17th Century Gossip Column

from Tallemant, sieur des Réaux 1619-1692…


One of M. d’Orléans’ followers was Sauvage. He was a very agreeable fellow, whose god was his belly. He used to give admirable imitations of the songs of the Pont Neuf.


When Monsieur had gone away to Lorraine, he was anxious to seek him out, and, in order to get hold of boots cheaply, he ordered a pair from each of ten or twelve different shoemakers, giving them different hours to call. To each one he declared that one boot was too tight, and then gave them all one time at which to bring them back. When they came – they found nobody!

From Brussels Sauvage used to send gazettes full of inventions to spike the wheels of Renaudot, whose Gazette de France was beginning to circulate. (1631) The gazette of Sauvage was much more popular than the other. Moreover, for the sake of diversion, he used every day to contrive some imposture or other.

It was he who had engraved the representation of a fish which he styled ‘the Adriatic Carp,’ in the body of which had been found, according to the inscription, I know not how many muskets, halberds, crosses etc. This circulated throughout France.

His last imposture was an edict of the parliament of Grenoble, whereby a certain child was declared legitimate, although the mother confessed that it was conceived during her husband’s absence, on the grounds that it was done by the force of imagination, she thinking that he was living with her. The names were given, and those of the doctor and midwife too.

Plenty of good folk believed it.

It was written in the true style of Grenoble, and the Procurator-General of Paris wrote to that of Grenoble concerning this edict.

The parliament there issued one against the author, whereof the latter only made mock.

In the medical schools the question was debated whether the force of imagination could suffice to produce a conception.

Sometimes Sauvage concocted also satiric gazettes, as that one in which he said: ‘The God of the Charente who appeared to Balzac has arrived here, as little of a God as ever.’

Madame la Princesse – Charlotte de Montmorency, Princesse de Condé

Charlotte de Montmorency

Charlotte de Montmorency

Extracts from Love Tales of Tallement:
Madame la Princesse was the daughter of the last Constable de Montmorency, a man who was almost illiterate, but a good horseman…
Mademoiselle de Montmorency was only four years old when she began to show signs of that extraordinary beauty for which she was afterwards celebrated. Several offers of marriage were made for her, one of them coming from Bassompierre, who was willing to take her without a dowry; but her aunt, Madame d’Angouleme, would not allow an engagement.
When she was fourteen years old, the Queen {Marie de Medici} arranged a ballet in which she wished to have all the Court beauties, & you may be sure that Mademoiselle was not forgotten.
The King {Henri IV} and Queen had a great many squabbles about this ballet. The King wanted Madame de Moiret to appear in it, and the Queen objected; she wanted to have Madame de Verderonne, and he would not hear of it…
During these quarrels the Queen continued to rehearse her ballet, and the King, who was still very angry with her, used to have the doors of his apartments shut whenever she passed by. One day, however, he caught sight of Mademoiselle de Montmorency through the half open door, & he followed her to the rehearsal.
The ladies were dressed as nymphs and part of the ballet consisted in their raising their darts and aiming them at the spectators. The King happened to be just opposite this lovely girl when she raised her dart, and he said afterwards that the action was so graceful that he really felt the wound in his heart and became quite faint.
After that day the King’s doors were no longer shut, and the Queen could do whatever she pleased about the ballet. Madame de Rambouillet was one of the dancers, & it was there that she made friends with Madame la Princesse, as she afterwards became.
Before all this took place, there had been some talk about a marriage between her and M. le Prince, and the King now hastened it on, thinking it would advance his own affair. The Constable gave his daughter  a hundred thousand crowns; M. le Prince was poor, but the honour of having the first prince of the blood for a son-in-law was great…
When the prince found out that the King’s infatuation did not cool, he took his wife to Muret, near Soissons. The King could not bear to be without her, and he arranged to go to a shooting party that the prince was to give, disguised with a false beard; the prince heard of this plan and gave up the party…
The worst thing that the princesse did was to allow herself to be persuaded to sign a request to have her marriage annulled. The King obliged his relations to sign this document, and the Constable was so dishonourable that he only thought of the riches & honours that the King would bestow on the family of his mistress. The princesse herself was made to believe that the King would marry her. Imagine what this would have meant! To begin with, Marie de Medici, who had children, would have had to be poisoned.
The prince, who never forgave his wife the part she took in this scandal, took her to Brussels, where he had cause to be jealous of M. de Coeuvres, afterwards Marshal d’Estrées then ambassador to France…
After the death of Henri IV, the prince brought his wife back to Paris; when he was arrested she had for decency’s sake to offer to go to prison with him.
Had this not happened, they would probably never have had any children, as they were not on good terms; both Madame de Longueville & the prince (the Great Condé) were born there…

Henri IV

Henri IV as written by Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux.

‘If this prince had been born King of France and had lived in peaceful times, it is probable that he would never have arrived at greatness; he would have been nothing more than a voluptuary.

Even in the most critical situations, he would leave all to follow some amour. After the battle of Coutras, instead of following up his advantage, he went off to dally with the Countess de Guiche, taking her the banners he had won that day, and, during the siege of Amiens, he ran after Gabrielle d’Estrées without troubling himself about the Cardinal of Austria, who was coming to relieve the town.

If Sebastian Zamet really poisoned Gabrielle, he rendered a great service to Henri IV, for that good prince was about to commit a great folly, being on the point of declaring that the Prince de Condé was a bastard. The Count de Soissons was a Cardinal, receiving 300,000 crowns a year as benefice; the Prince de Conti was married to a woman who was barren, the Marshal de Biron was to have married the daughter of d’Estrées.
This Madame d’Estrées was from La Bourdaisière, the race that has produced the greatest number of gay women to be found in all France; there were as many as twenty-five or twenty-six of them; some were nuns, some married women; all lived a life of gallantry. It happens, by an amusing chance, that the arms of La Bourdaisière contain a hand sowing vetches, which has earned them the nickname of a handful of vetches.

Madame d’Estrées had six daughters and two sons, one of whom is the Marshal, who is alive today; the six and this brother were called the seven deadly sins. Madame de Neufvic, a witty woman, made this epitaph on the death of Gabrielle.

I saw pass by my window
Six mortal living sins
Led by a Priest’s bastard.
They all sang together
A requiem for the seventh,
Who had passed away.
Henri IV had a most strange collection of mistresses; he was not a gadabout and he was always made a cuckold.
Madame de Verneuil one day called him Captain Good Will, but the next day she scolded him cruelly and remarked that it was a good thing he was King, as if he were not, nobody would endure him, and that he stank like carrion.
She was quite right, for when the late Queen (Marie de Medici) slept with him, she was terribly perfumed afterwards, although she used all sorts of scents which she had brought from her own country. I do not think that anyone approved of the conduct of Henri IV to his wife.

Madame de Verneuil was the daughter of M. D’Entragues, who married Marie Touchet, the daughter of a butcher of Orleans, who had been the mistress of Charles IX. Madame de Verneuil was very proud and showed no respect either to the King or Queen, speaking of the latter to the King as ‘your Fat Banker.’

He once asked her what she would have done if she had been at Neuilly when the Queen had nearly drowned.
‘I should have cried,’ she said, ‘the Queen drinks!’

The King broke with her at last, and she gave herself up to eating and drinking.She became immensely fat, and led a life like that of Sardanapolus (The character which Ctesias depicted or invented, an effeminate debauchee, sunk in luxury and sloth) or Vitellius (lazy and self-indulgent, fond of eating and drinking, and an obese glutton, eating banquets four times a day and feasting on rare foods he would send the Roman navy to procure.)

Her children were taken from her, and the daughters were brought up by the Daughters of France.

Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux

I’m fortunate enough to have Vol. 746 of 1000 of Love Tales from Tallemant.

Gédéon Tallemant des Réaux was born around 1619, the son of financier Pierre Tallemant and his second wife Marie de Rambouillet.
Tallemant’s father was rich but mean and his son found life at home so restrictive that he proposed to his first cousin Elizabeth de Rambouillet. The marriage came about but consummation took two years because of the extreme youth of the bride yet Tallemant had chosen well. Marriage made him independent and free to enjoy the society of his mother’s family, especially the celebrated Arthenice – Catherine de Vivonne, Marquise de Rambouillet.
Arthenice’s famous Blue Salon introduced the bourgeois des Réaux to court society… against whom he sharpened his famous but simple, crude and sarcastic wit in a collection of writings known as the Historiettes.
The Love Tales from Tallemant draw fantastic pictures of the world of Henri IV and his contemporaries.