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Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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denied?"

When this species of miscarriage had to be buried, as there was urgent
need to get rid of it, Monsieur uttered loud cries, and said that he had
written to his brother so that there might be a grand funeral service at
Saint Denis.

Of so absurd a proposal as this no notice was taken, which served to
amaze Monsieur for one whole month.




CHAPTER X.

M. Colbert. - His Origin. - He Unveils and Displays Mazarin's Wealth. - The
Monarch's Liberality. - Resentment of the Cardinal's Heirs.


A few moments before he died, Cardinal Mazarin, through strategy, not
through repentance, besought the King to accept a deed of gift whereby he
was appointed his universal legatee. Touched by so noble a resolve, the
King gave back the deed to his Eminence, who shed tears of emotion.

"Sire, I owe all to you," said the dying man to the young prince, "but I
believe that I shall pay off my debt by giving Colbert, my secretary, to
your Majesty. Faithful as he has been to me, so will he be to you; and
while he keeps watch, you may sleep. He comes from the noble family of
Coodber, of Scottish origin, and his sentiments are worthy of his
ancestors."

A few moments later the death-agony began, and M. Colbert begged the King
to listen to him in an embrasure. There, taking a pencil, he made out a
list of all the millions which the Cardinal had hidden away in various
places. The monarch bewailed his minister, his tutor, his friend, but so
astounding a revelation dried his tears. He affectionately thanked M.
Colbert, and from that day forward gave him his entire consideration and
esteem.

M. Colbert was diligent enough to seize upon the millions hidden at
Vincennes, the millions secreted in the old Louvre, at Courbevoie and the
other country seats. But the millions in gold, hidden in the bastions of
La Fere, fell into the hands of heirs, who, a few moments after the
commencement of the Cardinal's death-agony, sent off a valet post-haste.

The Cardinal's family pretended to know nothing of this affair; but they
could never bear M. Colbert nor any of his kinsfolk. The King, being of
a generous nature, distributed all this wealth in the best and most
liberal manner possible. M. Colbert told him to what use Mazarin meant
to put all these riches; he hoped to have prevailed upon the Conclave to
elect him Pope, with the concurrence of Spain, France, and the Holy
Ghost.




CHAPTER XI.

The Young Queen. - Her Portrait. - Her Whims. - Her Love for the King. - Her
Chagrin.


MARIA THERESA, the King's new consort, was the daughter of the King of
Spain and Elizabeth of France, daughter of Henri IV. At the time of her
marriage she had lost her mother, and it was King Philip, Anne of
Austria's brother, who himself presented her to us at Saint Jean de Luz,
where he signed the peace-contract. The Spanish monarch admired his
nephew, the King, whose stalwart figure, comely face, and polished
manners, were, indeed, well calculated to excite surprise.

Anne of Austria had said to him, "My brother, my one fear during your
journey was lest your ailments and the hardships of travel should hinder
you from getting back here again."

"Was such your thought, sister?" replied the good man. "I would
willingly have come on foot, so as to behold with my own eyes the superb
cavalier that you and I are going to give to my daughter."

After the oath of peace had been sworn upon the Gospels, there was a
general presentation before the two Kings. Cantocarrero, the Castilian
secretary of state, presented the Spanish notabilities, while Cardinal
Mazarin, in his pontifical robes, presented the French. As he announced
M. de Turenne, the old King looked at him repeatedly. "There's one,"
quoth he, "who has given me many a sleepless night."

M. de Turenne bowed respectfully, and both courts could perceive in his
simple bearing his unaffected modesty.

On leaving Spain and the King, young princess was moved to tears. Next
day she thought nothing of it at all. She was wholly engrossed by the
possession of such a King, nor was she at any pains to hide her glee from
us.

Of all her Court ladies I was the most youthful and, perhaps, the most
conspicuous. At the outset the Queen showed a wish to take me into her
confidence but it was the lady-in-waiting who would never consent to
this.

When, at that lottery of the Cardinal's, I won the King's portrait, the
Queen-mother called me into her closet and desired to know how such a
thing could possibly have happened. I replied that, during the
garter-incident, the two tickets had got mixed. "Ah, in that case," said
the princess, "the occurrence was quite a natural one. So keep this
portrait, since it has fallen into your hands; but, for God's sake, don't
try and make yourself pleasant to my son; for you're only too fascinating
as it is. Look at that little La Valliere, what a mess she has got into,
and what chagrin she has caused my poor Maria Theresa!"

I replied to her Majesty that I would rather let myself be buried alive
than ever imitate La Valliere, and I said so then because that was really
what I thought.

The Queen-mother softened, and gave me her hand to kiss, now addressing
me as "madame," and anon as "my daughter." A few days afterwards she
wished to walk in the gallery with me, and said to me, "If God suffers me
to live, I will make you lady-in-waiting; be sure of that."

Anne of Austria was a tall, fine, dark woman, with brown eyes, like those
of the King. The Infanta, her niece, is a very pretty blonde, blue-eyed,
but short in stature.

To her slightest words the Queen-mother gives sense and wit; her
daughter-in-law's speeches and actions are of the simplest, most
commonplace kind. Were it not for the King, she would pass her life in a
dressing-gown, night-cap, and slippers. At Court ceremonies and on
gala-days, she never appears to be in a good humour; everything seems to
weigh her down, notably her diamonds.

However, she has no remarkable defect, and one may say that she is devoid
of goodness, just as she is devoid of badness. When coming among us, she
contrived to bring with her Molina, the daughter of her nurse, a sort of
comedy confidante, who soon gave herself Court airs, and who managed to
form a regular little Court of her own. Without her sanction nothing can
be obtained of the Queen. My lady Molina is the great, the small, and
the unique counsellor of the princess, and the King, like the others,
remains submissive to her decisions and her inspection.

French cookery, by common consent, is held to be well-nigh perfect in its
excellence; yet the Infanta could never get used to our dishes. The
Senora Molina, well furnished with silver kitchen utensils, has a sort of
private kitchen or scullery reserved for her own use, and there it is
that the manufacture takes place of clove-scented chocolate, brown soups
and gravies, stews redolent with garlic, capsicums, and nutmeg, and all
that nauseous pastry in which the young Infanta revels.

Ever since La Valliere's lasting triumph, the Queen seems to have got it
into her head that she is despised; and at table I have often heard her
say, "They will help themselves to everything, and won't leave me
anything."

I am not unjust, and I admit that a husband's public attachments are not
exactly calculated to fill his legitimate consort with joy. But,
fortunately for the Infanta, the King abounds in rectitude and
good-nature. This very good-nature it is which prompts him to use all
the consideration of which a noble nature is capable, and the more his
amours give the Queen just cause for anxiety, the more does he redouble
his kindness and consideration towards her. Of this she is sensible.
Thus she acquiesces, and, as much through tenderness as social tact, she
never reproaches or upbraids him with anything. Nor does the King
scruple to admit that, to secure so good-natured a partner, it is well
worth the trouble of going to fetch her from the other end of the world.




CHAPTER XII.

Madame de la Valliere Becomes Duchess. - Her Family is Resigned. - Her
Children Recognised by the King. - Madame Colbert Their Governess. - The
King's Passion Grows More Serious. - Love and Friendship.


Out of affection and respect for the Queen-mother, the King had until
then sought to conceal the ardour of his attachment for Mademoiselle de
la Valliere. It was after the six months of mourning that he shook off
all restraint, showing that, like any private person, he felt himself
master of his actions and his inclinations.

He gave the Vaujours estate to his mistress, after formally constituting
it a duchy, and, owing to the two children of his duchy, Mademoiselle de
la Valliere assumed the title of Duchess. What a fuss she made at this
time! All that was styled disinterestedness, modesty. Not a bit of it.
It was pusillanimity and a sense of servile fear. La Valliere would have
liked to enjoy her handsome lover in the shade and security of mystery,
without exposing herself to the satire of courtiers and of the public,
and, above all, to the reproaches of her family and relatives, who nearly
all were very devout.

On this head, however, she soon saw that such fears were exaggerated. The
Marquise de Saint-Remy was but slightly scandalised at what was going on.
She and the Marquis de Saint-Remy, her second husband, strictly proper
though they were, came to greet their daughter when proclaimed duchess.
And when, a few days afterwards, the King declared the rank of the two
children to the whole of assembled Parliament, the two families of
Saint-Remy and La Valliere offered congratulations to the Duchess, and
received those of all Paris.

M. Colbert, who owed everything to the King, entrusted Madame Colbert
with the education of the new prince and princess; they were brought up
under the eyes of this statesman, who for everything found time and
obligingness. The girl, lovely as love itself, took the name of
Mademoiselle de Blois, while to her little brother was given the title of
Comte de Vermandois.

It was just about this time that I noticed the beginning of the monarch's
serious attachment for me. Till then it had been only playful badinage,
good-humoured teasing, a sort of society play, in which the King was
rehearsing his part as a lover. I was at length bound to admit that
chaff of this sort might end in something serious, and his Majesty begged
me to let him have La Valliere for some time longer.

I have already said that, while becoming her rival, I still remained her
friend. Of this she had countless proofs, and when, at long intervals, I
saw her again in her dismal retreat, her good-nature, unchanging as this
was, caused her to receive and welcome me as one welcomes those one
loves.




CHAPTER XIII.

First Vocation of Mademoiselle de la Valliere. - The King Surprises His
Mistress. - She is Forced to Retire to a Convent. - The King Hastens to
Take Her Back. - She Was Not Made for Court Life. - Her Farewell to the
King. - Sacrifice. - The Abbe de Bossuet.


What I am now about to relate, I have from her own lips, nor am I the
only one to whom she made such recitals and avowals.

Her father died when she was quite young, and, when dying, foresaw that
his widow, being without fortune or constancy, would ere long marry
again. To little Louise he was devotedly attached. Ardently embracing
her, he addressed her thus:

"In losing me, my poor little Louise, you lose all. What little there is
of my inheritance ought, undoubtedly, to belong to you; but I know your
mother; she will dispose of it. If my relatives do not show the interest
in you which your fatherless state should inspire, renounce this world
soon, where, separated from your father, there exists for you but danger
and misfortune. Two of my ancestors left their property to the nuns of
Saint Bernard at Gomer-Fontaines, as they are perfectly well aware. Go to
them in all confidence; they will receive you without a dowry even; it is
their duty to do so. If, disregarding my last counsel, you go astray in
the world, from the eternal abodes on high I will watch over you; I will
appear to you, if God empower me to do so; and, at any rate, from time to
time I will knock at the door of your heart to rouse you from your
baleful slumber and draw your attention to the sweet paths of light that
lead to God."

This speech of a dying father was graven upon the heart of a young girl
both timid and sensitive. She never forgot it; and it needed the fierce,
inexplicable passion which took possession of her soul to captivate her
and carry her away so far.

Before becoming attached to the King, she opened out her heart to me with
natural candour; and whenever in the country she observed the turrets or
the spire of a monastery, she sighed, and I saw her beautiful blue eyes
fill with tears.

She was maid of honour to the Princess Henrietta of England, and I filled
a like office. Our two companions, being the most quick-witted, durst
not talk about their love-affairs before Louise, so convinced were we of
her modesty, and almost of her piety.

In spite of that, as she was gentle, intelligent, and well-bred, the
Princess plainly preferred her to the other three. In temperament they
suited each other to perfection.

The King frequently came to the Palais Royal, where the bright, pleasant
conversation of his sister-in-law made amends for the inevitable boredom
which one suffered when with the Queen.

Being brought in such close contact with the King, who in private life is
irresistibly attractive, Mademoiselle de la Valliere conceived a violent
passion for him; yet, owing to modesty or natural timidity, it was plain
that she carefully sought to hide her secret. One fine night she and two
young persons of her own age were seated under a large oak-tree in the
grounds of Saint Germain. The Marquis de Wringhen, seeing them in the
moonlight, said to the King, who was walking with him, "Let us turn
aside, Sire, in this direction; yonder there are three solitary nymphs,
who seem waiting for fairies or lovers." Then they noiselessly
approached the tree that I have mentioned, and lost not a word of all the
talk in which the fair ladies were engaged.

They were discussing the last ball at the chateau. One extolled the
charms of the Marquis d'Alincour, son of Villeroi; the second mentioned
another young nobleman; while the third frankly expressed herself in
these terms:

"The Marquis d'Alincour and the Prince de Marcillac are most charming, no
doubt, but, in all conscience, who could be interested in their merits
when once the King appeared in their midst?

"Oh, oh!" cried the two others, laughing, "it's strange to hear you talk
like that; so, one has to be a king in order to merit your attention?"

"His rank as king," replied Mademoiselle de la Valliere, "is not the
astonishing part about him; I should have recognised it even in the
simple dress of a herdsman."

The three chatterers then rose and went back to the chateau. Next day,
the King, wholly occupied with what he had overheard on the previous
evening, sat musing on a sofa at his sister-in-law's, when all at once
the voice of Mademoiselle de la Beaume-le-Blanc smote his ear and brought
trouble to his heart. He saw her, noticed her melancholy look, thought
her lovelier than the loveliest, and at once fell passionately in love.

They soon got to understand one another, yet for a long while merely
communicated by means of notes at fetes, or during the performance of
allegorical ballets and operettas, the airs in which sufficiently
expressed the nature of such missives.

In order to put the Queen-mother off the scent and screen La Valliere,
the King pretended to be in love with Mademoiselle de la
Mothe-Houdancour, one of the Queen's maids of honour. He used to talk
across to her out of one of the top-story windows, and even wished her to
accept a present of diamonds. But Madame de Navailles, who took charge
of the maids of honour, had gratings put over the top-story windows, and
La Mothe-Houdancour was so chagrined by the Queen's icy manner towards
her that she withdrew to a convent. As to the Duchesse de Navailles and
her husband, they got rid of their charges and retired to their estates,
where great wealth and freedom were their recompense after such pompous
Court slavery.

The Queen-mother was still living; unlike her niece, she was not
blindfold. The adventure of Mademoiselle de la Mothe-Houdancour seemed
to her just what it actually was, - a subterfuge; as she surmised, it
could only be La Valliere. Having discovered the name of her confessor,
the Queen herself went in disguise to the Theatin Church, flung herself
into the confessional where this man officiated, and promised him the sum
of thirty thousand francs for their new church if he would help her to
save the King.

The Theatin promised to do what the Queen thus earnestly desired, and
when his fair penitent came to confess, he ordered her at once to break
off her connection with the Court as with the world, and to shut herself
up in a convent.

Mademoiselle de la Valliere shed tears, and sought to make certain
remarks, but the confessor, a man of inflexible character, threatened her
with eternal damnation, and he was obeyed.

Beside herself with grief, La Valliere left by another door, so as to
avoid her servants and her coach. She recollected seeing a little
convent of hospitalieres at Saint Cloud; she went thither on foot, and
was cordially welcomed by these dames.

Next day it was noised abroad in the chateau that she had been carried
off by order of the Queen-mother. During vespers the King seemed greatly
agitated, and no sooner had the preacher ascended the pulpit than he rose
and disappeared.

The confusion of the two Queens was manifest; no one paid any heed to the
preacher; he scarcely knew where he was.

Meanwhile the conquering King had started upon his quest. Followed by a
page and a carriage and pair, he first went to Chaillot, and then to
Saint Cloud, where he rang at the entrance of the modest abode which
harboured his friend. The nun at the turnstile answered him harshly, and
denied him an audience. It is true, he only told her he was a cousin or
a relative.

Seeing that this nun was devoid of sense and of humanity, he bethought
himself of endeavouring to persuade the gardener, who lived close to the
monastery. He slipped several gold pieces into his hand, and most
politely requested him to go and tell the Lady Superior that he had come
thither on behalf of the King.

The Lady Superior came down into the parlour, and recognising the King
from a superb miniature, besought him of his grandeur to interest himself
in this young lady of quality, devoid of means and fatherless, and
consented, moreover, to give her up to him, since as King he so
commanded.

Louise de la Beaume-le-Blanc obeyed the King, or in other words, the
dictates of her own heart, imprudently embarking upon a career of
passion, for which a temperament wholly different from hers was needed.
It is not simple-minded maidens that one wants at Court to share the
confidence of princes. No doubt natures of that sort - simple,
disinterested souls are pleasant and agreeable to them, as therein they
find contentment such as they greedily prize; but for these unsullied,
romantic natures, disillusion, trickery alone is in store. And if
Mademoiselle de la Beaumele-Blanc had listened to me, she might have
turned matters to far better account; nor, after yielding up her youth to
a monarch, would she have been obliged to end, her days in a prison.

The King no longer visited her as his mistress, but trusted and esteemed
her as a friend and as the mother of his two pretty children.

One day, in the month of April, 1674, his Majesty, while in the gardens,
received the following letter, which one of La Valliere's pages proffered
him on bended knee:

SIRE: - To-day I am leaving forever this palace, whither the cruellest of
fatalities summoned my youth and inexperience. Had I not met you, my
heart would have loved seclusion, a laborious life, and my kinsfolk. An
imperious inclination, which I could not conquer, gave me to you, and,
simple, docile as I was by nature, I believed that my passion would
always prove to me delicious, and that your love would never die. In
this world nothing endures. My fond attachment has ceased to have any
charm for you, and my heart is filled with dismay. This trial has come
from God; of this my reason and my faith are convinced. God has felt
compassion for my unspeakable grief. That which for long past I have
suffered is greater than human force can bear; He is going to receive me
into His home of mercy. He promises me both healing and peace.

In this theatre of pomp and perfidy I have only stayed until such a
moment as my daughter and her youthful brother might more easily do
without me. You will cherish them both; of that I have no doubt. Guide
them, I beseech you, for the sake of your own glory and their well-being.
May your watchful care sustain them, while their mother, humbled and
prostrate in a cloister, shall commend them to Him who pardons all.

After my departure, show some kindness to those who were my servants and
faithful domestics, and deign to take back the estates and residences
which served to support me in my frivolous grandeur, and maintain the
celebrity that I deplore.

Adieu, Sire! Think no more about me, lest such a feeling, to which my
imagination might but all too readily lend itself, only beget links of
sympathy in my heart which conscience and repentance would fain destroy.

If God call me to himself, young though yet I am, He will have granted my
prayers; if He ordain me to live for a while longer in this desert of
penitence, it will never compensate for the duration of my error, nor for
the scandal of which I have been the cause.

Your subject from this time forth, LOUISE DE LA VALLIERE.

The King had not been expecting so desperate a resolve as this, nor did
he feel inclined to hinder her from making it. He left the Portuguese
ambassador, who witnessed his agitation, and hastened to Madame de la
Valliere's, who had left her apartments in the castle at daybreak. He
shed tears, being kind of heart and convinced that a body so graceful and
so delicate would never be able to resist the rigours and hardships of so
terrible a life.

The Carmelite nuns of the Rue Saint Jacques loudly proclaimed this
conversion, and in their vanity gladly received into their midst so
modest and distinguished a victim, driven thither through sheer despair.

The ceremony which these dames call "taking the dress" attracted the
entire Court to their church. The Queen herself desired to be present at
so harrowing a spectacle, and by a curious contradiction, of which her
capricious nature is capable, she shed floods of tears. La Valliere
seemed gentler, lovelier, more modest and more seductive than ever. In
the midst of the grief and tears which her courageous sacrifice provoked,
she never uttered a single sigh, nor did she change colour once. Hers
was a nature made for extremes; like Caesar, she said to herself, "Either
Rome or nothing!"

The Abbe de Bossuet, who had been charged to preach the sermon of
investiture, showed a good deal of wit by exhibiting none at all. The
King must have felt indebted to him for such reserve. Into his discourse
he had put mere vague commonplaces, which neither touch nor wound any
one; honeyed anathemas such as these may even pass for compliments.

This prelate has won for himself a great name and great wealth by words.
A proof of his cleverness exists in his having lived in grandeur,
opulence, and worldly happiness, while making people believe that he
condemned such things.




CHAPTER XIV.

Story of the Queen-mother's Marriage with Cardinal Mazarin Published in
Holland.


Despite the endeavours made by the ministers concerning the pamphlet or
volume about which I am going to speak, neither they nor the King
succeeded in quashing a sinister rumour and an opinion which had taken
deep root among the people. Ever since this calumny it believes - and
will always believe - in the twin brother of Louis XIV., suppressed, one
knows not why, by his mother, just as one believes in fairy-tales and
novels. This false rumour, invented by far-seeing folk, is that which
has most affected the King. I will recount the manner in which it
reached him.

Since the disorder and insolence of the Fronde, this prince did not like



Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 3 of 30)