SOME of M. Victor Cousin’s readers are disposed to be more grateful to him for his eight volumes of biographies of the famous Frenchwomen of the seventeenth century than for the historicophilosophical writings which he looked on as the more important work of his life. Of the great men and the great writers of that century most of us have some knowledge, but less, perhaps, of their feminine contemporaries ; yet there never was an age more abundant in remarkable women, who impressed themselves upon the social and political life of their times. Everywhere, at court, in the salons of Paris and the noble mansions of the aristocracy, what an array of brilliant and accomplished women the period presents to us, beginning with Charlotte de Montmorency and ending with Madame de Montespan ! Among the splendid group was hardly one who was not noted for a beauty of a type quite different from that of the women of the following century, which, as M. Cousin says, “ invented pretty women, charmingly perfumed and powdered dolls.” The beauties of the earlier epoch were of the superb style, many of them a peculiarly dazzling order of blonde ; and dark and fair dame alike drew after her a company of adorers, spreading everywhere that worship of beauty which was known throughout Europe as “ la galanterie Française.” Their beauty was not their sole distinction : they charmed by the graces of their mind, as well. Some of them were women of superior intellectual powers, which, unhappily, were often wasted and perverted in pursuit of futile and mischievous ends. The age was one, as our author remarks, in which all things were in the extreme. Men and women permitted both their virtues and their vices to display themselves frankly, and even with a certain éclat. This is particularly true of the earlier half of the century, — the age of Descartes, Corneille, Pascal, Arnauld, Bossuet, Fénelon, Malebranche, De Luynes and Richelieu, the great Condé and Turenne, — before Louis XIV. had attained that personal domination by which he impressed himself upon his time ; “effacing genuine traits of character while polishing the surface, banishing the great vices and also the great virtues of men.”
Of this anterior period we learn much, directly and indirectly, in becoming acquainted with its women, who, as has been said, were such prominent figures in the social and political spheres. The life of one of these high-born Frenchwomen, Marie de Hautefort, has been briefly sketched in a former number of this magazine. It must be admitted that the characters of but few of her contemporaries could bear comparison with her pure and dignified personality. In the conventual houses, it is true, were to be found women of admirable qualities of mind and heart, — women with the austere energy of a Jacqueline Pascal, the calm and tender wisdom of an Angélique Arnauld. One of the most noted of the Parisian convents was the Carmelite foundation of the Rue St. Jacques, with which many ladies of the great world were closely connected by ties of friendship with the inmates, and as benefactresses of the institution. That proud and ambitious beauty, who, though so much sought after and celebrated, had yet preserved an unblemished reputation, Charlotte de Montmorency, wife of Henri de Bourbon, Prince of Condé, was accustomed to visit the convent frequently, accompanied by her young daughter, Anne Geneviève, afterwards famous as the Duchess of Longueville. Madame la Princesse was desirous of having a private apartment in the building, similar to that of the queen, where she might install herself and her daughter at any time and for as long a period as she might choose. In the records of the convent there is an act, dated November, 1637, in which it is set down that “in presence of Mère Madeleine de Jésus, humble prioress, Sister Marie de la Passion, sub-prioress, Sister Philippe de St. Paul, and Sister Marie de St. Barthélemy, representing the community, was made known the requests of the high and mighty princess Dame Charlotte Marguérite de Montmorency, spouse of the high and puissant prince Henri de Bourbon, first prince of the blood, and Anne de Bourbon, their daughter, to be received as founders of the new building which the aforesaid reverend sisters are having constructed and added to the more ancient edifice ; that the affair having been proposed in full chapter, in consideration of the great piety professed by the said noble princesses and the very charitable affection they have always borne to the order of the Carmelites, and particularly to this monastery, the said princesses are admitted to all the privileges granted to founders, — namely, free entrance to the convent whenever they so desire, there to eat, sleep, assist at divine service and other spiritual exercises, vigils and other pious works of daily custom; granted, moreover, that the said lady princess shall enjoy the privilege she has obtained from the Holy Father of bringing with her two other persons three times in each month, on condition that such other persons shall not remain in the monastery after six o’clock in the evening in summer, and seven in winter. This being accepted, the said ladies oblige themselves to continue the honor of their good will to the reverend sisters, and also to defray the expense of the new construction.”
Anne de Bourbon was hardly more than a child at this time. Her youthful piety was sincere and fervent, and she, as well as her mother, delighted to spend the larger portion of her time with her Carmelite friends, and to play the benefactress to them. She obtained from the Pope the relics of seven virgin martyrs, with a brief from his Holiness attesting their authenticity, and the fact of the names of each of the victims having been found entire or in part on the stones covering their bodies in the Catacombs. If we can imagine ourselves in a Carmelite convent of those days, we may conceive of the saintly joy which must have spread through the house upon the arrival of this magnificent gift. Mademoiselle de Bourbon also caused these and other such treasures in possession of the convent to be placed in a silver casket, in the shape of a dome surmounted by a lantern, around which were set the figures of the four Evangelists. The young girl had, in fact, resolved on becoming a Carmelite herself; but the politic Prince of Condé had other views for his daughter, and she plead for his permission in vain. In order to detach her affections from the Carmelites, she was obliged to appear more frequently in the world. At first she obeyed reluctantly, and as she took little pains to please, her social success was by no means brilliant. The struggle of will between her and her parents went on thus for some time. Anne had never yet been to a ball, but one day she was told that she was to accompany her mother to a grand ball, given at the Louvre. Much distressed, the girl sought the advice of her friends, the Carmelite sisters, who took the question in hand most seriously. Prudence and Penitence, personified by two of the sisters, presided over the council, and it was finally determined that Mademoiselle de Bourbon should go to the ball with a haircloth garment worn underneath her robe de fête. She was, moreover, strongly urged to be on her guard against the seductions of worldly gayety.
All the memoir writers of the time agree in their admiration of Mademoiselle de Bourbon’s beauty. She is described as having lovely eyes, of a tender blue, and these, together with the infantine purity of her fair skin, suggested to every one the epithet “angelic” in speaking of her youthful countenance. Arrayed as became her rank, and sparkling with jewels, Anne went to the ball, full of confidence in her power to resist temptation. Admirers trooped about her; all eyes were upon her. Her heart was stirred by feelings she had never before experienced. “ On leaving the ball she was no longer the same person.” From this time she made no further effort to win consent to her taking the veil. Though she nowise forgot or neglected to visit her former conventual friends, thenceforth she belonged to another world than theirs, and she allowed herself to be led by the desire of pleasing, and the passion for being applauded on that stage where she saw so many others shine who had not her advantages either of birth, of mind, or of person.
Mademoiselle de Bourbon was something more than a beauty ; she must have been, from all accounts, a woman of extraordinary charm. In this respect she resembled the famous Duchess of Chevreuse, whose sway over so many hearts was not due to her beauty alone. But we imagine the two women, equally proud by nature, as differing, nevertheless, very greatly. Madame de Chevreuse exercised an imperious fascination over all who came under her influence: she dazzled them by her audacious temper and her brilliant intellect. Anne de Bourbon charmed by an indefinable quality of her personality; by the curious mingling of haughtiness, nonchalance, and a soft languor, in her air and manner.
By the turn of her mind and character, as well as her beauty and grace, Mademoiselle de Bourbon was fitted to become an accomplished scholar of the Hôtel Rambouillet. The mistress of this noted salon did not, it is true, create the taste for intellectual pleasures, for literary elegance, which distinguished the society of the day, but from 1620 to 1648 the Hôtel Rambouillet was the most resorted to of all the Parisian salons. It was not till a later period that the nobility of ideas and elevation of sentiment which reigned here degenerated, among the numerous imitations of the mode in the inferior circles of Paris and the provinces, into that pseudo-grandeur, that exaggerated and affected tone of thought and speech, which Molière mocked at in Les Précieuses Ridicules. It was in 1660 that this first piece was printed, and Les Femmes Savantes, in 1663. Both Italian and Spanish literature were esteemed and studied by the frequenters of the Hôtel Rambouillet. Here it was not enough for a gentleman that he should be distinguished as a hero ; he must also show himself a man of gallantry, —l’honnête homme, as it was somewhat mysteriously agreed to denominate the gentleman of intelligence, liberal culture, and agreeable manners. Madame de Rambouillet herself had been beautiful in her youth, but had never roused the breath of scandal. She had an extreme delight in the companionship of clever and refined people, without making any pretensions to wit in her own person. As a hostess, she charmed her guests. Her daughter, Julie, afterwards Duchess of Montausier, was less noted for her beauty than her mother had been, but her powers of mind were superior, and she was Madame de Rambouillet’s gracious assistant in dispensing the hospitalities of the house. The drawing-room in which these ladies received, the famous blue chamber, was furnished throughout in blue velvet, relieved with silver and gold. From the large windows, reaching from floor to ceiling, and commonly open when the weather permitted, a prospect was had of a beautiful and wellkept garden, which appeared the larger from its neighborhood to other gardens belonging to the adjoining mansions.
Among those who frequented the Hôtel Rambouillet was Corneille, who sometimes read aloud his compositions to the appreciative company assembled there. A welcome guest was Voiture, a writer comparatively unknown to posterity, but of repute in his own day, and who understood how to commend himself to beautiful women and young gentlemen, who in the intervals of war occupied themselves with the refined pleasures of the intellect. It was to his credit that Voiture also knew how to preserve his independence, while associating thus familiarly with these great lords and ladies. Corneille, “ timid and proud,” was not wholly at his ease, it is said, in the social world. He listened almost always in silence ; but Voiture was the life of the house. His mind was always alert, in trim; and while Corneille could scarcely succeed in keeping out something of the tragic manner even from the comedies he intended to be most diverting, Voiture allowed his pleasantries to mingle even in his serious discourse. He had a caustic wit, and people were on their guard against giving him occasion for an epigram, which, “like a swift and poisoned arrow, ’ might in a few hours make the circuit of Paris. He wrote occasional verses, analogous to those nowadays called vers de société, and seems, in short, to have been one of those light, and agreeable littérateurs who often achieve a considerable though not a lasting reputation. The great Condé, as he was to be known, — the young Duc d’Enghien, as he then was, — often accompanied his sister to the intellectual banquets of the Hôtel Rambouillet, and even indulged in the versewriting which was one of the pleasures à la mode of the aristocratic circle. His verses are pretty bad, even for a prince, it must be confessed. Another habituée of the Hôtel Rambouillet, and an intimate friend of the daughter of the house, was Madame de Sablée, an amiable woman, of excellent literary taste but mediocre talent, whose happiest gift was her ability to draw superior persons about her ; and when the Hôtel Rambouillet had ceased to be an intellectual centre, the tradition of it was continued in the salon which the Marquise de Sablé held for many years in the Place Royale.
The Saturdays of Mademoiselle de Scudéry were of quite another order from the assemblies of the Hôtel Rambouillet. Although intelligent persons, of whatever condition, whose manners were good, were welcome at the latter house, yet it happened that the greater part of the guests were of high rank, and the aristocratic tone prevailed ; while at the Saturdays the company was in general decidedly bourgeois,— persons who affected an air of distinction, and delivered themselves of pretentious commonplaces. At the Hôtel Rambouillet conversation was familiar, and whatever the subject, war, religion, or politics, it was discussed with simplicity and ease. At the Saturdays the topics were purely literary. Almost at the same time, Mademoiselle, “ la grande Mademoiselle,” daughter of Gaston, Due d’Orléans, received her friends at the Luxembourg, and set the fashion of making those literary “portraits,” the most famous of which are from her own pen. This style of literature, which became very prevalent in the provinces as well as in Paris, preceded the “ Characters ” of Bruyère, who painted, not individuals, but his times and society at large.
The Hôtel Condé was also a rendezvous of the best society. It was a magnificent mansion, with sumptuous appointments, rich tapestries, rare pictures, and other treasures of art collected by the Montmorencys, and descended from them to the Princess of Condé, who did the honors of her house with a dignified grace. Here Anne de Bourbon passed the winters, visiting at the Hotel Rambouillet, at the Louvre, at the cardinal’s palace, and at other hotels of the Place Royale. The princess was no friend of Richelieu ; she had not forgiven him the death upon the scaffold of her brother Montmorency, whom all her prayers had been unable to save ; but she yielded to the politic schemes of her husband, and his endeavor to bring about a marriage between their son and the cardinal’s niece, Mademoiselle de Brezé. The summers were spent at Fontainebleau with the court, at Chantilly and other of the princess’ country residences, at Ruel, the cardinal’s estate, and elsewhere. At Chantilly, a vast domain, for a long time in possession of the Montmorencys, the princess held a little court of her own friends, her son’s, and her daughter’s. The prince, her husband, ordinarily remained in Paris. In this charming spot the young people diverted themselves in a hundred ways: with driving and riding; with promenades in the bosky alleys of the garden and park, on the terrace or the borders of the lakes, singly or in groups, as the humor took them. In the heat of the day, gathered on the balconies or on the lawns, romances were read aloud: there were singing and recitation of verses. One of the principal amusements was the making of verse, — of sonnets, elegies, etc. Voiture was a frequent guest. At Ruel, the cardinal was accustomed to amuse his guests with grand mythological ballets, in imitation of those given at the Louvre, and other fêtes of almost royal magnificence.
Among Mademoiselle de Bourbon’s friends and guests at Chantilly was Mademoiselle de Vigeau, the object of the young Duc d’Enghien’s early and faithful attachment. Although of good family, her rank and position were not proportioned to those of a prince of the blood royal, and the marriage with the cardinal’s niece was imposed upon the Duc d’Enghien, in spite of his resistance. He never loved the wife who displayed towards him a great devotion, but remained always constant in his heart to the unfortunate Mademoiselle de Vigeau. The tender affection she continued to feel for her lover was not to be satisfied by anything but a marriage with the duke, who, in fact, made more than one effort to obtain a separation from his wife. For a while the lovers continued to meet. On taking leave of him at the time of his departure for Germany (before the battle of Nordlingen), Mademoiselle de Vigeau was so overcome that when he was gone from the house she fainted. So false and painful a situation could not be prolonged, and Mademoiselle de Vigeau, resisting the remonstrances of her family, became a Carmelite in the convent of the Rue St. Jacques. Anne de Bourbon was throughout the confidante of her brother, between whom and herself there always existed a very warm affection.
Among the many young and brilliant cavaliers by whom Anne was surrounded, she does not appear to have distinguished any one with her special regard. Several brilliant marriages were talked of for her, and she was even promised at an early age to the Prince de Joinville, whose death put an end to the project. Finally, in 1642, when Mademoiselle de Bourbon was twenty-three years of age, she was married to the Duc de Longueville, next to the princes of the blood the greatest seigneur in France. He was forty-seven years old, and a widower. Anne de Bourbon manifested considerable repugnance to the marriage, but, as in all the alliances of these noble families, personal feelings on either side went for nothing in the matter. The marriage ceremonies were even more brilliant than those of the Duc d’Enghien, and Mademoiselle de Bourbon’s beauty never appeared more dazzling than on this occasion. The Duc de Longueville was a gentleman of accredited bravery and some military talent, liberal, indeed magnificent, in his ideas and habits, but weak in character, and easily carried away by the influence of others. It was his misfortune throughout life to be drawn into enterprises beyond his ability to conduct, and where his defects rather than his virtues displayed themselves. The marriage was never a happy one, though during the earlier years of it the wife’s conduct was irreproachable. She neither admired nor loved her husband, and her pride was wounded by the knowledge of his passion for the Duchess of Montbazon, who, even after the marriage, made every effort to retain her influence over M. de Longueville. The liaison between them was not a secret, and became the cause of many sharp reproaches addressed to her son-in-law by the Princess of Condé. Madame de Longueville’s indifference to her husband enabled her to support his treatment without any display of irritation ; but she considered herself authorized to surround herself, as before her marriage, with a little court of worshipers. She was the object of more poetic admiration than ever, and everywhere she carried herself with that air of gentle nonchalance which was her characteristic manner. She loved none among the crowd of adorers, though she distinguished with some marks of favor Maurice, Count of Coligny, who had been a former suitor for her hand.
It was in May, 1643, that the Duc d’Enghien, then but twenty-two years of age, distinguished himself by the victory of Rocroy, where, taking on himself to lead the right wing of the army in person, he drove before him the Italian, Walloon, and German infantry, and, nothing intimidated by the reverses of his left wing and the cries for succor from his centre, continued to push forward his victorious columns, till, sweeping round on the enemy’s left, he caught their main body between two fires, and gained the day. The court and the whole of Paris were in transports of enthusiasm ; a disastrous defeat had been feared, and in its stead was a triumphant success. The proud delight experienced at the Hôtel Condé may easily be imagined, when one of the duke’s comrades brought thither the news of the battle. The Spanish colors taken at Rocroy were hung in the great halls of the hôtel, previous to being carried to Notre Dame, and people flocked to look at them. All the muses of Rambouillet, great and small, chanted the praises of their brilliant disciple, and many persons were moved to tears at hearing of the young conqueror’s order that the army should kneel upon the battle-field to give thanks for the victory and that his next care was for the wounded among his own men and those of the enemy.
In espousing the side of Mazarin, in his quarrel with the Importants, the house of Condé had drawn upon itself the enmity of this party, members of the old nobility who at an earlier day had striven to make head against Richelieu. The great minister’s systematic endeavor was to keep down the power of the ancient noblesse and to elevate the royal prerogative, while they, in turn, maintained the struggle for their feudal privileges, Mazarin, pursuing his predecessor’s policy, encountered the same opposition, which at the period we speak of was beginning to take shape as the earlier movement of the Fronde. Madame de Longueville’s political indifference, with the amiability she generally showed in all things where her heart was not interested, had hitherto secured her from any mark of party hostility. She had, however, an enemy in the person of Madame de Montbazon, stepmother of Madame de Chevreuse, and mistress, as we have said, of the Duc de Longueville. Madame de Montbazon was a type of the worst feminine character to be found in any age. She was conspicuous even in those lax times for the free indulgence of her passions. “ I have never known any one,” says De Retz, “ who preserved so little respect for virtue.” What mental force she possessed showed itself chiefly in a turn for intrigue and perfidy; she was to be trusted in nothing. “ She cared for nothing but her pleasures, and for her own interests even above them. Vain and fond of money, she sought influence and fortune by the help of her beauty, which was very considerable.” Her most striking features were her black eyes and hair, in combination with a remarkably white skin; her mouth gave an expression of hardness to her face. Her air was haughty, but her manner of talking degagé and free. Evidently she was in all respects a notable contrast to Madame de Longueville, for whom she cherished a jealous hate. One evening, when a large company was assembled at her house, two letters were picked up, which Madame de Montbazon pretended had fallen from the pockets of Maurice de Coligny, Madame de Longueville’s admirer, who had just left the room ; and she asserted, moreover, that they were in the handwriting of Madame de Longueville. The scandal was caught up and repeated by the Importants. In reality, the letters were not forged, but were found by Madame de Montbazon in her salon, where they had been dropped by the Marquis de Maulevrier, who had received them from Madame de Fouguerolles. Maulevrier, trembling at the idea of having compromised his correspondent, hastened to beg the aid of his friend La Rochefoucauld in the matter. The latter succeeded in persuading Madame de Montbazon that it was for her interest to give up the letters, which, by a comparison of handwritings, could so easily be proved not to have come from Madame de Longueville. The letters having been shown to the Princess of Condé and some friends of Madame de Longueville, they were burned in the queen’s presence. The Duc de Longueville would have had the affair rest there, and his wife was satisfied to have the truth established ; but the Princess of Condé could not brook the insult to her daughter, and declared that if the matter were not taken up, she and her family would retire from the court. The whole party of the Importants were excited about the matter, especially Beaufort, a lover of Madame de Montbazon ; but Mazarin, by no means willing to embroil himself with the Condés, induced the queen to settle the imbroglio by insisting on an apology to the injured duchess, the words of which were dictated to Madame de Montbazon in a little billet, to be fastened to her fan, that it might be repeated word for word. In the presence of the queen and Mazarin the duchess pronounced her harangue, with an air that mocked at the words she used. Having omitted to address the princess as “ madame,” in the opening of her discourse, the princess complained of the discourtesy, and the duchess was obliged to recommence. The reply to the apology had also been set down beforehand, and this being duly made, the hollow reconciliation was complete. The princess had also been promised that she should not be compelled to remain in any place where she should find Madame de Montbazon of the company. Shortly after, however, the queen being invited to a collation given by the Duchess of Chevreuse, the princess accompanied her mistress, and, contrary to what she had been told, she encountered there Madame de Montbazon. The princess made an excuse to retire, and the queen, not feeling justified in retaining her, begged Madame de Montbazon to pretend an illness and to withdraw from the scene. The duchess would not consent to do so, and the offended queen herself refused to remain longer, and quitted the place with the princess. The Duchess of Montbazon received an order, in a few days’ time, enjoining her to leave Paris, which disgrace done to her exasperated greatly her allies, the Importants, and hastened the execution of the plot against Mazarin, formed by Beaufort and others. It failed, however, through Mazarin’s vigilance, and Beaufort was imprisoned.
Madame de Longueville, now in her twenty-sixth year, had left far behind her, as it seemed, the days when she had aspired to renounce the world for the conventual life. More and more she conformed to the manners of the age, though as yet without contracting a spot on her fair fame. Without personal ambition, she was ready in everything to serve the interests of her brother, over whom her influence was allpowerful. In 1646, she followed her husband to Münster, where he had resided for a year past as ambassador and minister plenipotentiary. She was accompanied by her step-daughter, a young woman nearly her own age, and by several friends. The journey from Paris to Münster was one continual ovation for the Duchess of Longueville. Governors issued forth to meet her, at the head of their garrisons, and she was furnished with escorts of cavalry. Her husband came from Münster to Wesel, to meet her, and Turenne, who commanded on the Rhine, gave her the spectacle of an army drawn up in order of battle and put through its various manœuvres. She made an almost triumphal entrance into Münster, where, during the following autumn and winter, she reigned as sovereign of the social world. The Count d’Avaux, a politician and man of great finesse, wrote in a congratulatory letter to the Princess of Condé, —
“ Madame, it was from your daughter that I learned the news of the taking of Dunkirk. Such a victory should have been announced from such lips. Rejoice, madame, in the praises due to so great a captain, since France owes him to you. But along with the triumph of the brother permit me to place those of the sister, who is held here in such esteem that the single point on which the congress of Münster is in accord is that you, Madame la Princesse, are the happiest and most glorious mother in the world.” Brilliant as was her social success, Madame de Longueville nevertheless felt her stay at Münster an exile, and in the winter of 1647, on the death of her father, she returned to Paris, where she found herself surrounded by a court of adorers more numerous and more devoted than ever. This was the most triumphant portion of her career. Madame de Mottevillé says of her, “ The Duchesse de Longueville, on her return to Paris, appeared there with more éclat than before her departure. Every one sought her favor as the highest honor. The affection which her brother, the Prince of Condé, had for her, her great beauty, and the superiority of her mind caused her to be so considered that those for whom she testified friendship were looked on as the minions of fortune.” The prosperity of her life seemed at its height. But it was at the close of this year that she fell under the influence of La Rochefoucauld, her passion for whom was the source of all the agitations of her existence during the next six years, and of the long penitence with which she expiated her errors. The Duc de la Rochefoucauld had his attractive qualities, — an agreeable person, the air of a grand seigneur, manners at once polished and natural, graceful facility in conversation, and a refined intelligence; but he was vain and selfish, putting in practice those principles of self-interest that are set forth in his Maxims as the motive powers of human conduct. It was to further his own ends that he sought to form a liaison with Madame de Longueville, as is proved by a passage from his own writings. She gave him her heart, and thenceforth devoted herself wholly to him. He being one of the chiefs of the Importants, she set herself to win over to that party her younger brother, her husband, and also the Prince of Condé. With the first two this was an easy matter, but with Condé there was more difficulty. It is impossible, in this place, to follow Madame de Longueville through the mazes of the Fronde, in which, from first to last, she was a prime mover. She had by nature little of Madame de Chevreuse’s stirring energy of character, nor did she rival the latter’s remarkable penetration in political affairs ; yet not even Madame de Chevreuse herself surpassed La Rochefoucauld’s mistress in thorough-going devotion, tenacity, and courage. She even put herself in opposition to her brother Condé, her love for whom had always been the deepest sentiment of her heart. This was in 1649, when the queenregent had fled with the young king to St. Germain, and Condé had been persuaded by Mazarin that his higher glory was to be known as preserver of the monarchy rather than as upholder of the people, with whom the Frondeurs had signed an act of union. It was then that, as Lavallée sets it down in the pages of his history, “ the Duchess of Longueville installed herself at the Hôotel de Ville, with a court of frivolous and licentious lords. Her beauty, her delicate intelligence, and the celebrity she had gained in Paris and the whole of France made her the talk of Europe.” It was at the same time, we may remark, that the young king, the queen, and Mazarin, at St. Germain, were sleeping in the unfurnished palace upon straw, which was all too scarce to furnish beds for their suite, — such were the piquant contrasts furnished by the Fronde. But in establishing herself at the Hotel de Ville, Madame de Longueville’s intent was to show the people that by thus putting her own person into their hands she guaranteed the good faith of her husband and her younger brother, Conti. It was De Retz who conveyed her and the Duchess of Bouillon, with their children, from the Hôotel de Longueville to the town-hall. “ The Grève was crowded, even to the roofs of the houses ; and while the men shouted for joy, women wept at the spectacle, when the two noble ladies appeared upon the steps of the Hotel de Ville, each with an infant in her arms. Madame de Longueville put the finishing stroke to the enthusiasm by lifting her child above her head, and exclaiming in her clear and silvery voice, ‘ Parisians, our husbands confide to you what is dearest to them on earth, — their wives and their children ! ’ She was answered with cries of wild delight, and De Retz followed up her address by a shower of gold from the window.”
Condé had none of the qualities of a statesman. He changed sides more than once, during the course of the Fronde, having no clear and fixed policy to maintain. With his sister it was otherwise ; the clue that guided her through the tangle of the eventful years being her sole devotion to La Rochefoucauld. Now in Normandy or Holland, now in Paris, according as the Fronde or the court party was uppermost, she displayed at all times the resolute and intrepid temper of a man, while employing at the same time the fascinations of her feminine personality to seduce Turenne from his loyalty, and to cement more closely the union of the conspirators. At the time when the queen and Mazarin had resolved on striking boldly at the head of the Fronde, and had caused Conti, the Duc de Longueville, and Condé himself to be arrested in Paris, Madame de Longueville, being left defenseless, started at once for Normandy, which a year before had risen in revolt at her bidding. But at Rouen she found the face of affairs altered, and she was obliged to proceed to Havre. The queen, on hearing of the duchess’ flight, hastened after her to Rouen, which she reached shortly after Madame de Longueville’s departure. The latter arrived at the gates of Havre only to see them shut against her ; and, finding an asylum there peremptorily denied her, pursued her way to Dieppe. The queen ordered the governor of Normandy to lay siege to the castle of Dieppe. “ The fugitive duchess escaped from the place by a back entrance, and with two women and a few gentlemen who had refused to forsake her she traveled for two leagues, on foot, to the little port of Pourville, where a vessel awaited her which she herself had provided for the day of necessity. The tide was so strong and the wind so tempestuous that the sailors entreated her not to embark ; but the duchess, fearing the regent more than the tempest, persisted in going on board. As the tide made it impossible to bring a boat to shore, one of the sailors attempted to carry her thither; but a wave swept him off his feet, and he fell, with his beautiful burden. She sank into deep water, but after some exertion she was dragged into the boat. On recovering from the immersion, she would again have tried to reach the vessel, but the sailors declared that it would be to fly in the face of Providence. She therefore was obliged to adopt some other expedient, and, sending for horses, she rode along the coast through the whole of that night and the following day, till she reached the house of a nobleman, who received her and her attendants with courtesy, and concealed them for some time beneath his roof. While there she learned that the captain of the vessel on which she was to have embarked was in the cardinal’s interest, and that if she had set foot upon its deck she would have been arrested. She soon returned to Havre, this time in male attire ; and having introduced herself to the captain of an English ship as a nobleman who had just been engaged in a duel and was obliged to leave France, she succeeded in obtaining a passage to Holland, where the Prince and Princess of Orange received her as though she had been a fugitive queen.”
For six years the miserable struggle of the Fronde went on, — “a war of intrigues, mines and countermines, internal discords and open violences, where the public good counted for nothing, and the parliament and people served but as instruments of seignorial ambition.” It was merely a coalition of individual and selfish interests. La Rochefoucauld was no worse than others because from the beginning he had pursued only his personal ends. But he laid himself open to the charge of a base ingratitude when, having broken with his mistress, he descended to injure her in the estimation of her brother, and to the publication in a foreign country of memoirs whose authorship he disavowed, in which he related the history of their love, and exposed the weaknesses of one who had sacrificed all for him, and whom he should have died to defend. The cause, or rather the occasion, of the rupture was this. To serve the interests of Condé, his sister, at a certain conjuncture, made trial of her influence on the Due de Nemours, who was enamored of Madame de Châtillon. Probably something of the emulation of conquest between rival beauties led Madame de Longueville to the mingling of a little coquetry with her pursuit of a more serious and disinterested purpose. The intercourse between her and the duke was but brief, but reports, which may have been exaggerated, reached La Rochefoucauld, then at Bordeaux. A candid explanation would have cleared away the cloud ; but La Rochefoucauld broke with Madame de Longueville with such sudden haste as implied his having found a pretext for bringing about a separation long desired. Whether or not this were really the case, the appearance of a wrong to him sufficed. His self-love was the most sensitive spot in his nature. Moreover, it was no longer for his interest, as it once had been, to remain in intimate relations with Madame de Longueville. He had not drawn from the Fronde struggle the advantages he had hoped for, and weary of the wandering and adventurous life he had been following for several years he desired nothing better than to accommodate his quarrel with the court party. That party, as we know, triumphed in the end, and La Rochefoucauld, at the cessation of the struggle, arranged his affairs with the court admirably to his satisfaction. He obtained a comfortable pension for himself and an honorable position for his son. He accepted a seat in Mazarin’s carriage, saying smilingly, “ Everything happens in France.” No such conclusion of the matter was possible for Madame de Longueville. Constant to her brother Condé and to her party, so long as it had any existence, she only consented at the last, and under necessity, to accept the amnesty signed at Bordeaux. The Prince of Condé with his wife was then in the Low Countries. If his sister had followed her inclination, site would have joined them there ; but her mind was already filled with graver thoughts of repentance and expiation, and she turned whither duty seemed to call, to her aged husband and her home in Normandy. She was but thirty-five years old, and still in all the brilliancy of her ripe beauty ; she might for many years longer have enjoyed the pleasures of the world. But she chose to turn her mind away from them forever; and the remaining twenty-five years of her life were passed first in Normandy, then among the Carmelites, and lastly with the Jansenists of Port Royal, where, in 1679, she died.
We are tempted to be the less severe to her faults that she herself deplored them so long and so sincerely. The end of her days recalls the beginning, before the angelic-faced young girl who went to the Louvre ball with the garment of mortification beneath her festal robes had felt the contagion of the moral atmosphere she breathed, and, ill defended by her husband, had succumbed to the force of universal example. From the saintly refuge of her latter years, how strange it must have been to her to look back upon that short but fatal episode of her life, the days of the Fronde !
Maria Louise Henry.