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Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart Montespan.

Memoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete online

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Duke of York, unfortunately, became violently enamoured of my daughter,
he did not conceal his attachment from his brother, the King, and at last
asked for his approval to join his fortunes to my daughter's, when the
King, without offering opposition, contented himself by pointing out the
relative distance between their rank and position; to which the Duke
replied, 'But at one time you did everything you possibly could to get
Olympia Mancini, who was merely Mazarin's niece!' And King Charles, who
could not deny this, left his brother complete liberty of action.

"As my daughter was far dearer and more precious to me than social
grandeur, I begged the Duke of York to find for himself a partner of
exalted rank. He gave way to despair, and spoke of putting an end to his
existence; in fact, he behaved as all lovers do whom passion touches to
madness; so this baleful marriage took place. God is my witness that I
opposed it, urged thereto by wisdom, by modesty, and by foresight. Now,
as you see, from that cruel moment I have been exiled to alien lands,
robbed of the sight of my beloved child, who has been raised to the rank
of a princess, and whom I shall never see again. Why did my sovereign
not say to me frankly, I do not like this marriage; you must oppose it,
Chancellor, to please me?

"How different was his conduct from that of his cousin, the French King!
Mademoiselle d'Orleans wanted to make an unsuitable match; the King
opposed it, as he had a right to do, and the marriage did not take
place."

My "brother," the King, smiled as he told his lordship he was right.

Prince Comnenus was of the same opinion, and, being expressly invited to
do so, he briefly recounted his adventures, and stated the object of his
journey to Paris.

"The whole world," said he, "is aware of the great misfortunes of my
family. The Emperors Andronicus and Michael Comnenus, driven from the
throne of Constantinople, left their names within the heart and memory of
Greece; they had ruled the West with a gentle sceptre, and in a people's
grateful remembrance they had their reward. My ancestors, their
descendants, held sway in Trebizond, a quicksand which gave way beneath
their tread. From adversity to adversity, from country to country, we
were finally driven to seclusion in the Isle of Candia, part of the
quondam Minos territory. Venice had allowed Candia to fall before
Mahomet's bloody sword. Europe lost her bulwark, the Cross of the
Saviour was thrown down, and the Candian Christians have been massacred
or forced to flee. I have left in the hands of the conqueror my fields
and forests, my summer palace, my winter palace, and my gardens filled
with the produce of America, Asia, and Europe. From this overwhelming
disaster I managed to save my son; and as my sole fortune I brought away
with me the large jewels of Andronicus, his ivory and sapphire sceptre,
his scimitar of Lemnos, and his ancient gold crown, which once encircled
Theseus's brow.

"These noble relics I shall present to the King of France. They say that
he is humane, generous, fond of glory, and zealous in the cause of
justice. When before his now immovable throne he sees laid down these
last relics of an ancient race, perhaps he will be touched by so
lamentable a downfall, and will not suffer distress to trouble my last
days, and darken the early years of this my child."

During this speech I kept watching the King's face. I saw that he was
interested, then touched, and at last was on the point of forgetting his
incognito and of appearing in his true character.

"Prince," said he to the Greek traveller, "my duties and my devotion make
it easy for me to approach the King of France's person very closely. In
four or five days he will be leaving Fontainebleau for his palace at
Saint Germain. I will tell him without modification all that I have just
heard from you. Without being either prophet or seer, I can guarantee
that you will be well received and cordially welcomed, receiving such
benefits as kings are bound to yield to kings.

"Madame, who respects and is interested in you, is desirous, I feel
certain, for me to persuade you to stay here until her departure; she
enjoys royal favour, and it is my sister herself who shall present you at
Court. You shall show her, you shall show us all, the golden crown of
Theseus, the sceptre of Adronicus, and this brow which I gaze upon and
revere, for it deserves a kingly diamond.

"As for you, my lord," said his Majesty to the English nobleman, "if the
misfortune of last night prove disastrous in more ways than one, pray
wait for a while before you go back to the smouldering ashes of a
half-extinguished fire. My sister takes pleasure in your company;
indeed, the Marquise is charmed to be able to entertain three such
distinguished guests, and begs to place her chateau at your disposal
until such time as your own shall be restored. We shall speak of you to
the King, and he will certainly endeavour to induce King Charles, his
cousin, to recall you to your native country."

Then, after saying one or two words to me in private, he bowed to the
gentlemen and withdrew. We went out on to the balcony to see him get
into his coach, when, to the surprise and astonishment of my guests, as
the carriage passed along the avenue, about a hundred peasants, grouped
near the gateway, threw off their hats and cried, "Long live the King!"

Prince Comnenus and his son were inconsolable; I excused myself by saying
that it was at the express desire of our royal visitor, and my lord
admitted that at last he recollected his features, and recognised him by
his grand and courtly address.

Before I end my tale, do not let me forget to say that the King strongly
recommended Prince Comnenus to the Republic of Genoa, and obtained for
him considerable property in Corsica and a handsome residence at Ajaccio.
He accepted five or six beautiful jewels that had belonged to Andronicus,
and caused the sum of twelve hundred thousand francs to be paid to the
young Comnenus from his treasury.




CHAPTER XXXVII

The Universal Jubilee. - Court Preachers. - King David. - Madame de
Montespan is Obliged to go to Clagny. - Bossuet's Mission. - Mademoiselle
de Mauleon. - An Enemy's Good Faith.


I do not desire to hold up to ridicule the rites of that religion in
which I was born and bred. Neither would I disparage its ancient usages,
nor its far more modern laws. All religions, as I know, have their
peculiarities, all nations their contradictions, but I must be suffered
to complain of the abuse sometimes made in our country of clerical and
priestly authority.

A general jubilee was held soon after the birth of my second son, and
among Christian nations like ours, a jubilee is as if one said, "Now all
statutes, divine and earthly, are repealed; by means of certain formula
recited, certain visits paid to the temples, certain acts of abstinence
practised here and there, all sins, misdemeanours, and crimes are
forgiven, and their punishment cancelled." It is generally on the
occasion of the proclamation of a new pontificate at Rome that such great
papal absolutions are extended over the whole universe.

The jubilee having been proclaimed in Paris, the Court preachers worked
miracles. They denounced all social irregularities and friendships of
which the Church disapproved. The opening sermon showed plainly that the
orator's eloquence was pointed at myself. The second preacher showed
even less restraint; he almost mentioned me by name. The third
ecclesiastic went beyond all bounds, actually uttering the following
words:

"Sire, when King David was still but a shepherd, a heifer was stolen from
his flocks; David made complaint to the patriarch of the land, when his
heifer was restored to him, and the thief was punished.

"When David came to the throne, he carried off his servant's wife, and as
an excuse for such an odious deed, he pleaded the young woman's extreme
beauty. The wretched servant besought him to obey the voice, not of
passion, but of justice, and the servant was disgraced and perished
miserably. Oh, David, unhappy David!"

The King, who had found it hard to sit quiet and hear such insults, said
to me that evening:

"Go to Clagny. Let this stormy weather pass by. When it is fine again,
you must come back."

Having never run counter to the wishes of the father of my children, I
acquiesced, and without further delay gladly departed.

Next day, Madame de Montausier came to see me at my country-house; she
told me of the general rumour that was afloat at Court. The news, said
she, of my retirement had begun to get about; three bishops had gone to
congratulate the King, and these gentlemen had despatched couriers to
Paris to inform the heads of the various parishes, inviting them to write
to the prince sympathising references touching an event which God and all
Christendom viewed with complete satisfaction.

Madame de Montausier assured me that the King's bearing was fairly calm
on the whole, and she also added that he had granted an interview of half
an hour at least to the Abbe Bossuet, who had discoursed to him about me
in a strain similar to that of the other clerics.

She was my sincere friend; she promised to come to Clagny every evening,
driving thither incognito.

She had hardly been gone an hour, when my footman announced "Monsieur
Bossuet, Bishop of Condom."

At the mention of this name, I felt momentarily inclined to refuse to see
its owner; but I conquered my disgust, and I did well. The prelate, with
his semi-clerical, semi-courtly air, made me a low bow. I calmly waited,
so as to give him time to deliver his message. The famous rhetorician
proceeded as follows:

"You know, madame, with what health-giving sacrifices the Church is now
engaged. The merits of our Lord doubtless protect Christians at all
times, but the Church has appointed times more efficacious, ceremonies
more useful, springs yet more abounding. Thus it is that we now
celebrate the grand nine days of the jubilee.

"To this mystic pool herdsman and monarchs alike receive summons and
admission. The most Christian King must, for his own sake, accomplish
his own sanctification; his sanctification provides for that of his
subjects.

"Chosen by God to this royal priesthood, he comprehends the duties
imposed upon him by such noble office. The passions of the heart are
maladies from which man may recover, just as he recovers from physical
disease. The physicians of the soul have lifted up their voice, have
taken sage counsel together; and I come to inform you of the monarch's
miraculous recovery, and at his request, I bring you this important and
welcome news.

"For convalescents, greater care is required than for others; the King,
and the whole of France, beseech you, with my voice, to have respect and
care for the convalescence of our monarch, and I beg you, madame, to
leave at once for Fontevrault."

"For Fontevrault?" I cried, without betraying my emotion. "Fontevrault
is near Poitiers; it is too far away. No, I would rather go to
Petit-Bourg, near the forest of Fontainebleau."

"Fontainebleau is but eighteen leagues from the capital," he answered;
"such proximity would be dangerous. I must insist upon Fontevrault,
madame."

"But I cannot take my children to Fontevrault," I retorted; "the nuns,
and the Abbess herself, would never admit them. You know better than I
do that it is a nunnery."

"Your children," said he, "are not necessary to you; Madame de la
Valliere managed to leave here for good and all."

"Yes; and in forsaking them she committed a crime," I answered; "only
ferocious-hearted persons could have counselled her or commanded her to
do so." And saying this, I rose, and gave him a glance of disdain.

He grew somewhat gentler in manner as he slowly went on, "His Majesty
will take care of your children; it behoves you to save their mother.
And, in order to prove to you that I have not come here of my own accord,
but that, on the contrary, I am executing a formal command, here is a
letter of farewell addressed to you by the King."

I took the letter, which was couched in the following terms:

It is but right, madame, that on so solemn an occasion I should set an
example myself. I must ask you henceforth to consider our intimacy
entirely at an end. You must retire to Fontevrault, where Madame de
Montemart will take care of you and afford you distraction by her
charming society. Your children are in good hands; do not be in the
least uneasy about them. Farewell. I wish you all the firmness and
well-being possible. LOUISON.

In the first flush of my indignation I was about to trample under foot so
offensive a communication. But the final phrase shocked me less than the
others.

I read it over again, and understood that if the King recommended me to
be firm, it was because he needed to be firm himself. I soon mastered my
emotion, and looked at things in their real light. It was easy to see
that sanctimonious fanatics had forced the King to act. Bossuet was not
sanctimonious, but, to serve his own ends, proffered himself as spokesman
and emissary, being anxious to prove to his old colleagues that he was on
the side of what they styled moral conduct and good example.

For a while I walked up and down my salon; but the least exertion
fatigues me. I resumed my armchair or my settee, leaving the man there
like a sort of messenger, whom it was not necessary to treat with any
respect. He was bold, and asked me for a definite answer which he could
take back to his Majesty. I stared hard at him for about a minute, and
then said: "My Lord Bishop of Condom, the clerics who have been advising
the King are very pleased that he should set an example to his people of
self-sacrifice. I am of their opinion; I think as they do, as you do, as
the Pope does; but feeling convinced that to us, the innocent sheep, the
shepherds ought first to show an example, I will consent to break off my
relationship with his Majesty when you, M. de Condom, shall have broken
off your intimacy with Mademoiselle de Mauleon des Vieux!"

By a retort of this kind I admit that I hoped greatly to embarrass the
Bishop, and enjoy seeing his face redden with confusion. But he was
nowise disconcerted, and I confess to-day that this circumstance proved
to me that there was but little truth in the rumours that were current
with regard to this subject.

"Mademoiselle de Mauleon!" said he, smiling half-bitterly,
half-pityingly. "Surely, madame, your grief makes you forget what you
say. Everybody knows that she is an acquaintance of my youth, and that,
since that time, having confidence in my doctrines and my counsel, she
wished to have me as spiritual monitor and guide. How can you institute
a comparison between such a relationship and your own?" Then, after
walking up and down for a moment, as if endeavouring to regain his
self-possession, he continued:

"However, I shall not insist further; it was signally foolish of me to
speak in the name of an earthly king, when I should have invoked that of
the King of Heaven. I have received an insulting answer. So be it.

"Farewell, madame. I leave you to your own conscience, which, seemingly,
is so tranquil that I blame myself for having sought to disturb it."

With these words he departed, leaving me much amazed at the patience with
which a man, known to be so arrogant and haughty, had received such an
onslaught upon his private life and reputation.

I need scarcely say that, next day, the species of pastoral letter which
my lords the Bishops of Aleth, Orleans, Soissons, and Condom had dictated
to the King was succeeded by another letter, which he had dictated
himself, and by which my love for him was solaced and assured.

He begged me to wait patiently for a few days, and this arrangement
served my purpose very well. I thought it most amusing that the King
should have commissioned M. de Bossuet to deliver this second missive,
and I believe I said as much to certain persons, which perhaps gave rise
to a rumour that he actually brought me love-letters from the King. But
the purveyors of such gossip could surely know nothing of Bossuet's
inflexible principles, and of the subtlety of his policy. He was well
aware that by lending himself to such amenities he would lose caste
morally with the King, and that if by his loyalty he had won royal
attachment and regard, all this would have been irretrievably lost. Thus
M. de Bossuet was of those who say, "Hate me, but fear me," rather than
of those who strive to be loved. Such people know that friendships are
generally frail and transient, and that esteem lasts longer and leads
further. He never interfered again with my affairs, nor did I with his;
I got my way, and he is still where he was.




CHAPTER XXXVIII.

Madame de Montespan Back at Court. - Her Friends. - Her Enemies. - Edifying
Conversions. - The Archbishop of Paris.


Eight days after the conclusion of the jubilee I returned to Versailles.
The King received me with every mark of sincere friendship; my friends
came in crowds to my apartments; my enemies left their names with my
Swiss servant, and in chapel they put back my seat, chairs, and
footstools in their usual place.

Madame de Maintenon had twice sent my children to Clagny with the
under-governess; but she did not come herself, which greatly
inconvenienced me.

[The splendid Chateau de Clagny (since demolished) was situated on the
beautiful country surrounding Versailles, near the wood of Millers
d'Avrai. - EDITOR's NOTE.]

I complained to her about this, and she assured me the King had
dissuaded her from visiting me, "so as to put curious folk off the
scent;" and when I told her of my interview with M. de Bossuet, she
neatly avoided being mixed up in the matter by omitting to blame
anybody. The most licentious women, so she told me, had distinguished
themselves by pious exercises during the observance of the jubilee. She
informed me that the Comtesse de Soissons, the Princesse de Monaco,
Madame de Soubise, and five or six virtuous dames of this type, had
given gold, silver, and enamelled lamps to the most notable churches of
the capital. The notorious Duchesse de Longueville talked of having her
own tomb constructed in a Carmelite chapel. Six leaders of fashion had
forsworn rouge, and Madame d'Humieres had given up gambling. As for my
lord the Archbishop of Paris, he had not changed his way of life a jot,
either for the better or for the worse.




CHAPTER XXXIX.

Attempted Abduction. - The Marquise Procures a Bodyguard. - Her Reasons for
So Doing. - Geography and Morals.


The youthful Marquis d'Antin - my son - was growing up; the King showed him
the most flattering signs of his attachment, and as the child had lived
only with me, he dreaded his father's violent temper, of which he had
often heard me speak. In order to have the custody of his son, the
Marquis de Montespan had appealed to Parliament; but partisans of the
King had shelved the matter, which, though ever in abeyance, was still
pending. I had my son educated under my care, being sure of the tender
attachment that would spring up between himself and the princes, his
brothers. At the Montespan chateau, I admit, he would have learned to
ride an unbroken horse, as well as to shoot hares, partridges, and big
game; he would also have learned to talk loud, to use bad language, to
babble about his pedigree, while ignorant of its history or its crest; in
fine, he would have learned to despise his mother, and probably to hate
her. Educated under my eyes, almost on the King's lap, he soon learned
the customs of the Court and all that a well-born gentleman should know.
He will be made Duc d'Antin, I have the King's word for it, - and his mien
and address, which fortunately sort well with that which Fate holds in
store for him, entitle him to rank with all that is most exalted at
Court.

The Procureur-General caused a man from Barn to be arrested, who had come
to abduct my son. This individual, half-Spanish and half-French, was
detained in the Paris prisons, and I was left in ignorance of the matter.
It was imprudent not to tell me, and almost occasioned a serious mishap.

One day I was returning from the neighbourhood of Etampes with only my
son, his tutor, and my physician in the carriage. On reaching a steep
incline, where the brake should be put on, my servants imprudently
neglected to do this, and I felt that we were burning the roadway in our
descent. Such recklessness made me uneasy, when suddenly twelve horsemen
rode headlong at us, and sought to stop the postilions. My six horses
were new ones and very fresh; they galloped along at breakneck speed. Our
pursuers fired at the coachman, but missed him, and the report of a
pistol terrified the horses yet further. They redoubled their speed. We
gave ourselves up for lost, as an accident of some sort seemed bound to
ensue, when suddenly my carriage reached the courtyard of an inn, where
we obtained help.

Baulked of their prey, the horsemen turned about and rode away. They had
been noticed the day before, hanging about and asking for Madame de
Montespan.

We stayed that night at the inn, and next day, provided with a stout
escort, we reached Saint Germain.

The King regretted not having provided against similar attempts. He
rewarded my postilions for their neglect to use the brake (a neglect
which, at first, I was going to punish), saying to me, "If they had put
the brake on, you would have been captured and whisked off to the
Pyrenees. Your husband is never going to give in!"

"Such a disagreeable surprise," added he, "shall not occur again.
Henceforth you shall not travel without an adequate escort. In future,
you shall have a guard of honour, like the Queen and myself." I had long
wished for this privilege, and I warmly thanked his Majesty.

Nevertheless, people chose to put a completely false construction upon so
simple an innovation, and my sentiments in the matter were wholly
misunderstood. It was thought that vanity had prompted me to endeavour
to put myself on a level with the Queen, and this worthy princess was
herself somewhat nettled thereat. God is my witness that, from mere
motives of prudence, this unusual arrangement had to be made, and I
entirely agreed to it. After all, if the Infanta of Spain gave birth to
the Dauphin, Athenais de Mortemart is the mother of several princes.

In France, a Catholic realm, for the King to have a second wife is
considered superfluous by the timorous and shrivelled-brained. In
Constantinople, Alexandria, and Ispahan, I should have met with only
homage, veneration, respect. Errors of a purely geographical nature are
not those which cause me alarm; to have brought into the world so perfect
a being as the Duc du Maine will never, as I take it, incur blame at the
tribunal of Almighty God.

Mademoiselle de Nantes, his charming sister, has from her cradle been
destined to belong to one of the royal branches. Mademoiselle de Blois
will also become the mother of several Bourbon princes; I have good
grounds for cherishing such flattering hopes.

The little Comte de Toulouse already bids fair to be a worthy successor
to M. du Maine. He has the same grace of manner, and frank,
distinguished mien.

When all these princes possess their several escorts, it will seem
passing strange that their mother alone should not have any. That is my
opinion, and it is shared by all people of sense.




CHAPTER XL.

Osmin, the Little Moor. - He Sets the Fashion. - The Queen Has a Black
Baby. - Osmin is Dismissed.


I have already told how the envoys of the King of Arda, an African
prince, gave to the Queen a nice little blackamoor, as a toy and pet.
This Moor, aged about ten or twelve years, was only twenty-seven inches
in height, and the King of Arda declared that, being quite unique, the
boy would never grow to be taller than three feet.

The Queen instantly took a great fancy to this black creature. Sometimes
he gambolled about and turned somersaults on her carpet like a kitten, or
frolicked about on the bureau, the sofa, and even on the Queen's lap.

As she passed from one room to another, he used to hold up her train, and
delighted to catch hold of it and so make the Queen stop short suddenly,
or else to cover his head and face with it, for mischief, to make the
courtiers laugh.

He was arrayed in regular African costume, wearing handsome bracelets,
armlets, a necklace ablaze with jewels, and a splendid turban. Wishing



Online LibraryFrançoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart MontespanMemoirs of Madame la Marquise de Montespan — Complete → online text (page 9 of 30)