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Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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Another time, to M. Letellier, Louvois's brother and Archbishop of
Rheims, he said, "Monseigneur, do let me ascend the pulpit in your
Cathedral, and I will preach modesty and humanity to you." When the
little Duc d'Anjou, that pretty, charming child, died of suppressed
measles, the Queen was inconsolable, and the King, good father that he
is, was weeping for the little fellow, for he promised much. Says
Tricominy, "They're weeping just as if princes had not got to die like
anybody else. M. d'Anjou was no better made than I am, nor of better
stuff."

Tricominy was dismissed, because it was plain that his madness took a
somewhat eccentric turn; that, in fact, he was not fool enough for his
place.

The Queen had still a Spanish girl named Philippa, to whom she was much
attached, and who deserved such flattering attachment. Born in the
Escurial Palace, Philippa had been found one night in a pretty cradle at
the base of one of the pillars. The palace guards informed King Philip,
who adopted the child and brought it up, since it had been foisted upon
him as his daughter. He grew fond of the girl, and on coming to Saint
Jean de Luz to marry the Infanta to his nephew the King, he made them a
present of Philippa, and begged them both to be very good to her. In
this amiable Spanish girl, the Infanta recognised a sister. She knew she
was an illegitimate daughter of King Philip and one of the palace ladies.

When Molina left the Court, she did everything on earth to induce
Philippa to return with her to Spain, but the girl was sincerely attached
to the Queen, who, holding her in a long embrace, promised to find her a
wealthy husband if she would stay. However, the Queen only gave her as
husband the Chevalier de Huze, her cloak-bearer, so as to keep the girl
about her person and to be intimate with her daily. Philippa played the
mandolin and the guitar to perfection; she, also sang and danced with
consummate grace.




CHAPTER XLV.

Le Bouthilier de Ranch, Abbe de la Trappe.


The Abbe le Bouthilier de Rance, - son of the secretary of state, Le
Bouthilier de Chavigny, - after having scandalised Court and town by his
public gallantries, lost his mistress, a lady possessed of a very great
name and of no less great beauty. His grief bordered upon despair; he
forsook the world, gave away or sold his belongings, and went and shut
himself up in his Abbey of La Trappe, the only benefice which he had
retained. This most ancient monastery was of the Saint Bernard Order,
with white clothing. The edifice spacious, yet somewhat dilapidated was
situated on the borders of Normandy, in a wild, gloomy valley exposed to
fog and frost.

The Abbe found in this a place exactly suitable to his plan, which was to
effect reforms of austere character and contrary to nature. He convened
his monks, who were amazed at his arrival and residence; he soundly rated
them for the scandalous laxity of their conduct, and having reminded them
of all the obligations of their office, he informed them of his new
regulations, the nature of which made them tremble. He proposed nothing
less than to condemn them to daily manual labour, the tillage of the
soil, the performance of menial household duties; and to this he added
the practices of immoderate fasting, perpetual silence, downcast glances,
veiled countenances, the renouncement of all social ties, and all
instructive or entertaining literature. In short, he advocated sleeping
all together on the bare floor of an ice-cold dormitory, the continual
contemplation of death, the dreadful obligation of digging, while alive,
one's own grave every day with one's own hands, and thus, in imagination,
burying oneself therein before being at rest there for ever.

As laws so foolish and so tyrannical were read out to them, the worthy
monks - all of them of different character and age openly expressed their
discontent. The Abbe de Rance allowed them to go and get pleasure in
other monasteries, and contrived to collect around him youths whom it was
easy to delude, and a few elderly misanthropes; with these he formed his
doleful wailing flock.

As he loved notoriety in everything, he had various views of his
monastery engraved, and pictures representing the daily pursuits of his
laborious community. Such pictures, hawked about everywhere by itinerant
vendors of relics and rosaries, served to create for this barbarous
reformer a reputation saintly and angelic. In towns, villages, even in
royal palaces, he formed the one topic of conversation. Several
gentlemen, disgusted either with vice or with society, retired of their
own accord to his monastery, where they remained in order that they might
the sooner die.

Desirous of enjoying his ridiculous celebrity, the Abbe de Rance came to
Paris, under what pretext I do not remember, firmly resolved to show
himself off in all the churches, and solicit abundant alms for his
phantoms who never touched food. From all sides oblations were
forthcoming; soon he had got money enough to build a palace, if he had
liked.

It being impossible for him to take the august Mademoiselle de
Montpensier to his colony of monks, he desired at any rate to induce her
to withdraw from the world, and counselled her to enter a Carmelite
convent. Mademoiselle's ardent passion for M. de Lauzun seemed to the
Trappist Abbe a scandal; in fact, his sour spirit could brook no scandal
of any sort. "I attended her father as he lay dying," said he, "and to
me belongs the task of training, enlightening, and sanctifying his
daughter. I would have her keep silence; she has spoken too much."

The moment was ill chosen; just then Mademoiselle de Montpensier was
striving to break the fetters of her dear De Lauzun; she certainly did
not wish to get him out of one prison, and then put herself into another.
Every one blamed this reformer's foolish presumption, and Mademoiselle,
thoroughly exasperated, forbade her servants to admit him. It was said
that he had worked two or three miracles, and brought certain dead people
back to life.

"I will rebuild his monastery for him in marble if he will give us back
poor little Vegin, and the Duc d'Anjou," said the King to me.

The remark almost brought tears to my eyes, just as I was about to joke
with his Majesty about the fellow and his miracles.

Well satisfied with his Parisian harvest, the Abbe le Bouthilier de Rance
went straight to his convent, where the inmates were persevering enough
to be silent, fast, dig, catch their death of cold, and beat themselves
for him.

Madame Cormeil, wishing to have a good look at the man, sent to inform
him of her illness. Would-be saints are much afraid of words with a
double meaning. In no whit disconcerted, he replied that he had devoted
his entire zeal to the poor in spirit, and that Madame Cormeil was not of
their number.




CHAPTER XLVI.

The Court Goes to Flanders. - Nancy. - Ravon. - Sainte Marie aux
Mines. - Dancing and Death. - A German Sovereign's Respectful Visit. - The
Young Strasburg Priests. - The Good Bailiff of Chatenoi. - The Bridge at
Brisach. - The Capucin Monk Presented to the Queen.


Before relating that which I have to say about the Queen and her
precautions against myself, I would not omit certain curious incidents
during the journey that the King caused us to take in Alsatia and
Flanders, when he captured Maestricht and Courtrai.

The King having left us behind at Nancy, a splendid town where a large
proportion of the nobility grieved for the loss of Messieurs de Lorraine,
their legitimate sovereigns, the Queen soon saw that here she was more
honoured than beloved. It was this position which suggested to her the
idea of going to Spa, close by, and of taking the waters for some days.

If the Infanta was anxious to escape from the frigid courtesies of the
Lorraine aristocracy, I also longed to have a short holiday, and to keep
away from the Queen, as well for the sake of her peace of mind as for my
own. My doctor forbade me to take the Spa waters, as they were too
sulphurous; he ordered me those of Pont-a-Mousson. Hardly had I moved
there, when orders came for us all to meet at Luneville, and thence we
set out to rejoin the King.

Horrible was the first night of our journey spent at Ravon, in the Vosges
Mountains. The house in which Mademoiselle de Montpensier and I lodged
was a dilapidated cottage, full of holes, and propped up in several
places. Lying in bed, we heard the creaking of the beams and rafters.
Two days afterwards the house, so they told us, collapsed.

From that place we went on to Sainte Marie aux Mines, a mean sort of
town, placed like a long corridor between two lofty, well-wooded
mountains, which even at noonday deprive it of sun. Close by there is a
shallow, rock-bound streamlet which divides Lorraine from Alsace. Sainte
Marie aux Mines belonged to the Prince Palatine of Birkenfeld. This
Prince offered us his castle of Reif Auvilliers, an uncommonly beautiful
residence, which he had inherited from the Comtesse de Ribaupierre, his
wife.

This lady's father was just dead, and as, in accordance with German
etiquette, the Count's funeral obsequies could not take place for a
month, in the presence of all his relatives and friends, who came from a
great distance, the corpse, embalmed and placed in a leaden coffin, lay
in state under a canopy in the mortuary chapel.

Our equerries, seeing that the King's chamber looked on to the mortuary
chapel, took upon themselves to blow out all the candles, and for the
time being stowed away the corpse in a cupboard.

We knew nothing about this; and as the castle contained splendid rooms,
the ladies amused themselves by dancing and music to make them forget the
boredom of their journey.

The King looked in upon us every now and then, saying, in a low voice,
"Ah! if you only knew what I know!"

And then he would go off, laughing in his sleeve. We did not get to know
about this corpse until five or six days afterwards, when we were a long
way off, and the discovery greatly shocked us.

The day we left Sainte Marie aux Mines, a little German sovereign came to
present his homage to the King. It was the Prince de Mont-Beliard, of
Wurtemberg, whom I had previously met in Paris, on the occasion of his
marriage with Marechal de Chatillon's charming daughter. The luxurious
splendour of Saint Germain and Versailles had certainly not yet succeeded
in turning the heads of these German sovereigns. This particular one
wore a large buff doublet with big copper-gilt buttons. His cravat was
without either ribbons or lace. His rather short hair was roughly combed
over his forehead; he carried no sword, and instead of gold buckles or
clasps, he had little bows of red leather on his black velvet shoes. His
coach, entirely black, was still of old-fashioned make; that is to say,
studded with quantities of gilt nails. Wearing mourning for the Empress,
his six horses were richly, caparisoned, his four lackeys wearing yellow
liveries faced with red. An escort of twenty guardsmen, dressed
similarly, was in attendance; they seemed to be well mounted, and were
handsome fellows.

A second carriage of prodigious size followed the ducal conveyance; in
this were twelve ladies and gentlemen, who got out and made their
obeisance to the King and Queen.

The Prince de Mont-Beliard did not get into his coach again until ours
were in motion. He spoke French fairly well, and the little he said was
said with much grace. He looked very hard at me, which shocked the Queen
greatly, but not the King.

A little further on, their Majesties were greeted by the delegates of the
noble chapter of Strasburg. These comprised the Count of Manderhall and
two canons. What canons, too! And how astonished we were!

The old Count was dressed in a black cassock, and his hair looked
somewhat like a cleric's, but his cravat was tied with a large
flame-coloured bow, and he wore ill-fitting hose of the same hue. As for
the two canons, they were pleasant young men, good-looking and well-made.
Their light gray dress was edged with black and gold; they wore their
hair long in wavy curls, and in their little black velvet caps they had
yellow and black feathers, and their silver-mounted swords were like
those worn by our young courtiers. Their equipment was far superior to
that of the deputation of the Prince de Mont-Beliard. It is true, they
were churchmen, and churchmen have only themselves and their personal
satisfaction to consider.

These gentlemen accompanied us as far as Chatenoi, a little town in their
neighbourhood, and here they introduced the bailiff of the town to the
King, who was to remain constantly in attendance and act as interpreter.

The bailiff spoke French with surprising ease. He had been formerly
tutor at President Tambonneaux's, an extremely wealthy man, who
entertained the Court, the town, and all the cleverest men of the day.
The King soon became friends with the bailiff, and kept him the whole
time close to his carriage.

When travelling, the King is quite another man. He puts off his gravity
of demeanour, and likes to amuse his companions, or else make his
companions amuse him. Believing him to be like Henri IV. in temper, the
bailiff was for asking a thousand questions. Some of these the King
answered; to others he gave no reply.

"Sire," said he to his Majesty, "your town of Paris has a greater
reputation than it actually deserves. They say you are fond of building;
then Paris ought to have occasion to remember your reign. Allow me to
express a hope that her principal streets will be widened, that her
temples, most of them of real beauty, may be isolated. You should add to
the number of her bridges, quays, public baths, almshouses and
infirmaries."

The King smiled. "Come and see us in four or five years," he rejoined,
"or before that, if you like, and if your affairs permit you to do so.
You will be pleased to see what I have already done."

Then the bailiff, approaching my carriage window, addressed a few
complimentary remarks to myself.

"I have often met your father, M. de Mortemart," said he, "at President
Tambonneaux's. One day the little De Bouillons were there, quarrelling
about his sword, and to the younger he said, 'You, sir, shall go into the
Church, because you squint. Let my sword alone; here's my rosary.'"

"Well," quoth the King, "M. de Mortemart was a true prophet, for that
little Bouillon fellow is to-day Cardinal de Bouillon."

"Sire," continued the worthy German, "I am rejoiced to hear such news.
And little Peguilain de Lauzun, of whom you used to be so fond when you
were both boys, - where is he? What rank does he now hold?"

Hereupon the King looked at Mademoiselle, who, greatly confused, shed
tears.

"Well, M. Bailiff," said his Majesty, "did you easily recognise me at
first sight?"

"Sire," replied the German, "your physiognomy is precisely the same; when
a boy, you looked more serious. The day you entered Parliament in
hunting-dress I saw you get into your coach; and that evening the
President said to his wife, 'Madame, we are going to have a King. I wish
you could have been there, in one of the domes, just to hear the little
he said to us.'"

Whereupon the King laughingly inquired what reply the President's wife
made. But the bailiff, smiling in his turn, seemed afraid to repeat it,
and so his Majesty said:

"I was told of her answer at the time, so I can let you know what it was.
'Your young King will turn out a despot.' That is what Madame la
Presidente said to her husband."

The bailiff, somewhat confused, admitted that this was exactly the case.

The huge bridge at Brisach, across the Rhine, had no railing; the planks
were in a rickety condition, and through fissures one caught sight of the
impetuous rush of waters below. We all got out of our coaches and
crossed over with our eyes half shut, so dangerous did it seem; while the
King rode across this wretched bridge, - one of the narrowest and loftiest
that there is, and which is always in motion.

Next day the Bishop of Bale came to pay his respects to the Queen, and
was accompanied by delegates from the Swiss cantons, and other
notabilities. After this I heard the "General of the Capucins"
announced, who had just been to pay a visit of greeting to the German
Court. He was said to be by birth a Roman. Strange to say, for that
Capucin the same ceremony and fuss was made as for a sovereign prince,
and I heard that this was a time-honoured privilege enjoyed by his Order.
The monk himself was a fine man, wearing several decorations; his
carriage, livery, and train seemed splendid, nor did he lack ease of
manner nor readiness of conversation. He told us that, at the imperial
palace in Vienna, he had seen the Princesse d'Inspruck, - a relative of
the French Queen, and that the Emperor was bringing her up as if destined
one day to be his seventh bride, according to a prediction. He also
stated that the Emperor had made the young Princess sing to him, - a
Capucin monk; and added genially that she was comely and graceful, and
that he had been very pleased to see her.

The King was very merry at this priest's expense. Not so the Queen, who
was Spanish, and particularly devoted to Capucin friars of all
nationalities.




CHAPTER XLVII.

Moliere. - Racine. - Their Mutual Esteem. - Racine in Mourning.


The King had not much leisure, yet occasionally he gave up half an hour
or an hour to the society of a chosen few, - men famous for their wit and
brilliant talents. One day he was so kind as to bring to my room the
celebrated Moliere, to whom he was particularly attached and showed
special favour. "Madame," said the King, "here you see the one man in
all France who has most wit, most talent, and most modesty and good sense
combined. I thank God for letting him be born during my reign, and I
pray that He may preserve him to us for a long while yet."

As I hastened to add my own complimentary remarks to those of the King, I
certainly perceived that about this illustrious person there was an air
of modesty and simplicity such as one does not commonly find in Apollo's
favourites who aspire to fame. Moreover, he was most comely.

Moliere told the King that he had just sketched out the plot of his
"Malade Imaginaire," and assured us that hypochondriacs themselves would
find something to laugh at when it was played. He spoke very little
about himself, but at great length, and with evident admiration, about
the young poet Racine.

The King asked if he thought that Racine had strength sufficient to make
him the equal of Corneille. "Sire," said the comic poet, "Racine has
already surpassed Corneille by the harmonious elegance of his
versification, and by the natural, true sensibility of his dialogue; his
situations are never fictitious; all his words, his phrases, come from
the heart. Racine alone is a true poet, for he alone is inspired."

The King, continuing, said: "I cannot witness his tragedy of 'Berenice'
without shedding tears. How comes it that Madame Deshoulieres and Madame
de Sevigne, who have so much mind, refuse to recognise beauties which
strike a genius such as yours?"

"Sire," replied Moliere, "my opinion is nothing compared to that which
your Majesty has just expressed, such is your sureness of judgment and
your tact. I know by experience that those scenes of my comedies which,
at a first reading, are applauded by your Majesty, always win most
applause from the public afterwards."

"Is Racine in easy circumstances?" asked the King.

"He is not well off," replied Moliere, "but the tragedies which he has in
his portfolio will make a rich man of him some day; of that I have not
the least doubt."

"Meanwhile," said the King, "take him this draft of six thousand livres
from me, nor shall this be the limit of my esteem and affection."

Five or six months after this interview, poor Moliere broke a
blood-vessel in his chest, while playing with too great fervour the title
part in his "Malade Imaginaire." When they brought the news to the King,
he turned pale, and clasping his hands together, well-nigh burst into
tears. "France has lost her greatest genius," he said before all the
nobles present. "We shall never have any one like him again; our loss is
irreparable!"

When they came to tell us that the Paris clergy had refused burial to
"the author of 'Tartuffe,'" his Majesty graciously sent special orders to
the Archbishop, and with a royal wish of that sort they were obliged to
comply, or else give good reasons for not doing so.

Racine went into mourning for Moliere. The King heard this, and publicly
commended such an act of good feeling and grateful sympathy.




CHAPTER XLVIII.

Madame de Montausier and the Phantom. - What She Exacts from the
Marquise. - Her Reproaches to the Duke. - Bossuet's Complacency.


Those spiteful persons who told the Queen how obliging the Duchesse de
Montausier had shown herself towards me were also so extremely kind as to
write an account of the whole affair to the Marquis de Montespan.

At that time he was still in Paris, and one day he went to the Duchess
just as she was getting out of bed. In a loud voice he proceeded to
scold her, daring to threaten her as if she were some common woman; in
fact, he caught hold of her and endeavoured to strike her.

The King would not allow M. de Montausier to obtain redress from the
Marquis for such an insult as this. He granted a large pension to the
Duchess, and appointed her husband preceptor to the Dauphin.

Such honours and emoluments partly recompensed the Duchess, yet they
scarcely consoled her. She considered that her good name was all but
lost, and what afflicted her still more was that she never recovered her
health. She used to visit me, as our duties brought us together, but it
was easy to see that confidence and friendship no longer existed.

One day, when passing along one of the castle corridors, which, being so
gloomy, need lamplight at all hours, she perceived a tall white phantom,
which glared hideously at her, and then approaching, vanished. She was
utterly prostrated, and on returning to her apartments was seized with
fever and shivering. The doctors perceived that her brain was affected;
they ordered palliatives, but we soon saw that there was no counting upon
their remedies. She was gradually sinking.

Half an hour before she died the Duchess sent for me, having given
instructions that we should be left alone, and that there should be no
witnesses. Her intense emaciation was pitiful, and yet her face kept
something of its pleasant expression.

"It is because of you, and through you," she exclaimed in a feeble,
broken voice, "that I quit this world while yet in the prime of life. God
calls me; I must die.

"Kings are so horribly exacting. Everything that ministers to their
passions seems feasible to them, and righteous folk must consent to do
their pleasure, or suffer the penalty of being disgraced and neglected,
and of seeing their long years of service lost and forgotten.

"During that unlucky journey in Brabant, you sought by redoubling your
coquetry and fascinations to allure La Valliere's lover. You managed to
succeed; he became fond of you. Knowing my husband's ambitious nature,
he easily got him to make me favour this intrigue, and lend my apartments
as a meeting-place.

"At Court nothing long remains a secret. The Queen was warned, and for a
while would not believe her informants. But your husband, with brutal
impetuousness, burst in upon me. He insulted me in outrageous fashion.
He tried to drag me out of bed and throw me out of the window. Hearing
me scream, my servants rushed in and rescued me, in a fainting state,
from his clutches. And you it is who have brought upon me such
scandalous insults.

"Ready to appear before my God, who has already summoned me by a spectre,
I have a boon to ask of you, Madame la Marquise. I beg it of you, as I
clasp these strengthless, trembling hands. Do not deny me this favour,
or I will cherish implacable resentment, and implore my Master and my
Judge to visit you with grievous punishment.

"Leave the King," she continued, after drying her tears. "Leave so
sensual a being; the slave of his passions, the ravisher of others' good.
The pomp and grandeur which surround you and intoxicate you would seem
but a little thing did you but look at them as now I do, upon my bed of
death.

"The Queen hates me; she is right. She despises me, and justly, too. I
shall elude her hatred and disdain, which weigh thus heavily upon my



Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 11 of 30)