answer that,
in such a case, you will find a few Frenchmen ready to risk a little to
save all!' And both concurred that there was no hope of salvation for
the King or country but through the resolution they advised.
"'This,' said the Queen, 'will be a very difficult task. His Majesty, I
fear, will never consent to leave France.'
"'Then, Madame,' replied they, 'we can only regret that we have nothing
to offer but our own perseverance in the love and service of our King and
his oppressed family, to whom we deplore we can now be useful only with
our feeble wishes.'
"'Well, gentlemen,' answered Her Majesty, 'you must not despair of better
prospects. I will take an early opportunity of communicating your loyal
sentiments to the King, and will hear his opinion on the subject before I
give you a definite answer. I thank you, in the name of His Majesty, as
well as on my own account, for your good intentions towards us.'
"Scarcely had these gentlemen left the palace, when a report prevailed
that the King, his family, and Ministers, were about to withdraw to some
fortified situation. It was also industriously rumoured that, as soon as
they were in safety, the National Assembly would be forcibly dismissed,
as the Parliament had been by Louis XIV. The reports gained universal
belief when it became known that the King had ordered the Flanders
regiment to Versailles.
"The National Assembly now daily watched the royal power more and more
assiduously. New sacrifices of the prerogatives of the nobles were
incessantly proposed by them to the King.
"When His Majesty told the Queen that he had been advised by Necker to
sanction the abolition of the privileged nobility, and that all
distinctions, except the order of the Holy Ghost to himself and the
Dauphin, were also annihilated by the Assembly, even to the order of
Maria Theresa, which she could no longer wear, 'These, Sire,' answered
she, in extreme anguish, 'are trifles, so far as they regard myself. I do
not think I have twice worn the order of Maria Theresa since my arrival
in this once happy country. I need it not. The immortal memory of her
who gave me being is engraven on my heart; that I shall wear forever,
none can wrest it from me. But what grieves me to the soul is your
having sanctioned these decrees of the National Assembly upon the mere
'ipse dixit' of M. Necker.'
"'I have only, given my sanction to such as I thought most necessary to
tranquilise the minds of those who doubted my sincerity; but I have
withheld it from others, which, for the good of my, people, require
maturer consideration. On these, in a full Council, and in your
presence, I shall again deliberate.'
"'Oh, said the Queen, with tears in her eyes, could but the people hear
you, and know, once for all, how to appreciate the goodness of your
heart, as I do now, they would cast themselves at your feet, and
supplicate your forgiveness for having shown such ingratitude to your
paternal interest for their welfare!'
"But this unfortunate refusal to sanction all the decrees sent by the
National Assembly, though it proceeded from the best motives, produced
the worst effects. Duport, De Lameth, and Barnave well knew the troubles
such a course must create. Of this they forewarned His Majesty, before
any measure was laid before him for approval. They cautioned him not to
trifle with the deputies. They assured him that half measures would only
rouse suspicion. They enforced the necessity of uniform assentation, in
order to lull the Mirabeau party, who were canvassing for a majority to
set up D'ORLEANS, to whose interest Mirabeau and his myrmidons were then
devoted. The scheme of Duport, De Lameth, and Barnave was to thwart and
weaken the Mirabeau and Orleans faction, by gradually persuading them, in
consequence of the King's compliance with whatever the Assembly exacted,
that they could do no better than to let him into a share of the
executive power; for now nothing was left to His Majesty but
responsibility, while the privileges of grace and justice had become
merely nominal, with the one dangerous exception of the veto, to which he
could never have recourse without imminent peril to his cause and to
"Unfortunately for His Majesty's interest, he was too scrupulous to act,
even through momentary policy, distinctly against his conscience. When
he gave way, it was with reluctance, and often with an avowal, more or
less express, that he only complied with necessity against conviction.
His very sincerity made him appear the reverse. His adherents
consequently dwindled, while the Orleans faction became immeasurably
"In the midst of these perplexities, an Austrian courier was stopped with
despatches from Prince Kaunitz. These, though unsought for on the part
of Her Majesty, though they contained a friendly advice to her to submit
to the circumstances of the times, and though, luckily, they were couched
in terms favourable to the Constitution, showed the mob that there was a
correspondence with Vienna, carried on by the Queen, and neither Austria
nor the Queen were deemed the friends either of the people or of the
Constitution. To have received the letters was enough for the faction.
"Affairs were now ripening gradually into something like a crisis, when
the Flanders regiment arrived. The note of preparation had been sounded.
'Let us go to Versailles, and bring the King away from his evil
counsellors,' was already in the mouths of the Parisians.
"In the meantime, Dumourier, who had been leagued with the Orleans
faction, became disgusted with it. He knew the deep schemes of treason
which were in train against the Royal Family, and, in disguise, sought
the Queen at Versailles, and had an interview with Her Majesty in my
presence. He assured her that an abominable insurrection was ripe for
explosion among the mobs of the faubourgs; gave her the names of the
leaders, who had received money to promote its organisation; and warned
her that the massacre of the Royal Family was the object of the
manoeuvre, for the purpose of declaring the Duke of Orleans the
constitutional King; that he was to be proclaimed by Mirabeau, who had
already received a considerable sum in advance, for distribution among
the populace, to ensure their support; and that Mirabeau, in return for
his co-operation, was to be created a Duke, with the office of Prime
Minister and Secretary of State, and to have the framing of the
Constitution, which was to be modelled from that of Great Britain. It
was farther concerted that D'ORLEANS was to show himself in the midst of
the confusion, and the crown to be conferred upon him by public
"On his knees Dumourier implored Her Majesty to regard his voluntary
discovery of this infamous and diabolical plot as a proof of his sincere
repentance. He declared he came disinterestedly to offer himself as a
sacrifice to save her, the King, and her family from the horrors then
threatening their lives, from the violence of an outrageous mob of
regicides; he called God to witness that he was actuated by no other wish
than to atone for his error, and die in their defence; he looked for no
reward beyond the King's forgiveness of his having joined the Orleans
faction; he never had any view in joining that faction but that of aiding
the Duke, for the good of his country, in the reform of ministerial
abuses, and strengthening the royal authority by the salutary laws of the
National Assembly; but he no sooner discovered that impure schemes of
personal aggrandisement gave the real impulse to these pretended
reformers than he forsook their unholy course. He supplicated Her
Majesty to lose no time, but to allow him to save her from the
destruction to which she would inevitably be exposed; that he was ready
to throw himself at the King's feet, to implore his forgiveness also, and
to assure him of his profound penitence, and his determination to
renounce forever the factious Orleans party.
"As Her Majesty would not see any of those who offered themselves, except
in my presence, I availed myself, in this instance, of the opportunity it
gave me by enforcing the arguments of Dumourier. But all I could say,
all the earnest representations to be deduced from this critical crisis,
could not prevail with her, even so far as to persuade her to temporise
with Dumourier, as she had done with many others on similar occasions.
She was deaf and inexorable. She treated all he had said as the effusion
of an overheated imagination, and told him she had no faith in traitors.
Dumourier remained upon his knees while she was replying, as if
stupefied; but at the word traitor he started and roused himself; and
then, in a state almost of madness, seized the Queen's dress, exclaiming,
'Allow yourself to be persuaded before it is too late! Let not your
misguided prejudice against me hurry you to your own and your children's
destruction; let it not get the better, Madame, of your good sense and
reason; the fatal moment is near; it is at hand!' Upon this, turning, he
addressed himself to me.
"'Oh, Princess,' he cried, 'be her guardian angel, as you have hitherto
been her only friend, and use your never-failing influence. I take God
once more to witness, that I am sincere in all I have said; that all I
have disclosed is true. This will be the last time I shall have it in my
power to be of any essential service to you, Madame, and my Sovereign.
The National Assembly will put it out of my power for the future, without
becoming a traitor to my country.'
"'Rise, monsieur,' said the Queen, 'and serve your country better than
you have served your King!'
"'Madame, I obey.'
"When he was about to leave the room, I again, with tears, besought Her
Majesty not to let him depart thus, but to give him some hope, that,
after reflection, she might perhaps endeavour to soothe the King's anger.
But in vain. He withdrew very much affected. I even ventured, after his
departure, to intercede for his recall.
"'He has pledged himself,' said I, 'to save you, Madame!'
"'My dear Princess,' replied the Queen, 'the goodness of your own heart
will not allow you to have sinister ideas of others. This man is like
all of the same stamp. They are all traitors; and will only hurry us the
sooner, if we suffer ourselves to be deceived by them, to an ignominious
death! I seek no safety for myself.'
"'But he offered to serve the King also, Madame.'
"'I am not,' answered Her Majesty, 'Henrietta of France. I will never
stoop to ask a pension of the murderers of my husband; nor will I leave
the King, my son, or my adopted country, or even meanly owe my existence
to wretches who have destroyed the dignity of the Crown and trampled
under foot the most ancient monarchy in Europe! Under its ruins they
will bury their King and myself. To owe our safety to them would be more
hateful than any death they can prepare for us'
"While the Queen was in this state of agitation, a note was presented to
me with a list of the names of the officers of the Flanders regiment,
requesting the honour of an audience of the Queen.
"The very idea of seeing the Flanders officers flushed Her Majesty's
countenance with an ecstasy of joy. She said she would retire to compose
herself, and receive them in two hours.
"The Queen saw the officers in her private cabinet, and in my presence.
They were presented to her by me. They told Her Majesty that, though
they had changed their paymaster, they had not changed their allegiance
to their Sovereign or herself, but were ready to defend both with their
lives. They placed one hand on the hilt of their swords, and, solemnly
lifting the other up to Heaven, swore that the weapons should never be
wielded but for the defence of the King and Queen, against all foes,
whether foreign or domestic.
"This unexpected loyalty burst on us like the beauteous rainbow, after a
tempest, by the dawn of which we are taught to believe the world is saved
from a second deluge.
"The countenance of Her Majesty brightened over the gloom which had
oppressed her, like the heavenly sun dispersing threatening clouds, and
making the heart of the poor mariner bound with joy. Her eyes spoke her
secret rapture. It was evident she felt even unusual dignity in the
presence of these noble-hearted warriors, when comparing them with him
whom she had just dismissed. She graciously condescended to speak to
every one of them, and one and all were enchanted with her affability.
"She said she was no longer the Queen who could compensate loyalty and
valour; but the brave soldier found his reward in the fidelity of his
service, which formed the glory of his immortality. She assured them she
had ever been attached to the army, and would make it her study to
recommend every individual, meriting attention, to the King.
"Loud bursts of repeated acclamations and shouts of 'Vive la reine!'
instantly followed her remarks. She thanked the officers most
graciously; and, fearing to commit herself, by saying more, took her
leave, attended by me; but immediately sent me back, to thank them again
in her name.
"They departed, shouting as they went, 'Vive la reine! Vive la Princesse!
Vive le roi, le Dauphin, et toute la famille royale!'
"When the National Assembly saw the officers going to and coming from the
King's palace with such demonstrations of enthusiasm, they took alarm,
and the regicide faction hastened on the crisis for which it had been
longing. It was by no means unusual for the chiefs of regiments,
destined to form part of the garrison of a royal residence, to be
received by the Sovereign on their arrival, and certainly only natural
that they should be so; but in times of excitement trifling events have
"But if the National Assembly began to tremble for their own safety, and
had already taken secret, measures to secure it, by conspiring to put an
instantaneous end to the King's power, against which they had so long
been plotting, when the Flanders regiment arrived, it may be readily
conceived what must have been their emotions on the fraternisation of
this regiment with the body-guard, and on the scene to which the dinner,
given to the former troops by the latter, so unpremeditatedly led.
"On the day of this fatal dinner I remarked to the Queen, 'What a
beautiful sight it must be to behold, in these troublesome times, the
happy union of such a meeting!'
"'It must indeed!' replied the King; 'and the pleasure I feel in knowing
it would be redoubled had I the privilege of entertaining the Flanders
regiment, as the body-guards are doing.'
"'Heaven forbid!' cried Her Majesty; 'Heaven forbid that you should think
of such a thing! The Assembly would never forgive us!'
"After we had dined, the Queen sent to the Marquise de Tourzel for the
Dauphin. When he came, the Queen told him about her having seen the
brave officers on their arrival; and how gaily those good officers had
left the palace, declaring they would die rather than suffer any harm to
come to him, or his papa and mamma; and that at that very time they were
all dining at the theatre.
"'Dining in the theatre, mamma?' said the young, Prince. 'I never heard
of people dining in a theatre!'
"'No, my dear child,' replied Her Majesty, 'it is not generally allowed;
but they are doing so, because the body-guards are giving a dinner to
this good Flanders regiment; and the Flanders regiment are so brave that
the guards chose the finest place they could think of to entertain them
in, to show how much they like them; that is the reason why they are
dining in the gay, painted theatre.'
"'Oh, mamma!' exclaimed the Dauphin, whom the Queen adored, 'Oh, papa!'
cried he, looking at the King, 'how I should like to see them!'
"'Let us go and satisfy the child!' said the King, instantly starting up
from his seat.
"The Queen took the Dauphin by the hand, and they proceeded to the
theatre. It was all done in a moment. There was no premeditation on the
part of the King or Queen; no invitation on the part of the officers. Had
I been asked, I should certainly have followed the Queen; but just as the
King rose, I left the room. The Prince being eager to see the festival,
they set off immediately, and when I returned to the apartment they were
gone. Not being very well, I remained where I was; but most of the
household had already followed Their Majesties.
"On the Royal Family making their appearance, they were received with the
most unequivocal shouts of general enthusiasm by the troops. Intoxicated
with the pleasure of seeing Their Majesties among them, and overheated
with the juice of the grape, they gave themselves up to every excess of
joy, which the circumstances and the situation of Their Majesties were so
well calculated to inspire. 'Oh! Richard! oh, mon roi!' was sung, as
well as many other loyal songs. The healths of the King, Queen, and
Dauphin were drunk, till the regiments were really inebriated with the
mingled influence of wine and shouting vivas!
"When the royal party retired, they were followed by all the military to
the very palace doors, where they sung, danced, embraced each other, and
gave way to all the frantic demonstrations of devotedness to the royal
cause which the excitement of the scene and the table could produce.
Throngs, of course, collected to get near the Royal Family. Many persons
in the rush were trampled on, and one or two men, it was said, crushed to
death. The Dauphin and King were delighted; but the Queen, in giving the
Princesse Elizabeth and myself an account of the festival, foresaw the
fatal result which would ensue; and deeply deplored the marked enthusiasm
with which they had been greeted and followed by the military.
"There was one more military spectacle, a public breakfast which took
place on the second of October. Though none of the Royal Family appeared
at it, it was no less injurious to their interests than the former. The
enemies of the Crown spread reports all over Paris, that the King and
Queen had manoeuvred to pervert the minds of the troops so far as to make
them declare against the measures of the National Assembly. It is not
likely that the Assembly, or politics, were even spoken of at the
breakfast; but the report did as much mischief as the reality would have
done. This was quite sufficient to encourage the D'ORLEANS and Mirabeau
faction in the Assembly to the immediate execution of their
long-meditated scheme, of overthrowing the monarchy.
"On the very day following, Duport, De Lameth, and Barnave sent their
confidential agent to apprise the Queen that certain deputies had already
fully matured a plot to remove the King, nay, to confine Her Majesty from
him in a distant part of France, that her influence over his mind might
no farther thwart their premeditated establishment of a Constitution.
"But others of this body, and the more powerful and subtle portion, had a
deeper object, so depraved, that, even when forewarned, the Queen could
not deem it possible; but of which she was soon convinced by their
"The riotous faction, for the purpose of accelerating this denouement,
had contrived, by buying up all the corn and sending it out of the
country, to reduce the populace to famine, and then to make it appear
that the King and Queen had been the monopolisers, and the extravagance
of Marie Antoinette and her largesses to Austria and her favourites, the
cause. The plot was so deeply laid that the wretches who, undertook to
effect the diabolical scheme were metamorphosed in the Queen's livery, so
that all the odium might fall on her unfortunate Majesty. At the head of
the commission of monopolisers was Luckner, who had taken a violent
dislike to the Queen, in consequence of his having been refused some
preferment, which he attributed to her influence. Mirabeau, who was
still in the background, and longing to take a more prominent part,
helped it on as much as possible. Pinet, who had been a confidential
agent of the Duc d'Orleans, himself told the Duc de Penthievre that
D'ORLEANS had monopolised all the corn. This communication, and the
activity of the Count Fersen, saved France, and Paris in particular, from
perishing for the want of bread. Even at the moment of the abominable
masquerade, in which Her Majesty's agents were made to appear the enemies
who were starving the French people, out of revenge for the checks
imposed by them on the royal authority, it was well known to all the
Court that both Her Majesty and the King were grieved to the soul at
their piteous want, and distributed immense sums for the relief of the
poor sufferers, as did the Duc de Penthievre, the Duchesse d'Orleans, the
Prince de Conde, the Duc and Duchesse de Bourbon, and others; but these
acts were done privately, while he who had created the necessity took to
himself the exclusive credit of the relief, and employed thousands daily
to propagate reports of his generosity. Mirabeau, then the factotum
agent of the operations of the Palais Royal and its demagogues, greatly
added to the support of this impression. Indeed, till undeceived
afterwards, he believed it to be really the Duc d'Orleans who had
succoured the people.
"I dispensed two hundred and twenty thousand livres merely to discover
the names of the agents who had been employed to carry on this nefarious
plot to exasperate the people against the throne by starvation imputed to
the Sovereign. Though money achieved the discovery in time to clear the
characters of my royal mistress and the King, the detection only followed
the mischief of the crime. But even the rage thus wickedly excited was
not enough to carry through the plot. In the faubourgs of Paris, where
the women became furies, two hundred thousand livres were distributed ere
the horror could be completely exposed.
"But it is time for me to enter upon the scenes to which all the
intrigues I have detailed were intended to lead--the removal of the Royal
Family from Versailles.
"My heart sickens when I retrace these moments of anguish. The point to
which they are to conduct us yet remains one of the mysteries of fate."
"Her Majesty had been so thoroughly lulled into security by the
enthusiasm of the regiments at Versailles that she treated all the
reports from Paris with contempt. Nothing was apprehended from that
quarter, and no preparations were consequently made for resistance or
protection. She was at Little Trianon when the news of the approach of
the desolating torrent arrived. The King was hunting. I presented to
her the commandant of the troops at Versailles, who assured Her Majesty
that a murderous faction, too powerful, perhaps, for resistance, was
marching principally against her royal person, with La Fayette at their
head, and implored her to put herself and valuables in immediate safety;
particularly all her correspondence with the Princes, emigrants, and
foreign Courts, if she had no means of destroying them.
"Though the Queen was somewhat awakened to the truth by this earnest
appeal, yet she still considered the extent of the danger as exaggerated,
and looked upon the representation as partaking, in a considerable
degree, of the nature of all reports in times of popular commotion.
"Presently, however, a more startling omen appeared, in a much milder but
ambiguous communication from General La Fayette. He stated that he was
on his march from Paris with the national guard, and part of the people,
coming to make remonstrances; but he begged Her Majesty to rest assured
that no disorder would take place, and that he himself would vouch that
there should be none.
"The King was instantly sent for to the heights of Meudon, while the
Queen set off from Little Trianon, with me, for Versailles.
"The first movements were commenced by a few women, or men in women's
clothes, at the palace gates of Versailles. The guards refused them
entrance, from an order they had received to that effect from La Fayette.
The consternation produced by their resentment was a mere prelude to the
horrid tragedy that succeeded.
"The information now pouring in from different quarters increased Her
Majesty's alarm every moment. The order of La Fayette, not to let the
women be admitted, convinced her that there was something in agitation,
which his unexplained letter made her sensible was more to be feared than
if he had signified the real situation and danger to which she was
"A messenger was forthwith despatched for M. La Fayette, and another, by
order of the Queen, for M. de St. Priest, to prepare a retreat for the
Royal Family, as the Parisian mob's advance could no longer be doubted.
Everything necessary was accordingly got ready.
"La Fayette now arrived at Versailles in obedience to the message, and,
in the presence of all the Court and Ministers, assured the King that he
could answer for the Paris army, at the head of which he intended to
march, to prevent disorders; and advised the admission of the women into
the palace, who, he said, had nothing to propose but a simple memorial
relative to the scarcity of bread.
"The Queen said to him, 'Remember, monsieur, you have pledged your honour
for the King's safety.'
"'And I hope, Madame, to be able to redeem it.'
"He then left Versailles to return to his post with the army.
"A limited number of the women were at length admitted; and so completely
did they seem satisfied with the reception they met with from the King,
as, in all appearance, to have quieted their riotous companions. The
language of menace and remonstrance had changed into shouts of 'Vive le
roi!' The apprehensions of Their Majesties were subdued; and the whole
system of operation, which had been previously adopted for the Royal
Family's quitting Versailles, was, in consequence, unfortunately changed.
"But the troops, that had been hitherto under arms for the preservation
of order, in going back to their hotel, were assailed and fired at by the
"The return of the body-guards, thus insulted in going to and coming from
the palace, caused the Queen and the Court to resume the resolution of
instantly retiring from Versailles; but it was now too late. They were
stopped by the municipality and the mob of the city, who were animated to
excess against the Queen by one of the bass singers of the French
"Every hope of tranquillity was now shaken by the hideous howlings which
arose from all quarters. Intended flight had become impracticable.
Atrocious expressions were levelled against the Queen, too shocking for
repetition. I shudder when I reflect to what a degree of outrage the
'poissardes' of Paris were excited, to express their abominable designs
on the life of that most adored of Sovereigns.
"Early in the evening Her Majesty came to my apartment, in company with
one of her female attendants. She was greatly agitated. She brought all
her jewels and a considerable quantity of papers, which she had begun to
collect together immediately on her arrival from Trianon, as the
commandant had recommended.
[Neither Her Majesty nor the Princess ever returned to Versailles after
the sixth of that fatal October! Part of the papers, brought by the
Queen to the apartment of the Princess, were tacked by me on two of my
petticoats; the under one three fold, one on the other, and outside; and
the upper one, three or four fold double on the inside; and thus I left
the room with this paper undergarment, which put me to no inconvenience.
Returning to the Princess, I was ordered to go to Lisle, there take the
papers from their hiding-place, and deliver them, with others, to the
same person who received the box, of which mention will be found in
another part of this work. I was not to take any letters, and was to
come back immediately.
As I was leaving the apartment Her Majesty said something to Her Highness
which I did not hear. The Princess turned round very quickly, and
kissing me on the forehead, said in Italian, "My dear little
Englishwoman, for Heaven's sake be careful of yourself, for I should
never forgive myself if any misfortune were to befall you." "Nor I," said
"Notwithstanding the fatigue and agitation which the Queen must have
suffered during the day, and the continued threats, horrible howlings,
and discharge of firearms during the night, she had courage enough to
visit the bedchambers of her children and then to retire to rest in her
"But her rest was soon fearfully interrupted. Horrid cries at her
chamber door of 'Save the Queen! Save the Queen! or she will be
assassinated!' aroused her. The faithful guardian who gave the alarm was
never heard more. He was murdered in her defence! Her Majesty herself
only escaped the poignards of immediate death by flying to the King's
apartment, almost in the same state as she lay in bed, not having had
time to screen herself with any covering but what was casually thrown
over her by the women who assisted her in her flight; while one well
acquainted with the palace is said to have been seen busily engaged in
encouraging the regicides who thus sought her for midnight murder. The
faithful guards who defended the entrance to the room of the intended
victim of these desperadoes took shelter in the room itself upon her
leaving it, and were alike threatened with instant death by the grenadier
assassins for having defeated them in their fiend-like purpose; they
were, however, saved by the generous interposition and courage of two
gentlemen, who, offering themselves as victims in their place, thus
brought about a temporary accommodation between the regular troops and
the national guard.
"All this time General La Fayette never once appeared. It is presumed
that he himself had been deceived as to the horrid designs of the mob,
and did not choose to show himself, finding it impossible to check the
impetuosity of the horde he had himself brought to action, in concurring
to countenance their first movements from Paris. Posterity will decide
how far he was justified in pledging himself for the safety of the Royal
Family, while he was heading a riotous mob, whose atrocities were
guaranteed from punishment or check by the sanction of his presence and
the faith reposed in his assurance. Was he ignorant, or did he only
pretend to be so, of the incalculable mischief inevitable from giving
power and a reliance on impunity to such an unreasoning mass? By any
military operation, as commander-in-chief, he might have turned the tide.
And why did he not avail himself of that authority with which he had been
invested by the National Assembly, as the delegates of the nation, for
the general safety and guardianship of the people? for the people, of
whom he was the avowed protector, were themselves in peril: it was only
the humanity (or rather, in such a crisis, the imbecility) of Louis XVI.
that prevented them from being fired on; and they would inevitably have
been sacrificed, and that through the want of policy in their leader, had
not this mistaken mercy of the King prevented his guards from offering
resistance to the murderers of his brave defenders!
"The cry of 'Queen! Queen!' now resounded from the lips of the cannibals
stained with the blood of her faithful guards. She appeared, shielded by
filial affection, between her two innocent children, the threatened
orphans! But the sight of so much innocence and heroic courage paralysed
the hands uplifted for their massacre!
"A tiger voice cried out, 'No children!' The infants were hurried away
from the maternal side, only to witness the author of their being
offering up herself, eagerly and instantly, to the sacrifice, an ardent
and delighted victim to the hoped-for preservation of those, perhaps,
orphans, dearer to her far than life! Her resignation and firm step in
facing the savage cry that was thundering against her, disarmed the
ferocious beasts that were hungering and roaring for their prey!
"Mirabeau, whose immense head and gross figure could not be mistaken, is
said to have been the first among the mob to have sonorously chanted, 'To
Paris!' His myrmidons echoed and re-echoed the cry upon the signal. He
then hastened to the Assembly to contravene any measures the King might
ask in opposition. The riots increasing, the Queen said to His Majesty:
"'Oh, Sire! why am I not animated with the courage of Maria Theresa? Let
me go with my children to the National Assembly, as she did to the
Hungarian Senate, with my Imperial brother, Joseph, in her arms and
Leopold in her womb, when Charles the Seventh of Bavaria had deprived her
of all her German dominions, and she had already written to the Duchesse
de Lorraine to prepare her an asylum, not knowing where she should be
delivered of the precious charge she was then bearing; but I, like the
mother of the Gracchi, like Cornelia, more esteemed for my birth than for
my marriage, am the wife of the King of France, and I see we shall be
murdered in our beds for the want of our own exertions!'
"The King remained as if paralysed and stupefied, and made no answer. The
Princesse Elizabeth then threw herself at the Queen's feet, imploring her