A Celebration of Women Writers

"Chapter IX." by Constance Hill
From: Juniper Hall: A Rendevous of Certain Illustrious Personages during the French Revolution Including Alexandre D'Arblay and Fanny Burney by Constance Hill. London & New York: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1904.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 88]

CHAPTER IX

KING'S DEFENCE

FANNY BURNEY, who was at this time visiting her sister Charlotte at Aylesham, in Norfolk, writes to Mrs. Phillips: "I am truly amazed and half alarmed to find this county filled with little revolution societies which transmit their notion of things to the larger committee at Norwich, which communicates the whole to the reformists of London. I am told there is scarce a village in Norfolk free from these meetings . . . . I will be very discreet in the points that require it, au reste. I like to inspire those I see with an interest for your little colony at Juniper Hall, by such recitals as are safe, especially as all the constituants are now reviled as authors and originators of all the misfortunes of France.

"Who is this M. Malouet who has the singular courage and feeling to offer to plead the cause of a fallen monarch in the midst of his ferocious accusers? And how ventures M. de Chauvelin[1] [Page 89]  to transmit such a proposal? I wish your French neighbours could give some account of this."

Malouet, in his earnest appeal to the Convention, remarks, "I feel bound to offer myself as the official defender of a Prince whose virtues I have always esteemed and whose misfortunes I must now deplore." But he appealed in vain. After hearing his letter read aloud, the members of the Convention passed contemptuously to the "order of the day," pausing only to insert Malouet's name in the "List of Emigrés" and to declare his property confiscated to the State.

Narbonne demanded leave of the Convention to appear at the trial as a witness for the King. His demand was rejected, and he then addressed a Memorial to that body defending Louis XVI. from such charges as he knew, from his own experience as Minister of War, to be false. This Memorial he sent to Malesherbe, who expressed to him in the King's name "the most touching words of acknowledgment."

M. d'Arblay also sent a declaration in favour of Louis XVI., defending him from a charge of having purposely left the town of Longwy exposed to the invasion of the Prussian army. M. d'Arblay had formerly held the post of Commandant of Longwy, and although he had been promoted to another post shortly before the town was besieged, his exact evidence as to the strength [Page 90]  of the garrison was very valuable, and he received a letter from M. de Malesherbe saying he should certainly make use of this evidence in the defence.

The Duc de Liancourt urged his claims to defend the King - "as the friend of humanity and justice." "By this title," he writes, "and this alone, I venture to make my demand, although unworthy in other respects to stand by the side of those men of commanding talents who will now offer themselves as the defenders of Louis XVI."

Lally-Tollendal was also using every means in his power to obtain permission to act as advocate for the King. A letter which he addressed to the President of the Convention, written in London and dated December 17, 1792, is now preserved in the "Archives de la Répubique" at Paris. We have held that letter in our hands; and as we gazed upon its faded ink and its paper yellow with age, the whole tragic drama seemed to be enacting over again, and we realised the heroism of this little band of good and wise men who were so eager to lay down their lives "in the cause of humanity and of justice."

"I demand," writes Lally-Tollendal, "that my name be presented to Louis XVI. beneath that of Malesherbe. My speech is prepared. Within a quarter of an hour of my arrival in Paris, I can present myself at the bar. I need not even see [Page 91]  Louis XVI.; all that I require are the pleadings of his denouncers and the Act of Accusation."

This speech, which Lally's biographer tells us was singularly eloquent and pathetic, was never delivered, for the leaders of the Convention, having determined upon the death of the King, refused to hear any further evidence in his favour.

Mrs. Phillips writes on December 16: "Everything that is most shocking may, I fear, be expected for the unfortunate King of France, his Queen, and perhaps all that belong to him. M. d'Arblay said it would indeed scarce have been possible to hope that M. de Narbonne could have escaped with life, had the sauf-conduit requested been granted him, for attending as a witness at the King's trial."

M. d'Arblay, after dwelling upon these sad events, remarked:- "I see no hope of tranquillity for my unhappy country during my lifetime. The people are so vitiated by the impunity of crime, and by becoming accustomed to the sight of bloodshed, that to all appearances there will be neither peace nor security in France for thirty or forty years to come. But happily for us," he added more cheerfully, "you have adopted us, and I hope we shall never leave you."

"Yesterday (Saturday, December 15)," continues [Page 92]  Mrs. Phillips, "I was very pleasantly surprised by a visit from M. de Narbonne, who was as gracious and as pleasant as ever he could be. We talked over Marmontel's new tales, which, I believe, I mentioned his having been so good as to lend me; he told me the author of them was in Paris, unhappy enough in seeing the state of public affairs - 'Mais pour l'interieur de sa Maison, on ne peut guère voir de bonheur plus parfait . . . . C'est un homme rempli de sentiment et douceur.'

"He had heard nothing new from France, but mentioned with great concern the indiscretion of the King in having kept all his letters since the Revolution; that the papers lately discovered in the Tuileries would bring ruin and death on hundreds of his friends; and that almost every one in that number s'y trouvait compliqué some way or other. A decree of accusation had been lancé against M. de Talleyrand, not for anything found from himself, but because M. de la Porte, long since executed . . . had written to the King that l'Evéque d'Autun was well disposed to serve him. Can there be injustice more flagrant?

"M. Talleyrand, it seems, had purposed returning, and hoped to settle his affairs in France in person, but now he must be content with life; and as for his property (save what he may chance [Page 93]  to have in other countries), he must certainly lose all . . . . They are now printing, by order of the Convention, all the letters to the King's brothers which had been seized at Verdun and in other places; amongst them some from 'le traître Narbonne,' in which he professed his firm and unalterable attachment to royalty and made offers of his services to the Princes.

"But the M. de Narbonne whose letters are printed is not our M. de Narbonne, but a relation of his, a man of true honour, but a decided aristocrat from the beginning of the Revolution who had consequently devoted himself to the party of the Princes. The Convention knew this perfectly, M. de Narbonne said, but it suited their purpose best to enter into no explanations, but to let all who were not so well informed conclude that 'ce traître de Narbonne' and 'ce scélérat de Narbonne' was the Minister, in whom such conduct would really have been a treachery . . . . He spoke with considerable emotion on the subject, and said that, after all his losses and all that he had undergone, that which he felt most severely was the expectation of being 'confondu avec tous les scélérats de sa malheureuse patrie' not only 'de son vivant' but by posterity.

"Monday, December 17, in the morning, Mr. and Mrs. Lock called, and with them came Madame de la Châtre to take leave. [Page 94] 

"She now told us (perfectly in confidence) that Madame de Broglie had found a friend in the Mayor of Boulogne, that she was lodged in his house, and that she could answer for her (Madame de la Châtre) being received by him as well as she could desire . . . . Madame de la Châtre said all her friends who had ventured upon writing to her entreated her not to lose the present moment to return, as the three months allowed for the return of those excepted in the decree once past, all hope would be lost for ever. Madame de Broglie, who is her cousin, was most excessively urgent to her to lose not an instant in returning. 'Vous croyez donç, Madame,' said I rather tristement, 'y aller?' 'Oui, sûrement, je l'éspère; car sans celà, tous mes projets sont anéanties. Si enfin je n'y pouvais aller, je serais réduite à presque rien.'

. . . "I tried to hope without fearing for her, and, indeed, most sincerely offer up my petitions for her safety. Heaven prosper her! Her courage and spirits are wonderful."

Madame de Broglie's "little son," who in after years wrote of those troubled times, says: "I have but a faint recollection of the short time we spent in the neighbourhood of London with Madame de la Châtre, a friend of my mother and her son, a young man of great promise . . . but I distinctly remember the precautions we had to [Page 95]  take when returning to France. An English boat landed us at night, in great secrecy, on the beach of Boulogne. I recollect the state of excitement in which we found the population, and which affected even our own servants." Speaking of their life in Paris during the Revolution the same writer says: "The events which struck me most were - first the sacking of the Hotel de Castries. From our windows we could hear distinctly the yells of the mob and the fall of the furniture which they threw down from the windows, and second the grand spectacle of the Fête of the Federation.[1] I still see, in the midst of the excited people which thronged the Champs de Mars, the ladies wearing tricolour ribbons, and pretending to wield shovels and to wheel barrows. My mother was one of them."

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Footnotes

[Page 88]

1 French Ambassador in London.

[Page 95]

1 of 1791.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom