Constance Charlotte Elisa Lennox Russell.

The rose goddess and other sketches of mystery & romance online

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Our Polish Cousins

which ended in an obscure individual being elected, nolens volens,

the Grand Marshal, the celebrated John Sobieski, practically

wielding the sceptre. This great man married the young widow,

Princess Zamoyska, jtee Marie de la Grange, and commonly

known as " Marysienka," who was brought from Paris to Poland

when only four years old by Marie de Gonzague. She was said

to be the daughter of Antoine de la Grange, Marquis d'Arquien,

by his wife, Marie Fran9oise de la Chatre, gouvernante to Princesse

Marie de Gonzague, but Barriere quotes President Bouhour, and

evidently believes his assertion that she was the natural daughter

of Marie de Gonzague by the Prince de Conde. Whatever her

parentage was, nature had well endowed her. She is described

as being most fascinating, with a beauty both regular and

piquante, combined with much wit and considerable ability.

Her first husband, to whom she was married when very young,

Jacob de Radziwill, Prince de Zamosc, was a man of the highest

rank in Poland and possessed immense wealth, but was given to

drunkenness and addicted to much swearing ; and Marysienka

very soon after her marriage began to bemoan her hard fate.

John Sobieski's home was only ten leagues from Zamosc.

Marysienka consoled herself with his friendship, and immediately

after the death of her husband she married him private! v — some

say the ceremony took place before Prince Zamoyska was buried !

— and when she arrived for his funeral, Princess Wisniowiegka, his

sister, refused to receive her, saying, "You did not invite us to

your wedding, we do not invite you to the burial ! " and on

Marysienka saying to some one at Zamosc, " Is this the way you

receive your mistress ? Do you know to whom you speak ? " the

answer she received was, "Yes, to Madame Sobieski."

At the time of Sobieski's greatest triumph over the Turks,

the late King of Poland, Michael, died in 1672, and by a


Our Polish Cousins

curious coincidence his predecessor, John Casimir, had an
apoplectic seizure which proved fatal almost at the same time,
and one dirge was sung at the obsequies of both Kings.

Again there was a diversity of opinion amongst the princes
of Europe as to whom the crown of Poland should be offered,
and no less than seventeen candidates presented themselves
for the suffrages of the Diet. It ended in Sobieski being pro-
claimed King as John III.

Marysienka, or as she was now called Marie-Casimir, had
thus reached the summit of her ambition, and she contrived
to manage not only her adoring husband but his Diet. She was
present at all the debates, not in public, but where she could
hear without being seen, and she was always mixing herself up
in political intrigues and greatly harassed Sobieski; but he was
so devoted to her that she invariably got the better of him even
against his judgment. He wished to follow the policy of
Louis XIV. concerning Austria, but she from a personal spite
determined to thwart the French King, and Sobieski could not
withstand Marie's artifices. Proud of her elevation, she had
wished to visit France and show off her grandeur there. With
this in view, she asked Louis XIV. to give her father a "duche-
pairie," and for herself she asked that she should be received
with the same honours as were given to the Queen of England.
Louis XIV. refused both demands, and said, " Je sais la difference
qu'on doit faire entre une reine hereditaire et une reine (Elective."
This impolitic answer piqued both Sobieski and his wife, and
she vowed vengeance.

Afterwards Louis's Ambassador at Warsaw promised money

and the titles of " due et pair " to the father of the Polish

Queen, but she replied that it was too late ; and John Sobieski

entered into a treaty with the l^.mperor Leopold I., and fought


Our Polish Cousins

for him against the Hungarians and their allies the Turks.
After his brilliant relief of Vienna, Sobieski wrote to the Queen,
beginning : " Seule joie de mon ame, charmante, et bien-aimee
Mariette," and went on to discuss more about the large booty
he had got than the glory he had acquired, but this was most
probably because he knew it would please her. After enumerat-
ing " une ceinture de diamants, deux montres de diamants, cinq
carquois de rubis, de saphirs et de perles fort riches, des four-
rures de martres zibelines les plus belles du monde," he goes
on to say, " Vous ne me direz done pas, mon coeur, comme les
femmes tartares a leurs maris lorsqu'ils reviennent sans butin,
' Tu n'es pas un guerrier puisque tu ne m'as rien rapporte ; car
il n'y a que I'homme qui se met en avant qui peut attraper
quelque chose.' "

Whilst Sobieski was away gaining his laurels, political in-
trigues were going on at his Court, in which, as usually was the
case here, the ladies took a great part. There seems to have
been great enmity between the Queen and her quondam friend
and companion. Lady Katharine Morstein. Amongst the letters
of the latter, which were placed with the archives of Montmo-
rency-Luxembourg at the Quai d'Orsai in Paris, are some
very spiteful ones about Marie-Louise, whom she calls, not
perhaps unjustly, " the Vixen." So galling did Lady Katharine
find it to have to pay homage to her, that she gave out that
in future she was determined to live far from the world and
spend her time in playing cards and saying her prayers ! If to
get away from Court was her wish, she was soon able to gratify
it fully.

At this time Forbin, Bishop of Marseille, the French

Ambassador at the Court of Warsaw, was leaving no means

untried to attach the King of Poland to the interests of France,


Our Polish Cousins

and offered immense treasure as the price of his neutrality.
These offers were rejected with disdain by the noble Sobieski, but
letters of the French Ambassador were intercepted in which the
latter stated that he had been baffled in his attempt to detach
the King of Poland from the interests of Austria, and that he
found that monarch equally proof against the power of gold
and of ambition. He then proceeded to state that he had
been more successful elsewhere, and that the Grand Treasurer
Morstein and the family of Sapieha were easy to secure to the
interests of France ; and he went on to say that he had bought
over Count Morstein, and through him knew all the Cabinet
secrets of Warsaw. Amongst this correspondence there was a
letter of Morstein's in which he professed " un devouement
total aux interets de la France." ^ These letters were read
before the Senate, and the Diet wished to deal summarily with
the treacherous Treasurer, but Morstein undertook to justify
his conduct, and by his specious eloquence persuaded Sobieski
to let him retire. In the King's speech on this occasion he said
that he could " never believe that the Sapiehas would barter
their honour for dross," and that he was convinced the
Ambassador exaggerated the number of those he found traitors.
The King stipulated that Count Morstein should disclose his
cipher, and also give up to the army the body of soldiers which
he kept at his own expense. The latter he did, but his cipher
remained a secret. Morstein retired to France in 1683 with his
wife. Presumably he had well feathered his nest ; the Treasury
was found less well-furnished than it should have been, but not
so his own palace which he had built in a faubourg of Warsaw,
and which was so magnificent that, in 1736, it was bought by
King Augustus II. for his own residence. Bernard Conner, the

' Zaluski, vol. ii. p. 281.

Our Polish Cousins

physician of John Sobieski, says that Count Morstein sent a
considerable quantity of plunder out of Poland ; and soon after
his arrival in France the ex-Treasurer purchased the whole
country of Chateau-Vilain. He died in 1693, aged eighty. Lady
Katharine predeceased him by two years, and died in Paris at
the age of fifty-five.^ It was through their marriage that our
ancestors claimed cousinship with the Bielinskis, Czartoriskis,
Poniatowskis, Lubomirskis, Potockis, Lubinskis, Malagoskis, &:c.
The eldest son of Lady Katharine married a daughter of the
Due de Chevreuse, but he was killed at the siege of Namur in
1692, leaving only two daughters, one of whom married Comte
Casimir Louis Bielinski, Great Chamberlain at the Court of
Poland, and the other, Isabella, became the wife of Prince
Casimir Czartoriski. She was the mother of Prince Michael and
Prince Augustus Czartoriski, the well-known patriots, and of
Princess Constance Czartoriski, who married Count Stanislaus
Poniatowski, and had by him ten children, one of whom was
Prince Joseph Poniatowski, Napoleon's favourite general, sur-
named " le Bayard Polonais," whose heroic death Beranger has
celebrated. Another of the sons was Stanislaus Poniatowski, the
last King of Poland, whom Catherine, Duchess of Gordon, re-
ceived in such an extraordinary manner as one of her Polish

^ Gazette de France du 17 mars 1691, p. 8.



One of the most curious love correspondences celebrated in
history is that of the Elector Palatine, Karl Ludwig, with Luise
von Degenfeldt, who became his morganatic wife.

Karl Ludwig was the second son of Frederick V., Elector
Palatine of the Rhine, and for some months King of Bohemia,
by his wife Princess Elizabeth of England (daughter of
James I.), who during six years reigned in their beautiful palace
of Heidelberg in equal prosperity and popularity, their Court
being renowned for its learning and its splendour.

Then came the Thirty Years' War, and Frederick was over-
whelmed by Austria, and deprived not only of Bohemia but even
of his hereditary dominions, and the Palatinate was ravaged by
Spinola and his Spanish troops, Elizabeth had to fly for her
life from Prague in 1620, and whilst her husband continued
fighting, she lived chiefly at The Hague,^ where from her beauty
and engaging Stuart manners she gained the name of the
Queen of Hearts.

The Elector Palatine Frederick, after enduring many hard-
ships, died at Mayence in 1633, aged thirty-six, as much from
a broken heart as from any other cause. At his death the
Queen of Bohemia (as his widow is generally called) received
true sympathy from her brother Charles I., and he allowed her

' Maurice, Prince of Orange, Stadtholder of Holland (eldest son of William
the Silent), was her husband's uncle.


A Left-Handed Marriage

;^20,ooo a year; but before many years had elapsed his tragic
end threw her into a fresh sea of troubles. Besides being
plunged in grief she fell into comparative poverty, so much so
that her daughter Louisa, who was a pupil of Honthorst and a
great artist, often sold her pictures to assist in keeping up the
reduced household. At the Restoration Elizabeth went to
London incognito, and visited her generous and chivalrous
friend Lord Craven, who put his house in Drury Lane at her
disposal, where she stayed nine months. Charles II,, her nephew,
who had often visited her at The Hague during his wanderings,
now settled ;^ 12,000 a year upon her, and she was the first lady
at his Court. She moved into Leicester House, but five days
after, this tempestuous life, just as it seemed to have entered into
a haven of repose, was brought to a sudden end by an acute
attack of inflammation of the lungs.

The Queen of Bohemia had thirteen children. Her second
son, Karl Ludwig, succeeded his father in his titles. Prince
Rupert and Prince Maurice (in a lesser degree) both made
their mark in history, but of her seven sons not one left a

Of her daughters Louisa Hollandine was said to be the
handsomest, and she was talked of as a wife for her cousin
Frederick-William of Brandenburg, but for political reasons
this idea was given up and she remained unmarried. She
embraced the Catholic religion, and Louis XIV. made her abbess
of Maubisson, though, if report be true, her temperament was
ill-suited to a cloistered life ! Sophia, the youngest, was a very
remarkable woman ; she is said to have had considerable beauty ;

^ Her eldest son, a singularly promising young man, was drowned in the
Zuyder Zee, and Prince Edward became a Catholic and married Princess Anne
de Gonzague, sister of the Queen of Poland.


A Left-Handed Marriage

her mother's charm of manner, great wit, and royal grace added
to the highest intellectual attainments, and merited fully what
was proverbially said of her, namely, that she was " the most
perfect lady in Europe." She married Ernest Augustus, Duke
of Brunswick, which the Queen of Bohemia thought at the
time was a very poor match for her brilliant daughter, although
she was penniless and twenty-eight years of age. Ernest
Augustus, however, became Elector of Hanover, and their son
was George I., ancestor of our present King Edward VII., who
mercifully has revived in himself the gracious charm of his
Stuart ancestors.

But for sheer intellect and erudition all the Palatine
Princesses paled before their sister Elizabeth. She had none
of the charm of her mother, and we are told that, though
otherwise handsome and with a dazzling complexion, her
sharp aquiline nose was generally red. She probably inherited
her solid character from her Nassau ancestors, and was said
not only to have been the ablest woman of her time, but to
have surpassed in capacity and intellectual attainments most
learned men. This erudite Princess was celebrated for her
spiritual liaison with Descartes, who dedicated his Principia
to her, and had such entire confidence in her judgment that
he rarely gave to the public any one of his works without
first submitting the MS. to her inspection, and he declared
that she was the only person who perfectly comprehended
his writings. Princess Elizabeth owed, no doubt, a great deal
of her devotion to abstruse science and her ardent love of
study to her intercourse with a still more remarkable woman,
Anna Maria von Schilrmann, of world-wide celebrity — an inter-
course which was never altered by the fact that their philosophical

convictions as time went on were diametrically opposed, Anna


I'tmtil ■ KMKiiV WAI.KKK-


1618— US80.
(From A painting by Gerard Hontliorst in the National Poitrait Gallery^

A Left-Handed Marriage

von Schiirmann being a disciple of Voetius and Princess Elizabeth
of Descartes. When the awful tragedy of her uncle King
Charles I.'s death took place, the shock gave Princess Elizabeth
a long and alarming illness. Descartes wrote her an interesting
letter on the occasion : —

" Amongst many sad tidings which I received at the same
time," says the philosopher, "the saddest news of all was
the announcement of your Highness's illness. Your Highness
tells me of your strong wish to make verses during your malady,
and I am thereby minded of what Plato relates of Socrates, who
whilst in prison was pursued by a similar desire. I believe
that this inclination for verse proceeds from an agitation of
the animal spirits strong enough in weak heads to overturn
entirely the whole economy of the imagination, but that in
firm and generous natures it merely predisposes towards poetry ;
and I hold it as a sure sign of a mind stronger and more
elevated than those of ordinary mortals. If I did not know
in how great a degree your nature rises above others, I should
have been seriously alarmed at the effect likely to be produced
upon you by the conclusion of the tragedies in England ; but
I build upon the fact of your Highness's being well used to
fortune's frowns, and I recognise that the danger of death,
whence you yourself have so newly escaped, must diminish in
some measure your surprise and horror at the catastrophe
of so near a relative. You must necessarily be less struck
down by it than if affliction were a stranger to you. Although
the death we speak of, being so violent, may seem at first
far worse than that which is met in a man's bed, yet, if all
be well considered, in how much is it more glorious and
more sweet ! This should console your Highness. It is
surely something to die in a way which commands universal
pity — to leave the world, praised and mourned by whoever
partakes of human sentiments. It is undeniable that, without


A Left-Handed Marriage

his last trial, the gentleness and other virtues of the dead
King would never have been so remarked and so esteemed
as they will be in future by whoever shall read his history.
I am likewise persuaded that in the last hours of his life,
his forgiving conscience caused him far more satisfaction than
his indignation (alleged to be the only weakness observable
in him). As to what regards his mere bodily sufferings, I
do not account them as anything, for they are so short,
that, could assassins use a fever or any of the ills that Nature
employs to snatch men from the world, they might with
reason be considered much more cruel than when they destroy
life with the short sharp blow of an axe. I dare not, how-
ever, prolong my reflections upon this fatal subject, but I
will add that at all events it is infinitely better to be com-
pletely delivered from every shadow of false hope than to
be perpetually and uselessly fostering an illusion."

The following year Descartes himself died, falling a victim
to the severity of the climate at Stockholm and succumbing to
an attack of inflammation of the lungs at the age of fifty-three.
The loss to Princess Elizabeth of her dear friend and master
was irremediable. Had he lived, no doubt she would not have
tarnished her great reputation, as she did in later life, by acting
in such a manner that really it does look as if the shock of
King Charles's tragedy had, to use Descartes' words, " overturned
the whole economy of her imagination," which he dreaded, but
hoped had been averted. The philosopher's death so soon after
deprived her of that mental guide whose excellent judgment
would probably have prevented her from being led away by the
wild and impious theories of an arch-impostor.

Jean Labadie began life as a Jesuit priest at Bordeaux, and

continued a member of the society for fifteen years, during which

time he was much admired for his abilities and the eloquence of

























:-' "^

- |5

A Left-Handed Marriage

his preaching. When he separated from that body he professed
to possess the spirit of John the Baptist, whose ascetic life he
imitated for a time, living upon nothing but herbs and thereby
gave himself a severe illness. Henceforward his life was spent
moving from place to place, always at first gaining the confidence
of bishops and congregations by his great eloquence and apparent
austerity of manners, but invariably after a time it v/as found
that his practices were not in accordance with his precepts, and
on more than one occasion his immorality was so great that he
had to fly to prevent being arrested. His practices were under
the pretence of imitating the innocence of the paradisaical state,
and of being totally indifferent to material and worldly things,
thereby having a great resemblance to those of the more modern
Agapemonites. In 1650 Labadie embraced the doctrines of the
Reformed Church and was publicly received as a convert at
Montauban, and chosen as pastor of the Protestant church there,
in which capacity he remained for eight years, at the end of
which time he was banished from the town. He then pro-
ceeded to Geneva, but was forced to leave, and went on to the
Walloon Church in Holland. In this new country, where his
evil practices were not known, his commanding eloquence and
apparent strictness of manners procured him a vast number
of followers, amongst whom were some whose learning, abilities,
and rank gave a certain degree of credit and reputation to the
principles he advocated. Of this description was Anna Maria
von Schiirmann, who became one of his firmest adherents, and
followed him first to Middelburg and then to Amsterdam. Her
friends and the philosopher Voetius in vain tried to dissuade her
and pointed out the impropriety of her conduct, but she and a
few other " sisters " insisted upon going to live in his house, and
this was the commencement of what grew into a regular com-


A Left- Handed Marriage

munity called "Labadists," At last Labadie propagated such
pernicious theories, morally as well as religiously, that the worthy
burghers of Amsterdam began to be alarmed, and he was again
in danger of being turned out of the country ; but Anna von
Schiirmann wrote to Princess Elizabeth, now abbess of Herford,
and asked her to give a home to the wandering Saint. To this,
unfortunately, the Princess agreed, and the whole community
left Holland for Germany. Their reputation, however, had gone
before them, and in less than a week after their arrival a formal
protest was addressed by the Town Council to the great Elector
Frederick-William. Princess Elizabeth wrote to her cousin
at the same time advancing everything in their favour. In his
answer Frederick-William says : " Most foul reports have
come to us from many different sides touching the life and
conduct of the people in question. All concur in representing
the Labadists as merely outward adherents to the Reformed
religion in order to obtain protection from those states which
really profess it ; and all affirm that in reality and under most
sanctimonious appearances they hold wondrous strange opinions.
They practise among themselves the community of property,
and decidedly advocate the communion of women also ; and
here, even, I do not touch on all the reproaches brought against
these persons."

Labadie died at Altona in the arms of Anna Schiirmann in
1674 when he was about sixty-four years old. After his death
this lady conducted the community to Wiewert, where four
maiden ladies of the family of Sommelsdyck received them, and
two years later she died in extreme poverty, having divided all
she possessed amongst the Labadists. The sect soon dwindled,
and Cleves was the last place where any of them were heard
of It was the recital of all that Princess Elizabeth had done


A Left-Handed Marriage

for the Labadists that inspired William Penn with the wish to
make her acquaintance, in hopes that she would help to spread
the doctrines of the Quakers in Germany ; and he and Fox and
Barclay and many others of the Society of Friends went to
Germany and Holland, with a view to propagate their
opinions. Penn and Barclay visited Princess Elizabeth at Herford
for three days, during which time the former held many prayer
meetings, and Princess Elizabeth was at once drawn over to him.
Her closing years were spent very quietly, but to the very last
she kept up her interest in Philosophy and became the friend
of Leibnitz and Malebranche. She died in 1682 at the age
of sixty-two. William Penn wrote a short memorial sketch
of Princess Elizabeth in his celebrated work " No Cross, no

Her mother the Queen of Bohemia had died eighteen
years before her, but there appears never to have been much
sympathy between them, and for many years before her death
the Queen of Hearts lived with none of her children about
her. She had the satisfaction, however, of seeing her son, Karl
Ludwig, not only restored to his Sovereignty of the Palatinate
by the Miinster Treaty, but she also lived to see that the
efforts he made for the rehabilitation of his patrimony were
crowned with success, so much so that he gained the name
of " Wiederhersteller " or the "Regenerator." Amongst other
things, assisted by Spinoza, he re-established the former famous
University at Heidelberg, which again became celebrated for
its learning. He also rebuilt the beautiful Castle, which had
fallen into sad decay, and made it, with its magnificent situa-
tion and transcendently lovely view, the most entrancing of
regal residences. All this Karl Ludwig accomplished in the

short space of nine years.

209 o

A Left-Handed Marriage

But if she rejoiced in these measures, his mother deeply
deplored the line he took with regard to affairs in England
Karl Ludwig had spent much of his youth at the Court of
his uncle King Charles I., and at the age of eighteen he alone
accompanied the King on the memorable occasion of the
attempted arrest of the five members of the House of Commons,
which was the beginning of the Civil War. And after this
it is recorded against him that he went over to the Parliament,

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Online LibraryConstance Charlotte Elisa Lennox RussellThe rose goddess and other sketches of mystery & romance → online text (page 16 of 22)