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The fascinating Duc de Richelieu, Louis Franqois Armand du Plessis (1696-1788) online

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FEW names are more familiar to the student of French
history in the eighteenth century than that of Louis
Francois du Plessis, Marechal Due de Richelieu. Born
in the year which preceded the Peace of Ryswick, he sur-
vived until the very eve of the Revolution, and commanded an
inordinate share of public attention almost down to the day of
his death, at the patriarchal age of ninety-two. Contemporary
memoirs and correspondence are full of his adventures ; when
he was still scarcely more than a lad, he already enjoyed in
Paris something of the fantastic renown which attached to
Alcibiades in ancient Athens, while the fame of his amours
and escapades had spread far beyond the frontiers of France.
Spoiled child of Nature and of Fortune, handsome, debonair,
witty, insinuating, magnificent, superbly brave, sublimely auda-
cious, he dazzled the imagination of poets and historians as
he dazzled the frail beauties of Paris and Versailles, and left
behind him a name which will endure when those of infinitely
greater and worthier men are forgotten.

The most notorious Lovelace of his age, who extended
his conquests from the coulisses of the Opera to the steps
of the throne, whom Princesses of the Blood consoled
when a prisoner in the Bastille, and for the possession of
whose heart titled dames contended with pistols in the alleys
of the Bois de Boulogne, Richelieu's reputation for gallantry
has, thanks to the chroniques scandaleuses of Soulavie 1 and

1 Memoires du Marechal due de Richelieu^ ouvrage compose dans le bibliotheque et
sous les yeux dti marechal (Paris, Buisson, 1790-93), 9 vols. Soulavie, who had
acted as Richelieu's secretary during the closing years of the marshal's life, had
undoubtedly had access to a number of original letters and other documents, and



Faur, 1 tended to overshadow his other claims to re-
membrance. These, however, are considerable, for he was
one of the most versatile of men, and in his long and
eventful life played many parts. He had a distinguished
military career ; he was entrusted with important diplomatic
missions ; he conspired with his country's enemies, and under
a less mild regime than that of the Regency would probably
have lost his head ; he was the intimate friend of Voltaire,
who lent him money and professed for him a boundless
admiration, the confidant of Louis XV,, a noted wit, a dandy
of the first elegance, a redoubtable duellist, and he had a
hand in nearly every Court intrigue of his time. In short, if
he had been as impervious to feminine charms as the most
rigid of dtvots could have desired, his career would still afford
abundant scope for the biographer.

For more than eighty years after Richelieu's death, the com-
pilations of Soulavie and Faur remained the chief authorities
on the life of the marshal. Then that charming historian
Frangois de Lescure published, in four volumes, his Nouveaux
Memoires du Marshal due de Richelieu, in the form of an auto-
biography. So successful was the author in reproducing the
atmosphere of the Court of Louis XV., that it is not uncommon

had been the recipient of many confidences. But he abused the trust reposed in
him, and his book, which is intended to be a kind of satire on the old regime^ if
it contains a good deal that is true, comprises very much more that is false. An
abbreviated version of it was published in Barriere's collection of French memoirs.

1 Vie privte du Marechal du Richelieu^ contenant ses amours et ses intrigues (Paris,
Buisson, 1 791 ), 3 vols. This is an even more scandalous production than Soulavie's, and
contains what purports to be part of a journal written by the marshal. An episode
in this pretended journal an intrigue between Richelieu and Madame Michelin, the
beautiful wife of an upholsterer of the Faubourg Saint-Germain furnished Monvel
and Alexandre Duval with the subject for a play, produced at the Theatre- Fran9aise,
in 1796, with the title of la Jeunesse de Richelieu , ou le Lovelace fran$ais.

Richelieu, it may be mentioned, has been the subject of several other plays. In
1839, a charming comedy by Scribe's nephew Bayard and Pinel Dumanoir was
produced at the Palais-Royal, under the title of les Premieres Armes de Richelieu, in
which Virginie Dejazet, who took the part of the youthful hero, secured one of her
greatest triumphs. In 1899, A Court Scandal, an English adaptation of this comedy,
appeared at the Court Theatre in London, and, nine years later, a musical version
The Dashing Little /?&* was produced at the Hicks Theatre, with Miss Ellaline
Terriss in the part which Virginie Dejazet had so successfully created.



to find his opinions cited by English writers as those of
Richelieu himself, which proves that prefaces and introductions
are by no means invariably read. In some other respects,
Lescure's work is much less satisfactory, since, though it
makes most entertaining reading and contains much valuable
information, the temptation to improve upon history has been
too strong for the writer to resist, and when, as occasionally
happens, the material which he so prettily embroiders will not
stand the test of investigation, the reader's patience is some-
what severely tried. Thus, he devotes several pages to an
account of the youthful Richelieu's experiences at the Battle
of Denain, in which, we are told, the sang-froid which he dis-
played under his "baptism of fire" excited great admiration.
Well, the Battle of Denain was fought on July 24, 1712, and
we know, on the unimpeachable authority of Dangeau's Journal,
that Richelieu or Fronsac, as he was then called, his father
being still alive did not even set out to join the army of
Flanders until August 2. 1 How, then, could he have been
having horses killed under him on the banks of the Scheldt on
July 24 ?

The number of important works on the social, military,
and diplomatic history of the eighteenth century which have
appeared since Lescure wrote have added materially to our
knowledge of Richelieu, particularly in regard to his first
imprisonment in the Bastille, his relations with the Regent's
daughter, Mademoiselle de Valois, afterwards Duchess of
Modena, his mission to Dresden, his defence of Genoa, the
Minorca expedition, and his campaign of 1757 in Germany;
and in introducing the marshal to English and American
readers, I am able to offer them what, I venture to believe,
is not only a complete, but an authentic, account of a very
remarkable career.

The principal authorities, both contemporary and modern,

1 " 2 August, 1712. The Due de Fronsac, who came out of the Bastille six weeks
ago, goes to serve in Flanders in the Musketeers and has taken leave of the King,
who recommended him to be more prudent, and spoke, besides, with much kindness
and consideration of the Due de Richelieu, his father."


which I have consulted in the preparation of this volume are
mentioned either in the text or the footnotes. I desire, how-
ever, to acknowledge my obligations to the following works by
modern writers : the Comtesse d' Armaille, la Comtesse d'Egmont,
file du marshal de Richelieu ; the Due de Broglie, Marie T her he,
imperatrice, 1744-1746, and Maurice de Saxe et le Marquis
d'Argenson ; Edouard Barthelemy, les Filles du Rtgent ; E. and
J. de Goncourt, Madame de Chateauroux et ses sceurs ; Lescure,
les MaUr esses du Rtgent ; Mary-Lafon, les Dernier es Armes de
Richelieu : le Marshal de Richelieu et Madame de Saint- Vincent ;
Mr. J. B. Masson, Madame de Tencin ; Comte Pajol, les Gnerres
sous Louis X V. ; Frangois Ravaisson, A rchives de la Bastille, and
M. Richard Waddington, Louis XV. et le renversement des
alliances, and la Guerre de Sept A ns.

I must also express my thanks to the Duke of Buccleuch
for his kind permission to reproduce Masse's charming minia-
ture of Elisabeth Sophie de Lorraine, Duchesse de Richelieu, in
the Montagu House Collection, and to Messrs. Harper and
Brothers for their courtesy in allowing me to include several
passages from my biographies of Madame de Pompadour and
Madame du Barry dealing with those ladies' relations with

Lastly, I should like to express my appreciation of the
care which has been bestowed upon the Index by Mrs. Eileen


March, 1910



Portrait of the Due de Fronsac (aftervvards Due de Richelieu)
by Madame de Maintenon, on his first appearance at Court,
at the age of fourteen His childhood and education He
becomes the pet of all the ladies He is married against
his will to Anne Catherine de Noailles, Mile, de Sansac
Encouraged in his follies by the Duchesse de Bourgogne, he
misconstrues the princess's indulgence into a proof of her
love And pushes his presumption to the point of scandal
Letter of Madame de Maintenon to the Due de Noailles
concerning him His father, exasperated by his conduct, de-
mands a lettre de cachet from the King, and he is sent to
the Bastille His life in the Bastille Letters of Bernaville,
governor of the fortress, to Pontchartrain about him He is
visited by his wife And by his father He falls seriously ill
of small-pox, but recovers He is set at liberty, and sent to
join the Army of Flanders


Desperate situation of France in the summer of 1712 Courage of
Louis XIV. Villars's brilliant victory at Denain saves the
country from invasion The Due de Fronsac appointed aide-
de-camp to Villars He spends the following winter in Paris
under the paternal surveillance, but accompanies his chief
to the Rhine in the spring of 1713 Brilliant campaign of
Villars Siege of Freiburg : Fronsac is wounded He is
chosen to convey the news of the surrender of the forts of
Freiburg to the King His reception by Louis XIV. His
conduct during the last years of the reign He becomes
Due de Richelieu, on the death of his father, in March 1715
But finds his estates heavily mortgaged Again in danger of
the Bastille His humble letters to Madame de Maintenon . 14-20




The death of Louis XIV. followed by a violent reaction against
his religious and political principles Terrible depravity of
Society under the Regency The Due de Richelieu adheres
to the party of the Due du Maine, and irritates the Regent
by his sarcastic remarks at his expense His proposed duel
with the Chevalier de Baviere prevented by the Due d'Orle"ans
Mile, de Charolais : her personal appearance and character
She conceives a violent passion for Richelieu and becomes
his mistress Indignation of her mother, Madame la Duchesse,
and her brother, the Due de Bourbon Quarrel of the latter
with Richelieu The Comte de Gac^, believing that Richelieu
has traduced the character of his wife, insults him at a bal
masqud at the Opera Midnight duel between the two noble-
men in the Rue Saint-Thomas-du-Louvre : Richelieu seriously
wounded The Parlement of Paris, in order to humiliate the
peerage, resolves to bring the combatants to trial The peers
appeal to the King Richelieu and Gac are sent to the
Bastille The Parlement obtains permission to prosecute, but
no witnesses can be found to come forward Ruse by which
Richelieu outwits the surgeons sent to examine him by the
Parlement Mile, de Charolais and the Princesse de Conti
disguise themselves and visit the duke in the Bastille But
are eventually detected Richelieu and Gac are set at liberty
Death of the Duchesse de Richelieu The Condds refuse
to consent to the marriage of Mile, de Charolais with the
duke Gallantries of Richelieu 21-38


Mile, de Valois, fourth daughter of the Regent, makes her
appearance in Society A mariage manque" The young
princess is sent to her grandmother at Saint-Cloud Her
physical and moral portrait by Madame She falls violently
in love with Richelieu, who discovers that to be beloved by
two princesses at the same time has its inconveniences
Open rivalry between Miles, de Charolais and de Valois
The Regent warns the duke against the possible consequences
of his presumption Richelieu carries off the prince's mistress,
the actress la Souris Mile. Emilie consoles the Regent A
violent admirer Extraordinary infatuation of the fair sex for
Richelieu Mesdames de Polignac and de Nesle fight a duel
about him in the Bois de Boulogne Probable secret of the
duke's singular attraction for women State of parties in
France Intrigues of the Duchesse du Maine with Spain
The Cellamare conspiracy Richelieu conspires on his own
account with Alberoni He falls into a trap laid for him by
the French Government Warning which he receives from
Mile, de Valois He is arrested in bed, and taken to the
Bastille, for the third time 39-58




Richelieu's treachery regarded as a conspiration pour rire rather
than a serious plot Treatment which he receives in the
Bastille Alarm of Miles, de Charolais and de Valois at the
threats of the Regent to have their common idol brought to
trial for high treason Their efforts on his behalf Diversions
of Richelieu in the Bastille Mile, de Valois corrupts the
guards of the fortress, and the two princesses visit the duke
Indignation of Madame on learning the extent to which her
grand-daughter has compromised herself Her hatred of
Richelieu The Regent, alarmed at the conduct of Mile, de
Valois, determines to marry her to a foreign prince Francesco
d'Este, Prince of Modena, proposed as a husband Mission
of the Conte Salvatico to Versailles The Regent accords
his daughter the liberty of Richelieu, on condition of her
consenting to wed the Prince of Modena The duke is released
from the Bastille and exiled to Conflans His nocturnal visits
to Paris necessitate his being sent to Saint-Germain-en-Laye,
and subsequently to Richelieu Aversion of Mile, de Valois
to the marriage arranged for her Richelieu, from prudential
motives, decides to break off his connection with the princess
Marriage of Mile, de Valois Despair of the bride at the
prospect of leaving France She falls ill from measles, which
she has purposely contracted, but recovers Her journey to
Italy Her unhappy married life Supposed secret visit of
Richelieu to Modena 59~75


Richelieu restored to favour He is elected to the Academie-
Frangaise in the place of the Marquis de Dangeau His
discours de reception He takes his seat in the Parlement
Extraordinary interest which this event arouses Continuation
of his liaison with Mile, de Charolais, which is carried on
with so little attempt at concealment as to give rise to reports
that they are secretly married Duel between Richelieu and
the lady's brother, Monsieur le Due Richelieu breaks off his
connection with the princess Madame d'Averne becomes
mistress of the Regent vice Madame de Parabere Richelieu,
to be avenged upon the prince, steals away the affections of
the lady ^ -. r~ . . . 76-86


Death of the Regent Diplomatic manoeuvres of Richelieu during
the Ministry of the Due de Bourbon He is appointed Am-
bassador at Vienna Review of the European situation


Career of Ripperda The Treaties of Vienna and Hanover
Ripperda claims precedence over the Ambassador of France
at the Imperial Court Qualifications of Richelieu for this
mission greater than may at first sight be supposed His
desire to make a favourable impression upon Charles VI.
leads him to dissimulate his true character and to feign devo-
tion His letter to the Cardinal de Polignac His discom-
fiture of Ripperda Subsequent adventures of this singular
personage 87-99


Public entry of Richelieu into Vienna His audience of the
Emperor and Empress A costly banquet Conduct of Riche-
lieu at Vienna considered He renders important service to
Fleury in the matter of the cardinal's hat His relations with
the Countess Batthyany and the Princess von Lichtenstein
He is compromised in an affair of sorcery Duclos's account
of this matter Richelieu is created a Chevalier of the Ordre
du Saint-Esprit He demands his recall and returns to France 100-108


Financial embarrassments of Richelieu after his return from
Vienna His friendship with Voltaire Madame de Tencin
Her extraordinary career Her relations with Richelieu She
advises the duke to rehabilitate his fortunes by joining her
in providing the King with a mistress who will be willing to
govern him through them Louis XV. and Marie Leczinska
Growing indifference of the King to his consort Plots to
"awaken" the King Madame de Mailly the candidate of
Madame de Tencin for the post of maitresse en titre Riche-
lieu supports the pretensions of Madame de Portail, who,
however, fails to make more than a passing impression upon
the royal heart The duke, in disgust, goes to Germany, in
search of military glory His magnificent entourage . 109-118


Richelieu proposes for the hand of Mile, de Guise His suit, at
first rejected by her family, is eventually successful, owing to
the intervention of Voltaire The poet's letter to Cideville
His fcpithalame a Madame de Richelieu The marriage takes
place at Montjeu (April 7, 1734) Refusal of the bride's
cousins, the Princes de Lixin and de Pons, to attend the
wedding and sign the contract Richelieu rejoins the army


Philipsburg invested by the French Richelieu having been
grossly insulted by the Prince de Lixin, kills him in a duel in
the trenches Fall of Philipsburg and return of the duke to
France Anger of his wife's relatives, who decline to hold any
communication either with him or Madame de Richelieu
Their married life Their children The duke is appointed
Lieutenant-General of Languedoc Duel between him and
the Baron von Pentenrieder behind the Hotel des Invalides,
in which the latter is killed and Richelieu seriously wounded
Voltaire visits the duke on his sick-bed, and makes him a
loan of 40,000 livres Difficulties with which Richelieu has to
contend in Languedoc His skilful conduct He is joined by
his wife Birth of their daughter, the future Comtesse d'Eg-
mont Death of Madame de Richelieu .


Grief of Richelieu at the death of his wife Decline of the favour
of Madame de Mailly Richelieu and Madame de Tencin
determine to replace her by a friend of her own, and select as
their candidate Marie Anne de Mailly-Nesle, Marquise de la
Tournelle Madame de la Tournelle and her sister, Madame
de Flavacourt, are installed at the Court Alarm of Fleury at
the ascendency of Richelieu over Louis XV. 's mind Unsuc-
cessful efforts of the cardinal and Maurepas to prevent
Madame de la Tournelle being appointed dame die. palais
to the Queen Richelieu persuades Madame de Mailly to
resign her post of dame du palais in favour of Madame de
Flavacourt, and thus to throw away her only safeguard against
the ingratitude of the King 132-142


The King hopelessly enamoured of Madame de la Tournelle, who,
however, declines to respond to the royal advances, being
herself in love with Richelieu's nephew, the Due d'Agenois
Ruse by which Richelieu succeeds in putting an end to this
affair Diplomatic conduct of Madame de la Tournelle
Richelieu persuades Louis XV. that Madame de la Tournelle
will remain obdurate so long as her elder sister remains at
Court Madame de Mailly leaves Versailles for Paris, and
receives orders not to return Madame de la Tournelle for-
mulates her terms of surrender Her letter to Richelieu
Visit of the King to Choisy Means by which Madame de la
Tournelle seeks to inflame his Majesty's passion and persuade
him to accord the " brilliant conditions " she demands Return
of Richelieu from Flanders Madame de la Tournelle, having
secured the acceptance of her terms, surrenders Departure
of Richelieu for Languedoc His travelling-carriage Fate of
Madame de Mailly I 43~ I 53




Death of Fleury Efforts of Richelieu and Madame de Tencin to
raise the Cardinal de Tencin to the vacant position of First
Minister foiled by Maurepas Semi-disgrace of Richelieu
Sagacious conduct of Madame de la Tournelle Impatience
of Richelieu and Madame de Tencin at the delay in the
realisation of their ambitions The favourite created Duchesse
de Chateauroux The fifth of the sisters de Nesle, Diane
Adelaide, Duchesse de Lauraguais, appears at Court Her
appearance and character Her suspicious relations with the
King Skill of Madame de Chateauroux in maintaining her
hold upon Louis XV.'s affections Richelieu distinguishes
himself at Dettingen The King accords him the premieres
entrees He is appointed First Gentleman of the Chamber
The Regiment de Septimanie Triumph of the Richelieu-
Tencin-Chateauroux coalition Visit of Frederick the Great's
secret envoy Rothenburg to Richelieu New treaty between
France and Prussia Louis XV. persuaded by Madame de
Chateauroux to take the nominal command of the Army of
Flanders Departure of the King for Flanders . . . 154-163


Fall of Amelot, Minister for Foreign Affairs, engineered by the
coalition in conjunction with Rothenburg Nomination of
Madame de Chateauroux to be Surintendante of the House-
hold of the Dauphine-elect Mesdames de Chateauroux and
de Lauraguais follow the King to Flanders Unfortunate
impression created by the arrival of his Majesty's fair friends
at Lille " Madame Enroux " Louis XV. sets out with the
army for Alsace, taking the ladies with him Madame de
Chateauroux falls ill at Rheims, but soon recovers, and joins
the King at Metz Cabal formed by Maurepas against the
favourite A wooden gallery constructed at Metz, to connect
the royal quarters with those of the duchesses, creates a
grave scandal Serious illness of the King Mesdames de
Chateauroux and de Lauraguais install themselves at the
royal bedside, and Richelieu refuses to admit the grand
officers of the Crown and the Princes of the Blood to the
sick-room The Comte de Clermont forces his way in
Interview between Richelieu and the favourite, and the
King's confessor, Pere Pdrusseau The King growing worse,
the Bishop of Soissons enjoins him to confess Dismissal of
Mesdames de Chateauroux and de Lauraguais insisted on as
a condition of absolution being accorded Conduct of the
Bishop of Soissons Flight of the ladies from Metz Recovery
of Louis XV. after his life has been despaired of Richelieu
exiles himself to Basle, where he intrigues for the restoration
of Madame de Chateauroux His memoir to the King
Louis XV. returns to Versailles, and Madame de Chateauroux
is recalled Her death 164-178




Richelieu accompanies Louis XV. to Flanders The Allied army,
under the Duke of Cumberland, advances to the relief of
Tournai Skilful dispositions of Maurice de Saxe Battle of
Fontenoy Part played by Richelieu in the engagement con-
sidered He attempts, aided by Voltaire and the Marquis
d'Argenson, to exaggerate his own services at the expense of
Saxe Voltaire's Poeme de Fontenoi General irritation in the
Army of Flanders against the duke. The Dauphin's letter
to his wife Richelieu's name practically omitted from the
official report of the battle drawn up by the Minister for War
and Saxe Voltaire in prose (Siecle de Louis XV.} attributes
to the duke the part which he has already assigned to him in
verse Opinions of other historians on this question



Mortification of Richelieu at the installation of Madame de
Pompadour as maitresse en titre His conduct towards the
new favourite "His credit diminishing" Efforts of the
Jacobites to procure assistance from France Prince Charles
Edward lands in Scotland The French Government resolve
to send an expedition to England, and the command is
entrusted to Richelieu The secrecy and promptitude essential
to the success of the undertaking are observed neither by the
duke nor the Government Richelieu arrives at Dunkerque,

Online LibraryH. Noel (Hugh Noel) WilliamsThe fascinating Duc de Richelieu, Louis Franqois Armand du Plessis (1696-1788) → online text (page 1 of 41)