Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

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to reside in the capital; he soon invented pretexts for getting away from
it. The chateau of the Tuileries, built by Catherine de Medici at some
distance from the Louvre, was, really speaking, only a little
country-house and Trianon. The King conceived the plan of uniting this
structure with his palace at the Louvre, extending it on the Saint Roch
side and also on the side of the river, and this being settled, the
Louvre gallery would be carried on as far as the southern angle of the
new building, so as to form one whole edifice, as it now appears.

While these alterations were in progress, the Court quitted the Louvre
and the capital, and took up its permanent residence at Saint Germain.

Though ceasing to make a royal residence and home of Paris, his Majesty
did not omit to pay occasional visits to the centre of the capital. He
came incognito, sometimes on horseback, sometimes in a coach, and usually
went about the streets on foot. On these occasions he was dressed
carelessly, like any ordinary young man, and the better to ensure a
complete disguise, he kept continually changing either the colour of his
moustache or the colour and cut of his clothes. One evening, on leaving
the opera, just as he was about to open his carriage door, a man
approached him with a great air of mystery, and tendering a pamphlet,
begged him to buy it. To get rid of the importunate fellow, his Majesty
purchased the book, and never glanced at its contents until the following

Imagine his surprise and indignation! The following was the title of his

"Secret and Circumstantial Account of the Marriage of Anne of Austria,
Queen of France, with the Abbe Jules Simon Mazarin, Cardinal of the Holy
Roman Church. A new edition, carefully revised. Amsterdam."

Grave and phlegmatic by nature, the King was always master of his
feelings, a sign, this, of the noble-minded. He shut himself up in his
apartment, so as to be quite alone, and hastily perused the libellous

According to the author of it, King Louis XIII., being weak and languid,
and sapped moreover by secret poison, had not been able to beget any
heirs. The Queen, who secretly was Mazarin's mistress, had had twins by
the Abbe, only the prettier of the two being declared legitimate. The
other twin had been entrusted to obscure teachers, who, when it was time,
would give him up.

The princess, so the writer added, stung by qualms of conscience, had
insisted upon having her guilty intimacy purified by the sacrament of
marriage, to which the prime minister agreed. Then, mentioning the names
of such and such persons as witnesses, the book stated that "this
marriage was solemnised on a night in February, 1643, by Cardinal de
Sainte-Suzanne, a brother and servile creature of Mazarin's."

"This explains," added the vile print, "the zeal, perseverance, and
foolish ardour of the Queen Regent in defending her Italian against the
just opposition of the nobles, against the formal charges of the
magistrates, against the clamorous outcry, not only of Parisians, but of
all France. This explains the indifference, or rather the firm resolve,
on Mazarin's part; never to take orders, but to remain simply 'tonsure'
or 'minore', - he who controls at least forty abbeys, as well as a

"Look at the young monarch," it continued, "and consider how closely he
resembles his Eminence, the same haughty glance; the same uncontrolled
passion for pompous buildings, luxurious dress and equipages; the same
deference and devotion to the Queen-mother; the same independent customs,
precepts, and laws; the same aversion for the Parisians; the same
resentment against the honest folk of the Fronde."

This final phrase easily disclosed its origin; nor upon this point had
his Majesty the slightest shadow of a doubt.

The same evening he sent full instructions to the lieutenant-general of
police, and two days afterwards the nocturnal vendor of pamphlets found
himself caught in a trap.

The King wished him to be brought to Saint Germain, so that he might
identify him personally; and, as he pretended to be half-witted or an
idiot, he was thrown half naked into a dungeon. His allowance of dry
bread diminished day by day, at which he complained, and it was decided
to make him undergo this grim ordeal.

Under the pressure of hunger and thirst, the prisoner at length made a
confession, and mentioned a bookseller of the Quartier Latin, who, under
the Fronde, had made his shop a meeting-place for rebels.

The bookseller, having been put in the Bastille, and upon the same diet
as his salesman, stated the name of the Dutch printer who had published
the pamphlet. They sought to extract more from him, and reduced his diet
with such severity that he disclosed the entire secret.

This bookseller, used to a good square meal at home, found it impossible
to tolerate the Bastille fare much longer. Bound hand and foot, at his
final cross-examination he confessed that the work had emanated from the
Cardinal de Retz, or certain of his party.

He was condemned to three years' imprisonment, and was obliged to sell
his shop and retire to the provinces.

I once heard M. de Louvois tell this tale, and use it as a means of
silencing those who regretted the absence of the exiled

As to the libellous pamphlet itself, the clumsy nature of it was only too
plain, for the King is no more like Mazarin than he is like the King of
Ethiopia. On the contrary, one can easily distinguish in the general
effect of his features a very close resemblance to King Louis XIII.

The libellous pamphlet stated that, on the occasion of the Infanta's
first confinement, twins were born, and that the prettier of the two had
been adopted, another blunder, this, of the grossest kind. A book of
this sort could deceive only the working class and the Parisian lower
orders, for folk about the Court, and even the bourgeoisie, know that it
is impossible for a queen to be brought to bed in secret. Unfortunately
for her, she has to comply with the most embarrassing rules of etiquette.
She has to bear her final birth-pangs under an open canopy, surrounded at
no great distance by all the princes of the blood; they are summoned
thither, and they have this right so as to prevent all frauds,
subterfuges, or impositions.

When the King found the seditious book in question, the Queen, his
mother, was ill and in pain; every possible precaution was taken to
prevent her from hearing the news, and the lieutenant-general of police,
having informed the King that two-thirds of the edition had been seized
close to the Archbishop's palace, orders were given to burn all these
horrible books by night, in the presence of the Marquis de Beringhen,
appointed commissioner on this occasion.


Monsieur le Duc d'Orleans Wishes to be Governor of a Province. - The
King's Reply. - He Requires a Fauteuil for His Wife. - Another Excellent
Answer of the King's.

In marrying Monsieur, the King consulted only his well-known generosity,
and the richly equipped household which he granted to this prince should
assuredly have made him satisfied and content. The Chevalier de Lorraine
and the Chevalier de Remecourt, two pleasant and baneful vampires whom
Monsieur could refuse nothing, put it into his head that he should make
himself feared, so as to lead his Majesty on to greater concessions,
which they were perfectly able to turn to their own enjoyment and profit.

Monsieur began by asking for the governorship of a province; in reply he
was told that this could not be, seeing that such appointments were never
given to French princes, brothers of the King.

Monsieur le Duc d'Orleans hastened to point out that Gaston, son of Henri
IV., had had such a post, and that the Duc de Verneuil, natural son of
the same Henri, had one at the present time.

"That is true," replied the King, "but from my youth upward you have
always heard me condemn such innovations, and you cannot expect me to do
the very thing that I have blamed others for doing. If ever you were
minded, brother, to rebel against my authority, your first care would,
undoubtedly, be to withdraw to your province, where, like Gaston, your
uncle, you would have to raise troops and money. Pray do not weary me
with indiscretions of this sort; and tell those people who influence you
to give you better advice for the future."

Somewhat abashed, the Duc d'Orleans affirmed that what he had said and
done was entirely of his own accord.

"Did you speak of your own accord," said the King, "when insisting upon
being admitted to the privy council? Such a thing can no longer be
allowed. You inconsiderately expressed two different opinions, and since
you cannot control your tongue, which is most undoubtedly your own, I
have no power over it, - I, to whom it does not want to belong."

Then Monsieur le Duc d'Orleans added that these two refusals would seem
less harsh, less painful to him, if the King would grant a seat in his
own apartments, and in those of the Queen, to the Princess, his wife, who
was a king's daughter.

"No, that cannot be," replied his Majesty, "and pray do not insist upon
it. It is not I who have established the present customs; they existed
long before you or me. It is in your interest, brother, that the majesty
of the throne should not be weakened or altered; and if, from Duc
d'Orleans, you one day become King of France, I know you well enough to
believe that you would never be lax in this matter. Before God, you and
I are exactly the same as other creatures that live and breathe; before
men we are seemingly extraordinary beings, greater, more refined, more
perfect. The day that people, abandoning this respect and veneration
which is the support and mainstay of monarchies, - the day that they
regard us as their equals, - all the prestige of our position will be
destroyed. Bereft of beings superior to the mass, who act as their
leaders and supports, the laws will only be as so many black lines on
white paper, and your armless chair and my fauteuil will be two pieces of
furniture of the selfsame importance. Personally, I should like to
gratify you in every respect, for the same blood flows in our veins, and
we have loved each other from the cradle upwards. Ask of me things that
are practicable, and you shall see that I will forestall your wishes.
Personally, I daresay I care less about honorary distinctions than you
do, and in Cabinet matters I am always considered to be simpler and more
easy to deal with than such and such a one. One word more, and I have
done. I will nominate you to the governorship of any province you
choose, if you will now consent in writing to let proceedings be taken
against you, just as against any ordinary gentleman, in case there should
be sedition in your province, or any kind of disorder during your

Hereupon young Philippe began to smile, and he begged the King to embrace


Arms and Livery of Madame de Montespan. - Duchess or Princess. - Fresh
Scandal Caused by the Marquis. - The Rue Saint Honore Affair. - M. de
Ronancour. - Separation of Body and Estate.

When leaving, despite himself, for the provinces, M. de Montespan wrote
me a letter full of bitter insults, in which he ordered me to give up his
coat-of-arms, his livery, and even his name.

This letter I showed to the King. For a while he was lost in thought, as
usual on such occasions, and then he said to me:

"There's nothing extraordinary about the fellow's livery. Put your
servants into pale orange with silver lace. Assume your old crest of
Mortemart, and as regards name, I will buy you an estate with a pretty

"But I don't like pale orange," I instantly replied; "if I may, I should
like to choose dark blue, and gold lace, and as regards crest, I cannot
adopt my father's crest, except in lozenge form, which could not
seriously be done. As it is your gracious intention to give me the name
of an estate, give me (for to you everything is easy) a duchy like La
Valliere, or, better still, a principality."

The King smiled, and answered, "It shall be done, madame, as you wish."

The very, next day I went into Paris to acquaint my lawyer with my
intentions. Several magnificent estates were just then in the market,
but only marquisates, counties, or baronies! Nothing illustrious,
nothing remarkable! Duhamel assured me that the estate of Chabrillant,
belonging to a spendthrift, was up for sale.

"That," said he, "is a sonorous name, the brilliant renown of which would
only be enhanced by the title of princess."

Duhamel promised to see all his colleagues in this matter, and to find me
what I wanted without delay.

I quitted Paris without having met or recognised anybody, when, about
twenty paces at the most beyond the Porte Saint Honor, certain sergeants
or officials of some sort roughly stopped my carriage and seized my
horses' bridles "in the King's name."

"In the King's name?" I cried, showing myself at the coach door.

"Insolent fellows! How dare you thus take the King's name in vain?" At
the same time I told my coachman to whip up his horses with the reins and
to drive over these vagabonds. At a word from me the three footmen
jumped down and did their duty by dealing out lusty thwacks to the
sergeants. A crowd collected, and townsfolk and passers-by joined in the

A tall, fine-looking man, wrapped in a dressing-gown, surveyed the tumult
like a philosopher from his balcony overhead. I bowed graciously to him
and besought him to come down. He came, and in sonorous accents

"Ho, there! serving-men of my lady, stop fighting, will you? And pray,
sergeants, what is your business?"

"It is a disgrace," cried they all, as with one breath. "Madame lets her
scoundrelly footmen murder us, despite the name of his Majesty, which we
were careful to utter at the outset of things. Madame is a person (as
everybody in France now knows) who is in open revolt against her husband;
she has deserted him in order to cohabit publicly with some one else. Her
husband claims his coach, with his own crest and armorial bearings
thereon, and we are here for the purpose of carrying out the order of one
of the judges of the High Court."

"If that be so," replied the man in the dressing-gown, "I have no
objection to offer, and though madame is loveliness itself, she must
suffer me to pity her, and I have the honour of saluting her."

So saying, he made me a bow and left me, without help of any sort, in the
midst of this crazy rabble.

I was inconsolable. My coachman, the best fellow in the world, called
out to him from the top of his bog, "Monsieur, pray procure help for my
mistress, - for Madame la Marquise de Montespan."

No sooner had he uttered these words than the gentleman came back again,
while, among the lookers-on, some hissing was heard. He raised both
hands with an air of authority, and speaking with quite incredible
vehemence and fire, he successfully harangued the crowd.

"Madame does not refuse to comply with the requirements of justice," he
added firmly; "but madame, a member of the Queen's household, is
returning to Versailles, and cannot go thither on foot, or in some
tumbledown vehicle. So I must beg these constables or sergeants (no
matter which) to defer their arrest until to-morrow, and to accept me as
surety. The French people is the friend of fair ladies; and true
Parisians are incapable of harming or of persecuting aught that is
gracious and beautiful."

All those present, who at first had hissed, replied to this speech by
cries of "Bravo!" One of my men, who had been wounded in the scuffle,
had his hand all bloody. A young woman brought some lavender-water, and
bound up the wound with her white handkerchief, amid loud applause from
the crowd, while I bowed my acknowledgments and thanks.

The King listened with interest to the account of the adventure that I
have just described, and wished to know the name of the worthy man who
had acted as my support and protector. His name was De Tarcy-Ronancour.
The King granted him a pension of six thousand francs, and gave the Abbey
of Bauvoir to his daughter.

As for me, I kept insisting with might and main for a separation of body
and estate, which alone could put an end to all my anxiety. When a
decree for such separation was pronounced at the Chatelet, and registered
according to the rules, I set about arranging an appanage which, from the
very first day, had seemed to me absolutely necessary for my position.

As ill-luck would have it, the judges left me the name of Montespan,
which to my husband was so irksome, and to myself also; and the King,
despite repeated promises, never relieved me of a name that it was very
difficult to bear.



Monsieur's Jealousy. - Diplomacy. - Discretion. - The Chevalier de
Lorraine's Revenge. - The King's Suspicions. - His Indignation. - Public
Version of the Matter. - The Funeral Sermon.

After six months of wedlock, Henrietta of England had become so beautiful
that the King drew every one's attention to this change, as if he were
not unmindful of the fact that he had given this charming person to his
brother instead of reserving her for himself by marrying her.

Between cousins german attentions are permissible. The Court, however,
was not slow to notice the attentions paid by the King to this young
English princess, and Monsieur, wholly indifferent though he was as
regarded his wife, deemed it a point of honour to appear offended
thereat. Ever a slave to the laws of good breeding, the King showed much
self-sacrifice in curbing this violent infatuation of his. (I was
Madame's maid of honour at the time.) As he contemplated a Dutch
expedition, in which the help of England would have counted for much, he
resolved to send a negotiator to King Charles. The young Princess was
her brother's pet; it was upon her that the King's choice fell.

She crossed the Channel under the pretext of paying a flying visit to her
native country and her brother, but, in reality, it was to treat of
matters of the utmost importance.

Upon her return, Monsieur, the most curious and inquisitive of mortals,
importuned her in a thousand ways, seeking to discover her secret; but
she was a person both faithful and discreet. Of her interview and
journey he got only such news as was already published on the housetops.
At such reticence he took umbrage; he grumbled, sulked, and would not
speak to his wife.

The Chevalier de Lorraine, who in that illustrious and luckless household
was omnipotent, insulted the Princess in the most outrageous manner.
Finding such daily slights and affronts unbearable, Madame complained to
the Kings of France and England, who both exiled the Chevalier.

Monsieur de Lorraine d'Armagnac, before leaving, gave instructions to
Morel, one of Monsieur's kitchen officials, to poison the Princess, and
this monster promptly executed the order by rubbing poison on her silver

I no longer belonged to Madame's household, - my marriage had caused a
change in my duties; but ever feeling deep attachment for this adorable
princess, I hastened to Saint Cloud directly news reached me of her
illness. To my horror, I saw the sudden change which had come over her
countenance; her horrible agony drew tears from the most callous, and
approaching her I kissed her hand, in spite of her confessor, who sought
to constrain her to be silent. She then repeatedly told me that she was
dying from the effects of poison.

This she also told the King, whom she perceived shed tears of
consternation and distress.

That evening, at Versailles, the King said to me, "If this crime is my
brother's handiwork, his head shall fall on the scaffold."

When the body was opened, proof of poison was obtained, and poison of the
most corrosive sort, for the stomach was eaten into in three places, and
there was general inflammation.

The King summoned his brother, in order to force him to explain so
heinous a crime. On perceiving his mien, Monsieur became pale and
confused. Rushing upon him sword in hand, the King was for demolishing
him on the spot. The captain of the guard hastened thither, and Monsieur
swore by the Holy Ghost that he was guiltless of the death of his dear

Leaving him a prey to remorse, if guilty he were, the King commanded him
to withdraw, and then shut himself up in his closet to prepare a
consolatory message to the English Court. According to the written
statement, which was also published in the newspapers, Madame had been
carried off by an attack of bilious colic. Five or six bribed physicians
certified to that effect, and a lying set of depositions, made for mere
form's sake, bore out their statements in due course.

The Abbe de Bossuet, charged to preach the funeral sermon, was apparently
desirous of being as obliging as the doctors. His homily led off with
such fulsome praise of Monsieur, that, from that day forward, he lost all
his credit, and sensible people thereafter only looked upon him as a vile
sycophant, a mere dealer in flattery and fairy-tales.


Madame Scarron. - Her Petition. - The King's Aversion to Her. - She is
Presented to Madame de Montespan. - The Queen of Portugal Thinks of
Engaging Her. - Madame de Montespan Keeps Her Back. - The Pension
Continued. - The King's Graciousness. - Rage of Mademoiselle d'Aumale.

As all the pensions granted by the Queen-mother had ceased at her demise,
the pensioners began to solicit the ministers anew, and all the
petitions, as is customary, were sent direct to the King.

One day his Majesty said to me, "Have you ever met in society a young
widow, said to be very pretty, but, at the same time, extremely affected?
It is to Madame Scarron that I allude, who, both before and after
widowhood, has resided at the Marais."

I replied that Madame Scarron was an extremely pleasant person, and not
at all affected. I had met her at the Richelieus' or the Albrets', where
her charm of manner and agreeable wit had made her in universal request.
I added a few words of recommendation concerning her petition, which,
unfortunately, had just been torn up, and the King curtly rejoined, "You
surprise me, madame; the portrait I had given to me of her was a totally
different one."

That same evening, when the young Marquis d'Alincour spoke to me about
this petition which had never obtained any answer, I requested him to go
and see Madame Scarron as soon as possible, and tell her that, in her own
interest, I should be pleased to receive her.

She lost no time in paying me a visit. Her black attire served only to
heighten the astounding whiteness of her complexion. Effusively thanking
me for interesting myself in her most painful case, she added:

"There is, apparently, some obstacle against me. I have presented two
petitions and two memoranda; being unsupported, both have been left
unanswered, and I have now just made the following resolve, madame, of
which you will not disapprove. M. Scarron, apparently well off, had only
a life interest in his property. Upon his death, his debts proved in
excess of his capital, and I, deeming it my duty to respect his
intentions and his memory, paid off everybody, and left myself nothing.
To-day, Madame la Princesse de Nemours wishes me to accompany her to
Lisbon as her secretary, or rather as her friend.

"Being about to acquire supreme power as a sovereign, she intends, by
some grand marriage, to keep me there, and then appoint me her

"And you submit without a murmur to such appalling exile?" I said to
Madame Scarron. "Is such a pretty, charming person as yourself fitted
for a Court of that kind, and for such an odd sort of climate?"

"Madame, I have sought to shut my eyes to many things, being solely
conscious of the horribly forlorn condition in which I find myself in my
native country."

"Have you reckoned the distance? Did the Princess confess that she was
going to carry you off to the other end of the world? For her city of
Lisbon, surrounded by precipices, is more than three hundred leagues from

"At the age of three I voyaged to America, returning hither when I was

"I am vexed with Mademoiselle d'Aumale for wanting to rob us of so
charming a treasure.

[Mademoiselle d'Aumale, daughter of the Duc de Nemours, of the House of
Savoy. She was a blonde, pleasant-mannered enough, but short of stature.
Her head was too big for her body; and this head of hers was full of

Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 4 of 30)