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
Editor in continuation:
I am again, for this and the following chapter, compelled to resume the pen in my own person, and quit the more agreeable office of a transcriber for my illustrious patroness.
I have already mentioned that the Princesse de Lamballe, on first returning from England to France, anticipated great advantages from the recall of the emigrants. The desertion of France by so many of the powerful could not but be a deathblow to the prosperity of the monarchy. There was no reason for these flights at the time they began. The fugitives only set fire to the four quarters of the globe against their country. It was natural enough that the servants whom they had left behind to keep their places should take advantage of their masters' pusillanimity, and make laws to exclude those who had, uncalled for, resigned the sway into bolder and more active hands.
I do not mean to impeach the living for the dead; but, when we see those bearing the lofty titles of Kings and Princesses, escaping with their wives and families, from an only brother and sister with helpless infant children, at the hour of danger, we cannot help wishing for a little plebeian disinterestedness in exalted minds.
I have travelled Europe twice, and I have never seen any woman with that indescribable charm of person, manner, and character, which distinguished Marie Antoinette. This is in itself a distinction quite sufficient to detach friends from its possessor through envy. Besides, she was Queen of France, the woman of highest rank in a most capricious, restless and libertine nation. The two Princesses placed nearest to her, and who were the first to desert her, though both very much inferior in personal and mental qualifications, no doubt, though not directly, may have entertained some anticipations of her place. Such feelings are not likely to decrease the distaste, which results from comparisons to our own disadvantage. It is, therefore, scarcely to be wondered at, that those nearest to the throne should be least attached to those who fill it. How little do such persons think that the grave they are thus insensibly digging may prove their own! In this case it only did not by a miracle. What the effect of the royal brothers' and the nobility's remaining in France would have been we can only conjecture. That their departure caused, great and irreparable evils we know; and we have good reason to think they caused the greatest. Those who abandon their houses on fire, silently give up their claims to the devouring element. Thus the first emigration kindled the French flame, which, though for a while it was got under by a foreign stream, was never completely, extinguished till subdued by its native current.
The unfortunate Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette ceased to be Sovereigns from the period they were ignominiously dragged to their jail at the Tuileries. From this moment they were abandoned to the vengeance of miscreants, who were disgracing the nation with unprovoked and useless murders. But from this moment also the zeal of the Princesses Elizabeth and de Lamballe became redoubled. Out of one hundred individuals and more, male and female, who had been exclusively occupied about the person of Marie Antoinette, few, excepting this illustrious pair, and the inestimable Clery, remained devoted to the last. The saint-like virtues of these Princesses, malice itself has not been able to tarnish. Their love and unalterable friendship became the shield of their unfortunate Sovereigns, and their much injured relatives, till the dart struck their own faithful bosoms. Princes of the earth! here is a lesson of greatness from the great.
Scarcely had the Princesse de Lamballe been reinstated in the Pavilion of Flora at the Tuileries, when, by the special royal command, and in Her Majesty's presence, she wrote to most of the nobility, entreating their return to France. She urged them, by every argument, that there was no other means of saving them and their country from the horrors impending over them and France, should they persevere in their pernicious absence. In some of these letters, which I copied, there was written on the margin, in the Queen's hand, "I am at her elbow, and repeat the necessity of your returning, if you love your King, your religion, your Government, and your country. Marie Antoinette. Return! Return! Return!"
Among these letters, I remember a large envelope directed to the Duchesse de Brisac, then residing alternately at the baths of Albano and the mineral waters at Valdagno, near Vicenza, in the Venetian States. Her Grace was charged to deliver letters addressed to Her Majesty's royal brothers, the Comte de Provence, and the Comte d'Artois, who were then residing, I think, at Stra, on the Brenta, in company with Madame de Polcatre, Diane de Polignac, and others.
A few days after, I took another envelope, addressed to the Count Dufour, who was at Turin. It contained letters for M. and Madame de Polignac, M. and Madame de Guiche Grammont, the King's aunts at Rome, and the two Princesses of Piedmont, wives of His Majesty's brothers.
If, therefore, a judgment can be formed from the impressions of the Royal Family, who certainly must have had ample information with respect to the spirit which predominated at Paris at that period, could the nobility have been prevailed on to have obeyed the mandates of the Queen and prayers and invocations of the Princess, there can be no doubt that much bloodshed would have been spared, and the page of history never have been sullied by the atrocious names which now stand there as beacons of human infamy.
The storms were now so fearfully increasing that the King and Queen, the Duc de Penthievre, the Count Fersen, the Princesse Elizabeth, the Duchesse d'Orleans, and all the friends of the Princesse de Lamballe, once more united in anxious wishes for her to quit France. Even the Pope himself endeavoured to prevail upon Her Highness to join the royal aunts at Rome. To all these applications she replied, "I have nothing to reproach myself with. If my inviolable duty and unalterable attachment to my Sovereigns, who are my relations and my friends; if love for my dear father and for my adopted country are crimes, in the face of God and the world I confess my guilt, and shall die happy if in such a cause!"
The Duc de Penthievre, who loved her as well as his own child, the Duchesse d'Orleans, was too good a man, and too conscientious a Prince, not to applaud the disinterested firmness of his beloved daughter-in-law; yet, foreseeing and dreading the fatal consequence which must result from so much virtue at a time when vice alone predominated, unknown to the Princesse de Lamballe, he interested the Court of France to write to the Court of Sardinia to entreat that the King, as head of her family, would use his good offices in persuading the Princess to leave the scenes of commotion, in which she was so much exposed, and return to her native country. The King of Sardinia, her family, and her particular friend, the Princess of Piedmont, supplicated ineffectually. The answer of Her Highness to the King, at Turin, was as follows:
"SIRE, AND MOST AUGUST COUSIN,—
"I do not recollect that any of our illustrious ancestors of the house of Savoy, before or since the great hero Charles Emmanuel, of immortal memory, ever dishonoured or tarnished their illustrious names with cowardice. In leaving the Court of France at this awful crisis, I should be the first. Can Your Majesty pardon my presumption in differing from your royal counsel? The King, Queen, and every member of the Royal Family of France, both from the ties of blood and policy of States, demand our united efforts in their defence. I cannot swerve from my determination of never quitting them, especially at a moment when they are abandoned by every one of their former attendants, except myself. In happier days Your Majesty may command my obedience; but, in the present instance, and given up as is the Court of France to their most atrocious persecutors, I must humbly insist on being guided by my own decision. During the most brilliant period of the reign of Marie Antoinette, I was distinguished by the royal favour and bounty. To abandon her in adversity, Sire, would stain my character, and that of my illustrious family, for ages to come, with infamy and cowardice, much more to be dreaded than the most cruel death."
Similar answers were returned to all those of her numerous friends and relatives, who were so eager to shelter her from the dangers threatening Her Highness and the Royal Family.
Her Highness was persuaded, however, to return once more to England, under the pretext of completing the mission she had so successfully began; but it is very clear that neither the King or Queen had any serious idea of her succeeding, and that their only object was to get her away from the theatre of disaster. Circumstances had so completely changed for the worst, that, though Her Highness was received with great kindness, her mission was no longer listened to. The policy of England shrunk from encouraging twenty thousand French troops to be sent in a body to the West Indies, and France was left to its fate. A conversation with Mr. Burke, in which the disinclination of England to interfere was distinctly owned, created that deep-rooted grief and apprehension in the mind of the Queen from which Her Majesty never recovered. The Princesse de Lamballe was the only one in her confidence. It is well known that the King of England greatly respected the personal virtues of Their French Majesties; but upon the point of business, both King and Ministers were now become ambiguous and evasive. Her Highness, therefore, resolved to return. It had already been whispered that she had left France, only to save herself, like the rest; and she would no longer remain under so slanderous an imputation. She felt, too, the necessity of her friendship to her royal mistress. Though the Queen of England, by whom Her Highness was very much esteemed, and many other persons of the first consequence in the British nation, foreseeing the inevitable fate of the Royal Family, and of all their faithful adherents, anxiously entreated her not to quit England, yet she became insensible to every consideration as to her own situation and only felt the isolated one of her august Sovereign, her friend, and benefactress.
Editor in continuation:
Events seemed molded expressly to produce the state of feeling which marked that disastrous day, the 20th of June, 1792. It frequently happens that nations, like individuals, rush wildly upon the very dangers they apprehend, and select such courses as invite what they are most solicitous to avoid. So it was with everything preceding this dreadful day. By a series of singular occurrences I did not witness its horrors, though in some degree their victim. Not to detain my readers unnecessarily, I will proceed directly to the accident which withdrew me from the scene.
The apartment of the Princesse de Lamballe, in the Pavilion of Flora, looked from one side upon the Pont Royal. On the day of which I speak, a considerable quantity of combustibles had been thrown from the bridge into one of her rooms. The Princess, in great alarm, sent instantly for me. She desired to have my English man servant, if he were not afraid, secreted in her room, while she herself withdrew to another part of the palace, till the extent of the intended mischief could be ascertained. I assured Her Highness that I was not only ready to answer for my servant, but would myself remain with him, as he always went armed, and I was so certain of his courage and fidelity that I could not hesitate even to trust my life in his hands.
"For God's sake, 'mia cara'," exclaimed the Princess, "do not risk your own safety, if you have any value for my friendship. I desire you not to go near the Pavilion of Flora. Your servant's going is quite sufficient. Never again let me hear such a proposition. What! after having hitherto conducted yourself so punctually, would you, by one rash act, devote yourself to ruin, and deprive us of your valuable services?"
I begged Her Highness would pardon the ardour of the dutiful zeal I felt for her in the moment of danger.
"Yes, yes," continued she; "that is all very well; but this is not the first time I have been alarmed at your too great intrepidity; and if ever I hear of your again attempting to commit yourself so wantonly, I will have you sent to Turin immediately, there to remain till you have recovered your senses. I always thought English heads cool; but I suppose your residence in France has changed the national character of yours."
Once more, with tears in my eyes, I begged her forgiveness, and, on my knees, implored that she would not send me away in the hour of danger. After having so long enjoyed the honour of her confidence, I trusted she would overlook my fault, particularly as it was the pure emanation of my resentment at any conspiracy against one I so dearly loved; and to whom I had been under so many obligations, that the very idea of being deprived of such a benefactress drove me frantic.
Her Highness burst into tears. "I know your heart," exclaimed she; "but I also know too well our situation, and it is that which makes me tremble for the consequences which must follow your overstepping the bounds so necessary to be observed by all of us at this horrid period." And then she called me again her cars 'Inglesina', and graciously condescended to embrace me, and bathed my face with her tears, in token of her forgiveness, and bade me sit down and compose myself, and weep no more.
Scarcely was I seated, when we were both startled by deafening shouts for the head of Madame Veto, the name they gave the poor unfortunate Queen. An immense crowd of cannibals and hired ruffians were already in the Tuileries, brandishing all sorts of murderous weapons, and howling for blood! My recollections from this moment are very indistinct. I know that in an instant the apartment was filled; that the Queen, the Princesse Elizabeth, all the attendants, even the King, I believe, appeared there. I myself received a wound upon my hand in warding a blow from my face; and in the turmoil of the scene, and of the blow, I fainted, and was conveyed by some humane person to a place of safety, in the upper part of the palace.
Thus deprived of my senses for several hours, I was spared the agony of witnessing the scenes of horror that succeeded. For two or three days I remained in a state of so much exhaustion and alarm, that when the Princess came to me I did not know her, nor even where I was.
As soon as I was sufficiently recovered, places were taken for me and another person in one of the common diligences, by which I was conveyed to Passy, where the Princess came to me in the greatest confusion.
My companion in the palace was the widow of one of the Swiss guards, who had been murdered on the 6th of October, in defending the Queen's apartment at Versailles. The poor woman had been herself protected by Her Majesty, and accompanied me by the express order of the Princesse de Lamballe. What the Princess said to her on departing, I know not, for I only caught the words "general insurrection," on hearing which the afflicted woman fell into a fit. To me, Her Highness merely exclaimed, "Do not come to Paris till you hear from me;" and immediately set off to return to the Tuileries.
However, as usual, my courage soon got the better of my strength, and of every consideration of personal safety. On the third day, I proposed to the person who took care of me that we should both walk out together, and, if there appeared no symptoms of immediate danger, it was agreed that we might as well get into one of the common conveyances, and proceed forthwith to Paris; for I could no longer repress my anxiety to learn what was going on there, and the good creature who was with me was no less impatient.
When we got into a diligence, I felt the dread of another severe lecture like the last, and thought it best not to incur fresh blame by new imprudence. I therefore told the driver to set us down on the high road near Paris leading to the Bois de Boulogne. But before we got so far, the woods resounded with the howling of mobs, and we heard, "Vive le roi" vociferated, mingled with "Down with the King,"—"Down with the Queen;" and, what was still more horrible, the two parties were in actual bloody strife, and the ground was strewn with the bodies of dead men, lying like slaughtered sheep.
It was fortunate that we were the only persons in the vehicle. The driver, observing our extreme agitation, turned round to us. "Nay, nay," cried he; "do not alarm yourselves. It is only the constitutionalists and the Jacobins fighting against each other. I wish the devil had them both."
It was evident, however, that, though the man was desirous of quieting our apprehensions, he was considerably disturbed by his own; for though he acknowledged he had a wife and children in Paris, who he hoped were safe, still he dared not venture to proceed, but said, if we wished to be driven back, he would take us to any place we liked, out of Paris.
Our anxiety to know what was going forward at the Tuileries was now become intolerable; and the more so, from the necessity we felt of restraining our feelings. At last, however, we were in some degree relieved from this agony of reserve.
"God knows," exclaimed the driver, "what will be the consequence of all this bloodshed! The poor King and Queen are greatly to be pitied!"
This ejaculation restored our courage, and we said he might drive us wherever he chose out of the sight of those horrors; and it was at length settled that he should take us to Passy. "Oh," cried he, "if you will allow me, I will take you to my father's house there; for you seem more dead than alive, both of you, and ought to go where you can rest in quiet and safety."
My companion, who was a German, now addressed me in that language.
"German!" exclaimed the driver on hearing her. "German! Why, I am a German myself, and served the good King, who is much to be pitied, for many years; and when I was wounded, the Queen, God bless her! set me up in the world, as I was made an invalid; and I have ever since been enabled to support my family respectably. D—— the Assembly! I shall never be a farthing the better for them!"
"Oh," replied I, "then I suppose you are not a Jacobin?"
The driver, with a torrent of curses, then began execrating the very name of Jacobin. This emboldened me to ask him when he had left Paris. He replied, "Only this very morning," and added that the Assembly had shut the gates of the Tuileries under the pretence of preventing the King and Queen from being assassinated. "But that is all a confounded lie," continued he, "invented to keep out the friends of the Royal Family. But, God knows, they are now so fallen, they have few such left to be turned away!"
"I am more enraged," pursued he, "at the ingratitude of the nobility than I am at these hordes of bloodthirsty plunderers, for we all know that the nobility owe everything to the King. Why do they not rise en masse to shield the Royal Family from these bloodhounds? Can they imagine they will be spared if the King should be murdered? I have no patience with them!"
I then asked him our fare. "Two livres is the fare, but you shall not pay anything. I see plainly, ladies, that you are not what you assume to be."
"My good man," replied I, "we are not; and therefore take this louis d'or for your trouble."
He caught my hand and pressed it to his lips, exclaiming, "I never in my life knew a man who was faithful to his King, that God did not provide for."
He then took us to Passy, but advised us not to remain at the place where we had been staying; and fortunate enough it was for us that we did not, for the house was set on fire and plundered by a rebel mob very soon after.
I told the driver how much I was obliged to him for his services, and he seemed delighted when I promised to give him proofs of my confidence in his fidelity.
"If," said I, "you can find out my servant whom I left in Paris, I will give you another louis d'or." I was afraid, at first, to mention where he was to look for him.
"If he be not dead," replied the driver, "I will find him out."
"What!" cried I, "even though he should be at the Tuileries?"
"Why, madame, I am one of the national guard. I have only to put on my uniform to be enabled to go to any part of the palace I please. Tell me his name, and where you think it likely he may be found, and depend upon it I will bring him to you."
"Perhaps," continued he, "it is your husband disguised as a servant; but no matter. Give me a clue, and I'll warrant you he shall tell you the rest himself by this time to-morrow."
"Well, then," replied I, "he is in the Pavilion of Flora."
"What, with the Princesse de Lamballe? Oh, I would go through fire and water for that good Princess! She has done me the honour to stand godmother to one of my children, and allows her a pension."
I took him at his word. We changed our quarters to his father's house, a very neat little cottage, about a quarter of a mile from the town. He afterwards rendered me many services in going to and fro from Passy to Paris; and, as he promised, brought me my servant.
When the poor fellow arrived, his arm was in a sling. He had been wounded by a musket shot, received in defence of the Princess. The history of his disaster was this:
On the night of the riot, as he was going from the Pont Royal to the apartment of Her Highness, he detected a group of villains under her windows. Six of them were attempting to enter by a ladder. He fired, and two fell. While he was reloading, the others shot at him. Had he not, in the flurry of the moment, fired both his pistols at the same time, he thinks he should not have been wounded, but might have punished the assailant. One of the men, he said, could have been easily taken by the national guard, who so glaringly encouraged the escape that he could almost swear the guard was a party concerned. The loss of blood had so exhausted him that he could not pursue the offender himself, whom otherwise he could have taken without any difficulty.
As the employing of my servant had only been proposed, and the sudden interruption of my conversation with Her Highness by the riot had prevented my ever communicating the project to him, I wondered how he got into the business, or ascertained so soon that the apartment of the Princess was in danger. He explained that he never had heard of its being so; but my own coachman having left me at the palace that day, and not hearing of me for some time, had driven home, and, fearing that my not returning arose from something which had happened, advised him to go to the Pont Royal and hear what he could learn, as there was a report of many persons having been murdered and thrown over the bridge.
My man took the advice, and armed himself to be ready in case of attack. It was between one and two o'clock after midnight when he went. The first objects he perceived were these miscreants attempting to scale the palace.
He told me that the Queen had been most grossly insulted; that the gates of the Tuileries had been shut in consequence; that a small part alone remained open to the public, who were kept at their distance by a national ribbon, which none could pass without being instantly arrested. This had prevented his apprising the Princess of the attempt which he had accidentally defeated, and which he wished me to communicate to her immediately. I did so by letter, which my good driver carried to Paris, and delivered safe into the hands of our benefactress.
The surprise of the Princess on hearing from me, and her pleasure at my good fortune in finding by accident such means, baffles all description. Though she was at the time overwhelmed with the imminent dangers which threatened her, yet she still found leisure to show her kindness to those who were doing their best, though in vain, to serve her. The following letter, which she sent me in reply, written amidst all the uneasiness it describes, will speak for her more eloquently than my praises:
"I can understand your anxiety. It was well for you that you were unconscious of the dreadful scenes which were passing around you on that horrid day. The Princesse de Tarente, Madame de Tourzel, Madame de Mockau, and all the other ladies of the household owed the safety of their lives to one of the national guards having given his national cockade to the Queen. Her Majesty placed it on her head, unperceived by the mob. One of the gentlemen of the King's wardrobe provided the King and the Princesse Elizabeth with the same impenetrable shield. Though the cannibals came for murder, I could not but admire the enthusiastic deference that was shown to this symbol of authority, which instantly paralyzed, the daggers uplifted for our extermination.
"Merlin de Thionville was the stoic head of this party. The Princesse Elizabeth having pointed him out to me, I ventured to address him respecting the dangerous situation to which the Royal Family were daily exposed. I flattered him upon his influence over the majority of the faubourgs, to which only we could look for the extinction of these disorders. He replied that the despotism of the Court had set a bad example to the people; that he felt for the situation of the royal party as individuals, but he felt much more for the safety of the French nation, who were in still greater danger than Their Majesties had to dread, from the Austrian faction, by which a foreign army had been encouraged to invade the territory of France, where they were now waiting the opportunity of annihilating French liberty forever!
"To this Her Majesty replied, 'When the deputies of the Assembly have permitted, nay, I may say, encouraged this open violation of the King's asylum, and, by their indifference to the safety of all those who surround us, have sanctioned the daily insults to which we have been, and still are, exposed, it is not to be wondered, at that all Sovereigns should consider it their interest to make common cause with us, to crush internal commotions, levelled, not only against the throne, and the persons of the Sovereign and his family, but against the very principle of monarchy itself.'
"Here the King, though much intimidated for the situation of the Queen and his family, for whose heads the wretches were at that very moment howling in their ears, took up the conversation.
"'These cruel facts,' said he, 'and the menacing situation you even now witness, fully justify our not rejecting foreign aid, though God knows how deeply I deplore the necessity of such a cruel resource! But, when all internal measures of conciliation have been trodden under foot, and the authorities, who ought to check it and protect us from these cruel outrages, are only occupied in daily fomenting the discord between us and our subjects; though a forlorn hope, what other hope is there of safety? I foresee the drift of all these commotions, and am resigned; but what will become of this misguided nation, when the head of it shall be destroyed?'
"Here the King, nearly choked by his feelings, was compelled to pause for a moment, and he then proceeded.
"'I should not feel it any sacrifice to give up the guardianship of the nation, could I, in so doing, insure its future tranquillity; but I foresee that my blood, like that of one of my unhappy brother Sovereigns,—[Charles the First, of England.]—will only open the flood-gates of human misery, the torrent of which, swelled with the best blood of France, will deluge this once peaceful realm.'
"This, as well as I can recollect, is the substance of what passed at the castle on this momentous day. Our situation was extremely doubtful, and the noise and horrid riots were at times so boisterous, that frequently we could not, though so near them, distinguish a word the King and Queen said; and yet, whenever the leaders of these organized ruffians spoke or threatened, the most respectful stillness instantly prevailed.
"I weep in silence for misfortunes, which I fear are inevitable! The King, the Queen, the Princesse Elizabeth and myself, with many others under this unhappy roof, have never ventured to undress or sleep in bed, till last night. None of us any longer reside on the ground floor.
"By the very manly exertions of some of the old officers incorporated in the national army, the awful riot I have described was overpowered, and the mob, with difficulty, dispersed. Among these, I should particularize Generals de Vomenil, de Mandat, and de Roederer. Principally by their means the interior of the Tuileries was at last cleared, though partial mobs, such as you have often witnessed, still subsist.
"I am thus particular in giving you a full account of this last revolutionary commotion, that your prudence may still keep you at a distance from the vortex. Continue where you are, and tell your man servant how much I am obliged to him, and, at the same time, how much I am grieved at his being wounded! I knew nothing of the affair but from your letter and your faithful messenger. He is an old pensioner of mine, and a good honest fellow. You may depend on him. Serve yourself, through him, in communicating with me. Though he has had a limited education, he is not wanting in intellect. Remember that honesty, in matters of such vital import, is to be trusted before genius.
"My apartment appears like a barrack, like a bear garden, like anything but what it was! Numbers of valuable things have been destroyed, numbers carried off. Still, notwithstanding all the horrors of these last days, it delights me to be able to tell you that no one in the service of the Royal Family failed in duty at this dreadful crisis. I think we may firmly rely on the inviolable attachment of all around us. No jealousy, no considerations of etiquette, stood in the way of their exertions to show themselves worthy of the situations they hold. The Queen showed the greatest intrepidity during the whole of these trying scenes.
"At present, I can say no more. Petion, the Mayor of Paris, has just been announced; and, I believe, he wishes for an audience of Her Majesty, though he never made his appearance during the whole time of the riots in the palace. Adieu, mia cara Inglesina!"
The receipt of this letter, however it might have affected me to hear what Her Highness suffered, in common with the rest of the unfortunate royal inmates of the Tuileries, gave me extreme pleasure from the assurance it contained of the firmness of those nearest to the sufferers. I was also sincerely gratified in reflecting on the probity and disinterested fidelity of this worthy man, which contrasted him, so strikingly and so advantageously to himself, with many persons of birth and education, whose attachment could not stand the test of the trying scenes of the Revolution, which made them abandon and betray, where they had sworn an allegiance to which they were doubly bound by gratitude.
My man servant was attended, and taken the greatest care of. The Princess never missed a day in sending to inquire after his health; and, on his recovery, the Queen herself not only graciously condescended to see him, but, besides making him a valuable present, said many flattering and obliging things of his bravery and disinterestedness.
I should scarcely have deemed these particulars honourable as they are to the feelings of the illustrious personages from whom they proceeded—worth mentioning in a work of this kind, did they not give indications of character rarely to be met with (and, in their case, how shamefully rewarded!), from having occurred at a crisis when their minds were occupied in affairs of such deep importance, and amidst the appalling dangers which hourly threatened their own existence.
Her Majesty's correspondence with foreign Courts had been so much increased by these scenes of horror, especially her correspondence with her relations in Italy, that, ere long, I was sent for back to Paris.
Journal of the Princess resumed and concluded:
"The insurrection of the 20th of June, and the uncertain state of the safety of the Royal Family, menaced as it was by almost daily riots, induced a number of well-disposed persons to prevail on General La Fayette to leave his army and come to Paris, and there personally remonstrate against these outrages. Had he been sincere he would have backed the measure by appearing at the head of his army, then well-disposed, as Cromwell did when he turned out the rogues who were seeking the Lord through the blood of their King, and put the keys in his pocket. Violent disorders require violent remedies. With an army and a few pieces of cannon at the door of the Assembly, whose members were seeking the aid of the devil, for the accomplishment of their horrors, he might, as was done when the same scene occurred in England in 1668, by good management; have averted the deluge of blood. But, by appearing before the Assembly isolated, without 'voila mon droit,' which the King of Prussia had had engraven on his cannon, he lost the opinion of all parties.
[In this instance the general grossly committed himself, in the opinion of every impartial observer of his conduct. He should never have shown himself in the capital, but at the head of his army. France, circumstanced as it was, torn by intestine commotion, was only to be intimidated by the sight of a popular leader at the head of his forces. Usurped authority can only be quashed by the force of legitimate authority. La Fayette being the only individual in France that in reality possessed such an authority, not having availed himself at a crisis like the one in which he was called upon to act, rendered his conduct doubtful, and all his intended operations suspicious to both parties, whether his feelings were really inclined to prop up the fallen kingly authority, or his newly-acquired republican principles prompted him to become the head of the democratical party, for no one can see into the hearts of men; his popularity from that moment ceased to exist.]
"La Fayette came to the palace frequently, but the King would never see him. He was obliged to return, with the additional mortification of having been deceived in his expected support from the national guard of Paris, whose pay had been secretly trebled by the National Assembly, in order to secure them to itself. His own safety, therefore, required that he should join the troops under his command. He left many persons in whom he thought he could confide; among whom were some who came to me one day requesting I would present them to the Queen without loss of time, as a man condemned to be shot had confessed to his captain that there was a plot laid to murder Her Majesty that very night.
"I hastened to the royal apartment, without mentioning the motive; but some such catastrophe was no more than what we incessantly expected, from the almost hourly changes of the national guard, for the real purpose of giving easy access to all sorts of wretches to the very rooms of the unfortunate Queen, in order to furnish opportunities for committing the crime with impunity.
"After I had seen the Queen, the applicants were introduced, and, in my presence, a paper was handed by them to Her Majesty. At the moment she received it, I was obliged to leave her for the purpose of watching an opportunity for their departure unobserved. These precautions were necessary with regard to every person who came to us in the palace, otherwise the jealousy of the Assembly and its emissaries and the national guard of the interior might have been alarmed, and we should have been placed under express and open surveillance. The confusion created by the constant change of guard, however, stood us in good stead in this emergency. Much passing and repassing took place unheeded in the bustle.
"When the visitors had departed, and Her Majesty at one window of the palace, and I at another, had seen them safe over the Pont Royal, I returned to Her Majesty. She then graciously handed me the paper which they had presented.
"It contained an earnest supplication, signed by many thousand good citizens, that the King and Queen would sanction the plan of sending the Dauphin to the army of La Fayette. They pledged themselves, with the assistance of the royalists, to rescue the Royal Family. They, urged that if once the King could be persuaded to show himself at the head of his army, without taking any active part, but merely for his own safety and that of his family, everything might be accomplished with the greatest tranquillity.
"The Queen exclaimed, 'What! send my child! No! never while I breathe!
[Little did this unfortunate mother think that they, who thus pretended to interest themselves for this beautiful, angelic Prince only a few months before, would, when she was in her horrid prison after the butchery of her husband, have required this only comfort to be violently torn from her maternal arms!
Little, indeed, did she think, when her maternal devotedness thus repelled the very thought of his being trusted to myriads of sworn defenders, how soon he would be barbarously consigned by the infamous Assembly as the foot-stool of the inhuman savage cobbler, Simon, to be the night-boy of the excrements of the vilest of the works of human nature!]
Yet were I an independent Queen, or the regent of a minority, I feel that I should be inclined to accept the offer, to place myself at the head of the army, as my immortal mother did, who, by that step, transmitted the crown of our ancestors to its legitimate descendants. It is the monarchy itself which now requires to be asserted. Though D'ORLEANS is actively engaged in attempting the dethronement of His Majesty, I do not think the nation will submit to such a Prince, or to any other monarchical government, if the present be decidedly destroyed.
"'All these plans, my dear Princess,' continued she, 'are mere castles in the air. The mischief is too deeply rooted. As they have already frantically declared for the King's abdication, any strong measure now, incompetent as we are to assure its success, would at once arm the advocates of republicanism to proclaim the King's dethronement.
"'The cruel observations of Petion to His Majesty, on our ever memorable return from Varennes, have made a deeper impression than you are aware of. When the King observed to him, "What do the French nation want?"—"A republic," replied he. And though he has been the means of already costing us some thousands, to crush this unnatural propensity, yet I firmly believe that he himself is at the head of all the civil disorders fomented for its attainment. I am the more confirmed in this opinion from a conversation I had with the good old man, M. De Malesherbes, who assured me the great sums we were lavishing on this man were thrown away, for he would be certain, eventually, to betray us: and such an inference could only have been drawn from the lips of the traitor himself. Petion must have given Malesherbes reason to believe this. I am daily more and more convinced it will be the case. Yet, were I to show the least energy or activity in support of the King's authority, I should then be accused of undermining it. All France would be up in arms against the danger of female influence. The King would only be lessened in the general opinion of the nation, and the kingly authority still more weakened. Calm submission to His Majesty is, therefore, the only safe, course for both of us, and we must wait events.'
"While Her Majesty was thus opening her heart to me, the King and Princesse Elizabeth entered, to inform her that M. Laporte, the head of the private police, had discovered, and caused to be arrested, some of the wretches who had maliciously attempted to fire the palace of the Tuileries.
"'Set them at liberty!' exclaimed Her Majesty; 'or, to clear themselves and their party, they will accuse us of something worse.'
"'Such, too, is my opinion, Sire,' observed I; 'for however I abhor their intentions, I have here a letter from one of these miscreants which was found among the combustibles. It cautions us not to inhabit the upper part of the Pavilion. My not having paid the attention which was expected to the letter, has aroused the malice of the writer, and caused a second attempt to be made from the Pont Royal upon my own apartment; in preventing which, a worthy man has been cruelly wounded in the arm.'
"'Merciful Heaven!' exclaimed the poor Queen and the Princesse Elizabeth, I not dangerously, I hope!
"'I hope not,' added I; 'but the attempt, and its escaping unpunished, though there were guards all around, is a proof how perilous it will be, while we are so weak, to kindle their rancour by any show of impotent resentment; for I have reason to believe it was to that, the want of attention to the letter of which I speak was imputed.'
"The Queen took this opportunity, of laying before the King the above-mentioned plan. His Majesty, seeing it in the name of La Fayette, took up the paper, and, after he had attentively perused it, tore it in pieces, exclaiming, 'What! has not M. La Fayette done mischief enough yet, but must he even expose the names of so many worthy men by committing them to paper at a critical period like this, when he is fully aware that we are in immediate danger of being assailed by a banditti of inhuman cannibals, who would sacrifice every individual attached to us, if, unfortunately, such a paper should be found? I am determined to have nothing to do with his ruinous plans. Popularity and ambition made him the principal promoter of republicanism. Having failed of becoming a Washington, he is mad to become a Cromwell. I have no faith in these turncoat constitutionalists.'
"I know that the Queen heartily concurred in this sentiment concerning General La Fayette, as soon as she ascertained his real character, and discovered that he considered nothing paramount to public notoriety. To this he had sacrificed the interest of his country, and trampled under foot the throne; but finding he could not succeed in forming a Republican Government in France as he had in America, he, like many others, lost his popularity with the demagogues, and, when too late, came to offer his services, through me, to the Queen, to recruit a monarchy which his vanity had undermined to gratify, his chimerical ambition. Her Majesty certainly saw him frequently, but never again would she put herself in the way of being betrayed by one whom she considered faithless to all."
[Thus ended the proffered services of General La Fayette, who then took the command of the national army, served against that of the Prince de Conde, and the Princes of his native country, and was given up with General Bournonville, De Lameth, and others, by General Dumourier, on the first defeat of the French, to the Austrians, by whom they were sent to the fortress of Olmutz in Hungary, where they remained till after the death of the wretch Robespierre, when they were exchanged for the Duchesse d'Angouleme, now Dauphine of France.
From the retired life led by General La Fayette on his return to France, there can be but little doubt that he spent a great part of his time in reflecting on the fatal errors of his former conduct, as he did not coincide with any of the revolutionary principles which preceded the short-lived reign of imperialism. But though Napoleon too well knew him to be attached from principle to republicanism—every vestige of which he had long before destroyed—to employ him in any military capacity, still he recalled him from his hiding-place, in order to prevent his doing mischief, as he politically did—every other royalist whom he could bring under the banners of his imperialism.
Had Napoleon made use of his general knowledge of mankind in other respects, as he politically did in France over his conquered subjects, in respecting ancient habits, and gradually weaned them from their natural prejudices instead of violently forcing all men to become Frenchmen, all men would have fought for him, and not against him. These were the weapons by which his power became annihilated, and which, in the end, will be the destruction of all potentates who presume to follow his fallacious plan of forming individuals to a system instead of accommodating systems to individuals. The fruits from Southern climes have been reared in the North, but without their native virtue or vigour. It is more dangerous to attack the habits of men than their religion.
The British Constitution, though a blessing to Englishmen, is very ill-suited to nations not accustomed to the climate and its variations. Every country has peculiarities of thought and manners resulting from the physical influence of its sky and soil. Whenever we lose sight of this truth, we naturally lose the affections of those whose habits we counteract.]
Here ends the Journal of my lamented benefactress. I have continued the history to the close of her career, and that of the Royal Family, especially as Her Highness herself acted so important a part in many of the scenes, which are so strongly illustrated by her conversation and letters. It is only necessary to add that the papers which I have arranged were received from Her Highness amidst the disasters which were now thickening around her and her royal friends.
From the time I left Passy till my final departure from Paris for Italy, which took place on the 2nd of August, 1792, my residence was almost exclusively at the capital. The faithful driver, who had given such proofs of probity, continued to be of great service, and was put in perpetual requisition. I was daily about on the business of the Queen and the Princess, always disguised, and most frequently as a drummerboy; on which occasions the driver and my man servant were my companions. My principal occupation was to hear and take down the debates of the Assembly, and convey and receive letters from the Queen to the Princesse de Lamballe, to and from Barnave, Bertrand de Moleville, Alexandre de Lameth, Deport de Fertre, Duportail, Montmorin, Turbo, De Mandat, the Duc de Brissac, etc., with whom my illustrious patronesses kept up a continued correspondence, to which I believe all of them fell a sacrifice; for, owing to the imprudence of the King in not removing their communications when he removed the rest of his papers from the Tuileries, the exposure of their connections with the Court was necessarily consequent upon the plunder of the palace on the 10th of August, 1792.
In my masquerade visits to the Assembly, I got acquainted with an editor of one of the papers; I think he told me his name was Duplessie. Being pleased with the liveliness of my remarks on some of the organized disorders, as I termed them, and with some comments I made upon the meanness of certain disgusting speeches on the patriotic gifts, my new acquaintance suffered me to take copies of his own shorthand remarks and reports. By this means the Queen and the Princess had them before they appeared in print. M. Duplessie was on other occasions of great service to me, especially as a protector in the mobs, for my man servant and the honest driver were so much occupied in watching the movements of the various faubourg factions, that I was often left entirely unattended.
The horrors of the Tuileries, both by night and day, were now grown appallingly beyond description. Almost unendurable as they had been before, they were aggravated by the insults of the national guard to every passenger to and from the palace. I was myself in so much peril, that the Princess thought it necessary to procure a trusty person, of tried courage, to see me through the throngs, with a large bandbox of all sorts of fashionable millinery, as the mode of ingress and egress least liable to excite suspicion.
Thus equipped, and guarded by my cicisbeo, I one day found myself, on entering the Tuileries, in the midst of an immense mob of regular trained rioters, who, seeing me go towards the palace, directed their attention entirely to me. They took me for some one belonging to the Queen's milliner, Madame Bertin, who, they said, was fattening upon the public misery, through the Queen's extravagance. The poor Queen herself they called by names so opprobious that decency will not suffer me to repeat them.
With a volley of oaths, pressing upon us, they bore us to another part of the garden, for the purpose of compelling us to behold six or eight of the most infamous outcasts, amusing themselves, in a state of exposure, with their accursed hands and arms tinged with blood up to the elbows. The spot they had chosen for this exhibition of their filthy persons was immediately before the windows of the apartments of the Queen and the ladies of the Court. Here they paraded up and down, to the great entertainment of a throng of savage rebels, by whom they were applauded and encouraged with shouts of "Bis! bis!" signifying in English," Again! again!"
The demoniac interest excited by this scene withdrew the attention of those who were enjoying it from me, and gave me the opportunity of escaping unperceived, merely with the loss of my bandbox. Of that the infuriated mob made themselves masters; and the hats, caps, bonnets, and other articles of female attire, were placed on the parts of their degraded carcases, which, for the honour of human nature, should have been shot.
Overcome with agony at these insults, I burst from the garden in a flood of tears. On passing the gate, I was accosted by a person who exclaimed in a tone of great kindness, "Qu'as tu, ma bonne? qu'est ce qui vous afflige?" Knowing the risk I should run in representing the real cause of my concern, I immediately thought of ascribing it to the loss of the property of which I had been plundered. I told him I was a poor milliner, and had been robbed of everything I possessed in the world by the mob. "Come back with me," said he, "and I will have it restored to you." I knew it was of no avail, but policy stimulated me to comply; and I returned with him into the garden toward the palace.
What should I have felt, had I been aware, when this man came up, that I was accosted by the villain Danton! The person who was with me knew him, but dared not speak, and watched a chance of escaping in the crowd for fear of being discovered. When I looked round and found myself alone, I said I had lost my brother in the confusion, which added to my grief.
"Oh, never mind," said Danton; "take hold of my arm; no one shall molest you. We will look for your brother, and try to recover your things;" and on we went together: I, weeping, I may truly say, for my life, stopped at every step, while he related my doleful story to all whose curiosity was excited by my grief.
On my appearing arm in arm with Danton before the windows of the Queen's apartments, we were observed by Her Majesty and the Princesses. Their consternation and perplexity, as well as alarm for my safety, may readily be conceived. A signal from the window instantly apprised me that I might enter the palace, to which my return had been for some time impatiently expected.
Finding it could no longer be of any service to carry on the farce of seeking my pretended brother, I begged to be escorted out of the mob to the apartments of the Princesse de Lamballe.
"Oh," said Danton, "certainly! and if you had only told the people that you were going to that good Princess, I am sure your things would not have been taken from you. But," added he, "are you perfectly certain they were not for that detestable Marie Antoinette?"
"Oh!" I replied, "quite, quite certain!" All this while the mob was at my heels.
"Then," said he, "I will not leave you till you are safe in the apartments of the Princesse de Lamballe, and I will myself make known to her your loss: she is so good," continued he, "that I am convinced she will make you just compensation."
I then told him how much I should be obliged by his doing so, as I had been commissioned to deliver the things, and if I was made to pay for them, the loss would be more serious than I could bear.
"Bah! bah!" exclaimed he. "Laissez moi faire! Laissez moi faire!"
When he came to the inner door, which I pretended to know nothing about, he told the gentleman of the chamber his name, and said he wished to see his mistress.
Her Highness came in a few minutes, and from her looks and visible agitation at the sight of Danton, I feared she would have betrayed both herself and me. However, while he was making a long preamble, I made signs, from which she inferred that all was safe.
When Danton had finished telling her the story, she calmly said to me, "Do you recollect, child, the things you have been robbed of?"
I replied that, if I had pen and ink, I could even set down the prices.
"Oh, well, then, child, come in," said Her Highness, "and we will see what is to be done!"
"There!" exclaimed Danton; "Did I not tell you this before?" Then, giving me a hearty squeeze of the hand, he departed, and thus terminated the millinery speculation, which, I have no doubt, cost Her Highness a tolerable sum.
As soon as he was gone, the Princess said, "For Heaven's sake, tell me the whole of this affair candidly; for the Queen has been in the greatest agitation at the bare idea of your knowing Danton, ever since we first saw you walking with him! He is one of our moat inveterate enemies."
I said that if they had but witnessed one half of the scenes that I saw, I was sure their feelings would have been shocked beyond description. "We did not see all, but we heard too much for the ears of our sex."
I then related the particulars of our meeting to Her Highness, who observed, "This accident, however unpleasant, may still turn out to our advantage. This fellow believes you to be a marchande de modes, and the circumstance of his having accompanied you to my apartment will enable you, in future, to pass to and from the Pavilion unmolested by the national guard."
With tears of joy in her eyes for my safety, she could not, however, help laughing when I told her the farce I kept up respecting the loss of my brother, and my bandbox with the millinery, for which I was also soon congratulated most graciously by Her Majesty, who much applauded my spirit and presence of mind, and condescended, immediately, to entrust me with letters of the greatest importance, for some of the most distinguished members of the Assembly, with which I left the palace in triumph, but taking care to be ready with a proper story of my losses.
When I passed the guard-room, I was pitied by the very wretches, who, perhaps, had already shared in the spoils; and who would have butchered me, no doubt, into the bargain, could they have penetrated the real object of my mission. They asked me if I had been paid for the loss I sustained. I told them I had not, but I was promised that it should be settled.
"Settled!" said one of the wretches. "Get the money as soon as you can. Do not trust to promises of its being settled. They will all be settled themselves soon!"
The next day, on going to the palace, I found the Princesse de Lamballe in the greatest agitation, from the accounts the Court had just received of the murder of a man belonging to Arthur Dillon, and of the massacres at Nantes.
"The horrid prints, pamphlets, and caricatures," cried she, "daily exhibited under the very windows of the Tuileries, against His Majesty, the Queen, the Austrian party, and the Coblentz party, the constant thwarting of every plan, and these last horrors at Nantes, have so overwhelmed the King that he is nearly become a mere automaton. Daily and nightly execrations are howled in his ears. Look at our boasted deliverers! The poor Queen, her children, and all of us belonging to the palace, are in danger of our lives at merely being seen; while they by whom we have been so long buoyed up with hope are quarrelling amongst themselves for the honour and etiquette of precedency, leaving us to the fury of a race of cannibals, who know no mercy, and will have destroyed us long before their disputes of etiquette can be settled."
The utterance of Her Highness while saying this was rendered almost inarticulate by her tears.
"What support against internal disorganization," continued she, "is to be expected from so disorganized a body as the present army of different nations, having all different interests?"
I said there was no doubt that the Prussian army was on its march, and would soon be joined by that of the Princes and of Austria.
"You speak as you wish, mia cara Inglesina, but it is all to no purpose. Would to God they had never been applied to, never been called upon to interfere. Oh, that Her Majesty could have been persuaded to listen to Dumourier and some other of the members, instead of relying on succours which, I fear, will never enter Paris in our lifetime! No army can subdue a nation; especially a nation frenzied by the recent recovery of its freedom and independence from the shackles of a corrupt and weak administration. The King is too good; the Queen has no equal as to heart; but they have both been most grossly betrayed. The royalists on one side, the constitutionalists on the other, will be the victims of the Jacobins, for they are the most powerful, they are the most united, they possess the most talent, and they act in a body, and not merely for the time being. Believe me, my dear, their plans are too well grounded to be defeated, as every one framed by the fallacious constitutionalists and mad-headed royalists has been; and so they will ever be while they continue to form two separate interests. From the very first moment when these two bodies were worked upon separately, I told the Queen that, till they were united for the same object, the monarchy would be unsafe, and at the mercy of the Jacobins, who, from hatred to both parties, would overthrow it themselves to rule despotically over those whom they no longer respected or feared, but whom they hated, as considering them both equally their former oppressors.
"May the All-seeing Power," continued Her Highness, "grant, for the good of this shattered State, that I may be mistaken, and that my predictions may prove different in the result; but of this I see no hope, unless in the strength of our own internal resources. God knows how powerful they might prove could they be united at this moment! But from the anarchy and division kept up between them, I see no prospect of their being brought to bear, except in a general overthrow of this, as you have justly observed, organized system of disorders, from which at some future period we may obtain a solid, systematic order of government. Would Charles the Second ever have reigned after the murder of his father had England been torn to pieces by different factions? No! It was the union of the body of the nation for its internal tranquillity, the amalgamation of parties against domestic faction, which gave vigour to the arm of power, and enabled the nation to check foreign interference abroad, while it annihilated anarchy at home. By that means the Protector himself laid the first stone of the Restoration. The division of a nation is the surest harbinger of success to its invaders, the death-blow to its Sovereign's authority, and the total destruction of that innate energy by which alone a country can obtain the dignity of its own independence."
While Her Highness was thus pondering on the dreadful situation of France, strengthening her arguments by those historical illustrations, which, from the past, enabled her to look into the future, a message came to her from Her Majesty. She left me, and, in a few minutes, returned to her apartment, accompanied by the Queen and Her Royal Highness the Princesse Elizabeth. I was greatly surprised at seeing these two illustrious and august personages bathed in tears. Of course, I could not be aware of any new motive to create any new or extraordinary emotion; yet there was in the countenances of all of the party an appearance different from anything I had ever witnessed in them, or any other person before; a something which seemed to say, they no longer had any affinity with the rest of earthly beings.
They had all been just writing to their distant friends and relations. A fatal presentiment, alas! too soon verified, told them it was for the last time.
Her Highness the Princesse de Lamballe now approached me.
"Her Majesty," observed the Princess, "wishes to give you a mark of her esteem, in delivering to you, with her own hands, letters to her family, which it is her intention to entrust to your especial care.
"On this step Her Majesty has resolved, as much to send you out of the way of danger, as from the conviction occasioned by the firm reliance your conduct has created in us, that you will faithfully obey the orders you may receive, and execute our intentions with that peculiar intelligence which the emergency of the case requires.
"But even the desirable opportunity which offers, through you, for the accomplishment of her mission, might not have prevailed with Her Majesty to hasten your departure, had not the wretch Danton twice inquired at the palace for the 'little milliner,' whom he rescued and conducted safe to the apartments of the Pavilion of Flora. This, probably, may be a matter of no real consequence whatever; but it is our duty to avoid danger, and it has been decided that you should, at least for a time, absent Paris.
"Per cio, mia cara Inglesina, speak now, freely and candidly: is it your wish to return to England, or go elsewhere? For though we are all sorry to lose you, yet it would be a source of still greater sorrow to us, prizing your services and fidelity as we do, should any plans and purposes of ours lead you into difficulty or embarrassment."
"Oh, mon Dieu! c'est vrai!" interrupted Her Majesty, her eyes at the same time filled with tears.
"I should never forgive myself," continued the Princess, "if I should prove the cause of any misfortune to you."
"Nor I!" most graciously subjoined the Queen.
"Therefore," pursued the Princess, "speak your mind without reserve."
Here my own feelings, and the sobs of the illustrious party, completely overcame me, and I could not proceed. The Princesse de Lamballe clasped me in her arms. "Not only letters," exclaimed she, "but my life I would trust to the fidelity of my vera, verissima, cara Inglesina! And now," continued Her Highness, turning round to the Queen, "will it please Your Majesty to give Inglesina your commands."
"Here, then," said the Queen, "is a letter for my dear sister, the Queen of Naples, which you must deliver into her own hands. Here is another for my sister, the Duchess of Parma. If she should not be at Parma, you will find her at Colorno. This is for my brother, the Archduke of Milan; this for my sister-in-law, the Princesse Clotilde Piedmont, at Turin; and here are four others. You will take off the envelope when you get to Turin, and then put them into the post yourself. Do not give them to, or send them by, any person whatsoever.
"Tell my sisters the state of Paris. Inform them of our cruel situation. Describe the riots and convulsions you have seen. Above all, assure them how dear they are to me, and how much I love them."
At the word love, Her Majesty threw herself on a sofa and wept bitterly.
The Princesse Elizabeth gave me a letter for her sister, and two for her aunts, to be delivered to them, if at Rome; but if not, to be put under cover and sent through the post at Rome to whatever place they might have made their residence.
I had also a packet of letters to deliver for the Princesse de Lamballe at Turin; and another for the Duc de Serbelloni at Milan.
Her Majesty and the Princesse Elizabeth not only allowed me the honour to kiss their hands, but they, both gave me their blessing, and good wishes for my safe return, and then left me with the Princesse de Lamballe.
Her Majesty had scarcely left the apartment of the Princess, when I recollected she had forgotten to give me the cipher and the key for the letters. The Princess immediately went to the Queen's apartment, and returned with them shortly after.
"Now that we are alone," said Her Highness, "I will tell you what Her Majesty has graciously commanded me to signify to you in her royal name. The Queen commands me to say that you are provided for for life; and that, on the first vacancy which may occur, she intends fixing you at Court.
"Therefore mia cara Inglesina, take especial care what you are about, and obey Her Majesty's wishes when you are absent, as implicitly as you have hitherto done all her commands during your abode near her. You are not to write to any one. No one is to be made acquainted with your route. You are not to leave Paris in your own carriage. It will be sent after you by your man servant, who is to join you at Chalon sur Saone.
"I have further to inform you that Her Majesty the Queen, on sending you the cipher, has at the same time graciously condescended to add these presents as further marks of her esteem."
Her Highness then showed me a most beautiful gold watch, chain and seals.
"These," said she, placing them with her own hands, "Her Majesty desired me to put round your neck in testimony of her regard."
At the same time Her Highness presented me, on her own part, with a beautiful pocketbook, the covers of which were of gold enamelled, with the word "SOUVENIR" in diamonds on one side, and a large cipher of her own initials on the other. The first page contained the names of the Queen and Her Royal Highness the Princesse Elizabeth, in their own handwriting. There was a cheque in it on a Swiss banker, at Milan, of the name of Bonny.
Having given me these invaluable tokens, Her Highness proceeded with her instructions.
"At Chalon," continued she, "mia cara, your man servant will perhaps bring you other letters. Take two places in the stage for yourself and your femme de chambre, in her name, and give me the memorandum, that our old friend, the driver, may procure the passports. You must not be seen; for there is no doubt that Danton has given the police a full description of your person. Now go and prepare: we shall see each other again before your departure."
Only a few minutes afterwards my man servant came to me to say that it would be some hours before the stage would set off, and that there was a lady in her carriage waiting for me in the Bois de Boulogne. I hastened thither. What was my surprise on finding it was the Princess. I now saw her for the last time!
Let me pass lightly over this sad moment. I must not, however, dismiss the subject, without noticing the visible changes which had taken place in the short space of a month, in the appearance of all these illustrious Princesses. Their very complexions were no longer the same, as if grief had changed the whole mass of their blood. The Queen, in particular, from the month of July to the 2d of August, looked ten years older. The other two Princesses were really worn out with fatigue, anxiety, and the want of rest, as, during the whole month of July, they scarcely ever slept, for fear of being murdered in their beds, and only threw themselves on them, now and then, without undressing. The King, three or four times in the night, would go round to their different apartments, fearful they might be destroyed in their sleep, and ask, "Etes vous la?" when they would answer him from within, "Nous sommes encore ici." Indeed, if, when nature was exhausted, sleep by chance came to the relief of their worn-out and languid frames, it was only to awaken them to fresh horrors, which constantly threatened the convulsion by which they were finally annihilated.
It would be uncandid in me to be silent concerning the marked difference I found in the feelings of the two royal sisters of Her Majesty.
I had never had the honour before to execute any commissions for her Royal Highness the Duchess of Parma, and, of course, took that city in my way to Naples.
I did not reach Parma till after the horrors which had taken place at the Tuileries on the 10th of August, 1792. The whole of the unfortunate Royal Family of France were then lodged in the Temple. There was not a feeling heart in Europe unmoved at their afflicting situation.
I arrived at Colorno, the country residence of the Duchess of Parma, just as Her Royal Highness was going out on horseback.
I ordered my servant to inform one of the pages that I came by express from Paris, and requested the honour to know when it would be convenient for Her Royal Highness to allow me a private audience, as I was going, post-haste, to Rome and Naples. Of course, I did not choose to tell my business either to my own or Her Royal Highness's servant, being in honour and duty bound to deliver the letter and the verbal message of her then truly unfortunate sister in person and in privacy.
The mention of Paris I saw somewhat startled and confused her. Meantime, she came near enough to my carriage for me to say to her in German, in order that none of the servants, French or Italian, might understand, that I had a letter to deliver into her own hands, without saying from whom.
She then desired I would alight, and she soon followed me; and, after having very graciously ordered me some refreshments, asked me from whom I had been sent.
I delivered Her Majesty's letter. Before she opened it, she exclaimed, "'O Dio! tutto e perduto e troppo tardi'! Oh, God! all is lost, it is too late!" I then gave her the cipher and the key. In a few minutes I enabled her to decipher the letter. On getting through it, she again exclaimed, "'E tutto inutile'! it is entirely useless! I am afraid they are all lost. I am sorry you are so situated as not to allow of your remaining here to rest from your fatigue. Whenever you come to Parma, I shall be glad to see you."
She then took out her pocket handkerchief, shed a few tears, and said that, as circumstances were now so totally changed, to answer the letter might only commit her, her sister, and myself; but that if affairs took the turn she wished, no doubt, her sister would write again. She then mounted her horse, and wished me a good journey; and I took leave, and set off for Rome.
I must confess that the conduct of the Duchess of Parma appeared to me rather cold, if not unfeeling. Perhaps she was afraid of showing too much emotion, and wished to encourage the idea that Princesses ought not to give way to sensibility, like common mortals.
But how different was the conduct of the Queen of Naples! She kissed the letter: she bathed it with her tears! Scarcely could she allow herself time to decipher it. At every sentence she exclaimed, "Oh, my dear, oh, my adored sister! What will become of her! My brothers are now both no more! Surely, she will soon be liberated!" Then, turning suddenly to me, she asked with eagerness, "Do you not think she will? Oh, Marie, Marie! why did she not fly to Vienna? Why did she not come to me instead of writing? Tell me, for God's sake, all you know!"
I said I knew nothing further of what had taken place at Paris, having travelled night and day, except what I had heard from the different couriers, which I had met and stopped on my route; but I hoped to be better informed by Sir William Hamilton, as all my letters were to be sent from France to Turin, and thence on to Sir William at Naples; and if I found no letters with him, I should immediately set off and return to Turin or Milan, to be as near France as possible for my speedy return if necessary. I ventured to add that it was my earnest prayer that all the European Sovereigns would feel the necessity of interesting themselves for the Royal Family of France, with whose fate the fate of monarchy throughout Europe might be interwoven.
"Oh, God of Heaven!" cried the Queen, "all that dear family may ere now have been murdered! Perhaps they are already numbered among the dead! Oh, my poor, dear, beloved Marie! Oh, I shall go frantic! I must send for General Acton."
Wringing her hands, she pulled the bell, and in a few minutes the general came. On his entering the apartment, she flew to him like one deprived of reason.
"There!" exclaimed she. "There! Behold the fatal consequences!" showing him the letter. "Louis XVI. is in the state of Charles the First of England, and my sister will certainly be murdered."
"No, no, no!" exclaimed the general. "Something will be done. Calm yourself, madame." Then turning to me, "When," said he, "did you leave Paris?"
"When all was lost!" interrupted the Queen.
"Nay," cried the general; "pray let me speak. All is not lost, you will find; have but a little patience."
"Patience!" said the Queen. "For two years I have heard of nothing else. Nothing has been done for these unfortunate beings." She then threw herself into a chair. "Tell him!" cried she to me, "tell him! tell him!"
I then informed the general that I had left Paris on the 2d of August, but did not believe at the time, though the daily riots were horrible, that such a catastrophe could have occurred so soon as eight days after.
The Queen was now quite exhausted, and General Acton rang the bell for the lady-in-waiting, who entered accompanied by the Duchesse Curigliano Marini, and they assisted Her Majesty to bed.
When she had retired, "Do not," said the general to me, "do not go to Sir William's to-night. He is at Caserte. You seem too much fatigued."
"More from grief," replied I, "and reflection on the fatal consequences that might result to the great personages I have so lately left, than from the journey."
"Take my advice," resumed he. "You had much better go to bed and rest yourself. You look very ill."
I did as he recommended, and went to the nearest hotel I could find. I felt no fatigue of mind or body till I had got into bed, where I was confined for several days with a most violent fever. During my illness I received every attention both from the Court, and our Ambassador and Lady Hamilton, who kindly visited me every day. The Queen of Naples I never again saw till my return in 1793, after the murder of the Queen of France; and I am glad I did not, for her agony would have acted anew upon my disordered frame, and might have proved fatal.
I was certainly somewhat prepared for a difference of feeling between the two Princesses, as the unfortunate Marie Antoinette, in the letters to the Queen of Naples, always wrote, "To my much beloved sister, the Queen of the two Sicilies, etc.," and to the other, merely, "To the Duchess of Parma, etc." But I could never have dreamt of a difference so little flattering, under such circumstances, to the Duchess of Parma.
From the moment of my departure from Paris on the 2d of August, 1792, the tragedy hastened to its denouement. On the night of the 9th, the tocsin was sounded, and the King and the Royal Family looked upon their fate as sealed. Notwithstanding the personal firmness of His Majesty, he was a coward for others. He dreaded the responsibility of ordering blood to be shed, even in defence of his nearest and dearest interests. Petion, however, had given the order to repel force by force to De Mandat, who was murdered upon the steps of the Hotel de Ville. It has been generally supposed that Petion had received a bribe for not ordering the cannon against the Tuileries on the night of the 9th, and that De Mandat was massacred by the agents of Petion for the purpose of extinguishing all proof that he was only acting under the instructions of the Mayor.
I shall not undertake to judge of the propriety of the King's impression that there was no safety from the insurgents but in the hall, and under the protection of the Assembly. Had the members been well disposed towards him, the event might have proved very different. But there is one thing certain. The Queen would never have consented to this step but to save the King and her innocent children. She would have preferred death to the humiliation of being under obligations to her sworn enemies; but she was overcome by the King declaring, with tears in his eyes, that he would not quit the palace without her. The Princesses Elizabeth and de Lamballe fell at her feet, implored Her Majesty to obey the King, and assured her there was no alternative between instant death and refuge from it in the Assembly. "Well," said the Queen, "if our lot be death, let us away to receive it with the national sanction."
I need not expatiate on the succession of horrors which now overwhelmed the royal sufferers. Their confinement at the Feuillans, and their subsequent transfer to the Temple, are all topics sufficiently enlarged upon by many who were actors in the scenes to which they led. The Princesse de Lamballe was, while it was permitted, the companion of their captivity. But the consolation of her society was considered too great to be continued. Her fate had no doubt been predetermined; and, unwilling to await the slow proceedings of a trial, which it was thought politic should precede the murder of her royal mistress, it was found necessary to detach her from the wretched inmates of the Temple, in order to have her more completely within the control of the miscreants, who hated her for her virtues. The expedient was resorted to of casting suspicion upon the correspondence which Her Highness kept up with the exterior of the prison, for the purpose of obtaining such necessaries as were required, in consequence of the utter destitution in which the Royal Family retired from the Tuileries. Two men, of the names of Devine and Priquet, were bribed to create a suspicion, by their informations against the Queen's female attendant. The first declared that on the 18th of August, while he was on duty near the cell of the King, he saw a woman about eleven o'clock in the day come from a room in the centre, holding in one hand three letters, and with the other cautiously opening the door of the right-hand chamber, whence she presently came back without the letters and returned into the centre chamber. He further asserted that twice, when this woman opened the door, he distinctly saw a letter half-written, and every evidence of an eagerness to hide it from observation. The second informant, Priquet, swore that, while on duty as morning sentinel on the gallery between the two towers, he saw, through the window of the central chamber, a woman writing with great earnestness and alarm during the whole time he was on guard.
All the ladies were immediately summoned before the authorities. The hour of the separation between the Princess and her royal friend accorded with the solemnity of the circumstance. It was nearly midnight when they were torn asunder, and they never met again.
The examinations were all separate. That of the Princesse de Lamballe was as follows
Q. Your name?
A. Marie-Therese-Louise de Savoy, Bourbon Lamballe.
Q. What do you know of the events which occurred on the 10th of August?
Q. Where did you pass that day?
A. As a relative I followed the King to the National Assembly.
Q. Were you in bed on the nights of the 9th and 10th?
Q. Where were you then?
A. In my apartments, at the chateau.
Q. Did you not go to the apartments of the King in the course of that night?
A. Finding there was a likelihood of a commotion, went thither towards one in the morning.
Q. You were aware, then, that the people had arisen?
A. I learnt it from hearing the tocsin.
Q. Did you see the Swiss and National Guards, who passed the night on the terrace?
A. I was at the window, but saw neither.
Q. Was the King in his apartment when you went thither?
A. There were a great number of persons in the room, but not the King.
Q. Did you know of the Mayor of Paris being at the Tuileries?
A. I heard he was there.
Q. At what hour did the King go to the National Assembly?
Q. Did he not, before he went, review the troops? Do you know the oath he made them swear?
A. I never heard of any oath.
Q. Have you any knowledge of cannon being mounted and pointed in the apartments?
Q. Have you ever seen Messrs. Mandat and d'Affry in the chateau?
Q. Do you know the secret doors of the Tuileries?
A. I know of no such doors.
Q. Have you not, since you have been in the Temple, received and written letters, which you sought to send away secretly?
A. I have never received or written any letters, excepting such as have been delivered to the municipal officer.
Q. Do you know anything of an article of furniture which is making for Madame Elizabeth?
Q. Have you not recently received some devotional books?
Q. What are the books which you have at the Temple?
A. I have none.
Q. Do you know anything of a barred staircase?
Q. What general officers did you see at the Tuileries, on the nights of the 9th and 10th?
A. I saw no general officers, I only saw M. Roederer.
For thirteen hours was Her Highness, with her female companions in misfortune, exposed to these absurd forms, and to the gaze of insulting and malignant curiosity. At length, about the middle of the day, they were told that it was decreed that they should be detained till further orders, leaving them the choice of prisons, between that of la Force and of la Salpetriere.
Her Highness immediately decided on the former. It was at first determined that she should be separated from Madame de Tourzel, but humanity so far prevailed as to permit the consolation of her society, with that of others of her friends and fellow-sufferers, and for a moment the Princess enjoyed the only comfort left to her, that of exchanging sympathy with her partners in affliction. But the cell to which she was doomed proved her last habitation upon earth.
On the 1st of September the Marseillois began their murderous operations. Three hundred persons in two days massacred upwards of a thousand defence less prisoners, confined under the pretext of malpractices against the State, or rather devotedness to the royal cause. The spirit which produced the massacres of the prisons at Paris extended them through the principal towns and cities all over France.
Even the universal interest felt for the Princesse de Lamballe was of no avail against this frenzy. I remember once (as if it were from a presentiment of what was to occur) the King observing to her, "I never knew any but fools and sycophants who could keep themselves clear from the lash of public censure. How is it, then, that you, my dear Princess, who are neither, contrive to steer your bark on this dangerous coast without running against the rocks on which so many good vessels like your own have been dashed to pieces?" "Oh, Sire," replied Her Highness, "my time is not yet come—I am not dead yet!" Too soon, and too horribly, her hour did come!
The butchery of the prisons was now commenced. The Duc de Penthievre set every engine in operation to save his beloved daughter-in-law. He sent for Manuel, who was then Procureur of Paris. The Duke declared that half his fortune should be Manuel's if he could but save the Princesse de Lamballe and the ladies who were in the same prison with her from the general massacre. Manuel promised the Duke that he would instantly set about removing them all from the reach of the blood-hunters. He began with those whose removal was least likely to attract attention, leaving the Princesse de Lamballe, from motives of policy, to the last.
Meanwhile, other messengers had been dispatched to different quarters for fear of failure with Manuel. It was discovered by one of these that the atrocious tribunal,—[Thibaudeau, Hebert, Simonier, etc.]—who sat in mock judgment upon the tenants of these gloomy abodes, after satiating themselves with every studied insult they could devise, were to pronounce the word "libre!" It was naturally presumed that the predestined victims, on hearing this tempting sound, and seeing the doors at the same moment set open by the clerks of the infamous court, would dart off in exultation, and, fancying themselves liberated, rush upon the knives of the barbarians, who were outside, in waiting for their blood! Hundreds were thus slaughtered.
To save the Princess from such a sacrifice, it was projected to prevent her from appearing before the tribunal, and a belief was encouraged that means would be devised to elude the necessity. The person who interested himself for her safety contrived to convey a letter containing these words: "Let what will happen, for God's sake do not quit your cell. You will be spared. Adieu."
Manuel, however, who knew not of this cross arrangement, was better informed than its projector.
He was aware it would be impossible for Her Highness to escape from appearing before the tribunal. He had already removed her companions. The Princesse de Tarente, the Marquise de Tourzel, her daughter, and others, were in safety. But when, true to his promise, he went to the Princesse de Lamballe, she would not be prevailed upon to quit her cell. There was no time for parley. The letter prevailed, and her fate was inevitable.
The massacre had begun at daybreak. The fiends had been some hours busy in the work of death. The piercing shrieks of the dying victims brought the Princess and her remaining companion upon their knees, in fervent prayer for the souls of the departed. The messengers of the tribunal now appeared. The Princess was compelled to attend the summons. She went, accompanied by her faithful female attendant.
A glance at the seas of blood, of which she caught a glimpse upon her way to the Court, had nearly shocked her even to sudden death. Would it had! She staggered, but was sustained by her companion. Her courage triumphed. She appeared before the gore-stained tribunes.
After some questions of mere form, Her Highness was commanded to swear to be faithful to the new order of government, and to hate the King, the Queen, and royalty.
"To the first," replied Her Highness, "I willingly submit. To the second, how can I accede? There is nothing of which I can accuse the Royal Family. To hate them is against my nature. They are my Sovereigns. They are my friends and relations. I have served them for many years, and never have I found reason for the slightest complaint."
The Princess could no longer articulate. She fell into the arms of her attendant. The fatal signal was pronounced. She recovered, and, crossing the court of the prison, which was bathed with the blood of mutilated victims, involuntarily exclaimed, "Gracious Heaven! What a sight is this!" and fell into a fit.
Nearest to her in the mob stood a mulatto, whom she had caused to be baptized, educated, and maintained; but whom, for ill-conduct, she had latterly excluded from her presence. This miscreant struck at her with his halbert. The blow removed her cap. Her luxuriant hair (as if to hide her angelic beauty from the sight of the murderers, pressing tiger-like around to pollute that form, the virtues of which equalled its physical perfection)—her luxuriant hair fell around and veiled her a moment from view. An individual, to whom I was nearly allied, seeing the miscreants somewhat staggered, sprang forward to the rescue; but the mulatto wounded him. The Princess was lost to all feeling from the moment the monster first struck at her. But the demons would not quit their prey. She expired gashed with wounds.
Scarcely was the breath out of her body, when the murderers cut off her head. One party of them fixed it, like that of the vilest traitor, on an immense pole, and bore it in triumph all over Paris; while another division of the outrageous cannibals were occupied in tearing her clothes piecemeal from her mangled corpse. The beauty of that form, though headless, mutilated and reeking with the hot blood of their foul crime—how shall I describe it?—excited that atrocious excess of lust, which impelled these hordes of assassins to satiate their demoniac passions upon the remains of this virtuous angel.
This incredible crime being perpetrated, the wretches fastened ropes round the body, arms, and legs, and dragged it naked through the streets of Paris, till no vestige remained by which it could be distinguished as belonging to the human species; and then left it among the hundreds of innocent victims of that awful day, who were heaped up to putrefy in one confused and disgusting mass.
The head was reserved for other purposes of cruelty and horror. It was first borne to the Temple, beneath the windows of the royal prisoners. The wretches who were hired daily to insult them in their dens of misery, by proclaiming all the horrors vomited from the national Vesuvius, were commissioned to redouble their howls of what had befallen the Princesse de Lamballe.