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The ever-memorable oath of the States General, taken at the Tennis Court of Versailles, was followed by the royal sitting of the 23d of June. In this seance the King declared that the Orders must vote separately, and threatened, if further obstacles were met with, to himself act for the good of the people. The Queen looked on M. Necker’s not accompanying the King as treachery or criminal cowardice: she said that he had converted a remedy into poison; that being in full popularity, his audacity, in openly disavowing the step taken by his sovereign, had emboldened the factious, and led away the whole Assembly; and that he was the more culpable inasmuch as he had the evening before given her his word to accompany the King. In vain did M. Necker endeavour to excuse himself by saying that his advice had not been followed.
Soon afterwards the insurrections of the 11th, 12th, and 14th of July—[The Bastille was taken on the 14th July, 1789.]—opened the disastrous drama with which France was threatened. The massacre of M. de Flesselles and M. de Launay drew bitter tears from the Queen, and the idea that the King had lost such devoted subjects wounded her to the heart.
The character of the movement was no longer merely that of a popular insurrection; cries of “Vive la Nation! Vive le Roi! Vive la Liberte!” threw the strongest light upon the views of the reformers. Still the people spoke of the King with affection, and appeared to think him favourable to the national desire for the reform of what were called abuses; but they imagined that he was restrained by the opinions and influence of the Comte d’Artois and the Queen; and those two august personages were therefore objects of hatred to the malcontents. The dangers incurred by the Comte d’Artois determined the King’s first step with the States General. He attended their meeting on the morning of the 15th of July with his brothers, without pomp or escort; he spoke standing and uncovered, and pronounced these memorable words: “I trust myself to you; I only wish to be at one with my nation, and, counting on the affection and fidelity of my subjects, I have given orders to the troops to remove from Paris and Versailles.” The King returned on foot from the chamber of the States General to his palace; the deputies crowded after him, and formed his escort, and that of the Princes who accompanied him. The rage of the populace was pointed against the Comte d’Artois, whose unfavourable opinion of the double representation was an odious crime in their eyes. They repeatedly cried out, “The King for ever, in spite of you and your opinions, Monseigneur!” One woman had the impudence to come up to the King and ask him whether what he had been doing was done sincerely, and whether he would not be forced to retract it.
The courtyards of the Chateau were thronged with an immense concourse of people; they demanded that the King and Queen, with their children, should make their appearance in the balcony. The Queen gave me the key of the inner doors, which led to the Dauphin’s apartments, and desired me to go to the Duchesse de Polignac to tell her that she wanted her son, and had directed me to bring him myself into her room, where she waited to show him to the people. The Duchess said this order indicated that she was not to accompany the Prince. I did not answer; she squeezed my hand, saying, “Ah! Madame Campan, what a blow I receive!” She embraced the child and me with tears. She knew how much I loved and valued the goodness and the noble simplicity of her disposition. I endeavoured to reassure her by saying that I should bring back the Prince to her; but she persisted, and said she understood the order, and knew what it meant. She then retired to her private room, holding her handkerchief to her eyes. One of the under-governesses asked me whether she might go with the Dauphin; I told her the Queen had given no order to the contrary, and we hastened to her Majesty, who was waiting to lead the Prince to the balcony.
Having executed this sad commission, I went down into the courtyard, where I mingled with the crowd. I heard a thousand vociferations; it was easy to see, by the difference between the language and the dress of some persons among the mob, that they were in disguise. A woman, whose face was covered with a black lace veil, seized me by the arm with some violence, and said, calling me by my name, “I know you very well; tell your Queen not to meddle with government any longer; let her leave her husband and our good States General to effect the happiness of the people.” At the same moment a man, dressed much in the style of a marketman, with his hat pulled down over his eyes, seized me by the other arm, and said, “Yes, yes; tell her over and over again that it will not be with these States as with the others, which produced no good to the people; that the nation is too enlightened in 1789 not to make something more of them; and that there will not now be seen a deputy of the ’Tiers Etat’ making a speech with one knee on the ground; tell her this, do you hear?” I was struck with dread; the Queen then appeared in the balcony. “Ah!” said the woman in the veil, “the Duchess is not with her.”—“No,” replied the man, “but she is still at Versailles; she is working underground, molelike; but we shall know how to dig her out.” The detestable pair moved away from me, and I reentered the palace, scarcely able to support myself. I thought it my duty to relate the dialogue of these two strangers to the Queen; she made me repeat the particulars to the King.
About four in the afternoon I went across the terrace to Madame Victoire’s apartments; three men had stopped under the windows of the throne-chamber. “Here is that throne,” said one of them aloud, “the vestiges of which will soon be sought for.” He added a thousand invectives against their Majesties. I went in to the Princess, who was at work alone in her closet, behind a canvass blind, which prevented her from being seen by those without. The three men were still walking upon the terrace; I showed them to her, and told her what they had said. She rose to take a nearer view of them, and informed me that one of them was named Saint-Huruge; that he was sold to the Duc d’Orleans, and was furious against the Government, because he had been confined once under a ’lettre de cachet’ as a bad character.
The King was not ignorant of these popular threats; he also knew the days on which money was scattered about Paris, and once or twice the Queen prevented my going there, saying there would certainly be a riot the next day, because she knew that a quantity of crown pieces had been distributed in the faubourgs.
[I have seen a six-franc crown piece, which certainly served to pay some wretch on the night of the 12th of July; the words “Midnight, 12th July, three pistols,” were rather deeply engraven on it. They were, no doubt, a password for the first insurrection. —Madame COMPAN]
On the evening of the 14th of July the King came to the Queen’s apartments, where I was with her Majesty alone; he conversed with her respecting the scandalous report disseminated by the factious, that he had had the Chamber of the National Assembly undermined, in order to blow it up; but he added that it became him to treat such absurd assertions with contempt, as usual; I ventured to tell him that I had the evening before supped with M. Begouen, one of the deputies, who said that there were very respectable persons who thought that this horrible contrivance had been proposed without the King’s knowledge. “Then,” said his Majesty, “as the idea of such an atrocity was not revolting to so worthy a man as M. Begouen, I will order the chamber to be examined early to-morrow morning.” In fact, it will be seen by the King’s, speech to the National Assembly, on the 15th of July, that the suspicions excited obtained his attention. “I know,” said he in the speech in question, “that unworthy insinuations have been made; I know there are those who have dared to assert that your persons are not safe; can it be necessary to give you assurances upon the subject of reports so culpable, denied beforehand by my known character?”
The proceedings of the 15th of July produced no mitigation of the disturbances. Successive deputations of poissardes came to request the King to visit Paris, where his presence alone would put an end to the insurrection.
On the 16th a committee was held in the King’s apartments, at which a most important question was discussed: whether his Majesty should quit Versailles and set off with the troops whom he had recently ordered to withdraw, or go to Paris to tranquillise the minds of the people. The Queen was for the departure. On the evening of the 16th she made me take all her jewels out of their cases, to collect them in one small box, which she might carry off in her own carriage. With my assistance she burnt a large quantity of papers; for Versailles was then threatened with an early visit of armed men from Paris.
The Queen, on the morning of the 16th, before attending another committee at the King’s, having got her jewels ready, and looked over all her papers, gave me one folded up but not sealed, and desired me not to read it until she should give me an order to do so from the King’s room, and that then I was to execute its contents; but she returned herself about ten in the morning; the affair was decided; the army was to go away without the King; all those who were in imminent danger were to go at the same time. “The King will go to the Hotel de Ville to-morrow,” said the Queen to me; “he did not choose this course for himself; there were long debates on the question; at last the King put an end to them by rising and saying, ’Well, gentlemen, we must decide; am I to go or to stay? I am ready to do either.’ The majority were for the King staying; time will show whether the right choice has been made.” I returned the Queen the paper she had given me, which was now useless; she read it to me; it contained her orders for the departure; I was to go with her, as well on account of my office about her person as to serve as a teacher to Madame. The Queen tore the paper, and said, with tears in her eyes, “When I wrote this I thought it would be useful, but fate has ordered otherwise, to the misfortune of us all, as I much fear.”
After the departure of the troops the new administration received thanks; M. Necker was recalled. The artillery soldiers were undoubtedly corrupted. “Wherefore all these guns?” exclaimed the crowds of women who filled the streets. “Will you kill your mothers, your wives, your children?”—“Don’t be afraid,” answered the soldiers; “these guns shall rather be levelled against the tyrant’s palace than against you!”
The Comte d’Artois, the Prince de Conde, and their children set off at the same time with the troops. The Duc and Duchesse de Polignac, their daughter, the Duchesse de Guiche, the Comtesse Diane de Polignac, sister of the Duke, and the Abbe de Baliviere, also emigrated on the same night. Nothing could be more affecting than the parting of the Queen and her friend; extreme misfortune had banished from their minds the recollection of differences to which political opinions alone had given rise. The Queen several times wished to go and embrace her once more after their sorrowful adieu, but she was too closely watched.
M. Campan remained till midnight with the Duchess to see her enter her carriage. She was disguised as a femme de chambre, and got up in front of the Berlin; she requested M. Campan to remember her frequently to the Queen, and then quitted for ever that palace, that favour, and that influence which had raised her up such cruel enemies. On their arrival at Sens the travellers found the people in a state of insurrection; they asked all those who came from Paris whether the Polignacs were still with the Queen. A group of inquisitive persons put that question to the Abbe de Baliviere, who answered them in the firmest tone, and with the most cavalier air, that they were far enough from Versailles, and that we had got rid of all such bad people. At the following stage the postilion got on the doorstep and said to the Duchess, “Madame, there are some good people left in the world: I recognised you all at Sens.” They gave the worthy fellow a handful of gold.
On the breaking out of these disturbances an old man above seventy years of age gave the Queen an extraordinary proof of attachment and fidelity. M. Peraque, a rich inhabitant of the colonies, father of M. d’Oudenarde, was coming from Brussels to Paris; while changing horses he was met by a young man who was leaving France, and who recommended him if he carried any letters from foreign countries to burn them immediately, especially if he had any for the Queen. M. Peraque had one from the Archduchess, the Gouvernante of the Low Countries, for her Majesty. He thanked the stranger, and carefully concealed his packet; but as he approached Paris the insurrection appeared to him so general and so violent, that he thought no means could be relied on for securing this letter from seizure. He took upon him to unseal it, and learned it by heart, which was a wonderful effort for a man at his time of life, as it contained four pages of writing. On his arrival at Paris he wrote it down, and then presented it to the Queen, telling her that the heart of an old and faithful subject had given him courage to form and execute such a resolution. The Queen received M. Peraque in her closet, and expressed her gratitude in an affecting manner most honourable to the worthy old man. Her Majesty thought the young stranger who had apprised him of the state of Paris was Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt, who was very devoted to her, and who left Paris at that time.
The Marquise de Tourzel replaced the Duchess de Polignac. She was selected by the Queen as being the mother of a family and a woman of irreproachable conduct, who had superintended the education of her own daughters with the greatest success.
The King went to Paris on the 17th of July, accompanied by the Marechal de Beauvau, the Duc de Villeroi, and the Duc de Villequier; he also took the Comte d’Estaing, and the Marquis de Nesle, who were then very popular, in his carriage. Twelve Body Guards, and the town guard of Versailles, escorted him to the Pont du Jour, near Sevres, where the Parisian guard was waiting for him. His departure caused equal grief and alarm to his friends, notwithstanding the calmness he exhibited. The Queen restrained her tears, and shut herself up in her private rooms with her family. She sent for several persons belonging to her Court; their doors were locked. Terror had driven them away. The silence of death reigned throughout the palace; they hardly dared hope that the King would return? The Queen had a robe prepared for her, and sent orders to her stables to have all her equipages ready. She wrote an address of a few lines for the Assembly, determining to go there with her family, the officers of her palace, and her servants, if the King should be detained prisoner at Paris. She got this address by heart; it began with these words: “Gentlemen, I come to place in your hands the wife and family of your sovereign; do not suffer those who have been united in heaven to be put asunder on earth.” While she was repeating this address she was often interrupted by tears, and sorrowfully exclaimed: “They will not let him return!”
It was past four when the King, who had left Versailles at ten in the morning, entered the Hotel de Ville. At length, at six in the evening, M. de Lastours, the King’s first page, arrived; he was not half an hour in coming from the Barriere de la Conference to Versailles. Everybody knows that the moment of calm in Paris was that in which the unfortunate sovereign received the tricoloured cockade from M. Bailly, and placed it in his hat. A shout of “Vive le Roi!” arose on all sides; it had not been once uttered before. The King breathed again, and with tears in his eyes exclaimed that his heart stood in need of such greetings from the people. One of his equerries (M. de Cubieres) told him the people loved him, and that he could never have doubted it. The King replied in accents of profound sensibility:
“Cubieres, the French loved Henri IV., and what king ever better deserved to be beloved?”
[Louis XVI. cherished the memory of Henri IV.: at that moment he thought of his deplorable end; but he long before regarded him as a model. Soulavie says on the subject: “A tablet with the inscription ‘Resurrexit’ placed upon the pedestal of Henri IV.’s statue on the accession of Louis XVI. flattered him exceedingly. ‘What a fine compliment,’ said he, ’if it were
His return to Versailles filled his family with inexpressible joy; in the arms of the Queen, his sister, and his children, he congratulated himself that no accident had happened; and he repeated several times, “Happily no blood has been shed, and I swear that never shall a drop of French blood be shed by my order,”—a determination full of humanity, but too openly avowed in such factious times!
The King’s last measure raised a hope in many that general tranquillity would soon enable the Assembly to resume its, labours, and promptly bring its session to a close. The Queen never flattered herself so far; M. Bailly’s speech to the King had equally wounded her pride and hurt her feelings. “Henri IV. conquered his people, and here are the people conquering their King.” The word “conquest” offended her; she never forgave M. Bailly for this fine academical phrase.
Five days after the King’s visit to Paris, the departure of the troops, and the removal of the Princes and some of the nobility whose influence seemed to alarm the people, a horrible deed committed by hired assassins proved that the King had descended the steps of his throne without having effected a reconciliation with his people.
M. Foulon, adjoint to the administration while M. de Broglie was commanding the army assembled at Versailles, had concealed himself at Viry. He was there recognised, and the peasants seized him, and dragged him to the Hotel de Ville. The cry for death was heard; the electors, the members of committee, and M. de La Fayette, at that time the idol of Paris, in vain endeavoured to save the unfortunate man. After tormenting him in a manner which makes humanity shudder, his body was dragged about the streets, and to the Palais Royal, and his heart was carried by women in the midst of a bunch of white carnations! M. Berthier, M. Foulon’s son-in-law, intendant of Paris, was seized at Compiegne, at the same time that his father-in-law was seized at Viry, and treated with still more relentless cruelty.
The Queen was always persuaded that this horrible deed was occasioned by some indiscretion; and she informed me that M. Foulon had drawn up two memorials for the direction of the King’s conduct at the time of his being called to Court on the removal of M. Necker; and that these memorials contained two schemes of totally different nature for extricating the King from the dreadful situation in which he was placed. In the first of these projects M. Foulon expressed himself without reserve respecting the criminal views of the Duc d’Orleans; said that he ought to be put under arrest, and that no time should be lost in commencing a prosecution against him, while the criminal tribunals were still in existence; he likewise pointed out such deputies as should be apprehended, and advised the King not to separate himself from his army until order was restored.
His other plan was that the King should make himself master of the revolution before its complete explosion; he advised his Majesty to go to the Assembly, and there, in person, to demand the cahiers,
[Cahiers, the memorials or lists of complaints, grievances, and requirements of the electors drawn up by the primary assemblies and sent with the deputies.]
and to make the greatest sacrifices to satisfy the legitimate wishes of the people, and not to give the factious time to enlist them in aid of their criminal designs. Madame Adelaide had M. Foulon’s two memorials read to her in the presence of four or five persons. One of them, Comte Louis de Narbonne, was very intimate with Madame de Stael, and that intimacy gave the Queen reason to believe that the opposite party had gained information of M. Foulon’s schemes.
It is known that young Barnave, during an aberration of mind, since expiated by sincere repentance, and even by death, uttered these atrocious words: “Is then the blood now, flowing so pure?” when M. Berthier’s son came to the Assembly to implore the eloquence of M. de Lally to entreat that body to save his father’s life. I have since been informed that a son of M. Foulon, having returned to France after these first ebullitions of the Revolution, saw Barnave, and gave him one of those memorials in which M. Foulon advised Louis XVI. to prevent the revolutionary explosion by voluntarily granting all that the Assembly required before the 14th of July. “Read this memorial,” said he; “I have brought it to increase your remorse: it is the only revenge I wish to inflict on you.” Barnave burst into tears, and said to him all that the profoundest grief could dictate.
After the 14th of July, by a manoeuvre for which the most skilful factions of any age might have envied the Assembly, the whole population of France was armed and organised into a National Guard. A report was spread throughout France on the same day, and almost at the same hour, that four thousand brigands were marching towards such towns or villages as it was wished to induce to take arms. Never was any plan better laid; terror spread at the same moment all over the kingdom. In 1791 a peasant showed me a steep rock in the mountains of the Mont d’Or on which his wife concealed herself on the day when the four thousand brigands were to attack their village, and told me they had been obliged to make use of ropes to let her down from the height which fear alone had enabled her to climb.
Versailles was certainly the place where the national military uniform appeared most offensive. All the King’s valets, even of the lowest class, were metamorphosed into lieutenants or captains; almost all the musicians of the chapel ventured one day to make their appearance at the King’s mass in a military costume; and an Italian soprano adopted the uniform of a grenadier captain. The King was very much offended at this conduct, and forbade his servants to appear in his presence in so unsuitable a dress.
The departure of the Duchesse de Polignac naturally left the Abbe de Vermond exposed to all the dangers of favouritism. He was already talked of as an adviser dangerous to the nation. The Queen was alarmed at it, and recommended him to remove to Valenciennes, where Count Esterhazy was in command. He was obliged to leave that place in a few days and set off for Vienna, where he remained.
On the night of the 17th of July the Queen, being unable to sleep, made me watch by her until three in the morning. I was extremely surprised to hear her say that it would be a very long time before the Abbe de Vermond would make his appearance at Court again, even if the existing ferment should subside, because he would not readily be forgiven for his attachment to the Archbishop of Sens; and that she had lost in him a very devoted servant. Then she suddenly remarked to me, that although he was not much prejudiced against me I could not have much regard for him, because he could not bear my father-in-law to hold the place of secretary of the closet. She went on to say that I must have studied the Abbe’s character, and, as I had sometimes drawn her portraits of living characters, in imitation of those which were fashionable in the time of Louis XIV., she desired me to sketch that of the Abbe, without any reserve. My astonishment was extreme; the Queen spoke of the man who, the day before, had been in the greatest intimacy with her with the utmost coolness, and as a person whom, perhaps, she might never see again! I remained petrified; the Queen persisted, and told me that he had been the enemy of my family for more than twelve years, without
On the death of my father-in-law his executors placed in my hands a box containing a few jewels deposited by the Queen with M. Campan on the departure from Versailles of the 6th of October, and two sealed packets, each inscribed, “Campan will take care of these papers for me.” I took the two packets to her Majesty, who kept the jewels and the larger packet, and, returning me the smaller, said, “Take care of that for me as your father-in-law did.”
After the fatal 10th of August, 1792,—[The day of the attack on the Tuileries, slaughter of the Swiss guard, and suspension of the King from his functions.]—when my house was about to be surrounded, I determined to burn the most interesting papers of which I was the depositary; I thought it my duty, however, to open this packet, which it might perhaps be necessary for me to preserve at all hazards. I saw that it contained a letter from the Abbe de Vermond to the Queen. I have already related that in the earlier days of Madame de Polignac’s favour he determined to remove from Versailles, and that the Queen recalled him by means of the Comte de Mercy. This letter contained nothing but certain conditions for his return; it was the most whimsical of treaties; I confess I greatly regretted being under the necessity of destroying it. He reproached the Queen for her infatuation for the Comtesse Jules, her family, and society; and told her several truths about the possible consequences of a friendship which ranked that lady among the favourites of the Queens of France, a title always disliked by the nation. He complained that his advice was neglected, and then came to the conditions of his return to Versailles; after strong assurances that he would never, in all his life, aim at the higher church dignities, he said that he delighted in an unbounded confidence; and that he asked but two things of her Majesty as essential: the first was, not to give him her orders through any third person, and to write to him herself; he complained much that he had had no letter in her own hand since he had left Vienna; then he demanded of her an income of eighty thousand livres, in ecclesiastical benefices; and concluded by saying that, if she condescended to assure him herself that she would set about procuring him what he wished, her letter would be sufficient in itself to show him that her Majesty had accepted the two conditions he ventured to make respecting his return. No doubt the letter was written; at least it is very certain that the benefices were granted, and that his absence from Versailles lasted only a single week.
In the course of July, 1789, the regiment of French guards, which had been in a state of insurrection from the latter end of June, abandoned its colours. One single company of grenadiers remained faithful, to its post at Versailles. M. le Baron de Leval was the captain of this company. He came every evening to request me to give the Queen an account of the disposition of his soldiers; but M. de La Fayette having sent them a note, they all deserted during the night and joined their comrades, who were enrolled in the Paris guard; so that Louis XVI. on rising saw no guard whatever at the various posts entrusted to them.
The decrees of the 4th of August, by which all privileges were abolished, are well known.
["It was during the night of the 4th of August,” says Rivarol, “that the demagogues of the nobility, wearied with a protracted discussion upon the rights of man, and burning to signalise their zeal, rose all at once, and with loud exclamations called for the last sighs of the feudal system. This demand electrified the Assembly. All heads were frenzied. The younger sons of good families, having nothing, were delighted to sacrifice their too fortunate elders upon the altar of the country; a few country cures felt no less pleasure in renouncing the benefices of others; but what posterity will hardly believe is that the same enthusiasm infected the whole nobility; zeal walked hand in hand with malevolence; they made sacrifice upon sacrifice. And as in Japan the point of honour lies in a man’s killing himself in the presence of the person who has offended him, so did the deputies of the nobility vie in striking at themselves and their constituents. The people who were present at this noble contest increased the intoxication of their new allies by their shouts; and the deputies of the commons, seeing that this memorable night would only afford them profit without honour, consoled their self-love by wondering at what Nobility, grafted upon the Third Estate, could do. They named that night the ‘night of dupes’; the nobles called it the ’night of sacrifices’.”—Note by the editor.]
The King sanctioned all that tended to the diminution of his own personal gratifications, but refused his consent to the other decrees of that tumultuous night; this refusal was one of the chief causes of the ferments of the month of October.
In the early part of September meetings were held at the Palais Royal, and propositions made to go to Versailles; it was said to be necessary to separate the King from his evil counsellors, and keep him, as well as the Dauphin, at the Louvre. The proclamations by the officers of the commune for the restoration of tranquillity were ineffectual; but M. de La Fayette succeeded this time in dispersing the populace. The Assembly declared itself permanent; and during the whole of September, in which no doubt the preparations were made for the great insurrections of the following month, the Court was not disturbed.
The King had the Flanders regiment removed to Versailles; unfortunately the idea of the officers of that regiment fraternising with the Body Guards was conceived, and the latter invited the former to a dinner, which was given in the great theatre of Versailles, and not in the Salon of Hercules, as some chroniclers say. Boxes were appropriated to various persons who wished to be present at this entertainment. The Queen told me she had been advised to make her appearance on the occasion, but that under existing circumstances she thought such a step might do more harm than good; and that, moreover, neither she nor the King ought directly to have anything to do with such a festival. She ordered me to go, and desired me to observe everything closely, in order to give a faithful account of the whole affair.
The tables were set out upon the stage; at them were placed one of the Body Guard and an officer of the Flanders regiment alternately. There was a numerous orchestra in the room, and the boxes were filled with spectators. The air, “O Richard, O mon Roi!” was played, and shouts of “Vive de Roi!” shook the roof for several minutes. I had with me one of my nieces, and a young person brought up with Madame by her Majesty. They were crying “Vive le Roi!” with all their might when a deputy of the Third Estate, who was in the next box to mine, and whom I had never seen, called to them, and reproached them for their exclamations; it hurt him, he said, to see young and handsome Frenchwomen brought up in such servile habits, screaming so outrageously for the life of one man, and with true fanaticism exalting him in their hearts above even their dearest relations; he told them what contempt worthy American women would feel on seeing Frenchwomen thus corrupted from their earliest infancy. My niece replied with tolerable spirit, and I requested the deputy to put an end to the subject, which could by no means afford him any satisfaction, inasmuch as the young persons who were with me lived, as well as myself, for the sole purpose of serving and loving the King. While I was speaking what was my astonishment at seeing the King, the Queen, and the Dauphin enter the chamber! It was M. de Luxembourg who had effected this change in the Queen’s determination.
The enthusiasm became general; the moment their Majesties arrived the orchestra repeated the air I have just mentioned, and afterwards played a song in the “Deserter,” “Can we grieve those whom we love?” which also made a powerful impression upon those present: on all sides were heard praises of their Majesties, exclamations of affection, expressions of regret for what they had suffered, clapping of hands, and shouts of “Vive le Roi! Vive la Reine! Vive le Dauphin!” It has been said that white cockades were worn on this occasion; that was not the case; the fact is, that a few young men belonging to the National Guard of Versailles, who were invited to the entertainment, turned the white lining of their
I returned home, delighted with all that I had seen.
I found a great many people there. M. de Beaumetz, deputy for Arras, listened to my description with a chilling air, and, when I had finished, told me that all that had passed was terrific; that he knew the disposition of the Assembly, and that the greatest misfortunes would follow the drama of that night; and he begged my leave to withdraw that he might take time for deliberate reflection whether he should on the very next day emigrate, or pass over to the left side of the Assembly. He adopted the latter course, and never appeared again among my associates.
On the 2d of October the military entertainment was followed up by a breakfast given at the hotel of the Body Guards. It is said that a discussion took place whether they should not march against the Assembly; but I am utterly ignorant of what passed at that breakfast. From that moment Paris was constantly in commotion; there were continual mobs, and the most virulent proposals were heard in all public places; the conversation was invariably about proceeding to Versailles. The King and Queen did not seem apprehensive of such a measure, and took no precaution against it; even when the army had actually left Paris, on the evening of the 5th of October, the King was shooting at Meudon, and the Queen was alone in her gardens at Trianon, which she then beheld for the last time in her life. She was sitting in her grotto absorbed in painful reflection, when she received a note from the Comte de Saint-Priest, entreating her to return to Versailles. M. de Cubieres at the same time went off to request the King to leave his sport and return to the palace; the King did so on horseback, and very leisurely. A few minutes afterwards he was informed that a numerous body of women, which preceded the Parisian army, was at Chaville, at the entrance of the avenue from Paris.
The scarcity of bread and the entertainment of the Body Guards were the pretexts for the insurrection of the 5th and 6th of October, 1789; but it is clear to demonstration that this new movement of the people was a part of the original plan of the factious, insomuch as, ever since the beginning of September, a report had been industriously circulated that the King intended to withdraw, with his family and ministers, to some stronghold; and at all the popular assemblies there had been always a great deal said about going to Versailles to seize the King.
At first only women showed themselves; the latticed doors of the Chateau were closed, and the Body Guard and Flanders regiment were drawn up in the Place d’Armes. As the details of that dreadful day are given with precision in several works, I will only observe that general consternation and disorder reigned throughout the interior of the palace.
I was not in attendance on the Queen at this time. M. Campan remained with her till two in the morning. As he was leaving her she condescendingly, and with infinite kindness, desired him to make me easy as to the dangers of the moment, and to repeat to me M. de La Fayette’s own words, which he had just used on soliciting the royal family to retire to bed, undertaking to answer for his army.
The Queen was far from relying upon M. de La Fayette’s loyalty; but she has often told me that she believed on that day, that La Fayette, having affirmed to the King, in the presence of a crowd of witnesses, that he would answer for the army of Paris, would not risk his honour as a commander, and was sure of being able to redeem his pledge. She also thought the Parisian army was devoted to him, and that all he said about his being forced to march upon Versailles was mere pretence.
On the first intimation of the march of the Parisians, the Comte de Saint-Priest prepared Rambouillet for the reception of the King, his family, and suite, and the carriages were even drawn out; but a few cries of “Vive le Roi!” when the women reported his Majesty’s favourable answer, occasioned the intention of going away to be given up, and orders were given to the troops to withdraw.
[Compare this account with the particulars given in the “Memoirs” of Ferribres, Weber, Bailly, and Saint-Priest, from the latter of which the following sentence is taken:
“M. d’Estaing knew not what to do with the Body Guards beyond bringing them into the courtyard of the ministers, and shutting the grilles. Thence they proceeded to the terrace of the Chateau, then to Trianon, and lastly to Rambouillet.
“I could not refrain from expressing to M. d’Estaing, when he came to the King, my astonishment at not seeing him make any military disposition. ‘Monsieur,’ replied he, ‘I await the orders of the King’ (who did not open his mouth). ‘When the King gives no orders,’ pursued I, ’a general should decide for himself in a soldierly manner.’ This observation remained unanswered.”]
The Body Guards were, however, assailed with stones and musketry while they were passing from the Place d’Armes to, their hotel. Alarm revived; again it was thought necessary that the royal family should go away; some carriages still remained ready for travelling; they were called for; they were stopped by a wretched player belonging to the theatre of the town, seconded by the mob: the opportunity for flight had been lost.
The insurrection was directed against the Queen in particular; I shudder even now at the recollection of the poissardes, or rather furies, who wore white aprons, which they screamed out were intended to receive the bowels of Marie Antoinette, and that they would make cockades of them, mixing the most obscene expressions with these horrible threats.
The Queen went to bed at two in the morning, and even slept, tired out with the events of so distressing a day. She had ordered her two women to bed, imagining there was nothing to dread, at least for that night; but the unfortunate Princess was indebted for her life to that feeling of attachment which prevented their obeying her. My sister, who was one of the ladies in question, informed me next day of all that I am about to relate.
On leaving the Queen’s bedchamber, these ladies called their femmes de chambre, and all four remained sitting together against her Majesty’s bedroom door. About half-past four in the morning they heard horrible yells and discharges of firearms; one ran to the Queen to awaken her and get her out of bed; my sister flew to the place from which the tumult seemed to proceed; she opened the door of the antechamber which leads to the great guard-room, and beheld one of the Body Guard holding his musket across the door, and attacked by a mob, who were striking at him; his face was covered with blood; he turned round and exclaimed: “Save the Queen, madame; they are come to assassinate her!” She hastily shut the door upon the unfortunate victim of duty, fastened it with the great bolt, and took the same precaution on leaving the next room. On reaching the Queen’s chamber she cried out to her, “Get up, Madame! Don’t stay to dress yourself; fly to the King’s apartment!” The terrified Queen threw herself out of bed; they put a petticoat upon her without tying it, and the two ladies conducted her towards the oile-de-boeuf. A door, which led from the Queen’s dressing-room to that apartment, had never before been fastened but on her side. What a dreadful moment! It was found to be secured on the other side. They knocked repeatedly with all their strength; a servant of one of the King’s valets de chambre came and opened it; the Queen entered the King’s chamber, but he was not there. Alarmed for the Queen’s life, he had gone down the staircases and through the corridors under the oeil-de-boeuf, by means of which he was accustomed to go to the Queen’s apartments without being under the necessity of crossing that room. He entered her Majesty’s room
It is not true that the assassins penetrated to the Queen’s chamber and pierced the bed with their swords. The fugitive Body Guards were the only persons who entered it; and if the crowd had reached so far they would all have been massacred. Besides, when the rebels had forced the doors of the antechamber, the footmen and officers on duty, knowing that the Queen was no longer in her apartments, told them so with that air of truth which always carries conviction. The ferocious horde instantly rushed towards the oeil-de-boeuf, hoping, no doubt, to intercept her on her way.
Many have asserted that they recognised the Duc d’Orleans in a greatcoat and slouched hat, at half-past four in the morning, at the top of the marble staircase, pointing out with his hand the guard-room, which led to the Queen’s apartments. This fact was deposed to at the Chatelet by several individuals in the course of the inquiry instituted respecting the transactions of the 5th and 6th of October.
[The National Assembly was sitting when information of the march of the Parisians was given to it by one of the deputies who came from Paris. A certain number of the members were no strangers, to this movement. It appears that Mirabeau wished to avail himself of it to raise the Duc d’Orleans to the throne. Mounier, who presided over the National Assembly, rejected the idea with horror. “My good man,” said Mirabeau to him, “what difference will it make to you to have Louis XVII. for your King instead of Louis XVI.?” (The Duc d’Orleans was baptised Louis.)]
The prudence and honourable feeling of several officers of the Parisian guards, and the judicious conduct of M. de Vaudreuil, lieutenant-general of marine, and of M. de Chevanne, one of the King’s Guards, brought about an understanding between the grenadiers of the National Guard of Paris and the King’s Guard. The doors of the oeil-de-boeuf were closed, and the antechamber which precedes that room was filled with grenadiers who wanted to get in to massacre the Guards. M. de Chevanne offered himself to them as a victim if they wished for one, and demanded what they would have. A report had been spread through their ranks that the Body Guards set them at defiance, and that they all wore black cockades. M. de Chevanne showed them that he wore, as did the corps, the cockade of their uniform; and promised that the Guards should exchange it for that of the nation. This was done; they even went so far as to exchange their grenadiers’ caps for the hats of the Body Guards; those who were on guard took off their shoulder-belts; embraces and transports of fraternisation instantly succeeded to the savage eagerness to murder the band which had shown so much fidelity to its sovereign. The cry was now “Vivent le Roi, la Nation, et les Gardes-du-corps!”
The army occupied the Place d’Armes, all the courtyards of the Chateau, and the entrance to the avenue. They called for the Queen to appear in the balcony: she came forward with Madame and the Dauphin. There was a cry of “No children!” Was this with a view to deprive her of the interest she inspired, accompanied as she was by her young family, or did the leaders of the democrats hope that some madman would venture to aim a mortal blow at her person? The unfortunate Princess certainly was impressed with the latter idea, for she sent away her children, and with her hands and eyes raised towards heaven, advanced upon the balcony like a self-devoted victim.
A few voices shouted “To Paris!” The exclamation soon became general. Before the King agreed to this removal he wished to consult the National Assembly, and caused that body to be invited to sit at the Chateau. Mirabeau opposed this measure. While these discussions were going forward it became more and more difficult to restrain the immense disorderly multitude. The King, without consulting any one, now said to the people: “You wish, my children, that I should follow you to Paris: I consent, but on condition that I shall not be separated from my wife and family.” The King added that he required safety also for his Guards; he was answered by shouts of “Vivo le Roi! Vivent les Gardes-du-corps!” The Guards, with their hats in the air, turned so as to exhibit the. cockade, shouted “Vive le Roi! Vive la Nation!” shortly afterwards a general discharge of all the muskets took place, in token of joy. The King and Queen set off from Versailles at one o’clock. The Dauphin, Madame, the King’s daughter, Monsieur, Madame,—[Madame, here, the wife of Monsieur le Comte de Provence.]—Madame Elisabeth, and Madame de Tourzel, were in the carriage; the Princesse de Chimay and the ladies of the bedchamber for the week, the King’s suite and servants, followed in Court carriages; a hundred deputies in carriages, and the bulk of the Parisian army, closed the procession.
The poissardes went before and around the carriage of their Majesties, Crying, “We shall no longer want bread! We have the baker, the baker’s wife, and the baker’s boy with us!” In the midst of this troop of cannibals the heads of two murdered Body Guards were carried on poles. The monsters, who made trophies of them, conceived the horrid idea of forcing a wigmaker of Sevres to dress them up and powder their bloody locks. The unfortunate man who was forced to perform this dreadful work died in consequence of the shock it gave him.
[The King did not leave Versailles till one o’clock. The Queen, the Dauphin, Madame Royale, Monsieur, Madame Elisabeth, and Madame de Tourzel were in his Majesty’s carriage. The hundred deputies in their carriages came next. A detachment of brigands, bearing the heads of the two Body Guards in triumph, formed the advance guard, and set out two hours earlier. These cannibals stopped a moment
The progress of the procession was so slow that it was near six in the evening when this august family, made prisoners by their own people, arrived at the Hotel de Ville. Bailly received them there; they were placed upon a throne, just when that of their ancestors had been overthrown. The King spoke in a firm yet gracious manner; he said that he always came with pleasure and confidence among the inhabitants of his good city of Paris. M. Bailly repeated this observation to the representatives of the commune, who came to address the King; but he forgot the word confidence. The Queen instantly and loudly reminded him of the omission. The King and Queen, their children, and Madame Elisabeth, retired to the Tuileries. Nothing was ready for their reception there. All the living-rooms had been long given up to persons belonging to the Court; they hastily quitted them on that day, leaving their furniture, which was purchased by the Court. The Comtesse de la Marck, sister to the Marechaux de Noailles and de Mouchy, had occupied the apartments now appropriated to the Queen. Monsieur and Madame retired to the Luxembourg.
The Queen had sent for me on the morning of the 6th of October, to leave me and my father-in-law in charge of her most valuable property. She took away only her casket of diamonds. Comte Gouvernet de la Tour-du-Pin, to whom the military government of Versailles was entrusted ‘pro tempore’, came and gave orders to the National Guard, which had taken possession of the apartments, to allow us to remove everything that we should deem necessary for the Queen’s accommodation.
I saw her Majesty alone in her private apartments a moment before her departure for Paris; she could hardly speak; tears bedewed her face, to which all the blood in her body seemed to have rushed; she condescended to embrace me, gave her hand to M. Campan to kiss, and said to us, “Come immediately and settle at Paris; I will lodge you at the Tuileries; come, and do not leave me henceforward; faithful servants at moments like these become useful friends; we are lost, dragged away, perhaps to death; when kings become prisoners they are very near it.”
I had frequent opportunities during the course of our misfortunes of observing that the people never entirely give their allegiance to factious leaders, but easily escape their control when some cause reminds them of their duty. As soon as the most violent Jacobins had an opportunity of seeing the Queen near at hand, of speaking to her, and of hearing her voice, they became her most zealous partisans; and even when she was in the prison of the Temple several of those who had contributed to place her there perished for having attempted to get her out again.
On the morning of the 7th of October the same women who the day before surrounded the carriage of the august prisoners, riding on cannons and uttering the most abusive language, assembled under the Queen’s windows, upon the terrace of the Chateau, and desired to see her. Her Majesty appeared. There are always among mobs of this description orators, that is to say, beings who have more assurance than the rest; a woman of this description told the Queen that she must now remove far from her all such courtiers as ruin kings, and that she must love the inhabitants of her good city. The Queen answered that she had loved them at Versailles, and would likewise love them at Paris. “Yes, yes,” said another; “but on the 14th of July you wanted to besiege the city and have it bombarded; and on the 6th of October you wanted to fly to the frontiers.” The Queen replied, affably, that they had been told so, and had believed it; that there lay the cause of the unhappiness of the people and of the best of kings. A third addressed a few words to her in German: the Queen told her she did not understand it; that she had become so entirely French as even to have forgotten her mother tongue. This declaration was answered with “Bravo!” and clapping of hands; they then desired her to make a compact with them. “Ah,” said she, “how can I make a compact with you, since you have no faith in that which my duty points out to me, and which I ought for my own happiness to respect?” They asked her for the ribbons and flowers out of her hat; her Majesty herself unfastened them and gave them; they were divided among the party, which for above half an hour cried out, without ceasing, “Marie Antoinette for ever! Our good Queen for ever!”
Two days after the King’s arrival at Paris, the city and the National Guard sent to request the Queen to appear at the theatre, and prove by her presence and the King’s that it was with pleasure they resided in their capital. I introduced the deputation which came to make this request. Her Majesty replied that she should have infinite pleasure in acceding to the invitation of the city of Paris; but that time must be allowed her to soften the recollection of the distressing events which had just occurred, and from which she had suffered too much. She added, that having come into Paris preceded by the heads of the faithful Guards who had perished before the door of their sovereign, she could not think that such an entry into the capital ought to be followed by rejoicings; but that the happiness she had always felt in appearing in the midst of the inhabitants of Paris was not effaced from her memory, and that she should enjoy it again as soon as she found herself able to do so.
Their Majesties found some consolation in their private life: from Madame’s—[Madame, here, the Princesse Marie Therese, daughter of Marie Antoinette.]—gentle manners and filial affection, from the accomplishments and vivacity of the little Dauphin, and the attention and tenderness of the pious Princess Elisabeth, they still derived moments of happiness. The young Prince daily gave proofs of sensibility and penetration; he was not yet beyond female care, but a private tutor, the Abbe Davout, gave him all the instruction suitable to his age; his memory was highly cultivated, and he recited verses with much grace and feeling.
[On the 19th of October, that is to say, thirteen days after he had taken up his abode at Paris, the King went, on foot and almost alone, to review some detachments of the National Guard. After the review Louis XVI. met with a child sweeping the street, who asked him for money. The child called the King “M. le Chevalier.” His Majesty gave him six francs. The little sweeper, surprised at receiving so large a sum, cried out, “Oh! I have no change; you will give me money another time.” A person who accompanied the monarch said to the child, “Keep it all, my friend; the gentleman is not chevalier, he is the eldest of the family.”—Note by the editor.]
The day after the arrival of the Court at Paris, terrified at hearing some noise in the gardens of the Tuileries, the young prince threw himself into the arms of the Queen, crying out, “Grand-Dieu, mamma! will it be yesterday over again?” A few days after this affecting exclamation, he went up to the King, and looked at him with a pensive air. The King asked him what he wanted; he answered, that he had something very serious to say to him. The King having prevailed on him to explain himself, the young Prince asked why his people, who formerly loved him so well, were all at once angry with him; and what he had done to irritate them so much. His father
The Queen made the young Prince clearly comprehend that he ought to treat the commanders of battalions, the officers of the National Guard, and all the Parisians who were about him, with affability; the child took great pains to please all those people, and when he had had an opportunity of replying obligingly to the mayor or members of the commune he came and whispered in his mother’s ear, “Was that right?”
He requested M. Bailly to show him the shield of Scipio, which is in the royal library; and M. Bailly asking him which he preferred, Scipio or Hannibal, the young Prince replied, without hesitation, that he preferred him who had defended his own country. He gave frequent proofs of ready wit. One day, while the Queen was hearing Madame repeat her exercises in ancient history, the young Princess could not at the moment recollect the name of the Queen of Carthage; the Dauphin was vexed at his sister’s want of memory, and though he never spoke to her in the second person singular, he bethought himself of the expedient of saying to her, “But ‘dis donc’ the name of the Queen, to mamma; ‘dis donc’ what her name was.”
Shortly after the arrival of the King and his family at Paris the Duchesse de Luynes came, in pursuance of the advice of a committee of the Constitutional Assembly, to propose to the Queen a temporary retirement from France, in order to leave the constitution to perfect itself, so that the patriots should not accuse her of influencing the King to oppose it. The Duchess knew how far the schemes of the conspirers extended, and her attachment to the Queen was the principal cause of the advice she gave her. The Queen perfectly comprehended the Duchesse de Luynes’s motive; but replied that she would never leave either the King or her son; that if she thought herself alone obnoxious to public hatred she would instantly offer her life as a sacrifice;—but that it was the throne which was aimed at, and that, in abandoning the King, she should be merely committing an act of cowardice, since she saw no other advantage in it than that of saving her own life.
One evening, in the month of November, 1790, I returned home rather late; I there found the Prince de Poix; he told me he came to request me to assist him in regaining his peace of mind; that at the commencement of the sittings of the National Assembly he had suffered himself to be seduced into the hope of a better order of things; that he blushed for his error, and that he abhorred plans which had already produced such fatal results; that he broke with the reformers for the rest of his life; that he had given in his resignation as a deputy of the National Assembly; and, finally, that he was anxious that the Queen should not sleep in ignorance of his sentiments. I undertook his commission, and acquitted myself of it in the best way I could; but I was totally unsuccessful. The Prince de Poix remained at Court; he there suffered many mortifications, never ceasing to serve the King in the most dangerous commissions with that zeal for which his house has always been distinguished.
When the King, the Queen, and the children were suitably established at the Tuileries, as well as Madame Elisabeth and the Princesse de Lamballe, the Queen resumed her usual habits; she employed her mornings in superintending the education of Madame, who received all her lessons in her presence, and she herself began to work large pieces of tapestry. Her mind was too much occupied with passing events and surrounding dangers to admit her of applying herself to reading; the needle was the only employment which could divert her.
[There was long preserved at Paris, in the house of Mademoiselle Dubuquois, a tapestry-worker, a carpet worked by the Queen and Madame Elisabeth for the large room of her Majesty’s ground-floor apartments at the Tuileries. The Empress Josephine saw and admired this carpet, and desired it might be taken care of, in the hope of one day sending it to Madame—madame Campan.]
She received the Court twice a week before going to mass, and on those days dined in public with the King; she spent the rest of the time with her family and children; she had no concert, and did not go to the play until 1791, after the acceptation of the constitution. The Princesse de Lamballe, however, had some evening parties in her apartments at the Tuileries, which were tolerably brilliant in consequence of the great number of persons who attended them. The Queen was present at a few of these assemblies; but being soon convinced that her present situation forbade her appearing much in public, she remained at home, and conversed as she sat at work. The sole topic of her discourse was, as may well be supposed, the Revolution. She sought to discover the real opinions of the Parisians respecting her, and how she could have so completely lost the affections of the people, and even of many persons in the higher ranks. She well knew that she ought to impute the whole to the spirit of party, to the hatred of the Duc d’Orleans, and the folly of the French, who desired to have a total change in the constitution; but she was not the less desirous of ascertaining the private feelings of all the people in power.
From the very commencement of the Revolution General Luckner indulged in violent sallies against her. Her Majesty, knowing that I was acquainted with a lady who had been long connected with the General, desired me to discover through that channel what was the private motive on which Luckner’s hatred against her was founded. On being questioned upon this point, he answered that Marechal de Segur had assured him he had proposed him for the command of a camp of observation, but that the Queen had made a bar against his name; and that this ‘par’, as he called it, in his German accent, he could not forget.
The Queen ordered me to repeat this reply to the King myself, and said to him: “See, Sire, whether I was not right in telling you that your ministers, in order to give themselves full scope in the distribution of favours, persuaded the French that I interfered in everything; there was not a single license given out in the country for the sale of salt or tobacco but the people believed it was given to one of my favourites.”
“That is very, true,” replied the King; “but I find it very difficult to believe that Marechal de Segur ever said any such thing to Luckner; he knew too well that you never interfered in the distribution of favours.
“That Luckner is a good-for-nothing fellow, and Segur is a brave and honourable man who never uttered such a falsehood; however, you are right; and because you provided for a few dependents, you are most unjustly reported to have disposed of all offices, civil and military.”
All the nobility who had not left Paris made a point of presenting themselves assiduously to the King, and there was a considerable influx to the Tuileries. Marks of attachment were exhibited even in external symbols; the women wore enormous bouquets of lilies in their bosoms and upon their heads, and sometimes even bunches of white ribbon. At the play there were often disputes between the pit and the boxes about removing these ornaments, which the people thought dangerous emblems. National cockades were sold in every corner of Paris; the sentinels stopped all who did not wear them; the young men piqued themselves upon breaking through this regulation, which was in some degree sanctioned by the acquiescence of Louis XVI. Frays took place, which were to be regretted, because they excited a spirit of lawlessness. The King adopted conciliatory measures with the Assembly in order to promote tranquillity; the revolutionists were but little disposed to think him sincere; unfortunately the royalists encouraged this incredulity by incessantly repeating that the King was not free, and that all that he did was completely null, and in no way bound him for the time to come. Such was the heat and violence of party spirit that persons the most sincerely attached to the King were not even permitted to use the language of reason, and recommend greater reserve in conversation. People would talk and argue at table without considering that all the servants belonged to the hostile army; and it may truly be said there was as much imprudence and levity in the party assailed as there was cunning, boldness, and perseverance in that which made the attack.
In February, 1790, another matter gave the Court much uneasiness; a zealous individual of the name of Favras had conceived the scheme of carrying off the King, and affecting a counter-revolution. Monsieur, probably out of mere benevolence, gave him some money, and thence arose a report that he thereby wished to favour the execution of the enterprise. The step taken by Monsieur in going to the Hotel de Ville to explain himself on this matter was unknown to the Queen; it is more than probable that the King was acquainted with it. When judgment was pronounced upon M. de Favras the Queen did not conceal from me her fears about the confessions of the unfortunate man in his last moments.
I sent a confidential person to the Hotel de Ville; she came to inform the Queen that the condemned had demanded to be taken from Notre-Dame to the Hotel de Ville to make a final declaration, and give some particulars verifying it. These particulars compromised nobody; Favras corrected his last will after writing it, and went to the scaffold with heroic courage and coolness. The judge who read his condemnation to him told him that his life was a sacrifice which he owed to public tranquillity. It was asserted at the time that Favras was given up as a victim in order to satisfy the people and save the Baron de Besenval, who was a prisoner in the Abbaye.
[Thomas Mahy, Marquis de Favras, was accused in the month of December, 1789, of having conspired against the Revolution. Having been arrested by order of the committee of inquiry of the National Assembly, he was transferred to the Chatelet, where he defended himself with much coolness and presence of mind, repelling the accusations brought against him by Morel, Turcati, and Marquis, with considerable force. These witnesses declared he had imparted his plan to them; it was to be carried into execution by 12,000 Swiss and 12,000 Germans, who were to be assembled at Montargis, thence to march upon Paris, carry off the King, and assassinate Bailly, La Fayette, and Necker. The greater number of these charges he denied, and declared that the rest related only to the levy of a troop intended to favour the revolution preparing in Brabant. The judge having refused to disclose who had denounced him, he complained to the Assembly, which passed to the order of the day. His death was obviously inevitable. During the whole time of the proceedings the populace never ceased threatening the judges and shouting, “A la lanterne!” It was even necessary to keep numerous troops and artillery constantly ready to act in the courtyard of the Chatelet. The judges, who had just acquitted M. de Besenval in an affair nearly similar, doubtless dreaded the effects of this fury. When they refused to hear Favras’s witnesses in exculpation, he compared them to the tribunal of the Inquisition. The principal charge against him was founded on a letter
On the morning of the Sunday following this execution M. de la Villeurnoy came to my house to tell me that he was going that day to the public dinner of the King and Queen to present Madame de Favras and her son, both of them in mourning for the brave Frenchman who fell a sacrifice for his King; and that all the royalists expected to see the Queen load the unfortunate family with favours. I did all that lay in my power to prevent this proceeding. I foresaw the effect it would have upon the Queen’s feeling heart, and the painful constraint she would experience, having the horrible Santerre, the commandant of a battalion of the Parisian guard, behind her chair during dinner-time. I could not make M. de la Villeurnoy comprehend my argument; the Queen was gone to mass, surrounded by her whole Court, and I had not even means of apprising her of his intention.
When dinner was over I heard a knocking at the door of my apartment, which opened into the corridor next that of the Queen; it was herself. She asked me whether there was anybody with me; I was alone; she threw herself into an armchair, and told me she came to weep with me over the foolish conduct of the ultras of the King’s party. “We must fall,” said she, “attacked as we are by men who possess every talent and shrink from no crime, while we are defended only by those who are no doubt very estimable, but have no adequate idea of our situation. They have exposed me to the animosity of both parties by presenting the widow and son of Favras to me. Were I free to act as I wish, I should take the child of the man who has just sacrificed himself for us and place him at table between the King and myself; but surrounded by the assassins who have destroyed his father, I did not dare even to cast my eyes upon him. The royalists will blame me for not having appeared interested in this poor child; the revolutionists will be enraged at the idea that his presentation should have been thought agreeable to me.” However, the Queen added that she knew Madame de Favras was in want, and that she desired me to send her next day, through a person who could be relied on, a few rouleaus of fifty Louis, and to direct that she should be assured her Majesty would always watch over the fortunes of herself and her son.
In the month of March following I had an opportunity of ascertaining the King’s sentiments respecting the schemes which were continually proposed to him for making his escape. One night about ten o’clock Comte d’Inisdal, who was deputed by the nobility, came to request that I would see him in private, as he had an important matter to communicate to me. He told me that on that very night the King was to be carried off; that the section of the National Guard, that day commanded by M. d’Aumont, was gained over, and that sets of horses, furnished by some good royalists, were placed in relays at suitable distances; that he had just left a number of the nobility assembled for the execution of this scheme, and that he had been sent to me that I might, through the medium of the Queen, obtain the King’s positive consent to it before midnight; that the King was aware of their plan, but that his Majesty never would speak decidedly, and that it was necessary he should consent to the undertaking. I greatly displeased Comte d’Inisdal by expressing my astonishment that the nobility at the moment of the execution of so important a project should send to me, the Queen’s first woman, to obtain a consent which ought to have been the basis of any well-concerted scheme. I told him, also, that it would be impossible for me to go at that time to the Queen’s apartments without exciting the attention of the people in the antechambers; that the King was at cards with the Queen and his family, and that I never broke in upon their privacy unless I was called for. I added, however, that M. Campan could enter without being called; and if the Count chose to give him his confidence he might rely upon him.
My father-in-law, to whom Comte d’Inisdal repeated what he had said to me, took the commission upon himself, and went to the Queen’s apartments. The King was playing at whist with the Queen, Monsieur, and Madame; Madame Elisabeth was kneeling on a stool near the table. M. Campan informed the Queen of what had been communicated to me; nobody uttered a word. The Queen broke silence and said to the King, “Do you hear, Sire, what Campan says to us?”—“Yes, I hear,” said the King, and continued his game. Monsieur, who was in the habit of introducing passages from plays into his conversation, said to my father-in-law, “M. Campan, that pretty little couplet again, if you please;” and pressed the King to reply. At length the Queen said, “But something must be said to Campan.” The King then spoke to my father-in-law in these words: “Tell M. d’Inisdal that I cannot consent to be carried off!” The Queen enjoined M. Campan to take care and, report this answer faithfully. “You understand,” added she, “the King cannot consent to be carried off.”
Comte d’Inisdal was very much dissatisfied with the King’s answer, and went out, saying, “I understand; he wishes to throw all the blame, beforehand, upon those who are to devote themselves for him.”
He went away, and I thought the enterprise would be abandoned. However, the Queen remained alone with me till midnight, preparing her cases of valuables, and ordered me not to go to bed. She imagined the King’s answer would be understood as a tacit consent, and merely a refusal to participate in the design. I do not know what passed in the King’s apartments during the night; but I occasionally looked out at the windows: I saw the garden clear; I heard no noise in the palace, and day at length confirmed my opinion that the project had been given up. “We must, however, fly,” said the Queen to me, shortly afterwards; “who knows how far the factious may go? The danger increases every day.”
[The disturbances of the 13th of April, 1790, occasioned by the warmth of the discussions upon Dom Gerle’s imprudent motion in the National Assembly, having afforded room for apprehension that the enemies of the country would endeavour to carry off the King from the capital, M. de La Fayette promised to keep watch, and told Louis XVI. that if he saw any alarming movement among the disaffected he would give him notice of it by the discharge of a cannon from Henri IV.’s battery on the Pont Neuf. On the same night a few casual discharges of musketry were heard from the terrace of the Tuileries. The King, deceived by the noise, flew to the Queen’s apartments; he did not find her; he ran to the Dauphin’s room, where he found the Queen holding her son in her arms. “Madame;” said the King to her, “I have been seeking you; and you have made me uneasy.” The Queen, showing her son, said to him, “I was at my post.”—“Anecdotes of the Reign of Louis XVI.”]
This Princess received advice and memorials from all quarters. Rivarol addressed several to her, which I read to her. They were full of ingenious observations; but the Queen did not find that they, contained anything of essential service under the circumstances in which the royal family was placed. Comte du Moustier also sent memorials and plans of conduct. I remember that in one of his writings he said to the King, “Read ‘Telemachus’ again, Sire; in that book which delighted your Majesty in infancy you will find the first seeds of those principles which, erroneously followed up by men of ardent imaginations, are bringing on the explosion we expect every moment.” I read so many of these memorials that I could hardly give a faithful account of them, and I am determined to note in this work no other events than such as I witnessed; no other words than such as (notwithstanding the lapse of time) still in some measure vibrate in my ears.
Comte de Segur, on his return from Russia, was employed some time by the Queen, and had a certain degree of influence over her; but that did not last long. Comte Augustus de la Marck likewise endeavoured to negotiate for the King’s advantage with the leaders of the factious. M. de Fontanges, Archbishop of Toulouse, possessed also the Queen’s confidence; but none of the endeavours which were made on the spot produced any, beneficial result. The Empress Catherine II. also conveyed her opinion upon the situation of Louis XVI. to the Queen, and her Majesty made me read a few lines in the Empress’s own handwriting, which concluded with these words:
“Kings ought to proceed in their career undisturbed by the cries of the people, even as the moon pursues her course unimpeded by the baying of dogs.” This maxim of the despotic sovereign of Russia was very inapplicable to the situation of a captive king.
Meanwhile the revolutionary party followed up its audacious enterprise in a determined manner, without meeting any opposition. The advice from without, as well from Coblentz as from Vienna, made various impressions upon the members of the royal family, and those cabinets were not in accordance with each other. I often had reason to infer from what the Queen said to me that she thought the King, by leaving all the honour of restoring order to the Coblentz party,—[The Princes and the chief of the emigrant nobility assembled at Coblentz, and the name was used to designate the reactionary party.]—would, on the return of the emigrants, be put under a kind of guardianship which would increase his own misfortunes. She frequently said to me, “If the emigrants succeed, they will rule the roast for a long time; it will be impossible to refuse them anything; to owe the crown to them would be contracting too great an obligation.” It always appeared to me that she wished her own family to counterbalance the claims of the emigrants by disinterested services. She was fearful of M. de Calonne, and with good reason. She had proof that this minister was her bitterest enemy, and that he made use of the most criminal means in order to blacken her reputation. I can testify that I have seen in the hands of the Queen a manuscript copy of the infamous memoirs of the woman De Lamotte, which had been brought to her from London, and in which all those passages where a total ignorance of the customs of Courts had occasioned that wretched woman to make blunders which would have been too palpable were corrected in M. de Calonne’s own handwriting.
The two King’s Guards who were wounded at her Majesty’s door on the 6th of October were M. du Repaire and M. de Miomandre de Sainte-Marie; on the dreadful night of the 6th of October the latter took the post of the former the moment he became incapable of maintaining it.
A considerable number of the Body Guards, who were wounded on the 6th of October, betook themselves to the infirmary at Versailles. The brigands wanted to make their way into the infirmary in order to massacre them. M. Viosin, head surgeon of that infirmary, ran to the entrance hall, invited the assailants to refresh themselves, ordered wine to be brought, and found means to direct the Sister Superior to remove the Guards into a ward appropriated to the poor, and dress them in the caps and greatcoats furnished by the institution. The good sisters executed this order so promptly that the Guards were removed, dressed as paupers, and their beds made, while the assassins were drinking. They searched all the wards, and fancied they saw no persons there but the sick poor; thus the Guards were saved.
M. de Miomandre was at Paris, living on terms of friendship with another of the Guards, who, on the same day, received a gunshot wound from the brigands in another part of the Chateau. These two officers, who were attended and cured together at the infirmary of Versailles, were almost constant companions; they were recognised at the Palais Royal, and insulted. The Queen thought it necessary for them to quit Paris. She desired me to write to M. de Miomandre de Sainte-Marie, and tell him to come to me at eight o’clock in the evening; and then to communicate to him her wish to hear of his being in safety; and ordered me, when he had made up his mind to go, to tell him in her name that gold could not repay such a service as he had rendered; that she hoped some day to be in sufficiently happy circumstances to recompense him as she ought; but that for the present her offer of money was only that of a sister to a brother situated as he then was, and that she requested he would take whatever might be necessary to discharge his debts at Paris and defray the expenses of his journey. She told me also to desire he would bring his. friend Bertrand with him, and to make him the same offer.
The two Guards came at the appointed hour, and accepted, I think, each one or two hundred louis. A moment afterwards the Queen opened my door; she was accompanied by the King and Madame Elisabeth; the King stood with his back against the fireplace; the Queen sat down upon a sofa and Madame Elisabeth sat near her; I placed myself behind the Queen, and the two Guards stood facing the King. The Queen told them that the King wished to see before they went away two of the brave men who had afforded him the strongest proofs of courage and attachment. Miomandre said all that the Queen’s affecting observations were calculated to inspire. Madame Elisabeth spoke of the King’s gratitude; the Queen resumed the subject of their speedy departure, urging the necessity of it; the King was silent; but his emotion was evident, and his eyes were suffused with tears. The Queen rose, the King went out, and Madame Elisabeth followed him; the Queen stopped and said to me, in the recess of a window, “I am sorry I brought the King here! I am sure Elisabeth thinks with me; if the King had but given utterance to a fourth part of what he thinks of those brave men they would have been in ecstacies; but he cannot overcome his diffidence.”
The Emperor Joseph died about this time. The Queen’s grief was not excessive; that brother of whom she had been so proud, and whom she had loved so tenderly, had probably suffered greatly in her opinion; she reproached him sometimes, though with moderation, for having adopted several of the principles of the new philosophy, and perhaps she knew that he looked upon our troubles with the eye of the sovereign of Germany rather than that of the brother of the Queen of France.
The Emperor on one occasion sent the Queen an engraving which represented unfrocked nuns and monks. The first were trying on fashionable dresses, the latter were having their hair arranged; the picture was always left in the closet, and never hung up. The Queen told me to have it taken away; for she was hurt to see how much influence the philosophers had over her brother’s mind and actions.
Mirabeau had not lost the hope of becoming the last resource of the oppressed Court; and at this time some communications passed between the Queen and him. The question was about an office to be conferred upon him. This transpired, and it must have been about this period that the Assembly decreed that no deputy could hold an office as a minister of the King until the expiration of two years after the cessation of his legislative functions. I know that the Queen was much hurt at this decision, and considered that the Court had lost a promising opening.
The palace of the Tuileries was a very disagreeable residence during the summer, which made the Queen wish to go to St. Cloud. The removal was decided on without any opposition; the National Guard of Paris followed the Court thither. At this period new opportunities of escape were presented; nothing would have been more easy than to execute them. The King had obtained leave (!) to go out without guards, and to be accompanied only by an aide-de-camp of M. de La Fayette. The Queen also had one on duty with her, and so had the Dauphin. The King and Queen often went out at four in the afternoon, and did not return until eight or nine.
I will relate one of the plans of emigration which the Queen communicated to me, the success of which seemed infallible. The royal family were to meet in a wood four leagues from St. Cloud; some persons who could be fully relied on were to accompany the King, who was always followed by his equerries and pages; the Queen was to join him with her daughter and Madame Elisabeth. These Princesses, as well as the Queen, had equerries and pages, of whose fidelity no doubt could be entertained. The Dauphin likewise was to be at the place of rendezvous with Madame de Tourzel; a large berlin and a chaise for the attendants were sufficient for the whole family; the aides-de-camp were to have been gained over or mastered. The King was to leave a letter for the President of the National Assembly on his bureau at St. Cloud. The people in the service of the King and Queen would have waited until nine in the evening without anxiety, because the family sometimes did not return until that hour. The letter could not be forwarded to Paris until ten o’clock at the earliest. The Assembly would not then be sitting; the President must have been sought for at his own house or elsewhere; it would have been midnight before the Assembly could have been summoned and couriers sent off to have the royal family stopped; but the latter would have been six or seven hours in advance, as they would have started at six leagues’ distance from Paris; and at this period travelling was not yet impeded in France.
The Queen approved of this plan; but I did not venture to interrogate her, and I even thought if it were put in execution she would leave me in ignorance of it. One evening in the month of June the people of the Chateau, finding the King did not return by nine o’clock, were walking about the courtyards in a state of great anxiety. I thought the family, was gone, and I could scarcely breathe amidst the confusion of my good wishes, when I heard the sound of the carriages. I confessed to the Queen that I thought she had set off; she told me she must wait until Mesdames the King’s aunts had quitted France, and afterwards see whether the plan agreed with those formed abroad.
There was a meeting at Paris for the first federation on the 14th of July, 1790, the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille. What an astonishing assemblage of four hundred thousand men, of whom there were not perhaps two hundred who did not believe that the King found happiness and glory in the order of things then being established. The love which was borne him by all, with the exception of those who meditated his ruin, still reigned in the hearts of the French in the departments; but if I may judge from those whom I had an opportunity of seeing, it was totally impossible to enlighten them; they were as much attached to the King as to the constitution, and to the constitution as to the King; and it was impossible to separate the one from the other in their hearts and minds.
The Court returned to St. Cloud after the federation. A wretch, named Rotondo, made his way into the palace with the intention of assassinating the Queen. It is known that he penetrated to the inner gardens: the rain prevented her Majesty from going out that day. M. de La Fayette, who was aware of this plot, gave all the sentinels the strictest orders, and a description of the monster was distributed throughout the palace by order of the General. I do not know how he was saved from punishment. The police belonging to the King discovered that there was likewise a scheme on foot for poisoning the Queen. She spoke to me, as well as to her head physician, M. Vicq-d’Azyr, about it, without the slightest emotion, but both he and I consulted what precautions it would be proper to take. He relied much upon the Queen’s temperance; yet he recommended me always to have a bottle of oil of sweet almonds within reach, and to renew it occasionally, that oil and milk being, as is known, the most certain antidotes to the divellication of corrosive poisons.
The Queen had a habit which rendered M. Vicq-d’Azyr particularly uneasy: there was always some pounded sugar upon the table in her Majesty’s bedchamber; and she frequently, without calling anybody, put spoonfuls of it into a glass of water when she wished to drink. It was agreed that I should get a considerable quantity of sugar powdered; that I should always have some papers of it in my bag, and that three or four times a day, when alone in the Queen’s room, I should substitute it for that in her sugar-basin. We knew that the Queen would have prevented all such precautions, but we were not aware of her reason. One day she caught me alone making this exchange, and told me, she supposed it was agreed on between myself and M. Vicq-d’Azyr, but that I gave myself very unnecessary trouble. “Remember,” added she, “that not a grain of poison will be put in use against me. The Brinvilliers do not belong to this century: this age possesses calumny, which is a much more convenient instrument of death; and it is by that I shall perish.”
Even while melancholy presentiments afflicted this unfortunate Princess, manifestations of attachment to her person, and to the King’s cause, would frequently raise agreeable illusions in her mind, or present to her the affecting spectacle of tears shed for her sorrows. I was one day, during this same visit to St. Cloud, witness of a very touching scene, which we took great care to keep secret. It was four in the afternoon; the guard was not set; there was scarcely anybody at St. Cloud that day, and I was reading to the Queen, who was at work in a room the balcony of which hung over the courtyard. The windows were closed, yet we heard a sort of inarticulate murmur from a great number of voices. The Queen desired me to go and see what it was; I raised the muslin curtain, and perceived more than fifty persons beneath the balcony: this group consisted of women, young and old, perfectly well dressed in the country costume, old chevaliers of St. Louis, young knights of Malta, and a few ecclesiastics. I told the Queen it was probably an assemblage of persons residing in the neighbourhood who wished to see her. She rose, opened the window, and appeared in the balcony; immediately all these worthy people said to her, in an undertone: “Courage, Madame; good Frenchmen suffer for you, and with you; they pray for you. Heaven will hear their prayers; we love you, we respect you, we will continue to venerate our virtuous King.” The Queen burst into tears, and held her handkerchief to her eyes. “Poor Queen! she weeps!” said the women and young girls; but the dread of exposing her Majesty, and even the persons who showed so much affection for her, to observation, prompted me to take her hand, and prevail upon her to retire into her room; and, raising my eyes, I gave the excellent people to understand that my conduct was dictated by prudence. They comprehended me, for I heard, “That lady is right;” and afterwards, “Farewell, Madame!” from several of them; and all this in accents of feeling so true and so mournful, that I am affected at the recollection of them even after a lapse of twenty years.
A few days afterwards the insurrection of Nancy took place.
[The insurrection of the troops at Nancy broke out in August 1790, and was put down by Marechal de Bouille on the last day of that month. See “Bouille,” p. 195.]
Only the ostensible cause is known; there was another, of which I might have been in full possession, if the great confusion I was in upon the subject had not deprived me of the power of paying attention to it. I will endeavour to make myself understood. In the early part of September the Queen, as she was going to bed, desired me to let all her people go, and to remain with her myself; when we were alone she said to me, “The King will come here at midnight. You know that he has always shown you marks of distinction; he now proves his confidence in you by selecting you to write down the whole affair
The more I saw that I had the happiness to be of some use to my employers, the more scrupulously careful was I to live entirely with my family; and I never indulged in any conversation which could betray the intimacy to which I was admitted; but nothing at Court remains long concealed, and I soon saw I had many enemies. The means of injuring others in the minds of sovereigns are but too easily obtained, and they had become still more so, since the mere suspicion of communication with partisans of the Revolution was sufficient to forfeit the esteem and confidence of the King and Queen; happily, my conduct protected me, with them, against calumny. I had left St. Cloud two days, when I received at Paris a note from the Queen, containing these words:
“Come to St. Cloud immediately; I have something concerning you to communicate.” I set off without loss of time. Her Majesty told me she had a sacrifice to request of me; I answered that it was made. She said it went so far as the renunciation of a friend’s society; that such a renunciation was always painful, but that it must be particularly so to me; that, for her own part, it might have been very useful that a deputy, a man of talent, should be constantly received at my house; but at this moment she thought only of my welfare. The Queen then informed me that the ladies of the bedchamber had, the preceding evening, assured her that M. de Beaumetz, deputy from the nobility of Artois, who had taken his seat on the left of the Assembly, spent his whole time at my house. Perceiving on what false grounds the attempt to injure, me was based, I replied respectfully, but at the same time smiling, that it was impossible for me to make the sacrifice exacted by her Majesty; that M. de Beaumetz, a man of great judgment, had not determined to cross over to the left of the Assembly with the intention
The private communications which were still kept up between the Court and Mirabeau at length procured him an interview with the Queen, in the gardens of St. Cloud. He left Paris on horseback, on pretence of going into the country, to M. de Clavieres, one of his friends; but he stopped at one of the gates of the gardens of St. Cloud, and was led to a spot situated in the highest part of the private garden, where the Queen was waiting for him. She told me she accosted him by saying, “With a common enemy, with a man who had sworn to destroy monarchy without appreciating its utility among a great people, I should at this moment be guilty of a most ill-advised step; but in speaking to a Mirabeau,” etc. The poor Queen was delighted at having discovered this method of exalting him above all others of his principles; and in imparting the particulars of this interview to me she said, “Do you know that those words, ‘a Mirabeau,’ appeared to flatter him exceedingly.” On leaving the Queen he said to her with warmth, “Madame, the monarchy is saved!” It must have been soon afterwards that Mirabeau received considerable sums of money. He showed it too plainly by the increase of his expenditure. Already did some of his remarks upon the necessity of arresting the progress of the democrats circulate in society. Being once invited to meet a person at dinner who was very much attached to the Queen, he learned that that person withdrew on hearing that he was one of the guests; the party who invited him told him this with some degree of satisfaction; but all were very much astonished when they heard Mirabeau eulogise the absent guest, and declare that in his place he would have done the same; but, he added, they had only to invite that person again in a few months, and he would then dine with the restorer of the monarchy. Mirabeau forgot that it was more easy to do harm than good, and thought himself the political Atlas of the whole world.
Outrages and mockery were incessantly mingled with the audacious proceedings of the revolutionists. It was customary to give serenades under the King’s windows on New Year’s Day. The band of the National Guard repaired thither on that festival in 1791; in allusion to the liquidation of the debts of the State, decreed by the Assembly, they played solely, and repeatedly, that air from the comic opera of the “Debts,” the burden of which is, “But our creditors are paid, and that makes us easy.”
On the same day some “conquerors of the Bastille,” grenadiers of the Parisian guard, preceded by military music, came to present to the young Dauphin, as a New Year’s gift, a box of dominoes, made of some of the stone and marble of which that state prison was built. The Queen gave me this inauspicious curiosity, desiring me to preserve it, as it would be a curious illustration of the history of the Revolution. Upon the lid were engraved some bad verses, the purport of which was as follows: “Stones from those walls, which enclosed the innocent victims of arbitrary power, have been converted into a toy, to be presented to you, Monseigneur, as a mark of the people’s love; and to teach you their power.”
The Queen said that M. de La Fayette’s thirst for popularity induced him to lend himself, without discrimination, to all popular follies. Her distrust of the General increased daily, and grew so powerful that when, towards the end of the Revolution, he seemed willing to support the tottering throne, she could never bring herself to incur so great an obligation to him.
M. de J-----, a colonel attached to the staff of the army, was fortunate enough to render several services to the Queen, and acquitted himself with discretion and dignity of various important missions.
[During the Queen’s detention in the Temple he introduced himself Into that prison in the dress of a lamplighter, and there discharged his duty unrecognised.—Madame Campan.]
Their Majesties had the highest confidence in him, although it frequently happened that his prudence, when inconsiderate projects were under discussion, brought upon him the charge of adopting the principles of the constitutionals. Being sent to Turin, he had some difficulty in dissuading the Princes from a scheme they had formed at that period of reentering France, with a very weak army, by way of Lyons; and when, in a council which lasted till three o’clock in the morning, he showed his instructions, and demonstrated that the measure would endanger the King, the Comte d’Artois alone declared against the plan, which emanated from the Prince de Conde.
Among the persons employed in subordinate situations, whom the critical circumstances of the times involved in affairs of importance, was M. de Goguelat, a geographical engineer at Versailles, and an excellent draughtsman. He made plans of St. Cloud and Trianon for the Queen; she was very much pleased with them, and had the engineer admitted into the staff of the army. At the commencement of the Revolution he was sent to Count Esterhazy, at Valenciennes, in the capacity of aide-de-camp. The latter rank was given him solely to get him away from Versailles, where his rashness endangered the Queen during the earlier months of the Assembly of the States General. Making a parade of his devotion to the King’s interests, he went repeatedly to the tribunes of the Assembly, and there openly
[See the “Memoirs” of M. de Bouille, those of the Duc de Choiseul, and the account of the journey to Varennes, by M. de Fontanges, in “Weber’s Memoirs.”—Note by the editor.]
Projectors in great numbers endeavoured to introduce themselves not only to the Queen, but to Madame Elisabeth, who had communications with many individuals who took upon themselves to make plans for the conduct of the Court. The Baron de Gilliers and M. de Vanoise were of this description; they went to the Baronne de Mackau’s, where the Princess spent almost all her evenings. The Queen did not like these meetings, where Madame Elisabeth might adopt views in opposition to the King’s intentions or her own.
The Queen gave frequent audiences to M. de La Fayette. One day, when he was in her inner closet, his aides-de-camp, who waited for him, were walking up and down the great room where the persons in attendance remained. Some imprudent young women were thoughtless enough to say, with the intention of being overheard by those officers, that it was very alarming to see the Queen alone with a rebel and a brigand. I was annoyed at their indiscretion, and imposed silence on them. One of them persisted in the appellation “brigand.” I told her that M. de La Fayette well deserved the name of rebel, but that the title of leader of a party was given by history to every man commanding forty thousand men, a capital, and forty leagues of country; that kings had frequently treated with such leaders, and if it was convenient to the Queen to do the same, it remained for us only to be silent and respect her actions. On the morrow the Queen, with a serious air; but with the greatest kindness, asked what I had said respecting M. de La Fayette on the preceding day; adding that she had been assured I had enjoined her women silence, because they did not like him, and that I had taken his part. I repeated what had passed to the Queen, word for word. She condescended to tell me that I had done perfectly right.
Whenever any false reports respecting me were conveyed to her she was kind enough to inform me of them; and they had no effect on the confidence with which she continued to honour me, and which I am happy to think I have justified even at the risk of my life.
Mesdames, the King’s aunts, set out from Bellevue in the beginning of the year 1791. Alexandre Berthier, afterwards Prince de Neufchatel, then a colonel on the staff of the army, and commandant of the National Guard of Versailles, facilitated the departure of Mesdames. The Jacobins of that town procured his dismissal, and he ran the greatest risk, on account of having rendered this service to these Princesses.
I went to take leave of Madame Victoire. I little thought that I was then seeing her for the last time. She received me alone in her closet, and assured
[General Berthier justified the monarch’s confidence by a firm and prudent line of conduct which entitled him to the highest military honours, and to the esteem of the great warrior whose fortune, dangers, and glory he afterwards shared. This officer, full of honour, and gifted with the highest courage, was shut into the courtyard of Bellevue by his own troop, and ran great risk of being murdered. It was not until the 14th of March that he succeeded in executing his instructions ("Memoirs of Mesdames,” by Montigny, vol. i.)]
me that she hoped, as well as wished, soon to return to France; that the French would be much to be pitied if the excesses of the Revolution should arrive at such a pitch as to force her to prolong her absence. I knew from the Queen that the departure of Mesdames was deemed necessary, in order to leave the King free to act when he should be compelled to go away with his family. It being impossible that the constitution of the clergy should be otherwise than in direct opposition to the religious principles of Mesdames, they thought their journey to Rome would be attributed to piety alone. It was, however, difficult to deceive an Assembly which weighed the slightest actions of the royal family, and from that moment they were more than ever alive to what was passing at the Tuileries.
Mesdames were desirous of taking Madame Elisabeth to Rome. The free exercise of religion, the happiness of taking refuge with the head of the Church, and the prospect of living in safety with her aunts, whom she tenderly loved, were sacrificed by that virtuous Princess to her attachment to the King.
The oath required of priests by the civil constitution of the clergy introduced into France a division which added to the dangers by which the King was already surrounded.
[The priests were required to swear to the civil constitution of the clergy of 1790, by which all the former bishoprics and parishes were remodelled, and the priests and bishops elected by the people. Most refused, and under the name of ‘pretres insermentes’ (as opposed to the few who took the oath, ‘pretres assermentes’) were bitterly persecuted. A simple promise to obey the constitution of the State was substituted by Napoleon as soon as he came to power.]
Mirabeau spent a whole night with the cure of St. Eustache, confessor of the King and Queen, to persuade him to take the oath required by that constitution. Their Majesties chose another confessor, who remained unknown.
A few months afterwards (2d April, 1791), the too celebrated Mirabeau, the mercenary democrat and venal royalist, terminated his career. The Queen regretted him, and was astonished at her own regret; but she had hoped that he who had possessed adroitness and weight enough to throw everything into confusion would have been able by the same means to repair the mischief he had caused. Much has been said respecting the cause of Mirabeau’s death. M. Cabanis, his friend and physician, denied that he was poisoned. M. Vicq-d’Azyr assured the Queen that the ‘proces-verbal’ drawn up on the state of the intestines would apply just as well to a case of death produced by violent remedies as to one produced by poison. He said, also, that the report had been faithful; but that it was prudent to conclude it by a declaration of natural death, since, in the critical state in which France then was, if a suspicion of foul play were admitted, a person innocent of any such crime might be sacrificed to public vengeance.
Advised the King not to separate himself from his
Grand-Dieu, mamma! will it be yesterday over again?
Mirabeau forgot that it was more easy to do harm than good
Never shall a drop of French blood be shed by my order
Saw no other advantage in it than that of saving her own life
That air of truth which always carries conviction
When kings become prisoners they are very near death
Whispered in his mother’s ear, “Was that right?”