Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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Majesty complains of your attitude towards your former friend. If the
frankness of your nature and the impatience of your humour have sometimes
led you too far, I exhort you to moderate yourself, in your own interest
and in that of your children. Madame de Maintenon is an amiable and
witty person, whose society pleases the King. Have this consideration
for a hard-working prince, whom intellectual recreation relaxes and
diverts, and make a third at those pleasant gatherings where you shone
long before this lady, and where you would never be her inferior. Go
there, and frequently, instead of keeping at a distance in an attitude of
resentment, which, do not doubt, is noticed and viewed unfavourably."

"But, monsieur," I answered M. Colbert, "you are not, then, aware that
every time I am a third person at one of these interminable
conversations, I always meet with some mark of disapproval, and sometimes
with painful mortifications?"

"I have been told so," the sick man replied; "but I have also been told
that you imprudently call down on yourself these outbursts of the King.
What need have you to quarrel with Madame de Maintenon over a look, a
word, a movement or a gesture? You seem to me persuaded that love enters
into the King's friendship for the Marquise. Well, suppose you have
guessed aright his Majesty's sentiments; will your dissatisfaction and
your sarcasms prevent those sentiments from existing, and the prince from
indulging them?

"You know, madame, that he generally gets everything he wants, and M. de
Montespan experienced that when he wished to set himself against your
joint wills.

"I am nearer my end and my release than my doctors think. In leaving
this whirlpool of disappointments, ambitions, errors, and mutual
injustice, I should like to see you free, at peace, reconciled to your
real interests, and out of reach, forever, of the vicissitudes of
fortune. In my eyes, your position is that of a ship-owner whom the
ocean has constantly favoured, and who has reaped great riches. With
moderation and prudence, it depended on himself to profit by his
astonishing success, and at last to enjoy his life; but ambition and vain
desire drive him afresh upon this sea, so fruitful in shipwrecks, and his
last venture destroys all his prosperity and all his many labours.

"Our excellent Queen has gone to rest from her troubles and her journeys;
and I, madame, am going to rest not long after her, having worn out my
strength on great things that are as nothing."

The Marquis de Seignelay, eldest son of this minister, counted on
succeeding to the principal offices of his father. He made a mistake.
The place of secretary of state and controller-general passed to the
President Pelletier, who had been chosen by M. Colbert himself; and the
superintendence of buildings, gardens, and works went to swell the
numerous functions of the Marquis de Louvois, who wished for and counted
on it.

MM. de Blainville and Seignelay had good posts, proportioned to their
capacity; the King never ceased to look upon them as the children of his
dear M. Colbert.

[It mast be remembered that the young Marquis de Seignelay was already
Minister of Marine, an office which remained with him. - Ed.]

Before his death, this minister saw his three daughters become duchesses.
The King, who had been pleased to make these marriages, had given each of
them a dowry of a million in cash.

As for the Abbe Colbert, already promoted to the Bishopric of Montpellier
(to which three important abbeys were joined), he had the Archbishopric
of Toulouse, with an immense revenue. It is true that he took a pleasure
in rebuilding his archiepiscopal palace and cathedral out of a huge and
ancient treasure, which he discovered whilst pulling down some old ruin
to make a salon.

One might say that there was some force of attraction attached to this
family and name of Colbert. Treasures arose from the earth to give
themselves up and obey them.


Mesdemoiselles de Mazarin. - The Age of Puberty. - Madame de
Beauvais. - Anger of the Queen-mother. - The Cardinal's Policy. - First
Love. - Louis de Beauvais. - The Abbe de Rohan-Soubise. - The Emerald's
Lying-in. - The Handsome Musketeer. - The Counterfeit of the King.

At the time when the King, still very young, was submitting without
impatience to the authority of the Queen, his mother, and his godfather,
the Cardinal, his strength underwent a sudden development, and this lad
became, all at once, a man. The numerous nieces of Cardinal Mazarin, who
were particularly dear to the Queen, were as much at the Louvre as at
their own home. Anne of Austria, naturally affable, gladly released them
from the etiquette which was imposed upon every one else. These young
ladies played and laughed, sang or frolicked, after the manner of their
years, and the young King lived frankly and gaily in their midst, as one
lives with agreeable sisters, when one is happy enough to have such. He
lived fraternally with these pretty Italian girls, but his intimacy
stopped there, since the Cardinal and the governess watched night and day
over a young man who was greatly subject to surveillance.

At the same time, there was amongst the Queen's women a rather pretty
waiting-maid, well brought up, who was called Madame de Beauvais. Those
brunettes, with black eyes, bright complexions, and graceful plumpness,
are almost always wanton and alluring. Madame de Beauvais noticed the
sudden development of the monarch, his impassioned reveries which
betrayed themselves in his gaze. She thought she had detected intentions
on his part, and an imperious need of explaining himself. A word, which
was said to her in passing, authorised her, or seemed to authorise her,
to make an almost intelligible reply. The young wooer showed himself
less undecided, less enigmatic, - and the understanding was completed.

Madame de Beauvais was the recipient of the prince's first emotions, and
the clandestine connection lasted for three months. Anne of Austria,
informed of what was passing, wished at first to punish her first maid in
waiting; but the Cardinal, more circumspect, represented to her that this
connection, of which no one knew, was an occupation, not to say a
safeguard, for the young King, whose fine constitution and health
naturally drew him to the things of life. "Although eighteen years of
age," he added, "the prince abandons the whole authority to you; whereas
another, in his place, would ardently dispute it. Do not let us quarrel
with him about trifles; leave him his Beauvais lady, so that he may make
no attempt on my pretty nieces nor on your authority, madame, nor on my
important occupations, which are for the good of the State."

Anne of Austria, who was more a Christian and a mother than a diplomatic
woman, found it very painful to appreciate these arguments of the
Cardinal; but after some reflection she recognised their importance, and
things remained as they were.

Madame de Beauvais had a son, whom the husband (whether overconfident or
not) saw brought into the world with much delight, and whom, with a
wealth of royalist respect, they baptised under the agreeable name of
Louis. This child, who had a fine figure and constitution, received a
particularly careful education. He has something of the King about him,
principally in his glance and smile. He presents, however, only the
intellectual habit of his mother, and even a notable absence of grandeur
and elevation. He is a very pretty waiting-woman, dressed out as a
cavalier; in a word, he is that pliant and indefatigable courtier, whom
we see everywhere, and whom town and Court greet by the name of Baron de

His sister is the Duchesse de Richelieu, true daughter of her father, as
ugly, or rather as lacking in charm, as he is; but replete with subtilty
and intelligence, - with that intelligence which perpetually suggests a
humble origin, and which wearies or importunes, because of its
ill-nature. At the age of seventeen, her freshness made her pass for
being pretty. She accused the young Duc de Richelieu of having seduced
her, and made her a mother; and he, in his fear of her indignation and
intrigues, and of the reproaches of the Queen, hastened to confess his
fault, and to repair everything by marrying her.

Baron Louis, her brother, to whom the King could hardly refuse anything,
made her a lady of honour to the Dauphine. Madame de Richelieu delighted
to spread a report in the world that I had procured her this office; she
was deceived, and wished to be deceived. I had asked this eminent
position for the Marquise de Thianges, in whom I was interested very
differently. His Majesty decided that a marquise was inferior to a
duchess, even when that duchess was born a De Beauvais. Another son of
the monarch, well known at the Court as such, is M. l'Abbe de
Rohan-Soubise, to whom the cardinal's hat is already promised. His
figure, his carriage, his head, his attitude, his whole person infallibly
reveal him; and the Prince de Soubise has so thoroughly recognised and
understood the deceit, that he honours the young churchman with all his
indifference and his respect. He acts with him as a sort of guardian;
and that is the limitation of his role.

The Princesse de Soubise, who had resolved to advance her careless
husband, either to the government of Brittany or to some ministry,
persuaded herself that it is only by women that men can be advanced; and
that in order to advance a husband, it is necessary to advance oneself.
Although a little thin, and lacking that of which the King is so fond, we
saw in her a very pretty woman. She knew how to persuade his Majesty
that she cherished for him the tenderest love. That is, I believe, the
one trap that it is possible to set for him. He is credulous on that
head; he was speedily caught. And every time that M. de Rohan was away,
and there was freedom at the Hotel Soubise, the Princess came in person
to Saint Germain or to Versailles, to show her necklace and pendant of
emeralds to the King. Such was the agreed signal.

The Abbe de Rohan was born of these emeralds. The King displays
conscience in all his actions, except in his wars and conquests. When
the little Soubise was grown up, his Majesty signified to the mother that
this young man must enter the Church, not wishing to suffer the formation
of a parasitical branch amongst the Rohans, which would have
participated, without any right, in the legitimate sap. It is asserted
that the Abbe de Rohan only submitted with infinite regret to a sentence
which neutralised him. The King has promised him all possible
consideration; he has even embraced him tenderly, an action which is
almost equivalent to a "declaration of degree" made to the Parliament.

The other child alleged to the King is that handsome musketeer, who is so
like him. But, judging from the King's character, which respects, and in
some fashion almost admires itself, in everything which proceeds from it,
I do not venture to believe in this musketeer. The King wished one day
to see him close by, and even accosted him by the orange-shrubbery; but
this movement seemed to me one of pure curiosity.

The resemblance, I must confess, is the most striking that I have yet
seen; for it is complete, even to the tone of the voice. But a look
might have operated this miracle. Instance the little negress, the
daughter of the poor Queen, that Queen so timid and entirely natural,
who, to her happiness, as much as to her glory, has never looked at,
approached, or distinguished any one except the King.

For the rest, we shall see and know well if the King does anything for
his musketeer.


The Young Nobility and the Turks. - Private Correspondence. - The Unlucky
Minister and the Page of Strasburg. - The King Judged and Described in All
the Documents. - The King Humiliated in His Affections. - Scandal at
Court. - Grief of Fathers at Having Given Life to Such Children. - Why
Prince Eugene Was Not a Bishop. - Why He Was Not a Colonel of
France. - Death of the Prince de Conti.

As France was at peace at the moment when the three hundred thousand
Turks swarmed over Hungary and threatened Vienna, our young princes, and
a fairly large number of nobles of about the same age, took it into their
heads to go and exhibit their bravery in Germany; they asked permission
of M. de Louvois to join the Imperialists. This permission was granted
to some amongst them, but refused to others. Those whom it was thought
fit to restrain took no notice of the words of the minister, and departed
as resolutely as though the King had fallen asleep. They were arrested
on the road; but his Majesty, having reflected on the matter, saw that
these special prohibitions would do harm to the intentions which he had
with regard to his deference for Germany, and they were all allowed to go
their own way.

A little later, it was discovered that there was a regular and active
correspondence between these young people in Germany and others who had
remained in Paris or at the Court. The first minister had a certain
page, one of the most agile, pursued; he was caught up with at Strasburg;
his valise was seized. The Marquis de Louvois, desiring to give the King
the pleasure of himself opening these mysterious letters, handed him the
budget, the seals intact, and his Majesty thanked him for this attention.
These thanks were the last that that powerful minister was destined to
receive from his master; his star waned from that hour, never again to
recover its lustre; all his credit failed and crashed to the ground. This
correspondence - spied on with so much zeal, surprised and carried off
with such good fortune - informed the astonished monarch that, in the
Louvois family, in his house and circle, his royal character, his
manners, his affections, his tastes, his person, his whole life, were
derisively censured. The beloved son-in-law of the minister, speaking
with an open heart to his friends, who were travelling, and absent,
represented the King to them as a sort of country-gentleman, given up now
to the domestic and uniform life of the manor-house, more than ever
devoted to his dame bourgeoise, and making love ecstatically at the feet
of this young nymph of fifty seasons.

M. de la Roche-Guyon and M. de Liancourt, sons of La Rochefoucauld, who
expressed themselves with the same boldness, went so far as to say of
their ruler that he was but a stage and tinsel king. The son-in-law of
Louvois accused him of being most courageous in his gallery, but of
turning pale on the eve, and at the moment, of an action; and
D'Alincourt, son of Villeroi, carried his outrages further still. No one
knows better than myself how unjust these accusations were, and are. I
was sensible of the mortification such a reading must have caused to the
most sensitive, the most irritable of princes; but I rejoiced at the
humiliation that the lady in waiting felt for her share in this
unpardonable correspondence. The annoyance that I read for some days on
her handsome face consoled me, for the time being, for her great success
at my expense.

Madame la Princesse de Conti, whom the King, up to this time, had not
only cherished but adored, found also, in those documents, the term of
excessive favour. A letter from her to her husband said: "I have just
given myself a maid of honour, wishing to spare Madame de Maintenon the
trouble, or the pleasure, of giving me one herself."

She was summoned to Versailles, as she may very well have expected. The
King, paying no attention to her tears, said to her: "I believed in your
affection; I have done everything to deserve it; it is lamentable to me
to be unable to count on it longer. Your cruel letter is in Madame de
Maintenon's hands. She will let you read it again before committing it
to the fire, and I beg you to inform her what is the harm she has done

"Madame," said Madame de Maintenon to her, when she saw her before her,
"when your amiable mother left this Court, where the slightest prosperity
attracts envy, I promised her to take some care of your childhood, and I
have kept my word.

"I have always treated you with gentleness and consideration; whence
proceeds your hate against me of to-day? Is your young heart capable of
it? I believed you to be a model of gratitude and goodness."

"Madame," replied the young Princess, weeping, "deign to pardon this
imprudence of mine and to reconcile me with the King, whom I love so

"I have not the credit which you assume me to have," replied the lady in
waiting, coldly. "Except for the extreme kindness of the King you would
not be where you are, and you take it ill that I should be where I am! I
have neither desired nor solicited the arduous rank that I occupy; I need
resignation and obedience to support such a burden." Madame de Maintenon
resumed her work. The Princess, not daring to interrupt her silence,
made the bow that was expected of her and withdrew.

The Marquis de Louvois, when he read what his own son-in-law dared to
write of the monarch, grew pale and swooned away with grief. He cast
himself several times before the feet of his master, asking now the
punishment and now the pardon of a criminal and a madman.

"I believed myself to be loved by your family," cried the King. "What
must I do, then, to be loved? And, great God! with what a set I am

All these things transpired. Soon we saw the father of the audacious De
Liancourt arrive like a man bereft of his wits. He ran to precipitate
himself at the feet of the King.

"M. de La Rochefoucauld," said the prince to him, "I was ignorant, until
this day, that I was lacking in what is called martial prowess; but I
shall at least have, on this occasion, the courage to despise the
slanderous slights of these presumptuous youths. Do not talk to me of
the submissions and regrets of your two sons, who are unworthy of you;
let them live as far away from me as possible; they do not deserve to
approach an honest man, such as their King."

The Prince de Turenne, son of the Duc de Bouillon, and Prince Eugene of
Savoy, third or fourth son of the Comtesse de Soissons (Olympe Mancini),
had accompanied their cousins De Conti on this knightly expedition; all
these gentlemen returned at the conclusion of the war, except Prince
Eugene, a violent enemy of the King.

[The Prince de Turenne was in bad odour at Court ever since he had
separated Monseigneur from his young wife by exaggerating that Princess's
small failings. - MADAME DE MONTESPAN'S NOTE.]

This young Prince of the second branch, seeing his mother's disgrace
since the great affair of the poison, hated me mortally. He carried his
treachery so far as to attribute to me the misfortunes of Olympe, saying,
and publishing all over Paris, that I had incited accusers in order to be
able to deprive her forcibly of her superintendence. This post, which
had been sold to me for four hundred thousand francs, had been paid for
long since; that did not prevent Eugene from everywhere affirming the

Since the flight or exile of his lady mother, he had taken it into his
head to dream of the episcopate, and to solicit Pere de la Chaise on the
subject. But the King, who does not like frivolous or absurd figures in
high offices, decided that a little man with a deformity would repel
rather than attract deference at a pinnacle of dignity of the priesthood.

Refused for the episcopate, M. de Soissons thought he might offer himself
as a colonel. His Majesty, who did not know the military ways of this
abbe, refused him anew, both as an abbe and as a hunchback, and as a
public libertine already degraded by his irregularities.

From all these refusals and mortifications there sprung his firm resolve
to quit France. He had been born there; he left all his family there
except his mother; he declared himself its undying enemy, and said
publicly in Germany that Louis XIV. would shed tears of blood for the
injury and the affront which he had offered him.

MM. de Conti, after the events in Hungary and at Vienna, returned to
France covered with laurels. They came to salute the King at Versailles.
His Majesty gave them neither a good nor a bad reception. The Princes
left the same day for Chantilly, where M. de Conde, their paternal
uncle, tried to curb their too romantic imaginations and guaranteed their
good behaviour in the future.

This life, sedentary or spent in hunting, began to weary them, when
overruling Providence was pleased to send them a diversion of the highest
importance. M. le Prince de Conti was seized suddenly with that burning
fever which announces the smallpox. Every imaginable care was useless;
he died of it and bequeathed, in spite of himself, a most premature and
afflicting widowhood to his young and charming spouse, who was not, till
long afterwards, let into the secret of his scandalous excesses.

M. de la Roche-sur-Yon, his only brother, was as distressed at his death
as though he had nothing to gain by it; he took immediately the name of
Conti, and doffed the other, which he had hitherto borne as a borrowed
title. The domain and county of La Roche-sur-Yon belongs to the Grande
Mademoiselle. She had been asked to make this condescension when the
young Prince was born. She agreed with a good grace, for the child, born
prematurely, did not seem likely to live.


Ninon at Court. - The King behind the Glass. - Anxiety of the Marquise on
the Subject of This Interview. - Visit to Madame de Maintenon. - Her Reply
and Her Ambiguous Promise.

Mademoiselle de l'Enclos is universally known in the world for the
agreeableness of her superior wit and her charms of face and person. When
Madame de Maintenon, after the loss of her father, arrived from
Martinique, she had occasion to make her acquaintance; and it seems that
it was Ninon who, seeing her debating between the offers of M. Scarron
and the cloister, succeeded in persuading her to marry the rich poet,
though he was a cripple, rather than to bury herself, so young, in a
convent of Ursulines or Bernardines, even were the convent in Paris.

At the death of the poet Scarron (who when he married, and when he died,
possessed only a life annuity), Mademoiselle d'Aubigne, once more in
poverty, found in Mademoiselle de l'Enclos a generous and persevering
friend, who at once offered her her house and table. Mademoiselle
d'Aubigne passed eight or ten months in the intimate society of this
philosophical woman. But her conscience, or her prudery, not permitting
her to tolerate longer a manner of life in which she seemed to detect
license, she quitted Ninon, advising her to renounce coquetry, whilst the
other was advising her to abandon herself to it.

There, where Madame Scarron found the tune of good society with wit, she
looked upon herself as in her proper sphere, as long as no open scandal
was brought to her notice. She consented still to remain her friend; but
the fear of passing for an approver or an accomplice prevented her from
remaining if there were any publicity. It was not exactly through her
scruples, it was through her vanity. I have had proof of this on various
occasions, and I have made no error.

The pretended amours of Mademoiselle d'Aubigne and the Marquis de
Villarceaux, Ninon's friend, are an invention of malicious envy. I
justified Madame Scarron on the matter before the King, when I asked her
for the education of the Princes; and having rendered her this justice,
from conviction rather than necessity, I shall certainly not charge her
with it to-day. Madame de Maintenon possesses a fund of philosophy which
she does not reveal nor confess to everybody. She fears God in the
manner of Socrates and Plato; and as I have seen her more than once make
game, with infinite wit, of the Abbe Gobelin, her confessor, who is a
pedant and avaricious, I am persuaded that she knows much more about it
than all these proud doctors in theology, and that she would be
thoroughly capable of confessing her confessor.

She had remained, then, the friend of Ninon, but at heart and in
recollection, without sending her news or seeing her again. Mademoiselle
de l'Enclos, rich, disinterested, and proud of her independent position,
learned with pleasure the triumph of her former friend, but without
writing to her or congratulating her. Ninon, by the consent of all those
who have come near her, is good-nature itself. One of her relations, or
friends, was a candidate for a vacant post as farmer-general, and

Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 24 of 30)