« PreviousContinue »
“I dare say you will be able to sign it—to make a cross, at least on one important occasion,” says Roger gravely. “ That is quite sufficient. I don't get on with learned ladies nor they with mewitness Miss Burke.” “ But I am ignorant of everything-
Except bull-fighting, bolero-dancing, slang in four languages" Ah, don't remind me of all that now !" she interrupts him, with burning cheeks. “If you knew,” humbly, “how different I mean to be for the future! Send me to the strictest boarding-school in Brighton, London, anywhere you choose — only get a home for Costa meanwhile—and see if I can't be turned into a respectable member of society in time.”
Roger takes her trembling hand in his and kisses it.
"You shall never go to a boarding-school while you live, child, in London or elsewhere; and Heaven forbid you should be turned into anything but what you are! There are respectable members of society, and to spare, in the world already. There are very few Belindas.”
So the curtain falls upon this little drama.
Let us hope that the moonshine love on a balcony” will prove love of the true sort after all the sort that lasts for life.
Marie-Amélie de Bourbon, Queen of the French.
PART I, The romance of history has received an extraordinary number of accessions within a century, especially on its biograpbical side, and from the country to which the most ancient and splendid memories of European royalty attach themselves. Since the queen of Louis the Fourteenth died, neglected and resignedly silent, only two reigns have passed in France without being stained by horrible injustice and suffering inflicted upon the consort of the sovereign of France. These two were the reigns of the widower kings, Louis the Eighteenth and Charles the Tenth. Their wives, who bad shared many evil days and known much sorrow, of both private and public origin, were, happily for them, dead, before the tide turned, which was to turn again so shortly, and carry the old monarchy away upon its angry waves. Trouble upon trouble was indeed heaped upon the head of “the Prisoner of the Temple,” as French people, felicitous in nomenclature, called Marie Thérèse, the sorrowful daughter of Louis the Sixteenth ; but for the brief space of the reimposition of the Bourbon rule, France had no queen, whom the French might flatter with all the art and dexterity, and revile with all the exceeding scurrility and ingenious insult, in which they are adepts. They have had splendid opportunities since 1773, and what use they have made of them! Marie-Antoinette, Josephine, Marie-Louise, Marie-Amélie, Eugénie! Was it only the other day they sent their Empress in the van of all the European royalties to greet the ancient splendour of the East, in the name of the most powerful empire of the West, and her progress was a vision of magnificence and homage without parallel save in the fancy of Eastern poets? And was it only the other day they (not the Commune, but the Essai Loyal) sold her shifts and stockings by public auction, and a journal, which has a poet for its editor and a statesman for its chief contributor, said of a notorious evil-liver that “she was better than the femme Bonaparte, at all events, for even in vice there are degrees”? They have had the power to murder only one queen, as yet, but they have always flung the filth of foul words upon their former idol when she has been put beyond the reach of their claws. The tiger in them being baulked, the obscene monkey in them chatters, and grins, and gesticulates.
A life which has closed within the recollection of most of us, but which had for so long sunk into honoured peacefulness that we almost forgot how stormy it had been, that of Marie-Amélie de Bourbon, furnishes one of the most remarkable chapters to that biographical romance of history before mentioned. The time is coming in which it will win attention and call forth sympathy, as the tragedies of the past do, in its degree and rotation. The student of that brilliant, woeful, grand and mean story, the history of France, is so fascinated and oppressed by the supreme, unapproachable, unrelieved magnitude of the sorrows of Marie-Antoinette, that it cannot escape from the burthen; and the royal women, some akin to her, who have dwelt in the palace chambers haunted by the unlaid ghost of the queen of sorrows, and have been cast out after suffering and humiliation, hardly impress themselves upon his imagination. Marie-Antoinette's personal qualities, her beauty, talent, brilliancy, pride, and courage, combine with her actual political importance, which far exceeded that of any queen consort until the Empress-Regent Eugénie, to render her the one engrossing figure in the group of crowned victims. And yet, when we turn to the story of her niece, who had none of her attractions, who was neither handsome nor brilliant, but of a right royal courage, as became a woman who was both a Hapsburg and a Bourbon, wo find it is one which, if the tragedy of French royalty had not exhausted in its first act all the possibilities of terror and pain, of humiliation, grief, and suspense, might well hold us in silent wonder before its awful vicissitudes.
When Marie-Thérèse scattered abroad her fair young archduchesses, each to meet her different destiny, she probably thought they would be merged, like other royal wives, in court splendour and palace intrigues, and, if political at all, harmlessly so, to the internal interests of their husbands' kingdoms, while beneficially so to those of the maternal empire. Her lessons to the Dauphin all tended to such a purpose, and she died before the troubles did more than threaten; when her greatest grievance against her daughter Antoinette was that she had borne no heir to the Salic law-restricted kingdom of France. But Marie-Caroline, Queen of the Sicilies, did mischief before her mother's death, and still more after it; so that she has left her name allied to that of her frivolous, silly, incapable husband, Ferdinand the Fourth, whom she pushed into a narrow and ferocious despotism, among the most despicable and hated of the rulers of the Two Sicilies. It is indisputable that she was a curse to her husband's kingdom, and in that sense to her children ; but Marie-Caroline, like all the daughters of Marie-Thérèse, was a vigilant and good mother, capable of teaching and guiding her children well. She had great discernment of character, her daughters' preceptors were well chosen, and the education of the princesses was not narrow, even according to our advanced ideas.
Marie-Amélie was betrothed, when she was seven years old, to the eldest son of the king and queen of France; that long-desired child
who restored his mother's waning popularity for a while, who drew his parents' hearts close together, and wrung them sorely by his early death; the young Dauphin of France. It is he who points with lace-ruffled hand at the cot in which his baby sister smiles, looking wistfully at his mother, in the beautiful family picture at Versailles ; it was he for whom clumsy inarticulate Louis, gifted by joy with eloquence, rapturously thanked his pale wife before all the Court assembled at the auspicious birth. The Dauphin died in 1789 (the King and Queen wore mourning for him when they walked in the great procession to the Mass of the Holy Spirit, on the occasion of the assembly of the Statas-General); and all the pomp and ceremony of a royal widowhood surrounded the little girl, whose earliest childhood passed in the convulsions into which the great Revolution threw all Europe. She could remember how her haughty and violent mother heard the news of the Revolution, of the destruction of her sister's throne, the long anguish of her sister's imprisonment, widowhood, trial, and death. She could remember the impotent rage, added, by the sense of caste outraged and prestige destroyed, to the horror and agony of such family calamity. Her earliest impressions must have been of the hollowness and risk of royal state, for she was more than a child when her parents fled to Sicily, and she was eighteen when they returned to Naples, to recommence their former blind mad despotism, with all the bitterness of revenge. The young princess went to Vienna with her mother for a while; to Vienna, where her uncle was reigning, and where they had so far forgiven the murder of one Austrian archduchess by the French, that it was not difficult, not very long after, to induce them to send another into France, a Hapsburg princess, to wed a Corsican soldier, who had put away his wife by a process which her creed held to be invalid. This, which the ages will never cease to wonder at, was not the only or the most surprising compromise which Marie-Amélie was to witness. She was destined to be a willing party to one as humiliating in its domestic, though not in its dynastic aspect, and more painful. sojourn at Vienna, Marie-Amélie returned to Naples with her mother, and underwent initiation into the difficult game of politics, played with such utter dishonesty by the King and Queen that they soon found themselves obliged to resort to Palermo and the British protectorate, while Massena occupied the kingdom with 40,000 men. During this second retreat to Sicily, and when Ferdinand's only hope was in the defeat of Napoleon in Spain, an event occurred which Marie-Amélie recorded in her journal (those were the days of journal keeping) thus: “Mamma sent for us, and presented the Duke of Orleans to us. He is of middle height, rather fat, neither handsome nor ugly. He has the Bourbon features, is very polite, and seems highly educated.” The sight of him inspired her mother with other
After a gay
feelings. The sister of Marie-Antoinette acknowledged that she “had a horror of seeing the son of Egalité, and that his name made her tremble.” Did any brief remembrance of her baby-betrothal flash across tho mind of Marie-Amélie, when the son of the traitor, the conspirator, the regicide, began to please her eye and charm her ear? The Prince of Salerno was going to Spain, to lead the insurrection against Napoleon, and the Duke of Orleans offered to accompany and aid him. The young people had fallen in love, like common folks, and Louis-Philippe was “making up” to the parents and the brother of his lady love, just as if he had been merely Mr. Smith already.
The royal parents got over their sentimental objections to the son of Egalité, just as Louis the Eighteenth surmounted his objections to Fouché, Duc d'Otranto, by the timely and pious reflection that their murdered sister and brother had forgiven their murderers and it was no business of theirs to be less clement; and they gave him encouragement, if not yet precisely consent. England made some difficulties about the proposed expedition of the Prince of Salerno, and Louis-Philippe volunteered his services as ambassador. He made things comfortable, came back, and found the Princess and her parents admirably disposed towards him. It would not be a good match, but the old families born in the purple were at a terrible discount just then; and as, owing to death and deposition, Marie-Amélie could not now become Queen of France, she might as well be Duchess of Orleans. The girl was honestly in love all the time, and confided the fact to her journal in a passage which is formal, sententious, perhaps a little silly, but which proves that she was in earnest : “I have this year made the acquaintance of one who will influence all the rest of my life, and who has caused now sentiments to spring up in my heart, and new ideas in my mind. Having plainly discerned the hand of God in his unexpected arrival in Sicily and in the dispositions of my beloved parents with respect to him, I believe that I am perhaps destined to form his happiness and he mine.” Marie-Amélie told her father that her marriage would secure her happiness, and accordingly it took place, in her father's room, to which he was confined by illness, on the 25th of November, 1809. “My limbs trembled," writes the Princess, "so deeply did I feel the weight and the sanctity of the vows which I was pronouncing, but the Duke uttered his ‘I will'in so resolute a voice that it stirred my heart." The newly-married couple established themselves in an old house, which was done up for their reception and called the Palazzo d'Orleans; and the young Duchess settled down to a quiet, studious, prayerful life. She worked hard at the French language, until she spoke it as well as her husband, and had acquired a knowledge of every kind of French literature. The Duke left her for a time to join the leaders of the War of Independence, and in addition to separation from