The war with England, also, was an additional cause of solicitude and vexation. The sailors in whom she had expressed such confidence were not better able than before to contend with British antagonists. In an undecisive skirmish which took place in July between two fleets of the first magnitude, the French admiral, D’Orvilliers, had made a practical acknowledgment of his inferiority by retreating in the night, and eluding all the exertions of the English admiral, Keppel, to renew the action. The discontent in Paris was great; the populace was severe on one or two of the captains, who were thought to have taken undue care of their ships and of themselves, and especially bitter against the Duke de Chartres, who had had a rear-admiral’s command in the fleet, and who, after having made himself conspicuous before D’Orvilliers sailed, by his boasts of the prowess which he intended to exhibit, had made himself equally notorious in the action itself by the pains he took to keep himself out of danger. On his return to Paris, shameless as he was, he scarcely dared show his face, till the Comte d’Artois persuaded the queen to throw her shield over him. It was impossible for him to remain in the navy; but, to soften his fall, the count proposed that the king should create a new appointment for him, as colonel-general of the light cavalry. Louis saw the impropriety of such a step: truly it was but a questionable compliment to pay to his hussars, to place in authority over them a man under whom no sailor would willingly serve. Marie Antoinette in her heart was as indignant as any one. Constitutionally an admirer of bravery, she had taken especial interest in the affairs of the fleet and in the details of this action. She had honored with the most marked eulogy the gallantry of Admiral du Chaffault, who had been severely wounded; but now she allowed herself to be persuaded that the duke’s public disgrace would reflect on the whole royal family, and pressed the request so earnestly on the king that at last he yielded. In outward appearance the duke’s honor was saved; but the public, whose judgment on such matter is generally sound, and who had revived against him some of the jests with which the comrades of Luxemburg had shown their scorn of the Duke de Maine, blamed her interference; and the duke himself, by the vile ingratitude with which he subsequently repaid her protection, gave but too sad proof that of all offenders against honor the most unworthy of royal indulgence is a coward.
Birth of Madame Royale.—Festivities of Thanksgiving.—The Dames de la Halle at the Theatre.—Thanksgiving at Notre Dame.—The King goes to a Bal d’Opera.—The Queen’s Carriage breaks down.—Marie Antoinette has the Measles.—Her Anxiety about the War.—Retrenchments of Expense.