The Secret of Kings: A Monograph

Later on, in another despatch, this wary diplomatist

[p. 103]

returns once more to the attack. “The adventurer gave himself here the airs of a secret negotiator, selected by the Marshal de Belle-Isle, from whom he showed letters in which there were in fact some traces of confidence. He wished it to be understood that the principles of the Marshal, differing from those of M. de Choiseul, and more in accordance with the inclination of Mme. de Pompadour, were warmly in favour of peace; he darkened the picture, painting in the strongest colours the cabals, the difficulties and the dissension that he declared reigned in France, and by these flatteries he thought to gain the confidence of the English party. On the other hand he had written to the Marshal de Belle-Isle, that M. d’Affry knew not how to appreciate or carry out the plans of the Comte de Bentinck-Rhoon, who was a man of the best intentions in the world, and desired only to make himself useful to France in order to promote the success of her negotiations with England. These letters were sent back to M. d’Affry, with a command to forbid St. Germain to meddle with any transactions, on pain of expiating his rashness for the rest of his days in a dungeon on his return to France.” [*1]

Truly ludicrous is the difference in the tone of these documents; M. de St. Germain was endeavouring

[p. 104]

to carry out the wishes of the King, and trying to help an exhausted country; these efforts for peace were frustrated by de Choiseul, who had his own schemes to forward with Austria. Nothing more natural could have occurred than that the new helper should be attacked by the opposite party.

It is evident, from the paper cited, that M. de St. Germain was in the confidence of the Marshal de Belle-Isle–who also wanted peace–for the Saxon Ambassador uses the phrase “some traces of confidence,” when speaking of the correspondence he had seen and the evidence of confidence he was forced to admit. From this distance of time we can see that the picture of France sketched by M. de St. Germain was by no means too dark: France impoverished, rushing wildly on to greater ruin, the end of which was to be a scene of blood and butchery. He who had the power of seeing the evil days that were drawing so steadily nigh, could he paint that picture too darkly, when endeavouring to stay the ruin of fair France?

But we must take up some other threads of this tangled skein. The King of Prussia was, at this period, in Freyberg, and his own agent, M. d’Edelsheim, had just arrived in London to confer with the English Ministers; the following account is given later by Frederick II. of the

[p. 105]

condition of affairs: “On his arrival in that city [London], another political phenomenon appeared there, a man whom no one has been able to understand. He was known under the name of the Comte de St. Germain. He had been employed by France, and was even so high in favour with Louis XV., that this Prince had thought of giving him the Palace of Chambord” (De l’hiver de 1759 a 1760). [*1]

The mission of M. d’Edelsheim is not clearly stated, but we find that not only did M. de St. Germain have to leave London, failing to bring about the peace so sorely desired, but that the Prussian agent fared even worse; the details are given by Herr Barthold [*2]: “The Prussian negotiator . . . returning from London via Holland to fetch his luggage from Paris, was induced to remain a few days with the Bailly de Froulay, and then, receiving a Lettre de Cachet, he was put into the Bastille. Choiseul assured the prisoner that it was only by these means that he could silence the suspicions of the Imperial Minister, Stahremberg, but this ‘scene indecente’ was simply a trap to get hold of the Baron’s papers. Choiseul, however, found nothing and told him to decamp, advising him on his leaving Turin

[p. 106]

not to re-enter the kingdom. Frederick takes care not to find fault with his agent, who through over-zeal had drawn discredit on himself in Paris; on the other hand, one may conclude that it was he who, through an article in the London Chronicle, succeeded in frustrating St. Germain’s project.”

In this extraordinary maze of secret negotiations it is difficult to find the truth, for in the work just cited we hear that St. Germain was seen in the Bois de Boulogne in May, 1761. When the Marquise d’Urfe informed the Duc de Choiseul of his presence in Paris that Prime Minister replied: “Je n’en suis pas surpris, puisqu’il a passe la nuit dans mon cabinet.” [*1] This informant proceeds: “Casanova is therefore satisfied that de Choiseul had only pretended to be annoyed with M. de St. Germain, so as to make it easier for him to be sent to London as agent; Lord Halifax however saw through the plan.”

This would indeed be one method of cutting the political entanglement of France!–an intrigue of a pronounced sort arranged by the King, apparently without the knowledge of his chief Minister, in order to arrive at a peace for which the whole country pined. In this difficult situation the Marshal de Belle-Isle selected the Comte de

[p. 107] [paragraph continues] St. Germain as the messenger of peace. Alas! missions of peace rarely result in anything but discomfort and slander for the bearer of the message, and the history of the world recorded one more failure, a failure caused by the ambitions of the political leaders.

Leaving now the condition of affairs in France and passing on to England, we find some very interesting correspondence between General Yorke, the English representative at the Hague, and Lord Holdernesse in London. By especial permission from the Foreign Office we have been kindly permitted to make use of these extracts. The full correspondence is too lengthy to print in the limited space permissible in these pages. The first despatch is from General Yorke to the Earl of Holdernesse; it is dated March 14th, 1760, and gives the full account of a long interview between the Comte de St. Germain and himself. The former claims, he says, to have been sent by France to negotiate concerning the Peace, but says that Mons. d’Affry is not in the secret. The answer to this document comes from “Whitehall, March 21st, 1760,” and is from Lord Holdernesse to General Yorke; in this he directs the latter “to tell M. de St. Germain that by the King’s orders he cannot discuss the subject with him unless he produces some authentic proof of his being employed with the consent and knowledge

[p. 108]

of the French King.” In the next despatch, dated Whitehall, March 28th, 1760, “the King directs that the same answer should be returned to Mons. d’Affry as has already been given to M de St. Germain. The King thinks it probable that M. de St. Germain was authorised to talk to General Yorke in the manner he did, and that his commission is unknown to the Duc de Choiseul.”

The insight of George III. in this case is remarkable, unless in his private correspondence with Louis XV. some hint as to the real condition of things may have been given by one king to the other. In any case the fact remains that owing to M. de Choiseul the Treaty of Peace was not arranged; and, as we have seen, M. de St. Germain passed on from England to Russia. Turning now to some other witnesses, we find

M. Thiebault in his memoirs saying: “While this singular man was at Berlin, I ventured one day to speak of him to the French envoy, the Marquis de Pons Saint-Maurice; I privately expressed to him my great surprise that this man should have held private and intimate relations with persons of high rank, such as the Cardinal de Bernis, from whom he had, it was said, confidential letters, written at the time when the Cardinal held the portfolio for Foreign Affairs, etc.; on this last point the envoy made me no

[p. 109]

reply.” [*1] This passage implies other diplomatic missions, of which no details are to be found.

Another writer, who has also been quoted, makes an important statement to the effect that when M. de St. Germain was in Leipzig the Graf Marcolini offered him a high public position at Dresden. Our philosopher was at Leipzig in 1776, under the name of Chevalier Weldon, and did not at all conceal the fact that he was a Prince Ragotzy. This informant says: “The Lord High Chamberlain, Graf Marcolini, came from Dresden to Leipzig and made to the Comte–in the name of the Court–certain promises; M. de St. Germain refused them, but he came in 1777 to Dresden, where he had much intercourse with the Prussian Ambassador, von Alvensleben.” [*2] This statement can be corroborated by the writer of the life of Graf Marcolini, which has been carefully compiled from the secret archives of the Saxon Court (with especial permission) by the Freiherr O’Byrn.

The Graf Marcolini was a man renowned for his integrity and upright character; his biographer says: “Considering the strong opposition shown by the Graf Marcolini to the swindling in the Schropfer affair, the sympathy he extended

[p. 110]

to the Comte de St. Germain on his arrival in Saxony is all the more wonderful. . . . Graf Marcolini repaired to Leipzig with the intention of interviewing St. Germain on hearing of his arrival under the name of Welldoun, October 1776 . . . the meeting resulted in the Graf offering St. Germain an important post in Dresden if he would render a great service to the State; the ‘Wonder Man’ however refused these offers.” [*1]

Nowhere are to be found the details of any of these diplomatic missions; we can only gather the fragments and, piecing them together, the fact stands clearly proved, that from Court to Court, among kings, princes, and ambassadors, the Comte de St. Germain was received and known, was trusted as friend, and by none feared as enemy.


^94:1 Souvenirs sur Marie-Antoinette, i., p. 8

^96:1 VOLTAIRE, Oeuvres. Lettre cxviii., ed. Beuchot, lviii., p. 360.

^97:1 GLEICHEN (C. H. Baron de) Memoires. Paris, 1868, xi., p. 130.

^97:2 Ludwig Augustin d’Affry, a Swiss, born 1715 at Versailles, [p. 98] Ambassador at the Hague in 1755, became in 1780 Colonel of the Swiss Guard, died in 1793 at his castle Barthelemy in Waadt.

^98:1 BARTHOLD, Die Geschichtlichen Personlichkeiten. Berlin, 1846, ii., p. 81.

^100:1 GLEICHEN (C. H. Baron de) Memoires, xi., pp. 131, 132.

^101:1 The Brothers Paris-Duverney were the great financiers, the bank monarchs, in the time of Louis XV.

^102:1 TAILLANDIER, SAINT-RENE, Un Prince Allemand du XVIII. Siecle. Revue des deux Mondes, lxi., pp. 896, 897.

^103:1 TAILLANDIER, op. cit., p. 897.

^105:1 FREDERIC II., Roi de Prusse, Oeuvres Posthumes. Berlin, 1788, iii., p. 73.

^105:2 BARTHOLD, op. cit., pp. 93. 94.

^106:1 BARTHOLD, Op. cit., p. 94.

^109:1 THIEBAULT, D., op. cit., iv., p. 84; 3rd ed.

^109:2 HEZEKIEL, G., Abenteuerliche Gesellen, i., p. 46. Berlin, 1862.

^110:1 O’BYRN, F. A., Camillo, Graf Marcolini: Eine Biographische Skizze. Dresden, 1877.

The Comte de St. Germain, by Isabel Cooper-Oakley, [1912], at

[p. 111]



THE diplomatic correspondence which forms almost the whole of this paper is practically an appendix to the last chapter. The details given are interesting and important links in that chain of events which brought M. de St. Germain to England. Chance, good-fortune, or some beneficent power gave the clue to these hidden records.

The “Mitchell Papers,” in which these interesting letters have been so long concealed, have never yet been entirely published. It appears that George III. requested that these documents should not be made public during his life, and they were accordingly consigned to the personal care of Mr. Planta, Keeper of the British Museum.

This correspondence was bought by the Trustees of the Museum from Sir William Forbes, the heir of Sir Andrew Mitchell, who had been Envoy at Berlin during the time that all these events took place. A certain portion of the record of his diplomatic career was published by Mr. Bisset in 1850; no mention, however, was made of M. de

[p. 112] [paragraph continues] St. Germain, and the letters which treated of him were unnoticed.

There appears, curiously enough, to have been a “conspiracy of silence” amongst the diplomatists and writers of this period and later, for it is a constantly recurring experience to find all reference to our philosopher carefully excluded, even in cases where the original sources contain much information about him.

A striking instance of such omission is found by searching the different editions of works in which M. de St. Germain is mentioned; the later editions usually exclude the information given in the earlier ones. Notably may this be seen in a work [*1] already referred to, by Dr. Carl von Weber, Keeper of the Saxon Archives in Dresden. In the first edition of this work there is a long article on M. de St. Germain, which is not to be found in the later editions of these volumes. Instances might be easily multiplied of this steady omission wherever possible.

Now the Foreign Office records contain a voluminous correspondence, which is by permission at length being gathered together; this includes the letters of Prince Galitzin, who was at the period Russian Minister in England. All the

[p. 113]

correspondence is marked “secret,” and can only be seen when sanctioned.

The British Museum records have no such restrictions, hence the documents which make up this paper have been copied without delay. The first letter appears to show that Lord Holdernesse already knew of M. de St. Germain, but no facts have so far been found on this point. The language is quaint, and the style somewhat heavy, but the contents present a page of history well worth our study.

It must be remembered that the mission undertaken by the Comte de St. Germain was a secret one, and that he had to disguise how far he was in the confidence of Louis XV.; with this point in mind it will be easier to understand the difficulties in which he was involved. Turning now to the documents, we find that the first letter is from General Yorke.


LD. HOLDERNESSE’S DESPATCHES, etc. 1760; 6818, PLUT. P. L., CLXVIII. 1. (12).

Copy of General Yorke’s letter to the Earl of Holdernesse; Hague, March 14th, 1760. In Lord Holdernesse’s of the 21st, 1760. Secret.

“Hague, March 14th, 1760.


“My present situation is so very delicate,

[p. 114]

that I am sensible I stand in need of the utmost indulgence, which I hope I shall continue to find from His Majesty’s unbounded goodness, and that your Lordship is convinced that whatever I say, or do, has no other motive but the advantage of the King’s service. As it has pleased His Majesty to convey to France His sentiments in general upon the situation of affairs in Europe, and to express by me His wishes for restoring the public tranquillity, I suppose the Court of Versailles imagines the same channel may be the proper one for addressing itself to that of England. This is, at least, the most natural way of accounting for the pains taken by France to employ anybody to talk to me.

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Methinks I am a conspiracy theorist. Art thou? Thou block, thou stone, thou worse than senseless thing, for whilst thou slept didst this become a badge of honor. Informed dissent shall always prevail, wherefore art thou worthy, or art thou this unwholesome fool in the group conformity experiment herein?

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