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

go through the streets; they are everywhere insulted. Three days
since, a well-dressed man, passing by the sentinel of the
Luxembourg said to him, pointing to a priest: 'Never mind; in a
year you'll see no more of all these wretches.' The poor Cure of
Clichy was in real danger, surrounded by two or three hundred
madmen, who cried; 'Down with the black-hats!' Every day there is
a scene of the same sort."

The popularity of Charles X., so great at the beginning of his
reign, was dwindling every day at Paris. M. de La Rochefoucauld
did not fear to declare it to him.

"By what inconceivable fatality is it," he wrote, February 6,
1827, "that the king amid all the care he takes to ensure the
happiness of his people, is losing from day to day in their love
and affection? At the play--and it is there, to use an expression
of Napoleon, that the pulse of public opinion is to be felt--the
most seditious and hostile allusions are eagerly caught up.
Saturday last, verses, of which the sense was that kings who have
lost the love of their people encounter only silence and coldness,
were greeted with triple applause and furiously encored."

The report of May 12,1827, was like an alarm bell:

"Circumstances are so grave that the calmest minds betray fear
regarding them; there are now but one opinion and one feeling,--
doubt and fear. It is said openly, as eight years since: This
branch cannot keep the crown; it is impossible; who will succeed
it? How many things, great Heavens, done in eight years; how many
things forgotten!"

Exposed to an outpouring of enmities and of incessant intrigues,
taken between two fires,--the extreme Right and the Left,--M. de
Villele no longer had the strength to govern. His ministry was
about to come to an end. Later, in retracing in his journal this
phase of his career, he wrote:--

"All that took place was of a feebleness destructive of all
government, and disheartening for him who bears all the
responsibility for it, with the weight of affairs besides. But he
was not, and did not pretend to be, the Cardinal Richelieu. He had
not his character, nor his ambition, nor his superior gifts. He
did not even envy them. Had he been quite different in this
regard, to repress and annul his king, to oppress the daughter of
Louis XVI. and the widow of the Duke of Berry, to exile from
France the new Gaston d'Orleans, and his numerous family, to bring
down the heads of the court pygmies,--more dangerous, perhaps,
with their influence over the King and his family and their
vexatious intrigues in the Court of Peers than the Montmorencys
and the Cinq-Mars,--this was a rele to which he never aspired and
would not have accepted."

Charles X. sacrificed M. de Villele, who, however, had his
sympathy, and replaced him with a liberal minister, perhaps with a
mental reservation as to a ministry, before long, from the extreme
Right. The retiring minister wished to remain in the Chamber of
Deputies, to defend his acts. For their part, his successors,
fearing his influence in that body, wished his transfer to the
Chamber of Peers, where, in their judgment, he would be less
dangerous. At the last Council of Ministers attended by M. de
Villele, the King passed to him a note in pencil, announcing that
he had called him to the peerage. The statesman declined, in a
note also in pencil. "You wish then to impose yourself upon me as
minister?" wrote the King once more. M. de Villele appeared moved,
and passed to the sovereign this response: "The King well knows
the contrary; but since he can write it, let him do with me what
he will." The next day the Martignac ministry entered on its
duties, and the Duchess of Angoule'me said to Charles X.: "It is
true, then, that you are letting Villele go? My father, you
descend to-day the first step of the throne."



Mde. Martignac, who succeeded M. de Villele in the Ministry of the
Interior, was a man of merit, honest, liberal, and sincerely
devoted to the King. Born in 1776, at Bordeaux, he was at first an
advocate at the bar of that city, and at the same time made
himself known by some witty vaudevilles. On the return of the
Bourbons, he entered the magistracy, became procureur-general at
Limoges, was elected a deputy in 1821, and distinguished himself
in the tribune. He was Minister of the Interior from January,
1828, to August, 1829, and his name was given to the ministry of
which he was a member. He had for colleagues enlightened and
moderate men, such as Count Auguste de La Ferronnays, M. Roy,
Count Portalis. He tried to reconcile the different parties, and
to preserve the throne from the double danger of reaction and
revolution. Taken between two fires, the extreme Right and the
extreme Left, he was destined to fail in his generous effort.

The royalist sentiment was becoming constantly more feeble. The
24th of January, 1828, some days after the formation of the
Martignac ministry, the Viscount Sosthenes de La Rochefoucauld
wrote, in a report to the King:--

"In going to Saint-Denis, the 2lst of January (the anniversary of
the death of Louis XVI.), and seeing the lightness with which the
court itself conducted itself there, it was impossible for me not
to make many reflections on the futility of an age in which no
memory is sacred. And by what right can the people be asked to
have a better memory when such an example is given to them? No
cortege, no coaches draped, none of the pomp that strikes the
imagination and the eye. Some isolated carriages, passing rapidly
over the route, as if every one longed to be more promptly rid of
whatever is grave and mournful in this day of cruel memory."

The ultras were thinking much less of the real interests of the
monarchy than of their own spites and their personal ambitions.

These pretended supports of the throne were digging the abyss in
which the throne was to be swallowed up. Charles X., blinded, was
already thinking of calling the Prince de Polignac to power, and
regarded the Martignac ministry as a provisional expedient. To the
despair of the members of this ministry, he maintained relations
with M. de Villele, whose fall he regretted. After the opening of
the session, he wrote to his former minister, February 6, 1828:--

"What do you think of my discourse? I did my best; but as it was a
success with some persons of doubtful opinions, I am afraid that
it is not worth much. Everything appears to me so confused, that I
know not what to count upon. The eulogies of the Debats and the
Constitutionnel make me fear I have said stupid things. Yet I hope
not, and I shall continue to arrest with firmness what may lead to
dangerous concessions."

On the other hand, if there were among the liberals some sincere
and well-intentioned men, who meant to remain faithful alike to
the throne and the Charter, there were others who already masked
treachery under the appearance of devotion to the King. Those who
two years later were to boast of having labored during the entire
restoration for the ruin of the elder branch,--actors in the
comedy of fifteen years, as they called themselves,--gave
themselves out, in 1828, as partisans and enthusiastic admirers of
Charles X. At the commencement of the session a deputy of the
Left, having affected to say in the tribune that the King had not
a single enemy, the Right permitted itself some exclamations of
doubt. One of its members, M. de Marinhac, cried: "As a good
prince I believe that His Majesty has no enemies, but as King, he
has many, and I know them," added he, looking at his opponents.
The entire Left was indignant, and caused the orator to be called
to order. M. Dupin thanked the president, and said in an agitated
voice: "It is a calumny, an insult, that we cannot endure. Nothing
wounds us more than to hear ourselves accused of being the enemies
of him whom we adore, cherish, bless."

The tactics of the Opposition were to flatter the King, but to
disarm him and to make him look on those who were really
revolutionists as ministerialists. M. de Martignac was a man of
good faith, but many who boasted of supporting him were not so,
and perhaps M. de Villele was right when he wrote to Charles X. in
June, 1828:--

"I could serve Your Majesty only with the light and the character
God has given me. It would have been, it would be, impossible for
me to believe that authority can be maintained by concessions and
by leaning on those who wish to overthrow it."

Meanwhile there were still some fine days for the old King. His
journey in the departments of the east, in 1828, was a continual
ovation that recalled to him the enthusiasm of the beginning of
his reign. Setting out from Saint Cloud the 3lst of August, he
arrived at Metz the 3d of September. All the houses of this great
military city were hung with the white flag adorned with fleurs-
de-lis. After having visited some of the fortifications, Charles
X., following the ramparts, came to an elegant pavilion erected on
the site of the ancient citadel. Long covered seats were arranged
for the ladies of the city; a prodigious number of spectators
occupied the ramparts. In the presence of the sovereign a regiment
made a simulated attack on a "demi-lune" and a bastion.

On September 6, Saverne arranged a very picturesque reception for
the King. All the cantons and all the communes sent thither,
together with their mayors and their richest farmers, their
prettiest village girls in Alsatian costume. Five hundred
peasants, clad in red vest and long black coat, the head covered
with a great hat turned up on one side, a white ribbon tied about
the left arm, were on horseback at the place of meeting. The young
girls, bearing flags and garlands, were brought in wagons, each
containing a dozen or sixteen. In other wagons were the musicians.
The pretty Alsaciennes presented the monarch with a basket of
flowers; then he breakfasted with the authorities, and, at a
signal, fires were lighted at the same time on the plain and on
the surrounding mountains.

The 7th of September, Charles X. entered Strasbourg in triumph. At

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: