Jean François Paul de Gondi de Retz.

The Memoirs of Cardinal de Retz — Volume 1 [Historic court memoirs] online

. (page 4 of 4)
Online LibraryJean François Paul de Gondi de RetzThe Memoirs of Cardinal de Retz — Volume 1 [Historic court memoirs] → online text (page 4 of 4)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

you have no reason to complain of him, because those men whom you mean
were all his true friends before they became your enemies."

"If it be so," replied the Cardinal, "then I am very much misinformed."

The Bishop at this juncture did me all the kind offices imaginable, and
if the Cardinal had lived he would undoubtedly have restored me to his
favour; for his Eminence was very well disposed, especially when the
Bishop assured him that, though I knew myself ruined at Court to all
intents and purposes, yet I would never come into the measures of M. le
Grand. - [M. de Cinq-Mars, Henri Coeffier, otherwise called Ruze d'Effial,
Master of the Horse of France; he was beheaded September 12, 1642.] - I
was indeed importuned by my friend M. de Thou to join in that enterprise,
but I saw the weakness of their foundation, as the event has shown, and
therefore rejected their proposals.

The Cardinal de Richelieu died in 1642, before the good Bishop had made
my peace with him, and so I remained among those who had rendered
themselves obnoxious to the Ministry. At first this character was very
prejudicial to my interest. Although the King was overjoyed at his
death, yet he carefully observed all the appearances of respect for his
deceased minister, confirmed all his legacies, cared for his family, kept
all his creatures in the Ministry, and affected to frown upon all who had
not stood well with the Cardinal; but I was the only exception to this
general rule. When the Archbishop of Paris presented me to the King, I
was treated with such distinguishing marks of royal favour as surprised
all the Court. His Majesty talked of my studies and sermons, rallied me
with an obliging freedom, and bade me come to Court once every week. The
reasons of these extraordinary civilities were utterly unknown to us
until the night before his death, when he told them to the Queen. I
passed them by in silence before as having no bearing on my history, but
I am obliged to insert them here because they have been, in their
consequences, more fortunate than I seemed to have any just claim to

A short time after I left the college, my governor's valet de chambre
found, at a poor pin-maker's house, a niece of hers but fourteen years
old, who was surprisingly beautiful. After I had seen her he bought her
for me for 150 pistoles, hired a little house for her, and placed her
sister with her; when I went to see her I found her in great heaviness of
mind, which I attributed to her modesty. I next day found what was yet
more surprising and extraordinary than her beauty; she talked wisely and
religiously to me, and yet without passion. She cried only when she
could not help it. She feared her aunt to a degree that made me pity
her. I admired her wit first, and then her virtue, for trial of which I
pressed her as far as was necessary, until I was even ashamed of myself.
I waited till night to get her into my coach, and then carried her to my
aunt De Maignelai, who put her into a convent, where she died eight or
ten years after, in great reputation for piety. My aunt, to whom this
young creature confessed that the menaces of the pin-maker had terrified
her so much that she would have done whatsoever I wished, was so affected
with my behaviour that she went to tell it to the Bishop of Lisieux, who
told it to the King.

This second adventure was not of the same nature, but it made as great an
impression on the King's mind. It was a duel I had with Coutenau,
captain of a company of the King's Light-horse, brave, but wild, who,
riding post from Paris as I was going there, made the ostler take off my
saddle and put on his. Upon my telling him I had hired the horse, he
gave me a swinging box on the ear, which fetched blood. I instantly drew
my sword, and so did he. While making our first thrusts his foot
slipped, and his sword dropped out of his hand as he fell to the ground.
I retired a little and bade him pick it up, which he did, but it was by
the point, for he presented me the handle and begged a thousand pardons.
He told this little story afterwards to the King, with whom he had great
freedom. His Majesty was pleased with it, and remembered both time and
place, as you will see hereafter.

The good reception I found at Court gave my relatives some grounds to
hope that I might have the coadjutorship of Paris. At first they found a
great deal of difficulty in my uncle's narrowness of spirit, which is
always attended with fears and jealousies; but at length they prevailed
upon him, and would have then carried our point, if my friends had not
given it out, much against my judgment, that it was done by the consent
of the Archbishop of Paris, and if they had not suffered the Sorbonne,
the cures, and chapter to return him their thanks. This affair made too
much noise in the world for my interest. For Cardinal Mazarin, De
Noyers, and De Chavigni thwarted me, and told his Majesty that the
chapter should not be entrusted with the power of nominating their own
archbishop. And the King was heard to say that I was yet too young.

But we met with a worse obstacle than all from M. de Noyers, Secretary of
State, one of the three favourite ministers, who passed for a religious
man, and was suspected by some to be a Jesuit in disguise. He had a
secret longing for the archbishopric of Paris, which would shortly be
vacant, and therefore thought it expedient to remove me from that city,
where he saw I was extremely beloved, and provide me with some post
suitable to my years. He proposed to the King by his confessor to
nominate me Bishop of Agde. The King readily granted the request, which
confounded me beyond all expression. I had no mind to go to Languedoc,
and yet so great are the inconveniences of a refusal that not a man had
courage to advise me to it. I became, therefore, my own counsellor, and
having resolved with myself what course to take, I waited upon his
Majesty, and thanked him for his gracious offer, but said I dreaded the
weight of so remote a see, and that my years wanted advice, which it is
difficult to obtain in provinces so distant. I added to this other
arguments, which you may guess at. I was in this adventure also more
happy than wise. The King continued to treat me very kindly. This
circumstance, and the retreat of M. de Noyers, who fell into the snare
that Chavigni had laid for him, renewed my hopes of the coadjutorship of
Paris. The King died about this time, in 1643. M. de Beaufort, who had
been always devoted to the Queen's interest, and even passed for her
gallant, pretended now to govern the kingdom, of which he was not so
capable as his valet de chambre. The Bishop of Beauvais, the greatest
idiot you ever knew, took upon himself the character of Prime Minister,
and on the first day of his administration required the Dutch to embrace
the Roman Catholic religion if they desired to continue in alliance with
France. The Queen was ashamed of this ridiculous minister, and sent for
me to offer my father - [Philippe Emmanuel de Gondi, Comte de Joigni; he
retired to the Fathers of the Oratory, and became priest; died 1662,
aged eighty-one.] - the place of Prime Minister; but he refusing
peremptorily to leave his cell and the Fathers of the Oratory, the place
was conferred upon Cardinal Mazarin.

You may now imagine that it was no great task for me to obtain what I
desired at a time that nothing was refused, which made Feuillade say that
the only words in the French tongue were "La Reine est si bonne."

Madame de Maignelai and the Bishop of Lisieux desired the Queen to grant
me the coadjutorship of Paris, but they were repulsed, the Queen assuring
them that none should have it but my father, who kept from Court; and
would never be seen at the Louvre, except once, when the Queen told him
publicly that the King, the very night before he died, had ordered her
expressly to have it solicited for me, and that he said in the presence
of the Bishop of Lisieux that he had me always in his thoughts since the
adventures of the pinmaker and Captain Coutenau. What relation had these
trifling stories to the archbishopric of Paris? Thus we see that affairs
of the greatest moment often owe their rise and success to insignificant
trifles and accidents. All the companies went to thank the Queen. I
sent 16,000 crowns to Rome for my bull, with orders not to desire any
favour, lest it should delay the despatch and give the ministers time to
oppose it. I received my bull accordingly; and now you will see me
ascending the theatre of action, where you will find scenes not indeed
worthy of yourself, but not altogether unworthy of your attention.


Assurrance often supplies the room of good sense
By the means of a hundred pistoles down, and vast promises
False glory and false modesty
He knew how to put a good gloss upon his failings
He weighed everything, but fixed on nothing
Is there a greater in the world than heading a party?
Nothing is so subject to delusion as piety
So indiscreet as to boast of his successful amours
Verily believed he was really the man which he affected to be

1 2 4

Online LibraryJean François Paul de Gondi de RetzThe Memoirs of Cardinal de Retz — Volume 1 [Historic court memoirs] → online text (page 4 of 4)