List Of Contents | Contents of Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

one capable of filling it."

"Your majesty's wisdom must decide the point," replied the
chancellor.  "My duty is to lay before you the true state of
things; this I have done, and I know myself well enough not to
intrude my counsel further.  Nevertheless, I cannot help remarking,
that in your majesty's court there are many as capable as M. de
Choiseul of directing affairs--M. d'Aiguillon, for example."

"Ah!"  answered Louis XV; "this is not the moment, when M.
d'Aiguillon is smarting from his severe contest with the long robes,
to elevate him over the head of my hitherto-esteemed minister."

M. de Maupeou and myself perceived that we should best serve
my friend's cause by refraining from pressing the matter further,
and we therefore changed the conversation.  Nevertheless, as what
had already passed had taken its full effect upon the king's mind,
he suggested an idea which I should never have dreamed of recommending;
and that was to consult the abbe de la Ville on the subject.

The abbe de la Ville, head clerk of foreign affairs, was a man
who, at the advanced period of fourscore, preserved all the fire
and vivacity of youth; he was acquainted with ministerial affairs
even better than M. de Choiseul himself.  Having formerly belonged
to the Jesuits, to whom he was entirely devoted, he had appeared
to accelerate the period of their destruction; never had he been
able to pardon his patron the frightful part he had compelled
him to enact in the business.  Years had not weakened his ancient
rancour, and it might be said, that he had clung to life with more
than natural pertinacity, as unwilling to lay it down till he had
avenged himself on de Choiseul.  Louis XV wrote to him, desiring
he would avail himself of the first pretext that occurred to
request an audience.  This note was forwarded by a footman,
the good abbe easily divined that this mystery concealed some
great design; he therefore hastened to solicit an audience as
desired.  When introduced into the cabinet of the king, his
majesty inquired at once,

"Monsieur l' abbe, can I depend upon your discretion?"

"Sire," replied the abbe, with a blunt frankness, "I am sorry
your majesty can doubt it."

"Be satisfied, sir," replied the king, "I had no intention to
offend you; but I wish to consult you upon a point, the importance
of which you will fully appreciate; answer me without disguise.
Do you believe that the services of the duc de Choiseul are
useful to my kingdom, and that my interests would suffer were I
to dismiss him?"

"Sire," replied M. de la Ville, without hesitation, "I protest to
you, as a man of honour, that the presence of the duc de Choiseul
is by no means essential to the ministry, and that your majesty's
interests would sustain not the slightest injury by his absence."

After this the abbe de la Ville entered into particulars unnecessary
to repeat here; it is sufficient to say, that all
he advanced materially aided our wishes.  He afterwards reaped
the reward of his friendly services, for when the duc d'Aiguillon
had displaced the duc de Choiseul, he bestowed on M. de la Ville
the title of , an office created for
him, and the bishopric  of Tricomie.  The good abbe
did not, however, long enjoy his honours, but ended his career in 1774.

This conversation had been repeated to me; and, on my side, I
left no means untried of preventing Louis XV from placing further
confidence in his minister; but, feeble and timid, he knew not on
what to determine, contenting himself with treating the duke
coolly; he sought, by continual rebuffs and denials to his slightest
request, to compel him to demand that dismissal he had not the
courage to give.

Whilst these things were in agitation, madame de Mirepoix, who
had been for some days absent from Versailles, came to call upon
me.  This lady possessed a considerable share of wit; and, although
on the most intimate terms with me, had not altogether broken off
with the des Choiseuls, to whom she was further bound on account
of the prince de Beauvau, her brother.  It therefore excited in
me no surprise, when I heard that the des Choiseuls had called
on her to ascertain, whether it would not be possible, through her
mediation, to come to some terms with me.

"And you must not be angry with me," continued she, "for
undertaking the ; I well foresaw all the difficulties,
and entertained no hopes of its success, but upon second thoughts,
I considered it better I should accept the mission; for, in case
of a negative being returned, it will be safe in my keeping, and
I will not add to the chagrin of a failure the shame of a defeat."

"It is my opinion," replied I, "that all propositions coming from
these people should be rejected; they have compelled me to raise
between them and myself an immense wall of hatred, not less
difficult to surmount than the grand wall of China."

"Yet," replied the marechale, smiling, "they are disposed to pay
any price for so doing."

"I have friends," said I, "from whom I can never separate myself."

"They are willing that your friends shall be theirs likewise,"
cried she, "for they see that M. de Maupeou, the duc de la
Vrilliere, and the abbe Terray, are provided for, and that the
duc d'Aiguillon alone remains to be suitably established; M. de
Choiseul would be happy to aid him in obtaining the post of
minister of naval affairs."

"Well, and the duchesse de Grammont," inquired I, "would she
visit me?"

"Oh, as to that, I know nothing about it, and can venture no
opinion; my commission does not extend so far."

"I understand you," said I; "she seeks for peace only as it
would enable her the better to carry on her hostilities against
me.  I am sorry, madame la marechale, that I cannot accept
your terms for a reconciliation."

"Remember, I pray of you, that I have been an ambassadress, and
nothing more," said madame de Mirepoix; "recollect I have spoken
to you in the words of others, not my own.  I must beg of you to
be secret; if you divulge the particulars of this morning's
conversation, it is I who will suffer by it: your friends will be
displeased with me for my interference; and I have no inclination
to provoke the anger of a party so powerful as yours."

I promised the marechale to observe an inviolable secrecy; and,
so well have I kept my promise, that you are the first person to
whom I ever breathed one syllable of the affair.  I must own,
that it struck me as strange, that the duc de Choiseul should
abandon his cousin, and consent to take his seat beside the duc
d'Aiguillon, whom he detested: perhaps he only sought to deceive
us all by gaining time, till the death of the king.  But what
avails speculation upon the words and actions of a courtier,
whose heart is an abyss too deep for gleam of light to penetrate?


Baron d'Oigny, general post-master--The king and the countess
read the opened letters--The disgrace of de Choiseul resolved
upon----Anecdote--Spectre of Philip II, king
of Spain--The duc de Choiseul banished--Visits to Chanteloup--The
princesses--The dauphin and dauphiness--Candidates for the ministry

The interference of madame de Mirepoix, originating, as it did,
in the duc de Choiseul, let me at once into the secret of his
fears and the extent of my own power.  The knowledge of the
weakness of my adversary redoubled my energy; and from this
moment, I allowed no day to pass without forwarding the great
work, till I succeeded in effecting the duke's ruin and securing my
own triumph.  The pamphleteers in the pay of my enemies, and
those who merely copied these hirelings, assert that one evening
after supper, when Louis was intoxicated with wine and my seductions,
I prevailed upon him to sign a  against his
minister, which he immediately revoked when the break of day had
restored to him his senses.  This was a malicious falsehood.
You shall hear the exact manner in which the 
were signed.

On the evening of the 23d of December, his majesty having engaged
to sup with me, I had invited M. de Maupeou, the duc de la Vrilliere,
and the prince de Soubise.  It appears, that the king, previously
to coming, had gone to visit the dauphiness; he had not mentioned
whither he was going, so that his attendants believed him to be
in my apartments, and directed M. d'Oigny, post-master general,
to seek him there.  The baron brought with him a packet of opened
letters; when he saw me alone he wished to retire, for the servants,
believing him to be one of the expected guests, had ushered him in.
However, I would not permit him to go until the king's arrival;
and, half sportively, half seriously, I took from him his letters,
protesting I would detain them as hostages for his obedience to
my desires.  At this moment Louis XV entered the room; and
M. d'Oigny, having briefly stated his business, bowed and departed.
The baron was a very excellent man, possessing an extensive and
intelligent mind; he wrote very pleasing poetry, and had not his
attention been occupied by the post he filled, he might have made
a conspicuous figure in literature.

When we were left to ourselves, I said to the king,

"Now, then, for this interesting and amusing budget; for such,
I doubt not, it will prove."

"Not so fast, madam, if you please," replied Louis XV; "perhaps
these papers may contain state secrets unfit for your eye."

"Great secrets they must be," said I, laughing, "confided thus to
the carelessness of the post."  So saying, I broke the seal of
the envelope so hastily, that the greater part of the letters and
notes were scattered over the carpet.

 "Well done," cried the king.

"I entreat your majesty's pardon," said I, "but I will repair
the mischief as far as I can."

I stooped to collect the fallen papers, and the king had the
gallantry to assist me: we soon piled the various letters upon a
tray, and began eagerly to glance over their contents.  My good
fortune made me select from the mass those epistles addressed to

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: