Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Historic Court Memoirs of France, complete

Part 51 out of 62

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 7.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

character of these promenades may be relied on as true.

When the season for evening walks was at an end, odious couplets were
circulated in Paris; the 'Queen was treated in them in the most insulting
manner; her situation ranked among her enemies persons attached to the
only prince who for several years had appeared likely to give heirs to
the crown. People uttered the most inconsiderate language; and those
improper conversations took place in societies wherein the imminent
danger of violating to so criminal an extent both truth and the respect
due to sovereigns ought to have been better understood. A few days
before the Queen's confinement a whole volume of manuscript songs,
concerning her and all the ladies about her remarkable for rank or
station was, thrown down in the oiel-de-boeuf.--[A large room at
Versailles lighted by a bull's-eye window, and used as a waiting-room.]--
This manuscript was immediately put into the hands of the King, who was
highly incensed at it, and said that he had himself been at those
promenades; that he had seen nothing connected with them but what was
perfectly harmless; that such songs would disturb the harmony of twenty
families in the Court and city; that it was a capital crime to have made
any against the Queen herself; and that he wished the author of the
infamous libels to be discovered and punished. A fortnight afterwards it
was known publicly that the verses were by M. Champcenetz de Riquebourg,
who was not even reprimanded.

[The author of a great many songs, some of which are very well
written. Lively and satirical by nature, he did not lose either his
cheerfulness or his carelessness before the revolutionary tribunal.
After hearing his own sentence read, he asked his judges if he might
not be allowed to find a substitute.--MADAME CAMPAN.]

I knew for a certainty that the King spoke to M. de Maurepas, before two
of his most confidential servants, respecting the risk which he saw the
Queen ran from these night walks upon the terrace of Versailles, which
the public ventured to censure thus openly, and that the old minister had
the cruelty to advise that she should be suffered to go on; she possessed
talent; her friends were very ambitious, and longed to see her take a
part in public affairs; and to let her acquire the reputation of levity
would do no harm. M. de Vergennes was as hostile to the Queen's
influence as M. de Maurepas. It may therefore be fairly presumed, since
the Prime Minister durst point out to his King an advantage to be gained
by the Queen's discrediting herself, that he and M. de Vergennes employed
all means within the reach of powerful ministers in order to ruin her in
the opinion of the public.

The Queen's accouchement approached; Te Deums were sung and prayers
offered up in all the cathedrals. On the 11th of December, 1778, the
royal family, the Princes of the blood, and the great officers of State
passed the night in the rooms adjoining the Queen's bedchamber. Madame,
the King's daughter, came into the world before mid-day on the 19th of
December.--[Marie Therese Charlotte (1778-1861), Madame Royale; married
in 1799 Louis, Duc d'Angouleme, eldest son of the Comte d'Artois.]--
The etiquette of allowing all persons indiscriminately to enter at the
moment of the delivery of a queen was observed with such exaggeration
that when the accoucheur said aloud, "La Reine va s'accoucher," the
persons who poured into the chamber were so numerous that the rush nearly
destroyed the Queen. During the night the King had taken the precaution
to have the enormous tapestry screens which surrounded her Majesty's bed
secured with cords; but for this they certainly would have been thrown
down upon her. It was impossible to move about the chamber, which was
filled with so motley a crowd that one might have fancied himself in some
place of public amusement. Two Savoyards got upon the furniture for a
better sight of the Queen, who was placed opposite the fireplace.

The noise and the sex of the infant, with which the Queen was made
acquainted by a signal previously agreed on, as it is said, with the
Princesse do Lamballe, or some error of the accoucheur, brought on
symptoms which threatened fatal consequences; the accoucheur exclaimed,
"Give her air--warm water--she must be bled in the foot!" The windows
were stopped up; the King opened them with a strength which his affection
for the Queen gave him at the moment. They were of great height, and
pasted over with strips of paper all round. The basin of hot water not
being brought quickly enough, the accoucheur desired the chief surgeon to
use his lancet without waiting for it. He did so; the blood streamed out
freely, and the Queen opened her eyes. The Princesse de Lamballe was
carried through the crowd in a state of insensibility. The valets de
chambre and pages dragged out by the collar such inconsiderate persons as
would not leave the room. This cruel custom was abolished afterwards.
The Princes of the family, the Princes of the blood, the chancellor, and
the ministers are surely sufficient to attest the legitimacy of an
hereditary prince. The Queen was snatched from the very jaws of death;
she was not conscious of having been bled, and on being replaced in bed
asked why she had a linen bandage upon her foot.

The delight which succeeded the moment of fear was equally lively and
sincere. We were all embracing each other, and shedding tears of joy.
The Comte d'Esterhazy and the Prince de Poix, to whom I was the first to
announce that the Queen was restored to life, embraced me in the midst of
the cabinet of nobles. We little imagined, in our happiness at her
escape from death, for how much more terrible a fate our beloved Princess
was reserved.

NOTE. The two following specimens of the Emperor Joseph's correspondence
forcibly demonstrate the vigour, shrewdness, and originality of his mind,
and complete the portrait left of him by Madame Campan.

Few sovereigns have given their reasons for refusing appointments with
the fullness and point of the following letter

To a Lady.

MADAM.--I do not think that it is amongst the duties of a monarch to
grant places to one of his subjects merely because he is a gentleman.
That, however, is the inference from the request you have made to me.
Your late husband was, you say, a distinguished general, a gentleman of
good family, and thence you conclude that my kindness to your family can
do no less than give a company of foot to your second son, lately
returned from his travels.

Madam, a man may be the son of a general and yet have no talent for
command. A man may be of a good family and yet possess no other merit
than that which he owes to chance,--the name of gentleman.

I know your son, and I know what makes the soldier; and this twofold
knowledge convinces me that your son has not the disposition of a
warrior, and that he is too full of his birth to leave the country a hope
of his ever rendering it any important service.

What you are to be pitied for, madam, is, that your son is not fit either
for an officer, a statesman or a priest; in a word, that he is nothing
more than a gentleman in the most extended acceptation of the word.

You may be thankful to that destiny, which, in refusing talents to your
son, has taken care to put him in possession of great wealth, which will
sufficiently compensate him for other deficiencies, and enable him at the
same time to dispense with any favour from me.

I hope you will be impartial enough to see the reasons which prompt me to
refuse your request. It may be disagreeable to you, but I consider it
necessary. Farewell, madam.--Your sincere well-wisher,
LACHSENBURG, 4th August, 1787.

The application of another anxious and somewhat covetous mother was
answered with still more decision and irony:

To a Lady.

MADAM.--You know my disposition; you are not ignorant that the society of
the ladies is to me a mere recreation, and that I have never sacrificed
my principles to the fair sex. I pay but little attention to
recommendations, and I only take them into consideration when the person
in whose behalf I may be solicited possesses real merit.

Two of your sons are already loaded with favours. The eldest, who is not
yet twenty, is chief of a squadron in my army, and the younger has
obtained a canonry at Cologne, from the Elector, my brother. What would
you have more? Would you have the first a general and the second a

In France you may see colonels in leading-strings, and in Spain the royal
princes command armies even at eighteen; hence Prince Stahremberg forced
them to retreat so often that they were never able all the rest of their
lives to comprehend any other manoeuvre.

It is necessary to be sincere at Court, and severe in the field, stoical
without obduracy, magnanimous without weakness, and to gain the esteem of
our enemies by the justice of our actions; and this, madam, is what I aim
VIENNA, September, 1787.

(From the inedited Letters of Joseph IL, published at Paris, by Persan,


During the alarm for the life of the Queen, regret at not possessing an
heir to the throne was not even thought of. The King himself was wholly
occupied with the care of preserving an adored wife. The young Princess
was presented to her mother. "Poor little one," said the Queen, "you
were not wished for, but you are not on that account less dear to me. A
son would have been rather the property of the State. You shall be mine;
you shall have my undivided care, shall share all my happiness, and
console me in all my troubles."

The King despatched a courier to Paris, and wrote letters himself to
Vienna, by the Queen's bedside; and part of the rejoicings ordered took
place in the capital.

A great number of attendants watched near the Queen during the first
nights of her confinement. This custom distressed her; she knew how to
feel for others, and ordered large armchairs for her women, the backs of
which were capable of being let down by springs, and which served
perfectly well instead of beds.

M. de Lassone, the chief physician, the chief surgeon, the chief
apothecary, the principal officers of the buttery, etc., were likewise
nine nights without going to bed. The royal children were watched for a
long time, and one of the women on duty remained, nightly, up and
dressed, during the first three years from their birth.

The Queen made her entry into Paris for the churching. One hundred
maidens were portioned and married at Notre-Dame. There were few popular
acclamations, but her Majesty was perfectly well received at the Opera.

A few days after the Queen's recovery from her confinement, the Cure of
the Magdelaine de la City at Paris wrote to M. Campan and requested a
private interview with him; it was to desire he would deliver into the
hands of the Queen a little box containing her wedding ring, with this
note written by the Cure: "I have received under the seal of confession
the ring which I send to your Majesty; with an avowal that it was stolen
from you in 1771, in order to be used in sorceries, to prevent your
having any children." On seeing her ring again the Queen said that she
had in fact lost it about seven years before, while washing her hands,
and that she had resolved to use no endeavour to discover the
superstitious woman who had done her the injury.

The Queen's attachment to the Comtesse Jules increased every day; she
went frequently to her house at Paris, and even took up her own abode at
the Chateau de la Muette to be nearer during her confinement. She
married Mademoiselle de Polignac, when scarcely thirteen years of age, to
M. de Grammont, who, on account of this marriage, was made Duc de Guiche,
and captain of the King's Guards, in reversion after the Duc de Villeroi.
The Duchesse de Civrac, Madame Victoire's dame d'honneur, had been
promised the place for the Duc de Lorges, her son. The number of
discontented families at Court increased.

The title of favourite was too openly given to the Comtesse Jules by her
friends. The lot of the favourite of a queen is not, in France, a happy
one; the favourites of kings are treated, out of gallantry, with much
greater indulgence.

A short time after the birth of Madame the Queen became again enceinte;
she had mentioned it only to the King, to her physician, and to a few
persons honoured with her intimate confidence, when, having overexerted
her strength in pulling lip one of the glasses of her carriage, she felt
that she had hurt herself, and eight days afterwards she miscarried. The
King spent the whole morning at her bedside, consoling her, and
manifesting the tenderest concern for her. The Queen wept exceedingly;
the King took her affectionately in his arms, and mingled his tears with
hers. The King enjoined silence among the small number of persons who
were informed of this unfortunate occurrence; and it remained generally
unknown. These particulars furnish an accurate idea of the manner in
which this august couple lived together.

The Empress Maria Theresa did not enjoy the happiness of seeing her
daughter give an heir to the crown of France. That illustrious Princess
died at the close of 1780, after having proved by her example that, as in
the instance of Queen Blanche, the talents of a sovereign might be
blended with the virtues of a pious princess. The King was deeply
affected at the death of the Empress; and on the arrival of the courier
from Vienna said that he could not bring himself to afflict the Queen by
informing her of an event which grieved even him so much. His Majesty
thought the Abbe de Vermond, who had possessed the confidence of Maria
Theresa during his stay at Vienna, the most proper person to discharge
this painful duty. He sent his first valet de chambre, M. de Chamilly,
to the Abbe on the evening of the day he received the despatches from
Vienna, to order him to come the next day to the Queen before her
breakfast hour, to acquit himself discreetly of the afflicting commission
with which he was charged, and to let his Majesty know the moment of his
entering the Queen's chamber. It was the King's intention to be there
precisely a quarter of an hour after him, and he was punctual to his
time; he was announced; the Abbe came out; and his Majesty said to him,
as he drew up at the door to let him pass, "I thank you, Monsieur l'Abbe,
for the service you have just done me." This was the only time during
nineteen years that the King spoke to him.

Within an hour after learning the event the Queen put on temporary
mourning, while waiting until her Court mourning should be ready; she
kept herself shut up in her apartments for several days; went out only to
mass; saw none but the royal family; and received none but the Princesse
de Lamballe and the Duchesse de Polignac. She talked incessantly of the
courage, the misfortunes, the successes, and the virtues of her mother.
The shroud and dress in which Maria Theresa was to be buried, made
entirely by her own hands, were found ready prepared in one of her
closets. She often regretted that the numerous duties of her august
mother had prevented her from watching in person over the education of
her daughters; and modestly said that she herself would have been more
worthy if she had had the good fortune to receive lessons directly from a
sovereign so enlightened and so deserving of admiration.

The Queen told me one day that her mother was left a widow at an age when
her beauty was yet striking; that she was secretly informed of a plot
laid by her three principal ministers to make themselves agreeable to
her; of a compact made between them, that the losers should not feel any
jealousy towards him who should be fortunate enough to gain his
sovereign's heart; and that they had sworn that the successful one should
be always the friend of the other two. The Empress being assured of this
scheme, one day after the breaking up of the council over which she had
presided, turned the conversation upon the subject of female sovereigns,
and the duties of their sex and rank; and then applying her general
reflections to herself in particular, told them that she hoped to guard
herself all her life against weaknesses of the heart; but that if ever an
irresistible feeling should make her alter her resolution, it should be
only in favour of a man proof against ambition, not engaged in State
affairs, but attached only to a private life and its calm enjoyments,--in
a word, if her heart should betray her so far as to lead her to love a
man invested with any important office, from the moment he should
discover her sentiments he would forfeit his place and his influence with
the public. This was sufficient; the three ministers, more ambitious
than amorous, gave up their projects for ever.

On the 22d of October, 1781, the Queen gave birth to a Dauphin.--
[The first Dauphin, Louis, born 1781, died 1789.]--So deep a silence
prevailed in the room that the Queen thought her child was a daughter;
but after the Keeper of the Seals had declared the sex of the infant, the
King went up to the Queen's bed, and said to her, "Madame, you have
fulfilled my wishes and those of France:, you are the mother of a
Dauphin." The King's joy was boundless; tears streamed from his eyes; he
gave his hand to every one present; and his happiness carried away his
habitual reserve. Cheerful and affable, he was incessantly taking
occasion to introduce the words, "my son," or "the Dauphin." As soon as
the Queen was in bed, she wished to see the long-looked-for infant. The
Princesse de Guemenee brought him to her. The Queen said there was no
need for commending him to the Princess, but in order to enable her to
attend to him more freely, she would herself share the care of the
education of her daughter. When the Dauphin was settled in his
apartment, he received the customary homages and visits. The Duc
d'Angouleme, meeting his father at the entrance of the Dauphin's
apartment, said to him, "Oh, papa! how little my cousin is!"--"The day
will come when you will think him great enough, my dear," answered the
Prince, almost involuntarily.--[Eldest son of the Comte d'Artois, and
till the birth of the Dauphin with near prospects of the succession.]

The birth of the Dauphin appeared to give joy to all classes. Men
stopped one another in the streets, spoke without being acquainted,
and those who were acquainted embraced each other. In the birth of a
legitimate heir to the sovereign every man beholds a pledge of prosperity
and tranquillity .

[M. Merard de Saint Just made a quatrain on the birth of the Dauphin
to the following effect:

"This infant Prince our hopes are centred in,
will doubtless make us happy, rich, and free;
And since with somebody he must begin,
My fervent prayer is--that it may be me!"


The rejoicings were splendid and ingenious. The artificers and tradesmen
of Paris spent considerable sums in order to go to Versailles in a body,
with their various insignia. Almost every troop had music with it. When
they arrived at the court of the palace, they there arranged themselves
so as to present a most interesting living picture. Chimney-sweepers,
quite as well dressed as those that appear upon the stage, carried an
ornamented chimney, at the top of which was perched one of the smallest
of their fraternity. The chairmen carried a sedan highly gilt, in which
were to be seen a handsome nurse and a little Dauphin. The butchers made
their appearance with their fat ox. Cooks, masons, blacksmiths, all
trades were on the alert. The smiths hammered away upon an anvil, the
shoemakers finished off a little pair of boots for the Dauphin, and the
tailors a little suit of the uniform of his regiment. The King remained
a long time upon a balcony to enjoy the sight. The whole Court was
delighted with it. So general was the enthusiasm that (the police not
having carefully examined the procession) the grave-diggers had the
imprudence to send their deputation also, with the emblematic devices of
their ill-omened occupation. They were met by the Princesse Sophie, the
King's aunt, who was thrilled with horror at the sight, and entreated the
King to have the audacious, fellows driven out of the procession, which
was then drawing up on the terrace.

The 'dames de la halle' came to congratulate the Queen, and were received
with the suitable ceremonies.

Fifty of them appeared dressed in black silk gowns, the established full
dress of their order, and almost all wore diamonds. The Princesse de
Chimay went to the door of the Queen's bedroom to receive three of these
ladies, who were led up to the Queen's bed. One of them addressed her
Majesty in a speech written by M. de la Harpe. It was set down on the
inside of a fan, to which the speaker repeatedly referred, but without
any embarrassment. She was handsome, and had a remarkably fine voice.
The Queen was affected by the address, and answered it with great
affability,--wishing a distinction to be made between these women and the
poissardes, who always left a disagreeable impression on her mind.

The King ordered a substantial repast for all these women. One of his
Majesty's maitres d'hotel, wearing his hat, sat as president and did the
honours of the table. The public were admitted, and numbers of people
had the curiosity to go.

The Garden-du-Corps obtained the King's permission to give the Queen a
dress ball in the great hall of the Opera at Versailles. Her Majesty
opened the ball in a minuet with a private selected by the corps, to whom
the King granted the baton of an exempt. The fete was most splendid.
All then was joy, happiness, and peace.

The Dauphin was a year old when the Prince de Guemenee's bankruptcy
compelled the Princess, his wife, who was governess to the children of
France, to resign her situation.

The Queen was at La Muette for the inoculation of her daughter. She sent
for me, and condescended to say she wished to converse with me about a
scheme which delighted her, but in the execution of which she foresaw
some inconveniences. Her plan was to appoint the Duchesse de Polignac to
the office lately held by the Princesse de Guemenee. She saw with
extreme pleasure the facilities which this appointment would give her for
superintending the education of her children, without running any risk of
hurting the pride of the governess; and that it would bring together the
objects of her warmest affections, her children and her friend. "The
friends of the Duchesse de Polignac," continued the Queen, "will be
gratified by the splendour and importance conferred by the employment.
As to the Duchess, I know her; the place by no means suits her simple and
quiet habits, nor the sort of indolence of her disposition. She will
give me the greatest possible proof of her devotion if she yields to my
wish." The Queen also spoke of the Princesse de Chimay and the Duchesse
de Duras, whom the public pointed out as fit for the post; but she
thought the Princesse de Chimay's piety too rigid; and as to the Duchesse
de Duras, her wit and learning quite frightened her. What the Queen
dreaded as the consequence of her selection of the Duchesse de Polignac
was principally the jealousy of the courtiers; but she showed so lively a
desire to see her scheme executed that I had no doubt she would soon set
at naught all the obstacles she discovered. I was not mistaken; a few
days afterwards the Duchess was appointed governess.

The Queen's object in sending for me was no doubt to furnish me with the
means of explaining the feelings which induced her to prefer a governess
disposed by friendship to suffer her to enjoy all the privileges of a
mother. Her Majesty knew that I saw a great deal of company.

The Queen frequently dined with the Duchess after having been present at
the King's private dinner. Sixty-one thousand francs were therefore
added to the salary of the governess as a compensation for this increase
of expense.

The Queen was tired of the excursions to Marly, and had no great
difficulty in setting the King against them. He did not like the expense
of them, for everybody was entertained there gratis. Louis XIV. had
established a kind of parade upon these excursions, differing from that
of Versailles, but still more annoying. Card and supper parties occurred
every day, and required much dress. On Sundays and holidays the
fountains played, the people were admitted into the gardens, and there
was as great a crowd as at the fetes of St. Cloud.

Every age has its peculiar colouring; Marly showed that of Louis XIV.
even more than Versailles. Everything in the former place appeared to
have been produced by the magic power of a fairy's wand. Not the
slightest trace of all this splendour remains; the revolutionary spoilers
even tore up the pipes which served to supply the fountains. Perhaps a
brief description of this palace and the usages established there by
Louis XIV. may be acceptable.

The very extensive gardens of Marly ascended almost imperceptibly to the
Pavilion of the Sun., which was occupied only by the King and his family.
The pavilions of the twelve zodiacal signs bounded the two sides of the
lawn. They were connected by bowers impervious to the rays of the sun.
The pavilions nearest to that of the sun were reserved for the Princes of
the blood and the ministers; the rest were occupied by persons holding
superior offices at Court, or invited to stay at Marly. Each pavilion
was named after fresco paintings, which covered its walls, and which had
been executed by the most celebrated artists of the age of Louis XIV.
On a line with the upper pavilion there was on the left a chapel; on the
right a pavilion called La Perspective, which concealed along suite of
offices, containing a hundred lodging-rooms intended for the persons
belonging to the service of the Court, kitchens, and spacious dining-
rooms, in which more than thirty tables were splendidly laid out.

During half of Louis XV.'s reign the ladies still wore the habit de cour
de Marly, so named by Louis XIV., and which differed little from, that
devised for Versailles. The French gown, gathered in the back, and with
great hoops, replaced this dress, and continued to be worn till the end
of the reign of Louis XVI. The diamonds, feathers, rouge, and
embroidered stuffs spangled with gold, effaced all trace of a rural
residence; but the people loved to see the splendour of their sovereign
and a brilliant Court glittering in the shades of the woods.

After dinner, and before the hour for cards, the Queen, the Princesses,
and their ladies, paraded among the clumps of trees, in little carriages,
beneath canopies richly embroidered with gold, drawn by men in the King's
livery. The trees planted by Louis XIV. were of prodigious height,
which, however, was surpassed in several of the groups by fountains of
the clearest water; while, among others, cascades over white marble, the
waters of which, met by the sunbeams, looked like draperies of silver
gauze, formed a contrast to the solemn darkness of the groves.

In the evening nothing more was necessary for any well-dressed man to
procure admission to the Queen's card parties than to be named and
presented, by some officer of the Court, to the gentleman usher of the
card-room. This room, which was very, large, and of octagonal shape,
rose to the top of the Italian roof, and terminated in a cupola furnished
with balconies, in which ladies who had not been presented easily
obtained leave to place themselves, and enjoy, the sight of the brilliant

Though not of the number of persons belonging to the Court, gentlemen
admitted into this salon might request one of the ladies seated with the
Queen at lansquenet or faro to bet upon her cards with such gold or notes
as they presented to her. Rich people and the gamblers of Paris did not
miss one of the evenings at the Marly salon, and there were always
considerable sums won and lost. Louis XVI. hated high play, and very
often showed displeasure when the loss of large sums was mentioned. The
fashion of wearing a black coat without being in mourning had not then
been introduced, and the King gave a few of his 'coups de boutoir' to
certain chevaliers de St. Louis, dressed in this manner, who came to
venture two or three louis, in the hope that fortune would favour the
handsome duchesses who deigned to place them on their cards.

[Bachaumont in his "Memoirs," (tome xii., p. 189), which are often
satirical; and always somewhat questionable, speaks of the singular
precautions taken at play at Court. "The bankers at the Queen's
table," says he, "in order to prevent the mistakes [I soften the
harshness of his expression] which daily happen, have obtained
permission from her Majesty that before beginning to play the table
shall be bordered by a ribbon entirely round it, and that no other
money than that upon the cards beyond the ribbon shall be considered
as staked."--NOTE By THE EDITOR.]

Singular contrasts are often seen amidst the grandeur of courts. In
order to manage such high play at the Queen's faro table, it was
necessary to have a banker provided with large, sums of money; and this
necessity placed at the table, to which none but the highest titled
persons were admitted in general, not only M. de Chalabre, who was its
banker, but also a retired captain of foot, who officiated as his second.
A word, trivial, but perfectly appropriate to express the manner in which
the Court was attended there, was often heard. Gentlemen presented at
Court, who had not been invited to stay at Marly, came there
notwithstanding, as they did to Versailles, and returned again to Paris;
under such circumstances, it was said such a one had been to Marly only
'en polisson';--[A contemptuous expression, meaning literally "as a
scamp" or "rascal"]--and it appeared odd to hear a captivating marquis,
in answer to the inquiry whether he was of the royal party at Marly, say,
"No, I am only here 'en polisson'," meaning simply "I am here on the
footing of all those whose nobility is of a later date than 1400." The
Marly excursions were exceedingly expensive to the King. Besides the
superior tables, those of the almoners, equerries, maitres d'hotel, etc.,
were all supplied with such a degree of magnificence as to allow of
inviting strangers to them; and almost all the visitors from Paris were
boarded at the expense of the Court.

The personal frugality of the unfortunate Prince who sank beneath the
weight of the national debts thus favoured the Queen's predilection for
her Petit Trianon; and for five or six years preceding the Revolution the
Court very seldom visited Marly.

The King, always attentive to the comfort of his family, gave Mesdames,
his aunts, the use of the Chateau de Bellevue, and afterwards purchased
the Princesse de Guemenee's house, at the entrance to Paris, for
Elisabeth. The Comtesse de Provence bought a small house at Montreuil;
Monsieur already had Brunoy; the Comtesse d'Artois built Bagatelle;
Versailles became, in the estimation of all the royal family, the least
agreeable of residences. They only fancied themselves at home in the
plainest houses, surrounded by English gardens, where they better enjoyed
the beauties of nature. The taste for cascades and statues was entirely

The Queen occasionally remained a whole month at Petit Trianon, and had
established there all the ways of life in a chateau. She entered the
sitting-room without driving the ladies from their pianoforte or
embroidery. The gentlemen continued their billiards or backgammon
without suffering her presence to interrupt them. There was but little
room in the small Chateau of Trianon. Madame Elisabeth accompanied the
Queen there, but the ladies of honour and ladies of the palace had no
establishment at Trianon. When invited by the Queen, they came from
Versailles to dinner. The King and Princes came regularly to sup. A
white gown, a gauze kerchief, and a straw hat were the uniform dress of
the Princesses.

[The extreme simplicity of the Queen's toilet began to be strongly
censured, at first among the courtiers, and afterwards throughout
the kingdom; and through one of those inconsistencies more common in
France than elsewhere, while the Queen was blamed, she was blindly
imitated. There was not a woman but would have the same undress,
the same cap, and the same feathers as she had been seen to wear.
They crowded to Mademoiselle Bertin, her milliner; there was an
absolute revolution in the dress of our ladies, which gave
importance to that woman. Long trains, and all those fashions which
confer a certain nobility on dress, were discarded; and at last a
duchess could not be distinguished from an actress. The men caught
the mania; the upper classes had long before given up to their
lackeys feathers, tufts of ribbon, and laced hats. They now got rid
of red heels and embroidery; and walked about our streets in plain
cloth, short thick shoes, and with knotty cudgels in their hands.
Many humiliating scrapes were the consequence of this metamorphosis.
Bearing no mark to distinguish them from the common herd, some of
the lowest classes got into quarrels with them, in which the nobles
had not always the best of it.--MONTJOIE, "History of Marie

Examining all the manufactories of the hamlet, seeing the cows milked,
and fishing in the lake delighted the Queen; and every year she showed
increased aversion to the pompous excursions to Marly.

The idea of acting comedies, as was then done in almost all country
houses, followed on the Queen's wish to live at Trianon without ceremony.

[The Queen got through the characters she assumed indifferently
enough; she could hardly be ignorant of this, as her performances
evidently excited little pleasure. Indeed, one day while she was
thus exhibiting, somebody ventured to say, by no means inaudibly,
"well, this is royally ill played!" The lesson was thrown away upon
her, for never did she sacrifice to the opinion of another that
which she thought permissible. When she was told that her extreme
plainness in dress, the nature of her amusements, and her dislike to
that splendour which ought always to attend a Queen, had an
appearance of levity, which was misinterpreted by a portion of the
public, she replied with Madame de Maintenon: "I am upon the stage,
and of course I shall be either hissed or applauded." Louis XIV.
had a similar taste; he danced upon the stage; but he had shown by
brilliant actions that he knew how to enforce respect; and besides,
he unhesitatingly gave up the amusement from the moment he heard
those beautiful lines in which Racine pointed out how very unworthy
of him such pastimes were.--MONTJOIE, "History of Marie

It was agreed that no young man except the Comte d'Artois should be
admitted into the company of performers, and that the audience should
consist only of the King, Monsieur, and the Princesses, who did not play;
but in order to stimulate the actors a little, the first boxes were to be
occupied by the readers, the Queen's ladies, their sisters and daughters,
making altogether about forty persons.

The Queen laughed heartily at the voice of M. d'Adhemar, formerly a very
fine one, but latterly become rather tremulous. His shepherd's dress in
Colin, in the "Devin du Village," contrasted very ridiculously with his
time of life, and the Queen said it would be difficult for malevolence
itself to find anything to criticise in the choice of such a lover.
The King was highly amused with these plays, and was present at every
performance. Caillot, a celebrated actor, who had long quitted the
stage, and Dazincourt, both of acknowledged good character, were selected
to give lessons, the first in comic opera, of which the easier sorts were
preferred, and the second in comedy. The office of hearer of rehearsals,
prompter, and stage manager was given to my father-in-law. The Duc de
Fronsac, first gentleman of the chamber, was much hurt at this. He
thought himself called upon to make serious remonstrances upon the
subject, and wrote to the Queen, who made him the following answer: "You
cannot be first gentleman when we are the actors. Besides, I have
already intimated to you my determination respecting Trianon. I hold no
court there, I live like a private person, and M. Campan shall be always
employed to execute orders relative to the private fetes I choose to give
there." This not putting a stop to the Duke's remonstrances, the King
was obliged to interfere. The Duke continued obstinate, and insisted
that he was entitled to manage the private amusements as much as those
which were public. It became absolutely necessary to end the argument in
a positive manner.

The diminutive Duc de Fronsac never failed, when he came to pay his
respects to the Queen at her toilet, to turn the conversation upon
Trianon, in order to make some ironical remarks on my father-in-law, of
whom, from the time of his appointment, he always spoke as "my colleague
Campan." The Queen would shrug her shoulders, and say, when he was gone,
"It is quite shocking to find so little a man in the son of the Marechal
de Richelieu."

So long as no strangers were admitted to the performances they were but
little censured; but the praise obtained by the performers made them look
for a larger circle of admirers. The company, for a private company, was
good enough, and the acting was applauded to the skies; nevertheless, as
the audience withdrew, adverse criticisms were occasionally heard. The
Queen permitted the officers of the Body Guards and the equerries of the
King and Princes to be present at the plays. Private boxes were provided
for some of the people belonging to the Court; a few more ladies were
invited; and claims arose on all sides for the favour of admission. The
Queen refused to admit the officers of the body guards of the Princes,
the officers of the King's Cent Suisses, and many other persons, who were
highly mortified at the refusal.

While delight at having given an heir to the throne of the Bourbons, and
a succession of fetes and amusements, filled up the happy days of Marie
Antoinette, the public was engrossed by the Anglo-American war. Two
kings, or rather their ministers, planted and propagated the love of
liberty in the new world; the King of England, by shutting his ears and
his heart against the continued and respectful representations of
subjects at a distance from their native land, who had become numerous,
rich, and powerful, through the resources of the soil they had
fertilised; and the King of France, by giving support to this people in
rebellion against their ancient sovereign. Many young soldiers,
belonging to the first families of the country, followed La Fayette's
example, and forsook luxury, amusement, and love, to go and tender their
aid to the revolted Americans. Beaumarchais, secretly seconded by
Messieurs de Maurepas and de Vergennes, obtained permission to send out
supplies of arms and clothing. Franklin appeared at Court in the dress
of an American agriculturist. His unpowdered hair, his round hat, his
brown cloth coat formed a contrast to the laced and embroidered coats and
the powder and perfume of the courtiers of Versailles. This novelty
turned the light heads of the Frenchwomen. Elegant entertainments were
given to Doctor Franklin, who, to the reputation of a man of science,
added the patriotic virtues which invested him with the character of an
apostle of liberty. I was present at one of these entertainments, when
the most beautiful woman out of three hundred was selected to place a
crown of laurels upon the white head of the American philosopher, and two
kisses upon his cheeks. Even in the palace of Versailles Franklin's
medallion was sold under the King's eyes, in the exhibition of Sevres
porcelain. The legend of this medallion was

"Eripuit coelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis."

The King never declared his opinion upon an enthusiasm which his correct
judgment no doubt led him to blame. The Queen spoke out more plainly
about the part France was taking respecting the independence of the
American colonies, and constantly opposed it. Far was she from
foreseeing that a revolution at--such a distance could excite one in
which a misguided populace would drag her from her palace to a death
equally unjust and cruel. She only saw something ungenerous in the
method which France adopted of checking the power of England.

However, as Queen of France, she enjoyed the sight of a whole people
rendering homage to the prudence, courage, and good qualities of a young
Frenchman; and she shared the enthusiasm inspired by the conduct and
military success of the Marquis de La Fayette. The Queen granted him
several audiences on his first return from America, and, until the 10th
of August, on which day my house was plundered, I preserved some lines
from Gaston and Bayard, in which the friends of M. de La Fayette saw the
exact outline of his character, written by her own hand:

"Why talk of youth,
When all the ripe experience of the old
Dwells with him? In his schemes profound and cool,
He acts with wise precaution, and reserves
For time of action his impetuous fire.
To guard the camp, to scale the leaguered wall,
Or dare the hottest of the fight, are toils
That suit th' impetuous bearing of his youth;
Yet like the gray-hair'd veteran he can shun
The field of peril. Still before my eyes
I place his bright example, for I love
His lofty courage, and his prudent thought.
Gifted like him, a warrior has no age."

[During the American war a general officer in the service of the
United States advanced with a score of men under the English
batteries to reconnoitre their position. His aide-de-camp, struck
by a ball, fell at his side. The officers and orderly dragoons fled
precipitately. The general, though under the fire of the cannon,
approached the wounded man to see whether any help could be afforded
him. Finding the wound had been mortal, he slowly rejoined the
group which had got out of the reach of the cannon. This instance
of courage and humanity took place at the battle of Monmouth.
General Clinton, who commanded the English troops, knew that the
Marquis de La Fayette generally rode a white horse; it was upon a
white horse that the general officer who retired so slowly was
mounted; Clinton desired the gunners not to fire. This noble
forbearance probably saved M. de La Fayette's life, for he it was.
At that time he was but twenty-two years of age.--"Historical
Anecdotes of the Reign of Louis XVI."]

These lines had been applauded and encored at the French theatre;
everybody's head was turned. There was no class of persons that did not
heartily approve of the support given openly by the French Government to
the cause of American independence. The constitution planned for the new
nation was digested at Paris, and while liberty, equality, and the rights
of man were commented upon by the Condorcets, Baillys, Mirabeaus, etc.,
the minister Segur published the King's edict, which, by repealing that
of 1st November, 1750, declared all officers not noble by four
generations incapable of filling the rank of captain, and denied all
military rank to the roturiers, excepting sons of the chevaliers de St.

["M. de Segur," says Chamfort, "having published an ordinance which
prohibited the admission of any other than gentlemen into the
artillery corps, and, on the other hand, none but well-educated
persons being proper for admission, a curious scene took place: the
Abbe Bossat, examiner of the pupils, gave certificates only to
plebeians, while Cherin gave them only to gentlemen. Out of one
hundred pupils, there were not above four or five who were qualified
in both respects."]

The injustice and absurdity of this law was no doubt a secondary cause of
the Revolution. To understand the despair and rage with which this law
inspired the Tiers Etat one should have belonged to that honourable
class. The provinces were full of roturier families, who for ages had
lived as people of property upon their own domains, and paid the taxes.
If these persons had several sons, they would place one in the King's
service, one in the Church, another in the Order of Malta as a chevalier
servant d'armes, and one in the magistracy; while the eldest preserved
the paternal manor, and if he were situated in a country celebrated for
wine, he would, besides selling his own produce, add a kind of commission
trade in the wines of the canton. I have seen an individual of this
justly respected class, who had been long employed in diplomatic
business, and even honoured with the title of minister plenipotentiary,
the son-in-law and nephew of colonels and town mayors, and, on his
mother's side, nephew of a lieutenant-general with a cordon rouge, unable
to introduce his sons as sous-lieutenants into a regiment of foot.

Another decision of the Court, which could not be announced by an edict,
was that all ecclesiastical benefices, from the humblest priory up to the
richest abbey, should in future be appanages of the nobility. Being the
son of a village surgeon, the Abbe de Vermond, who had great influence in
the disposition of benefices, was particularly struck with the justice of
this decree.

During the absence of the Abbe in an excursion he made for his health, I
prevailed on the Queen to write a postscript to the petition of a cure,
one of my friends, who was soliciting a priory near his curacy, with the
intention of retiring to it. I obtained it for him. On the Abbe's
return he told me very harshly that I should act in a manner quite
contrary to the King's wishes if I again obtained such a favour; that the
wealth of the Church was for the future to be invariably devoted to the
support of the poorer nobility; that it was the interest of the State
that it should be so; and a plebeian priest, happy in a good curacy, had
only to remain curate.

Can we be astonished at the part shortly afterwards taken by the deputies
of the Third Estate, when called to the States General?


Elegant entertainments were given to Doctor Franklin
Fashion of wearing a black coat without being in mourning
Favourite of a queen is not, in France, a happy one
History of the man with the iron mask
Of course I shall be either hissed or applauded.
She often carried her economy to a degree of parsimony
Shocking to find so little a man in the son of the Marechal
Simplicity of the Queen's toilet began to be strongly censured
The charge of extravagance
The three ministers, more ambitious than amorous
Well, this is royally ill played!
While the Queen was blamed, she was blindly imitated


Being the Historic Memoirs of Madam Campan,
First Lady in Waiting to the Queen



About the close of the last century several of the Northern sovereigns
took a fancy for travelling. Christian III., King of Denmark, visited
the Court of France in 1763, during the reign of Louis XV. We have seen
the King of Sweden and Joseph II. at Versailles. The Grand Duke of
Russia (afterwards Paul I.), son of Catherine II., and the Princess of
Wurtemberg, his wife, likewise resolved to visit France. They travelled
under the titles of the Comte and Comtesse du Nord. They were presented
on the 20th of May, 1782. The Queen received them with grace and
dignity. On the day of their arrival at Versailles they dined in private
with the King and Queen.

The plain, unassuming appearance of Paul I. pleased Louis XVI. He spoke
to him with more confidence and cheerfulness than he had spoken to Joseph
II. The Comtesse du Nord was not at first so successful with the Queen.
This lady was of a fine height, very fat for her age, with all the German
stiffness, well informed, and perhaps displaying her acquirements with
rather too much confidence. When the Comte and Comtesse du Nord were
presented the Queen was exceedingly nervous. She withdrew into her
closet before she went into the room where she was to dine with the
illustrious travellers, and asked for a glass of water, confessing "she
had just experienced how much more difficult it was to play the part of a
queen in the presence of other sovereigns, or of princes born to become
so, than before courtiers." She soon recovered from her confusion, and
reappeared with ease and confidence. The dinner was tolerably cheerful,
and the conversation very animated.

Brilliant entertainments were given at Court in honour of the King of
Sweden and the Comte du Nord. They were received in private by the King
and Queen, but they were treated with much more ceremony than the
Emperor, and their Majesties always appeared to me to be very, cautious
before these personages. However, the King one day asked the Russian
Grand Duke if it were true that he could not rely on the fidelity of any
one of those who accompanied him. The Prince answered him without
hesitation, and before a considerable number of persons, that he should
be very sorry to have with him even a poodle that was much attached to
him, because his mother would take care to have it thrown into the Seine,
with a stone round its neck, before he should leave Paris. This reply,
which I myself heard, horrified me, whether it depicted the disposition
of Catherine, or only expressed the Prince's prejudice against her.

The Queen gave the Grand Duke a supper at Trianon, and had the gardens
illuminated as they had been for the Emperor. The Cardinal de Rohan very
indiscreetly ventured to introduce himself there without the Queen's
knowledge. Having been treated with the utmost coolness ever since his
return from Vienna, he had not dared to ask her himself for permission to
see the illumination; but he persuaded the porter of Trianon to admit him
as soon as the Queen should have set off for Versailles, and his Eminence
engaged to remain in the porter's lodge until all the carriages should
have left the chateau. He did not keep his word, and while the porter
was busy in the discharge of his duty, the Cardinal, who wore his red
stockings and had merely thrown on a greatcoat, went down into the
garden, and, with an air of mystery, drew up in two different places to
see the royal family and suite pass by.

Her Majesty was highly offended at this piece of boldness, and next day
ordered the porter to be discharged. There was a general feeling of
disgust at the Cardinal's conduct, and of commiseration towards the
porter for the loss of his place. Affected at the misfortune of the
father of a family, I obtained his forgiveness; and since that time I
have often regretted the feeling which induced me to interfere. The
notoriety of the discharge of the porter of Trianon, and the odium that
circumstance would have fixed upon the Cardinal, would have made the
Queen's dislike to him still more publicly known, and would probably have
prevented the scandalous and notorious intrigue of the necklace.

The Queen, who was much prejudiced against the King of Sweden, received
him very coldly.

[Gustavus III., King of Sweden, travelled in France under the title
of Comte d'Haga. Upon his accession to the throne, he managed the
revolution which prostrated the authority of the Senate with equal
skill, coolness, and courage. He was assassinated in 1792, at a
masked ball, by Auckarstrum.--NOTE BY THE EDITOR.]

All that was said of the private character of that sovereign, his
connection with the Comte de Vergennes, from the time of the Revolution
of Sweden, in 1772, the character of his favourite Armfeldt, and the
prejudices of the monarch himself against the Swedes who were well
received at the Court of Versailles, formed the grounds of this dislike.
He came one day uninvited and unexpected, and requested to dine with the
Queen. The Queen received him in the little closet, and desired me to
send for her clerk of the kitchen, that she might be informed whether
there was a proper dinner to set before Comte d'Haga, and add to it if
necessary. The King of Sweden assured her that there would be enough for
him; and I could not help smiling when I thought of the length of the
menu of the dinner of the King and Queen, not half of which would have
made its appearance had they dined in private. The Queen looked
significantly at me, and I withdrew. In the evening she asked me why I
had seemed so astonished when she ordered me to add to her dinner, saying
that I ought instantly to have seen that she was giving the King of
Sweden a lesson for his presumption. I owned to her that the scene had
appeared to me so much in the bourgeois style, that I involuntarily
thought of the cutlets on the gridiron, and the omelette, which in
families in humble circumstances serve to piece out short commons. She
was highly diverted with my answer, and repeated it to the King, who also
laughed heartily at it.

The peace with England satisfied all classes of society interested in the
national honour. The departure of the English commissary from Dunkirk,
who had been fixed at that place ever since the shameful peace of 1763 as
inspector of our navy, occasioned an ecstasy of joy.

[By the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) it was stipulated that the
fortifications and port of Dunkirk should be destroyed. By the
Treaty of Paris (1763) a commissary was to reside at Dunkirk to see
that no attempt was made to break this treaty. This stipulation was
revoked by the Peace of Versailles, in 1783.--see DYER'S "Modern
Europe," 1st edition, vol. i., pp. 205-438 and 539.]

The Government communicated to the Englishman the order for his departure
before the treaty was made public. But for that precaution the populace
would have probably committed some excess or other, in order to make the
agent of English power feel the effects of the resentment which had
constantly increased during his stay at that port. Those engaged in
trade were the only persons dissatisfied with the treaty of 1783. That
article which provided for, the free admission of English goods
annihilated at one blow the trade of Rouen and the other manufacturing
towns throughout the kingdom. The English swarmed into Paris. A
considerable number of them were presented at Court. The Queen paid them
marked attention; doubtless she wished them to distinguish between the
esteem she felt for their noble nation and the political views of the
Government in the support it had afforded to the Americans. Discontent
was, however, manifested at Court in consequence of the favour bestowed
by the Queen on the English noblemen; these attentions were called
infatuations. This was illiberal; and the Queen justly complained of
such absurd jealousy.

The journey to Fontainebleau and the winter at Paris and at Court were
extremely brilliant. The spring brought back those amusements which the
Queen began to prefer to the splendour of fetes. The most perfect
harmony subsisted between the King and Queen; I never saw but one cloud
between them. It was soon dispelled, and the cause of it is perfectly
unknown to me.

My father-in-law, whose penetration and experience I respected greatly,
recommended me, when he saw me placed in the service of a young queen, to
shun all kinds of confidence. "It procures," said he, "but a very
fleeting, and at the same time dangerous sort of favour; serve with zeal
to the best of your judgment, but never do more than obey. Instead of
setting your wits to work to discover why an order or a commission which
may appear of consequence is given to you, use them to prevent the
possibility of your knowing anything of the matter." I had occasion to
act on this wise advice. One morning at Trianon I went into the Queen's
chamber; there were letters lying upon the bed, and she was weeping
bitterly. Her tears and sobs were occasionally interrupted by
exclamations of "Ah! that I were dead!--wretches! monsters! What have I
done to them?" I offered her orange-flower water and ether. "Leave me,"
said she, "if you love me; it would be better to kill me at once." At
this moment she threw her arm over my shoulder and began weeping afresh.
I saw that some weighty trouble oppressed her heart, and that she wanted
a confidant. I suggested sending for the Duchesse de Polignac; this she
strongly opposed. I renewed my arguments, and her opposition grew
weaker. I disengaged myself from her arms, and ran to the antechamber,
where I knew that an outrider always waited, ready to mount and start at
a moment's warning for Versailles. I ordered him to go full speed, and
tell the Duchesse de Polignac that the Queen was very uneasy, and desired
to see her instantly. The Duchess always had a carriage ready. In less
than ten minutes she was at the Queen's door. I was the only person
there, having been forbidden to send for the other women. Madame de
Polignac came in; the Queen held out her arms to her, the Duchess rushed
towards her. I heard her sobs renewed and withdrew.

A quarter of an hour afterwards the Queen, who had become calmer, rang to
be dressed. I sent her woman in; she put on her gown and retired to her
boudoir with the Duchess. Very soon afterwards the Comte d'Artois
arrived from Compiegne, where he had been with the King. He eagerly
inquired where the Queen was; remained half an hour with her and the
Duchess; and on coming out told me the Queen asked for me. I found her
seated on the couch by the side of her friend; her features had resumed
their usual cheerful and gracious appearance. She held out her hand to
me, and said to the Duchess, "I know I have made her so uncomfortable
this morning that I must set her poor heart at ease." She then added,
"You must have seen, on some fine summer's day, a black cloud suddenly
appear and threaten to pour down upon the country and lay it waste. The
lightest wind drives it away, and the blue sky and serene weather are
restored. This is just the image of what has happened to me this
morning." She afterwards told me that the King would return from
Compiegne after hunting there, and sup with her; that I must send for her
purveyor, to select with him from his bills of fare all such dishes as
the King liked best; that she would have no others served up in the
evening at her table; and that this was a mark of attention that she
wished the King to notice. The Duchesse de Polignac also took me by the
hand, and told me how happy she was that she had been with the Queen at a
moment when she stood in need of a friend. I never knew what could have
created in the Queen so lively and so transient an alarm; but I guessed
from the particular care she took respecting the King that attempts had
been made to irritate him against her; that the malice of her enemies had
been promptly discovered and counteracted by the King's penetration and
attachment; and that the Comte d'Artois had hastened to bring her
intelligence of it.

It was, I think, in the summer of 1787, during one of the Trianon
excursions, that the Queen of Naples--[Caroline, sister of Marie
Antoinette.]--sent the Chevalier de Bressac to her Majesty on a secret
mission relative to a projected marriage between the Hereditary Prince,
her son, and Madame, the King's daughter; in the absence of the lady of
honour he addressed himself to me. Although he said a great deal to me
about the close confidence with which the Queen of Naples honoured him,
and about his letter of credit, I thought he had the air of an
adventurer.--[He afterwards spent several years shut up in the Chateau de
l'Oeuf.]--He had, indeed, private letters for the Queen, and his
mission was not feigned; he talked to me very rashly even before his
admission, and entreated me to do all that lay in my power to dispose the
Queen's mind in favour of his sovereign's wishes; I declined, assuring
him that it did not become me to meddle with State affairs.
He endeavoured, but in vain, to prove to me that the union contemplated
by the Queen of Naples ought not to be looked upon in that light.

I procured M. de Bressac the audience he desired, but without suffering
myself even to seem acquainted with the object of his mission. The Queen
told me what it was; she thought him a person ill-chosen for the
occasion; and yet she thought that the Queen, her sister, had done wisely
in not sending a man worthy to be avowed,--it being impossible that what
she solicited should take place. I had an opportunity on this occasion,
as indeed on many others, of judging to what extent the Queen valued and
loved France and the dignity of our Court. She then told me that Madame,
in marrying her cousin, the Duc d'Angouleme, would not lose her rank as
daughter of the Queen; and that her situation would be far preferable to
that of queen of any other country; and that there was nothing in Europe
to be compared to the Court of France; and that it would be necessary,
in order to avoid exposing a French Princess to feelings of deep regret,
in case she should be married to a foreign prince, to take her from the
palace of Versailles at seven years of age, and send her immediately to
the Court in which she was to dwell; and that at twelve would be too
late; for recollections and comparisons would ruin the happiness of all
the rest of her life. The Queen looked upon the destiny of her sisters
as far beneath her own; and frequently mentioned the mortifications
inflicted by the Court of Spain upon her sister, the Queen of Naples, and
the necessity she was under of imploring the mediation of the King of

She showed me several letters that she had received from the Queen of
Naples relative to her differences with the Court of Madrid respecting
the Minister Acton. She thought him useful to her people, inasmuch as he
was a man of considerable information and great activity. In these
letters she minutely acquainted her Majesty with the nature of the
affronts she had received, and represented Mr. Acton to her as a man whom
malevolence itself could not suppose capable of interesting her otherwise
than by his services. She had had to suffer the impertinences of a
Spaniard named Las Casas, who had been sent to her by the King, her
father-in-law, to persuade her to dismiss Mr. Acton from the business of
the State, and from her intimacy. She complained bitterly to the Queen,
her sister, of the insulting proceedings of this charge d'affaires, whom
she told, in order to convince him of the nature of the feelings which
attached her to Mr. Acton, that she would have portraits and busts of him
executed by the most eminent artists of Italy, and that she would then
send them to the King of Spain, to prove that nothing but the desire to
retain a man of superior capacity had induced her to bestow on him the
favour he enjoyed. This Las Casas dared to answer her that it would be
useless trouble; that the ugliness of a man did not always render him
displeasing; and that the King of Spain had too much experience not to
know that there was no accounting for the caprices of a woman.

This audacious reply filled the Queen of Naples with indignation, and her
emotion caused her to miscarry on the same day. In consequence of the
mediation of Louis XVI. the Queen of Naples obtained complete
satisfaction, and Mr. Acton continued Prime Minister.

Among the characteristics which denoted the goodness of the Queen, her
respect for personal liberty should have a place. I have seen her put up
with the most troublesome importunities from people whose minds were
deranged rather than have them arrested. Her patient kindness was put to
a very disagreeable trial by an ex-councillor of the Bordeaux Parliament,
named Castelnaux; this man declared himself the lover of the Queen, and
was generally known by that appellation. For ten successive years did he
follow the Court in all its excursions. Pale and wan, as people who are
out of their senses usually are, his sinister appearance occasioned the
most uncomfortable sensations. During the two hours that the Queen's
public card parties lasted, he would remain opposite her Majesty. He
placed himself in the same manner before her at chapel, and never failed
to be at the King's dinner or the dinner in public. At the theatre he
invariably seated himself as near the Queen's box as possible. He always
set off for Fontainebleau or St. Cloud the day before the Court, and when
her Majesty arrived at her various residences, the first person she met
on getting out of her carriage was this melancholy madman, who never
spoke to any one. When the Queen stayed at Petit Trianon the passion of
this unhappy man became still more annoying. He would hastily swallow a
morsel at some eating-house, and spend all the rest of the day, even when
it rained, in going round and round the garden, always walking at the
edge of the moat. The Queen frequently met him when she was either alone
or with her children; and yet she would not suffer any violence to be
used to relieve her from this intolerable annoyance. Having one day
given M. de Seze permission to enter Trianon, she sent to desire he would
come to me, and directed me to inform that celebrated advocate of M. de
Castelnaux's derangement, and then to send for him that M. de Seze might
have some conversation with him. He talked to him nearly an hour, and
made considerable impression upon his mind; and at last M. de Castelnaux
requested me to inform the Queen positively that, since his presence was
disagreeable to her, he would retire to his province. The Queen was very
much rejoiced, and desired me to express her full satisfaction to M. de
Seze. Half an hour after M. de Seze was gone the unhappy madman was
announced. He came to tell me that he withdrew his promise, that he had
not sufficient command of himself to give up seeing the Queen as often as
possible. This new determination: was a disagreeable message to take to
her Majesty but how was I affected at hearing her say, "Well, let him
annoy me! but do not let him be deprived of the blessing of freedom."

[On the arrest of the King and Queen at Varennes, this unfortunate
Castelnaux attempted to starve himself to death. The people in
whose house he lived, becoming uneasy at his absence, had the door
of his room forced open, when he was found stretched senseless on
the floor. I do not know what became of him after the 10th of

The direct influence of the Queen on affairs during the earlier years
of the reign was shown only in her exertions to obtain from the King a
revision of the decrees in two celebrated causes. It was contrary to her
principles to interfere in matters of justice, and never did she avail
herself of her influence to bias the tribunals. The Duchesse de Praslin,
through a criminal caprice, carried her enmity to her husband so far as
to disinherit her children in favour of the family of M. de Guemenee.
The Duchesse de Choiseul, who, was warmly interested in this affair, one
day entreated the Queen, in my presence, at least to condescend to ask
the first president when the cause would be called on; the Queen replied
that she could not even do that, for it would manifest an interest which
it was her duty not to show.

If the King had not inspired the Queen with a lively feeling of love,
it is quite certain that she yielded him respect and affection for the
goodness of his disposition and the equity of which he gave so many
proofs throughout his reign. One evening she returned very late; she
came out of the King's closet, and said to M. de Misery and myself,
drying her eyes, which were filled with tears, "You see me weeping, but
do not be uneasy at it: these are the sweetest tears that a wife can
shed; they are caused by the impression which the justice and goodness of
the King have made upon me; he has just complied with my request for a
revision of the proceedings against Messieurs de Bellegarde and de
Monthieu, victims of the Duc d'Aiguillon's hatred to the Duc de Choiseul.
He has been equally just to the Duc de Guines in his affair with Tort.
It is a happy thing for a queen to be able to admire and esteem him who
has admitted her to a participation of his throne; and as to you,
I congratulate you upon your having to live under the sceptre of so
virtuous a sovereign."

The Queen laid before the King all the memorials of the Duc de Guines,
who, during his embassy to England, was involved in difficulties by a
secretary, who speculated in the public funds in London on his own
account, but in such a manner as to throw a suspicion of it on the
ambassador. Messieurs de Vergennes and Turgot, bearing but little good-
will to the Duc de Guines, who was the friend of the Duc de Choiseul,
were not disposed to render the ambassador any service. The Queen
succeeded in fixing the King's particular attention on this affair, and
the innocence of the Duc de Guines triumphed through the equity of Louis

An incessant underhand war was carried on between the friends and
partisans of M. de Choiseul, who were called the Austrians, and those who
sided with Messieurs d'Aiguillon, de Maurepas, and de Vergennes, who, for
the same reason, kept up the intrigues carried on at Court and in Paris
against the Queen. Marie Antoinette, on her part, supported those who
had suffered in this political quarrel, and it was this feeling which led
her to ask for a revision of the proceedings against Messieurs de
Bellegarde and de Monthieu. The first, a colonel and inspector of
artillery, and the second, proprietor of a foundry at St. Etienne, were,
under the Ministry of the Duc d'Aiguillon, condemned to imprisonment for
twenty years and a day for having withdrawn from the arsenals of France,
by order of the Duc de Choiseul, a vast number of muskets, as being of
no value except as old iron, while in point of fact the greater part of
those muskets were immediately embarked and sold to the Americans. It
appears that the Duc de Choiseul imparted to the Queen, as grounds of
defence for the accused, the political views which led him to authorise
that reduction and sale in the manner in which it had been executed. It
rendered the case of Messieurs de Bellegarde and de Monthieu more
unfavourable that the artillery officer who made the reduction in the
capacity of inspector was, through a clandestine marriage, brother-in-law
of the owner of the foundry, the purchaser of the rejected arms. The
innocence of the two prisoners was, nevertheless, made apparent; and they
came to Versailles with their wives and children to throw themselves at
the feet of their benefactress. This affecting scene took place in the
grand gallery, at the entrance to the Queen's apartment. She wished to
restrain the women from kneeling, saying that they had only had justice
done them; and that she ought to be congratulated upon the most
substantial happiness attendant upon her station, that of laying just
appeals before the King.

On every occasion, when the Queen had to speak in public, she used the
most appropriate and elegant language, notwithstanding the difficulty a
foreigner might be expected to experience. She answered all addresses
herself, a custom which she learned at the Court of Maria Theresa. The
Princesses of the House of Bourbon had long ceased to take the trouble of
speaking in such cases. Madame Addlaide blamed the Queen for not doing
as they did, assuring her that it was quite sufficient to mutter a few
words that might sound like an answer, while the addressers, occupied
with what they had themselves been saying, would always take it for
granted that a proper answer had been returned. The Queen saw that
idleness alone dictated such a proceeding, and that as the practice even
of muttering a few words showed the necessity of answering in some way,
it must be more proper to reply simply but clearly, and in the best style
possible. Sometimes indeed, when apprised of the subject of the address,
she would write down her answer in the morning, not to learn it by heart,
but in order to settle the ideas or sentiments she wished to introduce.

The influence of the Comtesse de Polignac increased daily; and her
friends availed themselves of it to effect changes in the Ministry.
The dismissal of M. de Montbarrey, a man without talents or character,
was generally approved of. It was rightly attributed to the Queen. He
had been placed in administration by M. de Maurepas, and maintained by
his aged wife; both, of course, became more inveterate than ever against
the Queen and the Polignac circle.

The appointment of M. de Segur to the place of Minister of War, and of
M. de Castries to that of Minister of Marine, were wholly the work of
that circle. The Queen dreaded making ministers; her favourite often
wept when the men of her circle compelled her to interfere. Men blame
women for meddling in business, and yet in courts it is continually the
men themselves who make use of the influence of the women in matters with
which the latter ought to have nothing to do.

When M. de Segur was presented to the Queen on his new appointment, she
said to me, "You have just seen a minister of my making. I am very glad,
so far as regards the King's service, that he is appointed, for I think
the selection a very good one; but I almost regret the part I have taken
in it. I take a responsibility upon myself. I was fortunate in being
free from any; and in order to relieve myself from this as much as
possible I have just promised M. de Segur, and that upon my word of
honour, not to back any petition, nor to hinder any of his operations by
solicitations on behalf of my proteges."

During the first administration of M. Necker, whose ambition had not then
drawn him into schemes repugnant to his better judgment, and whose views
appeared to the Queen to be very judicious, she indulged in hopes of the
restoration of the finances. Knowing that M. de Maurepas wished to drive
M. Necker to resign, she urged him to have patience until the death of an
old man whom the King kept about him from a fondness for his first
choice, and out of respect for his advanced age. She even went so far as
to tell him that M. de Maurepas was always ill, and that his end could
not be very distant. M. Necker would not wait for that event. The
Queen's prediction was fulfilled. M. de Maurepas ended his days
immediately after a journey to Fontainebleau in 1781.

M. Necker had retired. He had been exasperated by a piece of treachery
in the old minister, for which he could not forgive him. I knew
something of this intrigue at the time; it has since been fully explained
to me by Madame la Marechale de Beauvau. M. Necker saw that his credit
at Court was declining, and fearing lest that circumstance should injure
his financial operations, he requested the King to grant him some favour
which might show the public that he had not lost the confidence of his
sovereign. He concluded his letter by pointing out five requests--such
an office, or such a mark of distinction, or such a badge of honour, and
so on, and handed it to M. de Maurepas. The or's were changed into
and's; and the King was displeased at M. Necker's ambition, and the
assurance with which he displayed it. Madame la Marechale de Beauvau
assured me that the Marechal de Castries saw the minute of M. Necker's
letter, and that he likewise saw the altered copy.

The interest which the Queen took in M. Necker died away during his
retirement, and at last changed into strong prejudice against him. He
wrote too much about the measures he would have pursued, and the benefits
that would have resulted to the State from them. The ministers who
succeeded him thought their operations embarrassed by the care that M.
Necker and his partisans incessantly took to occupy the public with his
plans; his friends were too ardent. The Queen discerned a party spirit
in these combinations, and sided wholly with his enemies.

After those inefficient comptrollers-general, Messieurs Joly de Fleury
and d'Ormesson, it became necessary to resort to a man of more
acknowledged talent, and the Queen's friends, at that time combining with
the Comte d'Artois and with M. de Vergennes, got M. de Calonne appointed.
The Queen was highly displeased, and her close intimacy with the Duchesse
de Polignac began to suffer for this.

Her Majesty, continuing to converse with me upon the difficulties she
had met with in private life, told me that ambitious men without merit
sometimes found means to gain their ends by dint of importunity, and that
she had to blame herself for having procured M. d'Adhemar's appointment
to the London embassy, merely because he teased her into it at the
Duchess's house. She added, however, that it was at a time of perfect
peace with the English; that the Ministry knew the inefficiency of
M. d'Adhemar as well as she did, and that he could do neither harm nor

Often in conversations of unreserved frankness the Queen owned that she
had purchased rather dearly a piece of experience which would make her
carefully watch over the conduct of her daughters-in-law, and that she
would be particularly scrupulous about the qualifications of the ladies
who might attend them; that no consideration of rank or favour should
bias her in so important a choice. She attributed several of her
youthful mistakes to a lady of great levity, whom she found in her palace
on her arrival in France. She also determined to forbid the Princesses
coming under her control the practice of singing with professors, and
said, candidly, and with as much severity as her slanderers could have
done, "I ought to have heard Garat sing, and never to have sung duets
with him."

The indiscreet zeal of Monsieur Augeard contributed to the public belief
that the Queen disposed of all the offices of finance. He had, without
any authority for doing so, required the committee of fermiers-general to
inform him of all vacancies, assuring them that they would be meeting the
wishes of the Queen. The members complied, but not without murmuring.
When the Queen became aware of what her secretary had done, she highly
disapproved of it, caused her resentment to be made known to the fermiers
-general, and abstained from asking for appointments,--making only one
request of the kind, as a marriage portion for one of her attendants, a
young woman of good family.


The Queen did not sufficiently conceal the dissatisfaction she felt at
having been unable to prevent the appointment of M. de Calonne; she even
one day went so far as to say at the Duchess's, in the midst of the
partisans and protectors of that minister, that the finances of France
passed alternately from the hands of an honest man without talent into
those of a skilful knave. M. de Calonne was thus far from acting in
concert with the Queen all the time that he continued in office; and,
while dull verses were circulated about Paris describing the Queen and
her favourite dipping at pleasure into the coffers of the comptroller-
general, the Queen was avoiding all communication with him.

During the long and severe winter of 1783-84 the King gave three millions
of livres for the relief of the indigent. M. de Calonne, who felt the
necessity of making advances to the Queen, caught at this opportunity of
showing her respect and devotion. He offered to place in her hands one
million of the three, to be distributed in her name and under her
direction. His proposal was rejected; the Queen answered that the
charity ought to be wholly distributed in the King's name, and that she
would this year debar herself of even the slightest enjoyments, in order
to contribute all her savings to the relief of the unfortunate.

The moment M. de Calonne left the closet the Queen sent for me:
"Congratulate me, my dear," said she; "I have just escaped a snare,
or at least a matter which eventually might have caused me much regret."
She related the conversation which had taken place word for word to me,
adding, "That man will complete the ruin of the national finances. It is
said that I placed him in his situation. The people are made to believe
that I am extravagant; yet I have refused to suffer a sum of money from
the royal treasury, although destined for the most laudable purpose, even
to pass through my hands."

The Queen, making monthly retrenchments from the expenditure of her privy
purse, and not having spent the gifts customary at the period of her
confinement, was in possession of from five to six hundred thousand
francs, her own savings. She made use of from two to three hundred
thousand francs of this, which her first women sent to M. Lenoir, to the
cures of Paris and Versailles, and to the Soeurs Hospitalieres, and so
distributed them among families in need.

Desirous to implant in the breast of her daughter not only a desire to
succour the unfortunate, but those qualities necessary for the due
discharge of that duty, the Queen incessantly talked to her, though she
was yet very young, about the sufferings of the poor during a season so
inclement. The Princess already had a sum of from eight to ten thousand
francs for charitable purposes, and the Queen made her distribute part of
it herself.

Wishing to give her children yet another lesson of beneficence,
she desired me on New Year's eve to get from Paris, as in other years,
all the fashionable playthings, and have them spread out in her closet.
Then taking her children by the hand, she showed them all the dolls and
mechanical toys which were ranged there, and told them that she had
intended to give them some handsome New Year's gifts, but that the cold
made the poor so wretched that all her money was spent in blankets and
clothes to protect them from the rigour of the season, and in supplying
them with bread; so that this year they would only have the pleasure of
looking at the new playthings. When she returned with her children into
her sitting-room, she said there was still an unavoidable expense to be
incurred; that assuredly many mothers would at that season think as she
did,--that the toyman must lose by it; and therefore she gave him fifty
Louis to repay him for the cost of his journey, and console him for
having sold nothing.

The purchase of St. Cloud, a matter very simple in itself, had, on
account of the prevailing spirit, unfavourable consequences to the Queen.

The palace of Versailles, pulled to pieces in the interior by a variety
of new arrangements, and mutilated in point of uniformity by the removal
of the ambassadors' staircase, and of the peristyle of columns placed at
the end of the marble court, was equally in want of substantial and
ornamental repair. The King therefore desired M. Micque to lay before
him several plans for the repairs of the palace. He consulted me on
certain arrangements analogous to some of those adopted in the Queen's
establishment, and in my presence asked M. Micque how much money would be
wanted for the execution of the whole work, and how many years he would
be in completing it. I forget how many millions were mentioned: M.
Micque replied that six years would be sufficient time if the Treasury
made the necessary periodical advances without any delay. "And how many
years shall you require," said the King, "if the advances are not
punctually made?"--"Ten, Sire," replied the architect. "We must then
reckon upon ten years," said his Majesty, "and put off this great
undertaking until the year 1790; it will occupy the rest of the century."

The King afterwards talked of the depreciation of property which took
place at Versailles whilst the Regent removed the Court of Louis XV. to
the Tuileries, and said that he must consider how to prevent that
inconvenience; it was the desire to do this that promoted the purchase of
St. Cloud. The Queen first thought of it one day when she was riding out
with the Duchesse de Polignac and the Comtesse Diane; she mentioned it to
the King, who was much pleased with the thought,--the purchase confirming
him in the intention, which he had entertained for ten years, of quitting

The King determined that the ministers, public officers, pages, and a
considerable part of his stabling should remain at Versailles. Messieurs
de Breteuil and de Calonne were instructed to treat with the Duc
d'Orleans for the purchase of St. Cloud; at first they hoped to be able
to conclude the business by a mere exchange. The value of the Chateau de
Choisy, de la Muette, and a forest was equivalent to the sum demanded by
the House of Orleans; and in the exchange which the Queen expected she
only saw a saving to be made instead of an increase of expense. By this
arrangement the government of Choisy, in the hands of the Duc de Coigny,
and that of La Muette, in the hands of the Marechal de Soubise, would be
suppressed. At the same time the two concierges, and all the servants
employed in these two royal houses, would be reduced; but while the
treaty was going forward Messieurs de Breteuil and de Calonne gave up the
point of exchange, and some millions in cash were substituted for Choisy
and La Muette.

The Queen advised the King to give her St. Cloud, as a means of avoiding
the establishment of a governor; her plan being to have merely a
concierge there, by which means the governor's expenses would be saved.
The King agreed, and St. Cloud was purchased for the Queen. She provided
the same liveries for the porters at the gates and servants at the
chateau as for those at Trianon. The concierge at the latter place had
put up some regulations for the household, headed, "By order of the
Queen." The same thing was done at St. Cloud. The Queen's livery at the
door of a palace where it was expected none but that of the King would be
seen, and the words "By order of the Queen" at the head of the printed
papers pasted near the iron gates, caused a great sensation, and produced
a very unfortunate effect, not only among the common people, but also.
among persons of a superior class. They saw in it an attack upon the
customs of monarchy, and customs are nearly equal to laws. The Queen
heard of this, but she thought that her dignity would be compromised if
she made any change in the form of these regulations, though they might
have been altogether superseded without inconvenience. "My name is not
out of place," said she, "in gardens belonging to myself; I may give
orders there without infringing on the rights of the State." This was
her only answer to the representations which a few faithful servants
ventured to make on the subject. The discontent of the Parisians on this
occasion probably induced M. d'Espremenil, upon the first troubles about
the Parliament, to say that it was impolitic and immoral to see palaces
belonging to a Queen of France.

[The Queen never forgot this affront of M. d'Espremenil's; she said
that as it was offered at a time when social order had not yet been
disturbed, she had felt the severest mortification at it. Shortly
before the downfall of the throne M. Espremenil, having openly
espoused the King's side, was insulted in the gardens of the
Tuileries by the Jacobins, and so ill-treated that he was carried
home very ill. Somebody recommended the Queen, on account of the
royalist principles he then professed, to send and inquire for him.
She replied that she was truly grieved at what had happened to M.
d'Espremenil, but that mere policy should never induce her to show
any particular solicitude about the man who had been the first to
make so insulting an attack upon her character.--MADAME CAMPAN]

The Queen was very much dissatisfied with the manner in which M. de
Calonne had managed this matter. The Abbe de Vermond, the most active
and persevering of that minister's enemies, saw with delight that the
expedients of those from whom alone new resources might be expected were
gradually becoming exhausted, because the period when the Archbishop of
Toulouse would be placed over the finances was thereby hastened.

The royal navy had resumed an imposing attitude during the war for the
independence of America; glorious peace with England had compensated for
the former attacks of our enemies upon the fame of France; and the throne
was surrounded by numerous heirs. The sole ground of uneasiness was in
the finances, but that uneasiness related only to the manner in which
they were administered. In a word, France felt confident in its own
strength and resources, when two events, which seem scarcely worthy of a
place in history, but which have, nevertheless, an important one in that
of the French Revolution, introduced a spirit of ridicule and contempt,
not only against the highest ranks, but even against the most august
personages. I allude to a comedy and a great swindling transaction.

Beaumarchais had long possessed a reputation in certain circles in Paris
for his wit and musical talents, and at the theatres for dramas more or
less indifferent, when his "Barbier de Seville" procured him a higher
position among dramatic writers. His "Memoirs" against M. Goesman had
amused Paris by the ridicule they threw upon a Parliament which was
disliked; and his admission to an intimacy with M. de Maurepas procured
him a degree of influence over important affairs. He then became
ambitious of influencing public opinion by a kind of drama, in which
established manners and customs should be held up to popular derision and
the ridicule of the new philosophers. After several years of prosperity
the minds of the French had become more generally critical; and when
Beaumarchais had finished his monstrous but diverting "Mariage de
Figaro," all people of any consequence were eager for the gratification
of hearing it read, the censors having decided that it should not be
performed. These readings of "Figaro" grew so numerous that people were
daily heard to say, "I have been (or I am going to be) at the reading of
Beaumarchais's play." The desire to see it performed became universal;
an expression that he had the art to use compelled, as it were, the
approbation of the nobility, or of persons in power, who aimed at ranking
among the magnanimous; he made his "Figaro" say that "none but little
minds dreaded little books." The Baron de Breteuil, and all the men of
Madame de Polignac's circle, entered the lists as the warmest protectors
of the comedy. Solicitations to the King became so pressing that his
Majesty determined to judge for himself of a work which so much engrossed
public attention, and desired me to ask M. Le Noir, lieutenant of police,
for the manuscript of the "Mariage de Figaro." One morning I received a
note from the Queen ordering me to be with her at three o'clock, and not
to come without having dined, for she should detain me some time. When I
got to the Queen's inner closet I found her alone with the King; a chair
and a small table were ready placed opposite to them, and upon the
table lay an enormous manuscript in several books. The King said to me,
"There is Beaumarchais's comedy; you must read it to us. You will find
several parts troublesome on account of the erasures and references. I
have already run it over, but I wish the Queen to be acquainted with the
work. You will not mention this reading to any one."

I began. The King frequently interrupted me by praise or censure, which
was always just. He frequently exclaimed, "That's in bad taste; this man
continually brings the Italian concetti on the stage." At that soliloquy
of Figaro in which he attacks various points of government, and
especially at the tirade against State prisons, the King rose up and
said, indignantly:

"That's detestable; that shall never be played; the Bastille must be
destroyed before the license to act this play can be any other than an
act of the most dangerous inconsistency. This man scoffs at everything
that should be respected in a government."

"It will not be played, then?" said the Queen.

"No, certainly," replied Louis XVI.; "you may rely upon that."

Still it was constantly reported that "Figaro" was about to be performed;
there were even wagers laid upon the subject; I never should have laid
any myself, fancying that I was better informed as to the probability
than anybody else; if I had, however, I should have been completely
deceived. The protectors of Beaumarchais, feeling certain that they
would succeed in their scheme of making his work public in spite of the
King's prohibition, distributed the parts in the "Mariage de Figaro"
among the actors of the Theatre Francais. Beaumarchais had made them
enter into the spirit of his characters, and they determined to enjoy at
least one performance of this so-called chef d'oeuvre. The first
gentlemen of the chamber agreed that M. de la Ferte should lend the
theatre of the Hotel des Menus Plaisirs, at Paris, which was used for
rehearsals of the opera; tickets were distributed to a vast number of
leaders of society, and the day for the performance was fixed. The King
heard of all this only on the very morning, and signed a 'lettre de
cachet,'--[A 'lettre de cachet' was any written order proceeding from the
King. The term was not confined merely to orders for arrest.]--which
prohibited the performance. When the messenger who brought the order
arrived, he found a part of the theatre already filled with spectators,
and the streets leading to the Hotel des Menus Plaisirs filled with
carriages; the piece was not performed. This prohibition of the King's
was looked upon as an attack on public liberty.

The disappointment produced such discontent that the words oppression and
tyranny were uttered with no less passion and bitterness at that time
than during the days which immediately preceded the downfall of the
throne. Beaumarchais was so far put off his guard by rage as to exclaim,
"Well, gentlemen, he won't suffer it to be played here; but I swear it
shall be played,--perhaps in the very choir of Notre-Dame!" There was
something prophetic in these words. It was generally insinuated shortly
afterwards that Beaumarchais had determined to suppress all those parts
of his work which could be obnoxious to the Government; and on pretence
of judging of the sacrifices made by the author, M. de Vaudreuil obtained
permission to have this far-famed "Mariage de Figaro" performed at his
country house. M. Campan was asked there; he had frequently heard the
work read, and did not now find the alterations that had been announced;
this he observed to several persons belonging to the Court, who
maintained that the author had made all the sacrifices required. M.
Campan was so astonished at these persistent assertions of an obvious
falsehood that he replied by a quotation from Beaumarchais himself, and
assuming the tone of Basilio in the "Barbier de Seville," he said,
"Faith, gentlemen, I don't know who is deceived here; everybody is in the
secret." They then came to the point, and begged him to tell the Queen
positively that all which had been pronounced reprehensible in M. de
Beaumarchais's play had been cut out. My father-in-law contented himself
with replying that his situation at Court would not allow of his giving
an opinion unless the Queen should first speak of the piece to him.
The Queen said nothing to him about the matter. Shortly, afterwards
permission to perform this play was at length obtained. The Queen
thought the people of Paris would be finely tricked when they saw merely
an ill-conceived piece, devoid of interest, as it must appear when
deprived of its Satire.

["The King," says Grimm, "made sure that the public would judge
unfavourably of the work." He said to the Marquis de Montesquiou,
who was going to see the first representation, 'Well, what do you
augur of its success?'--'Sire, I hope the piece will fail.'--'And so
do I,' replied the King.

"There is something still more ridiculous than my piece," said
Beaumarchais himself; "that is, its success." Mademoiselle Arnould
foresaw it the first day, and exclaimed, "It is a production that
will fail fifty nights successively." There was as crowded an
audience on the seventy-second night as on the first. The following
is extracted from Grimm's 'Correspondence.'

"Answer of M. de Beaumarchais to -----, who requested the use of his
private box for some ladies desirous of seeing 'Figaro' without
being themselves seen.

"I have no respect for women who indulge themselves in seeing any
play which they think indecorous, provided they can do so in secret.
I lend myself to no such acts. I have given my piece to the public,
to amuse, and not to instruct, not to give any compounding prudes
the pleasure of going to admire it in a private box, and balancing
their account with conscience by censuring it in company. To
indulge in the pleasure of vice and assume the credit of virtue is
the hypocrisy of the age. My piece is not of a doubtful nature; it
must be patronised in good earnest, or avoided altogether;
therefore, with all respect to you, I shall keep my box." This
letter was circulated all over Paris for a week.]

Under the persuasion that there was not a passage left capable of
malicious or dangerous application, Monsieur attended the first
performance in a public box. The mad enthusiasm of the public in favour
of the piece and Monsieur's just displeasure are well known. The author
was sent to prison soon afterwards, though his work was extolled to the
skies, and though the Court durst not suspend its performance.

The Queen testified her displeasure against all who had assisted the
author of the "Mariage de Figaro" to deceive the King into giving his
consent that it should be represented. Her reproaches were more
particularly directed against M. de Vaudreuil for having had it performed
at his house. The violent and domineering disposition of her favourite's
friend at last became disagreeable to her.

One evening, on the Queen's return from the Duchess's, she desired her
'valet de chambre' to bring her billiard cue into her closet, and ordered
me to open the box that contained it. I took out the cue, broken in two.
It was of ivory, and formed of one single elephant's tooth; the butt was
of gold and very tastefully wrought. "There," said she, "that is the way
M. de Vaudreuil has treated a thing I valued highly. I had laid it upon
the couch while I was talking to the Duchess in the salon; he had the
assurance to make use of it, and in a fit of passion about a blocked
ball, he struck the cue so violently against the table that he broke it
in two. The noise brought me back into the billiard-room; I did not say
a word to him, but my looks showed him how angry I was. He is the more
provoked at the accident, as he aspires to the post of Governor to the
Dauphin. I never thought of him for the place. It is quite enough to
have consulted my heart only in the choice of a governess; and I will not
suffer that of a Governor to the Dauphin to be at all affected by the
influence of my friends. I should be responsible for it to the nation.
The poor man does not know that my determination is taken; for I have
never expressed it to the Duchess. Therefore, judge of the sort of an
evening he must have passed!"


Shortly after the public mind had been thrown into agitation by the
performance of the "Mariage de Figaro," an obscure plot, contrived by
swindlers, and matured in a corrupted society, attacked the Queen's
character in a vital point and assailed the majesty of the throne.

I am about to speak of the notorious affair of the necklace purchased, as
it was said, for the Queen by Cardinal de Rohan. I will narrate all that
has come to my knowledge relating to this business; the most minute
particulars will prove how little reason the Queen had to apprehend the
blow by which she was threatened, and which must be attributed to a
fatality that human prudence could not have foreseen, but from which, to
say the truth, she might have extricated herself with more skill.

I have already said that in 1774 the Queen purchased jewels of Boehmer to
the value of three hundred and sixty thousand franca, that she paid for
them herself out of her own private funds, and that it required several
years to enable her to complete the payment. The King afterwards
presented her with a set of rubies and diamonds of a fine water, and
subsequently with a pair of bracelets worth two hundred thousand francs.
The Queen, after having her diamonds reset in new patterns, told Boehmer
that she found her jewel case rich enough, and was not desirous of making
any addition to it.

[Except on those days when the assemblies at Court were particularly
attended, such as the 1st of January and the 2d of February, devoted
to the procession of the Order of the Holy Ghost, and on the
festivals of Easter, Whitsuntide, and Christmas, the Queen no longer
wore any dresses but muslin or white Florentine taffety. Her head-
dress was merely a hat; the plainest were preferred; and her
diamonds never quitted their caskets but for the dresses of
ceremony, confined to the days I have mentioned. Before the Queen
was five and twenty she began to apprehend that she might be induced
to make too frequent use of flowers and of ornaments, which at that
time were exclusively reserved for youth. Madame Bertin having
brought a wreath for the head and neck, composed of roses, the Queen
feared that the brightness of the flowers might be disadvantageous
to her complexion. She was unquestionably too severe upon herself,
her beauty having as yet experienced no alteration; it is easy to
conceive the concert of praise and compliment that replied to the
doubt she had expressed. The Queen, approaching me, said, "I charge
you, from this day, to give me notice when flowers shall cease to
become me."--"I shall do no such thing," I replied, immediately;
"I have not read 'Gil Bias' without profiting in some degree from
it, and I find your Majesty's order too much like that given him by
the Archbishop of Granada, to warn him of the moment when he should
begin to fall off in the composition of his homilies."--"Go," said
the Queen; "You are less sincere than Gil Blas; and I world have
been more amenable than the Archbishop."--MADAME CAMPAN.]

Still, this jeweller busied himself for some years in forming a
collection of the finest diamonds circulating in the trade, in order to
compose a necklace of several rows, which he hoped to induce her Majesty
to purchase; he brought it to M. Campan, requesting him to mention it to
the Queen, that she might ask to see it, and thus be induced to wish to
possess it. This M. Campan refused to do, telling him that he should be
stepping out of the line of his duty were he to propose to the Queen an
expense of sixteen hundred thousand francs, and that he believed neither
the lady of honour nor the tirewoman would take upon herself to execute
such a commission. Boehmer persuaded the King's first gentleman for the
year to show this superb necklace to his Majesty, who admired it so much
that he himself wished to see the Queen adorned with it, and sent the
case to her; but she assured him she should much regret incurring so
great an expense for such an article, that she had already very beautiful
diamonds, that jewels of that description were now worn at Court not more
than four or five times a year, that the necklace must be returned, and
that the money would be much better employed in building a man-of-war.

[Messieurs Boehmer and Bassange, jewellers to the Crown, were
proprietors of a superb diamond necklace, which had, as it was said,
been intended for the Comtesse du Barry. Being under the necessity
of selling it, they offered it, during the last war, to the king and
Queen; but their Majesties made the following prudent answer: "We
stand more in need of ships than of jewels."--"Secret Correspondence
of the Court of Louis XVI."]

Boehmer, in sad tribulation at finding his expectations delusive,
endeavoured for some time, it is said, to dispose of his necklace among
the various Courts of Europe.

A year after his fruitless attempts, Boehmer again caused his diamond
necklace to be offered to the King, proposing that it should be paid for
partly by instalments, and partly in life annuities; this proposal was
represented as highly advantageous, and the King, in my presence,
mentioned the matter once more to the Queen. I remember the Queen told
him that, if the bargain really was not bad, he might make it, and keep
the necklace until the marriage of one of his children; but that, for her
part, she would never wear it, being unwilling that the world should have
to reproach her with having coveted so expensive an article. The King
replied that their children were too young to justify such an expense,
which would be greatly increased by the number of years the diamonds
would remain useless, and that he would finally decline the offer.
Boehmer complained to everybody of his misfortune, and all reasonable
people blamed him for having collected diamonds to so considerable an
amount without any positive order for them. This man had purchased the
office of jeweller to the Crown, which gave him some rights of entry at
Court. After several months spent in ineffectual attempts to carry his
point, and in idle complaints, he obtained an audience of the Queen, who
had with her the young Princess, her daughter; her Majesty did not know
for what purpose Boehmer sought this audience, and had not the slightest
idea that it was to speak to her again about an article twice refused by
herself and the King.

Boehmer threw himself upon his knees, clasped his hands, burst into
tears, and exclaimed, "Madame, I am ruined and disgraced if you do not
purchase my necklace. I cannot outlive so many misfortunes. When I go
hence I shall throw myself into the river."

"Rise, Boehmer," said the Queen, in a tone sufficiently severe to recall
him to himself; "I do not like these rhapsodies; honest men have no
occasion to fall on their knees to make their requests. If you were to
destroy yourself I should regret you as a madman in whom I had taken an
interest, but I should not be in any way responsible for that misfortune.
Not only have I never ordered the article which causes your present
despair, but whenever you have talked to me about fine collections of
jewels I have told you that I should not add four diamonds to those which
I already possessed. I told you myself that I declined taking the
necklace; the King wished to give it to me, but I refused him also; never
mention it to me again. Divide it and try to sell it piecemeal, and do
not drown yourself. I am very angry with you for acting this scene of
despair in my presence and before this child. Let me never see you
behave thus again. Go." Baehmer withdrew, overwhelmed with confusion,
and nothing further was then heard of him.

When Madame Sophie was born the Queen told me M. de Saint-James, a rich
financier, had apprised her that Boehmer was still intent upon the sale
of his necklace, and that she ought, for her own satisfaction, to
endeavour to learn what the man had done with it; she desired me the
first time I should meet him to speak to him about it, as if from the
interest I took in his welfare. I spoke to him about his necklace, and
he told me he had been very fortunate, having sold it at Constantinople
for the favourite sultana. I communicated this answer to the Queen, who
was delighted with it, but could not comprehend how the Sultan came to
purchase his diamonds in Paris.

The Queen long avoided seeing Boehmer, being fearful of his rash
character; and her valet de chambre, who had the care of her jewels, made
the necessary repairs to her ornaments unassisted. On the baptism of the
Duc d'Angouleme, in 1785, the King gave him a diamond epaulet and
buckles, and directed Baehmer to deliver them to the Queen. Boehmer
presented them on her return from mass, and at the same time gave into
her hands a letter in the form of a petition. In this paper he told the
Queen that he was happy to see her "in possession of the finest diamonds
known in Europe," and entreated her not to forget him. The Queen read
Boehmer's address to her aloud, and saw nothing in it but a proof of
mental aberration; she lighted the paper at a wax taper standing near
her, as she had some letters to seal, saying, "It is not worth keeping."
She afterwards much regretted the loss of this enigmatical memorial.
After having burnt the paper, her Majesty said to me, "That man is born
to be my torment; he has always some mad scheme in his head; remember,
the first time you see him, to tell him that I do not like diamonds now,
and that I will buy no more so long as I live; that if I had any money to
spare I would rather add to my property at St. Cloud by the purchase of
the land surrounding it; now, mind you enter into all these particulars
and impress them well upon him." I asked her whether she wished me to
send for him; she replied in the negative, adding that it would be
sufficient to avail myself of the first opportunity afforded by meeting
him; and that the slightest advance towards such a man would be

On the 1st of August I left Versailles for my country house at Crespy; on
the 3d came Boehmer, extremely uneasy at not having received any answer
from the Queen, to ask me whether I had any commission from her to him; I
replied that she had entrusted me with none; that she had no commands for
him, and I faithfully repeated all she had desired me to say to him.

"But," said Boehmer, "the answer to the letter I presented to her,--to
whom must I apply for that?"

"To nobody," answered I; "her Majesty burnt your memorial without even
comprehending its meaning."

"Ah! madame," exclaimed he, "that is impossible; the Queen knows that she
has money to pay me!"

"Money, M. Boehmer? Your last accounts against the Queen were discharged
long ago."

"Madame, you are not in the secret. A man who is ruined for want of
payment of fifteen hundred thousand francs cannot be said to be

"Have you lost your senses?" said I. "For what can the Queen owe you so
extravagant a sum?"

"For my necklace, madame," replied Boehmer, coolly.

"What!" I exclaimed, "that necklace again, which you have teased the
Queen about so many years! Did you not tell me you had sold it at

"The Queen desired me to give that answer to all who should speak to me
on the subject," said the wretched dupe. He then told me that the Queen
wished to have the necklace, and had had it purchased for her by
Monseigneur, the Cardinal de Rohan.

"You are deceived," I exclaimed; "the Queen has not once spoken to the
Cardinal since his return from Vienna; there is not a man at her Court
less favourably looked upon."

"You are deceived yourself, madame," said Boehmer; "she sees him so much
in private that it was to his Eminence she gave thirty thousand francs,
which were paid me as an instalment; she took them, in his presence, out
of the little secretaire of Sevres porcelain next the fireplace in her

"And the Cardinal told you all this?"

"Yes, madame, himself."

"What a detestable plot!" cried I.

"Indeed, to say the truth, madame, I begin to be much alarmed, for his
Eminence assured me that the Queen would wear the necklace on Whit-
Sunday, but I did not see it upon her, and it was that which induced me
to write to her Majesty."

He then asked me what he ought to do. I advised him to go on to
Versailles, instead of returning to Paris, whence he had just arrived;
to obtain an immediate audience from the Baron de Breteuil, who, as head
of the King's household, was the minister of the department to which
Boehmer belonged, and to be circumspect; and I added that he appeared to
me extremely culpable,--not as a diamond merchant, but because being a
sworn officer it was unpardonable of him to have acted without the direct
orders of the King, the Queen, or the Minister. He answered, that he had
not acted without direct orders; that he had in his possession all the
notes signed by the Queen, and that he had even been obliged to show them
to several bankers in order to induce them to extend the time for his
payments. I urged his departure for Versailles, and he assured me he
would go there immediately. Instead of following my advice, he went to
the Cardinal, and it was of this visit of Boehmer's that his Eminence
made a memorandum, found in a drawer overlooked by the Abbe Georgel when
he burnt, by order of the Cardinal, all the papers which the latter had
at Paris. The memorandum was thus worded: "On this day, 3d August,
Boehmer went to Madame Campan's country house, and she told him that the
Queen had never had his necklace, and that he had been deceived."

When Boehmer was gone, I wanted to follow him, and go to the Queen; my
father-in-law prevented me, and ordered me to leave the minister to
elucidate such an important affair, observing that it was an infernal
plot; that I had given Boehmer the best advice, and had nothing more to
do with the business. Boehmer never said one word to me about the woman
De Lamotte, and her name was mentioned for the first time by the Cardinal
in his answers to the interrogatories put to him before the King. After
seeing the Cardinal, Boehmer went to Trianon, and sent a message to the
Queen, purporting that I had advised him to come and speak to her. His
very words were repeated to her Majesty, who said, "He is mad; I have
nothing to say to him, and will not see him." Two or three days
afterwards the Queen sent for me to Petit Trianon, to rehearse with me
the part of Rosina, which she was to perform in the "Barbier de Seville."
I was alone with her, sitting upon her couch; no mention was made of
anything but the part. After we had spent an hour in the rehearsal, her
Majesty asked me why I had sent Boehmer to her; saying he had been in my
name to speak to her, and that she would not see him. It was in this
manner I learnt that he had not followed my advice in the slightest
degree. The change of my countenance, when I heard the man's name, was
very perceptible; the Queen perceived it, and questioned me. I entreated
her to see him, and assured her it was of the utmost importance for her
peace of mind; that there was a plot going on, of which she was not
aware; and that it was a serious one, since engagements signed by herself
were shown about to people who had lent Boehmer money. Her surprise and
vexation were great. She desired me to remain at Trianon, and sent off a
courier to Paris, ordering Boehmer to come to her upon some pretext which
has escaped my recollection. He came next morning; in fact it was the
day on which the play was performed, and that was the last amusement the
Queen allowed herself at that retreat.

The Queen made him enter her closet, and asked him by what fatality it
was that she was still doomed to hear of his foolish pretence of selling
her an article which she had steadily refused for several years. He
replied that he was compelled, being unable to pacify his creditors any
longer. "What are your creditors to me?" said her Majesty. Boehmer
then regularly related to her all that he had been made to believe had
passed between the Queen and himself through the intervention of the
Cardinal. She was equally incensed and surprised at each thing she
heard. In vain did she speak; the jeweller, equally importunate and
dangerous, repeated incessantly, "Madame, there is no longer time for
feigning; condescend to confess that you have my necklace, and let some
assistance be given to me, or my bankruptcy will soon bring the whole to

It is easy to imagine how the Queen must have suffered. On Boehmer's
going away, I found her in an alarming condition; the idea that any one
could have believed that such a man as the Cardinal possessed her full
confidence; that she should have employed him to deal with a tradesman
without the King's knowledge, for a thing which she had refused to accept
from the King himself, drove her to desperation. She sent first for the
Abbe de Vermond, and then for the Baron de Breteuil. Their hatred and
contempt for the Cardinal made them too easily forget that the lowest
faults do not prevent the higher orders of the empire from being defended
by those to whom they have the honour to belong; that a Rohan, a Prince
of the Church, however culpable he might be, would be sure to have a
considerable party which would naturally be joined by all the
discontented persons of the Court, and all the frondeurs of Paris.
They too easily believed that he would be stripped of all the advantages
of his rank and order, and given up to the disgrace due to his irregular
conduct; they deceived themselves.

I saw the Queen after the departure of the Baron and the Abbe; her
agitation made me shudder. "Fraud must be unmasked," said she; "when the
Roman purple and the title of Prince cover a mere money-seeker, a cheat
who dares to compromise the wife of his sovereign, France and all Europe
should know it." It is evident that from that moment the fatal plan was
decided on. The Queen perceived my alarm; I did not conceal it from her.
I knew too well that she had many enemies not to be apprehensive on
seeing her attract the attention of the whole world to an intrigue that
they would try to complicate still more. I entreated her to seek the
most prudent and moderate advice. She silenced me by desiring me to make
myself easy, and to rest satisfied that no imprudence would be committed.

On the following Sunday, the 15th of August, being the Assumption, at
twelve o'clock, at the very moment when the Cardinal, dressed in his
pontifical garments, was about to proceed to the chapel, he was sent for
into the King's closet, where the Queen then was.

The King said to him, "You have purchased diamonds of Boehmer?"

"Yes, Sire."

"What have you done with them?"

"I thought they had been delivered to the Queen."

"Who commissioned you?"

"A lady, called the Comtesse de Lamotte-Valois, who handed me a letter
from the Queen; and I thought I was gratifying her Majesty by taking this
business on myself."

The Queen here interrupted him and said, "How, monsieur, could you
believe that I should select you, to whom I have not spoken for eight
years, to negotiate anything for me, and especially through the mediation

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest