"Yes," said the King, on hearing these quotations from the imperturbable man; "that must have been to the Bishop of Puy or the Bishop of Orange, who, in effect, donned the shield and cuirass at the time of the crusades against the Saracens; or perhaps, again, to the Cardinal de la Valette d'Epernon, who commanded our armies under Richelieu successfully."
"No, Sire," replied the Bishop; "to generals who were simply soldiers."
"But," said the King, "were the confessions, then, null?"
"Sire," added the Bishop of Meaux, "circumstances decide everything. Of old, in the time of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and much later still, confessions of Christians were public,—made in a loud voice; sometimes a number together, and always in the open air. Those of soldiers that I have quoted to madame were somewhat of the kind of these confessions of the primitive Church; and to-day, still, at the moment when battle is announced, a military almoner gives the signal for confession. The regiments confess on their knees before the Most High, who hears them; and the almoner, raised aloft on a pile of drums, holds the crucifix in one hand, and with the other gives the general absolution to eighty thousand soldiers at once."
This clear and precise explanation somewhat calmed Madame de Maintenon, and Madame la Dauphine,—displeased at what she had done on arriving,—in order to be regular, learned to confess in French.
Pere de la Chaise.—The Jesuits.—The Pavilion of Belleville.—The Handkerchief.
Pere de la Chaise has never done me good or ill; I have no motives for conciliating him, no reason to slander him. I am ignorant if he were the least in the world concerned, at the epoch of the Grand Jubilee, with those ecclesiastical attempts of which Bossuet had constituted himself spokesman. Pere de la Chaise has in his favour a great evenness of temper and character; an excellent tone, which comes to him from his birth; a conciliatory philosophy, which renders him always master of his condition and of his metier. He is, in a single individual, the happy combination of several men, that is to say, he is by turns, and as it may be needful, a man indulgent or severe in his preaching; a man of abstinence, or a good feeder; a man of the world, or a cenobite; a man of his breviary, or a courtier. He knows that the sins of woodcutters and the sins of kings are not of the same family, and that copper and gold are not weighed in the same scales.
He is a Jesuit by his garb; he is much more so than they are by his 'savoir-vivre'. His companions love the King because he is the King; he loves him, and pities him because he sees his weakness. He shows for his penitent the circumspection and tenderness of a father, and in the long run he has made of him a spoiled child.
This Pere de la Chaise fell suddenly ill, and with symptoms so alarming that the cabals each wished to appropriate this essential post of confessor.
The Jansenists would have been quite willing to lay hold of it. The Jesuits, and principally the cordons bleus, did not quit the pillow of the sick man for an instant.
The King had himself informed of his condition every half-hour. There was a bulletin, as there is for potentates. One evening, when the doctors were grave on his account, I saw anxiety and affliction painted on the visage of his Majesty.
"Where shall I find his like?" said he to me. "Where shall I find such knowledge, such indulgence, such kindness? The Pere de la Chaise knew the bottom of my heart; he knew, as an intelligent man, how to reconcile religion with nature; and when duty brings me to the foot of his tribunal, as a humble Christian, he never forgets that royalty, cannot be long on its knees, and he accompanies with his attentions and with deference the religious commands which he is bound to impose on me."
"I hope that God will preserve him to you," I replied to his Majesty; "but let us suppose the case in which this useful and precious man should see his career come to an end; will you grant still this mark of confidence and favour to the Jesuits? All the French being your subjects, would it not be fitting to grant this distinction sometimes to the one and sometimes to the other? You would, perhaps, extinguish by this that hate or animosity by which the Jesuits see themselves assailed, which your preference draws upon them."
"I do not love the Jesuits with that affection that you seem to suggest," replied the monarch. "I look upon them as men of instruction, as a learned and well-governed corporation; but as for their attachment for me, I know how to estimate it. This kind of people, strangers to the soft emotions of nature, have no affection or love for anything. Before the triumph of the King my grandfather, they intrigued and exerted themselves to bring about his fall; he opened the gates of Paris, and the Jesuits, like the Capuchins, at once recognised him and bowed down before him. King Henri, who knew what men are, pretended to forget the past; he pronounced himself decidedly in favour of the Jesuits because this body of teachers, numerous, rich, and of good credit, had just pronounced itself in favour of him.
"It was, then, a reconciliation between power and power, and the politics of my grandfather were to survive him and become mine, since the same elements exist and I am encamped on the same ground. If God takes away from me my poor Pere de la Chaise, I shall feel this misfortune deeply, because I shall lose in him, not a Jesuit, not a priest, but a good companion, a trusty and proved friend. If I lose him, I shall assuredly be inconsolable for him; but it will be very necessary for me to take his successor from the Grand Monastery of the Rue Saint Antoine. This community knows me by heart, and I do not like innovations."
The successor of the Pere de la Chaise was already settled with the Jesuit Fathers; but this man of the vanguard was spared marching and meeting danger. The Court was not condemned to see and salute a new face; the old confessor recovered his health. His Majesty experienced a veritable joy at it, a joy as real as if the Prince of Orange had died.
Wishing to prove to the good convalescent how dear his preservation was to him, the King released him from his function for the rest of the year, and begged him to watch over his health, the most important of his duties and his possessions.
Having learnt that they had neither terraces nor gardens at the grand monastery of the Rue Saint Antoine, his Majesty made a present to his confessor of a very agreeable house in the district of Belleville, and caused to be transported thither all kinds of orange-trees, rare shrubs, and flowers from Versailles. These tasteful attentions, these filial cares, diverted the capital somewhat; but Paris is a rich soil, where the strangest things are easily received and naturalised without an effort.
The Pare de la Chaise had his chariot with his arms on it, and his family livery; and as the income from his benefices remained to him, joined to his office of confessor, he continued to have every day a numerous court of young abbes, priests well on in years, barons, countesses, marquises, magistrates and colonels, who came to Belleville in anxiety about his health, to congratulate themselves upon his convalescence, to ask of him, with submission and reverence, a bishopric, an archbishopric, a cardinal's hat, an important priory, a canonry, or an abbey.
Having myself to place the three daughters of one of my relatives, I went to see the noble confessor at his pavilion of Belleville. He received me with the most marked distinction, and was lavish in acts of gratitude for all the benefits of the King.
As he crossed his salon, in order to accompany me and escort me out, he let his white handkerchief fall; three bishops at once flung themselves upon it, and there was a struggle as to who should pick it up to give it back to him.
I related to the King what I had seen. He said to me: "These prelates honour my confessor, looking upon him as a second me." In fact, the sins of the King could only throw his confessor into relief and add to his merit.
Mademoiselle de Fontanges.—The Pavilions of the Garden of Flora.—Rapid Triumph of the Favourite.—Her Retreat to Val-de-grace.—Her Death.
Madame de Maintenon was already forty-four years old, and appeared to be only thirty. This freshness, that she owed either to painstaking care or to her happy and quite peculiar constitution, gave her that air of youth which fascinated the eyes of the courtiers and those of the monarch himself. I wished one day to annoy her by bringing the conversation on this subject, which could not be diverting to her. I began by putting the question generally, and I then named several of our superannuated beauties who still fluttered in the smiling gardens of Flora without having the youth of butterflies.
"There are butterflies of every age and colour in the gardens of Flora," said she, catching the ball on the rebound. "There are presumptuous ones, whom the first breath of the zephyr despoils of their plumage and discolours; others, more reserved and less frivolous, keep their glamour and prestige for a much longer time. For the rest, the latter seem to me to rejoice without being vain in their advantages. And at bottom, what should any insect gain by being proud?"
"Very little," I answered her, "since being dressed as a butterfly does not prevent one from being an insect, and the best sustained preservation lasts at most till the day after to-morrow."
The King entered. I started speaking of a young person, extremely beautiful, who had just appeared at Court, and would eclipse, in my opinion, all who had shone there before her.
"What do you call her?" asked his Majesty. "To what family does she belong?"
"She comes from the provinces," I continued, "just like silk, silver, and gold. Her parents desire to place her among the maids of honour of the Queen. Her name is Fontanges, and God has never made anything so beautiful."
As I said these words I watched the face of the Marquise. She listened to this portrayal with attention, but without appearing moved by it, such is her power of suppressing her natural feeling. The King only added these words:
"This young person needs be quite extraordinary, since Madame de Montespan praises her, and praises her with so much vivacity. However, we shall see."
Two days afterwards, Mademoiselle de Fontanges was seen in the salon of the grand table. The King, in spite of his composure, had looks and attentions for no one else.
This excessive preoccupation struck the Queen, who, marking the blandishments of the young coquette and the King's response, guessed the whole future of this encounter; and in her heart was almost glad at it, seeing that my turn had come.
Mademoiselle de Fontanges, given to the King by her shameless family, feigned love and passion for the monarch, as though he had returned by enchantment to his twentieth year.
As for him, he too appeared to us to forget all dates. I know that he was only now forty-one years old, and having been the finest man in the world, he could not but preserve agreeable vestiges of a once striking beauty. But his young conquest had hardly entered on her eighteenth year, and this difference could not fail to be plain to the most inattentive, or most indulgent eyes.
The King, with a sort of anticipatory resignation, had for six or seven years greatly simplified his appearance. We had seen him, little by little, reform that Spanish and chivalric costume with which he once embellished his first loves. The flowing plumes no longer floated over his forehead, which had become pensive and quite serious. The diagonal, scarf was suppressed, and the long boots, with gold and silver embroidery, were no longer seen. To please his new divinity, the monarch suddenly enough rejuvenated his attire. The most elegant stuffs became the substance of his garments; feathers reappeared. He joined to them emeralds and diamonds.
Allegorical comedies, concerts on the waters recommenced. Triumphant horse-races set the whole Court abob and in movement. There was a fresh carousal; there was all that resembles the enthusiasms of youthful affection, and the deliriums of youth. The youth alone was not there, at least in proportion, assortment, and similarity.
All that I was soliciting for twelve years, Mademoiselle de Fontanges had only to desire for a week. She was created duchess at her debut; and the lozenge of her escutcheon was of a sudden adorned with a ducal coronet, and a peer's mantle.
I did not deign to pay attention to this outrage; at least, I made a formal resolution never to say a single word on it.
The King came no less from time to time, to pay me a visit, and to talk to me, as of old, of operas and his hunting. I endured his conversation with a philosophical phlegm. He scarcely suspected the change in me.
At the chase, one day, his nymph, whom nothing could stop, had her knot of riband caught and held by a branch; the royal lover compelled the branch to restore the knot, and went and offered it to his Amazon. Singular and sparkling, although lacking in intelligence, she carried herself this knot of riband to the top of her hair, and fixed it there with a long pin.
Fortune willed it that this coiffure, without order or arrangement, suited her face, and suited it greatly. The King was the first to congratulate her on it; all the courtiers applauded it, and this coiffure of the chase became the fashion of the day.
All the ladies, and the Queen herself, found themselves obliged to adopt it. Madame de Maintenon submitted herself to it, like the others. I alone refused to sacrifice to the idol, and my knee, being once more painful, would not bend before Baal.
With the exception of the general duties of the sovereignty, the prince appeared to have forgotten everything for his flame. The Pere de la Chaise, who had returned to his post, regarded this fresh incident with his philosophic calm, and congratulated himself on seeing the monarch healed of at least one of his passions.
I had always taken the greatest care to respect the Queen; and since my star condemned me to stand in her shoes, I did not spare myself the general attentions which two well-born people owe one another, and which, at least, prove a lofty education.
The Duchesse de Fontanges, doubtless, believed herself Queen, because she had the public homage and the King. This imprudent and conceited schoolgirl had the face to pass before her sovereign without stopping, and without troubling to courtesy.
The Infanta reddened with disapproval, and persuaded herself, by way of consolation, that Fontanges had lost her senses or was on the road to madness.
Beautiful and brilliant as the flowers, the Duchess, like them, passed swiftly away. Her pregnancy, by reason of toilsome rides, hunting parties, and other agitations, became complicated. From the eighth month she fell into a fever, into exhaustion and languor. The terror that took possession of her imagination caused her to desire a sojourn in a convent as a refuge of health, where God would see her nearer and, perhaps, come to her aid.
She had herself transported during the night to the House of the Ladies of Val-de-Grace, and desired that they should place in her chamber several relics from their altars.
Her confinement was not less laboured and sinister. When she saw that all the assistance of art could not stop the bleeding, with which her deep bed was flooded, she caused the King to be summoned, embraced him tenderly, in the midst of sobs and tears, and died in the night, pronouncing the name of God and the name of the King, the objects of her love and of fears.
Madame de Sevigne.—Madame de Grignan.—Madame de Montespan at the Carmelites.—Madame de la Valliere.—These Two Great Ruins Console One Another.—An Angel of Sweetness, Goodness, and Kindness.
Fifteen or twenty days before the death of Mademoiselle de Fontanges, my sister and I were taking a walk in the new woods of Versailles. We met the Marquise de Sevigne near the canal; she was showing these marvellous constructions to her daughter, the Comtesse de Grignan. They greeted us with their charming amiability, and, after having spoken of several indifferent matters, the Marquise said to me: "We saw, five or six days ago, a person, madame, of whom you were formerly very fond, and who charged us to recall her to the memory of her friends. You are still of that number,—I like to think so, and our commission holds good where you are concerned, if you will allow it."
Then she mentioned to me that poor Duchesse de la Valliere, to whom I was once compelled by my unhappy star to give umbrage, and whom, in my fatal thoughtlessness, I had afflicted without desiring it.
Tears came into my eyes; Madame de Sevigne saw them, and expressed her regret at having caused me pain. Madame de Thianges and I asked her if my old friend was much changed. She and Madame de Grignan assured us that she was fresh, in good health, and that her face appeared more beautiful. On the next day I wished absolutely to see her, and drove to the Carmelites.
On seeing my pretty cripple, who hobbled among us with so great a charm, I uttered a cry, which for a moment troubled her. She sank down to salute the crucifix, as custom demands, and, after her short prayer, she came to me. "I did not mention your name to Mesdames de Sevigne," said she; "but, however, I am obliged to them, since they have been able to procure me the pleasure of seeing you once more."
"The general opinion of the Court, and in the world, my dear Duchess," answered I, "is that I brought about your disgrace myself; and the public, that loved you, has not ceased to reproach me with your misfortune."
"The public is very kind still to occupy itself with me," she answered; "but it is wrong in that, as in so many other matters. My retirement from the world is not a misfortune, and I never suspected that the soul could find such peace and satisfaction in these silent solitudes.
"The first days were painful to me, I admit it, owing to the inexpressible difference which struck me between what I found here and what I had left elsewhere. But just as the eye accustoms itself, little by little, to the feeble glimmer of a vault, in the same way my body has accustomed itself to the roughness of my new existence, and my heart to all its great privations.
"If life had not to finish, in fulfilment of a solemn, universal, and inevitable decree, the constraint that I have put upon myself might at length become oppressive, and my yoke prove somewhat heavy. But all that will finish soon, for all undertakings come to an end. I left you young, beautiful, adored, and triumphant in the land of enchantments. But six years have passed, and they assure me that your own afflictions have come, and that you, yourself, have been forced to drink the bitter cup of deprivation."
At these words, pronounced in a melancholy and celestial voice, I felt as though my heart were broken, and burst into tears.
"I pity you, Athenais," she resumed. "Is, then, what I have been told lightly, and almost in haste, only too certain for you? How is it you did not expect it? How could you believe him constant and immutable, after what happened to me?
"To-day, I make no secret to you of it, and I say it with the peaceful indifference which God has generously granted me, after such dolorous tribulations. I make no secret of it to you, Athenais; a thousand times you plunged the sword and dagger into my heart, when, profiting by my confidence in you, by my sense of entire security, you permitted your own inclination to substitute itself for mine, and a young man seething with desires to be attracted by your charms. These unlimited sufferings exhausted, I must believe, all the sensibility of my soul. And when this corrosive flame had completely devoured my grief, a new existence grew up in me; I no longer saw in the father of my children other than a young prince, accustomed to see his dominating will fulfilled in everything. Knowing how little in this matter he is master of himself, he who knows so well how to be master of himself in everything to do with his numerous inferiors, I deplored the facility he enjoys from his attractions, from his wealth, from his power to dazzle the hearts which he desires to move and subdue.
"Recognise these truths, my dear Marquise," she added, "and gain, for it is time, a just idea of your position. After the unhappiness I felt at being loved no longer, I should have quitted the Court that very instant, if I had been permitted to bring up and tend my poor children. They were too young to abandon! I stayed still in the midst of you, as the swallow hovers and flits among the smoke of the fire, in order to watch over and save her little ones. Do not wait till disdain or authority mingles in the matter. Do not come to the sad necessity of resisting a monarch, and of detesting to the point of scandal that which you have so publicly loved; pity him, but depart. This kind of intimacy, once broken, cannot be renewed. However skilfully it may be patched up, the rent always reappears."
"My good Louise," I replied to the amiable Carmelite, "your wise counsels touch me, persuade me, and are nothing but the truth. But in listening to you I feel overwhelmed; and that strength which you knew how to gain, and show to the world, your former companion will never possess.
"I see with astonished eyes the supernatural calm which reigns in your countenance; your health seems to me a prodigy, your beauty was never so ravishing; but this barbarous garb pierces me to the heart.
"The King does not yet hate me; he shows me even a remnant of respect, with which he would colour his indifference. Permit me to ask from him for you an abbey like that of Fontevrault, where the felicities of sanctuary and of the world are all in the power of my sister. He will ask nothing better than to take you out, be assured."
"Speak to him of me," answered Louise; "I do not oppose that; but leave me until the end the role of obedience and humility that his fault and mine impose on me. Why should he wish that I should command others,—I who did not know how to command myself at an epoch when my innocence was so dear to me, and when I knew that, in losing that, one is lost?"
As she said these words two nuns came to announce her Serene Highness, that is to say, her daughter, the Princesse de Conti. I prayed Madame de la Valliere to keep between ourselves the communications that had just taken place in the intimacy of confidence. She promised me with her usual candour. I made a profound reverence to the daughter, embraced the mother weeping, and regained my carriage, which the Princess must have remarked on entering.
Reflections.—The Future.—The Refuge of Foresight.—Community of Saint Joseph.—Wicked Saying of Bossuet.
I wept much during the journey; and to save the spectacle of my grief from the passers-by, I was at the pains to lower the curtains. I passed over in my mind all that the Duchess had said to me. It was very easy for me to understand that the monarch's heart had escaped me, and that, owing to his character, all resistance, all contradiction would be vain. The figure, as it had been supernumerary and on sufferance, which the Duchess had made in the midst of the Court when she ceased to be loved, returned to my memory completely, and I felt I had not the courage to drink a similar cup of humiliation.
I reminded myself of what the prince had told me several times in those days when his keen affection for me led him to wish for my happiness, even in the future,—even after his death, if I were destined to survive him.
"You ought," he said to me, at those moments, "you ought to choose and assure yourself beforehand of an honourable retreat; for it is rarely that a king accords his respect or his good-will to the beloved confidante of his predecessor."
Not wishing to ask a refuge of any one, but, on the contrary, being greatly set upon ruling in my own house, I resolved to build myself, not a formal convent like Val-de-Grace or Fontevrault, but a pretty little community, whose nuns, few in number, would owe me their entire existence, which would necessarily attach them to all my interests. I held to this idea. I charged my intendant to seek for me a site spacious enough for my enterprise; and when he had found it, had showed it to me, and had satisfied me with it, I had what rambling buildings there were pulled down, and began, with a sort of joy, the excavations and foundations.
The first blow of the hammer was struck, by some inconceivable fortuity, at the moment when the Duchesse de Fontanges expired. Her death did not weaken my resolutions nor slacken my ardour. I got away quite often to cast an eye over the work, and ordered my architect to second my impatience and spur on the numerous workmen.
The rumour was current in Paris that the example of "Soeur Louise" had touched me, and that I was going to take the veil in my convent. I took no notice of this fickle public, and persisted wisely in my plan.
The unexpected and almost sudden decease of Mademoiselle de Fontanges had singularly moved the King. Extraordinary and almost incredible to relate, he was for a whole week absent from the Council. His eyes had shed so many tears that they were swollen and unrecognisable. He shunned the occasions when there was an assembly, buried himself in his private apartments or in his groves, and resembled, in every trait, Orpheus weeping for his fair Eurydice, and refusing to be consoled.
I should be false to others and to myself if I were to say that his extreme grief excited my compassion; but I should equally belie the truth if I gave it to be understood that his "widowhood" gave me pleasure, and that I congratulated myself on his sorrow and bitterness.
He came to see me when he found himself presentable, and, for the first few days, I abstained from all reprisal and any allusion. The innumerable labours of his State soon threw him, in spite of himself, into those manifold distractions which, in their nature, despise or absorb the sensibilities of the soul. He resumed, little by little, his accustomed serenity, and, at the end of the month, appeared to have got over it.
"What," he asked me, "are those buildings with which you are busy in Paris, opposite the Ladies of Belle-Chasse? I hear of a convent; is it your intention to retire?"
"It is a 'refuge of foresight,'" I answered him. "Who can count upon the morrow? And after what has befallen Mademoiselle de Fontanges, we must consider ourselves as persons already numbered, who wait only for the call."
He sighed, and soon spoke of something else.
I reminded myself that, to speak correctly, I had in Paris no habitation worthy of my children and of my quality. That little hotel in the Rue Saint Andre-des-Arcs I could count for no more than a little box. I sought amongst my papers for a design of a magnificent hotel which I had obtained from the famous Blondel. I found it without difficulty, with full elevations and sections. The artist had adroitly imitated in it the beautiful architecture of the Louvre; this fair palace would suit me in every respect.
My architect, at a cursory glance, judged that the construction and completion of this edifice would easily cost as much as eighteen hundred thousand livres. This expense being no more than I could afford, I commissioned him to choose me a spacious site for the buildings and gardens over by Roule and La Pepiniere.
Not caring to superintend several undertakings at once, I desired, before everything, that my house in the Faubourg Saint Germain should be complete and when the building and the chapel were in a condition to receive the little colony, I dedicated my "refuge of foresight" to Saint Joseph, the respectful spouse of the Holy Virgin and foster-father of the Child Jesus. This agreeable mansion lacked a large garden. I felt a sensible regret for this, especially for the sake of my inmates; but there was a little open space furnished with vines and fruit-walls, and one of the largest courtyards in the whole of the Faubourg Saint Germain.
Having always loved society, I had multiplied in the two principal blocks of the sleeping-rooms and the entrance-hall complete apartments for the lady inmates. And a proof that I was neither detested by the world nor unconsidered is that all these apartments were sought after and occupied as soon as the windows were put in and the painting done. My own apartment was simple, but of a majestic dignity. It communicated with the chapel, where my tribune, closed with a handsome window, was in face of the altar.
I decided, once for all, that the Superior should be my nomination whilst God should leave me in this world, but that this right should not pass on to my heirs. The bell of honour rang for twenty minutes every time I paid a visit to these ladies; and I only had incense at high mass, and at the Magnificat, in my quality of foundress.
I went from time to time to make retreats, or, to be more accurate, vacations, in my House of Saint Joseph. M. Bossuet solicited the favour of being allowed to preach there on the day of the solemn consecration. I begged him to preserve himself for my funeral oration. He answered cruelly that there was nothing he could refuse me.
The Court Travels in Picardy and Flanders.—The Boudoir Navy.—Madame de Montespan Is Not Invited.—The King Relates to Her the Delights of the Journey.—Reflections of the Marquise.
The King, consoled as he was for the death of the Duchesse de Fontanges, did not, on that account, return to that sweet and agreeable intimacy which had united us for the space of eleven or twelve years. He approached me as one comes to see a person of one's acquaintance, and it was more than obvious that his only bond with me was his children.
Being a man who loved pomp and show, he resolved upon a journey in Flanders,—a journey destined to furnish him, as well as his Court, with numerous and agreeable distractions, and to give fresh alarm to his neighbours.
Those "Chambers of Reunion," as they were called, established at Metz and at Brisach, competed with each other in despoiling roundly a host of great proprietors, under the pretext that their possessions had formerly belonged to Alsace, and that this Alsace had been ceded to us by the last treaties. The Prince Palatine of the Rhine saw himself stripped, on this occasion, of the greater part of the land which he had inherited from his ancestors, and when he would present a memoir on this subject to the ministers, M. de Croissy-Colbert answered politely that he was in despair at being unable to decide the matter himself; but that the Chambers of Metz and Brisach having been instituted to take cognisance of it, it was before these solemn tribunals that he must proceed.
The Palatine lost, amongst other things, the entire county of Veldentz, which was joined to the church of the Chapter of Verdun.
The King, followed by the Queen and all his Court,—by Monsieur le Dauphin, Madame la Dauphine and the legitimate princes, whom their households accompanied as well,—set out for Flanders in the month of July. Madame de Maintenon, as lady in waiting, went on this journey; and of me, superintendent of the Queen's Council, they did not even speak.
The first town at which this considerable Court stopped was at Boulogne, in Picardy, the fortifications of which were being repaired. On the next day the King went on horseback to visit the port of Ambleteuse; thence he set out for Calais, following the line of the coast, while the ladies took the same course more rapidly. He inspected the harbours and diverted himself by taking a sail in a wherry. He then betook himself to Dunkirk, where the Marquis de Seignelay—son of Colbert—had made ready a very fine man-of-war with which to regale their Majesties. The Chevalier de Ury, who commanded her, showed them all the handling of it, which was for those ladies, and for the Court, a spectacle as pleasant as it was novel. The whole crew was very smart, and the vessel magnificently equipped. There was a sham fight, and then the vessel was boarded. The King took as much pleasure in this sight as if Fontanges had been the heroine of the fete, and our ladies, to please him, made their hands sore in applauding. This naval fight terminated in a great feast, which left nothing to be desired in the matter of sumptuousness and delicacy.
On the following day, there was a more formal fight between two frigates, which had also been prepared for this amusement.
The King was in a galley as spectator; the Queen was in another. The Chevalier de Lery took the helm of that of the King; the Capitaine de Selingue steered that of the Queen. The sea was calm, and there was just enough wind to set the two frigates in motion. They cannonaded one another briskly for an hour, getting the weather gauge in turn; after this, the combat came to an end, and they returned to the town to the sound of instruments and the noise of cannon.
The King gave large bounties to the crew, as a token of his satisfaction.
The prince was on board his first vessel, when the Earl of Oxford, and the Colonel, afterwards the Duke of Marlborough, despatched by the King of England, came to pay him a visit of compliment on behalf of that sovereign.
The Duke of Villa-Hermosa, Spanish Governor of the Low Countries, paid him the same compliment in the name of his master.
Both parties were given audience on this magnificent vessel, where M. de Seignelay had raised a sort of throne of immense height.
(All this time Mademoiselle de Fontanges lay in her coffin, recovering from her confinement.)
From Dunkirk the Court moved to Ypres, visiting all the places on the way, and arrived at Lille in Flanders on the 1st of August. From Lille, where the diversions lasted five or six days, they moved to Valenciennes, thence to Condo, meeting everywhere with the same honours, the same tokens of gladness. They returned to Sedan by Le Quenoy, Bouchain, Cambrai; and the end of the month of August found the Court once more at Versailles.
I profited by this absence to go and breathe a little at my chateau of Petit-Bourg, where I was accompanied by Mademoiselle de Blois, and the young Comte de Toulouse; after which I betook myself to the mineral waters of Bourbonne, for which I have a predilection.
On my return, the King related to me all these frivolous diversions of frigates and vessels that I have just mentioned; but with as much fire as if he had been but eighteen years old, and with the same cordiality as if I might have taken part in amusements from which he had excluded me.
How is it that a clever man can forget the proprieties to such a degree, and expose himself to the secret judgments which must be formed of him, in spite of himself and however reluctantly?
The Duchesse d'Orleans.—The Duchesse de Richelieu.—An Epigram of Madame de Maintenon.—An Epigram of the King to His Brother.
Madame la Dauphine brought into the world a son, christened Louis at the font, to whom the King a few moments afterwards gave the title of the Duke of Burgundy. We had become accustomed, little by little, to the face of this Dauphine, who (thanks to the counsels and instruction of her lady in waiting) adopted French manners promptly enough, succeeded in doing her hair in a satisfactory manner, and in making an appearance which met with general approval. Madame de Maintenon, for all her politeness and forethought, never succeeded in pleasing her; and these two women, obliged to see each other often from their relative positions, suffered martyrdom when they met.
The King, who had noticed it, began by resenting it from his daughter-in-law. The latter, proud and haughty, like all these petty German royalties, thought herself too great a lady to give way.
Madame de Maintenon had, near the person of the young Bavarian, two intermediaries of importance, who did not sing her praises from morn till eve. The one was that Charlotte Elizabeth of Bavaria, whom I have already described to the life, who, furious at her personal monstrousness, could not as a rule forgive pretty women. The other was the Duchesse de Richelieu, maid of honour to the Princess of Bavaria, once the protector of Madame Scarron, and now her antagonist, probably out of jealousy.
These two acid tongues had taken possession of the Dauphine,—a character naturally prone to jealousy,—and they permitted themselves against the lady in waiting all the mockery and all the depreciation that one can permit oneself against the absent.
Insinuations and abuse produced their effect so thoroughly that Madame de Maintenon grew disgusted with the duties of her office, and with the consent of the monarch she no longer appeared at the house of his daughter-in-law, except on state and gala occasions. Madame de Richelieu related to me one day the annoyance and mortification of the new Marquise.
"Madame d'Orleans came in one day," said she to me, "to Madame la Dauphine, where Madame de Maintenon was. The Princess of the Palais Royal, who does not put herself about, as every one knows, greeted only the Dauphine and me. She spoke of her health, which is neither good nor bad, and pretended that her gowns were growing too large for her, in proof that she was going thin. 'I do not know,' she added, brusquely, 'what Madame Scarron does; she is always the same.'
"The lady in waiting answered on the spot: 'Madame, no one finds you changed, either, and it is always the same thing.'
"The half-polite, half-bantering tone of Madame de Maintenon nonplussed the Palatine for the moment; she wished to demand an explanation from the lady in waiting. She took up her muff, without making a courtesy, and retired very swiftly."
"I am scarcely, fond of Madame de Maintenon," said I to Madame de Richelieu, "but I like her answer exceedingly. Madame is one of those great hermaphrodite bodies which the two sexes recognise and repulse at the same time. She is an aggressive personage, whom her hideous face makes one associate naturally, with mastiffs; she is surly, like them, and, like them, she exposes herself to the blows of a stick. It makes very little difference to me if she hears from you the portrait I have just made of her; you can tell her, and I shall certainly not give you the lie."
Monsieur, having come some days afterwards to the King, complained of Madame de Maintenon, who, he said, had given offence to his wife.
"You have just made a great mistake," said the King; "you who pride yourself on speaking your tongue so well, and I am going to put you right. This is how you ought rather to have expressed yourself: 'I complain of Madame de Maintenon, who, by ambiguous words, has given offence, or wished to give offence to my wife.'"
Monsieur made up his mind to laugh, and said no more of it.
The Marquis de Lauzun at Liberty.—His Conduct to His Wife.—Recovery of Mademoiselle.
Mademoiselle, having by means of her donations to the Duc du Maine obtained, at first, the release, and subsequently the entire liberty of Lauzun, wished to go to meet him and to receive him in a superb carriage with six horses. The King had her informed secretly that she should manage matters with more moderation; and the King only spoke so because he was better informed than any one of the ungrateful aversion of Lauzun to Mademoiselle. No one wished to open her eyes, for she had refused to see; time itself had to instruct her, and time, which wears wings, arrived at that result quickly enough.
M. de Lauzun was, beyond gainsaying, a man of feeling and courage, but he nourished in his heart a limitless ambition, and his head, subject to whims and caprices, would not suffer him to follow methodically a fixed plan of conduct. The King had just pardoned him as a favour to his cousin; but, knowing him well, he was not at all fond of him. They had disposed of his office of Captain of the Guards and of the other command of the 'Becs de Corbins'. It was decided that Lauzun should not return to his employment; but his Majesty charged Monsieur Colbert to make good to him the amount and to add to it the arrears.
These different sums, added together, formed a capital of nine hundred and eighty thousand francs, which was paid at once in notes on the treasury, which were equal in value to ready cash. On news of this, he broke into the most violent rage possible; he was tempted to throw these notes into the fire. It was his offices which he wanted, and not these sums, with which he could do nothing.
The King received him with an easy, kind air; he, always a flatterer with his lips, cast himself ten times on his knees before the prince, and gained nothing by all these demonstrations. He went to rejoin Mademoiselle on the following day at Choisy, and dared to scold her for having constructed and even bought this pretty pleasure-house.
"This must have cost treasures," said he. "Had you not parks and chateaus enough? It would have been better to keep all these sums and give them to me now."
After this exordium, he set himself to criticise the coiffure of the Queen, on account of the coloured knots that he had remarked in it.
"But you mean, then, to satirise me personally," said the Princess to him, "since you see my hair dressed in the same fashion, and I am older than my cousin!
"What became of you on leaving the King?" she asked him. "I waited for you till two hours after midnight."
"I went," said he, "to visit M. de Louvois, who is not my friend, and who requires humouring; then to visit M. Colbert, who favours me."
"You ought to have seen Madame de Maintenon, I gave you that advice before leaving you," she said; "it is to her, above all, that you owe your liberty."
"But your Madame de Maintenon," he resumed, "is she, too, one of the powers? Ah, my God! what a new geography since I left these regions ten years ago!"
To avoid tete-a-tete, M. de Lauzun was always in a surly humour; he put his left arm into a sling; he never ceased talking of his rheumatism and his pains.
Mademoiselle learned, now from one person, now from another, that he was dining to-day with one fair lady, to-morrow with another, and the next day with a third. She finally understood that she was despised and tricked; she showed one last generosity (out of pride) towards her former friend,—solicited for him the title of Duke, and begged him, for the future, to arrange his life to please himself, and to let her alone.
The Marquis de Lauzun took her at her word, and never forgave her for the cession of the principalities of Dombes and Eu to M. le Duc du Maine; he wanted them for himself.
Progress of Madame de Maintenon.—The Anonymous Letter.
Since the birth of Mademoiselle de Blois, and the death of Mademoiselle de Fontanges, the King hardly ever saw me except a few minutes ceremoniously,—a few minutes before and after supper. He showed himself always assiduous with Madame de Maintenon, who, by her animated and unflagging talk, had the very profitable secret of keeping him amused. Although equally clever, I venture to flatter myself, in the art of manipulating speech, I could not stoop to such condescensions. You cannot easily divert when you have a heart and are sincere—a man who deserts you, who does not even take the trouble to acknowledge it and excuse himself.
The Marquise sailed, then, on the open sea, with all sail set; whilst my little barque did little more than tack about near the shore. One day I received the following letter; it was in a pleasant and careful handwriting, and orthography was observed with complete regularity, which suggested that a man had been its writer, or its editor:
The person who writes these lines, Madame la Marquise, sees you but rarely, but is none the less attached to you. The advice which he is going to give you in writing he would have made it a duty to come and give you himself; he has been deterred by the fear either of appearing to you indiscreet, or of finding you too deeply engrossed with occupations, or with visitors, as is so often the case, in your own apartments.
These visitors, this former affluence of greedy and interested hearts, you will soon see revealed and diminishing; probably your eyes, which are so alert, have already remarked this diminution. The monarch no longer loves you; coolness and inconstancy are maladies of the human heart. In the midst of the most splendid health, our King has for some time past experienced this malady.
In your place, I should not wait to see myself repudiated. By whatever outward respect such an injunction be accompanied, the bottom of the cup is always the same, and the honey at the edge is but a weak palliative. Being no ordinary woman by birth, do not terminate like an ordinary actress your splendid and magnificent role on this great stage. Know how to leave before the audience is weary; while they can say, when they miss you from the scene, "She was still fine in her role. It is a pity!"
Since a new taste or new caprice of the monarch has led his affections away, know how to endure a fantasy which you have not the power to remove. Despatch yourself with a good grace; and let the world believe that sober reflections have come to you, and that you return, of your own free will, into the paths of independence, of true glory, and of honour.
Your position of superintendent with the Queen has been from the very first almost a sinecure. Give up to Madame de Maintenon, or to any one else, a dignity which is of no use to you, for which you will be paid now its full value; which, later, is likely to cause you a sensible disappointment; for that is always sold at a loss which must be sold at a given moment.
Nature, so prodigal to you, Madame la Marquise, has not yet deflowered, nor recalled in the least degree, those graces and attractions which were lavished on you. Retire with the honours of war.
Annoyance, vexation, irritation, do not make your veins flow with milk and honey; you would lose upon the field of battle all those treasures which it is in your power to save.
This communication, though anonymous, is none the less benevolent. I desire your peace and your happiness.
Madame de Maintenon at Loggerheads with Madame de Thianges.—The Mint of the D'Aubigne Family.—Creme de Negresse, the Elixir of Long Life.—Ninon's Secret for Beauty.—The King Would Remain Young or Become So.—Good-will of Madame de Maintenon.
This letter was not, in my eyes, a masterpiece, but neither was it from a vulgar hand. For a moment I suspected Madame de Maintenon. She was named in it, it is true, as though by the way, but her interest in it was easy to discover, since the writer dared to try to induce me to sell her, to give up to her, my superintendence. I communicated my suspicions to the Marquise de Thianges. She said to me: "We must see her,—her face expresses her emotions very clearly; she is not good at lying; we shall easily extract her secret, and make her blush for her stratagem."
Ibrahim, faithful to his old friendship for me, had recently sent me stuffs of Asia and essences of the seraglio, under the pretence of politeness and as a remembrance. I wrote two lines to the Marquise, engaging her to come and sacrifice half an hour to me to admire with me these curiosities. Suspecting nothing, she came to my apartments, when she accepted some perfumes, and found all these stuffs divine. My sister, Madame de Thianges, said to her:
"Madame, I do not wish to be the last to congratulate you on that boundless confidence and friendship that our Queen accords you. Assuredly, no one deserves more than you this feeling of preference; it appears that the princess is developing, and that, at last, she is taking a liking for choice conversation and for wit."
"Madame," answered the lady in waiting, "her Majesty does not prefer me to any one here. You are badly informed. She has the goodness to accord to me a little confidence; and since she finds in me some facility in the Spanish tongue, of which she wishes to remain the idolater all her life, she loves to speak that tongue with me, catching me up when I go wrong either in the pronunciation or the grammar, as she desires to be corrected herself when she commits some offence against our French."
"You were born," added Madame de Thianges, "to work at the education of kings. It is true that few governesses or tutors are as amiable. There is a sound in your voice which goes straight to the heart; and what others teach rudely or monotonously, you teach musically and almost singing. Since the Queen loves your French and your Spanish, everything has been said; you are indispensable to her. Things being so, I dare to propose to you, Madame, a third occupation, which will suit you better than anything else in the world, and which will complete the happiness of her Majesty.
"Here is Madame de Montespan, who is growing disgusted with grandeur, after having recognised its emptiness, who is enthusiastically desiring to go and enjoy her House of Saint Joseph, and wishes to get rid of her superintendence forthwith, at any cost."
"What!" said Madame de Maintenon. Then to me, "You wish to sell your office without having first assured yourself whether it be pleasing to the King? It appears to me that you are not acting on this occasion with the caution with which you are generally credited."
"What need has she of so many preliminary cautions," added the Marquise, "if it is to you that she desires to sell it? Her choice guarantees the consent of the princess; your name will make everything easy."
"I reason quite otherwise, Madame la Marquise," replied the former governess of the princes; "the Queen may have her ideas. It is right and fitting to find out first her intention and wishes."
"Madame, madame," said my sister then, "everything has been sufficiently considered, and even approved of. You will be the purchaser; you desire to buy, it is to you that one desires to sell."
Madame de Maintenon began to laugh, and besought the Marquise to believe that she had neither the desire nor the money for that object.
"Money," answered my sister, "will cause you no trouble on this occasion. Money has been coined in pour family."
[Constant d'Aubigne, father of Madame de Maintenon, in his wild youth, was said to have taken refuge in a den of comers.—Ed. Note]
Madame de Maintenon, profoundly moved, said to the Marquise:
"I thought, madame, that I had come to see Madame de Montespan, to look at her stuffs from the seraglio, and not to receive insults. All your teasing affects me, because up to to-day I believed in your kindly feeling. It has been made clear to me now that I must put up with this loss; but, whatever be your injustice towards me, I will not depart from my customs or from my element. The superintendence of the Queen's Council is for sale, or it is not; either way, it is all the same to me. I have never made any claim to this office, and I never shall."
These words, of which I perceived the sincerity, touched me. I made some trifling excuses to the lady in waiting, and, tired of all these insignificant mysteries, I went and took the anonymous letter from my bureau and showed it to the governess.
She read it thoughtfully. After having read it, she assured me that this script was a riddle to her.
Madame de Maintenon, on leaving us, made quite a deep courtesy to my sister, which caused me pain, preserving an icy gravity and exaggerating her salutation and her courtesy.
When we were alone, I confessed to the Marquise de Thianges that her words had passed all bounds, and that she could have reached her end by other means.
"I cannot endure that woman," she answered. "She knows that you have made her, that without you she would be languishing still in her little apartment in the Maree; and when for more than a year she sees you neglected by the King and almost deserted, she abandons you to your destiny, and does not condescend to offer you any consolation. I have mortified her; I do not repent of it in the least, and every time that I come across her I shall permit myself that gratification.
"What is she thinking of at her age; with her pretensions to a fine figure, an ethereal carriage, and beauty? And yet it must be admitted that her complexion is not made up. She has the sheen of the lily mingled with that of the rose, and her eyes exhibit a smiling vivacity which leaves our great coquettes of the day far behind!"
"She is nature unadorned as far as her complexion goes, believe me," said I to my sister. "During my constant journeys she has always slept at my side, and her face at waking has always been as at noon and all day long. She related to us once at the Marechale d'Albret's, where I knew her, that at Martinique—that distant country which was her cradle—an ancient negress, well preserved and robust, had been kind enough to take her into her dwelling. This woman led her one day into the woods. She stripped of its bark some shrub, after having sought it a long time. She grated this bark and mixed it with the juice of chosen herbs. She wrapped up all this concoction in half a banana skin, and gave the specific to the little D'Aubigne.
"This mess having no nasty taste, the little girl consented to return fifteen or twenty times into the grove, where her negress carefully composed and served up to her the same feast.
"'Why do you care to give me this green paste?' the young creole asked her one day.
"The old woman said: 'My dear child, I cannot wait till you have enough sense to learn to understand these plants, for I love you as if you were my own daughter, and I want to leave you a secret which will cause you to live a long time. Though I look as I do, I am 138 years old already. I am the oldest person in the colony, and this paste that I make for you has preserved my strength and my freshness. It will produce the same effect on my dear little girl, and will keep her young and pretty too for a long time.'
"This negress, unhappily, fell asleep one day under a wild pear-tree in the Savannah, and a crocodile came out of the river hard by and devoured her."
"I have heard tell," replied my sister, "that Mademoiselle d'Aubigne, after the death of her mother, or husband, was bound by the ties of a close friendship with Ninon de l'Enclos, whose beauty made such a sensation among the gallants, and still occupies them.
"One was assured, you know, that Ninon possesses a potion, and that in her generosity to her friend, the fair Indian, she lent her her phial of elixir."
"No, no," said I to the Marquise, "that piece of gallantry of Ninon is only a myth; it is the composition of Martinique, or of the negress, which is the real recipe of Madame de Maintenon. She talked of it one day, when I was present, in the King's carriage. His Majesty said to her: 'I am astonished that, with your natural intelligence, you have not kept in your mind the nature of this Indian shrub and herbs; with such a secret you would be able to-day to make many happy, and there are some kings, who, to grow young again, would give you half their empire.'
"'I am not a worshipper of riches,' said this mistress of talk; 'bad kings might offer me all the treasures and crowns they liked, and I would not make them young again.'
"'And me, madame,' said the prince, 'would you consent to make me young again?'
"'You will not need it for a long time,' she replied, cleverly, with a smile; 'but when the moment comes, or is near, I should set about it with zeal.'
"The whole carriage applauded this reply, and the King took the hand of the Marquise and insisted on kissing it."
The Casket of M. de Lauzun.—His Historical Gallery.—He Makes Some Nuns.—M. de Lauzun in the Lottery.—The Loser Wins.—Queen out of Pique.—Letter from the Queen of Portugal.—The Ingratitude of M. de Lauzun.
Twice during the captivity of M. de Lauzun the Queen of Portugal had charged her ambassador to carry to the King that young sovereign's solicitations in favour of the disgraced gentleman. Each time the negotiators had been answered with vague and ambiguous words; with those promises which potentates are not chary of, even between themselves, and which we poor mortals of the second rank call Court holy water. These exertions of the Court of Lisbon were speedily discovered, and it then became known how many women of high degree M. de Peguilain had the honour of fluttering. The officer of D'Artagnan, who had the task of seizing his papers when he was arrested to be taken to Pignerol, was obliged, in the course of his duty, to open a rather large casket, where he found the portraits of more than sixty women, of whom the greater number lived almost in the odour of sanctity. There were descriptive or biographical notes upon all these heroines, and correspondence to match. His Majesty had cognisance of it, and forbade the publication of the names. But the Marquis d'Artagnan and his subordinate officer committed some almost inevitable indiscretions, and all these ladies found their names public property. Several of them, who were either widows or young ladies, retired into convents, not daring to show their faces in the light of day.
The Queen of Portugal, before this scandal, had passionately loved the Marquis de Lauzun. She was then called Mademoiselle d'Aumale, and her sister who was soon afterwards Duchess of Savoy was called at Paris Mademoiselle de Nemours. These two princesses, after having exchanged confidences and confessions, were astonished and grieved to find themselves antagonists and rivals. Happily they had a saving wit, both of them, and made a treaty of peace, by which it was recognised and agreed that, since their patrimony was small, it should be neither divided nor drawn upon, in order that it might make of M. de Lauzun, when he came to marry, a rich man and a great lord. The two rivals, in the excess of their love, stipulated that this indivisible inheritance should be drawn for by lot, that the victorious number should have M. de Lauzun thrown in, and that the losing number should go and bury herself in a convent.
Mademoiselle d'Aumale—that is to say, the pretty blonde—won M. de Lauzun; but he, being bizarre in his tastes, and who only had a fancy for the brunette (the less charming of the two), went and besought the King to refuse his consent.
Mademoiselle d'Aumale thought of dying of grief and pique, and, as a consequence of her despair, listened to the proposals of the King of Portugal, and consented to take a crown.
The disgrace and imprisonment of her old friend having reached her ear, this princess gave him the honour of her tears, although she had two husbands alive. Twice she had solicited his liberty, which was certainly not granted in answer to her prayers.
When she learned of the release of the prisoner, she showed her joy publicly at it, in the middle of her Court; wrote her congratulations upon it to Mademoiselle, apparently to annoy her, and, a few days afterwards, indited with her own hand the letter you are going to read, addressed to the King, which was variously criticised.
TO HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF FRANCE.
BROTHER:—Kings owe one another no account of their motives of action, especially when their authority falls heavily upon the officers of their own palace, till then invested with their confidence and overwhelmed with the tokens of their kindness. The disgrace of the Marquis de Lauzun can only appear in my eyes an act of justice, coming as it does from the justest of sovereigns. So I confined myself in the past to soliciting for this lord—gifted with all the talents, with bravery and merit—your Majesty's pity and indulgence. He owed later the end of his suffering, not to my instances, but to your magnanimity. I rejoice at the change in his destiny, and I have charged my ambassador at your Court to express my sincere participation in it. To-day, Sire, I beg you to accept my thanks. M. de Lauzun, so they assure me, has not been restored to his offices, and though still young, does not obtain employment in his country, where men of feeling and of talent are innumerable. Allow us, Sire, to summon this exceptional gentleman to my State, where French officers win easily the kindly feelings of my nobles, accustomed as they are to cherish all that is born in your illustrious Empire. I will give M. de Lauzun a command worthy of him, worthy of me,—a command that will enable him to render lasting and essential services to my Crown and to yours. Do not refuse me this favour, which does not at all impoverish your armies, and which may be of use to a kingdom of which you are the protector and the friend. Accept, Sire, etc.
I did not see the answer which was vouchsafed to this singular letter; the King did not judge me worthy to enjoy such confidence that he had made no difficulty in granting to me formerly; but he confided in Madame de Maintenon, and even charged her to obtain the opinion of Mademoiselle touching this matter, and Mademoiselle, who never hid aught from me, brought the details of it to my country-house.
This Princess, now enlightened as to the falseness of Monsieur de Lauzun, entreated the King to give up this gentleman to the blond Queen, or to give him a command himself.
The Marquis de Lauzun, having learnt the steps taken by the Queen of Portugal, whom he had never been able to endure, grew violently angry, and said in twenty houses that he had not come out of one prison to throw himself into another.
These were all the thanks the Queen got for her efforts; and, like Mademoiselle de Montpensier, she detested, with all her soul, the man she had loved with all her heart.
The Marquis de Lauzun was one of the handsomest men in the world; but his character spoiled everything.
The Nephews, the Nieces, the Cousins and the Brother of Madame de Maintenon.—The King's Debut.—The Marshal's Silver Staff.
The family of Madame de Maintenon had not only neglected but despised her when she was poor and living on her pension of two thousand francs. Since my protection and favour had brought her into contact with the sun that gives life to all things, and this radiant star had shed on-her his own proper rays and light, all her relatives in the direct, oblique, and collateral line had remembered her, and one saw no one but them in her antechambers, in her chamber, and at Court.
Some of them were not examples of deportment and good breeding; they were gentlemen who had spent all their lives in little castles in Angoumois and Poitou, a kind of noble ploughmen, who had only their silver swords to distinguish them from their vine-growers and herds. Others, to be just, honoured the new position of the Marquise; and amongst those I must place first the Marquis de Langallerie and the two sons of the Marquis de Villette, his cousin, german. The Abbe d'Aubigne, whom she had discovered obscurely hidden among the priests of Saint Sulpice, she had herself presented to the King, who had discovered in him the air of an apostle, and then to Pere de la Chaise, who had hastened to make him Archbishop of Rouen, reserving for him 'in petto' the cardinal's hat, if the favour of the lady in waiting was maintained.
Among her lady relatives who had come from the provinces at the rumour of this favour, the Marquise distinguished and exhibited with satisfaction the three Mademoiselles de Sainte Hermine, the daughters of a Villette, if I am not mistaken, and pretty and graceful all three of them. She had also brought to her Court, and more particularly attached to her person, a very pretty child, only daughter of the Marquis de Villette, and sister, consequently, of the Comte and of the Chevalier de Villette, whom I have previously mentioned. This swarm of nephews, cousins, and nieces garnished the armchairs and sofas of her chamber. They served as comrades and playfellows to the legitimate princes and as pages of honour to my daughter; and when the carriage of the Marquise came into the country for her drives, the whole of this pretty colony formed a train and court for her,—a proof of her credit.
The Marquise had a brother, her elder by four or five years, to whom she was greatly attached, judging from what we heard her say, and to promote whom we saw her work from the very first. This brother, who was called Le Comte d'Aubigne, lacked neither charm nor grace. He even assumed, when he wished, an excellent manner; but this cavalier, his own master from his childhood, knew no other law but his own pleasures and desires. He had made people talk about him in his earliest youth; he awoke the same buzz of scandal now that he was fifty. Madame de Maintenon, hoping to reform him, and wishing to constrain him to beget them an heir, made him consent to the bonds of marriage. She had just discovered a very pretty heiress of very good family, when he married secretly the daughter of a mere 'procureur du roi'. The lady in waiting, being unable to undo what had been done, submitted to this unequal alliance; and as her sister-in-law, ennobled by her husband, was none the less a countess, she, too, was presented.
The young person, aged fifteen at the most, was naturally very bashful. When she found herself in this vast hall, between a double row of persons of importance, whose fixed gaze never left her, she forgot all the bows, all the elaborate courtesies,—in fine, all the difficult procedure of a formal presentation, that her sister-in-law and dancing-masters had been making her rehearse for twenty days past.
The child lost her head, and burst into tears. The King took compassion on her, and despatched the Comtesse de Merinville to go and act as her guide or mistress. Supported by this guardian angel, Madame d'Aubigne gained heart; she went through her pausing, her interrupted courtesies, to the end, and came in fairly good countenance to the King's chair, who smiled encouragement upon her. While these things were taking place in the gallery, Madame de Maintenon, in despair, her eyes full of tears, had to make an effort not to weep. With that wit of which she is so proud, she should have been the first to laugh at this piece of childishness, which was not particularly new. The embarrassment, the torture in which I saw her, filled me with a strong desire to laugh. It was noticed; it was held a crime; and his Majesty himself was kind enough to scold me for it.
"I felt the same embarrassment," he said to us, "the first time Monsieur le Cardinal desired to put me forward. It was a question of receiving an ambassador, and of making a short reply to his ceremonial address. I knew my reply by heart; it was not more than eight or ten lines at the most. I was repeating it every minute while at play, for five or six days. When it was necessary to perform in person before this throng, my childish memory was confused. All my part was forgotten in my fear, and I could only utter these words: 'Your address, Monsieur Ambassadeur,—Monsieur l'Ambassadeur, your address.' My mother, the Queen, grew very red, and was as confused as I was. But my godfather, the Cardinal, finished this reply for me, which he had composed himself, and was pleased to see me out of the difficulty."
This anecdote, evidently related to console the Marquise, filled her with gratitude. They spoke of nothing else at Versailles for two days; after which, Madame la Comtesse d'Aubigne became, in her turn, a woman of experience, who judged the new debutantes severely, perhaps, every time that the occasion arose.
The Comte d'Aubigne passed from an inferior government to a government of some importance. He made himself beloved by endorsing a thousand petitions destined for his sister, the monarch's friend; but his immoderate expenditure caused him to contract debts that his sister would only pay five or six times.
The Duc de Vivonne, my brother, laughed at him in society; he unceasingly outraged by his clumsiness his sister's sense of discretion. One day, in a gaming-house, seeing the table covered with gold, the Marshal exclaimed at the door: "I will wager that D'Aubigne is here, and makes all this display; it is a magnificence worthy of him."
"Yes, truly," said the brother of the favourite; "I have received my silver staff, you see!" That was an uncouth impertinence, for assuredly M. de Vivonne had not owed this dignity to my favour. The siege of Candia, and a thousand other distinguished actions, in which he had immortalised himself, called him to this exalted position, which I dare to say he has even rendered illustrious.
The Comte d'Aubigne's saying was no less successful on that account, and his sister, who did not approve at all of this scandalous scene, had the good sense to condemn her most ridiculous gamester, and to make excuses for him to my brother and me.
Political Intrigue in Hungary.—Dignity of the King of the Romans.—The Good Appearance of a German Prince.—The Turks at Vienna.—The Duc de Lorraine.—The King of Rome.
Whatever the conduct of the King may have been towards me, I do not write out of resentment or to avenge myself. But in the midst of the peace which the leisure that he has given me leaves me, I feel some satisfaction in inditing the memoirs of my life, which was attached to his so closely, and wish to relate with sincerity the things I have seen. What would be the use of memoirs from which sincerity were absent? Whom could they inspire with a desire of reading them?
The King was born profoundly ambitious. All the actions of his public life bore witness to it. It would be useless for him to rebut the charge; all his aims, all his political work, all his sieges, all his battles, all his bloody exploits prove it. He had robbed the Emperor of an immense quantity of towns and territories in succession. The greatness of the House of Austria irritated him. He had begun by weakening it in order to dominate it; and, in bringing it under his sway, he hoped to draw to himself the respect and submission of the Germanic Electoral body, and cause the Imperial Crown to pass to his house, as soon as the occasion should present itself.
We had often heard him say: "Monseigneur has all the good appearance of a German prince." This singular compliment, this praise, was not without motive. The King wished that this opinion and this portrait should go straight into Germany, and create there a kind of naturalisation and adoption for his son.
He had resolved to have him elected and proclaimed King of the Romans, a dignity which opens, as one knows, the road to the imperial greatness. To attain this result, his Majesty, seconded perfectly by his minister, Louvois, employed the following means.
By his order M. de Louvois sent the Comte de Nointel to Vienna, at the moment when that Power was working to extend the twenty years' truce concluded by Hungary with the Sultan. The French envoy promised secretly his adhesion to the Turks; and the latter, delighted at the intervention of the French, became so overbearing towards the Imperial Crown that that Power was reduced to refusing too severe conditions.
Sustained by the insinuations and the promises of France, the Sultan demanded that Hungary should be left in the state in which it was in 1655; that henceforward that kingdom should pay him an annual tribute of fifty thousand florins; that the fortifications of Leopoldstadt and Gratz should be destroyed; that the chief of the revolted towns—Nitria, Eckof, the Island of Schutt, and the fort of Murann, at Tekelai—should be ceded; that there should be a general amnesty and restitution of their estates, dignities, offices, and privileges without restriction.
By this the infidels would have found themselves masters of the whole of Hungary, and would have been able to come to the very gates of Vienna, without fear of military commanders or of the Emperor. It was obvious that they were only seeking a pretext for a quarrel, and that at the suggestion of France, which was quite disposed to profit by the occasion.
The Sultan knew very little of our King. The latter had his army ready; his plan was to enter, or rather to fall upon, the imperial territories, when the consternation and the danger in them should be at their height; and then he counted on turning to his advantage the good-will of the German princes, who, to be extricated from their difficulty, would not fail to offer to himself, as liberator, the Imperial Crown, or, at least, the dignity of King of the Romans and Vicar of the Empire to his son, Monseigneur le Dauphin.
In effect, hostilities had hardly commenced on the part of the Turks, hardly had their first successes, struck terror into the heart of the German Empire, when the King, the real political author of these disasters, proposed to the German Emperor to intervene suddenly, as auxiliary, and even to restore Lorraine to him, and his new conquests, on condition that the dignity of the King of the Romans should be bestowed on his son. France, this election once proclaimed, engaged herself to bring an army of 60,000 men, nominally of the King of the Romans, into Hungary, to drive out utterly the common enemy. German officers would be admitted, like French, into this Roman army; and more, the King of France and the new King of the Romans engaged themselves to set back the imperial frontiers on that side as far as Belgrade, or Weissembourg in Greece. A powerful fleet was to appear in the Mediterranean to support these operations; and the King, wishing to crown his generosity, offered to renounce forever the ancient possessions, and all the rights of Charlemagne, his acknowledged forefather or ancestor.
Whilst these dreams of ambition were being seriously presented to the unhappy Imperial Court of Vienna, the Turks, to the number of 300,000 men, had swept across Hungary like a torrent. They arrived before the capital of the Empire of Germany just at the moment when the Court had left it. They immediately invested this panic-stricken town, and the inhabitants of Vienna believed themselves lost. But the young Duc de Lorraine, our King's implacable enemy, had left the capital in the best condition and pitched outside Vienna, in a position from which he could severely harass the besieging Turks.
He tormented them, he raided them, while he waited for the saving reinforcements which were to be brought up by the King of Poland, and the natural allies of the Empire. This succour arrived at last, and after four or five combats, well directed and most bloody, they threw the Ottomans into disorder. The Duc de Lorraine immortalised himself during this brilliant campaign, which he finished by annihilating the Turks near Barkan.
France had remained in a state of inaction in the midst of all these great events. I saw the discomfiture of our ministers and the King when the success of the Imperialists reached them. But the time had passed when my affections and those of my master were akin. Free from henceforth to follow the impulses of my conscience and of my sense of justice, I rejoiced sincerely at the great qualities of the poor Duc de Lorraine, and at the humiliation of the cruel Turks, who had been so misled.
The elective princes of the Germanic Empire once more rallied round their august head, and disavowed almost all their secret communications with the Cabinet of Versailles. The Emperor, having escaped from these great perils, addressed some noble and touching complaints to our monarch; and Monseigneur was not elected King of the Romans,—a disappointment which he hardly noticed, and by which he was very little disturbed.
The Prince of Orange.—The Orange Coach.—The Bowls of Oranges.—The Orange Blossoms.—The Town of Orange.—Jesuits of Orange.—Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
The King, by the last peace, signed at Nimegue, had engaged to restore the Principality of Orange to William, Stadtholder and Generalissimo of the Dutch. This article was one of those which he had found most repugnant to him, for nothing can be compared with the profound aversion which the mere name inspired in the monarch. He pushed this hatred so far that, having one day noticed from the heights of his balcony a superb new equipage, of which the body was painted with orange-coloured varnish, he sent and asked the name of the owner; and, on their reporting to him that this coach belonged to a provincial intendant, a relative of the Chancellor, his Majesty said, the same evening, to the magistrate-minister: "Your relative ought to show more discretion in the choice of the colours he displays."
This coach appeared no more, and the silk and cloth mercers had their stuffs redyed.
Another day, at the high table, the King, seeing four bowls of big oranges brought in, said aloud before the public: "Take away that fruit, which has nothing in its favour but its look. There is nothing more dangerous or unhealthy."
On the morrow these words spread through the capital, and the courtiers dared eat oranges only privately and in secret.
As for me, with my love for the scent of orange blossoms, the monarch's petulance once more affected me extremely. I was obliged for some time to give it up, like the others, and take to amber, the favourite scent of my master, which my nerves could not endure.
Before surrendering the town of Orange to the commissioners of the kinglet of the Dutch, the King of France had the walls thrown down, all the fortifications razed, and the public buildings, certain convents, and the library of the town stripped of their works of art. These measures irritated Prince William, who, on that account alone, wished to recommence the war; but the Emperor and the allies heard his complaints with little attention. They even besought him to leave things as they were. M. d'Orange is a real firebrand; he could not endure the severities of the King without reprisals, and no sooner was he once more in possession of his little isolated sovereignty than he annoyed the Catholics in it, caused all possible alarms to the sisters of mercy and nuns, imposed enormous taxes on the monks, and drove out the Jesuits with unheard-of insults.
The King received hospitably all these humiliated or persecuted folk; and as he was given to understand that the Orange Protestants were secretly sowing discontent amongst his Calvinists and French Lutherans, he prepared the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the famous political measure the abrogation of which took place a short time afterwards.
I saw, in the hands of the King, a document of sixty pages, printed at Orange, after its restitution, in which it was clearly specified that Hugh Capet had set himself on the throne irregularly, and in which the author went to the point of saying that the Catholic religion was only an idolatry, and that the peoples would only be happy and free after the general introduction of the Reformation. The Marechal de Vivonne came and told me, in strict confidence, that the Jesuits, out of resentment, had forged this document, and printed the pamphlet themselves; but M. de Louvois, who, through his father, the Chancellor, and his brother, the Archbishop of Rheims, was associated with them, maintained that the incendiary libel was really the work of the Protestants.
My residence at the Court having opened my eyes sufficiently to the wickedness of men, I will not give my opinion, amid these angry charges and recriminations. I confine myself to relating what I have seen.
Sickness.—Death of the Queen.—Her Last Words.—The King's Affliction.—His Saying.—Second Anonymous Letter.—Conversation with La Dauphine.—Madame de Maintenon Intervenes.
While the Turks and the Imperialists were fighting in the plains of Hungary, the King, followed by all his Court, had made his way towards the frontiers of Alsace. He reviewed countless battalions, he made promotions, and gave brilliant repasts and fetes.
The season was a little trying, and the Queen, though born in Spain, did not accommodate herself to the June heat. As soon as business permitted they took the road to the capital, and returned to Versailles with some speed.
Scarcely had they arrived, when the Queen fell ill; it did not deserve the name of sickness. It was only an indisposition, pure and simple,—an abscess in the armpit; that was all. Fagon, the boldest and most audacious of all who ever exercised the art of AEsculapius, decided that, to lessen the running, it was necessary to draw the blood to another quarter. In spite of the opinion of his colleagues, he ordered her to be bled, and all her blood rushed to her heart. In a short time the princess grew worse in an alarming fashion, and in a few moments we heard that she was in her death-agony; in a few moments more we heard of her death.
The King wept bitterly at first, as we had seen him weep for Marie de Mancini, Louise de la Valliere, Henrietta of England, and the Duchesse de Fontanges,—dead of his excesses. He set out at once for the Chateau of Saint Cloud, which belonged to his brother; and Monsieur, wishing to leave the field clear for him, went away to the Palais Royal with his disagreeable wife and their numerous children.
His Majesty returned two days afterwards to the Chateau of Versailles, where he, his son, and all the family sprinkled holy water over the deceased; and this little ceremony being finished, they regained in silence the Chateau of Saint Cloud.
The aspect of that gloomy Salon of Peace, converted into a catafalque; the sight of that small bier, on which a beautiful, good, and indulgent wife was reposing; those silent images, so full of speech, awoke the just remorse of the King. His tears began once more to flow abundantly, and he was heard to say these words:
"Dear, kind friend, this is the first grief you have caused me in twenty years!"
The Infanta, as I have already related, had granted in these latter days her entire confidence and affection to her daughter-in-law's lady in waiting. Finding herself sick and in danger, she summoned Madame de Maintenon; and understanding soon that those famous Court physicians did not know how ill she was, and that she was drawing near her last hour, she begged this woman, so ready in all things, to leave her no more, and to be good enough to prepare her for death.
The Marquise wept bitterly, and perhaps even sincerely; for being unable to foresee, at that period, all that was to befall her in the issue, she probably entertained the hope of attaching herself for good to this excellent princess. In losing her, she foresaw, or feared, if not adversity, at least a decline.
The King was courting her, it is true, and favouring her already with marked respect; but Francoise d'Aubigne,—thoughtful and meditative as I knew her to be, could certainly not have failed to appreciate the voluptuous and inconstant character of the monarch. She had seen several notorious friendships collapse in succession; and it is not at the age of forty-six or forty-seven that one can build castles in Spain to dwell in with young love.
The Queen, before the beginning of her death agony, herself drew a splendid ring from her finger, and would pass it over the finger of the Marquise, to whom, some months before, she had already given her portrait. It was asserted that her last words were these: "Adieu, my dearest Marquise; to you I recommend and confide the King."
In accordance with a recommendation so binding and so precise, Madame de Maintenon followed the monarch to Saint Cloud; and as great afflictions are fain to be understood and shared, these two desolate hearts shut themselves up in one room, in order to groan in concert.
The Queen having been taken to Saint Denis, the King, Madame de Maintenon, and the Court returned to Versailles, where the royal family went into mourning for the period prescribed by law and custom.
The Queen's large and small apartments, so handsome, new, splendid, and magnificent, became the habitation of Madame la Dauphine; so that the lady in waiting, in virtue of her office, returned in the most natural manner to those apartments where she had held authority.
The Queen, without having the genius of conversation and discussion, lacked neither aplomb nor a taste for the proprieties; she knew how to support, or, at least, to preside over a circle. The young Dauphine had neither the desire, nor the patience, nor, the tact.
The prince charged the lady in waiting to do these things for her. We repaired in full dress to the Princess,—to present our homages to Madame de Maintenon. One must admit she threw her heart into it; that is to say, she drew out, as far as possible, the monarch's daughter-in-law, inspiring into her every moment amiable questions or answers, which she had taken pains to embellish and adorn in her best manner.
The King arrived; I then had the pleasure of seeing him, not two paces from me, before my very eyes, saying witty and agreeable things to the Marquise; while he talked to me only of the rain and the weather, always cursorily.
It was then that I received a second anonymous letter, in the same handwriting, the same style, the same tone as that of which mention has been made. I transcribe it; it is curious.
TO MADAME LA MARQUISE DE MONTESPAN.
MADAME:—You have not followed my former advice. The opportunity has gone by; it is too late. Your superintendence is left with you, and there are four or five hundred thousand livres lying idle; for you will not be able to sell the superintendence of a household, and of a council, which are in a tomb at Saint Denis! Happily you are rich, and what would be a disaster to another fortune is scarcely more than a slight disappointment to you. I take the respectful liberty of talking once more with the prettiest and wittiest woman of her century, in order to submit to her certain ideas, and to offer her a fresh piece of advice, which I believe important.
The Queen, moved by a generosity seldom found in her peers, pardoned you to some degree your theft of her spouse; she pardoned you in order to be agreeable to him, and to prove to him that, being his most sincere friend, she could not bring herself to contest his affections and his pastimes. But this sublime philosophy is at an end; the excellent heart of this Queen is at Val-de-Grace; it will beat no more, neither for her volatile husband, nor for any one whatsoever.
Madame la Dauphine, brought up in German severity, and hardly accustomed to the atmosphere of her new country, neither likes nor respects you, nor has any indulgence for you. She barely suffers the presence of your children, although brothers of her husband. How should she tolerate yours? It appears, it is plain, Madame la Marquise, that your name has found no place or footing on her list, and that she would rather not meet you often in her salons. If one may even speak to you confidentially, she has thus expressed herself; it would be cruel for you to hear of it from any other being but me.
Believe me, believe a man as noted for his good qualities as for his weaknesses. He will never drive you away, for you are the mother of his beloved children, and he has loved you himself tenderly. However, his coldness is going to increase. Will you be sufficiently light-hearted, or sufficiently imprudent, to await on a counterscarp the rigours of December and January?
Keep your wit always, Madame la Marquise, and with this wit, which is such a charming resource, do not divest yourself of your noble pride.
I am, always, your respectful and devoted servant,
THE UNKNOWN OF THE CHATEAU.
At the time of the first letter, when I had hesitated some time, doubtful between Madame de Maintenon and the King, it occurred to me to suspect the Queen for a moment; but there was no possibility now of imputing to this princess, dead and gone, the unbecoming annoyance that an unknown permitted himself to cause me.
On this occasion I chose my part resolutely; and, not wishing to busy myself any longer with these pretended friendly counsels which my pride forbade me to follow, I took these two insolent letters and burned them. This last letter, after all, spoke very truly. I remarked distinctly, in the looks and manner of the Dauphine, that ridiculous and clumsy animosity which she had taken a fancy to lavish on me.
As she was not, in my eyes, so sublime a personage that a lady of quality might not enter into conversation with her, I approached her armchair with the intention of upsetting her haughtiness and pride by compelling her to speak to me before everybody.
I complimented her on her coiffure, and even thanked her for the honour she did me in imitating me; she reddened, and I entreated her not to put herself about, assuring her that her face looked much better in its habitual pallor. These words redoubled her dissatisfaction, and her redness then became a veritable scarlet flame.
Passing forthwith to another subject, I pronounced in a few words a panegyric on the late Queen; to which I skilfully added that, from the first day, she had been able to understand the French graces and assume them with intelligence and taste.
"Her Spanish accent troubled her for a year or two longer," added I; "strictly speaking, this accent, derived from the Italian, has nothing disagreeable in it; while the English, Polish, Russian, and German accent is inharmonious in itself, and is lost with great difficulty here."
Seeing that my reflections irritated her, I stopped short, and made my excuses by saying to her, "Madame, these are only general reflections. Your Highness is an exception, and has struck us all, as you have nothing German left but memories, and, perhaps, regrets."
She answered me, stammering, that she had not been destined in the first place for the throne of France, and that this want of forethought had injured her education; then, feeling a spark of courage in her heart, she said that the late Queen had more than once confided to her that the Court of France was disorderly in its fashions, because it was never the princesses who gave it its tone as elsewhere.
Madame de Maintenon perceived quickly the consequences of this saying; for the peace of the Princess, she retorted quickly: "In France, the princesses are so kind and obliging as to follow the fashions; but the good examples and good tone come to us from our princes, and our only merit is to imitate them with ingenuity."
Judgment Given by the Chatelet.—The Marquis d'Antin Restored to His Father.—The Judgment is Not Executed.—Full Mourning.—Funeral Service.—The Notary of Saint Elig.—The Lettre de Cachet.
The Marquis d'Antin, my son, with the consent of the King, had remained under my control, and had never consented to quit me to rejoin his father. M. de Montespan, at the time of the suit for judicial separation before the Chatelet, had caused his advocate to maintain this barbarous argument, that a son, though brought into the world by his mother, ought to side against her if domestic storms arise, and prefer to everybody and everything the man whose arms and name he bears.
The tribunal of the Chatelet, trampling upon maternal tenderness and humanity, granted his claim in full; and I was advised not to appeal, now that I had obtained the thing essential to me, a separation in body and estate.
M. de Montespan dared not come himself to Paris in order to execute the sentence; he sent for that purpose two officers of artillery, his friends or relatives, who were authorised to see the young Marquis at his college, but not to withdraw him before the close of his humanities and classes. These gentlemen, having sent word to the father that the young D'Antin was my living image, he replied to them, that they were to insist no longer, to abandon their mission, and to abandon a child who would never enjoy his favour since he resembled myself. Owing to this happy circumstance I was able to preserve my son.
Since these unhappy disputes, and the suit which made so much noise, I had heard no more talk of M. de Montespan in society. I only learned from travellers that he was building, a short distance from the Pyrenees, a chateau of a noble and royal appearance, where he had gathered together all that art, joined with good taste, could add to nature; that this chateau of Saint Elix, adorned with the finest orange grove in the world, was ascribed to the liberality of the King. The Marquis, hurt by this mistake of his neighbours, which he called an accusation, published a solemn justification in these ingenuous provinces, and he proved, as a clerk might do to his master, that this enormous expenditure was exclusively his own.
Suddenly the report of his death spread through the capital, and the Marquis d'Antin received without delay an official letter with a great, black seal, which announced to him this most lamentable event. The notary of Saint Elix, in sending him this sad news, took the opportunity of enclosing a certified copy of the will.
This testament, replete with malignity, having been freely published in the capital, I cannot refrain from reproducing it in these writings.
Here are its principal clauses;
In the name of the most blessed Trinity, etc.
Since I cannot congratulate myself on a wife, who, diverting herself as much as possible, has caused me to pass my youth and my life in celibacy, I content myself with leaving, her my life-sized portrait, by Bourdon, begging her to place it in her bedchamber, when the King ceases to come there.
Although the Marquis de Pardailhan d'Antin is prodigiously like his mother (a circumstance of which I have been lamentably sensible!), I do not hesitate to believe him my son. In this quality I give and bequeath to him all my goods, as my eldest son, imposing on him, nevertheless, the following legacies, liberalities and charges:
I leave to their Highnesses, M. le Duc du Maine, M. le Comte de Toulouse, Mademoiselle de Nantes, and Mademoiselle de Blois (born during my marriage with their mother, and consequently my presumptive children), their right of legitimacy on the charge and condition of their bearing in one of their quarterings the Pardailhan-Montespan arms.