Memoirs of Marie Antoinette
Public Domain Books
During July the correspondence of M. Bertrand de Molleville with the King and Queen was most active. M. de Marsilly, formerly a lieutenant of the Cent-Suisses of the Guard, was the bearer of the letters.
[I received by night only the King’s answer, written with his own hand, in the margin of my letter. I always sent him back with the day’s letter that to which he had replied the day before, so that my letters and his answers, of which I contented myself with taking notes only, never remained with me twenty-four hours. I proposed this arrangement to his Majesty to remove all uneasiness from his mind; my letters were generally delivered to the King or the Queen by M. de Marsilly, captain of the King’s Guard, whose attachment and fidelity were known to their Majesties. I also sometimes employed M. Bernard de Marigny, who had left Brest for the purpose of sharing with his Majesty’s faithful servants the dangers which threatened the King.–"Memoirs of Bertrand de Molleville,” vol. ii., p. 12.]
He came to me the first time with a note from the Queen directed to M. Bertrand himself. In this note the Queen said: “Address yourself with full confidence to Madame Campan; the conduct of her brother in Russia has not at all influenced her sentiments; she is wholly devoted to us; and if, hereafter, you should have anything to say to us verbally, you may rely entirely upon her devotion and discretion.”
The mobs which gathered almost nightly in the faubourgs alarmed the Queen’s friends; they entreated her not to sleep in her room on the ground floor of the Tuileries. She removed to the first floor, to a room which was between the King’s apartments and those of the Dauphin. Being awake always from daybreak, she ordered that neither the shutters nor the window-blinds should be closed, that her long sleepless nights might be the less weary. About the middle of one of these nights, when the moon was shining into her bedchamber, she gazed at it, and told me that in a month she should not see that moon unless freed from her chains, and beholding the King at liberty. She then imparted to me all that was concurring to deliver them; but said that the opinions of their intimate advisers were alarmingly at variance; that some vouched for complete success, while others pointed out insurmountable dangers. She added that she possessed the itinerary of the march of the Princes and the King of Prussia: that on such a day they would be at Verdun, on another day at such a place, that Lille was about to be besieged, but that M. de J––-, whose prudence and intelligence the King, as well as herself, highly valued, alarmed them much respecting the success of that siege, and made them apprehensive that, even were the commandant devoted to them, the civil authority, which by the constitution gave great power to the mayors of towns, would overrule the military commandant. She was also very uneasy as to what would take place at Paris during the interval, and spoke to me of the King’s want of energy, but always in terms expressive of her veneration for his virtues and her attachment to himself.– “The King,” said she, “is not a coward; he possesses abundance of passive courage, but he is overwhelmed by an awkward shyness, a mistrust of himself, which proceeds from his education as much as from his disposition. He is afraid to command, and, above all things, dreads speaking to assembled numbers. He lived like a child, and always ill at ease under the eyes of Louis XV., until the age of twenty-one. This constraint confirmed his timidity.
“Circumstanced as we are, a few well-delivered words addressed to the Parisians, who are devoted to him, would multiply the strength of our party a hundredfold: he will not utter them. What can we expect from those addresses to the people which he has been advised to post up? Nothing but fresh outrages. As for myself, I could do anything, and would appear on horseback if necessary. But if I were really to begin to act, that would be furnishing arms to the King’s enemies; the cry against the Austrian, and against the sway of a woman, would become general in France; and, moreover, by showing myself, I should render the King a mere nothing. A queen who is not regent ought, under these circumstances, to remain passive and prepare to die.”
The garden of the Tuileries was full of maddened men, who insulted all who seemed to side with the Court. “The Life of Marie Antoinette” was cried under the Queen’s windows, infamous plates were annexed to the book, the hawkers showed them to the passersby. On all sides were heard the jubilant outcries of a people in a state of delirium almost as frightful as the explosion of their rage. The Queen and her children were unable to breathe the open air any longer. It was determined that the garden of the Tuileries should be closed: as soon as this step was taken the Assembly decreed that the whole length of the Terrace des Feuillans belonged to it, and fixed the boundary between what was called the national ground and the Coblentz ground by a tricoloured ribbon stretched from one end of the terrace to the other. All good citizens were ordered, by notices affixed to it, not to go down into the garden, under pain of being treated in the same manner as Foulon and Berthier. A young man who did not observe this written order went down into the garden; furious outcries, threats of la lanterne, and the crowd of people which collected upon the terrace warned him of his imprudence, and the danger which he ran. He immediately pulled off his shoes, took out his handkerchief, and wiped the dust from their soles. The people cried out, “Bravo! the good citizen for ever!” He was carried off in triumph. The shutting up of the Tuileries did not enable the Queen and her children to walk in the garden. The people on the terrace sent forth dreadful shouts, and she was twice compelled to return to her apartments.
In the early part of August many zealous persons offered the King money; he refused considerable sums, being unwilling to injure the fortunes of individuals. M. de la Ferte, intendant of the ’menus plaisirs’, brought me a thousand louis, requesting me to lay them at the feet of the Queen. He thought she could not have too much money at so perilous a time, and that every good Frenchman should hasten to place all his ready money in her hands. She refused this sum, and others of much greater amount which were offered to her.
[M. Auguie, my brother-in-law, receiver-general of the finances, offered her, through his wife, a portfolio containing one hundred thousand crowns in paper money. On this occasion the Queen said the most affecting things to my sister, expressive of her happiness at having contributed to the fortunes of such faithful subjects as herself and her husband, but declined her offer.–MADAME CAMPAN.]
However, a few days afterwards, she told me she would accept M. de la Ferte’s twenty-four thousand francs, because they would make up a sum which the King had to expend. She therefore directed, me to go and receive those twenty-four thousand francs, to add them to the one hundred thousand francs she had placed in my hands, and to change the whole into assignats to increase their amount. Her orders were executed, and the assignats were delivered to the King. The Queen informed me that Madame Elisabeth had found a well-meaning man who had engaged to gain over Petion by the bribe of a large sum of money, and that deputy would, by a preconcerted signal, inform the King of the success of the project. His Majesty soon had an opportunity of seeing Petion, and on the Queen asking him before me if he was satisfied with him, the King replied, “Neither more nor less satisfied than usual; he did not make the concerted signal, and I believe I have been cheated.” The Queen then condescended to explain the whole of the enigma to me. “Petion,” said she, “was, while talking to the King, to have kept his finger fixed upon his right eye for at least two seconds."–"He did not even put his hand up to his chin," said the King; “after all, it is but so much money stolen: the thief will not boast of it, and the affair will remain a secret. Let us talk of something else.” He turned to me and said, “Your father was an intimate friend of Mandat, who now commands the National Guard; describe him to me; what ought I to expect from him?” I answered that he was one of his Majesty’s most faithful subjects, but that with a great deal of loyalty he possessed very little sense, and that he was involved in the constitutional vortex. “I understand,” said the King; “he is a man who would defend my palace and my person, because that is enjoined by the constitution which he has sworn to support, but who would fight against the party in favour of sovereign authority; it is well to know this with certainty.”
On the next day the Princesse de Lamballe sent for me very early in the morning. I found her on a sofa facing a window that looked upon the Pont Royal. She then occupied that apartment of the Pavilion of Flora which was on a level with that of the Queen. She desired me to sit down by her. Her Highness had a writing-desk upon her knees. “You have had many enemies,” said she; “attempts have been made to deprive you of the Queen’s favour; they have been far from successful. Do you know that even I myself, not being so well acquainted with you as the Queen, was rendered suspicious of you; and that upon the arrival of the Court at the Tuileries I gave you a companion to be a spy upon you; and that I had another belonging to the police placed at your door! I was assured that you received five or six of the most virulent deputies of the Tiers Etat; but it was that wardrobe woman whose rooms were above you.
“In short,” said the Princess, “persons of integrity have nothing to fear from the evil-disposed when they belong to so upright a prince as the King. As to the Queen, she knows you, and has loved you ever since she came into France. You shall judge of the King’s opinion of you: it was yesterday evening decided in the family circle that, at a time when the Tuileries is likely to be attacked, it was necessary to have the most faithful account of the opinions and conduct of all the individuals composing the Queen’s service. The King takes the same precaution on his part respecting all who are about him. He said there was with him a person of great integrity, to whom he would commit this inquiry; and that, with regard to the Queen’s household, you must be spoken to, that he had long studied your character, and that he esteemed your veracity.”
The Princess had a list of the names of all who belonged to the Queen’s chamber on her desk. She asked me for information respecting each individual. I was fortunate in having none but the most favourable information to give. I had to speak of my avowed enemy in the Queen’s chamber; of her who most wished that I should be responsible for my brother’s political opinions. The Princess, as the head of the chamber, could not be ignorant of this circumstance; but as the person in question, who idolised the King and Queen, would not have hesitated to sacrifice her life in order to save theirs, and as possibly her attachment to them, united to considerable narrowness of intellect and a limited education, contributed to her jealousy of me, I spoke of her in the highest terms.
The Princess wrote as I dictated, and occasionally looked at me with astonishment. When I had done I entreated her to write in the margin that the lady alluded to was my declared enemy. She embraced me, saying, “Ah! do not write it! we should not record an unhappy circumstance which ought to be forgotten.” We came to a man of genius who was much attached to the Queen, and I described him as a man born solely to contradict, showing himself an aristocrat with democrats, and a democrat among aristocrats; but still a man of probity, and well disposed to his sovereign. The Princess said she knew many persons of that disposition, and that she was delighted I had nothing to say against this man, because she herself had placed him about the Queen.
The whole of her Majesty’s chamber, which consisted entirely of persons of fidelity, gave throughout all the dreadful convulsions of the Revolution proofs of the greatest prudence and self-devotion. The same cannot be said of the antechambers. With the exception of three or four, all the servants of that class were outrageous Jacobins; and I saw on those occasions the necessity of composing the private household of princes of persons completely separated from the class of the people.
The situation of the royal family was so unbearable during the months which immediately preceded the 10th of August that the Queen longed for the crisis, whatever might be its issue. She frequently said that a long confinement in a tower by the seaside would seem to her less intolerable than those feuds in which the weakness of her party daily threatened an inevitable catastrophe.
[A few days before the 10th of August the squabbles between the royalists and the Jacobins, and between the Jacobins and the constitutionalists, increased in warmth; among the latter those men who defended the principles they professed with the greatest talent, courage, and constancy were at the same time the most exposed to danger. Montjoie says: “The question of dethronement was discussed with a degree of frenzy in the Assembly. Such of the deputies as voted against it were abused, ill treated, and surrounded by assassins. They had a battle to fight at every step they took; and at length they did not dare to sleep in their own houses. Of this number were Regnault de Beaucaron, Froudiere, Girardin, and Vaublanc. Girardin complained of having been struck in one of the lobbies of the Assembly. A voice cried out to him, ’Say where were you struck.’ ’Where?’ replied Girardin, ’what a question! Behind. Do assassins ever strike otherwise?"]
Not only were their Majesties prevented from breathing the open air, but they were also insulted at the very foot of the altar. The Sunday before the last day of the monarchy, while the royal family went through the gallery to the chapel, half the soldiers of the National Guard exclaimed, “Long live the King!” and the other half, “No; no King! Down with the veto!” and on that day at vespers the choristers preconcerted to use loud and threatening emphasis when chanting the words, “Deposuit potentes de sede,” in the “Magnificat.” Incensed at such an irreverent proceeding, the royalists in their turn thrice exclaimed, “Et reginam,” after the “Domine salvum fac regem.” The tumult during the whole time of divine service was excessive.
At length the terrible night of the 10th of August, 1792, arrived. On the preceding evening Potion went to the Assembly and informed it that preparations were making for an insurrection on the following day; that the tocsin would sound at midnight; and that he feared he had not sufficient means for resisting the attack which was about to take place. Upon this information the Assembly passed to the order of the day. Petion, however, gave an order for repelling force by force.
[Petion was the Mayor of Paris, and Mandat on this day was commandant of the National Guard. Mandat was assassinated that night.–"Thiers,” vol. i., p. 260.]
M. Mandat was armed with this order; and, finding his fidelity to the King’s person supported by what he considered the law of the State, he conducted himself in all his operations with the greatest energy. On the evening of the 9th I was present at the King’s supper. While his Majesty was giving me various orders we heard a great noise at the door of the apartment. I went to see what was the cause of it, and found the two sentinels fighting. One said, speaking of the King, that he was hearty in the cause of the constitution, and would defend it at the peril of his life; the other maintained that he was an encumbrance to the only constitution suitable to a free people. They were almost ready to cut one another’s throats. I returned with a countenance which betrayed my emotion. The King desired to know what was going forward at his door; I could not conceal it from him. The Queen said she was not at all surprised at it, and that more than half the guard belonged to the Jacobin party.
The tocsin sounded at midnight. The Swiss were drawn up like walls; and in the midst of their soldierlike silence, which formed a striking contrast with the perpetual din of the town guard, the King informed M. de J––-, an officer of the staff, of the plan of defence laid down by General Viomenil. M. de J––- said to me, after this private conference, “Put your jewels and money into your pockets; our dangers are unavoidable; the means of defence are nil; safety might be obtained by some degree of energy in the King, but that is the only virtue in which he is deficient.”
An hour after midnight the Queen and Madame Elisabeth said they would lie down on a sofa in a room in the entresols, the windows of which commanded the courtyard of the Tuileries.
The Queen told me the King had just refused to put on his quilted under- waistcoat; that he had consented to wear it on the 14th of July because he was merely going to a ceremony where the blade of an assassin was to be apprehended, but that on a day on which his party might fight against the revolutionists he thought there was something cowardly in preserving his life by such means.
During this time Madame Elisabeth disengaged herself from some of her clothing which encumbered her in order to lie down on the sofa: she took a cornelian pin out of her cape, and before she laid it down on the table she showed it to me, and desired me to read a motto engraved upon it round a stalk of lilies. The words were, “Oblivion of injuries; pardon for offences."–"I much fear,” added that virtuous Princess, “this maxim has but little influence among our enemies; but it ought not to be less dear to us on that account.”
[The exalted piety of Madame Elisabeth gave to all she said and did a noble character, descriptive of that of her soul. On the day on which this worthy descendant of Saint Louis was sacrificed, the executioner, in tying her hands behind her, raised up one of the ends of her handkerchief. Madame Elisabeth, with calmness, and in a voice which seemed not to belong to earth, said to him, “In the name of modesty, cover my bosom.” I learned this from Madame de Serilly, who was condemned the same day as the Princess, but who obtained a respite at the moment of the execution, Madame de Montmorin, her relation, declaring that her cousin was enceinte.-MADAME CAMPAN.]
The Queen desired me to sit down by her; the two Princesses could not sleep; they were conversing mournfully upon their situation when a musket was discharged in the courtyard. They both quitted the sofa, saying, “There is the first shot, unfortunately it will not be the last; let us go up to the King.” The Queen desired me to follow her; several of her women went with me.
At four o’clock the Queen came out of the King’s chamber and told us she had no longer any hope; that M. Mandat, who had gone to the Hotel de Ville to receive further orders, had just been assassinated, and that the people were at that time carrying his head about the streets. Day came. The King, the Queen, Madame Elisabeth, Madame, and the Dauphin went down to pass through the ranks of the sections of the National Guard; the cry of “Vive le Roi!” was heard from a few places. I was at a window on the garden side; I saw some of the gunners quit their posts, go up to the King, and thrust their fists in his face, insulting him by the most brutal language. Messieurs de Salvert and de Bridges drove them off in a spirited manner. The King was as pale as a corpse. The royal family came in again. The Queen told me that all was lost; that the King had shown no energy; and that this sort of review had done more harm than good.
I was in the billiard-room with my companions; we placed ourselves upon some high benches. I then saw M. d’Hervilly with a drawn sword in his hand, ordering the usher to open the door to the French noblesse. Two hundred persons entered the room nearest to that in which the family were; others drew up in two lines in the preceding rooms. I saw a few people belonging to the Court, many others whose features were unknown to me, and a few who figured technically without right among what was called the noblesse, but whose self-devotion ennobled them at once. They were all so badly armed that even in that situation the indomitable French liveliness indulged in jests. M. de Saint-Souplet, one of the King’s equerries, and a page, carried on their shoulders instead of muskets the tongs belonging to the King’s antechamber, which they had broken and divided between them. Another page, who had a pocket-pistol in his hand, stuck the end of it against the back of the person who stood before him, and who begged he would be good enough to rest it elsewhere. A sword and a pair of pistols were the only arms of those who had had the precaution to provide themselves with arms at all. Meanwhile, the numerous bands from the faubourgs, armed with pikes and cutlasses, filled the Carrousel and the streets adjacent to the Tuileries. The sanguinary Marseillais were at their head, with cannon pointed against the Chateau. In this emergency the King’s Council sent M. Dejoly, the Minister of Justice, to the Assembly to request they would send the King a deputation which might serve as a safeguard to the executive power. His ruin was resolved on; they passed to the order of the day. At eight o’clock the department repaired to the Chateau. The procureur-syndic, seeing that the guard within was ready to join the assailants, went into the King’s closet and requested to speak to him in private. The King received him in his chamber; the Queen was with him. There M. Roederer told him that the King, all his family, and the people about them would inevitably perish unless his Majesty immediately determined to go to the National Assembly. The Queen at first opposed this advice, but the procureur-syndic told her that she rendered herself responsible for the deaths of the King, her children, and all who were in the palace. She no longer objected. The King then consented to go to the Assembly. As he set out, he said to the minister and persons who surrounded him, “Come, gentlemen, there is nothing more to be done here.”
["The King hesitated, the Queen manifested the highest dissatisfaction. ’What!’ said she,’ are we alone; is there nobody who can act?’–’Yes, Madame, alone; action is useless–resistance is impossible.’ One of the members of the department, M. Gerdrot, insisted on the prompt execution of the proposed measure. ’Silence, monsieur,’ said the Queen to him; ’silence; you are the only person who ought to be silent here; when the mischief is done, those who did it should not pretend to wish to remedy it.’ . . .
“The King remained mute; nobody spoke. It was reserved for me to give the last piece of advice. I had the firmness to say, ’Let us go, and not deliberate; honour commands it, the good of the State requires it. Let us go to the National Assembly; this step ought to have been taken long ago: ’Let us go,’ said the King, raising his right hand; ’let us start; let us give this last mark of self- devotion, since it is necessary.’ The Queen was persuaded. Her first anxiety was for the King, the second for her son; the King had none. ’M. Roederer–gentlemen,’ said the Queen, ’you answer for the person of the King; you answer for that of my son.’–’Madame,’ replied M. Roederer, ’we pledge ourselves to die at your side; that is all we can engage for.’"–MONTJOIE, “History of Marie Antoinette."]
The Queen said to me as she left the King’s chamber, “Wait in my apartments; I will come to you, or I will send for you to go I know not whither.” She took with her only the Princesse de Lamballe and Madame de Tourzel. The Princesse de Tarente and Madame de la Roche-Aymon were inconsolable at being left at the Tuileries; they, and all who belonged to the chamber, went down into the Queen’s apartments.
We saw the royal family pass between two lines formed by the Swiss grenadiers and those of the battalions of the Petits-Peres and the Filles Saint Thomas. They were so pressed upon by the crowd that during that short passage the Queen was robbed of her watch and purse. A man of great height and horrible appearance, one of such as were to be seen at the head of all the insurrections, drew near the Dauphin, whom the Queen was leading by the hand, and took him up in his arms. The Queen uttered a scream of terror, and was ready to faint. The man said to her, “Don’t be frightened, I will do him no harm;” and he gave him back to her at the entrance of the chamber.
I leave to history all the details of that too memorable day, confining myself to recalling a few of the frightful scenes acted in the interior of the Tuileries after the King had quitted the palace.
The assailants did not know that the King and his family had betaken themselves to the Assembly; and those who defended the palace from the aide of the courts were equally ignorant of it. It is supposed that if they had been aware of the fact the siege would never have taken place.
[In reading of the events of the 10th of August, 1792, the reader must remember that there was hardly any armed force to resist the mob. The regiments that had shown signs of being loyal to the King had been removed from Paris by the Assembly. The Swiss had been deprived of their own artillery, and the Court had sent one of their battalions into Normandy at a time when there was an idea of taking refuge there. The National Guard were either disloyal or disheartened, and the gunners, especially of that force at the Tuileries, sympathised with the mob. Thus the King had about 800 or 900 Swiss and little more than one battalion of the National Guard. Mandat, one of the six heads of the legions of the National Guard, to whose turn the command fell on that day, was true to his duty, but was sent for to the Hotel de Ville and assassinated. Still the small force, even after the departure of the King, would have probably beaten off the mob had not the King given the fatal order to the Swiss to cease firing. (See Thiers’s “Revolution Francaise," vol. i., chap. xi.) Bonaparte’s opinion of the mob may be judged by his remarks on the 20th June, 1792, when, disgusted at seeing the King appear with the red cap on his head, he exclaimed, “Che coglione! Why have they let in all that rabble? Why don’t they sweep off 400 or 500 of them with the cannon? The rest would then set off.” ("Bourrienne,” vol. i., p.13, Bentley, London, 1836.) Bonaparte carried out his own plan against a far stronger force of assailants on the Jour des Sections, 4th October, 1795.]
The Marseillais began by driving from their posts several Swiss, who yielded without resistance; a few of the assailants fired upon them; some of the Swiss officers, seeing their men fall, and perhaps thinking the King was still at the Tuileries, gave the word to a whole battalion to fire. The aggressors were thrown into disorder, and the Carrousel was cleared in a moment; but they soon returned, spurred on by rage and revenge. The Swiss were but eight hundred strong; they fell back into the interior of the Chateau; some of the doors were battered in by the guns, others broken through with hatchets; the populace rushed from all quarters into the interior of the palace; almost all the Swiss were massacred; the nobles, flying through the gallery which leads to the Louvre, were either stabbed or shot, and the bodies thrown out of the windows.
M. Pallas and M. de Marchais, ushers of the King’s chamber, were killed in defending the door of the council chamber; many others of the King’s servants fell victims to their fidelity. I mention these two persons in particular because, with their hats pulled over their brows and their swords in their hands, they exclaimed, as they defended themselves with unavailing courage, “We will not survive!–this is our post; our duty is to die at it.” M. Diet behaved in the same manner at the door of the Queen’s bedchamber; he experienced the same fate. The Princesse de Tarente had fortunately opened the door of the apartments; otherwise, the dreadful band seeing several women collected in the Queen’s salon would have fancied she was among us, and would have immediately massacred us had we resisted them. We were, indeed, all about to perish, when a man with a long beard came up, exclaiming, in the name of Potion, “Spare the women; don’t dishonour the nation!” A particular circumstance placed me in greater danger than the others. In my confusion I imagined, a moment before the assailants entered the Queen’s apartments, that my sister was not among the group of women collected there; and I went up into an ’entresol’, where I supposed she had taken refuge, to induce her to come down, fancying it safer that we should not be separated. I did not find her in the room in question; I saw there only our two femmes de chambre and one of the Queen’s two heyducs, a man of great height and military aspect. I saw that he was pale, and sitting on a bed. I cried out to him, “Fly! the footmen and our people are already safe."–"I cannot," said the man to me; “I am dying of fear.” As he spoke I heard a number of men rushing hastily up the staircase; they threw themselves upon him, and I saw him assassinated.
I ran towards the staircase, followed by our women. The murderers left the heyduc to come to me. The women threw themselves at their feet, and held their sabres. The narrowness of the staircase impeded the assassins; but I had already felt a horrid hand thrust into my back to seize me by my clothes, when some one called out from the bottom of the staircase, “What are you doing above there? We don’t kill women.” I was on my knees; my executioner quitted his hold of me, and said, “Get up, you jade; the nation pardons you.”
The brutality of these words did not prevent my suddenly experiencing an indescribable feeling which partook almost equally of the love of life and the idea that I was going to see my son, and all that was dear to me, again. A moment before I had thought less of death than of the pain which the steel, suspended over my head, would occasion me. Death is seldom seen so close without striking his blow. I heard every syllable uttered by the assassins, just as if I had been calm.
Five or six men seized me and my companions, and, having made us get up on benches placed before the windows, ordered us to call out, “The nation for ever!”
I passed over several corpses; I recognised that of the old Vicomte de Broves, to whom the Queen had sent me at the beginning of the night to desire him and another old man in her name to go home. These brave men desired I would tell her Majesty that they had but too strictly obeyed the King’s orders in all circumstances under which they ought to have exposed their own lives in order to preserve his; and that for this once they would not obey, though they would cherish the recollection of the Queen’s goodness.
Near the grille, on the side next the bridge, the men who conducted me asked whither I wished to go. Upon my inquiring, in my turn, whether they were at liberty to take me wherever I might wish to go, one of them, a Marseillais, asked me, giving me at the same time a push with the butt end of his musket, whether I still doubted the power of the people? I answered “No,” and I mentioned the number of my brother-in-law’s house. I saw my sister ascending the steps of the parapet of the bridge, surrounded by members of the National Guard. I called to her, and she turned round. “Would you have her go with you?” said my guardian to me. I told him I did wish it. They called the people who were leading my sister to prison; she joined me.
Madame de la Roche-Aymon and her daughter, Mademoiselle Pauline de Tourzel, Madame de Ginestoux, lady to the Princesse de Lamballe, the other women of the Queen, and the old Comte d’Affry, were led off together to the Abbaye.
Our progress from the Tuileries to my sister’s house was most distressing. We saw several Swiss pursued and killed, and musket-shots were crossing each other in all directions. We passed under the walls of the Louvre; they were firing from the parapet into the windows of the gallery, to hit the knights of the dagger; for thus did the populace designate those faithful subjects who had assembled at the Tuileries to defend the King.
The brigands broke some vessels of water in the Queen’s first antechamber; the mixture of blood and water stained the skirts of our white gowns. The poissardes screamed after us in the streets that we were attached to the Austrian. Our protectors then showed some consideration for us, and made us go up a gateway to pull off our gowns; but our petticoats being too short, and making us look like persons in disguise, other poissardes began to bawl out that we were young Swiss dressed up like women. We then saw a tribe of female cannibals enter the street, carrying the head of poor Mandat. Our guards made us hastily enter a little public-house, called for wine, and desired us to drink with them. They assured the landlady that we were their sisters, and good patriots. Happily the Marseillais had quitted us to return to the Tuileries. One of the men who remained with us said to me in a low voice: “I am a gauze-worker in the faubourg. I was forced to march; I am not for all this; I have not killed anybody, and have rescued you. You ran a great risk when we met the mad women who are carrying Mandat’s head. These horrible women said yesterday at midnight, upon the site of the Bastille, that they must have their revenge for the 6th of October, at Versailles, and that they had sworn to kill the Queen and all the women attached to her; the danger of the action saved you all.”
As I crossed the Carrousel, I saw my house in flames; but as soon as the first moment of affright was over, I thought no more of my personal misfortunes. My ideas turned solely upon the dreadful situation of the Queen.
On reaching my sister’s we found all our family in despair, believing they should never see us again. I could not remain in her house; some of the mob, collected round the door, exclaimed that Marie Antoinette’s confidante was in the house, and that they must have her head. I disguised myself, and was concealed in the house of M. Morel, secretary for the lotteries. On the morrow I was inquired for there, in the name of the Queen. A deputy, whose sentiments were known to her, took upon himself to find me out.
I borrowed clothes, and went with my sister to the Feuillans–[A former monastery near the Tuileries, so called from the Bernardines, one of the Cistercian orders; later a revolutionary club.]–We got there at the same time with M. Thierry de Ville d’Avray, the King’s first valet de chambre. We were taken into an office, where we wrote down our names and places of abode, and we received tickets for admission into the rooms belonging to Camus, the keeper of the Archives, where the King was with his family.
As we entered the first room, a person who was there said to me, “Ah! you are a brave woman; but where is that Thierry,
[M. Thierry, who never ceased to give his sovereign proofs of unalterable attachment, was one of the victims of the 2d of September.–MADAME CAMPAN.]
that man loaded with his master’s bounties?"–"He is here,” said I; “he is following me. I perceive that even scenes of death do not banish jealousy from among you.”
Having belonged to the Court from my earliest youth, I was known to many persons whom I did not know. As I traversed a corridor above the cloisters which led to the cells inhabited by the unfortunate Louis XVI. and his family, several of the grenadiers called me by name. One of them said to me, “Well, the poor King is lost! The Comte d’Artois would have managed it better."–"Not at all,” said another.
The royal family occupied a small suite of apartments consisting of four cells, formerly belonging to the ancient monastery of the Feuillans. In the first were the men who had accompanied the King: the Prince de Poix, the Baron d’Aubier, M. de Saint-Pardou, equerry to Madame Elisabeth, MM. de Goguelat, de Chamilly, and de Hue. In the second we found the King; he was having his hair dressed; he took two locks of it, and gave one to my sister and one to me. We offered to kiss his hand; he opposed it, and embraced us without saying anything. In the third was the Queen, in bed, and in indescribable affliction. We found her accompanied only by a stout woman, who appeared tolerably civil; she was the keeper of the apartments. She waited upon the Queen, who as yet had none of her own people about her. Her Majesty stretched out her arms to us, saying, “Come, unfortunate women; come, and see one still more unhappy than yourselves, since she has been the cause of all your misfortunes. We are ruined,” continued she; “we have arrived at that point to which they have been leading us for three years, through all possible outrages; we shall fall in this dreadful revolution, and many others will perish after us. All have contributed to our downfall; the reformers have urged it like mad people, and others through ambition, for the wildest Jacobin seeks wealth and office, and the mob is eager for plunder. There is not one real patriot among all this infamous horde. The emigrant party have their intrigues and schemes; foreigners seek to profit by the dissensions of France; every one has a share in our misfortunes.”
The Dauphin came in with Madame and the Marquise de Tourzel. On seeing them the Queen said to me, “Poor children! how heartrending it is, instead of handing down to them so fine an inheritance, to say it ends with us!” She afterwards conversed with me about the Tuileries and the persons who had fallen; she condescended also to mention the burning of my house. I looked upon that loss as a mischance which ought not to dwell upon her mind, and I told her so. She spoke of the Princesse de Tarente, whom she greatly loved and valued, of Madame de la Roche-Aymon and her daughter, of the other persons whom she had left at the palace, and of the Duchesse de Luynes, who was to have passed the night at the Tuileries. Respecting her she said, “Hers was one of the first heads turned by the rage for that mischievous philosophy; but her heart brought her back, and I again found a friend in her.”
[During the Reign of Terror I withdrew to the Chateau de Coubertin, near that of Dampierre. The Duchesse de Luynes frequently came to ask me to tell her what the Queen had said about her at the Feuillans. She would say as she went away, “I have often need to request you to repeat those words of the Queen."–MADAME CAMPAN.]
I asked the Queen what the ambassadors from foreign powers had done under existing circumstances. She told me that they could do nothing; and that the wife of the English ambassador had just given her a proof of the personal interest she took in her welfare by sending her linen for her son.
I informed her that, in the pillaging of my house, all my accounts with her had been thrown into the Carrousel, and that every sheet of my month’s expenditure was signed by her, sometimes leaving four or five inches of blank paper above her signature, a circumstance which rendered me very uneasy, from an apprehension that an improper use might be made of those signatures. She desired me to demand admission to the committee of general safety, and to make this declaration there. I repaired thither instantly and found a deputy, with whose name I have never become acquainted. After hearing me he said that he would not receive my deposition; that Marie Antoinette was now nothing more than any other Frenchwoman; and that if any of those detached papers bearing her signature should be misapplied, she would have, at a future period, a right to lodge a complaint, and to support her declaration by the facts which I had just related. The Queen then regretted having sent me, and feared that she had, by her very caution, pointed out a method of fabricating forgeries which might be dangerous to her; then again she exclaimed, “My apprehensions are as absurd as the step I made you take. They need nothing more for our ruin; all has been told.”
She gave us details of what had taken place subsequently to the King’s arrival at the Assembly. They are all well known, and I have no occasion to record them; I will merely mention that she told us, though with much delicacy, that she was not a little hurt at the King’s conduct since he had quitted the Tuileries; that his habit of laying no restraint upon his great appetite had prompted him to eat as if he had been at his palace; that those who did not know him as she did, did not feel the piety and the magnanimity of his resignation, all which produced so bad an effect that deputies who were devoted to him had warned him of it; but no change could be effected.
I still see in imagination, and shall always see, that narrow cell at the Feuillans, hung with green paper, that wretched couch whence the dethroned, Queen stretched out her arms to us, saying that our misfortunes, of which she was the cause, increased her own. There, for the last time, I saw the tears, I heard the sobs of her whom high birth, natural endowments, and, above all, goodness of heart, had seemed to destine to adorn any throne, and be the happiness of any people! It is impossible for those who lived with Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette not to be fully convinced, while doing full justice to the King’s virtues, that if the Queen had been from the moment of her arrival in France the object of the care and affection of a prince of decision and authority, she would have only added to the glory of his reign.
What affecting things I have heard the Queen say in the affliction caused her by the belief of part of the Court and the whole of the people that she did not love France! How did that opinion shock those who knew her heart and her sentiments! Twice did I see her on the point of going from her apartments in the Tuileries into the gardens, to address the immense throng constantly assembled there to insult her. “Yes,” exclaimed she, as she paced her chamber with hurried steps, “I will say to them Frenchmen, they have had the cruelty to persuade you that I do not love France!–I! the mother of a Dauphin who will reign over this noble country!–I! whom Providence has seated upon the most powerful throne of Europe! Of all the daughters of Maria Theresa am I not that one whom fortune has most highly favoured? And ought I not to feel all these advantages? What should I find at Vienna? Nothing but sepulchres! What should I lose in France? Everything which can confer glory!”
I protest I only repeat her own words; the soundness of her judgment soon pointed out to her the dangers of such a proceeding. “I should descend from the throne,” said she, “merely, perhaps, to excite a momentary sympathy, which the factious would soon render more injurious than beneficial to me.”
Yes, not only did Marie Antoinette love France, but few women took greater pride in the courage of Frenchmen. I could adduce a multitude of proofs of this; I will relate two traits which demonstrate the noblest enthusiasm: The Queen was telling me that, at the coronation of the Emperor Francis II., that Prince, bespeaking the admiration of a French general officer, who was then an emigrant, for the fine appearance of his troops, said to him, “There are the men to beat your sans culottes!" “That remains to be seen, Sire,” instantly replied the officer. The Queen added, “I don’t know the name of that brave Frenchman, but I will learn it; the King ought to be in possession of it.” As she was reading the public papers a few days before the 10th of August, she observed that mention was made of the courage of a young man who died in defending the flag he carried, and shouting, “Vive la Nation!"–"Ah! the fine lad!" said the Queen; “what a happiness it would have been for us if such men had never left off crying, ’Vive de Roi!’”
In all that I have hitherto said of this most unfortunate of women and of queens, those who did not live with her, those who knew her but partially, and especially the majority of foreigners, prejudiced by infamous libels, may imagine I have thought it my duty to sacrifice truth on the altar of gratitude. Fortunately I can invoke unexceptionable witnesses; they will declare whether what I assert that I have seen and heard appears to them either untrue or improbable.