Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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not for the future show myself in your equipage."

[In one of her letters, Madame de Maintenon speaks of this accident, but
she does not give quite the same account of it. It is natural that
Madame de Montespan seeks to excuse her people and herself if she
can. - EDITOR'S NOTE.]

At Ruel, she dared take the same tone before the Duchesse de Richelieu,
who rebuked her for officiousness, and out of spite, or some other
reason, Madame de Maintenon refused to dine. She had two or three
swooning fits; her tears started afresh four or five times, and the
Marquise d'Hudicourt, who dined only by snatches, went into a corner to
sob and weep along with her.

"Admit, madame," I said then to Madame de Maintenon, "your excessive
grief for an unknown man is singular. He was, perhaps, actually a
dishonest fellow. The accident which you come back to incessantly, and
which distresses me also, is doubtless deplorable; but, after all, it is
not a murder, an ambush, a premeditated assassination. I imagine that if
such a catastrophe had happened elsewhere, and been reported to us in a
gazette or a book, you would have read of it with interest and
commiseration; but we should not have seen you clasp your hands over your
head, turn red and pale, utter loud cries, shed tears, sob, and scold a
coachman, postilions, perhaps even me. The event, would, nevertheless,
be actually the same. Admit, then, madame, and you, too, Madame
d'Hudicourt, that there is an exaggeration in your sorrow, and that you
would have made, both of you, two excellent comedians."

Madame de Maintenon, piqued at these last words, sought to make us
understand, and even make us admit, that there is a great difference
between an event narrated to you by a third party, and an event which one
has seen. Madame de Richelieu shut her mouth pleasantly with these
words: "We know, Madame la Marquise, how much eloquence and wit is yours.
We approve all your arguments, past and to be. Let us speak no further
of an accident which distresses you; and since you require to be
diverted, let us go to the Opera, which is only two leagues off."

She consented to accompany us, for fear of proving herself entirely
ridiculous; but to delay us as much as possible, she required a cup of
chocolate, her favourite dish, her appetite having returned as soon as
she had exhausted the possibilities of her grief.


Charles II., King of England. - How Interest Can Give Memory. - His
Grievances against France. - The Two Daughters of the Duke of
York. - William of Orange Marries One, in Spite of the Opposition of the
King. - Great Joy of the Allies. - How the King of England Understands
Peace. - Saying of the King. - Preparations for War.

The King, Charles Stuart, who reigned in England since the death of the
usurper, Cromwell, was a grandson of Henri IV., just as much as our King.
Charles II. displayed the pronounced penchant of Henri IV. for the ladies
and for pleasure; but he had neither his energy, nor his genial temper,
nor his amiable frankness. After the death of Henrietta of England, his
beloved sister, he remained for some time longer our ally, but only to
take great advantage from our union and alliance. He had made use of it
against the Dutch, his naval and commercial rivals, and had compelled
them, by the aid of the King of France (then his friend), to reimburse
him a sum of twenty-six millions, and to pay him, further, an annual
tribute of twelve or fifteen thousand livres for the right of fishing
round his island domains.

All these things being obtained, he seemed to recollect that Cardinal de
Richelieu had not protected his father, Stuart; that the Cardinal Mazarin
had declared for Cromwell in his triumph; that the Court of France had
indecently gone into mourning for that robber; that there had been
granted neither guards, nor palace, nor homages of state to the Queen,
his mother, although daughter and sister of two French kings; that this
Queen, in a modest retirement - sometimes in a cell in the convent of
Chaillot, sometimes in her little pavilion at Colombesl - had died,
poisoned by her physician, without the orator, Bossuet, having even
frowned at it in the funeral oration; that the unfortunate Henrietta
daughter of this Queen and first wife of Monsieur had succumbed to the
horrible tortures of a poisoning even more visible and manifest; whilst
her poisoners, who were well known, had never been in the least blamed
or disgraced.

[Mademoiselle de Montpensier, in her Memoirs, says that this Queen,
already languishing, had lost her sleep, and was given soporific pills,
on account of which Henrietta of France awoke no more; but it is probable
that the servants, and not the doctors, committed this blunder.]

On all these arguments, with more or less foundation, Charles II. managed
to conclude that he ought to detach himself from France, who was not
helpful enough; and, by deserting us, he excited universal joy amongst
his subjects, who were constantly jealous of us.

Charles Stuart had had children by his mistresses; he had had none by the
Queen, his wife. The presumptive heir to the Crown was the Duke of York,
his Majesty's only brother.

The Duke of York, son-in-law - as I have noticed already - of our good
Chancellor, Lord Hyde, had himself only two daughters, equally beautiful,
who, according to the laws of those islanders, would bear the sceptre in

Our King, who read in the future, was thinking of marrying these two
princesses conformably with our interests, when the Prince of Orange
crossed the sea, and went formally to ask the hand of the elder of his

Informed of this proceeding, the King at once sent M. de Croissy-Colbert
to the Duke of York, to induce him to interfere and refuse his daughter;
but, in royal families, it is always the head who makes and decides
marriages. William of Orange obtained his charming cousin Mary, and
acquired that day the expectation of the Protestant throne, which was his

At the news of this marriage, the allies, that is to say, all the King's
enemies, had an outburst of satisfaction, and gave themselves up to
puerile jubilations. The King of Great Britain stood definitely on their
side; he made common cause with them, and soon there appeared in the
political world an audacious document signed by this prince, in which,
from the retreat of his island, the empire of fogs, he dared to demand
peace from Louis of Bourbon, his ancient ally and his cousin german,
imposing on him the most revolting conditions.

According to the English monarch, France ought to restore to the
Spaniards, first Sicily, and, further, the towns of Charleroi, Ath,
Courtrai, Condo, Saint Guilain, Tournai, and Valenciennes, as a condition
of retaining Franche-Comte; moreover, France was compelled to give up
Lorraine to the Duke Charles, and places in German Alsace to the Emperor.

The King replied that "too much was too much." He referred the decision
of his difficulties to the fortune of war, and collected fresh soldiers.

Then, without further delay, England and the States General signed a
particular treaty at La Hague, to constrain France (or, rather, her
ruler) to accept the propositions that his pride refused to hear.


The Great Mademoiselle Buys Choisy. - The President Gonthier. - The
Indemnity. - The Salmon. - The Harangue as It Is Not Done in the Academy.

The King had only caused against his own desire the extreme grief which
Mademoiselle felt at the imprisonment of Lauzun. His Majesty was
sensible of the wisdom of the resolution which she had made not to break
with the Court, and to show herself at Saint Germain, or at Versailles,
from time to time, as her rank, her near kinship, her birth demanded. He
said to me one day: "My cousin is beginning to look up. I see with
pleasure that her complexion is clearing, that she laughs willingly at
this and that, and that her good-will for me is restored. I am told that
she is occupied in building a country-house above Vitry. Let us go
to-day and surprise her, and see what this house of Choisy is like."

We arrived at a sufficiently early hour, and had time to see everything.
The King found the situation most agreeable; those lovely gardens united
high up above the Seine, those woods full of broad walks, of light and
air, those points of view happily chosen and arranged, gave a charming
effect; the house of one story, raised on steps of sixteen stairs,
appeared to us elegant from its novelty; but the King blamed his cousin
for not having put a little architecture and ornament on the facade.

"Princes," said he, "have no right to be careless; since universal
agreement has made us Highnesses, we must know how to carry our burden,
and to lay it down at no time, and in no place."

Mademoiselle excused herself on the ground of her remoteness from the
world, and on the expense, which she wished to keep down.

"From the sight of the country," said the King, "you must have a hundred
to a hundred and twelve, acres here."

"A hundred and nine," she answered.

"Have you paid dear for this property?" went on the King. "It is the
President Gonthier who has sold it?"

"I paid for this site, and the old house which no longer exists, forty
thousand livres," she said.

"Forty thousand livres!" cried the King. "Oh, my cousin, there is no
such thing as conscience! You have not paid for the ground. I was
assured that poor President Gonthier had only got rid of his house at
Choisy because his affairs were embarrassed; you must indemnify him, or
rather I will indemnify him myself, by giving him a pension."

Mademoiselle bit her lip and added:

"The President asked sixty thousand first; my men of business offered him
forty, and he accepted it."

Mademoiselle has no generosity, although she is immensely rich; she
pretended not to hear, and it was M. Colbert who sent by order the twenty
thousand livres to the President.

Mademoiselle, vain and petty, as though she were a bourgeoise of
yesterday, showed us her gallery, where she had already collected the
selected portraits of all her ancestors, relations, and kindred; she
pointed out to us in her winter salon the portrait of the little Comte de
Toulouse, painted, not as an admiral, but as God of the Sea, floating on
a pearl shell; and his brother, the Duc du Maine, as Colonel-General of
the Swiss and Grisons. The full-length portrait of the King was visible
on three chimneypieces; she was at great pains to make a merit of it, and
call for thanks.

Having followed her into her state chamber, where she had stolen in
privately, I saw that she was taking away the portrait of Lauzun. I went
and told it to the King, who shrugged his shoulders and fell to laughing.

"She is fifty-two years old," he said to me.

A very pretty collation of confitures and fruits was served us, to which
the King prayed her to add a ragout of peas and a roasted fowl.

During the repast, he said to her: "For the rest, I have not noticed the
portrait of Gaston, your father; is it a distraction on my part, or an
omission on yours?"

"It will be put there later," she answered. "It is not time."

"What! your father!" added the King. "You do not think that, cousin!"

"All my actions," added the Princess, "are weighed in the balance
beforehand; if I were to exhibit the portrait of my father at the head of
these various pictures, I should have to put my stepmother, his wife,
there too, as a necessary pendant. The harm which she has done me does
not permit of that complacence. One opens one's house only to one's

"Your stepmother has never done you any other harm," replied the King,
"than to reclaim for her children the funds or the furniture left by your
father. The character of Margaret of Lorraine has always been sweetness
itself; seeing your irritation, she begged me to arbitrate myself; and
you know all that M. Colbert and the Chancellor did to satisfy you under
the circumstances. But let us speak of something else, and cease these
discussions. I have a service to ask of you: here is M. le Duc du Maine
already big; everybody knows of your affection for him, and I have seen
his portrait with pleasure, in one of your salons. I am going to
establish him; would it be agreeable to you if I give him your livery?"

"M. le Duc du Maine," said the Princess, "is the type of what is
gracious, and noble, and beautiful; he can only do honour to my livery; I
grant it him with all my heart, since you do me the favour of desiring
it. Would I were in a position to do more for him!"

The King perfectly understood these last words; he made no reply to them,
but he understood all that he was meant to understand. We went down
again into the gardens.

The fishermen of Choisy had just caught a salmon of enormous size, which
they had been pursuing for four or five days; they had intended to offer
it to Mademoiselle; the presence of the King inspired them with another
design. They wove with great diligence a large and pretty basket of
reeds, garnished it with foliage, young grass, and flowers, and came and
presented to the King their salmon, all leaping in the basket.

The fisherman charged with the address only uttered a few words; they
were quite evidently improvised, so that they gave more pleasure and
effect than those of academicians, or persons of importance. The
fisherman expressed himself thus:

"You have brought us good fortune, Sire, by your presence, as you bring
fortune to your generals. You arrive on the Monday; on the Tuesday the
town is taken. We come to offer to the greatest of kings the greatest
salmon that can be caught."

The King desired this speech to be instantly transcribed; and, after
having bountifully rewarded the sailors, his Majesty said to

"This man was born to be a wit; if he were younger, I would place him in
a college. There is wit at Choisy in every rank of life."


Departure of the King. - Ghent Reduced in Five Days. - Taking of
Ypres. - Peace Signed. - The Prince of Orange Is at Pains Not to Know of
It. - Horrible Cruelties.

I have related in what manner Charles II., suddenly pronouncing in favour
of his nephew, the Prince of Orange, had signed a league with his old
enemies, the Dutch, in order to counteract the success of the King of
France and compel him to sign a humiliating and entirely inadmissible

The King left Versailles suddenly on the 4th of February, 1678, taking,
with his whole Court, the road to Lorraine, while waiting for the troops
which had wintered on the frontiers, and were investing at once
Luxembourg, Charlemont, Namur, Mons, and Ypres, five of the strongest and
best provisioned places in the Low Countries. By this march and
manoeuvre, he wished to hoodwink the allied generals, who were very far
from imagining that Ghent was the point towards which the Conqueror's
intentions were directed.

In effect, hardly had the King seen them occupied in preparing the
defence of the above named places, when, leaving the Queen and the ladies
in the agreeable town of Metz, he rapidly traversed sixty leagues of
country, and laid siege to the town of Ghent, which was scarcely
expecting him.

The Spanish governor, Don Francisco de Pardo, having but a weak garrison
and little artillery, decided upon releasing the waters and inundating
the country; but certain heights remained which could not be covered, and
from here the French artillery started to storm the ramparts and the

The siege was commenced on the 4th of March; upon the 9th the town opened
its gates, and two days later the citadel. Ypres was carried at the end
of a week, in spite of the most obstinate resistance. Our grenadiers
performed prodigies, and lost all their officers, without exception. I
lost there one of my nephews, the one hope of his family; my compliments
to the King, therefore, were soon made.

He went to Versailles to take back the Queen, and returned to Ghent with
the speed and promptitude of lightning. The same evening he sent an
order to a detachment of the garrison of Maestricht to hasten and seize
the town and citadel of Leuwe, in Brabant, which was executed on the
instant. It was then that the Dutch sent their deputation, charged to
plead for a suspension of hostilities for six weeks. The King granted
it, although these blunderers hardly merited it. They undertook that
Spain should join them in the peace, and finally, after some
difficulties, settled more or less rightly, the treaty was signed on the
10th of August, just as the six weeks were about to expire.

The Prince of Orange, naturally bellicose, and, above all things,
passionately hostile to France, pretended to ignore the existence of this
peace, which he disapproved. The Marechal de Luxembourg, informed of the
treaty, gave himself up to the security of the moment; he was actually at
table with his numerous officers when he was warned that the Prince of
Orange was advancing against him. The alarm was quickly sounded; such
troops and cavalry as could be were assembled, and a terrible action

At first we were repulsed, but soon the Marshal rallied his men; he
excited their indignation by exposing to them the atrocity of M.
d'Orange, and after a terrible massacre, in which two thousand English
bit the dust, the Marechal de Luxembourg remained master of the field.

He was victorious, but in this unfortunate action we lost, ourselves, the
entire regiment of guards, that of Feuquieres, and several others
besides, with an incredible quantity of officers, killed or wounded.

The name of the Prince of Orange, since that day, was held in horror in
both armies, and he would have fallen into disgrace with the States
General themselves had it not been for the protection of the King of
England, to whom the Dutch were greatly bound.

On the following day, this monster sent a parliamentary officer to the
French generals to inform them that during the night official news of the
peace had reached him.


Mission of Madame de Maintenon to Choisy. - Mademoiselle Gives the
Principalities of Eu and Dombes in Exchange for M. de Lauzun. - He Is Set
at Liberty.

The four or five words which had escaped Mademoiselle de Montpensier had
remained in the King's recollection. He said to me: "If you had more
patience, and a sweeter and more pliant temper, I would employ you to go
and have a little talk with Mademoiselle, in order to induce her to
explain what intentions she may have relative to my son."

"I admit, Sire," I answered him, "that I am not the person required for
affairs of that sort. Your cousin is proud and cutting; I would not
endure what she has made others endure. I cannot accept such a
commission. But Madame de Maintenon, who is gentleness itself, is
suitable - no one more so for this mission; she is at once insinuating and
respectful; she is attached to the Duc du Maine. The interests of my son
could not be in better hands."

The King agreed with me, and both he and I begged the Marquise to conduct
M. du Maine to Choisy.

Mademoiselle de Montpensier received him with rapture. He thanked her
for what she had done for him, in granting him her colours, and upon that
Mademoiselle asked his permission to embrace him, and to tell him how
amiable and worthy of belonging to the King she found him. She led him
to the hall, in which he was to be seen represented as a colonel-general
of Swiss.

"I have always loved the Swiss," she said, "because of their great
bravery, their fidelity, and their excellent discipline. The Marechal de
Bassompierre made his corps the perfection which it is; it is for you, my
cousin, to maintain it."

She passed into another apartment, where she was to be seen represented
as Bellona. Two Loves were presenting her, one with his helm adorned
with martial plumes, the other with his buckler of gold, with the
Orleans-Montpensier arms. The laurel crown, with which Triumphs were
ornamenting her head, and the scaled cuirass of Pallas completed her
decoration. M. le Duc du Maine praised, without affectation, the
intelligence of the artist; and as for the figure and the likeness, he
said to the Princess: "You are good, but you are better." The calm and
the naivety of this compliment made Mademoiselle shed tears. Her emotion
was visible; she embraced my son anew.

"You have brought him up perfectly," she said to Madame de Maintenon.
"His urbanity is of good origin; that is how a king's son ought to act
and speak:

"His Majesty," said Madame de Maintenon, "has been enchanted with your
country-house; he spoke of it all the evening. He even added that you
had ordered it all yourself, without an architect, and that M. le Notre
would not have done better."

"M. le Notre," replied the Princess, "came here for a little; he wanted
to cut and destroy, and upset and disarrange, as with the King at
Versailles. But I am of a different mould to my cousin; I am not to be
surprised with big words. I saw that Le Notre thought only of
expenditure and tyranny; I thanked him for his good intentions, and
prayed him not to put himself out for me. I found there thickets already
made, of an indescribable charm; he wanted, on the instant, to clear them
away, so that one could testify that all this new park was his. If you
please, madame, tell his Majesty that M. le Notre is the sworn enemy of
Nature; that he sees only the pleasures of proprietorship in the future,
and promises us cover and shade just at that epoch of our life when we
shall only ask for sunshine in which to warm ourselves."

She next led her guests towards the large apartments. When she had come
to her bedroom, she showed the Marquise the mysterious portrait, and
asked if she recognised it.

"Ah, my God! 'tis himself!" said Madame de Maintenon at once. "He sees,
he breathes, he regards us; one might believe one heard him speak. Why
do you give yourself this torture?" continued the ambassadress. "The
continual presence of an unhappy and beloved being feeds your grief, and
this grief insensibly undermines you. In your place, Princess, I should
put him elsewhere until a happier and more favourable hour."

"That hour will never come," cried Mademoiselle.

"Pardon me," resumed Madame de Maintenon; "the King is never inhuman and
inexorable; you should know that better than any one. He punishes only
against the protests of his heart, and, as soon as he can relent without
impropriety or danger, he pardons. M. de Lauzun, by refusing haughtily
the marshal's baton, which was offered him in despite of his youth,
deeply offended the King, and the disturbance he allowed himself to make
at Madame de Montespan's depicted him as a dangerous and wrong-headed
man. Those are his sins. Rest assured, Princess, that I am well
informed. But as I know, at the same time, that the King was much
attached to him, - and is still so, to some extent, and that a captivity
of ten years is a rough school, I have the assurance that your Highness
will not be thought importunate if you make today some slight attempt
towards a clemency."

"I will do everything they like," Mademoiselle de Montpensier said then;
"but shall I have any one near his Majesty to assist and support my
undertaking? I have no more trust in Madame de Montespan; she has
betrayed us, she will betray us again; the offence of M. de Lauzun is
always present in her memory, and she is a lady who does not easily
forgive. As for you, madame, I know that the King considers you for the
invaluable services of the education given to his children. Deign to
speak and act in favour of my unhappy husband, and I will make you a
present of one of my fine titled territories."

Madame de Maintenon was too acute to accept anything in such a case; she
answered the Princess that her generosities, to please the King, should
be offered to M. le Duc du Maine, and that, by assuring a part of her
succession to that young prince, she had a sure method of moving the
monarch, and of turning his paternal gratitude to the most favourable
concessions. The Princess, enchanted, then said to the negotiatrix:

"Be good enough to inform his Majesty, this evening, that I offer to
give, at once, to his dear and amiable child the County of Eu and my
Sovereignty of Dombes, adding the revenues to them if it is necessary."

Madame de Maintenon, who worships her pupil, kissed the hand of
Mademoiselle, and promised to return and see her immediately.

That very evening she gave an account to the King of her embassy; she

Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 17 of 30)