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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Cellamare received his passports and quitted France


old court, accustomed to the

yoke of the bastards and of Madame de Maintenon, on Languedoc, of which the Duke of Maine was the governor; they talked of carrying off the Duke of Orleans, and taking him to the castle of Toledo; Alberoni promised the assistance of a Spanish army. The Duchess of Maine had fired the train, without the knowledge, she said, and probably against the will, too, of her husband, more indolent than she in his perfidy. Some scatter-brains of great houses were mixed up in the affair; MM. de Richelieu, de Laval, and de Pompadour; there was secret coming and going between the castle of Sceaux and the house of the Spanish ambassador, the Prince of Cellamare; M. de Malezieux, the secretary and friend of the duchess, drew up a form of appeal from the French nobility to Philip V., but nobody had signed it, or thought of doing so. They got pamphlets written by Abbe Brigault, whom the duchess had sent to Spain; the mystery was profound, and all the conspirators were convinced of the importance of their manoeuvres; every day, however, the Regent was informed of them by his most influential negotiator with foreign countries, Abbe Dubois, his late tutor, and the most depraved of all those who were about him. Able and vigilant as he was, he was not ignorant of any single detail of the plot, and was only giving the conspirators time to compromise themselves. At last, just as a young abbe, Porto Carrero, was starting for Spain, carrying important papers, he was arrested at Poitiers, and his papers
were seized. Next day, December 7, 1718, the Prince of Cellamare's house was visited, and the streets were lined with troops. Word was brought in all haste to the Duchess of Maine. She had company, and dared not stir. M. de Chatillon came in; joking commenced. "He was a cold creature, who never thought of talking," says Madame de Stael in her memoirs. "All at once he said, 'Really there is some very amusing news: they have arrested and put in the Bastille, for this affair of the Spanish ambassador, a certain Abbe Bri . . . . Bri' he could not remember the name, and those who knew it had no inclination to help him. At last he finished, and added, 'The most amusing part is, that he has told all, and so, you see, there are some folks in a great fix.' Thereupon he burst out laughing for the first time in his life. The Duchess of Maine, who had not the least inclination thereto, said, 'Yes, that is very amusing.' 'O! it is enough to make you die of laughing,' he resumed; 'fancy those folks who thought their affair was quite a secret; here's one who tells more than he is asked, and names everybody by name!'" The agony was prolonged for some days; jokes were beginning to be made about it at the Duchess of Maine's; she kept friends with her to pass the night in her room, waiting for her arrest to come. Madame de Stael was reading Machiavelli's conspiracies. "Make haste and take away that piece of evidence against us," said Madame du Maine, laughingly, "it would be one of the strongest."

The arrest came, however; it was six A.M., and everybody was asleep, when the king's men entered the Duke of Maine's house. The Regent had for a long time delayed to act, as if he wanted to leave everybody time to get away; but the conspirators were too scatter-brained to take the trouble. The duchess was removed to Dijon, within the government, and into the very house of the Duke of Bourbon, her nephew, which was a very bitter pill for her. The Duke of Maine, who protested his innocence and his ignorance, was detained in the Castle of Dourlans in Picardy. Cellamare received his passports and quitted France. The less illustrious conspirators were all put in the Bastille; the majority did not remain there long, and purchased their liberty by confessions, which the Duchess of Maine ended by confirming. "Do not leave Paris until you are driven thereto by force," Alberoni had written to the Prince of Cellamare, "and do not start before you have fired all the mines." Cellamare started, and the mines did not burst after his withdrawal; conspiracy and conspirators were covered with ridicule; the natural clemency of the Regent had been useful; the part of the Duke and Duchess of Maine was played out.


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