« PreviousContinue »
their joyous and advancing youth, and the glades of the forest rang often with their laughter and were witnesses of their sports.
The happy children forgat their exiled lot, and made a little Arcadia around them. From the pages of the inimitable and gay Hamilton we learn that in spring and summer the young prince and his sister exercised their fancies incessantly in the invention of some new sylvan pastime. Now they led their little court into the depths of the forest in search of wild flowers and strawberries; now they designed little pilgrimages on foot to some shrine or chapel within walk of the palace, carrying with them some light refreshment on which they could picnic in the forest on their return; now they floated along a joyous party on the bosom of the Seine, and they never forgot in the month of June to make a party among the haymakers, when the princess and her governess, Lady Middleton, made rival haycocks against the Duchess of Berwick and her friends. Once we read of both prince and princess dancing among the masqueraders admitted to the terrace on Shrove Tuesday; and in winter the courts of St. Germains and Versailles exchanged balls and receptions.
Often must the prince, in his after life of disappointed hopes, when he was an exile even from St. Germains, have looked back to this merry time, when even the widowed queen forgot her grief for a while in smiles, at the gay fancies of her son and the charming daughter who passed away in the springtime of life. But this happy period was of short duration. The prince was barely twenty when he was called to place himself at the head of his first Jacobite expedition to Scotland ; and from that time the unhappy queen knew no more of the tranquil delights of maternity. Soon after the prince's return from this his first unfortunate essay to regain the throne of his ancestors, both he and his sister were taken ill with the smallpox; and the blithe-hearted and unfortunate young princess, the delight of her mother's heart, and the joy of the French as well as of the English inhabitants of St. Germains, was taken suddenly away. Then followed the Peace of Utrecht, by the conditions of which Louis was constrained to deny himself the privilege of any longer giving refuge to the prince, who now began to be called the Pretender; and from that time the unhappy queen remained virtually childless as well as a widow, and saw her beloved son but twice more in the course of her life.
She yearned now desperately to bury her sorrow entirely in the convent of Chaillot, where she spent regularly some months of every year, finding in her intimate communion with
the inmates of the house infinitely more pleasure than in the mock state of St. Germains ; but she was instructed that the interests of her son forbade any such seclusion, and she remained at the dreary palace alone. The cares of her position were, however, immense. From the time of her arrival in France, her pension, to which she was entitled from England by her marriage-contract and in right of her dowry, was stopped, and the money retained by William of Orange, while she became a pensioner on the bounty of France; her pension, moreover, in the latter part of the reign of Louis was irregularly paid, and she was literally eaten up by the swarm of starving English Jacobites who had planted themselves to the number at first of twenty thousand on the bounty of the exiled monarch, and were for ever clamouring for relief at St. Germains. The distress of the queen became so severe that she sold all her jewels, with the exception of the ring with which she had been married and one other. While her compassion for the starving people around her was so great that she sometimes rated her lady of the household for giving her too expensive a diet for dinner. She used to stint herself in necessaries, look jealously to the wear of her shoes and gloves, and ran in debt to the nuns of Chaillot for the rent of her apartments, in a sum which it does not appear was ever paid. The death of her protector Louis XIV. added another shade of gloom to her desolate existence. She was, too, in her latter years much
, afflicted by recurring crises of a painful disease, that of cancer, to which she finally succumbed. It was, indeed, a release from a life of pain when she died on the 7th of May, 1718.
The mother of the Regent, well known for her caustic turn of speech, had nothing but good to say of Mary of Modena.
"I write to you with a troubled heart, and all yesterday I was weeping. Yesterday morning about seven o'clock the good, pious, and virtuous queen of England died at St. Germains. She must be in heaven. She left not a dollar for herself, but gave away all to the poor, maintaining many families. She never in her life did wrong to anyone. If you were about to tell a story of anybody, she would say, “ If it be any ill, I beg you not to relate it to me. I do not like stories
I which attack the reputation."
As for her manner it is sufficient to recall the expression of Louis to his Court as she was leaving Versailles on her first visit : See what a queen should be. Her mien,' says Saint
.' · Simon, ‘was the noblest, the most majestic, and imposing in • the world, but it was also sweet and modest.'
Up to the date of the French Revolution, even when the last heirs of the House of Stuart were excluded from France
and dwelt in Italy, the state-apartments of the château of St. Germains were kept up as they were inhabited by James and Mary, and the descendants of the old Jacobite attendants of the exiled family occupied the rest of the palace. A lady, herself descended from one of these, gave the following account to Miss Strickland of the château as she remembered it before the French Revolution :
'I was a very young girl when I saw the castle of St. Germains. There were apartments there still occupied by the descendants of King James' household. Among these was my father's aunt, Miss Plowden, niece to the Earl of Stafford, and my mother's aunt, also an old maiden lady, sister to my grandfather, Lord Dillon. The state rooms were kept up, and I remember being struck with the splendour of the silver ornaments on the toilette of the queen. At the French Revolution all were plundered and destroyed.'
It was, indeed, the last request of Mary of Modena before she died in 1718 to the Duke of Orleans, that the descendants of the faithful followers of the House of Stuart should be allowed to retain possession of their apartments till the restoration of her son to his royal inheritance. So the old palace of the Valois and the Bourbon, afforded, by the generosity of the French kings, as Miss Strickland says, a shelter and a home to the last relics of the Jacobite party, and was a Jacobite Hampton Court on the banks of the Seine till the great catastrophe of the French Revolution. Up to that period the chamber in which Mary of Modena died was kept in precisely the same state in which it was during her life. Her toilette-table, with all its plate and ornaments, and four wax tapers in gilt candlesticks, were set out daily for use, and the Jacobite colony still continued to keep the anniversaries of the House of Stuart, such as the 29th of May, and the birthday of the young Pretender, and that of his brother the Cardinal, with bonfires and rejoicings.
After the death of Mary Beatrice, the Court of St. Germains, ceasing to be the habitation of the Stuarts, it ceased also to be the centre of Jacobite intrigue. There was, however, one project entertained by Mary Beatrice which was achieved in the year after her death, and this was the marriage of her son, about which she had occupied herself for two years. The prince was thirty years of age at her death, and his followers naturally objected to risk their lives for a cause which might terminate with himself. But it was not easy to find a fitting wife for a disinherited prince of such pretensions. A first attempt had been made to obtain as a partner for him his cousin the daughter of Rinaldo d'Este, who had become Duke
of Modena on the death of the brother of Mary Beatrice ; but the project was defeated by the influence brought to bear on the Modenese Court by the House of Hanover. A second project of marriage was more successful, although here, too, the House of Hanover exerted all its influence to prevent the union. The child of another exiled race Clementina Sobieski, the grand-daughter of the saviour of Vienna, conceived a romantic passion for the heir of the House of Stuart, and the marriage took place by proxy ; but the princess was unfortunately living under the protection of the Emperor Charles VI., and George I. prevailed upon the Kaiser to exercise his power for the prevention of the accomplishment of the union. The bride of James Stuart, aware of the toils which were being set for her, escaped away secretly from Olau, where she then was living, with the intention of joining her husband at Bologna; but English spies were then on the watch all over the continent, and at Innspruck she was arrested and thrown into a convent. All the diplomacy of England and Austria was then set in motion to annul the marriage. The emperor engaged to demand from the Pope its dissolution, and in case of refusal the imperial troops were to invade the States of the Church, while the English fleet should bombard Civita Vecchia. As for the princess herself, she was destined to a convent for life. The daughter of the Sobieskis outwitted all the diplomatists of Europe by escaping from the hands of her gaolers, and reaching the prince at Bologna, where she was married aneil. Medals were struck in honour of the marriage, one of which exhibited the head of the princess on the face, while on the reverse there was a figure of the bride arriving at Rome (typified by the Coliseum and other ruins) in a Roman triumphal car drawn by two steeds in full career, with the motto above, Fortunam causamque sequor, and below the words Deceptis custodibus, in allusion to her flight from Innspruck.
Not less connected with the history of the Stuarts than the palace of St. Germains is the convent of Chaillot, the documents of which are now in the archives of France, and have been largely employed by Miss Strickland in her life of Mary of Modena'; these documents the Marchesa Campana proposes to publish in full.
James II. in his later years made frequent pilgrimages to the monastery of La Trappe, led thither partly by his desire for religious meditations, and partly by the affection and esteem which he felt for the Abbé de Rancy, the converted gallant and courtier, who was also the especial object of admiration of Saint-Simon. So too the queen loved to retire during the absence of James and after his death at fixed periods every year to the convent of Chaillot. She had her own apartments there always preserved for her, which Louis XIV. had taken care to furnish; she lived in terms of affectionate familiarity with the nuns of the convent, making them confidants of her joys and her sorrows, and recalling the dreams of her youthful novitiate at Modena. Thus it is from the reports of the sisters of conversations taken from her lips, and from her correspondence with the inmates of the monastery, that the documents in the Archives de France are composed.
The convent of the Visitation at Chaillot was founded by Henrietta Maria, daughter of Henri IV.and queen of Charles I.; in these walls she too had found a congenial retreat from the sorrows of her later years, and finally she left her heart to the society. There was thus a peculiar propriety in the convent becoming the refuge of the griefs of Mary Beatrice, when she could escape from the hollow mockery of empty state which surrounded her at St. Germains. The nuns who sought retreat here were members of the noblest families of France, sprung from such families as the Montmorencies, the La Fayettes, the Ventadours, and the Gramonts.
It was at Chaillot that Madame de la Vallière sought refuge at the time of her first escape from court, and here that Colbert came to recall her to court, at a time when the duties of a minister of France included the management of the king's mistresses; the King of France, the princes of the blood, court nobles, cardinals, and archbishops were among its frequent visitors. No vestige of the convent now remains, since it suffered the fate of all conventual institutions in the confiscation of its property at the Revolution ; yet its buildings were not destroyed by the Revolution but by the first Napoleon. On the birth of the Prince of Rome, the founder of the new Carlovingian dynasty determined to honour the event by building a palace for the King of Rome, which should be of a grandeur commensurate with his ambition, and which should, if possible, outstrip Versailles. No site seemed to offer such advantages as the heights of Chaillot, in front of the Champs de Mars, which commanded a view not only of Paris but of the windings of the Seine as far as St. Cloud and St. Germains; and so the whole of the conventual structures, chapel, and out-buildings were levelled to the ground, the gardens broken up, and the work commenced. The stupendous fabric which he thus intended to raise was of course never reared. The foundations fell into ruins before the