The Secret of Kings: A Monograph

“When I returned to the Queen, and no indiscreet person could listen, she said:–

“‘What do you make of these threatening verses?’

“‘They are dismaying! But they cannot affect your Majesty. People do say incredible things, follies; if, however, the prophetic words turn out to be true, they will concern our posterity.’

“‘Pray heaven you speak truly, Madame d’Adhemar,’ replied the Queen; ‘however, these are strange experiences. Who is this personage who has taken an interest in me for so many

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years without making himself known, without seeking any reward, and who yet has always told me the truth? He now warns me of the overthrow of everything that exists and, if he gives a gleam of hope, it is so distant that I may not reach it.’

“I strove to comfort the Queen; above all, I told her, she must make her friends live on good terms with each other, and not let their private quarrels be known outside. Marie-Antoinette answered me in these memorable words:–

“‘You fancy that I possess credit or power in our Salon. You are mistaken; I had the misfortune to believe that a Queen was permitted to have friends. The consequence is that all try to rule me, or to use me for their own personal advantage. I am the centre of a crowd of intrigues, which I have difficulty in avoiding. Everyone complains of my ingratitude. This is not the role of a Queen of France. There is a very fine verse which I apply to myself, making a change in the reading: “Kings are condemned to magnificence.” I should say with more reason: “Kings are condemned to be weary in utter loneliness.”

“‘So I should act were I to begin my career again.'” [*1]

Madame d’Adhemar does not give any very

[p. 81]

definite dates in her diary, and it is chiefly by the historical episodes, which led up to the final crash, that we are able to mark the passage of time. Passing on from the general events, deeply interesting in themselves, but not bearing on the Comte de St. Germain, we come to the proscription which was passed against the Royalists in 1789, and once more the unfortunate Queen received a warning from her unknown adviser, whose advice alas! fell on ears too weak to understand. Hearing of the proceedings against the Polignacs, Marie-Antoinette sent to warn the Duchess about her approaching fall. Madame d’Adhemar graphically tells the tale as follows:–

“I arose, and showing the pain that this commission gave me, I went off to Madame de Polignac. I could have wished to find her alone. I met there the Duke, her husband, her sister-in-law, the Count de Vaudreuil and M. l’Abbe de Ballivieres. On seeing my solemn look when I entered, my swollen eyes still wet with the tears that had mingled with those of the Queen, they felt that I had come for a sad reason; the Duchess held out her hand to me.

“‘What have you to tell me?’ she said; ‘I am prepared for every misfortune.’

“‘Not,’ said I, ‘for that which is about to burst upon you. Alas! my sweet friend, bear it with resignation and courage. . . .’

[p. 82]

“These words died away on my lips, and the Countess, taking up the words, said:–

“‘You are causing my sister a thousand sufferings by your reticence. Well, Madame, what is the matter?’

“‘The Queen,’ I said, ‘in order to avoid the proscription that threatens you–you and yours–wishes you to go for some months to Vienna.’

“‘The Queen drives me away, and you come to tell me!’ cried the Duchess, rising.

“‘Unjust friend!’ I answered, ‘let me tell you all that remains to be told.’

“Then I went on and repeated word for word what Marie-Antoinette had charged me to tell her.

“There were more cries, more tears, more despairings; I did not know to whom to listen; M. de Vaudreuil showed no more firmness than the Polignacs.

“‘Alas!’ said the Duchess, ‘it is my duty to obey, I will certainly depart, since the Queen wills it; but will she not permit me to repeat verbally my gratitude for her innumerable kindnesses?’

“‘Never,’ said I, ‘did she think of your going before she had consoled you; go then to her chamber, her reception will make amends to you for this apparent disfavour.’

“The Duchess begged me to accompany her,

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and I consented. My heart was broken at the sad interview between these friends who loved each other so warmly. It was a flood of complaints, tears, sighs; they embraced each other so closely that they could not tear themselves apart; it was truly pitiful to see.

“At this moment a letter was brought to the Queen, curiously sealed; she glanced at it, shuddered as she looked at me, and said: ‘It is from our unknown.’

“‘In truth,’ said I, ‘it seemed strange to me that he should have remained quiet in such circumstances as these; besides, he has only anticipated me.’

“Madame de Polignac from her expression appeared eager to know what was so familiar to me.

“A sign that I made let the Queen know this. Her Majesty then proceeded to say:

“‘From the time of my arrival in France, and in every important event in which my interests have been concerned, a mysterious protector has disclosed what I had to fear; I have told you something of it, and to-day I doubt not that he is advising me what to do.’

“‘Here, Madame d’Adhemar,’ she said to me, ‘read this letter; your eyes are less tired than Madame de Polignac’s and mine.’

“Alas! the Queen referred to the tears that

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she never ceased to shed. I took the paper and having opened the envelope I read what follows.

“‘Madame–I have been a Cassandra; my words have fallen on your ears in vain, and you have reached the period of which I informed you. It is no longer a question of tacking but of meeting the storm with thundering energy; in order to do this and to increase your strength, you must separate yourself from the persons whom you most love so as to remove all pretext from the rebels. Moreover these persons run the risk of their lives; all the Polignacs and their friends are doomed to death and are pointed out to the assassins who have just murdered the officers of the Bastille and the provost of the merchants. The Comte d’Artois will perish; they thirst for his blood; let him take heed to it. I hasten to tell you this, later on I will communicate further with you about it.’

“We were in the stupor which such a menace inevitably causes, when the Comte d’Artois was announced. We all started, and he himself was astounded. He was questioned, and, unable to keep silence, he told us that the Duc de Liancourt had just told him as well as the King, that the men of the Revolution, in order to consolidate it, had made up their minds to take his life (that of the Comte d’Artois), and that of the Duchesse

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de Polignac, and of the Duc, and also the lives of Messieurs de Vaudreuil, de Vermont, de Guiche, of the Ducs de Broglie, de la Vauguyon, de Castries, the Baron de Breteuil, Messieurs de Villedeuil, d’Amecourt, des Polastrons–in a word a real proscription. . . . [*1]

“On returning home, a note was given to me, thus worded:–

“‘All is lost, Countess! This sun is the last which will set on the monarchy; to-morrow it will exist no more, chaos will prevail, anarchy unequalled. You know all I have tried to do to give affairs a different turn; I have been scorned; now it is too late.

“‘. . . Keep yourself in retirement, I will watch over you; be prudent, and you will survive the tempest that will have beaten down all. I resist the desire that I have to see you; what should we say to each other? You would ask of me the impossible; I can do nothing for the King, nothing for the Queen, nothing for the Royal Family, nothing even for the Duc d’Orleans, who will be triumphant to-morrow, and who, all in due course, will cross the Capitol to be thrown from the top of the Tarpeian rock. Nevertheless, if you would care very much to meet with an old friend, go to the eight o’clock Mass at the

[p. 86] [paragraph continues] Recollets, and enter the second chapel on the right hand.

“‘I have the honour to be . . .

“‘COMTE DE ST.–GERMAIN.’

“At this name, already guessed, a cry of surprise escaped me; he still living, he who was said to have died in 1784, and whom I had not heard spoken of for long years past–he had suddenly re-appeared, and at what a moment, what an epoch! Why had he come to France? Was he then never to have done with life? For I knew some old people who had seen him bearing the stamp of forty or fifty years of age, and that at the beginning of the eighteenth century!

“It was one o’clock at night when I read his letter; the hour for the rendez-vous was early, so I went to bed; I slept little, frightful dreams tormented me and, in their hideous grotesqueness, I beheld the future, without however understanding it. As day dawned, I arose worn out. I had ordered my butler to bring me some very strong coffee, and I took two cups of it, which revived me. At half past seven I summoned a sedan chair, and, followed by my confidential old servant, I repaired to the Recollets.

“The church was empty; I posted my Laroche as sentinel and I entered the chapel named; soon after, and almost before I had collected my

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thoughts in the presence of God, behold a man approaching. . . . It was himself in person. . . . Yes! with the same countenance as in 1760, while mine was covered with furrows and marks of decrepitude. . . . I stood impressed by it; he smiled at me, came forward, took my hand, kissed it gallantly. I was so troubled that I allowed him to do it in spite of the sanctity of the place.

“‘There you are!’ I said. ‘Where have you come from?’

“‘I am come from China and Japan. . . .’

“‘Or rather from the other world!’

“‘Yes, indeed, pretty nearly so! Ah! Madame, down there (I underline the expression) nothing is so strange as what happens here. How is the monarchy of Louis XIV. disposed of? You who did not see it cannot make the comparison, but I. . . .’

“‘I have caught you, man of yesterday!’

“‘Who does not know the history of this great reign? And Cardinal Richelieu, if he were reborn, it would send him mad. What! not rule! What did I tell you, and the Queen too? that M. de Maurepas would let everything be lost, because he compromised everything. I was Cassandra, or a prophet of evil, and now how do you stand?’

“‘Ah! Comte, your wisdom will be useless.’

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“‘Madame, he who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind. Jesus said so in the Gospel, perhaps not before me, but at any rate His words remain written, and people could only have profited by mine.’

“‘Again!’ I said, trying to smile, but he without replying to my exclamation said:–

“‘I have written it to you, I can do nothing, my hands are tied by a stronger than myself. There are periods of time when to retreat is impossible, others when He has pronounced and the decree will be executed. Into this we are entering.’ [*1]

“‘Will you see the Queen?’

“‘No, she is doomed.’

“‘Doomed! To what?’

“‘To death!’

“Oh, this time I could not keep back a cry, I rose on my seat, my hands repulsed the Comte, and in a trembling voice I said:

“‘And you too! you! what, you too!’

“‘Yes, I——I, like Cazotte.’

“‘You know. . . .’

“‘What you do not even suspect. Return to the Palace, go and tell the Queen to take heed to herself, that this day will be fatal to her; there is a plot, murder is premeditated.’

“‘You fill me with horror, but the Comte d’Estaing has promised.’

[p. 89]

“‘He will take fright, and will hide himself.’

“‘But M. de Lafayette. . . .’

“‘A balloon puffed out with wind! Even now they are settling what to do with him, whether he shall be instrument or victim; by noon all will be decided.’

“‘Monsieur,’ I said, ‘you could render great services to our Sovereigns if you would.’

“‘And if I cannot?’

“‘How?’

“‘Yes; if I cannot? I thought I should not be listened to. The hour of repose is past, and the decrees of Providence must be fulfilled.’

“‘In plain words, what do they want?’

“‘The complete ruin of the Bourbons; they will expel them from all the thrones they occupy, and in less than a century they will return to the rank of simple private individuals in their different branches.’

“‘And France?’

“‘Kingdom, Republic, Empire, mixed Governments, tormented, agitated, torn; from clever tyrants she will pass to others who are ambitious without merit. She will be divided, parcelled out, cut up; and these are no pleonasms that I use, the coming times will bring about the overthrow of the Empire; pride will sway or abolish distinctions, not from virtue but from vanity, and it is through vanity that they will come back

[p. 90]

to them. The French, like children playing with handcuffs and slings, will play with titles, honours, ribbons; everything will be a toy to them, even to the shoulder-belt of the National Guard; the greedy will devour the finances. Some fifty millions now form a deficit, in the name of which the Revolution is made. Well! under the dictatorship of the philanthropists, the rhetoricians, the fine talkers, the State debt will exceed several thousand millions!’

“‘You are a terrible prophet! When shall I see you again?’

“‘Five times more; do not wish for the sixth.’

“I confess that a conversation so solemn, so gloomy, so terrifying, inspired me with little wish to continue it. M. de St.–Germain oppressed my heart like a night-mare, it is strange how much we change with age, how we look with indifference, even disgust, on those whose presence formerly charmed us. I found myself in this condition under present circumstances; besides, the immediate danger of the Queen pie-occupied me. I did not sufficiently urge the Count, perhaps if I had entreated him he would have come to her; there was a pause, and then, resuming the conversation:–

“‘Do not let me detain you longer,’ he said; ‘there is already disturbance in the city. I am like Athalie, I wished to see and I have seen. Now

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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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