Court Memoirs of France Series— Complete

Author: Various

Section XIX. The Duchesse De Berri.

My son loves his eldest daughter better than all the rest of his children, because he has had the care of her since she was seven years old. She was at that time seized with an illness which the physicians did not know how to cure. My son resolved to treat her in his own way. He succeeded in restoring her to health, and from that moment his love seemed to increase with her years. She was very badly educated, having been always left with femmes de chambre. She is not very capricious, but she is haughty and absolute in all her wishes.

[Her pride led her into all sorts of follies. She once went through
Paris preceded by trumpets and drama; and on another occasion she
appeared at the theatre under a canopy. She received the Venetian
Ambassador sitting in a chair elevated upon a sort of a platform.
This haughtiness, however, did not prevent her from keeping very bad
company, and she would sometimes lay aside her singularities and
break up her orgies to pass some holy days at the Carmelites.]

From the age of eight years she has had entirely her own way, so that it is not surprising she should be like a headstrong horse. If she had been well brought up, she would have been a worthy character, for she has very good sense and a good natural disposition, and is not at all like her mother, to whom, although she was very severely treated, she always did her duty. During her mother’s last illness, she watched her like a hired nurse. If Madame de Berri had been surrounded by honest people, who thought more of her honour than of their own interest, she would have been a very admirable person. She had excellent feelings; but as that old woman (Maintenon) once said, "bad company spoils good manners." To be pleasing she had only to speak, for she possessed natural eloquence, and could express herself very well.

Her complexion is very florid, for which she often lets blood, but without effect; she uses a great quantity of paint, I believe for the purpose of hiding the marks of the small-pox. She cannot dance, and hates it; but she is well-grounded in music. Her voice is neither strong nor agreeable, and yet she sings very correctly. She takes as much diversion as possible; one day she hunts, another day she goes out in a carriage, on a third she will go to a fair; at other times she frequents the rope-dancers, the plays, and the operas, and she goes everywhere ’en echarpe’, and without stays. I often rally her, and say that she fancies she is fond of the chase, but in fact she only likes changing her place. She cares little about the result of the chase, but she likes boar-hunting better than stag-hunting, because the former furnishes her table with black puddings and boars’ heads.

I do not reckon the Duchesse de Berri among my grandchildren. She is separated from me, we live like strangers to each other, she does not disturb herself about me, nor I about her. (7th January, 1716.)

Madame de Maintenon was so dreadfully afraid lest the King should take a fancy to the Duchesse de Berri while the Dauphine was expected, that she did her all sorts of ill offices. After the Dauphine’s death she repaired the wrong; but then, to tell the truth, the King’s inclination was not so strong.

If the Duchesse de Berri was not my daughter-in-law, I should have no reason to be dissatisfied with her; she behaves politely to me, which is all that I can say. (25th Sept., 1716.)

She often laughs at her own figure and shape. She has certainly good sense, and is not very punctilious. Her flesh is firm and healthy, her cheeks are as hard as stone. I should be ungrateful not to love her, for she does all sorts of civil things towards me, and displays so great a regard for me that I am often quite amazed at it. (12th April, 1718.)

She is magnificent in her expenditure; to be sure she can afford to be so, for her income amounts to 600,000 livres. Amboise was her jointure, but she preferred Meudon.

She fell sick on the 28th March, 1719. I went to see her last Sunday, the 23rd May, and found her in a sad state, suffering from pains in her toes and the soles of her feet until the tears came into her eyes. I went away because I saw that she refrained from crying out on my account. I thought she was in a bad way. A consultation was held by her three physicians, the result of which was that they determined to bleed her in the feet. They had some difficulty in persuading her to submit to it, because the pain in her feet was so great that she uttered the most piercing screams if the bedclothes only rubbed against them. The bleeding, however, succeeded, and she was in some degree relieved. It was the gout in both feet.

The feet are now covered with swellings filled with water, which cause her as much pain as if they were ulcers; she suffers day and night. Whatever they may say, there has been no other swelling of the feet since those blisters appeared. (13th June.)

The swelling has now entirely disappeared, but the pain is greater than before. All the toes are covered with transparent blisters; she cries out so that she may be heard three rooms off. The doctors now confess they do not know what the disorder is. (20th June.) The King’s surgeon says it is rheumatic gout. (11th July.) I believe that frequent and excessive bathing and gluttony have undermined her health. She has two fits of fever daily, and the disease does not abate. She is not impatient nor peevish; the emetic given to her the day before yesterday causes her much pain; it seems that from time to time rheumatic pains have affected her shoulders without her taking much notice of them. From being very fat, as she was, she has become thin and meagre. Yesterday she confessed, and received the communion. (18th July.) She was bled thrice before she took the emetic. (Tuesday, 18th July.) She received the last Sacrament with a firmness which deeply affected her attendants. Between two and three o’clock this night (19th July) she died. Her end was a very easy one; they say she died as if she had gone to sleep. My son remained with her until she lost all consciousness, which was about an hour before her death. She was his favourite daughter. The poor Duchesse de Berri was as much the cause of her own death as if she had blown her brains out, for she secretly ate melons, figs and milk; she herself confessed, and her doctor told me, that she had closed her room to him and to the other medical attendants for a fortnight that she might indulge in this way. Immediately after the storm she began to die. Yesterday evening she said to me: "Oh, Madame! that clap of thunder has done me great harm;" and it was evident that it had made her worse.

My son has not been able to sleep. The poor Duchesse de Berri could not have been saved; her brain was filled with water; she had an ulcer in the stomach and another in the groin; her liver was affected, and her spleen full of disease. She was taken by night to St. Denis, whither all her household accompanied her corse. They were so much embarrassed about her funeral oration that it was resolved ultimately not to pronounce one.

With all her wealth she has left my son 400,000 livres of debt to pay. This poor Princess was horribly robbed and pillaged. You may imagine what a race these favourites are; Mouchi, who enjoyed the greatest favour, did not grieve for her mistress a single moment; she was playing the flute at her window on the very day that the Princess was borne to St. Denis, and went to a large dinner party in Paris, where she ate and drank as if nothing had happened, at the same time talking in so impertinent a manner as disgusted all the guests. My son desired her and her husband to quit Paris.

My son’s affliction is so much the greater since he perceives that, if he had been less complying with his beloved daughter, and if he had exercised somewhat more of a parent’s authority, she would have been alive and well at this time.

That Mouchi and her lover Riom have been playing fine tricks; they had duplicate keys, and left the poor Duchess without a sou. I cannot conceive what there is to love in this Riom; he has neither face nor figure; he looks, with his green-and-yellow complexion, like a water fiend; his mouth, nose and eyes are like those of a Chinese. He is more like a baboon than a Gascon, which he is. He is a very dull person, without the least pretensions to wit; he has a large head, which is sunk between a pair of very broad shoulders, and his appearance is that of a low-minded person; in short, he is a very ugly rogue.

And yet the toad does not come of bad blood; he is related to some of the best families. The Duc de Lauzun is his uncle, and Biron his nephew. He is, nevertheless, unworthy of the honour which was conferred on him; for he was only a captain in the King’s Guard. The women all ran after him; but, for my part, I find him extremely disagreeable; he has an unhealthy air and looks like one of the Indian figures upon a screen.

He was not here when Madame de Berri died, but was with the army, in the regiment which had been bought for him. When the news of the Duchess’s death reached him the Prince de Conti went to seek Riom, and sang a ridiculous song, my son was a little vexed at this, but he did not take any notice of it.

There can be no doubt that the Duchess was secretly married to Riom; this has consoled me in some degree for her loss. I had heard it said before, and I made a representation upon the subject to my granddaughter.

She laughed, and replied: "Ah, Madame, I thought I had the honour of being so well known to you that you could not believe me guilty of so great a folly; I who am so much blamed for my pride."

This answer lulled my suspicions, and I no longer believed the story. The father and mother would never have consented to this marriage; and even if they had sanctioned such an impertinence I never would!

[The Duchess, with her usual violence, teased her father to have her
marriage made public; this was also Riom’s most ardent desire, who
had married her solely from ambitious motives. The Regent had
despatched Riom to the army for the purpose of gaining time. One
daughter was the result of the connection between Riom and the
Duchesse de Berri, who was afterwards sent into a convent at

The toad had made the Princess believe that he was a Prince of the House of Aragon, and that the King of Spain unjustly withheld from him his kingdom; but that if she would marry him he could sue for his claim through the treaties of peace. Mouchi used to talk about this to the Duchess from morning to night; and it was for this reason that she was so greatly in favour.

That Mouchi is the granddaughter of Monsieur’s late surgeon. Her mother, La Forcade, had been appointed by my son the gouvernante of his daughter and son, and thus the young Forcade was brought up with the Duchesse de Berri, who married her to Monsieur Mouchi, Master of the Wardrobe to the Duke, and gave her a large marriage-portion. While the King lived the Princess could not visit her much; and it was not until after his death that she became the favourite, and was appointed by the Duchess second dame d’atour.


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Chicago: Various, "Section XIX. The Duchesse De Berri.," 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 September 24, 2023,

MLA: Various. "Section XIX. The Duchesse De Berri." 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. 24 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Various, 'Section XIX. The Duchesse De Berri.' 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 24 September 2023, from