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The prince de Conde having announced his intention of giving a grand fete at Chantilly, the princesses declared they would not be present if I were there. The prince de Conde, spite of his claims to the character of a great man, was nevertheless one of the most subtle courtiers; and as soon as he was informed of the princesses' intention, he came, without ceremony, to explain the matter to me. This was the first visit he had honored me with. "Madame," said he, "I had flattered myself you would have embellished Chantilly with your presence; but the beauties of the court, too justly alarmed at the idea of being eclipsed by your dazzling charms, have so successfully manoeuvred, that they have wrought upon the royal daughters of our august monarch to declare, that the beauty of their attending nymphs shall not be effaced by yours. You have too much good sense to see the affair in any but its true light; and the disappointment your absence will inflict on me would be too cruelly felt for endurance, did I not seek to pacify my anxious wishes on the subject, by obtaining your promise to pay me a visit when the king next honors Chantilly with his presence."
I felt deeply flattered by the invitation. The prince continued to pay me several elegant and gallant compliments; and I was, upon the whole, charmed with our interview. However, the king was highly displeased with his daughters' proceedings. "I have a great inclination," said he, "to forbid their going to Chantilly at all. Upon my word, if I were to listen to them, they would fain make of me the same puppet they allow themselves to become in the hands of the greatest simpleton who will take the trouble of leading them."
I endeavored to appease his anger, by reminding him, that he could not expect perfection from his daughters; and that, forced as they were to hear me continually spoken ill of by my enemies, it was next to impossible they should be able to prevent themselves from adopting the opinion of those around them. "And that," said he, "is what I principally find fault with. What have they to do with aping the tone of those about them; and what point of their duty teaches them to detest those whom I love? I will take care to let them know my displeasure."
All my endeavors were in vain; I could obtain no change of his purpose; and, summoning the archbishop de Senlis, he spoke to him in a manner that plainly evinced his intention of making him responsible for the actions of the princesses. Poor M. de Roquelaure called all the saints in paradise to witness his innocence.
"Silence, sir," exclaimed the king, "I am perfectly certain this affair has not gone on without your knowledge and probable participation. I know you well for a person devoted to the ladies, as a gay, gallant gentleman need be: I know likewise that you expend the revenues of your bishopric and livings upon the prettiest girls of Paris; thus I can hardly suppose you would have counselled my daughters' conduct. No, I blame those wicked and vindictive scandal-mongers, whose age is their only protection, and those intriguing men who beset my daughters' ears."
"Sire," protested the trembling bishop, "I entreat you to believe I am innocent of the whole affair."
"Sir," interrupted the king, "I know well that you are as good a courtier as a prelate, but still I believe you merely ape your betters; and far from entertaining any personal dislike to the comtesse du Barry, you would not object to receive either the archbishopric of d'Albi or Sens from her hands, were they in her power to bestow."
The conversation went on in this style for more than half an hour. The king, who had amused himself highly at the terror of the bishop, left off in excellent humor.
This interview had not been productive of equal amusement to M. de Roquelaure, whose self-love had been deeply humbled by the way in which the king had spoken. No sooner did he feel himself at liberty, than he hastened to communicate to the princesses the violent displeasure they had excited; and these ladies, so brave and daring whilst their father appeared to offer no show of authority or anger, durst proceed no further when they heard of his seriously disapproving of it; and they felt the full inconsistency of their conduct, in first admitting me into their presence, and then refusing to meet me at any other place. The consequence of their deliberation upon the subject was to depute the bishop de Senlis to call upon me. This accommodating prelate discharged his mission with the utmost amenity, presenting me with the united compliments of the royal sisters, who all joined in requesting the pleasure of meeting me at Chantilly. Had not the prince de Conde held out the flattering prospect of giving me a fete wholly to myself, in all probability I should have profited by their invitation; but knowing of the secret intention of the prince, I returned for answer, "that it was sufficiently flattering and gratifying to me, to find that I still preserved any portion of the princesses' kind favor, but that I was abundantly honored by the intimation of my presence being agreeable. Nevertheless, as I had good authority for conjecturing that it might not be equally so to many of the ladies of their court, I should abstain from giving offence to any one by my presence."
"Ah, madame,,, cried M. de Roquelaure, "I entreat of you not to insist upon my carrying the latter part of this message to the princesses, they would be so much grieved."
"Well, then, sir," said I, "tell them that I am indisposed, and that the state of my health will detain me at Versailles."
'That indeed," said he, " is a more respectful message; and
further I would venture to ask of your goodness, that since it is not your pleasure to honor Chantilly with your presence, that you will have the kindness to mention in the proper quarter, that far from my royal ladies opposing any obstacle to your going, they would have been much delighted with your presence there."
"Be assured, sir," answered I, " that I shall ever feel proud and honored by the princesses' notice; and I will take care that the faithful account of all their gracious condescension shall be
faithfully and loudly reported."
The bishop departed much pleased with the success of his negotiation; and, above all, with the agreeable turn the affair had taken.
When I next saw the king, I said to him, "Your daughters, sire,
are as amiable as you would have them; they have been informed that some evil disposed persons have asserted, that they had prohibited my being of the party to Chantilly; and in order to testify how differently they were disposed towards me, they despatched the bishop de Senlis."
"A most fit person to be intrusted with such a commission," replied the king; "for I have, in every instance, endeavored to justify the wishes of this holy pillar of the church, this worthy prelate with his double-faced politeness, towards those whom he openly compliments, and reviles in private, just as his interest may require it. Well! and what did you say to him?"
"That I most humbly thanked the princesses, but that the state of my health did not permit of my visiting Chantilly for the present."
"That is all very well," answered Louis XV; "you have framed your excuse with much generosity, which I greatly fear will meet with a very different turn; for if you do not accompany me to Chantilly, the report circulated will be, that the princesses have forbidden you their presence; which my dearly beloved daughters, whose characters I fully understand, will neither affirm nor deny before the public, whilst in private they will vow that they prohibited you from following them. Always excepting madame Louise, who is an angel upon earth, as she will most assuredly be one day in heaven, where I trust her prayers for me and mine will be heard."
I did not at the time pay any particular attention to the latter part of the king's discourse, for, indeed, the beginning was far more interesting to me; but when I afterwards learnt that madame Louise had quitted the grandeurs of Versailles for the gloom and austerity of a convent I recollected it, and easily comprehended that it was spoken in allusion to an event which took place some time afterwards, and of which I shall speak in its proper place. However, the king's prediction was exactly verified; and the report in general circulation was, that the princesses had declared their intention of not going to Chantilly; it was further rumored, that I was there, but in a private and concealed manner. This is wholly untrue; the king would never have permitted such a humiliation; nor do I believe I should have submitted to it had he even desired it. However all this may be, he sought to recompense me for his absence by writing a most delightful letter, which I will subjoin for your gratification. To me it was of so much the greater value, that having its royal writer's permission to show it, it became the first death-blow I aimed at the cabal against me. The king possessed a much greater portion of wit and talent than the weakness and timidity of his character permitted to appear.
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Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry -by- Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon