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Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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ready to send in my resignation, and so return you your liberality."

"I don't ask you for an abbey which you got from the King," I rejoined,
smiling; "but the favour, which I ask and solicit you can and ought to
grant. Mademoiselle d'Amurande points out to you in formal and
significant terms that she cannot enrol herself among the Virgins of the
Lord, and that the gentle Hagar of Holy Writ may not forsake Ishmael.
Such a confession plainly hints at an attachment which religion cannot
violate nor destroy, else our religion would be a barbarous one, and
contrary to nature.

"Since God has brought me to this convent, and by chance I have got to
know and appreciate this youthful victim, I shall give her my compassion
and help, - I, who have no necessity to make conversions by force in order
to add to the number of my community. If I have committed any grave
offence in the eyes of God, I trust that He will pardon me in
consideration of the good work that I desire to do. I shall write to the
King, and Mademoiselle d'Amurande shall not make her vows until his
Majesty commands her to do so."

This last speech checkmated my sister. She at once became gentle,
sycophantic, almost caressing in manner, and assured me that the ceremony
of taking the vow would be indefinitely postponed, although the Bishop of
Lugon had already prepared his homily, and invitations had been issued to
the nobility.

Madame de Mortemart is the very embodiment of subtlety and cunning. I
saw that she only wanted to gain time in order to carry out her scheme. I
did not let myself be hoodwinked by her promises, but went straight to
work, being determined to have my own way.

Hearing from Mademoiselle d'Amurande that her friend and ally, the old
commander, was still living, I was glad to know that she had in him such
a stanch supporter. "It is the worthy commander," said I, "who must be
as a father to you, until I have got the sentence of the first Parliament
cancelled." Then we arranged that I should get her away with me from the
convent, as there seemed to be little or no difficulty about this.

Accordingly, three days afterwards I dressed her in a most elegant
costume of my niece's. We went out in the morning for a drive, and the
nuns at the gateway bowed low, as usual, when my carriage passed, never
dreaming of such a thing as abduction.

That evening the whole convent seemed in a state of uproar. Madame de
Mortemart, with flaming visage, sought to stammer out her reproaches. But
as there was no law to prevent my action, she had to hide her vexation,
and behave as if nothing had happened.

The following year I wrote and told her that the judgment of the Rennes
Parliament had been cancelled by the Grand Council, as it was based on
conflicting evidence. The blind Comte d'Amurande had died of rage, and
the young couple, who came into all his property, were eternally grateful
to me, and forever showered blessings upon my head.

The Abbess wrote back to say that she shared my satisfaction at so happy
a conclusion, and that Madame d'Olbruse's disappearance from Fontevrault
had scarcely been noticed.

The Marquise de Thianges, whose ideas regarding such matters were
precisely the same as my own, confined herself to stating that I had not
told her a word about it. She spoke the truth; for the enterprise was
not of such difficulty that I needed any one to help me.

On the twelfth day, as we were about to leave Fontevrault, I received
another letter from the King, which was as follows:

As the pain in your knee continues, and the Bourbonne waters have been
recommended to you, I beg you, madame, to profit by being in their
vicinity, and to go and try their effect. Mademoiselle de Nantes is in
fairly good health, yet it looks as if a return of her fluxion were
likely. Five or six pimples have appeared on her face, and there is the
same redness of the arms as last year. I shall send her to Bourbonne;
your maids and the governess will accompany her. The Prince de Conde,
who is in office there, will show you every attention. I would rather
see you a little later on in good health, than a little sooner, and
ailing.

My kindest messages to Madame de Thianges, the Abbess, and all those who
show you regard and sympathy. Madame de Nevers might invite you to stay
with her; on her return I will not forget such obligation.

LOUIS.

We left Fontevrault after a stay of fifteen days; to the nuns and novices
it seemed more like fifteen minutes, but to Madame de Mortemart, fifteen
long years. Yet that did not prevent her from tenderly embracing me, nor
from having tears in her eyes when the time came for us to take coach and
depart.






BOOK 5.


CHAPTER I.

The Prince de Mont-Beliard. - He Agrees to the Propositions Made Him. - The
King's Note. - Diplomacy of the Chancellor of England. - Letter from the
Marquis de Montespan. - The Duchy in the Air. - The Domain of Navarre,
Belonging to the Prince de Bouillon, Promised to the Marquise.


There was but a small company this year at the Waters of Bourbonne, - to
begin with, at any rate; for afterwards there appeared to be many
arrivals, to see me, probably, and Mademoiselle de Nantes.

The Chancellor Hyde was already installed there, and his establishment
was one of the most agreeable and convenient; he was kind enough to
exchange it for mine. A few days afterwards he informed me of the
arrival of the Prince de Mont-Beliard, of Wurtemberg, who was anxious to
pay his respects to me, as though to the King's daughter. In effect,
this royal prince came and paid me a visit; I thought him greatly changed
for such a short lapse of years.

We had seen each other - as, I believe, I have already told - at the time
of the King's first journey in Flanders. He recalled all the
circumstances to me, and was amiable enough to tell me that, instead of
waning, my beauty had increased.

"It is you, Prince, who embellish everything," I answered him. "I begin
to grow like a dilapidated house; I am only here to repair myself."

Less than a year before, M. de Mont-Billiard had lost that amiable
princess, his wife; he had a lively sense of this loss, and never spoke
of it without tears in his eyes.

"You know, madame," he told me, "my states are, at present, not entirely
administered, but occupied throughout by the officers of the King of
France. Those persons who have my interests at heart, as well as those
who delight at my fears, seem persuaded that this provisional occupation
will shortly become permanent. I dare not question you on this subject,
knowing how much discretion is required of you; but I confess that I
should pass quieter and more tranquil nights if you could reassure me up
to a certain point."

"Prince," I replied to him, "the King is never harsh except with those of
whom he has had reason to complain. M. le Duc de Neubourg, and certain
other of the Rhine princes, have been thick-witted enough to be disloyal
to him; he has punished them for it, as Caesar did, and as all great
princes after him will do. But you have never shown him either coldness,
or aversion, or indifference. He has commanded the Marechal de
Luxembourg to enter your territory to prevent the Prince of Orange from
reaching there before us, and your authority has been put, not under the
domination, but under the protection, of the King of France, who is
desirous of being able to pass from there into the Brisgau."

Madame de Thianges, Madame de Nevers, and myself did all that lay in our
power to distract or relieve the sorrows of the Prince; but the loss of
Mademoiselle de Chatillon, his charming spouse, was much more present
with him than that of his states; the bitterness which he drew from it
was out of the retch of all consolation possible. The Marquise de
Thianges procured the Chancellor of England to approach the Prince, and
find out from him, to a certain extent, whether he would consent to
exchange the County of Mont-Beliard for some magnificent estates in
France, to which some millions in money would be added.

M. de Wurtemberg asked for a few days in which to reflect, and imagining
that these suggestions emanated from Versailles, he replied that he could
refuse nothing to the greatest of kings. My sister wrote on the day
following to the Marquis de Louvois, instead of asking it of the King in
person. M. de Luvois, who, probably, wished to despoil M. de
Mont-Beliard without undoing his purse-strings, put this overture before
the King maliciously, and the King wrote me immediately the following
letter:

Leave M. de Mont-Beliard alone, and do not speak to him again of his
estates. If the matter which occupies Madame de Thianges could be
arranged, it would be of the utmost propriety that a principality of such
importance rested in the Crown, at least as far as sovereignty. The case
of the Principality of Orange is a good enough lesson to me; there must
be one ruler only in an empire. As for you, my dear lady, feel no regret
for all that. You shall be a duchess, and I am pleased to give you this
title which you desire. Let M. de Montespan be informed that his
marquisate is to be elevated into a duchy with a peerage, and that I will
add to it the number of seigniories that is proper, as I do not wish to
deviate from the usage which has become a law, etc.

The prince's decision was definite, and as his character was, there was
no wavering. I wrote to him immediately to express my lively gratitude,
and we considered, the Marquise and I, as to the intermediary to whom we
could entrust the unsavoury commission of approaching the Marquis de
Montespan. He hated all my family from his having obtained no
satisfaction from it for his wrath. We begged the Chancellor Hyde, a
personage of importance, to be good enough to accept this mission; he saw
no reason to refuse it, and, after ten or eleven days, he received the
following reply, with which he was moderately amused:

CHATEAU SAINT ELIX . . . . AT THE WORLD'S END.

I am sensible, my Lord, as I should be, of the honour which you have
wished to do me, whilst, notwithstanding, permit me to consider it
strange that a man of your importance has cared to meddle in such a
negotiation. His Majesty the King of France did not consult me when he
wished to make my wife his mistress; it is somewhat remarkable that so
great a prince expects my intervention today to recompense conduct that I
have disapproved, that I disapprove, and shall disapprove to my last
breath. His Majesty has got eight or ten children from my wife without
saying a word to me about it; this monarch can surely, therefore, make
her a present of a duchy without summoning me to his assistance.
According to all laws, human and divine, the King ought to punish Madame
de Montespan, and, instead of censuring her, he wishes to make her a
duchess! . . . Let him make her a princess, even a highness, if he
likes; he has all the power in his hands. I am only a twig; he is an
oak.

If madame is fostering ambition, mine has been satisfied for forty years;
I was born a marquis; a marquis - apart from some unforeseen
catastrophe - I will die; and Madame la Marquise, as long as she does not
alter her conduct, has no need to alter her degree.

I will, however, waive my severity, if M. le Duc du Maine will intervene
for his mother, and call me his father, however it may be. I am none the
less sensible, my lord, of the honour of your acquaintance, and since you
form one of the society of Madame la Marquise, endeavour to release
yourself from her charms, for she can be an enchantress when she
likes.... It is true that, from what they tell me, you were not quite
king in your England.

I am, from out my exile (almost as voluntary as yours), the most obliged
and grateful of your servants,

DE GONDRIN MONTESPAN.

The Marquise de Thianges felt a certain irritation at the reading of this
letter; she offered all our excuses for it to the English Chancellor, and
said to me: "I begin to fear that the King of Versailles is not acting
with good faith towards you, when he makes your advancement depend on the
Marquis de Montespan; it is as though he were giving you a duchy in the
moon."

I sent word to the King that the Marquis refused to assist his generous
projects; he answered me:

"Very well, we must look somewhere else."

Happily, this domestic humiliation did not transpire at Bourbonne; for M.
de la Bruyere had arrived there with Monsieur le Prince, and that model
satirist would unfailingly have made merry over it at my expense.

The best society lavished its attentions on me; Coulanges, whose
flatteries are so amusing, never left us for a moment.

The Prince, after the States were over, had come to relax himself at
Bourbonne, which was his property. After having done all in his power
formerly to dethrone his master, he is his enthusiastic servitor now that
he sees him so strong. He was fascinated with Mademoiselle de Nantes,
and asked my permission to seek her hand for the Duc de Bourbon, his
grandson; my reply was, that the alliance was desirable on both sides,
but that these arrangements were settled only by the King.

In spite of the insolent diatribe of M. de Montespan, the waters proved
good and favourable; my blood, little by little, grew calm; my pains,
passing from one knee to the other, insensibly faded away in both; and,
after having given a brilliant fete to the Prince de Mont-Beliard, the
English Chancellor, and our most distinguished bathers, I went back to
Versailles, where the work seemed to me to have singularly advanced.

The King went in advance of us to Corbeil; Madame de Maintenon, her
pretty nieces, and my children were in the carriage. The King received
me with his ordinary kindness, and yet said no word to me of the
harshness which I had suffered from my husband. Two or three months
afterwards he recollected his royal word, and gave me to understand that
the Prince de Bourbon was shortly going to give up Navarre, in Normandy,
and that this vast and magnificent estate would be raised to a duchy for
me.

It has not been yet, at the moment that I write. Perhaps it is written
above that I shall never be a duchess. In such a case, the King would
not deserve the inward reproaches that my sensibility addresses him,
since his good-will would be fettered by destiny.

It is my kindness which makes me speak so.




CHAPTER II.

The Venetian Drummer. - The Little Olivier. - Adriani's Love. - His
Ingratitude. - His Punishment. - His Vengeance. - Complaint on This Account.


At the great slaughter of Candia, M. de Vivonne had the pleasure of
saving a young Venetian drummer whom he noticed all covered with blood,
and senseless, amongst the dead and dying, with whom the field was
covered far and wide. He had his wounds dressed and cared for by the
surgeons of the French navy, with the intention of giving him me, either
as a valet de chambre or a page, so handsome and agreeable this young
Italian was. Adriani was his name. He presented him to me after the
return of the expedition to France, and I was sensible of this amiable
attention of my brother, for truly the peer of this young drummer did not
exist.

Adrien was admirable to see in my livery, and when my carriage went out,
he attracted alone all the public attention. His figure was still not
all that it might be; it developed suddenly, and then one was not wrong
in comparing him with a perfect model for the Academy. He took small
time in losing the manners which he had brought with him from his
original calling. I discovered the best 'ton' in him; he would have been
far better seated in the interior than outside my equipage.
Unfortunately, this young impertinent gave himself airs of finding my
person agreeable, and of cherishing a passion for me; my first valet de
chambre told me of it at once. I gave him to the King, who had sometimes
noticed him in passing.

Adrien was inconsolable at first at this change, for which he was not
prepared, but his vanity soon came uppermost; he understood that it was
an advancement, and took himself for a great personage, since he had the
honour of approaching and serving the King.

The little Olivier - the first assistant in the shop of Madame Camille, my
dressmaker - saw Adrien, inspired him with love, and herself with much,
and they had to be married. I was good-natured enough to be interested
in this union, and as I had never any fault to find with the intelligent
services and attentions of the little modiste, I gave her two hundred
louis, that she might establish herself well and without any waiting.

She had a daughter whom she was anxious to call Athenais. I thought this
request excessive; I granted my name of Francoise only.

The young couple would have succeeded amply with their business, since my
confidence and favour were sufficient to give them vogue; but I was not
slow in learning that cruel discord had already penetrated to their
household, and that Adrien, in spite of his adopted country, had remained
at heart Italian. Jealous without motive, and almost without love, he
tormented with his suspicions, his reproaches, and his harshness, an
attentive and industrious young wife, who loved him with intense love,
and was unable to succeed in persuading him of it. From her condition, a
modiste cannot dispense with being amiable, gracious, engaging. The
little Olivier, as pretty as one can be, easily secured the homage of the
cavaliers. For all thanks she smiled at the gentlemen, as a well brought
up woman should do. Adrien disapproved these manners, - too French, in
his opinion. One day he dared to say to his wife, and that before
witnesses: "Because you have belonged to Madame de Montespan, do you
think you have the same rights that she has?" And with that he
administered a blow to her.

This indecency was reported to me. I did not take long in discovering
what it was right to do with Adrien. I had him sent to Clagny, where I
happened to be at the time.

"Monsieur the Venetian drummer," I said to him, with the hauteur which it
was necessary to oppose to his audacity, "Monsieur le Marechal de
Vivonne, who is always too good, saved your life without knowing you. I
gave you to the King, imagining that I knew you. Now I am undeceived,
and I know, without the least possibility of doubt, that beneath the
appearance of a good heart you hide the ungrateful and insolent rogue.
The King needs persons more discreet, less violent, and more polite.
Madame de Montespan gave you up to the King; Madame de Montespan has
taken you back this morning to her service. You depend for the future on
nobody but Madame de Montespan, and it is her alone that you are bound to
obey. Your service in her house has commenced this morning; it will
finish this evening, and, before midnight, you will leave her for good
and all. I have known on all occasions how to pardon slight offences;
there are some that a person of my rank could not excuse; yours is of
that number. Go; make no answer! Obey, ingrate! Disappear, I command
you!"

At these words he tried to throw himself at my feet. "Go, wretched
fellow!" I cried to him; and, at my voice, my lackeys ran up and drove
him from the room and from the chateau.

Almost always these bad-natured folks have cowardly souls. Adrien, his
head in a whirl, presented himself to my Suisse at Versailles, who,
finding his look somewhat sinister, refused to receive him. He retired
to my hotel in Paris, where the Suisse, being less of a physiognomist,
delivered him the key of his old room, and was willing to allow him to
pass the night there.

Adrien, thinking of naught but how to harm me and give me a memorable
proof of his vengeance, ran and set fire to my two storehouses, and, to
put a crown on his rancour, went and hanged himself in an attic.

About two o'clock in the morning, a sick-nurse, having perceived the
flames, gave loud cries and succeeded in making herself heard. Public
help arrived; the fire was mastered. My Suisse sought everywhere for the
Italian, whom he thought to be in danger; he stumbled against his corpse.
What a scene! What an affliction! The commissary having had his room
opened, on a small bureau a letter was found which he had been at the
pains of writing, and in which he accused me of his despair and death.

The people of Paris have been at all times extravagance and credulity
itself. They looked upon this young villain as a martyr, and at once
dedicated an elegy to him, in which I was compared with Medea, Circe, and
Fredegonde.

It is precisely on account of this elegy that I have cared to set down
this cruel anecdote. My readers, to whom I have just narrated the facts
with entire frankness, can see well that, instead of having merited
reproaches, I should only have received praise for my restraint and
moderation.

It is, assuredly, most painful to have to suffer the abuse of those for
whom we have never done aught; but the outrages of those whom we have
succoured, maintained, and favoured are insupportable injuries.




CHAPTER III.

The Equipage at Full Speed. - The Poor Vine-grower. - Sensibility of Madame
de Maintenon. - Her Popularity. - One Has the Right to Crush a Man Who Will
Not Get Out of the Way. - What One Sees. - What They Tell You. - All Ends at
the Opera. - One Can Be Moved to Tears and Yet Like Chocolate.


Another event with a tragical issue, and one to which I contributed even
less, served to feed and foster that hatred, mixed with envy, which the
rabble populace guards always so persistently towards the favourites of
kings or fortune.

Naturally quick and impatient, I cannot endure to move with calm and
state along the roads. My postilions, my coachmen know it, driving in
such fashion that no equipage is ever met which cleaves the air like
mine.

I was descending one day the declivity of the Coeur-Volant, between Saint
Germain and Marly. The Marquises de Maintenon and d'Hudicourt were in my
carriage with M. le Duc du Maine, so far as I can remember. We were
going at the pace which I have just told, and my outriders, who rode in
advance, were clearing the way, as is customary. A vine-grower, laden
with sticks, chose this moment to cross the road, thinking himself, no
doubt, agile enough to escape my six horses. The cries of my people were
useless. The imprudent fellow took his own course, and my postilions, in
spite of their efforts with the reins, could not prevent themselves from
passing over his body; the wheels followed the horses; the poor man was
cut in pieces.

At the lamentations of the country folk and the horrified passers-by, we
stopped. Madame de Maintenon wished to alight, and when she perceived
the unfortunate vine-grower disfigured with his wounds, she clasped her
hands and fell to weeping. The Marquise d'Hudicourt, who was always
simplicity itself, followed her friend's example; there was nothing but
groans and sorrowful exclamations. My coachman blamed the postilions,
the postilions the man's obstinacy.

Madame de Maintenon, speaking as though she were the mistress, bade them
be silent, and dared to say to them before all the crowd: "If you
belonged to me, I would soon settle you." At these words all the
spectators applauded, and cried: "Vive Madame de Maintenon!"

Irritated at what I had just heard, I put my head out of the door, and,
turning to these sentimental women, I said to them: "Be good enough to
get in, mesdames; are you determined to have me stoned?"

They mounted again, after having left my purse with the poor relations of
the dead man; and as far as Ruel, which was our destination, I was
compelled to listen to their complaints and litanies.

"Admit, madame," I declared to Madame de Maintenon, "that any person
except myself could and would detest you for the harm you have done me.
Your part was to blame the postilions lightly and the rustic very
positively. My equipage did not come unexpectedly, and my two outriders
had signalled from their horses."

"Madame," she replied, "you have not seen, as I did, those eyes of the
unhappy man forced violently from their sockets, his poor crushed head,
his palpitating heart, from which the blood soaked the pavement; such a
sight has moved and broken my own heart. I was, as I am still, quite
beside myself, and, in such a situation, it is permissible to forget
discretion in one's speech and the proprieties. I had no intention of
giving you pain; I am distressed at having done so. But as for your
coachmen I loathe them, and, since you undertake their defence, I shall



Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 16 of 30)