The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 2/Number 2/Mademoiselle's Campaigns
THE SCENE AND THE ACTORS.
The heroine of our tale is one so famous in history that her proper name never appears in it. The seeming paradox is the soberest fact. To us Americans, glory lies in the abundant display of one's personal appellation in the newspapers. Our heroine lived in the most gossiping of all ages, herself its greatest gossip; yet her own name, patronymic or baptismal, never was talked about. It was not that she sank that name beneath high-sounding titles; she only elevated the most commonplace of all titles till she monopolized it, and it monopolized her. Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans, Souveraine de Dombes, Princesse Dauphine d'Auvergne, Duchesse de Montpensier, is forgotten, or rather was never remembered; but the great name of MADEMOISELLE, _La Grande Mademoiselle_, gleams like a golden thread shot through and through that gorgeous tapestry of crimson and purple which records for us the age of Louis Quatorze.
In May of the year 1627, while the Queen and Princess of England lived in weary exile at Paris,--while the slow tide of events was drawing their husband and father to his scaffold,--while Sir John Eliot was awaiting in the Tower of London the summoning of the Third Parliament,--while the troops of Buckingham lay dying, without an enemy, upon the Isle of Rhé,-- while the Council of Plymouth were selling their title to the lands of Massachusetts Bay,--at the very crisis of the terrible siege of Rochelle, and perhaps during the very hour when the Three Guardsmen of Dumas held that famous bastion against an army, the heroine of our story was born. And she, like the Three Guardsmen, waited till twenty years after for a career.
The twenty years are over. Richelieu is dead. The strongest will that ever ruled France has passed away; and the poor, broken King has hunted his last badger at St. Germain, and meekly followed his master to the grave, as he had always followed him. Louis XIII., called Louis Le Juste, not from the predominance of that particular virtue (or any other) in his character, but simply because he happened to be born under the constellation of the Scales, has died like a Frenchman, in peace with all the world except his wife. That beautiful and queenly wife, Anne of Austria, (Spaniard though she was,)--no longer the wild and passionate girl who fascinated Buckingham and embroiled two kingdoms,--has hastened within four days to defy all the dying imprecations of her husband, by reversing every plan and every appointment he has made. The little prince has already shown all the Grand Monarque in his childish "Je suis Louis Quatorze," and has been carried in his bib to hold his first parliament. That parliament, heroic as its English contemporary, though less successful, has reached the point of revolution at last. Civil war is impending. Condé, at twenty-one the greatest general in Europe, after changing sides a hundred times in a week, is fixed at last. Turenne is arrayed against him. The young, the brave, the beautiful cluster around them. The performers are drawn up in line,--the curtain rises,--the play is "The Wars of the Fronde,"--and into that brilliant arena, like some fair circus equestrian, gay, spangled, and daring, rides Mademoiselle.
Almost all French historians, from Voltaire to Cousin, (St. Aulaire being the chief exception,) speak lightly of the Wars of the Fronde. "La Fronde n'est pas sérieuse." Of course it was not. If it had been serious, it would not have been French. Of course, French insurrections, like French despotisms, have always been tempered by epig rams; of course, the people went out to the conflicts in ribbons and feathers; of course, over every battle there pelted down a shower of satire, like the rain at the Eglinton tournament. More than two hundred pamphlets rattled on the head of Condé alone, and the collection of _Mazarinades_, preserved by the Cardinal himself, fills sixty-nine volumes in quarto. From every field the first crop was glory, the second a _bon-mot_. When the dagger of De Retz fell from his breast-pocket, it was "our good archbishop's breviary"; and when his famous Corinthian troop was defeated in battle, it was "the First Epistle to the Corinthians." While, across the Channel, Charles Stuart was listening to his doom, Paris was gay in the midst of dangers, Madame de Longueville was receiving her gallants in mimic court at the Hôtel de Ville, De Retz was wearing his sword-belt over his archbishop's gown, the little hunchback Conti was generalissimo, and the starving people were pillaging Mazarin's library, in joke, "to find something to gnaw upon." Outside the walls, the maids-of-honor were quarrelling over the straw beds which annihilated all the romance of martyrdom, and Condé, with five thousand men, was besieging five hundred thousand. No matter, they all laughed through it, and through every succeeding turn of the kaleidoscope; and the "Anything may happen in France," with which La Rochefoucauld jumped amicably into the carriage of his mortal enemy, was not only the first and best of his maxims, but the key-note of French history for all coming time.
But behind all this sport, as in all the annals of the nation, were mysteries and terrors and crimes. It was the age of cabalistic ciphers, like that of De Retz, of which Guy Joli dreamed the solution; of inexplicable secrets, like the Man in the Iron Mask, whereof no solution was ever dreamed; of poisons, like that diamond-dust which in six hours transformed the fresh beauty of the Princess Royal into foul decay; of dungeons, like that cell at Vincennes which Madame de Rambouillet pronounced to be "worth its weight in arsenic." War or peace hung on the color of a ball-dress, and Madame de Chevreuse knew which party was coming uppermost, by observing whether the binding of Madame de Hautefort's prayer-book was red or green. Perhaps it was all a little theatrical, but the performers were all Rachels.
And behind the crimes and the frivolities stood the Parliaments, calm and undaunted, with leaders, like Molé and Talon, who needed nothing but success to make their names as grand in history as those of Pym and Hampden. Among the Brienne Papers in the British Museum there is a collection of the manifestoes and proclamations of that time, and they are earnest, eloquent, and powerful, from beginning to end. Lord Mahon alone among historians, so far as our knowledge goes, has done fit and full justice to the French parliaments, those assemblies which refused admission to the foreign armies which the nobles would gladly have summoned in,--but fed and protected the banished princesses of England, when the court party had left those descendants of the Bourbons to die of cold and hunger in the palace of their ancestors. And we have the testimony of Henrietta Maria herself, the only person who had seen both revolutions near at hand, that "the troubles in England never appeared so formidable in their early days, nor were the leaders of the revolutionary party so ardent or so united." The character of the agitation was no more to be judged by its jokes and epigrams, than the gloomy glory of the English Puritans by the grotesque names of their saints, or the stern resolution of the Dutch burghers by their guilds of rhetoric and symbolical melodrama.
But popular power was not yet developed in France, as it was in England; all social order was unsettled and changing, and well Mazarin knew it. He knew the pieces with which he played his game of chess: the king powerless, the queen mighty, the bishops unable to take a single straightforward move, and the knights going naturally zigzag; but a host of plebeian pawns, every one fit for a possible royalty, and therefore to be used shrewdly, or else annihilated as soon as practicable. True, the game would not last forever; but after him the deluge.
Our age has forgotten even the meaning of the word Fronde; but here also the French and Flemish histories run parallel, and the Frondeurs, like the Gueux, were children of a sarcasm. The Counsellor Bachaumont one day ridiculed insurrectionists, as resembling the boys who played with slings (_frondes_) about the streets of Paris, but scattered at the first glimpse of a policeman. The phrase organized the party. Next morning all fashions were _à la fronde_,--hats, gloves, fans, bread, and ballads; and it cost six years of civil war to pay for the Counsellor's facetiousness.
That which was, after all, the most remarkable characteristic of these wars might be guessed from this fact about the fashions. The Fronde was preëminently "the War of the Ladies." Educated far beyond the Englishwomen of their time, they took a controlling share, sometimes ignoble, as often noble, always powerful, in the affairs of the time. It was not merely a courtly gallantry which flattered them with a hollow importance. De Retz, in his Memoirs, compares the women of his age with Elizabeth of England. A Spanish ambassador once congratulated Mazarin on obtaining temporary repose. "You are mistaken," he replied, "there is no repose in France, for I have always women to contend with. In Spain, women have only love- affairs to employ them; but here we have three who are capable of governing or overthrowing great kingdoms: the Duchess de Longueville, the Princess Palatine, and the Duchess de Chevreuse." And there were others as great as these; and the women who for years outwitted Mazarin and outgeneralled Condé are deserving of a stronger praise than they have yet obtained, even from the classic and courtly Cousin.
What men of that age eclipsed or equalled the address and daring of those delicate and highborn women? What a romance was their ordinary existence! The Princess Palatine gave refuge to Mme. de Longueville when that alone saved her from sharing the imprisonment of her brothers Condé and Conti,-- then fled for her own life, by night, with Rochefoucauld. Mme. de Longueville herself, pursued afterwards by the royal troops, wished to embark in a little boat, on a dangerous shore, during a midnight storm so wild that not a fisherman could at first be found to venture forth; the beautiful fugitive threatened and implored till they consented; the sailor who bore her in his arms to the boat let her fall amid the furious surges; she was dragged senseless to the shore again, and, on the instant of reviving, demanded to repeat the experiment; but as they utterly refused, she rode inland beneath the tempest, and travelled for fourteen nights before she could find another place of embarkation.
Madame de Chevreuse rode with one attendant from Paris to Madrid, fleeing from Richelieu, remaining day and night on her horse, attracting perilous admiration by the womanly loveliness which no male attire could obscure. From Spain she went to England, organizing there the French exiles into a strength which frightened Richelieu; thence to Holland, to conspire nearer home; back to Paris, on the minister's death, to form the faction of the Importants; and when the Duke of Beaufort was imprisoned, Mazarin said, "Of what use to cut off the arms while the head remains?" Ten years from her first perilous escape, she made a second, dashed through La Vendée, embarked at St. Malo for Dunkirk, was captured by the fleet of the Parliament, was released by the Governor of the Isle of Wight, unable to imprison so beautiful a butterfly, reached her port at last, and in a few weeks was intriguing at Liège again.
The Duchess de Bouillon, Turenne's sister, purer than those we have named, but not less daring or determined, after charming the whole population of Paris by her rebel beauty at the Hôtel de Ville, escaped from her sudden incarceration by walking through the midst of her guards at dusk, crouching in the shadow of her little daughter, and afterwards allowed herself to be recaptured, rather than desert that child's sick-bed.
Then there was Clémence de Maille, purest and noblest of all, niece of Richelieu and hapless wife of the cruel ingrate Condé, his equal in daring and his superior in every other high quality. Married a child still playing with her dolls, and sent at once to a convent to learn to read and write, she became a woman the instant her husband became a captive; while he watered his pinks in the garden at Vincennes, she went through France and raised an army for his relief. Her means were as noble as her ends. She would not surrender the humblest of her friends to an enemy, or suffer the massacre of her worst enemy by a friend. She threw herself between the fire of two hostile parties at Bordeaux, and, while men were falling each side of her, compelled them to peace. Her deeds rang through Europe. When she sailed from Bordeaux for Paris at last, thirty thousand people assembled to bid her farewell. She was loved and admired by all the world, except that husband for whom she dared so much,--and the Archbishop of Taen. The respectable Archbishop complained, that "this lady did not prove that she had been authorized by her husband, an essential provision, without which no woman can act in law." And Condé himself, whose heart, physically twice as large as other men's, was spiritually imperceptible, repaid this stainless nobleness by years of persecution, and bequeathed her, as a life-long prisoner, to his dastard son.
Then, on the royal side, there was Anne of Austria, sufficient unto herself, Queen Regent, and every inch a queen, (before all but Mazarin,)-- from the moment when the mob of Paris filed through the chamber of the boy-king, in his pretended sleep, and the motionless and stately mother held back the crimson draperies, with the same lovely arm which had waved perilous farewells to Buckingham,--to the day when the news of the fatal battle of Gien came to her in her dressing-room, and "she remained undisturbed before the mirror, not neglecting the arrangement of a single curl."
In short, every woman who took part in the Ladies' War became heroic,-- from Marguerite of Lorraine, who snatched the pen from her weak husband's hand and gave De Retz the order for the first insurrection, down to the wife of the commandant of the Porte St. Roche, who, springing from her bed to obey that order, made the drums beat to arms and secured the barrier; and fitly, amid adventurous days like these, opened the career of Mademoiselle.
THE FIRST CAMPAIGN.
Grandchild of Henri Quatre, niece of Louis XIII., cousin of Louis XIV., first princess of the blood, and with the largest income in the nation, (500,000 livres,) to support these dignities, Mademoiselle was certainly born in the purple. Her autobiography admits us to very gorgeous company; the stream of her personal recollections is a perfect Pactolus. There is almost a surfeit of royalty in it; every card is a court-card, and all her counters are counts. "I wore at this festival all the crown-jewels of France, and also those of the Queen of England." "A far greater establishment was assigned to me than any _fille de France_ had ever had, not excepting any of my aunts, the Queens of England and of Spain, and the Duchess of Savoy." "The Queen, my grandmother, gave me as a governess the same lady who had been governess to the late King." Pageant or funeral, it is the same thing. "In the midst of these festivities we heard of the death of the King of Spain; whereat the Queens were greatly afflicted, and we all went into mourning." T hus, throughout, her Memoirs glitter like the coat with which the splendid Buckingham astonished the cheaper chivalry of France: they drop diamonds.
But for any personal career Mademoiselle found at first no opportunity, in the earlier years of the Fronde. A gay, fearless, flattered girl, she simply shared the fortunes of the court; laughed at the festivals in the palace, laughed at the ominous insurrections in the streets; laughed when the people cheered her, their pet princess; and when the royal party fled from Paris, she adroitly secured for herself the best straw-bed at St. Germain, and laughed louder than ever. She despised the courtiers who flattered her; secretly admired her young cousin Condé, whom she affected to despise; danced when the court danced, and ran away when it mourned. She made all manner of fun of her English lover, the future Charles II., whom she alone of all the world found bashful; and in general she wasted the golden hours with much excellent fooling. Nor would she, perhaps, ever have found herself a heroine, but that her respectable father was a poltroon.
Lord Mahon ventures to assert, that Gaston, Duke of Orléans, was "the most cowardly prince of whom history makes mention." A strong expression, but perhaps safe. Holding the most powerful position in the nation, he never came upon the scene but to commit some new act of ingenious pusillanimity; while, by some extraordinary chance, every woman of his immediate kindred was a natural heroine, and became more heroic through disgust at him. His wife was Marguerite of Lorraine, who originated the first Fronde insurrection; his daughter turned the scale of the second. But, personally, he not only had not the courage to act, but he had not the courage to abstain from acting; he could no more keep out of parties than in them; but was always busy, waging war in spite of Mars, and negotiating in spite of Minerva.
And when the second war of the Fronde broke out, it was in spite of himself that he gave his name and his daughter to the popular cause. When the fate of the two nations hung trembling in the balance, the royal army under Turenne advancing on Paris, and almost arrived at the city of Orléans, and that city likely to take the side of the strongest,--then Mademoiselle's hour had come. All her sympathies were more and more inclining to the side of Condé and the people. Orléans was her own hereditary city. Her father, as was his custom in great emergencies, declared that he was very ill and must go to bed immediately; but it was as easy for her to be strong as it was for him to be weak; so she wrung from him a reluctant plenipotentiary power; she might go herself and try what her influence could do. And so she rode forth from Paris, one fine morning, March 27, 1652,--rode with a few attendants, half in enthusiasm, half in levity, aiming to become a second Joan of Arc, secure the city, and save the nation. "I felt perfectly delighted," says the young girl, "at having to play so extraordinary a part."
The people of Paris had heard of her mission, and cheered her as she went. The officers of the army, with an escort of five hundred men, met her half way from Paris. Most of them evidently knew her calibre, were delighted to see her, and installed her at once over a regular council of war. She entered into the position with her natural promptness. A certain grave M. de Rohan undertook to tutor her privately, and met his match. In the public deliberation, there were some differences of opinion. All agreed that the army should not pass beyond the Loire: this was Gaston's suggestion, and nevertheless a good one. Beyond this all was left to Mademoiselle. Mademoiselle intended to go straight to Orléans. "But the royal army had reached there already." Mademoiselle did not believe it. "The citizens would not admit her." Mademoiselle would see about that. Presently the city government of Orléans sent her a letter, in great dismay, particularly requesting her to keep her distance. Mademoiselle immediately ordered her coach, and set out for the city. "I was naturally resolute," she naïvely remarks.
Her siege of Orléans is perhaps the most remarkable on record. She was right in one thing; the royal army had not arrived: but it might appear at any moment; so the magistrates quietly shut all their gates, and waited to see what would happen.
Mademoiselle happened. It was eleven in the morning when she reached the Porte Bannière, and she sat three hours in her state carriage without seeing a person. With amusing politeness, the governor of the city at last sent her some confectionery,--agreeing with John Keats, who held that young women were beings fitter to be presented with sugar-plums than with one's time. But he took care to explain that the bonbons were not official, and did not recognize her authority. So she quietly ate them, and then decided to take a walk outside the walls. Her council of war opposed this step, as they did every other; but she coolly said (as the event proved) that the enthusiasm of the populace would carry the city for her, if she could only get at them.
So she set out on her walk. Her two beautiful ladies-of-honor, the Countesses de Fiesque and de Frontenac, went with her; a few attendants behind. She came to a gate. The people were all gathered inside the ramparts. "Let me in," demanded the imperious young lady. The astonished citizens looked at each other and said nothing. She walked on,--the crowd inside keeping pace with her. She reached another gate. The enthusiasm was increased. The captain of the guard formed his troops in line and saluted her. "Open the gate," she again insisted. The poor captain made signs that he had not the keys. "Break it down, then," coolly suggested the daughter of the House of Orléans; to which his only reply was a profusion of profound bows, and the lady walked on.
Those were the days of astrology, and at this moment it occurred to our Mademoiselle, that the chief astrologer of Paris had predicted success to all her undertakings, from the noon of this very day until the noon following. She had never had the slightest faith in the mystic science, but she turned to her attendant ladies, and remarked that the matter was settled; she should get in. On went the three, until they reached the bank of the river, and saw, opposite, the gates which opened on the quay. The Orléans boatmen came flocking round her, a hardy race, who feared neither queen nor Mazarin. They would break down any gate she chose. She selected one, got into a boat, and sending back her terrified male attendants, that they might have no responsibility in the case, she was rowed to the other side. Her new allies were already at work, and she climbed from the boat upon the quay by a high ladder, of which several rounds were broken away. They worked more and more enthusiastically, though the gate was built to stand a siege, and stoutly resisted this one. Courage is magnetic; every moment increased the popular enthusiasm, as these highborn ladies stood alone among the boatmen; the crowd inside joined in the attack upon the gate; the guard looked on; the city government remained irresolute at the Hôtel de Ville, fairly beleaguered and stormed by one princess and two maids-of-honor.
A crash, and the mighty timbers of the Porte Brûlée yield in the centre. Aided by the strong and exceedingly soiled hands of her new friends, our elegant Mademoiselle is lifted, pulled, pushed, and tugged between the vast iron bars which fortify the gate; and in this fashion, torn, splashed, and dishevelled generally, she makes entrance into her city. The guard, promptly adhering to the winning side, present arms to the heroine. The people fill the air with their applauses; they place her in a large, wooden chair, and bear her in triumph through the streets. "Everybody came to kiss my hands, while I was dying with laughter to find myself in so odd a situation."
Presently our volatile lady told them that she had learned how to walk, and begged to be put down; then she waited for her countesses, who arrived bespattered with mud. The drums beat before her, as she set forth again, and the city government, yielding to the feminine conqueror, came to do her homage. She carelessly assured them of her clemency. She "had no doubt that they would soon have opened the gates, but she was naturally of a very impatient disposition, and could not wait." Moreover, she kindly suggested, neither party could now find fault with them; and as for the future, she would save them all trouble, and govern the city herself,-- which she accordingly did.
By confession of all historians, she alone saved the city for the Fronde, and, for the moment, secured that party the ascendency in the nation. Next day the advance-guard of the royal forces appeared,--a day too late. Mademoiselle made a speech (the first in her life) to the city government; then went forth to her own small army, by this time drawn near, and held another council. The next day she received a letter from her father, (whose health was now decidedly restored,) declaring that she had "saved Orléans and secured Paris, and shown yet more judgment than courage." The next day Condé came up with his forces, compared his fair cousin to Gustavus Adolphus, and wrote to her that "her exploit was such as she only could have performed, and was of the greatest importance."
Mademoiselle staid a little longer at Orléans, while the armies lay watching each other, or fighting the battle of Bléneau, of which Condé wrote her an official bulletin, as being generalissimo. She amused herself easily, went to mass, played at bowls, received the magistrates, stopped couriers to laugh over their letters, reviewed the troops, signed passports, held councils, and did many things "for which she should have thought herself quite unfitted, if she had not found she did them very well." The enthusiasm she had inspired kept itself unabated, for she really deserved it. She was everywhere recognized as head of affairs; the officers of the army drank her health on their knees, when she dined with them, while the trumpets sounded and the cannons roared; Condé, when absent, left instructions to his officers, "Obey the commands of Mademoiselle, as my own"; and her father addressed a despatch from Paris to her ladies of honor, as Field-Marshals in her army: "À Mesdames les Comtesses Maréchales de Camp dans l'Armée de ma Fille contre le Mazarin."
CAMPAIGN THE SECOND.
Mademoiselle went back to Paris. Half the population met her outside the walls; she kept up the heroine, by compulsion, and for a few weeks held her court as Queen of France. If the Fronde had held its position, she might very probably have held hers. Condé, being unable to marry her himself, on account of the continued existence of his invalid wife, (which he sincerely regretted,) had a fixed design of marrying her to the young King. Queen Henrietta Maria cordially greeted her, lamented more than ever her rejection of the "bashful" Charles II., and compared her to the original Maid of Orléans,--an ominous compliment from an English source.
The royal army drew near; on July 1, 1652, Mademoiselle heard their drums beating outside. "I shall not stay at home to-day," she said to her attendants, at two in the morning; "I feel convinced that I shall be called to do some unforeseen act, as I was at Orléans." And she was not far wrong. The battle of the Porte St. Antoine was at hand.
Condé and Turenne! The two greatest names in the history of European wars, until a greater eclipsed them both. Condé, a prophecy of Napoleon, a general by instinct, incapable of defeat, insatiable of glory, throwing his marshal's baton within the lines of the enemy, and following it; passionate, false, unscrupulous, mean. Turenne, the precurs or of Wellington rather, simple, honest, truthful, humble, eating off his iron camp-equipage to the end of life. If it be true, as the ancients said, that an army of stags led by a lion is more formidable than an army of lions led by a stag, then the presence of two such heroes would have given lustre to the most trivial conflict. But that fight was not trivial upon which hung the possession of Paris and the fate of France; and between these two great soldiers it was our Mademoiselle who was again to hold the balance, and to decide the day.
The battle raged furiously outside the city. Frenchman fought against Frenchman, and nothing distinguished the two armies except a wisp of straw in the hat, on the one side, and a piece of paper on the other. The people of the metropolis, fearing equally the Prince and the King, had shut the gates against all but the wounded and the dying. The Parliament was awaiting the result of the battle, before taking sides. The Queen was on her knees in the Carmelite Chapel. De Retz was shut up in his palace, and Gaston of Orléans in his,--the latter, as usual, slightly indisposed; and Mademoiselle, passing anxiously through the streets, met nobleman after nobleman of her acquaintance, borne with ghastly wounds to his residence. She knew that the numbers were unequal; she knew that her friends must be losing ground. She rushed back to her father, and implored him to go forth in person, rally the citizens, and relieve Condé. It was quite impossible; he was so exceedingly feeble; he could not walk a hundred yards. "Then, Sir," said the indignant Princess, "I advise you to go immediately to bed. The world had better believe that you cannot do your duty, than that you will not."
Time passed on, each moment registered in blood. Mademoiselle went and came; still the same sad procession of dead and dying; still the same mad conflict, Frenchman against Frenchman, in the three great avenues of the Faubourg St. Antoine. She watched it from the city walls till she could bear it no longer. One final, desperate appeal, and her dastard father consented, not to act himself, but again to appoint her his substitute. Armed with the highest authority, she hastened to the Hôtel de Ville, where the Parliament was in irresolute session. The citizens thronged round her, as she went, imploring her to become their leader. She reached the scene, exhibited her credentials, and breathlessly issued demands which would have made Gaston's hair stand on end.
"I desire three things," announced Mademoiselle: "first, that the citizens shall be called to arms."
"It is done," answered the obsequious officials.
"Next," she resolutely went on, "that two thousand men shall be sent to relieve the troops of the Prince."
They pledged themselves to this also.
"Finally," said the daring lady, conscious of the mine she was springing, and reserving the one essential point till the last, "that the army of Condé shall be allowed free passage into the city."
The officials, headed by the Maréchal de l'Hôpital, at once exhibited the most extreme courtesy of demeanor, and begged leave to assure her Highness that under no conceivable circumstances could this request be granted.
She let loose upon them all the royal anger of the House of Bourbon. She remembered the sights she had just seen; she thought of Rochefoucauld, with his eye shot out and his white garments stained with blood,--of Guitant shot through the body,--of Roche-Giffard, whom she pitied, "though a Protestant." Condé might, at that moment, be sharing their fate; all depended on her; and so Conrart declares, in his Memoirs, that "Mademoiselle said some strange things to these gentlemen": as, for instance, that her attendants should throw them out of the window; that she would pluck off the Marshal's beard; that he should die by no hand but her's, and the like. When it came to this, the Maréchal de l'Hôpital stroked his chin with a sense of insecurity, and called the council away to deliberate; "during which time," says the softened Princess, "leaning on a window which looked on the St. Esprit, where they were saying mass, I offered up my prayers to God." At last they came back, and assented to every one of her propositions.
In a moment she was in the streets again. The first person she met was Vallon, terribly wounded. "We are lost!" he said. "You are saved!" she cried, proudly. "I command to-day in Paris, as I commanded in Orléans." "Vous me rendez la vie," said the reanimated soldier, who had been with her in her first campaign. On she went, meeting at every step men wounded in the head, in the body, in the limbs,--on horseback, on foot, on planks, on barrows,--besides the bodies of the slain. She reached the windows beside the Porte St. Antoine, and Condé met her there; he rode up, covered with blood and dust, his scabbard lost, his sword in hand. Before she could speak, that soul of fire uttered, for the only recorded time in his career, the word _Despair_: "Ma cousine, vous voyez un homme au désespoir,"--and burst into tears. But her news instantly revived him, and his army with him. "Mademoiselle is at the gate," the soldiers cried; and, with this certainty of a place of refuge, they could do all things. In this famous fight, five thousand men defended themselves against twelve thousand, for eight hours. "Did you see Condé himself?" they asked Turenne, after it was over. "I saw not one, but a dozen Condés," was the answer; "he was in every place at once."
But there was one danger more for Condé, one opportunity more for Mademoiselle, that day. Climbing the neighboring towers of the Bastille, she watched the royal party on the heights of Charonne, and saw fresh cavalry and artillery detached to aid the army of Turenne. The odds were already enormous, and there was but one course left for her. She was mistress of Paris, and therefore mistress of the Bastille. She sent for the governor of the fortress, and showed him the advancing troops. "Turn the cannon under your charge, Sir, upon the royal army." Without waiting to heed the consternation she left behind her, Mademoiselle returned to the gate. The troops had heard of the advancing reinforcements, and were drooping again; when, suddenly, the cannon of the Bastille, those Spanish cannon; flamed out their powerful succor, the royal army halted and retreated, and the day was won.
The Queen and the Cardinal, watching from Charonne, saw their victims escape them. But the cannon-shots bewildered them all. "It was probably a salute to Mademoiselle," suggested some comforting adviser. "No," said the experienced Maréchal de Villeroi, "if Mademoiselle had a hand in it, the salute was for us." At this, Mazarin comprehended the whole proceeding, and coldly consoled himself with a _bon-mot_ that became historic. "Elle a tué son mari," he said,--meaning that her dreams of matrimony with the young king must now be ended. No matter; the battle of the Porte St. Antoine was ended also.
There have been many narratives of that battle, including Napoleon's; they are hard to reconcile, and our heroine's own is by no means the clearest; but all essentially agree in the part they ascribe to her. One brief appendix to the campaign, and her short career of heroism fades into the light of common day.
Yet a third time did Fortune, showering upon one maiden so many opportunities at once, summon her to arm herself with her father's authority, that she might go in his stead into that terrible riot which, two days after, tarnished the glories of Condé, and by its reaction overthrew the party of the Fronde ere long. None but Mademoiselle dared to take the part of that doomed minority in the city government, which, for resisting her own demands, were to be terribly punished on that fourth-of- July night. "A conspiracy so base," said the generous Talon, "never stained the soil of France." By deliberate premeditation, an assault was made by five hundred disguised soldiers on the Parliament assembled in the Hôtel de Ville; the tumult spread; the night rang with a civil conflict more terrible than that of the day. Condé and Gaston were vainly summoned; the one cared not, the other dared not. Mademoiselle again took her place in her carriage and drove forth amid the terrors of the night. The sudden conflict had passed its cruel climax, but she rode through streets slippery with blood; she was stopped at every corner. Once a man laid his arm on the window, and asked if Condé was within the carriage. She answered "No," and he retreated, the flambeaux gleaming on a weapon beneath his cloak. Through these interruptions, she did not reach the half-burned and smoking Hôtel de Ville till most of its inmates had left it; the few remaining she aided to conceal, and emerged again amid the lingering, yawning crowd, who cheered her with, "God bless Mademoiselle! all she does is well done."
At four o'clock that morning she went to rest, weary with these days and nights of responsibility. Sleep soundly, Mademoiselle, you will be troubled with such no longer. An ignominious peace is at hand; and though peace, too, has her victories, yours is not a nature grand enough to grasp them. Last to yield, last to be forgiven, there will yet be little in your future career to justify the distrust of despots, or to recall the young heroine of Orléans and St Antoine.
Like a river which loses itself, by infinite subdivision, in the sands, so the wars of the Fronde disappeared in petty intrigues at last. As the fighting ended and manoeuvring became the game, of course Mazarin came uppermost,--Mazarin, that super-Italian, finessing and fascinating, so deadly sweet, _l'homme plus agréable du monde_, as Madame de Motteville and Bussy-Rabutin call him,--flattering that he might win, avaricious that he might be magnificent, winning kings by jewelry and princesses by lapdogs,--too cowardly for any avoidable collision,--too cool and economical in his hatred to waste an antagonist by killing him, but always luring and cajoling him into an unwilling tool,--too serenely careless of popular emotion even to hate the mob of Paris, any more than a surgeon hates his own lancet when it cuts him; he only changes his grasp and holds it more cautiously. Mazarin ruled. And the King was soon joking over the fight at the Porte St. Antoine, with Condé and Mademoiselle; the Queen at the same time affectionately assuring our heroine, that, if she could have got at her on that day, she would certainly have strangled her, but that, since it was past, she would love her as ever,--as ever; while Mademoiselle, not to be outdone, lies like a Frenchwoman, and assures the Queen that really she did not mean to be so naughty, but "she was with those who induced her to act against her sense of duty!"
The day of civil war was over. The daring heroines and voluptuous blonde beauties of the Frondeur party must seek excitement elsewhere. Some looked for it in literature; for the female education of France in that age was far higher than England could show. The intellectual glory of the reign of the Grand Monarque began in its women. Marie de Médicis had imported the Italian grace and wit,--Anne of Austria the Spanish courtesy and romance; the Hôtel de Rambouillet had united the two, and introduced the _genre précieux_, or stately style, which was superb in its origin, and dwindled to absurdity in the hands of Mlle. de Scudéry and her valets, before Molière smiled it away forever. And now that the wars were done, literary society came up again. Madame de Sablé exhausted the wit and the cookery of the age in her fascinating entertainments,--_pâtés_ and Pascal, Rochefoucauld and _ragoûts_,--Mme. de Brégy's Epictetus, Mme. de Choisy's salads,--confectionery, marmalade, elixirs, Des Cartes, Arno uld, Calvinism, and the barometer. Mme. de Sablé had a sentimental theory that no woman should eat at the same table with a lover, but she liked to see her lovers eat, and Mademoiselle, in her obsolete novel of the "Princesse de Paphlagonie," gently satirizes this passion of her friend. And Mademoiselle herself finally eclipsed the Sablé by her own entertainments at her palace of the Luxembourg, where she offered no dish but one of gossip, serving up herself and friends in a course of "Portraits" so appetizing that it became the fashion for ten years, and reached perfection at last in the famous "Characters" of La Bruyère.
Other heroines went into convents, joined the Carmelites, or those nuns of Port-Royal of whom the Archbishop of Paris said that they lived in the purity of angels and the pride of devils. Thither went Madame de Sablé herself, finally,--"the late Madame," as the dashing young abbés called her when she renounced the world. Thither she drew the beautiful Longueville also, and Heaven smiled on one repentance that seemed sincere. There they found peace in the home of Angélique Arnould and Jacqueline Pascal. And thence those heroic women came forth again, when religious war threatened to take the place of civil: again they put to shame their more timid male companions, and by their labors Jesuit and Jansenist found peace.
But not such was to be the career of our Mademoiselle, who, at twenty, had tried the part of devotee for one week and renounced it forever. No doubt, at thirty-five, she "began to understand that it is part of the duty of a Christian to attend High Mass on Sundays and holy days"; and her description of the deathbed of Anne of Austria is a most extraordinary jumble of the next world and this. But thus much of devotion was to her only a part of the proprieties of life, and before the altar of those proprieties she served, for the rest of her existence, with exemplary zeal. At forty, she was still the wealthiest unmarried princess in Europe; fastidious in toilette, stainless in reputation, not lovely in temper, rigid in etiquette, learned in precedence, an oracle in court traditions, a terror to the young maids-of-honor, and always quarrelling with her own sisters, younger, fairer, poorer than herself. Her mind and will were as active as in her girlhood, but they ground chaff instead of wheat. Whether her sisters should dine at the Queen's table, when she never had; who should be her trainbearer at the royal marriage; whether the royal Spanish father-in-law, on the same occasion, should or should not salute the Queen-mother; who, on any given occasion, should have a _tabouret_, who a _pliant_, who a chair, who an arm-chair; who should enter the King's _ruelle_, or her own, or pass out by the private stairway; how she should arrange the duchesses at state-funerals: these were the things which tried Mademoiselle's soul, and these fill the later volumes of that autobiography whose earlier record was all a battle and a march. From Condé's "Obey Mademoiselle's orders as my own," we come down to this: "For my part, I had been worrying myself all day; having been told that the new Queen would not salute me on the lips, and that the King had decided to sustain her in this position. I therefore spoke to Monsieur the Cardinal on the subject, bringing forward as an important precedent in my favor, that the Queen-mother had always kissed the princesses of the blood"; and so on through many pages. Thus lapsed her youth of frolics into an old age of cards.
It is a slight compensation, that this very pettiness makes her chronicles of the age very vivid in details. How she revels in the silver brocades, the violet-colored velvet robes, the crimson velvet carpets, the purple damask curtains fringed with gold and silver, the embroidered _fleurs de lis_, the wedding-caskets, the cordons of diamonds, the clusters of emeralds _en poires_ with diamonds, and the Isabelle-colored linen, whereby hangs a tale! She still kept up her youthful habit of avoiding the sick-rooms of her k indred, but how magnificently she mourned them when they died! Her brief, genuine, but quite unexpected sorrow for her father was speedily assuaged by the opportunity it gave her to introduce the fashion of gray mourning, instead of black; it had previously, it seems, been worn by widows only. Servants and horses were all put in deep black, however, and "the court observed that I was very _magnifique_ in all my arrangements." On the other hand, be it recorded, that our Mademoiselle, chivalrous royalist to the last, was the only person at the French court who refused to wear mourning for the usurper Cromwell!
But, if thus addicted to funeral pageants, it is needless to say that weddings occupied their full proportion of her thoughts. Her schemes for matrimony fill the larger portion of her history, and are, like all the rest, a diamond necklace of great names. In the boudoir, as in the field, her campaigns were superb, but she was cheated of the results. Her picture should have been painted, like that of Justice, with sword and scales,-- the one for foes, the other for lovers. She spent her life in weighing them,--monarch against monarch, a king in hand against an emperor in the bush. We have it on her own authority, which, in such matters, was unsurpassable, that she was "the best match in Europe, except the Infanta of Spain." Not a marriageable prince in Christendom, therefore, can hover near the French court, but this middle-aged sensitive-plant prepares to close her leaves and be coy. The procession of her wooers files before our wondering eyes, and each the likeness of a kingly crown has on: Louis himself, her bright possibility of twenty years, till he takes her at her own estimate and prefers the Infanta,--Monsieur, his younger brother, Philip IV. of Spain, Charles II. of England, the Emperor of Germany, the Archduke Leopold of Austria,--prospective king of Holland,--the King of Portugal, the Prince of Denmark, the Elector of Bavaria, the Duke of Savoy, Condé's son, and Condé himself. For the last of these alone she seems to have felt any real affection. Their tie was more than cousinly; the same heroic blood of the early Bourbons was in them, they were trained by the same precocious successes, only six years apart in age, and beginning with that hearty mutual aversion which is so often the parent of love, in impulsive natures like theirs. Their flirtation was platonic, but chronic; and whenever poor, heroic, desolate Clémence de Maille was sicker than usual, these cousins were walking side by side in the Tuileries gardens, and dreaming, almost in silence, of what might be, while Mazarin shuddered at the thought of mating two such eagles together.--So passed her life, and at last, like many a matchmaking lady, she baffled all the gossips, and left them all in laughter when her choice was made.
The tale stands embalmed forever in the famous letter of Madame de Sévigné to her cousin, M. de Coulanges, written on Monday, December 15, 1670. It can never be translated too often, so we will risk it again.
"I have now to announce to you the most astonishing circumstance, the most surprising, most marvellous, most triumphant, most bewildering, most unheard-of, most singular, most extraordinary, most incredible, most unexpected, most grand, most trivial, most rare, most common, most notorious, most secret, (till to-day,) most brilliant, most desirable; indeed, a thing to which past ages afford but one parallel, and that a poor one; a thing which we can scarcely believe at Paris; how can it be believed at Lyons? a thing which excites the compassion of all the world, and the delight of Madame de Rohan and Madame de Hauterive; a thing which is to be done on Sunday, when those who see it will hardly believe their eyes; a thing which will be done on Sunday, and which might perhaps be impossible on Monday: I cannot possibly announce it; guess it; I give you three guesses; try now. If you will not, I must tell you. M. de Lauzun marries on Sunday, at the Louvre,--whom now? I give you three guesses,-- six,--a hundred. Madame de Coulanges says, 'It is not hard to guess; it is Madame de la Vallière.' Not at all, Madame! 'Mlle. de Retz?' Not a bit; you are a mere provincial. 'How absurd!' you say; 'it is Mlle. Colbert.' Not that, either. 'Then, of course, it is Mlle. de Créqui.' Not right yet. Must I tell you, then? Listen! he marries on Sunday, at the Louvre, by his Majesty's permission, Mademoiselle,--Mademoiselle de,--Mademoiselle (will you guess again?)--he marries MADEMOISELLE,--La Grande Mademoiselle,-- Mademoiselle, daughter of the late Monsieur,--Mademoiselle, grand- daughter of Henri Quatre,--Mademoiselle d'Eu,--Mademoiselle de Dombes,-- Mademoiselle de Montpensier,--Mademoiselle d'Orléans,--Mademoiselle, the King's own cousin,--Mademoiselle, destined for the throne,--Mademoiselle, the only fit match in France for Monsieur [the King's brother];--there's a piece of information for you! If you shriek,--if you are beside yourself,--if you say it is a hoax, false, mere gossip, stuff, and nonsense,--if, finally, you say hard things about us, we do not complain; we took the news in the same way. Adieu; the letters by this post will show you whether we have told the truth."
Poor Mademoiselle! Madame de Sévigné was right in one thing,--if it were not done promptly, it might prove impracticable. Like Ralph Roister Doister, she should ha' been married o' Sunday. Duly the contract was signed, by which Lauzun took the name of M. de Montpensier and the largest fortune in the kingdom, surrendered without reservation, all, all to him; but Mazarin had bribed the notary to four hours' delay, and during that time the King was brought to change his mind, to revoke his consent, and to contradict the letters he had written to foreign courts, formally announcing the nuptials of the first princess of the blood. In reading the Memoirs of Mademoiselle, one forgets all the absurdity of all her long amatory angling for the handsome young guardsman, in pity for her deep despair. When she went to remonstrate with the King, the two royal cousins fell on their knees, embraced, "and thus we remained for near three quarters of an hour, not a word being spoken during the whole time, but both drowned in tears." Reviving, she told the King, with her usual frankness, that he was "like apes who caress children and suffocate them"; and this high-minded monarch soon proceeded to justify her remark by ordering her lover to the Castle of Pignerol, to prevent a private marriage,--which had probably taken place already. Ten years passed, before the labors and wealth of this constant and untiring wife could obtain her husband's release; and when he was discharged at last, he came out a changed, soured, selfish, ungrateful man. "Just Heaven," she had exclaimed in her youth, "would not bestow such a woman as myself upon a man who was unworthy of her." But perhaps Heaven was juster than she thought. They soon parted again forever, and he went to England, there to atone for these inglorious earlier days by one deed of heroic loyalty which it is not ours to tell.
And then unrolled the gorgeous tapestry of the maturer reign of the Grand Monarque,--that sovereign whom his priests in their liturgy styled "the chief work of the Divine hands," and of whom Mazarin said, more honestly, that there was material enough in him for four kings and one honest man. The "Moi-même" of his boyish resolution became the "L'état, c'est moi" of his maturer egotism; Spain yielded to France the mastery of the land, as she had already yielded to Holland and England the sea; Turenne fell at Sassbach, Condé sheathed his sword at Chantilly; Bossuet and Bourdaloue, preaching the funeral sermons of these heroes, praised their glories, and forgot, as preachers will, their sins; Vatel committed suicide because his Majesty had not fish enough for breakfast; the Princess Palatine died in a convent, and the Princess Condé in a prison; the fair Sévigné chose the better part, and the fairer Montespan the worse; the lovely La Vallière walked through sin to saintliness, and poor Marie de Mancini through saintliness to sin; Voiture and Benserade and Corneille passed away, and Racine and Molière reigned in their stead; and Mademoiselle, who had won the first campaigns of her life and lost all the rest, died a weary old woman at sixty-seven.
Thus wrecked and wasted, her opportunity past, her career a disappointment, she leaves us only the passing glimpse of what she was, and the hazy possibility of what she might have been. Perhaps the defect was, after all, in herself; perhaps the soil was not deep enough to produce anything but a few stray heroisms, bright and transitory;—perhaps otherwise. What fascinates us in her is simply her daring, that inborn fire of the blood to which danger is its own exceeding great reward; a quality which always kindles enthusiasm, and justly,—but which is a thing of temperament, not necessarily joined with any other great qualities, and worthless when it stands alone—But she had other resources,—weapons, at least, if not qualities; she had birth, wealth, ambition, decision, pride, perseverance, ingenuity; beauty not slight, though not equalling the superb Longuevilles and Chevreuses of the age; great personal magnetism, more than average cultivation for that period, and unsullied chastity. Who can say what these things might have ended in, under other circumstances? We have seen how Mazarin, who read all hearts but the saintly, dreaded the conjunction of herself and Condé; it is scarcely possible to doubt that it would have placed a new line of Bourbons on the throne. Had she married Louis XIV., she might not have controlled that steadier will, but there would have been two Grand Monarques instead of one; had she accepted Charles II. of England, she might have only increased his despotic tendencies, but she would easily have disposed of the Duchess of Portsmouth; had she won Ferdinand III., Germany might have suffered less by the Peace of Westphalia; had she chosen Alphonso Henry, the House of Braganza would again have been upheld by a woman's hand. But she did none of these things, and her only epitaph is that dreary might-have-been.
Nay, not the only one,—for one visible record of her, at least, the soil of France cherishes among its chiefest treasures. When the Paris butterflies flutter for a summer day to the decaying watering-place of Dieppe, some American wanderer, who flutters with them, may cast perchance a longing eye to where the hamlet of Eu stands amid its verdant meadows, two miles away, still lovely as when the Archbishop Laurent chose it out of all the world for his "place of eternal rest," six centuries ago. But it is not for its memories of priestly tombs and miracles that the summer visitor seeks it now, nor because the savant loves its ancient sea-margin or its Roman remains; nor is it because the little Bresle winds gracefully through its soft bed, beneath forests green in the sunshine, glorious in the gloom; it is not for the memories of Rollo and William the Conqueror, which fill with visionary shapes, grander than the living, the corridors of its half-desolate château. It is because these storied walls, often ruined, often rebuilt, still shelter a gallery of historic portraits such as the world cannot equal; there is not a Bourbon king, nor a Bourbon battle, nor one great name among the courtier contemporaries of Bourbons, that is not represented there; the "Hall of the Guises" contains kindred faces, from all the realms of Christendom; the "Salon des Rois" holds Joan of Arc, sculptured in marble by the hand of a princess; in the drawing-room, Père la Chaise and Marion de l'Orme are side by side, and the angelic beauty of Agnes Sorel floods the great hall with light, like a sunbeam; and in this priceless treasure-house, worth more to France than almost fair Normandy itself, this gallery of glory, first arranged at Choisy, then transferred hither to console the solitude of a weeping woman, the wanderer finds the only remaining memorial of La Grande Mademoiselle.