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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

De Calonne was intimate with Madame de Polignac


Fair queen, whose goodness is thy chiefest grace, With our good king, here occupy thy place; Though this frail monument be ice or snow, Our warm hearts are not so.

[Illustration: "There are my Sledges, Sirs."----458]

Bursts of kindness and sympathy, sincere as they may be, do not suffice to win the respect and affection of a people. The reign of Louis XV. had used up the remnants of traditional veneration, the new right of the public to criticise sovereigns was being exercised malignantly upon the youthful thoughtlessnesses of Marie Antoinette.

In the home circle of the royal family, the queen had not found any intimate; the king's aunts had never taken to her; the crafty ability of the Count of Provence and the giddiness of the Count of Artois seemed in the prudent eye of Maria Theresa to be equally dangerous; Madame Elizabeth, the heroic and pious companion of the evil days, was still a mere child; already the Duke of Chartres, irreligious and debauched, displayed towards the queen, who kept him at a distance, symptoms of a bitter rancor which was destined to bear fruit. Marie Antoinette, accustomed to a numerous family, affectionately united, sought friends who could "love her for herself," as she used to say: an illusive hope, in one of her rank, for which she was destined to pay dearly. She formed an attachment to the young Princess

of Lamballe, daughter-in-law of the Duke of Penthievre, a widow at twenty years of age, affectionate and gentle, for whom she revived the post of lady-superintendent, abolished by Mary Leczinska. The court was in commotion, and the public murmured; the queen paid no heed, absorbed as she was in the new delights of friendship; the intimacy, in which there was scarcely any inequality, with the Princess of Lamballe, was soon followed by a more perilous affection. The Countess Jules de Polignac, who was generally detained in the country by the narrowness of her means, appeared at court on the occasion of a festival; the queen was pleased with her, made her remain, and loaded her, her and her family, not only with favors, but with unbounded and excessive familiarity. Finding the court circles a constraint and an annoyance, Marie Antoinette became accustomed to seek in the drawing-room of Madame de Polignac amusements and a freedom which led before long to sinister gossip. Those who were admitted to this royal intimacy were not always prudent or discreet, they abused the confidence as well as the generous kindness of the queen; their ambition and their cupidity were equally concerned in urging Marie Antoinette to take in the government a part for which she was not naturally inclined. M. de Calonne was intimate with Madame de Polignac; she, created a duchess and appointed governess to the children of France (the royal children), was all-powerful with her friend the queen; she dwelt upon the talents of M. de Calonne, the extent and fertility of his resources; M. de Vergennes was won over, and the office of comptroller-general, which had but lately been still discharged with lustre by M. Turgot and M. Necker, fell on the 30th of October, 1784, into the hands of M. de Calonne.


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