List Of Contents | Contents of The Duchess Of Berry-Charles X
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

esteem of all and had at court a high standing, due even more to
his character than to his birth. The volume of Memoirs that he has
left does honor to his heart as well as to his mind. There is
grace and gaiety, depth and charm, wisdom and courage, in this
short but substantial book, where appears in full light one of the
most distinct types of the ancient French society. "My years of
grandeur and splendor," this author wrote, "have passed like a
dream, and I have beheld the awakening with pleasure. I know not
what my destiny shall be. As to my conduct, I believe that I can
affirm that it will be always that of an honest man, a good
Frenchman, a servant of God, desiring a Christian close to an
honorable life, the crown of every human edifice."

The details given by the Duke of Doudeauville as to his early
years are very characteristic. He was born in 1765. He was
entrusted to the care of a nurse living two leagues from Paris in
a little village, the wife of a post-rider. His parents, when they
came to see him, found "their eighteen-months-old progeny astride
of one of the horses of his foster-father." Like Henry IV., he was
raised roughly, leading the life of a real peasant, running the
day long, in sabots, through the snow and ice and mud. "My nurse,
who was retained as maid," he says, "was a good peasant, and
thoroughly proletarian. Afterwards, transferred to the capital,
she there preserved with her simple cap her frank and rustic
manners, to the admiration of all who knew her, and esteemed her
loyal character and her plain ways. It is to her, and to her
alone, that I am indebted for receiving any religious instruction
either in infancy or youth. Everything about me was wholly foreign
to those ideas; my religion was none the less fervent for that.
From my earliest years, being born brave, I felt the vocation of
the martyr the most desirable means of being joined to our Father
which is in Heaven, and I have always thought that to end one's
days for one's God, one's wife and family, was a touching and
enviable death."

The Duke of Doudeauville was still a child, and a little child--in
point of age he was fourteen and a day, in size he was four feet
seven inches--when he was married. He espoused Mademoiselle de
Montmirail, of the family of Louvois, who brought him, with a
beauty he did not then prize, a considerable fortune, the rank of
grandee of Spain, and, worth more than all, rare and precious
qualities. Nevertheless, the little husband was very sad. When his
approaching marriage was announced to him, he cried out, "Then I
can play no longer!" When, after the first interview, he was asked
how he liked his fiancee, whose fresh face, oval and full, was
charming, he responded: "She is really very beautiful; she looks
like me when I am eating plums." Listen to his story of the
nuptials. "Imagine my extreme embarrassment," he says, "my stupid
disappointment, with my excessive bashfulness amid the numerous
concourse of visitors and spectators attracted by our wedding. The
grandfather of Mademoiselle de Montmirail, being captain of the
Hundred-Swiss, a great part of this corps was there, and, as if to
play me a trick, all these Hundred-Swiss were six feet tall,
sometimes more. One would have said, seeing me by the side of
them, the giants and the dwarf of the fair. Every one gazed at the
bride, who, although she was only fifteen, was as tall as she was
beautiful, and every one was looking for the bridegroom, without
suspecting that it was this child, this schoolboy, who was to play
the part."

Is it not amusing, this picture of a marriage under the old
regime? The little groom was so disturbed when he went to the
chapel and during the ceremony, that, though his memory was
excellent, he never could recall what passed at that time. "I only
remember," he says, "the sound of the drums that were beating
during our passage, and cheered me a little; it was the one moment
of the day that was to my taste. How long that day seemed! You may
imagine it was not from the motives common in like cases, but
because I drew all glances upon me, and all vied in laughing at
and joking me, pointing their fingers at me."

The day ended with a grand repast that lasted two or three hours.
A crowd of strangers strolled around the table all the while.
Although the precaution had been taken to put an enormous cushion
on the chair of the husband, his chin hardly came above the table.
Seated by the side of his young wife, he did not dare look at her.
For days beforehand he had been wondering if he should always be
afraid of her.

"After this solemn banquet," he adds, "came the soiree, which did
not seem any more amusing; after the soiree the return to my
parents' home was no more diverting; nevertheless, it was made in
the company of my dear spouse, who henceforth was to dwell at my
father's house. They bundled me into a wretched cabriolet with my
preceptor, and sent me to finish my education at Versailles, and
to learn to ride at the riding-school of the pages."

We must note that the marriage thus begun was afterwards a very
happy union, and that there was never a pair more virtuous and
more attached to each other than the Duke and Duchess of

In 1789, the Duke was major of the Second Regiment of Chasseurs.
He emigrated, though the Emigration was not at all to his liking.
"This measure," he said, "appeared to me in every way
unreasonable, and yet, to my great chagrin, I was forced to submit
to it. The person of the King was menaced, right-thinking people
compromised, the tranquillity and prosperity of France lost; they
were arming abroad, it was said, to provide a remedy for these
evils. The nobles hastened hither. Distaffs were sent to all who
refused to rally on the banks of the Rhine. How, at twenty-five,
could one resist this tide of opinion?" When he perceived, in the
foreign powers, the design of profiting by the discords in France
instead of putting an end to them, he laid aside his arms, and
never resumed them during the eight years of the Emigration. "This
resolve," he said, "was consistent with my principles. Always a
good Frenchman, I desired only the good of my country, the
happiness of my fellow-countrymen; my whole life, I hope, has been
a proof of this view. All my actions have tended to this end."

During his eight years of emigration, the Duke of Doudeauville was
constantly a prey to anxiety, grief, poverty, trials of every
kind. Thirteen of his relatives were put to death under the
Terror. His wife was imprisoned, and escaped the scaffold only
through the 9th Thermidor. He himself, having visited France
clandestinely several times, ran the greatest risks. In the midst
of such sufferings his sole support was the assistance of a
devoted servant. "At the moment that I write these lines," he says
in his Memoirs, "I am about to lose my domestic Raphael, the
excellent man who, for fifty years, has given me such proofs of
fidelity, disinterestedness, and delicacy; I have treated him as a
friend; I shall grieve for him as for a brother."

Misfortune had fortified the character of the Duke of
Doudeauville. Unlike other emigres, he had learned much and
forgotten nothing. His attitude under the Consulate and the Empire
was that of a true patriot.--Without joining the Opposition, he
wished no favor. The sole function he accepted was that of
councillor-general of the Department of the Marne, where he could
be useful to his fellow-citizens without giving any one the right
to accuse him of ambitious motives. Nothing would have been easier
for him than to be named to one of the high posts in the court of
Napoleon, whose defects he disapproved, but whose great qualities
he admired. "Bonaparte," he said in his Memoirs, "had monarchical
ideas and made much of the nobility, especially that which he
called historic. I must confess, whatever may be said, that the
latter under his reign was more esteemed, respected, feted, than
it has been since under Louis XVIII. or Charles X. The princes
feared to excite toward it and toward themselves the envy of the
bourgeois classes, who would have no supremacy but their own.
Napoleon, on the contrary, having frankly faced the difficulty,
created a nobility of his own. Those who belonged to it, or hoped
to, found it quite reasonable that they should be given as peers
the descendants of the first houses of France." The Duchess of
Doudeauville was a sister of the Countess of Montesquiou, who was
governess of the King of Rome, and whose husband had replaced the
Prince de Talleyrand as Grand Chamberlain of the Emperor. Very
intimate with the Count and Countess, the Duke of Doudeauville had
some trouble in avoiding the favors of Napoleon, who held him in
high esteem. He found a way to decline them without wounding the
susceptibilities of the powerful sovereign.

Under the Restoration, the Duke of Doudeauville distinguished
himself by an honest liberalism, loyal and intelligent, with
nothing revolutionary in it, and by an enlightened philanthropy
that won him the respect of all parties. When he was named as
director of the post-office in 1822, many people of his circle
blamed him for taking a place beneath him. "Congratulate me," he
said, laughing, "that I have not been offered that of postman; I
should have taken it just the same if I had thought I could be
useful." And he added: "It was thought that it would be a sinecure
for me. Far from that, I gave myself up wholly to my new
employment, and I worked so hard at it, than in less than a year
my eyes, previously excellent, were almost ruined. I always
occupied fifteen or twenty places, each more gratuitous than the
others. To make the religion that I practise beloved and to serve
my neighbor, has always seemed to me the best way to serve God. So
I believe that I can say without fear of contradiction that I have
never done any one harm, and that I have always tried to do all
the good possible."

In the month of August, 1824, the Duke of Doudeauville was named
minister of the King's household. In this post he showed

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: