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tails. She was carelessly sitting, or rather I should say
reclining, on a large fauteuil, and wore a dress of
white material with garlands of roses, which I see
even now as I write, fifteen years later.

"Madame du Barry was one of the prettiest women
at the Court, where there were so many, and assuredly
the most bewitching, on account of the perfections of
her whole person. Her hair, which she often wore
without powder, was fair and a most beautiful colour,
and she had such a profusion that she was at a loss
to know what to do with it. Her blue eyes, widely
open, had a kind and frank expression, and she fixed

*Armand Vignerod Duplessis Richelieu (1720-1788), son of
Armand Louis de Vign'erod, Marquis de Richelieu, Dae d'Aiguil-
lon, and Anne Charlotte de Crussol-Florensac. Until his father'*
death, in 1750, he bore the title of Due d'Agenois.


them upon those to whom she spoke, and seemed to
follow in their faces the effect of her words. She had
a tiny nose, a very small mouth, and a skin of daz-
zling whiteness. In short, she quickly fascinated
every one, and I well-nigh forgot my petition in the
delight I experienced in gazing at her. I was then
about twenty-five years of age. She readily perceived
my embarrassment, as did the Due d'Aiguillon, who
very adroitly turned it off with one of those compli-
ments which he knew so well how to make. I then
presented my petition, adding some explanation and
laying stress on the necessity there was for haste, and
on the hope that we all placed in her for saving the
life of this unhappy Charpentier.

'I give you my promise to speak to the King,
Monsieur/ she answered, 'and I trust that his Majesty
will not refuse me this favour. Monsieur le Due
knows well that his friends are mine, and I thank him
for not forgetting it,' she added, turning towards him
with a charming smile. She then questioned me about
my family, and as to how long I had served, and dis-
missed us, telling me that I should soon have news
from her. She gave her hand to the Due d'Aiguillon,
who kissed it, observing: 'This is for the Captain-
Lieutenant; is there nothing for the company?' which
made her laugh ; and she bestowed upon me the same
favour, of which I hastened to take advantage.

; 'The following day, while I was on guard, a lackey,
in the well-known livery of the countess, who had been
to our hotel to inquire for me, approached and in-
formed me that his mistress expected me at six o'clock.
At the hour appointed, I presented myself at the door
of her apartment and was admitted. There were sev-
eral persons there, and the King was standing with
his back against the chimney-piece. On perceiving
me, Madame du Barry said to his Majesty: 'Sire,


here is my chevau-leger, who comes to render his
thanks to your Majesty.'

'Thank, in the first place, Madame la Comtesse,'
said Louis XV. to me, 'and tell your protege that, if
I pardon him, he must, by his attention to my service,
cause the fault of which he has been guilty to be

"I do not very well know what answer I made the
King; but the Due d'Aiguillon, who was present, as-
sured me that I had said all that was necessary, and
that the King had been satisfied with me and pleased
that I had had the tact to choose Madame du Barry
to ask for Charpentier's pardon. The same evening,
the news was despatched to Provins, where the poor
man was expecting nothing but death. He afterwards
made a good soldier, and became an example to his

"The story which I told my comrades of the good-
ness of the countess was received with great applause,
and the Vicomte du Bany, our cornet, had nothing
but praises and compliments to report to her. We
always believed that he did so, for on every occasion
she showed a marked preference for the chevau-le gers
above all the other troops of the King's Household.
For my part, I was always afterwards treated with
kindness, and I often met her at the hotel of the
Duchesse d'Aiguillon, to whom she w 3 much attached
on account of her husband. I never again visited
her apartments, save on two occasions, to seek M.
d'Aiguillon on business connected with our company,
when I had not found him at his hotel and the matter
was urgent. But the place of a simple chevau-leger
was not in the midst of all the courtiers who thronged
her apartment, to pay their court to her or to meet his
Majesty there. She understood that, and had the
delicacy though she treated me very kindly when I


met her never to ask why I did not visit her, as
many women would have done. It was a different
matter at the Due d'Aiguillon's, who was our chief,
and where the 'red-coats' often found themselves, or
at the Marechale de Mirepoix's, where I also went
frequently. 'Ah! there is my chevau-leger, 3 was the
phrase which the countess never failed to employ when
she caught sight of me, and she would inquire if there
was anything she could do for me. As I invariably
replied that there was not, she said, 'He always re-
plies "No," when there are so many who would an-
swer "Yes." My dear duke, are they all like that in
your company?' 'Assuredly not/ answered the Due
d'Aiguillon, and the laughter and gaiety which fol-
lowed seemed as if it would never come to an end."

The Due d'Aiguillon, who figures in the above inci-
dent, was Choiseul's most bitter enemy. The an-
tagonism between them was something more than the
conflict of personalities; it was one of principles and
ideas. "M. de Choiseul belonged to the Jansenists, to
the Parliamentarians, to the party of reform in
Church and State, to the first awakening of Liberty, to
the conspiracy of the future. M. d'Aiguillon belonged
to the traditions of his family, to the school of his
great-uncle, Cardinal de Richelieu, to the wisdom of
the past ; tx> the theory of the right of absolute power,
to the party of social discipline, to the doctrine which
makes of monarchical government a good pleasure
tempered by a theocracy. In these two men every-
thing is antagonistic, the internal administration of
the country as well as the plan of her alliances on the
map of Europe. They are the two champions and the
two extremities of their age."

8 Souvenirs d'un Chevau-Uger, p. 128, et seq.
*E. and J. de Goncourt's La Du Barry, p. 48.


After having been in disgrace for a number of years,
in consequence of the attachment which had once ex-
isted between himself and the King's mistress, Ma-
dame de Chateauroux, d'Aiguillon was eventually
restored to favour and made Governor of Brittany, in
which capacity he gained the victory of Saint-Cast
over an English force which had landed there with
the intention of ravaging the coast. His internal ad-
ministration of that somewhat unruly province was
less happy, and though M. Vatel, whose predilection
for Madame du Barry appears to extend to her
friends, has attempted his defence, there can be little
doubt that his conduct, which aroused the bitterest
hostility among all classes, was tyrannical and high-
handed to the last degree, if not worse.

The Parliament of Brittany was almost as inde-
pendent as that of Paris, and, in 1764, that court
forbade the collection of a tax which the Governor had
levied without obtaining its consent. The recalcitrant
magistrates were summoned to Versailles, in the hope
that the frown of Majesty might overcome their
resistance, but they declined to yield, whereupon
d'Aiguillon arrested several, including the procureur-
general, La Chalotais, 4 on a charge of sending threat-

4 D'Aiguillon was particularly bitter against La Chalotais, who
had accused him of personal cowardice at the battle of Saint-
Cast. It appears that, in the course of the conflict, the duke
mounted to the top of a windmill, in order to direct the opera-
tions of his troops. La Chalotais remarked that in the battle
" the troops were covered with glory, and their general with
meal " ; in other words, that the duke had gone into the mill to
s'eek shelter. The charge, which was not made until eight years
after the event, was, of course, groundless, as all contemporary
accounts of the battle agree in eulogising the conduct of
d'Aiguillon, and, whatever his faults may have been, he was
c'ertainly not lacking in courage, and, when a mere lad, had
been twice severely wounded and mentioned in despatches for
conspicuous bravery. However, the hatred with which the ar-
bitrary governor was regarded was such that the slander found
ready credence, and has been repeated by several historians.


ening anonymous letters to the King, exiled others,
and organised a new Parliament. The Bretons, how-
ever, resisted the new tribunal with all their native
stubbornness, and, after a struggle of four years, the
Government gave way, the old judges were restored
to their places, and d'Aiguillon recalled.

The duke returned to Versailles, eager for revenge
upon Choiseul, to whose machinations he attributed
the check which his projects had sustained, and placed
himself at the head of the devout party, the sworn
enemies of the Minister. The position of this party
and of its leader had, however, been much weakened
of late years by the expulsion of the Jesuits and the
successive deaths of the Dauphin the intimate friend
and protector of the duke the Dauphiness and the
Queen; and d'Aiguillon's prospects of triumphing
over his enemy seemed small indeed.

Under these circumstances, it was absolutely neces-
sary for d'Aiguillon to seek new allies, and, accord-
ingly, he turned towards Madame du Barry, who, he
judged, would be ready enough to respond to the
advances of one who was not only an important per-
sonage himself, but able to secure for her the counte-
nance and support of some of the greatest names in
France. A consummate courtier, the former lover of
Madame de Chateauroux had no difficulty in gaming
a complete ascendency over the easy-natured favourite,
who soon conceived for him a sincere friendship,
which, if any reliance is to be placed in contemporary
gossip, was not long in developing into a warmer

As an earnest of favours to come, on the death of
the Due de Chaulnes, in the autumn of 1769, Madame
du Barry succeeded in procuring for d'Aiguillon the
post of Captain-Lieutenant of the Chevau-lcgcrs of
the King's Household. This was not only a lucrative.


but a very important, position, as it afforded its pos-
sessor frequent opportunities for private interviews
with the King; 5 and Choiseul, anxious that it should
be filled by one of his own party, had endeavoured
to obtain it for his nephew, the Vicomte de Choiseul.
The news that the relative of the Minister had been
passed over in favour of the nominee of the mistress
created general surprise, and plainly indicated that the
influence of the once all-powerful Choiseul was no
longer to be undisputed.

The rapprochement between d'Aiguillon and Ma-
dame du Barry assuring as it did to the former an
advocate with the King, and to the latter the support
of the devout party, greatly strengthened the hands
of both in the struggle against their common enemy.
Nevertheless, it may be doubted whether they would
have ventured so quickly to assume the aggressive had
not circumstances secured them the adhesion of two
allies as ambitious and unscrupulous as d'Aiguillon
himself and far more able, the Chancellor Maupeou
and the Abbe Terray.

Rene Nicolas de Maupeou came of an ancient
Parliamentary family, who more than a century be-
fore had counted fifty kinsfolk by blood and marriage
in the Parliament of Paris alone. His father, Rene
Charles de Maupeou, had successively filled the posts
of First President, garde-des-sceaux and vice-chancel-
lor, and in September 1768, on the resignation of
Lamoignon, had been appointed Chancellor, a position
which he resigned twenty-four hours later in favour
of his son.

The elder Maupeou, who is described as "of noble
and majestic figure, dignified countenance, and ami-

8 The King himself was Captain of the Chevau-lcgers, and
both he and Louis XIV. always wore the uniform of the corps
when with the army in the field.


able disposition," seems to have been both popular
and respected ; the younger, in nearly every respect
the exact antithesis of his father, was probably the
best hated man of his time; indeed, it would be diffi-
cult to name any Minister who has been to the same
degree the object of public execration. If we are to
credit only half of what we read about him, it would
appear that such a monster of malevolence, ingrati-
tude, avarice, treachery, hypocrisy, and general de-
pravity had never before been seen, while "he bore on
his countenance all the signs of the baseness of his
soul, and his person inspired an instinctive repulsion."

However that may be, Maupeou was a man of con-
siderable ability and extraordinary tenacity of pur-
pose, an indefatigable worker he rose as early as
four o'clock in the morning a shrewd judge of his
fellows, and gifted with a perfect genius for subter-
ranean intrigue.

Maupeou had owed his appointment to Choiseul, 7
and had at first affected for his patron an almost re-
pulsive idolatry. He was wont to declare that nothing
could induce him to change his residence, because
from his windows he could at least perceive the
chimneys of the Hotel de Choiseul; boasted that "he

6 Here is his portrait drawn by his biographer, M. Flammer-

" He was * a little black man/ He had a low forehead, bushy
and very black eyebrows, keen, cold, piercing eyes, a prominent
nose, a large and disagreeable mouth, a retreating chin, a bilious
complexion, generally white, often yellow, and sometimes green;
at the Court they called him 'la bigarrade (sour orange).' In a
word, he was frankly hideous." Le Chancelier Maupeou el les
Parlements, p. J.

7 Choiseul was not blind to the dangerous and intriguing char-
acter of Maupeou, but he deemed himself strong enough to be
able to ignore it. When some of his friends protested against the
appointment, he replied : " I am aware that Maupeou is a scoun-
drel, but he is the most capable person for the Chancellorship.
If he misbehaves himself, I shall get rid of him."


bore on his heart the livery of the Minister," and
never spoke of him but as "our good duke." But
even while thus protesting his unswerving devotion to
his interests, Maupeou was diligently seeking the
means to effect his ruin.

The Chancellor's desire to secure the fall of Choiseul
was not, as was the case with d'Aiguillon, prompted
by any personal feeling, but simply by expediency ; the
Minister stood between Maupeou and the realisation
of a project whereby he hoped to assure for ever his
political fortunes.

For more than forty years the relations between the
Crown and the Parliaments had been exceedingly
strained. The magistrates, who derived their author-
ity from the King, were no longer satisfied with ex-
ercising their judicial functions ; they now sought to
band themselves together and form a new organisa-
tion in the body politic, a tribunal which should be the
organ of the nation, the guardian of its liberties, in-
terests, and rights, the judge between the King and
people, the interpreter of the sovereign's will.

Such pretensions, as may be imagined, were strongly
resented by Louis XV., who entertained as exalted a
conception of the royal prerogative as his predecessor,
and who repeatedly asserted in his solemn declarations,
in his beds of justice, that the will of the sovereign
was paramount and must be obeyed.

The importance of the question at issue can hardly
be overestimated. The Parliaments did not lay claim
to the right of remonstrance that was not contested ;
they claimed to enjoy the right of refusing to register
the royal edicts; in other words, to impose an abso-
lute veto on the measures of the King. "If it was
decided in favour of the King," wrote Madame
d'Epinay, voicing, in all probability, the opinion of her
friend Rousseau, the consequence would be to render


him absolutely despotic. If it was decided in favour
of the Parliament, the King would possess hardly
more authority than the King of England."

Although the difference between the parties was of
such long standing, a settlement seemed as far off as
ever ; and, in the meanwhile, undignified and vexatious
disputes were of frequent occurrence, which on several
occasions had been carried to such lengths as to throw
the whole judicial machinery of the realm into hope-
less disorder for months together. The King would
submit an edict to the Parliament; the Parliament
would remonstrate; the King would hold a Bed of
Justice and insist on the registration of the edict ; the
Parliament would refuse and suspend its functions;
the King would order the recalcitrant judges to re-
sume their duties and exile those who disobeyed, with
the result that all litigation would come to a standstill
and great hardships be inflicted on unfortunate suit-
ors, who were compelled to wait for redress until a
truce had been concluded.

Out of this impasse the keen eye of Maupeou per-
ceived that there were but two ways of escape : the
re-establishment of the States-General, or the over-
throw of the existing Parliamentary institutions and
the creation of new courts, the members of which
should be compelled to confine themselves to their
judicial functions. For the first, the time was not
yet ripe, in addition to which it would not have in any
any way furthered his designs, which were to
strengthen the authority of the Crown, "en la retirant
de la poussicrc du grcffe, ou ellc etalt menacee de
s'enscvelir" and by so doing render himself indis-
pensable to the King. But the second might be ac-
complished if Louis XV. could be inspired with the
resolution necessary for a vigorous coup d'etat.
8 Cited by M. Vatel in Histoire de Madame du Barry, ii, 15.


To carry out any measure of this kind, however, so
long as Choiseul retained his credit with the King, was
out of the question, for Choiseul had continued the
policy O'f his predecessor, Cardinal de Bernis, or
rather that of their common protectress, Madame de
Pompadour, and supported the Parliaments, who
were devoted to him. The first step, therefore,
to the overthrow of the Parliaments must be the
overthrow of Choiseul ; and it was with this ob-
ject in view that the Chancellor determined to
cast in his lot with d'Aiguillon and Madame du
Barry. 9

The Abbe Terray, who followed the Chancellor into
the camp of the favourite, was, like Maupeou, a mem-
ber of the Parliament ; like him, ambitious and
absolutely devoid of principle; and, by a singular
coincidence, like him again, a man of singularly un-
prepossessing appearance. "He was a very extraor-
dinary being, this Abbe Terray, and, happily, of a
very rare species. His exterior was rugged, sinister,
even terrifying : a tall, bent figure, haggard eyes, a
furtive glance, which conveyed the impression of
falseness and perfidy, uncouth manners, a harsh voice,
a dry conversation, no openness of soul, judging every
human being unfavourably because he judged them
by himself, a laugh rare and caustic. 10 Although he
was harsh to the last degree to those unable to resist
or injure him, he showed himself immoderately com-
plaisant and disgracefully servile towards those whom
he believed to have credit. Never did there exist a
more icy heart or one more inaccessible to affections,

9 M. Flammermpnt's Le Chancelier Maupeou et les Parlements,
p. 153. Biographic generale, article Maupeou, by M. Gregoire.

On one occasion, when dining at the house of a friend, who
knew his character intimately, Terray began to laugh, upon
which his host remarked to his neighbour at the table, '" S'ee !
the abbe is laughing. Some one must have met with misfortune."


save that for sensual pleasures, or for money, as a
means of procuring those pleasures."

Such is the description given of him by one of his

Terray's intellectual qualities, however, as his critic
readily admits, were vastly superior to his moral, and,
employed for worthier ends, might have atoned for
his vices. Heir to a wealthy uncle enriched by specu-
lations in Mississippi stock, he had largely increased
his patrimony through his connection with the scan-
dalous Malisset Association, formed to raise the price
of grain, and in which Louis XV. himself was pop-
ularly believed to be interested, and was now a rich
man. In the Parliament of Paris, which he had
entered when very young, he had early gained distinc-
tion and had taken a leading part in the campaign
against the Jesuits, receiving as the reward of his
services the rich abbey of Molesmes. At this period
he had been a follower of Choiseul, but chagrin at the
duke's refusal to recognise his claims to advancement
and, more particularly, to the post 'of Comptroller-
General, when vacated by Laverdi in the autumn of
1768, had decided him to join his fortunes to those
of Maupeou and work with him for the downfall of
the haughty Minister.

The cabal gained its first success in the closing days
of 1769.

Maynon d'Invau, who had replaced Laverdi as
Comptroller-General in the autumn of the previous
year, had found his new post very far from a bed of
roses, for the difficulties which his predecessor had
bequeathed him 12 were aggravated by the growing an-

11 Montyon's Particularites et Observations sur les Controleurs-
Generaux des Finances de 1660 a 1791.

12 Laverdi had left the debt 115 millions since the Peace; the
sinking-fund was only a bait, for much more was borrowed than
was extinguished. In January 1769, the revenue had been fore-


tagonism between Choiseul and Maupeou, and between
the King and the magistracy. His expedients for
remedying the lamentable condition of the finances
having been rejected by the Parliament of Paris, and
a bed of justice having failed to bring the recalcitrant
judges to reason, he endeavoured to steer a middle
course between the wishes of the Court and the Parlia-
ment ; and in a council held at Versailles, on December
21, laid upon the table a modified form of his original
proposals, containing a scheme for the reduction of
expenses and the abolition of a number of financial
offices, as a concession to the gentlemen of the robe.

Choiseul supported his protege: Maupeou attacked
him vigorously; the King sided with the Chancellor,
broke up the council in a passion, and, retiring to his
cabinet, slammed the door violently behind him. Then
Maupeou was sent for, and remained in conference
with the King for half an hour, as the result of which
it was decided, in anticipation of Maynon dTnvau's
resignation, which was tendered almost immediately,
to offer the post of Comptroller-General to Terray,
whom the Chancellor declared to be the only man
capable of initiating and carrying through the meas-
ures that were needed.

The fall of Maynon dTnvau and the appointment
of Terray was a severe blow to the prestige of
Choiseul, and though the Minister himself affected
to make light of the matter, its significance was not
lost upon his friends. "I supped on Tuesday with
the grand-papa (Choiseul)," writes Madame du Def-
f and to Walpole ; "he is still in the best of spirits ; he
will be like Charles VII. , of whom it was said that no
one could lose a kingdom more gaily."

stalled to the amount of thirty-two and a half million livres.
Martin's Histoire de France jusqu'en 1789, xvi. 246.
"Letter of December 26, 1769.


THE year 1770 opened for Madame du Barry
with a fresh proof of the royal favour. On
the counterscarp of the fortifications of Nantes
stood a number of houses, booths, and shops, the
property of the Crown. The rent derived from these
structures, estimated by contemporary writers at
40,000 livres per annum, had in 1769 been bestowed
by Louis XV. on the Duchesse de Lauraguais, who,
however, only lived to enjoy it a few months, and, on
January i, the King, by way of a New Year's gift,
handed his mistress a brevet conferring a life interest
in Les Loges de Nantes upon her.

This present was extremely acceptable to Madame
du Barry, who had not yet received any considerable
pecuniary favours, and had, therefore, been able to
indulge in but few of the hundred extravagances for
which her soul yearned. Deeming it inadvisable, until
her position was assured, to make application to the

Online LibraryH. Noel (Hugh Noel) WilliamsMemoirs of Madame Du Barry of the court of Louis XV → online text (page 9 of 28)