Copyright
H. Noel (Hugh Noel) Williams.

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

. (page 24 of 28)
Online LibraryH. Noel (Hugh Noel) WilliamsMemoirs of Madame Du Barry of the court of Louis XV → online text (page 24 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


is it a sufficiently grave offence to deserve the punish-
ment of being placed in irons, on the simple suspicion
of a woman, still proud of having been for a moment
the first courtesan of the empire?' 1

Madame du Barry appears to have been too much
occupied in endeavouring to trace her lost property to
pay much attention to the attacks of Prudhomme and
his confreres, which, however, were to bear fruit in due

8 See the list of the stolen jewellery published by the Gosa=
courts in La Du Barry, p. 373, et seq.



MADAME DU BARRY 317

season. But, though she engaged the services of Bar-
thelemy Piles, one of the most skilful police-agents of
the day, nothing was heard of the stolen jewels for up-
wards of a month, when a courier arrived from Eng-
land, with the information that the thieves had been
arrested in London. The gang consisted of five per-
sons : three German Jews, a Frenchman, who called
himself a broker and wore the uniform of the National
Guard, and an Englishman named Harris, who actetf
as interpreter, and who, according to the Public Ad-
vertiser (February 17, 1791), had already undergone
a term of penal servitude.

On arriving in London, they had gone to an inn and
engaged a single room, from which it is to be presumed
that the old proverb which tells us that there is honour
among thieves did not hold good in their case, and that
each of them was fearful of letting his confederates
out of his sight. They had no money, but quieted the
landlord's objections by telling him that by the morrow
they would be in possession of a considerable sum.
They then went out and called upon a rich jeweller,
named Simon, to whom they offered a portion of their
booty at about one-sixth of its value. Simon paid
them 1,500, and then inquired if they had any more
to sell. They replied in the affirmative, whereupon, his
suspicions aroused, the jeweller laid information
against them before the Lord Mayor, who immediately
issued a warrant for their arrest.

The day after receiving the news of the apprehen-
sion of the burglars, Madame du Barry set out for
England, accompanied by one of Brissac's aides-de-
camp, the Chevalier d'Escourre, the jeweller Rouen, a
waiting-woman, and two menservants, and arrived in
London on February 20. "Madame du Barry," writes
Horace Walpole to the Berrys on February 26, "is
come over to recover her jewels, of which she has been



318 MADAME DU BARRY

robbed not by the National Assembly, but by four
Jews, who have been seized here and committed to
Newgate. Though the late Lord Barrymore acknowl-
edged her husband to be of his noble blood, will she
own the present Earl as a relation when she finds him
turned strolling player?' If she regains her diamonds,
perhaps Mrs. Hastings may carry her to Court."

Two days later he returns to the subject :

"Madauie du Barry was to go and swear to her
jewels Lefore the Lord Mayor. Boydell, who is a little
better bred than Monsieur Bailly, 11 made excuses for
being obliged to administer the oath dies lui, but
begged she would name her hour, and when she did, he
fetched her himself in the state-coach and had a Mayor-
Royal banquet ready for her. She has got most of her
jewels again. I want the King to send her four Jews
to the National Assembly and tell them it is the change
or la monnaie of Lord George Gordon, the Israelite."

In a subsequent letter (March 5) Walpole writes:
"I have not a tittle to add but that the Lord Mayor
did not fetch Madame du Barry in the City-Royal
coach, but kept her to dinner. She is gone, but re-
turns in April."

The lady had, in fact, left England on March I.
During her stay she had been confronted with the
thieves, but had stated that she had never seen any of
them before. On the other hand, Rouen had identified

'For an account of the theatrical undertakings of Richard,
Earl of Barrymore, see Mr. J. B. Robinson's interesting work,
"The last Earls of Barrymore."

16 " Mrs. Hastings was supposed, by the party violence of the
day, to have received immense bribes of diamonds." Note of
Wright.

11 Jean Sylvain Bailly, Mayor of Paris, the celebrated astron-
omer.

"Lord George Gordon, who was then undergoing a sentence
of five years' imprisonment for libel, had appealed to the Na-
tional Assembly to intercede for his release.



MADAME DU BARRY 319

the jewels, in spite of the fact that several of them had
been defaced, and had declared them to be "the result
of his laborious toil."

The expenses of this first journey, which the Due
de Brissac, who looked upon himself as the involuntary
cause of the robbery, had insisted on defraying,
amounted to 6193 livres.

At the end of a month, Madame du Barry was
obliged to return to London, where a serious legal
difficulty had arisen. As the robbery had been com-
mitted in a foreign country, the delinquents could not
be brought to trial in England, nor, unless a special
application was made for the purpose by the French
Government, could they be even detained in custody
or sent to France for trial. The utmost satisfaction
that Madame du Barry could obtain would be to have
her property restored to her, but before she could hope
for this, many legal formalities must be complied
with. 13

The countess left Louveciennes on April 4 and ar-
rived in London five days later. She was again accom-
panied by d'Escourre and Rouen, and was furnished
by her bankers, the Vandengyers, with a letter of
credit on Simmonds and Hankey, of London. She
had also taken the precaution a very necessary one at
a time when everybody leaving France ran the risk of
being promptly registered as an emigre and having
their property confiscated of procuring a passport
from the Minister Montmorin. 1



13 St. James's Chronicle, February 24, 1791.

14 Here is the passport :



'De Par Le ROY,

" A tons officiers civils et militaires charges de surveiller et
maintenir 1'ordre public dans les differens departemens du ro-
yaume et a tous autres qu'il appartiendra ; salut. Nous vous
mandons et ordonnons que vous ayiez a laisscr passer librement
la dame du Barry allant a Londres avec le S. d' Esc ours, chevalier



320 MADAME DU BARRY

We have very little information about Madame du
Barry's movements during this visit, the expenses of
which amounted to over 15,000 livres, inclusive of the
purchase of two English horses. She appears, how-
ever, to have found a welcome in very exclusive circles
indeed, for, on April 17, Walpole writes to Miss Berry
that the previous day the countess had dined with the
Duke of Queensberry, and that among 1 the guests was
the Prince of Wales. It would be interesting to know
what th3 First Gentleman in Europe and she who, for
a brief period, had been the first lady in France thought
of one another; but, unfortunately, Walpole does not
tell us.

Madame du Barry reached Louceviennes on Satur-
day, May 21, but during the night of the 23rd a courier
arrived to inform her that her presence in London was
indispensable, and, on the following day, she set out
for England for the third time. In spite, however,
of the powerful influences that she was able to enlist
in her favour and the expenditure of a great deal of
money, the affair dragged on it seems to have been
begun in a very careless manner and to have been
conducted still more carelessly and it was not until
towards the end of August that it was finally decided
that, as the robbery had not taken place within English
jurisdiction, the burglars must be acquitted, and that
Madame du Barry must obtain from the French courts
a condemnation of the culprits and a declaration that
the property was really hers. Pending the proof of
her claim to their possession, the jewels were placed

de S. Louis, le S. Rouen, jouailUer, deux femmes ei un valet de
chambre et deux couriers.

" Sans lui donner ni souffrir qu'il lui soit donne aucun em-
pechement; le present passe-port valable pour trois semaines
settlement.

"Donne a Paris, le 3 Avril 1791.

Par Le Roy



MADAME DU BARRY 321

in a sealed box and deposited with Messrs. Ransom,
Morley, and Hammersley, bankers, of Pall Mall.

During this, her third visit to England, Madame du
Barry rented a house in Bruton Street, Berkeley
Square, and, notwithstanding her anxiety to regain
possession of her beloved diamonds, seems to have had
a very pleasant time. She mixed freely in English
society, and we hear of her at several celebrated houses,
notably at the Duke of Queensberry's, where Horace
Walpole made her acquaintance and "had a good deal
of frank conversation with her about Monsieur de
Choiseul." She also visited some of the French
emigres who had found refuge in London a very
unwise proceeding, as it subsequently proved went to
St. Paul's, the Tower, and Ranelagh, gave away a con-
siderable sum in charity, and made numerous pur-
chases : a portrait of the Prince of Wales and another
of the Duchess of Rutland, "two English books/' for
the Prince de Beauvau, with whom she was now on
very friendly terms, and Thomas Paine's "Rights of
Man," and a Shakespeare in parts, for herself.

Perhaps, however, the most interesting incident of
her stay was her visit to the studio of the celebrated
painter Cosway, to whom she sat for the charming
miniature portrait which Conde's fine engraving has
perpetuated for us, and which is certainly the most
pleasing of all the portraits of Madame du Barry.

The former favourite is represented in a white gown
with a high waist, a toilette which seems to anticipate
the fashion of the Directory. Her head is turned
slightly aside, a string of pearls encircles her throat,
her hair is loose and falls in luxuriant curls over her
shoulders, her eyes sparkle with merriment through
their half-closed lids, a half-smile plays round her
mouth. It is indeed hard to believe that this exquisite
"Letter to the Berrys, August 23, 1791.



322 MADAME DU BARRY

miniature, "in which one seems to see the portrait of
the Voluptuousness of the eighteenth century : a Bac-
chante of Greuze," ' is that of a woman in her forty-
eighth year.

Madame du Barry landed in France on August 25,
1791, and proceeded to Louveciennes, where she re-
mained until October 14, 1792, that is to say, for more
than thirteen months.

* E. and J. de Goncourt's La Du Barry, p. 215.




CHAPTER XXII

CURING Madame du Barry's absence in Eng-
land, important changes had taken place in
France. Since the flight to Varennes, in the
previous June, it was impossible for the country to
have any further confidence in its King, and although
the unhappy monarch continued to reign, his authority
was reduced to the merest shadow. He was still, how-
ever, permitted to retain most of the outward and vis-
ible signs of sovereignty; and one of the first acts of
the Legislative Assembly, when it met on October i,
1791, was to appoint a Garde constitutionelle , to take
the place of his disbanded bodyguard.

This Garde constitutionelle, which consisted of 600
cavalry and 1,200 infantry chosen from the troops
of the line or the National Guards, was recruited very
differently from the old Maison du Roi, and no one
was allowed to be enrolled unless he had given "proofs
of citizenship." The choice, however, of its com-
mander and one-third of the officers was left to the
King; and Louis, in spite of the remonstrances of
Marie Antoinette, who still regarded with disfavour
all who continued on terms of intimacy with Madame
du Barry, offered the command to Brissac, 1 trusting,
in his secret heart, that the latter would give a very

1 According to Gabriel, Due de Choiseul, when the flight of
the Royal Family was first contemplated, Brissac wts suggested
as the man best qualified to carry out the scheme; but the pro-
posal was rejected, as it was feared that he might confide the
secret to Madame du Barry, and that she might reveal it.

Memoirs 11 323 Vol. 2



324 MADAME DU BARRY

liberal interpretation to the intentions of the Assembly
with regard to the proofs of citizenship.

The duke accepted the appointment, though with
many misgivings, for the dangers attending his new
office were obvious. Nor were his fears groundless,
as, before many weeks had passed, hostile criticisms
of the manner in which he was discharging his
duties began to appear in the Press. These soon
changed to violent denunciations, and, finally, the Leg-
islative Assembly intervened, and on the nights of May
30-31, 1792, after a lengthy and acrimonious debate,
that body decreed that the Garde constltutionelle
should be disbanded, and its commander be forthwith
arrested and arraigned on a charge of treason before
the High Court, then sitting at Orleans.

It was one o'clock on the morning of the 3ist when
the decree was passed, and Gabriel de Choiseul, who
was present, hurried to the Tuileries to inform the
King and Queen. Louis at once sent a message to
Brissac's apartments in the palace, urging him to make
his escape without a moment's delay. Brissac, how-
ever, was not the man to desert his post, and answered
that he would remain and abide by the consequences.
He then rose, and spent the rest of the night in writing
a long letter to his mistress, which he despatched to
Louveciennes by Mussabre, one of his aides-de-camp.

It would appear to have been on the previous even-
ing, while the debate in the Assembly was proceeding,
that Madame du Barry wrote to the duke as follows :

MADAME Du BARRY to THE Due DE BRISSAC.

"Wednesday, n o'clock?

"I was seized with a mortal fear, M. le Due, when
M. de Maussabre was announced. He assured me that

* M. Vatel is of opinion that this letter was written on July 6,
that is to say, some days after the arrest of the duke and his



MADAME DU BARRY 325

you were in good health, and that you had the tran-
quillity of a good conscience. But this is not enough
for my interest in you ; I am far from you ; I know not
what you intend to do. Of course you will answer
that you yourself do not know, and I am sending the
abbe 3 to find out what is happening and what you are
doing. Oh! why am I not near you? You would
receive the consolation of tender and faithful friend-
ship. I know that you would have nothing to fear did
reason and honesty reign in the Assembly.

"Adieu ! I have no time to say more. The abbe is in
my room, and I want to send him off as quickly as
possible. I shall not rest until I know what has become
of you. I am well assured that you have done your
duty with regard to the formation of the King's Guard,
and on this point I have no fear for you. Your con-
duct has been so open ever since you have resided at
the Tuileries that they will find no charge against you.
Your 'patriotic actions' have been so numerous that in-
deed I wonder what they can impute to you.

"Adieu. Let me hear from you, and never doubt my
affection for you."



At six o'clock that morning Brissac was arrested and
conducted the same day to Orleans. The popular exas-
peration against him was such that special precautions
had to be taken to guard him against attack ; but the

departure for Orleans, which took place on May 31. But, in her
examination on the Qth Brumaire (October 19, 1793), Madame
du Barry, when questioned as to the date, answered that she
wrote the letter "on the same day that he (Brissac) started for
Orleans, or the evening before." She added that it was never
sent, " as she had news of him from one of his people."

3 The Abbe Billiardi, of the Foreign Office, a great friend of

the lovers.

4 Tribunaux revolutionnaires, dossier de Madame du Barry,
Archives nationals. E. and J. de Goncourt's La du Barry, p.
225.



326 MADAME DU BARRY

journey was uneventful, and, a few days later, Madame
du Barry received, though Maussabre, a letter from the
duke announcing his safe arrival. Although Brissac
would not appear to have shown much anxiety at his
position, probably from a desire not to alarm his
friends, the latter were fully alive to the grave dangers
which threatened him ; and his daughter, the Duchesse
de Mortemart, who had emigrated, with her husband,
at the beginning of the Revolution and was now at
Aix-la-Chapelle, wrote to Madame du Barry begging
for information concerning her father.

THE DUCHESSE DE MORTEMART to MADAME DU

BARRY.

"June 5.

"Will you recognise my handwriting, Madame? It
is three years since you saw it, and at a sad moment. 5
This is sadder still for your affection and mine. Ah!
how I have suffered for the last two days ! His cour-
age, his firmness, the praises which are showered upon
him, the regrets which are expressed, his innocence,
nothing can quiet my agitated mind. M. de . . . 6 and
myself wished to start the day before yesterday ; but
several powerful persons dissuaded us from doing so,
pointing out that it would be dangerous for my hus-
band and be of no advantage to my father, and adding

5 On leaving France, in 1789, Madame de Mortemart had
written to Madame du Barry : " Madame, I beg that you will
accept my best thanks for the kindness you have always shown
me, and believe that I deeply regret not being able to see you
before leaving. I feel very sad at the thought that I shall be so
long without seeing my father, and that I cannot even take
leave of him before I set out. But there is nothing left for me,
except to submit to my fate. I beg that you will kindly accept
the assurance of my affection for you."

From the above letter it would appear that the duchess re-
garded her father's passion for Madame du Barry with com-
placence, and was on very friendly terms with the latter.

8 Mortemart, without doubt.



MADAME DU BARRY 327

that the fact of his being an emigre would injure him.
But I, Madame, could not I be of some service to him ?
might it not be possible for me to see him ? Can it be
imputed as a crime to a woman in delicate health to
have gone to take the waters, and must it be visited on
my father? I cannot believe it, and it is the only
thing of which I am afraid. If you think that I could
be of any use to him either at Paris or Orleans, have
the kindness to let me know, and I will fly thither. Is
there any means of hearing from him or communicat-
ing with him? Send me word, I entreat you, and I
will hasten to take advantage of it. I learned, through
a man who is, perhaps, unknown to you" (the name,
written between parentheses, is erased) "that you had
gone to Orleans. Let me tell you that such token of
attachment for one who is dear to me gives you an
eternal claim on my gratitude. Accept, I beg of you,
the assurance of the affection which I have for you
for life.

"Allow me to curtail the usual compliments at the
end of letters, and give me the same mark of friend-
ship. I send this letter through a reliable person at
Paris, who, I trust, will be able to forward it to you
without inconvenience. Pardon my scribble.'



5)7



Whether Madame du Barry went to Orleans, as the
duchess's informant stated, is doubtful. According to
one writer, she not only did so, but took with her a
considerable sum of money, in the hope of bribing
Brissac's gaolers to connive at his escape. But it
seems very difficult to believe that the duke, who, as
we have seen, had made no attempt to escape on the
night when his arrest was decreed by the Legislative
Assembly, when he could have done so with the cer-
tainty of success, would have consented to a plan

7 Cited in Vatel's Histoire de Madame du Barry, iii. 163.



328 MADAME DU BARRY

which must have presented many obstacles, and which,
in case of failure, must have gravely compromised his
mistress; while, on the other hand, the ex-favourite's
presence in Orleans, by awakening memories of the
scandalous past, would have undoubtedly injured the
prisoner.

Brissac was incarcerated in an old convent in the
Rue Illiers. He was examined on June 15, but hardly
attempted to justify himself. When charged with
admitting royalists into the Garde constitutionelle, he
merely denied it: "I have admitted into the King's
Guard no one but citizens who fulfilled all the condi-
tions contained in the decree of formation."

He was taken back to prison, but does not seem
to have been kept in very close custody, and was per-
mitted to communicate with his friends; for on June
20 Madame de Mortemart informs Madame du Barry
that she had had a letter from her father.

THEDUCHESSE DE MORTEMART to MADAME DU BARRY.

"June 20.

"A million thanks, Madame, for the news which you
have so kindly sent me. Your letter has been delayed,
and I only received it together with one from my
father, which has afforded me great pleasure. Since
then I have heard that he has been examined, and is no
longer in close confinement. He is now as comfortable
as a prisoner can be. Although he is known to be
innocent, I fear that the proceedings will last a long
while. I should have rejoiced had I been able to have
been of any use to him or given him any pleasure in
his confinement. Adieu, Madame. Pardon my scrib-
ble. Be assured of my love for life."

But neither daughter nor mistress were ever to be-
8 Cited in Vatel's Histoire de Madame du Barry, iii. 167.



MADAME DU BARRY 329

hold the prisoner at Orleans again. The ill-advised
manifesto of the Duke of Brunswick, the declaration
that the country was in danger, the arrival in Paris of
the Marseillais and thousands of enthusiastic volun-
teers on their way to> the frontier, roused the excited
populace to madness ; and a few weeks after Madame
de Mortemart's letter was written, the storm which
had so long been gathering burst in all its fury.

After the storming of the Tuileries and the mas-
sacres which followed, Brissac and his fellow prison-
ers could no longer disguise from themselves the ter-
rible danger which menaced them; and on the very
day on which the news of the events of August 1.0
reached him, the duke asked for writing material,
and, with his own hand, drew up his will.

Having appointed the Duchesse de Mortemart his
residuary legatee and made provision for various rela-
tives and dependents, the testator recommended very
earnestly to his daughter "a lady who was very dear
to him, and whom the evils of the time might plunge
into the greatest distress/' and then added the follow-
ing codicil :

"I give and bequeath to Madame du Barry, of Lou-
veciennes, above and beyond what I owe her, a yearly
income for life of 24,000 livres, free from all condi-
tions; or, again, the use and enjoyment for life of my
estate of la Rambaudiere and la Graffiniere, in Poitou,
and the movables belonging to it; or, yet again, a
lump sum of 300,000 livres payable in cash ; whichever
she may prefer. When once she has accepted either
of the three legacies mentioned, the other two will be-
come void. I beg her to accept this small token of
my gratitude, I being so much the more her debtor in
that / was the involuntary cause of the loss of her dia-
monds, and that if ever she succeeds in regaining them



330 MADAME DU BARRY

from England, those which will be lost, added to the
expenses incurred in the various journeys which their
recovery has rendered necessary, will amount to a total
equivalent to the value of this legacy. I request my
daughter to prevail upon her to accept it. My knowl-
edge of her (his daughter's) heart assures me that
she will punctually disburse whatever sums she may
be called upon to pay in order to fulfil my will and
codicil. My wish is that none of the other legacies be
paid over until this one has been discharged in full.

'Written and signed with my own hand at Orleans,
this August u, 1/92.

"LOUIS-HERCULE-TIMOLEON DE COSSE-BRISSAC."

The same day, the duke wrote the following letter
to Madame du Barry, the only one, unfortunately, of
those sent from Orleans \vhich has been preserved :

THE Due DE BRISSAC to MADAME DU BARRY.

"Saturday, August n, Orleans, 6 p. M.

"I received this morning the most amiable of let-
ters, and one which has gladdened my heart more than
any which I have received for a long while. I kiss
you thousands and thousands of times; yes, you will
be my last thought.

"We are in ignorance of all particulars" (of the
events of August 10) ; ; T groan and shudder. Ah !
dear heart, would that I could be with you in a wilder-
ness rather than in Orleans, which is a very wearisome
place to be in."

9 Le Roi's Curiosites historiques, p. 287. The legacy of the
duke to Madame du Barry was almost entirely absorbed by the
creditors of the lady, and by a lawsuit between the Becus and the
Gomards both of which families claimed to be her heirs
which lasted from 1814 to 1830.

10 Tribunaux revolutionnaires, dossier de Madame du Barry,


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 24 26 27 28

Online LibraryH. Noel (Hugh Noel) WilliamsMemoirs of Madame Du Barry of the court of Louis XV → online text (page 24 of 28)