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

guard and the troops of the line. The Place du Parvis-Notre-Dame
was hung with draperies in fleur-de-lis, and all the streets to be
traversed by the procession had been draped and sanded. The first
stop of the cortege was under the peristyle of the Hotel-Dieu,
where an altar had been erected; the second, at the Church of the
Sorbonne; the third, at that of Sainte Genevieve. The two other
processions had no less eclat, and their pauses being fixed in the
churches of the principal parishes, they passed through the
busiest and most populous quarters of Paris.

The fourth and last procession, that of the 3d of May, was the
most important of all. It was to close by an expiatory ceremony in
honor of Louis XVI., by the laying and benediction of the corner-
stone of the monument voted by the Chamber of 1815, and which
still awaited its foundation. It is at the very place where the
unfortunate sovereign had been executed that the monument was to
be constructed. The cortege left Notre-Dame and directed its
course first to the Church of Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois. The
Chamber of Peers, the Chamber of Deputies, all the functionaries,
all the authorities of the Department of the Seine, followed the
King and Dauphin, who advanced, accompanied by the ministers, the
marshals, the officers of their houses, cordons bleus, cordons
rouges. Never since the end of the old regime had such a multitude
of priests been seen defiling through the streets of Paris. The
pupils of all the seminaries, the almoners of all the colleges,
the priests of all the parishes and all the chapels, stretched out
in an endless double line, at the end of which appeared the Nuncio
of the Pope, Cardinals de Latil, de Croi, and de La Fare, the
Archbishop of Paris, and a crowd of prelates. After the station of
Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois, there was a second at Saint-Roch, then
a third and last at the Assumption. When the special prayers of
the close of the jubilee had been said at this last parish, the
immense cortege resumed its march to the place where Louis XVI.
had brought his head to the sacrilegious scaffold. The day chosen
for the expiatory solemnity was the 3d of May, the anniversary of
the return of Louis XVIII. to Paris in 1814, and then a political
idea was connected with the religious ceremony. A vast pavilion
surmounted by a cross hung with draperies in violet velvet, and
enclosing an altar, which was reached on four sides by four
stairways of ten steps each, occupied the very place where, the
10th of January, 1793, the scaffold of the Martyr-King had been
erected, in the middle of the Place called successively the Place
Louis XV. and the Place de La Concorde, and which was thenceforth
to be called the Place Louis XVI.

The account in the MONITEUR says:--

"A first salvo of artillery announced the arrival of the
procession. It presented as imposing a tableau as could be
contemplated. This old French nation--the heir of its sixty kings
at the head--marched, preceded by the gifts made by Charlemagne to
the Church of Paris, and the religious trophies that Saint Louis
brought from the holy places. The priests ascend to the altar.
Three times in succession they raise to heaven the cry for pardon
and pity. All the spectators fall upon their knees. A profound,
absolute silence reigns about the altar and over all the Place; a
common sorrow overwhelms the people; the King's eyes are filled
with tears."

In this multitude the absence of the Dauphiness, the daughter of
Louis XVI., is remarked. The Orphan of the Temple had made it a
law for herself never to cross the place where her father had
perished. She went to the expiatory chapel of the Rue d'Anjou-
Saint-Honore, to pass in prayer the time of the ceremony.

M. de Vaulabelle makes this curious comparison:--

"Behind Charles X. there knelt his Grand Chamberlain, Prince
Talleyrand, covered with gleaming embroideries, orders, and
cordons. It was the ecclesiastical dignitary whom Paris had beheld
celebrating the Mass of the Federation on the Champ-de-Mars, the
wedded prelate who, as Minister of the Directory, had for some
years observed as a national festival the anniversary of this same
execution, now the subject of so many tears."

Religious people rejoiced at the ceremony that was celebrated; but
the Voltairians and the enemies of royalty complained bitterly at
the sight of the quays, the streets, the squares of the capital
furrowed by long files of priests, chanting psalms and litanies,
dragging devout in their suite the King, the two Chambers, the
judiciary, the administration, and the army. Yet was it not just
that Charles X. should cause an expiatory ceremony to be
celebrated at the place where his unfortunate brother had been
guillotined? Was not that for a pious sovereign the accomplishment
of a sacred duty? It matters not; there were those who reproached
him with this homage to the most memorable of misfortunes. They
would have forbidden to Charles X. the memory of Louis XVI. Yet a
king could hardly be asked to have the sentiments of a
conventionnel, of a regicide. In their systematic and bitter
opposition, the adversaries of the Restoration imputed to the
royal family as a crime its very virtues and its piety.

Charles X. was not unaware of this half-expressed hostility. That
evening he wrote to M. Villele, President of the Council of

"In general I have been content with the ceremony and the
appearance of the people; but I wish to know the whole truth, and
I charge you to see M. Delavau, and to know from him if the
reality corresponds to appearances, if there was any talk against
the government and the clergy. I wish to know all, and I trust to
you to leave me in ignorance of nothing."

M. de Villele was not a flatterer. He responded discreetly, but
without concealing the truth:--

"The aspect of the people," he wrote, "permitted the thoughts
agitating its spirit to be recognized. We were following the King
at a slight distance and could judge very well of it. It was easy
to read in all eyes that the people were hurt at seeing the King
humbly following the priests. There was in that not so much
irreligion as jealousy and animosity toward the role played by the

It might have been asked, in these circumstances, whether the
criticisms of the opposition were just. If a ceremony was to be
observed, such, as the laying and blessing the corner-stone of an
expiatory monument, it must be religious. If it were religious,
was not the presence of the clergy in large numbers natural?

At heart, there was something noble and touching in the thought of
Charles X., and the true royalists sincerely respected it. Prom
the monarchical point of view, a monument to Louis XVI. had much
more raison d'etre than the obelisk since erected in its place,
which represents nothing, and has, moreover, the inconvenience of
obstructing the fine perspective of the Champs Elysees and the
Tuileries. But there were two camps in France, and these
processions, expiations, prayers, which, according to the royalist
journals, opened a new era of sanctity, glory, and virtue,
exasperated the Voltairians. The opposition determined to make of
the King's piety a weapon against royalty.

And yet, we repeat, this piety had nothing about it not worthy of
respect. As the Abbe Vedrenne remarks in his Vie de Charles X.,
this Prince "had a perfect understanding of the duties and
convenances of his rank, never refused his presence at fetes where
it was desirable, never seemed to blame or fear what a sensible
indulgence did not condemn; he loved the charm of society, and
increased it by his kindliness, but he was not dazzled by it. He
remained to the end the most amiable prince in Europe, but he was
also the severest. A surprising thing in a convert, his religion
was always full of true charity for others. He excused those who
neglected their Christian duties, remembering his delay in
practising his own, without ever compromising his own beliefs. He
sincerely respected the good faith of those who did not share
them. This faith, this piety--a legacy from love--which he guarded
so faithfully, was the consolation of his long misfortunes and the
principle of his unchanging serenity. It banished even the idea of
hatred from his heart. Never did any one forgive as he did."

It must not be forgotten that the pamphleteers and song-writers of
the Restoration, violent, unjust, and even cruel as they were
toward Charles X., never breathed an insinuation against the
purity of his morals. His life was not less exemplary than that of
his son, the Dauphin, or of his niece and daughter-in-law, the
Orphan of the Temple. Despite the great piety of the sovereign,
the court was not melancholy or morose. Charles X. had a
foundation of benevolence and gaiety to his character. He was not
surprised to see committed about him the gentle trespasses of
love, of which he had been himself guilty in youth, and he had
become--the very ideal of wisdom--severe for himself, indulgent
for others.



The Governess of the Children of France was the Viscountess of
Gontaut, who, as a recompense for the manner in which she had
accomplished her task, was made Duchess by Charles X. in 1826.
Here is the opening of her unpublished Memoirs:--

"January, 1853. To Madame the Countess and Monsieur the Count
Georges Esterhazy. My dear children, you have shown a desire to
know the events of my long life. Wishing to teach them to your
children, I yield to this amiable and tender purpose, promising
myself, meanwhile, to resist the too common charm of talking
pitilessly about myself. I shall search my memory for souvenirs of
the revolutions I have often witnessed to give interest to my
tales. One writes but ill at eighty, but one may claim indulgence
from hearts to which one is devoted."

The amiable and intelligent octogenarian had no need of
indulgence. Her Memoirs possess irresistible attraction, grace,
exquisite naturalness, and we are convinced that when they are
published--as they must be sooner or later--they will excite

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: