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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

They purely and simply acquitted Cardinal Rohan


The

crisis would naturally come from the want of money felt by the jewellers. Madame de la Motte had paid them some instalments on account of the stones, which her husband had sold in England: they grew impatient and applied to the queen. For a long while she did not understand their applications: when the complaints of the purveyors at last made her apprehend an intrigue, she sent for Abbe de Vermond and Baron de Breteuil, minister of the king's household both detested the cardinal, both fanned the queen's wrath; she decided at last to tell the king everything. "I saw the queen after the departure of the baron and the abbe," says Madame Campan; "she made me tremble at her indignation." The cardinal renounced the privileges of his rank and condition; he boldly accepted the jurisdiction of the Parliament.

The trial revealed a gross intrigue, a disgraceful comedy, a prince of the church and a merchant equally befooled by a shameless woman, with the aid of the adventurer Cagliostro, and the name, the favors, and even the personality of the queen impudently dragged in. The public feeling was at its height, constantly over-excited by the rumors circulated during the sessions of the court. Opinion was hostile to the queen. "It was for her and by her orders that the necklace was bought," people said. The houses of Conde and Rohan were not afraid to take sides with the cardinal: these illustrious personages were to be seen, dressed in mourning, waiting

for the magistrates on their way, in order to canvass them on their relative's behalf. On the 31st of May, 1786, the court condemned Madame de la Motte to be whipped, branded, and imprisoned; they purely and simply acquitted Cardinal Rohan. In its long and continual tussle with the crown, the Parliament had at last found the day of its revenge: political passions and the vagaries of public opinion had blinded the magistrates.

"As soon as I knew the cardinal's sentence, I went to the queen," says Madame Campan. "She heard my voice in the room leading to her closet; she called to me. I found her very sad. She said to me in a broken voice: 'Condole with me; the intriguer who wanted to ruin me, or procure money by using my name and forging my signature, has just been fully acquitted. But,' she added vehemently, 'as a Frenchwoman, accept my condolence. A people is very unfortunate to have for its supreme tribunal a lot of men who consult nothing but their passions, and of whom some are capable of bribery and others of an audacity which they have always displayed towards authority, and of which they have just given a striking example against those who are clothed therewith.' The king entered at this moment. 'You find the queen in great affliction,' he said to me: 'she has great reason to be. But what then! They would not see in this business anything save a prince of the church and the prince of Rohan, whereas it is only the case of a man in want of money and a mere dodge for raising the wind, wherein the cardinal has been swindled in his turn. Nothing can be easier to understand, and it needs no Alexander to cut this Gordian knot.'"


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