Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete

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Author: Various

Chapter XXVI.

Political Intrigue in Hungary.—Dignity of the King of the Romans.—The Good Appearance of a German Prince.—The Turks at Vienna.—The Duc de Lorraine.—The King of Rome.

Whatever the conduct of the King may have been towards me, I do not write out of resentment or to avenge myself. But in the midst of the peace which the leisure that he has given me leaves me, I feel some satisfaction in inditing the memoirs of my life, which was attached to his so closely, and wish to relate with sincerity the things I have seen. What would be the use of memoirs from which sincerity were absent? Whom could they inspire with a desire of reading them?

The King was born profoundly ambitious. All the actions of his public life bore witness to it. It would be useless for him to rebut the charge; all his aims, all his political work, all his sieges, all his battles, all his bloody exploits prove it. He had robbed the Emperor of an immense quantity of towns and territories in succession. The greatness of the House of Austria irritated him. He had begun by weakening it in order to dominate it; and, in bringing it under his sway, he hoped to draw to himself the respect and submission of the Germanic Electoral body, and cause the Imperial Crown to pass to his house, as soon as the occasion should present itself.

We had often heard him say: "Monseigneur has all the good appearance of a German prince." This singular compliment, this praise, was not without motive. The King wished that this opinion and this portrait should go straight into Germany, and create there a kind of naturalisation and adoption for his son.

He had resolved to have him elected and proclaimed King of the Romans, a dignity which opens, as one knows, the road to the imperial greatness. To attain this result, his Majesty, seconded perfectly by his minister, Louvois, employed the following means.

By his order M. de Louvois sent the Comte de Nointel to Vienna, at the moment when that Power was working to extend the twenty years’ truce concluded by Hungary with the Sultan. The French envoy promised secretly his adhesion to the Turks; and the latter, delighted at the intervention of the French, became so overbearing towards the Imperial Crown that that Power was reduced to refusing too severe conditions.

Sustained by the insinuations and the promises of France, the Sultan demanded that Hungary should be left in the state in which it was in 1655; that henceforward that kingdom should pay him an annual tribute of fifty thousand florins; that the fortifications of Leopoldstadt and Gratz should be destroyed; that the chief of the revolted towns—Nitria, Eckof, the Island of Schutt, and the fort of Murann, at Tekelai—should be ceded; that there should be a general amnesty and restitution of their estates, dignities, offices, and privileges without restriction.

By this the infidels would have found themselves masters of the whole of Hungary, and would have been able to come to the very gates of Vienna, without fear of military commanders or of the Emperor. It was obvious that they were only seeking a pretext for a quarrel, and that at the suggestion of France, which was quite disposed to profit by the occasion.

The Sultan knew very little of our King. The latter had his army ready; his plan was to enter, or rather to fall upon, the imperial territories, when the consternation and the danger in them should be at their height; and then he counted on turning to his advantage the good-will of the German princes, who, to be extricated from their difficulty, would not fail to offer to himself, as liberator, the Imperial Crown, or, at least, the dignity of King of the Romans and Vicar of the Empire to his son, Monseigneur le Dauphin.

In effect, hostilities had hardly commenced on the part of the Turks, hardly had their first successes, struck terror into the heart of the German Empire, when the King, the real political author of these disasters, proposed to the German Emperor to intervene suddenly, as auxiliary, and even to restore Lorraine to him, and his new conquests, on condition that the dignity of the King of the Romans should be bestowed on his son. France, this election once proclaimed, engaged herself to bring an army of 60,000 men, nominally of the King of the Romans, into Hungary, to drive out utterly the common enemy. German officers would be admitted, like French, into this Roman army; and more, the King of France and the new King of the Romans engaged themselves to set back the imperial frontiers on that side as far as Belgrade, or Weissembourg in Greece. A powerful fleet was to appear in the Mediterranean to support these operations; and the King, wishing to crown his generosity, offered to renounce forever the ancient possessions, and all the rights of Charlemagne, his acknowledged forefather or ancestor.

Whilst these dreams of ambition were being seriously presented to the unhappy Imperial Court of Vienna, the Turks, to the number of 300,000 men, had swept across Hungary like a torrent. They arrived before the capital of the Empire of Germany just at the moment when the Court had left it. They immediately invested this panic-stricken town, and the inhabitants of Vienna believed themselves lost. But the young Duc de Lorraine, our King’s implacable enemy, had left the capital in the best condition and pitched outside Vienna, in a position from which he could severely harass the besieging Turks.

He tormented them, he raided them, while he waited for the saving reinforcements which were to be brought up by the King of Poland, and the natural allies of the Empire. This succour arrived at last, and after four or five combats, well directed and most bloody, they threw the Ottomans into disorder. The Duc de Lorraine immortalised himself during this brilliant campaign, which he finished by annihilating the Turks near Barkan.

France had remained in a state of inaction in the midst of all these great events. I saw the discomfiture of our ministers and the King when the success of the Imperialists reached them. But the time had passed when my affections and those of my master were akin. Free from henceforth to follow the impulses of my conscience and of my sense of justice, I rejoiced sincerely at the great qualities of the poor Duc de Lorraine, and at the humiliation of the cruel Turks, who had been so misled.

The elective princes of the Germanic Empire once more rallied round their august head, and disavowed almost all their secret communications with the Cabinet of Versailles. The Emperor, having escaped from these great perils, addressed some noble and touching complaints to our monarch; and Monseigneur was not elected King of the Romans,—a disappointment which he hardly noticed, and by which he was very little disturbed.

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Chicago: Various, "Chapter XXVI.," Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Holcroft, Thomas, 1745-1809 in Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed August 7, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4TWS81354BL9HFU.

MLA: Various. "Chapter XXVI." Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Holcroft, Thomas, 1745-1809, in Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 7 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4TWS81354BL9HFU.

Harvard: Various, 'Chapter XXVI.' in Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, Court Memoirs of France Series—Complete, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 7 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4TWS81354BL9HFU.