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Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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breaking with him I should not have reestablished La Valliere. The
prince's violent passion had changed to mere friendship, blended with
esteem. To try and resuscitate attachments of this sort is as if one
should try to open the grave and give life to the dead. God alone can
work miracles such as these.




CHAPTER V.

The Marquis de Bragelonne, Officer of the Guards. - His Baleful Love. - His
Journey. - His Death.


The Marquis de Bragelonne was born for Mademoiselle de la Valliere. It
was this young officer, endowed with all perfections imaginable, whom
Heaven had designed for her, to complete her happiness. Despite his
sincere, incomparable attachment for her, she disdained him, preferring a
king, who soon afterwards wearied of her.

The Marquis de Bragelonne conceived a passion for the little La Valliere
as soon as he saw her at the Tuileries with Madame Henrietta of England,
whose maid of honour at first she was. Having made proof and declaration
of his tender love, Bragelonne was so bold as to ask her hand of the
princess. Madame caused her relatives to be apprised of this, and the
Marquise de Saint-Remy, her stepmother, after all necessary inquiries had
been made, replied that the fortune of this young man was as yet too
slender to permit him to think of having an establishment.

Grieved at this answer, but nothing daunted, Bragelonne conferred
privately with his lady-love, and told her of his hazardous project. This
project instantly to realise all property coming to him from his father,
and furnished with this capital, to go out, and seek his fortune in India
[West Indies. D.W.]

"You will wait for me, dearest one, will you not?" quoth he. "Heaven,
that is witness how ardently I long to make you happy, will protect me on
my journey and guard my ship. Promise me to keep off all suitors, the
number of whom will increase with your beauty. This promise, for which I
desire no other guarantee but your candour, shall sustain me in exile,
and make me count as nought my privations and my hardships."

Mademoiselle de la Beaume-le-Blanc allowed the Marquis to hope all that
he wished from her beautiful soul, and he departed, never imagining that
one could forget or set at nought so tender a love which had prompted so
hazardous an enterprise.

His journey proved thoroughly successful. He brought back with him
treasures from the New World; but of all his treasures the most precious
had disappeared. Restored once more to family and friends, he hastened
to the capital. Madame d'Orleans no longer resided at the Tuileries,
which was being enlarged by the King.

Bragelonne, in his impatience, asks everywhere for La Valliere. They
tell him that she has a charming house between Saint Germain, Lucienne,
and Versailles. He goes thither, laden with coral and pearls from the
Indies. He asks to have sight of his love. A tall Swiss repulses him,
saying that, in order to speak with Madame la Duchesse, it was absolutely
necessary to make an appointment.

At the same moment one of his friends rides past the gateway. They greet
each other, and in reply to his questioning, this friend informs him that
Mademoiselle de la Valliere is a duchess, that she is a mother, that she
is lapped in grandeur and luxury, and that she has as lover a king.

At this news, Bragelonne finds nothing further for him to do in this
world. He grasps his friend's hand, retires to a neighbouring wood, and
there, drawing his sword, plunges it into his heart, - a sad requital for
love so noble!




CHAPTER VI.

M. Fouquet. - His Mistake. - A Woman's Indiscretion May Cause the Loss of a
Great Minister. - The Castle of Vaux. - Fairy-land. - A Fearful
Awakening. - Clemency of the King.


On going out into society, I heard everybody talking everywhere about M.
Fouquet. They praised his good-nature, his affability, his talents, his
magnificence, his wit. His post as Surintendant-General, envied by a
thousand, provoked indeed a certain amount of spite; yet all such vain
efforts on the part of mediocrity to slander him troubled him but little.
My lord the Cardinal (Mazarin. D.W.) was his support, and so long as the
main column stood firm, M. Fouquet, lavish of gifts to his protector, had
really nothing to fear.

This minister also largely profited by the species of fame to be derived
from men of letters. He knew their venality and their needs. His
sumptuous, well-appointed table was placed in grandiose fashion at their
disposal. Moreover, he made sure of their attachment and esteem by fees
and enormous pensions. The worthy La Fontaine nibbled like others at the
bait, and at any rate paid his share of the reckoning by the most profuse
gratitude. M. Fouquet had one great defect: he took it into his head
that every woman is devoid of will-power and of resistance if only one
dazzle her eyes with gold. Another prejudice of his was to believe, as
an article of faith, that, if possessed of gold and jewels, the most
ordinary of men can inspire affection.

Making this twofold error his starting-point as a principle that was
incontestable, he was wont to look upon every beautiful woman who
happened to appear on the horizon as his property acquired in advance.

At Madame's, he saw Mademoiselle de la Valliere, and instantly sent her
his vows of homage and his proposals.

To his extreme astonishment, this young beauty declined to understand
such language. Couched in other terms, he renewed his suit, yet
apparently was no whit less obscure than on the first occasion. Such a
scandal as this well-nigh put him to the blush, and he was obliged to
admit that this modest maiden either affected to be, or really was,
utterly extraordinary.

Perhaps Mademoiselle de la Valliere ought to have had the generosity not
to divulge the proposals made to her; but she spoke about them, so
everybody said, and the King took a dislike to his minister.

Whatever the cause or the real motives for Fouquet's disgrace, it was
never considered unjust, and this leads me to tell the tale of his mad
folly at Vaux.

The two palaces built by Cardinal Mazarin and the castles built by
Cardinal Richelieu served as fine examples for M. Fouquet. He knew that
handsome edifices embellished the country, and that Maecenas has always
been held in high renown, because Maecenas built a good deal in his day.

He had just built, at great expense, in the neighbourhood of Melun, a
castle of such superb and elegant proportions that the fame of it had
even reached foreign parts. All that Fouquet lived for was show and
pomp. To have a fine edifice and not show it off was as if one only
possessed a kennel.

He spoke of the Castle of Vaux in the Queen's large drawing-room, and
begged their Majesties to honour by their presence a grand fete that he
was preparing for them.

To invite the royal family was but a trifling matter, - he required
spectators proportionate to the scale of decorations and on a par with
the whole spectacle; so he took upon himself to invite the entire Court
to Vaux.

On reaching Vaux-le-Vicomte, how great and general was our amazement! It
was not the well-appointed residence of a minister, it was not a human
habitation that presented itself to our view, - it was a veritable fairy
palace. All in this brilliant dwelling was stamped with the mark of
opulence and of exquisite taste in art. Marbles, balustrades, vast
staircases, columns, statues, groups, bas-reliefs, vases, and pictures
were scattered here and there in rich profusion, besides cascades and
fountains innumerable. The large salon, octagonal in shape, had a high,
vaulted ceiling, and its flooring of mosaic looked like a rich carpet
embellished with birds, butterflies, arabesques, fruits, and flowers.

On either side of the main edifice, and somewhat in the rear, the
architect had placed smaller buildings, yet all of them ornamented in the
same sumptuous fashion; and these served to throw the chateau itself into
relief. In these adjoining pavilions there were baths, a theatre, a
'paume' ground, swings, a chapel, billiard-rooms, and other salons.

One noticed magnificent gilt roulette tables and sedan-chairs of the very
best make. There were elegant stalls at which trinkets were distributed
to the guests, - note-books, pocket-mirrors, gloves, knives, scissors,
purses, fans, sweetmeats, scents, pastilles, and perfumes of all kinds.

It was as if some evil fairy had prompted the imprudent minister to act
in this way, who, eager and impatient for his own ruin, had summoned his
King to witness his appalling system of plunder in its entirety, and had
invited chastisement.

When the King went out on to the balcony of his apartment to make a
general survey of the gardens and the perspective, he found everything
well arranged and most alluring; but a certain vista seemed to him
spoiled by whitish-looking clearings that gave too barren an aspect to
the general coup d'oeil.

His host readily shared this opinion. He at once gave the requisite
instructions, which that very night were executed by torchlight with the
utmost secrecy by all the workmen of the locality whose services at such
an hour it was possible to secure.

When next day the monarch stepped out on to his balcony, he saw a
beautiful green wood in place of the clearings with which on the previous
evening he had found fault.

Service more prompt or tasteful than this it was surely impossible to
have; but kings only desire to be obeyed when they command.

Fouquet, with airy presumption, expected thanks and praise. This,
however, was what he had to hear: "I am shocked at such expense!"

Soon afterwards the Court moved to Nantes; the ministers followed; M.
Fouquet was arrested.

His trial at the Paris Arsenal lasted several months. Proofs of his
defalcations were numberless. His family and proteges made frantic yet
futile efforts to save so great a culprit. The Commission sentenced him
to death, and ordered the confiscation of all his property.

The King, content to have made this memorable and salutary example,
commuted the death penalty, and M. Fouquet learned with gratitude that he
would have to end his days in prison.

Nor did the King insist upon the confiscation of his property, which went
to the culprit's widow and children, all that was retained being the
enormous sums which he had embezzled.




CHAPTER VII.

Close of the Queen-mother's Illness. - The Archbishop of Auch. - The
Patient's Resignation. - The Sacrament. - Court Ceremony for its
Reception. - Sage Distinction of Mademoiselle de Montpensier. - Her
Prudence at the Funeral.


As the Queen-mother's malady grew worse, the Court left Saint Germain to
be nearer the experts and the Val-de-Grace, where the princess frequently
practised her devotions with members of the religious sisterhood that she
had founded.

Suddenly the cancer dried up, and the head physician declared that the
Queen was lost.

The Archbishop of Auch said to the King, "Sire, there is not an instant
to be lost; the Queen may die at any moment; she should be informed of
her condition, so that she may prepare herself to receive the Sacrament."

The King was troubled, for he dearly loved his mother. "Monsieur," he
replied, with emotion, "it is impossible for me to sanction your request.
My mother is resting calmly, and perhaps thinks that she is out of
danger. We might give her her death-blow."

The prelate, a man of firm, religious character, insisted, albeit
reverently, while the prince continued to object. Then the Archbishop
retorted, "It is not with nature or the world that we have here to deal.
We have to save a soul. I have done my duty, and filial tenderness will
at any rate bear the blame."

The King thereupon acceded to the churchman's wishes, who lost no time in
acquainting the patient with her doom.

Anne of Austria was grievously shocked at so terrible an announcement,
but she soon recovered her resignation and her courage; and M. d' Auch
made noble use of his eloquence when exhorting her to prepare for the
change that she dreaded.

A portable altar was put up in the room, and the Archbishop, assisted by
other clerics, went to fetch the Holy Sacrament from the church of Saint
Germain de l'Auxerrois in the Louvre parish.

The princes and princesses hereupon began to argue in the little closet
as to the proper ceremony to be observed on such occasions. Madame de
Motteville, lady-in-waiting to the Queen, being asked to give an opinion,
replied that, for the late King, the nobles had gone out to meet the Holy
Sacrament as far as the outer gate of the palace, and that it would be
wise to do this on the present occasion.

Mademoiselle de Montpensier interrupted the lady-in-waiting and those who
shared her opinion. "I cannot bring myself to establish such a
precedent," she said, in her usual haughty tone. "It is I who have to
walk first, and I shall only go half-way across the courtyard of the
Louvre. It's quite far enough for the Holy Wafer-box; what's the use of
walking any further for the Holy Sacrament?"

The princes and princesses were of her way of thinking, and the
procession advanced only to the limits aforesaid.

When the time came for taking the Sacred Heart to Val-de-Grace with the
funeral procession, Mademoiselle, in a long mourning cloak, said to the
Archbishop before everybody, "Pray, monsieur, put the Sacred Heart in the
best place, and sit you close beside it. I yield my rank up to you on
the present occasion." And, as the prelate protested, she added, "I
shall be very willing to ride in front on account of the malady from
which she died." And, without altering her resolution, she actually took
her seat in front.




CHAPTER VIII.

Cardinal Mazarin. - Regency of Anne of Austria. - Her Perseverance in
Retaining Her Minister. - Mazarin Gives His Nieces in Marriage. - M. de la
Meilleraye. - The Cardinal's Festivities. - Madame de Montespan's Luck at a
Lottery.


Before taking holy orders, Cardinal Mazarin had served as an officer in
the Spanish army, where he had even won distinction.

Coming to France in the train of a Roman cardinal, he took service with
Richelieu, who, remarking in him all the qualities of a supple,
insinuating, artificial nature, - that is to say, the nature of a good
politician, - appointed him his private secretary, and entrusted him with
all his secrets, as if he had singled him out as his successor.

Upon the death of Richelieu, Mazarin did not scruple to avow that the
great Armand's sceptre had been a tyrant's sceptre and of bronze. By
such an admission he crept into the good graces of Louis XIII., who,
himself almost moribund, had shown how pleased he was to see his chief
minister go before him to the grave.

Louis XIII. being dead, his widow, Anne of Austria, in open Parliament
cancelled the monarch's testamentary depositions and constituted herself
Regent with absolute authority. Mazarin was her Richelieu.

In France, where men affect to be so gallant and so courteous, how is it
that when women rule their reign is always stormy and troublous? Anne of
Austria - comely, amiable, and gracious as she was - met with the same
brutal discourtesy which her sister-in-law, Marie de Medici, had been
obliged to bear. But gifted with greater force of intellect than that
queen, she never yielded aught of her just rights; and it was her strong
will which more than once astounded her enemies and saved the crown for
the young King.

They lampooned her, hissed her, and burlesqued her publicly at the
theatres, cruelly defaming her intentions and her private life. Strong
in the knowledge of her own rectitude, she faced the tempest without
flinching; yet inwardly her soul was torn to pieces. The barricading of
Paris, the insolence of M. le Prince, the bravado and treachery of
Cardinal de Retz, burnt up the very blood in her veins, and brought on
her fatal malady, which took the form of a hideous cancer.

Our nobility (who are only too glad to go and reign in Naples, Portugal,
or Poland) openly declared that no foreigner ought to hold the post of
minister in Paris. Despite his Roman purple, Mazarin was condemned to be
hanged.

The motive for this was some trifling tax which he had ordered to be
collected before this had been ratified by the magistrates and registered
in the usual way.

But the Queen knew how to win over the nobles. Her cardinal was
recalled, and the apathy of the Parisians put an end to these
dissensions, from which, one must admit, the people and the bourgeoisie
got all the ills and the nobility all the profits.

As comptroller of the list of benefices, M. le Cardinal allotted the
wealthiest abbeys of the realm to himself.

Having made himself an absolute master of finance, like M. Fouquet, he
amassed great wealth. He built a magnificent palace in Rome, and an
equally brilliant one in Paris, conferring upon himself the wealthy
governorships of various towns or provinces. He had a guard of honour
attached to his person, and a captain of the guard in attendance, just as
Richelieu had.

He married one of his nieces to the Prince of Mantua, another to the
Prince de Conti, a third to the Comte de Soissons, a fourth to the
Constable Colonna (an Italian prince), a fifth to the Duc de Mercoeur (a
blood relation of Henri IV.), and a sixth to the Duc de Bouillon. As to
Hortense, the youngest, loveliest of them all, - Hortense, the
beauteous-eyed, his charming favourite, - he appointed her his sole
heiress, and having given her jewelry and innumerable other presents, he
married her to the agreeable Duc de la Meilleraye, son of the marshal of
that name.

Society was much astonished when it came out that M. le Cardinal had
disinherited his own nephew, a man of merit, handing over his name, his
fortune, and his arms to a stranger.

[De Mancini, Duc de Nevers, a relative of the last Duc de Nivernois. He
married, soon after, Madame de Montespan's niece. - Editor's Note]

This was an error; in taking the name and arms of Mazarin, young De la
Meilleraye was giving up those which he ought to have given up, and
assuming those which it behove him to assume.

Nor did he retain the great possessions of the La Meilleraye family.
Herein, certainly, he did not consult his devotion; since the secret and
fatherly avowal of M. le Cardinal he had no right whatever to the estates
of this family.

Beneath the waving folds of his large scarlet robe, the Cardinal showed
such ease and certainty of address, that he never put one in mind of a
cardinal and a bishop. To such manners, however, one was accustomed; in
a leading statesman they were not unpleasant.

He often gave magnificent balls, at which he displayed all the
accomplishments of his nieces and the sumptuous splendour of his
furniture. At such entertainments, always followed by a grand banquet,
he was wont to show a liberality worthy of crowned heads. One day, after
the feast, he announced that a lottery would be held in his palace.

Accordingly, all the guests repaired to his superb gallery, which had
just been brilliantly decorated with paintings by Romanelli, and here,
spread out upon countless tables, we saw pieces of rare porcelain,
scent-bottles of foreign make, watches of every size and shape, chains of
pearls or of coral, diamond buckles and rings, gold boxes adorned by
portraits set in pearls or in emeralds, fans of matchless elegance, - in a
word, all the rarest and most costly things that luxury and fashion could
invent.

The Queens distributed the tickets with every appearance of honesty and
good faith. But I had reason to remark, by what happened to myself, that
the tickets had been registered beforehand. The young Queen, who felt
her garter slipping off, came to me in order to tighten it. She handed
me her ticket to hold for a moment, and when she had fastened her garter,
I gave her back my ticket instead of her own. When the Cardinal from his
dais read out the numbers in succession, my number won a portrait of the
King set in brilliants, much to the surprise of the Queen-mother and his
Eminence; they could not get over it.

To me this lottery of the Rue Neuve-des-Petits-Changes

[The gallery to which the Marquise alludes is to-day called the
Manuscript Gallery. It belongs to the Royal Library in the Rue de
Richelieu. Mazarin's house is now the Treasury.]

I brought good luck, and we often talked about it afterwards with the
King, regarding it as a sort of prediction or horoscope.




CHAPTER IX.

Marriage of Monsieur, the King's Brother. - His Hope of Mounting a
Throne. - His High-heeled Shoes. - His Dead Child. - Saint Denis.


Monsieur would seem to have been created in order to set off his brother,
the King, and to give him the advantage of such relief. He is small in
stature and in character, being ceaselessly busied about trifles,
details, nothings. To his toilet and his mirror, he devotes far more
time than a pretty woman; he covers himself with scents, with laces, with
diamonds.

He is passionately fond of fetes, large assemblies, and spectacular
displays. It was in order to figure as the hero of some such
entertainment that he suddenly resolved to get married.

Mademoiselle - the Grande Mademoiselle - Mademoiselle d'Eu, Mademoiselle de
Dombes, Mademoiselle de Montpensier, Mademoiselle de Saint-Fargeau,
Mademoiselle de la Roche-sur-Yon, Mademoiselle d'Orleans - had come into
the world twelve or thirteen years before he had, and they could not
abide each other. Despite such trifling differences, however, he
proposed marriage to her. The princess, than whom no one more determined
exists, answered, "You ought to have some respect for me; I refused two
crowned husbands the very day you were born."

So the Prince begged the Queen of England to give him her charming
daughter Henrietta, who, having come to France during her unfortunate
father's captivity, had been educated in Paris.

The Princess possessed an admirable admixture of grace and beauty, wit
being allied to great affability and good-nature; to all these natural
gifts she added a capacity and intelligence such as one might desire
sovereigns to possess. Her coquetry was mere amiability; of that I am
convinced. Being naturally vain, the Prince, her husband, made great use
at first of his consort's royal coat-of-arms. It was displayed on his
equipages and stamped all over his furniture.

"Do you know, madame," quoth he gallantly, one day, "what made me
absolutely desire to marry you? It was because you are a daughter and a
sister of the Kings of England. In your country women succeed to the
throne, and if Charles the Second and my cousin York were to die without
children (which is very likely), you would be Queen and I should be
King."

"Oh, Sire, how wrong of you to imagine such a thing!" replied his wife;
"it brings tears to my eyes. I love my brothers more than I do myself. I
trust that they may have issue, as they desire, and that I may not have
to go back and live with those cruel English who slew my father-in-law."

The Prince sought to persuade her that a sceptre and a crown are always
nice things to have. "Yes," replied Henrietta slyly, "but one must know
how to wear them."

Soon after this, he again talked of his expectations, saying every
minute, "If ever I am King, I shall do so; if ever I am King, I shall
order this; if ever I am King," etc., etc.

"Let us hope, my good friend," replied the Princess, "that you won't be
King in England, where your gewgaws would make people call out after you;
nor yet in France, where they would think you too little, after the
King."

At this last snub, Monsieur was much mortified. The very next day he
summoned his old bootmaker, Lambertin, and ordered him to put extra heels
two inches high to his shoes. Madame having told this piece of childish
folly to the King, he was greatly amused, and with a view to perplex his
brother, he had his own shoe-heels heightened, so that, beside his
Majesty, Monsieur still looked quite a little man.

The Princess gave premature birth to a child that was scarcely
recognisable; it had been dead in its mother's womb for at least ten
days, so the doctors averred. Monsieur le Duc d'Orleans, however,
insisted upon having this species of monstrosity baptised.

My sister, De Thianges, who is raillery personified, seeing how
embarrassed was the cure of Saint Cloud by the Prince's repeated requests
for baptism, gravely said to the cleric in an irresistibly comic fashion,
"Do you know, sir, that your refusal is contrary to all good sense and
good breeding, and that to infants of such quality baptism is never



Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 2 of 30)