MEMOIR OF THE DUCHESS OF ORLEANS.*
EXCEPT on the last day of the Revolution of February 1848, when maternal love and a quiet heroism enabled Helen of Orleans to display a resolute courage which was wanting in the men of her adopted house, her life was altogether private. The pri- vacy too was of such a kind--so devoted to family affection, to domestic duties, and to acts of charity, that even as a private life there was little of remarkable incident or action. Hence her biography as a matter of necessity involves character rather than narrative ; and as an equal matter of necessity that character slides somewhat into panegyric, written as it is by an intimate friend and a devoted adherent, while recent separation magnifies virtues, and obliterates those blemishes from which—to alter Hume's language on Alfred the Great—she could not as a woman have been entirely free. That her virtues were many, and adapted to any and every station—that they enabled her to exer- cise some extraordinary influence over all who saw her even from a distance much less approached her, and that her life was devoted to an unostentatious discharge of varied duties as they rose up around her according to time and circumstance, is beyond all question. It is vouched by the sensation which her death created in the French capital, by the tears it caused in many eyes " albeit unused to the melting mood," and by the deep grief which it inspired in those who came into closer contact with her. If further evidence were wanted, the translator of this Memoir is at hand to furnish it. Mrs. Austin's acquaintance with the Duchess was slight but " devoted attach- ment to the illustrious lady of whose life and character [the book] is a faithful record," alone induced her to translate it. The whole of her preface is, in fact, a panegyric on this " life and character," not however devoid of criticism. With pene- trative acumen Mrs. Austin ascribes the singular mixture of lofty aspirations, humility of character, and untiring discharge of daily duties that distinguished the Duchess to her German nature. We incline to think (but we have no other data than the printed letter) that the resolute firmness which carried Helen of Orleans unshaken through the terrible 24th February 1848, and induced her, spite of family affection, to refuse assent to that ingenious scheme called " the fusion," might, under unfavourable oir, cumetances, have induced a hard persistence which would have re4 sembled the Duchess D'Angouleme, or made some approach to our own Mary Tudor. The Princess Helen of Mecklenberg-Schwerin was born in 1814. Her maternal grandfather was the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, cele- brated as the friend of Goethe and Schiller ; her grandmother the Duchess was celebrated on her own account, for her successful de- fence of the interests of her husband and his people against Na- poleon, flushed with the triumph of Jena. At two years of age the little Princess lost her mother; but her place was fully sup- plied by a step-mother, the Princess Augusta of Hesse-Homburg, said to have been recommended to the Duke of Mecklenburg as a successor by the Duchess on her deathbed. Till 1827 the Princess Helen was brought up in almost solitude. In that year her step- mother carried her to the Court of her grandfather at Weimar, where she excited great attention for a mere child. A few years afterwards she accompanied her stepmother when dangerously ill, to the baths at Toeplitz. There young as she still was, she pro- duced impressions which determined her future career. " M. 13resson, the French Minister met her accidentally, and though he was not presented to her, she left an impression on his mind which was never effaced. It was at Toeplitz also . . . . that the King of Prussia saw her for the first time. Attracted to her by the extraordinary intelligence which her extreme youth rendered the more striking, he daily took increased pleasure in conversing with her, and conceived a tender affection for her, which endured to the end of his life." It appears that the King recommended her to the Duke of Orleans, when he and the Duke of Nemours visited Berlin in 1836 ; as he certainly took great interest in bringing about the match. The Duke of Orleans, however, determined to "convince himself that the King of Prussia's] affection had not blinded him to the merit of the Princess," though what steps he took to effect this we are not informed. Possibly. one was to con- sult Bresson ; that diplomatist was at all events the envoy, employ- ed to demand her hand. Her brother the reigning Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, objected to the match with prophetic foresight, on the ground of the uncertainty attending any French alliance. In like manner her uncle the Grand-Duke of Saxe-Weimar, spoke to Mrs. Austin "with tears running down his cheeks of his repug- nance to the marriage, and his forebodings for the happiness of his niece." The Princess herself, however, was deaf to their opinions. With an enthusiasm, which, according to Mrs. Austin, could only have been found united with so much practical sagacity in a German woman educated as she had been, Princess Helen ac- cepted the proposal. She was not merely moved by admiration of the character of the Duke of Orleans, but by a regard to the French people, whose destiny she hoped indirectly to influence and to share, that regard having been first excited by accounts of the Glorious Three Days. She was married in 1837 : her husband was killed in 1842 ; she herself died in May1858 nominally of in- fluenza, but in reality worn out by exertion and stifled anxieties, The Deseheas of Orlemts. (Helen of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.) A Memoir. Itanslated from the French by Mrs. Austin. With a Preface by the Translator.
which left her too exhausted to struggle against a common attack of this disease.
The accidental death of the Duke of Orleans was one of those events, which, like the death of Arthur, eldest brother of Henry the Eighth, or Prince Henry, son of James the First, or the Prin- cess Charlotte of this century, might have changed the history of a country ; but about which it is utterly useless to speculate since no conclusion can be come to. As regards the Duchess of Orleans the death of her husband was a calamitous blow, but hardly to be called an historical event. Her appearance as an historical personage is limited to the Revolution of 1848. What were the reasons or grounds of " policy" which influenced Louis Phillipe. and his Ministry in their obstinate resistance to popular feeling in 1847, we shall not learn till M. Guizot arrives at that period in the narrative of his public life. We know from the Marquis of Normandy's Memoirs, and indeed from the press, that the world at large apprehended danger from the course of the Go- vernment. It has been said that the Royal family disapproved of the King's resistance. It is clear that the Duchess did, for not only does the biographer mention it as a fact, but the Duchess herself has recorded her opinion in her correspondence.
The obstinacy, however, which resisted all concession, was far surpassed by the undignified weakness that yielded point after point, when each point was given up too late to be of ser- vice, and which finally yielded the crown, as if it had been a bauble of no importance. The story has been often told, but never we think with such characteristic personal traits as in these memoirs. Our immediate object, however, concerns the Duchesss not the King ; and she remained in the palace, when the rest of the Royal family had departed.
"The crowd, which had just been forcing their way into the King's apartments, had diapereed, and the Duchess of Orleans was surrounded only by the members of her household (not one of whom quitted her for an in- stant,) and a few deputies, who urged her to assume the regency, which, in their opinion, was the last chance of salvation for the monarchy. 'It is impossible,' she replied, I cannot sustain such a burden ; it is beyond my strength; no one is prepared to see me Regent,—I, less than anybody.' Whilst she was speaking, the sound of musket shots approached ; it was clear that in a few minutes the Tuileries would be taken. She had yet time to escape,—to save her own life and the lives of her sons ; or she might at- tempt, at the peril of her life and theirs, to preserve the crown for the Comte de Paris, and to defend the rights guaranteed to him by France. Placed in this alternative, she thought her duty clearly marked out ; she felt neither hesitation nor tremor. Taking her two children by the hand, she walked with them through the long galleries that led to her own apartments ; and stopping before the portrait of their father, she said with calmness, If we are to die, it must be here.' She then ordered all the gates to be opened ; preparing to undergo herself, and to see her children undergo, the most frightful death, should her calm courage fail to subdue the fury of the fran- tic multitude whose cries already reached her ears."
From the narrative it would seem that her appearance in the Chamber was an extemporized idea rather than a formed design, though the fact does not diminish the merit of her courage. She had received in the Tuileries a message from the Duke of Nemours to join him in the Place Louis XV., whither she went, and saw him, but could not reach him for the crowd.
"Just then one voice exclaimed, A is Chambre ! ' and the cry was in- stantly repeated by the crowd. Thinking that she was doing what seemed beat to the Duke of Nemours, she turned, or rather she allowed herself to be carried along in that direction. The Duke saw her from a distance without having the power to stop her, and could only follow. The crowd, well-dis- posed at this moment, shouted, Vive is Duchesse d'Orldans! Viva le Comte de Paris !' They formed as it were two walls, between which the Princess advanced, holding by the hand the Comte de Paris ; whilst behind her, M. Scheffer, in his uniform of officer of the National Guard, carried in his arms the little Dec de Chartres, who was ill, wrapt in a cloak. At this moment, M. Odilon Barret went in search of the Duchess of Orleans at the Tuileries, in order to conduct her to the Hotel de Ville ; but he could not penetrate the crowd, and returned to the Chamber, where the Duchess had already arrived.
" When the Princess entered the Assembly, the disorder was extreme ; the Deputies besieged the tribune; a strange crowd blocked up the lobbies, barring the passage of the Royal party. Cries of Pas de Princes! NOUS ne voulone pas de Princes ici !' were heard; but they were soon overpow- ered by louder cries of Viva is Duchesse d'Orleans ! Viva le Comte de Paris !' She took her place near the tribune, and remained standing there, with her two children at her side ; behind her deed the persons of her suite, using all their efforts to keep off the crowd that pressed around her. M. Dupin as- cended the tribune ; he announced that the act of abdication wan about to be presented to the Chamber by M. Barrot ; meanwhile, he strongly urged that the unanimous acclamations, which had hailed the Paris as King,
and the Duchess of Orleans as Regent, should be entereu '14,Procle- Verbal. These words were received with violent opposition from of
the Chamber and the tribunes. The President thought fit to call upon its: strangers to quit the Chamber, and requested the Princes to withdraw, 'in deference to the rules.' Sir,' replied the Duchess, this is a royal sit- ting.' Some of her friends, alarmed at the increasing tumult, entreated her to leave the Chamber. ' If I leave this Assembly, my son will never enter it again,' she replied, and remained immovable in her place. But the crowd kept advancing, the noise increased, and the heat became so excessive that the young Princes could hardly. breathe. The Princess was then conducted along the left-hand lobby running at the back of the semicircle, to the upper benches opposite to the tribune, where she seated herself with the Duke of Nemours and her children. At this moment, M. Odilon Barret, who had just returned from the Tuileries, obtained silence. ' The crown of July rests upon the head of a child,' he said At the acclamations of Vive le Comte de Paris!' the Duchess of Orleans rose from her seat, as if to speak. While one side of the Chamber cried out ' Parlez, parlez !' the other tried to drown her voice. She began with the words, My son and I are come,' but was instantly interrupted. She again attempted to speak, but was unable to make herself heard, and sat down. Several speakers rose one after another, amidst a confusion which it is impossible to describe. At length M. de Lamartino advanced toward the tribune. The first sentences he uttered revived the hopes of her friends ; but with her sweet and melan- choly smile she made a slight sign, which showed them that she dad not share their illusion. Towards the close of the speech, a violent knocking ?esounded through the hall, the doers of the tribune of the Press were buret
open by an armed mob, who ru$sed forward with loud cries; they pot bld their loaded muskets towards different parts of the Chamber, till at length they perceived the Royal mother and her children, at whom they took de- liberate aim. Most of the Deputies quitted the Chamber, leaving the Duchess of Orleans and her little sons exposed, with no other protection from the musket-balls of the infuriated mob than that of a small number of De- puties, who remained in their places before her, From the calmness of her face it might have been thought that she only was in no danger. Leaning over to the bench below her, she gently placed her hand on the shoulder of a Deputy and said, in a voice which betrayed no emotion, ' What do you ad- vise me to do ? " Madam, the Deputies are no longer here ; you must go to the President's house to gather the Chamber together.' But how can I get there ? ' she replied, still without moving from her place, or betraying any alarm at the muskets which glittered above her head. Follow me,' said M. Jules de Lasteyrie. Descending from bench to bench, he conducted her to the left corner of the Chamber, where there is an exit reserved for the Deputies, and leading into a dimly-lighted corridor ; the folding-doors, one of which was shut, open only from within, the other, which was open, sepa- rates the Chamber from this corridor. M. de Lasteyrie made his way to it by pushing aside the crowd, and, perceiving a company of National Guards outside the door, he called to them to form lines to protect the Duchess of Orleans, who was following him, which they immediately did."
It has been often reported that Marshal Bugeaud pledged him- self to put down the Revolution in three hours if he had "orders "; it is certain he would have tried. Whether that mili- tary success would have eventually preserved the crown to the House of Orleans may be doubted. Not only the populace, but the National Guards must have been slaughtered ; and the throne would have seemed to be resting on blood. Opinion in February had not advanced to the energetio terror point which it had reached in June, when Cavaignac fought a succession of battles in the streets of Paris with general approbation. In these days it is much better to prevent Revolutions by statesmanlike wisdom, than to suppress them by soldierly decision.