Extracts from The Entire Memoirs Louis XIV., His Court and The Regency
I was born on the night of the 15th of January, 1675, of Claude Duc de Saint-Simon, Peer of France, and of his second wife Charlotte de l'Aubepine. I was the only child of that marriage. By his first wife, Diana de Budos, my father had had only a daughter. He married her to the Duc de Brissac, [Henri Albert de Cossé 4th duc de Brissac] Peer of France, only brother of the Duchesse de Villeroy. She died in 1684, without children, having been long before separated from a husband who was unworthy of her, leaving me heir of all her property.
On my return from La Trappe,  I became engaged in an affair which made a great noise, and which had many results for me.
M. de Luxembourg, proud of his successes, and of the applause of the world at his victories, believed himself sufficiently strong to claim precedence over seventeen dukes, myself among the number; to step, in fact, from the eighteenth rank, that he held amongst the peers, to the second. The following are the names and the order in precedence of the dukes he wished to supersede:
The Duc d'Elboeuf; the Duc de Montbazon; the Duc de Ventadour; the Duc de Vendome; the Duc de la Tremoille; the Duc de Sully; the Duc de Chevreuse, the son (minor) of the Duchesse de Lesdiguieres-Gondi; the Duc de Brissac; Charles d'Albert, called d'Ailly; the Duc de Richelieu; the Duc de Saint-Simon; the Duc de la Rochefoucauld; the Duc de la Force; the Duc de Valentinois; the Duc de Rohan; the Duc de Bouillon.
But it is time, now, that I should retrace my steps to other matters, which, if related in due order of time, should have found a place ere this. And first, let me relate the particulars concerning a trial in which I was engaged, and which I have deferred allusion to until now, so as not to entangle the thread of my narrative.
My sister, as I have said in its proper place, had married the Duc de Brissac [Henri Albert de Cossé 4th duc de Brissac], and the marriage had not been a happy one. After a time, in fact, they separated. My sister at her death left me her universal legatee; and shortly after this, M. de Brissac brought an action against me on her account for five hundred thousand francs. After his death, his representatives continued the action, which I resisted, not only maintaining that I owed none of the five hundred thousand francs, but claiming to have two hundred thousand owing to me, out of six hundred thousand which had formed the dowry of my sister.
When M. de Brissac died, there seemed some probability that his peerage would become extinct; for the Comte de Cosse [Artus Timoléon] , who claimed to succeed him, was opposed by a number of peers, and but for me might have failed to establish his pretensions. I, however, as his claim was just, interested myself in him, supported him with all my influence, and gained for him the support of several influential peers: so that in the end he was recognised as Duc de Brissac [Artus Timoléon Comte de Cossé, 5th Duc de Brissac], and received as such at the parliament on the 6th of May, 1700.
Having succeeded thus to the titles and estates of his predecessor, he succeeded also to his liabilities, debts, and engagements. Among these was the trial against me for five hundred thousand francs. Cosse felt so thoroughly that he owed his rank to me, that he offered to give me five hundred thousand francs, so as to indemnify me against an adverse decision in the cause. Now, as I have said, I not only resisted this demand made upon me for five hundred thousand francs, but I, in my turn, claimed two hundred thousand francs, and my claim, once admitted, all the personal creditors of the late Duc de Brissac (creditors who, of course, had to be paid by the new Duke) would have been forced to stand aside until my debt was settled.
I, therefore, refused this offer of Cosse, lest other creditors should hear of the arrangement, and force him to make a similar one with them. He was overwhelmed with a generosity so little expected, and we became more intimately connected from that day.
Cosse, once received as Duc de Brissac, I no longer feared to push forward the action I had commenced for the recovery of the two hundred thousand francs due to me, and which I had interrupted only on his account. I had gained it twice running against the late Duc de Brissac, at the parliament of Rouen; but the Duchesse d'Aumont, who in the last years of his life had lent him money, and whose debt was in danger, succeeded in getting this cause sent up for appeal to the parliament at Paris, where she threw obstacle upon obstacle in its path, and caused judgment to be delayed month after month. When I came to take active steps in the matter, my surprise—to use no stronger word—was great, to find Cosse, after all I had done for him, favouring the pretensions of the Duchesse d'Aumont, and lending her his aid to establish them. However, he and the Duchesse d'Aumont lost their cause, for when it was submitted to the judges of the council at Paris, it was sent back to Rouen, and they had to pay damages and expenses.
For years the affair had been ready to be judged at Rouen, but M. d'Aumont every year, by means of his letters of state, obtained a postponement. At last, however, M. d'Aumont died, and I was assured that the letters of state should not be again produced, and that in consequence no further adjournment should take place. I and Madame de Saint-Simon at once set out, therefore, for Rouen, where we were exceedingly well received, fetes and entertainments being continually given in our honour.
After we had been there but eight or ten days, I received a letter from Pontchartrain, who sent me word that the King had learnt with surprise I was at Rouen, and had charged him to ask me why I was there: so attentive was the King as to what became of the people of mark, he was accustomed to see around him! My reply was not difficult.
Meanwhile our cause proceeded. The parliament, that is to say, the Grand Chamber, suspended all other business in order to finish ours. The affair was already far advanced, when it was interrupted by an obstacle, of all obstacles the least possible to foresee. The letters of state had again been put in, for the purpose of obtaining another adjournment.
My design is not to weary by recitals, which interest only myself; but I must explain this matter fully. It was Monday evening. The parliament of Rouen ended on the following Saturday. If we waited until the opening of the next parliament, we should have to begin our cause from the beginning, and with new presidents and judges, who would know nothing of the facts. What was to be done? To appeal to the King seemed impossible, for he was at Marly, and, while there, never listened to such matters. By the time he left Marly, it would be too late to apply to him.
[Marly: Louis XIV decided to build a "second home" at Marly, more intimate than the grandeur of Versailles. The Royal Estate was the scene of countless fêtes and entertainments. That was an unusual building: that was not a palace as we understand it, Marly consisted of many small pavilions, one for every guest. Walls of all of the small pavilions were painted by the most famous painters of that time. Louis XIV loved Marly. His relations with people he invited were "friendlier than usual".]
Madame de Saint-Simon and others advised me, however, at all hazards, to go straight to the King, instead of sending a courier, as I thought of doing, and to keep my journey secret. I followed their advice, and setting out at once, arrived at Marly on Tuesday morning, the 8th of August, at eight of the clock. The Chancellor and Chamillart, to whom I told my errand, pitied me, but gave me no hope of success. Nevertheless, a council of state was to be held on the following morning, presided over by the King, and my petition was laid before it. The letters of state were thrown out by every voice. This information was brought to me at mid-day. I partook of a hasty dinner, and turned back to Rouen, where I arrived on Thursday, at eight o'clock in the morning, three hours after a courier, by whom I had sent this unhoped-for news.
I brought with me, besides the order respecting the letters of state, an order to the parliament to proceed to judgment at once. It was laid before the judges very early on Saturday, the 11th of August, the last day of the parliament. From four o'clock in the morning we had an infinite number of visitors, wanting to accompany us to the palace. The parliament had been much irritated against these letters of state, after having suspended all other business for us. The withdrawal of these letters was now announced. We gained our cause, with penalties and expenses, amid acclamations which resounded through the court, and which followed us into the streets. We could scarcely enter our street, so full was it with the crowd, or our house, which was equally crowded. Our kitchen chimney soon after took fire, and it was only a marvel that it was extinguished, without damage, after having strongly warned us, and turned our joy into bitterness. There was only the master of the house who was unmoved. We dined, however, with a grand company; and after stopping one or two days more to thank our friends, we went to see the sea at Dieppe, and then to Cani, to a beautiful house belonging to our host at Rouen.
As for Madame d'Aumont, she was furious at the ill-success of her affair. It was she who had obtained the letters of state from the steward of her son-in-law. Her son-in-law had promised me that they should not be used, and wrote at once to say he had had no hand in their production. M. de Brissac, who had been afraid to look me in the face ever since he had taken part in this matter, and with whom I had openly broken, was now so much ashamed that he avoided me everywhere.
About this time [15th of February,1710] died the Marechale de la Meilleraye, aged eighty-eight years. She was the paternal aunt of the Marechal de Villeroy and the Duc de Brissac, his brother-in-law. It was she who unwittingly put the cap on MM. de Brissac, which they have ever since worn in their arms, and which has been imitated. She was walking in a picture gallery of her ancestors one day with her niece, a lively, merry person, whom she obliged to salute and be polite to each portrait, and who in pleasant revenge persuaded her that one of the said portraits wore a cap which proved him to be an Italian Prince. She swallowed this, and had the cap introduced into her, arms, despite her family, who are now obliged to keep it, but who always call it, "My Aunt's cap." On another occasion, people were speaking in her presence of the death of the Chevalier de Savoie, brother of the Comte de Soissons, and of the famous Prince Eugene, who died very young, very suddenly, very debauched; and full of benefices. The talk became religious. She listened some time, and then, with a profound look of conviction, said: "For my part, I am persuaded that God will think twice about damning a man of such high birth as that!" This caused a burst of laughter, but nothing could make her change her opinion. Her vanity was cruelly punished. She used to affect to apologise for having married the Marechal de la Meilleraye. After his death, being in love with Saint-Ruth, her page, she married him; but took care not to disclose her marriage for fear of losing her distinction at Court. Saint-Ruth was a very honourable gentleman, very poor, tall, and well made, whom everybody knew; extremely ugly—I don't know whether he became so after his marriage. He was a worthy man and a good soldier. But he was also a rough customer, and when his distinguished wife annoyed him he twirled his cudgel and belaboured her soundly. This went so far that the Marechale, not being able to stand it any longer, demanded an audience of the King, admitted her weakness and her shame, and implored his protection. The King kindly promised to set matters to rights. He soundly rated Saint-Ruth in his cabinet, and forbade him to ill-treat the Marechale. But what is bred in the bone will never get out of the flesh. The Marechale came to make fresh complaints. The King grew angry in earnest, and threatened Saint-Ruth. This kept him quiet for some time. But the habit of the stick was too powerful; and he flourished it again. The Marechale flew as usual to the King, who, seeing that Saint-Ruth was incorrigible, was good enough to send him to Guyenne under pretence, of employment. Afterwards he was sent to Ireland; where he was killed.
About the commencement of the new year, 1720, the system of Law approached its end.....
In the midst of the embarrassments of the finances, and in spite of them, M. le Duc d'Orleans continued his prodigal gifts. He attached pensions of 6000 livres and 4000 livres to the grades of lieutenant-general and camp-marshal. He gave a pension of 20,000 livres to old Montauban; one of 6000 livres to M. de Montauban (younger brother of the Prince de Guemene); and one of 6000 livres to the Duchesse de Brissac. To several other people he gave pensions of 4000 livres; to eight or ten others, 3000 or 2000 livres. I obtained one of 8000 livres for Madame Marechal de Lorges; and one of 6000 livres was given to the Marechal de Chamilly, whose affairs were much deranged by the Mississippi. M. de Soubise and the Marquis Noailles had each upwards of 200,000 livres. Even Saint- Genies, just out of the Bastille, and banished to Beauvais, had a pension of 1000. Everybody in truth wanted an augmentation of income, on account of the extreme high price to which the commonest, almost necessary things had risen, and even all other things; which, although at last diminshed by degrees, remain to this day much dearer than they were before the Mississippi.
Towards the end of this year, [23 OCT] 1720, the Duc de Brissac [Charles Timoléon Louis de Cossé, 6th Duc de Brissac] married Mlle. Pecoil, a very rich heiress, whose father was a 'maitre des requetes', and whose mother was daughter of Le Gendre, a very wealthy merchant of Rouen. The father of Mlle. Pecoil was a citizen of Lyons, a wholesale dealer, and extremely avaricious. He had a large iron safe, or strong- box, filled with money, in a cellar, shut in by an iron door, with a secret lock, and to arrive at which other doors had to be passed through. He disappeared so long one day, that his wife and two or three valets or servants that he had sought him everywhere. They well knew that he had a hiding-place, because they had sometimes seen him descending into his cellar, flat-candlestick in hand, but no one had ever dared to follow him.
Wondering what had become of him, they descended to the cellar, broke open the doors, and found at last the iron one. They were obliged to send for workmen to break it open, by attacking the wall in which it was fixed. After much labour they entered, and found the old miser dead in his strong-box, the secret spring of which he had apparently not been able to find, after having locked himself in; a horrible end in every respect.
The Brissacs have not been very particular in their alliances for some time, and yet appear no richer. The gold flies away; the dross remains.
Notes come the revolution
Versailles. The massacre of the Duke du Cosse-Brissac. A certain Brother Ledru, one of the sons of the learned Nicholas Philip Ledru, was the physician of Cosse-Brissac. On the death of that nobleman and the sale of his property, Ledru purchased a piece of furniture, possibly an escritoire, in which was concealed the celebrated Charter of Larmenius, the manuscript statutes of 1705, and the journal of proceedings of the Order of the Temple. The Cosse-Brissac family, we recall, held in its possession certain letters of the Abbé Louis Fouquet from the time of Nicholas Poussin.
The Reformation caused a lot of persecution in France. A brief period of peace followed the Edict of Nantes in 1598, but in 1685 the edict was repealed, and persecution continued until the Edict of Tolerance in 1787. Because of this persecution, many Protestants had to flee the country, and some records were lost.
Tracing French Protestants (Huguenots) is a great challenge.
In 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes because his growing interest
in religion made tolerating protestants impossible. The Huguenots were compelled
to choose between conversion to Catholicism, persecution, and flight from the
country. About 200,000 chose the latter.