A Great Lady of the French Restoration

THE most careless reader of the annals of the French Revolution must be struck by the simple, unaffected heroism with which young girls, matrons, and aged women mounted the steps of the guillotine. Such heroism in the case of their fathers and husbands scarcely calls for notice. If the traditions of noble birth and warlike ancestry had often led the French patrician to regard with scornful indifference the welfare and rights of those beneath him. they would at least tend to make him endure with dignity the last outrages of the rabble he despised. But the high-born dames and demoiselles, who a few years before were seen flirting and dancing in the halls of Versailles, or masquerading in hooped petticoats and with gilt crooks as shepherdesses of Arcady in the Great and Little Trianon, all on pleasure bent, their minds so engrossed by gayety and enjoyment that we can hardly believe them swayed by a single serious thought. — where did they find the secret of demeaning themselves with such humble, trustful piety, such high and holy courage, when the awful hour was at hand ?

The memoirs and autobiographies of the victims or witnesses enable us to solve the mystery. With every new publication which the pious hands of their descendants have given and are giving to the world, the spirit and principles which actuated and sustained them become clearer. We see that, behind all the frivolity and apparent absorption in worldly pleasure which are the most tangible characteristics of the women of the eighteenth century, there was something real, something which taught them to endure martyrdom nobly: It was the solid and thoroughly Christian training which they had received from their mothers, and which they in turn were to hand down to their children.

The autobiography of the Duchess of Gontaut,1 which has not yet, we think, been given an English dress, illustrates in a vivid and most fascinating fashion the sterling quality of the education that moulded so many women of her class in the latter half of the last century.

She was horn in 1773, and both by her father, the Count of Montault, and her husband, one of the Birons, was connected with all the historical families of France. She was carefully brought up by a pious and accomplished mother, and had also the advantage of attending the lessons of the celebrated Madame de Genlis, in company with the young Orleans princes, when she was eight years old. The glimpses she gives us of that able but eccentric woman, who, as Napoleon said, “spoke of virtue as if it were her own discovery,” are very amusing and lifelike. Madame de Genlis, although always professing herself a Catholic, was tinctured with the philosophy of the time, and the education of her pupils was conducted in accordance with the humanitarianism, partly sincere, partly sham, of Rousseau’s Émile. She was very careful to impress upon her young charge, the Duke of Chartres, the obligation of showing consideration for humble people; but he was to do so rather ostentatiously, and with a view to that popularity which was afterwards to make him king.

“ I went with the young princes,” says Madame de Gontaut, “ to attend the funeral service of Marshal Birom The narrow streets leading to the cathedral made it hard for the huge carriage, drawn by six horses, to approach. Madame de Genlis was constantly calling on the Duke of Chartres to ’shout out to the coachman every ten minutes that he must take great care of the people, and above all avoid trampling on any one.’ The duke obeyed her, but with much indifference and coldness. At last she lost patience, and said crossly, 'Will you never learn how to speak to the people, Monseigneur ? Are you always to be an awkward boor ? Will you never have any spirit ? ’ I exposed myself to a good scolding in my turn by saying, ‘ Come, now, Monseigneur, do have some spirit; it is so easy.’ 'It’s not so easy for you to hold your tongue,’ grumbled our governess. At this they all laughed, and I with them, although the fun was at my expense.”

Madame de Genlis’s pupils were to have a playmate whose name is connected with one of the saddest incidents in Irish history. They were informed, one morning, that the Duke of Orleans’s master of the horse had been dispatched to England in search of “the most beautiful little girl in the world,”who did not speak a word of French. There was great joy among the young people on her arrival. " We overwhelmed her with caresses and bonbons. We asked her name. It was Pamela, which appeared to us quite too commonplace for such a wonder. But we were not satisfied, and insisted she must have a family name, also. That of Seymour was selected and approved. However, the ambitious little thing would not be content except we called her also 'my lady.’ This pride in a child eight years old amused every one, and we called her ' milady ’ in sport.”

As there is little doubt that Pamela was the daughter of the Duke of Orleans, her desire to be addressed as " lady” may be explained without perceiving in it a symptom of precocious vanity. According to the ideas prevalent in England at that time, the daughter of a royal prince, although illegitimate, would naturally be addressed by this title in the family that reared her. Madame de Gontaut describes Pamela as a good and charming creature in her childhood and girlhood, but says that she afterward adopted most revolutionary sentiments, and even wore the bonnet rouge at the celebration of her marriage with Lord Edward Fitzgerald.

The mother of Madame de Gontaut was not long without suspecting that the society of Madame de Genlis and the Orleans princes was not the best for her daughter. She had her taught at home ; and she had her reward in a daughter who, when she met dangers and encountered vicissitudes of good and evil fortune, was to display always firmness of character and elevation of soul.

The Revolution was approaching with rapid strides. The town house of the Montaults, in the Rue Royale, was in the centre of the most disturbed part of Paris. Madame de Gontaut gives many vivid experiences of the dangers to which a family of rank was exposed even in the earlier stages of the outburst.

“ The next day was horrible. We saw the French guards flocking pell-mell with the people from the boulevards into the Rue Royale, screaming, dancing, and dragging on their arms abandoned women disguised as nuns, and with them men hauling along by force other poor innocent women, and shouting and singing, ' Aristocrates à la lanterne ! ’ etc. The crowd stopped opposite our house, and broke into the royal armory in search of arms. After an hour’s pillage, priests and women, soldiers and nuns, came out loaded with booty, and in a frightful state of intoxication and excitement. We believed ourselves lost. My father had barricaded the doors and windows, and was determined to defend us to the last. Coaches were piled up at the carriage entrance, and our servants were armed to the teeth and mad with rage. My father took his station in front of me, on the top of the staircase, with a pistol in each hand, prepared to sell our lives dearly. I was frightened, I can assure you ! ”

But the mob, intimidated by the resistance it was likely to encounter, left for the time.

After the death of her father, and a variety of adventures, some amusing and some very nearly tragic, the future Duchess of Gontaut and her mother became èmigrèes, and joined the other noble ladies of that class at the headquarters of the Prince of Condé, on the frontier. There, in company with her fellow-exiles, she encountered every kind of wretchedness and calamity with the cheerfulness and the desire to make the best of things which seem never to desert the Frenchman or Frenchwoman in extremity. When the army of the princes was beaten, it was the women who were the greatest sufferers. Mademoiselle de Montault and her mother had to travel long distances on foot, as all the carriages were not sufficient for the accommodation of the wounded. After one of those wearisome journeys, they were glad enough to come upon a barn and find a little straw to rest on. If they saw a steeple in the distance, their hopes ran high, for it showed that a town was not far off which might afford them an asylum. The enchantment, however, which distance lent to the view, in their case was apt to vanish on a nearer approach. The Germans were evidently getting tired of their visitors, and the latter were likely to see a notice posted on the gates of the capital of some petty German state : " Every one may enter here except a Jew or an émigré.”

Madame de Gontaut had always a keen eye for the humorous aspects of a situation. Little episodes were constantly occurring, like the following, which appealed to her French gayety. Not every one, however, would find in them a compensation for very real hardships.

“ We found a spacious barn, with plenty of fresh straw, and expected to pass a very comfortable night in it. The Duchess of Guiche, Mesdames de Poulpry and de Lage, my mother and myself, with several others, stretched ourselves along the walls. A chasseur of the Duchess of Guiche, sword in hand, was entrusted with the charge of watching over us. In the middle of the night, we were roused out of our slumbers by a furious knocking and a woman’s voice demanding admission. ' Open ! open at once ! It is I.’ The door was opened, and there stood Madame de Calonne, the wife of the famous minister, painted, powdered, frizzed, dressed in the height of fashion, with long train, hoops, highheeled shoes, etc. ' Where are the apartments ? ’ she exclaimed. She entered, and looked around her with terror. ‘ But what is this I see before me ? Why, this is a hospital ! Women on straw! A man armed ! Ho, there ! Where are my lackeys ? Some lights! Torches at once ! ’ The lackeys ran up. The barn was illuminated. Then her screams became louder and louder. ‘ Where am I ? What is that in front of me ? Dead men hanging along the wall! ’ Whereupon we looked up, and we also saw a score of — sheep, skinned and hanging from hooks, ready to be sent to market the next morning. At last she recognized us, as we did her, with a roar of laughter. This was the poor lady’s first experience of our disasters. She learned from our situation what she must resign herself to, and, like ourselves, she soon did so courageously.”

After a thousand difficulties and privations of all sorts, Mademoiselle de Montault escaped with her mother to England, where she shortly afterward married M. de Gontaut-Biron. She appears to have been received at once with open arms by the English aristocracy, many of whom had been intimate with her own and her husband’s family in their days of prosperity. She was a close observer, and most, indeed all, of her anecdotes of Pitt, the Duke of Wellington, George III., the prince regent, and other social and political personages are new and historically interesting. She came to feel an intense love and admiration for the English people, sentiments to which she was true during her long life of eightyfour years. Many offers of help were made to her as delicately as possible, but a prudent self-respect deterred her from accepting them; and when the resources of the family became exhausted, the accomplishments learned in days of prosperity served to supply their modest needs. She painted miniatures, her husband burlesque subjects, her mother worked at embroidery, and their productions were disposed of at a fair in London, opened by the government for the purpose, where the French émigrés could sell their wares without being forced to give their names.

At last the welcome news reached them that Robespierre had fallen. There Was a large amount of money in the Bank of England due the Gontaut family, which could not be obtained without the production of certain papers still in the possession of friends at Paris. It would be death for M. de Gontaut to enter France while his name was on the list of proscription. His wife determined to brave the danger, notwithstanding the refusal of her family to consent to her departure. She procured a pass belonging to a Madame Francois, a Hamburg milliner, dressed up to the character, and started for Calais.

No anxiety or danger could repress Madame de Gontaut’s sense of the ludicrous. She turned from a future anything but reassuring to divert herself with the oddities of some of the characters on board the vessel which bore her to the shores of France. The important airs of a certain Madame “ Roussin ” (as we might say Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Hodge) excited the amusement of the grande dame.

“ A lady, not in any way remarkable, was dreadfully alarmed lest her arrival in Calais should be noticed. For oh, her name was so well known and highly thought of; and oh, she had been so often in Calais that she must have attracted universal attention there. And then she had been in England ; why, she was even something of an émigrée!

' Faith,’ she said, ' it is no joke for me to venture to return. If I could only change my name, what a godsend it would be ! ’ A lady near her offered to do her this favor. ' Let us exchange names, niadame,’ she said. ‘ Mine is at your service. Have the kindness to tell me yours.’ ' Roussin, madame, a name well known, as perhaps you are aware.’

' Well known ! I should say it is,’ replied the lady. ' But as I have never been in Calais, I shall not incur any danger by using it.’ Madame Roussin was charmed, and exchanged passports. She read that of Citoyenne Coigny aloud. ‘ Couny, Couny ! Oh, such an unimportant name as that is not likely to compromise me. But there is one thing that ruffles me a little. There is — well, a brilliancy about my eyes which is, I think, noticed in the description on the passport, and which yours have not.’ ' Oh, that does n’t matter,’returned the ' Citoyenne ’ Coigny. ' I shall take care to wink like mad whenever any one looks at me.’ And so the Marchioness of Coigny escaped the sharp-eyed detectives of the Committee of Public Safety at Calais with ease, while poor Madame Roussin had a hard time of it to convince them that she was not a vile aristocrat.”

But Madame Francois was soon to be in greater trouble than either of her shipboard companions. There was another lady of high rank, wife of a Knight of the Holy Ghost, on board the vessel, for whom she was mistaken, and she was in as much danger as if she had come in her own real character. The ship had no sooner entered the port than she was visited by soldiers and policemen, who ordered her to drag her valise after her up the ladder to the jetty, and conducted her, followed by a curious crowd, before the Committee of Public Safety.

“ The very name of that tribunal sent a shudder through me. Nothing could be more frightful than the aspect of the persons in whose presence I stood, and who appeared to be judges ; they filled me with terror. At last, one of them, the chief seemingly, with a tricolor scarf and feathers in his hat aà la Henri Quatre, said, ‘Approach, citoyenne.’ Then my examination began.

“ ‘ Who gave you this passport ? ’

“ ‘ My husband.’

“ ‘ What is your name ? ’

“ ‘ Madame Francois, lace-woman, going to Paris on business.’

“ ‘ That may be. But where does your passport come from ? ’

“ ‘ I know nothing about that.’

“ ‘ Explain yourself in a loud and intelligible voice.’

“ ' I was at Dover, and wanted to leave it as soon as possible. My husband learned very early in the morning that a vessel was about to sail for Calais. The weather was favorable, my preparations were soon made, and I set out with the passport he gave me without thinking even of opening it.’

“ ‘ Citoyenne, what is your husband doing in Dover?’

' He is waiting for me.’

“ ‘ Citoyenne, this is a serious business for you. You are suspected of being an émigrée.’

“ ' I am too young, and cannot be on any list of proscription.’

“ ‘ But it is said you are a great lady, a rich émigrée, and the wife of a ci-devant Knight of the Holy Ghost.’

“ 'I give you my word of honor, I am neither a rich émigrée nor the wife of a Knight of the Holy Ghost. Look at my valise,’I added, smiling ; ‘ that’s my fortune.’

“ There was a laugh at this, and monsieur of the ostrich plume repeated, ' This is a serious business for you. You cannot leave. Your passport is false ; the date is false ; the person supposed to have signed it at Hamburg was at the very time in Calais, as we are going to prove to you.’ ”

The game was all up with poor Madame de Gontaut. Madame Grandsire, a hotel keeper, proved that the genuine Madame Francois was staying with her on the date mentioned in the passport, and the fictitious one was given in charge of a keeper who was to be answerable for her safe custody. On her entreaty to be placed under the surveillance of Madame Grandsire, she was permitted to live in the hotel, but with a peephole in the door of her room, and an Arguseyed policeman constantly on the watch, who, she says, drove her nearly wild. She was not, however, entirely friendless. She had been able to render some little services as an interpreter, during the passage from Dover, to a gentleman she took to be an Englishman, but who was really the famous American inventor, Fulton. A member o£ the Contributors’ Club 2 has already told the amusing story of Fulton’s reckless proposal to save her from her fate by marrying her. Madame de Gontaut found a less violent means of release ; but she was indebted to Mr. Fulton for a piece of information which filled her with the greatest hopes. English commissioners were about to arrive at Calais, harbingers of the short-lived peace of Amiens; and they were all her intimate friends, — Lord Malmesbury, Lord Granville, and Lord Cowley. She hoped to have news of her husband, as they must have met him at Dover. Madame Grandsire, her jailer, and also stanch friend, offered to take a letter to Lord Malmesbury, and afterwards even to bring about an interview between them, on condition that neither in the letter nor in the interview should she appear other than Madame Francois.

“ Lord Malmesbury, on receiving my note, which was worded rather mysteriously, and gave him no clue to the identity of his fair correspondent, had a moment of folly, and confided to his attachés that he had an appointment with a pretty woman, and they must be good enough to keep out of the way for the time. They promised, but took a mutual and solemn oath that they would not fail to witness the raptures of the mature and lovelorn swain.

“ Meanwhile, Madame Grandsire, although well knowing the great danger her kindness was exposing her to, did not falter, but took precautions to render the interview as secret as possible. She muffled me up in her husband’s overcoat, wig, and hat; you can fancy what a fright I looked ! She gave me her arm, and I passed by my horrible Argus unnoticed. Lord Malmesbury was, or thought he was, alone. I entered a spacious hall, dimly lighted. Madame Grandsire, who had promised not to leave me, sprang forward, and said, 1 My lord, this is my prisoner ! ’ My singular appearance was assuredly rather different from that of the fair lady he had expected to see, and he recoiled from me in terror. The attachés burst into a roar of laughter, and came forth from their hiding - place. I threw off hat, coat, and wig, and shook hands with my friends, asking them for news of my people. Alas ! my disappointment was cruel. They had spent the night in Dover, but saw nothing of my husband. When I explained my position, they became most anxious for my safety, and suggested several plans of escape. As none of them seemed practicable, they proposed hiding me in one of the mission carriages, and getting me out of the city in that fashion. ‘ And what will you do with me then ? ’ I said.”

Madame de Gontaut thought the only chance of salvation was to trust to the good nature of the Hamburg consul at Paris, on whom she was about to practice an innocent deception, and begged that Lord Malmesbury would forward a letter she would write to him as Madame François; intending to explain the matter when she met him. The result was that the consul claimed her, and she was sent to Paris. She entered his presence in fear and trembling, and confessed everything. But she met a generous-hearted gentleman, full of sympathy for her troubles, and eager to help her in every way. He advised her to go to a certain hotel, and call on him whenever she required his aid. When she reached the hotel, she found she bad just five francs. But this did not matter so much if she could discover her relatives. So she hired the cheapest room in the house, and sat down to write a letter to her brother-in-law, the Marquis of Gontaut, telling him that Josephine, now Madame François, had come to Paris on business, and wished to see him. After waiting for the answer, which seemed to take an age in arriving, she received the messenger only to learn that he had given the letter to a gentleman, who appeared very angry after reading it, and told him he knew no Madame François. She had prepared another letter for her grandmother, and addressed it to her father’s house in the Rue Royale, — then the Rue de la Révolution, — and awaited the reply with renewed agitation. The messenger returned with the news that all the people who had formerly lived in that house had been guillotined, and the person to whom she wrote was unknown there. She was heart-broken, and even the loss of the two francs she had to give the messenger added to her troubles. “ I wanted to be alone. I shut the door, and threw myself on my knees, asking God for courage to endure the trials that had become so painful. What was going to become of me ? To whom could I address myself ? Who would take pity on me ? Without other resources than my three francs, what was I to do ? ”

Strange to say, she fell into a profound and refreshing slumber upon her knees, from which she was aroused in the middle of the night by her brother-in-law, who was at lirst astounded and indignant at her imprudence in venturing into Paris. He and his wife had been for nearly a year in prison, and were about to take their place in the fatal tumbril the very morning that Robespierre was guillotined. But when he learned the object of her visit, he was kind, and eager to serve her. He advised her to resume her family name of Montault, which she could do with comparative safety, He conducted her to her grandmother, whom she longed to see and console.

“ My grandmother had known, and in part witnessed, the horrors of the time ; and then the arrest of her brother, her son torn from her arms, with no possibility of learning their fate ! She could only scan, with the keenness of agonizing love, the tumbrils that conducted the condemned to the scaffold, in search of those dear to her. To see that they were not there was for this hapless sister and mother a hope that another day had been granted them. But at last the cruel hour arrives, and the dull rumbling of these carriages of horror, the hideous noise she knows so well, is heard in the distance; she shudders, and gazes eagerly into the Carts. They are there ! They see her, also. She utters a piercing shriek. When she reached this point (poor mother !) she could say no more, and her faithful attendant told me they heard, or thought they heard, the crunch of the fatal knife that ended the lives of her brother and her son on Place Louis XV. She did not become mad, but she believed and hoped she would die. Then this angel of resignation and sanctity found, after a time, relief for her anguish in prayer. She even found a consolation in thinking of the Christian heroism of the martyrs. ‘ The conduct of the priests,’ she said to me, ‘ was sublime beyond expression ; all, rather than renounce their faith, preferred death. It was impossible to weary their patient endurance.’ ”

When Madame de Gontaut received the precious documents that were to insure the comfort of her family, she determined to leave at once for England. It was nearly time. The 18th Fruetidor (September 4, 1797) had occurred. There was every evidence of the approach of a new Reign of Terror, and France for some time was little likely to be a safe resting-place for the wife of an émigré. She started in a post chaise, and reached Calais, not without meeting some adventures by the way.

Shortly after her arrival in England, led by her irrepressible devotion to the royal family of France, she traveled from Dover to Edinburgh, in order to be near the Count of Artois. She rode in a little one-horse phaeton, in which were packed herself, her maid, her husband, and two children. The journey lasted over a fortnight, and must have been uncomfortable to ordinary people. But Madame de Gontaut was the heartiest of optimists, and we suspect there was a spice of the gypsy in the patrician. She looked on the whole expedition as altogether delightful.

It is hopeless for us to try to analyze, or even understand, the devotion which led thousands of the loftiest and purest of men cheerfully to sacrifice their lives for the Stuarts or the Bourbons. The sentiment that produced it is as alien to our mode of thinking as some inexplicable rite of the Hittites or Ugrians would be. The emotion of Madame de Gontaut at the condescension of the Count of Artois in crossing the quadrangle of Holyrood Palace to meet her, who had traveled six hundred miles to meet him, would be ludicrous, if it were not almost pathetically genuine. “ He advanced, with his frank and noble graciousness, to thank me for coming. I was tempted to fall on my knees, in presence of such grand and serene resignation.” Yet the prince who provoked such adoration had few princely qualities, except a noble bearing and the capacity of looking young and handsome even when over seventy. “Charles X.,” says Lamartine, “never had a wrinkle on his countenance. Thought makes wrinkles, and Charles X. never thought.”

There were circumstances in Madame de Gontaut’s relations with this prince that might, one would think, have damped the ardor of her loyalty. The Marchioness of Polastron, the victim of this middle-aged Lothario, — in her fall and in her repentance the Louise de la Vallière of the last Bourbon king, — was her near relative. Madame de Gontaut’s account of the remorse and death of this poor woman is one of the most affecting in the entire work. It is much fuller, more vivid and interesting, than anything on the same subject in the Restoration of Lamartine, or in the much-padded volumes of Saint - Amand. Yet the fact remains that, while Madame de Gontaut was principally instrumental in leading her cousin to the goal of humble and heart-felt repentance, it would appear never to have entered the thoughts of this model wife and saintly woman to blame the greater sinner of the two ! Truly, for Madame do Gontaut, “ the divinity that doth hedge a king ” was an impenetrable and an unapproachable mystery. We may remark in passing that the Count of Artois took a solemn vow at the death - bed of Madame de Polastron which he kept up to his death. However foolish he was to show himself as a king, as a man he was thenceforward blameless.

After a year the little French colony in Edinburgh broke up, and Madame de Gontaut returned to London. We wish our space would allow us to transcribe her long interview with George III., which is of considerable historical value. Speaking of the French Revolution, the stubborn monarch said, “ It went against the grain to be forced to recognize one republic. Be sure that strange things must happen when I recognize two of them.” He informed her that England was greatly indebted to Marshal Biron, the granduncle of Madame de Gontaut’s daughters ; for nothing less, indeed, than the release of Lord Rodney, admiral of the American fleet, who was arrested for debt on his way through Paris to join his command. Marshal Biron, from a chivalrous motive, paid the debt and released him from prison. He feared it might be said that the arrest of the English admiral was caused by the alarm the French government felt at the thought of an encounter between his fleet and theirs. However, Madame de Gontaut found her advantage in the transaction. The king recommended Parliament to grant her daughters a pension, and so she was no longer in dread of the res angusta domi.

She carefully gave her children the same wise training her mother had given herself, and was at the same time a welcome guest in society, enjoying it heartily. Her first meeting with the Duke of Wellington, at Cheltenham, was sufficiently amusing. She was staying with Lady Templeton and her sister. Miss Upton, who were so fond of her that they wished to have her entirely to themselves, and made her very uncomfortable by their jealousy of her other friends.

“ One morning I received a letter from Lady Mornington. asking me to show some attention to her brother-in-law, Arthur Wellesley, who had returned from India covered with glory, and was about to seek repose under his laurels at Cheltenham. ‘ He knows no one there,’ wrote Lady Mornington. ' It will he a charity to take care of him.’ He would arrive, she said, on that very day, and would look me up. He would also do himself the honor of making the acquaintance of Lady Templeton and Miss Upton. For nothing in the world would I have neglected to comply with such a request, and I declared I should at once set out to find the person entrusted to my good offices; a member of a family for every one of which I had a sincere attachment.

“ My companions were far from sharing my enthusiasm. The indolence of Lady Templeton took alarm; the jealousy of Miss Upton was inflamed. Both ‘were awfully bored at the idea of having the man on their hands, of whom they knew absolutely nothing ; it would be, oh dear ! such a terrible bore, don’t you know ? ’ And so, lo and behold, discord invaded our tranquil realm, which reminded me of the fable of my childhood, — ' The hens were living peacefally until the cock arrived,’ etc. Without paying any attention to these murmurs, I started for the pump-room in search of the new-comer. I had the greatest difficulty in prevailing upon Miss Upton to be my companion. I ran over the list of arrivals, found the name Wellesley, and read it aloud, so that Miss Upton should hear it. She listened with the grim composure of her nation. A stranger beside me was also reading the same list. He put his finger on a name, and said, regarding me with a smile, ‘Madame de Gontaut ? ’ Was it not charming? We had never met, and here we knew each other at once! Miss Upton would have liked to escape, but I took good care she should not have the chance. I set Arthur Wellesley at his ease by proposing to conduct him to Lady Templeton, and presented him to Miss Upton, But my shy companion said not a word. We started homeward, Sir Arthur offering me his arm, which I accepted. In the midst of our journey a terrible catastrophe ! My garter got loosened, and fell at the feet of Wellesley! To drop one’s garter there in full noonday, — in England, of all places in the world ! It was terrible. I confess I blushed. He picked it up, and, with a graceful and well-bred smile, said, ‘Now is the time or never to say, Honi soit qui mal y pense.’ ‘Lucky for you,’ Miss Upton whispered in my ear, ‘it was clean.’ I answered, ‘Just what I was thinking.’ ”

Sir Arthur Wellesley made many confidences to Madame de Gontaut during their long promenades, among which the following is not the least interesting : —

“ One evening he told me of a trouble that disturbed him much. ‘In a few days,’he said, ‘ I must leave Cheltenham for Ireland, on a business that may influence my whole future. In very early youth I became attached to Miss Pakenham, a sweet girl, pretty and good. We were betrothed. She was very young, and so was I. I had a passionate desire to enter the army, and we parted, but with the hope of meeting again some day. Years passed. Miss Pakenham took the smallpox. She wrote to me that, while she put me in mind of my promise, she must warn me she was no longer pretty. It would seem the smallpox, in injuring her beauty, had not impaired her memory.’ He said this in a way peculiar to himself, and I could not help laughing. ' The promise is there, and I am bound in honor to keep it; and it was noble in her to write to me with such simplicity and truth. I am, then, leaving for Ireland. Perhaps I may pass through here on my return, alone or with her.’ ” He did return, and with his bride.

Madame de Gontaut exclaims, with not unnatural complacency, “ My protégé at Cheltenham became the Duke of Wellington, and my father’s at the École Militaire of Paris was — the Emperor Napoleon ! ”

Her return to London took place in the height of the season, and she was not at all disinclined to be a participator, though never sacrificing duty to pleasure, in the hurly-burly of Vanity Fair. She even attended masquerades, but warns her grandchildren, for whom she wrote these memoirs in her eighty-first year, and who might naturally be scandalized at the escapades of their venerable relative, that a masquerade in London was a very innocent affair, and did not at all resemble its dubious namesake of Paris. At one of these entertainments she met the notorious Lady Hester Stanhope.

“ There was a festival of this sort given in a magnificent garden by a lady whose name I cannot for the life of me recall. Every one noticeable in society was present, and I went there in the company of Lady Clarendon, her sister, Mrs. Wilmot, etc. We were disguised as fortune-tellers. Mrs. Wilmot sustained her character with much spirit, but she had the unlucky idea to bring a donkey with her, a real donkey with panniers, and it was the centre of our party; and lo, in the middle of the music the ass became frightened, and commenced braying with such persistence that Mrs. Wilmot could not utter a single word of the sentences she had prepared. Every one crowded round us, roaring with laughter, and we had to do our best to conceal our agony of shame under a brazen exterior. This was not all. At the moment we were retiring to hide our diminished heads, Mr. Pitt brought his niece, Lady Hester Stanhope, to Mrs. Pole, with the request that she would chaperon the young lady, as this was her first entrance into society. This was not so easy. Lady Hester was in a decidedly bad temper. She evidently did not care to be patronized by her uncle or anybody else. She recognized, however, the necessity of joining us. She was dressed in a garb in which there was nothing feminine except the mask. This was the first time I met her. She struck me as being very tall, very lean, very decided, and very independent. When she saw our donkey speaking, and ourselves as silent as the grave, she said aloud, with the utmost coolness and contempt, ' You are all a good deal more bêtes than your ass! ’

“ Lady Clarendon, who was anxious to chaperon her, followed her in every direction, but could never reach her. When Lady Hester happened to pass near us, she would cry out, ' Don’t bother yourselves about me ! I am independent.’ The after life of this lady among the wild tribes of Mount Lebanon is known to the world.”

Madame de Gontaut, as was to be expected, was one of the most important personages at the court of the Bourbons after the Restoration. She held high rank in the royal household, and when she was appointed governess of the children of France she had the most exalted office a subject could fill. Her observations on men and events are very keen and brilliant, and make the latter portion of her Memoirs perhaps the most valuable part of the book. As an instance of how “ coming events cast their shadows before,” the following incident is significant. The king, Charles X., was opening Parliament in the Louvre.

“ The dais prepared for the royal family was the same as that used on similar occasions by the late sovereign. Through inadvertence, a little piece of wood had been left on it, against which the king, not observing, struck his foot. He staggered a little, and the movement caused him to drop his hat, which he held under his arm. The Duke of Orleans picked it up. The Duchess of Orleans said to me, ' See ! the king was near falling, but my husband saved him.’ ' No, madame,’ I answered, ' Monseigneur did not save his Majesty ; he only picked up his hat.’ At that moment the dauphiness turned round and looked at me. We did not speak of this till six years later, but neither of us had forgotten it.”

The system employed by the Duchess of Gontaut in the education of the royal children might be well worthy of study even in the present time, when the mind is bewildered amid the multiplicity and complexity of pedagogic methods. We cannot enter fully on the subject here. She was particularly anxious to arm her youthful charges against the poison of flattery, a baneful plague to which young princes must certainly, in the nature of things, be more susceptible than any other class of human beings.

“ One morning the prince and princess were playing. It was their hour of recreation. I was informed that a party of ladies and gentlemen requested to see them for a few minutes. As I had already been induced to make a sort of promise, I could not refuse. Although the prince and princess were usually gentle and obliging, they were made a little peevish by having to give up their game. Still, I could see that the absurd compliments paid by their visitors were telling on them. Their beauty was admired, and even their hair was spoken of as something divine ; but what pleased them particularly was the admiration expressed for their charming sweetness. I was disgusted with such gross, exaggerated compliments, and soon put an end to the interview. I saw that my pupils, naturally frank and upright, were half pleased and half embarrassed by praises so little deserved. At this very moment, fortunately, a half-open door gave them an opportunity of hearing the strangers as they were leaving.

“ ‘ Well, indeed, it was not worth while to come so far and see so little ! ’ grumbled an old lady, evidently very much ruffled. ' Oh, for that matter, they were as dumb as snails,’ remarked a fat youth. ‘ They could hardly find two words to thank papa and mamma for all the fine things they said about them. Did n’t I find it hard to keep from laughing, papa, when you said, “ What lovely complexions ! What beautiful hair ! ” Why, she is as pale as an egg, and cropped like a boy! ’ ' Very true what you say, my lad,’ returned the old lady. ' Doctor, it would n’t be a had thing for her if she took a little of your medicine. And then what puny little shrimps they are for their age ! ’ ‘ Did you notice the governess ? ’ continued the fat youth. ‘ Was n’t she in a temper when you spoke of their sweet dispositions! But the little fools were as proud of it all as peacocks.’ The rest of the conversation was lost in the distance, but the prince and princess had heard enough. They remained rooted to the spot. ‘ Oh, what had people! ’ cried the Duke of Bordeaux. ‘They are simply a few of the flatterers you are sometimes fond of hearing,’ I said. ‘ After never stopping praising us for a moment, and saying a hundred times and more that they thought us charming, and how beautiful we were ! ’ said Mademoiselle. ‘ And I heard them say, the nasty things, that they would like to give me medicine, because I am so ugly and ill looking! Did any one ever hear the like ! I know now what you mean by flattery. It is to say what is n’t the truth. Why, it is a sin ! I will always remember that.’ The lesson was providential. They felt instinctively a truth I could never have so well impressed on their minds of myself.”

Although Madame de Gontaut carefully abstained from meddling with public affairs not connected with her office, her passionate devotion to her sovereign led her to transgress this rule when the king expressed his intention of appointing Prince de Polignac prime minister, and also when he was about to issue the fatal ordonnances. She had a more vivid perception of the dangers that surrounded him than his ministers and courtiers. Her eloquent and indeed statesmanlike protests against both measures were vain. The royal line which the gods had doomed was not to he saved by a woman.

She accompanied her sovereign into exile, following him into Scotland and Bohemia. But she was destined to be another witness to the fact that the intrigues and jealousies of a mock court are generally more intense and bitter than those of a real one. Those who were wedded to the idea of a French monarchy such as it was before the Revolution feared that her influence over her young pupils might weaken in their minds the rigid allegiance to the principle of right divine in which they would have them trained. So, happily for herself, after a few years of banishment she was forced to return to her family. Her daughters had married into two of the noblest houses in France : one was the wife of the Prince de Léon, and the other of Count Bourbon-Busset, the heir of a younger branch of the royal line. Their married life would appear to have been ideally happy, and their mother, after a checkered career, spent a peaceful and pleasant old age in the midst of her children and grandchildren, who admired and almost worshiped her. She must have been a very happy and lively old woman indeed to take up her pen at the end of fourscore years, and write such a bright, gossipy work as she has written, simply to please her granddaughters, never expecting it would meet the eyes of the public.

The words with which she concludes her Memoirs may well end this brief study of the career of a remarkable woman : —

“ It only remains for me, then, to render thanks to God for all that he has already granted me on this earth. The love of my children and the esteem of all have amply rewarded a life filled with sacrifices. I have walked through the world in the full light of day, holding the hands of the illustrious pupils who have ever been my glory, the thought of whom supports and beautifies the few years that may be left to me. May the recollections I have just traced afford some interest to my children, and long remind them of a mother who has always kept the first place in her heart for them ! ”

  1. Mémoires de Madame la Duchesse de Gontaut, Gouvernante des Enfants de France pendant la Bestauration. (1773-1836.) Ouvrage accompagné d’un Portrait en Héliogravure. Paris : E. Plon. Nourrit et. Cie. 1891.
  2. See Fulton in Love, Contributors’ Club, Atlantic Monthly, August, 1891