Billeder på siden

were the accidental instrument of his punishment. The favourite clung to the couch of the dying monarch, foreseeing plainly what would be her fate when her royal lover was no more, and for five days after the mortal sickness struck him, and long after all hope was over, she lingered by his side. Then, at his desire, she left Versailles for Ruel, the château of the Duchess d'Aiguillon, where, the comedy being not yet played out, she found the beds too hard, and sent the following morning to Luciennes for softer mattresses. The same scene was witnessed now as had been exhibited in the dying moments of Louis XIV.; when the king was a little better, the courtiers flocked to Ruel to pay their court to the countess, when unfavourable symptoms returned, the road to Ruel became a desert. At last the curtain fell. The king died, and on the same day the Duke de la Vrillière, Madame du Barri's best friend, was the bearer to her of a lettre de cachet, exiling her to the abbey of Pont-aux-Dames, near Meaux. Philosophy was not one of the attributes of the countess's character; her language on the occasion, which we do not venture to translate, was energetic, but coarse :—

"A pretty reign this is like to be," she cried, "which begins with a lettre de cachet!"

Her brother in-law, Jean du Barri, saved himself incontinently by flying to Switzerland; her husband, Count Guillaume, was not so lucky; he was assailed by the populace in Toulouse, and nearly beaten to death. The D'Aiguillons were overwhelmed with disgrace.

But the severity shown to Madame du Barri was less real than apparent; it was rather a consolation than a punishment. In addressing the order for her exile, the tender-hearted and indulgent Louis XVI., wrote that "he was not ignorant of the attachment of his grandfather for her, that he would care for all her wants, and that she need have no fear for the future." But, however the blow might be softened, it was too heavy for the favourite to bear with equanimity, and it was with tears of the bitterest sorrow she bade adieu to Luciennes, to bury herself in a cloister at the age of thirty-three!

The reception she met with at Pont-aux-Dames was a kind one; the king's orders had ensured her every attention. Her arrival was a marvel to the young pensionnaires who were being educated there; their curiosity was indulged, and they flocked to see the woman whose name had penetrated even to the recesses of a convent.

"This, then, is Madame du Barri," they exclaimed, with clasped hands, staring eyes, and open mouths; "it is really you, Madame ?"

"Yes, children, it is I indeed," she replied, extending her white hand to be kissed, as had been her wont while still the favourite. She soon became friends with all around her, and that her natural disposition was good may be inferred from the fact of her so speedily acquiring the confidence and regard of the pious recluses. It was while in this solitary abode that she wrote the following letter on some matter of business, which we give verbatim as a specimen of her style and orthography. The original is in the collection of the Marquis de Dolomieu.

"Du Pont-aux-Dames, le 17.

"J'ai recu votre lettre monsieur et je suis tres sensible a tout ce quelle contient d'obligant je prie M. du Fauga qui vous remetra ma lettre de vouloir bien ce charcher de retirier tous les mois la some que vous me

mandez devoir me revenir que j'enverai ensuite retirer ches lui lors qu'il ne cera plus a Paris j'enverai tout bonement chez vous ou come vous le dites je tirerai des mandats sy jen et besoins je renvoye le modele de votre quitance que jai copiee exactement.

"Jai l'honneur d'ètre avec une parfaite estime monsieur votre tres humble et obeïssante servante.


The conduct of Madame du Barri while at the convent of Pont-auxDames was perfect. She performed all her devotions scrupulously, and listened to the remonstrances addressed to her with exemplary submission, and after a year's residence succeeded in completely edifying the good sisters. The abbess was so touched by her fervour that she permitted the fair recluse to have a cell fitted up for her by the ingenious architect of Luciennes; Ledoux was delighted at being again employed by her, and executed his work in a way to charm the Chevalier Parny and M. de Boufflers, who paid a visit to its inmate. The king and queen were told of Madame du Barri's new pavilion, and smiled; they had no enmity in their hearts against her, and, after a short continuance of her detention she was liberated, and left the convent of Pont-aux-Dames, loved, cherished, aud regretted by the pious sisters. She never forgot them, but as long as she lived continued to send them marks of her affection and gratitude. Her liberty, however, was not her elevation. The king restored her all her property and pensions, and even paid her debts, but the gates of Versailles were never opened to her again. Here, therefore, her history may be said to close, for such is the condition of those who live on royal favour that its withdrawal is the extinction of their life in the eyes of the world. Although as rich, or nearly so, as under Louis XV., and still more beautiful, for the beauty of intelligence was now added to the merely physical charms, she was almost entirely forgotten during the nineteen years of the reign of Louis XVI.

After quitting the convent she purchased, partly with the money given by Monsieur for her house at Versailles, a property at Saint-Vrain, situated between Orleans and Paris, whither she went to live with the Duke de Cossé-Brissac, her most faithful friend, and the friend to whom she was most faithful. But she did not continue to reside at her new abode. She yearned for her old home and the atmosphere of the court. She wrote to M. de Maurepas, and the king's permission was obtained for her to return to Luciennes. With what eagerness she returned thither need not be told. Her position was changed, but she was still a beauty and passably rich, and she did not lack society. At Luciennes were again gathered together La Harpe, and Marmontel, Boufflers, Colardeau, and Beaumarchais, and hither also came newer guests, the philosopher Franklin, the quack Cagliostro, the Emperor Joseph, and the ambassadors of Tippoo-Sahib. But the pleasures of Luciennes could not suffice for her who had reigned at Versailles, and towards Versailles her humid eyes were constantly turned.

"When, when shall I return to Versailles ?" was her constant exclamation.

"And to what purpose?" asked De Cossé. "The queen is calumniated there as much as you were yourself. The notables are there scraping with their nailed shoes the marble flags where your feet have so lightly trodden. Perhaps you are ignorant what a notable is! He is

one who wishes to examine the affairs of the country, whose desire is that the king shall not govern, the queen have no lovers, and her consort no mistresses."

"Is it possible! Oh mon Dieu !" sighed the fair countess in astonish


"Quite true," replied De Cossé : "and now, do Versailles?"

"Mais oui," was the constant reply.

you still wish to go to

Madame du Barri, however, never went there, though the Duke de Choiseul was dead. The political horizon wore an aspect of deeper gloom than had ever been seen before; the revolution was at hand. The dinner of the gardes-du-corps took place, and such as were not massacred, remembering Luciennes, sought shelter there. Madame du Barri gave it freely, and the generous act by which she endangered her own safety, disarmed whatever lingering sentiment of dislike that still dwelt in the bosom of Marie Antoinette. She sent to thank her, and Madame du Barri wrote in reply:

"These young men feel no other regret than that of not having died for a princess so worthy of all homage. What I have done for these brave men is much below their deserts. I console them, and I respect their wounds, when I think that, but for their devotion, perhaps your majesty might have ceased to exist. Luciennes, madam, is yours; is it not your kindness that has restored it to me? All I possess came from the royal family, and I have too much gratitude ever to be unmindful of it. The late king, with a sort of presentiment, compelled me to accept a thousand precious objects before he sent me from him. I have had the honour of offering you this treasure at the time of the notables; I now eagerly renew that offer. You have so many expenses to meet, and so many benefits to confer. Permit me, I conjure you, to render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's."

The queen did not accept this offer, but from that moment every shadow of enmity was banished from her bosom.

The two last scenes of Madame du Barri's life now arrest our attention; the robbery of her diamonds,-and her visit to England, whither, it was said, she went in search of them. Some have believed, and many still believe in this robbery; others, both royalists and republicans, deny it altogether, and affirm that she only went to London to distribute money amongst the emigrants. The last version is the only true one. She made four journeys successively to England, and, on the third occasion, all her friends, English as well as French, advised her not to return to Paris, pointing out the danger she incurred.

"You are safe here," they said, "and have enough to live in affluence; remain with us till a better time arrives."

But she was deaf to their prayers, and quitted England. She had one strong motive, it was true, for visiting France; her lover, the Duke de Brissac, was still at Luciennes.*

In the recently published "Letters of Horace Walpole to the Countess of Ossory," we have the following anecdote of her presentation to George III. Writing on September 39, 1791, he says:-"I have scarce a newer anecdote to send you, madame, but that old Q- presented Madame du Barry to the king on the terrace at Windsor, and the King of England did not turn the same side that the late King of France used to turn to her, but the reverse, as he told Lord Onslow himself."



The fatal year 1793 was at hand. One evening, while she was at Luciennes, listening beneath her myrtle groves to the sinister murmurs of the capital, collecting all the rumours that flew past Mont Valerian, she heard footsteps, voices, and shouts of laughter; she was afraid, and called for Brissac.

"Here he is!" cried a voice; "take his head first!"

And immediately at her feet was thrown the bleeding head of her lover, the Duke de Cossé-Brissac. He had first been assassinated at Versailles by those who were sent to conduct him to Orleans, where he was to be brought to trial.

Will it be believed that this woman, who has been accused of so much weakness and timidity, had the courage to go a fourth time to England to carry money to the emigrants, and the still greater courage to resist the strenuous efforts which were made to retain her there? It was this last expedition that compromised her. She had been followed by spies, who had discovered her intrigues with the royalist party, and witnessed her interviews with M. de Calonne. She recrossed the sea, and returned to Luciennes,-now, alas! without a charm in her eyes. Moreover, all the inhabitants of the commune, whom she had fed and clothed for the last fifteen years, were her enemies. The treacherous black-faced and blacker-hearted slave, Zamore, who owed his very existence to her kindness, excited the terrorists against her, and an Irishman, named Grieve, denounced her at the instigation of the infamous negro. She was imprisoned for ten weeks in Sainte Pélagie before being brought to trial, but that trial was brief enough. She appeared before the revolutionary tribunal on the 17th Frimaire (7th of December), 1793, and her case was brought on at the same time with that of the three Dutch bankers, Vandenyver, father and sons, accused of some of the crimes which were laid to her charge. The examinations lasted during three sittings. Her counsel was Chauveau Lagarde; the act of accusation was drawn up by Fouquier-Tinville. She was condemned to death together with the Vandenyvers. In the sentence it is stated that she was in her fortysecond year; this is an error which has been frequently repeated. She was born in 1744, and, being executed in 1793, had attained her fortyninth year.

When she heard the sentence of death pronounced, she uttered a terrible cry, and fainted. It was eleven o'clock at night. On the following morning she was thrust into the common cart, the "tombereau d'égalité," as it was called, to be taken with the bankers to execution. She was pale, trembling, and half dead with fright; and, as she past through the crowd of savage people collected for the daily hecatomb, she supplicated them for pity. This has been made a subject of reproach to her, as if the fear she felt was a token of cowardice. It was not death she feared, that she had shown when she devoted herself for her friends, but what she dreaded was the manner of it. Take away this fear from a woman, and what remains but a hideous Amazon? This sentiment completes the picture of one so tender-hearted as Madame du Barri. It pursued her to the last; even on the scaffold she cried out to the executioner :

"Encore un moment, Monsieur le Bourreau!.... Encore un moment, monsieur !"






ACCORDING to the manuscript of Froissart, preserved in the library at Amiens, and cited by M. Rigollot, the army of Philip of Valois was composed of 20,000 men-at-arms (armures de fer à cheval), and upwards of 100,000 infantry, represented as troops of an inferior description-citizens, levied in haste, and peasants, compelled by fear to range themselves under his banners; besides these, there was a strong body of Genoese cross-bowmen, variously stated at from 6000 to 16,000 men. Great expectations seem to have been formed of this corps; they had the reputation of being the best marksmen, as well as the best sailors, in the world; and, under their commanders, bearing the great names of Doria and Grimaldi, were intended as a match for the terrible archers of England. In addition to the attendant kings, auxiliary princes, and a tumultuous rabble of nobles, there appeared in arms, according to the fashion of the times, sundry priestly warriors-John of Vienna, Archbishop of Rouen, brought up all the ecclesiastical troops of that city; while such was the martial energy of Hugh, Abbot of Corbie, that he appeared at the head of 500 men, although bound by the service of his abbey to furnish the humble contingent of merely deux sommiers estoffés des sommes, sacs et bahuts.

At the first dawn of morning, on the fatal 26th of August, Philip celebrated mass and received the sacrament in the church of St. Stephen, at Abbeville, and then caused the gates of the town to be thrown open to his impatient army. The distance before them in order to reach the English camp might be about twelve of our miles-and we may dispense with the imagination of some writers, who make Philip, under the impression that his enemies were still in the direction of Blanquetaque and La Crotoy, describe a circuit by way of Noyelles and Le Titre.-It is inconceivable that Philip, halting a whole day at Abbeville, could have been uninformed of the march of Edward from the Somme, and of his subsequent position at Cressy-upon Cressy, therefore, the movements of the French forces were directed with a precipitation and want of discipline which may be noted as the first of many errors committed during the day, Philip's immense army had too many chiefs, and more individuals than soldiers; and his recommendation, delivered overnight to his barons, to preserve courtesy and unanimity one towards another, was as little regarded as his other orders by a set of turbulent seigneurs, full of feuds, and jealous of each other to a degree. "There was no man," as we read in Hollingshed, "though he were present at the jornie, that could imagine or show the truth of the evil order that was among the French party,

« ForrigeFortsæt »