Jean François Paul de Gondi de Retz.

The Memoirs of Cardinal de Retz — Volume 3 [Historic court memoirs] online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryJean François Paul de Gondi de RetzThe Memoirs of Cardinal de Retz — Volume 3 [Historic court memoirs] → online text (page 1 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by David Widger


Written by Himself

Being Historic Court Memoirs of the Great Events
during the Minority of Louis XIV.
and the Administration of Cardinal Mazarin.


MADAME: - Cardinal Mazarin thought of nothing else now but how to rid
himself of the obligations he lay under to the Prince de Conde, who had
actually saved him from the gallows. And his principal view was an
alliance with the House of Vendome, who had on some occasions opposed the
interest of the family of Conde.

In Paris the people libelled not only the Cardinal, but the Queen. Indeed
it was not our interest to discourage libels and ballads against the
Cardinal, but it concerned us to suppress such as were levelled against
the Queen and Government. It is not to be imagined what uneasiness the
wrath of the people gave us upon that head. Two criminals, one of whom
was a printer, being condemned to be hanged for publishing some things
fit to be burnt and for libelling the Queen, cried out, when they were
upon the scaffold, that they were to be put to death for publishing
verses against Mazarin, upon which the people rescued them from justice.

On the other hand, some gay young gentlemen of the Court, who were in
Mazarin's interest, had a mind to make his name familiar to the
Parisians, and for that end made a famous display in the public walks of
the Tuileries, where they had grand suppers, with music, and drank the
Cardinal's health publicly. We took little notice of this, till they
boasted at Saint Germain that the Frondeurs were glad to give them the
wall. And then we thought it high time to correct them, lest the common
people should think they did it by authority. For this end M. de
Beaufort and a hundred other gentlemen went one night to the house where
they supped, overturned the table, and broke the musicians' violins over
their heads.

Being informed that the Prince de Conde intended to oblige the King to
return to Paris, I was resolved to have all the merit of an action which
would be so acceptable to the citizens. I therefore resolved to go to
the Court at Compiegne, which my friends very much opposed, for fear of
the danger to which I might be exposed, but I told them that what is
absolutely necessary is not dangerous.

I went accordingly, and as I was going up-stairs to the Queen's
apartments, a man, whom I never saw before or since, put a note into my
hand with these words: "If you enter the King's domicile, you are a dead
man." But I was in already, and it was too late to go back. Being past
the guard-chamber, I thought myself secure. I told the Queen that I was
come to assure her Majesty of my most humble obedience, and of the
disposition of the Church of Paris to perform all the services it owed to
their Majesties. The Queen seemed highly pleased, and was very kind to
me; but when we mentioned the Cardinal, though she urged me to it, I
excused myself from going to see him, assuring her Majesty that such a
visit would put it out of my power to do her service. It was impossible
for her to contain herself any longer; she blushed, and it was with much
restraint that she forbore using harsh language, as she herself confessed

Servien said one day that there was a design to assassinate me at his
table by the Abbe Fouquet; and M. de Vendome, who had just come from his
table, pressed me to be gone, saying that there were wicked designs
hatching against me.

I returned to Paris, having accomplished everything I wanted, for I had
removed the suspicion of the Court that the Frondeurs were against the
King's return. I threw upon the Cardinal all the odium attending his
Majesty's delay. I braved Mazarin, as it were, upon his throne, and
secured to myself the chief honour of the King's return.

The Court was received at Paris as kings always were and ever will be,
namely, with acclamations, which only please such as like to be
flattered. A group of old women were posted at the entrance of the
suburbs to cry out, "God save his Eminence!" who sat in the King's coach
and thought himself Lord of Paris; but at the end of three or four days
he found himself much mistaken. Ballads and libels still flew about. The
Frondeurs appeared bolder than ever. M. de Beaufort and I rode sometimes
alone, with one lackey only behind our coach, and at other times we went
with a retinue of fifty men in livery and a hundred gentlemen. We
diversified the scene as we thought it would be most acceptable to the
spectators. The Court party, who blamed us from morning to night,
nevertheless imitated us in their way. Everybody took an advantage of
the Ministry from our continual pelting of his Eminence. The Prince, who
always made too much or too little of the Cardinal, continued to treat
him with contempt; and, being disgusted at being refused the post of
Superintendent of the Seas, the Cardinal endeavoured to soothe him with
the vain hopes of other advantages.

The Prince, being one day at Court, and seeing the Cardinal give himself
extraordinary airs, said, as he was going out of the Queen's cabinet,
"Adieu, Mars." This was told all over the city in a quarter of an hour.
I and Noirmoutier went by appointment to his house at four o'clock in the
morning, when he seemed to be greatly troubled. He said that he could
not determine to begin a civil war, which, though the only means to
separate the Queen from the Cardinal, to whom she was so strongly
attached, yet it was both against his conscience and honour. He added
that he should never forget his obligations to us, and that if he should
come to any terms with the Court, he would, if we thought proper, settle
our affairs also, and that if we had not a mind to be reconciled to the
Court, he would, in case it did attack us, publicly undertake our
protection. We answered that we had no other design in our proposals
than the honour of being his humble servants, and that we should be very
sorry if he had retarded his reconciliation with the Queen upon our
account, praying that we might be permitted to continue in the same
disposition towards the Cardinal as we were then, which we declared
should not hinder us from paying all the respect and duty which we
professed for his Highness.

I must not forget to acquaint you that Madame de Guemenee, who ran away
from Paris in a fright the moment it was besieged, no sooner heard that I
had paid a visit to Mademoiselle de Chevreuse than she returned to town
in a rage. I was in such a passion with her for having cowardly deserted
me that I took her by the throat, and she was so enraged at my
familiarity with Mademoiselle de Chevreuse that she threw a candlestick
at my head, but in a quarter of an hour we were very good friends.

The Prince de Conde was no sooner reconciled with the Court than he was
publicly reproached in the city for breaking his word with the Frondeurs;
but I convinced him that he could not think such treatment strange in a
city so justly exasperated against Mazarin, and that, nevertheless, he
might depend on my best services, for which he assured me of his constant

Moissans, now Marechal d'Albret, who was at the head of the King's
gendarmes, accustomed himself and others to threaten the chief minister,
who augmented the public odium against himself by reestablishing Emeri, a
man detested by all the kingdom. We were not a little alarmed at his
reestablishment, because this man, who knew Paris better than the
Cardinal, distributed money among the people to a very good purpose. This
is a singular science, which is either very beneficial or hurtful in its
consequences, according to the wisdom or folly of the distributor.

These donations, laid out with discretion and secrecy, obliged us to
yield ourselves more and more unto the bulk of the people, and, finding a
fit opportunity for this performance, we took care not to let it slip,
which, if they had been ruled by me, we should not have done so soon, for
we were not yet forced to make use of such expedients. It is not safe in
a faction where you are only upon the defensive to do what you are not
pressed to do, but the uneasiness of the subalterns on such occasions is
troublesome, because they believe that as soon as you seem to be inactive
all is lost. I preached every day that the way was yet rough, and
therefore must be made plain, and that patience in the present case was
productive of greater effects than activity; but nobody comprehended the
truth of what I said.

An unlucky expression, dropped on this occasion by the Princesse de
Guemenee, had an incredible influence upon the people. She called to
mind a ballad formerly made upon the regiment of Brulon, which was said
to consist of only two dragoons and four drummers, and, inasmuch as she
hated the Fronde, she told me very pleasantly that our party, being
reduced to fourteen, might be justly compared to that regiment of Brulon.
Noirmoutier and Laigues were offended at this expression to that degree
that they continually murmured because I neither settled affairs nor
pushed them to the last extremity. Upon which I observed that heads of
factions are no longer their masters when they are unable either to
prevent or allay the murmurs of the people.

The revenues of the Hotel de Ville, which are, as it were, the patrimony
of the bourgeois, and which, if well managed, might be of special service
to the King in securing to his interest an infinite number of those
people who are always the most formidable in revolutions - this sacred
fund, I say, suffered much by the licentiousness of the times, the
ignorance of Mazarin, and the prevarication of the officers of the Hotel
de Ville, who were his dependents, so that the poor annuitants met in
great numbers at the Hotel de Ville; but as such assemblies without the
Prince's authority are reckoned illegal, the Parliament passed a decree
to suppress them. They were privately countenanced by M. de Beaufort and
me, to whom they sent a solemn deputation, and they made choice of twelve
syndics to be a check upon the 'prevot des marchands'.

On the 11th of December a pistol, as had been concerted beforehand, was
fired into the coach of Joly, one of the syndics, which President
Charton, another of the syndics, thinking was aimed at himself, the
Marquis de la Boulaie ran as if possessed with a devil, while the
Parliament was sitting, into the middle of the Great Hall, with fifteen
or twenty worthless fellows crying out "To Arms!" He did the like in the
streets, but in vain, and came to Broussel and me; but the former
reprimanded him after his way, and I threatened to throw him out at the
window, for I had reason to believe that he acted in concert with the
Cardinal, though he pretended to be a Frondeur.

This artifice of Servien united the Prince to the Cardinal, because he
found himself obliged to defend himself against the Frondeurs, who, as he
believed, sought to assassinate him. All those that were his own
creatures thought they were not zealous enough for his service if they
did not exaggerate the imminent danger he had escaped, and the Court
parasites confounded the morning adventure with that at night; and upon
this coarse canvas they daubed all that the basest flattery, blackest
imposture, and the most ridiculous credulity was capable of imagining;
and we were informed the next morning that it was the common rumour over
all the city that we had formed a design of seizing the King's person and
carrying him to the Hotel de Ville, and to assassinate the Prince.

M. de Beaufort and I agreed to go out and show ourselves to the people,
whom we found in such a consternation that I believed the Court might
then have attacked us with success. Madame de Montbazon advised us to
take post-horses and ride off, saying that there was nothing more easy
than to destroy us, because we had put ourselves into the hands of our
sworn enemies. I said that we had better hazard our lives than our
honour. To which she replied, "It is not that, but your nymphs, I
believe, which keep you here" (meaning Mesdames de Chevreuse and
Guemenee). "I expect," she said, "to be befriended for my own sake, and
don't I deserve it? I cannot conceive how you can be amused by a wicked
old hag and a girl, if possible, still more foolish. We are continually
disputing about that silly wretch" (pointing to M. de Beaufort, who was
playing chess); "let us take him with us and go to Peronne."

You are not to wonder that she talked thus contemptibly of M. de
Beaufort, whom she always taxed with impotency, for it is certain that
his love was purely Platonic, as he never asked any favour of her, and
seemed very uneasy with her for eating flesh on Fridays. She was so
sweet upon me, and withal such a charming beauty, that, being naturally
indisposed to let such opportunities slip, I was melted into tenderness
for her, notwithstanding my suspicions of her, considering the then
situation of affairs, and would have had her go with me into the cabinet,
but she was determined first to go to Peronne, which put an end to our

Beaufort waited on the Prince and was well received, but I could not gain

On the 14th the Prince de Conde went to Parliament and demanded that a
committee might be appointed to inquire into the attempt made on his

The Frondeurs were not asleep in the meantime, yet most of our friends
were dispirited, and all very weak.

The cures of Paris were my most hearty friends; they laboured with
incredible zeal among the people. And the cure of Saint Gervais sent me
this message: "Do but rally again and get off the assassination, and in a
week you will be stronger than your enemies."

I was informed that the Queen had written to my uncle, the Archbishop of
Paris, to be sure to go to the Parliament on the 23d, the day that
Beaufort, Broussel, and I were to be impeached, because I had no right to
sit in the House if he were present. I begged of him not to go, but my
uncle being a man of little sense, and that much out of order, and being,
moreover, fearful and ridiculously jealous of me, had promised the Queen
to go; and all that we could get out of him was that he would defend me
in Parliament better than I could defend myself. It is to be observed
that though he chattered to us like a magpie in private, yet in public he
was as mute as a fish. A surgeon who was in the Archbishop's service,
going to visit him, commended him for his courage in resisting the
importunities of his nephew, who, said he, had a mind to bury him alive,
and encouraged him to rise with all haste and go to the Parliament House;
but he was no sooner out of his bed than the surgeon asked him in a
fright how he felt. "Very well," said my Lord. "But that is
impossible," said the surgeon; "you look like death," and feeling his
pulse, he told him he was in a high fever; upon which my Lord Archbishop
went to bed again, and all the kings and queens in Christendom could not
get him out for a fortnight.

We went to the Parliament, and found there the Princes with nearly a
thousand gentlemen and, I may say, the whole Court. I had few salutes in
the Hall, because it was generally thought I was an undone man. When I
had entered the Great Chamber I heard a hum like that at the end of a
pleasing period in a sermon. When I had taken my place I said that,
hearing we were taxed with a seditious conspiracy, we were come to offer
our heads to the Parliament if guilty, and if innocent, to demand justice
upon our accusers; and that though I knew not what right the Court had to
call me to account, yet I would renounce all privileges to make my
innocence apparent to a body for whom I always had the greatest
attachment and veneration.

Then the informations were read against what they called "the public
conspiracy from which it had pleased Almighty God to deliver the State
and the royal family," after which I made a speech, in substance as

"I do not believe, gentlemen, that in any of the past ages persons of our
quality had ever received any personal summons grounded merely upon
hearsay. Neither can I think that posterity will ever believe that this
hearsay evidence was admitted from the mouths of the most infamous
miscreants that ever got out of a gaol. Canto was condemned to the
gallows at Pau, Pichon to the wheel at Mans, Sociande is a rogue upon
record. Pray, gentlemen, judge of their evidence by their character and
profession. But this is not all. They have the distinguishing character
of being informers by authority. I am sorely grieved that the defence of
our honour, which is enjoined us by the laws of God and man, should
oblige me to expose to light, under the most innocent of Kings, such
abominations as were detested in the most corrupt ages of antiquity and
under the worst of tyrants. But I must tell you that Canto, Sociande,
and Gorgibus are authorised to inform against us by a commission signed
by that august name which should never be employed but for the
preservation of the most sacred laws, and which Cardinal Mazarin, who
knows no law but that of revenge, which he meditates against the
defenders of the public liberty, has forced M. Tellier, Secretary of
State, to countersign.

"We demand justice, gentlemen, but we do not demand it of you till we
have first most humbly implored this House to execute the strictest
justice that the laws have provided against rebels, if it appears that we
have been concerned directly or indirectly in raising this last
disturbance. Is it possible, gentlemen, that a grandchild of Henri the
Great, that a senator of M. Broussel's age and probity, and that the
Coadjutor of Paris should be so much as suspected of being concerned in a
sedition raised by a hot-brained fool, at the head of fifteen of the
vilest of the mob? I am fully persuaded it would be scandalous for me to
insist longer on this subject. This is all I know, gentlemen, of the
modern conspiracy."

The applause that came from the Court of Inquiry was deafening; many
voices were heard exclaiming against spies and informers. Honest Doujat,
who was one of the persons appointed by the Attorney-General Talon, his
kinsman, to make the report, and who had acquainted me with the facts,
acknowledged it publicly by pretending to make the thing appear less
odious. He got up, therefore, as if he were in a passion, and spoke very
artfully to this purpose:

"These witnesses, monsieur, are not to accuse you, as you are pleased to
say, but only to discover what passed in the meeting of the annuitants at
the Hotel de Ville. If the King did not promise impunity to such as will
give him information necessary for his service, and which sometimes
cannot be come at without involving evidence in a crime, how should the
King be informed at all? There is a great deal of difference between
patents of this nature and commissions granted on purpose to accuse you."

You might have seen fire in 'the face of every member. The First
President called out "Order!" and said, "MM. de Beaufort, le Coadjuteur,
and Broussel, you are accused, and you must withdraw."

As Beaufort and I were leaving our seats, Broussel stopped us, saying,
"Neither you, gentlemen, nor I are bound to depart till we are ordered to
do so by the Court. The First President, whom all the world knows to be
our adversary, should go out if we must."

I added, "And M. le Prince," who thereupon said, with a scornful air:

"What, I? Must I retire?"

"Yes, yes, monsieur," said I, "justice is no respecter of persons."

The President de Mesmes said, "No, monseigneur, you must not go out
unless the Court orders you. If the Coadjutor insists that your Highness
retire, he must demand it by a petition. As for himself, he is accused,
and therefore must go out; but, seeing he raises difficulties and
objections to the contrary, we must put it to the vote." And it was
passed that we should withdraw.

Meanwhile, most of the members passed encomiums upon us, satires upon the
Ministry, and anathemas upon the witnesses for the Crown. Nor were the
cures and the parishioners wanting in their duty on this occasion. The
people came in shoals from all parts of Paris to the Parliament House.
Nevertheless, no disrespect was shown either to the King's brother or to
M. le Prince; only some in their presence cried out, "God bless M. de
Beaufort! God bless the Coadjutor!"

M. de Beaufort told the First President next day that, the State and
royal family being in danger, every moment was precious, and that the
offenders ought to receive condign punishment, and that therefore the
Chambers ought to be assembled without loss of time. Broussel attacked
the First President with a great deal of warmth. Eight or ten
councillors entered immediately into the Great Chamber to testify their
astonishment at the indolence and indifference of the House after such a
furious conspiracy, and that so little zeal was shown to prosecute the
criminals. MM. de Bignon and Talon, counsel for the Crown, alarmed the
people by declaring that as for themselves they had no hand in the
conclusions, which were ridiculous. The First President returned very
calm answers, knowing well that we should have been glad to have put him
into a passion in order to catch at some expression that might bear an
exception in law.

On Christmas Day I preached such a sermon on Christian charity, without
mentioning the present affairs, that the women even wept for the unjust
persecution of an archbishop who had so great a tenderness for his very

On the 29th M. de Beaufort and I went to the Parliament House,
accompanied by a body of three hundred gentlemen, to make it appear that
we were more than tribunes of the people, and to screen ourselves from
the insults of the Court party. We posted ourselves in the Fourth
Chamber of the Inquests, among the courtiers, with whom we conversed very
frankly, yet upon the least noise, when the debates ran high in the Great
Chamber, we were ready to cut one another's throats eight or ten times
every morning. We were all distrustful of one another, and I may venture
to say there were not twenty persons in the House but were armed with
daggers. As for myself, I had resolved to take none of those weapons
inconsistent with my character, till one day, when it was expected the
House would be more excited than usual, and then M. de Beaufort, seeing
one end of the weapon peeping out of my pocket, exposed it to M. le
Prince's captain of the guards and others, saying, "See, gentlemen, the
Coadjutor's prayer-book." I understood the jest, but really I could not
well digest it. We petitioned the Parliament that the First President,
being our sworn enemy, might be expelled the House, but it was put to the
vote and carried by a majority of thirty-six that he should retain his
station of judge.

Paris narrowly escaped a commotion at the time of the imprisonment of
Belot, one of the syndics of the Hotel de Ville annuitants, who, being
arrested without a decree, President de la Grange made it appear that
there was nothing more contrary to the declaration for which they had
formerly so exerted themselves. The First President maintaining the
legality of his imprisonment, Daurat, a councillor of the Third Chamber,
told him that he was amazed that a gentleman who was so lately near being
expelled could be so resolute in violating the laws so flagrantly.
Whereupon the First President rose in a passion, saying that there was
neither order nor discipline in the House, and that he would resign his
place to another for whom they had more respect. This motion put the
Great Chamber all in a ferment, which was felt in the Fourth, where the
gentlemen of both parties hastened to support their respective sides, and
if the most insignificant lackey had then but drawn a sword, Paris would
have been all in an uproar.

We solicited very earnestly for our trial, which they delayed as much as
it was in their power, because they could not choose but acquit us and
condemn the Crown witnesses. Various were the pretences for putting it
off, and though the informations were not of sufficient weight to hang a
dog, yet they were read over and over at every turn to prolong the time.

The public began to be persuaded of our innocence, as also the Prince de
Conde, and M. de Bouillon told me that he very much suspected it to be a
trick of the Cardinal's.

On the 1st of January, 1650, Madame de Chevreuse, having a mind to visit
the Queen, with whom she had carried on in all her disgrace an

1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryJean François Paul de Gondi de RetzThe Memoirs of Cardinal de Retz — Volume 3 [Historic court memoirs] → online text (page 1 of 6)