Copyright
H. Noel (Hugh Noel) Williams.

Memoirs of Madame Du Barry of the court of Louis XV online

. (page 18 of 28)
Online LibraryH. Noel (Hugh Noel) WilliamsMemoirs of Madame Du Barry of the court of Louis XV → online text (page 18 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


house ; though I do not believe that you can find much
diversion here; je suis toute la journee avec Madame
Pater, et la nuit je couche avec ellef'

After this very plain hint the Prince de Conde, who
preferred easier conquests, retired from the field, and
the stream of callers sensibly diminished; but by this
time the fame of the lady's beauty had reached the ears
of the King, who sent the Prince de Soubise to invite
Madame Pater to sup with his Majesty at Versailles.
The invitation would, no doubt, have been accepted,
had the decision rested with the lady, in which case it
it not improbable that Jeanne Been would never have
attained the "sunlit heights." But Monsieur Pater,
learning what was in the wind, took alarm, and
straightway carried off his wife to Holland, much to
the chagrin of the King. 3

lished themselves behind her chair, and proceeded to dissect h'er
character in stage whispers. Madame Pater pretended not to
hear, until presently her partner inquired if she had any
"honours," upon which she glanced round at her rivals and
replied : " I do not know whether these ladies have left me any."
8 Comte Fleury's Louis XV. intime: Les petites waitresses, p.
297, et seq. Manuel's La Police de Paris devoilee, ii. passim.



MADAME DU BARRY 235

Ten years elapsed ere Madame Pater returned to
the scene of her triumphs. In the interval, she had
contrived to secure a separation from the jealous hus-
band, and had taken the name of Baronne de New-
kerke. On this occasion she aspired to an important
role. Encouraged by the Due de Duras, who is said
to have been acting under instructions from the exile
of Chanteloup, she laid determined siege to the heart
of the King; but her ambition soared much higher
than the post of matiresse en titre: she had determined
to follow in the footsteps of Madame de Maintenon.

Madame Pater's dream of greatness was fated never
to be realised, but the conduct of the King must cer-
tainly have afforded her good reason to hope for suc-
cess. He paid her the most marked attention, gave
her a handsome pension, and installed her in a suite
of apartments on the res-de-ch<mssee of the Chateau of
Meudon, where she appears to have divided her time
between ghostly conferences with a fashionable abbe
she had abjured the Protestant faith and been re-
ceived into the Catholic Church, by the cure of Saint-
Eustache, in order to further her designs and taking
lessons in dancing and deportment from Despreaux,
of the Opera.

The latter, who declares that she was the most beau-
tiful woman that he had ever seen, has left us some
interesting details about Madame Pater's life at Meu-
don. He says that every Sunday she dined in the
grand vestibule, and afterwards held a sort of Court,
which was attended by the governor and all the officials
of the chateau, who treated her with the most pro-
found respect ; that occasionally, wearing a mask and
leaning on the actor's arm, she condescended to take
a promenade in Meudon, "in the midst of a great
crowd" ; and that the Prince de Lambesc, son of the
Comte de Brionne, grand ecuyer de France, "loved her



236 MADAME DU BARRY

to madness and offered her his hand and heart" ; but
that all she would accept from him was a carriage and
six horses from the royal stables. 4

When Louis XV. was seized with his last illness,
Madame Pater hastened to Versailles and remained
there until the death of the King, apparently in antici-
pation that, in the event of his recovery, he would fall
an easy victim to her persuasions.

After the fatal termination of the King's illness had
destroyed her hopes, she consoled herself by marrying
the Marquis de Champcenetz, Governor of the Tuile-
ries, and became one of the leaders of the fashionable
world. At the beginning of the Revolution she emi-
grated, but returned during the Directory, and, for
some time, appears to have taken an active share in
Royalist intrigues. In one of these she was eventually
detected, and exiled by Bonaparte. She died in Hol-
land in 1806.

At the time that Madame Pater was indulging in her
fond dreams at Meudon, a general impression appears
to have prevailed in well-informed circles that Louis
XV. would sooner or later seek repose of conscience
to borrow Mercy's phrase by a second marriage.
This belief was due, in a great measure, to the sur-
prising influence which Madame Louise, the Carmelite,
had lately acquired over her royal father. By a singu-
lar paradox, the princess in question, who, so long as
she was at Court, had enjoyed not the least credit, had,
since her retirement from the world, become a force to
be reckoned with. The King paid her frequent visits,
and was reported to be deeply moved by her exhorta-
tions to repentance.

Urged on by Chistophe de Beaumont, the Archbishop
of Paris, and the Chancellor, who believed that he de~
4 Souvenirs de Jeanne Etlenne Despreaux, p. 10, et seq.



MADAME DU BARRY 237

tected in the King signs of remorse, and had decided
that it might be more advisable for him to be on the
side of the confessor than on that of the mistress, Ma-
dame Louise returned to the project of Louis's mar-
riage with the Archduchess Elizabeth of Austria, which
had never been wholly abandoned, and when her father
demurred to this, suggested that perhaps the widowed
Princesse de Lamballe might serve equally well.

Madame du Barry became seriously alarmed, and
one day, when the King was on the point of starting
for Saint-Denis to visit his daughter, threw herself at
his feet, told him that she knew that her disgrace was
decided upon, and that she would prefer to receive her
dismissal from his own lips than to suffer the humilia-
tion of receiving it from the base cabal which was
conspiring to ruin her. 8

The project of the King's remarriage came to noth-
ing, but the influence of the royal Carmelite over her
father seemed to increase as Louis grew older, and
towards the end of the year 1773 rumours of the
favourite's approaching fall were rife. They were,
however, without foundation, and the King, learning

5 If we are to believe that amusing work, Les Pastes de Louis
XV., Madame du Barry's friends advised her to persuade the
Pope to annul her marriage with Guillaume du Barry, in order
that she might herself be in a position to marry the King, and
Terray drew up for her a petition to the Vatican, which, briefly
put, was as follows :

" Madame du Barry represents to his Holiness that, having but
little knowledge of canonical rules, she was unaware at the time
of the celebration of her marriage with the Comte Guillaume du
Barry that it was not permissible to espouse the brother of a
man with whom one had lived. She avows, with all the grief
of a repentant soul, that she had had a weakness for the Comte
Jean du Barry, her husband's brother ; that she had been, happily,
warned in time of the incest she was about to commit, and that
her enlightened conscience did not permit her to live with her
new husband; that thus the crime had not yet been committed;
and she implores his Holiness to consent to free her from an
alliance so scandalous."



238 MADAME DU BARRY

what was reported, took an early opportunity of dis-
proving it. On November 16, the marriage of the
Comte d'Artois to Maria Theresa of Savoy, younger
sister of the Comtesse de Provence, was celebrated.
The ceremony was preceded by a banquet, which was
understood to be confined to the Royal Family and
Princes and Princesses of the Blood. To the general
astonishment, however, Madame du Barry appeared,
"radiant as the sun, and wearing five million livres
worth of jewels on her person." A place was reserved
for her immediately opposite the King, and it was re-
marked that throughout the repast she seemed to have
eyes for no one but his Majesty, who, in return, bent
upon her many affectionate glances, "et lid faisoit des
mines remarquablcs" : 'It is believed," continues the
chronicler, "that his Majesty was very pleased to
thus give a denial to the rumours concerning the

-j o

disgrace of this lady which were going about, while
she evinced no less plainly her gratitude and profound
respect."

At the beginning of the year 1774, the last of her
favour, Madame du Barry, encouraged by the fact that
Marie Antoinette had of late "abstained from morti-
fying remarks" in reference to the countess, made
another attempt to overcome the hostility of the Dau-
phiness. A jeweller in Paris was offering for sale a
pair of magnificent earrings, "formed of four dia-
monds of extraordinary size and beauty," and valued
at 700,000 livres. Aware of the princess's passion for
jewellery, the favourite persuaded the Comte de
Noailles to bring these earrings to the notice of Marie
Antoinette and to say that "if her Royal Highness
found them to her taste, she need not trouble herself
about the price or the payment, as means would be

6 Nouvelles a la main de la maison d'Harcourt, cited by M.
Vatel.



MADAME DU BARRY 239

found to persuade the King to make her a present of
them."

In vain was the net spread; Marie Antoinette re-
plied simply that she had enough diamonds, and had
no desire to increase her collection.

Madame du Barry, unlike Madame de Pompadour,
was not thin-skinned, and cared little or nothing for
the libels and lampoons wherewith her enemies assailed
her. The story goes that on one occasion the Lieuten-
ant of Police came to her and said : "Madame, we have
just caught a rascal who has composed a scandalous
song about you. What are we to do with him?"
"Make him sing it, and then give him something to
eat," answered the good-natured favourite, laughing.
However, there is a limit even to the patience of the
saintliest monk, as the long-suffering Major of the
Bastille observed when he had that egregious impostor,
M. Latude, under his care; and, in the case of Madame
du Barry, this was reached in the early weeks of 1774.

There happened to be living in London at this time
an adventurer from Burgundy named Theveneau de
Morande, who, having got into trouble in his own
country, had taken, refuge in England. Here he found
himself entirely without resources, but, being possessed
of a lively imagination, a facile pen, and boundless
impudence, soon hit upon a highly remunerative mode
of earning a livelihood. This was to compose gross
and scandalous libels about persons of exalted station,
which were printed in England and Holland, and in-
troduced clandestinely into France. Among other
works, he had published, under the title of Le Gazetier
cuirasse (The Journalist in Armour), ou Anecdotes
scandaleuses de la Cour de France, a collection of the
most atrocious stories, which inspired such consterna-
tion among his victims that many, including the Mar-



240 MADAME DU BARRY

quis de Marigny, Madame de Pompadour's brother,
hastened to send money across the Channel, in order
to secure immunity from further attacks.

Encouraged by his success, M. de Morande deter-
mined to fly at still higher game. Accordingly, he
wrote to Madame du Barry, enclosing the prospectus
of a forthcoming work, in four octavo volumes,
founded upon her life, and bearing the piquant title
of Memoires secrets d'une femme publique, ou Essai
sur les aventures de madame la comtesse Dub***
depuis son berceau fusqu'au lit d'honneur. The author
intimated that if the subject of his biography preferred
that the work should not appear, he would be willing
to enter into negotiations for the sale of the copyright.

The unfortunate favourite, who had already been
outrageously libelled in Le Gazetier cuirasse, wherein
it was asserted, among other charges, that she had
founded a new Order at Court, to which only those
women were to be admitted who had bestowed their
favours on at least ten different men, was greatly
alarmed, and hurried off to consult the King and
d'Aiguillon, who applied to the English Govern-
ment for Morande's extradition.

The English Government answered that it was im-
possible for them to comply with such a demand, as
Morande's offence was not one which came within the
scope of the extradition treaty; but, inasmuch as the
person in question was "a pest to society and a plague
to mankind," they would offer not the slightest ob-
jection to his seizure and removal to France, provided
that it could be done secretly and in such a way as not
to wound the susceptibilities of the English public.

The French Ministry thereupon sent a brigade of
police-agents to London, with orders to capture Mo-
rande and restore him to his native land, where the
darkest cell and the heaviest irons to be found in Gal-



MADAME DU BARRY 241

banon awaited him. But Morande was prepared for
them. He had received timely warning of the expe-
dition against him from a confederate in Paris, and
had denounced it in the London journals, at the same
time giving himself out as a political exile, whom his
persecutors dared to follow even on to the sacred soil
of liberty, thus violating the generous hospitality which
the English people never failed to extend to the un~
fortunate of all nationalities.

This ingenious appeal for public sympathy was not
made in vain; and when the French police-agents ar-
rived in London, they had no need to search for their
prey ; for he was waiting to receive them, at the head
of an infuriated mob, which fell upon them and would
have thrown them into the Thames, had they not pru-
dently sought safety in flight.

After this fiasco, the French Government had re-
course to negotiations, and sent over two ambassadors,
named Bellanger and Preaudeau de Chenilly, to treat
with Morande. The latter, however, refused to re-
ceive them, posed before the English people in the
character of an avenger of public morality, and has-
tened on the publication of his work.

Three thousand copies of the book had been printed
and were on the point of being despatched to Holland
and Germany, to be afterwards circulated throughout
France, and Madame du Barry and Louis XV. were in
despair, when La Borde, the King's valet-de-chambre,
suggested to his master to send over Beaumarchais,
whose masterly conduct of his lawsuit against Goez-
man had excited general admiration, though it had '
ruined him in fortune and credit.

The famous dramatist was ready enough to em-
brace such an opportunity of reinstating himself in
the good graces of the King, and in March set out for
London, under the name of Ronac, an anagram of



242 MADAME DU BARRY

his patronymic of Caron, to treat with the "Journalist
in Armour" for the sale and suppression of the Me-
moir es secrets.

More fortunate than MM. Ballanger and de Che-
nilly, he succeeded in obtaining an interview with
Morande, who gave him a copy of his book and the
manuscript of another libel, with which he intended to
follow it up, and promised to suspend publication while
Beaumarchais returned to Versailles to lay his demands
before the King.

After a good deal of haggling a bargain was struck,
whereby M. Morande was to suppress his work and
abstain from further attacks upon the reputation of
Madame du Barry, and the French Government was
to pay him 20,000 livres in cash and a pension cf 4000
livres, half of which sum was to revert to his wife
"a respectable Englishwoman, whom he treated abom-
inably" in the event of his death. 7

The manuscript and the 3000 copies of the Me-
moires secrets were then burned by Beaumarchais and
Morande in an oven in the suburbs of London, and the
dramatist returned to France to receive the reward of
his successful diplomacy. But alas ! there was no re-
ward forthcoming, not even poor Beaumarchais's ex-
penses ; for when he reached Versailles, Louis XV. lay
on his death-bed."

7 Some writers assert that the pension was revoked in the suc-
ceeding reign, Louis XVI. refusing to be bound by the acts of
his grandfather. This, however, is an error. Morand'e's pension
was an annuity duly secured, and all that the French Government
did was to commute a portion of it at the recipient's own request.

8 Lomenie's Beaumarchais et son temps, \. 376, et seq. Dutens 1
Memoires d'un voyageui qui se repose, ii. 39.



CHAPTER XVII

EJIS XV. was growing old; slowly but surely
his constitution, undermined by long years of
debauchery, was breaking up. He had become
obese and unwieldy; to get him on to his horse or
into his carriage was now "quite an affair of State" ;
his digestive organs were impaired; he was compelled
to dilute his wine with Vichy water, and his petits
soupcrs had become Barmecide feasts, so far as he
himself was concerned. : T see that I am no longer
young, and that I must put on the drag," said he one
day to La Martiniere, his First Surgeon. "Sire," was
the answer, "it would be wiser for you to unharness
the horses."

And with the decline of his physical powers, the
King's mental faculties were failing too. His fits of
ennui a malady from which nearly all the Bourbons
suffered to a greater or less degree were becoming
more frequent and more prolonged, and taxing all the
ingenuity of Madame du Barry to combat successfully.
In his correspondence with Maria Theresa, Mercy
frequently refers to this incurable melancholy of Louis
XV. : "The King is growing old, and from time to
time seenis to have regrets. He finds himself isolated,
without aid or consolation from his children, without
zeal, attachment, or fidelity from the bizarre assem-
blage composing his Ministry, his society, his surround-
ings." And again: "From time to time the King
begins to make remarks concerning his age, his health,

letter of August 14, 1773.
243



244 MADAME DU BARRY

and the frightful account that must one day be ren-
dered to the Supreme Being for our employment of
the life He has accorded to us in this world. These
reflections, occasioned by the death of some persons of
his own age, who died almost before his eyes,* have
greatly alarmed those who retain the monarch in his
present errors, and from that moment everybody has
thought it his duty to conceal such events so far as
possible."

The King's conscience, in short, was beginning to
awaken ; Holy Week, a period always dreaded by his
mistresses, was becoming each year more dangerous,
and those of 1773 an d *774 nac ^ reduced the super-
stitious monarch to the most abject terror. Corrupt
and sycophantic as so many of the Court clergy were,
there had, happily, never been wanting honest and
courageous ministers of the Gospel amongst them.
The celebrated Jesuit preacher, Bourdaloue, had not
hesitated to denounce the profligacy of le Grande
Monarque in the most scathing terms; and now
Bourdaloue had found two worthy successors in the
persons of the Abbe de Beauvais and the Abbe
Rousseau. "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be de-
stroyed !" was the text of one of the former's sermons
in April 1774; and Louis applied the threat of the
prophet to himself and trembled.*

9 In November 1773, at one of the petits soupers, the Marquis
de Chauvelin fell dead actually at Louis' feet; shortly after-
wards, the Abbe de'la Ville, to whom the King was giving audi-
ence, was seized with a fatal attack of apoplexy; and the
Genoese Ambassador, Sorba, also died in a terribly sudden
manner.

3 Letter of February 19, 1774.

4 In Holy Week of the previous year, the ^ Abbe de Beauvais
had preached a sermon in which the following passage is said
to have occurred: " Solomon, satiated with voluptuousness, tired
of having extinguished, in the endeavour to revive his withered
senses, every sort of pleasure that surrounded the throne, ended
by seeking one of a new kind in the vile dregs of public corrup-



MADAME DU BARRY 245

Madame du Barry, on her side, was scarcely less
uneasy. The Almanack de Liege for that year had
contained among" its predictions one which announced
that, in the month of April, "a great lady playing an
important role at a foreign Court would cease to fill
it," and, in dire alarm, she racked her brains to find
means to divert the mind of her royal lover from
thoughts of death and judgment.

On Tuesday, April 26, Louis XV. left Versailles to
spend a few days at the Little Trianon, the pavilion
recently constructed by the architect Gabriel. The fol-
lowing morning, on rising, he felt unwell, complaining
of pains in the head, shivering-fits, and giddiness. He
refused, however, to countermand the hunt arranged
for that day, and, in the hope that exercise might
prove beneficial, decided to take part in the sport as
usual. His caleche was accordingly ordered, and he
set out for' the meet, but, on arriving there, felt too
ill to mount his horse, and followed the chase in his
carriage, returning to Trianon about half-past five.

During the day the headache from which Louis had
suffered in the morning had become much worse, and
Madame du Barry advised that one of his physicians
should be summoned. To this, however, he refused
to consent, declaring that it was merely a passing in-
disposition, which a little medicine and a night's rest
would cure, and spent the evening in the favourite's
apartments, where he took some simple remedy.

But the King passed a restless night, and in the
morning was so much worse that Lemonnier, his First
Physician, was sent for.

tion." M. Vatel, who discuss'es this question at some length, with
the view, apparently, of vindicating the character of the Jewish
monarch, is of opinion that the Abbe de Beauvais never used the
words imputed to him, as they are not to be found in his col-
lected sermons. Perhaps, however, as Mr. Douglas suggests,
they were omitted by a timid editor.



246 MADAME DU BARRY

Lemonnier found his royal patient in a fever, but
did not appear to think that there was any cause for
alarm; and Madame du Barry, much reassured, de-
cided, after a consultation with the Due d'Aumont,
the First Gentleman of the Bedchamber in attendance
on his Majesty, to keep the King at Trianon until he
recovered, and to allow no hint of his illness to reach
the Royal Family, who had remained at Versailles.

Now it is probable that the favourite and d'Aumont,
who was devoted to her interests, acted merely from
selfish motives, knowing full well that even the slightest
indisposition was enough to arouse qualms of consci-
ence in the superstitious monarch. Nevertheless it is
now generally admitted that, had they been allowed
to carry out their plan, the life of Louis XV. might
have been saved, for, in his light and airy apartments
at Trianon, with every one but Lemonnier, Madame
du Barry, and his valet-de-chambre excluded from his
sick-room, he would have had an infinitely better chance
of recovery than at Versailles, where unbending eti-
quette demanded that not only his whole staff of medi-
cal advisers, but every one who had the entree, should
be admitted to the royal bedchamber, even though its
unfortunate occupant were in extremis. 5

However, ill news flies apace, and, in spite of the
precautions of Madame du Barry and the duke, the
state of the King was soon known at Versailles. The
Royal Family did not dare to go to Trianon without
a summons from his Majesty; but the Dauphin de-
spatched La Martiniere, who had great influence over
Louis and was permitted to speak his mind freely.

La Martiniere did not love Madame du Barry, and
was, therefore, unlike Lemonnier, but little inclined to
forego what he conceived to be his duty out of def-
erence to that lady's wishes. He was an honest man,
5 Vatel's Histoire de Madame du Barry, ii. 320.



MADAME DU BARRY 247

brusque but firm, and he resolved to persuade Louis to
return to Versailles.

Early in the afternoon of the 28th, he reached
Trianon, saw the King at once, and represented to him
that it was absolutely without precedent for a King of
France to allow himself to be nursed anywhere save
in his principal residence and with the whole Faculty
standing round his bed ; and, in spite of the entreaties
of the favourite, poor Louis, ever a slave to etiquette,
. yielded, and told La Martiniere to order his carriage
to be got ready. The King entered it in his robe-de-
chambre, and, on arriving at the chateau, waited in
Madame Adelaide's apartments while his bed was
being prepared. When, a little later, Marie Antoinette
and the princesses presented themselves at the door of
the royal bedchamber, his Majesty intimated that he
desired to be alone, and they withdrew, leaving the
invalid to the care of Madame du Barry, who entered
by the private staircase ; and took her place by his side.

The fever and the pains in the head increased in se-
verity during the night; the King could not sleep,


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Online LibraryH. Noel (Hugh Noel) WilliamsMemoirs of Madame Du Barry of the court of Louis XV → online text (page 18 of 28)