The Comte de St. Germain, by Isabel Cooper-Oakley, , at sacred-texts.com
Sunday, March 9th, 1760.
He (St. Germain) told me . . . that there would be no obstacles on the part of England to the Peace, that the obstacles would come from France . . . that the King of France and Mme de Pompadour, the whole Court as well as the whole of the country, were passionately longing for Peace; that one mars alone prevented it, viz. the Duc de Choiseul, won over as he was by the Court of Vienna (the Queen of Hungary) . . . that all the confusion and misfortunes in Europe were due to the Treaty of Versailles in 1756 . . . in which there was a secret clause giving the Flanders to the Infante, in exchange for Silesia, which latter had to be subdued, given up, and made over to the Queen of Hungary. . . . There was but one way to get out of it, and that was by concluding Peace between England and France; that the usual methods of "Preliminaries, Congresses, and Conferences" would mean spinning out things indefinitely and would cause War again, the mere idea of which makes one shudder; he was of opinion that if only some possible propositions were brought forward, or if only some honest men in whom people could put faith would intervene, Peace would be made . . . it being as
necessary to England as it was to France; that the King and Mme de Pompadour wished it fervently, that the King of England wished it not less, that the Duke of Newcastle and Count Granville (Charles Foronshead) were very much in favour of it (speaking of Chesterfield, he said firmly while looking fixedly at me to see what I would answer: "Chesterfield is a mere trifler"), that Pitt who now made common cause with the two others, had always crossed him hitherto, but that Pitt was hated by the King . . . that a Scotchman of the name of Crammon who lived in Paris had received a letter from Neuville in Amsterdam, in which he was warned to be prepared to receive him, that Crammon received another letter from London which came actually via Brussels, and that this latter contained suggestions for making a separate Peace between France and England; that these suggestions came from the Duke of Newcastle and from Lord Granville; that this letter had been communicated to him by Mme de Pompadour (he gave details . . . "she was in bed"); that her delight was great, she told him to mention it to Choiseul; that he remonstrated but ended by obeying; that Choiseul rejected everything. . . . Concerning Amsterdam, St. Germain spoke of its greatness, of the number of its inhabitants, its treasures, its money circulation, its superiority in this respect to London, Paris and any other city in the world."
Tuesday, March 11th, 1760.
He told me that he had informed Mme de Pompadour of what had passed between himself and me . . . and that he had also written to the Minister to that effect. When I asked him how the Minister would receive the news, he said with a smiling but assured look that changes would be soon taking place at Versailles, giving me to
understand that it would not be in Choiseul’s power to prevent Peace for long.
Wednesday, March 12th, 1760.
That he had spoken to d’Affry on the subject of myself, and had told him that he would do wrong and fail in his duty to his master if he neglected me.
Sunday, March 16th, 1760.
The whole of the conversation was so varied and so full of extraordinary anecdotes, together with the singularity of the man himself and other circumstances (which I, however, knew already more particularly from Yorke and d’Affry), dealing with his relations with the King and Mme de Pompadour, that it occurred to me to take advantage of it in order to fathom the depths of this business, and thus forestall the false information of various people engaged in it who are only thinking of their own interests, put right the wrong impressions which are rife as to the policy of this Country, and insinuate myself into an affair which it is most important that I should understand clearly, despite the inclination which is shown to exclude me from it. In pursuance of this plan I egged him on by my queries to which he replied promptly and clearly. . . . (He speaks like a mere "rattlepate," although I would not venture to say that he is one.) I evinced great impartiality for all nations except my own; professed to desire Peace for humanitarian reasons alone, and to share the personal grief of the King with regard to the condition of the French Nation, of which he (St. Germain) gave me a vivid and detailed picture, as that of a man who knew more than others on this subject. He spoke with so much precision of people, that I went on as I had begun and
told him of my hopes, of the silly rumours and the absurd and ridiculous stories which the foreign Ministers here wrote to their masters. . . . I egged him on, making him speak (which is easy enough!) and he continued smoothly. . . .
Wednesday, March 26th, 1760.
. . . That he had decided on Monday to call on d’Affry, who told him that he had received letters from Versailles ordering him to tell him (St. Germain) that he had got himself into a bad scrape at Court by writing about me to Mme de Pompadour, into a bad scrape indeed! That he mixed himself up far too much with things which did not concern him! And that he (St. Germain) was ordered in the King's name to mind his own business! That d’Affry had spoken as if he thought he could scare him into leaving the place; that he had also told him he had orders not to see him (St. Germain), but to deny him admittance!
Listening to him to the end, he (St. Germain) had finally answered that "if anyone had got into a bad 'scrape' it was not himself but d’Affry . . . that as regards what had been enjoined on him in the name of the King, he (St. Germain), not being his subject, the King could not order him to do anything; that moreover he believed that M. de Choiseul had written it all on his own initiative and that the King knew nothing about it! If he were shown an order (written) by the King himself he would believe it: but not otherwise. . . ." He (St. Germain) told me that he had written an "Instructive Memoir" which he intended to send d’Affry and which he read aloud to me. He laughed and I did the same, thinking of the effect that his "Instructive Memoir" would have on d’Affry. He called the latter "block-head,"
[paragraph continues] "poor fellow" and "this poor d’Affry who thinks he can awe and bully me, but . . . he has come to the wrong person, for I have trampled under foot both praise and blame, fear and hope, I, who have no other object but to follow the dictates of my benevolent feelings towards humanity and to do as much good to mankind as possible. The King knows very well that I fear neither d’Affry nor M. de Choiseul."
Thursday, March 27th, 1760.
The Comte de St. Germain told me under pledge of secrecy, as "he did not wish to conceal anything from me," that he had spent this day four hours with M. Yorke, who had shown him the answers that he had received from England on the 25th, dated the 21st, from the Duke of Newcastle, Mr. Pitt and Lord Holdernesse, relating to what Yorke had written them about his previous conversations with him (St. Germain). He thereupon showed me three little notes which he had received and which he made me read; in one of these notes Yorke expressed the wish to talk with him and specified what was required from the Comte in order that they might speak with one another without being disavowed in their public or private positions . . . it was demanded that he (St. Germain) should be "officially empowered" or something akin to that, in order that it might be possible for York to speak openly with him, without fear of being compromised.
He (St. Germain) told me that Yorke had given him the original letters of the before-named ministers to read; that he knew the handwriting of each of them except that of Pitt, and that these letters were most complimentary to him. . . .
. . . Do what he might, d’Affry was now powerless,
and he (St. Germain) held the question of Peace in his own hands; the only remaining obstacle in his way was M. de Choiseul who might "perhaps fail to extract all the benefit possible for Europe in general and France in particular from this opportunity."
Upon this I told him he should find some device wherewith to control M. de Choiseul’s actions. He asked for my opinion (just as if I knew the French Court and the strong and weak points of the people in it!). I said it "was for him to find any such means," etc. . . . he seemed to be anxious about the reply he would get from Choiseul, whom he dared not ignore but whose real desire for Peace he strongly doubted. . . .
Monday, March 31st, 1760.
. . . He told me he possessed something which would "knock Choiseul into a cocked hat," that all decent people in France desired Peace . . . that Choiseul alone wished to continue the war . . . that he had a powerful weapon against Choiseul in the letters which Yorke had written him, and of which he kept the originals to use if necessary against Choiseul whom he did not fear in the least . . . that d’Affry was the slave of Choiseul . . . that Choiseul would not dare to conceal letters of which Mme de P. and the Marshal de Belle-Isle were informed.
Friday, April 14th, 1760.
Councillor Pensionnaire (Stein) told me that d’Affry had informed him that the orders he had received from Choiseul with regard to St. Germain consisted mainly in disavowing everything that St. Germain had done or would do here, with regard to the Peace . . . that by them he was obliged to communicate this to St. Germain adding that if he mixed himself up in the matter he would be
imprisoned on his return to France. . . . The Recorder Fagel said to me much the same thing as that which "had told him only this morning." . . . The same day St. Germain dined with me and told me that "d’Affry had communicated his orders to him and shown him Choiseul’s letter"; he had answered that this "would not hinder him from returning to France, that these orders would never be put into force . . . that they only emanated from Choiseul . . . that he had known Yorke from his childhood, 17 years back, and that the Yorke family had always been kindness itself to him "; . . . that d’Affry had also objected to his frequently calling upon me, which St. Germain had owned to doing and had added that he "intended to continue doing so." That d’Affry had shewn him Choiseul’s letter together with the one that he (St. Germain) had himself written about me to Mme de Pompadour (to this he added that he was convinced that Choiseul had stolen it from Mme de P.); also that d’Affry had repeatedly told him that France would never trust me. . . . On the whole it seemed as if he cared very little for the orders which d’Affry had received with regard to him, and still less for M. de Choiseul! . . . and that the whole matter remained undecided; . . . that France would run the risk of War again and that if such a thing happened he (St. Germain) would "go to England and then see what he could do."
Tuesday, April 15th, 1760.
The Councillor Pensionnaire told me, in his room, that d’Affry had shown him the orders that he had received the night before by a courier declaring that St. Germain was a "mere vagabond," and that everything that he might have said should be disowned 1 That a complaint should be drawn up against him, that he should be
arrested and brought under escort to Lille to be handed over to France where he would be imprisoned. . . . I told him my view, which was that St. Germain had come to this country like other strangers trusting in the protection of the Law and counting on his safety as one of the public; that he was not charged with any crime of such a nature that no Sovereign would give protection against it, such as murder, poisoning, etc., and that the right of sanctuary was considered very sacred in this Republic. . . . He agreed to this, but seemed very anxious about the feelings of France. . . . I went into the Recorder's room and he told me in the presence of the Councillor Pensionnaire, that d’Affry had come to him and told him . . . (follows the same discourse as with the Coun. Pen.), . . . and that he had advised him to address himself to the Government etc.; . . . but that he did not think that the Government would hand over a person who lived in this country trusting to its protection, and against whom there was no charge of any heinous crime against which no Sovereign would grant protection. . . .
Wednesday, April 16th, 1760.
. . . I told the Councillor Pensionnaire that M. de St. Germain had gone, of which he seemed very glad. . . .
Wednesday, April 16th, 1760.
When I informed Yorke of what I had just heard about St. Germain I expected that he would shield him, for Yorke had begun to negociate with St. Germain and had encouraged him; I have myself seen the originals of his letters to St. Germain, they are very friendly and encouraging. But, instead of shielding St. Germain, Yorke put on his hard, haughty and supercilious expression
saying that he "would be very glad to see St. Germain in the hands of the Police." I was thunderstruck, knowing what I did: I told him my opinion, very gently and diffidently so as not to offend him; but Yorke persisted in saying that "he washed his hands of St. Germain," and refused to let me hive a passport for the Packet Boat which I had asked him to give me.
Pressed by me, Yorke said at last that if I asked him for a passport, as a personal favour, he would not refuse me "owing to my position." I agreed; . . . mentioned that d’Affry might cause us a lot of trouble which might be prevented by giving St. Germain the means to escape, and Yorke then called his Secretary and bade him bring a passport. He signed it and handed it to me "blank," so that St. Germain might fill in his own name or whatever other name he might choose to take in order to avoid the pursuit of d’Affry or his minions. I carried away the passport without showing Yorke to what an extent I was shocked and revolted by what I had witnessed.
Thursday, April 17th, 1760.
The Councillor Pensionnaire writes to tell me that d’Affry called on him in order to complain of me; that d’Affry said he was well informed of everything, that I had gone to see the Comte de St. Germain on Tuesday evening about 10, and had stayed with him until one hour after midnight, that a coach drawn by four horses had arrived before the house with a servant of mine and that M. de St. Germain had left in this coach with my servant behind, and that he (d’Affry) was consequently unable to fulfil his instructions!
April 18th, 1760.
Some months ago Mr. Yorke recommended to me very warmly a certain Mr. Linières who came here in order to
secure a patent for a machine of new invention. . . . D'Affry raid me a visit, and while speaking of Linières mentioned that he was connected with St. Germain. The name struck me and excited my curiosity on account of all that I had heard about the Count in England, where he had stayed a considerable time and mixed in the best Society. No one knew who he was, a fact which did not astonish me in a country like England, where there are practically no secret police, but what did astonish me was that in France it was not known either! D'Affry told me that in France the King alone knew it, and in England he believed the Duke of Newcastle knew it also. I repeated to M. d’Affry several particulars which I had heard about St. Germain concerning his manners, wealth and magnificence, the regularity with which he paid his debts, the large sums he had spent in England where life is expensive, etc. M. d’Affry observed that he was decidedly a very remarkable man of whom all kinds of stories were told, each more absurd than the other: for instance that he possessed the Philosopher's Stone, that he was a hundred years old, altho’ he did not look like forty, etc.! Having asked him if he knew him personally he answered "yes," that he had met him at the house of the Princesse de Montaubon, that he was a very welcome and well-known figure at Versailles and often called on Madame de Pompadour, that he was exceedingly sumptuous and magnificent, . . . and amongst other things gave me particulars of his munificence with regard to paintings, jewels and curios; he told me still more which I do not remember, nor do I remember all the questions I put him. . . .
Pondering over what occurred between the Comte d’Affry and myself, I have the impression that he was as astonished as I was myself at these particulars with
regard to the figure which the Comte de St. Germain had cut in England and in France being discussed without a single imputation being made against him. . . .
I will mention this in the course of conversation with Yorke. . . .
Yorke spoke of him as being a very cheerful and very polite man, who had insinuated himself into the cabinet of Mme de Pompadour and to whom the King had given Chambord. . . .
He mentioned that later on, he made St. Germain's acquaintance when the latter had been in Amsterdam and came to the Hague. . . . It was in March he (St. Germain) came to see me owing to what Linières had written him [viz. that Bentinck van Rhoon wished to make his acquaintance]; . . . his conversation pleased me very much, being exceedingly brilliant, varied and full of details about various countries he had visited . . . all very interesting. . . . I was exceedingly pleased with his judgment of persons and places known to me; his manners were exceedingly polite and went to prove that he was a man brought up in the best society. He had come from Amsterdam with Madame Geelvinck and Mr. A. Hope and had been admitted daily to the house of Mayor Hasselaar; he had come to the Hague recommended to M. de Soele, by the Hasselaar family who had taken him to Mme de Byland and elsewhere. On the birthday of the Prince of Orange at the old Court (giving his name at the door) I took him to the Ball where he was spoken to by the Hasselaars, by Mme Geelvinck, Mme Byland and others.
It had been his intention to leave on the day after the Ball, and he had retained a coach from Amsterdam in order to drive home the two ladies who had come with him, but they made him stay three or four days longer.
During this time he was daily with d’Affry and dined at d’Affry's house before returning to Amsterdam; I had several talks with him of which most have slipped from my memory. . . . It is noteworthy that during the interval which elapsed between the day after the Ball and the day on which he left, d’Affry (believing him to be about to start) sent wine and meat for the journey to St. Germain every day. I can bear witness to this myself, as I was present when d’Affry's servant brought them on two succeeding days.
As St. Germain did not leave after all, he went and dined at d’Affry's house. . . .
I went myself to the Comte de St. Germain and advised him in his own interests to leave as soon as possible. I told him I was informed, not directly, but thro’ a third person, that d’Affry had instructions to order his arrest and to have him conducted under escort to the French frontier and given up to France, in order that he might be imprisoned there for the rest of his life.
He was exceedingly surprised, not so much at M. de Choiseul giving such an order, as at D'Affry daring to think of doing such a thing in a law-abiding country; he put a lot of questions each one more pertinent than the other, and with the greatest composure in the world; I did not wish to discuss the matter with him, as I should have found it rather difficult to answer his enquiries and enlighten him on the points he raised. I told him there was no time for discussion, but that he should start at once if he considered his safety, that he had till the morrow to make his preparations, as even if M. d’Affry intended to take steps he could not do so until 10 o'c. the next morning, and before then he (St. Germain) should have made and carried out his plans.
The method of his retreat was now discussed as well as the question of where to go. . . .
With regard to the first, I offered him my services . with regard to the second, I suggested England; its proximity, its laws, its constitution and the greatness of this nation offering him a nearer and safer refuge than that of any other country. . . . We agreed on this point; I said that I would procure him a passport from Mr. Yorke, as without it he could not embark on the Packet Boat. As a ship was crossing the next day, I said he would do well to go on board at Hellevoetsluis and to do so as quickly as possible; this done all d’Affry's proceedings would be too late, etc. . . . In the evening about seven or eight o'clock I went to St. Germain and took him the passport. He put a lot of questions to me which I evaded answering, requesting him to think rather of more pressing matters than of queries which were abstruse and useless in the present emergency. He decided to leave: as none of his servants knew either the language or the roads or the customs of the country, he asked me to lend him one of mine, which I did, with pleasure. . . . I did more, I ordered a coach with four horses for the purpose of going to Leyden to be before my house at 4.30. next morning, and told one of my servants to pick up the Comte de St. Germain on the way and stay with him until he should be sent back to me. . . .
(A defence of his (Bentinck's) conduct follows, saying that secret treaties have always been allowed.)
If the Comte de St. Germain had shown as much prudence as he had shown zeal, he would have, I believe, much accelerated Peace; but he relied too much on his own intentions and had not a bad enough opinion of those of the men with whom he had to deal. What piqued
[paragraph continues] Comte d’Affry was an underlined sentence in a letter which St. Germain wrote to Mme de Pompadour. (I have heard it from those who have seen it). . . . I have only to account for my conduct to God and my Sovereign . . . as to what goes on in my house . . . the people I see and admit, of these I need give no account. For thirty years I have been a member of the Nobility and I am known never to have mixed with adventurers or impostors, or to have received scoundrels. M. de St. Germain came here with very good recommendations, I saw him because I liked his company and conversation; he is an agreeable and polite man whose conversation is amusing and varied; one can see at a glance that he has been brought up in the very best Society: true I do not know who he is, but the Comte d’Affry told me that his Most Christian Majesty knows; . . . that is enough for me! Should M. de St. Germain return to the Hague I shall again see him, unless the States of Holland forbid it or unless I become convinced myself that he does not merit admittance to my house.
April 25th, 1760.
I have been told that St. Germain was at Dijon and lived there very sumptuously. The Comte de Tavannes, the Governor, wrote to the Court enquiring what policy to pursue with regard to him . . . as he "did not know who he was." . . . He got the reply that he was to show the Comte de St. Germain all the consideration due to a man, of his position, and to permit him to live in his own fashion.