THE MARRIAGES OF THE BOURBONS.* ROYAL and princely marriages, especially
in the case of members of those houses of which the head both reigns and governs, are not only matters of interest to those who are curious as to the details of the lives and habits of the great, but are of extreme historical importance from several points of view. Their political consequences have often been most serious. The huge and unwieldy collection of States which acknowledged Charles V. as their Sovereign had been united under one head by a series of marriages which had raised the House of Austria from the rank of petty German Princes, and had placed under its government in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries two-thirds of civilised Europe :-
" Bella gerant alii ; to felix Austria nube."
In France, the marriages of the Bourbons had not the same direct effect in increasing the immediate dominions of the head of the House; yet the result of the marriage of Louis XIV. with a Princess of the Spanish branch of the House of Austria was to place Bourbons on the thrones of Spain and Naples, and by means of the Family Compact to endanger for some time the balance of power, and to give to the House of Bourbon an undue influence in the affairs of Europe. Again, in those countries where succession was not regulated by the Salle Law, the result of Royal marriages has often been to change the dynasty, and not unfrequently, with the dynasty, the policy of the country over which it had ruled. The policy of the Stuarts was no less different from that of the House of Hanover, than was the policy of the Spanish Bourbons from that of their Austrian predecessors. Of the Great Powers of Europe at the beginning of the eighteenth century, there is not one—unless, indeed, out of courtesy we except Spain—of which the reigning house is, by male descent, the same now as it was then. The Imperial family of Russia calls itself Romanoff, but is Holstein Gottorp ; that of Austria is not Hapsburg, but Lorraine ; and though we talk and write as if the House of Braganza was reigning in Portugal, we all know that the Royal family is a branch of that of Saxe-Coburg.
From another point of view, the effects of Royal marriages possess even more interest, and that is with reference to the changes in the character of a reigning family, and consequent thereon in the policy of the State, which has often been the result of a marriage. This matter is well deserving of more investigation than it has yet received, and the publicity of the lives and characters of Royal personages renders it more easy to trace in them the influence of the maternal side, and of the manifestation and development of the maternal traits of character, than in others whose lives have been passed in greater obscurity. Whatever may be our opinion of Louis XIV. as a man, it is certain that he possessed exceptional ability and some great qualities; yet none of his numerous descendants, whether in France, Spain, or Italy, Kings or Princes—except perhaps his grandson, Philip V. of Spain, in his earlier years— have been anything but the most commonplace and feeble of mortals, for the most part absolutely without character, and in the exceptional cases where they have possessed any marked character, displaying it merely in excesses of vicious indulgence, or in self-willed and tyrannical action. In saying that not a single one of these Princes possessed any of the great or even of the showy qualities which distinguished Louis XIV., we do not forget the praises lavished upon two of the Dauphins, as upon most heirs•apparent who have never reigned. It would be interesting to inquire how far the singularly com- monplace characters of the Queens of Louis XIV. and XV., and the wives of the three Dauphins, were reflected in the persons of their feeble offspring. The few descendants of Louis XIV. who have displayed any energy or vigour of character were women,—the Duchess of Angonleme, of whom Napoleon said (what Mirabean had before said of her mother) that she was the only man of her family, Caroline of Naples, and perhaps Queen Marie Amelie.
Captain Bingham has missed a great opportunity in his treatment of the subject that he has chosen for his book. In his two bulky volumes of chaotic but generally amusing gossip
• The Marriages of the Bourbons. By Captain the Hon. D. Bingham. 2 vols. London : Chapman and Hall. 1890.
which he entitles The Marriages of the Bourbons, he has dealt with neither of these two interesting matters. The question• indeed of character, and how far the disposition of the child was influenced either by that of the father or mother, never seems to enter into his consideration, while all that he has to say of the political effect of a Royal marriage is :-
" One is tempted to make a few reflections on matrimonial alliances. Of what value are they ? Here was Henri d'Albret, who had married the sister of the King of France, yet he never could depend on the French alliance : to strengthen that alliance Henri II. had forced him to give his daughter to a French prince. The relations between the two countries were drawn no closer by this second marriage."
So far as Captain Bingham's book treats upon the marriages of the Bourbons, it consists partly of an enumeration of the marriages of a considerable number of Princes of that House, after the fashion of the Almanach de Gotha, partly of details, often interesting and not seldom amusing, of the nego- tiations for the marriages, and of the fetes and other matters which accompanied their celebration; but a large part of the work is occupied, not with the legitimate Queens and Princesses of France, but with lee reins de la main gauche, and a much more appropriate title would be " The Mistresses of the Bourbons, and the Lovers of the Mistresses." About half the second volume is devoted to Madame de Montespan, Madame de Pompadour, Madame du Barry, and several other ladies of less celebrity; and although Captain Bingham has nothing new to say upon this somewhat unedifying topic, these chapters are certainly the most entertaining in his book. But he also gives us a good deal of interesting gossip, and scandal, taken from contemporary memoirs, and not elsewhere to be found in English, of the private lives of Jeanne d'Albret, Henry IV., Louis XHI., Louis XIV., Louis XV., and Louis XVI., and of some members of their families, though, except in the case of Anne of Austria and Marie Antoinette, the Queens occupy scarcely any place, and seem to be—as probably they really were—the most insignificant members of the Royal family.
Among the many curious stories which Captain Bingham gives us, the account of the arrangement made by the Regent for the marriage of Louis XV., then aged twelve, with the Infanta, aged four, is not the least so. The marriage treaty was in terms concluded. The Prince of the Asturias (not of Aunt-la, as Captain Bingham with irritating persistency styles him) was married to Mademoiselle de Montpensier, the daughter of the Regent, and that Princess was formally ex- changed on the Isle of Pheasants for the Infanta, who was sent to Paris and styled the Queen of France. The pros- pect of marrying a child of four was naturally distaste- ful to a boy of twelve ; it was with difficulty that Louis was induced to consent to the marriage, and when, four years later, the Duke of Bourbon, who had succeeded to the Regency, broke off the marriage, and summarily sent back the little Queen, the King seems to have been much pleased, and did not even bid the Infanta adieu. At the ball given in her honour on her arrival in Paris, " every one was a little tipsy," and it ended in a scene of vulgar and indecent riot strangely contrasting with the propriety and formality which had characterised the Court of Louis XIV. But the ball was an innocent amusement compared with the festivities in which the Court of Madrid indulged in honour of Mademoiselle de Montpensier :—
" In accordance with custom, the princess for her nuptial fete was offered the horrible sight of an auto-dale. In 1680, her aunt, who married Charles IL, witnessed a similar spectacle, at which one hundred and eighteen martyrs suffered. Before that time the Queens Elizabeth de Valois and Elizabeth de Bourbon had been treated to like revolting and cruel exhibitions. It appears that Philip V. showed a repugnance for these atrocities at first, but that he became used to them."
The Infanta was accompanied to Paris by her remueuse, an attendant whose duty it was to turn the Royal infant over in its cradle at stated intervals, when the clock struck,—no matter whether the child was awake or asleep. That so
many of the Royal children of France and Spain died in early infancy is not surprising, when we read that the nurse had no other function than that of giving the breast to the child who was brought to her, but whom she was not allowed to touch. Should a pin prick the child, the nurse was not permitted to remove it; it was necessary to summon and wait for the arrival of another attendant.
Captain Bingham gives us a deplorable picture of the characters and habits of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette before the terrors and misfortunes of the Revolution brought out those noble and dignified qualities in the Queen which she inherited from her mother, but of which we find hardly any trace during the first fifteen years of her married life. The correspondence between Maria Theresa and the Austrian Ambassador in France, Mercy-Argenteau, portrays all the members of the Royal family in a most unfavourable light. The King was stupid and ill-mannered; the Queen unable to conceal her contempt for her husband, without a single thought or care for anything but pleasure, devoted to gambling, and utterly careless of the characters or positions of her associates, provided only they were amusing and willing to play for high stakes. Monsieur and the Count d'Artois, though better mannered, were even less worthy of respect than the King. The correct, and possibly rather priggish, Joseph II., when he visited his sister in 1775, was shocked beyond measure at the morals and manners of the Court of Versailles, and at the gamblers and escrocs of both sexes by
whom the Queen was surrounded. The Ambassador thus writes to the Empress:— "The Emperor found that the King was not entirely devoid of knowledge, that he appeared to cling to his ideas rather through obstinacy than conviction, and that he seemed inclined to do what
was right The supper was more than gay, that is to say, on the part of the King and the two Princes, his brothers. They behaved in so free-and-easy a way, that on rising from table they amused themselves like children, running round the room, throw- ing each other down on the sofas, to such a point that the Queen and the Princesses felt greatly embarrassed owing to the presence of the Emperor On the 22nd, the Queen took her august brother
to the Trianon The Emperor drew a striking pic- ture of the position, the rocks by which the Queen was surrounded, and pointed out the infallible and fearful consequences of her con- duct as regards the future. He touched upon her neglect of the King, the company she kept, the abandonment of every serious occupation, and her passion for play Yielding to the wishes of the Queen, the Emperor accompanied her to the Princesse de Guemenee's, and was shocked at the style of the persons and the air of license which reigned there. The Emperor witnessed a game of pharaon, and heard the Princess, in the presence of the Queen, reproached for her suspicious manner of playing. The Emperor was indignant, and told the Queen that the house was a regular hell (tripot). The Queen endeavoured to make excuses, but returned to the table after midnight on the plea that she had promised to do so. The Emperor was greatly mortified by this discouraging obstinacy."
The Revolution and its excesses cease to astonish us when we read what contemporaries have to tell us of the courts, the courtiers, and the ministers of Louis XV. and Louis XVI.
Our only surprise is that France should have quietly endured their misgovernment for nearly a century.
We have rarely seen a book which has been so carelessly put together, and where the correction of the press has been so completely neglected. The narrative is most confused; matters already dealt with are repeated, and to discover the sequence of events is almost impossible. After Henry IV. has been divorced, married to Marie de Medicis, has died and
been buried, we come upon a chapter devoted to his divorce. We are correctly told that the marriage of his sister Catherine was celebrated by the Archbishop of Rouen, but in the same chapter have the extraordinary statement that Henry " got Roquelaure, the boon companion of the Archbishop of Rouen,
to perform the ceremony." King John of England is styled
the British monarch," and his subjects "the British people." For the Prince of Warn we have the Prince of " Beran ;" for the Prince of the Asturias the Prince of " Austria." Vesale, the great physician, is transformed into " Andrew Versale ;" the
well-known fortress of Pignerol is repeatedly " Piguerol ;" and Mezeray the historian is " Mezaray." The father of the present Don Carlos is described as the " uncle " instead of the " cousin " of Isabella II. These are only a few of the errors we have noticed.
If Captain Bingham is a Republican, and has desired to disgust us with Kings and Princes, and to show us not only with how little wisdom, but with how little virtue, honour, or morality France has been governed during the past three centuries, be has been successful. Hardly a single fact is stated which is not thoroughly discreditable to every one concerned with it ; honour, justice, truth, integrity, would seem, from his narrative, to be words and qualities absolutely unknown to the members of the Royal House of Bourbon, and to their ministers and courtiers. They all seem to have been almost invariably actuated by the lowest and meanest motives. Even Henry IV. and his great Minister Sully are persistently belittled. We are not great admirers of the Bourbonifor their ministers, but we decline to believe that they were as univer- sally and as thoroughly worthless as Captain Bingham repre- sents them.