Memoirs of Marie Antoinette
Public Domain Books
Shortly after the public mind had been thrown into agitation by the performance of the “Mariage de Figaro,” an obscure plot, contrived by swindlers, and matured in a corrupted society, attacked the Queen’s character in a vital point and assailed the majesty of the throne.
I am about to speak of the notorious affair of the necklace purchased, as it was said, for the Queen by Cardinal de Rohan. I will narrate all that has come to my knowledge relating to this business; the most minute particulars will prove how little reason the Queen had to apprehend the blow by which she was threatened, and which must be attributed to a fatality that human prudence could not have foreseen, but from which, to say the truth, she might have extricated herself with more skill.
I have already said that in 1774 the Queen purchased jewels of Boehmer to the value of three hundred and sixty thousand franca, that she paid for them herself out of her own private funds, and that it required several years to enable her to complete the payment. The King afterwards presented her with a set of rubies and diamonds of a fine water, and subsequently with a pair of bracelets worth two hundred thousand francs. The Queen, after having her diamonds reset in new patterns, told Boehmer that she found her jewel case rich enough, and was not desirous of making any addition to it.
[Except on those days when the assemblies at Court were particularly attended, such as the 1st of January and the 2d of February, devoted to the procession of the Order of the Holy Ghost, and on the festivals of Easter, Whitsuntide, and Christmas, the Queen no longer wore any dresses but muslin or white Florentine taffety. Her head- dress was merely a hat; the plainest were preferred; and her diamonds never quitted their caskets but for the dresses of ceremony, confined to the days I have mentioned. Before the Queen was five and twenty she began to apprehend that she might be induced to make too frequent use of flowers and of ornaments, which at that time were exclusively reserved for youth. Madame Bertin having brought a wreath for the head and neck, composed of roses, the Queen feared that the brightness of the flowers might be disadvantageous to her complexion. She was unquestionably too severe upon herself, her beauty having as yet experienced no alteration; it is easy to conceive the concert of praise and compliment that replied to the doubt she had expressed. The Queen, approaching me, said, “I charge you, from this day, to give me notice when flowers shall cease to become me."–"I shall do no such thing,” I replied, immediately; “I have not read ’Gil Bias’ without profiting in some degree from it, and I find your Majesty’s order too much like that given him by the Archbishop of Granada, to warn him of the moment when he should begin to fall off in the composition of his homilies."–"Go,” said the Queen; “You are less sincere than Gil Blas; and I world have been more amenable than the Archbishop."–MADAME CAMPAN.]
Still, this jeweller busied himself for some years in forming a collection of the finest diamonds circulating in the trade, in order to compose a necklace of several rows, which he hoped to induce her Majesty to purchase; he brought it to M. Campan, requesting him to mention it to the Queen, that she might ask to see it, and thus be induced to wish to possess it. This M. Campan refused to do, telling him that he should be stepping out of the line of his duty were he to propose to the Queen an expense of sixteen hundred thousand francs, and that he believed neither the lady of honour nor the tirewoman would take upon herself to execute such a commission. Boehmer persuaded the King’s first gentleman for the year to show this superb necklace to his Majesty, who admired it so much that he himself wished to see the Queen adorned with it, and sent the case to her; but she assured him she should much regret incurring so great an expense for such an article, that she had already very beautiful diamonds, that jewels of that description were now worn at Court not more than four or five times a year, that the necklace must be returned, and that the money would be much better employed in building a man-of-war.
[Messieurs Boehmer and Bassange, jewellers to the Crown, were proprietors of a superb diamond necklace, which had, as it was said, been intended for the Comtesse du Barry. Being under the necessity of selling it, they offered it, during the last war, to the king and Queen; but their Majesties made the following prudent answer: “We stand more in need of ships than of jewels."–"Secret Correspondence of the Court of Louis XVI."]
Boehmer, in sad tribulation at finding his expectations delusive, endeavoured for some time, it is said, to dispose of his necklace among the various Courts of Europe.
A year after his fruitless attempts, Boehmer again caused his diamond necklace to be offered to the King, proposing that it should be paid for partly by instalments, and partly in life annuities; this proposal was represented as highly advantageous, and the King, in my presence, mentioned the matter once more to the Queen. I remember the Queen told him that, if the bargain really was not bad, he might make it, and keep the necklace until the marriage of one of his children; but that, for her part, she would never wear it, being unwilling that the world should have to reproach her with having coveted so expensive an article. The King replied that their children were too young to justify such an expense, which would be greatly increased by the number of years the diamonds would remain useless, and that he would finally decline the offer. Boehmer complained to everybody of his misfortune, and all reasonable people blamed him for having collected diamonds to so considerable an amount without any positive order for them. This man had purchased the office of jeweller to the Crown, which gave him some rights of entry at Court. After several months spent in ineffectual attempts to carry his point, and in idle complaints, he obtained an audience of the Queen, who had with her the young Princess, her daughter; her Majesty did not know for what purpose Boehmer sought this audience, and had not the slightest idea that it was to speak to her again about an article twice refused by herself and the King.
Boehmer threw himself upon his knees, clasped his hands, burst into tears, and exclaimed, “Madame, I am ruined and disgraced if you do not purchase my necklace. I cannot outlive so many misfortunes. When I go hence I shall throw myself into the river.”
“Rise, Boehmer,” said the Queen, in a tone sufficiently severe to recall him to himself; “I do not like these rhapsodies; honest men have no occasion to fall on their knees to make their requests. If you were to destroy yourself I should regret you as a madman in whom I had taken an interest, but I should not be in any way responsible for that misfortune. Not only have I never ordered the article which causes your present despair, but whenever you have talked to me about fine collections of jewels I have told you that I should not add four diamonds to those which I already possessed. I told you myself that I declined taking the necklace; the King wished to give it to me, but I refused him also; never mention it to me again. Divide it and try to sell it piecemeal, and do not drown yourself. I am very angry with you for acting this scene of despair in my presence and before this child. Let me never see you behave thus again. Go.” Baehmer withdrew, overwhelmed with confusion, and nothing further was then heard of him.
When Madame Sophie was born the Queen told me M. de Saint-James, a rich financier, had apprised her that Boehmer was still intent upon the sale of his necklace, and that she ought, for her own satisfaction, to endeavour to learn what the man had done with it; she desired me the first time I should meet him to speak to him about it, as if from the interest I took in his welfare. I spoke to him about his necklace, and he told me he had been very fortunate, having sold it at Constantinople for the favourite sultana. I communicated this answer to the Queen, who was delighted with it, but could not comprehend how the Sultan came to purchase his diamonds in Paris.
The Queen long avoided seeing Boehmer, being fearful of his rash character; and her valet de chambre, who had the care of her jewels, made the necessary repairs to her ornaments unassisted. On the baptism of the Duc d’Angouleme, in 1785, the King gave him a diamond epaulet and buckles, and directed Baehmer to deliver them to the Queen. Boehmer presented them on her return from mass, and at the same time gave into her hands a letter in the form of a petition. In this paper he told the Queen that he was happy to see her “in possession of the finest diamonds known in Europe,” and entreated her not to forget him. The Queen read Boehmer’s address to her aloud, and saw nothing in it but a proof of mental aberration; she lighted the paper at a wax taper standing near her, as she had some letters to seal, saying, “It is not worth keeping." She afterwards much regretted the loss of this enigmatical memorial. After having burnt the paper, her Majesty said to me, “That man is born to be my torment; he has always some mad scheme in his head; remember, the first time you see him, to tell him that I do not like diamonds now, and that I will buy no more so long as I live; that if I had any money to spare I would rather add to my property at St. Cloud by the purchase of the land surrounding it; now, mind you enter into all these particulars and impress them well upon him.” I asked her whether she wished me to send for him; she replied in the negative, adding that it would be sufficient to avail myself of the first opportunity afforded by meeting him; and that the slightest advance towards such a man would be misplaced.
On the 1st of August I left Versailles for my country house at Crespy; on the 3d came Boehmer, extremely uneasy at not having received any answer from the Queen, to ask me whether I had any commission from her to him; I replied that she had entrusted me with none; that she had no commands for him, and I faithfully repeated all she had desired me to say to him.
“But,” said Boehmer, “the answer to the letter I presented to her,–to whom must I apply for that?”
“To nobody,” answered I; “her Majesty burnt your memorial without even comprehending its meaning.”
“Ah! madame,” exclaimed he, “that is impossible; the Queen knows that she has money to pay me!”
“Money, M. Boehmer? Your last accounts against the Queen were discharged long ago.”
“Madame, you are not in the secret. A man who is ruined for want of payment of fifteen hundred thousand francs cannot be said to be satisfied.”
“Have you lost your senses?” said I. “For what can the Queen owe you so extravagant a sum?”
“For my necklace, madame,” replied Boehmer, coolly.
“What!” I exclaimed, “that necklace again, which you have teased the Queen about so many years! Did you not tell me you had sold it at Constantinople?”
“The Queen desired me to give that answer to all who should speak to me on the subject,” said the wretched dupe. He then told me that the Queen wished to have the necklace, and had had it purchased for her by Monseigneur, the Cardinal de Rohan.
“You are deceived,” I exclaimed; “the Queen has not once spoken to the Cardinal since his return from Vienna; there is not a man at her Court less favourably looked upon.”
“You are deceived yourself, madame,” said Boehmer; “she sees him so much in private that it was to his Eminence she gave thirty thousand francs, which were paid me as an instalment; she took them, in his presence, out of the little secretaire of Sevres porcelain next the fireplace in her boudoir.”
“And the Cardinal told you all this?”
“Yes, madame, himself.”
“What a detestable plot!” cried I.
“Indeed, to say the truth, madame, I begin to be much alarmed, for his Eminence assured me that the Queen would wear the necklace on Whit- Sunday, but I did not see it upon her, and it was that which induced me to write to her Majesty.”
He then asked me what he ought to do. I advised him to go on to Versailles, instead of returning to Paris, whence he had just arrived; to obtain an immediate audience from the Baron de Breteuil, who, as head of the King’s household, was the minister of the department to which Boehmer belonged, and to be circumspect; and I added that he appeared to me extremely culpable,–not as a diamond merchant, but because being a sworn officer it was unpardonable of him to have acted without the direct orders of the King, the Queen, or the Minister. He answered, that he had not acted without direct orders; that he had in his possession all the notes signed by the Queen, and that he had even been obliged to show them to several bankers in order to induce them to extend the time for his payments. I urged his departure for Versailles, and he assured me he would go there immediately. Instead of following my advice, he went to the Cardinal, and it was of this visit of Boehmer’s that his Eminence made a memorandum, found in a drawer overlooked by the Abbe Georgel when he burnt, by order of the Cardinal, all the papers which the latter had at Paris. The memorandum was thus worded: “On this day, 3d August, Boehmer went to Madame Campan’s country house, and she told him that the Queen had never had his necklace, and that he had been deceived.”
When Boehmer was gone, I wanted to follow him, and go to the Queen; my father-in-law prevented me, and ordered me to leave the minister to elucidate such an important affair, observing that it was an infernal plot; that I had given Boehmer the best advice, and had nothing more to do with the business. Boehmer never said one word to me about the woman De Lamotte, and her name was mentioned for the first time by the Cardinal in his answers to the interrogatories put to him before the King. After seeing the Cardinal, Boehmer went to Trianon, and sent a message to the Queen, purporting that I had advised him to come and speak to her. His very words were repeated to her Majesty, who said, “He is mad; I have nothing to say to him, and will not see him.” Two or three days afterwards the Queen sent for me to Petit Trianon, to rehearse with me the part of Rosina, which she was to perform in the “Barbier de Seville." I was alone with her, sitting upon her couch; no mention was made of anything but the part. After we had spent an hour in the rehearsal, her Majesty asked me why I had sent Boehmer to her; saying he had been in my name to speak to her, and that she would not see him. It was in this manner I learnt that he had not followed my advice in the slightest degree. The change of my countenance, when I heard the man’s name, was very perceptible; the Queen perceived it, and questioned me. I entreated her to see him, and assured her it was of the utmost importance for her peace of mind; that there was a plot going on, of which she was not aware; and that it was a serious one, since engagements signed by herself were shown about to people who had lent Boehmer money. Her surprise and vexation were great. She desired me to remain at Trianon, and sent off a courier to Paris, ordering Boehmer to come to her upon some pretext which has escaped my recollection. He came next morning; in fact it was the day on which the play was performed, and that was the last amusement the Queen allowed herself at that retreat.
The Queen made him enter her closet, and asked him by what fatality it was that she was still doomed to hear of his foolish pretence of selling her an article which she had steadily refused for several years. He replied that he was compelled, being unable to pacify his creditors any longer. “What are your creditors to me?” said her Majesty. Boehmer then regularly related to her all that he had been made to believe had passed between the Queen and himself through the intervention of the Cardinal. She was equally incensed and surprised at each thing she heard. In vain did she speak; the jeweller, equally importunate and dangerous, repeated incessantly, “Madame, there is no longer time for feigning; condescend to confess that you have my necklace, and let some assistance be given to me, or my bankruptcy will soon bring the whole to light.”
It is easy to imagine how the Queen must have suffered. On Boehmer’s going away, I found her in an alarming condition; the idea that any one could have believed that such a man as the Cardinal possessed her full confidence; that she should have employed him to deal with a tradesman without the King’s knowledge, for a thing which she had refused to accept from the King himself, drove her to desperation. She sent first for the Abbe de Vermond, and then for the Baron de Breteuil. Their hatred and contempt for the Cardinal made them too easily forget that the lowest faults do not prevent the higher orders of the empire from being defended by those to whom they have the honour to belong; that a Rohan, a Prince of the Church, however culpable he might be, would be sure to have a considerable party which would naturally be joined by all the discontented persons of the Court, and all the frondeurs of Paris. They too easily believed that he would be stripped of all the advantages of his rank and order, and given up to the disgrace due to his irregular conduct; they deceived themselves.
I saw the Queen after the departure of the Baron and the Abbe; her agitation made me shudder. “Fraud must be unmasked,” said she; “when the Roman purple and the title of Prince cover a mere money-seeker, a cheat who dares to compromise the wife of his sovereign, France and all Europe should know it.” It is evident that from that moment the fatal plan was decided on. The Queen perceived my alarm; I did not conceal it from her. I knew too well that she had many enemies not to be apprehensive on seeing her attract the attention of the whole world to an intrigue that they would try to complicate still more. I entreated her to seek the most prudent and moderate advice. She silenced me by desiring me to make myself easy, and to rest satisfied that no imprudence would be committed.
On the following Sunday, the 15th of August, being the Assumption, at twelve o’clock, at the very moment when the Cardinal, dressed in his pontifical garments, was about to proceed to the chapel, he was sent for into the King’s closet, where the Queen then was.
The King said to him, “You have purchased diamonds of Boehmer?”
“What have you done with them?”
“I thought they had been delivered to the Queen.”
“Who commissioned you?”
“A lady, called the Comtesse de Lamotte-Valois, who handed me a letter from the Queen; and I thought I was gratifying her Majesty by taking this business on myself.”
The Queen here interrupted him and said, “How, monsieur, could you believe that I should select you, to whom I have not spoken for eight years, to negotiate anything for me, and especially through the mediation of a woman whom I do not even know?”
“I see plainly,” said the Cardinal, “that I have been duped. I will pay for the necklace; my desire to please your Majesty blinded me; I suspected no trick in the affair, and I am sorry for it.”
He then took out of his pocket-book a letter from the Queen to Madame de Lamotte, giving him this commission. The King took it, and, holding it towards the Cardinal, said:
“This is neither written nor signed by the Queen. How could a Prince of the House of Rohan, and a Grand Almoner of France, ever think that the Queen would sign Marie Antoinette de France? Everybody knows that queens sign only by their baptismal names. But, monsieur,” pursued the King, handing him a copy of his letter to Baehmer, “have you ever written such a letter as this?”
Having glanced over it, the Cardinal said, “I do not remember having written it.”
“But what if the original, signed by yourself, were shown to you?”
“If the letter be signed by myself it is genuine.”
He was extremely confused, and repeated several times, “I have been deceived, Sire; I will pay for the necklace. I ask pardon of your Majesties.”
“Then explain to me,” resumed the King, “the whole of this enigma. I do not wish to find you guilty; I had rather you would justify yourself. Account for all the manoeuvres with Baehmer, these assurances and these letters.”
The Cardinal then, turning pale, and leaning against the table, said, “Sire, I am too much confused to answer your Majesty in a way–”
“Compose yourself, Cardinal, and go into my cabinet; you will there find paper, pens, and ink,–write what you have to say to me.”
The Cardinal went into the King’s cabinet, and returned a quarter of an hour afterwards with a document as confused as his verbal answers had been. The King then said, “Withdraw, monsieur.” The Cardinal left the King’s chamber, with the Baron de Breteuil, who gave him in custody to a lieutenant of the Body Guard, with orders to take him to his apartment. M. d’Agoult, aide-major of the Body Guard, afterwards took him into custody, and conducted him to his hotel, and thence to the Bastille. But while the Cardinal had with him only the young lieutenant of the Body Guard, who was much embarrassed at having such an order to execute, his Eminence met his heyduc at the door of the Salon of Hercules; he spoke to him in German and then asked the lieutenant if he could lend him a pencil; the officer gave him that which he carried about him, and the Cardinal wrote to the Abbe Georgel, his grand vicar and friend, instantly to burn all Madame de Lamotte’s correspondence, and all his other letters.
[The Abbe Georgel thus relates the circumstance: The Cardinal, at that trying moment, gave an astonishing proof of his presence of mind; notwithstanding the escort which surrounded him, favoured by the attendant crowd, he stopped, and stooping down with his face towards the wall, as if to fasten his buckle, snatched out his pencil and hastily wrote a few words upon a scrap of paper placed under his hand in his square red cap. He rose again and proceeded. on entering his house, his people formed a lane; he slipped this paper, unperceived, into the hand of a confidential valet de chambre, who waited for him at the door of his apartment.” This story is scarcely credible; it is not at the moment of a prisoner’s arrest, when an inquisitive crowd surrounds and watches him, that he can stop and write secret messages. However, the valet de chambre posts off to Paris. He arrives at the palace of the Cardinal between twelve and one o’clock; and his horse falls dead in the stable. “I was in my apartment,” said the Abbe Georgel, “the valet de chambre entered wildly, with a deadly paleness on his countenance, and exclaimed, ’All is lost; the Prince is arrested.’ He instantly fell, fainting, and dropped the note of which he was the bearer.” The portfolio containing the papers which might compromise the Cardinal was immediately placed beyond the reach of all search. Madame de Lamotte also was foolishly allowed sufficient time after she heard of the arrest of the Cardinal to burn all the letters she had received from him. Assisted by Beugnot, she completed this at three the same morning that she was: arrested at four.–See “Memoirs of Comte de Beugnot,” vol i., p. 74.]
This commission was executed before M. de Crosne, lieutenant of police, had received an order from the Baron de Breteuil to put seals upon the Cardinal’s papers. The destruction of all his Eminence’s correspondence, and particularly that with Madame de Lamotte, threw an impenetrable cloud over the whole affair.
From that moment all proofs of this intrigue disappeared. Madame de Lamotte was apprehended at Bar-sur-Aube; her husband had already gone to England. From the beginning of this fatal affair all the proceedings of the Court appear to have been prompted by imprudence and want of foresight; the obscurity resulting left free scope for the fables of which the voluminous memorials written on one side and the other consisted. The Queen so little imagined what could have given rise to the intrigue, of which she was about to become the victim, that, at the moment when the King was interrogating the Cardinal, a terrific idea entered her mind. With that rapidity of thought caused by personal interest and extreme agitation, she fancied that, if a design to ruin her in the eyes of the King and the French people were the concealed motive of this intrigue, the Cardinal would, perhaps, affirm that she had the necklace; that he had been honoured with her confidence for this purchase, made without the King’s knowledge; and point out some secret place in her apartment, where he might have got some villain to hide it. Want of money and the meanest swindling were the sole motives for this criminal affair. The necklace had already been taken to pieces and sold, partly in London, partly in Holland, and the rest in Paris.
The moment the Cardinal’s arrest was known a universal clamour arose. Every memorial that appeared during the trial increased the outcry. On this occasion the clergy took that course which a little wisdom and the least knowledge of the spirit of such a body ought to have foreseen. The Rohans and the House of Conde, as well as the clergy, made their complaints heard everywhere. The King consented to having a legal judgment, and early in September he addressed letters-patent to the Parliament, in which he said that he was “filled with the most just indignation on seeing the means which, by the confession of his Eminence the Cardinal, had been employed in order to inculpate his most dear spouse and companion.”
Fatal moment! in which the Queen found herself, in consequence of this highly impolitic step, on trial with a subject, who ought to have been dealt with by the power of the King alone. The Princes and Princesses of the House of Conde, and of the Houses of Rohan, Soubise, and Guemenee, put on mourning, and were seen ranged in the way of the members of the Grand Chamber to salute them as they proceeded to the palace, on the days of the Cardinal’s trial; and Princes of the blood openly canvassed against the Queen of France.
The Pope wished to claim, on behalf of the Cardinal de Rohan, the right belonging to his ecclesiastical rank, and demanded that he should be judged at Rome. The Cardinal de Bernis, ambassador from France to his Holiness, formerly Minister for Foreign Affairs, blending the wisdom of an old diplomatist with the principles of a Prince of the Church, wished that this scandalous affair should be hushed up. The King’s aunts, who were on very intimate terms with the ambassador, adopted his opinion, and the conduct of the King and Queen was equally and loudly censured in the apartments of Versailles and in the hotels and coffee-houses of Paris.
Madame, the King’s sister-in-law, had been the sole protectress of De Lamotte, and had confined her patronage to granting her a pension of twelve to fifteen hundred francs. Her brother was in the navy, but the Marquis de Chabert, to whom he had been recommended, could never train a good officer. The Queen in vain endeavoured to call to mind the features of this person, of whom she had often heard as an intriguing woman, who came frequently on Sundays to the gallery of Versailles. At the time when all France was engrossed by the persecution against the Cardinal, the portrait of the Comtesse de Lamotte Valois was publicly sold. Her Majesty desired me one day, when I was going to Paris, to buy her the engraving, which was said to be a tolerable likeness, that she might ascertain whether she could recognise in it any person whom she might have seen in the gallery.
[The public, with the exception of the lowest class, were admitted into the gallery and larger apartments of Versailles, as they were into the park.–MADAME CAMPAN.]
The woman De Lamotte’s father was a peasant at Auteuil, though he called himself Valois. Madame de Boulainvilliers once saw from her terrace two pretty little peasant girls, each labouring under a heavy bundle of sticks. The priest of the village, who was walking with her, told her that the children possessed some curious papers, and that he had no doubt they were descendants of a Valois, an illegitimate son of one of the princes of that name.
The family of Valois had long ceased to appear in the world. Hereditary vices had gradually plunged them into the deepest misery. I have heard that the last Valois then known occupied the estate called Gros Bois; that as he seldom came to Court, Louis XIII. asked him what he was about that he remained so constantly in the country; and that this M. de Valois merely answered, “Sire, I only do there what I ought.” It was shortly afterwards discovered that he was coining.
Neither the Queen herself nor any one near her ever had the slightest connection with the woman De Lamotte; and during her prosecution she could point out but one of the Queen’s servants, named Desclos, a valet of the Queen’s bedchamber, to whom she pre tended she had delivered Boehmer’s necklace. This Desclos was a very honest man; upon being confronted with the woman De Lamotte, it was proved that she had never seen him but once, which was at the house of the wife of a surgeon- accoucheur at Versailles, the only person she visited at Court; and that she had not given him the necklace. Madame de Lamotte married a private in Monsieur’s body-guard; she lodged at Versailles at the Belle Image, a very inferior furnished house; and it is inconceivable how so obscure a person could succeed in making herself believed to be a friend of the Queen, who, though so extremely affable, seldom granted audiences, and only to titled persons.
The trial of the Cardinal is too generally known to require me to repeat its details here. The point most embarrassing to him was the interview he had in February, 1785, with M. de Saint-James, to whom he confided the particulars of the Queen’s pretended commission, and showed the contract approved and signed Marie Antoinette de France. The memorandum found in a drawer of the Cardinal’s bureau, in which he had himself written what Baehmer told him after having seen me at my country house, was likewise an unfortunate document for his Eminence.
I offered to the King to go and declare that Baehmer had told me that the Cardinal assured him he had received from the Queen’s own hand the thirty thousand francs given on account upon the bargain being concluded, and that his Eminence had seen her Majesty take that sum in bills from the porcelain secretaire in her boudoir. The King declined my offer, and said to me, “Were you alone when Boehmer told you this?” I answered that I was alone with him in my garden. “Well,” resumed he, “the man would deny the fact; he is now sure of being paid his sixteen hundred thousand francs, which the Cardinal’s family will find it necessary to make good to him; we can no longer rely upon his sincerity; it would look as if you were sent by the Queen, and that would not be proper.”
[The guilty woman no sooner knew that all was about to be discovered than she sent for the jewellers, and told them the Cardinal had perceived that the agreement, which he believed to have been signed by the Queen, was a false and forged document. “However,” added she, “the Cardinal possesses a considerable fortune, and he can very well pay you.” These words reveal the whole secret. The Countess had taken the necklace to herself, and flattered herself that M. de Rohan, seeing himself deceived and cruelly imposed upon, would determine to pay and make the beat terms he could, rather than suffer a matter of this nature to become public.-"Secret Correspondence of the Court of Louis XVI."]
The procureur general’s information was severe on the Cardinal. The Houses of Conde and Rohan and the majority of the nobility saw in this affair only an attack on the Prince’s rank, the clergy only a blow aimed at the privileges of a cardinal. The clergy demanded that the unfortunate business of the Prince Cardinal de Rohan should be submitted to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and the Archbishop of Narbonne, then President of the Convocation, made representations upon the subject to the King; the bishops wrote to his Majesty to remind him that a private ecclesiastic implicated in the affair then pending would have a right to claim his constitutional judges, and that this right was refused to a cardinal, his superior in the hierarchical order. In short, the clergy and the greater part of the nobility were at that time outrageous against authority, and chiefly against the Queen.
The procureur-general’s conclusions, and those of a part of the heads of the magistracy, were as severe towards the Cardinal as the information had been; yet he was fully acquitted by a majority of three voices; the woman De Lamotte was condemned to be whipped, branded, and imprisoned; and her husband, for contumacy, was condemned to the galleys for life.
[The following extract is from the “Memoirs” of the Abbe Georgel: “The sittings were long and multiplied; it was necessary to read the whole proceedings; more than fifty judges sat; a master of requests; a friend of the Prince, wrote down all that was said there, and sent it to his advisers, who found means to inform the Cardinal of it, and to add the plan of conduct he ought to pursue.” D’Epremesnil, and other young counsellors, showed upon that occasion but too much audacity in braving the Court, too much eagerness in seizing an opportunity of attacking it. They were the first to shake that authority which their functions made it a duty in them to respect.- NOTE BY THE EDITOR.]
M. Pierre de Laurencel, the procureur general’s substitute, sent the Queen a list of the names of the members of the Grand Chamber, with the means made use of by the friends of the Cardinal to gain their votes during the trial. I had this list to keep among the papers which the Queen deposited in the house of M. Campan, my father-in-law, and which, at his death, she ordered me to preserve. I burnt this statement, but I remember ladies performed a part not very creditable to their principles; it was by them, in consideration of large sums which they received, that some of the oldest and most respected members were won over. I did not see a single name amongst the whole Parliament that was gained directly.
The belief confirmed by time is, that the Cardinal was completely duped by the woman De Lamotte and Cagliostro. The King may have been in error in thinking him an accomplice in this miserable and criminal scheme, but I have faithfully repeated his Majesty’s judgment about it.
However, the generally received opinion that the Baron de Breteuil’s hatred for the Cardinal was the cause of the scandal and the unfortunate result of this affair contributed to the disgrace of the former still more than his refusal to give his granddaughter in marriage to the son of the Duc de Polignac. The Abbe de Vermond threw the whole blame of the imprudence and impolicy of the affair of the Cardinal de Rohan upon the minister, and ceased to be the friend and supporter of the Baron de Breteuil with the Queen.
In the early part of the year 1786, the Cardinal, as has been said, was fully acquitted, and came out of the Bastille, while Madame de Lamotte was condemned to be whipped, branded, and imprisoned. The Court, persisting in the erroneous views which had hitherto guided its measures, conceived that the Cardinal and the woman De Lamotte were equally culpable and unequally punished, and sought to restore the balance of justice by exiling the Cardinal to La Chaise-Dieu, and suffering Madame de Lamotte to escape a few days after she entered l’Hopital. This new error confirmed the Parisians in the idea that the wretch De Lamotte, who had never been able to make her way so far as to the room appropriated to the Queen’s women, had really interested the Queen herself.
[Further particulars will be found in the “Memoirs of the Comte de Beugnot” (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1871), as he knew Madame de Lamotte from the days of her early childhood (when the three children, the Baron de Valois, who died captain of a frigate, and the two Mademoiselles de Saint-Remi, the last descendants of the Baron de Saint-Remi, a natural son of Henri II., were almost starving) to the time of her temporary prosperity. In fact, he was with her when she burnt the correspondence of the Cardinal, in the interval the Court foolishly allowed between his arrest and her capture, and De Beugnot believed he had met at her house, at the moment of their return from their successful trick, the whole party engaged in deluding the Cardinal. It is worth noting that he was then struck by the face of Mademoiselle d’Oliva, who had just personated the Queen in presenting a rose to the Cardinal. It may also be cited as a pleasing quality of Madame de Lamotte that she, “in her ordinary conversation, used the words stupid and honest as synonymous."–See “Beugnot,” vol. i., p. 60.]