Sunday, July 29, 2012

Marie Antoinette's adoption of Jacques Armand as told by Madame Campan



Marie Antoinette's First Lady of the Bedchamber, Madame Campan, described, in her memoirs, the circumstances surrounding Marie Antoinette's adoption (to use the term loosely) of one of several children:  

"A little village boy, four or five years old, full of health with a pleasing countenance, remarkably large blue eyes, and fine light hair, got under the feet of the Queen's horses when she was taking an airing in a calash, through the hamlet of St. Michel, near Louveciennes.  The coachman and postilions stopped the horses, and the child was rescued without the slightest injury.  Its grandmother rushed out of the door of her cottage to take it; but the Queen, standing up in her calash and extending her arms, called out that the child was hers, and that destiny had given it to her, to console her, no doubt, until she should had the happiness of having one herself.  "Is his mother alive?" asked the Queen.  "No, Madame;  my daughter died last winter, and left five small children upon my hands."  "I will take this one, and provide for all the rest.;  "Do you consent?"  "Ah, Madame, they are too fortunate," replied the cottager;  "but Jacques is a bad boy.  I hope he will stay with you!"  The Queen, taking little Jacques upon her knee, said that she would make him used to her, and gave orders to proceed.  It was necessary, however, to shorten the drive, so violently did Jacques, scream and kick the Queen and her ladies.  The arrival of her ladies at her apartments at Versailles astonished the whole household;  he cried out with intolerable shrillness that he wanted his grandmother, his brother, Louis, and his sister, Marianne;   nothing could calm him.  He was taken away by the wife of a servant, who was appointed to attend him as a nurse.  The other children were put to school.  Little Jacques, whose family name was Armand, came back to the Queen two days afterwards;  a white frock trimmed with lace, a rose-colored sash with silver fringe, and a hat decorated with feathers, were now substituted for the woolen cap, the little red frock, and the wooden shoes.  The child was really very beautiful.  The Queen was enchanted with him; he was brought to her every morning at nine o'clock;  he breakfasted and dined with her, and often even with the King.  She like to call him my child and lavished caresses upon him, still maintaining a deep silence responding the regrets which constantly occupied her heart.  The child remained with the Queen until the time when Madame was old enough to come home to her august mother, who had particularly taken upon herself the care of her education.  This little unfortunate was nearly twenty in 1792;  the incendiary endeavors of the people, and the fear of being thought a favored creature of the Queen, had made him a most sanguinary terrorist of Versailles.  He was killed at the battle of Jemmapes."

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