Memoirs of the Comtesse Du Barry, With Minute Details of Her Entire Career as Favorite of Louis XV. Written by Herself

Contents:
Author: Étienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon

Chapter XLIV

The duc d’Aiguillon brings an order for the immediate departure of madame du Barry—The king’s remarks recapitulated—The countess holds a privy council—Letter to madame de Mirepoix and the ducs de Cosse and d’Aiguillon—Night of departure—Ruel—Visit from madame de Forcalquier

I said I did not expect the duc d’Aiguillon; and the grief which was spread over his features, and the large tears which stood in his eyes, persuaded me but too plainly that all hope was at an end.

"Is the king dead?" cried I, in a stifled voice.

"No, madam," replied he, "Louis XV still lives, nor is it by any means certain that the misfortune you apprehend is in store for us."

"He sends me from him, then," exclaimed I, with a convulsive cry, "and my enemies have triumphed."

"His majesty is but of human nature, madam," replied the duke; "he feels himself dangerously ill, dreads the future, and believes that he owes his people a sort of reparation for past errors."

"How, my lord duke," interrupted I, "this grave language in your lips—but no matter. Inform me only at whose desire you state these melancholy facts; speak, I am prepared for your mission, be it what it may."

"You shall hear everything, madam," replied the duke, leading me to an arm-chair. I seated myself; my sistersin-law, my niece, and comte Jean stood around me, eagerly waiting the duke’s communication. "A few hours after you had been removed from his chamber, the king inquired of the princess Adelaide whether it were generally known at Paris that he had the small-pox. The princess replied in the affirmative, adding:

"’The archbishop of Paris was here twice during yesterday to inquire after you.’

"’Yet I belong more properly to the diocese of Chartres,’ returned the king, ’and surely M. de Fleury would not interest himself less about me than M. de Beaumont.’

"’They are both truly anxious about you, my dearest father, and if you would only see them—’

"’No, no,’ answered Louis XV; ’they must not be taken from the duties of their respective dioceses; besides, in case of need, I have my grand almoner.’

"Madame Adelaide did not venture to urge the matter further just then, and, after a short interval of silence, a message was brought from you, inquiring whether you could see the king, to
which he himself replied, that he felt inclined to sleep, and would rather not see any person that night. I was in the chamber, and he very shortly called me to him, and said:

"’Duc d’Aiguillon, I have the small-pox; and you are aware that there is a sort of etiquette in my family which enjoins my immediately discharging my duties as a Christian.’

"’Yes, sire, if the malady wore a serious aspect; but in your case—’

"’May God grant,’ replied he, ’that my disorder be not dangerous; however, it may become so, if it is as yet harmless, and I would fain die as a believer rather than an infidel. I have been a great sinner, doubtless; but I have ever observed Lent with a most scrupulous exactitude. I have caused more than a hundred thousand masses to be said for the repose of unhappy souls; I have respected the clergy, and punished the authors of all impious works, so that I flatter myself I have not been a very bad Christian.’

"I listened to his discourse with a heavy heart, yet I still strove to reassure the king respecting his health, of which, I assured him, there was not the slightest doubt.

"’There is one sacrifice,’ said the king, in a low and hurried tone, ’that my daughter Louise, her sisters, and the clergy, will not be long in exacting from me in the name of etiquette. I recollect the scene of Metz, and it would be highly disagreeable to me to have it repeated at Versailles; let us, therefore, take our precautions in time to prevent it. Tell the duchesse d’Aiguillon that she will oblige me by taking the comtesse du Barry to pass two or three days with her at Ruel.’

"’How, sire!’ exclaimed I, ’send your dearest friend from you at a time when you most require her cares?’

"’I do not send her away,’ answered the king, with mournful tenderness, ’I but yield to present necessity; let her submit as she values my happiness, and say to her, that I hope and believe her absence will be very short.’"

The duke here ceased his recital, which fully confirmed all my previous anticipations. My female relatives sobbed aloud, while comte Jean, compressing his lips, endeavoured to assume that firmness he did not really possess. By a violent effort I forced myself to assume a sort of resignation.

"Am I required to depart immediately?" inquired I.

"No," said the duke; "to leave the chateau in the middle of the night would be to assume the air of a flight, we had better await the coming day; it will, besides, afford time to apprize the duchess. "

While the duc d’Aiguillon was thus gone to arrange for my departure, I requested to be left alone. My heart was oppressed, and I felt the need of venting my grief upon some friendly bosom. After a few moments, spent in collecting my thoughts, I addressed two letters, one to the marechale de Mirepoix, and the other to the duc de Cosse; to the former I wrote on account of my retirement to Ruel, bewailed the sad turn my prospects had assumed, expressed my deep concern for the severe illness of my excellent friend and benefactor, begging of her to defend my character from all unjust attacks, and to allow me to be blamed for no faults but such as I had really been guilty of. I concluded with these words, "I set out at seven o’clock to-morrow morning; the duchesse d’Aiguillon will conduct me to Ruel, where I shall remain until I am ordered elsewhere."

To the duke I merely sent a short account of my present prospects, hour of departure, etc. And, my feelings somewhat relieved by the penning of these epistles, I threw myself upon a couch to await the morning. Upon awaking, I received the following note from the duchesse d’Aiguillon:—

"MADAME LA COMTESSE,—I owe his majesty many thanks for the pleasing, yet mournful, task he has allotted me. Your kindness to my family, independently of my private regard for you, gives you the surest claim of my best services during this afflicting period. Let me beseech of you not to despair, but cheerfully anticipate brighter days.

"I will call for you at seven o’clock, and if you approve of it, we will use my carriage. Ruel is entirely at your disposal and that of your family."

This note was truly characteristic of its amiable writer, who at court passed for a cold-hearted, frigid being, whilst, in reality, the warm feelings of her excellent heart were reserved for her chosen friends.

I have never admired those general lovers who profess to love every one, nor do I feel quite sure it is a very strong recommendation to say a person is beloved by all who know her. Read, now, a striking contrast to the short but sympathizing billet of madame d’Aiguillon, in the following heartless letter f from the marechale de Mirepoix, which was put into my hands as I was ascending the carriage.

"MY LOVELY COUNTESS,—I am all astonishment! Can it be possible that you are to quit Versailles? You are right in saying you have been the friend of every one, and those who could speak ill of you are to be pitied for not having had better opportunities of understanding your real character. But fear not, the dauphiness is virtue personified, and the dauphin equally perfect. Every thing promises a peaceful and indulgent reign, should we have the misfortune to lose his present majesty. Still there will always be a great void left at Versailles; as far as I am concerned, I have passed so much of my time with you, that I cannot imagine what I shall do with my evenings; it will cost me much of my age to alter habits and customs now so long fixed and settled, but such is life; nothing certain, nothing stable. We should imitate cats in our attachments, and rather identify ourselves with the house than the possessor of it. I trust you have secured an ample provision for the future; neglect not the present, to-morrow may come in vain for you.

"Be sure you let me know the spot to which you permanently retire, and I will endeavour to see you as frequently as my engagements will admit of.

Adieu, <ma belle petite>."

Spite of the bitterness of my feelings, this letter drew a smile to my lips; the allusion to cats which had escaped the marechale exactly applied to her own character, of which I had been warned before I became acquainted with her; but her protestations of warm and unutterable attachment had gained my confidence, and I allowed myself to be guided implicitly by her.

The duchesse d’Aiguillon was waiting for me while I perused the above letter; at length, with a sigh, I prepared to quit that palace of delights where I had reigned absolute mistress. I cast a mournful look around me, on those splendid walks, fountains and statues, worthy the gardens of Armida, but where there reigned, at this early hour, a sort of gloomy silence; whilst, in that chamber where love had well nigh deified me and recognised me as queen of France, lay extended the monarch so lately my protector and friend.

It was the Wednesday of the fifth of May that I took my seat in the carriage of the duchesse d’Aiguillon accompanied by my sister-in-law and the vicomtesse Adolphe, who would not forsake me. Bischi remained with madame d’Hargicourt, whose duties detained her with the comtesse d’Artois. Her husband also remained at Versailles, while comte Jean and his son proceeded to Paris. I will not attempt to describe the emotions with which I quitted my magnificent suite of apartments, and traversed the halls and staircases already crowded by persons anxiously awaiting the first intimation of the king’s decease. I was wrapped in my pelisse, and effectually eluded observation. It has been said that I left Versailles at four o’clock in the morning, but that was a mere invention on the part of my servants to baffle the curiosity of those who might have annoyed me by their presence.

We pursued our way in mournful reflection, whilst madame d’Aiguillon, with her wonted goodness, sought by every means to distract me from the dejection in which I was buried. Her husband, who remained with the king, engaged to write me a true account of all that transpired during my absence, and I shall very shortly present you with a specimen of the fidelity with which he performed his promise. The duchess did the honours of Ruel.

"Here," said she, "the great cardinal Richelieu loved to repose himself from the bustle and turmoil of a court."

"I think," answered I, "it would have been less a favourite with his eminence had it been selected for his abode on the eve of his disgrace."

Immediately upon my arrival I retired to bed, for fatigue had so completely overpowered me that I fell into a heavy slumber, from which I did not awake till the following day; when I found the duchesse d’Aiguillon, my sister-in-law, Genevieve Mathon, and Henriette, seated by my bed: the sight of them was cheering and gratifying proof of my not being as yet abandoned by all the world.

I arose, and we were just about to take our places at table, when madame de Forcalquier arrived. I must confess that her presence was an agreeable surprise to me; I was far from reckoning on her constancy in friendship, and her present conduct proved her worthy of her excellent friend, madame Boncault, whose steady attachment I had so frequently heard extolled. The sight of her imparted fresh courage to me, and I even resumed my usual high spirits, and in the sudden turn my ideas had taken, was childish enough to express my regrets for the loss of my downy and luxurious bed at Versailles, complaining of the woful difference between it and the one I had slept on at Ruel.

The duchesse d’Aiguillon, who must have pitied the puerility of such a remark, gently endeavoured to reconcile me to it by reminding me that both the marquise de Pompadour and the cardinal de Richelieu had reposed upon that very couch.

I endeavoured to return some sportive reply, but my thoughts had flown back to Versailles, and my momentary exhilaration was at an end. Tears rose to my eyes and choked my attempts at conversation; I therefore begged the duchess would excuse me, and retired to my apartment until I could compose myself; but the kind and attentive friend to whose hospitality I was then confided needed no further mention of my hard couch, but caused the best bed Ruel contained to be prepared for me by the time I again pressed my pillow.

This same evening brought M. de Cosse, who could no longer repress his impatience to assure me of his entire devotion. He appeared on this occasion, if possible, more tender and more respectful in his manner of evincing it than ever.

We supped together without form or ceremony, the party consisting of mesdames d’Aiguillon, de Forcalquier, and myself, mademoiselle du Barry, and the vicomtesse Adolphe, the prince de Soubise and the duc de Cosse. But the meal passed off in sorrowful silence; each of us seemed to abstain from conversation as though the slightest remark might come fraught with some painful allusion. On the following day I received the letter from the duc d’Aiguillon which you will find in the following chapter.

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Chicago: Étienne-Léon de Lamothe-Langon, "Chapter XLIV," Memoirs of the Comtesse Du Barry, With Minute Details of Her Entire Career as Favorite of Louis XV. Written by Herself, ed. Iles, George, 1852-1942 and trans. Whiston, William, 1667-1752 in Memoirs of the Comtesse Du Barry, With Minute Details of Her Entire Career as Favorite of Louis XV. Written by Herself (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=51GIPTT9Z72D19R.

MLA: de Lamothe-Langon, Étienne-Léon. "Chapter XLIV." Memoirs of the Comtesse Du Barry, With Minute Details of Her Entire Career as Favorite of Louis XV. Written by Herself, edited by Iles, George, 1852-1942, and translated by Whiston, William, 1667-1752, in Memoirs of the Comtesse Du Barry, With Minute Details of Her Entire Career as Favorite of Louis XV. Written by Herself, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=51GIPTT9Z72D19R.

Harvard: de Lamothe-Langon, É, 'Chapter XLIV' in Memoirs of the Comtesse Du Barry, With Minute Details of Her Entire Career as Favorite of Louis XV. Written by Herself, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, Memoirs of the Comtesse Du Barry, With Minute Details of Her Entire Career as Favorite of Louis XV. Written by Herself, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=51GIPTT9Z72D19R.