Memoirs and Historical Chronicles of the Courts of Europe Marguerite de Valois, Madame de Pompadour, and Catherine de Medici online

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to lay before Monseigneur a full account of the conduct of his
relation and pensioner. The Archbishop had nothing to object to
in the proofs which were submitted to him; he said, with perfect
calmness, that she was not his relation; and, raising his hands
to heaven, "She is an unhappy wretch," said he, "who has robbed
me of the money which was destined for the poor. But God knows
that, in giving her so large a pension, I did not act lightly.
I had, at the time, before my eyes the example of a young woman
who once asked me to grant her seventy louis a year, promising me
that she would always live very virtuously, as she had hitherto
done. I refused her, and she said, on leaving me, 'I must turn
to the left, Monseigneur, since the way on the right is closed
against me.' The unhappy creature has kept her word but too well.
She found means of establish a faro-table at her house, which
is tolerated; and she joins to the most profligate conduct in
her own person the infamous trade of a corrupter of youth; her
house is the abode of every vice. Think, sir, after that, whether
it was not an act of prudence, on my part, to grant the woman
in question a pension, suitable to the rank in which I thought
her born, to prevent her abusing the gifts of youth, beauty,
and talents, which she possessed, to her own perdition, and the
destruction of others." The Lieutenant of Police told the King
that he was touched with the candour and the noble simplicity
of the prelate. "I never doubted his virtues," replied the King,
"but I wish he would be quiet." This same Archbishop gave a pension
of fifty louis a year to the greatest scoundrel in Paris. He is
a poet, who writes abominable verses; this pension is granted
on condition that his poems are never printed. I learned this
fact from M. de Marigny, to whom he recited some of his horrible
verses one evening, when he supped with him, in company with some
people of quality. He chinked the money in his pocket. "This
is my good Archbishop's," said he, laughing; "I keep my word
with him: my poem will not be printed during my life, but I read
it. What would the good prelate say if he knew that I shared my
last quarter's allowance with a charming little opera-dancer?
'It is the Archbishop, then, who keeps me,' said she to me; 'Oh,
la! how droll that is!'" The King heard this, and was much
scandalised at it. "How difficult it is to do good!" said he.

The King came into Madame de Pompadour's room, one day, as she
was finishing dressing. "I have just had a strange adventure,"
said he: "would you believe that, in going out of my wardroom
into my bedroom, I met a gentleman face to face?" "My God! Sire,"
cried Madame, terrified. "It was nothing," replied he; "but I
confess I was greatly surprised: the man appeared speechless
with consternation. 'What do you do here?' cried I, civilly.
He threw himself on his knees, saying, 'Pardon me, Sire; and,
above all, have me searched.' He instantly emptied his pockets
himself; he pulled off his coat in the greatest agitation and
terror: at last he told me that he was cook to - - -, and a friend
of Beccari, whom he came to visit; that he had mistaken the
staircase, and, finding all the doors open, he had wandered into
the room in which I found him, and which he would have instantly
left: I rang; Guimard came, and was astonished enough at finding
me tête-à-tête with a man in his shirt. He begged Guimard to go
with him into another room, and to search his whole person. After
this, the poor devil returned, and put on his coat. Guimard said
to me, 'He is certainly an honest man, and tells the truth; this
may, besides, be easily ascertained.' Another of the servants of
the palace came in, and happened to know him. 'I will answer for
this good man,' said he, 'who, moreover, makes the best _boeuf
à l'écarlate_ in the world.' As I saw the man was so agitated
that he could not stand steady, I took fifty louis out of my
bureau, and said, 'Here, sir, are fifty louis, to quiet your
alarms.' He went out, after throwing himself at my feet." Madame
exclaimed on the impropriety of having the King's bedroom thus
accessible to everybody. He talked with great calmness of this
strange apparition, but it was evident that he controlled himself,
and that he had, in fact, been much frightened, as, indeed, he
had reason to be. Madame highly approved of the gift; and she
was the more right in applauding it, as it was by no means in
the King's usual manner. M. de Marigny said, when I told him
of this adventure, that he would have wagered a thousand louis
against the King's making a present of fifty, if anybody but
I had told him of the circumstance. "It is a singular fact,"
continued he, "that all of the race of Valois have been liberal
to excess; this is not precisely the case with the Bourbons, who
are rather reproached with avarice! Henri IV. was said to be
avaricious. He gave to his mistresses, because he could refuse
them nothing; but he played with the eagerness of a man whose whole
fortune depends on the game. Louis XIV. gave through ostentation.
It is most astonishing," added he, "to reflect on what might
have happened. The King might actually have been assassinated
in his chamber, without anybody knowing anything of the matter
and without a possibility of discovering the murderer." For more
than a fortnight Madame could not get over this incident.

About that time she had a quarrel with her brother, and both were
in the right. Proposals were made to him to marry the daughter of
one of the greatest noblemen of the Court, and the King consented
to create him a Duke, and even to make the title hereditary.
Madame was right in wishing to aggrandise her brother, but he
declared that he valued his liberty above all things, and that
he would not sacrifice it except for a person he really loved.
He was a true Epicurean philosopher, and a man of great capacity,
according to the report of those who knew him well, and judged
him impartially. It was entirely at his option to have had the
reversion of M. de St. Florentin's place, and the place of Minister
of Marine, when M. de Machault retired; he said to his sister,
at the time, "I spare you many vexations, by depriving you of a
slight satisfaction. The people would be unjust to me, however
well I might fulfil the duties of my office. As to M. de St.
Florentin's place, he may live five-and-twenty years, so that I
should not be the better for it. Kings' mistresses are hated enough
on their own account; they need not also draw upon themselves the
hatred which is directed against Ministers." M. Quesnay repeated
this conversation to me.

The King had another mistress, who gave Madame de Pompadour some
uneasiness. She was a woman of quality, and the wife of one of
the most assiduous courtiers.

A man in immediate attendance on the King's person, and who had
the care of his clothes, came to me one day, and told me that,
as he was very much attached to Madame, because she was good
and useful to the King, he wished to inform me that, a letter
having fallen out of the pocket of a coat which His Majesty had
taken off, he had had the curiosity to read it, and found it to
be from the Comtesse de - - , who had already yielded to the
King's desires. In this letter, she required the King to give
her fifty thousand crowns in money, a regiment for one of her
relations, and a bishopric for another, and to dismiss, Madame
in the space of fifteen days, etc. I acquainted Madame with what
this man told me, and she acted with singular greatness of mind.
She said to me, "I ought to inform the King of this breach of
trust of his servant, who may, by the same means, come to the
knowledge of, and make a bad use of, important secrets; but I
feel a repugnance to ruin the man: however, I cannot permit him
to remain near the King's person, and here is what I shall do:
Tell him that there is a place of ten thousand francs a year
vacant in one of the provinces; let him solicit the Minister of
Finance for it, and it shall be granted to him; but, if he should
ever disclose through what interest he has obtained it, the King
shall be made acquainted with his conduct. By this means, I think
I shall have done all that my attachment and duty prescribe. I rid
the King of a faithless domestic, without ruining the individual."
I did as Madame ordered me: her delicacy and address inspired
me with admiration. She was not alarmed on account of the lady,
seeing what her pretensions were. "She drives too quick," remarked
Madame, "and will certainly be overturned on the road." The lady

"See what the Court is; all is corruption there, from the highest
to the lowest," said I to Madame, one day, when she was speaking
to me of some facts that had come to my knowledge. "I could tell
you many others," replied Madame; "but the little chamber, where
you often remain, must furnish you with a sufficient number."
This was a little nook, from whence I could hear a great part
of what passed in Madame's apartment. The Lieutenant of Police
sometimes came secretly to this apartment, and waited there.
Three or four persons, of high consideration, also found their
way in, in a mysterious manner, and several devotees, who were,
in their hearts, enemies of Madame de Pompadour. But these men
had not petty objects in view: one required the government of a
province; another, a seat in the Council; a third, a Captaincy of
the Guards; and this man would have obtained it if the Maréchale
de Mirepoix had not requested it for her brother, the Prince de
Beauvan. The Chevalier du Muy was not among these apostates;
not even the promise of being High Constable would have tempted
him to make up to Madame, still less to betray his master, the
Dauphin. The Prince was, to the last degree, weary of the station
he held. Sometimes, when teased to death by ambitious people,
who pretended to be Catos, or wonderfully devout, he took part
against a Minister against whom he was prepossessed; then relapsed
into his accustomed state of inactivity and ennui.

The King used to say, "My son is lazy; his temper is Polonese - hasty
and changeable; he has no tastes; he cares nothing for hunting,
for women, or for good living; perhaps he imagines that if he
were in my place he would be happy; at first, he would make great
changes, create everything anew, as it were. In a short time
he would be as tired of the rank of King as he now is of his
own; he is only fit to live _en philosophe_, with clever people
about him." The King added, "He loves what is right; he is truly
virtuous, and does not want understanding."

M. de St. Germain said, one day, to the King, "To think well of
mankind, one must be neither a Confessor, not a Minister, nor
a Lieutenant of Police." "Nor a King," said His Majesty. "Ah!
Sire," replied he, "you remember the fog we had a few days ago,
when we could not see four steps before us. Kings are commonly
surrounded by still thicker fogs, collected around them by men
of intriguing character, and faithless Ministers - all, of every
class, unite in endeavouring to make things appear to Kings in
any light but the true one." I heard this from the mouth of the
famous Comte de St. Germain, as I was attending upon Madame, who
was ill in bed. The King was there; and the Count, who was a
welcome visitor, had been admitted. There were also present, M.
de Gontaut, Madame de Brancas, and the Abbé de Bernis. I remember
that the very same day, after the Count was gone out, the King
talked in a style which gave Madame great pain. Speaking of the
King of Prussia, he said, "That is a madman, who will risk all to
gain all, and may, perhaps, win the game, though he has neither
religion, morals, nor principles. He wants to make a noise in
the world, and he will succeed. Julian, the Apostate, did the
same." "I never saw the King so animated before," observed Madame,
when he was gone out; "and really the comparison with Julian,
the Apostate, is not amiss, considering the irreligion of the
King of Prussia. If he gets out of his perplexities, surrounded
as he is by his enemies, he will be one of the greatest men in

M. de Bernis remarked, "Madame is correct in her judgment, for
she has no reason to pronounce his praises; nor have I, though
I agree with what she says." Madame de Pompadour never enjoyed
so much influence as at the time when M. de Choiseul became one
of the Ministry. From the time of the Abbé de Bernis she had
afforded him her constant support, and he had been employed in
foreign affairs, of which he was said to know but little. Madame
made the Treaty of Vienna, though the first idea of I it was
certainly furnished her by the Abbé. I have been informed by
several persons that the King often talked to Madame upon this
subject; for my own part, I never heard any conversation relative
to it, except the high praises bestowed by her on the Empress
and the Prince de Kaunitz, whom she had known a good deal of.
She said that he had a clear head, the head of a statesman. One
day, when she was talking in this strain, some one tried to cast
ridicule upon the Prince on account of the style in which he
wore his hair, and the four _valets de chambre_, who made the
hair-powder fly in all directions, while Kaunitz ran about that
he might only catch the superfine part of it. "Aye," said Madame,
"just as Alcibiades cut off his dog's tail in order to give the
Athenians something to talk about, and to turn their attention
from those things he wished to conceal."

Never was the public mind so inflamed against Madame de Pompadour
as when news arrived of the battle of Rosbach. Every day she received
anonymous letters, full of the grossest abuse; atrocious verses,
threats of poison and assassination. She continued long a prey to
the most acute sorrow, and could get no sleep but from opiates.
All this discontent was excited by her protecting the Prince of
Soubise; and the Lieutenant of Police had great difficulty in
allaying the ferment of the people. The King affirmed that it
was not his fault. M. du Verney was the confidant of Madame in
everything relating to war; a subject which he well understood,
though not a military man by profession. The old Maréchal de
Noailles called him, in derision, the General of the flour, but
Maréchal Saxe, one day, told Madame that du Verney knew more
of military matters than the old Marshal. Du Verney once paid
a visit to Madame de Pompadour, and found her in company with
the King, the Minister of War, and two Marshals; he submitted to
them the plan of a campaign, which was generally applauded. It
was through his influence that M. de Richelieu was appointed to
the command of the army, instead of the Maréchal d'Estrées. He came
to Quesnay two days after, when I was with him. The Doctor began
talking about the art of war, and I remember he said, "Military
men make a great mystery of their art; but what is the reason
that young Princes have always the most brilliant success? Why,
because they are active and daring. When Sovereigns command their
troops in person what exploits they perform! Clearly, because
they are at liberty to run all risks." These observations made
a lasting impression on my mind.

The first physician came, one day, to see Madame: he was talking
of madmen and madness. The King was present, and everything relating
to disease of any kind interested him. The first physician said
that he could distinguish the symptoms of approaching madness
six months beforehand. "Are there any persons about the Court
likely to become mad?" said the King. "I know one who will be
imbecile in less than three months," replied he. The King pressed
him to tell the name. He excused himself for some time. At last
he said, "It is M. de Séchelles, the Controller-General." "You
have a spite against him," said Madame, "because he would not
grant what you asked." "That is true," said he, "but though that
might possibly incline me to tell a disagreeable truth, it would
not make me invent one. He is losing his intellects from debility.
He affects gallantry at his age, and I perceive the connection in
his ideas is becoming feeble and irregular." The King laughed;
but three months afterwards he came to Madame, saying, "Séchelles
gives evident proofs of dotage in the Council. We must appoint
a successor to him." Madame de Pompadour told me of this on the
way to Choisy. Some time afterwards, the first physician came to
see Madame, and spoke to her in private. "You are attached to M.
Berryer, Madame," said he, "and I am sorry to have to warn you that
he will be attacked by madness, or by catalepsy, before long. I saw
him this morning at chapel, sitting on one of those very low little
chairs, which are only meant to kneel upon. His knees touched his
chin. I went to his house after mass; his eyes were wild, and
when his secretary spoke to him, he said, '_Hold your tongue,
pen. A pen's business is to write, and not to speak._'" Madame,
who liked the Keeper of the Seals, was very much concerned, and
begged the first physician not to mention what he had perceived.
Four days after this, M. Berryer was seized with catalepsy, after
having talked incoherently. This is a disease which I did not
know even by name, and got it written down for me. The patient
remains in precisely the same position in which the fit seizes
him; one leg or arm elevated, the eyes wide open, or just as it
may happen. This latter affair was known to all the Court at
the death of the Keeper of the Seals.

When the Maréchal de Belle-Isle's son was killed in battle, Madame
persuaded the King to pay his father a visit. He was rather
reluctant, and Madame said to him, with an air half angry, half

- - "Barbare! dont l'orgueil
Croit le sang d'un sujet trop payé d'un coup d'oeil."

The King laughed, and said, "Whose fine verses are those?"
"Voltaire's," said Madame - - . "As barbarous as I am, I gave
him the place of gentleman in ordinary, and a pension," said
the King.

The King went in state to call on the Marshal, followed by all the
Court; and it certainly appeared that this solemn visit consoled
the Marshal for the loss of his son, the sole heir to his name.

When the Marshal died, he was carried to his house on a common
hand-barrow, covered with a shabby cloth. I met the body. The
bearers were laughing and singing. I thought it was some servant,
and asked who it was. How great was my surprise at learning that
these were the remains of a man abounding in honours and in riches.
Such is the Court; the dead are always in fault, and cannot be
put out of sight too soon.

The King said, "M. Fouquet is dead, I hear." "He was no longer
Fouquet," replied the Duc d'Ayen; "Your Majesty had permitted
him to change that name, under which, however, he acquired all
his reputation." The King shrugged his shoulders. His Majesty
had, in fact, granted him letters patent, permitting him not to
sign Fouquet during his Ministry. I heard this on the occasion
in question. M. de Choiseul had the war department at his death.
He was every day more and more in favour. Madame treated him with
greater distinction than any previous Minister, and his manners
towards her were the most agreeable it is possible to conceive,
at once respectful and gallant. He never passed a day without
seeing her. M. de Marigny could not endure M. de Choiseul, but
he never spoke of him, except to his intimate friends. Calling,
one day, at Quesnay's, I found him there. They were talking of
M. de Choiseul. "He is a mere _petit maître_," said the Doctor,
"and, if he were handsome just fit to be one of Henri the Third's
favourites." The Marquis de Mirabeau and M. de La Rivière came
in. "This kingdom," said Mirabeau, "is in a deplorable state.
There is neither national energy, nor the only substitute for
it - money."

"It can only be regenerated," said La Rivière, "by a conquest,
like that of China, or by some great internal convulsion; but
woe to those who live to see that! The French people do not do
things by halves." These words made me tremble, and I hastened out
of the room. M. de Marigny did the same, though without appearing
at all affected by what had been said. "You heard De La Rivière,"
said he, - "but don't be alarmed, the conversations that pass
at the Doctor's are never repeated; these are honourable men,
though rather chimerical. They know not where to stop. I think,
however, they are in the right way; only, unfortunately, they
go too far." I wrote this down immediately.

"The Comte de St. Germain came to see Madame de Pompadour, who was
ill, and lay on the sofa. He shewed her a little box, containing
topazes, rubies, and emeralds. He appeared to have enough to
furnish a treasury. Madame sent for me to see all these beautiful
things. I looked at them with an air of the utmost astonishment,
but I made signs to Madame that I thought them all false. The
Count felt for something in his pocketbook, about twice as large
as a spectacle-case, and, at length, drew out two or three little
paper packets, which he unfolded, and exhibited a superb ruby.
He threw on the table, with a contemptuous air, a little cross
of green and white stones. I looked at it and said, "That is
not to be despised." I put it on, and admired it greatly. The
Count begged me to accept it. I refused - he urged me to take it.
Madame then refused it for me. At length, he pressed it upon me
so warmly that Madame, seeing that it could not be worth above
forty louis, made me a sign to accept it. I took the cross, much
pleased at the Count's politeness and, some days after, Madame
presented him with an enamelled box, upon which was the portrait
of some Grecian sage (whose name I don't recollect), to whom
she compared him. I shewed the cross to a jeweller, who valued
it at sixty-five louis. The Count offered to bring Madame some
enamel portraits, by Petitot, to look at, and she told him to
bring them after dinner, while the King was hunting. He shewed
his portraits, after which Madame said to him, "I have heard a
great deal of a charming story you told two days ago, at supper,
at M. le Premier's, of an occurrence you witnessed fifty or sixty
years ago." He smiled and said, "It is rather long." "So much
the better," said she, with an air of delight. Madame de Gontaut
and the ladies came in, and the door was shut; Madame made a
sign to me to sit down behind the screen. The Count made many
apologies for the ennui which his story would, perhaps, occasion.
He said, "Sometimes one can tell a story pretty well; at other
times it is quite a different thing."

"At the beginning of this century, the Marquis de St. Gilles
was Ambassador from Spain to the Hague. In his youth he had been
particularly intimate with the Count of Moncade, a grandee of
Spain, and one of the richest nobles of that country. Some months
after the Marquis's arrival at the Hague, he received a letter
from the Count, entreating him, in the name of their former
friendship, to render him the greatest possible service. 'You
know,' said he, 'my dear Marquis, the mortification I felt that
the name of Moncade was likely to expire with me. At length, it
pleased heaven to hear my prayers, and to grant me a son: he
gave early promise of dispositions worthy of his birth, but he,
some time since, formed an unfortunate and disgraceful attachment
to the most celebrated actress of the company of Toledo. I shut my
eyes to this imprudence on the part of a young man whose conduct
had, till then, caused me unmingled satisfaction. But, having learnt
that he was so blinded by passion as to intend to marry this girl,
and that he had even bound himself by a written promise to that
effect, I solicited the King to have her placed in confinement. My
son, having got information of the steps I had taken, defeated
my intentions by escaping with the object of his passion. For
more than six months I have vainly endeavoured to discover where
he has concealed himself, but I have now some reason to think he
is at the Hague.' The Count earnestly conjured the Marquis to
make the most rigid search, in order to discover his son's retreat,
and to endeavour to prevail upon him to return to his home. 'It
is an act of justice,' continued he, 'to provide for the girl,
if she consents to give up the written promise of marriage which
she has received, and I leave it to your discretion to do what
is right for her, as well as to determine the sum necessary to
bring my son to Madrid in a manner suitable to his condition.
I know not,' concluded he, 'whether you are a father; if you
are, you will be able to sympathise in my anxieties.' The Count

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Online LibraryVariousMemoirs and Historical Chronicles of the Courts of Europe Marguerite de Valois, Madame de Pompadour, and Catherine de Medici → online text (page 19 of 25)