Imágenes de página

of French etiquette, procured her a host of enemies among the beaus and ladies of the vieille cour. "Thank heaven," she used to say, when she flung off her state robes and ornaments, "I am out of harness!" She one day in merriment called the precise, antiquated, and systematic, Madame de Noailles, Madame Etiquette. The title followed her to the grave: the satire never was forgiven. A considerable time elapsed before the dauphin consummated his marriage; and it is a curious fact that, during that interval, many cabals were at work for the purpose of sending the Austrian princess back to Vienna, and that they were chiefly frustrated by Louis XV., who entertained a secret passion for her, and took some steps with the view of making her his own consort. It was also during this period that the king gave orders to Boehmer the jeweller, for the famous diamond necklace, which he originally intended as a present for Marie Antoinette, though he subsequently resolved to give it to his low mistress, Du Barry. He died, however, before he completed the bargain for it; and it is well known that it afterwards became one of the most venomous ingredients which were mixed together in the infernal cauldron of the revolution.

Notwithstanding the unpopularity of Marie Antoinette, while she was dauphiness, no sooner were she and her royal consort seated on the throne (May 10, 1774), than the Parisians hastened in crowds to pay the new sovereigns the most enthusiastic homage. The charms of the queen fascinated every body, and, for the first time they touched the bosom of her husband. The marriage was consummated! The particulars of the early part of their reign are well known. The Princess Lamballe attributes many important consequences to the queen's partiality for the Countess Julie Polignac, and contends that her majesty's attachment to that lady was violently disapproved, not only by the old nobility but by the nation in general. She was to a certain extent correct in her opinion, though she seems to have thought more of the matter than it really deserved. In truth, the princess was naturally enough jealous of 66 a rival near the throne," and it is not to be wondered at if she enumerates the ascendency enjoyed by the Polignacs (a provincial family newly raised to the nobility), at court, among the leading causes of the defection both of the old nobility and the people.

Among the persons about the court, whom the queen most deeply offended, was the celebrated Cardinal de Rohan. He had been disgraced through the influence of Marie Antoinette, before the accession of Louis XVI. to the throne, and failed in all his subsequent attempts to recover the favour of the queen. His last effort for that purpose made him the dupe of a young, but artful and necessitous woman, of the name of Lamotte, who seems to have been the chief contriver of that abominable plot of the necklace. It may be said that the revolution commenced with the cardinal's trial for his connection with that affair, of which we shall extract the particulars, as they are recapitulated by the editor.

• The necklace which has been already spoken of, and which was originally destined by Louis XV. for Maria Antoinette-had her hand, by divorce, been transferred to him, but which, though afterwards intended by Louis XV. for his mistress, Du Barry, never came to her in consequence of his death-this fatal necklace was still in existence, and in the possession of the crown jewellers, Boehmer and Bassange. It was valued at eighteen hundred thousand livres. The jewellers had often pressed it upon the queen, and even the king himself had enforced its acceptance. But the queen dreaded the expense, especially at an epoch of pecuniary' difficulty in the state, much more than she coveted the jewels, and uni-' formly and resolutely declined them, although they had been proposed to her on very easy terms of payment, as she really did not like ornaments.

'It was made to appear at the parliamentary investigation, that the artful Lamotte had impelled the cardinal to believe, that she herself was in communication with the queen; that she had interested her majesty in favour of the long slighted cardinal; that she had fabricated a correspondence, in which professions of penitence on the part of Rohan were answered by assurances of forgiveness from the queen. The result of this correspondence, was represented to be the engagement of the cardinal to negociate the purchase of the necklace, secretly, by a contract for peri odical payments. To the forgery of papers was added, it was declared, the substitution of the queen's person, by dressing up a girl of the palais royal to represent her majesty, whom she in some degree resembled, in a secret and rapid interview with Rohan in a dark grove of the gardens of Versailles, where she was to give the cardinal a rose, in token of her royal approbation, and then hastily disappear. The importunity of the jewellers, on the failure of the stipulated payment, disclosed the plot. A direct appeal of theirs to the queen, to save them from ruin, was the immediate source of detection. The cardinal was arrested, and all the parties tried. But the cardinal was acquitted, and Lamotte and a subordinate agent alone punished. The quack Cagliostro was also in the plot, but he too escaped, like his confederate the cardinal, who was made to appear as the dupe of Lamotte.

The queen never got over the effect of this affair. Her friends well knew the danger of severe measures towards one capable of collecting around him strong support against a power, already so much weakened by faction and discord. But the indignation of conscious innocence in-, sulted, prevailed, though to its ruin !'-Vol i. pp. 285-287.

The prosecution of the cardinal set in array against the queen the first families of France, with whom he was connected. The sums lavished by them, in order to obtain his acquittal, are almost iacredible. It cost the families of Rohan and Condé more than a million of livres. In order to fix the guilt of the transaction upon the queen, libels of the most malignant description were circulated through France and Europe, and the acquittal of the cardinal gave a triumph to her enemies, the effect of which, as the editor remarks, she never got over. From this time, (1785-6), she truly observes, crimes and misfortunes trod closely on each other's heels in the history of the ill-starred queen; and one calamity only disappeared to make way for a greater.

[ocr errors]

It is unnecessary to refer to the riots caused by Necker's dismissal from the ministry, the destruction of the Bastile, the recal of the popular minister, the schemes of the Orleans' faction, and the crowd of important events which thickened with the progress of the revolution. We must, however, present the reader with a few of the most striking scenes which occurred at Versailles. As they are detailed by the Princess Lamballe, they exhibit many striking circumstances which have been hitherto unknown to the historians of that stormy period. As matters were approaching to a crisis, Dumourier, who had been leagued with the Orleans' party, suddenly appeared at Versailles in disguise, and had an interview with the queen in the presence of the princess. He informed her of the plot which was in agitation for proclaiming the Duke of Orleans the constitutional king, and entreating her majesty's pardon for his connection with the duke's faction, he declared that he had for ever abandoned it, and offered his services in order to save the royal family from the violence which was meditated against them. The queen's reception of this man was perfectly characteristic.

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 stupified; 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, madam, of your good sense and reason: the fatal moment is near-it is at hand!" Upon this, turning, he ad. dressed 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, madam, and my sovereign. The National Assembly will put it out of my power for the future, without becoming a traitor to my country."

[ocr errors]

Rise, sir," said the queen, "and serve your country better than you have served your king!"

"Madam, 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.

* I saw him as he left the apartment, but had no idea at the time who he was. He was a little, thin man. He wore a high, quaker-like, round slouched hat. He was covered down to the very shoes by a great-coat. This, I imagine, was for the sake of disguise. I saw him put a handkerchief to his eyes. I met him some time after at Hamburgh, and I am con

"He has pledged himself," said I, " to save you, madam.”

"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, madam."

"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 ever 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." -Vol ii. pp. 52-55.

[ocr errors]

The reception which the queen, almost immediately after this scene, gave to the officers of the Flanders regiment, deserves also to be noticed as characteristic of her hopes and her purposes at that time.

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, agaiust 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

fident, that all his intended operations in the royal cause were given up in consequence of the exasperation he felt at the queen's rejection of his services, though he continued to correspond with the princess for a considerable time subsequently to this interview.'-Note by the Editor.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

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.'-Vol ii. pp. 55-58.

Little did the queen foresee the effects of this interview. It alarmed the regicide faction, and greatly accelerated their measures. The fraternisation of the Flanders regiment with the body guard, and the fatal dinner given by the latter to the former, are generally supposed to have led directly to the massacres of the 5th and 6th of October. The temporary presence of the king at that dinner was also a most unfortunate step, taken without the least deliberation, and, as it now appears, merely to humour a childish wish of the dauphin! The Princess Lamballe happened to remark,

“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."

[ocr errors]

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 Marchioness 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.'Vol. ii. pp. 59-62.

The reception of the royal family at the theatre is well known.

« AnteriorContinuar »