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"The King is dead, long live the King!" But before the death of Louis XVI they cried: "The king is dead, long live the Republic!"
Rose-colored mourning was worn in the good city of Paris. The funeral oration of the King and a lament for his mistress were pronounced by Sophie Arnould, of which masterpiece of sacred eloquence the last words only are preserved: "Behold us orphaned both of father and mother."
If Madame du Barry was one of the seven plagues of royalty, she died faithful to royalty. After her exile to Pont aux Dames she returned to Lucienne, where the duc de Cosse Brissac consoled her for the death of Louis XV. But what she loved in Louis was that he was a king; her true country was Versailles; her true light was the sun of court life. Like Montespan, also a courtesan of high order, she often went in these dark days to cast a loving look upon the solitary park in the maze of the Trianon. Yet she was particularly happy at Lucienne.
I have compared her to Manon Lescaut, and I believe her to have been also a sister to Ganesin. All three were destroyed by passion.
One day she found herself still young at Lucienne, although her sun was setting. She loved the duc de Brissac, and how many pages of her past romance would she that day have liked to erase and forget!
"Why do you weep, Countess?" asked her lover.
"My friend," she responded, "I weep because I love you, shall I say it? I weep because I am happy."
She was right; happiness is a festival that should know no to-morrow. But on the morrow of her happiness, the Revolution knocked at the castle gate of Lucienne.
"Who goes there?"
"I am justice; prepare for destiny."
The Queen, the true queen, had been good to her as to everybody. Marie Antoinette remembered that the favorite had not been wicked. The debts of Du Barry were paid and money enough was given to her so that she could still give with both hands. Lucienne became an echo of Versailles. Foreign kings and Parisian philosophers came to chat in its portals. Minerva visited shameless Venus. But wisdom took not root at Lucienne.
For the Revolution, alas! had to cut off this charming head, which was at one time the ideal of beauty--of court beauty. Madame du Barry gave hospitality to the wounded at the arrest of the queen. "These wounded youths have no other regret than that they have not died for a princess so worthy as your Majesty," she said. "What I have done for these brave men is only what they have merited. I consoled them, and I respect their wounds when I think, Madame, that without their devotion, your Majesty would no longer be alive. Lucienne is yours, Madame, for was it not your beneficence which gave it to me? All I possess has come to me through the royal family. I have too much loyalty to forget it."
But negro Zamor became a citizen like Mirabeau. It was Zamor who took to Du Barry her lover's head. It was Zamor who denounced her at the club of the Jacobins. "The fealty (faith) of the black man is white," said the negro. But he learned how to make it red. Jeanne was imprisoned and tried before Dumas.
"Forty-two years." She was really forty-seven. Coquetry even at the guillotine.
The public accuser, Fouquier Tinville, was not disarmed by the sweet voluptuousness still possessed by this pale and already fading beauty. He accused her of treason against the nation. Could the defender of Du Barry, who had also defended Marie Antoinette, find an eloquent word? No; Fouquier Tinville was more eloquent than Chauveau-Lagarde. So the mistress of Louis was condemned. It was eleven o'clock in the evening--the hour for supper at Versailles when she was queen!
She passed the night in prayer and weeping, or rather in a frenzy of fright. In the morning she said it was "too early to die"; she wished to have a little time in order to make some disclosures. The Comite sent someone to listen to her. What did she say? She revealed all that was hidden away at Lucienne; she gave word by word an inventory of the treasures she had concealed, forgetting nothing, for did not each word give her a second of time?
"Have you finished?" said the inquisitor. "No," said Jeanne. "I have not mentioned a silver syringe concealed under the staircase!"
Meanwhile the horses of destiny stamped with impatience, and spectators were knocking at the prison gate. When they put her, already half dead, on the little cart, she bent her head and grew pale. The Du Barry alone--a sinner without redemption.
She saw the people in the square of Louis XV; she struck her breast three times and murmured: "It is my fault!" But this Christian resignation abandoned her when she mounted the scaffold--there where the statue of Louis XV had been--and she implored of the executioner:
"One moment, Mr. Executioner! One moment more!"
But the executioner was pitiless Sanson. It was block and the knife--without the "one moment!"
Such was the last bed of the Du Barry. Had the almanac of Liege only predicted to her that the one who would lead her to her bed for the last time would not be a King but a citizen executioner, it might have been--but why moralize?
Robert Arnot To the Reader
As the early part of Madame du Barry's career had little to differentiate it from the life of an ordinary courtezan, the editor has deemed it best to confine the memoirs to the years in her life which helped to make history.
*"Editor here means the author, who is assuming the persona of the editor of the Comtesse's memoirs.
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Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry -by- Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon