Constance Charlotte Elisa Lennox Russell.

The rose goddess and other sketches of mystery & romance online

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And now to go back to Mademoiselle de Keroualle. In her
capacity of Maid-of-honour she was a witness of the agonising
scenes of her beloved mistress's end, and was present at the

^ Sir Thomas Armstrong afterwards attached himself to the Duke of
Monmouth, and is often alluded to in the Diary of Henry Sidney. He was
executed in 1684 for his participation in the Rye-House Plot. He had escaped
into Holland, but was apprehended at Leyden and brought back to London.


The Real Louise de Keroualle

funeral. Soon after she had to think of her own future, and
again life in a convent seemed to be the only thing in store for
her, but before long another alternative was suggested, which
she accepted, no doubt with deep gratitude. This was to go
to England, and be one of the Maids-of-honour to Queen
Catherine of Braganza.

It was said that, when Madame was leaving Dover, King
Charles asked her for a jewel in memory of her visit. She sent
Mademoiselle de Keroualle to fetch her jewel-case, and when
the Maid-of-honour returned with it, the King, bowing over
the hand of the pretty girl, said, "This is the jewel I wish you
would leave me." It is probable, therefore, that Charles had
expressed admiration of the young French girl, which suggested
the idea to Colbert that she might become a valuable auxiliary
at the English Court, and so it was arranged to the satisfaction
of both parties.

The Duke of Buckingham, who had been sent to France
as Envoy at the time of the Duchess of Orleans' death, was to
join Mademoiselle de Keroualle at Dieppe and take her over
to England, but it is said that, with his usual carelessness, he
forgot his engagement ! anyhow he crossed by Calais, and the
young lady was left at Dieppe for several weeks. When he
heard of it, Montagu, the English Ambassador at Paris, immedi-
ately sent over for a yacht, and ordered some of his own people
to convey her to London, where she arrived in August 1670,
and was received at Whitehall by Lord Arlington.

This same month Colbert, the French Ambassador, writes to
Leonne as follows : " The King is always finding opportunities
to talk with this beauty in the Queen's room, but he has not
yet gone up to chat with her in her own room." Reresby gives
us a delightful picture of Mademoiselle de Keroualle, and says


Louise de Keroualle, Dlchess ok Poris.mouth.
(From a painting by Henri Gascar belonging to Lord Talbot de Malahide)

The Real Louise de Keroualle

that " the sweet languor of her childish face and her refined
charm of manner was a new experience for Charles." Her
gentle manners, low voice, and sad eyes, combined with great
freshness and a delicate, high-bred look, formed a pleasant
change from the bad temper and boldness of the imperious
though beautiful Lady Castlemaine, or the vulgar hilarity of
saucy Nell Gwyn, delightful though she was in her way.

The King's intercourse with the Maid-of-honour continued
on this footing for more than a year. Colbert, writing to
Louvois on October 8, 1671, deplores the platonic nature
of Mademoiselle's friendship with the King. St. Evremont,
to whom Louise had been told to look for advice, urged her
to give way. In his Probleme a rimilation des Espagnols,
which he dedicated to her, he says : '* II y a bien de la peine
a passer la vie sans amour. Laissez-vous aller a la douceur
des tentations, au lieu d'ecouter votre fierte. Ce n'est pas la
vertu rigide qu'il faut poursuivre, mais I'art d'accomoder deux
choses qui paraissent incompatible, I'amour et la retenue. La
retenue consiste a n'aimer qu'une personne a la fois, cela est se
donner ; on s'abandonne en ayant plusieurs amans : de cette
sorte de bien comme des autres, I'usage est honnete et la
dissipation est honteuse." This specious philosophy was only
one of the many influences brought to bear upon the scruples
of Louise, who was only now twenty-one years of age, and
there does not appear to have been a single person who
advised her to keep the path of virtue. It devolved finally
upon a woman to effect her moral ruin, no doubt with a view
to her own and her husband's aggrandisement. The Countess
of Arlington, who was Dutch, arranged with Colbert that he
should bring Mademoiselle de Keroualle to stay with her
and Lord Arlington at Euston in October (i 671), during the


The Real Louise de Keroualle

time that the King was at Newmarket for the race meeting,
which arrangement was accordingly carried into effect, John
Evelyn was at Euston, and describes the party. The Queen
and a large number of ladies of high rank, nobles, and courtiers,
altogether more than two hundred persons, were entertained
in a princely way for fifteen days. The Queen did not go
to the races, but spent a good deal of her time hunting and
hawking. Sometimes she was accompanied by Mademoiselle de
Keroualle, to whose physical attractions she made an unfortunate
foil. Louise is described as of medium height, and at this
time very slender. She had masses of very dark hair, with
lighter shades in it which shone like bronze, lovely eyes with
an interesting expression, an oval face, small features, pearly
teeth, and a particularly white skin. The Queen was excessively
short in stature and broad, her complexion olive, and her teeth,
which protruded, were very bad. In some MS. notes before
us, written in the eighteenth century, we are told that the old
Vicomtesse Longueville {nee Barbara Taylor of Laycock),
who died in 1763 nearly a hundred years old, used to tell
many anecdotes of Charles II. 's Queen, whom she described
as " a little ungraceful woman, so short-legged that when she
stood upon her feet you would have thought that she was
on her knees, and yet so long-waisted that when she sat down
she appeared a well-sized woman."

The King came over every other day, and sometimes supped
and slept at Euston, and made no secret of his attentions to
the youthful Maid-of-honour.

November 21, 1671, found Mademoiselle de Keroualle
back at Whitehall and giving an audience to Colbert de Croissy,
the French Ambassador, who came to offer her the formal
congratulations of Louis XIV. " J'ai donne bien de la joie


The Real Louise de Keroualle

a Mademoiselle de Keroualle," he writes to Louvois, "en
I'assurant que sa Majeste serait tres aise qu'elle se maintint
dans les bonnes graces du Roi." At the same time the French
King sent Lady Arlington a necklace of pearls in grateful
recognition of her delicate services ! No wonder that any
scruples which Louise had became blunted.

Her fortune had been foretold according to Madame de
Sevigne, who wrote to her daughter in March 1672, " Ne trou-
verez-vous point bon de savoir que Keroual dont I'etoile avait
ete devinee avant qu'elle partit, I'a suivie tres fidelement. Le
roi d'Angleterre I'a aimee, elle s'est trouvee avec une legere
disposition a ne le pas hair." A propos oi this, Monsieur Jean
Le Moine says in writing of Louise de Keroualle in the Revue
des Deux Mondes, " Ne nous en laissons point trop imposer
par son autorite : des Rabutin elle (Madame de Sevigne) avait
I'esprit caustique et une jalousie particuliere pour cette
Bretonne (Louise) qui fit une carriere plus brillant que
Madame de Grignan." Startling as it sounds, Madame de
Sevigne was undoubtedly jealous for her daughter of Mademoi-
selle de Keroualle's position. We have the authority of Bussy
Rabutin, Madame de Sevigne's cousin and dear friend, tor
stating that the friends of Mademoiselle de Sevigne, a girl
whom Bussy calls " La plus jolie fille de France," wished for
no better fate than that she should occupy the same position
in France as Louise de Keroualle did in England. Some of
Bussy's letters " s'agit des bruits que Ton faisait courir sur
I'inclination du roi (Louis XIV.) pour Mademoiselle de
Sevigne," and Madame de Montmorency writes to him on
the 15th July, 1668, as follows: "Pour des nouvelles . . .
d'un autre cote La Feuillade fait ce qu'il peut (aupres du
Roi) pour Mademoiselle de Sevigne." To which letter Bussy


The Real Louise de Keroualle

answers on the 17th July, "Je serais fort aise que le roi
s'attachat a Mademoiselle de Sevigne car la demoiselle est
forts de mes amies et il ne pourrait etre mieux en maitresse."

On the 29th July, 1672, Louise de Keroualle had her only
child, a son. The King was present at his baptism, and gave
him his own Christian name, " Charles," and the surname of
" Lenox " or " Lennox."

Soon after her son's birth Louise petitioned the King for

leave to become an English subject, and the following year

(1673) in August was created by King Charles, Baroness of

Petersfield, Countess of Farnham, and Duchess of Pendennis,

the latter title being immediately changed to that of Duchess of

Portsmouth. Four months later Louis XIV, made her Duchesse

d'Aubigny, with remainder to her descendants. Aubigny-sur-

Nievre in Berri had been given in 1422 by Charles VII., King

of France, to John Stuart (an ancestor of the first Dukes of

Richmond, in consideration of his military services for France,

and at the death of Charles, the last of the Stuart Dukes

of Richmond, Aubigny went back to the crown of France, and

at the same time the title of Duke of Richmond expired, as

Charles Stuart, Duke of Richmond, left no son ; Charles II.

revived the title in the person of his son by Louise de

Keroualle, and created him, by letters patent dated 9th August,

1675, Baron Settrington, Earl of March, and Duke of Richmond

in the county of Yorks, so that the place and the title still kept

together. In 1830 it was legally proved and certified that the act

of 1422 giving Aubigny to John Stuart contained, " aucune

condition de retour," so that King Charles IL had the right of

disposing of it himself as much as he had of the other lands

and titles that the last Duke of Richmond left him, and there

was no necessity for asking Louis XIV. to bestow it on Louise.




THE 1st Dukr of Richmond.
(From a paintinc^ in the possession of the Duke of Richmond at Goodwood)

The Real Louise de Keroualle

The Duchess of Cleveland, who had been promised that her
son should be made Duke of Grafton, insisted, with her usual
imperiousness, that he should have precedence over " the
Frenchwoman's son." Charles tried to please both ladies by
suggesting that the two patents should be made simultaneously,
but the Duchess of Portsmouth scored one ! She persuaded
Lord Treasurer Danby to receive her attorney at midnight,
just as he was stepping into his coach to go to Bath, and to
affix the seal to the patent of the Duke of Richmond there and
then ! Next morning the Duchess of Cleveland's lawyer went
to the Lord Treasurer's house to find him gone ! and in con-
sequence the Duke of Richmond has a month and two days
precedence of the Duke of Grafton.

The little Duke of Richmond was furthermore enrolled a
month later amongst the peers of Scotland by the titles of Baron
Methuen of Torbolton, Earl of Darnley, and Duke of Lennox, all
of which titles the present Duke of Richmond continues to hold.

The Countess Marischal, a Scotchwoman, was appointed
his "governess" with a salary of 2000 livres, and afterwards
Richard Duke, the poet, became his tutor. A grant was made
to the young Duke of twelvepence for every chaldron of coal
shipped from the port of Newcastle. This continued to his de-
scendants till 1799, when the right was purchased by the Lords
of the Treasury for an annuity of ^T 19,000, henceforth payable
out of the Consolidated Fund to the Duke and his heirs.

When he was nine years of age the young Duke was elected
and installed a Knight of the Garter. Up till this date (1681)
the K.G.'s wore the blue ribbon round the neck with the
George appendant on the breast, but the Duchess of Ports-
mouth introduced her son to the King with his ribbon over
the left shoulder and the George appendant on the right,


The Real Louise de Keroualle

and his Majesty was so pleased with the alteration that he
ordered it in future to be adopted. Wissing painted the Duke
at this time with the robes of the Garter, and the picture
was engraved in mezzotint by R. Williams.

The Duchess of Portsmouth soon gained immense influence
with the King, and kept the first place in his affections till his

Dr. Airy says : " The Duchess held her own with a certain
dignity against the anger of the Commons, the hatred of the
people, the attacks of politicians, and the waywardness of
Charles, and for many years she was virtually Queen of
England," and he goes on to say that " when the King wanted
refinement, charm of conversation, and delicacy — and it is
a mistake to forget this side of his nature — he retired to
the apartments of the Duchess." She had excellent manners,
never lost her temper, and never wrangled, but if she failed
to carry her point she had recourse to tears. This is alluded
to in the " Essay on Satire," said to be the joint production
of Dryden and Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham. It was, as a
matter of fact, written by the latter, but Dryden got the credit
of it, and a castigation in consequence ! Lord Rochester, thinking
that the poet was the author, had him waylaid and beaten, and
the Duke of Buckingham, in his " Art of Poetry," speaking
of Dryden, says —

"Though prais'd and beaten for another's rhymes,
His own deserve as great applause sometimes."

Louvois, who calls the Duchess of Portsmouth " La Signora

Addolorata," says on one occasion, " Elle versait un torrent de

larmes ; les soupirs et les sanglots coupaient ses paroles. Enfin,

jamais spectacle ne m'a paru plus triste ni plus touchant." This


Charlks Lennox, 1st Dlkf. of Rickmono.
(From a Mezzotint at Swallow Held, hy K- Williams, after Wissiny)

The Real Louise de Keroualle

was when she thought that King Charles's affection for her was
lessening, but other things affected her to tears. At the time
when she was so interested in the passing of the Exclusion Bill,
Sydney in his Diary writes : " The Duchess of Portsmouth is
crying all day for fear the Parliament should be dissolved." If
the melting mood was inefficacious, it was said that fits of
sudden illness were brought into requisition, and Lady Cov/per
in her Diary tells the following story: "Once one of his lords
came and told the King that the doctors declared the Duchess
of Portsmouth could not live half-an-hour, and that she had sent
to him to take his leave of her. He replied, " Gads fish ! I don't
believe a word of it : she's better than you or I are, and she wants
something, that makes her play her pranks over this ; she has
served me so often so, that I am as sure of what I say as part of
her." No doubt this story did not lose in the telling ; anyhow,
when the Duchess was really ill the King was most tender and
attentive. We hear of him during one of her illnesses never
leaving her room during the whole day, and we have before us
some original autograph letters of his to her very tenderly
inquiring after her health when she had not been well. In one
written from Newmarket, he says : —

*' I shall not be out of pain till I know how my dearest gott to
London, and for that purpose I send this expresse to come away
to-morrow morning to bring me word how you have rested after
your journey. I will not trouble you with a long letter now,
knowing how troublesome that is to one indisposed, and pray do
not answer this yourself, except you are out of paine : all I will
add is that I should do myself wrong if I tould you that I love
you better than all the world besides, for that were making a
comparison where 'tis impossible to express the true passion and
kindnesse I have for my dearest, dearest Fubs ! — C.R."


The Real Louise de Keroualle

"Fubs" was no doubt a nickname given to the Duchess by
Kinff Charles, probably in consequence of her increasing em-
bonpoint. One of the King's yachts was called The Fubs or
Fubbs^ and one of the last recorded sailings of his was made
in the Fubbs round the North Foreland about 1680.^

The Duchess had several severe illnesses, but her good
constitution always pulled her through. In May 1676 she went
to Bath for her health, though her journey was postponed
because of the report that small-pox and purple fever were there.
On her return a sort of congratulatory dinner was given in her
honour by the Comte and Comtesse de Ruvigny, who had
a concert afterwards, for which Louis XIV.'s singers had been
sent over from France — Giles La Forest and Godesneche being
accompanied by Lambert, the father-in-law of Lulli.

The following year the Duchess was very ill for many weeks,
and was supposed to be at the last extremity. Madame de
Scudery writes to Bussy Rabutin that, crucifix in hand, the
Duchess of Portsmouth preached to the King and urged him
to change his way of living. The Duchess, however, recovered,
and we do not hear any more of her insistence on this change
of life.

In March 1682 she went to her beloved country, where she
stayed nearly five months, feeling no doubt perfect confidence
that on her return her power would be as great as ever, and as
a matter of fact it was redoubled. The Duchess of Portsmouth
was accompanied on her journey to France by her sister,
Henriette, Countess of Pembroke, and by her son, the youthful

^ An account of this voyage was written by John Gosthng, Minor Canon of
Canterbury, who was the King's guest on board. The weather was very stormy,
and both the King and the Duke of York handled the ropes.

GostHng confided his adventures to Purcell, who in honour of the event wrote
his anthem, " They that go down to the sea in ships."



LoL'isH DH Khkoualle, Duchess of Pokis.molth.
(From an etii>raving by S. Freeman)

The Real Louise de Keroualle

Duke of Richmond, whom the French found " charmant et
plein d'esprit." They went over in a yacht from Greenwich to
Dieppe, and then on to Paris, where they had a splendid
reception at Court, which St. Simon describes. " The Duchess
and her son," he says, "were royally received at St. Cloud.
Louis XIV. sent an Envoy to welcome her, and Monsieur went
in person to call upon her. She was at all the royal fetes,
and the King presented her with some very fine earrings which
cost 32,000 livres." " Rien n'est pareil," writes St. Simon, "a
I'acceuil qu'elle recut." Even the Capucines came out from
their convent to meet her with cross, holy water, and incense !
and Madame du Lude, Abbesse de Bellechasse, who had been
Maid-of-honour to the Duchess of Orleans, went to receive her,
embraced her tenderly, and remained with her an hour.

From Paris the Duchess went to Aubigny, then to see her
father and mother, and on to Bourbon with her sister, where
she took the waters and spent the months of May and June.
Bourbon was the fashionable resort of the French aristocracy,
and at this time it was crowded with the " beau monde," but we
are told that the Duchess of Portsmouth eclipsed every one by
the sumptuous manner of her living. She then went to Brittany,
where she bought back the old family estates of Keroualle and
Mesnouales, situated in the Eveche de Leon in Basse-Bretagne,
which her father had been obliged to sell, and two years later
she purchased the Terre du Chastel from the creditors of Henri
Albert de Cosse, Due de Brissac, which had formerly belonged to
the de Rieux, her ancestors on the female side. Before leaving
France she paid another visit to the French Court, and the
Gazette of the 5th July tells us she was driving with the Queen.
The last honour paid to her at this time was a magnificent
banquet given by Croissy-Colbert. It was the end of July 1682


The Real Louise de Keroualle

when the Duchess of Portsmouth returned to London, a greater
personage than ever — after receiving such a reception from Le
Grande Monarque, and being the recipient of that most coveted
of honours, " le tabouret," which every one knows is the right to
sit on a stool in the presence of royalty. Louis XIV. continued to
keep up a correspondence with the Duchess of Portsmouth, and
we have before us a packet of his letters to her, written quite
irrespectively of any political intrigue. The French King always
addresses her as " Ma Cousine," and the letters are of a most
friendly nature. We have also many of her letters to him ; the
matter of these is good, they are well expressed, and she wrote
a fine hand of the large type, but the spelling is atrocious — quite
phonetic. The Ursuline nuns had much to answer for in this
respect ! Good spelling was, however, the exception in those
days, and Elizabeth Charlotte, Duchess of Orleans, Louis XIV. 's
sister-in-law, celebrated for her enormous correspondence, writes :
" Bien peu de dames la savent," alluding to what she calls
" ortografFe." " Les frangaises meme font presque toutes des
fautes." This Duchess of Orleans liked the Duchess of Ports-
mouth, and writes : " C'est la meilleure femme de ce genre que
j'ai vue de ma vie ; elle est fort polie et d'un commerce tres
agreable. Du temps de Monsieur nous I'avions souvent a St.
Cloud. Aussi je la connais tres bien." A propos of one of the
Duchess of Portsmouth's visits to St. Cloud, the Duchess of
Orleans in August 1690 tells the following funny story:
" Madame de Portsmouth, que nous avions ici il y a quelques
jours, m'a raconte que le feu roi (Charles II.) avait coutume de
dire : ' Vous voyez bien mon frere quand il sera roi, il perdra
son royaume par zele pour sa religion, et son ame pour de
villaines genipes, car il n'a pas le goust assez bon pour en aimer

de belles,' et la prophetie s'accomplit deja : les royaumes sont a


LouisK i)E Keroualle, Dl'chess ok Pokts.molth.
.(From a portrait in the possession of the Diiko of Richmond at Goodwood)

The Real Louise de Keroualle

vau I'eau et Ton pretend qu'a Dublin il avait deux afFreux
laiderons avec lesquels il etait toujours fourre."

Whilst giving the Duchess of Portsmouth credit for the
ability and solid judgment which enabled her, notwithstanding
the tremendous disadvantages of her nationality and her religion,
to hold her own for so many years, yet we must not believe, as
Mr. Forneron would have us to do, that in matters of foreign
policy King Charles was a puppet in her hands. In the very
able review of Mr. Forneron's History of the Duchess, which
appeared in the Si. James's Gazette some years ago, the writer
says : " The Duchess of Portsmouth is here made the pivot of
European history. At particular junctures, no doubt, her cool
judgment and unfailing tact enabled her to set up an initiative
of her own. In the schemes for the marriage of the Duke of
York she dissented from the policy of Colbert de Croissy and
Louvois, who were pressing the claims of the Duchess of Guise.
Again, she dissuaded King Charles from a premature avowal of
the Roman Catholic faith, but it is idle to accuse her of respon-
sibility for the infamous subservience of the English to the
French Court. ... It is not so much unjust as unhistorical to
accuse 'Madame Carwell' of selling Charles to the French.
That very wide-awake monarch was never sold by anybody except
himself. . . . You may read Mr. Forneron and come away with
the impression that Charles was a puppet who could be worked
at the pleasure of the male and female schemers about him.
His character and conduct we are not concerned to defend,
any more than to write an apology for ' Madame Carwell.'
But his prodigious talents, his practical shrewdness, and, when
he pleased to exercise it, his supple persistence, are as undisputed
as was the victory over all opponents which he secured before
the end of his reign."


The Real Louise de Keroualle

Apropos of the suggestion that King Charles should openly
avow the Roman Catholic religion, the following is very charac-
teristic of him : Colbert writes that the King desired a theologian
to be sent to him from Paris to instruct him in the mysteries of
the Catholic faith, but his Majesty desires that this theologian
may be a good chemist ! As with his uncle Prince Rupert,
chemistry was one of King Charles's favourite pursuits ; he had
his own private laboratory fitted up at Whitehall, and was far
more active there than at his Councils. Sorbieres, who visited
England in 1663, says, even at that early date, "He (the King)
has acquired a knowledge (of science), at which I was surprised
when I was received by his Majesty ; no one did so much
for physical science, and so powerfully incited people to make
experiments." The King showed Sorbieres his " cabinet of

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Online LibraryConstance Charlotte Elisa Lennox RussellThe rose goddess and other sketches of mystery & romance → online text (page 4 of 22)