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journal oi Count Fersen of the 20th gives the same account of the order in which the royal family escaped as Lord Auckland.
In one of the accounts it is stated that Count Fersen did not know the streets of Paris, which seems very unlikely ; but it appears that such was the Count's caution that he first drove to Mr. Craufurd's house, to see if the travelling-carriage had started, and then drove rapidly to the Barrière St. Martin. In the statement by Madame Royale, it is averred that Count Fersen took leave of the royal family there, and this account is adopted by Mr. Croker; but it is an error, for both Count Fersen and Lord Auckland agree that it was at or near Bondy that the parting took place. It will be seen that the King refused to allow Fersen to accompany the royal family in their flight. We think that if he had consented, the escape might have been effected. All that was wanted was a cool head in danger, and that was lamentably wanting.
This is from the Auckland MSS. :
“ When they came to the other coach, the one that brought the royal family from Paris was driven to some distance and overturned into a ditch. They got into the travelling coach. Fersen rode before and ordered post-horses at Bondy. It is common for persons who live at Paris to come the first stage with their own horses. The post-horses, on showing the passport, were therefore given without any hesitation. Two of the garde-de-corps mounted on the seat of the coach, the other went before as a courier. The coachman was sent on with the coach-horses towards Brussels, and Fersen accompanied the royal family about three miles beyond Bondy, when he quitted them to go to Mons, and from thence to Montmédy. Though he pressed the King very much to permit him to go along with him, he positively refused it, saying, "If you should be taken it will be impossible for me to save you; besides, you have papers of importance. I therefore conjure you to get out of France as fast as you can.' He joined his own carriage that was waiting for him near Bourgette, and arrived at Mons at two in the morning of the 22nd, without ineeting with any sort of interruption."
The following account from the journal of Count Fersen was written in pencil on scraps of paper, but it will be seen that with the exception of some difference in time it agrees substantially with Lord Auckland's paper.
“ Conversation with the King on what he wished to do. Both told me to proceed without delay. We agreed upon the house, &C., &c., so that if they were stopped I should go to Brussels and act from there, &c., &c. At parting the King said to me, • M. de Fersen, whatever happens to me I shall never forget all that you have done for me.' The Queen wept bitterly. At 6 o'clock I left her; she went out to walk with the children. No extraordinary precautions. I returned home to finish my affairs. At 7 o'clock went to Sullivan to see if the carriage had been sent; returned home again at 8 o'clock. I wrote to the Queen to change the rendezvous' with the waiting-woman, and to instruct them to let me know the exact hour by the garde-de-corps ; take the letter nothing moving. At a quarter to 9 o'clock the gardes join me; they give me the letter for Mercy.* I give them instructions, retnrn home, send off my horses and coachman. Go to fetch the carriage. Thought I had lost Mercy's letter. At quarter past 10 o'clock in the Cour des Princes. At quarter past 11 the children taken out with difficulty. Lafayette passed twice. At
* Formerly Austrian ambassador at the Court of Versailles.
à quarter to 12 Madame Elisabeth came, then the King, then the Queen. Start at 12 o'clock, meet the carriage at the Barrière St. Martin. At half past one o'clock reach Bondy, take post; at three o'clock I leave them, taking the by-road to Bourgette."
On arriving at Mons the Count wrote to his father a letter acquainting him with the triumphant success of his attempt.
Al had gone welt when the directions were in the hands of the brave and cautious Swedish officer, but the moment the French commanders took the affair into their own hands at Châlons, everything was lost through their levity and want of common-sense. Baron de Goguelat, an engineer officer who superintended the details of the expedition from Châlons, already had given offence to the inhabitants of St. Menehould, and had quarrelled with Drouet, the postmaster there, through employing another man's horses which were cheaper to take his own carriage back. The Duc de Choiseul, who commanded the first detachment at Somme-Velle, near Châlons, because the travelling carriage was late, retreated not by the main road, where the royal family could have overtaken him, but across a country he did not know, and he did not arrive at Varennes till after the arrest of the royal family, having previously sent a message to the other commander that the "treasure "t would not arrive that evening. On the carriage arriving at St. Menehould, the commanding officer of the hussars there foolishly went to speak to the King, who put his head out of the window and was instantly recognised by Drouet, who immediately after the departure of the King rode off to Varennes and procured his arrest. Everything there was in confusion. The young Count de Bouillé was in bed, his hussars with their horses unsaddled. The Duc de Choiseul, the Count de Damas, arrived with men enough to rescue the prisoners, but nothing was done. The King would give no orders, and the officers were afraid of responsibility. Count de Damas told Mr. Charles Ross, the editor of the Cornwallis Correspondence, “that he asked leave of the King to charge with the men the mob who interrupted him. The Queen urged him to do it, but Louis would take no responsibility, and would give no order till it was too late. M. de Damas added he had ever since regretted not acting without orders." The Count de Bouillé fled from Varennes to acquaint his father, who was at the next station, Dun, with the misfortune that had befallen the King. The Marquis hastened with the Royal Allemand regiment to rescue the royal family, but he arrived too late. They had already left for Paris, escorted by the National Guard.
It was at Arlon, on his journey to Montmédy, the fortress on the French frontier where the King intended to set up his standard if successful in his attempt at escape, that Count Fersen heard the news of the failure.
The Count writes in his journal :
A village on the high-road to Mons. | The pretext for presence of the troops was that they were to escort treasure to “Le 23.-Fine weather, cold. Arrived at Arlon at eleven o'clock in the evening. Found Bouillé, learnt that the King was taken; the detachments not done their duty. The King wanting in resolution and head."
The Count now took up his residence at Brussels, where he was joined by his friend Craufurd, and henceforth employed his whole time until the execution of the Queen in attempting to save her. Although well knowing the fate that would await him if discovered, he wished to return to Paris. His correspondence with Marie Antoinette was constant.
Here is a letter from her, written on the 29th of June : " I exist. :::
How anxious I have been about you, and how I grieve to think of all you must have suffered from not hearing of us ! Heaven grant that this letter may reach you! Don't write to me, it would only endanger us, and above all, don't return here under any pretext. It is known that you attempted our escape, and all would be lost if you were to appear. We are guarded day and night. No matter
Keep your mind at ease. Nothing will happen to me. The Assembly wishes to deal gently with us. Adieu. ... I cannot write more.
The Field-Marshal de Tersen was very anxious that his son should now return to his own country, where a great career awaited him, but the Count refused to entertain the idea. Count Ferson writes from Vienna,* August 1791:
“ 20th August.—The confidence with which the King and Queen of France have honoured me impose upon me the duty of not abandoning them on this occasion, and of serving them whenever in future it is possible for me to be of use to them. I should deserve all censure were I to do otherwise. I alone have been admitted into their confidence, and I may still, from the knowledge I have of their position, their sentiments, and the affairs of France, be of service to them. I should reproach myself eternally as having helped to bring them into their present disastrous position without having used every means in my power to release them from it. Such conduct would be unworthy of your son, and you, my dear father, whatever it may cost you, would not you yourself disapprove of it? It would be inconsistent and fickle, and is far from my way of thinking. As i have mixed myself up in the cause, I will go on to the end. I shall then have nothing to reproach myself with, and if I do not succeed-if this unhappy prince finds himself forsaken, I shall, at least, have the consolation of having done my duty, and of having never betrayed the confidence with which he has honored me."
Baron de Stael, then Swedish ambassador at Paris, who through his wife was suspected of intriguing in fav ur of the new order of things, seems to have endeavoured on all occasions to counteract the efforts of his former friend. It is singular that Gustavus, a fanatical adherent of the French royal family, should have allowed him to remain in his service.
Count Fersen writes to Marie Antoinette :
“Staël says dreadful things of me. He has corrupted my coachman and taken him into his service; which has annoyed me very much. He has prejudiced many persons against me, who blame my condict, and say that in what I have done I havo been gaided solely by ambition, and that I have lost you and the King. The Spanish Ambassador and others are of this opinion; he is at Louvain, and has not seen any one here. They are right; I had the ambition to serve you, and I shall all my life lament my not having succeeded , I wished to repay in some part the benefits which
• The Count went to Vienna to induce the Empero: Leopold to assist his sister.
it has been so delightful to me to receive from you, and I hoped to prove that it is possible to be attached to persons like yourself without interested motives. The rest of my conduct should have shown that this was my sole ambition, and that the honour of having served you was my best recompense.'
Connt Fersen remained at Brussels, and numerous plans for the relief of the royal family were engaged in by his advice. In February, 1792, he determined, in spite of the extreme danger, to proceed to Paris to see again the King and Queen. He departed from Brussels on Sunday the 12th, and arrived in Paris on Monday evening.
There is the following entry in his journal:
“Went to the Queen. Passed in my usual way, afraid of the National Guards. Did not see the King.
“Le 14, Tuesday.-Saw the King at six o'clock in the evening, he does not wish to escape, and cannot on account of the extreme watchfulness; but in reality he has scruples, having so often promised to remain, for he is an honest man.'”
Count Fersen had a long conversation with the Queen on the same evening, in which they talked about the details of the journey from Varennes, and the Queen related what insults they had received : how the Marquis de Dampierre, having approached the carriage at St. Menehould, was murdered in their sight, and his head brought to the carriage; how insolently Pétion behaved, who asked her for, pretending not to know, the name of the Swede who drove them from the palace, to whom Marie Antoinette answered “ that she was not in the habit of knowing the names of hackney coachmen.”
Count Fersen remained in Paris till the 21st, when with his companion he left for Brussels, where he arrived on the 23d. They were arrested several times, but got through by informing the guards that they were Swedish couriers. On the subject of the fight to Varennes we give one more extract. Just before the execution of the Queen, Drouet, commissary of the Convention, was arrested by the Austrians in attempting to escape from Maubeuge. · He was brought to Brussels, and Count Fersen went to see him.
“Sunday, 6th October.-Drouet * arrived at 11 o'clock. I went with Colonel Harvey to see him in the prison of St. Elizabeth. He is a man of from 33 to 34 years of nge, six feet high, and good-looking enough if he were not so great a scoundrel. He had irons on his hands and feet. We asked him if he were the postmaster of Saint Menehould who had stopped the King at Varennes : he said that he had been at Varennes, but that it was not he who had arrested the King. We asked him if he had left Maubeuge from fear of being taken. He said No, but to execute a commission with which he was charged. He kept his coat closed to prevent the chain, which led from his right foot to his left hand, being seen. The sight of this infamous villain incensed me, and the effort that I made to refrain from speaking to him (iu consideration for the Abbé de Limon and Count Fitz-James) affected me painfully. Another officer who was taken with him maiutained that the Queen was in no daim ger, that she was very well treated, and had everything she could wish. The scoundrels, how they lie !-An Englishman arrived in Switzerland, said he had paid 25 louis to be allowed to enter the prison where the Queen was; he carried in a jug of water-the
Drouet was the postmaster at St. Menehould, not the postmaster's son, as is generally believed. He was afterwards exchanged.
room is underground, and contains only a poor bed, a table, and one chair. He found the Queen seated with her face buried in her hands-her head was covered with two handkerchiefs, and she was extremely ill dressed ;-she did not even look up at him, and of course it was understood that he should not speak to her. What a horrible story! I am going to inquire into the truth of it.”
The Count never saw Marie Antoinette again, but he still contrived to correspond with her until her removal to the Conciergerie. Then all hope seemed over.
Count Fersen's sufferings were extreme during the period of apprehension before the Queen's execution. He attempted in vain, through Count Mercy, to prevail on the allies to march on Paris. But the Austrians were more intent on seizing the French fortresses, and the English on the siege of Dunkirk, than in making a desperate campaign on behalf of the royal family. These are the last accounts in Count Fersen's journal respecting the Queen.
“ Here are some particulars about the Queen. Her room was the third door to the right, on entering, opposite to that of Custine ; it was on the ground floor, and looked into a court which was filled all day with prisoners, who through the window looked at and insulted the Queen. Her room was small, dark, and fetid; there was neither stove nor fireplace ; in it there were three beds : one for the Queen, another for the woman who served her, and a third for the two gendarmes who never left the
The Queen's bed was, like the others, made of wood; it had a palliasse, a mattress, and one dirty torn blanket, which had long been used by other prisoners ; the sheets were coarse, unbleached linen ; there were no curtains, only an old screen. The Queen wore a kind of black spencer (caraco'), her hair, cut short, was quite grey.
She had become so thin as to be hardly recognizable, and so weak she couid scarcely stand. She wore three rings on her fingers, but not jewelled ones. The woman who waited on her was a kind of tishwife, of whom she made great complaints. The soldiers told Michonis that she did not eat enough to keep her alive; they said that her food was very bad, and they showed him a stale, skinny chicken saying. This chicken has been served to Madame for four days, and she has not eaten it.' The gendarmes complained of their bed, though it was just the same as the Queen's. The Queen always slept dressed, and in black, expecting every moment to be mardered or to to be led to torture, and wishing to be prepared for either in mourning: Michonis wept as he spoke of the weak state of the Queen's health, and he said that he had only been able to get the black spencer and some necessary linen for the Queen from the Temple, after a deliberation in Council. These are the sad details he gave me.”
Marie Antoinette was executed on the 16th of October, 1793. It was not till four days afterwards, on the 20th, that the news arrived at Brus. sels.
The following are extracts from Count Fersen's journal.
“Sunday, October 20th.--Grandmaison tells me that Ackerman, a banker, received a letter from his correspondent in Paris, telling him that the sentence against the Queen had been parsed the evening before; that it was to have been carried into execution directly, but that circumstances had retarded it; that the people (that is, i he paid people) were murmuring that it was "ce matin que Marie-Antoinette doit paraitre à la fenêtre nationale. Although I have been prepared for this, and have in fact expected it ever since the removal from the Conciergerie, yet the certainty has quite prostrated me. I went to talk of this misfortune with my friends Madamo Fitz-James and the Baron de Breteuil; they wept with me, above all, Madame Fitza James. The • Gazette of the 17th speaks of it. It was on the 16th at half-past eleven that this execrable crime was committed, and Divine vengeance has no burst upon these monsters!