תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

the whole court, which perfectly underlood the matter, used to send to enquire after her health. Once she had a Swiss at her gate, who, not being trained to this management, used to answer, without ceremony, to those who came, Tbe Princess is as well as can be expected, and the child too.

• The fifters of this Princess were not more fcrupulous ; M. de Maulevrier-Langeron was the declared lover of Mademoiselle de Sens, and M. de Melun, of Mademoiselle de Clermont. The laft mentioned gentleman was killed a hunting in the wood of Boulogne, by a fallow-deer. Mademoiselle de Clermont was of a very indolent dispofition, wbich made the Grand Duchess ask if this news had given her any emotion.

• Mademoiselle de Charolois was supposed to be fecretly married to a nobleman of the first rank *, but whom, on account of that etiquette to which the most august persons are so absolviely subordinate, the could not obtain to have openly declared for her husband. This circumstance held them both in the Cardinal's power, and the hopes of prevailing upon him to obtain the consent of his Majesty, necessarily attached them to his party.

• Mademoiselle de Charolois was intimately connected with the Countess of Toulouse, whose marriage, nearly of the fame kind, being declared, seemed to entitle her to the same privilege, at least to a toleration, if political views were too repugnant to making it public, for fear of the consequences : though these two Ladies dif. fered from each other in many particulars, the first being addicted to gallantry, and the other a devotee; that the one loved riot, shew, and noisy amusements, and the other delighted in the country, in re. tirement, and in calmer pleasures, yet they agreed perfectly in other things. Besides interest, which forms and keeps up so many connections, prompted Mademoiselle de Charolois to entertain her friendship with the Counters, since it enabled her to obtain, for herself and ber creatures, all the favours she asked of the King.

• Lewis XV. went often to hunt at Rambouillet, a seat of the Count of Toulouse, who, fince his marriage, used to pass great part of the year there. This delicious retreat was infinitely agreeable to him, to relax himself from the fatigues of a busy court to relieve him from the weight of greatness, which became cumberous to him as soon as he felt it-and to enable him to lay aside the Monarch. In a word, it was an affeclionate friend, who came to pass some days in delightful familiarity with his friend: a small company of Ladies and Courtiers accompanied him, and partook of this intimacy. In the day-time, the fallow-deer, with which the immense park abounded, were the unremitting objects of pursuit. This violent exercise, which was at first a mere paffion with Lewis XV. was imperceptibly become necessary for his health, which would have been affected by a fagna. tion of humours, and for his mind, which was inclined to melan. choly. In the evening, he dislipated himself at play, and renewed his Itrength at the table, for the indulgences of which, his exercise

-

• The Prince of Dombes.

R 2

gave

gave him the higher relil. There he was contented, because he was free ; he was lively, amiable, enlivened the conversation, readily fell in with the sprightliness of Mademoiselle de Charolois, and was pleased with the witty, refined, and delicate rallies of the Countess of Toulouse, who had served as a mother to him ; who had, in some measure, brought him forward in the world, and, by encouraging him to get rid of his timidity, had taught him to speak, and to speak with propriety; he was attentive to address himself to every one, and to put this little Court perfectly at ease : in a word, as he was him. self satisfied with the several guests, he endeavoured to be agreeable to them in return.

We shall make mention of one anecdote only, to give an idea of the familiarity that reigned in this society. One of the Ladies, who was with child, was suddenly seized with previous pains, announcing an approaching labour. The company was alarmed ; and, as the Lady could not be conveyed co Paris, a man-midwife was sept for in great halle, The King was under the greatest anxiety. “ In short," said his Majesty, “if the operation preffes, who will take it upon 66 him?" M. de la Peyronie, the First Surgeon, answered, “I will, Sir; I have delivered women before."-" Very well,'' said Made. moiselle de Charolois, but this business requires practice, and you have perhaps forgotten._" Don't be in tbe leaft uneasy, Mademoi“ felle," answered he, rather piqued at a doubt which hurt his vani. ty; "one forgets no more how to take them out, than how to put them in," Her Highness, highly incensed, coloured, and left the room, for fear of giving vent to her indignation before the King. The Surgeon was fenfible of the indecency, or rather the impudence of his reply, and, notwithslanding all his wit, was much embarrassed, till, turning his abashed countenance to the King, he saw him smile, which removed his apprehenfions. Mademoiselle de Sens was soon prevailed upon to laugh at this matter, as well as the King.'

As the Monarch advanced in life, his heart became more corrupt, and his manners more diffolute. This sufficiently appears from the following anecdotes :

'It was known, how much the Cardinal Fleuri was greedy of power: those men who can have no stability but in times of disorder and licentiousness, availed themselves of his foible in order to compass their ends.' The Cardinal's mistress was the Princess of Carignan : that is to say, he was governed by her, he intrusted her with all the secre:s of the State, and decided nothing but by her advice; for this is the only meaning of a word used at Court in this accepttation : the only meaning that can strike us, in the intercouse between a woman of forty-five, and an old man almost ninety years of age, in whom sensual gratifications can be nothing more than recollection. The pleasure of commanding the Minister, who held the Monarch in leading. Atrings, was therefore the only one the Princess enjoyed; but this influence held only by a flight attachment. The King, whose tenderness for his augurt companion, had been hitherto inviolable, had removed from himself those infamous feducers who had attempled to thake it. When the Courriers artfully attempted to fix the King's eyes upon tume inchanting object, he answered coolly, I think the Queen fill more beautiful*. But he might at last grow dirgulted of her; the number of children she had brought him, was likely to accelerare this fatal moment; and what a revolution was there not to be apprehended in such a circumstance? The best me. thod of pieventing is consequences, was to bring it about designed. ly; and (o raise to the bed of his Majesty some Syren of whom one might be sure ; and who, satisfied with the enjoyment of her lover, would leave matters of politics and bulinels to his Eminence. The Princess was made to underitand th's, the infinuared it to the Cardi. pal, and a plot was laid in consequence, which would have deceived virtue itself. The Queen's Con cftor was gained over: this devotee piously gave her Majesty to understand, that having now fulfilled the duries of her ftarion, in giving an heir to the throne, and Princesses to be the edification of in, it would be a circumstance very agreeable to God, if in future she would pracuse the most excellent of all virtues, chastity, by weaping berfelt now and then from carnal pleasures, which were always calculated to bend our souls towards the earth, inttead of raiúng them to heaven our real country. Undoubtedly, had Mary becp of a different disposition, these counsels would have had a different effect; but all her senses were absorbed in devotion. One night, when her husband, heated with wine, had stolen, notwithAtanding the impropriety of his fituation, into the Queen's bed-chamber, the Queen gave way too easily to her disgult, and repulled hi'n with marks of a version, humiliating to the young Monarch. He swore he would not receive twice a similar affront, and kept his word.

Then was the time for the corrupters to play their part; they had now nothing to overcome but his baibiulness, which was increased by a timidity that made an essential part of his character. The Counters de Mailly, Lady of the bed-chamber to the Queen, was judged to be the propereit person for the execution of this project. She was as it were in a state of widowhood, without children; he was a woman of probity, and destitute of ambition ; he alto lived in friend hip with the Countess of Toulouse, was incapable of taking an improper ad. vantage of her útuation, and of giving the lealt umbrage to the Cardinal; the was moreover of a very fond and caressing disposition, and poffeffed the necessary talents for reducing the bathful Monarch. She was neither young, nor handlome, nor even pretty; was near thirtyfive years old; and had nothing remarkab'e in her face except a pair of large black eyes, well opened, and very lively; her aspect was naturally Itern; but that being softened in favour of the King, preserved only a sort of boldness, which indicared the warmth of her constitucion. The harsh tone of her voice, together with her resolute and wanton air, confirmed this circumitance. Such a kind of person, in the present situation, was infinitely preterable to the graces, the majelly, and the numerous allurements of many other beauties of the Court. Besides, the excelled them all in a talent which is a substitute

5

• It was to the Duke of Pacquigny, Gaptain Lieutenant of his Ma. : jeky's Guard, that this answer, as it is reported, was made. R 3

for for many charms, in the art of the toilet, which the practised in the highest perfection, and in an exquisite tale for dress, which her rivals in vain attempted to imitate. In a word, nature had amply indemniñed her, for what she had denied her in point of figure, by the qualities of the understanding and of the heart. She was amusing, Jively, of an even temper, a firm friend, generous, compaflionate, and seeking to do service. Unfortunately, even in the height of her fituation, she was obliged to employ indirect means to gratify this benevolent disposition, not being able to do any thing of herself, without the risque of losing her favour, the affeions of the illuftri. ous persons to whom he owed it, and especially the support of the Cardinal, who had only preferred her to the office of acting a part merely passive.

• When the conditions were settled, the Prime Minister commisfioned the Duke de Richelieu to propose the Countess of Mailly to the King. This subtle and alluring Courtier had insinuated himself into the good graces of his Majesty, and gained his confidence. Tho Cardinal did not doubt but that, in changing the object of his talents, he might be employed with as much success in a negotiation of gallantry, as in one of politics. The favourite in fact, availing himself of the familiarity in which Lewis XV. indulged him, artfully turned the conversation on the subject of the Queen, and upon the void, which the behaviour of her Majesty occafioned in his heart; he made him acknowledge the necessity of replacing that passion by another; he represented love to him as the comfort of all men, and particularly of great Princes, obliged to relax from the cares of empire. He thus determined the King to an interview with Madame de Mailly; but notwithstanding his youth, notwithstanding the ardour of his conftitution, and notwithitanding the time that had elapsed since his rupture with the queen, the interview was ineffectual: timidity had frozen up his senses to such a degree, that the Countess, having no hopes, complained of the little impreflion she had made upon him. She was with difficulty prevailed upon to a second interview: when The, was desired to forget the Monarch, and think of nothing but the man. She was much encouraged by the young Prince's docility in returning to her; and, being convinced by this step, that she had no. thing to do but to attack, in order to triumph, she scrupled not to fubinit to the most abominable artifices of prostitution. Her mancu. vres were the more successful, as the King's passions were more violent from restraint. The Countess, transported with her success, went out in the utmolt disorder, and, presenting herself to her infti. gators, who were curious to know what had paffed, said nothing more than, For goodness Jake, do but fee what a fright this lewd fela low has made of me.

* See The Loves of Zeokiniful, King of the Kofirans, a work translated from the Arab of the traveller Krinebboi, one of those obscure and licentious books, which, however we must not place too much confi. dence in, and which we never adopt, but when the facts agree with

the more authentic manuscript we have under our inspection, or with : the accounts of cotemporary Courtiers,

! The

• The first step being got over, the King felt no longer any uneasy constrains; he gave himielf up without remorse to this double adul. tery. The interviews, however, were fill carried on fecretly for some time; but he soon kook off this restraint, and made no longer a mystery of his conqueft. It became a topic of conversation among che Courriers; the Queen herself was informed of it, and, inilead of trying the ascendant The had always had over the King, to recal him to the nuptial bed, did nothing but pour forth her forrows for his conduct at the foot of the altar. The Count de Mailly, who used to care very little for his wife before, thought proper to express his difsatisfaction at her infidelity. The only answer he received was, to prohibit him from having any farther intercourse with her. The Marquis de Nelle, the favourite's father, of one of the most illustri. ous houses in the kingdom, thought proper also io censure her conduct. It was judged, that this was only a prerence to ask for money, of which he was much in want, on account of the disorder in his af. fairs; and some was given to him to keep him quiet,

o The person who was most embarrassed how to aa, upon the first breaking out of the King's amours, was the Cardinal. In order to impose upon the nation, although he was the indirect encourager of the irregularities of his auguit pupil, yet he carried his hypocrisy so far as to venture to make remonftrances to him. I have left to you the government of my kingdom, answered his Majesty with acrimony, and I defore you would leave me to be mafier of mylilf. These words, however harshly they were spoken, filled him with joy. His emissaries, while they exculpated him, divulged the King's answer in all companies. It is not to be conceived how much the Parisians were scandilized with it. The people in general, and especially the French, love to change their fituation, in hopes of betrering it, They had Aattered themselves that a mistress would occafion some revolution : and perceiving that this mistress only confirmed the autho. rity of the Prime Minilier, those persons who had approved of the King's passion, no longer considered it in the same light. It was represented to the Public, as an intercourse of a horrid nature, which would not fail to draw down the vengeance of Heaven upon the kingdom. Satyrical verses were written, and licentious fongs sung, in which the lover and his millress were equally ill-treated.

• It may be admitted as some kind of excuse for the lady who acted this part, for which she was by no means intended, and which, una doubtedly, the had now assumed for the first time; that her conduct, which would have been infamous and abominable in anoiher, was dictated by she feelings of her heart ;--that she was always more at. tached to the person of the King, than to his crown ;--that the had a real affection for Lewis XV. ;-that the never asked any favour, ei, ther for herself or for her relations ;-that she was of no kind of burthen to the State ; that she retired from Court as poor as she had come into it;-chat, after the example of Madame de la Valliere, when she was separated from her lover, she found none worthy to succeed him, and devoted herself to God ;-and, in a word, that the expiated with tears, and continual mortifications, to the time of her dearb, cbe crime of having defiled the nuptial bed.

Alag!

R 4

« הקודםהמשך »