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Marie Antoinette and Her Son online

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by Louise Muhlbach




It was the 13th of August, 1785. The queen, Marie Antoinette, had at
last yielded to the requests and protestations of her dear subjects.
She had left her fair Versailles and loved Trianon for one day, and
had gone to Paris, in order to exhibit herself and the young prince
whom she had borne to the king and the country on the 25th of March,
and to receive in the cathedral of Notre Dame the blessing of the
clergy and the good wishes of the Parisians.

She had had an enthusiastic reception, this beautiful and much loved
queen, Marie Antoinette. She had driven into Paris in an open
carriage, in company with her three children, and every one who
recognized her had greeted her with a cheerful huzzah, and followed
her on the long road to Notre Dame, at whose door the prominent
clergy awaited her, the cardinal, Prince Louis de Rohan, at their
head, to introduce her to the house of the King of all kings.

Marie Antoinette was alone; only the governess of the children, the
Duchess de Polignac, sat opposite her, upon the back seat of the
carriage, and by her side the Norman nurse, in her charming
variegated district costume, cradling in her arms Louis Charles, the
young Duke of Normandy. By her side, in the front part of the
carriage, sat her other two children - Therese, the princess royal,
the first-born daughter, and the dauphin Louis, the presumptive heir
of the much loved King Louis the Sixteenth. The good king had not
accompanied his spouse on this journey to Paris, which she undertook
in order to show to her dear, yet curious Parisians that she was
completely recovered, and that her children, the children of France,
were blossoming for the future like fair buds of hope and peace.

"Go, my dear Antoinette," the king had said to his queen, in his
pleasant way and with his good natured smile - " go to Paris in order
to prepare a pleasure for my good people. Show them our children,
and receive from them their thanks for the happiness which you have
given to me and to them. I will not go with you, for I wish that you
should be the sole recipient of the enthusiasm of the people and
their joyful acclamations. I will not share your triumph, but I
shall experience it in double measure if you enjoy it alone. Go,
therefore, my beloved Antoinette, and rejoice in this happy hour."

Marie Antoinette did go, and she did rejoice in the happiness of the
hour. "While riding through Paris, hundreds recognized her, hundreds
hailed her with loud acclamations. As she left the cathedral of
Notre Dame, in order to ascend into the carriage again with her
children and their governess, one would be tempted to think that the
whole square in front of the church had been changed into a dark,
tumultuous sea, which dashed its raging black waves into all the
streets debouching on the square, and was filling all Paris with its
roar, its swell, its thunder roll. Yes, all Paris was there, in
order to look upon Marie Antoinette, who, at this hour, was not the
queen, but the fair woman; the happy mother who, with the pride of
the mother of the Gracchi, desired no other protection and no other
companionship than that of her two sons; who, her hand resting upon
the shoulder of her daughter, needed no other maid of honor to
appear before the people in all the splendor and all the dignity of
the Queen of France and the true mother.

Yes, all Paris was there in order to greet the queen, the woman, and
the mother, and out of thousands upon thousands of throats there
sounded forth the loud ringing shout, "Long live the queen! Long
live Marie Antoinette! Long live the fair mother and the fair
children of France!"

Marie Antoinette felt herself deeply moved by these shouts. The
sight of the faces animated with joy, of the flashing eyes, and the
intoxicated peals of laughter, kindled her heart, drove the blood to
her cheeks, and made her countenance beam with joy, and her eyes
glisten with delight. She rose from her seat, and with a gesture of
inimitable grace took the youngest son from the arms of the nurse,
and lifted him high in the air, in order to display this last token
of her happiness and her motherly pride to the Parisians, who had
not yet seen the child. The little hat, which had been placed
sideways upon the high toupet of her powdered head, had dropped upon
her neck; the broad lace cuffs had fallen back from the arms which
lifted the child into the air, and allowed the whole arm to be seen
without any covering above the elbow.

The eyes of the Parisians drank in this spectacle with perfect
rapture, and their shouting arose every moment like a burst of

"How beautiful she is!" resounded everywhere from the mass. "What a
wonderful arm! What a beautiful neck!"

A deep flush mantled the face of Marie Antoinette. These words of
praise, which were a tribute to the beauty of the woman, awoke the
queen from the ecstasy into which the enthusiasm of her subjects had
transported her. She surrendered the child again to the arms of his
nurse, and sank down quickly like a frightened dove into the
cushions of the carriage, hastily drawing up at the same time the
lace mantle which had fallen from her shoulders and replacing her
hat upon her head.

"Tell the coachman to drive on quickly," she said to the nurse; and
while the latter was communicating this order, Marie Antoinette
turned to her daughter. "Now, Therese," asked she, laughing, "is it
not a beautiful spectacle our people taking so much pleasure in
seeing us?"

The little princess of seven years shook her proud little head with
a doubting, dark look.

"Mamma," said she, "these people look very dirty and ugly. I do not
like them!"

"Be still, my child, be still," whispered the queen, hastily, for
she feared lest the men who pressed the carriage so closely as
almost to touch its doors, might hear the unthinking words of the
little girl.

Marie Antoinette had not deceived herself. A man in a blouse, who
had even laid his hand upon the carriage, and whose head almost
touched the princess, a man with a blazing, determined face, and
small, piercing black eyes, had heard the exclamation of the
princess, and threw upon her a malignant, threatening glance.

"Madame loves us not, because we are ugly and dirty," he said; "but
we should, perhaps, look pretty and elegant too, if we could put on
finery to ride about in splendid carriages. But we have to work, and
we have to suffer, that we may be able to pay our taxes. For if we
did not do this, our king and his family would not be able to strut
around in this grand style. We are dirty, because we are working for
the king."

"I beg you, sir," replied the queen, softly, "to forgive my
daughter; she is but a child, and does not know what she is saying.
She will learn from her parents, however, to love our good, hard-
working people, and to be thankful for their love, sir."

"I am no 'sir,' " replied the man, gruffly; "I am the poor cobbler
Simon, nothing more."

"Then I beg you, Master Simon, to accept from my daughter, as a
remembrance, this likeness of her father, and to drink to our good
health," said the queen, laying at the same time a louis-d'or in the
hand of her daughter, and hastily whispering to her, "Give it to

The princess hastened to execute the command of her mother, and laid
the glistening gold piece in the large, dirty hand which was
extended to her. But when she wanted to draw back her delicate
little hand, the large, bony fingers of the cobbler closed upon it
and held it fast.

"What a little hand it is!" he said, with a deriding laugh; "I
wonder what would become of these fingers if they had to work!"

"Mamma," cried the princess, anxiously, "order the man to let me go;
he hurts me."

The cobbler laughed on, but dropped the hand of the princess.

"Ah," cried he, scornfully, "it hurts a princess only to touch the
hand of a working man. It would be a great deal better to keep
entirely away from the working people, and never to come among us."

"Drive forward quickly!" cried the queen to the coachman, with loud,
commanding voice.

He urged on the horses, and the people who had hemmed in the
carriage closely, and listened breathlessly to the conversation of
the queen with the cobbler Simon, shrank timidly back before the
prancing steeds.

The queen recovered her pleasant, merry smile, and bowed on all
sides while the carriage rolled swiftly forward. The people again
expressed their thanks with loud acclamations, and praised her
beauty and the beauty of her children. But Marie Antoinette was no
longer carried beyond herself by these words of praise, and did not
rise again from her seat.

While the royal carriage was disappearing in the tumult and throng
of the multitude, Simon the cobbler stood watching it with his
mocking smile. He felt a hand upon his arm, and heard a voice asking
the scornful question:

"Are you in love with this Austrian woman, Master Simon?"

The cobbler quickly turned round to confront the questioner. He saw,
standing by his side, a little, remarkably crooked and dwarfed young
man, whose unnaturally large head was set upon narrow, depressed
shoulders, and whose whole appearance made such an impression upon
the cobbler that the latter laughed outright.

"Not beautiful, am I?" asked the stranger, and he tried to join in
the laugh of the cobbler, but the result was a mere grimace, which
made his unnaturally large mouth, with its thick, colorless lips,
extend from one ear to the other, displaying two fearful rows of
long, greenish teeth.

"Not beautiful at all, am I? Dreadfully ugly!" exclaimed the
stranger, as Simon's laughter mounted higher and higher.

"You are somewhat remarkable, at least," replied the cobbler. "If I
did not hear you talk French, and see you standing up straight like
one of us, I should think you were the monstrous toad in the fable
that I read about a short time ago."

"I am the monstrous toad of the fable," replied the stranger,
laughing. "I have merely disguised myself today as a man in order to
look at this Austrian woman with her young brood, and I take the
liberty of asking you once more, Have you fallen in love with her?"

"No, indeed, I have not fallen in love with her," ejaculated the
cobbler. "God is my witness - "

"And why should you call God to witness?" asked the other, quickly.
"Do you suppose it is so great a misfortune not to love this

"No, I certainly do not believe that," answered the other,
thoughtfully. "I suppose that it is, perhaps, no sin before God not
to love the queen, although it may he before man, and that it is not
the first time that, it has been atoned for by long and dreary
imprisonment. But I do love freedom, and therefore I shall take care
not to tell a stranger what I think."

"You love freedom!" exclaimed the stranger. "Then give me your hand,
and accept my thanks for the word, my brother."

"Your brother!" replied the cobbler, astounded. "I do not know you,
and yet you call yourself, without more formal introduction, my

"You have said that you love freedom, and therefore I greet you as
my brother," replied the stranger. "All those who love freedom are
brothers, for they confess themselves children of the same gracious
and good mother who makes no difference between her children, but
loves them all with equal intensity and equal devotion, and it is
all the same to her whether this one of her sons is prince or count,
and that one workman or citizen. For our mother, Freedom, we are all
alike, we are all brethren."

"That sounds very finely," said the cobbler, shaking his head.
"There is only one fault that I can find with it, it is not true.
For if we were all alike, and were all brothers, why should the king
ride round in his gilded chariot, while I, an old cobbler, sit on my
bench and have my face covered with sweat?"

"The king is no son of Freedom!" exclaimed the stranger, with an
angry gesture. "The king is a son of Tyranny, and therefore he wants
to make his enemies, the sons of Freedom, to be his servants, his
slaves, and to bind our arms with fetters. But shall we always bear
this? Shall we not rise at last out of the dust into which we have
been trodden?"

"Yes, certainly, if we can, then we will," said Simon, with his
gruff laugh. "But here is the hitch, sir, we cannot do it. The king
has the power to hold us in his fetters; and this fine lady, Madame
Freedom, of whom you say that she is our mother, lets it come to
pass, notwithstanding that her sons are bound down in servitude and

"It must be for a season yet," answered the other, with loud,
rasping voice; "but the day of a rising is at hand, and shows with a
laughing face how those whom she will destroy are rushing swiftly
upon their own doom."

"What nonsense is that you are talking?" asked the cobbler. "Those
who are going to be destroyed by Madame Liberty are working out
their own ruin?"

"And yet they are doing it, Master Simon; they are digging their own
graves, only they do not see it, and do not know it; for the
divinity which means to destroy them has smitten them with
blindness. There is this queen, this Austrian woman. Do you not see
with your wise eyes how like a busy spider she is weaving her own

"Now, that is certainly an error," said Simon; "the queen does not
work at all. She lets the people work for her."

"I tell you, man, she does work, she is working at her own shroud,
and I think she has got a good bit of it ready. She has nice
friends, too, to help her in it, and to draw up the threads for this
royal spider, and so get ready what is needed for this shroud.
There, for example, is that fine Duke de Coigny. Do you know who
that Duke de Coigny is?"

"No, indeed, I know nothing about it; I have nothing to do with the
court, and know nothing about the court rabble."

"There you are right, they are a rabble," cried the other, laughing
in return. "I know it, for I am so unfortunate as not to be able to
say with you that I have nothing to do with the court. I have gone
into palaces, and I shall come out again, but I promise you that my
exit shall make more stir than my entrance. Now, I will tell you who
the Duke de Coigny is. He is one of the three chief paramours of the
queen, one of the great favorites of the Austrian sultana."

"Well, now, that is jolly," cried the cobbler; "you are a comical
rogue, sir. So the queen has her paramours?"

"Yes. You know that the Duke de Besenval, at the time that the
Austrian came as dauphiness to France, said to her: 'These hundred
thousand Parisians, madame, who have come out to meet you, are all
your lovers.' Now she takes this expression of Besenval in earnest,
and wants to make every Parisian a lover of hers. Only wait, only
wait, it will be your turn by and by. You will be able to press the
hand of this beautiful Austrian tenderly to your lips."

"Well, I will let you know in advance, then," said Simon, savagely,
"that I will press it in such right good earnest, that it shall
always bear the marks of it. You were speaking just now of the three
chief paramours - what are the names of the other two?"

"The second is your fine Lord de Adhemar; a fool, a rattle-head, a
booby; but he is handsome, and a jolly lover. Our queen likes
handsome men, and everybody knows that she is one of the laughing
kind, a merry fly, particularly since the carousals on the palace

"Carousals! What was that?"

"Why, you poor innocent child, that is the name they give to those
nightly promenades that our handsome queen took a year ago in the
moonlight on the terrace at Versailles. Oh, that was a merry time!
The iron fences of the park were not closed, and the dear people had
a right to enter, and could walk near the queen in the moonlight,
and hear the fine music which was concealed behind the hedges. You
just ask the good-looking officer of the lancers, who sat one
evening on a bench between two handsome women, dressed in white, and
joked and laughed with them. He can tell you how Marie Antoinette
can laugh, and what fine nonsense her majesty could afford to
indulge in." [Footnote: See Madame de Campane. "Memoires," vol. i.]

"I wish I knew him, and he would tell me about it," cried cobbler
Simon, striking his fists together. "I always like to hear something
bad about this Austrian woman, for I hate her and the whole court
crowd besides. What right have they to strut and swell, and put on
airs, while we have to work and suffer from morning till night? Why
is their life nothing but jollity, and ours nothing but misery? I
think I am of just as much consequence as the king, and my woman
would look just as nice as the queen, if she would put on fine
clothes and ride round in a gilded carriage. What puts them up and
puts us down?"

"I tell you why. It is because we are ninnies and fools, and allow
them to laugh in their sleeves at us, and make divinities out of
themselves, before whom the people, or, as they call them, the
rabble, are to fall upon their knees. But patience, patience! There
will come a time when they will not laugh, nor compel the people to
fall upon their knees and beg for favor. But no favor shall be
granted to them. They shall meet their doom."

"Ha! I wish the time were here," shouted the cobbler, laughing; "and
I hope I may be there when they meet their punishment."

"Well, my friend, that only depends upon yourself," said the
stranger. "The time will come, and if you wish you can contribute
your share, that it may approach with more rapid steps."

"What can I do? Tell me, for I am ready for every thing?"

"You can help whet the knife, that it may cut the better," said the
stranger, with a horrible grimace. "Come, come, do not look at me so
astonished, brother. There are already a good number of knife-
sharpeners in the good city of Paris, and if you want to join their
company, come this evening to me, and I will make you acquainted
with some, and introduce you to our guild."

"Where do you live, sir, and what is your name?" asked the cobbler,
with glowing curiosity.

"I live in the stable of the Count d'Artois, and my name is Jean
Paul Marat."

"In the stable!" cried the cobbler. "My faith, I had not supposed
you were a hostler or a coachman. It must be a funny sight, M.
Marat, to see you mounted upon a horse."

"You think that such a big toad as I does not belong there exactly.
Well, there you are right, brother Simon. My real business is not at
all with the horses, but with the men in the stable. I am the horse-
doctor, brother Simon, horse-doctor of the Count d'Artois; and I can
assure you that I am a tolerably skilful doctor, for I have yoked
together many a hostler and jockey whom the stable-keepers of the
dear Artois have favored with a liberal dispensation of their lash.
So, come this evening to me, not only that I may introduce you to
good society, but come if you are sick. I will restore you, and it
shall cost you nothing. I cure my brothers of the people without any
pay, for it is not the right thing for brothers to take money one of
another. So, brother Simon, I shall look for you this evening at the
stable; but now I must leave you, for my sick folks are expecting
me. Just one more word. If you come about seven o'clock to visit me,
the old witch that keeps the door will certainly tell you that I am
not at home. I will, therefore, give you the pass-word, which will
allow you to go in. It is 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.' Good-by."

He nodded to the cobbler with a fearful grimace, and strode away
quickly, in spite of not being able to lift his left foot over the
broad square of the Hotel de Ville.

Master Simon looked after him at first with a derisive smile, and
this diminutive figure, with his great head, on which a high, black
felt hat just kept its position, seemed to amuse him excessively.
All at once a thought struck him, and, like an arrow impelled from
the bow, he dashed forward and ran after Jean Paul Marat.

"Doctor Marat, Doctor Marat!" he shouted, breathless, from a

Marat stood still and looked around with a malicious glance.

"Well, what is it?" snarled he, "and who is calling my name so

"It is I, brother Marat," answered the cobbler, panting. "I have
been running after you because you have forgotten something."

"What is it?" asked Marat, feeling in his pockets with his long
fingers." I have my handkerchief and the piece of black bread that
makes my breakfast. I have not forgotten anything."

"Yes, Jean Paul Marat, you have forgotten something," answered
Master Simon. "You were going to tell me the names of the three
chief paramours of the queen, and you have given only two - the Duke
de Coigny and Lord Adhemar. You see I have a good memory, and retain
all that you told me. So give me the name of the third one, for I
will confess to you that I should like to have something to say
about this matter in my club this afternoon, and it will make quite
a sensation to come primed with this story about the Austrian

"Well, I like that, I like that," said Marat, laughing so as to show
his mouth from one ear to the other. "Now, that is a fine thing to
have a club, where you can tell all these little stories about the
queen and the court, and it will be a real pleasure to me to tell
you any such matters as these to communicate to your club, for it is
always a good thing to have any thing that takes place at Versailles
and St. Cloud get talked over here at Paris among the dear good

"In St. Cloud?" asked the cobbler. "What is it that can happen
there? That is nothing at all but a tiresome, old-forgotten pleasure
palace of the king."

"It is lively enough there now, depend upon it," replied Marat, with
his sardonic laugh. "King Louis the well beloved has given this
palace to his wife, in order that she may establish there a larger
harem than Trianon; that miserable, worthless little mouse-nest,
where virtue, honor, and worth get hectored to death, is not large
enough for her. Yes, yes, that fine, great palace of the French
kings, the noble St. Cloud, is now the heritage and possession of
this fine Austrian. And do you know what she has done? Close by the
railing which separates the park from St. Cloud, and near the
entrance, she has had a tablet put up, on which are written the
conditions on which the public are allowed to enter the park."

"Well, that is nothing new," said the cobbler, impatiently." They
have such a board put up at all the royal gardens, and everywhere
the public is ordered, in the name of the king, not to do any
injury, and not to wander from the regular paths."

"Well, that is just; it is ordered in the name of the king; but in
St. Cloud, it runs in the name of the queen. Yes, yes, there you may
see in great letters upon the board; 'In the name of the queen.'
[Footnote: "De par la reine" was the expression which was then in
the mouth of all France and stirred everybody's rage.] It is not
enough for us that a king sits upon our neck, and imposes his
commands upon us and binds us. We have now another ruler in France,
prescribing laws and writing herself sovereign. We have a new police
regulation in the name of the queen, a state within the state. Oh,
the spider is making a jolly mesh of it! In the Trianon she made the
beginning. There the police regulations have always been in the name
of the queen; and because the policy was successful there, it
extends its long finger still further, issues a new proclamation
against the people, appropriates to itself new domain, and proposes
to gradually encompass all France with its cords."

"That is rascally, that is wrong," cried the cobbler, raising his
clinched fists in the air.

"But that is not all, brother. The queen goes still further. Down to
the present time we have been accustomed to see the men who stoop to
be the mean servants of tyrants array themselves in the monkey-
jackets of the king's livery; but in St. Cloud, the Swiss guards at
the gates, the palace servants, in one word, the entire menial
corps, array themselves in the queen's livery; and if you are
walking in the park of St. Cloud, you are no longer in France and on
French soil, but in an Austrian province, where a foreigner can
establish her harem and make her laws, and yet a virtuous and noble
people does not rise in opposition to it."

"It does not know anything about it, brother Marat," said Simon,
eagerly. "It knows very little about the vices and follies of the

Online LibraryL. MühlbachMarie Antoinette and Her Son → online text (page 1 of 49)