Impressions made on the Queen by the Emperor’s Visit.—Mutual Jealousies of her Favorites.—The Story of the Chevalier d’Assas.—The Terrace Concerts at Versailles—More Inroads on Etiquette.—Insolence and Unpopularity of the Count d’Artois.—Marie Antoinette takes Interest in Politics.—France concludes an Alliance with the United States.—Affairs of Bavaria.—Character of the Queen’s Letters on Politics.—The Queen expects to become a Mother.—Voltaire returns to Paris.—The Queen declines to receive him.—Misconduct of the Duke of Orleans in the Action off Ushant.—The Queen uses her Influence in his Favor.
The emperor’s admonitions and counsels had not been altogether unfruitful. If they had not at once entirely extinguished his sister’s taste for the practices which he condemned, they had evidently weakened it; even though, as the first impression wore off, and her fear of being overwhelmed with ennui resumed its empire, she relapsed for a while into her old habits, it was no longer with the same eagerness as before, and not without frequent avowals that they had lost their attraction. She visibly drew off from the entanglements of the coterie with which she had surrounded herself. The members had grown jealous of one another. Madame de Polignac feared the influence of the superior disinterestedness of the Princess de Lamballe; Madame de Guimenee, who was suspected of a want of even common honesty, grudged every favor that was bestowed on Madame de Polignac; and their rivalry, which was not always suppressed even in the queen’s presence, was not only felt by her to be degrading to herself, but was also wearisome.
Throughout the autumn her occupations and amusements were of a simpler kind. She read more, and agreeably surprised De Vermond by the soundness of her reflections on many incidents and characters in history. Accounts of chivalrous deeds had an especial charm for her. Hume was still her favorite author. And it happened that, while the gallantry of the loyal champions of Charles I. was fresh in her memory, a casual conversation threw in her way an opportunity of doing honor to the self-devoted heroism of a French soldier whom the proudest of the British cavaliers might have welcomed as a brother, but whose valiant and self-sacrificing fidelity had been left unnoticed by the worthless sovereign in whose service he had perished, and by his ministers, who thought only of securing the favor of the reigning mistress—favor to be won by actions of a very different complexion.