H. (Henri) Forneron.

The court of Charles II, 1649-1734, comp. from state papers by H. Forneron; online

. (page 9 of 19)
Online LibraryH. (Henri) ForneronThe court of Charles II, 1649-1734, comp. from state papers by H. Forneron; → online text (page 9 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


change there. A lady of her fame and loveli-
ness was sure to carry all before her, and to
do something extraordinary. De Gramont,
who from the first set up to be her social
pilot, was enraptured with her. He had not



Digitized by



Google



132 LOUISE DE KEROUALLE,



seen her since she was a bride, and found her
altered, but he thought for the better; and
told the French ambassador that all the
mistresses were eclipsed by her. She entered
the Court as Armida entered the camp of
Godfrey.^ Every tongue ran upon her. The
men spoke of her to express admiration, and
the women to exhale their jealous uneasiness.

Nell Gwynn celebrated the triumph of the
Duchess by going into the deepest mourning*
— for, she said, the eclipsed Duchess of Ports-
mouth and her dead hopes. The Duchess of
Cleveland retired to the country. All the
English rivals played into the hands of the
new-comer, to get rid the sooner of Keroualle,
whose art and diplomacy theretofore had de-
feated their attacks. They accepted Mazarin
as their avenging champion She was at least
above-board, and every one knew where to
have her. Waller's poem of " The Three
Duchesses " is a satire on this struggle.

Ruvigny • next warned Pomponne that the
Duchess of Cleveland had taken it into her

^ Ruvigny to Pomponne, Jan. 20, 1676.
^ Ruvigny to King Louis, July 2, 1676.
^ Ruvigny to Pomponne, Feb. 3, 1676.



Digitized by



Google



THE DUCHESS MAZARIN. 133

head to visit France, with the two young dukes
her sons ; and he proposed that she should be
exempted from custom-house duties of every
sort at Calais. She was taking many horses
and two carriages. The customs franchise
was granted, but in terms which offended the
irascible Duchess, who showed the official
passport to Charles, and ordered him to com-
plain ^ because she and her sons (who were of
the " royal blood ") were not styled " cousins '*
of Louis. He not obeying, she tore up the
document, and said she preferred paying any
amount of duty, sooner than put up with a
snub. She embarked with Gramont. * But
the French ambassador had taken care to
warn the custom-house officers to ask no
money and overwhelm her with their civilities,
for that such was the king's good pleasure.

The Duchess of Portsmouth stood in need
of French support, and was quick to ask it
She was ill and faded. Another pregnancy
ended in a premature birth.' Jealousy so
gnawed her that she was sadly altered, Ru-

^ Ruvigny to Pomponne, March 19, 1676.

« Ibid.

* Courtin to King Louis, June 8, 1676.



Digitized by



Google



134 LOUISE DE KEROUALLE.

vigny confessed He remarked, that at the
yearly visit of the Court to Newmaricet, no
lodging was accorded to her by the king,
and that she had to hire a house herself in
a neighbouring village. This prevented
Charles from seeing her as often as she
wished. Her money af&irs were in disorder,
her steward having robbed her of twelve
thousand pounds and pawned her jewels,
which she had entrusted to him, for an equally
large sum.

The pecuniary troubles of the Duchess
Mazarin were still greater. This rival was
forced, in opening her campaign, to hang out
the flag of distress. Charles, whom her love-
liness overcame, was melted by the tale of the
straits to which she was reduced. With his
own hand, he wrote to Louis, asking him to
force M. Mazarin to make his wife a suitable
allowance; and he charged Ruvigny to say
that he would be deeply sensible to this favour,
without which it would be impossible for the
lady to live.* Indeed, he made the affair a
personal one, and protested that he could not

* Ruvigny to Pomponne, April i6, 1676; and Ruvigny
to King Louis, Jan. 30, 1676.



Digitized by



Google



THE DUCHESS MAZARIN. 135

say how deeply obliged he would be were it
promptly arranged. Louis was averse always
to meddle in family matters, and as he respected
the Due Mazarin, he did not think he could
equitably force him to put his wife in a position
in which she could more publicly dishonour
him at the Court of England. He, himself,
wrote to the Duchess to explain why he did
not accede to the wish of Charles.* Ruvigny
handed her the letter, and bore testimony to
the great displeasure she showed on reading
it, at finding herself abandoned in a Court
where money was so necessary, Charles,
meanwhile, had given her secretly an order on
the keeper of his privy purse for a thousand
gold jacobus. A second attack* against the
husband of the fair fugitive was prepared.
Ruvigny thought it " dangerous to vex a
woman whose star was in the ascendant,
whose importance was fast rising." Every
one helped her in the campaign on which she
at once entered against the Duchess of Ports-
mouth. The young Princess of Modena, whom
the Duke of York had lately married, was

* Ruvigny to Pomponne, Feb. 27, 1676.

• Ibid,^ March 5, 1679.



Digitized by



Google



136 LOUISE DE KEROUALLE.

among the first to side with Hortense Mancini,
whom she kept whole days beside her bed, to
which the royal lady, being in an interesting
situation, was confined. The king went often
to the bedroom of his sister-in-law, without
appearing to expect to find there the Duchess
Mazarin, but on purpose to meet her. She
was very natural * and open, and did not resort
to trick or artifice.* It was proposed to give
her the suite of rooms of the Duke of York
at Whitehall when he moved to St. James's
Palace.

The honourable and honest De Ruvigny was
sorely embarrassed by these women's quarrels.
He lost his way in the labyrinth of intrigues,
and owned he had done so. "Sire,"' he cried in
his distress, " I have just learned that there's
certain and secret intelligence between the
King of England and the Duchess Mazarin.
She carries on her intrigue very quietly with
him. Those who hoped to share in the
triumph, have not yet had the opportunity they
expected." He then urged the expediency of

* Ruvigny to Pomponne, Jan. 20, 1676.

* Ibid.^ Jan. 27 and 30, 1676.

' Ruvigny to the king, March 12, 1676.



Digitized by



Google



THE DUCHESS MAZARIN. 137

obtaining a larger pension for her from her
husband. Charles and the Duke of York * had
been pressing him to represent to Louis their
sentiments of old affection, and of pity for
Madame Mazarin. Nothing would give them
more pleasure than for their good offices on
her behalf to be well received at Versailles.
They were pained at the refusal of their first
intervention, and they hoped to be more for-
tunate a second time.

"Charles," remarked the ambassador, "shows
a deepening interest in the lady; and it may
be, that her state of distress will intensify the
passion which now, clearly, overmasters him."

Ruvigny was not the person to manage
feminine and effeminate souls. Louis sent to
reinforce the old Protestant in London, — with
the mission to supersede him in a few weeks, —
the most wily and refined of his courtiers, and
one who, although a favourite of the great king,
had always behaved with modesty. The new
envoy belonged to the judicature, and had been
the intendant of a province under Louvois, and
was so highly valued by the king that he was
at liberty to appear before him without a court
^ Ruvigny to King Louis, March 16, 1676.



Digitized by



Google



138 LOUISE DE KEROUALLE,

mantle, and with a cane and councillor's ruffles.
His name was Courtin, and he was the only
man of his profession who was invited to
Marly.



Digitized by



Google



CHAPTER VII.

COURTIN.

HoNORife CouRTiN, Seigncur de Chanteroine,*
was councillor of the Parliament of Rouen
at the age of fourteen. When governor of
Picardy, he did not venture to reject an
application from the Duke de Chaulnes to
exempt several villages on his estate from
the payment of the taille impost. But on
finding that because of this exemption the

^ Bom in 1622 \ died in 1703. Married to Salom^ de
Beauvers: He came to serve as French ambassador at the
Court of Whitehall in May 1676 ; was author of ikit Journal
des Entrevues dans risk des FaisanSy describing the inter-
views between Louis XIV. and Philip IV. and Mazarin and
the Conde de Huro, which was published in 1665 as a sequel
to LHistaire de la Paix des Pyrinkes^ de Gualdo Priorato.
See also Madame de S^vignd's Letters^ Capmas, Series II.,
P* 359 > ^^^ ^- Boisdelisle's notice in his edition of St
Simony tome iii. pp. 279-286. Honord Courtin, a Norman,
should not be confounded with Antoine Courtin, an
Auvergnat, who was also in the judicature and an ambas-
sador, and who alone is mentioned in La Biographie Monen.

«39



Digitized by



Google



I40 LOUISE DE KEROUALLE.

Other villages of the circumscription were
weighed down with taxes, he paid, to relieve
them, forty thousand livres of his own into
the treasury, and resigned his high and lucra-
tive post He had an amiable and a cheerful
disposition,^ a good judgment, ripeness of mind,
a graceful manner, and a bright, delicate wit
Courtin, albeit of diminutive stature, was gal-
lant in his attentions to ladies, had the air
and speech of one who had mixed in the
best society, and yet without affecting to be
above his rank of councillor. Although re-
ticent, he was perfectly sincere; and he had
the clean hands of a man of unimpeachable
honour.*

Before setting out for London, where he had
previously been on a diplomatic mission, it
occurred to him to obtain information about
the town and the Court, from a maid of honour
of the Queen of England, who was staying at
a convent in the Faubourg St Germain. He
had dined with her at De Gourville s ; and he

* Gourville's Menioires^ p. 543 ; Mignet's Nkgociations^
tome iii., p. 347, and t iv. p. 141 ; Rousset's Histoire de
Louvois^ t. L p. 465.

2 Saint Simon.



Digitized by



Google



COURTIN, 141



had heard that she left the Court of Whitehall
because she one day, when in the Maids of
Honours' waiting-room, gave birth to a child.^
He also went to see Duke Mazarin,* who pro-
posed terms certain not to be accepted. They
were, " the retirement of his wife to the Abbey
of Montmartre." Courtin, therefore, placed him-
self on the lady's side when he went to London,
and endeavoured to produce on the mind of
Louis' an impression favourable to her. He
mentioned to him, in a letter, how he had seen
Madame Mazarin at high mass in the chapel
of the Portuguese ambassador; but he could
not help noticing that she betrayed disgust at
the length of the service. He studied her ; he
drew the Khhi de St. R^al into talking about
her; and the upshot was, uneasiness at her
growing influence. The King of France was
earnestly advised by him * to use his authority

^ Courtin to Louvois, between May and December, 1665.
This was not the young lady whose child, bom in the
queen's circle, died soon after birth, and was dissected by
Charles, who made ribald jests about his supposed pater-
nity of his anatomical subject

' Courtin to King Louis, June 8, 1676.

• Ibid.y May 25, 1679.

* 3id., June 8, 1676.



Digitized by



Google



142 LOUISE DE KEROVALLE.

in forcing her husband to grant the pension
which she demanded. St R6al had let out
that she thought Louis disliked her, and would
not be sorry for him to know that it behoved
him not to have her against him, since she
would, if he went on showing himself against
her, use her influence in a way that might not
please him.

Had she really influence ? Courtin sounded
Charles himself on that delicate point ; and the
King of England told him that he had a real
friendship for her, but that he would not suffer
any cabal to draw him into a closer relation
with her. However, he said, she was a great
beauty, and that he found no pleasure equal
to that of conversing with her. He also
showed that he liked to talk about her and
to hear her praised, whereas he appeared in-
different to the Duchess of Portsmouth, who
had grown delicate, was somewhat changed,
and had only enemies in England. It was to
be foreseen that the king would yield to the
new temptress, in which case the French am-
bassador would have uphill work, as he would
at the same time have to combat both minister
and mistress. Courtin did not see that it



Digitized by



Google



COURTIN. 143



mattered to Louis whether the Duchess Ma-
zarin refused conjugal rights to her husband;
but that it greatly mattered if the duke went
on refusing her the fifty thousand livres ^ which
she claimed for her necessary expenses, because
she might help to keep England from joining
with the enemies of his majesty. The English
hated the French more than ever. Courtin
related how a London crowd were going to
throw a Venetian into the Thames because
they took him for a Frenchman. At any
price, the Duchess Mazarin should be gained,
or got out of England. A benefice or an
abbey might be promised to S. R6al.* It
would be a miracle if the King of England
did not fall under the empire of the Duchess,
because the whole Court was making a set
upon him in her behalf

The situation was so dangerous that the
reserved Courtin tried to act on the husband
by a letter, which was insolently satirical. The
lady, he said, was afraid she might find reclu-
sion at Montmartre irksome ; and she did not
feel her strength equal to the severe rules of

* These were the only conditions she stipulated for.

* Courtin to Pomponne, June 8, 1676.



Digitized by



Google



144 LOUISE DE KEROUALLE. ,

a convent From a jocular, he went on to. a
menacing tone. The Duchess took her stand
on the conditions which she proposed when
Madame de Montespan was at the trouble of
endeavouring to make up the breach between
her and her husband.. She remained deter-
mined not to grant him the privileges marriage
justifies. But she would be satisfied with a
yearly pension of fifty thousand livres if her
laces, jewels, and precious furniture were given
back to her, and if the idea of locking her up
in a convent were for ever abandoned. It was
not reasonable to suppose that she would con-
sent to such a captivity, she having charming
lodgings in St James's Palace, and handsome
furniture belonging to the Crown of England.
St James's was the palace of the Duke of
York, who was married to a young Italian
princesis — ^an enthusiastic ally of the. Duchess
Mazarin, who had made up her mind not to
reside at Whitehall, where the king lived. She
did this from a sense of dignity. If she chose,
she would not want for anything, because there
were persons at Court who. would be glad to
aid her in whatever way she wished.

The purblind Duke Mazarin did not see the



Digitized by



Google



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



Digitized by



Google



COURTJN. 145



irony of Courtin, and wrote to him an unctuous
letter of eig^ht pages.^ He argued like a theo-
logian. The reasons he gave might have told
before a conclave of Doctors of Divinity, bjut
they were thrown away on an emancipated
beauty, who was breathing with delight the
corrupt atmosphere of Whitehall. The hus-
band sent epistle on epistle ; and the ambas-
sador continued to treat him as a poor fool.
He wrote to Pomponne, that he had had
another letter from M. Mazarin which might
be used as a sermon.

The Abb6 S. R6al was more pliable'* than
his mistress. He was eaten up with jealousy,
and would be glad to take her from the temp-
tations of London.' He was still very amorous,
and promised the ambassador his best services.
At this juncture St. R6al suddenly started for
Paris. Louvois wrote in October to know the
reason of this.* He could not imagine why a
man so violently enamoured as he by all ac-

* Courtin to Pomponne, June 22, 1676.
2 Ibid,, July 16, 1676.

* Jbiii.^ June 22, 1676.

* Louvois to Courtin, Oct. 21, 1676. Affaires Eirangires,
Angleterrcy tome cxx., C, fol. 177.

L



Digitized by



Google



146 LOUISE DE KEROUALLE.

counts was, should quit in this sudden way the
object of his love.

The ambassador had heard, Courtin replied,
three weeks before St. Real's departure, that
he meant to go.^ He was in the position of
an unhappy lover, and was wont to sit with a
grief-stricken aspect by himself, in the chimney
nook of the chamber nearest to the card-room.
It was to be surmised that the desire shown
by many to keep up the Duchess Mazarin in
commodious lodgings, impelled him to take a
sudden and violent resolution of which he would
probably repent before he got to Dover. The
Duchess bore his absence with Roman fortitude,
and perhaps thought it a deliverance. Louvois,
who had read many of S. Real's letters, which
had been seized in the post-office, opined that
his room must be more grateful to her than his
company.*

The Duchess of Portsmouth, who had been
absent forty days from town, to take the waters
of Bath,' was assailed on her return by the

1 Courtin to Louvois, Jan. 3, 1677.
' Louvois to Courtin, Jan. 3, 1677.
^ She was there from May 25 to July 4. The waters of
Bath then began to be the fashion, they being thought



Digitized by



Google



* COURTIN. 147



Strong jests of Nell Gwynn. The latter armed
herself in every possible way, to shelter her-
self from the resentment Louise might be ex-
pected to harbour because of the visits Nell
received from the king in her absence. On
her way from Bath, the Duchess of Portsmouth
halted at Windsor, to dine with Charles. But
not being offered a room in the Castle, she had
to go on in the evening, to sleep in London.^
Although still thin and worn, she looked better
than when she went to take the waters, and
thought herself so restored that she might hope
soon to pick up flesh. Three days after, she
entertained the Count and Countess de Ruvigny

more recuperative and purifying to the blood than those of
Tunbridge Wells, of which Hamilton had written a charming
discription twelve years previously. To judge from what
he said, Tunbridge Pantiles resembled a scene in a comic
opera; and English village maids and matrons dressed as
tastefully then as Swiss or Breton peasant women still do.
He was as much struck as other French gentlemen of his
day with the neat feet and dainty shoes and stockings which
English women of all classes wore in the time of Charles II.
English ladies' feet have now a reputation for being clum-
sily shod ; and the shoes and stockings of lower-order women
are of a piece with the rest of their cheap tawdry or slattern
dress. {Translator's Note.)

^ Courtin to King Louis, July 6, 1676.



Digitized by



Google



148 LOUISE DE KEROUALLE,

at dinner. The musicians of Louis XIV.'s
chamber, who were on a tour in England,
played during the repast, and Charles came to
hear them. The singers were Giles, Laforest,
Godenesche; and Lambert,^ the father-in-law
of LuUi, accompanied them at the spinnet The
hostess asked them to sing, " Mate me con no
mirar, mas no me mate con zelos,"* and Charles
took in good part the laughter caused by her
request. He continued to give to Louise, in
public, tokens of friendship and regard; but
he only saw her in company, and the former
intimacy was not renewed. The Duchess
Mazarin pleased him more, and he betrayed his
passion for her by his efforts to make the
Duchess of Portsmouth fancy he was not hot
foot after the former. To add to her mis-
fortunes, Louise hurt her eye, which remained
black and swollen for many days. The sparks
of the Court quizzed her about the accident, and
made wretched puns about the ambition shown

^ It was of him that Borlean spoke. Lambert was
Director of Chamber Music to Louis XIV., and obtained a
copyright in 1658 for the publication of his compositions. —
Archives Nat X., 8650. His daughter married Lulli.

' " Make me die of grief, but not of jealousy."



Digitized by



Google



COURTIN. 149



in the blackening of her eye to transform her-
self from a blonde, into a brunette like Madame
Mazarin.*

The French game seemed to be up. Courtin
and Louvois began to neglect Louise, who, after
a reign of six years, was apparently about to
suffer a final defeat She, who was so plucky and
fertile in resources, began to lose courage ; and
despair was creeping on her.* Courtin wrote to
Louis to communicate to him a scene that took
place in her lodging. He went to visit her
at Whitehall, and found her weeping. She
opened her heart to him in the presence of her
two French maids, who stood with downcast
eyes close to the wall, as if glued to it. Tears
flowed from their mistress's eyes ; sighs and
sobs interrupted her speech. M. Courtin stayed
with her until midnight, trying to soothe her
wounded spirit, and to persuade her to hide her
chagrin, and appear not to mind the king s
altered humour. Louvois made fun of her
pangs, and coarsely wrote,* that the scene of

1 Courtin to King Louis, July 9, 1676; Courtin to
Pomponne, July 16, 1676; Ibid,, August 3, 1676.

* Courtin to Louvois, August 6, 1676.

• Louvois* rough irony was proverliial; and his coarse,
arrogant, and overbearing temper made him precipitate



Digitized by



Google



ISO LOUISE DE KEROUALLE,

la Signora adolorata had vastly amused his
majesty, and that the ambassador must have
been the first to laugh at it.

But it was no laughing matter for Louis.
If Europe thought the disgrace of Louise
imminent, the French plenipotentiaries at
Nimeguen would have met with unyielding
opposition. It was necessary to keep the
foreign envoys there in the belief that the
Duchess of Portsmouth was still on the pin-
nacle of royal favour, and so able to support
the policy of France. Courtin wrote to Colbert
de Croissy and Count d'Avaux, who repre-
sented Louis at the Congress, tnat the Duchess
had returned from Bath in better health than
when she set out ; that the king went to meet
her at Windsor and preserved for her the same
feelings.^ Some weeks later, Courtin informed
them that the king was frequently at the
Duchess of Portsmouth's, where there were
card tables for three different games — hombre,

France into that war with the German Empire in which the
Palatinate was ravaged. The letter cited above was dated
August 19, 1676 and is in the records of the Affaires
Etrangires^ AngUterre^ tome cxx.. A., fol. 260.
* July 7, 1676.



Digitized by



Google



COURTIN, 151



basset, and thirty-and-forty ; and that he pro-
mised to attend her Sunday routs at which she
dispensed the most charming hospitality.

While throwing dust in the eyes of the other
powers, Courtin sought to make friends with
the Duchess Mazarin.

A daughter of the king and Duchess of Cleve-
land who had been married, almost in childhood,
to the Earl of Sussex, formed a tender attach-
ment for the beautiful fugitive, whom Charles
arranged to meet at his daughter's apartments.
When he was there, nobody was suffered to
enter the room where he was. An exception
was not even made for the French musicians.^
The chambers of Lady Sussex were those
occupied by her mother when she was in fa-
vour, and were above the king's cabinet. He
could ascend to them by a private stair, without
being seen. Madame Mazarin was always
running in from St James's Palace to Lady
Sussex's, and her tiies-d-tSie with Charles were
prolonged far into the night The French am-
bassador ingratiated himself with the Countess,
and ascertained from her about the, to all

^ Courtin to Pomponne, July 20, 1676



Digitized by



Google



152 LOUISE DE KEROUALLE.

appearance, casual meetings in her rooms of
the king and her dear friend the Duchess.

Moved by a less political design, Courtin
sought to win the friendship of Mrs. Middleton.

Mrs. Middleton was "that famous, that
incomparable beauty," who commanded Gra-
mont's admiration when she made her ddbut at
Court, and was as much admired twenty-five
years later. She was " the belle " of White-
hall, and was formed like a fine statue, was
fair haired, fresh complexioned, and had a soft,
healthy, milk-white skin. There was some-
thing in her manners, and in her carefully
chosen diction, that was too nice for the taste
of the day. Nor was her indolent languor
to the taste of all the gallants of the Court.
She painted in oils with talent. Gramont
lost his heart on her without obtaining hers
in return. Courtin received her at the French
embassy, as a sovereign by right of beauty.
" If I were younger, or, by not following your
example, less wise,'* he \informed Pomponne,'
" I should be able to lead a pleasant life over
here. Madame Mazarin came to dine with
me to-day, in company with Lady Sussex. I
^ July 2, 1676.



Digitized by



Google



COURTIN, 153



had near me at table Mrs. Middleton, who is,


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryH. (Henri) ForneronThe court of Charles II, 1649-1734, comp. from state papers by H. Forneron; → online text (page 9 of 19)