Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame de Montespan — Volume 4 online

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Produced by David Widger


Written by Herself

Being the Historic Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV.



President de Nesmond. - Melladoro. - A Complacent Husband and His Love-sick
Wife. - Tragic Sequel.

President de Nesmond - upright, clear-headed magistrate as he was - was of
very great service to me at the Courts of Justice. He always managed to
oblige me and look after my interests and my rights in any legal dispute
of mine, or when I had reason to fear annoyance on the part of my

I will here relate the grief that his young wife caused him, and it will
be seen that, by the side of this poor President, M. de Montespan might
count himself lucky. Having long been a widower, he was in some measure
accustomed to this state, until love laid a snare for him just at the age
of sixty-five.

In the garden that lay below his windows - a garden owned by his
neighbour, a farmer - he saw Clorinde. She was this yeoman's only
daughter. He at once fell passionately in love with her, as David once
loved Bathsheba.

The President married Clorinde, who was very pleased to have a fine name
and a title. But her husband soon saw - if not with surprise, at least
with pain - that his wife did not love him. A young and handsome
Spaniard, belonging to the Spanish Legation, danced one day with
Clorinde; to her he seemed as radiant as the god of melody and song. She
lost her heart, and without further delay confessed to him this loss.

On returning home, the President said to his youthful consort, "Madame,
every one is noticing and censuring your imprudent conduct; even the
young Spaniard himself finds it compromising."

"Nothing you say can please me more," she replied, "for this proves that
he is aware of my love. As he knows this, and finds my looks to his
liking, I hope that he will wish to see me again."

Soon afterwards there was a grand ball given at the Spanish Embassy.
Madame de Nesmond managed to secure an invitation, and went with one of
her cousins. The young Spaniard did the honours of the evening, and
showed them every attention.

As the President was obliged to attend an all-night sitting at the
Tourelle, - [The parliamentary criminal court.] - and as these young ladies
did not like going home alone, - for their residence was some way
off, - the young Spaniard had the privilege of conducting them to their
coach and of driving back with them. After cards and a little music,
they had supper about daybreak; and when the President returned, at five
o'clock, he saw Melladoro, to whom he was formally introduced by madame.

The President's welcome was a blend of surprise, anger, forced
condescension, and diplomatic politeness. All these shades of feeling
were easily perceived by the Spaniard, who showed not a trace of
astonishment. This was because Clorinde's absolute sway over her husband
was as patent as the fact that, in his own house, the President was
powerless to do as he liked.

Melladoro, who was only twenty years old, thought he had made a charming
conquest. He asked to be allowed to present his respects occasionally,
when Clorinde promptly invited him to do so, in her husband's name as
well as in her own.

It was now morning, and he took leave of the ladies. Two days after this
he reappeared; then he came five or six times a week, until at last it
was settled that a place should be laid for him every day at the
President's table.

That year it was M. de Nesmond's turn to preside at the courts during
vacation-time. He pleaded urgent motives of health, which made it
imperative for him to have country air and complete rest. Another judge
consented to forego his vacation and take his place on the bench for four
months; so M. de Nesmond was able to leave Paris.

When the time came to set out by coach, madame went off into violent
hysterics; but the magistrate, backed up by his father-in-law, showed
firmness, and they set out for the Chateau de Nesmond, about thirty
leagues from Paris.

M. de Nesmond found the country far from enjoyable. His wife, who always
sat by herself in her dressing-gown and seldom consented to see a soul,
on more than one occasion left her guests at table in order to sulk and
mope in her closet.

She fell ill. During her periods of suffering and depression, she
continually mentioned the Spaniard's name. Failing his person, she
desired to have his portrait. Alarmed at his wife's condition, the
President agreed to write a letter himself to the author of all this
trouble, who soon sent the lady a handsome sweetmeat-box ornamented with
his crest and his portrait.

At the sight of this, Clorinde became like another woman. She had her
hair dressed and put on a smart gown, to show the portrait how deeply
enamoured she was of the original.

"Monsieur," she said to her husband, "I am the only daughter of a wealthy
man, who, when he gave me to a magistrate older than himself, did not
intend to sacrifice me. You have been young, no doubt, and you,
therefore, ought to know how revolting to youth, all freshness and
perfume, are the cuddlings and caresses of decrepitude. As yet I do not
detest you, but it is absolutely impossible to love you. On the
contrary, I am in love with Melladoro; perhaps in your day you were as
attractive as he is, and knew how to make the most of what you then
possessed. Now, will you please me by going back to Paris? I shall be
ever so grateful to you if you will. Or must you spend the autumn in
this gloomy abode of your ancestors? To show myself obedient, I will
consent; only in this case you must send your secretary to the Spanish
Legation, and your coach-and-six, to bring Melladoro here without delay."

At this speech M. de Nesmond could no longer hide his disgust, but
frankly refused to entertain such a proposal for one moment. Whereupon,
his wife gave way to violent grief. She could neither eat nor sleep, and
being already in a weakly state, soon developed symptoms which frightened
her doctors.

M. de Nesmond was frightened too, and at length sent his rival a polite
and pressing invitation to come and stay at the chateau.

This state of affairs went on for six whole years, during which time
Madame de Nesmond lavished upon her comely paramour all the wealth
amassed by her frugal, orderly spouse.

At last the President could stand it no longer, but went and made a
bitter complaint to the King. His Majesty at once asked the Spanish
Ambassador to have Melladoro recalled.

At this news, Clorinde was seized with violent convulsions; so severe,
indeed, was this attack, that her wretched husband at once sought to have
the order rescinded. But as it transpired, the King's wish had been
instantly complied with, and the unwelcome news had to be told to

"If you love me," quoth she to her husband, "then grant me this last
favour, after which, I swear it, Clorinde will never make further appeal
to your kind-heartedness. However quick they have been, my young friend
cannot yet have reached the coast. Let me have sight of him once more;
let me give him a lock of my hair, a few loving words of advice, and one
last kiss before he is lost to me forever."

So fervent was her pleading and so profuse her tears, that M. de Nesmond
consented to do all. His coach-and-six was got ready there and then. An
hour before sunset the belfries of Havre came in sight, and as it was
high tide, they drove right up to the harbour wharf.

The ship had just loosed her moorings, and was gliding out to sea.
Clorinde could recognise Melladoro standing amid the passengers on deck.
Half fainting, she stretched out her arms and called him in a piteous
voice. Blushing, he sought to hide behind his companions, who all begged
him to show himself. By means of a wherry Clorinde soon reached the
frigate, and the good-natured sailors helped her to climb up the side of
the vessel. But in her agitation and bewilderment her foot slipped, and
she fell into the sea, whence she was soon rescued by several of the
pluckiest of the crew.

As she was being removed to her carriage, the vessel sailed out of
harbour. M. de Nesmond took a large house at Havre, in order to nurse
her with greater convenience, and had to stop there for a whole month,
his wife being at length brought back on a litter to Paris.

Her convalescence was but an illusion after all. Hardly had she reached
home when fatal symptoms appeared; she felt that she must die, but showed
little concern thereat. The portrait of the handsome Spaniard lay close
beside her on her couch. She smiled at it, besought it to have pity on
her loneliness, or scolded it bitterly for indifference, and for going

A short time before her death, she sent for her husband and her father,
to whom she entrusted the care of her three children.

"Monsieur," said she to the President de Nesmond, "be kind to my son; he
has a right to your name and arms, and though he is my living image,
dearest Theodore is your son." Then turning to her father, who was
weeping, she said briefly, "All that to-day remains to you of Clorinde
are her two daughters.

"Pray love them as you loved me, and be more strict with them than you
were with me. M. de Nesmond owes these orphans nothing. All that
Melladoro owes them is affection. Tell him, I pray you, of my constancy
and of my death."

Such was the sad end of a young wife who committed no greater crime than
to love a man who was agreeable and after her own heart. M. de Nesmond
was just enough to admit that, in ill-assorted unions, good sense or good
nature must intervene, to ensure that the one most to be pitied receive
indulgent treatment at the hands of the most culpable, if the latter be
also the stronger of the two.


Madame de Montespan's Children and Those of La Valliere. - Monsieur le

I had successively lost the first and second Comte de Vegin; God also
chose to take Mademoiselle de Tours from me, who (in what way I know not)
was in features the very image of the Queen. Her Majesty was told so,
and desired to see my child, and when she perceived how striking was the
resemblance, she took a fancy to the charming little girl, and requested
that she might frequently be brought to see her. Such friendliness
proved unlucky, for the Infanta, as is well known, has never been able to
rear one of her children, - a great pity, certainly, for she has had five,
all handsome, well-made, and of gracious, noble mien, like the King.

In the case of Mademoiselle de Tours, the Queen managed to conquer her
dislike, and also sent for the Duc du Maine. Despite her affection for
M. le Dauphin, she herself admitted that if Monseigneur had the airs of a
gentleman, M. le Duc du Maine looked the very type of a king's son.

The Duc du Maine, Madame de Maintenon's special pupil, was so well
trained to all the exigencies of his position and his rank, that such
premature perfection caused him to pass for a prodigy. Than his, no
smile could be more winning and sweet; no one could carry himself with
greater dignity and ease. He limps slightly, which is a great pity,
especially as he has such good looks, and so graceful a figure; his
lameness, indeed, was entirely the result of an accident, - a sad
accident, due to teething. To please the King, his governess took him
once to Auvez, and twice to the Pyrenees, but neither the waters nor the
Auvez quack doctors could effect a cure. At any rate, I was fortunate
enough to bring up this handsome prince, who, if he treat me with
ceremony, yet loves me none the less.

Brought up by the Duc de Montausier, a sort of monkish soldier, and by
Bossuet, a sort of military monk, Monsieur le Dauphin had no good
examples from which to profit. Crammed as he is with Latin, Greek,
German, Spanish, and Church history, he knows all that they teach in
colleges, being totally ignorant of all that can only be learnt at the
Court of a king. He has no distinction of manner, no polish or
refinement of address; he laughs in loud guffaws, and even raises his
voice in the presence of his father. Having been born at Court, his way
of bowing is not altogether awkward; but what a difference between his
salute and that of the King! "Monseigneur looks just like a German
prince." That speech exactly hits him off, - a portrait sketched by no
other brush than that of his royal father.

Monseigneur, who does not like me, pays me court the same as any one
else. Being very jealous of the pretty Comte de Vermandois and his
brother, the Duc du Maine, he tries to imitate their elegant manner, but
is too stiff to succeed. The Duc du Maine shows him the respect inspired
by his governess, but the Comte de Vermandois, long separated from his
mother, has been less coached in this respect, and being thoroughly
candid and sincere, shows little restraint. Often, instead of styling
him "Monseigneur," he calls him merely "Monsieur le Dauphin," while the
latter, as if such a title were common or of no account, looks at his
brother and makes no reply.

When I told the King about such petty fraternal tiffs, he said, "With
age, all that will disappear; as a man grows taller, he gets a better,
broader view of his belongings."

M. le Dauphin shows a singular preference for Mademoiselle de Nantes, but
my daughter, brimful of wit and fun, often makes merry at the expense of
her exalted admirer.

Mademoiselle de Blois, the eldest daughter of Madame de la Valliere, is
the handsomest, most charming person it is possible to imagine. Her
slim, graceful figure reminds one of the beautiful goddesses, with whom
poets entertain us; she abounds in accomplishments and every sort of
charm. Her tender solicitude for her mother, and their constant close
companionship, have doubtless served to quicken her intelligence and

Like the King, she is somewhat grave; she has the same large brown eyes,
and just his Austrian lip, his shapely hand and well-turned leg, almost
his selfsame voice. Madame de la Valliere, who, in the intervals of
pregnancy, had no bosom to speak of, has shown marked development in this
respect since living at the convent. The Princess, ever since she
attained the age of puberty, has always seemed adequately furnished with
physical charms. The King provided her with a husband in the person of
the Prince de Conti, a nephew of the Prince de Conde. They are devotedly
attached to each other, being both as handsome as can be. The Princesse
de Conti enjoys the entire affection of the Queen, who becomes quite
uneasy if she does not see her for five or six days.

Certain foreign princes proposed for her hand, when the King replied that
the presence of his daughter was as needful to him as daylight or the air
he breathed.

I have here surely drawn a most attractive portrait of this princess, and
I ought certainly to be believed, for Madame de Conti is not fond of me
at all. Possibly she looks upon me as the author of her mother's
disgrace; I shall never be at pains to undeceive her. Until the moment
of her departure, Madame de la Valliere used always to visit me. The
evening before her going she took supper with me, and I certainly had no
cause to read in her looks either annoyance or reproach. Mademoiselle de
Montpensier, who happened to call, saw us at table, and stayed to have
some dessert with us. She has often told me afterwards how calm and
serene the Duchess looked. One would never have thought she was about to
quit a brilliant Court for the hair shirt of the ascetic, and all the
death-in-life of a convent. I grieved for her, I wept for her, and I got
her a grand gentleman as a husband.

[This statement is scarcely reconcilable with the fact that Madame de la
Valliere remained in a convent until her death. This may refer to
Mademoiselle de Blois, La Valliere's daughter, who was given in marriage
to the Prince de Conti. - EDITOR'S NOTE.]


Madame de Maintenon's Character. - The Queen Likes Her. - She Revisits Her
Family. - Her Grandfather's Papers Restored to Her.

As Madame de Maintenon's character happened to please the King, as I have
already stated, he allotted her handsome apartments at Court while
waiting until he could keep her there as a fixture, by conferring upon
her some important appointment. She had the honour of being presented to
the Queen, who paid her a thousand compliments respecting the Duc du
Maine's perfections, being so candid and so good natured as to say:

"You would have been just the person to educate Monseigneur."

Unwilling to appear as if she slighted the Dauphin's actual tutors,
Madame de Maintenon adroitly replied that, as it seemed to her, M. le
Dauphin had been brought up like an angel.

It is said that I have special talent for sustaining and enlivening a
conversation; there is something in that, I admit, but to do her justice,
I must say that in this respect Madame de Maintenon is without a rival.
She has quite a wealth of invention; the most arid subject in her hands
becomes attractive; while for transitions, her skill is unequalled. Far
simpler than myself, she gauges her whole audience with a single glance.
And as, since her misfortunes, her rule has been never to make an enemy,
since these easily crop up along one's path, she is careful never to
utter anything which could irritate the feelings or wound the pride of
the most sensitive. Her descriptions are so varied, so vivacious, that
they fascinate a whole crowd. If now and again some little touch of
irony escapes her, she knows how to temper and even instantly to
neutralise this by terms of praise at once natural and simple.

Under the guise of an extremely pretty woman, she conceals the knowledge
and tact of a statesman. I have, moreover, noticed that latterly the
King likes to talk about matters of State when she is present. He rarely
did this with me.

I think she is at the outset of a successful career. The King made
persistent inquiries with regard to her whole family. He has already
conferred a petty governorship upon the Comte d'Aubigne, her brother, and
the Marquis de la Gallerie, their cousin, has just received the command
of a regiment, and a pension.

Madame de Maintenon readily admits that she owes her actual good fortune
to myself. I also saw one of her letters to Madame de Saint-Geran, in
which she refers to me in terms of gratitude. Sometimes, indeed, she
goes too far, even siding with my husband, and condemning what she dares
to term my conduct; however, this is only to my face. I have always
liked her, and in spite of her affronts, I like her still; but there are
times when I am less tolerant, and then we are like two persons just
about to fall out.

The Comte de Toulouse and Mademoiselle de Blois were not entrusted to her
at their birth as the others were. The King thought that the additional
responsibility of their education would prove too great for the Marquise.
He preferred to enjoy her society and conversation, so my two youngest
children were placed in the care of Madame d'Arbon, a friend or
stewardess of M. de Colbert. Not a great compliment, as I take it.

When, for the second time, Madame de Maintenon took the Duc du Maine to
Barege, she returned by way of the Landes, Guienne, and Poitou. She
wished to revisit her native place, and show her pupil to all her
relations. Perceiving that she was a marquise, the instructress of
princes, and a personage in high favour, they were lavish of their
compliments and their praise, yet forebore to give her back her property.

Knowing that she was a trifle vain about her noble birth, they made over
to her the great family pedigree, as well as a most precious manuscript.
These papers, found to be quite correct, included a most spirited history
of the War of the League, written by Baron Agrippa d'Aubigne, who might
rank as an authority upon the subject, having fought against the Leaguers
for over fifteen years. Among these documents the King found certain
details that hitherto had been forgotten, or had never yet come to light.
And as the Baron was Henri IV.'s favourite aide-decamp, every reference
that he makes to that good king is of importance and interest.

This manuscript, in the simplest manner possible, set forth the
governess's ancestors. I am sure she was more concerned about this
document than about her property.


The Young Flemish Lady. - The Sainte-Aldegonde Family. - The Sage of the

Just at the time of the conquest of Tournai, a most amusing thing
occurred, which deserves to be chronicled. Another episode may be
recorded also, of a gloomier nature.

Directly Tournai had surrendered, and the new outposts were occupied, the
King wished to make his entry into this important town, which he had long
desired to see. The people and the burghers, although mute and silent,
willingly watched the French army and its King march past, but the
aristocracy scarcely showed themselves at any of the windows, and the few
folk who appeared here and there on the balconies abstained from
applauding the King.

Splendidly apparelled, and riding the loveliest of milk-white steeds, his
Majesty proceeded upon his triumphant way, surrounded by the flower of
French nobility, and scattering money as he went.

Before the Town Hall the procession stopped, when the magistrates
delivered an address, and gave up to his Majesty the keys of the city in
a large enamelled bowl.

When the King, looking calmly contented, was about to reply, he observed
a woman who had pushed her way through the French guardsmen, and staring
hard at him, appeared anxious to get close up to him. In fact, she
advanced a step or two, and the epithet that crossed her lips struck the
conqueror as being coarsely offensive.

"Arrest that woman," cried the King. She was instantly seized and
brought before him.

"Why do you insult me thus?" he asked quickly, but with dignity.

"I have not insulted you," replied the Flemish lady. "The word that
escaped me was rather a term of flattery and of praise, at least if it
has the meaning which it conveys to us here, in these semi-French parts."

"Say that word again," added the King; "for I want everybody to bear
witness that I am just in punishing you for such an insult."

"Sire," answered this young woman, "your soldiers have destroyed my
pasture-lands, my woods, and my crops. Heart-broken, I came here to
curse you, but your appearance at once made me change my mind. On
looking closer at you, in spite of my grief, I could not help exclaiming,
'So that's the handsome b - - -, is it!'"

The grenadiers, being called as witnesses, declared that such was in fact
her remark. Then the King smiled, and said to the young Flemish lady:

"Who are you? What is your name?"

With readiness and dignity she replied, "Sire, you see before you the
Comtesse de Sainte-Aldegonde."

"Pray, madame," quoth the King, "be so good as to finish your toilet; I
invite you to dine with me to-day."

Madame de Sainte-Aldegonde accepted the honour, and did in fact dine with
his Majesty that day. She was clever, and made herself most agreeable,
so that the King, whose policy it was to win hearts by all concessions
possible, indemnified her for all losses sustained during the war,
besides granting favours to all her relatives and friends.

The Sainte-Aldegonde family appeared at Court, being linked thereto by
good services. It is already a training-ground for excellent officers
and persons of merit.

But for that somewhat neat remark of the Countess's, all those gentlemen
would have remained in poverty and obscurity within the walls or in the
suburbs of Tournai.

Some days after this, the King was informed of the arrest of a most
dangerous individual, who had been caught digging below certain ancient
aqueducts "with a view to preparing a mine of some sort." This person
was brought in, tied and bound like a criminal; they hustled him and
maltreated him. I noticed how he trembled and shed tears.

He was a learned man - an antiquary. A few days before our invasion he
had commenced certain excavations, which he had been forced to
discontinue, and now so great was his impatience that he had been obliged
to go on in spite of the surrounding troops. By means of an old
manuscript, long kept by the Druids, as also by monks, this man had been
able to discover traces of an old Roman highroad, and as in the days of
the Romans the tombs of the rich and the great were always placed

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