The woman who wrote these lines so firm and honest, so sensible and forcible, was no ordinary woman. In contrast with so many emigres who had learned nothing and forgotten nothing, she had learned much and retained it. The difficulties and bitternesses of exile were an excellent school for her. She remained French always,—in ideas, tastes, feelings. Sincerely royalist, but with no exaggeration, she took account perfectly of the requirements of modern society. Very devoted to her princes, she knew how to tell them the truth. She spoke frankly to Charles X., whom she had known from an early day, and had seen in such diverse situations.
It is to be regretted that the King did not consult her oftener. She would have saved him from many errors, notably from the fatal ordinances which she disapproved. She was a woman not merely of heart, but of head. Her Memoirs are the more interesting, that not the least literary pretension mingles with their sincerity. They have a character of intimacy that doubles their charm. This talk of a venerable grandmother with her grandchildren is not only solid and instructive, it is agreeable and gracious, tender and touching.
THE THREE GOVERNORS
In the space of three years, from 1826 to 1828, Charles X. named three governors for the Duke of Bordeaux. One, the Duke of Montmorency, never entered on his duties. The others were the Duke de Riviere and the Baron de Damas. The Duke of Montmorency was named in anticipation the 8th of January, 1826, although his task did not begin until the 29th of September. Mathieu de Montmorency, first Viscount and then Duke, was born in 1766. After having been through the war in America, he had adopted the ideas of Lafayette, and had been distinguished by his extreme liberalism. He took the oath of the Jeu de Paume, and was the first to give up the privileges derived from his birth on the celebrated night of the 4th of August. The 12th of July, 1791, he was one of the deputation that attended the solemn transfer of the ashes of Voltaire, and, August 27th, he sustained the proposition to decree the honors of the Pantheon to Jean Jacques Rousseau. In his Petit Almanach des Grands Hommes de la Revolution, Rivarol wrote, not without irony:—
“The most youthful talent of the Assembly, he is still stammering his patriotism, but he already manages to make it understood, and the Republic sees in him all it wishes to see. It was necessary that Montmorency should appear popular for the Revolution to be complete, and a child alone could set this great example. The little Montmorency therefore devoted himself to the esteem of the moment, and combated aristocracy under the ferrule of the Abbe Sieyes.”
Mathieu de Montmorency did not adhere to his revolutionary ideas. After the 10th of August, 1792, he withdrew to Switzerland, at Coppet, near his friend Madame de Stael. Under the Empire he held himself apart. He had become as conservative as he had been liberal, as religious as he had been Voltairian. Under the Restoration, he was one of the most convinced supporters of the throne and the altar. Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1821, he showed himself a distinguished diplomat, and during the session of 1822 made the Amende Honorable for what he called his former errors.