James Fenimore Cooper.

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Royal Dinner. - Magnificence and Comfort. - Salle de Diane. - Prince de
Condé. - Duke of Orleans. - The Dinner-table. - The Dauphin. - Sires de
Coucy. - The Dauphine. - Ancient Usages - M. de Talleyrand. - Charles X.
- Panoramic Procession. - Droll Effect. - The Dinner. - M. de Talleyrand's
Office. - The Duchesse de Berri. - The Catastrophe. - An Aristocratic


We have lately witnessed a ceremony that may have some interest for one
who, like yourself, dwells in the retirement of a remote frontier post.
It is etiquette for the kings of France to dine in public twice in the
year, viz. the 1st of January, and the day that is set apart for the
fête of the king. Having some idle curiosity to be present on one of
these occasions, I wrote the usual note to the lord in, waiting, or, as
he is called here, "le premier gentilhomme de la chambre du roi, de
service," and we got the customary answer, enclosing us tickets of
admission. There are two sorts of permissions granted on these
occasions: by one you are allowed to remain in the room during the
dinner; and by the other, you are obliged to walk slowly through the
salle, in at one side and out at the other, without, however, being
suffered to pause even for a moment. Ours were of the former

The King of France having the laudable custom of being punctual, and as
every one dines in Paris at six, that best of all hours for a town life,
we were obliged to order our own dinner an hour earlier than common, for
looking at others eating on an empty stomach is, of all amusements, the
least satisfactory. Having taken this wise precaution, we drove to the
chateau at half after five, it not being seemly to enter the room after
the king, and, as we discovered, for females impossible.

Magnificence and comfort seldom have much in common. We were struck with
this truth on entering the palace of the king of France. The room into
which we were first admitted was filled with tall, lounging foot
soldiers, richly attired, but who lolled about the place with their caps
on, and with a barrack-like air that seemed to us singularly in contrast
with the prompt and respectful civility with which one is received in
the ante-chamber of a private hotel. It is true that we had nothing to
do with the soldiers and lackeys who thronged the place; but if their
presence was intended to impress visitors with the importance of their
master, I think a more private entrance would have been most likely to
produce that effect; for I confess, that it appeared to me has a mark of
poverty, that troops being necessary to the state and security of the
monarch, he was obliged to keep them in the vestibule by which his
guests entered. But this is royal state. Formerly, the executioner was
present; and in the semi-barbarous courts of the East, such is the fact
even now. The soldiers were a party of the Hundred Swiss; men chosen for
their great stature, and remarkable for the perfection of their musket.
Two of them were posted as sentinels at the foot of the great staircase
by which we ascended, and we passed several more on the landings.

We were soon in the Salle des Gardes, or the room which the _gardes du
corps_ on service occupied. Two of these _quasi_ soldiers were also
acting as sentinels here, while others lounged about the room. Their
apartment communicated with the Salle de Diane, the hall or gallery
prepared for the entertainment. I had no other means but the eye of
judging of the dimensions of this room; but its length considerably
exceeds a hundred feet, and its breadth is probably forty, or more. It
is of the proper height, and the ceiling is painted in imitation of
those of the celebrated Farnese Palace at Rome.

We found this noble room divided, by a low railing, into three
compartments. The centre, an area of some thirty feet by forty,
contained the table, and was otherwise prepared for the reception of the
court. On one side of it were raised benches for the ladies, who were
allowed to be seated; and, on the other, a vacant space for the
gentlemen, who stood. All these, you will understand, were considered
merely as spectators, not being supposed to be in the presence of the
king. The mere spectators were dressed as usual, or in common evening
dress, and not all the women even in that; while those within the
railings, being deemed to be in the royal presence, were in high court
dresses. Thus I stood for an hour within five-and-twenty feet of the
king, and part of the time much nearer, while, by a fiction of
etiquette, I was not understood to be there at all. I was a good while
within ten feet of the Duchesse de Berri, while, by convention, I was
nowhere. There was abundance of room in our area, and every facility of
moving about, many coming and going, as they saw fit. Behind us, but at
a little distance, were other rows of raised seats, filled with the best
instrumental musicians of Paris. Along the wall, facing the table, was a
narrow raised platform, wide enough to allow of two or three to walk
abreast, separated from the rest of the room by a railing, and extending
from a door at one end of the gallery, to a door at the other. This was
the place designed for the passage of the public during the dinner; no
one, however, being admitted, even here, without a ticket.

A gentleman of the court led your aunt to the seats reserved for the
female spectators, which were also without the railing, and I took my
post among the men. Although the court of the Tuileries was, when we
entered the palace, filled with a throng of those who were waiting to
pass through the Gallery of Diana, to my surprise, the number of persons
who were to remain in the room was very small. I account for the
circumstance, by supposing, that it is not etiquette for any who have
been presented to attend, unless they are among the court; and, as some
reserve was necessary in issuing these tickets, the number was
necessarily limited. I do not think there were fifty men on our side,
which might have held several hundred; and the seats of the ladies were
not half filled. Boxes were fitted up in the enormous windows, which
closed and curtained, a family of fine children occupying that nearest
to me. Some one said they were the princes of the house of Orleans; for
none of the members of the royal family have seats at the _grands
couverts_, as these dinners are called, unless they belong to the
reigning branch. There is but one Bourbon prince more remote from the
crown[11] than the Duc d'Orléans, and this is the Prince de Condé, or, as
he is more familiarly termed here, the Duc de Bourbon, the father of the
unfortunate Duc d'Enghien. So broad are the distinctions made between
the sovereign and the other members of his family in these governments,
that it was the duty of the Prince de Condé to appear to-day behind the
king's chair, as the highest dignitary of his household; though it was
understood that he was excused, on account of his age and infirmities.
These broad distinctions, you will readily imagine, however, are only
maintained on solemn and great state occasions; for, in their ordinary
intercourse, kings nowadays dispense with most of the ancient
formalities of their rank. It would have been curious, however, to see
one descendant of St. Louis standing behind the chair of another, as a
servitor; and more especially, to see the Prince de Condé standing
behind the chair of Charles X.; for, when Comte d'Artois and Duc de
Bourbon, some fifty years since, they actually fought a duel on account
of some slight neglect of the wife of the latter by the former.

[Footnote 11: 1827]

The crown of France, as you know, passes only in the male line. The Duke
of Orleans is descended from Louis XIII., and the Prince de Condé from
Louis IX. In the male line, the Duke of Orleans is only the fourth
cousin, once removed, of the king, and the Prince de Condé the eighth or
ninth. The latter would be even much more remotely related to the crown,
but for the accession of his own branch of the family in the person of
Henry IV. who was a near cousin of his ancestor. Thus you perceive,
while royalty is always held in reverence - for any member of the family
may possibly become the king - still there are broad distinctions made
between the near and the more distant branches of the line. The Duke of
Orleans fills that equivocal position in the family, which is rather
common in the history of this species of government. He is a liberal,
and is regarded with distrust by the reigning branch, and with hope by
that portion of the people who think seriously of the actual state of
the country. A saying of M. de Talleyrand, however, is circulated at his
expense, which, if true, would go to show that this wary prince is not
disposed to risk his immense fortune in a crusade for liberty. "Ce n'est
pas assez d'être quelqu'un - il faut être quelque chose," are the words
attributed to the witty and wily politician; but, usually, men have
neither half the wit nor half the cunning that popular accounts ascribe
to them, when it becomes the fashion to record their acts and sayings. I
believe the Duke of Orleans holds no situation about the court, although
the king has given him the title of _Royal_ Highness, his birth
entitling him to be styled no more than _Serene_ Highness. This act of
grace is much spoken of by the Bourbonists, who consider it a favour
that for ever secures the loyalty and gratitude of the Duke. The
Duchess, being the daughter of a king, had this rank from her birth.

The orchestra was playing when we entered the Gallery of Diana, and
throughout the whole evening it gave us, from time to time, such music
as can only be found in a few of the great capitals of Europe.

The covers were laid, and every preparation was made within the railing
for the reception of the _convives_. The table was in the shape of a
young moon, with the horns towards the spectators, or from the wall. It
was of some length, and as there were but four covers, the guests were
obliged to be seated several feet from each other. In the centre was an
armchair, covered with crimson velvet, and ornamented with a crown; this
was for the king. A chair without arms, on his right, was intended for
the Dauphin; another on his left, for the Dauphine; and the fourth,
which was still further on the right of the Dauphin, was intended for
Madame, as she is called, or the Duchess of Berri. These are the old and
favourite appellations of the monarchy, and, absurd as some of them are,
they excite reverence and respect from their antiquity. Your Wolverines,
and Suckers, and Buckeyes, and Hooziers would look amazed to hear an
executive styled the White Fish of Michigan, or the Sturgeon of
Wisconsin; and yet there is nothing more absurd in it, in the abstract,
than the titles that were formerly given in Europe, some of which have
descended to our times. The name of the country, as well as the title of
the sovereign, in the case of Dauphiné, was derived from the same
source. Thus, in homely English, the Dolphin of Dolphinstown, renders
"le Dauphin de Dauphiné" perfectly well. The last independent Dauphin,
in bequeathing his states to the King of France of the day, (the
unfortunate John, the prisoner of the Black Prince,) made a condition
that the heir apparent of the kingdom should always be known by his own
title, and consequently, ever since, the appellation has been continued.
You will understand, that none but an _heir-apparent_ is called the
Dauphin, and not an _heir-presumptive_. Thus, should the present Dauphin
and the Duc de Bordeaux die, the Duke of Orleans, according to a treaty
of the time of Louis XIV., though not according to the ancient laws of
the monarchy, would become _heir-presumptive_; but he could never be the
Dauphin, since, should the king marry again, and have another son, his
rights would be superseded. None but the _heir-apparent_, or the
_inevitable_ heir, bears this title. There were formerly _Bears_ in
Belgium, who were of the rank of Counts. These appellations were derived
from the arms, the Dauphin now bearing dolphins with the lilies of
France. The Boar of Ardennes got his _sobriquet_ from bearing the head
of a wild boar in his arms. There were formerly many titles in France
that are now extinct, such as Captal, Vidame, and Castellan, all of
which were general, I believe, and referred to official duties. There
was, however, formerly, a singular proof of how even simplicity can
exalt a man, when the fashion runs into the opposite extremes. In the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, there existed in France powerful
noblemen, the owners and lords of the castle and lands of Coucy or
Couci, who were content to bear the appellation of Sire, a word from
which our own "Sir" is derived, and which means, like Sir, the simplest
term of courtesy that could be used. These Sires de Coucy were so
powerful as to make royal alliances; they waged war with their
sovereign, and maintained a state nearly royal. Their pride lay in their
antiquity, independence, and power; and they showed their contempt for
titles by their device, which is said to have been derived from the
answer of one of the family to the sovereign, who, struck with the
splendour of his appearance and the number of his attendants, had
demanded, "What king has come to my court?" This motto, which is still
to be seen on the ancient monuments of the family, reads: -

"Je ne suis roi, ne prince, ne duc, ne comte aussi;
Je suis le Sire de Coucy."[12]

[Footnote 12: "I am neither king, nor prince, nor duke, nor even a count;
I am M. de Coucy."]

This greatly beats Coke of Holkham, of whom it is said that George IV.,
who had been a liberal in his youth, and the friend of the great Norfolk
commoner, vexed by his bringing up so many liberal addresses,
threatened - "If Coke comes to me with any more of his Whig petitions,
_I'll Knight him_."

I have often thought that this simplicity of the Sires de Coucy
furnishes an excellent example for our own ministers and citizens when
abroad. Instead of attempting to imitate the gorgeous attire of their
colleagues, whose magnificence, for the want of stars and similar
conventional decorations, they can never equal, they should go to court
as they go to the President's House, in the simple attire of American
gentlemen. If any prince should inquire, - "Who is this that approaches
me, clad so simply that I may mistake him for a butler, or a groom of
the chambers?" let him answer, "Je ne suis roi, ne prince, ne duc, ne
comte aussi - I am the minister of the United States of Ameri_key_," and
leave the rest to the millions at home. My life for it, the question
would not be asked twice. Indeed, no man who is truly fit to represent
the republic would ever have any concern about the matter. But all this
time the dinner of the King of France is getting cold.

We might have been in the gallery fifteen minutes, when there was a stir
at a door on the side where the females were seated, and a _huissier_
cried out - "Madame la Dauphine!" and, sure enough, the Dauphine
appeared, followed by two _dames d'honneur_. She walked quite through
the gallery, across the area reserved for the court, and passed out at
the little gate in the railing which communicated with our side of the
room, leaving the place by the same door at which we had entered. She
was in high court dress, with diamonds and lappets, and was proceeding
from her own apartments, in the other wing of the palace, to those of
the king. As she went within six feet of me, I observed her hard and yet
saddened countenance with interest; for she has the reputation of
dwelling on her early fortunes, and of constantly anticipating evil. Of
course she was saluted by all in passing, but she hardly raised her eyes
from the floor; though, favoured by my position, I got a slight,
melancholy smile, in return for my own bow.

The Dauphine had scarcely disappeared, when her Royal Highness, Madame,
was announced, and the Duchess of Berri went through in a similar
manner. Her air was altogether less constrained, and she had smiles and
inclinations for all she passed. She is a slight, delicate, little
woman, with large blue eyes, a fair complexion, and light hair. She
struck me as being less a Bourbon than an Austrian, and, though wanting
in _embonpoint_, she would be quite pretty but for a cast in one of her

A minute or two later, we had Monseigneur le Dauphin, who passed through
the gallery in the same manner as his wife and sister-in-law. He had
been reviewing some troops, and was in the uniform of a colonel of the
guards; booted to the knees, and carrying a military hat in his hand. He
is not of commanding presence, though I think he has the countenance of
an amiable man, and his face is decidedly Bourbon. We were indebted to
the same lantern like construction of the palace, for this preliminary
glimpse at so many of the actors in the coming scene.

After the passage of the Dauphin, a few courtiers and superior officers
of the household began to appear within the railed space. Among them
were five or six duchesses. Women of this rank have the privilege of
being seated in the presence of the king on state occasions, and
_tabourets_ were provided for them accordingly. A _tabouret_ is a
stuffed stool, nearly of the form of the ancient cerulean chair, without
its back, for a back would make it a chair at once, and, by the
etiquette of courts, these are reserved for the blood-royal,
ambassadors, etc. As none but duchesses could be seated at the _grand
couvert_, you may be certain none below that rank appeared. There might
have been a dozen present. They were all in high court dresses. One, of
great personal charms and quite young, was seated near me, and my
neighbour, an old _abbé_, carried away by enthusiasm, suddenly exclaimed
to me - "Quelle belle fortune, monsieur, d'être jeune, jolie, et
duchesse!" I dare say the lady had the same opinion of the matter.

Baron Louis, not the financier, but the king's physician, arrived. It
was his duty to stand behind the king's chair, like Sancho's tormentor,
and see that he did not over-eat himself. The ancient usages were very
tender of the royal person. If he travelled, he had a spare litter, or a
spare coach, to receive him, in the event of accident, - a practice that
is continued to this day; if he ate, there was one to taste his food,
lest he might be poisoned; and when he lay down to sleep, armed
sentinels watched at the door of his chamber. Most of these usages are
still continued, in some form or other, and the ceremonies which are
observed at these public dinners are mere memorials of the olden time.

I was told the following anecdote by Mad. de - - , who was intimate with
Louis XVIII. One day, in taking an airing, the king was thirsty, and
sent a footman to a cottage for water. The peasants appeared with some
grapes, which they offered, as the homage of their condition. The king
took them and ate them, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his
attendants. This little incident was spoken of at court, where all the
monarch does and says becomes matter of interest, and the next time Mad.
de - - was admitted, she joined her remonstrances to those of the other
courtiers. "We no longer live in an age when kings need dread
assassins," said Louis, smiling. A month passed, and Mad. de - - was
again admitted. She was received with a melancholy shake of the head,
and with tears. The Duc de Berri had been killed in the interval!

A few gentlemen, who did not strictly belong to the court, appeared
among the duchesses, but, at the most, there were but six or eight. One
of them, however, was the gayest looking personage I ever saw in the
station of a gentleman, being nothing but lace and embroidery, even to
the seams of his coat; a sort of genteel harlequin. The _abbé_, who
seemed to understand himself, said he was a Spanish grandee.

I was near the little gate, when an old man, in a strictly court dress,
but plain and matter-of-fact in air, made an application for admittance.
In giving way for him to pass, my attention was drawn to his appearance.
The long white hair that hung down his face, the _cordon bleu_, the lame
foot, the imperturbable countenance, and the _unearthly aspect_, made me
suspect the truth. On inquiring, I was right. It was M. de Talleyrand!
He came as grand chamberlain, to officiate at the dinner of his master.

Everything, in a court, goes by clock-work. Your little great may be out
of time, and affect a want of punctuality, but a rigid attention to
appointments is indispensable to those who are really in high
situations. A failure in this respect would produce the same impression
on the affairs of men, that a delay in the rising of the sun would
produce on the day. The appearance of the different personages named,
all so near each other, was the certain sign that one greater than all
could not be far behind. They were the dawn of the royal presence.
Accordingly, the door which communicated with the apartments of the
king, and the only one within the railed space, opened with the
announcement of "Le service du Roi," when a procession of footmen of the
palace appeared, bearing the dishes of the first course. All the
vessels, whether already on the table, or those in their hands, were of
gold, richly wrought, or, at least, silver gilt, I had no means of
knowing which; most probably they were of the former metal. The dishes
were taken from the footmen by pages, of honour in scarlet dresses, and
by them placed in order on the table. The first course was no sooner
ready, than we heard the welcome announcement of "Le Roi." The family
immediately made their appearance, at the same door by which the service
had entered. They were followed by a proper number of lords and ladies
in waiting. Every one arose, as a matter of course, even to the "jeunes,
jolies, et duchesses;" and the music, as became it, gave us a royal
crash. The huissier, in announcing the king, spoke in a modest voice,
and less loud, I observed, than in announcing the Dauphin and the
ladies. It was, however, a different person; and it is probable one was
a common huissier, and the other a gentleman acting in that character.

Charles X. is tall, without being of a too heavy frame, flexible of
movement, and decidedly graceful. By remembering that he is king, and
the lineal chief of the ancient and powerful family of the Bourbons, by
deferring properly to history and the illusions of the past, and by
feeling _tant soit peu_ more respect for those of the present day than
is strictly philosophical, or perhaps wise, it is certainly possible to
fancy that he has a good deal of that peculiar port and majesty that the
poetry of feeling is so apt to impute to sovereigns. I know not whether
it is the fault of a cynical temperament, or of republican prejudices,
but I can see no more, about him than the easy grace of an old
gentleman, accustomed all his life to be a principal personage among the
principal personages of the earth. This you may think was quite
sufficient, - but it aid not altogether satisfy the _exigence_ of my
unpoetical ideas. His countenance betrayed, a species of vacant
_bonhommie_, rather than of thought or dignity of mind; and while he
possessed, in a singular degree, the mere physical machinery of his
rank, he was wanting in the majesty of character and expression, without
which no man can act well the representation of royalty. Even a little
more severity of aspect would have better suited the part, and rendered
_le grand couvert encore plus grand_.

The king seated himself, after receiving the salutations of the
courtiers within the railing, taking no notice however, of those who, by
a fiction of etiquette, were not supposed to be in his presence. The
rest of the family occupied their respective places in the order I have
named, and the eating and drinking began, from the score. The different
courses were taken off and served by footmen and pages in the manner
already described, which, after all, by substituting servants out of
livery for pages, is very much the way great dinners are served, in
great houses, all over Europe.

As soon as the king was seated, the north door of the gallery, or that
on the side opposite to the place where I had taken post, was opened,
and the public was admitted, passing slowly through the room without
stopping. A droller _mélange_ could not be imagined than presented
itself in the panoramic procession; and long before the _grand couvert_

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