The Memoirs of Louis XIV by Elizabeth-Charlotte - HTML preview
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It is said that the Duke has solid parts; he does everything with a certain nobility; he has a good person, but the loss of that eye, which the Duc de Berri struck out, disfigures him much. He is certainly very politic, and this quality he has from his mother. He is polite and well- bred; his mind is not very comprehensive, and he has been badly instructed. They say he is unfit for business for three reasons: first, on account of his ignorance; secondly, for his want of application; and, thirdly, for his impatience. I can see that in examining him narrowly one would find many defects in him; but he has also many praiseworthy qualities, and he possesses many friends. He has a greatness and nobility of soul, and a good deportment.
The Prince is in love with Madame de Polignac; but she is fond of the Duke, who cannot yet forget Madame de Nesle, although she has dismissed him to make room for that great calf, the Prince of Soubise. The latter person is reported to have said, "Why does the Duke complain? Have I not consented to share Madame de Nesle's favours with him whenever he chooses?"
Such is the delicacy which prevails here in affairs of love.
The Duke is very passionate. When Madame de Nesle dismissed him he almost died of vexation; he looked as if he was about to give up the ghost, and for six months he did not know what to do.
The Marquis de Villequier, the Duc d'Aumont's son, one day visited the Marquise de Nesle. She took it into her head to ask him if he was very fond of his wife. Villequier replied, "I am not in love with her; I see her very little; our humours differ greatly. She is serious, and for my part I like pleasure and gaiety. I feel for her a friendship founded on esteem, for she is one of the most virtuous women in France."
Madame de Nesle, of whom no man could say so much, took this for an insult, and complained of it to the Duke, who promised to avenge her. Some days afterwards he invited young Villequier to dine with him at the Marquis de Nesle's; there were, besides Madame de Nesle, the Marquis de Gevres, Madame de Coligny, and others. During dinner the Duke began thus:
"A great many men fancy they are sure of the fidelity of their wives, but it is a mistake. I thought to protect myself from this common fate by marrying a monster, but it served me nought; for a villain named Du Challar, who was more ugly than I am, played me false. As to the Marquis de Gevres, as he will never marry * * * , he will be exempt; but you, Monsieur de Nesle, you are so and so." Nesle, who did not believe it, although it was very true, only laughed. Then addressing himself to Villequier, he said, "And you, Villequier, don't you think you are so?" He was silent. The Duke continued, "Yes, you are befooled by the Chevalier de Pesay."
Villequier blushed, but at last said, "I confess that up to this moment I had no reason to believe it; but since you put me into such good company I have no right to complain."
I do not think Madame de Nesle was well revenged.
I remember that the Duke, who was terribly ill-made, said one day to the late Monsieur, who was a straight, well-formed person, that a mask had taken him for Monsieur. The latter, somewhat mortified at such a mistake, replied, "I lay that, with all other wrongs done to me, at the foot of the Cross."
Ever since the Duchess espoused the party of her son against her brother and his nephews, the Duke has displayed a great fondness for his mother, about whom he never disturbed himself before.
Mdlle. de Polignac made the Duke believe she was very fond of him. He entertained great suspicions of her, and had her watched, and learnt that she was carrying on a secret intrigue with the Chevalier of Bavaria. He reproached her with it, and she denied the accusation. The Duke cautioned her not to think that she could deceive him. She protested that he had been imposed upon. As soon, however, as she had quitted him she went to the Chevalier's house; and the Duke, who had her dogged, knew whither she had gone. The next day he appointed her to visit him; she went directly to the bedroom, believing that his suspicions were entirely lulled. The Duke then opened the door wide, so that she might be seen from the cabinet, which was full of men; and calling the Chevalier of Bavaria, he said to him: "Here, Sir Chevalier, come and see your mistress, who will now have no occasion to go so far to find you."
Although the Duke and the Prince de Conti are brothers-in-law in two ways, they cannot bear each other.
The Duke is at this moment (1718) very strongly attached to Madame de Prie. She has already received a good beating on his account from her husband, but this does not deter her. She is said to have a good deal of sense; she entirely governs the Duke, who is solely occupied with making her unfaithful to M. de Prie. She has consoled the Duke for his dismissal from Madame de Nesle; but it is said that she is unfaithful to him, and that she has two other lovers. One is the Prince of Carignan, and the other Lior, the King's first maitre d'hotel, which latter is the handsomest of the three.
It is impossible that the Duke can now inspire any woman with affection for him. He is tall, thin as a lath; his legs are like those of a crane; his body is bent and short, and he has no calves to his legs; his eyes are so red that it is impossible to distinguish the bad eye from the good one; his cheeks are hollow; his chin so long that one would not suppose it belonged to the face; his lips uncommonly large: in short, I hardly ever saw a man before so ugly. It is said that the inconstancy of his mistress, Madame de Prie, afflicts him profoundly.
The Marchioness was extremely beautiful, and her whole person was very captivating. Possessing as many mental as personal charms, she concealed beneath an apparent simplicity the most dangerous treachery. Without the least conception of virtue, which, according to her ideas, was a word void of sense, she affected innocence in vice, was violent under an appearance of meekness, and libertine by constitution. She deceived her lover with perfect impunity, who would believe what she said even against the evidence of his own eyes. I could mention several instances of this, if they were not too indecent. It is, however, sufficient to say that she had one day to persuade him that he was the cause of a libertinism of which he was really the victim.--Memoires de Duclos, tome ii. It is well known that, after the Duke assumed the Regency, upon the death of the Regent, the Marchioness du Prie governed in his name; and that she was exiled, and died two years afterwards of ennui and vexation.
The Princess of Modena takes nothing by the death of the Duchess; the Duke has said that he never would have married that Princess, and that now he will not marry at all.
In order that Mademoiselle de la Roche-sur-Yon may enjoy the millions that belong to her of right, in consequence of her sister's death, it is necessary first for her to receive them; but the Duke, it is reported, as the good Duc de Crequi used to say, "Holds back as tight as the trigger of the Cognac cross-bow;" and in fact he has not only refused to give up to his sister what she should take under her sister's will, but he disputes her right to the bank-notes which she had given to the Duchess to take care of for her, when she herself was dangerously ill.
The Duke and his mother are said to have gained each two hundred and fifty millions.
The Duke, who is looked upon as Law's very good friend, has been ill- treated by the people, who have passed all kinds of insults upon him, calling him even a dog. His brother, the Marquis de Clermont, too, has fared little better; for they cried after him at the Port Royal, "Go along, dog! you are not much better than your brother." His tutor alighted for the purpose of haranguing the mob; but they picked up some stones, and he soon found it expedient to get into the carriage again, and make off with all speed.