Page images
PDF

herself with the society of cultivated and intelligent people. She loved music and painting, was interested in philosophy at a period when the theories of Lavater, the discoveries of Mesmer, and the frauds of Cagliostro attracted public attention. Her political sympathies were democratic ; her disposition mystic and inclined to melancholy. Her conversation was witty and she had a horror of vice. Mme. d'Oberkirch describes her as an agreeable if not a beautiful woman, of a loyal and passionate nature, resembling her husband's family in character much more than her own. “J'ai tout de Condé et rien d'Orléans,” she used to say of herself, and as a matter of fact she did not disguise her want of sympathy with her brother, the Duc de Chartres (the future Philippe Egalité), nor her contempt for her father's folly in his relations with Mme. de Montesson. (It was said at Court that, not having obtained permission from the King to make Mme. de Montesson the Duchesse d'Orléans, the duke had made himself M. de Montesson). Many are the glimpses of the different members of the Condé family given in the charming pages of the Baroness d'Oberkirch's memoirs. She describes the magnificent entertainments at Chantilly when, for the last time before the storm broke, the splendid château received the representatives of a foreign Power in the persons of the Comte * and Comtesse du Nord. The same pen gives us a description of the various buildings included in the Palais Bourbon as it appeared in 1784:

The small Palais Bourbon, built in 1779, is added to the larger one and completes it. It is a bijou. M. le Prince de Condé has made it the greatest gem imaginable. It is furnished with exquisite taste, not perhaps on a grand enough scale for its owners, for the ornaments and decoration are what one might see at Mlle. Dervieu.” The apartment of Mlle. de Condé, on the other hand, is of a noble severity. She has a picture of Christ by Titian which is the most beautiful and touching thing I have ever seen.

Besides the large and the small palace there is a medium one. It is here that the picture gallery is installed ; most of the canvases represent the battles of the great Condé and hunting scenes.

I saw with pleasure that M. le Prince de Condé had still got a picture of Mme. la Duchesse de Bourbon in his room. As to the Duc de Bourbon, his apartment had only dogs and horses, no women at all except one portrait of that Duchesse de Bourbon, who was daughter of Louis XIV. and Madame de Montespan. Mon Dieu, what a charming, roguish face |

It is rather touching to learn that Mme. la Duchesse eagerly questioned her friend, Mme. d'Oberkirch, after this visit to her old home whose threshold was barred to herself, and one can imagine that she heard with a sigh that, though her image still hung there, it was not in her husband's room. The poor

* The Grand Duke Paul and his wife, son and daughter-in-law of Catherine the Great, f A famous actress of the period,

duchess always retained the affection of her sister-in-law, gentle Princess Louise, whose only wish was to enter a convent, and these two women vied with each other in devotion to the little Duc d'Enghien. For him was organised one of the first “bal d'enfants” given in Paris, a fashion introduced by Mme. de Genlis, governess to the Duc de Chartres (the future Louis Philippe), and brilliant was the scene that brought together the juvenile members of the royal family and the little sons and daughters of the highest aristocracy. 1789 saw the break-up of all this society and the beginning of the emigration. On the night of July 14, 1789, an aide-de-camp of the Prince de Condé galloped headlong to Chantilly to announce the taking of the Bastille. Two days were spent in vain consultation with the royal family at Versailles, and on the 17th a small procession left Chantilly for the frontier. In the first carriage were the Prince de Condé, his son, the Duc de Bourbon, and his grandson, the Duc d'Enghien ; in the second, the gentlemen of the suite ; in the third, Princess Louis and the Princess of Monaco. The Duchesse de Bourbon and her sister-in-law, the Duchesse d'Orléans, were arrested and imprisoned. Thus the Palais Bourbon stood empty and deserted, a sad spectacle of much ruin and desolation. Happily, a public-spirited citizen, named Lenoir, horrified at the wholesale destruction of so many works of art and valuable property, obtained permission from the authorities to collect and place in safety such things as he could transport from the palaces, churches, and other buildings abandoned by their owners and at the mercy of the mob. To this man's individual efforts is owed the preservation of innumerable treasures which, after the Revolution had exhausted its fury, were handed back to the claimants of the property. In this way the contents" of the Bourbon Palace were saved, whilst the building itself became the property of the State by confiscation, replacing the Salle de Manège as the Parliament House of the nation. Henceforth the scenes enacted there were to be of a public character. In 1795 a decree handed over the ci-devant Palais Bourbon to the Conseil des Cinq Cents. Two years elapsed before the necessary alterations were complete, and on January 26, 1798, the inauguration ceremony took place, the occasion being one of great solemnity. All the members attended in full dress, that is, in a costume consisting of a long white robe, blue sash,

* Chantilly now contains the greater part of the works of art saved from the Palais Bourbon,

[graphic][graphic]

red mantle and velvet cap, all elaborately embroidered. After a speech by President Baileul, the assembly went in procession to the courtyard and planted a tree of liberty, amidst salvoes of artillery and shouts of “Vive la République ! Vive la Liberté !” Returning to the Council Chamber, the members mounted the tribune one after the other and took the following oath : “I swear hatred to the Monarchy and to Anarchy, attachment and fidelity to the Republic and the Constitution of the year III.” A couple of years later, Bonaparte's coup d'état of November 1 o, 1799 (19 Brumaire, l'an 8) substituted the Consulate for the Directoire, and the Corps Législatif, one of the governing bodies of the new Constitution (the others were the Sénat and the Tribunat) began their sittings in the Palais Bourbon. It was this assembly which, in passive obedience to the will of Napoleon, voted the Concordat, the establishment of the Legion of Honour, the Peace of Amiens, and the Code Civil. The same Assembly remained in existence during the Empire, characterised by the same spirit of acquiescence, till the day when it rose against the Emperor after the campaign of 1813, and proclaimed itself, in Parliamentary language, sick of war ! M. Lainé was the spokesman on this occasion. The Emperor was furious, and on the occasion of the New Year's Day reception, 1814, responded thus to the official congratulations of the Deputies : “Nine-tenths of you are to be depended on, the rest are malcontents ; as to M. Lainé, he is a conspirator, an agent employed by England. I will keep my eye on him ; he is a bad man.” On April 3 next, after the capitulation of Paris and the termination of the campaign of France, the Corps Législatif proclaimed the fall of Napoleon, and four days later expressed its lively satisfaction at the recall of the Bourbons. Naturally one of the first difficulties that arose on the restoration of the monarchy was the question of the property confiscated under the revolutionary regime, and it is as well to mention here how it was that the Palais Bourbon passed into the hands of the State. The Prince de Condé, on his return from exile, was fortunate enough to obtain the restitution of what had belonged to him, but, broken down in health and bereft of those who had been dear to him, he preferred the tranquillity of Chantilly, and agreed to lease to the Government that portion of the Palace required by the Chamber. After the prince's death, his son, the Duc de Bourbon, sold to the Government of Charles X. (in 1827) half the property, and in 1843 the Government of Louis Philippe acquired from the Duc d'Aumale (heir of the Duc de Bourbon) the remainder, including what was formerly known

as the Hôtel de Lassay, now the residence of the President of the Chamber. Thus the Corps Législatif, rechristened Chambre des Députés by Louis XVIII., continued under the same roof. During the Hundred Days a freshly elected Chamber sat at the Palais Bourbon. M. Henry Houssaye thus describes its character and feeling :

This assembly was antagonistic to the Bourbons on account of their reactionary tendencies and their dependence on foreign influence. It recognised in Napoleon the head of a national government, but dreaded his despotism. In default of a constitutional government under the Duc d'Orléans, which would have corresponded exactly to the wishes of the majority, the deputies were prepared to support the Emperor, but only on condition that he was deprived of all power.

On June 21 the Chamber received the news of the Battle of Waterloo, and immediately called upon the Emperor to resign. This he did, in favour of his son.

With the second Restoration came in the famous “Chambre Introuvable,” which dreamed of reinstating the old order of things as they had existed in pre-Revolutionary days. These ideas were, however, so little in harmony with those of the Ministers, that Louis XVIII., acting on the advice of the Duke of Wellington, was obliged to consent to a dissolution. The great Duke, who thus kept a guiding hand on the affairs of France, wrote to the king as follows:

Sire, the scenes enacted in the Chamber are known to every one. Your Ministers [the principal ones at this moment were the Duc de Richelieu and the Comte Decases, moderate Royalists], though possessing and deserving your Majesty's confidence and that of the whole of Europe, have no influence there. Love of truth and my attachment to your Majesty and to the tranquillity of Europe oblige me to warn your Majesty that it is notorious that your family, the persons of your Court, and those of the Princes, exercise in the Chamber an influence opposed to that of your Ministers and their views for the conduct of affairs. The moment is come for your Majesty to make a decision.

To the “Chambre Introuvable " succeeded one which better represented the views of the Ministers, and its composition became more and more liberal as each vacancy necessitated the election of a new member. Thus, one after the other, Lafayette, Benjamin Constant, and Manuel joined its deliberations and contributed to the high order of its debating qualities. In 1817 took place the famous sittings in which were discussed the property of the Church confiscated and sold by the Revolution, and amongst the greatest of the orators who took part in the debates was the philosopher Royer Collard. Perhaps his only equal until 1830 was General Foy, who died in 1825, and who was so popular that, by general subscription, a sum of a million francs was raised for the benefit of his children.

WOL. XLIII 30

Other speakers were Manuel, M. de Serre (appointed Garde des Sceaux in 1819), and M. de Martignac, who became, later on, Minister under Charles X. A contemporary" writes thus of M. de Serre : Brought up in the school of German philosophy, he showed in his discussion of affairs the results of a profound and ingenious method. He would hesitate in beginning to speak, and one could see by the contraction of his forehead that the ideas collected slowly and were elaborated with an effort. But little by little they took shape and poured forth in marvellous order, the speaker all the time swaying and trembling with the force of his oratory. The portrait of M. de Martignac by the same writer is not less interesting : “He captivated rather than commanded attention. What fluidity what charm what sense of fitness! what happy inspirations ! While his quick eye seemed to embrace the entire assembly, his finely modulated voice entranced the ear like that of a syren.” So fascinating, in fact, was his eloquence that on one occasion a deputy from amongst his adversaries cried out in dismay : “Tais-toi, sirène ! ” As to Manuel, he distinguished himself especially during the debates on the war with Spain, a war undertaken to re-establish Ferdinand VII. in his authority as absolute monarch. Manuel protested : “You wish to save Ferdinand ; very well, but do not renew the same circumstances which brought to the scaffold those whose cause you once espoused.” This allusion to the condemnation and execution of Louis XVI. outraged the feelings of the Right in a Chamber which had been re-elected since the assassination of the Duc de Berri, and was, in consequence of the horror inspired by the deed, strongly reactionary. The Right insisted on Manuel's expulsion, and a vote to that effect was carried. On the morrow, Manuel took his seat notwithstanding. The President called upon him to withdraw ; he replied : “I have declared my intention of only giving in to force.” He was then seized by two gendarmes and removed. After the death of Louis XVIII. and the accession of Charles X. parliamentary life redoubled in intensity. Royer Collard rose, as it were, above himself in eloquence and vigour, and was the apostle of liberty in all the debates on the law of sacrilege and the laws relating to the Press. This law of sacrilege, which punished with death theft from a church or the profanation of sacred vessels, was voted by the Chamber of Deputies after passing through the Chamber of Peers. Royer Collard fought against it with an elevation of mind and an energy of language in every way admirable, just as two years later he opposed the law which would have had the effect of suppressing not only all

* M. de Cormenin, author of Livre des Orateurs,

« PreviousContinue »