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Makers of History

MARIA ANTOINETTE

by

JOHN S. C. ABBOTT

With Engravings







New York and London
Harper & Brothers Publishers
1901

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand
eight hundred and forty-nine, by
Harper & Brothers.
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District
of New York.




[Illustration: CHARLES MAURICE DE TALLEYRAND.]




[Illustration: VIEW OF PARIS.]




PREFACE.


In this history of Maria Antoinette it has been my endeavor to give a
faithful narrative of facts, and, so far as possible, to exhibit the
soul of history. A more mournful tragedy earth has seldom witnessed. And
yet the lesson is full of instruction to all future ages. Intelligence
and moral worth combined can be the only basis of national prosperity or
domestic happiness. But the simple story itself carries with it its own
moral, and the _reflections_ of the writer would encumber rather than
enforce its teachings.




CONTENTS.


Chapter Page

I. PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD 13

II. BRIDAL DAYS 37

III. MARIA ANTOINETTE ENTHRONED 78

IV. THE DIAMOND NECKLACE 105

V. THE MOB AT VERSAILLES 131

VI. THE PALACE A PRISON 164

VII. THE FLIGHT 189

VIII. THE RETURN TO PARIS 214

IX. IMPRISONMENT IN THE TEMPLE 239

X. EXECUTION OF THE KING 272

XI. TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF MARIA ANTOINETTE 290

XII. THE PRINCESS ELIZABETH, THE DAUPHIN, AND
THE PRINCESS ROYAL 304




ENGRAVINGS.


Page

VIEW OF PARIS _Frontispiece._

BRIDAL TOUR 48

VERSAILLES - FRONT VIEW}
} 65
VERSAILLES - COURT-YARD}

FOUNTAINS AT VERSAILLES}
} 69
FOUNTAIN OF THE STAR }

LITTLE TRIANON 74

GARDENS OF MARLY 93

VIEW OF THE BASTILE 134

GARDENS AT VERSAILLES 144

MOB AT VERSAILLES 151

GRAND AVENUE OF THE TUILERIES 156

PALACE OF ST. CLOUD 184

CAPTURE AT VARENNES 208

THE TUILERIES 221

THE TOWER OF THE TEMPLE 257

THE ROYAL FAMILY IN THE TEMPLE 262

MARIA ANTOINETTE IN THE CONCIERGERIE 296




MARIA ANTOINETTE




CHAPTER I.

PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD.

1740-1770

Maria Theresa. - She succeeds to the throne. - Success of Maria Theresa's
enemies. - Her flight to Hungary. - The queen's firmness. - The Hungarian
barons. - The queen's appeal. - Enthusiasm of her subjects. - The queen
heads her army. - She overthrows her enemies. - Character of Maria
Theresa. - Character of her husband. - Crowning of Francis. - Maria
Theresa's renown. - Maria Theresa's sternness. - Anecdote. - Fatal
result. - Death of Francis. - Plan of the counselors. - Birth of Maria
Antoinette. - Maria Antoinette's character. - Affecting scene. - Maria
Antoinette's grief. - Maria Theresa as a mother. - Mode of
education. - Petty artifices. - Maria's proficiency in French. - She
forgets her native tongue. - Maria's taste for music. - Her ignorance
of general literature, etc. - The French teachers. - Their character. - The
Abbé de Vermond. - He shamefully abuses his trust. - Etiquette of the
French court. - Etiquette of the Austrian court. - Precepts of the
teacher. - Character of Maria Antoinette. - Maria a noble girl. - Her
virtues and her faults. - Palace of Schoenbrun. - The scenes of
Maria's childhood. - Personal appearance of Maria. - Description of
Lamartine. - Maria's betrothal. - Its motives. - Maria's feelings on
leaving Schoenbrun. - Her love for her home.


In the year 1740, Charles VI., emperor of Austria, died. He left a
daughter twenty-three years of age, Maria Theresa, to inherit the crown
of that powerful empire. She had been married about four years to
Francis, duke of Lorraine. The day after the death of Charles, Maria
Theresa ascended the throne. The treasury of Austria was empty. A
general feeling of discontent pervaded the kingdom. Several claimants
to the throne rose to dispute the succession with Maria; and France,
Spain, Prussia, and Bavaria took advantage of the new reign, and of the
embarrassments which surrounded the youthful queen, to enlarge their own
borders by wresting territory from Austria.

The young queen, harassed by dissensions at home and by the combined
armies of her powerful foes, beheld, with anguish which her proud and
imperious spirit could hardly endure, her troops defeated and scattered
in every direction, and the victorious armies of her enemies marching
almost unimpeded toward her capital. The exulting invaders, intoxicated
with unanticipated success, now contemplated the entire division of the
spoil. They decided to blot Austria from the map of Europe, and to
partition out the conglomerated nations composing the empire among the
conquerors.

Maria Theresa retired from her capital as the bayonets of France and
Bavaria gleamed from the hill-sides which environed the city. Her
retreat with a few disheartened followers, in the gloom of night, was
illumined by the flames of the bivouacs of hostile armies, with which
the horizon seemed to be girdled. The invaders had possession of every
strong post in the empire. The beleaguered city was summoned to
surrender. Resistance was unavailing. All Europe felt that Austria was
hopelessly undone. Maria fled from the dangers of captivity into the
wilds of Hungary. But in this dark hour, when the clouds of adversity
seemed to be settling in blackest masses over her whole realm, when hope
had abandoned every bosom but her own, the spirit of Maria remained as
firm and inflexible as if victory were perched upon her standards, and
her enemies were flying in dismay before her. She would not listen to
one word of compromise. She would not admit the thought of surrendering
one acre of the dominions she had inherited from her fathers. Calm,
unagitated, and determined, she summoned around her, from their feudal
castles, the wild and warlike barons of Hungary. With neighing steeds,
and flaunting banners, and steel-clad retainers, and all the
paraphernalia of barbaric pomp, these chieftains, delighting in the
excitements of war, gathered around the heroic queen. The spirit of
ancient chivalry still glowed in these fierce hearts, and they gazed
with a species of religious homage upon the young queen, who, in
distress, had fled to their wilds to invoke the aid of their strong
arms.

Maria met them in council. They assembled around her by thousands in all
the imposing splendor of the garniture of war. Maria appeared before
these stern chieftains dressed in the garb of the deepest mourning, with
the crown of her ancestors upon her brow, her right hand resting upon
the hilt of the sword of the Austrian kings, and leading by her left
hand her little daughter Maria Antoinette. The pale and pensive
features of the queen attested the resolute soul which no disasters
could subdue. Her imperial spirit entranced and overawed the bold
knights, who had ever lived in the realms of romance. Maria addressed
the Hungarian barons in an impressive speech in Latin, the language then
in use in the diets of Hungary, faithfully describing the desperate
state of her affairs. She committed herself and her children to their
protection, and urged them to drive the invaders from the land or to
perish in the attempt. It was just the appeal to rouse such hearts to a
phrensy of enthusiasm. The youth, the beauty, the calamities of the
queen roused to the utmost intensity the chivalric devotion of these
warlike magnates, and grasping their swords and waving them above their
heads, they shouted simultaneously, "Moriamur pro rege nostro, Maria
Theresa" - "_Let us die for our king, Maria Theresa._"

Until now, the queen had preserved a demeanor perfectly tranquil and
majestic. But this affectionate enthusiasm of her subjects entirely
overcame her imperious spirit, and she burst into a flood of tears. But,
apparently ashamed of this exhibition of womanly feeling she almost
immediately regained her composure, and resumed the air of the
indomitable sovereign. The war cry immediately resounded throughout
Hungary. Chieftains and vassals rallied around the banner of Maria. In
person she inspected and headed the gathering army, and her spirit
inspired them. With the ferocity of despair, these new recruits hurled
themselves upon the invaders. A few battles, desperate and sanguinary,
were fought, and the army of Maria was victorious. England and Holland,
apprehensive that the destruction of the Austrian empire would destroy
the balance of power in Europe, and encouraged by the successful
resistance which the Austrians were now making, came to the rescue of
the heroic queen. The tide of battle was turned. The armies of France,
Germany, and Spain were driven from the territory which they had
overrun. Maria, with untiring energy, followed up her successes. She
pursued her retreating foes into their own country, and finally granted
peace to her enemies only by wresting from them large portions of their
territory. The renown of these exploits resounded through Europe. The
name of Maria Theresa was embalmed throughout the civilized world. Under
her vigorous sway Austria, from the very brink of ruin, was elevated to
a degree of splendor and power it had never attained before. These
conflicts and victories inspired Maria with a haughty and imperious
spirit, and the loveliness of the female character was lost amid the
pomp of martial achievements. The proud sovereign eclipsed the woman.

It is not to be supposed that such a bosom could be the shrine of
tenderness and affection. Maria's virtues were all of the masculine
gender. She really loved, or, rather, _liked_ her husband; but it was
with the same kind of emotion with which an energetic and ambitious man
loves his wife. She cherished him, protected him, watched over him, and
loaded him with honors. He was of a mild, gentle, confiding spirit,
and would have made a lovely wife. She was ambitious, fearless, and
commanding, and would have made a noble husband. In fact, this was
essentially the relation which existed between them. Maria Theresa
governed the empire, while Francis loved and caressed the children.

The queen, by her armies and her political influence, had succeeded in
having Francis crowned Emperor of Germany. She stood upon the balcony
as the imposing ceremony was performed, and was the first to shout "Long
live the Emperor Francis I." Like Napoleon, she had become the creator
of kings. Austria was now in the greatest prosperity, and Maria Theresa
the most illustrious queen in Europe. Her renown filled the civilized
world. Through her whole reign, though she became the mother of sixteen
children, she devoted herself with untiring energy to the aggrandizement
of her empire. She united with Russia and Prussia in the infamous
partition of Poland, and in the banditti division of the spoil she
annexed to her own dominions twenty-seven thousand square miles and two
millions five hundred thousand inhabitants.

From this exhibition of the character of Maria Theresa, the mother of
Maria Antoinette, the reader will not be surprised that she should have
inspired her children with awe rather than with affection. In truth,
their imperial mother was so devoted to the cares of the empire, that
she was almost a stranger to her children, and could have known herself
but few of the emotions of maternal love. Her children were placed under
the care of nurses and governesses from their birth. Once in every eight
or ten days the queen appropriated an hour for the inspection of the
nursery and the apartments appropriated to the children; and she
performed this duty with the same fidelity with which she examined the
wards of the state hospitals and the military schools.

The following anecdote strikingly illustrates the austere and inflexible
character of the empress. The wife of her son Joseph died of the
confluent small-pox, and her body had been consigned to the vaults of
the royal tomb. Soon after this event, Josepha, one of the daughters of
the empress, was to be married to the King of Naples. The arrangements
had all been made for their approaching nuptials, and she was just on
the point of leaving Vienna to ascend the Neapolitan throne, when she
received an order from her mother that she must not depart from the
empire until she had, in accordance with the established custom,
descended into the tomb of her ancestors and offered her parting prayer.
The young princess, in an agony of consternation, received the cruel
requisition. Yet she dared not disobey her mother. She took her little
sister, Maria Antoinette, whom she loved most tenderly, upon her knee,
and, weeping bitterly, bade her farewell, saying that she was sure she
should take the dreadful disease and die. Trembling in every fiber, the
unhappy princess descended into the gloomy sepulcher, where the bodies
of generations of kings were moldering. She hurried through her short
prayer, and in the deepest agitation returned to the palace, and threw
herself in despair upon her bed.

Her worst apprehensions were realized. The fatal disease had penetrated
her veins. Soon it manifested itself in its utmost virulence. After
lingering a few days and nights in dreadful suffering, she breathed her
last, and her own loathsome remains were consigned to the same silent
chambers of the dead. Maria Theresa commanded her child to do no more
than she would have insisted upon doing herself under similar
circumstances. And when she followed her daughter to the tomb, she
probably allowed herself to indulge in no regrets in view of the course
she had pursued, but consoled herself with the reflection that she had
done her duty.

The Emperor Francis died, 1765, leaving Maria Theresa still in the
vigor of life, and quite beautiful. Three of her counselors of state,
ambitious of sharing the throne with the illustrious queen, entered into
a compact, by which they were all to endeavor to obtain her hand in
marriage, agreeing that the successful one should devote the power
thus obtained to the aggrandizement of the other two. The empress was
informed of this arrangement, and, at the close of a cabinet council,
took occasion, with great dignity and composure, to inform them that she
did not intend ever again to enter into the marriage state, but that,
should she hereafter change her mind, it would only be in favor of one
who had no ambitious desires, and who would have no inclination to
intermeddle with the affairs of state; and that, should she ever marry
one of her ministers, she should immediately remove him from all office.
Her counselors, loving power more than all things else, immediately
abandoned every thought of obtaining the hand of Maria at such a
sacrifice.

Maria Antoinette, the subject of this biography, was born on the 2d of
November, 1755. Few of the inhabitants of this world have commenced
life under circumstances of greater splendor, or with more brilliant
prospects of a life replete with happiness. She was a child of great
vivacity and beauty, full of light-heartedness, and ever prone to look
upon the sunny side of every prospect. Her disposition was frank,
cordial, and affectionate. Her mental endowments were by nature of a
very superior order. Laughing at the restraints of royal etiquette, she,
by her generous and confiding spirit, won the love of all hearts. Maria
Antoinette was but slightly acquainted with her imperial mother, and
could regard her with no other emotions than those of respect and awe;
but the mild and gentle spirit of her father took in her heart a
mother's place, and she clung to him with the most ardent affection.

When she was but ten years of age, her father was one day going to
Inspruck upon some business. The royal cavalcade was drawn up in the
court-yard of the palace. The emperor had entered his carriage,
surrounded by his retinue, and was just on the point of leaving, when he
ordered the postillions to delay, and requested an attendant to bring to
him his little daughter Maria Antoinette. The blooming child was brought
from the nursery, with her flaxen hair in ringlets clustered around her
shoulders, and presented to her father. As she entwined her arms around
his neck and clung to his embrace, he pressed her most tenderly to his
bosom, saying, "Adieu my dear little daughter. Father wished once more
to press you to his heart." The emperor and his child never met again.
At Inspruck Francis was taken suddenly ill, and, after a few days'
sickness, died. The grief of Maria Antoinette knew no bounds. But the
tears of childhood soon dried up. The parting scene, however, produced
an impression upon Maria which was never effaced, and she ever spoke of
her father in terms of the warmest affection.

Maria Theresa, half conscious of the imperfect manner in which she
performed her maternal duties, was very solicitous to have it understood
that she did not neglect her children; that she was the best _mother_
in the world as well as the most illustrious sovereign. When any
distinguished stranger from the other courts of Europe visited Vienna,
she arranged her sixteen children around the dinner-table, towering
above them in queenly majesty, and endeavored to convey the impression
that they were the especial objects of her motherly care. It was not,
however, the generous warmth of love, but the cold sense of duty, which
alone regulated her conduct in reference to them, and she had probably
convinced herself that she discharged her maternal obligations with the
most exemplary fidelity.

The family physician every morning visited each one of the children, and
then briefly reported to the empress the health of the archdukes and the
archduchesses. This report fully satisfied all the yearnings of maternal
love in the bosom of Maria Theresa; though she still, that she might not
fail in the least degree in motherly affection, endeavored to see them
with her own eyes, and to speak to them with her own lips, as often as
once in a week or ten days. The preceptors and governesses of the royal
household, being thus left very much to themselves, were far more
anxious to gratify the immediate wishes of the children, and thus to
secure their love, than to urge them to efforts for intellectual
improvement. Maria Antoinette, in subsequent life, related many amusing
anecdotes illustrative of the petty artifices by which the scrutiny of
the empress was eluded. The copies which were presented to the queen in
evidence of the progress the children were making in hand-writing were
all traced first in pencil by the governess. The children then followed
with the pen over the penciled lines. Drawings were exhibited,
beautifully executed, to show the skill Maria Antoinette had attained in
that delightful accomplishment, which drawings the pencil of Maria
had not even touched. She was also taught to address strangers of
distinction in short Latin phrases, when she did not understand the
meaning of one single word of the language. Her teacher of Italian, the
Abbé Metastasio, was the only one who was faithful in his duties, and
Maria made very great proficiency in that language. French being the
language of the nursery, Maria necessarily acquired the power of
speaking it with great fluency, though she was quite unable to write it
correctly. In the acquisition of French, her own mother tongue, the
German, was so totally neglected, that, incredible as it may seem, she
actually lost the power either of speaking or of understanding it. In
after years, chagrined at such unutterable folly, she sat down with
great resolution to the study of her own native tongue, and encountered
all the difficulties which would tax the patience of any foreigner in
the attempt. She persevered for about six weeks, and then relinquished
the enterprise in despair. The young princess was extremely fond of
music, and yet she was not taught to play well upon any instrument. This
became subsequently a source of great mortification to her, for she was
ashamed to confess her ignorance of an accomplishment deemed, in the
courts of Europe, so essential to a polished education, and yet she
dared not sit down to any instrument in the presence of others. When she
first arrived at Versailles as the bride of the heir to the throne of
France, she was so deeply mortified at this defect in her education,
that she immediately employed a teacher to give her lessons secretly for
three months. During this time she applied herself to her task with the
utmost assiduity, and at the end of the time gave surprising proof of
the skill she had so rapidly attained. Upon all the subjects of history,
science, and general literature, the princess was left entirely
uninformed. The activity and energy of her mind only led her the more
poignantly to feel the mortification to which this ignorance often
exposed her. When surrounded by the splendors of royalty, she frequently
retired to weep over deficiencies which it was too late to repair. The
wits of Paris seized upon these occasional developments of the want of
mental culture as the indication of a weak mind, and the daughter of
Maria Theresa, the descendant of the Cæsars, was the butt, in saloon and
café, of merriment and song. Maria was beautiful and graceful, and
winning in all her ways. But this imperfect education, exposing her to
contempt and ridicule in the society of intellectual men and women, was
not among the unimportant elements which conducted to her own ruin, to
the overthrow of the French throne, and to that deluge of blood which
for many years rolled its billows incarnadine over Europe.

Maria Theresa had sent to Paris for two teachers of French to instruct
her daughter in the literature of that country over which she was
destined to reign. From that pleasure-loving metropolis two play actors
were sent to take charge of her education, one of whom was a man of
notoriously dissolute character. As the connection between Maria
Antoinette and Louis, the heir apparent to the throne of France, was
already contemplated, some solicitude was felt by members of the court
of Versailles in reference to the impropriety of this selection, and the
French embassador at Vienna was requested to urge the empress to dismiss
the obnoxious teachers, and make a different choice. She immediately
complied with the request, and sent to the Duke de Choiseul, the
minister of state of Louis XV., to send a preceptor such as would be
acceptable to the court of Versailles. After no little difficulty in
finding one in whom all parties could unite, the Abbé de Vermond was
selected, a vain, ambitious, weak-minded man, who, by the most studied
artifice, insinuated himself into the good graces of Maria Theresa, and
gained a great but pernicious influence over the mind of his youthful
pupil. The cabinets of France and Austria having decided the question
that Maria Antoinette was to be the bride of Louis, who was soon to
ascend the throne of France, the Abbé de Vermond, proud of his position
as the intellectual and moral guide of the destined Queen of France,
shamefully abused his trust, and sought only to obtain an abiding
influence, which he might use for the promotion of his own ambition. He
carefully kept her in ignorance, to render himself more necessary to


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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottMaria Antoinette → online text (page 1 of 15)