Madame De Maintenon
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
A. D. 1755-1793
QUEEN OF FRANCE
Born with the Lisbon earthquake, when 6o,000 people perished; married with an attendant catastrophe on the main public square of Paris that cost the lives of 1,200 subjects and wounded 2,000 more; carted in a tumbril to the guillotine, and dying like a condemned felon on the spot where her nuptials were so awfully celebrated such is the biography of Marie Antoinette. She was envied for her beauty, and pitied for her misfortunes; she was remarked for her pride on the throne, and admired for her courage in the dungeon.
If we epitomize her history with more attention to detail, we shall find it scarcely less sad : Her departure from Vienna at fifteen, to go, among strangers and enemies, to a husband who did not want to marry her and for seven years did not treat her as a wife; the catastrophe at her wedding fête; the story of the diamond necklace; the visit of the fishwives to Versailles and their capture of the royal family; the attempted escape and the recapture, in which her hair turned white; the assault on the Tuileries and slaughter of the Swiss Guards; the prison-life in the towers of the Temple; death-in-life in the Conciergerie; the "trial of the Widow Capet "; the beheading in the public square. By the nobles she was received as "the Austrian woman"; by the people she was slain as "the Austrian she-wolf." We have seen, in the life of Maria Theresa, a strain of pride and persistence, trying to the sensibilities of other people; this quality was the legacy of a reigning Queen to a consort-Queen, and the daughter, therefore, received a sad inheritance. On the other hand, there is a mean streak in human nature at large which we may call scapegoatism. With her domineering personality and her Austrian proclivities in politics, never to be veiled or smoothed over, it was easy, when the entire French people looked for a scapegoat, to find Marie Antoinette. As to her chronology, she came into the world, of course, long after Maria Theresa and Catherine II, whose lives we have just reviewed; but she died before Catherine.
Marie Antoinette Josèphe Jeanne de Lorraine, Arch-duchess of Austria, was born at Vienna November 2, 175 5. Her name betrays the personal affection of Maria Theresa for her husband, Francis once of Lorraine, or the hope of the mother to add Lorraine to the Austrian possessions. Maria Theresa had borne so many daughters and so few sons that she ardently looked for a son, and even the birth of the ill-fated Princess was a disappointment at the court of Vienna. The little girl practically never knew her mother; that imperial lady was busk with the State we have named one of the lists of bloody battlefields that she was weeping over. But the kind father loved the child, took her on his lap, was glad she was his little girl, was one of the few people who unselfishly loved her, and when he set out for a journey to Innspruck, sent from his carriage to have her brought to him. As he pressed her to his breast, he said : "I wished to hold this child once more in my arms." She was seven years old. He died on that journey.
There was but one thing that the ten orphaned children thoroughly learned they must obey their mother. As that sovereign exacted implicit obedience from her subjects, how much more- should she expect from the children that she had borne! She saw them but little. Before their father's death, she had two terrible wars; after the peace, she mourned incessantly for her dead husband. She was proud she had borne so many children, and assembled them about her at evening prayer, or when great strangers were present; but she was viewed with fear, awe, respect, by her brood. The child that resented this state the most deeply was precisely that child who was most like Maria Theresa Marie Antoinette. The offspring that least loved her mother's fashion of intrigue and inter-meddling was the one that inherited the most of her mother's talent for such performances. Through the ease with which the Queen-mother could be deceived, the studies of the children were neglected in all save religious matters, and Marie Antoinette at fifteen had read little except the Lives of the Saints. She learned Italian, but was deficient in French. She left Vienna with one idea that she had been brought up badly somewhat inhumanely that there was not mother-love enough in Maria Theresa. She even related to her friends an instance of the fear inspired in the children's hearts by the Queen-mother. A sister, Josepha, was leaving Vienna, to be Queen of Naples. The mother sent word to her not to think of starting without descending into the crypt of the Church of the Capuchins and offering a prayer at the mausoleum of her ancestors. Now, the wife of the Emperor Joseph, her brother, had just died of smallpox. Josepha looked on such an order as her death-warrant. She took the younger Marie Antoinette, her sister, on her knees, bade her good-by forever, and, going to the vaults, did catch the small-pox, and die of it. Thus the two persons, father and sister, who especially loved Marie Antoinette at Vienna, seemed to the child to be victims of the mother's pride and love of empire.
When Russia declined to aid Austria further, and the world without Russia could not defeat Frederick the Great, the peace of Paris put an end to Maria Theresa's wars. The Crown Prince of France was then affianced to Marie Antoinette, eight years old, with the hope that Bourbons in both Spain and France and an alliance with Austria would balance the power of England. Maria Theresa at once set about the French education of Marie Antoinette. She employed two actors one a declaimer, the other a musician. This angered Choiseul, the French Premier (Pompadour was now dead), and the Abbé de Vermond, at the solicitation of Loménie de Brienne, was sent to Vienna as the girl's preceptor. This man Vermond was ugly, talkative, cunning, corrupt, yet very able after an unfortunate manner. He made an easy conquest of Maria Theresa, and for seventeen years was the adviser of Marie Antoinette. He advanced the religious part of his pupil's education that is, the outer observances and allowed her to do as she pleased in all other things. He it was, who, accompanying her to France, upheld her in many practices that were in contravention of the stately etiquette of the French court. In France the Austrian alliance was looked upon as a bad bargain for France, and Choiseul, who had brought it about, was being rapidly brought by a court cabal into disgrace with the King. It is possible that a Queen with fewer daughters would have then paused before sending her daughter into an atmosphere so hostile, for her spies were thick at Versailles, and she knew the situation. The enemies of Choiseul, having secured the offices, sent one of their ilk, Prince Louis of Rohan (mark well the name) as Ambassador to Vienna, but he arrived there after Marie Antoinette left, and was soon sent away by the indignant Queen, as a person who smuggled and did not pay his debts. If would be well to note that Rohan, the dissolute ecclesiastic, and Marie Antoinette, the victim of his fatal folly, never met each other at Vienna never were in Vienna at the same time.
Before the ill-taught and wayward Archduchess leaves Vienna, let us observe the familiar aspects of the French court into which she must enter and become the first lady : There is the King, Louis XV, who expects to live a long life yet. His wife is dead; his first Crown Prince and wife are both dead. He has four mature daughters, whom he whimsically calls "Fat Pig," "Scrap," "Rag," and "Stuff." "Stuff" has gone to a convent. "Rag" (Madame Adelaide) is first lady of France (the gambling goes on in her apartments) and will be highly offended when etiquette gives her place and her "game" to Marie Antoinette. Louis, the Crown Prince, and Maria Josepha of Saxony, his wife, in dying, have left three sons and two daughters the young Crown Prince, the Counts of Provence (Louis XVIII), and Artois (Charles X), Elizabeth and Clotaire. The latter, noted as being fat, married the future King of Sardinia. We shall see Louis XVI, Elizabeth, his sister, and Marie Antoinette and the two surviving of her four children together in one of the saddest, yet not the least noble, groups vouchsafed by history. The royal family at court, then, contains the King, his three daughters, and his five grandchildren. The King has a kind of wit, and is not altogether disliked at court. Since the death of Pompadour he lives alone and keeps his Parc-aux-Cerfs at a distance. He has a private existence as Louis de Bourbon, and buys and sells on that account and in that name. The cabal is bent on getting him a single mistress whom they can dominate, and the Du Barry woman is being pushed forward sits on the arm of his chair at council and plays the kitten. The court is in need of money. To save money, the poor daughters, Rag, Stuff, etc., have been boarded away from court. At Marie Antoinette's home, the court of Vienna may have been "prudent," but there was no end of money. It is an untoward beginning, this coming of Marie Antoinette. Young Louis, even, has been put against his bride does not want her to come and the apartments for the pair have not been made ready, the cabal even as late as this still hoping to break off the match.
Under these circumstances, the young girl leaves Vienna in May, 1770, the entire city turning out to bid her godspeed. There shall be no more wars with France, they think in Vienna, yet from their windows they can look out with the eyes of the future on two of the bloodiest French battlefields in history Aspern and Wagram. A pavilion had been erected on the frontier at Kehl, opposite Strasburg. It was divided by a partition which stood supposititiously on the boundary of the two nations. Through this partition the Princess was sent as she had come into the world, the etiquette of courts demanding that she should be received into France with nothing on her belonging to a foreign land. She fell into the arms of a Countess de Noailles, and that grim mistress of unbending forms set out to teach a wayward pupil how to so conduct herself, in a bad court surrounded by spies, slanderers, and political enemies, that she might escape unscathed. The Princess soon recovered her composure, and, following the inclination of Vermond, dubbed her wise but severe counselor "Madame Etiquette," an epithet which at once became fastened to the formal lady in Paris. The Princess felt she had escaped alive from a harsh mother. Her beauty' was striking, and the peasants on the road cried out merrily that she was pretty beyond all doubt. She perhaps had temptations to hold up her head. She, too, had read the history of Isabella, and was the proper daughter of Maria Theresa. Madame Campan at this time notes, with felicitous caution, her "indescribable but august serenity; perhaps, also, the somewhat proud position of her head and shoulders betrayed the daughter of the Caesars."
She felt the lack of proper preparation for her. The King came with the Du Barry woman to dine with her. She spoke of it with indignation. Du Barry therefore set about to make matters unpleasant for her. Yet the beauty of the Archduchess, her pure descent from a line of Kings dating from the dark ages, flattered the public. It needed the wedding catastrophe to excite the misgivings of the superstitious, and offer an effective weapon to her enemies. She was lost on the night of May 30, 1770, when she was only fifteen years old.
The square which is now the Place de la Concorde, where the Egyptian obelisk stands, was then the Place de Louis XV. It was an open commons, so Iow that to drain it required a deep ditch on every side. Here Paris gathered to see the fireworks. The scaffolding caught fire, the coaches hemmed people in, a panic came on, the people were crowded into the ditches, and 1,200 were killed and 2,000 badly hurt. There have been but few affairs of the kind so bad since the time of Rome- one at Santiago de Chile in 1864. The effort of the court to minimize the accounts of the misfortune were resented by the friends of the victims as one more evidence of the heartlessness of the nobility. But Louis and Marie, the unlucky bride and groom, gave their first year's revenue entirely to the relatives of the dead. The early months of her married life could not have been more wretched. The cabal kept Louis entirely away from her. It was only when Marie herself complained to the King for she soon got the threads of the plot that the irate monarch, who was charmed with her, despite the jealousy of the Du Barry, ordered his grandson, the Crown Prince, to cease his opposition. Mesdames Adelaide ("Rag") and Sophie ("Scrap") would have nothing to do with her, denouncing her as giddy and without sense. Rohan, at Vienna, spread these unpleasantnesses, and added all that the Princess had said about her mother, especially the smallpox story, so that Maria Theresa, who had herself instructed her daughter how to mould French policy in Austria's direction, now sat down and wrote some bitter letters to her daughter, calling to her attention the dangers of levity, and the troubles that would be brewing. The daughter, in her turn, set out on Rohan's trail, and soon had him expelled from Vienna. It is marvelous that this old Prince after-ward should have harbored the idea either that he loved Marie, or that she loved him. She always hated him, with that good ill-will which her mother had bestowed on Frederick and Catherine.
The two brothers of the Crown Prince married and brought home their wives. This made three outsiders, and Marie Antoinette at once set up a little family of her own. The Crown Prince was exalted into a sort of small sovereign, and in this way the young people managed to have a good time, unbeknown to anyone save Madame Campan's husband and his father.* They organized a theatrical company, with Louis as the only auditor. The playing was bad enough all round, but the natural restraint of Louis was at last broken down and Marie won over her husband so far that he spoke to her the last man in Paris to admit that she was a pretty woman. On a servant accidentally discovering this Thespian conspiracy, it came to an end, and not one of the severe old ladies heard of it.
Just four years after Marie's arrival in Paris, Louis XV caught the smallpox and died. It is at this point that Carlyle begins his book "The French Revolution" perhaps the most dazzling historical production of human genius. The reader must on his own account, carry for-ward the tide of contemporaneous events the logical out-growth of a popular study of Rousseau's ideal Iongings for equality and brotherhood his ideal repugnance to vice in high places. Rousseau was by this time, as he supposed, a long-forgotten man. He lived with his hag Theresa in a garret of Paris, and was soon to die in the deepest misery and humiliation. But the Revolution which he had awakened was coming on, more terrible than Lis-bon earthquake or Seven Years' War. It was aided by designing nobles, whom it destroyed.
A few days before Louis XV died, the Countess Du Barry withdrew to Ruelle. Some fifteen people of the court visited her there. They were all marked. Six years afterward, in the very circle of Marie's family, Madame Campan heard the remark, concerning one of those marked persons : "That was one of the Ruelle carriages." Marie Antoinette had borne much now they should suffer in turn. Her character was clearly vengeful, with a long memory.
The entire court set off at once for the palace of the deceased Pompadour at Choisy, south of Paris, the three brothers and their wives all in one carriage. Half way on their journey they all burst out in laughter. France was delighted to think the King was dead why should they mourn, when everyone knew they were glad ? Behind followed the severe old ladies. Yet the King had not yet quite come over to his wife, and the anti-Austrians actually hoped to still have him send her back to Germany. She naturally begged him to appoint her friend Choiseul prime minister. Old Madame Adelaide ("Rag") opposed it, and she alone possessed the confidence of the young King. But here, the aged ladies took the smallpox, and the royal pair, to escape it, hurried back to La Muette, a palace in the Bois de Boulogne, a Parisian park, where the aristocracy at once came to do their homage. At this time the King gave way a little more, and, after four years of almost complete alienation, took Marie Antoinette under his arm and walked in public with her. One of the inimitably sardonic passages in Madame Campan's book is to be found where she notes that, on seeing the King and Queen arm-in-arm for extended walks (practically a deferred courtship), several other couples in the court, who had had much better reasons for staying apart, "walked upon the terrace, to the amusement of the whole court, with the same apparent conjugal intimacy. Thus they spent whole hours, braving the intolerable wearisomeness of their protracted tête-à-têtes, out of mere obsequiousness."
But, just at this moment of triumph, the worst of fortune came with it. Old dames, who never went out-of-doors except to do homage to a new sovereign, eccentric dowagers of all shades of caprice in manner and dress, must now pass before the handsome young Queen, who had not been taught to keep her face straight. As if to thoroughly engulf her, socially, a young Marchioness in the receiving party sat down on the floor behind the Queen and played unmannerly pranks which the Queen did not rebuke, even laughing behind her fan. The old ladies went back to Paris in a high state of indignation. Next day in Paris she was called the Moqueuse she had mocked old age, rank, title. A popular air appeared, and children sang it in procession of tradespeople went to Versailles, with tableaux, or "floats." There were chimney-sweepers, chairmen, butchers, cooks, masons, blacksmiths, tailors, even grave-diggers, to the horror of old great-Aunt Sophie ("Scrap"), who had not died of the smallpox. The fish-wives came also, to make their apologies. An era of comparative peace succeeded, with the Queen attending to her children and fulfilling those tender offices which she thought Maria Theresa had neglected at Vienna. But here again was a breakdown of etiquette, and a raising up of a Polignac family who soon made enemies. A theater was once more established, in which the royal Princes played, at first with the King for auditor as of old; then, as the actors became vain of their skill, a larger company was let in, until the voice of censure again rose, and it was whispered that the pieces were "royally ill played." Rousseau's "Village Fortune Teller," composed for Versailles many years before, was the first of these amateur productions. The Queen played parts, even now that she was the mother of three children. This could not fail to arouse the bitterest criticism among the dowagers who, for fifteen years, kept the grudge alive that was born that day of the homage at La Muette.
It is now time to describe Marie Antoinette at her best, and we fortunately possess the expert testimony of Vigie Lebrun, a portrait-painter whose works in the Louvre have for a century commanded the respect of critics, while the common people, by treasuring engraved copies of her pictures, have spread her fame throughout the world. This lady was commissioned to paint the portrait of the Queen in various ways, and is a capable and authoritative witness. She says : "Marie Antoinette was tall, admirably proportioned, plump, without being too much so; her arms were lovely, she had small and perfectly-shaped hands and charming little feet. She walked better than any woman in France, holding her head very upright with a majesty which denoted the sovereign in the midst of her court, without this majestic bearing detracting in the least from the sweetness and grace of her whole aspect. In short, it is very difficult to give any idea to those who have not seen the Queen, how very elegant and beautiful she was. Her features were not at all regular. She inherited the long, narrow, oval face peculiar to the Austrian nation. Her eyes were not large, and were almost blue in color; her expression was clear and very soft. Her nose was thin and pretty, and her mouth was not large, although the lips were rather thick. The most remarkable thing about her face was the brilliancy of her complexion. I never saw anything like it, and `brilliant' is the only word to express what it was; for her skin was so transparent that it allowed of no shadow. I never could obtain the effect as I wished; paints failed to depict the freshness, the delicate tints of that charming face, which I never beheld in any other."
While these few happy days of Marie Antoinette were passing, the French people, to reduce the power of England, were extolling liberty and upholding George Washington. Franklin came to Paris, and was received with public honor. The Queen granted an audience to Lafayette, on his return from America. Yet both she and the King hoped the Americans would lose. She believed sincerely that all who wished to be free and dared to say so should be hanged as traitors to their King.
In 1783, one day, Marie Antoinette had "a bad quarter of an hour," as the French say. Madame Campan found her in bed, weeping bitterly. "Ah, that I were dead ! Wretches ! Monsters ! What have I done to them? Leave me," said she, "if you love me. It would be better to kill me at once." The Count of Artois (Charles X) arrived from the King, who was at Compiègne. After this, the Queen was herself again. It is to be supposed that Maurepas, Vergennes, and the rest of the anti-Austrian party, had supposed her ruin in the good opinion of the King was at hand. After this, she rapidly advanced as a political factor. Maurepas died. But Calonne was made Secretary of the Treasury after Necker, without her con-sent. St. Cloud was purchased, and there appeared on the walls of its gardens, at the head of its rules, in large letters, an expression "De par la Reine," instead of the familiar "De par le Roy." The Queen would not take down these offensive words, alleging that as she owned the grounds, there could be no objection to an order by the owner the Queen. Nevertheless, afterwards, Esprémesnil, a prominent speaker in the Parliament of Paris, on this very account, said that it was "impolitic" and "immoral" for a Queen of France to have palaces of her own. The word "immoral" was thus fastened on the Queen in a public manner, and she never forgave Esprémesnil for it to her dying day, and harsh measures against him after-ward grew out of it. But he, also, died on the scaffold. Thus, as the Revolution came forward, the people began to feel that they were dealing with "De par la Reine" in-stead of "De par le Roy." If the woman had been a French courtesan, they would have made no complaint; but they regarded the Austrian as an enemy of France one likely to cede Lorraine and Alsace to Germany was not her very German name "Lorraine" her apostate father's name, "Lorraine" ? Had not France suffered enough for Austria?
The censors of the police decided that Beaumarchais' comedy, "The Marriage of Figaro," could not be produced in public. It contained many of the views of Rousseau. Figaro said that "none but little minds dreaded little books" nobody ought to be afraid of a joke. Figaro did not like the Bastille. Some of the philosophers had been there. Mirabeau was there now. The King asked to examine the play, which was bandied about in manuscript. He and the Queen read it. They denounced it, and the King forbade an especial rehearsal at the Théâtre Française. There was talk of "oppression" and "tyranny." Beaumarchais was angry when he saw the King's lettre de cachet. "Well, gentlemen," said he, "he will not suffer it to be played here; now I swear it shall be played perhaps in the very choir of Notre Dame!" The piece was played, and Beaumarchais went to prison.
At Versailles, on the evening of March 27, 1785, Marie Antoinette gave birth to a second Prince, the Duke of Normandy, who became the Crown Prince and Louis XVII, and died in the Temple, under the patriotic processes of Simon the shoemaker. His birth marks the be-ginning of the awful sorrows of the Queen, for we have duly arrived at the story of the Diamond Necklace, an example of the most impudent roguery of which we have any account. The episode was made possible by the work of two or three starving thieves; the amount of money involved (in diamonds and cash) was about $310,000. The reputation of the Queen of France was placed in the scales by these thieves as if it counted for nothing. The architect of the plot was a woman named Lamotte, who claimed to be a descendant of the house of Valois, yet she did not know how Marie Antoinette signed her name; she convinced her dupe that she was an intimate friend of the Queen, and the Queen's only confidante in this matter, yet she had possibly never seen the Queen near enough to speak to her, and certainly the Queen had never seen her. Her dupe was the Prince Louis of Rohan, now Cardinal and Grand Almoner of France, an old man who saw the Queen often, and knew she hated him because of his unremitting enmity to her in her youth. We remember him as Ambassador to Vienna.
The "Story of the Diamond Necklace" itself makes two handsome volumes. We cannot omit the main debantails of the crime, because it was the ruin of the Queen in public estimation. Yet it may be surmised that only an outline of the later aspects of the case can be here at-tempted. Let it be understood that the one place where the French monarchy was always weak in its moral power, was to be found when it attempted to punish a great prelate.
Joseph Balsamo was a wicked youth of Palermo who robbed a goldsmith and fled into Egypt and Asia, where he learned to be a magician. He married a girl of eighteen, who pretended to be a woman of sixty, made young by the elixirs of the Count of Cagliostro, the title which Joseph assumed. History gives the best picture of Cagliostro while he was residing, or swindling, at Strasburg. He posed as a physician of enormous means, and to the eminent men who sought his confidence he exhibited his method of making diamonds. Gems of many carats he wore on his person, and no one could doubt his wealth. He bestowed charity by a stealth which soon echoed along the Rhine. He sought the poor and slighted the rich. His ways, however, were those of the mountebank, and certain parts of his dress retained the characteristic marks of a traveling seller of quack remedies. The wise were thus repelled, but the foolish were subjected to an eccentric tyranny which gratified only their curiosity. On entering a drawing-room, the bespangled alchemist extended his hand for the women to kiss. Seeking the Count at Strasburg came the Prince Cardinal de Rohan, who fell an infatuated dupe at the first interview. Cagliostro made a big diamond for the Cardinal to wear, and the Cardinal begged to share his Parisian palace with Cagliostro. Now, while he is drinking the choicest Tokay from the Cardinal's cellars, the "Countess de la Motte," the chief impostor, unknown to him, also levels her covetous eyes on the riches of the prelate's palace. Cagliostro has never heard of her. She was and is a beggar. She has married a worthless fellow named Lamotte, who thinks something ought to be done out of her exalted pretension that she is a lineal descendant of Henry II of France (Catherine de' Medici's husband). The dead King, Louis XV, had ordered, for the Du Barry woman, a diamond necklace, the handsomest ever seen in Paris, worth $400,000. The necklace is finished, but the King is dead, and Bassange & Boehmer, court jewelers, will be ruined if they cannot sell it. Marie Antoinette will not have it, mainly because of its connection with the past. The Lamotte woman will find a purchaser, on a commission. She has heard all the slanders about the Queen, and has no doubt manufactured many herself. She visits the Cardinal, and makes him believe the Queen talks constantly of him to her. The Cardinal pays her about $30,000 to push his suit; and, as the money flows, the Queen seems to grow more and more fond of her old enemy in her converse with "her dear friend Lamotte." At last, the arch-plotter, not satisfied with all this money, makes the Cardinal believe that the Queen desires to buy the diamond necklace, and hopes that she can save the money out of her own revenues, and repay the Cardinal, if he will only secretly carry on the purchase for her. This act of friendship would instate the Cardinal as the favorite of the Queen. The Cardinal now bids Cagliostro, the sorcerer, to hold an incantation, and this seer learns astrally that the funds for such a purpose are inexhaustible. The he-Lamotte has a comrade named Villette, who forges a poor counterfeit of the Queen's writing. Letters are given to the Cardinal, signed "Marie Antoinette de France," which, while vague, lead the senile adventurer blindly on. He, believing that he is the accepted lover of the Queen, and that he shall be another Richelieu or Mazarin, signs notes for $280,000, buys the necklace, and, from a skillfully arranged hiding-place, thinks he sees the casket given into the hands of one of the Queen's valets. He is led into the park at Versailles one dark night, and supposes that he kisses the Queen's hand, the rôle of Queen being played by a young woman named Oliva. The thieves now have the diamond necklace, have taken it to pieces, and have sold a long bill of diamonds in London. The Queen was to have worn the necklace in public at the feast of the Purification, but has not done so. The jewelers do not consider themselves safe with only the Cardinal's promissory notes; they have been shown the Queen's alleged letters, and they, too, believe, with the Cardinal, that the Queen is about to call him into the councils of the King. Boehmer hints and hints to the Queen, but she does not understand him; he visits Madame Campan, but that cautious person does not dare to warn or advise her mistress, the Queen. At last, Boehmer says flatly: "Your Majesty, there is no use of denying we have your very order. If you have not the necklace, who has it ? The Cardinal bought and gave it to you." There upon he produces the miserable forgery "Marie Antoinette de France" and the Queen for the first time sees what the Cardinal and the jewelers have believed of her. Right here the matter could have been hushed. The Cardinal would gratefully have paid all, and the Church party would not have been called to defend its great officer. But not Marie Antoinette alone hated Rohan. The Baron de Breteuil, Home Secretary, was also a mortal enemy. Vermond was a foe. The Queen flew to the King. The Cardinal was called. He was in his full pontifical robes. He was sorry, indeed, and begged the pardon of their Majesties. "I see I have been hood-winked and deceived," he repeated and repeated. It may be imagined that Marie Antoinette offered him a piece of her mind. How had he dared ?—and then indeed she was humiliated. He was given into the hands of an inexperienced guard. He had time to send word to burn all his papers in the affair. He went to the Bastille. The woman Lamotte, and Cagliostro, Oliva and Villette were also imprisoned. The scandal became public August 17, 1785; the trial of the Cardinal lasted till August 31, 1786. The Church and a numerous party of nobles resented the arrest of the prelate, and as he entered the prison, or the parliament, for trial, as the case might be, the great dignitaries aligned themselves on each side, in suits of mourning. Thus the comedians had first called Louis a tyrant; now it was the Bishops and Archbishops. The Cardinal, after a long trial, was acquitted of all suspicion. Injurious accusations against him were suppressed. The woman Lamotte was branded with a red-hot iron and imprisoned.* The rest were acquitted, or had escaped. The acquittal of the Cardinal was received as a great popular triumph in Paris. Bonfires were lit. The name of the Austrian She-Wolf was nearly everywhere held up to public scorn, and to complete the follies of the Ministry, the woman Lamotte was quietly told to escape because of threats that her husband would print more libels on the Queen at Lon-don. The good name of the Queen was destroyed among the common people. They shook their heads and said : "Where there has so long been so much smoke, there must be some fire." The extraordinary effrontery of the Lamotte woman, in singling out Marie Antoinette for a victim of the rudest and most uncouth knavery; the astonishing fortune of the robber in deceiving Rohan, Cagliostro, and the jewelers; the blindness of Rohan, who had been so long at court, before the explosion; the blindness of the vengeful Minister and the royal victim, their lack of foresight after the explosion these considerations have offered insoluble problems to all the historians of the French Revolution. Now it was the cry of the agitators, when taxes were needed, that they were to buy millinery for Madame Deficit; to print "De par la Reines;" to send money to Austria; or to pay for the diamond necklace. When the States General were summoned, to find a way out (by new taxation) the comic papers of that day made their great hit. A rustic has convoked the poultry of his barnyard : "Dear animals, I have assembled you to advise me what sauce I shall dress you with," to which a cock responds, "My dear master, we don't want to be eaten !" "Ah !" says the logician, "you wander from the point."
But the States-General have not been summoned. There is first to be that ill-conceived act of the Abbe de Vermond, who, grateful to the man who appointed him French tutor to the Archduchess at Vienna, now persuades his royal pupil to persuade the King to appoint the Archbishop of Toulouse, Loménie de Brienne, President of the Council of Finance. "Seventeen years of patience are not too great a price," said Vermond, "for success at court." It is one of the most striking deeds of gratitude on record, and one of the most ill-fated. In his struggles with the notables and with the twelve parliaments in different parts of France, Brienne stirred up the true hornet's nest of the Revolution. He was just strong-minded enough to carry a part of his will by military means. He made peace when he ought to have made war, and vice versa. But the King had never liked Vermond, and spoke to him but once in nineteen years. The lackeys rose when "Monsieur the Abbé" was passing, but the King was afraid of Loménie, the Abbé's man. The Queen had to take hold and push the King into the arrests and attacks on parliaments that followed. When the Emperor of Austria (Joseph II, who had been so rude at Paris,) went to war with the Turks, the Austrian treaty compelled France to send 24,000 soldiers or $2,700,000. "How could they be so wicked," asked Marie Antoinette, "as to send off those fifteen millions from the general post (diligence, or coach) office, publishing, even to the street porters, that they were loading the carriages with money that I was sending to my brother; whereas it is certain that the money would have been sent if I had belonged to another house." She had asked for soldiers, instead. Yet it is easy to see how she would be hated in that era of droughts and hailstorms, intense cold in winter, extreme heat in summer, famine, and political excitement.
With Brienne in the Cabinet, it seemed that the Queen,, for the first time, had the reins of government in her hands. She tasted of power. But she lacked her mother's genius for it. She was capricious. She thought she did not want it. She wanted to play shepherdess or actress once more. She liked Brienne, because he had no sympathy with rebels in America or fishwives and agitators on the bridges of Paris. In demanding new taxes he exiled eight Parliaments, he closed the Parliament at Paris, he arrested Esprémesnil to pay off that old score about the word "immoral," he set up so much sedition that money got scarce. The Jews would naturally visit the sins of the mother on the daughter, yet a financial panic could not be brought on France as quickly as on America. The French do not deposit in banks. But money in the family safes (caisses) was getting scarcer, and in the King's safe there was less than had been seen since Henry IV was outside of Paris. At last Brienne, after seizing the strong box of a private lottery, published notice of forty per cent payment in warrants, sixty per cent in cash, on all public indebtedness, and a financial panic came. Brienne must go. He wept. The Queen wept. But she loaded him with honors and praised him as a loyal servant. If she could have had her way fully, he would have stayed longer. When he was hissed out of Versailles; when the mob built the old Gallic wicker giant Brienne and burned it with riotings, it was time for Marie Antoinette to depart for Vienna. She then could have reached Schönbrunn in safety. "Prime Minister Cardinal Archbishop Loménie de Brienne," says Carlyle. "Flimsier mortal was seldom fated to do as weighty a mischief. Fired, as the phrase is, with ambition; blown, like a kindled rag, the sport of winds, not this way, not that way, but of all ways straight toward such a powder-mine which he kindled ! Let ús pity the helpless Loménie, and forgive him; and, as soon as possible, forget him." The germ of the Jacobin Club had now risen in Brittany.
This is what the tutor of Marie Antoinette brought about. The mob knew even that, and when the ancient Gallic wicker Loménie was burned, a mock Abbe de Vermond shrove him before execution on the bridge. The mobs now did as they pleased, frequently demanding toll of all nobles, with ceremonious bows to the statue of Henry IV, "the people's King," as the saying then went. Of all Loménie's blunders, the one calling for the States General, or the one conceding it, was the chief. Again, when the King called the elections, in January, 1789, at the instance of the Queen, he gave the Third Estate (lawyers and other people not ennobled or consecrated) a double representation (not a double vote) because it was thought this class could be most easily influenced. This was in opposition to the views of the Princes, and another fatal act of the Queen. The Duke of Orleans was conspiring to be King, and in doing so, was hiring mobs to exclaim against the Queen. As she went to the opening of the States-General, some fish-wives cried out, "The Duke of Orleans forever !" The Queen, supposing the uprising had come, fainted. This was May 4, 1789. It was the last time she ever appeared in full regalia. The great Congress received the King with testimonials of good will. But it was plain that the assemblage looked on the Queen with suspicion. The rural members determined to see the Little Trianon. When they found only the mimic farm-houses, they thought it all a sham, built on purpose to deceive them. They asked to see the chamber, ornamented with diamonds, whose wreathed columns were studded with sapphires and rubies ! The exaggerated ideas formed of the luxury of Madame Deficit, the Austrian She-Wolf, could not be weakened even with careful examination. She must have had an extraordinary knack of making bitter enemies.
The Bastille was overrun July 14, 1789. The mob came to Versailles, and demanded to see the royal family. Madame Campan went down and mingled with the multitude. "I know you very well," said a disguised woman. "Tell your Queen not to meddle with government any longer; let her leave her husband and our good States General to effect the happiness of the people." A man seized her by the other arm : "Yes, yes, tell her over and over again; tell her, do you hear?"
A man walked under the windows of Madame Victoire ("Fat Pig"). She told Madame Campan it was Saint Huruge, a creature of the Duke of Orleans. He was uttering horrible imprecations against the throne. He had been imprisoned as a vile character. On the 17th the King went to Paris and addressed the insurrectionaries. The Queen thought he would never come back. She at once determined to die with him. The "emigration" had begun. The next day, when the King had returned, she was not the less mortally offended that Bailly (astronomer), Mayor of Paris, had said that the people had "conbanquered" their King. They could kill her, but they could not cure her of being Queen. It was in Isabella, in Maria Theresa, in her unbending empire. She was the perfect aristocrat. Yet she never said: "The people have no bread why do they not eat cake?" or, if she said it, it was a poor jest, said as a jest, not even to be repeated. It did not comport with her view of aristocracy. She would be kind to a horse, to a cow, to a peasant. If one of them were in distress she would come out of her carriage, if necessary, to relieve the sufferer. She stooped to pick up Vigée Lebrun's brushes for her, and with good reason. But this very kindness reacted against her when the lowly learned what an inborn Queen she was. Foulon said : "Let the people eat grass!" His head was cut off, and the mouth stuffed with grass. The expression was fastened on the Queen by Orleans, who now figured as Equality truly, a human monster. The Abbé de Vermond escaped alive to Vienna.
On the 5th of October the Queen was sitting for the last time in a grotto of Little Trianon when she heard the mob was coming to take the royal family to Paris, to prevent their retiring to a fortress. She returned to the palace of Versailles. The fishwives came on, holding their white aprons out and furiously demanding the bowels of Marie Antoinette. She went to bed at 2 in the morning. At 4:3o the mob broke in to kill her. She was awakened by her people, and fled to the King's apartments. At i the next day the royal family took carriages, in a long procession, for Paris. The fishwives went in front, crying: "We shall now have bread we have brought back the baker, the baker's wife, the baker's boy !" —one of the grimmest popular slogans ever uttered. As she left Versailles the Queen said to Madame Campan : "When kings become prisoners they have not long to live!" A Queen could not flee she must die perforce.
The next day, at the Tuileries in Paris, there was more tumult. The little boy who had lived the first one was dead cried to his mother : "Bon dieu, mamma, is today yesterday again ?"
The year 1790 opened with the Queen at the Tuileries. Her brother, Joseph II, Emperor of Austria, died. She did not consider that he had been a good brother. Undoubtedly he wanted Lorraine and Alsace at the expense of the Revolution. When summer came the royal family went to St. Cloud, near by, on the Seine. Things were quieter; it was safe to go out alone. The Queen plotted forever to escape but never alone. The Federation of Patriots, 400,000 people, met on the Champs de Mars. The Queen was astonished to see that the people believed the King was happy. She could not and would not accept the Revolution. An assassin came to kill her. An attempt was made to poison her. Mirabeau came to the gardens of St. Cloud to sell out the Revolution. He had a consultation with Marie Antoinette, and was charmed with her. He spent the money he got thus basely with a prodigality that aroused comment. She hated Lafayette, Commander of the National Guard, who had exercised so poor control over the seditious inhabitants. He was, in her eyes, a rebel, pure and simple. She allowed her women to speak of him as "a rebel and a brigand." They were ail at the Tuileries again on New Year's day, 1790. Adelaide and Victoire ("Fat Pig" and "Rag") left their home at Bellevue with a suite of eighty attend-ants, for the frontier, and only scurrilous comments were made in the newspapers. The Chronicle of Paris said Adelaide wished to enjoy the rights of man a jest touching her single state. Mirabeau died perhaps he was poisoned. Thus all Marie's bribe-money was lost. When the King came to enter his carriage for St. Cloud, the guards said he could not go. The Assembly had suspended his monarchical power for a time. The Queen thought of nothing but flight, and managed it with her usual folly finding it impossible to go till she had a certain toilet case, etc. On Monday night, June 20, 1791, the King and Queen, as valet and waiting maid of "the Russian Baroness Korff" (Madame de Tourzell), leave the environs of Paris in a bright berline (coach) and the " Baroness carries "De par le Roy" (passport) entitling her to travel. Paris awakes and finds the King gone. It is said Robespierre turns pale. The lumbering Korff coach gets no further than the town of Varennes. Maniacal France pounces on its King. On Saturday evening the Korff berline re-enters Paris with the entire populace out to see it in the silence of Terror. For on the walls is Robespierre's warning : "Whosoever insults Louis shall be caned. Whosoever applauds him shall be hanged !" The Revolution has determined that the royal family and nobles are one and all traitors to Fatherland, and mean to gather at the frontier. and march with foreigners into France, to hang patriots.
The Queen sat silent, looking unutterable scorn at her rebels. On the way in from Varennes she had bewitched Barnave, a patriot sent to fetch her back. But Pétion, a fellow patriot, she could not win, or did not try. Pétion pulled the boy's curls. "Give me my son," said the Queen in the coach; "he is accustomed to tenderness and delicacy, which render him little fit for such familiarity!" Yet see what a caprice seized her at a moment of horror--namely : A noble was murdered at the King's carriage on leaving Varennes. Barnave sat in the carriage with the Queen and Elizabeth, King's sister. A few miles out a poor priest stepped up to speak with the King ; the same murderers set out to kill him, too. Barnave, seeing the danger, threw himself out of the coach window; the pious Elizabeth, fearing for him, held him by the coat-tails. "Tigers!" cried Barnave, "have you ceased to be French-men ?" This saved the priest. The Queen tittered at sight of Elizabeth holding a man by the coat-tails. At such times she had to laugh, if she died for it. Yet when she returned to the Tuileries her hair was silvery white. It had been bleached by sorrow, and her true sorrows had not yet come.
The next thing of importance was the firing by Bailly (moderate rebel) on the extreme rebels in the Champs de Mars. This worried the Queen, who was now operating by bribery. On the 14th of September she had the extreme mortification of seeing the King accept a new title and become merely President. When the royal pair rode in the carriage, there were acclamations of "Live the King!" but a fanatic ran beside the carriage, and, with a croaking voice, cried : "No! don't believe them ! Live the Nation !" The Queen was terrified by this brute, and thought he meant to kill her. The Queen never accepted the new ideas of brotherhood she was incapable of it. The King, while he dissembled, admired her for her out-and-out royalty. The old ladies of the court, with their titles, were, equally with her, without power to accept private station. They left her, when that sacrifice was asked of them, and the Queen did not blame them.
The Emperor Leopold II, another brother of the Queen, died March 1, 1792. She wrote a letter of condolence to Francis II, her nephew, who was to be the last Emperor of Germany. The Jacobins said "a bit of pie crust had fixed the Emperor." The Queen had allied herself thoroughly with Barnave and the Constitutionalists they believing in her and she deceiving them. The royal princes were at sword's points with her on matters of policy, but they were on the frontier in safety. No-body, however, could act in harmony with her except the King and he perished along with his adviser. Yet nobody else advised him to be King.
Early in 1792 the branded woman Lamotte published a new libel on the Queen. The King bought the edition for $5,000. The Jacobins at the Sèvres pottery would not burn it. They brought the sheets to the bar of the Assembly. The nation, while it sincerely detested Marie Antoinette, who could not bend, was inclined to love Louis, who possessed some tact and was not a natural foe —was, in fact, a good Frenchman all through, trying to learn what the Revolution was, and what it wanted. Armies were now invading France, and the personal danger of the unfortunate monarch alarmed all the moderate democrats. The logic of the situation showed that he or France must perish, and this dilemma afflicted many sincere patriots, who had not looked for an alternative so solemn. Party spirit ran high. A little after Easter, 1792, General Dumouriez, afterward the successful French captain, secretly threw himself at the Queen's feet and kissed her hand. He told her he had pulled the red cap of liberty down over his ears, it was true, but he was not prepared for a reign of burglars. She replied to the man at her feet that the protestations of a traitor were not to be relied on. Barnave concluded that the Queen was insincere, and therefore could not be saved. He abandoned his efforts, tried to escape, and was guillotined. The entire Barnave episode reflects creditably on Bar-nave's humanity.
About June 5, 1792, the King became so despondent that for ten days he did not speak. The Queen at last reproached him that all ought to die bravely. On the 15th bills passed by the Assembly were brought to him deporting all the priests and forming a camp of defense of 20,000 men. The Queen persuaded him to veto the bills, and he did it unwillingly. Thereafter he was called Capet Veto. He thus desired that Paris should be captured. Why not ?—the Queen asked him. What he feared, happened. The mob came to the Tuileries to plant the tree of liberty. They put the red cap on the King. Twelve Deputies from the Assembly at last came and stood before the King to protect him. The Queen showed to the Deputies the pitiable state the royal family were in. A Deputy (Merlin) wept. She said : "You weep for your King." He answered : "I weep for a beautiful mother. Not one of my tears falls for either King or Queen ; I hate kings and queens. It is the only feeling they inspire me with it is my religion." The mob did not murder the royal family. The reason, as the King now knew and said, was that word had passed for a solemn criminal trial. City and Legislative Assembly were at outs. If the Assembly condemned the King, then it would be forgiven ; or, rather, purged of its sins. The conservatism of the Assembly angered the butchers of Belleville and the tanners of St, Antoine. An attack on the Tuileries in savage earnestness was planned by Danton and Robespierre. The Queen had $28,000 in gold, which the Assembly had paid. This she was to lose to the mob. Lafayette offered a plan to save the royal prisoners. The Queen did not wish to accept the aid of a man who had wrought her ruin, as she believed. In July an assassin penetrated to her bed, and fought with her guard. She cried : "What a situation !—insults by day and assassins by night !" Her hysteria, which had caused many of her follies, left her. She became brave as a lion, scornful of the depraved men and women who came to annoy or kill her, and asked only the honor of dying beside her King. The Revolution, to measurably punish her for the crime of Aristocracy, denied her this martyrdom, yet yielded to her a more splendid name.
On Friday, the loth of August, 1792, came that terrible insurrection of Paris, when the city defied France and overthrew Constitution, Veto, King, Order, Liberty, everything. The mob assaulted the Tuileries, massacred the loyal Swiss Guards, and nearly 5,000 people were slain. The Assembly was sitting in a building of the Tuileries. The Assembly, itself expecting massacre, sent for the royal party. The Queen did not want to go. She desired to die with her guards. She went, only hoping to save others. Her watch and purse were stolen on the way. They entered the Assembly the King, Marie Antoinette, Elizabeth, and the boy and girl. They were crowded into a little box for the reporters of an obscure newspaper (the Logographe). Conflagration lit up the atmosphere in red flame. Cannons roared, the wounded shrieked, the musketry rattled, and patriots on these benches who for years had prayed that they might offer their lives for liberty, now turned pale to see the greater cost of living through such shameful scenes. Truly enough, Marie Antoinette had come to no friendly haven. She did not ask charity. She wanted justice, and justice lay over there behind her Swiss Guards, should they win. Then she could rid the world of the monsters whom she had not known to exist. The Assembly, to save its own ranks from massacre, and as if it had called its victims to increase their humiliations, solemnly deposed the King and abolished the Constitution. About 2 o'clock a. m., in the light of the funeral pyre of dead bodies about which patriots, burglars, butchers, murderers danced in brotherly, Bacchic, and infernal joy, the royal family was sent up to a committee-room in an abandoned monastery. There they stayed till the next day, and then passed another day in the box of the Logographe, the massacres, noise, and terrible scenes continuing outside. The Tuileries was given up to pillage. The Queen could not for-bear weeping over the loss of their Kingdom to her children. There were three days of these goings and comings. On the way, the third day, a good-looking young man put his fist in the Queen's face : "Infamous Antoinette !" he cried, "you would bathe the Austrians in our blood you shall pay for it with your head !" Meanwhile the Insurrectionary City of Paris, triumphant, with its Commune in council at the City Hall, demanded the royal prisoners, and on Monday, the 13th, took them to the Temple. The short ride in carriages occupied two hours. "As to the Queen," says Beauchesne, "so noble, so lofty, never was abandoned woman driven from her den with more insolence and more cruelty." Every foreign Ambassador at once fled from France.
The reader should possess a clear idea of the Temple. It was another Bastille. The patriots, now turned tyrants, were glad they had spared it. Here, from August 13, 1792, until August I, 1793, was enacted the next to the final act in the drama of Marie Antoinette's existence.
When Joan of Arc went down from Montmartre to attack the fortress of Paris, another fortress stood to the northeast. This was the New City of the Temple. Paris had grown around the circuit of the Temple's walls in 1792, but the reduced city of the knights still had ram-parts and gates which were shut each night. In an angle or notch of these walls rose the tower of the Temple, of massive stone masonry, with walls nine feet thick. At each corner was a round turret. The main building was 150 feet high, and the turrets were surmounted with sharp cupolas that looked like candle-extinguishers on candles. Beside the Tower, with no interior connection, was a Little Tower. It was long and narrow ; a smaller turret and cupola on each outside corner (two cupolas in all) ; not so high as the main Tower, to which it adjoined. A broad ditch surrounded the stronghold. The Commune did not want the royal family massacred. The Temple was demolished by Napoleon Bonaparte. The Temple Market now covers the site.
The Queen was allowed a companion, the Princesse de Lamballe, and Madame de Tourzel (she that was Madame Korff in the berline at Varennes) ; Madame Tourzel's daughter shared the room of Elizabeth. The five women and two children occupied the second floor of the Little Tower. Before the 2d of September the three associated women were taken away. The King was on the third floor, at first with two men, afterward alone with his valet, Cléry. There was, at last, but the faithful Cléry to serve what was the most helpless family in France. The Commune told off a number of its delegates or Municipals to take charge of the Temple for each day. The walls out-side were built higher, and fear that there would be an escape became an outright mania among the Jacobins. The rooms were not ill-furnished. The Queen, said the patriots, could now put to use some of the frugalities she learned while playing shepherdess. Meanwhile the Prussians advanced on Paris, to put an end to anarchy, and perhaps to France. The captives were called "national hostages."
They had been in prison but a few weeks when Danton and Marat planned and executed the prison massacres of September 2 to 7. At the various places of detention certainly 1,089 "aristocrats" were butchered, the butchers receiving pay for their "civism." The murder of the Princess de Lamballe was especially demoniacal. Her head was brought on a pike to the Temple, which the mob had some notion to storm. Now, as on the 10th of August and later, the captives expected every moment to be killed, yet when Marie Antoinette was brutally told that she ought to look on the head of Lamballe, her friend, to save her own life, she fainted away. More terrible news has rarely been told to wretched persons outside of Asia. The mob of cannibals cried out : "We want the She-Austrian ! We want a pendant for Lamballe." They had the headless naked corpse of Lamballe, and insisted on entering the gate with the body, and returning out of the Tower with that of Marie Antoinette in addition. A Municipal made them a speech. "The head of Antoinette does not belong to you alone," he said. "The departments of France also have their rights to it." The mob, cheated of its expected prey, continued all night its drunken orgy of blood. The heart of the Princess of Lamballe was cooked in a wine-shop opposite the gate of the Temple, and eaten by the party of good patriots that had hoped to add the heart of their Queen to the feast of Liberty.
On the 29th of September, 1792, the King was taken into the Great Tower. Three weeks later, the rest of the family were given quarters over the King. The tears shed at the partings in the Temple caused Simon the shoe-maker to say : "I do believe these devils of women will make me cry. Hah !" he yelled to the Queen, "when you were assassinating the people, the loth of August, you did not weep !" There were so many jailers, there was so much cheap patriotism, that an imprisonment which began with some traces of humanity, soon degenerated into a competitive espionage by cowards, and the captives, especially the women, might well grow tired of life. The tongue of the Queen was often sharp, and she did not bear the indignities practised on her without repaying with a genuine and effective scorn the wretches who in the name of Freedom insulted her.
The trial of the King before the Assembly began December 11, when he went to the sittings. The Queen did not meet him until January 20, 1793. The next day he was to die. Cléry, the valet, saw the family through the glass door. The King must have given them the first news of his fate. The entire group caressed him. He spoke an hour and three quarters, the grief of the women increasing. He rose first. They came toward the glass door, a spectacle to melt the stoutest heart. "Farewell ! farewell!" he cried, and tore himself from their arms. Their cries and lamentations echoed in the sepulchral building, and continued for many minutes. They never saw him again. The Queen, with mighty effort, put her son to bed. She shivered with grief and cold all night. At 6 in the morning she began her watch to meet the King once more, nor did she lose hope until an extraordinary noise of public rejoicing led her to opine that he was now no more.
The next day her feebleness was extreme. It was with difficulty that she aroused herself to her duties. At last she said to her son : "My child, we must turn our thoughts to God." She gazed on her children with a look so mournful that the only one who lived to recall it shuddered as she spoke of it.
The mute picture, seen with faithful Cléry's eyes through the glass door, of the good King of France telling his little flock that he must go away from them to-morrow, must leave them to the hounds that every day increased their insults; that he must prepare himself also to appear before his Creator guiltless of the Revolution; that he must leave the vindication of his good name to those lovers of justice, if any, who should escape the vengeance of Liberty this great biograph, kinetoscope, yet passes before the vision of men, growing misty as they look, and tearful.
"Commune of Paris Sitting of Wednesday, 23d January, 1793. The Council General decrees mourning of a very simple character for Antoinette, her sister, and her children." Thus at last we behold, officially, the Widow Capet. She blamed herself that she had perhaps led the King to the scaffold by her unwillingness to make truces with her foes. Yet always, she said, in triumph : "I shall rejoin him on the scaffold."
But the Revolution had sharper pangs than those of the guillotine for Marie Antoinette. "On 3d July, 1793," report the Municipals, "at half-past 9 o'clock p. m., we entered the apartment of the Widow Capet, and made known the order of the Committee of Public Safety. After various entreaties to the contrary, the Widow Capet at length determined to give up her son to us."
As the door shut on her child, she threw herself on the bed, rolled, gnashed her teeth, and went from one paroxysm of grief to another, so utterly untenable was the thought of giving up her little boy, the King, who had been proclaimed in every other nation, to the monsters who meant to transform him into an imbecile. Simon, the drunken shoemaker, now set out to make a good patriot of Little Capet. The Municipals asked the Queen if she wanted anything. "I want my son," she answered. Through cracks in the walls or battlements, she learned that her son was addressed only with oaths, and was whipped till he sang regicide songs. "It was the tears shed by my poor child, far from me, that I felt falling back upon my heart. I care for nothing now ! God has forsaken us ! I dare not even pray. My child! my child!"
The daughter said that night to Elizabeth : "Grand ciel ! how sad my mother has been to-day." The Queen went up on the Tower again and again. She never more saw her son.
An aged man, in more peaceful days, told the following tale: When he was a boy, he carried water to the Queen. He went the first time, bearing the pitcher, with his uncle. The boy knew her only as the Widow Capet. He saw a pale, cold, stern-looking woman, with snow-white hair, standing bolt upright. She started violently when she saw the boy. "Who is this Widow Capet?" he asked, outside. "She is a bad, wicked woman, who has been the curse of France!" Daily he carried the pitcher of water. One day, noticing that his uncle was drunk, he slipped three primroses in her hand. The Queen took them, hid them in her dress, and wept.
Thursday, August 1, 1793, Barère brought a sensational report of country-in-danger to the tribune of the Assembly. "Is it our forgetting the crimes of the Austrian woman ?" he asked. "Was that the sin of Liberty ?" Then he succeeded in passing several orders, this one in particular : "Marie Antoinette is sent to the Tribunal Extraordinary. She will be immediately conveyed to the Conciergerie (prison.)" The Conciergerie was known to be already overcrowded, while the Temple offered a safe and sanitary place of detention. When this decree was read to Marie Antoinette, she did not say a word. She exhorted her daughter and Elizabeth to be as courageous as she was, and blessing them she departed. She accidentally struck her head with force above a door on going out. "No, no," she said, "nothing henceforth can hurt me." "The Republic," said Barère eloquently, "must strike England, Austria, and the Temple on one and the same day.
She was taken to the Conciergerie, on the island, and placed in a damp and ill-smelling room or dungeon. A highwayman and murderer was her guard. She was destitute of shoes, and had no other dress than the black widow's gown of January 23, which wore rapidly. Her bed was of straw. She was not given a fair opportunity to hide herself at any time from the gaze of the wretch who guarded her. Her sharp voice left her. Her calm, majestic, unbending demeanor awed all who came to further persecute her. She herself was dead to the world. The Revolution had done its worst when it took away her son. Thus passed nearly three months, disgraceful to France.
When her day of "trial" was proclaimed, she sought to so mend her damp rags as to cover her person decently. She appeared in the court of the infamous Fouquier-Tinville early in the Reign of Terror, when time was given to each case. She was but 38, yet her white hair and lofty manner gave to her an appearance of much greater age. The hall of the court was crowded. The place was lit with rows of candles. Many witnesses were heard. All were afraid to speak in her favor, yet there was some difficulty in fixing any "crime" upon her. An infamous editor, Hébert, at last testified that she had taught her little son unnatural acts. She would not reply to the abominable incrimination. Pressed for an answer, she cried : "Human nature refuses to answer such an accusation brought against a mother. I appeal to all the mothers who are here !" When Robespierre heard of Hébert's indictment he, a monster who had no children, swore at Hébert's villainy. The very Jacobins in court cried down the charge. "You have assassinated my husband assassinate me!" was her calm challenge. Her trial closed at 4 in the morning of the second day. The candles were burning low in their sockets. There was an awe, more in the proud attitude of the deserted Queen, than in this climax of the long rancor of a nation against the white-haired widow who, once was its radiant Queen. Those who were near her had hated her because she was proud; now they admired her because they had failed, with massacre, treason, Revolution, sorrow, despair, with all the engines of cowardice and cruelty, to humble that high head, or turn away that dauntless eye daughter of Isabella, stranger in a foreign land, forsaken by all knightly souls; for each single venial sin and folly of her sex, punished by fate ten thousand times.
"Have you anything to say?" asked Fouquier-Tinville. She shook her head. The sentence of immediate execution was passed. Daylight appeared. The drums beat at the barracks. The army assembled in the streets. The cannons were placed on the bridges. She returned to her cell and wrote a letter to her sister Elizabeth and her daughter. At 11 o'clock of Wednesday, October 16, 1793, she stepped into the tumbril or two-wheeled cart, clad in a white under-dress. She appeared neither proud nor abashed. Her eyes were blood shot. Her face betokened a past, not a present, of prodigious suffering.
She thought not of the multitudes, they were sure of that, and felt the more ignoble. As she mounted the guillotine she looked toward the gardens of the Tuileries. It was then noted that she had a thought which kindled her emotions. She asked the butcher to hasten. She lay down upon the plank, was bound, and at 12 :15 the knife fell. Those who, in ruining her, had brought down the universe upon their own heads, had now wrought their perfect work. - One of them, particularly, the Duke of Orleans, was to follow her up the very steps of the guillotine. The executioner seized those short white locks. He raised the head before the fishwives and the multitude, he shouted : "Live the Republic !" and the cry re-echoed on every street and bridge, from wall to wall of Paris aye, from the Mountain of Valerian to the fortress of Vincennes. On the registers of the cemetery of La Madeleine, near by the guillotine, among the records of general interments, may be read : "For the coffin of the Widow Capet, seven francs."
Not a crime was ever fastened upon her, while all her judges perished as villains. Yet no other woman has evoked the unanimous resentment of a nation. She was a good wife and a loving mother. She looked on the bright side of life. She was beautiful, and seemed born to bring joy into the world. Yet her mere existence set fiercely ablaze the smouldering wickedness of mankind.
She is generally considered to have touched more keys on the gamut of human feeling, through experience, than any other person of whom we have complete accounts. From the palace of the Caesars at Vienna, and the august moral atmosphere of the circle of Maria Theresa, to the moral air poisoned by the utterances of Lamotte, Cagliostro, Rohan, Marat, Barère, and Hébert, and the wet straw pallet in the dungeon under the river at the Conciergerie; from the delight on being the mother of a King to the agony of hearing the ribald songs of her tortured child; from the jovial shouts of admiration in the peasants' mouths, to the obscenities and imprecations of a whole populace of madmen and furies; from the cradle of an Empire to the quicklime of a common foss what sister or brother soul other than she has journeyed on so long, so terrible a road? And if there be a measure of justice prepared for those who go beyond this world, it cannot be amiss in us to shed a tear for her, to bless her brave, beleaguered heart, to blush for human cruelty, -and pray that none so good again shall raise so many foes.