About the close of the last century several of the Northern sovereigns took a fancy for travelling. Christian iii., King of Denmark, visited the Court of France in 1763, during the reign of Louis xv. We have seen the King of Sweden and Joseph ii. at Versailles. The Grand Duke of Russia (afterwards Paul I.), son of Catherine ii., and the Princess of Wurtemberg, his wife, likewise resolved to visit France. They travelled under the titles of the Comte and Comtesse du Nord. They were presented on the 20th of May, 1782. The Queen received them with grace and dignity. On the day of their arrival at Versailles they dined in private with the King and Queen.
The plain, unassuming appearance of Paul I. pleased Louis XVI. He spoke to him with more confidence and cheerfulness than he had spoken to Joseph ii. The Comtesse du Nord was not at first so successful with the Queen. This lady was of a fine height, very fat for her age, with all the German stiffness, well informed, and perhaps displaying her acquirements with rather too much confidence. When the Comte and Comtesse du Nord were presented the Queen was exceedingly nervous. She withdrew into her closet before she went into the room where she was to dine with the illustrious travellers, and asked for a glass of water, confessing “she had just experienced how much more difficult it was to play the part of a queen in the presence of other sovereigns, or of princes born to become so, than before courtiers.” She soon recovered from her confusion, and reappeared with ease and confidence. The dinner was tolerably cheerful, and the conversation very animated.
Brilliant entertainments were given at Court in honour of the King of Sweden and the Comte du Nord. They were received in private by the King and Queen, but they were treated with much more ceremony than the Emperor, and their Majesties always appeared to me to be very, cautious before these personages. However, the King one day asked the Russian Grand Duke if it were true that he could not rely on the fidelity of any one of those who accompanied him. The Prince answered him without hesitation, and before a considerable number of persons, that he should be very sorry to have with him even a poodle that was much attached to him, because his mother would take care to have it thrown into the Seine, with a stone round its neck, before he should leave Paris. This reply, which I myself heard, horrified me, whether it depicted the disposition of Catherine, or only expressed the Prince’s prejudice against her.