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A Short Life of Marie Antoinette
By John Abbott
A Short Life of Marie Antoinette
Chapter I: Parentage and Childhood 1740-1770
Chapter II: Bridal Days 1770-1775
Chapter III: Maria Antoinette Enthroned 1774-1775
Chapter IV: The Diamond Necklace 1786
Chapter V: The Mob at Versailles 1789
Chapter VI: The Palace a Prison 1789-1791
Chapter VII: The Flight 1791
Chapter VIII: The Return to Paris 1791-1792
Chapter IX: Imprisonment in the Temple 1792
Chapter X: Execution of the King 1792-1793
Chapter XI: Trial and Execution of Maria Antoinette 1793
Chapter XII: The Princess Elizabeth, the Dauphin, and the Princess Royal 1793-1795
Further Reading: Strategy Six Pack 9
A Short Life of Marie Antoinette by John Abbott. First published as History of Maria Antoinette by John S. C. Abbott in 1849.
In the year 1740, Charles VI., emperor of Austria, died. He left a daughter twenty-three years of age, Maria Theresa, to inherit the crown of that powerful empire. She had been married about four years to Francis, duke of Lorraine. The day after the death of Charles, Maria Theresa ascended the throne. The treasury of Austria was empty. A general feeling of discontent pervaded the kingdom. Several claimants to the throne rose to dispute the succession with Maria; and France, Spain, Prussia, and Bavaria took advantage of the new reign, and of the embarrassments which surrounded the youthful queen, to enlarge their own borders by wresting territory from Austria.
The young queen, harassed by dissensions at home and by the combined armies of her powerful foes, beheld, with anguish which her proud and imperious spirit could hardly endure, her troops defeated and scattered in every direction, and the victorious armies of her enemies marching almost unimpeded toward her capital. The exulting invaders, intoxicated with unanticipated success, now contemplated the entire division of the spoil. They decided to blot Austria from the map of Europe, and to partition out the conglomerated nations composing the empire among the conquerors.
Maria Theresa retired from her capital as the bayonets of France and Bavaria gleamed from the hill-sides which environed the city. Her retreat with a few disheartened followers, in the gloom of night, was illumined by the flames of the bivouacs of hostile armies, with which the horizon seemed to be girdled. The invaders had possession of every strong post in the empire. The beleaguered city was summoned to surrender. Resistance was unavailing. All Europe felt that Austria was hopelessly undone. Maria fled from the dangers of captivity into the wilds of Hungary. But in this dark hour, when the clouds of adversity seemed to be settling in blackest masses over her whole realm, when hope had abandoned every bosom but her own, the spirit of Maria remained as firm and inflexible as if victory were perched upon her standards, and her enemies were flying in dismay before her. She would not listen to one word of compromise. She would not admit the thought of surrendering one acre of the dominions she had inherited from her fathers. Calm, unagitated, and determined, she summoned around her, from their feudal castles, the wild and warlike barons of Hungary. With neighing steeds, and flaunting banners, and steel-clad retainers, and all the paraphernalia of barbaric pomp, these chieftains, delighting in the excitements of war, gathered around the heroic queen. The spirit of ancient chivalry still glowed in these fierce hearts, and they gazed with a species of religious homage upon the young queen, who, in distress, had fled to their wilds to invoke the aid of their strong arms.
Maria met them in council. They assembled around her by thousands in all the imposing splendor of the garniture of war. Maria appeared before these stern chieftains dressed in the garb of the deepest mourning, with the crown of her ancestors upon her brow, her right hand resting upon the hilt of the sword of the Austrian kings, and leading by her left hand her little daughter Maria Antoinette. The pale and pensive features of the queen attested the resolute soul which no disasters could subdue. Her imperial spirit entranced and overawed the bold knights, who had ever lived in the realms of romance. Maria addressed the Hungarian barons in an impressive speech in Latin, the language then in use in the diets of Hungary, faithfully describing the desperate state of her affairs. She committed herself and her children to their protection, and urged them to drive the invaders from the land or to perish in the attempt. It was just the appeal to rouse such hearts to a phrensy of enthusiasm. The youth, the beauty, the calamities of the queen roused to the utmost intensity the chivalric devotion of these warlike magnates, and grasping their swords and waving them above their heads, they shouted simultaneously, "Moriamur pro rege nostro, Maria Theresa"—"Let us die for our king, Maria Theresa."
Until now, the queen had preserved a demeanor perfectly tranquil and majestic. But this affectionate enthusiasm of her subjects entirely overcame her imperious spirit, and she burst into a flood of tears. But, apparently ashamed of this exhibition of womanly feeling she almost immediately regained her composure, and resumed the air of the indomitable sovereign. The war cry immediately resounded throughout Hungary. Chieftains and vassals rallied around the banner of Maria. In person she inspected and headed the gathering army, and her spirit inspired them. With the ferocity of despair, these new recruits hurled themselves upon the invaders. A few battles, desperate and sanguinary, were fought, and the army of Maria was victorious. England and Holland, apprehensive that the destruction of the Austrian empire would destroy the balance of power in Europe, and encouraged by the successful resistance which the Austrians were now making, came to the rescue of the heroic queen. The tide of battle was turned. The armies of France, Germany, and Spain were driven from the territory which they had overrun. Maria, with untiring energy, followed up her successes. She pursued her retreating foes into their own country, and finally granted peace to her enemies only by wresting from them large portions of their territory. The renown of these exploits resounded through Europe. The name of Maria Theresa was embalmed throughout the civilized world. Under her vigorous sway Austria, from the very brink of ruin, was elevated to a degree of splendor and power it had never attained before. These conflicts and victories inspired Maria with a haughty and imperious spirit, and the loveliness of the female character was lost amid the pomp of martial achievements. The proud sovereign eclipsed the woman.
It is not to be supposed that such a bosom could be the shrine of tenderness and affection. Maria's virtues were all of the masculine gender. She really loved, or, rather, liked her husband; but it was with the same kind of emotion with which an energetic and ambitious man loves his wife. She cherished him, protected him, watched over him, and loaded him with honors. He was of a mild, gentle, confiding spirit, and would have made a lovely wife. She was ambitious, fearless, and commanding, and would have made a noble husband. In fact, this was essentially the relation which existed between them. Maria Theresa governed the empire, while Francis loved and caressed the children.
The queen, by her armies and her political influence, had succeeded in having Francis crowned Emperor of Germany. She stood upon the balcony as the imposing ceremony was performed, and was the first to shout "Long live the Emperor Francis I." Like Napoleon, she had become the creator of kings. Austria was now in the greatest prosperity, and Maria Theresa the most illustrious queen in Europe. Her renown filled the civilized world. Through her whole reign, though she became the mother of sixteen children, she devoted herself with untiring energy to the aggrandizement of her empire. She united with Russia and Prussia in the infamous partition of Poland, and in the banditti division of the spoil she annexed to her own dominions twenty-seven thousand square miles and two millions five hundred thousand inhabitants.
From this exhibition of the character of Maria Theresa, the mother of Maria Antoinette, the reader will not be surprised that she should have inspired her children with awe rather than with affection. In truth, their imperial mother was so devoted to the cares of the empire, that she was almost a stranger to her children, and could have known herself but few of the emotions of maternal love. Her children were placed under the care of nurses and governesses from their birth. Once in every eight or ten days the queen appropriated an hour for the inspection of the nursery and the apartments appropriated to the children; and she performed this duty with the same fidelity with which she examined the wards of the state hospitals and the military schools.
The following anecdote strikingly illustrates the austere and inflexible character of the empress. The wife of her son Joseph died of the confluent small-pox, and her body had been consigned to the vaults of the royal tomb. Soon after this event, Josepha, one of the daughters of the empress, was to be married to the King of Naples. The arrangements had all been made for their approaching nuptials, and she was just on the point of leaving Vienna to ascend the Neapolitan throne, when she received an order from her mother that she must not depart from the empire until she had, in accordance with the established custom, descended into the tomb of her ancestors and offered her parting prayer. The young princess, in an agony of consternation, received the cruel requisition. Yet she dared not disobey her mother. She took her little sister, Maria Antoinette, whom she loved most tenderly, upon her knee, and, weeping bitterly, bade her farewell, saying that she was sure she should take the dreadful disease and die. Trembling in every fiber, the unhappy princess descended into the gloomy sepulcher, where the bodies of generations of kings were moldering. She hurried through her short prayer, and in the deepest agitation returned to the palace, and threw herself in despair upon her bed.
Her worst apprehensions were realized. The fatal disease had penetrated her veins. Soon it manifested itself in its utmost virulence. After lingering a few days and nights in dreadful suffering, she breathed her last, and her own loathsome remains were consigned to the same silent chambers of the dead. Maria Theresa commanded her child to do no more than she would have insisted upon doing herself under similar circumstances. And when she followed her daughter to the tomb, she probably allowed herself to indulge in no regrets in view of the course she had pursued, but consoled herself with the reflection that she had done her duty.
The Emperor Francis died, 1765, leaving Maria Theresa still in the vigor of life, and quite beautiful. Three of her counselors of state, ambitious of sharing the throne with the illustrious queen, entered into a compact, by which they were all to endeavor to obtain her hand in marriage, agreeing that the successful one should devote the power thus obtained to the aggrandizement of the other two. The empress was informed of this arrangement, and, at the close of a cabinet council, took occasion, with great dignity and composure, to inform them that she did not intend ever again to enter into the marriage state, but that, should she hereafter change her mind, it would only be in favor of one who had no ambitious desires, and who would have no inclination to intermeddle with the affairs of state; and that, should she ever marry one of her ministers, she should immediately remove him from all office. Her counselors, loving power more than all things else, immediately abandoned every thought of obtaining the hand of Maria at such a sacrifice.
Maria Antoinette, the subject of this biography, was born on the 2d of November, 1755. Few of the inhabitants of this world have commenced life under circumstances of greater splendor, or with more brilliant prospects of a life replete with happiness. She was a child of great vivacity and beauty, full of light-heartedness, and ever prone to look upon the sunny side of every prospect. Her disposition was frank, cordial, and affectionate. Her mental endowments were by nature of a very superior order. Laughing at the restraints of royal etiquette, she, by her generous and confiding spirit, won the love of all hearts. Maria Antoinette was but slightly acquainted with her imperial mother, and could regard her with no other emotions than those of respect and awe; but the mild and gentle spirit of her father took in her heart a mother's place, and she clung to him with the most ardent affection.
When she was but ten years of age, her father was one day going to Inspruck upon some business. The royal cavalcade was drawn up in the court-yard of the palace. The emperor had entered his carriage, surrounded by his retinue, and was just on the point of leaving, when he ordered the postillions to delay, and requested an attendant to bring to him his little daughter Maria Antoinette. The blooming child was brought from the nursery, with her flaxen hair in ringlets clustered around her shoulders, and presented to her father. As she entwined her arms around his neck and clung to his embrace, he pressed her most tenderly to his bosom, saying, "Adieu my dear little daughter. Father wished once more to press you to his heart." The emperor and his child never met again. At Inspruck Francis was taken suddenly ill, and, after a few days' sickness, died. The grief of Maria Antoinette knew no bounds. But the tears of childhood soon dried up. The parting scene, however, produced an impression upon Maria which was never effaced, and she ever spoke of her father in terms of the warmest affection.
Maria Theresa, half conscious of the imperfect manner in which she performed her maternal duties, was very solicitous to have it understood that she did not neglect her children; that she was the best mother in the world as well as the most illustrious sovereign. When any distinguished stranger from the other courts of Europe visited Vienna, she arranged her sixteen children around the dinner-table, towering above them in queenly majesty, and endeavored to convey the impression that they were the especial objects of her motherly care. It was not, however, the generous warmth of love, but the cold sense of duty, which alone regulated her conduct in reference to them, and she had probably convinced herself that she discharged her maternal obligations with the most exemplary fidelity.
The family physician every morning visited each one of the children, and then briefly reported to the empress the health of the archdukes and the archduchesses. This report fully satisfied all the yearnings of maternal love in the bosom of Maria Theresa; though she still, that she might not fail in the least degree in motherly affection, endeavored to see them with her own eyes, and to speak to them with her own lips, as often as once in a week or ten days. The preceptors and governesses of the royal household, being thus left very much to themselves, were far more anxious to gratify the immediate wishes of the children, and thus to secure their love, than to urge them to efforts for intellectual improvement. Maria Antoinette, in subsequent life, related many amusing anecdotes illustrative of the petty artifices by which the scrutiny of the empress was eluded. The copies which were presented to the queen in evidence of the progress the children were making in hand-writing were all traced first in pencil by the governess. The children then followed with the pen over the penciled lines. Drawings were exhibited, beautifully executed, to show the skill Maria Antoinette had attained in that delightful accomplishment, which drawings the pencil of Maria had not even touched. She was also taught to address strangers of distinction in short Latin phrases, when she did not understand the meaning of one single word of the language. Her teacher of Italian, the Abbé Metastasio, was the only one who was faithful in his duties, and Maria made very great proficiency in that language. French being the language of the nursery, Maria necessarily acquired the power of speaking it with great fluency, though she was quite unable to write it correctly. In the acquisition of French, her own mother tongue, the German, was so totally neglected, that, incredible as it may seem, she actually lost the power either of speaking or of understanding it. In after years, chagrined at such unutterable folly, she sat down with great resolution to the study of her own native tongue, and encountered all the difficulties which would tax the patience of any foreigner in the attempt. She persevered for about six weeks, and then relinquished the enterprise in despair. The young princess was extremely fond of music, and yet she was not taught to play well upon any instrument. This became subsequently a source of great mortification to her, for she was ashamed to confess her ignorance of an accomplishment deemed, in the courts of Europe, so essential to a polished education, and yet she dared not sit down to any instrument in the presence of others. When she first arrived at Versailles as the bride of the heir to the throne of France, she was so deeply mortified at this defect in her education, that she immediately employed a teacher to give her lessons secretly for three months. During this time she applied herself to her task with the utmost assiduity, and at the end of the time gave surprising proof of the skill she had so rapidly attained. Upon all the subjects of history, science, and general literature, the princess was left entirely uninformed. The activity and energy of her mind only led her the more poignantly to feel the mortification to which this ignorance often exposed her. When surrounded by the splendors of royalty, she frequently retired to weep over deficiencies which it was too late to repair. The wits of Paris seized upon these occasional developments of the want of mental culture as the indication of a weak mind, and the daughter of Maria Theresa, the descendant of the Cæsars, was the butt, in saloon and café, of merriment and song. Maria was beautiful and graceful, and winning in all her ways. But this imperfect education, exposing her to contempt and ridicule in the society of intellectual men and women, was not among the unimportant elements which conducted to her own ruin, to the overthrow of the French throne, and to that deluge of blood which for many years rolled its billows incarnadine over Europe.
Maria Theresa had sent to Paris for two teachers of French to instruct her daughter in the literature of that country over which she was destined to reign. From that pleasure-loving metropolis two play actors were sent to take charge of her education, one of whom was a man of notoriously dissolute character. As the connection between Maria Antoinette and Louis, the heir apparent to the throne of France, was already contemplated, some solicitude was felt by members of the court of Versailles in reference to the impropriety of this selection, and the French embassador at Vienna was requested to urge the empress to dismiss the obnoxious teachers, and make a different choice. She immediately complied with the request, and sent to the Duke de Choiseul, the minister of state of Louis XV., to send a preceptor such as would be acceptable to the court of Versailles. After no little difficulty in finding one in whom all parties could unite, the Abbé de Vermond was selected, a vain, ambitious, weak-minded man, who, by the most studied artifice, insinuated himself into the good graces of Maria Theresa, and gained a great but pernicious influence over the mind of his youthful pupil. The cabinets of France and Austria having decided the question that Maria Antoinette was to be the bride of Louis, who was soon to ascend the throne of France, the Abbé de Vermond, proud of his position as the intellectual and moral guide of the destined Queen of France, shamefully abused his trust, and sought only to obtain an abiding influence, which he might use for the promotion of his own ambition. He carefully kept her in ignorance, to render himself more necessary to her; and he was never unwilling to involve her in difficulties, that she might be under the necessity of appealing to him for extrication.
Instead of endeavoring to prepare her for the situation she was destined to fill, it seemed to be his aim to train her to such habits of thought and feeling as would totally incapacitate her to be happy, or to acquire an influence over the gay but ceremony-loving assemblages of the Tuileries, Versailles, and St. Cloud. At this time, the fashion of the French court led to extreme attention to all the punctilios of etiquette. Every word, every gesture, was regulated by inflexible rule. Every garment worn, and every act of life, was regulated by the requisitions of the code ceremonial. Virtue was concealed and vice garnished by the inflexible observance of stately forms. An infringement of the laws of etiquette was deemed a far greater crime than the most serious violation of the laws of morality. In the court of Vienna, on the other hand, fashion ran to just the other extreme. It was fashionable to despise fashion. It was etiquette to pay no regard to etiquette. The haughty Austrian noble prided himself in dressing as he pleased, and looked with contempt upon the studied attitudes and foppish attire of the French. The Parisian courtier, on the other hand, rejoicing in his ruffles, and ribbons, and practiced movements, despised the boorish manners, as he deemed them, of the Austrian.
The Abbé de Vermond, to ingratiate himself with the Austrian court, did all in his power to inspire Maria Antoinette with contempt of Parisian manners. He zealously conformed to the customs prevailing in Vienna, and, like all new converts, to prove the sincerity of his conversion, went far in advance of his sect in intemperate zeal. Maria Antoinette was but a child, mirthful, beautiful, open hearted, and, like all other children, loving freedom from restraint. Her preceptor ridiculed incessantly, mercilessly, the manners of the French court, where she was soon to reign as queen, and influenced her to despise that salutary regard to appearances so essential in all refined life. Under this tutelage, Maria became as natural, unguarded, and free as a mountain maid. She smiled or wept, as the mood was upon her. She was cordial toward those she loved, and distant and reserved toward those she despised. She cared not to repress her emotions of sadness or mirthfulness as occasions arose to excite them. She was conscientious, and unwilling to do that which she thought to be wrong, and still she was imprudent, and troubled not herself with the interpretation which others might put upon her conduct. She prided herself a little upon her independence and recklessness of the opinions of others, and thus she was ever incurring undeserved censure, and becoming involved in unmerited difficulties. She was, in heart, truly a noble girl. Her faults were the excesses of a generous and magnanimous spirit. Though she inherited much of the imperial energy of her mother, it was tempered and adorned with the mildness and affectionateness of her father. Her education had necessarily tended to induce her to look down with aristocratic pride upon those beneath her in rank in life, and to dream that the world and all it inherits was intended for the exclusive benefit of kings and queens. Still, the natural goodness of her heart ever led her to acts of kindness and generosity. She thus won the love, almost without seeking it, of all who knew her well. Her faults were the unavoidable effect of her birth, her education, and all those nameless but untoward influences which surrounded her from the cradle to the grave. Her virtues were all her own, the instinctive emotions of a frank, confiding, and magnanimous spirit.
The childhood of Maria Antoinette was probably, on the whole, as happy as often falls to the lot of humanity. As she had never known a mother's love, she never felt its loss. There are few more enchanting abodes upon the surface of the globe than the pleasure palaces of the Austrian kings. Forest and grove, garden and wild, rivulet and lake, combine all their charms to lend fascination to those haunts of regal festivity. In the palace of Schoenbrun, and in the imbowered gardens which surround that world-renowned habitation of princely grandeur, Maria passed many of the years of her childhood. Now she trod the graveled walk, pursuing the butterfly, and gathering the flowers, with brothers and sisters joining in the recreation. Now the feet of her pony scattered the pebbles of the path, as the little troop of equestrians cantered beneath the shade of majestic elms. Now the prancing steeds draw them in the chariot, through the infinitely diversified drives, and the golden leaves of autumn float gracefully through the still air upon their heads. The boat, with damask cushions and silken awning, invites them upon the lake. The strong arms of the rowers bear them with fairy motion to sandy beach and jutting headland, to island, and rivulet, and bay, while swans and water-fowl, of every variety of plumage, sport before them and around them. Such were the scenes in which Maria Antoinette passed the first fourteen years of her life. Every want which wealth could supply was gratified. "What a destiny!" exclaimed a Frenchman, as he looked upon one similarly situated, "what a destiny! young, rich, beautiful, and an archduchess! Ma foi! quel destiné!"
The personal appearance of Maria Antoinette, as she bloomed into womanhood, is thus described by Lamartine. "Her beauty dazzled the whole kingdom. She was of a tall, graceful figure, a true daughter of the Tyrol. The natural majesty of her carriage destroyed none of the graces of her movements; her neck, rising elegantly and distinctly from her shoulders, gave expression to every attitude. The woman was perceptible beneath the queen, the tenderness of heart was not lost in the elevation of her destiny. Her light brown hair was long and silky; her forehead, high and rather projecting, was united to her temples by those fine curves which give so much delicacy and expression to that seat of thought, or the soul in woman; her eyes, of that clear blue which recall the skies of the north or the waters of the Danube; an aquiline nose, the nostrils open and slightly projecting, where emotions palpitate and courage is evidenced; a large mouth, Austrian lips, that is, projecting and well defined; an oval countenance, animated, varying, impassioned, and the ensemble of these features, replete with that expression, impossible to describe, which emanates from the look, the shades, the reflections of the face, which encompasses it with an iris like that of the warm and tinted vapor, which bathes objects in full sunlight—the extreme loveliness which the ideal conveys, and which, by giving it life, increases its attraction. With all these charms, a soul yearning to attach itself, a heart easily moved, but yet earnest in desire to fix itself; a pensive and intelligent smile, with nothing of vacuity in it, because it felt itself worthy of friendships. Such was Maria Antoinette as a woman."
When but fourteen years of age she was affianced as the bride of young Louis, the grandson of Louis XV., and heir apparent to the throne of France. Neither of the youthful couple had ever seen each other, and neither of them had any thing to do in forming the connection. It was deemed expedient by the cabinets of Versailles and Vienna that the two should be united, in order to promote friendly alliance between France and Austria. Maria Antoinette had never dreamed even of questioning any of her mother's arrangements, and consequently she had no temptation to consider whether she liked or disliked the plan. She had been trained to the most unhesitating submission to maternal authority. The childish heart of the mirth-loving princess was doubtless dazzled with the anticipations of the splendors which awaited her at Versailles and St. Cloud. But when she bade adieu to the gardens of Schoenbrun, and left the scenes of her childhood, she entered upon one of the wildest careers of terror and of suffering which mortal footsteps have ever trod. The parting from her mother gave her no especial pain, for she had ever looked up to her as to a superior being, to whom she was bound to render homage and obedience, rather than as to a mother around whom the affections of her heart were entwined. But she loved her brothers and sisters most tenderly. She was extremely attached to the happy home where her childish heart had basked in all childish pleasures, and many were the tears she shed when she looked back from the eminences which surround Vienna upon those haunts to which she was destined never again to return.
When Maria Antoinette was fifteen years of age, a light-hearted, blooming, beautiful girl, hardly yet emerging from the period of childhood, all Austria, indeed all Europe, was interested in the preparations for her nuptials with the destined King of France. Louis XV. still sat upon the throne of Charlemagne. His eldest son had died about ten years before, leaving a little boy, some twelve years of age, to inherit the crown his father had lost by death. The young Louis, grandchild of the reigning king, was mild, inoffensive, and bashful, with but little energy of mind, with no ardor of feeling, and singularly destitute of all passions. He was perfectly exemplary in his conduct, perhaps not so much from inherent strength of principle as from possessing that peculiarity of temperament, cold and phlegmatic, which feels not the power of temptation. He submitted passively to the arrangements for his marriage, never manifesting the slightest emotion of pleasure or repugnance in view of his approaching alliance with one of the most beautiful and fascinating princesses of Europe. Louis was entirely insensible to all the charms of female beauty, and seemed incapable of feeling the emotion of love.
Louis XV., a pleasure-loving, dissolute man, had surrounded his throne with all the attractions of fashionable indulgence and dissipation. There was one woman in his court, Madame du Barri, celebrated in the annals of profligacy, who had acquired an entire ascendency over the mind of the king. The disreputable connection existing between her and the monarch excluded her from respect, and yet the king loaded her with honors, received her at his table, and forced her society upon all the inmates of the palace. The court was full of jealousies and bickerings; and while one party were disposed to welcome Maria Antoinette, hoping that she would espouse and strengthen their cause, the other party looked upon her with suspicion and hostility, and prepared to meet her with all the weapons of annoyance.
Neither morals nor religion were then of any repute in the court of France. Vice did not even affect concealment. The children of Louis XV were educated, or rather not educated, in a nunnery. The Princess Louisa, when twelve years of age, knew not the letters of her alphabet. When the children did wrong, the sacred sisters sent them, for penance, into the dark, damp, and gloomy sepulcher of the convent, where the remains of the departed nuns were moldering to decay. Here the timid and superstitious girls, in an agony of terror, were sent alone, to make expiation for some childish offense. The little Princess Victoire, who was of a very nervous temperament, was thrown into convulsions by this harsh treatment, and the injury to her nervous system was so irreparable, that during her whole life she was exposed to periodical paroxysms of panic terror.
One day the king, when sitting with Madame du Barri, received a package of letters. The petted favorite, suspecting that one of them was from an enemy of hers, snatched the packet from the king's hand. As he endeavored to regain it, she resisted, and ran two or three times around the table, which was in the center of the room, eagerly pursued by the irritated monarch. At length, in the excitement of this most strange conflict, she threw the letters into the glowing fire of the grate, where they were all consumed. The king, enraged beyond endurance, seized her by the shoulders, and thrust her violently out of the room. After a few hours, however, the weak-minded monarch called upon her. The countess, trembling in view of her dismissal, with its dreadful consequences of disgrace and beggary, threw herself at his feet, bathed in tears, and they were reconciled.