Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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between Madame de Maintenon and the King, it occurred to me to suspect
the Queen for a moment; but there was no possibility now of imputing to
this princess, dead and gone, the unbecoming annoyance that an unknown
permitted himself to cause me.

On this occasion I chose my part resolutely; and, not wishing to busy
myself any longer with these pretended friendly counsels which my pride
forbade me to follow, I took these two insolent letters and burned them.
This last letter, after all, spoke very truly. I remarked distinctly, in
the looks and manner of the Dauphine, that ridiculous and clumsy
animosity which she had taken a fancy to lavish on me.

As she was not, in my eyes, so sublime a personage that a lady of quality
might not enter into conversation with her, I approached her armchair
with the intention of upsetting her haughtiness and pride by compelling
her to speak to me before everybody.

I complimented her on her coiffure, and even thanked her for the honour
she did me in imitating me; she reddened, and I entreated her not to put
herself about, assuring her that her face looked much better in its
habitual pallor. These words redoubled her dissatisfaction, and her
redness then became a veritable scarlet flame.

Passing forthwith to another subject, I pronounced in a few words a
panegyric on the late Queen; to which I skilfully added that, from the
first day, she had been able to understand the French graces and assume
them with intelligence and taste.

"Her Spanish accent troubled her for a year or two longer," added I;
"strictly speaking, this accent, derived from the Italian, has nothing
disagreeable in it; while the English, Polish, Russian, and German accent
is inharmonious in itself, and is lost with great difficulty here."

Seeing that my reflections irritated her, I stopped short, and made my
excuses by saying to her, "Madame, these are only general reflections.
Your Highness is an exception, and has struck us all, as you have nothing
German left but memories, and, perhaps, regrets."

She answered me, stammering, that she had not been destined in the first
place for the throne of France, and that this want of forethought had
injured her education; then, feeling a spark of courage in her heart, she
said that the late Queen had more than once confided to her that the
Court of France was disorderly in its fashions, because it was never the
princesses who gave it its tone as elsewhere.

Madame de Maintenon perceived quickly the consequences of this saying;
for the peace of the Princess, she retorted quickly: "In France, the
princesses are so kind and obliging as to follow the fashions; but the
good examples and good tone come to us from our princes, and our only
merit is to imitate them with ingenuity."


Judgment Given by the Chatelet. - The Marquis d'Antin Restored to His
Father. - The Judgment is Not Executed. - Full Mourning. - Funeral
Service. - The Notary of Saint Elig. - The Lettre de Cachet.

The Marquis d'Antin, my son, with the consent of the King, had remained
under my control, and had never consented to quit me to rejoin his
father. M. de Montespan, at the time of the suit for judicial separation
before the Chatelet, had caused his advocate to maintain this barbarous
argument, that a son, though brought into the world by his mother, ought
to side against her if domestic storms arise, and prefer to everybody and
everything the man whose arms and name he bears.

The tribunal of the Chatelet, trampling upon maternal tenderness and
humanity, granted his claim in full; and I was advised not to appeal, now
that I had obtained the thing essential to me, a separation in body and

M. de Montespan dared not come himself to Paris in order to execute the
sentence; he sent for that purpose two officers of artillery, his friends
or relatives, who were authorised to see the young Marquis at his
college, but not to withdraw him before the close of his humanities and
classes. These gentlemen, having sent word to the father that the young
D'Antin was my living image, he replied to them, that they were to insist
no longer, to abandon their mission, and to abandon a child who would
never enjoy his favour since he resembled myself. Owing to this happy
circumstance I was able to preserve my son.

Since these unhappy disputes, and the suit which made so much noise, I
had heard no more talk of M. de Montespan in society. I only learned
from travellers that he was building, a short distance from the Pyrenees,
a chateau of a noble and royal appearance, where he had gathered together
all that art, joined with good taste, could add to nature; that this
chateau of Saint Elix, adorned with the finest orange grove in the world,
was ascribed to the liberality of the King. The Marquis, hurt by this
mistake of his neighbours, which he called an accusation, published a
solemn justification in these ingenuous provinces, and he proved, as a
clerk might do to his master, that this enormous expenditure was
exclusively his own.

Suddenly the report of his death spread through the capital, and the
Marquis d'Antin received without delay an official letter with a great,
black seal, which announced to him this most lamentable event. The
notary of Saint Elix, in sending him this sad news, took the opportunity
of enclosing a certified copy of the will.

This testament, replete with malignity, having been freely published in
the capital, I cannot refrain from reproducing it in these writings.

Here are its principal clauses;

In the name of the most blessed Trinity, etc.

Since I cannot congratulate myself on a wife, who, diverting herself as
much as possible, has caused me to pass my youth and my life in celibacy,
I content myself with leaving, her my life-sized portrait, by Bourdon,
begging her to place it in her bedchamber, when the King ceases to come

Although the Marquis de Pardailhan d'Antin is prodigiously like his
mother (a circumstance of which I have been lamentably sensible!), I do
not hesitate to believe him my son. In this quality I give and bequeath
to him all my goods, as my eldest son, imposing on him, nevertheless, the
following legacies, liberalities and charges:

I leave to their Highnesses, M. le Duc du Maine, M. le Comte de Toulouse,
Mademoiselle de Nantes, and Mademoiselle de Blois (born during my
marriage with their mother, and consequently my presumptive children),
their right of legitimacy on the charge and condition of their bearing in
one of their quarterings the Pardailhan-Montespan arms.

I take the respectful liberty of here thanking my King for the extreme
kindness which he has shown to my wife, nee De Mortemart, to my son
D'Antin, to his brothers and sisters, both dead and living, and also to
myself, who have only been dismissed, and kept in exile:

In recognition of which I give and bequeath to his Majesty my vast
chateau of Montespan, begging him to create and institute there a
community of Repentant Ladies, to wear the habit of Carmelites or of the
Daughters of the Conception, on the special charge and condition that he
place my wife at the head of the said convent, and appoint her to be
first Abbess.

I attach an annuity of sixty thousand livres to this noble institution,
hoping that this will make up the deficiency, if there be any.

DE PARDAILHAN DE GONDRAN MONTESPAN, Separated, although inseparable

A family council being held to decide what I must do on this occasion,
Madame de Thianges, M. de Vivonne, and M. de Blanville-Colbert decided
that I must wear the same full mourning as my son D'Antin. As for this
odious will, it was agreed that it should not even be spoken of, and that
the notary of Saint Elix should be written to at once, to place it in the
hands of a third party, of whom he would be presently notified at the
place. The Marquis d'Antin at once had my equipage and his own draped.
We hastened to put all our household into mourning from top to toe, and
the funeral service, with full ritual, was ordered to be performed at the
parish church. The very same day, as the family procession was about to
set out on its way to the church, a sort of sergeant, dressed in black,
handed a fresh letter to the Marquis d'Antin. It contained these words:

The notary of Saint Elix deserves a canonry in the Chapter of Charenton;
it is not the Marquis de Montespan who is dead; they have played a trick
on you.

The only truth in all of it is the will, of which the notary of Saint
Elix has been in too great a hurry to send a copy. A thousand excuses to
M. le Marquis d'Antin and his mother, Madame la Marquise.

It was necessary to send orders at once to the parish church to take away
the catafalque and the drapings. The priests and the musicians were paid
as if they had done what they ought to do; and my widowhood, which, at
another time, might have been of such importance, was, I dare to say,
indifferent to me.

The King was informed of what had just taken place in my family. He
spoke of it as an extremely disagreeable affair. I answered him that it
was far more disagreeable for me than for any one else. His Majesty

"Tell the Marquis d'Antin to go to Saint Elix and pay his respects to his
father. This journey will also enable him to learn if such a ridiculous
will really exists, and if your husband has reached such a pitch of
independence. D'Antin will beg him, on my behalf, to tear up that
document, and to earn my favour by doing so."

My son, after consulting with his Majesty, started indeed for the
Pyrenees. His father at first gave him a cold welcome. The next day the
Marquis discovered the secret of pleasing him; and M. de Montespan, at
this full mourning, this family council, and at the catafalque in the
middle of the church, promised to alter the will on condition that his
'lettre do cachet' should be revoked and quashed within the next

The King agreed to these demands, which did not any longer affect him. I
was the only person sacrificed.


The Duc du Maine Provided with the Government of Languedoc. - The Young
Prince de Conti. - His Piety. - His Apostasy. - The Duc de la Feuillade
Burlesqued. - The Watch Set with Diamonds. - The False Robber. - Scene
amongst the Servants.

The old Duc de Verneuil, natural son of King Henri IV., died during these
incidents, leaving the government of Languedoc vacant. The King summoned
M. le Duc du Maine at once, and, embracing him with his usual tenderness,
he said to him: "My son, though you are very young, I make you governor
of Languedoc. This will make many jealous of you; do not worry about
them, I am always here to defend you. Go at once to Mademoiselle's, who
has just arrived at Versailles, and tell her what I have done for her
adopted child."

I went to thank his Majesty for this favour, which seemed to me very
great, since my son was not twelve years old. The King said to me: "Here
comes the carriage of the Prince de Conti; you may be certain that he
comes to ask me for this place."

In fact, those were the first words of the Prince de Conti.

"The government for which you ask," said the King, "has been for a long
time promised to Madame de Maintenon for her Duc du Maine. I intend
something else for you, my dear cousin. Trust in me. In giving you my
beloved daughter I charged myself with your fortunes; you are on my list,
and in the first rank."

The young Prince changed colour. He entreated the King to believe him
worthy of his confidence and esteem, to which he imprudently added these
words: "My wife was born before M. du Maine."

"And you, too," replied his Majesty; "are you any the more sober for
that? There are some little youthful extravagances in your conduct which
pain me. I leave my daughter in ignorance of them, because I wish her to
be at peace. Endeavour to prevent her being informed of them by
yourself. Govern yourself as a young man of your birth ought to govern
himself; then I will hand a government over to you with pleasure."

The Prince de Conti appeared to me very much affected by this homily and
disappointment. He saluted me, however, with a smile of benevolence and
the greatest amenity. We learnt a short time afterwards that his wife
had shed many tears, and was somewhat set against my children and myself.

This amiable Princess then was not aware that the government of Languedoc
was not granted at my instance, but at the simple desire of Madame de
Maintenon; the King had sufficiently explained it.

Just at this moment M. le Prince de Conti had made himself notable by his
attachment or his deference towards matters of religion and piety. His
superb chariot and his peach-coloured liveries were to be seen, on
fete-days, at the doors of the great churches. He suddenly changed his
manoeuvres, and refused to subject himself to restraints which led him no
whither. He scoffed publicly at the Jesuits, the Sulpicians, and their
formal lectures and confraternities; he refused to distribute the blessed
bread at his parish church, and heard mass only from his chaplains and in
his palace.

This ill-advised behaviour did not improve his position. Madame, his
wife, continued to come to Versailles on gala-days, or days of reunion,
but he and his brother appeared there less and less frequently. They
were exceedingly handsome, both of them; not through their father, whose
huge nose had rendered him ridiculous, but through the Princess, their
mother, Anna or Felicia de Martinozzi, niece of Cardinal Mazarin. God
had surpassed himself in creating that graceful head, and those eyes will
never have their match in sweetness and beauty.

Free now to follow his own tastes, which only policy had induced him to
dissimulate and constrain, M. de Conti allowed himself all that a young
prince, rich and pleasure-loving, could possibly wish in this world. In
the midst of these reunions, consecrated to pleasure, and even to
debauchery, he loved to signalise his lordly liberality; nothing could
stop him, nothing was too extravagant for him. His passion was to remove
all obstacles and pay for everybody.

His joyous companions cried out with admiration, and celebrated, in prose
and verse, so noble a taste and virtues so rare. The young orphan
inhaled this incense with delight; he contracted enormous debts, and soon
did not know where to turn to pay them.

The King, well informed of these excesses, commanded M. le Duc de la
Feuillade to have the young man followed, and inform himself of all he

One day, when M. de la Feuillade himself had followed him too closely,
and forced him, for the space of an hour, to scour over all Le Marais in
useless and fatiguing zigzags, M. de Conti, who recognised him perfectly,
in spite of his disguise, pretended that his watch, set with diamonds,
had been stolen. He pointed out this man as the thief to his ready
servingmen, who fell upon M. de la Feuillade, and, stripping him to find
the watch, gave the Prince time to escape and reach his place of

The captain was ill for several days, and even in danger, in consequence
of this adventure, which did not improve the credit of M. le Prince de
Conti, much as it needed improvement.

His young and beautiful wife excused him in everything, ignoring, and
wishing to ignore, the extent of his guilt and frivolity.


A Funeral and Diversions. - Sinister Dream. - Funeral Orations of the

It remains for me to relate certain rather curious circumstances in
relation to the late Queen, after which I shall speak of her no more in
these Memoirs.

She was left for ten days, lying in state, in the mortuary chapel of
Versailles, where mass was being said by priests at four altars from
morning till evening. She was finally removed from this magnificent
Palace of Enchantment to Saint Denis. Numerous carriages followed the
funeral car, and in all these carriages were the high officials, as well
as the ladies, who had belonged to her. But what barbarity! what
ingratitude! what a scandal! In all these mournful carriages, people
talked and laughed and made themselves agreeable; and the body-guards, as
well as the gendarmes and musketeers, took turns to ride their horses
into the open plain and shoot at the birds.

Monsieur le Dauphin, after Saint Denis, went to lie at the Tuileries,
before betaking himself to the service on the following day at Notre
Dame. In the evening, instead of remaining alone and in seclusion in his
apartment, as a good son ought to have done, he went to the Palais Royal
to see the Princess Palatine and her husband, whom he had had with him
all the day; he must have distraction, amusement, and even merry
conversations, such as simple bourgeois would not permit themselves on so
solemn an occasion, were it only out of decorum.

In the midst of these ridiculous and indefensible conversations, the news
arrived that the King had broken his arm. The Marquis de Mosny had
started on the instant in order to inform the young Prince of it; and Du
Saussoi, equerry of his Majesty, arrived half an hour later, giving the
same news with the details.

The King (who was hunting during the obsequies of his wife) had fallen
off his horse, which he had not been able to prevent from stumbling into
a ditch full of tall grass and foliage. M. Felix, a skilful and prudent
surgeon, had just set the arm, which was only put out of joint. The King
sent word to the Dauphin not to leave the Tuileries, and to attend the
funeral ceremony on the morrow.

The fair of Saint Laurence was being held at this moment, although the
city of Paris had manifested an intention of postponing it. They were
exhibiting to the curious a little wise horse which bowed, calculated,
guessed, answered questions, and performed marvels. The King had
strictly forbidden his family and the people of the Court to let
themselves be seen at this fair. Monsieur le Dauphin, none the less,
wished to contemplate, with his own eyes, this extraordinary and
wonderful little horse. Consequently, he had to be taken to the Chateau
des Tuileries, where he took a puerile amusement in a spectacle in itself
trivial, and, at such a time, scandalous.

The poor Queen would have died of grief if the death of her son had
preceded hers, against the order of nature; but the hearts of our
children are not disposed like ours, and who knows how I shall be treated
myself by mine when I am gone?

With regard to the King's arm, Madame d'Orleans, during the service for
the Queen, was pleased to relate to the Grande Mademoiselle that, three
or four days before, she had seen, in a somewhat troublesome and painful
dream, the King's horse run away, and throw him upon the rocks and
brambles of a precipice, from which he was rescued with a broken arm. A
lady observed that dreams are but vague and uncertain indications.

"Not mine," replied Madame, with ardour; "they are not like others. Five
or six days before the Queen fell ill, I told her, in the presence of
Madame la Dauphine, that I had a most alarming dream. I had dreamt that
I was in a large church all draped in black. I advanced to the
sanctuary; a vault was opened at one side of the altar. Some kind of
priests went down, and these folk said aloud, as they came up again, that
they had found no place at first; that the cavity having seemed to them
too long and deep, they had arranged the biers, and had placed there the
body of the lady. At that point I awoke, quite startled, and not

Hardly had the Princess finished her story, when the Infanta, turning
pale, said to her: "Madame, you will see, the dream of the vault refers
to me. At the funeral of the Queen of England I noticed, and remember,
that the same difficulty occurred at Saint Denis; they were obliged to
push up all the coffins, one against the other."

And, in truth, we knew, a few days afterwards, that for this poor Queen,
Maria Theresa, the monks of the abbey had found it necessary to break
down a strong barrier of stones in their subterranean church, to remove
the first wife of Gaston, mother of Mademoiselle, and find a place for
the Spanish Queen who had arrived in those regions.

There were several funeral orations on this occasion. Not a single one
of these official discourses deserved to survive the Queen. There was
very little to say about her, I admit; but these professional
panegyrists, these liars in surplice, in black cassock, or in purple and
mitre, are not too scrupulous to borrow facts and material in cases where
the dead person has neglected to furnish or bequeath it them.

In my own case I congratulated myself on this sort of indifference or
literary penury; an indiscreet person, sustained by zeal or talent, might
have wished to mortify me in a romance combined of satire and religion.


Jean Baptiste Colbert. - His Death. - His Great Works. - His Last Advice to
the Marquise.

M. Colbert had been ailing for a long time past. His face bore visible
testimony against his health, to which his accumulated and incessant
labour had caused the greatest injury. We had just married his son
Blainville to my niece, Mademoiselle de Tonnay-Charente, heiress of the
house of Rochchouart. Since this union - the King's work - M. Colbert had
somewhat tended in my favour, and I had reason to count on his good
offices and kindness. I said to him one day that my quarrel with him was
that he did not look after himself, that he ignored all his own worth,
treated himself with no more respect than a mere clerk; that he was the
indispensable man, the right hand of the King, his eye of vigilance in
everything, and the pillar of his business and his finance.

Without being precisely what one would call a modest man, M. Colbert was
calm of mind, and by nature without pose or presumption. He cared
sincerely for the King's glory. He held his tongue on the subject of
great enterprises, but employed much zeal and ability in promoting the
success of good projects and ideas, such as, for instance, our Indies and

He had known how to procure, without oppressing any one, the incalculable
sums that had been necessitated, not only by enormous and almost
universal wars, but by all those canals, all those ports in the
Mediterranean or the ocean, that vast creation of vessels, arsenals,
foundries, military houses and hospitals which we had seen springing up
in all parts. He had procured by his application, his careful
calculations, the wherewithal to build innumerable fortresses, aqueducts,
fountains, bridges, the Observatory of Paris, the Royal Hospital of the
Invalides, the chateaus of the Tuileries and of Vincennes, the engine and
chateau of Marly, that prodigious chateau of Versailles, with its Trianon
of marble, which by itself might have served as a habitation for the
richest monarchs of the Orient.

He had founded the wonderful glass factories, and those of the Gobelins;
he had raised, as though by a magic ring, the Royal Library over the
gardens and galleries of Mazarin; and foreigners asked one another, in
their surprise, what they must admire most in that monument, the interior
pomp of the edifice or its rich collection of books, coins, and

To all these works, more than sufficient to immortalise twenty ministers,
M. Colbert was adding at this moment the huge 'salpetriere' of Paris and
the colonnades of the Louvre. Ruthless death came to seize him in the
midst of these occupations, so noble, useful, and glorious.

The great Colbert, worn out with fatigue, watching, and constraint, left
the King, his wife, his children, his honours, his well-earned riches,
and displayed no other anxiety than alarm as to his salvation, - as though
so many services rendered to the nation and to his prince were no more,
in his eyes, than vain works in relation to eternity.

Madame de Maintenon, having become a great lady, could, not reasonably
continue her office of governess to the King's children. M. Colbert,
that man of vigour, that Mount Atlas, capable of supporting all things
without a plaint, had been charged with the care of the two new-born

Because of the third Mademoiselle de Blois, and of the little Comte de
Toulouse, I saw the minister frequently, and I was one of the first to
remark the change in his face and his health.

During his last illness, I visited him more often. One day, of his own
accord, he said to me:

"How do you get on with Madame de Maintenon? I have never heard her
complain of you; but I make you this confidence out of friendship. His

Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 23 of 30)