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Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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Depart, and never forget what one gains by putting on the livery of
deceit in order to surprise and betray innocence."

My people conducted this unworthy man to the outer gate, and refused to
satisfy some prayers which he addressed to them to be released from his
disagreeable bonds. The public, with its usual inconsequence, followed
the monk with hooting, without troubling as to whether it were abusing a
vile spy or a man of worth.

We waited for a whole month without receiving any news of our guard. At
last he wrote to me from the island of Jersey, where he had been cast by
a storm. I despatched the son of my intendant, who knew him perfectly; I
sent him a letter of recommendation to his Majesty the King of England,
who had preserved me in his affections, and to those matters of pure
obligation, which I could not refrain from without cruelty, I added a
present of a hundred thousand livres, which was enough to furnish an
honourable condition for my noble and generous cavalier in the land of
exile.

The humour of my heart is of the kind which finishes by forgetting an
injury and almost an outrage; but a service loyally rendered is graven
upon it in uneffaceable characters, and when (at the solicitation of the
King of England) our monarch shall have pardoned M. de Monclar, I will
search all through Paris to find him a rich and lovely heiress, and will
dower him myself, as his noble conduct and my heart demand.

I admire great souls as much as I loathe ingratitude and villainy.




CHAPTER XL.

Parallel between the Diamond and the Sun. - Taste of the Marquise for
Precious Stones. - The King's Collection of Medals. - The Crown of
Agrippina. - The Duchess of York. - Disappointment of the Marquise. - To
Lend Is Not to Give. - The Crown Well Guarded. - Fright of the
Marquise. - The Thief Recognised. - The Marquise Lets Him Hang. - The
Difference between Cromwell and a Trunkmaker. - Delicate
Restitutions. - The Bourbons of Madame de Montespan.


The diamond is, beyond contradiction, the most beautiful creation of the
hands of God, in the order of inanimate objects. This precious stone, as
durable as the sun, and far more accessible than that, shines with the
same fire, unites all its rays and colours in a single facet, and
lavishes its charms, by night and day, in every clime, at all seasons;
whilst the sun appears only when it so pleases; sometimes shining,
sometimes misty, and shows itself off with innumerable pretensions.

From my tenderest childhood, I was notable amongst all my brothers and
sisters for my distinct fondness for precious stones and diamonds. I have
made a collection of them worthy of the Princes of Asia; and if my whole
fortune were to fail me to-day, my pearls and diamonds, being left to me,
would still give me opulence. The King, by a strange accident, shares
this taste with me. He has in his third closet two huge pedestals,
veneered in rosewood, and divided within, like cabinets of coins, into
several layers. It is there that he has conveyed, one by one, all the
finest diamonds of the Crown. He consecrates to their examination, their
study, and their homage, the brief moments that his affairs leave him.
And when, by his ambassadors, he comes to discover some new apparition of
this kind in Asia or Europe, he does all that is possible to distance his
competitors.

When he loved me with a tender love, I had only to wish and I obtained
instantly all that could please me, in rare pearls, in superfine
brilliants, sapphires, emeralds, and rubies. One day, his Majesty
allowed me to carry home the famous crown of Agrippina, executed with
admirable art, and formed of eight sprays of large brilliants handsomely
mounted. This precious object occupied me for several days in
succession, and the more I examined the workmanship, the more I marvelled
at its lightness and excellence, which was so great that our jewellers,
compared with those of Nero and Agrippina, were as artisans and workmen.

The King, having never spoken to me again of this ornament, I persuaded
myself that he had made me a present of it, - a circumstance which
confirmed me in the delusions of my hope. I thought then that I ought
not to leave in its light case an article of such immense value, and
ordered a strong and solid casket in which to enshrine my treasure.

The imperial crown having been encased and its clasps well adjusted by as
many little locks of steel, I shut the illustrious valuable in a cupboard
in which I had a quantity of jewelry and precious stones. This beautiful
crown was the constant object of my thoughts, my affections and my
preference; but I only looked at it myself at long intervals, every six
months, very briefly, for fear of exciting the cupidity of servants, and
exposing the glory of Agrippina to some danger.

When the Princess of Mantua passed through France on her way to marry the
Duke of York, whose first wife had left him a widower, the King gave a
brilliant reception to this young and lovely creature, daughter of a
niece of Cardinal Mazarin.

The conversation was uniformly most agreeable, for she spoke French with
fluency, and employed it with wit. There was talk of open-work crowns
and shut crowns. The Marquis de Dangeau, something of a savant and
antiquary, happened to remark that, under Nero, that magnificent prince,
the imperial crown had first been wrought in the form of an arch, such as
is seen now.

The King said then: "I was ignorant of that fact; but the crown of the
Empress, his mother, was not closed at all. The one which belongs to me
is authentic; Madame la Marquise will show it to us:"

A gracious invitation in dumb show completed this species of summons, and
I was obliged to execute it. I returned to the King in the space of a
few minutes, bringing back in its new case the fugitive present, which a
monarch asked back again so politely and with such a good grace.

The crown of Agrippina, being placed publicly on a small round table,
excited general attention and admiration. The Italian Princess, Madame
de Maintenon, the Duc de Saint Aignan, and Dangeau himself went into
raptures over the rare perfection of these marvellously assorted
brilliants. The King, drawing near, in his turn examined the masterpiece
with pleasure. Suddenly, looking me in the face, he cried:

"But, madame, this is no longer my crown of Agrippina; all the diamonds
have been changed!"

Imagine my trouble, and, I must say, my confusion! Approaching the
wretched object, and casting my eyes over it with particular attention, I
was not slow in verifying the King's assertion. The setting of this fine
work had remained virtually the same; but some bold hand had removed the
antique diamonds and substituted - false!

I was pale and trembling, and on the verge of swooning. The ladies were
sorry for me. The King did me the honour of declaring aloud that I had
assuredly been duped, and I was constrained to explain this removal of
the crown into a more solid and better case for its preservation.

At this naive explanation the King fell to laughing, and said to the
young Princess: "Madame, you will relate, if you please, this episode to
the Court of London, and you will tell the King, from me, that nothing is
so difficult to preserve now as our crowns; guards and locks are no more
of use."

Then, addressing me, his Majesty said, playfully:

"You should have entrusted it to me sooner; I should have saved it. It
is said that I understand that well."

My amour-propre, my actual honour, forbade me to put a veil over this
domestic indignity. I assembled all my household, without excepting my
intendant himself. I was aggrieved at the affront which I had met with
at the King's, and I read grief and consternation on all faces. After
some minutes' silence, my intendant proposed the immediate intervention
of authority, and made me understand with ease that only the casket-maker
could be the culprit.

This man's house was visited; he had left Paris nearly two years before.
Further information told us that, before disposing of his property, he
had imprudently indulged in a certain ostentation of fortune, and had
embarked for the new settlements of Pondicherry.

M. Colbert, who is still living, charged our governor to discover the
culprit for him; and he was sent back to us with his hands and feet
bound.

Put to the question, he denied at first, then confessed his crime. One
of my chamber - maids, to whom he had made feigned love, introduced him
into my house while I was away, and by the aid of this imprudent woman he
had penetrated into my closets. The crown of Agrippina, which it had
been necessary to show him because of the measures, had become almost as
dear to him as to myself; and his ambition of another kind inspired him
with his criminal and fatal temerity.

He did no good by petitioning me, and having me solicited after the
sentence; I let him hang, as he richly deserved.

The King said on this occasion: "This casketmaker has, at least, left us
the setting, but M. Cromwell took all."

The fortunate success of this affair restored me, not to cheerfulness,
but to that honourable calm which had fled far away from me. I made a
reflection this time on my extreme imprudence, and understood that all
the generosities of love are often no more than loans. I noticed amongst
my jewels a goblet of gold, wrought with diamonds and rubies, which came
from the first of the Medici princesses. I waited for the King's fete to
return this magnificent ornament to him nobly. I had a lily executed,
all of emeralds and fine pearls; I poured essence of roses into the cup,
placed in it the stem of the lily, in the form of a bouquet for the
prince, and that was my present for Saint Louis's day.

I gave back to the King, by degrees, at least three millions' worth of
important curiosities, which were like drops of water poured into the
ocean. But I was anxious that, if God destined me to perish by a sudden
death, objects of this nature should not be seen and discovered amid my
treasure.

As to my other diamonds, either changed in form or acquired and collected
by myself, I destine them for my four children by the King. These pomps
will have served to delight my eyes, which are pleased with them, and
then they will go down to their first origin and source, belonging again
to the Bourbons whom I have made.




CHAPTER XLI.

The Duchesse de Lesdiguieres. - Her Jest. - "The Chaise of
Convenience." - Anger of the Jesuits. - They Ally Themselves with the
Archbishop of Paris. - The Forty Hours' Prayers. - Thanks of the Marquise
to the Prelate. - His Visit to Saint Joseph. - Anger of the Marquise. - Her
Welcome to the Prelate.


The insult offered me at the Comedie Francaise by a handful of the
thoughtless immediately spread through the capital, and became, as it is
easy to imagine, the talk of all the salons. I was aware that the
Duchesse de Lesdiguieres was keenly interested in this episode, and had
embellished and, as it were, embroidered it with her commentaries and
reflections. All these women who misconduct themselves are pitiless and
severe. The more their scandalous conduct brands them on the forehead,
the more they cry out against scandal. Their whole life is bemired with
vice, and their mouth articulates no other words than prudence and
virtue, like those corrupt and infected doctors who have no indulgence
for their patients.

The Duchesse de Lesiguieres, for a long time associated with the
Archbishop of Paris, and known to live with that prelate like a miller
with his wife, dared to say, in her salon that my presence at Racine's
tragedy was, at the least, very useless, and the public having come there
to see a debutante, certainly did not expect me.

The phrase was repeated to me, word for word by my sister De Thianges,
who did not conceal her anger, and wished to avenge me, if I did not
avenge myself. The Marquise then informed me of another thing, which she
had left me in ignorance of all along, from kind motives chiefly, and to
prevent scandal.

"You remember, my sister," said the Marquise to me, "a sort of jest which
escaped you when Pere de la Chaise made the King communicate, in spite of
all the noise of his new love affair and the follies of Mademoiselle de
Fontanges? You nicknamed that benevolent Jesuit 'the Chaise of
Convenience.' Your epigram made all Paris laugh except the hypocrites
and the Jesuits. Those worthy men resolved to have full satisfaction for
your insult by stirring up the whole of Paris against you. The
Archbishop entered readily into their plot, for he thought you
supplanted; and he granted them the forty Hours' Prayers, to obtain from
God your expulsion from Court. Harlay, who is imprudent only in his
debauches, preserved every external precaution, because of the King,
whose temper he knows; he told the Jesuits that they must not expect
either his pastoral letter or his mandate, but he allowed them secret
commentaries, the familiar explanations of the confessional; he charged
them to let the other monks and priests into the secret, and the field of
battle being decided, the skirmishes began. With the aid and assistance
of King David, that trivial breastplate of every devotional insult, the
preachers announced to their congregations that they must fast and
mortify themselves for the cure of King David, who had fallen sick. The
orators favoured with some wit embellished their invectives; the ignorant
and coarse amongst the priests spoiled everything. The Blessed Sacrament
was exposed for a whole week in the churches, and it ended by an
announcement to Israel, that their cry had reached the firmament, that
David had grown cold to Bathsheba (they did not add, nevertheless, that
David preferred another to Bathsheba with his whole heart). But the
Duchesse de Fontanges gave offence neither to the Archbishop of Paris nor
to the Jesuits. Her mind showed no hostility. The beauty was quite
incapable of saying in the face of the world that a Jesuit resembled a
'Chaise of Convenience.'

"The Duchesse de Lesdiguieres, covered with rouge and crimes, has put
herself at the head of all these intrigues," added my sister; "and
without having yet been able to subdue herself to the external parade of
devotion, she has allowed herself to use against you all the base tricks
of the most devout hypocrites."

"Let me act," I said to my sister; "this lady's good offices call for a
mark of my gratitude. The Forty Hours' Prayer is an attention that is
not paid to every one; I owe M. de Paris my thanks."

I went and sat down at my writing-table, and wrote this fine prelate the
following honeyed missive:

I have only just been informed, monseigneur, of the pains you have been
at with God for the amelioration of the King and of myself. The gratitude
which I feel for it cannot be expressed. I pray you to believe it to be
as pure and sincere as your intention. A good bishop, as perfect and
exemplary as yourself, is worthy of taking a passionate interest in the
regularity of monarchs, and ours must owe you the highest rewards for
this new mark of respect which it has pleased you to give him. I will
find expressions capable of making him feel all that he owes to your
Forty Hours' Prayer, and to that Christian and charitable emotion cast in
the midst of a capital and a public. To all that only your mandate of
accusation and allegorical sermons are lacking. Cardinals' hats, they
say, are made to the measure of strong heads; we will go seek, in the
robing-rooms of Rome, if there be one to meet the proportions of your
ability. If ladies had as much honourable influence over the Vicar of
Jesus Christ as simple bishops allow them, I should solicit, this very
day, your wished-for recompense and exaltation. But it is the monarch's
affair; he will undertake it. I can only offer you, in my own person, M.
Archbishop of Paris, my prayers for yours. My little church of Saint
Joseph has not the same splendour as your cathedral; but the incense that
we burn there is of better quality than yours, for I get it from the
Sultan of Persia. I will instruct my little community to-morrow to hold
our Forty Hours' Prayer, that God may promptly cure you of your Duchesse
de Lesdiguieres, who has been damning you for fourteen years.

Deign to accept these most sincere reprisals, and believe me, without
reserve, Monsieur the Archbishop,

THE MARQUISE DE MONTESPAN.

This letter cast the camp into alarm. There were goings and comings
between the Episcopal Palace and the Jesuits of the Rue Saint Antoine,
and from this professed house to their College of Louis le Grand. The
matadores of the society were of opinion that I should be conciliated by
every possible means, and it was arranged that the Archbishop should pay
me a visit at Saint Joseph's, on the earliest possible occasion, to
exculpate his virtuous colleagues and make me accept his disclaimers. He
came, in effect, the following week. I made him wait for half an hour in
the chapel, for half an hour in my parlour, and I ascended into my
carriage, almost in his presence, without deigning either to see or
salute him.

The mother of four legitimised princes was not made to support such
outrages, nor to have interviews with their insolent authors.

Alarms, anxieties of consciences, weak but virtuous, have always found me
gentle, and almost resigned; the false scruples of hypocrites and
libertines will never receive from me aught but disdain and contempt.




CHAPTER XLII.

The Verse of Berenice. - Praises of Boileau. - The King's Aversion to
Satirical Writers. - The Painter Le Brun. - His Bacchus. - The
Waterbottle. - The Pyramid of Jean Chatel Injurious to the Jesuits. - They
Solicit Its Demolition. - Madame de Maintenon's Opposition. - Political
Views of Henri IV. on This Matter. - The Jesuits of Paris Proclaim the
Dedication of Their College to Louis the Great. - The Gold Pieces.


Whatever be the issue of a liaison which cannot probably be eternal, I
have too much judgment and equity to deny the King the great talents
which are his by nature, or to dispute the surname of Great which has
been given him in his lifetime, and which the ages to come must surely
preserve. But here I am writing secret Memoirs, where I set down, as in
a mirror, the most minute traits of the personages whom I bring on the
stage, and I wish to relate in what manner and with what aim this
apotheosis affected the mind of those who flattered the prince in their
own interest.

The painters and sculptors, most artful of courtiers in their calling,
had already represented the King, now with the attributes of Apollo, now
in the costume of the god Mars, of Jupiter Tonans, Neptune, lord of the
waves; now with the formidable and vigorous appearance of the great
Hercules, who strangled serpents even in his cradle.

His Majesty saw all these ingenious allegories, examined them without
vanity, with no enthusiasm, and seemed to regard them as accessories
inherent to the composition, as conventional ornaments, the good and
current small change of art. The adulations of Racine, in his
"Berenice," having all a foundation of truth, please him, but chiefly for
the grace of the poetry; and he sometimes recited them, when he wished to
recall and quote some fine verse.

The praises of Boileau, although well versified, had not, however, the
fortune to please him. He found those verses too methodical for poetry;
and the poet, moreover, seemed to him somewhat a huckster, and in bad
taste. The satirists might do what they liked, they never had his
friendship. Perhaps he feared them.

When Le Brun started preparing the magnificent cradle of the great
gallery, he composed for the ceiling rich designs or cartoons, which in
their entirety should represent the victories and great military or
legislative achievements of the prince. His work being finished, he came
to present it to his Majesty, who on that day was dining with me. In one
of the compartments the painter had depicted his hero in the guise of
Bacchus; the King immediately took up a bottle of clear water and drank a
big glass. I gave a great peal of laughter, and said to M. le Brun, "You
see, monsieur, his Majesty's decision in that libation of pure water."

M. le Brun changed his design, seeing the King had no love for Bacchus,
but he left the Thundering Jove, and all the other mythological
flatteries, in regard to which no opinion had been given.

The Jesuits for a long time past had groaned at seeing, exactly opposite
the Palace, - [In the midst of the semicircle in front of the Palais de
Justice.] - in the centre of Paris, that humiliating pyramid which
accused them of complicity with, or inciting, the famous regicide of the
student, Jean Chatel, assassin of Henri IV. Pere de la Chaise, many
times and always in vain, had prayed his Majesty to render justice to the
virtues of his order, and to command the destruction of this slanderous
monument. The King had constantly refused, alleging to-day one motive,
to-morrow another. One day, when the professed House of Paris came to
hand him a respectful petition on the subject, his Majesty begged Madame
de Maintenon to read it to him, and engaged us to listen to it with
intelligence, in order to be able to give an opinion.

The Jesuits said in this document that the Parliament, with an excessive
zeal, had formerly pushed things much too far in this matter. "For that
Jean Chatel, student with the Jesuit Fathers, having been heard to say to
his professor that the King of Navarre, a true Huguenot, ought not to
reign over France, which was truly Catholic, the magistrates were not,
therefore, justified in concluding that that Jesuit, and all the Jesuits,
had directed the dagger of Jean Chatel, a madman."

The petition further pointed out that "the good King Henri IV., who was
better informed, had decided to recall the Society of Jesus, had
reestablished it in all his colleges, and had even chosen a confessor
from their ranks.

"This fearful pyramid, surcharged with wrathful inscriptions," added the
petition, "designates our Society as a perpetual hotbed of regicidal
conspiracy, and presents us to credulous people as an association of
ambitious, thankless and corrupt assassins!"

[This monument represented a sort of small square temple, built of
Arcueil stone and marble. Corinthian fluted pillars formed its general
decoration, and enshrined the four fulminatory inscriptions.
Independently of the obelisk, the cupola of this temple bore eight
allegorical statues, of which the one was France in mourning; the second,
Justice raising her sword, and the others the principal virtues of the
King. On the principal side these words occurred: "Passer-by, whosoever
thou be, abhor Jean Chatel, and the Jesuits who beguiled his youth and
destroyed his reason." - EDITOR'S NOTE.]

"In the name of God, Sire, do away with this criminal and dangerous
memento of old passions, unjust hatreds, and the spirit of impiety which,
after having led astray magistrates devoid of light, serves to-day only
to beguile new generations, whom excess of light blinds," etc., etc.

When this letter was finished, the King said:

"I have never seen, the famous pyramid; one of these days I will escape,
so that I can see it without being observed." And then his Majesty asked
me what I thought of the petition. I answered that I did not understand
the inconsistency of M. de Sully, who, after consenting to the return of
the Jesuits, had left in its place the monument which accused and branded
them. I put it on Sully, the minister, because I dared not attack Henri
IV. himself.

The King answered me: "There are faults of negligence such as that in
every government and under the best administrations. King Henri my
grandfather was vivacity itself. He was easily irritated; he grew calm
in the same way. For my part, I think that he pardoned the Jesuits, as
he had the Leaguers, in the hope that his clemency would bring them all
into peaceful disposition; in which he was certainly succeeding when a
miscreant killed him."

Madame de Maintenon, begged to give her opinion, expressed herself in
these terms: "Sire, this petition cannot be other than extremely well
done, since a society of clever minds have taken the work in hand. We
have not the trial of Jean Chatel before our eyes, with his
interrogatories; it is impossible for us, then, to pronounce on the
facts. In any case, there is one thing very certain: the Jesuits who are
living at present are innocent, and most innocent of the faults of their



Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 27 of 30)