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Madame du Barry succeeds in alienating Louis XV from the due de Choiseul--Letter from madame de Grammont--Louis XV--The chancellor and the countess--Louis XV and the abbe de la Ville--The marechale de Mirepoix and madame du Barry
Matters now assumed an air of importance. My struggle with the des Choiseuls had become a deadly war, which could only be terminated either by his downfall or my dismissal from court; this latter measure was not very probable; an old man is not easily detached from a woman whom he loves, and each day only added to my ascendancy over the mind of the king. It is true, that the same force of habit which enchained Louis XV to me bound him likewise to M. de Choiseul. The idea of change terrified him; and so great was his dread of fresh faces, that he would have preferred dying with his old minister, to creating a younger one who might witness his end. Happily the duke himself brought on the crisis of his fate; his power was cramped on all sides, yet, resolved not to lay it down till the last extremity, he sought to stay his failing credit with the rising influence of the dauphiness. His enemies were not slow in pointing out to the king his minister's frequent visits and great assiduities to a foreign princess, and enlarged upon the fatal effects this new alliance might produce to the monarchy.
Meanwhile the chancellor, threatened by the parliaments, saw only one way of averting the storm which was about to burst on his head. This was to introduce into the cabinet persons entirely devoted to himself; but to accomplish his purpose, it was necessary to exclude the duc de Choiseul and his party. M. de Maupeou came to me in December, and after having gently scolded me for what he termed my carelessness, he showed me a letter from the duchesse de Grammont, which, he said, would wonderfully aid our plans. This letter was written to one of the presidents of the parliament of Toulous, M. de ----. I cannot give you his name; for, although I have preserved the original of the letter, I have mislaid the envelope on which the address was written. I here give you a copy of this curious and important production:--
"MONSIEUR LE PRESIDENT,-- I promised to give you the exact details of all that passed in this gay metropolis, and 'tis with much pleasure I sit down to fulfill my engagement. Things go on much as usual, or, perhaps, I should be speaking more correctly, were I to say they are rapidly progressing from bad to worse. We have no longer a king in France; all power is lodged in the hands of one sprung from the most infamous origin; who, in conjunction with others as intriguing as herself, seeks only to ruin the kingdom, and to degrade it in the eyes of other nations.
"The noble firmness of sovereign courts is odious to people of this class; thus you may imagine the detestation in which they regard the candid and loyal conduct of the duke. I n the hopes of procuring the dismissal of my brother, they have chosen for his successor wretch loaded with crimes, a coward, an extortioner, a murderer--the duc d'Aiguillon. As for you gentlemen, who now constitute our parliament, your places will soon be filled by a magistracy drawn from the dregs of society; a troop of slaves, deaf and blind, except as he who pays them best will have them exercise those powers.
"This is no time for indolent repose; we must at once courageously and unanimously defeat the guilty schemes of our enemies. So long as my brother retains his present post he will support you with his best interest; but, should he be dismissed, your business will soon be finished.
"I beg my best remembrances, first, to your excellent lady, and after her, to madame B. and madame L., not forgetting the marquise de Chalret, whose wit is truly Attic; nor the marquise de P--s, who conceals beneath the graceful exterior of a Languedocian the soul of one of Corneille's Roman matrons. For yourself rely upon my warmest friendship and endeavours to serve you. My brother is most anxious to know you, after the flattering manner in which I have mentioned you to him. When will you gratify us both by visiting Paris?
Nothing could have arrived more a propos for our purpose than this letter. I was still engaged in its perusal when the king was announced; I wished to hurry it back into the hands of M. de Maupeou; but he, more crafty than I, requested I would keep it.
"It is fitting," said he, "that it should be seen by the right person."
Louis XV, astonished at the strange scene, inquired what it meant.
"A most shameful piece of scandal, sire," replied I.
"An infamous epistle," added the chancellor, "which one of my friends managed to abstract from the post-office, and forwarded to me: I brought it to madame la comtesse, that she might admire the determined malice of our enemies."
"You excite my curiosity," cried Louis XV. "Madame, have the kindness to allow me to see this paper."
"Indeed, sire," exclaimed I, "I know not whether I ought to obey your majesty, so entirely has the writer of the letter forgotten the respect duc to your sacred person."
"Oh," said the king, "I do not fear that; I am but too well used to the offence to feel astonishment at its occurrence."
I placed the paper in the hand of Louis XV, whose eye easily recognised the handwriting of madame de Grammont. "Ah, ah!" cried he, "is it so? let us see what this restless lady has to say of us all." I watched the countenance of the king as he read, and saw the frown that covered it grow darker and darker; nevertheless he continued to read on without comment till he had reached the end; then sitting down and looking full at the chancellor, he exclaimed,
"Well, M. de Maupeou, and what do you think of this business?"
"I am overwhelmed with consternation, sire," replied he, "when I think that one of your majesty's ministers should be able to conspire thus openly against you."
"Stay," cried Louis hastily, "that fact is by no means proved. The duchesse de Grammont is a mad woman, who involves the safety of her brother; if I only believed him capable of such treachery, he should sleep this night in the Bastille, and to-morrow the necessary proceedings should be commenced against him: as for his sister, I will take care of her within four good walls, and avenge myself for her past misconduct, by putting it out of her power to injure me further."
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Memoirs of the Comtesse du Barry -by- Baron Etienne Leon Lamothe-Langon