Memoirs of Marie Antoinette
Public Domain Books
In February, 1790, another matter gave the Court much uneasiness; a zealous individual of the name of Favras had conceived the scheme of carrying off the King, and affecting a counter-revolution. Monsieur, probably out of mere benevolence, gave him some money, and thence arose a report that he thereby wished to favour the execution of the enterprise. The step taken by Monsieur in going to the Hotel de Ville to explain himself on this matter was unknown to the Queen; it is more than probable that the King was acquainted with it. When judgment was pronounced upon M. de Favras the Queen did not conceal from me her fears about the confessions of the unfortunate man in his last moments.
I sent a confidential person to the Hotel de Ville; she came to inform the Queen that the condemned had demanded to be taken from Notre-Dame to the Hotel de Ville to make a final declaration, and give some particulars verifying it. These particulars compromised nobody; Favras corrected his last will after writing it, and went to the scaffold with heroic courage and coolness. The judge who read his condemnation to him told him that his life was a sacrifice which he owed to public tranquillity. It was asserted at the time that Favras was given up as a victim in order to satisfy the people and save the Baron de Besenval, who was a prisoner in the Abbaye.
[Thomas Mahy, Marquis de Favras, was accused in the month of December, 1789, of having conspired against the Revolution. Having been arrested by order of the committee of inquiry of the National Assembly, he was transferred to the Chatelet, where he defended himself with much coolness and presence of mind, repelling the accusations brought against him by Morel, Turcati, and Marquis, with considerable force. These witnesses declared he had imparted his plan to them; it was to be carried into execution by 12,000 Swiss and 12,000 Germans, who were to be assembled at Montargis, thence to march upon Paris, carry off the King, and assassinate Bailly, La Fayette, and Necker. The greater number of these charges he denied, and declared that the rest related only to the levy of a troop intended to favour the revolution preparing in Brabant. The judge having refused to disclose who had denounced him, he complained to the Assembly, which passed to the order of the day. His death was obviously inevitable. During the whole time of the proceedings the populace never ceased threatening the judges and shouting, “A la lanterne!” It was even necessary to keep numerous troops and artillery constantly ready to act in the courtyard of the Chatelet. The judges, who had just acquitted M. de Besenval in an affair nearly similar, doubtless dreaded the effects of this fury. When they refused to hear Favras’s witnesses in exculpation, he compared them to the tribunal of the Inquisition. The principal charge against him was founded on a letter from M. de Foucault, asking him, “where are your troops? in which direction will they enter Paris? I should like to be employed among them.” Favras was condemned to make the ’amende honorable’ in front of the Cathedral, and to be hanged at the Place de Greve. He heard this sentence with wonderful calmness, and said to his judges, “I pity you much if the testimony of two men is sufficient to induce you to condemn.” The judge having said to him, “I have no other consolation to hold out to you than that which religion affords,” he replied, nobly, “My greatest consolation is that which I derive from my innocence."–"Biographic Universelle"]
On the morning of the Sunday following this execution M. de la Villeurnoy came to my house to tell me that he was going that day to the public dinner of the King and Queen to present Madame de Favras and her son, both of them in mourning for the brave Frenchman who fell a sacrifice for his King; and that all the royalists expected to see the Queen load the unfortunate family with favours. I did all that lay in my power to prevent this proceeding. I foresaw the effect it would have upon the Queen’s feeling heart, and the painful constraint she would experience, having the horrible Santerre, the commandant of a battalion of the Parisian guard, behind her chair during dinner-time. I could not make M. de la Villeurnoy comprehend my argument; the Queen was gone to mass, surrounded by her whole Court, and I had not even means of apprising her of his intention.
When dinner was over I heard a knocking at the door of my apartment, which opened into the corridor next that of the Queen; it was herself. She asked me whether there was anybody with me; I was alone; she threw herself into an armchair, and told me she came to weep with me over the foolish conduct of the ultras of the King’s party. “We must fall,” said she, “attacked as we are by men who possess every talent and shrink from no crime, while we are defended only by those who are no doubt very estimable, but have no adequate idea of our situation. They have exposed me to the animosity of both parties by presenting the widow and son of Favras to me. Were I free to act as I wish, I should take the child of the man who has just sacrificed himself for us and place him at table between the King and myself; but surrounded by the assassins who have destroyed his father, I did not dare even to cast my eyes upon him. The royalists will blame me for not having appeared interested in this poor child; the revolutionists will be enraged at the idea that his presentation should have been thought agreeable to me.” However, the Queen added that she knew Madame de Favras was in want, and that she desired me to send her next day, through a person who could be relied on, a few rouleaus of fifty Louis, and to direct that she should be assured her Majesty would always watch over the fortunes of herself and her son.
In the month of March following I had an opportunity of ascertaining the King’s sentiments respecting the schemes which were continually proposed to him for making his escape. One night about ten o’clock Comte d’Inisdal, who was deputed by the nobility, came to request that I would see him in private, as he had an important matter to communicate to me. He told me that on that very night the King was to be carried off; that the section of the National Guard, that day commanded by M. d’Aumont, was gained over, and that sets of horses, furnished by some good royalists, were placed in relays at suitable distances; that he had just left a number of the nobility assembled for the execution of this scheme, and that he had been sent to me that I might, through the medium of the Queen, obtain the King’s positive consent to it before midnight; that the King was aware of their plan, but that his Majesty never would speak decidedly, and that it was necessary he should consent to the undertaking. I greatly displeased Comte d’Inisdal by expressing my astonishment that the nobility at the moment of the execution of so important a project should send to me, the Queen’s first woman, to obtain a consent which ought to have been the basis of any well-concerted scheme. I told him, also, that it would be impossible for me to go at that time to the Queen’s apartments without exciting the attention of the people in the antechambers; that the King was at cards with the Queen and his family, and that I never broke in upon their privacy unless I was called for. I added, however, that M. Campan could enter without being called; and if the Count chose to give him his confidence he might rely upon him.
My father-in-law, to whom Comte d’Inisdal repeated what he had said to me, took the commission upon himself, and went to the Queen’s apartments. The King was playing at whist with the Queen, Monsieur, and Madame; Madame Elisabeth was kneeling on a stool near the table. M. Campan informed the Queen of what had been communicated to me; nobody uttered a word. The Queen broke silence and said to the King, “Do you hear, Sire, what Campan says to us?"–"Yes, I hear,” said the King, and continued his game. Monsieur, who was in the habit of introducing passages from plays into his conversation, said to my father-in-law, “M. Campan, that pretty little couplet again, if you please;” and pressed the King to reply. At length the Queen said, “But something must be said to Campan.” The King then spoke to my father-in-law in these words: “Tell M. d’Inisdal that I cannot consent to be carried off!” The Queen enjoined M. Campan to take care and, report this answer faithfully. “You understand,” added she, “the King cannot consent to be carried off.”
Comte d’Inisdal was very much dissatisfied with the King’s answer, and went out, saying, “I understand; he wishes to throw all the blame, beforehand, upon those who are to devote themselves for him.”
He went away, and I thought the enterprise would be abandoned. However, the Queen remained alone with me till midnight, preparing her cases of valuables, and ordered me not to go to bed. She imagined the King’s answer would be understood as a tacit consent, and merely a refusal to participate in the design. I do not know what passed in the King’s apartments during the night; but I occasionally looked out at the windows: I saw the garden clear; I heard no noise in the palace, and day at length confirmed my opinion that the project had been given up. “We must, however, fly,” said the Queen to me, shortly afterwards; “who knows how far the factious may go? The danger increases every day.”
[The disturbances of the 13th of April, 1790, occasioned by the warmth of the discussions upon Dom Gerle’s imprudent motion in the National Assembly, having afforded room for apprehension that the enemies of the country would endeavour to carry off the King from the capital, M. de La Fayette promised to keep watch, and told Louis XVI. that if he saw any alarming movement among the disaffected he would give him notice of it by the discharge of a cannon from Henri IV.’s battery on the Pont Neuf. On the same night a few casual discharges of musketry were heard from the terrace of the Tuileries. The King, deceived by the noise, flew to the Queen’s apartments; he did not find her; he ran to the Dauphin’s room, where he found the Queen holding her son in her arms. “Madame;” said the King to her, “I have been seeking you; and you have made me uneasy.” The Queen, showing her son, said to him, “I was at my post."–"Anecdotes of the Reign of Louis XVI."]
This Princess received advice and memorials from all quarters. Rivarol addressed several to her, which I read to her. They were full of ingenious observations; but the Queen did not find that they, contained anything of essential service under the circumstances in which the royal family was placed. Comte du Moustier also sent memorials and plans of conduct. I remember that in one of his writings he said to the King, “Read ’Telemachus’ again, Sire; in that book which delighted your Majesty in infancy you will find the first seeds of those principles which, erroneously followed up by men of ardent imaginations, are bringing on the explosion we expect every moment.” I read so many of these memorials that I could hardly give a faithful account of them, and I am determined to note in this work no other events than such as I witnessed; no other words than such as (notwithstanding the lapse of time) still in some measure vibrate in my ears.
Comte de Segur, on his return from Russia, was employed some time by the Queen, and had a certain degree of influence over her; but that did not last long. Comte Augustus de la Marck likewise endeavoured to negotiate for the King’s advantage with the leaders of the factious. M. de Fontanges, Archbishop of Toulouse, possessed also the Queen’s confidence; but none of the endeavours which were made on the spot produced any, beneficial result. The Empress Catherine II. also conveyed her opinion upon the situation of Louis XVI. to the Queen, and her Majesty made me read a few lines in the Empress’s own handwriting, which concluded with these words:
“Kings ought to proceed in their career undisturbed by the cries of the people, even as the moon pursues her course unimpeded by the baying of dogs.” This maxim of the despotic sovereign of Russia was very inapplicable to the situation of a captive king.
Meanwhile the revolutionary party followed up its audacious enterprise in a determined manner, without meeting any opposition. The advice from without, as well from Coblentz as from Vienna, made various impressions upon the members of the royal family, and those cabinets were not in accordance with each other. I often had reason to infer from what the Queen said to me that she thought the King, by leaving all the honour of restoring order to the Coblentz party,–[The Princes and the chief of the emigrant nobility assembled at Coblentz, and the name was used to designate the reactionary party.]–would, on the return of the emigrants, be put under a kind of guardianship which would increase his own misfortunes. She frequently said to me, “If the emigrants succeed, they will rule the roast for a long time; it will be impossible to refuse them anything; to owe the crown to them would be contracting too great an obligation.” It always appeared to me that she wished her own family to counterbalance the claims of the emigrants by disinterested services. She was fearful of M. de Calonne, and with good reason. She had proof that this minister was her bitterest enemy, and that he made use of the most criminal means in order to blacken her reputation. I can testify that I have seen in the hands of the Queen a manuscript copy of the infamous memoirs of the woman De Lamotte, which had been brought to her from London, and in which all those passages where a total ignorance of the customs of Courts had occasioned that wretched woman to make blunders which would have been too palpable were corrected in M. de Calonne’s own handwriting.
The two King’s Guards who were wounded at her Majesty’s door on the 6th of October were M. du Repaire and M. de Miomandre de Sainte-Marie; on the dreadful night of the 6th of October the latter took the post of the former the moment he became incapable of maintaining it.
A considerable number of the Body Guards, who were wounded on the 6th of October, betook themselves to the infirmary at Versailles. The brigands wanted to make their way into the infirmary in order to massacre them. M. Viosin, head surgeon of that infirmary, ran to the entrance hall, invited the assailants to refresh themselves, ordered wine to be brought, and found means to direct the Sister Superior to remove the Guards into a ward appropriated to the poor, and dress them in the caps and greatcoats furnished by the institution. The good sisters executed this order so promptly that the Guards were removed, dressed as paupers, and their beds made, while the assassins were drinking. They searched all the wards, and fancied they saw no persons there but the sick poor; thus the Guards were saved.
M. de Miomandre was at Paris, living on terms of friendship with another of the Guards, who, on the same day, received a gunshot wound from the brigands in another part of the Chateau. These two officers, who were attended and cured together at the infirmary of Versailles, were almost constant companions; they were recognised at the Palais Royal, and insulted. The Queen thought it necessary for them to quit Paris. She desired me to write to M. de Miomandre de Sainte-Marie, and tell him to come to me at eight o’clock in the evening; and then to communicate to him her wish to hear of his being in safety; and ordered me, when he had made up his mind to go, to tell him in her name that gold could not repay such a service as he had rendered; that she hoped some day to be in sufficiently happy circumstances to recompense him as she ought; but that for the present her offer of money was only that of a sister to a brother situated as he then was, and that she requested he would take whatever might be necessary to discharge his debts at Paris and defray the expenses of his journey. She told me also to desire he would bring his. friend Bertrand with him, and to make him the same offer.
The two Guards came at the appointed hour, and accepted, I think, each one or two hundred louis. A moment afterwards the Queen opened my door; she was accompanied by the King and Madame Elisabeth; the King stood with his back against the fireplace; the Queen sat down upon a sofa and Madame Elisabeth sat near her; I placed myself behind the Queen, and the two Guards stood facing the King. The Queen told them that the King wished to see before they went away two of the brave men who had afforded him the strongest proofs of courage and attachment. Miomandre said all that the Queen’s affecting observations were calculated to inspire. Madame Elisabeth spoke of the King’s gratitude; the Queen resumed the subject of their speedy departure, urging the necessity of it; the King was silent; but his emotion was evident, and his eyes were suffused with tears. The Queen rose, the King went out, and Madame Elisabeth followed him; the Queen stopped and said to me, in the recess of a window, “I am sorry I brought the King here! I am sure Elisabeth thinks with me; if the King had but given utterance to a fourth part of what he thinks of those brave men they would have been in ecstacies; but he cannot overcome his diffidence.”
The Emperor Joseph died about this time. The Queen’s grief was not excessive; that brother of whom she had been so proud, and whom she had loved so tenderly, had probably suffered greatly in her opinion; she reproached him sometimes, though with moderation, for having adopted several of the principles of the new philosophy, and perhaps she knew that he looked upon our troubles with the eye of the sovereign of Germany rather than that of the brother of the Queen of France.
The Emperor on one occasion sent the Queen an engraving which represented unfrocked nuns and monks. The first were trying on fashionable dresses, the latter were having their hair arranged; the picture was always left in the closet, and never hung up. The Queen told me to have it taken away; for she was hurt to see how much influence the philosophers had over her brother’s mind and actions.
Mirabeau had not lost the hope of becoming the last resource of the oppressed Court; and at this time some communications passed between the Queen and him. The question was about an office to be conferred upon him. This transpired, and it must have been about this period that the Assembly decreed that no deputy could hold an office as a minister of the King until the expiration of two years after the cessation of his legislative functions. I know that the Queen was much hurt at this decision, and considered that the Court had lost a promising opening.
The palace of the Tuileries was a very disagreeable residence during the summer, which made the Queen wish to go to St. Cloud. The removal was decided on without any opposition; the National Guard of Paris followed the Court thither. At this period new opportunities of escape were presented; nothing would have been more easy than to execute them. The King had obtained leave (!) to go out without guards, and to be accompanied only by an aide-de-camp of M. de La Fayette. The Queen also had one on duty with her, and so had the Dauphin. The King and Queen often went out at four in the afternoon, and did not return until eight or nine.
I will relate one of the plans of emigration which the Queen communicated to me, the success of which seemed infallible. The royal family were to meet in a wood four leagues from St. Cloud; some persons who could be fully relied on were to accompany the King, who was always followed by his equerries and pages; the Queen was to join him with her daughter and Madame Elisabeth. These Princesses, as well as the Queen, had equerries and pages, of whose fidelity no doubt could be entertained. The Dauphin likewise was to be at the place of rendezvous with Madame de Tourzel; a large berlin and a chaise for the attendants were sufficient for the whole family; the aides-de-camp were to have been gained over or mastered. The King was to leave a letter for the President of the National Assembly on his bureau at St. Cloud. The people in the service of the King and Queen would have waited until nine in the evening without anxiety, because the family sometimes did not return until that hour. The letter could not be forwarded to Paris until ten o’clock at the earliest. The Assembly would not then be sitting; the President must have been sought for at his own house or elsewhere; it would have been midnight before the Assembly could have been summoned and couriers sent off to have the royal family stopped; but the latter would have been six or seven hours in advance, as they would have started at six leagues’ distance from Paris; and at this period travelling was not yet impeded in France.
The Queen approved of this plan; but I did not venture to interrogate her, and I even thought if it were put in execution she would leave me in ignorance of it. One evening in the month of June the people of the Chateau, finding the King did not return by nine o’clock, were walking about the courtyards in a state of great anxiety. I thought the family, was gone, and I could scarcely breathe amidst the confusion of my good wishes, when I heard the sound of the carriages. I confessed to the Queen that I thought she had set off; she told me she must wait until Mesdames the King’s aunts had quitted France, and afterwards see whether the plan agreed with those formed abroad.