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Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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appropriate style. It was notified to her that she was forbidden to
reappear at Court.

The prince had resolutely taken his course. He wished to put Madame de
Maintenon in evidence, and what he has once decided he abandons never.

I was soon aware that costumes of an unheard-of magnificence were being
executed for the Marquise. Gold, silver, precious stones abounded. I was
offered a secret view of her robe of ceremony, with a long mantle train.
I saw this extraordinarily rich garment, and was sorry in advance for the
young stranger, whose lady in waiting could not fail to eclipse her in
everything.

I then put some questions to myself, - asked myself severely if my
disapproval sprang from natural haughtiness, which would have been
possible, and even excusable, or whether, mingled with all that, was some
little agitation of jealousy and emulation.

I collected together a crowd of slight and scattered circumstances; and
in this union of several small facts, at first neglected and almost
unperceived, I distinguished on the part of the King a gradual and
increasing attachment for the governess, and at the same time a
negligence in regard to me, - a coldness, a cooling-down, at least, and
that sort of familiarity, close parent of weariness, which comes to sight
in the midst of courtesies and attentions the most satisfying and the
most frequent.

The King, in the old days, never glanced towards my clock till as late as
possible, and always at the last moment, at the last extremity. Now he
cast his eyes on it a score of times in half an hour. He contradicted me
about trifles. He explained to me ingeniously the faults, or alleged
faults, of my temper and character. If it was a question of Madame de
Maintenon, she was of a birth equal and almost superior to the rest of
the Court. He forgot himself so far as to quote before me the subtilty
of her answers or the delight of her most intimate conversation. Did he
wish to describe a noble carriage, an attitude at once easy and
distinguished, it was Madame de Maintenon's. She possessed this, she
possessed that, she possessed everything.

Soon there was not the slightest doubt left to me; and I knew, as did the
whole Court, that he openly visited the Marquise, and was glad to pass
some moments there.

These things, in truth, never lacked some plausible pretext, and he chose
the time when Madame de Montchevreuil and Mademoiselle de Nantes were
presenting their homages to Madame de Maintenon.




CHAPTER XIII.

Marie Louise, Daughter of Henrietta of England, Betrothed to the King of
Spain. - Her Affliction. - Jealousy of the King, Her Husband.


The unfortunate lady, Henrietta of England, had left, at her death, two
extremely young girls, one of them, indeed, being still in the cradle.
The new Madame was seized with good-will for these two orphans to such an
extent as to complain to the King. They were brought up with the
greatest care; they were, both of them, pretty and charming.

The elder was named Marie Louise. It was this one whom Monsieur destined
in his own mind for Monseigneur le Dauphin; and the Princess, accustomed
early to this prospect, had insensibly adapted to it her mind and hope.
Young, beautiful, agreeable, and charming as her mother, she created
already the keenest sensation at Court, and the King felt an inclination
to cherish her as much as he had loved Madame. But the excessive freedom
which this alliance would not have failed to give his brother, both with
his son-in-law and nephew, and with the Ministry, prevented his Majesty
from giving way to this penchunt for Marie Louise. On the contrary, he
consented to her marriage with the King of Spain, and the news of it was
accordingly carried to Monsieur le Duc d'Orleans. He and his wife felt
much annoyance at it. But after communications of that kind there was
scarcely any course open to be taken than that of acquiescence. Monsieur
conveyed the news to his beloved daughter, and, on hearing that she was
to be made Queen of Spain, this amiable child uttered loud lamentations.

When she went to Versailles to thank the King, her uncle, her fine eyes
were still suffused with tears. The few words which she uttered were
mingled with sighing and weeping; and when she saw the indifference of
her cousin, who felicitated her like the rest, she almost fainted with
grief and regret.

"My dear cousin," said this dull-witted young lord, "I shall count the
hours until you go to Spain. You will send me some 'touru', for I am
very fond of it?"

The King could not but find this reflection of his son very silly and out
of place. But intelligence is neither to be given nor communicated by
example. His Majesty had to support to the end this son, legitimate as
much as you like, but altogether in degree, and with a person which
formed a perpetual contrast with the person of the King. It was my Duc
du Maine who should have been in the eminent position of Monseigneur.
Nature willed it so. She had proved it sufficiently by lavishing all her
favours on him, all her graces; but the laws of convention and usage
would not have it. His Majesty has made this same reflection, groaning,
more than once.

Marie Louise, having been married by proxy, in the great Chapel of Saint
Germain, where the Cardinal de Bouillon blessed the ring in his quality
of Grand Almoner of France, left for that Spain which her young heart
distrusted.

Her beauty and charms rendered her precious to the monarch, utterly
melancholy and devout as he was. He did not delay subjecting her to the
wretched, petty, tiresome, and absurd etiquette of that Gothic Court.
Mademoiselle submitted to all these nothings, seeing she had been able to
submit to separation from France. She condemned herself to the most
fastidious observances and the most sore privations, which did not much
ameliorate her lot.

A young Castilian lord, almost mad himself, thought fit to find this
Queen pretty, and publicly testify his love for her. The jealousy of the
religious King flared up like a funeral torch. He conceived a hatred of
his wife, reserved and innocent though she was. She died cruelly by
poison. And Monseigneur le Dauphin probably cried, after his manner:

"What a great pity! She won't send me the touru!"




CHAPTER XIV.

The Dauphine of Bavaria. - The Confessor with Spurs. - Madame de Maintenon
Disputes with Bossuet. - He Opposes to Her Past Ages and History. - The
Military Absolution.


Eight months after the wedding of Marie Louise, we witnessed the arrival
of Anne Marie Christine, Princess of Bavaria, daughter of the Elector
Ferdinand. The King and Monseigneur went to receive her at
Vitry-le-Francais, and then escorted her to Chalons, where the Queen was
awaiting her.

The Cardinal de Bouillon celebrated the marriage in the cathedral church
of this third-class town. The festivities and jubilations there lasted a
week.

The King had been very willing to charge me with the arrangement of the
baskets of presents destined for the Dauphine; I acquitted myself of this
commission with French taste and a sentiment of what was proper. When
the Queen saw all these magnificent gifts placed and spread out in a
gallery, she cried out, and said:

"Things were not done so nobly for me; and yet, I can say without vanity,
I was of a better house than she."

This remark paints the Queen, Maria Theresa, better than anything which
could be said. Can one wonder, after that, that she should have brought
into the world an hereditary prince who so keenly loves 'touru', and asks
for it!

Madame de Maintenon and M. Bossuet had gone to receive the Princess of
Schelestadt. When she was on her husband's territory, and it was
necessary, to confess her for the sacrament of matrimony, she was
strangely embarrassed. They had not remembered to bring a chaplain of
her own nation for her; and she could not confess except in the German
tongue.

Madame de Maintenon, who is skilled in all matters of religion, said to
the prelate: "I really think, monsieur, that, having educated Monsieur le
Dauphin, you ought to know a little German, - you who have composed the
treatise on universal history."

The Bishop of Meaux excused himself, saying that he knew Greek, Syriac,
and even Hebrew; but that, through a fatality, he was ignorant of the
German language. A trumpeter was then sent out to ask if there was not
in the country a Catholic priest who was a German, or acquainted with the
German tongue. Luckily one was found, and Madame de Maintenon, who is
very, pedantic, even in the matter of toilet and ornaments, trembled with
joy and thanked God for it. But what was her astonishment when they came
to bring her the priest! He was in coloured clothes, a silk doublet,
flowing peruke, and boots and spurs. The lady in waiting rated him
severely, and was tempted to send him back. But Bossuet - a far greater
casuist than she - decided that in these urgent cases one need hold much
less to forms. They were contented with taking away the spurs from this
amphibious personage; they pushed him into a confessional, - the curtain
of which he was careful to draw before himself, - and they brought the
Bavarian Princess, who, not knowing the circumstances, confessed the sins
of her whole life to this sort of soldier.

Madame de Maintenon always had this general confession on her conscience;
she scolded Bossuet for it as a sort of sacrilege, and the latter, who
was only difficult and particular with simple folk, quoted historical
examples in which soldiers, on the eve of battle, had confessed to their
general.

"Yes," said the King, on hearing these quotations from the imperturbable
man; "that must have been to the Bishop of Puy or the Bishop of Orange,
who, in effect, donned the shield and cuirass at the time of the crusades
against the Saracens; or perhaps, again, to the Cardinal de la Valette
d'Epernon, who commanded our armies under Richelieu successfully."

"No, Sire," replied the Bishop; "to generals who were simply soldiers."

"But," said the King, "were the confessions, then, null?"

"Sire," added the Bishop of Meaux, "circumstances decide everything. Of
old, in the time of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and much later still,
confessions of Christians were public, - made in a loud voice; sometimes a
number together, and always in the open air. Those of soldiers that I
have quoted to madame were somewhat of the kind of these confessions of
the primitive Church; and to-day, still, at the moment when battle is
announced, a military almoner gives the signal for confession. The
regiments confess on their knees before the Most High, who hears them;
and the almoner, raised aloft on a pile of drums, holds the crucifix in
one hand, and with the other gives the general absolution to eighty
thousand soldiers at once."

This clear and precise explanation somewhat calmed Madame de Maintenon,
and Madame la Dauphine, - displeased at what she had done on arriving, - in
order to be regular, learned to confess in French.




CHAPTER XV.

Pere de la Chaise. - The Jesuits. - The Pavilion of Belleville. - The
Handkerchief.


Pere de la Chaise has never done me good or ill; I have no motives for
conciliating him, no reason to slander him. I am ignorant if he were the
least in the world concerned, at the epoch of the Grand Jubilee, with
those ecclesiastical attempts of which Bossuet had constituted himself
spokesman. Pere de la Chaise has in his favour a great evenness of
temper and character; an excellent tone, which comes to him from his
birth; a conciliatory philosophy, which renders him always master of his
condition and of his metier. He is, in a single individual, the happy
combination of several men, that is to say, he is by turns, and as it may
be needful, a man indulgent or severe in his preaching; a man of
abstinence, or a good feeder; a man of the world, or a cenobite; a man of
his breviary, or a courtier. He knows that the sins of woodcutters and
the sins of kings are not of the same family, and that copper and gold
are not weighed in the same scales.

He is a Jesuit by his garb; he is much more so than they are by his
'savoir-vivre'. His companions love the King because he is the King; he
loves him, and pities him because he sees his weakness. He shows for his
penitent the circumspection and tenderness of a father, and in the long
run he has made of him a spoiled child.

This Pere de la Chaise fell suddenly ill, and with symptoms so alarming
that the cabals each wished to appropriate this essential post of
confessor.

The Jansenists would have been quite willing to lay hold of it. The
Jesuits, and principally the cordons bleus, did not quit the pillow of
the sick man for an instant.

The King had himself informed of his condition every half-hour. There
was a bulletin, as there is for potentates. One evening, when the
doctors were grave on his account, I saw anxiety and affliction painted
on the visage of his Majesty.

"Where shall I find his like?" said he to me. "Where shall I find such
knowledge, such indulgence, such kindness? The Pere de la Chaise knew
the bottom of my heart; he knew, as an intelligent man, how to reconcile
religion with nature; and when duty brings me to the foot of his
tribunal, as a humble Christian, he never forgets that royalty, cannot be
long on its knees, and he accompanies with his attentions and with
deference the religious commands which he is bound to impose on me."

"I hope that God will preserve him to you," I replied to his Majesty;
"but let us suppose the case in which this useful and precious man should
see his career come to an end; will you grant still this mark of
confidence and favour to the Jesuits? All the French being your
subjects, would it not be fitting to grant this distinction sometimes to
the one and sometimes to the other? You would, perhaps, extinguish by
this that hate or animosity by which the Jesuits see themselves assailed,
which your preference draws upon them."

"I do not love the Jesuits with that affection that you seem to suggest,"
replied the monarch. "I look upon them as men of instruction, as a
learned and well-governed corporation; but as for their attachment for
me, I know how to estimate it. This kind of people, strangers to the
soft emotions of nature, have no affection or love for anything. Before
the triumph of the King my grandfather, they intrigued and exerted
themselves to bring about his fall; he opened the gates of Paris, and the
Jesuits, like the Capuchins, at once recognised him and bowed down before
him. King Henri, who knew what men are, pretended to forget the past; he
pronounced himself decidedly in favour of the Jesuits because this body
of teachers, numerous, rich, and of good credit, had just pronounced
itself in favour of him.

"It was, then, a reconciliation between power and power, and the politics
of my grandfather were to survive him and become mine, since the same
elements exist and I am encamped on the same ground. If God takes away
from me my poor Pere de la Chaise, I shall feel this misfortune deeply,
because I shall lose in him, not a Jesuit, not a priest, but a good
companion, a trusty and proved friend. If I lose him, I shall assuredly
be inconsolable for him; but it will be very necessary for me to take his
successor from the Grand Monastery of the Rue Saint Antoine. This
community knows me by heart, and I do not like innovations."

The successor of the Pere de la Chaise was already settled with the
Jesuit Fathers; but this man of the vanguard was spared marching and
meeting danger. The Court was not condemned to see and salute a new
face; the old confessor recovered his health. His Majesty experienced a
veritable joy at it, a joy as real as if the Prince of Orange had died.

Wishing to prove to the good convalescent how dear his preservation was
to him, the King released him from his function for the rest of the year,
and begged him to watch over his health, the most important of his duties
and his possessions.

Having learnt that they had neither terraces nor gardens at the grand
monastery of the Rue Saint Antoine, his Majesty made a present to his
confessor of a very agreeable house in the district of Belleville, and
caused to be transported thither all kinds of orange-trees, rare shrubs,
and flowers from Versailles. These tasteful attentions, these filial
cares, diverted the capital somewhat; but Paris is a rich soil, where the
strangest things are easily received and naturalised without an effort.

The Pare de la Chaise had his chariot with his arms on it, and his family
livery; and as the income from his benefices remained to him, joined to
his office of confessor, he continued to have every day a numerous court
of young abbes, priests well on in years, barons, countesses, marquises,
magistrates and colonels, who came to Belleville in anxiety about his
health, to congratulate themselves upon his convalescence, to ask of him,
with submission and reverence, a bishopric, an archbishopric, a
cardinal's hat, an important priory, a canonry, or an abbey.

Having myself to place the three daughters of one of my relatives, I went
to see the noble confessor at his pavilion of Belleville. He received me
with the most marked distinction, and was lavish in acts of gratitude for
all the benefits of the King.

As he crossed his salon, in order to accompany me and escort me out, he
let his white handkerchief fall; three bishops at once flung themselves
upon it, and there was a struggle as to who should pick it up to give it
back to him.

I related to the King what I had seen. He said to me: "These prelates
honour my confessor, looking upon him as a second me." In fact, the sins
of the King could only throw his confessor into relief and add to his
merit.




CHAPTER XVI.

Mademoiselle de Fontanges. - The Pavilions of the Garden of Flora. - Rapid
Triumph of the Favourite. - Her Retreat to Val-de-grace. - Her Death.


Madame de Maintenon was already forty-four years old, and appeared to be
only thirty. This freshness, that she owed either to painstaking care or
to her happy and quite peculiar constitution, gave her that air of youth
which fascinated the eyes of the courtiers and those of the monarch
himself. I wished one day to annoy her by bringing the conversation on
this subject, which could not be diverting to her. I began by putting
the question generally, and I then named several of our superannuated
beauties who still fluttered in the smiling gardens of Flora without
having the youth of butterflies.

"There are butterflies of every age and colour in the gardens of Flora,"
said she, catching the ball on the rebound. "There are presumptuous
ones, whom the first breath of the zephyr despoils of their plumage and
discolours; others, more reserved and less frivolous, keep their glamour
and prestige for a much longer time. For the rest, the latter seem to me
to rejoice without being vain in their advantages. And at bottom, what
should any insect gain by being proud?"

"Very little," I answered her, "since being dressed as a butterfly does
not prevent one from being an insect, and the best sustained preservation
lasts at most till the day after to-morrow."

The King entered. I started speaking of a young person, extremely
beautiful, who had just appeared at Court, and would eclipse, in my
opinion, all who had shone there before her.

"What do you call her?" asked his Majesty. "To what family does she
belong?"

"She comes from the provinces," I continued, "just like silk, silver, and
gold. Her parents desire to place her among the maids of honour of the
Queen. Her name is Fontanges, and God has never made anything so
beautiful."

As I said these words I watched the face of the Marquise. She listened
to this portrayal with attention, but without appearing moved by it, such
is her power of suppressing her natural feeling. The King only added
these words:

"This young person needs be quite extraordinary, since Madame de
Montespan praises her, and praises her with so much vivacity. However,
we shall see."

Two days afterwards, Mademoiselle de Fontanges was seen in the salon of
the grand table. The King, in spite of his composure, had looks and
attentions for no one else.

This excessive preoccupation struck the Queen, who, marking the
blandishments of the young coquette and the King's response, guessed the
whole future of this encounter; and in her heart was almost glad at it,
seeing that my turn had come.

Mademoiselle de Fontanges, given to the King by her shameless family,
feigned love and passion for the monarch, as though he had returned by
enchantment to his twentieth year.

As for him, he too appeared to us to forget all dates. I know that he
was only now forty-one years old, and having been the finest man in the
world, he could not but preserve agreeable vestiges of a once striking
beauty. But his young conquest had hardly entered on her eighteenth
year, and this difference could not fail to be plain to the most
inattentive, or most indulgent eyes.

The King, with a sort of anticipatory resignation, had for six or seven
years greatly simplified his appearance. We had seen him, little by
little, reform that Spanish and chivalric costume with which he once
embellished his first loves. The flowing plumes no longer floated over
his forehead, which had become pensive and quite serious. The diagonal,
scarf was suppressed, and the long boots, with gold and silver
embroidery, were no longer seen. To please his new divinity, the monarch
suddenly enough rejuvenated his attire. The most elegant stuffs became
the substance of his garments; feathers reappeared. He joined to them
emeralds and diamonds.

Allegorical comedies, concerts on the waters recommenced. Triumphant
horse-races set the whole Court abob and in movement. There was a fresh
carousal; there was all that resembles the enthusiasms of youthful
affection, and the deliriums of youth. The youth alone was not there, at
least in proportion, assortment, and similarity.

All that I was soliciting for twelve years, Mademoiselle de Fontanges had
only to desire for a week. She was created duchess at her debut; and the
lozenge of her escutcheon was of a sudden adorned with a ducal coronet,
and a peer's mantle.

I did not deign to pay attention to this outrage; at least, I made a
formal resolution never to say a single word on it.

The King came no less from time to time, to pay me a visit, and to talk
to me, as of old, of operas and his hunting. I endured his conversation
with a philosophical phlegm. He scarcely suspected the change in me.

At the chase, one day, his nymph, whom nothing could stop, had her knot
of riband caught and held by a branch; the royal lover compelled the
branch to restore the knot, and went and offered it to his Amazon.
Singular and sparkling, although lacking in intelligence, she carried
herself this knot of riband to the top of her hair, and fixed it there
with a long pin.

Fortune willed it that this coiffure, without order or arrangement,
suited her face, and suited it greatly. The King was the first to
congratulate her on it; all the courtiers applauded it, and this coiffure
of the chase became the fashion of the day.

All the ladies, and the Queen herself, found themselves obliged to adopt
it. Madame de Maintenon submitted herself to it, like the others. I
alone refused to sacrifice to the idol, and my knee, being once more
painful, would not bend before Baal.

With the exception of the general duties of the sovereignty, the prince
appeared to have forgotten everything for his flame. The Pere de la
Chaise, who had returned to his post, regarded this fresh incident with
his philosophic calm, and congratulated himself on seeing the monarch
healed of at least one of his passions.

I had always taken the greatest care to respect the Queen; and since my
star condemned me to stand in her shoes, I did not spare myself the
general attentions which two well-born people owe one another, and which,
at least, prove a lofty education.

The Duchesse de Fontanges, doubtless, believed herself Queen, because she
had the public homage and the King. This imprudent and conceited
schoolgirl had the face to pass before her sovereign without stopping,
and without troubling to courtesy.

The Infanta reddened with disapproval, and persuaded herself, by way of
consolation, that Fontanges had lost her senses or was on the road to
madness.

Beautiful and brilliant as the flowers, the Duchess, like them, passed



Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 19 of 30)