MEMOIRS OF LOUIS XV. AND XVI.
Being Secret Memoirs of Madame du Hausset, Lady's Maid to Madame de Pompadour, and of an unknown English Girl and the Princess Lamballe
"The dismissal of M. Necker irritated the people beyond description. They looked upon themselves as insulted in their favourite. Mob succeeded mob, each more mischievous and daring than the former. The Duc d'Orleans continued busy in his work of secret destruction. In one of the popular risings, a sabre struck his bust, and its head fell, severed from its body. Many of the rioters (for the ignorant are always superstitious) shrunk back at this omen of evil to their idol. His real friends endeavoured to deduce a salutary warning to him from the circumstance. I was by when the Duc de Penthievre told him, in the presence of his daughter, that he might look upon this accident as prophetic of the fate of his own head, as well as the ruin of his family, if he persisted. He made no answer, but left the room.
"On the 14th of July, and two or three days preceding, the commotions took a definite object. The destruction of the Bastille was the point proposed, and it was achieved. Arms were obtained from the old pensioners at the Hotel des Invalides. Fifty thousand livres were distributed among the chiefs of those who influenced the Invalides to give up the arms.
"The massacre of the Marquis de Launay, commandant of the place, and of M. de Flesselles, and the fall of the citadel itself, were the consequence.
"Her Majesty was greatly affected when she heard of the murder of these officers and the taking of the Bastille. She frequently told me that the horrid circumstance originated in a diabolical Court intrigue, but never explained the particulars of the intrigue. She declared that both the officers and the citadel might have been saved had not the King's orders for the march of the troops from Versailles, and the environs of Paris, been disobeyed. She blamed the precipitation of De Launay in ordering up the drawbridge and directing the few troops on it to fire upon the people. 'There,' she added, 'the Marquis committed himself; as, in case of not succeeding, he could have no retreat, which every commander should take care to secure, before he allows the commencement of a general attack.
[Certainly, the French Revolution may date its epoch as far back as the taking of the Bastille; from that moment the troubles progressively continued, till the final extirpation of its illustrious victims. I was just returning from a mission to England when the storms began to threaten not only the most violent effects to France itself, but to all the land which was not divided from it by the watery element. The spirit of liberty, as the vine, which produces the most luxurious fruit, when abused becomes the most pernicious poison, was stalking abroad and revelling in blood and massacre. I myself was a witness to the enthusiastic national ball given on the ruins of the Bastille, while it was still stained and reeking with the hot blood of its late keeper, whose head I saw carried in triumph. Such was the effect on me that the Princesse de Lamballe asked me if I had known the Marquis de Launay. I answered in the negative; but told her from the knowledge I had of the English Revolution, I was fearful of a result similar to what followed the fall of the heads of Buckingham and Stafford. The Princess mentioning my observation to the Duc de Penthievre, they both burst into tears.]
The death of the Dauphin, the horrible Revolution of the 14th of July, the troubles about Necker, the insults and threats offered to the Comte d'Artois and herself,—overwhelmed the Queen with the most poignant grief.]
"She was most desirous of some understanding being established between the government and the representatives of the people, which she urged upon the King the expediency of personally attempting.
"The King, therefore, at her reiterated remonstrances and requests, presented himself, on the following day, with his brothers, to the National Assembly, to assure them of his firm determination to support the measures of the deputies, in everything conducive to the general good of his subjects. As a proof of his intentions, he said he had commanded the troops to leave Paris and Versailles.
"The King left the Assembly, as he had gone thither, on foot, amid the vociferations of 'Vive le roi!' and it was only through the enthusiasm of the deputies, who thus hailed His Majesty, and followed him in crowds to the palace, that the Comte d'Artois escaped the fury of an outrageous mob.
"The people filled every avenue of the palace, which vibrated with cries for the King, the Queen, and the Dauphin to show themselves at the balcony.
"'Send for the Duchesse de Polignac to bring the royal children,' cried I to Her Majesty.
"'Not for the world!' exclaimed the Queen. 'She will be assassinated, and my children too, if she make her appearance before this infuriate mob. Let Madame and the Dauphin be brought unaccompanied.'
"The Queen, on this occasion, imitated her Imperial mother, Maria Theresa. She took the Dauphin in her arms, and Madame by her side, as that Empress had done when she presented herself to the Hungarian magnates; but the reception here was very different. It was not 'moriamur pro nostra regina'. Not that they were ill received; but the furious party of the Duc d'Orleans often interrupted the cries of 'Vive le roi! Vive la reine!' etc., with those of 'Vive la nation! Vive d' Orleans!' and many severe remarks on the family of the De Polignacs, which proved that the Queen's caution on this occasion was exceedingly well-judged.
"Not to wound the feelings of the Duchesse de Polignac, I kept myself at a distance behind the Queen; but I was loudly called for by the mobility, and, 'malgre moi', was obliged, at the King and Queen's request, to come forward.
"As I approached the balcony, I perceived one of the well-known agents of the Duc d'Orleans, whom I had noticed some time before in the throng, menacing me, the moment I made my appearance, with his upreared hand in fury. I was greatly terrified, but suppressed my agitation, and saluted the populace; but, fearful of exhibiting my weakness in sight of the wretch who had alarmed me, withdrew instantly, and had no sooner re-entered than I sunk motionless in the arms of one of the attendants. Luckily, this did not take place till I left the balcony. Had it been otherwise, the triumph to my declared enemies would have been too great.
"Recovering, I found myself surrounded by the Royal Family, who were all kindness and concern for my situation; but I could not subdue my tremor and affright. The horrid image of that monster seemed, still to threaten me.
"'Come, come!' said the King, 'be not alarmed, I shall order a council of all the Ministers and deputies to-morrow, who will soon put an end to these riots!'
"We were ere long joined by the Prince de Conde, the Duc de Bourbon, and others, who implored the King not to part with the army, but to place himself, with all the Princes of the blood, at its head, as the only means to restore tranquillity to the country, and secure his own safety.
"The Queen was decidedly of the same opinion; and added, that, if the army were to depart, the King and his family ought to go with it; but the King, on the contrary, said he would not decide upon any measures whatever till he had heard the opinion of the Council.
"The Queen, notwithstanding the King's indecision, was occupied, during the rest of the day and the whole of the night, in preparing for her intended; journey, as she hoped to persuade the King to follow the advice of the Princes, and not wait the result of the next day's deliberation. Nay, so desirous was she of this, that she threw herself on her knees to the King, imploring him to leave Versailles and head the army, and offering to accompany him herself, on horseback, in uniform; but it was like speaking to a corpse he never answered.
"The Duchesse de Polignac came to Her Majesty in a state of the greatest agitation, in consequence of M. de Chinon having just apprised her that a most malicious report had been secretly spread among the deputies at Versailles that they were all to be blown up at their next meeting.
"The Queen was as much surprised as the Duchess, and scarcely less agitated. These wretched friends could only, in silence, compare notes of their mutual cruel misfortunes. Both for a time remained speechless at this new calamity. Surely this was not wanting to be added to those by which the Queen was already so bitterly oppressed.
"I was sent for by Her Majesty. Count Fersen accompanied me. He had just communicated to me what the Duchess had already repeated from M. Chinon to the Queen.
"The rumour had been set afloat merely as a new pretext for the continuation of the riots.
"The communication of the report, so likely to produce a disastrous effect, took place while the King was with his Ministers deliberating whether he should go to Paris, or save himself and family by joining the army.
"His Majesty was called from the council to the Queen's apartment, and was there made acquainted with the circumstance which had so awakened the terror of the royal party. He calmly replied, 'It is some days since this invention has been spread among the deputies; I was aware of it from the first; but from its being utterly impossible to be listened to for a moment by any one, I did not wish to afflict you by the mention of an impotent fabrication, which I myself treated with the contempt it justly merited. Nevertheless, I did not forget, yesterday, in the presence of both my brothers, who accompanied me to the National Assembly, there to exculpate myself from an imputation at which my nature revolts; and, from the manner in which it was received, I flatter myself that every honest Frenchman was fully satisfied that my religion will ever be an insurmountable barrier against my harbouring sentiments allied in the slightest degree to such actions.
"The King embraced the Queen, begged she would tranquilise herself, calmed the fears of the two ladies, thanked the gentlemen for the interest they took in his favour, and returned to the council, who, in his absence, had determined on his going to the Hotel de Ville at Paris, suggesting at the same time the names of several persons likely to be well received, if His Majesty thought proper to allow their accompanying him.
"During this interval, the Queen, still flattering herself that she should pursue her wished-for journey, ordered the carriages to be prepared and sent off to Rambouillet, where she said she should sleep; but this Her Majesty only stated for the purpose of distracting the attention of her pages and others about her from her real purpose. As it was well known that M. de St. Priest had pointed out Rambouillet as a fit asylum for the mob, she fancied that an understanding on the part of her suite that they were to halt there, and prepare for her reception, would protect her project of proceeding much farther.
"When the council had broken up and the King returned, he said to the Queen, 'It is decided.'
"'To go, I hope?' said Her Majesty.
"'No'—(though in appearance calm, the words remained on the lips of the King, and he stood for some moments incapable of utterance; but, recovering, added)—'To Paris!'
"The Queen, at the word Paris, became frantic. She flung herself wildly into the arms of her friends.
"'Nous sommes perdus! nous sommes perdus!' cried she, in a passion of tears. But her dread was not for herself. She felt only for the danger to which the King was now going to expose himself; and she flew to him, and hung on his neck.
"'And what,' exclaimed she, 'is to become of all our faithful friends and attendants!'
"'I advise them all,' answered His Majesty, 'to make the best of their way out of France; and that as soon as possible.'
"By this time, the apartments of the Queen were filled with the attendants and the royal children, anxiously expecting every moment to receive the Queen's command to proceed on their journey, but they were all ordered to retire to whence they came.
"The scene was that of a real tragedy. Nothing broke the silence but groans of the deepest affliction. Our consternation at the counter order cast all into a state of stupefied insensibility.
"The Queen was the only one whose fortitude bore her up proudly under this weight of misfortunes. Recovering from the frenzy of the first impression, she adjured her friends, by the love and obedience they had ever shown her and the King, to prepare immediately to fulfil his mandate and make themselves ready for the cruel separation!
"The Duchesse de Polignac and myself were, for some hours, in a state of agony and delirium.
"When the Queen saw the body-guards drawn up to accompany the King's departure, she ran to the window, threw apart the sash, and was going to speak to them, to recommend the King to their care; but the Count Fersen prevented it.
"'For God's sake, Madame,'—exclaimed he, 'do not commit yourself to the suspicion of having any doubts of the people!'
"When the King entered to take leave of her, and of all his most faithful attendants, he could only articulate, 'Adieu!' But when the Queen saw him accompanied by the Comte d'Estaing and others, whom, from their new principles, she knew to be popular favourites, she had command enough of herself not to shed a tear in their presence.
"No sooner, however, had the King left the room than it was as much as the Count Fersen, Princesse Elizabeth, and all of us could do to recover her from the most violent convulsions. At last, coming to herself, she retired with the Princess, the Duchess, and myself to await the King's return; at the same time requesting the Count Fersen to follow His Majesty to the Hotel de Ville. Again and again she implored the Count, as she went, in case the King should be detained, to interest himself with all the foreign Ministers to interpose for his liberation.
"Versailles, when the King was gone, seemed like a city deserted in consequence of the plague. The palace was completely abandoned. All the attendants were dispersed. No one was seen in the streets. Terror prevailed. It was universally believed that the King would be detained in Paris. The high road from Versailles to Paris was crowded with all ranks of people, as if to catch a last look of their Sovereign.
"The Count Fersen set off instantly, pursuant to the Queen's desire. He saw all that passed, and on his return related to me the history of that horrid day.
"He arrived at Paris just in time to see His Majesty take the national cockade from M. Bailly and place it in his hat. He, felt the Hotel de Ville shake with the long-continued cries of 'Vive le roi!' in consequence, which so affected the King that, for some moments, he was unable to express himself. 'I myself,' added the Count, 'was so moved at the effect on His Majesty, in being thus warmly received by his Parisian subjects, which portrayed the paternal emotions of his long-lacerated heart, that every other feeling was paralysed for a moment, in exultation at the apparent unanimity between the Sovereign and his people. But it did not,' continued the Ambassador, 'paralyse the artful tongue of Bailly, the Mayor of Paris. I could have kicked the fellow for his malignant impudence; for, even in the cunning compliment he framed, he studied to humble the afflicted Monarch by telling the people it was to them he owed the sovereign authority.
"'But,' pursued the Count, 'considering the situation of Louis XVI. and that of his family, agonised as they must have been during his absence, from the Queen's impression that the Parisians would never again allow him to see Versailles, how great was our rapture when we saw him safely replaced in his carriage, and returning to those who were still lamenting him as lost!
"'When I left Her Majesty in the morning, she was nearly in a state of mental aberration. When I saw her again in the evening, the King by her side, surrounded by her family, the Princesse Eizabeth, and yourself, madame' said the kind Count, 'she appeared to me like a person risen from the dead and restored to life. Her excess of joy at the first moment was beyond description!'
"Count Fersen might well say the first moment, for the pleasure of the Queen was of short duration. Her heart was doomed to bleed afresh, when the thrill of delight, at what she considered the escape of her husband, was past, for she had already seen her chosen friend, the Duchesse de Polignac, for the last time.
"Her Majesty was but just recovered from the effects of the morning's agitation, when the Duchess, the Duke, his sister, and all his family set off. It was impossible for her to take leave of her friend. The hour was late—about midnight. At the same time departed the Comte d'Artois and his family, the Prince de Conde and his, the Prince of Hesse d'Armstadt, and all those who were likely to be suspected by the people.
"Her Majesty desired the Count Fersen to see the Duchess in her name. When the King heard the request, he exclaimed:
"'What a cruel state for Sovereigns, my dear Count! To be compelled to separate ourselves from our most faithful attendants, and not be allowed, for fear of compromising others or our own lives, to take a last farewell!'
"'Ah!' said the Queen, 'I fear so too. I fear it is a last farewell to all our friends!'
"The Count saw the Duchess a few moments before she left Versailles. Pisani, the Venetian Ambassador, and Count Fersen, helped her on the coachbox, where she rode disguised.
"What must have been most poignantly mortifying to the fallen favourite was, that, in the course of her journey, she met with her greatest enemy, (Necker) who was returning, triumphant, to Paris, called by the voice of that very nation by whom she and her family were now forced from its territory,—Necker, who himself conceived that she, who now went by him into exile, while he himself returned to the greatest of victories, had thwarted all his former plans of operation, and, from her influence over the Queen, had caused his dismission and temporary banishment.
"For my own part, I cannot but consider this sudden desertion of France by those nearest the throne as ill-judged. Had all the Royal Family, remained, is it likely that the King and Queen would have been watched with such despotic vigilance? Would not confidence have created confidence, and the breach have been less wide between the King and his people?
"When the father and his family will now be thoroughly reconciled, Heaven alone can tell!"
"Barnave often lamented his having been betrayed, by a love of notoriety, into many schemes, of which his impetuosity blinded him to the consequences. With tears in his eyes, he implored me to impress the Queen's mind with the sad truths he inculcated. He said his motives had been uniformly the same, however he might have erred in carrying them into action; but now he relied on my friendship for my royal mistress to give efficacy to his earnest desire to atone for those faults, of which he had become convinced by dear-bought experience. He gave me a list of names for Her Majesty, in which were specified all the Jacobins who had emissaries throughout France, for the purpose of creating on the same day, and at the same hour, an alarm of something like the 'Vesparo Siciliano' (a general insurrection to murder all the nobility and burn their palaces, which, in fact, took place in many parts of France), the object of which was to give the Assembly, by whom all the regular troops were disbanded, a pretext for arming the people as a national guard, thus creating a perpetual national faction.
"The hordes of every faubourg now paraded in this new democratic livery. Even some of them, who were in the actual service of the Court, made no scruple of decorating themselves thus, in the very face of their Sovereign. The King complained, but the answer made to him was that the nation commanded.
"The very first time Their Majesties went to the royal chapel, after the embodying of the troops with the national guards, all the persons belonging to it were accoutred in the national uniform. The Queen was highly incensed, and deeply affected at this insult offered to the King's authority by the persons employed in the sacred occupations of the Church. 'Such persons,' said Her Majesty, 'would, I had hoped, have been the last to interfere with politics.' She was about to order all those who preferred their uniforms to their employments to be discharged from the King's service; but my advice, coupled with that of Barnave, dissuaded her from executing so dangerous a threat. On being assured that those, perhaps, who might be selected to replace the offenders might refuse the service, if not allowed the same ridiculous prerogatives, and thus expose Their Royal Majesties to double mortification, the Queen seemed satisfied, and no more was said upon the subject, except to an Italian soprano, to whom the King signified his displeasure at his singing a 'salva regina' in the dress of a grenadier of the new faction.
"The singer took the hint and never again intruded his uniform into the chapel.
"Necker, notwithstanding the enthusiasm his return produced upon the people, felt mortified in having lost the confidence of the King. He came to me, exclaiming that, unless Their Majesties distinguished him by some mark of their royal favour, his influence must be lost with the National Assembly. He perceived, he said, that the councils of the King were more governed by the advice of the Queen's favourite, the Abbe Vermond, than by his (Necker's). He begged I would assure Her Majesty that Vermond was quite as obnoxious to the people as the Duchesse de Polignac had ever been; for it was generally known that Her Majesty was completely guided by him, and, therefore, for her own safety and the tranquillity of national affairs, he humbly suggested the prudence of sending him from the Court, at least for a time.
"I was petrified at hearing a Minister dare presume thus to dictate the line of conduct which the Queen of France, his Sovereign, should pursue with respect to her most private servants. Such was my indignation at this cruel wish to dismiss every object of her choice, especially one from whom, owing to long habits of intimacy since her childhood, a separation would be rendered, by her present situation, peculiarly cruel, that nothing but the circumstances in which the Court then stood could have given me patience to listen to him.
"I made no answer. Upon my silence, Necker subjoined, 'You must perceive, Princess, that I am actuated for the general good of the nation.'
"'And I hope, monsieur, for the prerogatives of the monarchy also,' replied I.
"'Certainly,' said Necker. 'But if Their Majesties continue to be guided by others, and will not follow my advice, I cannot answer for the consequences.'
"I assured the Minister that I would be the faithful bearer of his commission, however unpleasant.
"Knowing the character of the Queen, in not much relishing being dictated to with respect to her conduct in relation to the persons of her household, especially the Abbe Vermond, and aware, at the same time, of her dislike to Necker, who thus undertook to be her director, I felt rather awkward in being the medium of the Minister's suggestions. But what was my surprise, on finding her prepared, and totally indifferent as to the privation.
"'I foresaw,' replied Her Majesty, 'that Vermond would become odious to the present order of things, merely because he had been a faithful servant, and long attached to my interest; but you may tell M. Necker that the Abbe leaves Versailles this very night, by my express order, for Vienna.'
"If the proposal of Necker astonished me, the Queen's reception of it astonished me still more. What a lesson is this for royal favourites! The man who had been her tutor, and who, almost from her childhood, never left her, the constant confidant for fifteen or sixteen years, was now sent off without a seeming regret.
"I doubt not, however, that the Queen had some very powerful secret motive for the sudden change in her conduct towards the Abbe, for she was ever just in all her concerns, even to her avowed enemies; but I was happy that she seemed to express no particular regret at the Minister's suggested policy. I presume, from the result, that I myself had overrated the influence of the Abbe over the mind of his royal pupil; that he had by no means the sway imputed to him; and that Marie Antoinette merely considered him as the necessary instrument of her private correspondence, which he had wholly managed.
[The truth is, Her Majesty had already taken leave of the Abbe, in the presence of the King, unknown to the Princess; or, more properly, the Abbe had taken an affectionate leave of them.]
"But a circumstance presently occurred which aroused Her Majesty from this calmness and indifference. The King came in to inform her that La Fayette, during the night, had caused the guards to desert from the palace of Versailles.
"The effect on her of this intelligence was like the lightning which precedes a loud clap of thunder.
"Everything that followed was perfectly in character, and shook every nerve of the royal authority.
"'Thus,' exclaimed Marie Antoinette, 'thus, Sire, have you humiliated yourself, in condescending to go to Paris, without having accomplished the object. You have not regained the confidence of your subjects. Oh, how bitterly do I deplore the loss of that confidence! It exists no longer. Alas! when will it be restored!'
"The French guards, indeed, had been in open insurrection through the months of June and July, and all that could be done was to preserve one single company of grenadiers, by means of their commander, the Baron de Leval, faithful to their colours. This company had now been influenced by General La Fayette to desert and join their companions, who had enrolled themselves in the Paris national guard.
"Messieurs de Bouille and de Luxembourg being interrogated by the Queen respecting the spirit of the troops under their immediate command, M. de Bouille answered, Madame, I should be very sorry to be compelled to undertake any internal operation with men who have been seduced from their allegiance, and are daily paid by a faction which aims at the overthrow of its legitimate Sovereign. I would not answer for a man that has been in the neighbourhood of the seditious national troops, or that has read the inflammatory discussions of the National Assembly. If Your Majesty and the King wish well to the nation—I am sorry to say it—its happiness depends on your quitting immediately the scenes of riot and placing yourselves in a situation to treat with the National Assembly on equal terms, whereby the King may be unbiassed and unfettered by a compulsive, overbearing mob; and this can only be achieved by your flying to a place of safety. That you may find such a place, I will answer with my life!'
"'Yes,' said M. de Luxembourg, 'I think we may both safely answer that, in such a case, you will find a few Frenchmen ready to risk a little to save all!' And both concurred that there was no hope of salvation for the King or country but through the resolution they advised.
"'This,' said the Queen, 'will be a very difficult task. His Majesty, I fear, will never consent to leave France.'
"'Then, Madame,' replied they, 'we can only regret that we have nothing to offer but our own perseverance in the love and service of our King and his oppressed family, to whom we deplore we can now be useful only with our feeble wishes.'
"'Well, gentlemen,' answered Her Majesty, 'you must not despair of better prospects. I will take an early opportunity of communicating your loyal sentiments to the King, and will hear his opinion on the subject before I give you a definite answer. I thank you, in the name of His Majesty, as well as on my own account, for your good intentions towards us.'
"Scarcely had these gentlemen left the palace, when a report prevailed that the King, his family, and Ministers, were about to withdraw to some fortified situation. It was also industriously rumoured that, as soon as they were in safety, the National Assembly would be forcibly dismissed, as the Parliament had been by Louis XIV. The reports gained universal belief when it became known that the King had ordered the Flanders regiment to Versailles.
"The National Assembly now daily watched the royal power more and more assiduously. New sacrifices of the prerogatives of the nobles were incessantly proposed by them to the King.
"When His Majesty told the Queen that he had been advised by Necker to sanction the abolition of the privileged nobility, and that all distinctions, except the order of the Holy Ghost to himself and the Dauphin, were also annihilated by the Assembly, even to the order of Maria Theresa, which she could no longer wear, 'These, Sire,' answered she, in extreme anguish, 'are trifles, so far as they regard myself. I do not think I have twice worn the order of Maria Theresa since my arrival in this once happy country. I need it not. The immortal memory of her who gave me being is engraven on my heart; that I shall wear forever, none can wrest it from me. But what grieves me to the soul is your having sanctioned these decrees of the National Assembly upon the mere 'ipse dixit' of M. Necker.'
"'I have only, given my sanction to such as I thought most necessary to tranquilise the minds of those who doubted my sincerity; but I have withheld it from others, which, for the good of my, people, require maturer consideration. On these, in a full Council, and in your presence, I shall again deliberate.'
"'Oh, said the Queen, with tears in her eyes, could but the people hear you, and know, once for all, how to appreciate the goodness of your heart, as I do now, they would cast themselves at your feet, and supplicate your forgiveness for having shown such ingratitude to your paternal interest for their welfare!'
"But this unfortunate refusal to sanction all the decrees sent by the National Assembly, though it proceeded from the best motives, produced the worst effects. Duport, De Lameth, and Barnave well knew the troubles such a course must create. Of this they forewarned His Majesty, before any measure was laid before him for approval. They cautioned him not to trifle with the deputies. They assured him that half measures would only rouse suspicion. They enforced the necessity of uniform assentation, in order to lull the Mirabeau party, who were canvassing for a majority to set up D'ORLEANS, to whose interest Mirabeau and his myrmidons were then devoted. The scheme of Duport, De Lameth, and Barnave was to thwart and weaken the Mirabeau and Orleans faction, by gradually persuading them, in consequence of the King's compliance with whatever the Assembly exacted, that they could do no better than to let him into a share of the executive power; for now nothing was left to His Majesty but responsibility, while the privileges of grace and justice had become merely nominal, with the one dangerous exception of the veto, to which he could never have recourse without imminent peril to his cause and to himself.
"Unfortunately for His Majesty's interest, he was too scrupulous to act, even through momentary policy, distinctly against his conscience. When he gave way, it was with reluctance, and often with an avowal, more or less express, that he only complied with necessity against conviction. His very sincerity made him appear the reverse. His adherents consequently dwindled, while the Orleans faction became immeasurably augmented.
"In the midst of these perplexities, an Austrian courier was stopped with despatches from Prince Kaunitz. These, though unsought for on the part of Her Majesty, though they contained a friendly advice to her to submit to the circumstances of the times, and though, luckily, they were couched in terms favourable to the Constitution, showed the mob that there was a correspondence with Vienna, carried on by the Queen, and neither Austria nor the Queen were deemed the friends either of the people or of the Constitution. To have received the letters was enough for the faction.
"Affairs were now ripening gradually into something like a crisis, when the Flanders regiment arrived. The note of preparation had been sounded. 'Let us go to Versailles, and bring the King away from his evil counsellors,' was already in the mouths of the Parisians.
"In the meantime, Dumourier, who had been leagued with the Orleans faction, became disgusted with it. He knew the deep schemes of treason which were in train against the Royal Family, and, in disguise, sought the Queen at Versailles, and had an interview with Her Majesty in my presence. He assured her that an abominable insurrection was ripe for explosion among the mobs of the faubourgs; gave her the names of the leaders, who had received money to promote its organisation; and warned her that the massacre of the Royal Family was the object of the manoeuvre, for the purpose of declaring the Duke of Orleans the constitutional King; that he was to be proclaimed by Mirabeau, who had already received a considerable sum in advance, for distribution among the populace, to ensure their support; and that Mirabeau, in return for his co-operation, was to be created a Duke, with the office of Prime Minister and Secretary of State, and to have the framing of the Constitution, which was to be modelled from that of Great Britain. It was farther concerted that D'ORLEANS was to show himself in the midst of the confusion, and the crown to be conferred upon him by public acclamation.
"On his knees Dumourier implored Her Majesty to regard his voluntary discovery of this infamous and diabolical plot as a proof of his sincere repentance. He declared he came disinterestedly to offer himself as a sacrifice to save her, the King, and her family from the horrors then threatening their lives, from the violence of an outrageous mob of regicides; he called God to witness that he was actuated by no other wish than to atone for his error, and die in their defence; he looked for no reward beyond the King's forgiveness of his having joined the Orleans faction; he never had any view in joining that faction but that of aiding the Duke, for the good of his country, in the reform of ministerial abuses, and strengthening the royal authority by the salutary laws of the National Assembly; but he no sooner discovered that impure schemes of personal aggrandisement gave the real impulse to these pretended reformers than he forsook their unholy course. He supplicated Her Majesty to lose no time, but to allow him to save her from the destruction to which she would inevitably be exposed; that he was ready to throw himself at the King's feet, to implore his forgiveness also, and to assure him of his profound penitence, and his determination to renounce forever the factious Orleans party.
"As Her Majesty would not see any of those who offered themselves, except in my presence, I availed myself, in this instance, of the opportunity it gave me by enforcing the arguments of Dumourier. But all I could say, all the earnest representations to be deduced from this critical crisis, could not prevail with her, even so far as to persuade her to temporise with Dumourier, as she had done with many others on similar occasions. She was deaf and inexorable. She treated all he had said as the effusion of an overheated imagination, and told him she had no faith in traitors. Dumourier remained upon his knees while she was replying, as if stupefied; but at the word traitor he started and roused himself; and then, in a state almost of madness, seized the Queen's dress, exclaiming, 'Allow yourself to be persuaded before it is too late! Let not your misguided prejudice against me hurry you to your own and your children's destruction; let it not get the better, Madame, of your good sense and reason; the fatal moment is near; it is at hand!' Upon this, turning, he addressed himself to me.
"'Oh, Princess,' he cried, 'be her guardian angel, as you have hitherto been her only friend, and use your never-failing influence. I take God once more to witness, that I am sincere in all I have said; that all I have disclosed is true. This will be the last time I shall have it in my power to be of any essential service to you, Madame, and my Sovereign. The National Assembly will put it out of my power for the future, without becoming a traitor to my country.'
"'Rise, monsieur,' said the Queen, 'and serve your country better than you have served your King!'
"'Madame, I obey.'
"When he was about to leave the room, I again, with tears, besought Her Majesty not to let him depart thus, but to give him some hope, that, after reflection, she might perhaps endeavour to soothe the King's anger. But in vain. He withdrew very much affected. I even ventured, after his departure, to intercede for his recall.
"'He has pledged himself,' said I, 'to save you, Madame!'
"'My dear Princess,' replied the Queen, 'the goodness of your own heart will not allow you to have sinister ideas of others. This man is like all of the same stamp. They are all traitors; and will only hurry us the sooner, if we suffer ourselves to be deceived by them, to an ignominious death! I seek no safety for myself.'
"'But he offered to serve the King also, Madame.'
"'I am not,' answered Her Majesty, 'Henrietta of France. I will never stoop to ask a pension of the murderers of my husband; nor will I leave the King, my son, or my adopted country, or even meanly owe my existence to wretches who have destroyed the dignity of the Crown and trampled under foot the most ancient monarchy in Europe! Under its ruins they will bury their King and myself. To owe our safety to them would be more hateful than any death they can prepare for us'
"While the Queen was in this state of agitation, a note was presented to me with a list of the names of the officers of the Flanders regiment, requesting the honour of an audience of the Queen.
"The very idea of seeing the Flanders officers flushed Her Majesty's countenance with an ecstasy of joy. She said she would retire to compose herself, and receive them in two hours.
"The Queen saw the officers in her private cabinet, and in my presence. They were presented to her by me. They told Her Majesty that, though they had changed their paymaster, they had not changed their allegiance to their Sovereign or herself, but were ready to defend both with their lives. They placed one hand on the hilt of their swords, and, solemnly lifting the other up to Heaven, swore that the weapons should never be wielded but for the defence of the King and Queen, against all foes, whether foreign or domestic.
"This unexpected loyalty burst on us like the beauteous rainbow, after a tempest, by the dawn of which we are taught to believe the world is saved from a second deluge.
"The countenance of Her Majesty brightened over the gloom which had oppressed her, like the heavenly sun dispersing threatening clouds, and making the heart of the poor mariner bound with joy. Her eyes spoke her secret rapture. It was evident she felt even unusual dignity in the presence of these noble-hearted warriors, when comparing them with him whom she had just dismissed. She graciously condescended to speak to every one of them, and one and all were enchanted with her affability.
"She said she was no longer the Queen who could compensate loyalty and valour; but the brave soldier found his reward in the fidelity of his service, which formed the glory of his immortality. She assured them she had ever been attached to the army, and would make it her study to recommend every individual, meriting attention, to the King.
"Loud bursts of repeated acclamations and shouts of 'Vive la reine!' instantly followed her remarks. She thanked the officers most graciously; and, fearing to commit herself, by saying more, took her leave, attended by me; but immediately sent me back, to thank them again in her name.
"They departed, shouting as they went, 'Vive la reine! Vive la Princesse! Vive le roi, le Dauphin, et toute la famille royale!'
"When the National Assembly saw the officers going to and coming from the King's palace with such demonstrations of enthusiasm, they took alarm, and the regicide faction hastened on the crisis for which it had been longing. It was by no means unusual for the chiefs of regiments, destined to form part of the garrison of a royal residence, to be received by the Sovereign on their arrival, and certainly only natural that they should be so; but in times of excitement trifling events have powerful effects.
"But if the National Assembly began to tremble for their own safety, and had already taken secret, measures to secure it, by conspiring to put an instantaneous end to the King's power, against which they had so long been plotting, when the Flanders regiment arrived, it may be readily conceived what must have been their emotions on the fraternisation of this regiment with the body-guard, and on the scene to which the dinner, given to the former troops by the latter, so unpremeditatedly led.
"On the day of this fatal dinner I remarked to the Queen, 'What a beautiful sight it must be to behold, in these troublesome times, the happy union of such a meeting!'
"'It must indeed!' replied the King; 'and the pleasure I feel in knowing it would be redoubled had I the privilege of entertaining the Flanders regiment, as the body-guards are doing.'
"'Heaven forbid!' cried Her Majesty; 'Heaven forbid that you should think of such a thing! The Assembly would never forgive us!'
"After we had dined, the Queen sent to the Marquise de Tourzel for the Dauphin. When he came, the Queen told him about her having seen the brave officers on their arrival; and how gaily those good officers had left the palace, declaring they would die rather than suffer any harm to come to him, or his papa and mamma; and that at that very time they were all dining at the theatre.
"'Dining in the theatre, mamma?' said the young, Prince. 'I never heard of people dining in a theatre!'
"'No, my dear child,' replied Her Majesty, 'it is not generally allowed; but they are doing so, because the body-guards are giving a dinner to this good Flanders regiment; and the Flanders regiment are so brave that the guards chose the finest place they could think of to entertain them in, to show how much they like them; that is the reason why they are dining in the gay, painted theatre.'
"'Oh, mamma!' exclaimed the Dauphin, whom the Queen adored, 'Oh, papa!' cried he, looking at the King, 'how I should like to see them!'
"'Let us go and satisfy the child!' said the King, instantly starting up from his seat.
"The Queen took the Dauphin by the hand, and they proceeded to the theatre. It was all done in a moment. There was no premeditation on the part of the King or Queen; no invitation on the part of the officers. Had I been asked, I should certainly have followed the Queen; but just as the King rose, I left the room. The Prince being eager to see the festival, they set off immediately, and when I returned to the apartment they were gone. Not being very well, I remained where I was; but most of the household had already followed Their Majesties.
"On the Royal Family making their appearance, they were received with the most unequivocal shouts of general enthusiasm by the troops. Intoxicated with the pleasure of seeing Their Majesties among them, and overheated with the juice of the grape, they gave themselves up to every excess of joy, which the circumstances and the situation of Their Majesties were so well calculated to inspire. 'Oh! Richard! oh, mon roi!' was sung, as well as many other loyal songs. The healths of the King, Queen, and Dauphin were drunk, till the regiments were really inebriated with the mingled influence of wine and shouting vivas!
"When the royal party retired, they were followed by all the military to the very palace doors, where they sung, danced, embraced each other, and gave way to all the frantic demonstrations of devotedness to the royal cause which the excitement of the scene and the table could produce. Throngs, of course, collected to get near the Royal Family. Many persons in the rush were trampled on, and one or two men, it was said, crushed to death. The Dauphin and King were delighted; but the Queen, in giving the Princesse Elizabeth and myself an account of the festival, foresaw the fatal result which would ensue; and deeply deplored the marked enthusiasm with which they had been greeted and followed by the military.
"There was one more military spectacle, a public breakfast which took place on the second of October. Though none of the Royal Family appeared at it, it was no less injurious to their interests than the former. The enemies of the Crown spread reports all over Paris, that the King and Queen had manoeuvred to pervert the minds of the troops so far as to make them declare against the measures of the National Assembly. It is not likely that the Assembly, or politics, were even spoken of at the breakfast; but the report did as much mischief as the reality would have done. This was quite sufficient to encourage the D'ORLEANS and Mirabeau faction in the Assembly to the immediate execution of their long-meditated scheme, of overthrowing the monarchy.
"On the very day following, Duport, De Lameth, and Barnave sent their confidential agent to apprise the Queen that certain deputies had already fully matured a plot to remove the King, nay, to confine Her Majesty from him in a distant part of France, that her influence over his mind might no farther thwart their premeditated establishment of a Constitution.
"But others of this body, and the more powerful and subtle portion, had a deeper object, so depraved, that, even when forewarned, the Queen could not deem it possible; but of which she was soon convinced by their infernal acts.
"The riotous faction, for the purpose of accelerating this denouement, had contrived, by buying up all the corn and sending it out of the country, to reduce the populace to famine, and then to make it appear that the King and Queen had been the monopolisers, and the extravagance of Marie Antoinette and her largesses to Austria and her favourites, the cause. The plot was so deeply laid that the wretches who, undertook to effect the diabolical scheme were metamorphosed in the Queen's livery, so that all the odium might fall on her unfortunate Majesty. At the head of the commission of monopolisers was Luckner, who had taken a violent dislike to the Queen, in consequence of his having been refused some preferment, which he attributed to her influence. Mirabeau, who was still in the background, and longing to take a more prominent part, helped it on as much as possible. Pinet, who had been a confidential agent of the Duc d'Orleans, himself told the Duc de Penthievre that D'ORLEANS had monopolised all the corn. This communication, and the activity of the Count Fersen, saved France, and Paris in particular, from perishing for the want of bread. Even at the moment of the abominable masquerade, in which Her Majesty's agents were made to appear the enemies who were starving the French people, out of revenge for the checks imposed by them on the royal authority, it was well known to all the Court that both Her Majesty and the King were grieved to the soul at their piteous want, and distributed immense sums for the relief of the poor sufferers, as did the Duc de Penthievre, the Duchesse d'Orleans, the Prince de Conde, the Duc and Duchesse de Bourbon, and others; but these acts were done privately, while he who had created the necessity took to himself the exclusive credit of the relief, and employed thousands daily to propagate reports of his generosity. Mirabeau, then the factotum agent of the operations of the Palais Royal and its demagogues, greatly added to the support of this impression. Indeed, till undeceived afterwards, he believed it to be really the Duc d'Orleans who had succoured the people.
"I dispensed two hundred and twenty thousand livres merely to discover the names of the agents who had been employed to carry on this nefarious plot to exasperate the people against the throne by starvation imputed to the Sovereign. Though money achieved the discovery in time to clear the characters of my royal mistress and the King, the detection only followed the mischief of the crime. But even the rage thus wickedly excited was not enough to carry through the plot. In the faubourgs of Paris, where the women became furies, two hundred thousand livres were distributed ere the horror could be completely exposed.
"But it is time for me to enter upon the scenes to which all the intrigues I have detailed were intended to lead—the removal of the Royal Family from Versailles.
"My heart sickens when I retrace these moments of anguish. The point to which they are to conduct us yet remains one of the mysteries of fate."
"Her Majesty had been so thoroughly lulled into security by the enthusiasm of the regiments at Versailles that she treated all the reports from Paris with contempt. Nothing was apprehended from that quarter, and no preparations were consequently made for resistance or protection. She was at Little Trianon when the news of the approach of the desolating torrent arrived. The King was hunting. I presented to her the commandant of the troops at Versailles, who assured Her Majesty that a murderous faction, too powerful, perhaps, for resistance, was marching principally against her royal person, with La Fayette at their head, and implored her to put herself and valuables in immediate safety; particularly all her correspondence with the Princes, emigrants, and foreign Courts, if she had no means of destroying them.
"Though the Queen was somewhat awakened to the truth by this earnest appeal, yet she still considered the extent of the danger as exaggerated, and looked upon the representation as partaking, in a considerable degree, of the nature of all reports in times of popular commotion.
"Presently, however, a more startling omen appeared, in a much milder but ambiguous communication from General La Fayette. He stated that he was on his march from Paris with the national guard, and part of the people, coming to make remonstrances; but he begged Her Majesty to rest assured that no disorder would take place, and that he himself would vouch that there should be none.
"The King was instantly sent for to the heights of Meudon, while the Queen set off from Little Trianon, with me, for Versailles.
"The first movements were commenced by a few women, or men in women's clothes, at the palace gates of Versailles. The guards refused them entrance, from an order they had received to that effect from La Fayette. The consternation produced by their resentment was a mere prelude to the horrid tragedy that succeeded.
"The information now pouring in from different quarters increased Her Majesty's alarm every moment. The order of La Fayette, not to let the women be admitted, convinced her that there was something in agitation, which his unexplained letter made her sensible was more to be feared than if he had signified the real situation and danger to which she was exposed.
"A messenger was forthwith despatched for M. La Fayette, and another, by order of the Queen, for M. de St. Priest, to prepare a retreat for the Royal Family, as the Parisian mob's advance could no longer be doubted. Everything necessary was accordingly got ready.
"La Fayette now arrived at Versailles in obedience to the message, and, in the presence of all the Court and Ministers, assured the King that he could answer for the Paris army, at the head of which he intended to march, to prevent disorders; and advised the admission of the women into the palace, who, he said, had nothing to propose but a simple memorial relative to the scarcity of bread.
"The Queen said to him, 'Remember, monsieur, you have pledged your honour for the King's safety.'
"'And I hope, Madame, to be able to redeem it.'
"He then left Versailles to return to his post with the army.
"A limited number of the women were at length admitted; and so completely did they seem satisfied with the reception they met with from the King, as, in all appearance, to have quieted their riotous companions. The language of menace and remonstrance had changed into shouts of 'Vive le roi!' The apprehensions of Their Majesties were subdued; and the whole system of operation, which had been previously adopted for the Royal Family's quitting Versailles, was, in consequence, unfortunately changed.
"But the troops, that had been hitherto under arms for the preservation of order, in going back to their hotel, were assailed and fired at by the mob.
"The return of the body-guards, thus insulted in going to and coming from the palace, caused the Queen and the Court to resume the resolution of instantly retiring from Versailles; but it was now too late. They were stopped by the municipality and the mob of the city, who were animated to excess against the Queen by one of the bass singers of the French opera.—[La Haise]
"Every hope of tranquillity was now shaken by the hideous howlings which arose from all quarters. Intended flight had become impracticable. Atrocious expressions were levelled against the Queen, too shocking for repetition. I shudder when I reflect to what a degree of outrage the 'poissardes' of Paris were excited, to express their abominable designs on the life of that most adored of Sovereigns.
"Early in the evening Her Majesty came to my apartment, in company with one of her female attendants. She was greatly agitated. She brought all her jewels and a considerable quantity of papers, which she had begun to collect together immediately on her arrival from Trianon, as the commandant had recommended.
[Neither Her Majesty nor the Princess ever returned to Versailles after the sixth of that fatal October! Part of the papers, brought by the Queen to the apartment of the Princess, were tacked by me on two of my petticoats; the under one three fold, one on the other, and outside; and the upper one, three or four fold double on the inside; and thus I left the room with this paper undergarment, which put me to no inconvenience. Returning to the Princess, I was ordered to go to Lisle, there take the papers from their hiding-place, and deliver them, with others, to the same person who received the box, of which mention will be found in another part of this work. I was not to take any letters, and was to come back immediately.
As I was leaving the apartment Her Majesty said something to Her Highness which I did not hear. The Princess turned round very quickly, and kissing me on the forehead, said in Italian, "My dear little Englishwoman, for Heaven's sake be careful of yourself, for I should never forgive myself if any misfortune were to befall you." "Nor I," said Her Majesty.]
"Notwithstanding the fatigue and agitation which the Queen must have suffered during the day, and the continued threats, horrible howlings, and discharge of firearms during the night, she had courage enough to visit the bedchambers of her children and then to retire to rest in her own.
"But her rest was soon fearfully interrupted. Horrid cries at her chamber door of 'Save the Queen! Save the Queen! or she will be assassinated!' aroused her. The faithful guardian who gave the alarm was never heard more. He was murdered in her defence! Her Majesty herself only escaped the poignards of immediate death by flying to the King's apartment, almost in the same state as she lay in bed, not having had time to screen herself with any covering but what was casually thrown over her by the women who assisted her in her flight; while one well acquainted with the palace is said to have been seen busily engaged in encouraging the regicides who thus sought her for midnight murder. The faithful guards who defended the entrance to the room of the intended victim of these desperadoes took shelter in the room itself upon her leaving it, and were alike threatened with instant death by the grenadier assassins for having defeated them in their fiend-like purpose; they were, however, saved by the generous interposition and courage of two gentlemen, who, offering themselves as victims in their place, thus brought about a temporary accommodation between the regular troops and the national guard.
"All this time General La Fayette never once appeared. It is presumed that he himself had been deceived as to the horrid designs of the mob, and did not choose to show himself, finding it impossible to check the impetuosity of the horde he had himself brought to action, in concurring to countenance their first movements from Paris. Posterity will decide how far he was justified in pledging himself for the safety of the Royal Family, while he was heading a riotous mob, whose atrocities were guaranteed from punishment or check by the sanction of his presence and the faith reposed in his assurance. Was he ignorant, or did he only pretend to be so, of the incalculable mischief inevitable from giving power and a reliance on impunity to such an unreasoning mass? By any military operation, as commander-in-chief, he might have turned the tide. And why did he not avail himself of that authority with which he had been invested by the National Assembly, as the delegates of the nation, for the general safety and guardianship of the people? for the people, of whom he was the avowed protector, were themselves in peril: it was only the humanity (or rather, in such a crisis, the imbecility) of Louis XVI. that prevented them from being fired on; and they would inevitably have been sacrificed, and that through the want of policy in their leader, had not this mistaken mercy of the King prevented his guards from offering resistance to the murderers of his brave defenders!
"The cry of 'Queen! Queen!' now resounded from the lips of the cannibals stained with the blood of her faithful guards. She appeared, shielded by filial affection, between her two innocent children, the threatened orphans! But the sight of so much innocence and heroic courage paralysed the hands uplifted for their massacre!
"A tiger voice cried out, 'No children!' The infants were hurried away from the maternal side, only to witness the author of their being offering up herself, eagerly and instantly, to the sacrifice, an ardent and delighted victim to the hoped-for preservation of those, perhaps, orphans, dearer to her far than life! Her resignation and firm step in facing the savage cry that was thundering against her, disarmed the ferocious beasts that were hungering and roaring for their prey!
"Mirabeau, whose immense head and gross figure could not be mistaken, is said to have been the first among the mob to have sonorously chanted, 'To Paris!' His myrmidons echoed and re-echoed the cry upon the signal. He then hastened to the Assembly to contravene any measures the King might ask in opposition. The riots increasing, the Queen said to His Majesty:
"'Oh, Sire! why am I not animated with the courage of Maria Theresa? Let me go with my children to the National Assembly, as she did to the Hungarian Senate, with my Imperial brother, Joseph, in her arms and Leopold in her womb, when Charles the Seventh of Bavaria had deprived her of all her German dominions, and she had already written to the Duchesse de Lorraine to prepare her an asylum, not knowing where she should be delivered of the precious charge she was then bearing; but I, like the mother of the Gracchi, like Cornelia, more esteemed for my birth than for my marriage, am the wife of the King of France, and I see we shall be murdered in our beds for the want of our own exertions!'
"The King remained as if paralysed and stupefied, and made no answer. The Princesse Elizabeth then threw herself at the Queen's feet, imploring her to consent to go to Paris.
"'To Paris!' exclaimed Her Majesty.
"'Yes, Madame,' said the King. 'I will put an end to these horrors; and tell the people so.'
"On this, without waiting for the Queen's answer, he opened the balcony, and told the populace he was ready to depart with his family.
"This sudden change caused a change equally sudden in the rabble mob. All shouted, 'Vive le roi! Vive la nation!'
"Re-entering the room from the window, the King said, 'It is done. This affair will soon be terminated.'
"'And with it,' said the Queen, 'the monarchy!'
"'Better that, Madame, than running the risk, as I did some hours since, of seeing you and my children sacrificed!'
"'That, Sire, will be the consequence of our not having left Versailles. Whatever you determine, it is my duty to obey. As to myself, I am resigned to my fate.' On this she burst into a flood of tears. 'I only feel for your humiliated state, and for the safety of our children.'
"The Royal Family departed without having consulted any of the Ministers, military or civil, or the National Assembly, by whom they were followed.
"Scarcely had they arrived at Paris when the Queen recollected that she had taken with her no change of dress, either for herself or her children, and they were obliged to ask permission of the National Assembly to allow them to send for their different wardrobes.
"What a situation for an absolute King and Queen, which, but a few hours previous, they had been!
"I now took up my residence with Their Majesties at the Tuileries,—that odious Tuileries, which I can not name but with horror, where the malignant spirit of rebellion has, perhaps, dragged us to an untimely death!
"Monsieur and Madame had another residence. Bailly, the Mayor of Paris, and La Fayette became the royal jailers.
"The Princesse Elizabeth and myself could not but deeply deplore, when we saw the predictions of Dumourier so dreadfully confirmed by the result, that Her Majesty should have so slighted his timely information, and scorned his penitence. But delicacy bade us lament in silence; and, while we grieved over her present sufferings, we could not but mourn the loss of a barrier against future aggression, in the rejection of this general's proffered services.
"It will be remembered, that Dumourier in his disclosure declared that the object of this commotion was to place the Duc d'Orleans upon the throne, and that Mirabeau, who was a prime mover, was to share in the profits of the usurpation.
[But the heart of the traitor Duke failed him at the important crisis. Though he was said to have been recognised through a vulgar disguise, stimulating the assassins to the attempted murder of Her Majesty, yet, when the moment to show himself had arrived, he was nowhere to be found. The most propitious moment for the execution of the foul crime was lost, and with it the confidence of his party. Mirabeau was disgusted. So far from wishing longer to offer him the crown, he struck it forever from his head, and turned against him. He openly protested he would no longer set up traitors who were cowards.]
"Soon after this event, Her Majesty, in tears, came to tell me that the King, having had positive proof of the agency of the Duc d'Orleans in the riots of Versailles, had commenced some proceedings, which had given the Duke the alarm, and exiled him to Villers-Cotterets. The Queen added that the King's only object had been to assure the general tranquillity, and especially her own security, against whose life the conspiracy seemed most distinctly levelled.
"'Oh, Princess!' continued Her Majesty, in a flood of tears, 'the King's love for me, and his wish to restore order to his people, have been our ruin! He should have struck off the head of D'ORLEANS, or overlooked his crime! Why did he not consult me before he took a step so important? I have lost a friend also in his wife! For, however criminal he may be, she loves him.'
"I assured Her Majesty that I could not think the Duchesse d'Orleans would be so inconsiderate as to withdraw her affection on that account.
"'She certainly will,' replied Marie Antoinette. 'She is the affectionate mother of his children, and cannot but hate those who have been the cause of his exile. I know it will be laid to my charge, and added to the hatred the husband has so long borne me; I shall now become the object of the wife's resentment'
"In the midst of one of the paroxysms of Her Majesty's agonising agitation after leaving Versailles, for the past, the present, and the future state of the Royal Family, when the Princesse Elizabeth and myself were in vain endeavouring to calm her, a deputation was announced from the National Assembly and the City of Paris, requesting the honour of the appearance of the King and herself at the theatre.
"'Is it possible, my dear Princess,' cried she, on the announcement, 'that I can enjoy any public amusement while I am still chilled with horror at the blood these people have spilled, the blood of the faithful defenders of our lives? I can forgive them, but I cannot so easily forget it.'
"Count Fersen and the Austrian Ambassador now entered, both anxious to know Her Majesty's intentions with regard to visiting the theatre, in order to make a party to ensure her a good reception; but all their persuasions were unavailing. She thanked the deputation for their friendship; but at the same time told them that her mind was still too much agitated from recent scenes to receive any pleasure but in the domestic cares of her family, and that, for a time, she must decline every other amusement.
"At this moment the Spanish and English Ambassadors came to pay their respects to Her Majesty on the same subject as the others. As they entered, Count Fersen observed to the Queen, looking around:
"'Courage, Madame! We are as many nations as persons in this room—English, German, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, and French; and all equally ready to form a rampart around you against aggression. All these nations will, I believe, admit that the French (bowing to the Princesse Elizabeth) are the most volatile of the six; and Your Majesty may rely on it that they will love you, now that you are more closely among them, more tenderly than ever.'
"'Let me live to be convinced of that, monsieur, and my happiness will be concentrated in its demonstration.'
"'Indeed, gentlemen,' said the Princesse Elizabeth, the Queen has yet had but little reason to love the French.'
"'Where is our Ambassador,' said I, 'and the Neapolitan?'
"'I have had the pleasure of seeing them early this morning,' replied the Queen; 'but I told them, also, that indisposition prevented my going into public. They will be at our card-party in your apartment this evening, where I hope to see these gentlemen. The only parties,' continued Her Majesty, addressing herself to the Princesse Elizabeth and the Ambassadors, 'the only parties I shall visit in future will be those of the Princesse de Lamballe, my superintendent; as, in so doing, I shall have no occasion to go out of the palace, which, from what has happened, seems to me the only prudent course.'
"'Come, come, Madame,' exclaimed the Ambassadors; I do not give way to gloomy ideas. All will yet be well.'
"'I hope so,' answered Her Majesty; 'but till that hope is realized, the wounds I have suffered will make existence a burden to me!'
"The Duchesse de Luynes, like many others, had been a zealous partisan of the new order of things, and had expressed herself with great indiscretion in the presence of the Queen. But the Duchess was brought to her senses when she saw herself, and all the mad, democratical nobility, under the overpowering weight of Jacobinism, deprived of every privileged prerogative and levelled and stripped of hereditary distinction.
"She came to me one day, weeping, to beg I would make use of my good offices in her favour with the Queen, whom she was grieved that she had so grossly offended by an unguarded speech.
"'On my knees,' continued the Duchess, I am I ready to supplicate the pardon of Her Majesty. I cannot live without her forgiveness. One of my servants has opened my eyes, by telling me that the Revolution can make a Duchess a beggar, but cannot make a beggar a Duchess.'
"'Unfortunately,' said I, 'if some of these faithful servants had been listened to, they would still be such, and not now our masters; but I can assure you, Duchess, that the Queen has long since forgiven you. See! Her Majesty comes to tell you so herself.'
"The Duchess fell upon her knees. The Queen, with her usual goodness of heart, clasped her in her arms, and, with tears in her eyes, said:
"'We have all of us need of forgiveness. Our errors and misfortunes are general. Think no more of the past; but let us unite in not sinning for the future:
"'Heaven knows how many sins I have to atone for,' replied the Duchess, 'from the follies of youth; but now, at an age of discretion and in adversity, oh, how bitterly do I reproach myself for my past levities! But,' continued she, 'has Your Majesty really forgiven me?'
"'As I hope to be forgiven!' exclaimed Marie Antoinette. 'No penitent in the sight of God is more acceptable than the one who makes a voluntary sacrifice by confessing error. Forget and forgive is the language of our Blessed Redeemer. I have adopted it in regard to my enemies, and surely my friends have a right to claim it. Come, Duchess, I will conduct you to the King and Elizabeth, who will rejoice in the recovery of one of our lost sheep; for we sorely feel the diminution of the flock that once surrounded us!'
"At this token of kindness, the Duchess was so much overcome that she fell at the Queen's feet motionless, and it was some time before she recovered.
"From the moment of Her Majesty's arrival at Paris from Versailles, she solely occupied herself with the education of her children,-excepting when she resorted to my parties, the only ones, as she had at first determined, which she ever honoured with her attendance. In order to discover, as far as possible, the sentiments of certain persons, I gave almost general invitations, whereby, from her amiable manners and gracious condescension, she became very popular. By these means I hoped to replace Her Majesty in the good estimation of her numerous visitors; but, notwithstanding every exertion, she could not succeed in dispelling the gloom with which the Revolution had overcast all her former gaiety. Though treated with ceremonious respect, she missed the cordiality to which she had been so long accustomed, and which she so much prized. From the great emigration of the higher classes of the nobility, the societies themselves were no longer what they had been. Madame Necker and Madame de Stael were pretty regular visitors. But the most agreeable company had lost its zest for Marie Antoinette; and she was really become afraid of large assemblies, and scarcely ever saw a group of persons collected together without fearing some plot against the King.
"Indeed, it is a peculiarity which has from the first marked, and still continues to distinguish, the whole conduct and distrust of my royal mistress, that it never operates to create any fears for herself, but invariably refers to the safety of His Majesty.
"I had enlarged my circle and made my parties extensive, solely to relieve the oppressed spirits of the Queen; but the very circumstance which induced me to make them so general soon rendered them intolerable to her; for the conversations at last became solely confined to the topics of the Revolution, a subject frequently the more distressing from the presence of the sons of the Duc d'Orleans. Though I loved my sister-in-law and my nephews, I could not see them without fear, nor could my royal mistress be at ease with them, or in the midst of such distressing indications as perpetually intruded upon her, even beneath my roof, of the spirit which animated the great body of the people for the propagation of anti-monarchical principles.
"My parties were, consequently, broken up; and the Queen ceased to be seen in society. Then commenced the unconquerable power over her of those forebodings which have clung to her with such pertinacity ever since.
"I observed that Her Majesty would often indulge in the most melancholy predictions long before the fatal discussion took place in the Assembly respecting the King's abdication. The daily insolence with which she saw His Majesty's authority deprived forever of the power of accomplishing what he had most at heart for the good of his people gave her more anguish than the outrages so frequently heaped upon herself; but her misery was wrought up to a pitch altogether unutterable, whenever she saw those around her suffer for their attachment to her in her misfortunes.
"The Princesse Elizabeth has been from the beginning an unwavering comforter. She still flatters Marie Antoinette that Heaven will spare her for better times to reward our fidelity and her own agonies. The pious consolations of Her Highness have never failed to make the most serious impression on our wretched situation. Indeed, each of us strives to pour the balm of comfort into the wounded hearts of the others, while not one of us, in reality, dares to flatter herself with what we all so ardently wish for in regard to our fellow-sufferers. Delusions, even sustained by facts, have long since been exhausted. Our only hope on this side of the grave is in our all-merciful Redeemer!"
The reader will not, I trust, be dissatisfied at reposing for a moment from the sad story of the Princesse de Lamballe to hear some ridiculous circumstances which occurred to me individually; and which, though they form no part of the history, are sufficiently illustrative of the temper of the times.
I had been sent to England to put some letters into the postoffice for the Prince de Conde, and had just returned. The fashion then in England was a black dress, Spanish hat, and yellow satin lining, with three ostrich feathers forming the Prince of Wales's crest, and bearing his inscription, 'Ich dien,' ("I serve.") I also brought with me a white satin cloak, trimmed with white fur. This crest and motto date as far back, I believe, as the time of Edward, the Black Prince.
In this dress, I went to the French opera. Scarcely was I seated in the bog, when I heard shouts of, "En bas les couleurs de d'empereur! En bas!"
I was very busy talking to a person in the box, and, having been accustomed to hear and see partial riots in the pit, I paid no attention; never dreaming that my poor hat and feathers, and cloak, were the cause of the commotion, till an officer in the national guard very politely knocked at the door of the box, and told me I must either take them off or leave the theatre.
There is nothing I more dislike than the being thought particular, or disposed to attract attention by dress. The moment, therefore, I found myself thus unintentionally the object of a whole theatre's disturbance, in the first impulse of indignation, I impetuously caught off the cloak and hat, and flung them into the pit, at the very faces of the rioters.
The theatre instantly rang with applause. The obnoxious articles were carefully folded up and taken to the officer of the guard, who, when I left the box, at the end of the opera, brought them to me and offered to assist me in putting them on; but I refused them with true cavalier-like loftiness, and entered my carriage without either hat or cloak.
There were many of the audience collected round the carriage at the time, who, witnessing my rejection of the insulted colours, again loudly cheered me; but insisted on the officer's placing the hat and cloak in the carriage, which drove off amidst the most violent acclamations.
Another day, as I was going to walk in the Tuileries (which I generally did after riding on horseback), the guards crossed their bayonets at the gate and forbade my entering. I asked them why. They told me no one was allowed to walk there without the national ribbon.
Now, I always had one of these national ribbons about me, from the time they were first worn; but I kept it in the inside of my riding-habit; and on that day, in particular, my supply was unusually ample, for I had on a new riding-habit, the petticoat of which was so very long and heavy that I bought a large quantity to tie round my waist, and fasten up the dress, to prevent it from falling about my feet.
However, I was determined to plague the guards for their impudence. My English beau, who was as pale as death, and knew I had the ribbon, kept pinching my arm, and whispering, "Show it, show it; zounds, madame, show it! We shall be sent to prison! show it! show it!" But I took care to keep my interrupters in parley till a sufficient mob was collected, and then I produced my colours.
The soldiers were consequently most gloriously hissed, and would have been maltreated by the mob, and sent to the guard-house by their officer, but for my intercession; on which I was again applauded all through the gardens as La Brave Anglaise. But my, beau declared he would never go out with me again: unless I wore the ribbon on the outside of my hat, which I never did and never would do.
At that time the Queen used to occupy herself much in fancy needle-works. Knowing, from arrangements, that I was every day in a certain part of the Tuileries, Her Majesty, when she heard the shout of La Brave Anglaise! immediately called the Princesse de Lamballe to know if she had sent me on any message. Being answered in the negative, one of the pages was despatched to ascertain the meaning of the cry. The Royal Family lived in so continual a state of alarm that it was apprehended I had got into some scrape; but I had left the Tuileries before the messenger arrived, and was already with the Princesse de Lamballe, relating the circumstances. The Princess told Her Majesty, who graciously observed, "I am very happy that she got off so well; but caution her to be more prudent for the future. A cause, however bad, is rather aided than weakened by unreasonable displays of contempt for it. These unnecessary excitements of the popular jealousy do us no good."
I was, of course, severely reprimanded by the Princess for my frolic, though she enjoyed it of all things, and afterwards laughed most heartily.
The Princess told me, a few days after these circumstances of the national ribbon and the Austrian colours had taken place at the theatre, that some one belonging to the private correspondence at the palace had been at the French opera on the night the disturbance took place there, and, without knowing the person to whom it related, had told the whole story to the King.
The Queen and the Princesses Elizabeth and de Lamballe being present, laughed very heartily. The two latter knew it already from myself, the fountain head, but the Princesse Elizabeth said:
"Poor lady! what a fright she must have been in, to have had her things taken away from her at the theatre"
"No fright at all," said the King; "for a young woman who could act thus firmly under such an insolent outrage will always triumph over cowards, unmanly enough to abuse their advantages by insulting her. She was not a Frenchwoman, I'll answer for it."
"Oh, no, Sire. She is an Englishwoman," said the Princesse de Lamballe.
"I am glad of it," exclaimed the King; "for when she returns to England this will be a good personal specimen for the information of some of her countrymen, who have rejoiced at what they call the regeneration of the French nation; a nation once considered the most polished in Europe, but now become the most uncivil, and I wish I may never have occasion to add, the most barbarous! An insult offered, wantonly, to either sex, at any time, is the result of insubordination; but when offered to a woman, it is a direct violation of civilised hospitality, and an abuse of power which never before tarnished that government now so much the topic of abuse by the enemies of order and legitimate authority. The French Princes, it is true, have been absolute; still I never governed despotically, but always by the advice of my counsellors and Cabinet Ministers. If they have erred, my conscience is void of reproach. I wish the National Assembly may govern for the future with equal prudence, equity, and justice; but they have given a poor earnest in pulling down one fabric before they have laid the solid foundation of another. I am very happy that their agents, who, though they call themselves the guardians of public order have hitherto destroyed its course, have, in the courage of this English lady, met with some resistance to their insolence, in foolishly occupying themselves with petty matters, while those of vital import are totally neglected."
It is almost superfluous to mention that, at the epoch of which I am speaking in the Revolution, the Royal Family were in so much distrust of every one about them, and very necessarily and justly so, that none were ever confided in for affairs, however trifling, without first having their fidelity repeatedly put to the test. I was myself under this probation long before I knew that such had ever been imposed.
With the private correspondence I had already been for some time entrusted; and it was only previous to employing me on secret missions of any consequence that I was subject to the severer scrutiny. Even before I was sent abroad, great art was necessary to elude the vigilance of prying eyes in the royal circle; and, in order to render my activity available to important purposes, my connection with the Court was long kept secret. Many stratagems were devised to mislead the Arguses of the police. To this end, after the disorders of the Revolution began, I never entered the palaces but on an understood signal, for which I have been often obliged to attend many hours in the gardens of Versailles, as I had subsequently done in that of the Tuileries.
To pass the time unnoticed, I used generally to take a book, and seat myself, occupied in reading, sometimes in one spot, sometimes in another; but with my man and maid servant always within call, though never where they could be seen.
On one of these occasions, a person, though not totally masked yet sufficiently disguised to prevent my recognising his features, came behind my seat, and said he wished to speak to me. I turned round and asked his business.
"That's coming to the point!" he answered. "Walk a little way with me, and I will tell you."
Not to excite suspicion, I walked into a more retired part of the garden, after a secret signal to my man servant, who followed me unperceived by the stranger.
"I am commissioned," said my mysterious companion, "to make you a very handsome present, if you will tell me what you are waiting for."
I laughed, and was turning from him, saying, "Is this all your business?"
"No," he replied.
"Then keep it to yourself. I am not waiting here for any one or anything; but am merely occupied in reading and killing time to the best advantage."
"Are you a poetess?"
"And scarcely a woman; for your answers are very short."
"But I have something of importance to communicate——-"
"That is impossible."
"But listen to me——-"
"You are mistaken in your person."
"But surely you will not be so unreasonable as not to hear what I have to say?"
"I am a stranger in this country, and can have nothing of importance with one I do not know."
"You have quarrelled with your lover and are in an ill-humour.
"Perhaps so. Well! come! I believe you have guessed the cause."
"Ah! it is the fate of us all to get into scrapes! But you will soon make it up; and now let me entreat your attention to what I have to offer."
I became impatient, and called my servant.
"Madame," resumed the stranger, "I am a gentleman, and mean no harm. But I assure you, you stand in your own light. I know more about you than you think I do."
"Yes, madame, you are waiting here for an august personage."
At this last sentence, my lips laughed, while my heart trembled.
"I wish to caution you," continued he, "how you embark in plans of this sort."