Thursday, March 16, 2006

Countess Macnamara. The Bourbons.

Richmond: August 1832.—We have just had Countess Macnamara here: she is as usual full of her Bourbons, very literally "plus Catholique que le Pape, plus Royaliste que le Roi" for she complains of the relaxation of discipline in the former, and says that all the evils of France are to be ascribed to the republican spirit of its late sovereigns. Monsieur Dixhuit—she said to me with the peculiar emphasis which I thought reserved for Philippe, as Satan is not Monsieur- Monsieur Dixhuit was at heart a more thorough republican than any man in his dominions.

All his measures tended that way, and when Charles X. came, poor good man, who never meant anything but what was right, he was too indolent to change the ministry or the measures of his brother. It would have almost exceeded my belief to have been told that any Englishwoman could take up the cudgels for Miguel, but I heard her pitying him as an illused and calumniated man, maintaining to my brother Charles, who might have rather better means of information, that he was not privy to the murder, not cruel, &c. &c.

All this is only curious as furnishing a singular page in the history of human nature, showing how entirely the wise ultra-Bourbon party, whose echo she is, can over-look even the radical sin of illegitimate authority when redeemed by despotism and bigotry. In the midst of all this absurdity, she gave me a singular instance of devotion to her beloved Bourbons, which, being asserted on her personal knowledge, is I suppose in the main true.

A Miss W., who some fifty years ago was an admired singer on the English stage, made a conquest of a Mr. A., a man of large property, who married her. Whether the lady's character was not immaculate, or whether, the march of intellect not having begun, actresses of the best character were not yet reckoned fit society for ladies, does not appear; certain it is that, finding she could not get any society in England, the A.'s went to establish themselves at Versailles, where they took a fine house, gave fetes, &c. &c. His wealth gave splendour; her beauty, her singing, her dancing, gave charm.

The Polignacs came to her fetes, and afterwards introduced her to the little society, to the intimate reunions, of which Marie Antoinette was a constant member. When adversity befell this object of admiration, of almost idolatry, Mrs. A. devoted herself, her talents and (better than all) her purse to her service. It was chiefly during the Queen's melancholy abode in the Temple that Mrs. A. most exerted herself. In bribes, in various means employed for the relief of the poor Queen, she expended between 30,000 and 40,000 sterling.

This of course was taken under the name of a loan, and soon after the Restoration Mrs. A. made a demand upon Louis XVIII.: every item of her account was discussed and most allowed, till they came to a very large bribe given to the minister of police, one to the gaoler, and bribes to various persons, to manage the escape of the Dauphin and the substitution of a dying child in his place.

Louis XVIII. Would not agree to this article, and insisted upon its being erased from the account as the condition upon which he would order the gradual liquidation of the rest of the debt. To this condition Mrs. A. would not accede: Louis XVIII. died: the accounts were again brought forward. Charles X. was just going to give the order for
paying the debt by instalments when the revolution came, and Mrs. A. seems now further than ever from obtaining any part of her money.

It is to me very odd that Mac does not seem to feel that, admitting all her premises, her story tells very much against her beloved Bourbons. She always speaks of the reign of Charles as if it had lasted as many months as it did years, as if he had not had time to execute any of the good purposes that were in his heart. She concludes the history I have just written by saying, 'I had a message for Mrs. A. from Holyrood, which I was desired to deliver in person. I had great difficulty in tracing her; at last I found her a week ago,' (she told me where, but I have forgotten), She represents her as preserving remains of beauty at about seventy, coiffee, en cheveux, with a mask of paint.

I gravely asked whether she was still an enthusiast in the cause; to which she replied, ' No,' in what I fancied a hurried embarrassed manner, which impressed me with the idea that Mrs. A. is naturally enough rather exasperated at their conduct towards her. It seems that they are all convinced, and this Mrs. A. is ready to make any oath, that the Dauphin did not die as was supposed in the Temple. The Duchesse d'Angouleme has always said, ' I have no evidence of his death, and know that it did not take place in the Temple, but I have no evidence of his being alive at any subsequent period.'

The rancour of Mrs A. against Louis-Philippe sounds particularly ill here,: she believes him capable of every crime. In this neighbourhood where he lived so many years, not only there is nothing alleged against him, but everybody mentions him with respect. I hear he is now paying small pensions to some of the poor, whom he was in the habit of relieving. Miss Dundas spoke with tears in her eyes of his invariable kindness to her father, who attended his family as physician, and of the attention shown to her brother and her for his sake, when they were at Paris some years ago.

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