16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 39


Duchess° de Montpensier known in her own day and ours as "La Grande Mademoiselle," is a fascinating and adventurous figure well deserving more attention than she has hitherto received from English writers. Born in 1627, and dying on the threshold of a melancholy old age in 1693, "she was one of the last links between the magnificent, formal, famine-stricken France of Louis XIV. and Madame de Maintenon, where society had become a mere mirror to reflect the King, and the old world gradually subdued by Richelieu and Mazarin, the world of adventure, of fun and fighting, of individual independent romance."

And Miss Price has produced a picturesque and highly read- able study of the wayward and eccentric woman, endowed with every gift of fortune, who yet missed the great secret of happiness. Next to Queen Elizabeth, "La Grande Mademoiselle " is perhaps the most interesting spinster of history, and her infatuation for the dashing, worthless Lauzun has a pathos which is not to be found in any of the love affairs of the Virgin Queen. The only child of Gaston, Due d'Orleans, and the Duchesse de Montpensier, her charm and her failings came from her father, her virtues from her mother. Of the weak and vicious Gaston it may be said more truly than of a certain great English soldier that there was no cause he embraced, no woman who loved him, that he did not betray. The brave, generous, unsuspicious disposition of the Duchess descended with the great possessions of the Mont- pensiers to her daughter. The "grandchild of France" lost her mother when she was a few days old. Her father was in exile during the greater part of her childhood, and she was educated chiefly at the Court of her uncle, Louis XIII., and in the midst of that brilliant, fickle Paris Which to the very end regarded her as its spoilt child. She was the idol of the Parisian mob, who on the fiercest of the numerous jounzies des barricades would always lower the chains to let her coach go by. She made more than one triumphal entry, " with weeping and with laughter," into the good city of Orleans from which her father drew his title. In the scandalous society of her age no blemish rested upon her ; she had fewer enemies at Court than any man or woman of her time, and she was one of the scanty band for whom the Grand Monarque retained a sincere affection. For twenty years she was the centre of the turbulent Court life of Anne of Austria and Louis XIV., and her hand and dukedoms among the chief counters in the game of statecraft. She might have married her cousin; Charles Stuart, and Miss Price thinks she would have made a good Queen of England; but when be urged his suit—and he was a clumsy wooer—the star of Cromwell was in the ascendant, and the greatest lady in Europe had no fancy for the mock-Royalty of a Court in exile. She was getting on in years when she met Lauzun, the adventurer who touches our own history so romantically, whose life was stranger than other people's dreams, who brought Mary of Modena and the infant Prince of Wales to France, and campaigned against us in Ireland. " Ut vidi, ut perii, ut me males abstulit error," she might well have quoted. Miss Price pronounces, and we think quite rightly, against the

• A Princess of the Old World. By Eleanor C. Price. With 21 Illustrations. London : Methuen and Co. [12s. &I. net.]

theory that the ill-assorted pair ever contracted matrimony. The internal politics of France during "La Bonne Regence " and the Fronde are puzzling in the extreme ; but Miss Price, with her remarkable knowledge of the contemporary memoirs, conducts ns easily and pleasantly through the labyrinth, and the student of the great d'Artagnan cycle will rejoice at meeting so many old friends with new faces.