Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

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to show myself agreeable, I gave him a superb aigrette of rubies and
diamonds; I was always sorry afterwards that I did so.

The King could never put up with this little dwarf, albeit his features
were comely enough. To begin with, he thought him too familiar, and
never even answered him when the dwarf dared to address him.

Following the fashion set by her Majesty, all the Court ladies wanted to
have little blackamoors to follow them about, set off their white
complexions, and hold up their cloaks or their trains. Thus it came that
Mignard, Le Bourdon, and other painters of the aristocracy, used to
introduce negro boys into all their large portraits. It was a mode, a
mania; but so absurd a fashion soon had to disappear after the mishap of
which I am about to tell.

The Queen being pregnant, public prayers were offered up for her
according to custom, and her Majesty was forever saying: "My pregnancy
this time is different from preceding ones. I am a prey to nausea and
strange whims; I have never felt like this before. If, for propriety's
sake, I did not restrain myself, I should now dearly like to be turning
somersaults on the carpet, like little Osmin. He eats green fruit and
raw game; that is what I should like to do, too. I should like to - "

"Oh, madame, you frighten us!" exclaimed the King. "Don't let all those
whimsies trouble you further, or you will give birth to some monstrosity,
some freak of nature." His Majesty was a true prophet. The Queen was
delivered of a fine little girl, black as ink from head to foot. They
did not tell her this at once, fearing a catastrophe, but persuaded her
to go to sleep, saying that the child had been taken away to be

The physicians met in one room, the bishops and chaplains in another. One
prelate was opposed to baptising the infant; another only agreed to this
upon certain conditions. The majority decided that it should be baptised
without the name of father or mother, and such suppression was
unanimously advocated.

The little thing, despite its swarthy hue, was most beautifully made; its
features bore none of those marks peculiar to people of colour.

It was sent away to the Gisors district to be suckled as a negro's
daughter, and the Gazette de France contained an announcement to the
effect that the royal infant had died, after having been baptised by the

[This daughter of the Queen lived, and was obliged to enter a Benedictine
nunnery at Moret. Her portrait is to be seen in the Sainte Genevieve
Library of Henri IV.'s College, where it hangs in the winter
saloon. - EDITOR'S NOTE.]

The little African was sent away, as may well be imagined; and the Queen
admitted that, one day soon after she was pregnant, he had hidden himself
behind a piece of furniture and suddenly jumped out upon her to give her
a fright. In this he was but too successful.

The Court ladies no longer dared come near the Queen attended by their
little blackamoors. These, however, they kept for a while longer, as if
they were mere nick-hacks or ornaments; in Paris they were still to be
seen in public. But the ladies' husbands at last got wind of the tale,
when all the little negroes disappeared.


Monsieur's Second Marriage. - Princess Palatine. - The Court Turnspit. - A
Woman's Hatred. - The King's Mistress on a Par with the First Prince of
the Blood. - She Gives His Wife a Lesson.

In order to keep up appearances at his Palais Royal, Monsieur besought
the King to consent to his remarriage after the usual term of mourning
was at an end.

"Whom have you in view?" asked his brother. He replied that he proposed
to wed Mademoiselle - the grande Mademoiselle de Montpensier - on account
of her enormous wealth!

Just then Mademoiselle was head over ears in love with Lauzun. She sent
the Prince about his business, as I believe I have already stated.
Moreover, she remarked: "You had the loveliest wife in all
Europe, - young, charming, a veritable picture. You might have seen to it
that she was not poisoned; in that case you would not now be a widower.
As it is not likely that I should ever come to terms with your
favourites, I shall never be anything else to you but a cousin, and I
shall endeavour not to die until the proper time; that is, when it shall
please God to take me. You can repeat this speech, word for word, to your
precious Marquis d'Effiat and Messieurs de Remecourt and de Lorraine.
They have no access to my kitchens; I am not afraid of them."

This answer amused the King not a little, and he said to me: "I was told
that the Palatine of Bavaria's daughter is extremely ugly and ill-bred;
consequently, she is capable of keeping Monsieur in check. Through one
of my Rhenish allies, I will make proposals to her father for her hand.
As soon as a reply comes, I will show my brother a portrait of some sort;
it will be all the same to him; he will accept her."

Soon afterwards this marriage took place. Charlotte Elizabeth of
Bavaria, though aware of the sort of death that her predecessor died,
agreed to marry Monsieur. Had she not been lucky enough to make this
grand match, her extreme ugliness would assuredly have doomed her to
celibacy, even in Bavaria and in Germany. It is surely not allowable to
come into the world with such a face and form, such a voice, such eyes,
such hands, and such feet, as this singular princess displayed. The
Court, still mindful of the sweetness, grace, and charm of Henrietta of
England, could not contemplate without horror and disgust the fearful
caricature I have just described. Young pregnant women - after the
Queen's unfortunate experience - were afraid to look at the Princess
Palatine, and wished to be confined before they reappeared at Court.

As for herself, armed with robust, philosophical notions, and a complete
set of Northern nerves, she was in no way disconcerted at the effect her
presence produced. She even had the good sense to appear indifferent to
all the raillery she provoked, and said to the King:

"Sire, to my mind you are one of the handsomest men in the world, and
with few exceptions, your Court appears to me perfectly fitted for you. I
have come but scantily equipped to such an assemblage. Fortunately, I am
neither jealous nor a coquette, and I shall win pardon for my plainness,
I myself being the first to make merry at it."

"You put us completely at our ease," replied the King, who had not even
the courage to be gallant. "I must thank you on behalf of these ladies
for your candour and wit." Ten or twelve of us began to titter at this
speech of hers. The Robust Lady never forgave those who laughed.

Directly she arrived, she singled me out as the object of her ponderous
Palatine sarcasms. She exaggerated my style of dress, my ways and
habits. She thought to make fun of my little spaniels by causing herself
to be followed, even into the King's presence-chamber, by a large
turnspit, which in mockery she called by the name of my favourite dog.

When I had had my hair dressed, ornamented with quantities of little
curls, diamonds, and jewelled pins, she had the impertinence to appear at
Court wearing a huge wig, a grotesque travesty of my coiffure. I was
told of it. I entered the King's apartment without deigning to salute
Madame, or even to look at her.

I had also been told that, in society, she referred to me as "the
Montespan woman." I met her one day in company with a good many other
people, and said to her:

"Madame, you managed to give up your religion in order to marry a French
prince; you might just as well have left behind your gross Palatine
vulgarity also. I have the honour to inform you that, in the exalted
society to which you have been admitted, one can no more say 'the
Montespan woman,' than one can say 'the Orleans woman.' I have never
offended you in the slightest degree, and I fail to see why I should have
been chosen as the favoured object of your vulgar insults."

She blushed, and ventured to inform me that this way of expressing
herself was a turn of speech taken from her own native language, and that
by saying "the," as a matter of course "Marquise" was understood.

"No, madame," I said, without appearing irritated; "in Paris, such an
excuse as that is quite inadmissible, and since you associate with
turnspits, pray ask your cooks, and they will tell you."

Fearing to quarrel with the King, she was obliged to be more careful, but
to change one's disposition is impossible, and she has loathed and
insulted me ever since. Her husband, who himself probably taught her to
do so, one day tried to make apologies for what he ruefully termed her
reprehensible conduct. "There, there, it doesn't matter," I said to him;
"it is easier to offend me than to deceive me. Allow me to quote to you
the speech of Mademoiselle de Montpensier, 'You had a charming and
accomplished wife, you ought to have prevented her from being poisoned,
and then we should not have had this hag at Court.'"


Madame de Montespan's Father-confessor. - He Alters His Opinion. - Madame
de Maintenon Is Consulted. - A General on Theology. - A Country
Priest. - The Marquise Postpones Her Repentance and Her Absolution.

My father-confessor, who since my arrival at Court had never vexed or
thwarted me, suddenly altered his whole manner towards me, from which I
readily concluded that the Queen had got hold of him. This priest, of
gentle, easy-going, kindly nature, never spoke to me except in a tone of
discontent and reproach. He sought to induce me to leave the King there
and then, and retire to some remote chateau. Seeing that he was
intriguing, and had, so to speak, taken up his position, like a woman of
experience I took up mine as well, and politely dismissed him, at which
he was somewhat surprised. In matters of religion, Madame de Maintenon,
who understands such things, was my usual mentor. I told her that I was
disheartened, and should not go to confession again for ever so long. She
was shocked at my resolve, and strove all she could to make me change my
mind and endeavour to lead me back into the right way.

She forever kept repeating her favourite argument, saying, "Good
gracious! suppose you should die in that state!"

I replied that it was not my fault, as I had never ceased to obey the
precepts of the Holy Church. "It was my old father-confessor," said I,
"the Canon of Saint Thomas du Louvre, who had harshly refused to confess

"What he does," replied she, "is solely for your own good."

"But if he has only my well-being in view," I quickly retorted, "why did
not he think of this at first? It would have been far better to have
stopped me at the outset, instead of letting me calmly proceed upon my
career. He is obeying the Queen's orders, or else those of that Abbe
Bossuet de Mauleon, who no longer dares attack me to my face."

As we thus talked, the Duc de Vivonne came into my room. Learning the
topic of our discussion, he spoke as follows: "I should not be general of
the King's Galleys and a soldier at heart and by profession if my opinion
in this matter were other than it is. I have attentively read
controversies on this point, and have seen it conclusively proved that
our kings never kept a confessor at Court. Among these kings, too, there
were most holy, most saintly people, and - "

"Then, what do you conclude from that, Duke?" asked Madame de Maintenon.

"Why, that Madame will do well to respect his Majesty the King as her

"Oh, Duke, you shock me! What dreadful advice, to be sure!" cried the

"I have not the least wish to shock you, madame; but my veneration for
D'Aubigne, your illustrious grandfather - is too great to let me think
that he is among the damned, and he never attended confession at all."

[Theodore Agrippa, Baron d'Aubigne, lieutenant-general in the army of
Henri IV. He persevered in Calvinism after the recantation of the

"Eternity hides that secret from us," replied Madame de Maintenon. "Each
day I pray to God to have mercy upon my poor grandfather; if I thought he
were among the saved, I should never be at pains to do this."

"Bah, madame! let's talk like sensible, straightforward people," quoth
the General. "The reverend Pere de la Chaise - one of the Jesuit
oracles - gives the King absolution every year, and authorises him to
receive the Holy Sacrament at Easter. If the King's confessor - thorough
priest as he is - pardons his intimacy with madame, here, how comes it
that the other cleric won't tolerate madame's intimacy with the King? On
a point of such importance as this, the two confessors ought really to
come to some agreement, or else, as the Jesuits have such a tremendous
reputation, the Marquise is entitled to side with them."

Hemmed in thus, Madame de Maintenon remarked "that the morals of Jesuits
and lax casuists had never been hers," and she advised me to choose a
confessor far removed from the Court and its intrigues.

The next day she mentioned a certain village priest to me, uninfluenced
by anybody, and whose primitive simplicity caused him to be looked upon
as a saint.

I submitted, and ingenuously went to confess myself to this wonderful
man; his great goodness did not prevent him from rallying me about the
elegance of my costume, and the perfume of my gloves, and my hair. He
insisted upon knowing my name, and on learning it, flew into a passion. I
suppress the details of his disagreeable propositions. Seated sideways
in his confessional, he stamped on the floor, abused me, and spoke
disrespectfully of the King. I could not stand such scandalous behaviour
for long; and, wearing my veil down, I got into my coach, being
thoroughly determined that I would take a good long holiday. M. de
Vivonne soundly rated me for such cowardice, as he called it, while
Madame de Maintenon offered me her curate-in-chief, or else the Abbe

But, for the time being, I determined to keep to my plan of not going to
confession, strengthened in such resolve by my brother Vivonne's good
sense, and the attitude of the King's Jesuit confessor, who had a great
reputation and knew what he was about.


The Comte de Guiche. - His Violent Passion for Madame. - His Despair. - He
Flees to La Trappe. - And Comes Out Again. - A Man's Heart. - Cured of His
Passion, He Takes a Wife.

The Comte de Guiche, son of the Marechal de Grammont, was undoubtedly one
of the handsomest men in France.

The grandeur and wealth of his family had, at an early age, inspired him
with courage and self-conceit, so that in his blind, frivolous
presumption, the only person, as he thought, who exceeded his own
fascination was possibly the King, but nobody else.

Perceiving the wonderful charm of Monsieur's first wife, he conceived so
violent a passion for her that no counsel nor restraint could prevent him
from going to the most extravagant lengths in obedience to this rash,
this boundless passion.

Henrietta of England, much neglected by her husband, and naturally of a
romantic disposition, allowed the young Count to declare his love for
her, either by singing pretty romances under her balcony, or by wearing
ribbons, bunched together in the form of a hieroglyphic, next his heart.
Elegantly dressed, he never failed to attend all the assemblies to which
she lent lustre by her presence. He followed her to Saint Germain, to
Versailles, to Chambord, to Saint Cloud; he only lived and had his being
in the enjoyment of contemplating her charms.

One day, being desirous of walking alongside her sedan-chair, without
being recognised, he had a complete suit made for him of the La Valliere
livery, and thus, seeming to be one of the Duchess's pages, he was able
to converse with Madame for a short time. Another time he disguised
himself as a pretty gipsy, and came to tell the Princess her fortune. At
first she did not recognise him, but when the secret was out, and all the
ladies were in fits of laughter, a page came running in to announce the
arrival of Monsieur. Young De Guiche slipped out by a back staircase,
and in order to facilitate his exit, one of the footmen, worthy of
Moliere, caught hold of the Prince as if he were one of his comrades, and
holding a handkerchief over his face, nearly poked his eye out.

The Count's indiscretions were retailed in due course to Monsieur by his
favourites, and he was incensed beyond measure. He complained to
Marechal de Grammont; he complained to the King.

Hereupon, M. de Guiche received orders to travel for two or three years.

War with the Turks had just been declared, and together with other
officers, his friends, he set out for Candia and took part in the siege.
All did him the justice to affirm that while there he behaved like a
hero. When the fortress had to capitulate, and Candia was lost to the
Christians forever, our officers returned to France. Madame was still
alive when the young Count rejoined his family. He met the Princess once
or twice in society, without being able to approach her person, or say a
single word to her.

Soon afterwards, she gave birth to a daughter. A few days later, certain
monsters took her life by giving her poison. This dreadful event made
such an impression upon the poor Comte de Guiche, that for a long while
he lost his gaiety, youth, good looks, and to a certain extent, his
reason. After yielding to violent despair, he was possessed with rash
ideas of vengeance. The Marechal de Grammont had to send him away to one
of his estates, for the Count talked of attacking and of killing, without
further ado, the Marquis d'Effiat, M. de Remecourt, the Prince's
intendant, named Morel, and even the Duc d'Orleans himself.

[Morel subsequently admitted his guilt in the matter of Madame's death,
as well as the commission of other corresponding crimes. See the Letters
of Charlotte, the Princess Palatine. - EDITOR'S NOTE.]

His intense agitation was succeeded by profound melancholy, stupor
closely allied to insanity or death.

One evening, the Comte de Guiche went to the Abbey Church of Saint Denis.
He hid himself here, to avoid being watched, and when the huge nave was
closed, and all the attendants had left, he rushed forward and flung
himself at full length upon the tombstone which covers the vast royal
vault. By the flickering light of the lamps, he mourned the passing
hence of so accomplished a woman, murdered in the flower of her youth. He
called her by name, telling her once more of his deep and fervent love.
Next day, he wandered about in great pain, gloomy and inconsolable.

One day he came to see me at Clagny, and talked in a hopeless, desolate
way about our dear one. He told me that neither glory nor ambition nor
voluptuous pleasures could ever allure him or prove soothing to his soul.
He assured me that life was a burden to him, - a burden that religion
alone prevented him from relinquishing, and that he was determined to
shut himself up in La Trappe or in some such wild, deserted place.

I sought to dissuade him from such a project, which could only be the
cause of grief and consternation to his relatives. He pretended to yield
to my entreaties, but the next night he left home and disappeared.

At length he came back. Luckily, the Trappist Abbe de Ranch wished to
take away from him the portrait on enamel of Henrietta of England, so as
to break it in pieces before his eyes. So indignant was the Count that
he was upon the point of giving the hermit a thrashing. He fled in
disgust from the monastery, and this fresh annoyance served, in some
degree, to assuage his grief. Life's daily occupations, the excitements
of society, the continual care shown towards him by his relatives, youth,
above all, and Time, the irresistible healer, at last served to soothe a
sorrow which, had it lasted longer, would have been more disastrous in
its results.

The Comte de Guiche consented to marry a wife to whom he was but slightly
attached, and who is quite content with him, praising his good qualities
and all his actions.


Mexica. - Philippa. - Molina. - The Queen's Jester.

In marrying Maria Theresa, Infanta of Spain, the King had made an
advantageous match from a political point of view. For through the
Infanta he had rights with regard to Flanders; she also provided him with
eventual claims upon Spain itself, together with Mexico and Peru. But
from a personal and social point of view, the King could not have
contracted a more miserable alliance. The Infanta, almost wholly
uneducated, had not even such intellectual resources as a position such
as hers certainly required, where personal risk was perpetual, where
authority had to be maintained by charming manners, and respect for power
ensured by elevation of tone and sentiment, which checks the indiscreet,
and imbues everybody with the spirit of consideration and reverence.

Maria Theresa, though a king's daughter, made no more effect at Court
than if she had been a mere middle-class person. The King, in fact, by
his considerateness, splendour, and glory, served to support her dignity.
He hoped and even desired that she should be held in honour, partly for
her own sake, in a great measure for his. But as soon as she started
upon some argument or narration where force of intellect was needed, she
always seemed bewildered, and he soon interrupted her either by finishing
the tale himself, or by changing the conversation. This he did
good-naturedly and with much tact, so that the Queen, instead of taking
offence, was pleased to be under such an obligation to him. From such a
wife this prince could not look to have sons of remarkable talent or
intellect, for that would have been nothing short of a miracle. And thus
the little Dauphin showed none of those signs of intelligence which the
most ordinary commonplace children usually display. When the Queen heard
courtiers repeat some of the droll, witty sayings of the Comte de Vegin,
or the Duc du Maine, she reddened with jealousy, and remarked, "Everybody
goes into ecstasies about those children, while Monsieur le Dauphin is
never even mentioned."

She had brought with her from Spain that Donna Silvia Molina, of whom I
have already spoken, and who had got complete control over her character.
Instead of tranquillising her, and so making her happy, Donna Silvia
thought to become more entertaining, and above all, more necessary to
her, by gossiping to her about the King's amours. She ferreted out all
the secret details, all the petty circumstances, and with such dangerous
material troubled the mind and destroyed the repose of her mistress, who
wept unceasingly, and became visibly changed.

La Molina, enriched and almost wealthy, was sent back to Spain, much to
the grief of Maria Theresa, who for several days after her departure
could neither eat nor sleep.

At the same time, the King got rid of that little she-dwarf, named
Mexica, in whose insufferable talk and insufferable presence the Queen
took delight. But the sly little wretch escaped during the journey, and
managed to get back to the princess again, hidden in some box or basket.
The Queen was highly delighted to see her again; she pampered her
secretly in her private cabinet with the utmost mystery, giving up every
moment that she could spare.

One day, by way of a short cut, the King was passing through the Queen's
closet, when he heard the sound of coughing in one of the cupboards.
Turning back, he flung it open, where, huddled up in great confusion, he
found Mexica.

"What!" cried his Majesty; "so you are back again? When and how did you

In a feeble voice Mexica answered, "Sire, please don't send me away from
the Queen any more, and she will never complain again about Madame de

The King laughed at this speech, and then came and repeated it to me. I
laughed heartily, too, and such a treaty of peace seemed to contain queer
compensation clauses: Madame de Montespan and Mexica were mutually bound
over to support each other; the spectacle was vastly droll, I vow.

Besides her little dwarf, the Queen had a fool named Tricominy. This
quaint person was permitted to utter everywhere and to everybody in
incoherent fashion the pseudo home-truths that passed through his head.
One day he went up to the grande Mademoiselle de Montpensier, and said to
her before everybody, "Since you are so anxious to get married, marry me;
then that will be a man-fool and a woman-fool." The Princess tried to
hit him, and he took refuge behind the Queen's chair.

Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 10 of 30)