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The Duchesse d’Ayen—Birth and death of her sons—Her five daughters—Their education at home—Saintly life of the Duchess—Marriage of her eldest daughter to the Vicomte de Noailles—Of the second to the Marquis de la Fayette—Of the Dauphin to the Archduchess Marie Antoinette—The Comtesse de Noailles—Marriages of the Comtes de Provence and d’Artois to the Princesses of Sardinia—Death of Louis XV.—Unhappy marriage of the third daughter of the Duc d’Ayen to the Vicomte du Roure—Afterwards to Vicomte de Thésan—Paulette and Rosalie de Noailles—Adrienne de la Fayette—Radical ideas of the Vicomte de Noailles and Marquis de la Fayette—Displeasure of the family and the King—La Fayette and de Noailles join the American insurgents—Grief and heroism of Adrienne—Marriage of Pauline to the Marquis de Montagu.
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TWO years after her marriage the Duchesse d’Ayen had a son who, to her great grief, lived only a few months, and whose death was followed by the birth of Louise, called Mlle. de Noailles, Adrienne Mlle. d’Ayen, Thérèse Mlle. d’Epernon, Pauline Mlle. de Maintenon, and Rosalie Mlle. de Montclar.

In 1768, a year after the birth of her youngest girl, she had another boy, and at the same time was dangerously ill of small-pox. The Duke, in terror for her life, would not allow her to be told what was [183] the matter, and even insisted on the children all being admitted to her room, for fear of arousing her suspicions and alarming her. However, she recovered and none of them took it. The baby lived and for some time appeared quite well; though after a few months it began to fade, and soon died of consumption.

This was a severe disappointment to the Duke, who had already begun to occupy himself with his son’s future, but the Duchess, whose saintly mind had been tormented with misgivings about the future life of the boy whose prospects then seemed so brilliant and so full of temptations, and who did not probably consider the Duke, her husband, a very promising or trustworthy guide and example, resigned herself to the loss of the heir, whom she had even in her prayers entreated God to take out of this world rather than allow him to be tainted by the vice and corruption with which she foresaw he would be surrounded in it.

She considered that the death of the child was the answer to her prayer; never, from the moment he began to ail, having the least hope of his recovery, subduing her grief with all the strength of her character and religious fervour, and devoting herself entirely to the care and education of her daughters.

They were not, according to the general custom, sent to a convent, but brought up at home under her constant supervision. The frequent absence of the Duke, who was usually either at Versailles or with the army, [70] left them to her undivided care. They [184] had an excellent governess, but the Duchess herself superintended their studies, they went to mass with her every morning at the Jacobins or St. Roch, dined with her at three o’clock, and spent always some time afterwards in her room, which was very large, was hung with crimson and gold damask, and contained an immense bed.

The Duchess sat by the fire in her armchair, surrounded by her books, her work, and her gold snuff-box; the children sat round her, also reading, working, or talking of anything that interested them.

Every now and then they made excursions to Meudon, where they rode upon donkeys, or they visited their grandfathers, M. d’Aguesseau, at Fresne, and the Duc de Noailles at Saint Germain-en-Laye, when they delighted in playing and wandering in the forest.

Often in after years did they look back to the happy, sheltered childhood that passed too quickly away, and contrast its peace, security, and magnificence with the sorrows, dangers, and hardships of their later lives.

They were all, during their early youth, rather afraid of their father, of whom they saw so little that he was a stranger to them in comparison with the mother they all adored, who, exalted as were her religious principles, austere and saintly her rule of life, yet knew how to gain her children’s confidence [185] and affection, and understood thoroughly their different characters and tendencies. People wondered at the goodness of Mme. d’Ayen’s children, and it was remarked that the Duchess “had brought up a company of angels.”

Louise, whose fate was so closely linked with her mother’s, was one of those gentle, saintly characters, who scarcely seem to belong to this earth; whose thoughts, interests, and aspirations are in another world. But perhaps the most striking amongst them was Adrienne, the second girl, who besides being very handsome, was the most intellectual and talented of the sisters, and of whom the Duchess was as proud as the severity of her ideas permitted her to be.

While Louise and Adrienne were still children projects of marriage for them were, of course, discussed, and they were only about thirteen and fourteen when two sons-in-law were approved of and accepted by their parents, with the condition that the proposed arrangements should not be communicated to the young girls for a year, during which they would be allowed often to meet and become well acquainted with their future husbands.

The one proposed for Louise was the second son of her uncle, the Maréchal Mouchy de Noailles, a lad of sixteen, who bore the title of Vicomte de Noailles, and was in rank, fortune, and character an extremely suitable marriage for her.

For Adrienne, the Marquis de la Fayette, a boy who when first the marriage was thought of by the respective families was not fifteen years old, whose father was dead, who had been brought up by his [186] aunt in the country, and who was very rich. He was plain, shy, awkward, and had red hair, but he and Adrienne fell violently in love with each other during the time of probation. Louise and her cousin had, of course, always known each other, and now that they were thrown constantly together they were delighted with the arrangements made for them.

The marriages accordingly took place when Louise was sixteen and Adrienne fifteen years old.

Their aunt, the Maréchale de Mouchy, called then the Comtesse de Noailles, was about this time appointed first lady of honour to the Archduchess Marie Antoinette of Austria, whose approaching marriage with the Dauphin was the great event of the day; and was sent with the other distinguished persons selected to meet her at the frontier. This alliance was very unpopular with the royal family and court, who disliked Austria and declared that country to be the enemy of France, to whom her interests were always opposed. Madame Adéla?de especially, made no secret of her displeasure, and when M. Campan came to take her orders before setting off for the frontier with the household of the Dauphin, she said that she disapproved of the marriage of her nephew with the Archduchess, and if she had any order to give it would not be to fetch an Austrian.

The Comtesse de Noailles was a most unfortunate choice to have made for the post in question; for although a woman of the highest character, religious, charitable, and honourable, she was so stiff, precise, [187] and absolutely the slave of every detail of court etiquette that she only tormented and estranged the young girl, who was ready to be conciliated, and whom she might have influenced and helped. The Dauphine, however, an impetuous, thoughtless girl of fifteen, accustomed to the freedom of her own family life at the court of Vienna, hated and ridiculed the absurd restrictions of the French Court, called the Countess “Madame l’Etiquette,” and took her own way.

The ill-luck which seemed to follow the Dauphin had not forsaken him; a terrible catastrophe marked the fêtes given in honour of his wedding. Some scaffolding in the place Louis XV. caught fire. The flames spread with fearful rapidity, a scene of panic and horror ensued, hundreds were burned or trampled to death by the frantic horses or maddened crowd; and with this terrible calamity began the married life of the boy and girl, the gloom and darkness of whose destiny it seemed to foreshadow. [71]

The Comtes de Provence and d’Artois were married to the two daughters of the King of Sardinia, to whose eldest son the Princess Clotilde was betrothed.

The King associated all his grandchildren with Mme. Du Barry just as he had his daughters with the Duchesse de Chateauroux and her sisters de Nesle, [188] and affairs went on at court much in the usual way until, in 1774, he caught the small-pox in one of his intrigues and died, leaving a troubled and dangerous inheritance to the weak, helpless, vacillating lad, who had neither brains to direct, energy to act, or strength to rule.

In 1779 Mlle. d’Epernon, third daughter of the Duc d’Ayen, married the Vicomte du Roure. She was a gentle, affectionate girl of less decided character than the others, and less is known of her, for her life was a short one passed in domestic retirement. This marriage was unhappy, as the Vicomte cared very little for his wife. However, he died in two years, and in 1784 she married the Vicomte de Thésan, an ardent Royalist who was devoted to her. [72]

Married or single, the five sisters were all strongly [189] attached to one another. The married ones were a great deal with their family, either at Paris or Versailles, while Pauline and Rosalie, between whom there was only a year’s difference, were inseparable.

The real names of Mlle. de Maintenon were Anne Paule Dominique, which, sonorous as they sound, were those of a poor old man and woman of the labouring class whom the Duchess had chosen to be her daughter’s godfather and godmother.

Pauline was very pretty, a brunette with dark eyes and masses of dark hair, of an impetuous, affectionate, hasty disposition, which she was always trying to correct according to the severe, almost ascetic, counsels of her mother and younger sister, whom one cannot but fancy, though equally admirable, was perhaps less charming.

Rosalie was rather plain, with irregular but expressive features, small eyes and a chin inclined to be square and decided; she was precocious for her age, but good-tempered, calm, and possessing great strength of character.

She married, in 1788, the Marquis de Grammont.

The anxieties and sorrows of life were already gathering round the girls thrust so early into the burden and heat of the day.

Adrienne, who with more intellectual gifts had also more human passion in her nature than her saintly elder sister, adored her husband, under whose shy, awkward manner she had discovered all sorts of excellent qualities, an enthusiastic love of liberty, talents and aspirations with which she ardently sympathised.


His devotion to herself was only interfered with by his political ideas; but it soon appeared that this interference was a very serious matter, for in 1777 he announced his intention of going to America to fight for the colonies then in rebellion against England.

Of course this spread consternation in the family of Noailles, usually so united that nothing of importance was ever done by them without a family council. And it was certainly irritating enough, that for no reason whatever except his own fancy he should desert his wife who adored him, who had one child and was about to have another, the management of his estates and all his duties in his own country, and exile himself for years to fight against a friendly nation and meddle in a quarrel with which neither he nor France had anything whatever to do. Besides, his example and influence had induced his brother-in-law, the Vicomte de Noailles, and his cousin, the Comte de Ségur, to adopt the same plans. All three young men declared they would go to America to fight for liberty.

The King heard of it, and formally forbade them to go, which, as far as de Noailles and de Ségur were concerned, put a stop to the plan for the present. But La Fayette was his own master and had plenty of money, so he made the excuse of going to England with his cousin, the Prince de Poix, and on his way back escaped in a Spanish ship and landed in Spain en route for America.

The Duc d’Ayen got a lettre de cachet from the King to stop him, but it was too late. Letters were [191] sent by the family to say that Adrienne was very ill, and by this he was so far influenced that he set out on his journey homewards, but finding from other letters he received that she was in no danger at all, he turned back again.

Adrienne had never opposed his going. Divided between her grief at their separation, her sympathy with his dreams and ideas, and her dislike to oppose his wishes, she, though nearly heartbroken, pretended to be cheerful, stifled her tears, and forced herself to smile and laugh, though her love for him was such that she said she felt as if she would faint when he left her even for a short time, a few hours.

The years of separation while he was in America were most trying, and her sister, Louise de Noailles, shared her anxiety, as the Vicomte de Noailles and Comte de Ségur joined the Americans in 1779.

The high rank, great connections, and splendid fortunes of the daughters of the Duc d’Ayen caused them to be much sought after, and many brilliant marriages were suggested for Pauline, amongst which they chose a young officer of the regiment of Artois, proposed to them by a relation of his, the Princesse de Chimay, daughter of the Duc de Fitzjames. The young Marquis Joachim de Montagu was then nineteen, had served in the army of Spain, and belonged to one of the most ancient families of Auvergne.

All the preliminaries were arranged by the families without anything being said upon the subject to the proposed bride, nor probably to the bridegroom either, and when everything was settled it was decided that now nothing was left to do but “to consult the personal inclinations of the young [192] people,” in preparation for which Pauline was informed in one of the usual family councils of her approaching introduction to her fiancé.

One wonders what would have happened if the young people had not happened to like each other after all these arrangements; but it appears to have been taken for granted that they would not be so inconsiderate as to disappoint the expectations of their relations, who had taken so much trouble. They would have felt like an Italian lady of our own time, who, in reply to the question of an English friend as to what would happen should a young girl of her family not like the husband selected for her, exclaimed in a tone of horror—

“Not like the husband her grandmamma has chosen!”

Her elder sisters, who knew all about it, were much amused at the embarrassment of Pauline when this announcement was made to her. Completely taken by surprise, she did not like even to ask questions about the Marquis de Montagu, but her mother reassured her, told her everything she wished to know, and said that the young man and his father were coming to dine next day.

Accordingly at seven o’clock the Duc and Duchesse d’Ayen were seated in their salon with Pauline and Rosalie, dressed alike in blue and white satin; Pauline, who had not slept all night, very pale and dreadfully frightened, especially when the sound of a carriage was heard in the courtyard, and a few minutes afterwards M. le Vicomte de Beaune and M. le Marquis de Montagu were announced.

Neither of the young people dared speak to or [193] look at the other, but at last M. de Beaune [73] got up to be shown a portrait of Washington by de Noailles and La Fayette, who were present, and she took the opportunity of looking at him. He was not handsome, but had an attractive face, and at the end of the evening she told her mother that she was quite willing to marry him. 
The wedding took place in the spring of 1783, before her seventeenth birthday. The presents and corbeille were magnificent, and every day, between the signing of the contract and the marriage, Pauline, in a splendid and always a different dress, received the visits of ceremony usual on these occasions. As her family and her husband’s were related to or connected with every one of the highest rank in France, all the society of Paris passed through the h?tel de Noailles on those interminable evenings, which began at six o’clock and ended with a great supper, while Pauline sat by her mother, and was presented to every one who came.

The young Marquis and Marquise de Montagu remained for two days at the h?tel de Noailles after the marriage had been celebrated at St. Roch, and then Pauline, with many tears, got into the splendid blue and gold berline which was waiting for her, and drove to the h?tel Montagu, where her father-in-law met her at the foot of the great staircase, and conducted her to the charming rooms prepared for her.


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