Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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He came towards me with a friendly air, and, hardly remarking my
agitation, which I was suppressing, he dared to address the following
words to me:

"The shortest follies are the best, dear Marquise; you see things at last
as they should be seen. Your determination, which the Marechal de
Vivonne has just informed me of, gives me inexpressible pleasure; you are
going to take the step of a clever woman, and everybody will applaud you
for it. It will be eighteen years to-morrow since we took a fancy for
each other. We were then in that period of life when one sees only that
which flatters, and the satisfaction of the heart surpasses everything.
Our attachment, if it had been right and legitimate, might have begun
with the same ardour, but it could not have endured so long; that is the
property of all contested affections.

"From our union amiable children have been born, for whom I have done,
and will do, all that a father with good intentions can do. The Act
which acknowledged them in full Parliament has not named you as their
mother, because your bonds prevented it, but these respectful children
know that they owe you their existence, and not one of them shall forget
it while I live.

"You have charmed by your wit and the liveliness of your character the
busiest years of my life and reign. That pleasant memory will never
leave me, and separated though we be, as good sense and propriety of
every kind demands, we shall still belong to each other in thought.
Athenais will always be to me the mother of my dear children. I have
been mindful up to this day, to increase at different moments the amount
of your fortune: I believe it to be considerable, and wish, nevertheless,
to add to it even more. If the pension that Vivonne had just suggested
to you appear insufficient, two lines from your pen will notify me that I
must increase it.

"Your children being proclaimed Princes of France, the Court will be
their customary residence, but you will see them frequently, and can
count on my commands. Here they are coming, - not to say good-bye to you,
but, as of old, to embrace you on the eve of a journey.

"If you are prudent, you will write first to the Marquis de Montespan,
not to annul and revoke the judicial and legal separation which exists,
but to inform him of your return to reasonable ideas, and of your resolve
to be reconciled with the public."

With these words the King ceased speaking. I looked at him with a fixed
gaze; a long sigh escaped from my heaving breast, and I had with him, as
nearly as I can remember, the following conversation:

"I admire the sang-froid with which a prince who believes himself, and is
believed by the whole universe, to be magnanimous, gives the word of
dismissal to the tender friend of his youth, - to that friend who, by a
misfortune which is too well known, knew how to leave all and love him

"From the day when the friendship which had united us cooled and was
dissipated, you have resumed with regard to me that distance which your
rank authorises you, and on my side, I have submitted to see in you only
my King. This revolution has taken effect without any shock, or noise,
or scandal. It has continued for two years already; why should it not
continue in the same manner until the moment when my last two children no
longer require my eyes, and presence, and care? What sudden cause, what
urgent motive, can determine you to exclude me? Does not, then, the
humiliation which I have suffered for two years any longer satisfy your

"What!" cried the prince, in consternation, "is your resolution no longer
the same? Do you go back upon what you promised to your brother?"

"I do not change my resolution," I resumed at once; "the places which you
inhabit have neither charm nor attraction for my heart, which has always
detested treachery and falseness. I consent to withdraw myself from your
person, but on condition that the odious intriguer who has supplanted me
shall follow the unhappy benefactress who once opened to her the doors of
this palace. I took her from a state of misery, and she plunges daggers
into my breast."

"The Kings of Europe," said the prince, white with agitation and anger,
"have not yet laid down the law to me in my palace; you shall not make me
submit to yours, madame. The person whom, for far too long, you have
been offending and humiliating before my eyes, has ancestors who yield in
nothing to your forefathers, and if you have introduced her to this
palace, you have introduced here goodness, sweetness, talent, and virtue
itself. This enemy, whom you defame in every quarter, and who every day
excuses and justifies you, will abide near this throne, which her fathers
have defended and which her good counsel now defends. In sending you
today from a Court where your presence is without motive and pretext, I
wished to keep from your knowledge, and in kindness withdraw from your
eyes an event likely to irritate you, since everything irritates you.
Stay, madame, stay, since great catastrophes appeal to and amuse you;
after to-morrow you will be more than ever a supernumerary in this

At these words I realised that it was a question of the public triumph of
my rival. All my firmness vanished; my heart was, as it were, distorted
with the most rapid palpitations. I felt an icy coldness run through my
veins, and I fell unconscious upon my carpet.

My woman cameo to bring me help, and when my senses returned, I heard the
King saying to my intendant: "All this wearies me beyond endurance; she
must go this very day."

"Yes, I will go," I cried, seizing a dessert-knife which was on my
bureau. I rushed forward with a mechanical movement upon my little Comte
de Toulouse, whom I snatched from the hands of his father, and I was on
the verge of sacrificing this child.

I shudder every time I think of that terrible and desperate scene. But
reason had left me; sorrow filled my soul; I was no longer myself. My
reader must be penetrated by my misfortune and have compassion on me.

Madame de Maintenon, informed probably of this storm, arrived and
suddenly showed herself. To rush forward, snatch away the dagger and my
child was but one movement for her. Her tears coursed in abundance; and
the King, leaning on the marble of my chimney-piece, shed tears and
seemed to feel a sort of suffocation.

My women had removed my children. My intendant alone had remained in the
deep embrasure of a shutter; the poor man had affliction and terror
painted on his face. Madame de Maintenon had slightly wounded herself in
seizing my knife. I saw her tearing her handkerchief, putting on
lavender water in order to moisten the bandage. As she left me she took
my hand with an air of kindness, and her tears began again.

The King, seeing her go out, retired without addressing me a word. I
might call as much as I would; he did not return.

Until nightfall I seemed to be in a state of paralysis. My arms were
like lead; my will could no longer stir them. I was distressed at first,
and then I thanked God, who was delivering me from the torments of
existence. All night my body and soul moved in the torrent and waves of
a fever handed over to phantoms; I saw in turn the smiling plains of
Paradise and the dire domain of Hell. My children, covered with wounds,
asked me for pardon, kneeling before me; and Madame de Maintenon, one
mass of blood, reproached me for having killed her.

On the following day a copious blood-letting, prescribed by my doctor,
relieved my head and heart.

The following week Madame de Maintenon, entirely cured of her scratch,
consented to the King's will, which she had opposed in order to excite
it, and in the presence of the Marquis and Marquise de Montchevreuil, the
Duc de Noailles, the Marquis de Chamarante, M. Bontems, and Mademoiselle
Ninon, her permanent chambermaid, was married to the King of France and
Navarre in the chapel of the chateau.

The Abbe de Harlay, Archbishop of Paris, assisted by the Bishop of
Chartres and Pere de la Chaise, had the honour of blessing this marriage
and presenting the rings of gold. After the ceremony, which took place
at an early hour, and even by torchlight, there was a slight repast in
the small apartments. The same persons, taking carriages, then repaired
to Maintenon, where the great ceremony, the mass, and all that is
customary in such cases were celebrated.

At her return, Madame de Maintenon took possession of an extremely
sumptuous apartment that had been carefully arranged and furnished for
her. Her people continued to wear her livery, but she scarcely ever rode
any more except in the great carriage of the King, where we saw her in
the place which had been occupied by the Queen. In her interior the
title of Majesty was given her; and the King, when he had to speak of
her, only used the word Madame, without adding Maintenon, that having
become too familiar and trivial.

He was desirous of proclaiming her; she consistently opposed it, and this
prudent and wise conduct regained for her, little by little, the opinions
which had been shocked.

A few days after the marriage, my health being somewhat reestablished, I
went to Petit-Bourg; but the Marechal de Vivonne, his son Louis de
Vivonne, all the Mortemarts, all the Rochehouarts, Thianges, Damas,
Seignelays, Blainvilles, and Colberts, - in a word, counts, marquises,
barons, prelates, and duchesses, came to find me and attack me in my
desert, in order to represent to me that, since Madame de Maintenon was
the wife of the monarch, I owed her my homage and respectful compliments.
The whole family has done so, said these cruel relations; you only have
not yet fulfilled this duty. You must do it, in God's name. She has
neither airs nor hauteur; you will be marvellously well received. Your
resistance would compromise us all.

Not desiring to harm or displease my family, and wishing, above all, to
reinstate myself somewhat in the King's mind, I resolutely prepared for
this distressing journey, and God gave me the necessary strength to
execute it.

I appeared in a long robe of gold and silver before the new spouse of the
monarch. The King, who was sitting at a table, rose for a moment and
encouraged me by his greeting. I made the three pauses and three
reverences as I gradually approached Madame de Maintenon, who occupied a
large and rich armchair of brocade. She did not rise; etiquette forbade
it, and principally the presence of the all-powerful King of kings. Her
complexion, ordinarily pale, and with a very slight tone of pink, was
animated suddenly, and took all the colours of the rose. She made me a
sign to seat myself on a stool, and it seemed to me that her amiable gaze
apologised to me. She spoke to me of Petit-Bourg, of the waters of
Bourbon, of her country-place, of my children, and said to me, smiling
kindly: "I am going to confide in you. Monsieur le Prince has already
asked Mademoiselle de Names for his grandson, M. le Duc de Bourbon, and
his Highness promises us his granddaughter for our Duc du Maine. Two or
three years more, and we shall see all that."

After half an hour spent thus, I rose from this uncomfortable stool and
made my farewell reverences. Madame de Maintenon, profiting by the King
having leaned over to write, rose five or six inches in her chair, and
said to me these words: "Do not let us cease to love one another, I
implore you."

I went to rest myself in the poor apartment which was still mine, since
the keys had not yet been returned, and I sent for M. le Duc du Maine,
who said to me coldly: "I have much pleasure in seeing you again; we were
going to write to you."

I had come out from Madame de Maintenon by the door of mirrors, which
leads to the great gallery. There was much company there at the moment;
M. le Prince de Salm came to me and said: "Go and put on your peignoir;
you are flushed, and I can perfectly well understand why." He pressed my
hand affectionately. In all the salons they were eager to see me pass.
Some courageous persons came even within touch of my fan; and all were
more or less pleased with my mishap and downfall. I had seen all these
figures at my feet, and almost all were under obligations to me. I left
Versailles again very early. When I was seated in my carriage I noticed
the King, who, from the height of his balcony in the court of marble,
watched me set off and disappear.

I settled at Paris, where my personal interest and my great fortune gave
me an existence which many might have envied. I never returned to
Versailles, except for the weddings of my eldest daughter, and of my son,
the Serious; - [Louis Augusts de Bourbon, Duc du Maine, a good man,
somewhat devout and melancholy. (See the Memoirs of Dubois and
Richelieu.) - EDITOR'S NOTE.] - I always loved him better than he did me.

Pere de Latour, my director, obtained from me then, what I had refused
hitherto to everybody, a letter of reconciliation to M. le Marquis de
Montespan: I had foreseen the reply, which was that of an obstinate,
ill-bred, and evil man.

Pere de Latour, going further, wished to impose hard, not to say
murderous, penances on me; I begged him to keep within bounds, and not to
make me impatient. This Oratorian and his admirers have stated that I
wore a hair shirt and shroud. Pious slanders, every word of them! I give
many pensions and alms, that is to say, I do good to several families;
the good that I bestow about me will be more agreeable to God than any
harm I could do myself, and that I maintain.

The Marquis d'Antin, my son, since my disgrace.......



All the death-in-life of a convent
Always sold at a loss which must be sold at a given moment
Ambition puts a thick bandage over the eyes
And then he would go off, laughing in his sleeve
Armed with beauty and sarcasm
Cannot reconcile themselves to what exists
Conduct of the sort which cements and revives attachments
Console me on the morrow for what had troubled me to-day
Cuddlings and caresses of decrepitude
Depicting other figures she really portrays her own
Domestics included two nurses, a waiting-maid, a physician
Extravagant, without the means to be so
Grow like a dilapidated house; I am only here to repair myself
Happy with him as a woman who takes her husband's place can be
Hate me, but fear me
He contradicted me about trifles
He was not fool enough for his place
I myself being the first to make merry at it (my plainness)
In the great world, a vague promise is the same as a refusal
In Rome justice and religion always rank second to politics
In ill-assorted unions, good sense or good nature must intervene
In England a man is the absolute proprietor of his wife
Intimacy, once broken, cannot be renewed
It is easier to offend me than to deceive me
Jealous without motive, and almost without love
Kings only desire to be obeyed when they command
Knew how to point the Bastille cannon at the troops of the King
Laws will only be as so many black lines on white paper
Love-affair between Mademoiselle de la Valliere and the King
Madame de Sevigne
Madame de Montespan had died of an attack of coquetry
Not show it off was as if one only possessed a kennel
Permissible neither to applaud nor to hiss
Poetry without rhapsody
Present princes and let those be scandalised who will!
Respectful without servility
Satire without bitterness
Says all that he means, and resolutely means all that he can say
She awaits your replies without interruption
Situations in life where we are condemned to see evil done
Talent without artifice
That Which Often It is Best to Ignore
The King replied that "too much was too much"
The monarch suddenly enough rejuvenated his attire
The pulpit is in want of comedians; they work wonders there
Then comes discouragement; after that, habit
There is an exaggeration in your sorrow
These liars in surplice, in black cassock, or in purple
Time, the irresistible healer
Trust not in kings
Violent passion had changed to mere friendship
Weeping just as if princes had not got to die like anybody else
Went so far as to shed tears, his most difficult feat of all
What they need is abstinence, prohibitions, thwartings
When women rule their reign is always stormy and troublous
When one has seen him, everything is excusable
When one has been pretty, one imagines that one is still so
Wife: property or of furniture, useful to his house
Wish you had the generosity to show, now and again, less wit
Women who misconduct themselves are pitiless and severe
Won for himself a great name and great wealth by words
Would you like to be a cardinal? I can manage that
You know, madame, that he generally gets everything he wants

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