Joseph II and His Court

Author: Luise Mühlbach

Chapter XXVIII. A Statesman’s Hours of Dalliance.

"Are there many people in the anteroom?" asked Prince Kaunitz of the state referendarius, Baron Binder.

"Yes, your highness," returned Binder, "all waiting impatiently for your appearance."

"Let them wait, the stupid, strutting representatives of littleness! The more insignificant the petty masters, the more conceited are the petty ambassadors. I have no time to see them to-day. We are at peace with the whole world, and our only diplomacy regards marrying and giving in marriage."

"So far you have nothing to boast or in that line," said Binder, laughing. "There are all sorts of stories afloat about the unhappy marriage of the King of Rome. Sorne go so far as to say that he shows his dislike in public."

"Bah! what matters it whether a prince is a happy husband or not? When a king sets up pretensions to conjugal felicity, he is either an egotist or a fool. If the King of Rome cannot love his good, stupid, ugly wife, he can make love to the dowry she brings him. A goodly inheritance comes with her; what matters it if a woman be thrown into the bargain?"

"Ah, prince, a woman is sometimes harder to conquer than a province; and I think the King of Rome would much rather have won his Bavaria with the sword."

"Because he is a blockhead full of sublime nonsense, who mistakes his love of novelty for wisdom. He would break his head against a wall, this obstinate King of Rome, while I crept safely through a mouse-hole. Walls are not so easily battered down as he supposes; but mouse-holes abound everywhere, as this sapient king will find out some of these days. It was much easier for us to creep into Bavaria with the help of the lovely Josepha, than to flourish our sword in her brother’s face. He has not long to live, and we shall come peacefully in possession of his fair province."

"Or rather, the war for its possession will be waged in the king’s private apartments."

"On that silly subject again!" exclaimed Kaunitz, impatiently. "If your heart bleeds so freely for the sentimental sorrows of the King of Rome, you may have another opportunity for your sensibilities in the marriage of his brother Leopold; for I assure you that his intended is not one whit handsomer, or more intelligent, than Josepha of Bavaria. So you see that the King of Rome will not be apt to envy his brother."

"Your highness is to escort the Infanta of Spain to Innspruck?"

"Not I, indeed; that honor I do not confer upon insignificant princesses who are nothing but grand-duchesses elect. I go to Innspruck one day sooner than the imperial family, to inspect the preparations for the festivities, and then I shall go as far as the gates of Innspruck—no farther, to receive Donna Maria Louisa."

"That is the reason why your levee is so crowded to-day," replied Binder laughing. "The foreign ministers wish to take leave of their master. And now they have waited long enough for you, prince."

"I shall not see one of them. Austria, thanks to me, is now so powerful that I need give myself no concern to soothe the anger of a dozen petty envoys, and to-day there are none other in the anteroom."

"The Dutch and Saxon ministers," urged Binder.

"Little nobodies," said Kaunitz, with a shrug. "I will not see them."

"But, indeed, you presume too much upon their littleness. Only yesterday you invited the Hessian ambassador to dine, and then you sat down to table without him."

"He was three minutes behind the time. And do you imagine that Prince Kaunitz waits for a poor little Hessian envoy? I did it on purpose to teach him punctuality."

Here the prince rang a bell, and ordered a page to dismiss the gentlemen in the anteroom. [Footnote: Report of the Prussian ambassador Baron Furst to Frederick II.]

Baron Binder looked after the page and shook his head. Kaunitz smiled. "Enough of ambassadors for to-day. The ship of Austria lies proudly and safely in the haven of her own greatness; and would you deprive the pilot of a few hours of relaxation? I shall have to take the helm again to-morrow, when I go to Innspruck, and do you grumble if for a few hours I enjoy life to-day?"

"I was not aware that dismissing one’s visitors was a way to enjoy life," said Binder.

"I do not mean that, you old pedant. Do you hear that tapping at the door?"

"Yes, I hear it. It is from the little private door that leads to the corridor."

"Well, that corridor, as you know, leads to a side-entrance of the palace, and if you look out of the window you will see there the equipage of the handsomest, frailest, and most fascinating actress in all Vienna—the equipage of the divine Foliazzi. Hear how the knocking grows louder. My charmer becomes impatient."

"Allow me to retire, then," said Binder, "and leave the field to the prima donna." As he left the room, he muttered: "If Kaunitz were not a great statesman, he would be a ridiculous old fop!"

Kaunitz listened with perfect a unconcern to the repeated knocking of his charmer until Binder was out of of sight, then he walked up to the looking-glass, smoothed his locks, straightened his ruffles, and drew the bolt of the door. The beautiful Foliazzi, in a coquettish and most becoming morning-costume, radiant with smiles and beauty, entered the room.

Kaunitz greeted her coldly, and answered her rapturous salutation by a faint nod. "Your impatience is very annoying, Olympia," said he; "you beat upon my door like a drum-major."

"Your highness, it is the impatience of a longing heart," said the singer. "Do you know that it seems to me a thousand years since last I was allowed to enter these gates of Paradise! For eight days I have been plunged in deepest sorrow, watching your carriage as it passed by my house, snatching every note from my footman’s hands in the hope that it might be one from you—hoping in vain, and at last yielded myself up to fell despair."

"You express yourself warmly," said Kaunitz, umnoved.

"Yes, indeed; for a feeling heart always finds strong expression," answered the signora, showing a row of teeth between her rosy lips that looked like precious pearls. "And now my adored reprobate, why have you banished me from your presence for an eternity? Which of my two enemies have prevailed against me, politics or the Countess Clary? Justify yourself, unkind but beloved prince; say that you have not deceived me, for my heart yearns to forgive you?"

She came very, very near, and with her bewitching smiles looked up into Kaunitz’s face.

Kaunitz bent to receive the caress, and laid his hand fondly upon her raven black hair. "Is it true that you have longed for me—very true indeed?" said he.

"I never knew how dear you were to me until I had endured the intolerable pangs of your absence," replied Foliazzi, leaning her head upon the prince’s shoulder.

"You love me, then, Olympia? Tell me, dearest, tell me truly?"

"Unjust! You ask me such a question!" cried the signora, putting her arms around the prince’s neck. "If I love you? Do you not feel it in every pulsation of my heart? do you not read it in every glance of my eyes? Can you not FEEL that my only thought is of you—my only life, your love?"

"I am really glad to hear it," said Kaunitz, with statue-like tranquillity. "And now I will tell you why I have not sent for you this past week. It was that I might not interrupt your tender interviews with Count Palffy, nor frighten away the poor enamoured fool from the snares you were laying for him."

The signora looked perfectly astounded. "But surely," stammered she, "your highness does not believe—"

"Oh, no! I believe nothing; I know that the Olympia who loves me so passionately, has been for two days the fair friend of the young, rich, and prodigal Count Palffy."

Here the signora laughed outright. "But, your highness, if you knew this, why did you not stop me in my protestations, and tell me so?"

"I only wanted to see whether, really, you were a finished actress. I congratulate you, Olympia; I could not have done it better myself."

"Prince," said the signora, seriously, "I learned the whole of this scene from yourself; and in my relations with you I have followed the example you gave me. While you swore eternal love to me, you were making declarations to the Countess Clary. Oh, my lord, I have suffered at your hands, and the whole world sympathizes with my disappointment! The whole world knows of your double dealings with women, and calls you a heartless young libertine."

"Does it?" cried Kaunitz, for a moment forgetting his coldness, and showing his satisfaction in his face. "Does it, indeed, call me a heartless young libertine?"

"Yes," replied the signora, who seemed not to see his gratification. "And when people see a man who is adored by women, and is false to them all, they say, ’He is a little Kaunitz.’"

When the signora said this, Kaunitz did what he had not done for years, he broke out into a laugh, repeating triumphantly, "A little Kaunitz. But mark you," continued he, "other libertines are called little Kaunitzes, but I alone am the great Kaunitz."

"True," sighed the signora, "and this great Kaunitz it is who has abandoned me. While I worshipped the air he breathed, he sat at the feet of the Countess Clary, repeating to her the self-same protestations with which an hour before he had intoxicated my senses. Oh, when I heard this, jealousy and despair took possession of my soul. I was resolved to be revenged, and so I permitted the advances of Count Palffy. Ha! while I endured his presence, I felt that my heart was wholly and forever yours! Oh, my adored, my great Kaunitz, say that you love me, and at your feet I throw all the lesser Kaunitzes in token of my fealty!"

The signora would have flung her arms around him, but Kaunitz with a commanding gesture waved her off.

"Very well done, Olympia," said he, nodding his head. "You are as accomplished as you are beautiful; and well I understand how it is that you infatuate by your charms all manner of little Kaunitzes. But now listen to Kaunitz the great. I not only allow, but order you to continue your intrigue with Count Palffy. Take every thing he offers; wring his purse dry; and the sooner you ruin him the better."

"That means that I importune you with my love. Farewell, prince, and may you never repent of your cruelty to poor Olympia."

"Stay," said Kaunitz, coolly. "I have not done with you. Continue your amours with the Hungarian, and love him as much as you choose, provided—"

"Provided?" echoed the singer anxiously, as Kaunitz paused.

"Provided you affect before the world to be still my mistress."

"Oh, my beloved prince," cried Foliazzi, "you will not cast me off!" and in spite of his disinclination she folded Kaunitz to her heart.

The prince struggled to get free. "You have disarranged my whole dress," said he, peevishly. "On account of your folly I shall have to make my toilet again. Hear me, and let me alone. I said that you would AFFECT to be my mistress. To this end you will drive as usual to the side-door by which you have been accustomed to enter the palace, and while your carriage stands there for one hour, you shall be treated to a costly breakfast in my little boudoir every morning."

"By your side, my own prince?"

"By yourself, my own Olympia. I have not time to devote an hour to you every day. Your carriage shall stand at my door in the morning. Every evening mine will be for an hour before yours, and while it remains there I forbid you to be at home to any one whatsoever."

"I shall think of nothing but you until that hour," said the signora, fondly.

"Vraiment, you are very presuming to suppose that I shall trouble myself to come in the carriage," replied Kaunitz, contemptuously. "It is enough that the coach being there, the world will suppose that I am there also. A man of fashion must have the name of possessing a mistress; but a statesman cannot waste his valuable time on women. You are my mistress, ostensibly, and therefore I give you a year’s salary of four thousand guilders."

"You are an angel—a god!" cried La Foliazzi, this time with genuine rapture. "You come upon one like Jupiter, in a shower of gold."

"Yes, but I have no wish to fall into the embraces of my Danae. Now, hear my last words. If you ever dare let it transpire that you are not really my mistress, I shall punish you severely. I will not only stop your salary, but I will cite you before the committee of morals, and you shall be forced into a marriage with somebody."

The singer shuddered and drew back. "Let me go at once into my boudoir. Is my breakfast ready?"

"No—your morning visits there begin to-morrow. Now go home to Count Palffy, and do not forget our contract."

"I shall not forget it, prince," replied the signora, smiling. "I await your coach this evening. You may kiss me if you choose."

She bent her head to his and held out her delicate cheek, fresh as a rose.

"Simpleton," said he, slightly tapping her beautiful mouth, "do you suppose that the great Kaunitz would kiss any lips but those which, like the sensitive mimosa, shrink from the touch of man Go away. Count Palffy will feel honored to reap the kisses I have left."

He gave her his hand, and looked after her, as with light and graceful carriage she left the room.

"She is surpassingly beautiful," said Kaunitz to himself. "Every one envies me; but each one thinks it quite a matter of course that the loveliest woman in Vienna should be glad to be my mistress. Ah! two o’clock. My guests await me. But before I go I must bring down the Countess Clary from the airy heaven which she has built for herself."

He rang, and a page appeared; for from the time he became a prince, Kaunitz introduced four pages in his household, and kept open table daily for twelve persons.

"Tell the Countess Clary," said he, "that in a few moments I will conduct her to the dining-room. Then await me in my puderkammer."


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Chicago: Luise Mühlbach, "Chapter XXVIII. A Statesman’s Hours of Dalliance.," Joseph II and His Court, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891 in Joseph II and His Court (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed December 5, 2023,

MLA: Mühlbach, Luise. "Chapter XXVIII. A Statesman’s Hours of Dalliance." Joseph II and His Court, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891, in Joseph II and His Court, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 5 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Mühlbach, L, 'Chapter XXVIII. A Statesman’s Hours of Dalliance.' in Joseph II and His Court, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, Joseph II and His Court, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 5 December 2023, from