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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces part of
A Late Stuart Pretender

by George Sherburn

published by
The University of Chicago Press

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 2

 p1  Chapter One


Roehenstart's father and mother, untrained and irregular in their lives as they were, had more distinguished careers than the son was to have. His mother was Charlotte Stuart, legitimated daughter of Prince Edward, who, if things had gone according to his heart's desire, would have been King Charles III of England. She was born at Liége in 1753 and died at Bologna on November 15, 1789. Her mother was Clementine Walkenshaw, whom Prince Charles had met in the Highlands during his furtive wanderings of 1745 after the failure of the invasion of that year. When safely back on the Continent the Prince asked Clementine to join him there, and she very promptly did. They met at Ghent, and thereafter lived together, flitting from one town to another as Count and Countess Johnson. Any marriage of these two would have been irregular without the approval of the Prince's father, the "Old Pretender," and it is practically certain that there never was any marriage. The first seven years of Charlotte Stuart's life must have been strange for the child — passed in Liége, Bâle, Boulogne, and other towns. In 1760 Clementine, weary of the vagrant and violent life with Prince Charles, appealed to the Prince's father for protection and for aid in the education of the small daughter. The result was a midnight flight from Boulogne and from Prince Charles that took the mother and daughter to Paris. For years thereafter the two were housed in various convents, either at Meaux or in Paris. At this time or earlier the Emperor Francis II had given the mother the title of Countess of Albestroff (sometimes wrongly printed as Albertroff). She had a pension from James III, who, however, did not see her. Prince Charles meanwhile was furious at her desertion of him and apparently never saw her again.

Upon the death of James III in 1766, the Countess of Albestroff  p2 appealed to the brother of Prince Charles, Henry, Cardinal-Duke of York, to continue the pension. He was more difficult than his father had been, and ultimately, through threats and promises about the pension, persuaded the Countess to sign a statement that she had never been married to the Prince. The document was useful in 1772 in aiding the marriage arranged between Prince Charles and the twenty-year‑old Prince Louise of Stolberg. The marriage was in every way a failure. No heir resulted. Charles seemed unfortunately averse to any society that did not recognize his royal pretensions; and Louise was charming, vivacious, and amorous. In less than a decade she left her husband for the poet Alfieri, and in 1784 a formal separation was arranged. The Cardinal-Duke continued to pay her a pension as dowry, and later the British government, secure in her assertion that she had never had a child, paid her annually the sum of £1,600. The generous financial arrangements made for "Queen" Louise doubtless stimulated Roehenstart to imagine that he also might have something done for him.

The marriage of Prince Charles was naturally a stunning blow to the Countess of Albestroff and her daughter. It seemed to close the door on them, and even to threaten the loss of their pension. It is not true, as has been said, that they were in Rome when Prince Charles's bride arrived there. She arrived in the spring of 1772 (the marriage was celebrated on Good Friday!) and Clementine and Charlotte did not come to Rome until the summer of 1773. Why they came is a mystery. They had tried to prepare the way by sending from Meaux the formal felicitations that were appropriate at New Year's. Prince Charles Edward was born on December 31, a fact that gave the felicitations double validity. Mother and daughter sent their greetings both to Prince Charles and to the Cardinal-Duke. The tone of Charlotte's note to her father is affectionate and pleading. She hopes he will recognize her continuing affection: "It is in this hope that I dare to renew for you the urgent petitions already made by me and that I dare hope you will at last wish to grant me a good that I value above all others and without which these others would be nothing — the honour of being known to belong to you. In the hope of meriting your acknowledgment and affection I shall continue every effort to make myself worthy of that favour."

Prince Charles must have had some kindly feeling for the child who had been taken from him a dozen years before, but if he answered her plea (which is most doubtful) the answer has not been found. In 1772  p3 the Prince married Louise von Stolberg, and in 1773 Clementine and Charlotte arrived in Rome. Their journey was so little lacking in discretion that it makes one wonder. Possibly Charlotte, thinking that pleasant early attachments might soften a father's heart, imagined that even the briefest meeting might suffice to win the end desired. That was at least the attitude of her son later with regard to an audience with the Prince Regent of England in 1816.

Apparently no audience was granted, and the two ladies were ordered to leave Rome at once. Charlotte in a letter to the secretary of the Cardinal-Duke (June 23, 1773) called the orders severe but professed "entire obedience." She begged that she and her mother might remove from Meaux to Paris, and that change was evidently allowed. Charlotte, now twenty years old, was perhaps hopeful that if only her father would grant a dowry, she might as the daughter of an exiled prince find a husband. Lacking a dowry, hope grew faint. No longer a girl, Charlotte probably before 1780 became the mistress of her cousin, Prince Ferdinand de Rohan-Guémené, whom she seems to have adored intermittently for the rest of her life. He was fifteen years her senior. Love apart, this affair was a tragic mistake (there were three children from it); for shortly, in 1780, the wife of Prince Charles fled from the Palazzo San Clemente and from her husband. Her liaison with Alfieri was by 1783 so unconcealed that a formal separation from Prince Charles was presently arranged.

The Prince, now left lonely, in 1783 legitimated his daughter and invited her to come and live with him in Florence. She was to have the rank of royal highness and the title of Duchess of Albany. Prince Charles, in circles where his kingship was not recognized, used the Scottish title of Count of Albany. His wife was known as Countess of Albany, and for purposes of precedence (?) his daughter was to be Duchess of Albany. The Counts of Albestroff may have doubted if even the title of duchess would repay for a life with the princely temper which she knew too well; but for her daughter there could be no hesitation. It meant an end to their equivocal position and to their life of penury. Prince Ferdinand was neither very wealthy nor responsibly generous. As the recognized daughter of a "king" there might be a future. Even marriage was a possibility, though Charlotte probably did not desire that; more prosperous days were a certainty. A king must have money; she and her mother could pay their debts and live happily ever afterward. Prince Charles was in his sixties and ailing, and, so Charlotte believed, his house must be full of gold and diamonds.  p4 One can only set her down as a poor deluded young woman — but courageous.

In her letters from Italy to her mother in Paris we get a vivid picture of Charlotte's last years. She must frequently hide a meaning or write in a sort of cipher language; for letters might be opened and read by enemies. Prince Ferdinand, for example, is never mentioned by name. He is always called mon amisº or mon digne amis.º Prince Ferdinand had in 1781 become the archbishop-duke of Cambrai, and mon amis is at times called "the archbishop" and spoken of as being in Cambrai. When his brother the "necklace" Cardinal gets into trouble and is banished, the Cardinal is spoken of as "the brother of mon amis." The correspondence (preserved in the Bodleian Library) includes one letter from Prince Ferdinand to the Countess of Albestroff, and the handwriting and monogram signature are certainly identical with letters preserved in the British Museum and in the Archives Nationales that are Prince Ferdinand's.

In writing to her mother Charlotte never mentions her children as such. She uses for "nursery" the common metaphor of a garden: mon petit jardin is a frequent, affectionate topic, and she speaks once of a possible child by a rival, which, if placed in her garden would "crowd my plants." There were three of her "friends" as she commonly calls the children. The oldest apparently was Aglae — old enough in 1789 to have masters and wish to have a watch. Another was possibly called Zemire; at least once in speaking of these "friends" the Duchess continues with, "and how is Zemire?" In some (unauthenticated) traditions this child is named Marie. The third child is the subject of this book, and he is never mentioned by name. That the children numbered three is certain from the mother's usual conclusion that sends three kisses to them.

After an unexplained delay of eighteen months from the time when she was invited to come and live with her father, Charlotte finally reached Florence, and letters began to come back to her mother. She was speedily aware of difficulties to be faced. Her father was indeed regardeur when it came to money, and to her mother Charlotte could be frank in avowing money as her chief object. She was paying her debts as fast as possible: she did not wish her father to be much aware of her creditors. She wishes she could send the wealth of Peru to her mother, but debts come first. Six months after her arrival in Florence she could still dream of "collecting millions," though meanwhile happy on an allowance. After they removed to Rome she got some  p5 jewels, and was eager to know how much her ruby and her two sets of diamonds might bring in cash.

Her father's imperious rages were trying, and so were the social excitements in Florence. To the daughter Prince Charles did not seem the gloomy unsocial personage that the wife had found him. Charlotte reports wearily (her health was not good), that her father loved carnival "as if he were still sixteen." The new life was far more stirring than anything known in the Rue St. Jacques in Paris. In January she pictures Prince Charles as normally active: "My father goes on calmly. He goes walking in spite of wind or storm. His head bows from day to day. I am glad to have been able to get him to do for us what we desire." In April, however, he suffers from gout: "For eight days my father has been in continual rages: he shouts, he storms without rhyme or reason. Wine is not the cause: he drinks almost none; but surely the humour in his leg mounts to his brain." When the "gout" got into the brain, as they thought in the eighteenth century, it was fatal.

To secure the financial settlement desired, Charlotte presently realized that the co‑operation of the Cardinal-Duke was essential. The Cardinal, on his side, desired a reconciliation with his brother, and Charlotte speedily was at work to bring it about. She was, perhaps, a born conciliator — though she almost certainly exaggerates her success as such. She had in Florence improved the management of her father's household; at least her early verdict had been, "We live like animals." She had the patience necessary for quiet diplomacy. "Que de patience!" she exclaims more than once. In a slightly higher mood she writes, "It's slow. Ah well, take courage. All will be for the best, I hope." And in her firmest mood she writes, "Tot ou tard je viendrez à bout." (Her French is frequently faulty.)

She first reconciled her father to the memory of Clementine. Early in 1785 he sends, so his daughter writes, compliments to his former mistress, now so long in disgrace. He talked of her, Charlotte says, at times tenderly, and at the beginning of the year 1787, he signed a dictated letter to her, "Votre bon ami Charles R." This letter, written by a secretary, Roehenstart got among his papers; but the reply from Clementine, which the daughter says delighted the "king," he did not get. Since the attitude of Prince Charles to his former mistress has been questioned, his letter to her is here translated:

Rome 3 January 1787

Madame the Countess, although I have charged my dear daughter the Duchess of Albany to tell you how much I was moved by your letter of the  p6 18th of the past month, I cannot refrain from indicating also my sincere gratitude. The prayers that you address to heaven, the wishes that you make for my happiness and felicity I believe most sincere, and it seems that they may be realized since I enjoy perfect health, and I hope in return that you may always be in the same state. My dear daughter the Duchess of Albany is also at this moment in the best of health. The sweetness of her nature, her good qualities, and her amiable companion­ship diminish greatly the pains and inconveniences that are indispensably joined to my aged condition. Rest assured that I love her, and that I shall love her with all my heart all my life, and that I am and shall be   Your good friend   Charles R.

Doubtless Charlotte had brought about this possibly slight friendliness. She was also a helper when it came to reconciling the two royal brothers. At first the Cardinal had been averse to the recognition of his brother's daughter, but he wished a reconciliation with his brother, and the role of Charlotte in the matter is best known from a "Memoria"​1 written in Italian and sent to the Pope (Pius VI). It is undated, but was evidently written in 1785 before the "Royal Brother" and his new‑found daughter left Florence for Rome. The Cardinal wrote (formally in the third person):

. . . when the Royal Brother sometime since legitimated his natural daughter, the Cardinal Duke found it a necessary duty to take certain indispensable steps out of annoyance concerning not merely the manner but some circumstances of this legitimation too disagreeable to him, and in truth contrary to all ordinary proto­col, and more offensive still to his entire family and house. However, the fine nature of the young Lady legitimated impelled her to take up the matter with the Cardinal Duke and with such obliging importunity to begin a sort of correspondence in which with unusual justice the lady believed she should review every detail, writing him for this purpose a most obliging letter in which, giving him to understand that he need have nothing against her, she went on to clarify with all ingenuousness the just reasons for grief against the Royal Brother, but always in such phrases as, while remaining most diplomatic in her reasonings, she showed herself so contented that there followed a continued secret correspondence between them with such mutual satisfaction that the Cardinal Duke has had to conceive a true esteem for the young Lady and to admire her just manner of thinking and writing.

And now it appears that this Lady concealed this correspondence from the Royal Brother in order to serve him better, as she says. But the fact is that, in consequence of the wishes of the Cardinal Duke to remove through her aid the Royal Brother's very unjust prejudices against the Cardinal, the young Lady (whom one sees agreed to the last sign) has acted and managed so that she has  p7 led him to write, as first, to the Cardinal Duke a most obliging letter from which one can foresee a true and lasting reconciliation.

After the removal to Rome the Cardinal frequently dined with Charlotte and presumably with Prince Charles in the Piazza SS. Apostoli. The young lady may have exaggerated her power over the Cardinal, but she constantly assured her mother that the Cardinal was madly devoted to her. According to her account the final step in reconciliation came late in October when "In the evening my father dined with him [the Cardinal] at Frascati. Our visit went off with much tenderness on one part or the other. On getting out of the carriages we were greeted with superb music. It was 15 years that my father had not set foot in his brother's house. . . ." The reconciliation was indeed a triumph; for by now Charlotte saw that the Cardinal was, so to speak, the treasurer of the household. His large income was the chief resource of the family at this time.

Charlotte was hardly more religious than her father, and she found in Rome that Lenten observances expected of royal personages were a considerable bore. Courage, or some other quality, dictated her indecorous conduct, and the result was the sort of success that she well knew how to appreciate. Her final reconciliation was to be with the Holy Father himself. At considerable expense to his treasury Pius VI had had the Stuart palace at Albano redecorated and newly furnished, and in July, 1786, Charles and his daughter removed thither for the rest of the summer. Barring deaths and French revolutions one might have expected further long-term results from Charlotte's powers.

Meanwhile she was also a success in Roman society. A person who saw her there in the winter of 1786 describes her as follows:

She was a tall, robust woman, of very dark complexion and coarse-grained skin, with more of masculine boldness than feminine modesty or elegance; but easy and unassuming in her manners, and amply possessed of that volubility of tongue, and that spirit of coquetry, for which the women of the country where she was educated have at all times been particularly distinguished.​2

This not too flattering description does grant the lady an element of charm.

One must admit that her conduct owed its success to native good sense rather than to an extensive or thorough education. It is probable that before coming to Rome she was not much habituated to courtly circles. French was the only language she knew, and it she wrote very  p8 incorrectly. She probably had few accomplishments such as were desirable for young ladies; but her father loved music, and she worked at the harp and the pianoforte, and asked her mother to send music — "but nothing difficult." She worked hard to please and with considerable success. She was evidently one of the sights in Rome that English tourists flocked to see.

Not slowly she became aware of the difference between the life of a court, the life, so to speak, of a king's daughter and the dull routine of a convent — even though that routine were diminished by a concealed liaison. Perhaps to arouse jealousy in her amis she reported to her mother before leaving Florence that she had recently refused a brilliant parti: she still loved mon amis she declared. In Rome it became increasingly apparent that she could marry if she desired. There was talk of a possible match with the Pope's nephew or with the Irish Duke of Leinster, and she had a brief wistful thought of the fifth Duke of "Betford."

Reports of these and other projected matches, as given to her mother, aroused jealousy in Prince Ferdinand. When Prince Charles died (January 31, 1788) her Paris friends naturally expected a speedy return to France. But the settling of her father's estate, if nothing else, required her presence in Italy. As yet she had little to take back to France, and she did not relish the resumption of a state of poverty.

Prince Ferdinand was annoyed: she ought to return and begin to think of her "obligations." "I have replied to him," she magnificently rewrites to her mother, "that I know the whole extent of them, and that I will gladly in that matter walk in his footsteps." But presently Ferdinand was attempting political advancement: he wished to be prince-coadjutor of Liége, from which principality the Prussians had recently driven the Austrians. In Italy Charlotte might be useful to him. She had influence, and Ferdinand asked her to use it with power­ful Prussian friends and with the Pope. For many reasons she was unable to help him much in his ambitions, though she thought she did get him a recommendation to the King of Prussia.

Time and separation had weakened the strong tie that had bound these two together. Each in fact doubted the other's loyalty; each was suspicious of the other. Lack of money was what irked Charlotte most. She had a small something, but not enough. She was, however, willing to be generous. Writing in January, 1785, she tells her mother, "What I will give you will serve for your comfort and for the upkeep of my garden. My worthy friend has so fair a soul that I don't doubt that he will  p9 attend to everything, but for myself I wish to have my little part, for otherwise I should be jealous." In this early period of absence she remarks that she hopes mon amis will be content with his infant and will love and cherish it tenderly. In March, 1785, she writes obscurely, "I think that he who is in the country will soon come back to the city. It's time in my opinion. I count on you entirely to watch over his health and see that he lacks nothing." These remarks are assumed to refer to the infant Roehenstart, though the reference is far from certain.

In the spring of 1788 there came a possible crisis that concerned the petit jardin. The house was leased from the Abbé de Villette for 1,800 livres. It was conveniently located "près les Dames de la Visitation, Rue St. Jacques." The Countess of Albestroff was authorized by her daughter to negotiate the new lease — at the old rental — for three years. The Duchess wrote in part: "I renew the lease for only three years, because I hope very much that before then we shall be reunited, and then the prolongation would be embarrassing. . . . Mon amis has notified me that he paid the rent. I replied that I hoped he would pay it again, because I regard him as un bon papa. I don't know how pleasing that proposition may be."

At this time Prince Ferdinand imagined that Charlotte had come into a kingly inheritance and was rich. In May, 1788, she wrote to him with sarcasm in reply to a request that she assume the entire expense of maintaining nos amies. So he seems to have continued, grumblingly, to pay the rent. At the moment civilization exploded with the fall of the Bastille, and Charlotte wrote, "Notre ami must think up a refuge for nos amies." Her mother seems to have thought the Faubourg St. Jacques a quiet spot, but Charlotte had no faith in Parisian tranquillity and urged her mother to take the children away from Paris. Clementine, however, was a native Scot, and with a three-year lease she seemed to have a roof over her head. Earlier in the summer she had been chaperoning about Paris the daughters of the London banker, Thomas Coutts, who was her remote relative — the only relative who in her last years of need befriended the Countess. Through her the Coutts daughters will later be a brief part of Roehenstart's story.

Charlotte's worry over her three small "friends" was intensified by her own ill health. It had been bad ever since she came to Italy, and even before. In June, 1786, she had written to her mother, "I have a swelling on my side which pains me when I breathe"; and in October  p10 she spoke of the tumor (?) as having been apparent "18 months ago." In view of her many activities her courage in concealing pain was remarkable. After the death of her father she was somewhat freer from duties, and in September, 1789, on advice of her doctors, she made a visit to watering places and seaside towns. October she was to spend in Bologna as guest of the Princess Lambertini. She seems in her letters no more worried about her health than usual. Her worries concerned her father's estate, and the painful fact that the Abbé Waters, her chosen executor, had searched the Palazzo San Clemente in Florence and found only a few jewels — no money. The long-sought provision for her family seemed slipping away.

Her letters during her travels at times admit that she feels much pain, but in general they are courageous, and in her very last letter preserved for us (October 10, 1789) she tries again to be reassuring: "Don't worry. I am well; I love you, and will as soon as possible send you news." When writing she must have known that surgery was both inevitable and very dangerous. The account given of her last days and her burial by the priest of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Bologna tells of her operation in four words: incisionem forti animo sustinuit. A brave mind, however, is no cure for gangrene, and on November 15 "ad primam noctis horam, presentibus Eminentissimis, adsistente huius Ecclesiae Parocho post dies triginta novem, placide Virgo regia obdormuit in Domino." The funeral was two days later. She had made the Cardinal her heir: she could hardly do otherwise unless she wished to publish her shame. Her presumable hopes that the Cardinal would do something for her family in Paris were vain, and it is perhaps not surprising that they explained the (to them) sudden and surprising death by suspicions of foul play.

She should have died hereafter. Her father's will was not completely executed; her own — never shown to her mother — was unlikely to be duly executed, and the tidal wave of terror was already beginning to swamp across Paris with a surge that would carry aristocratic salvage to all parts of Europe. At such a moment what could happen to those three small children in Paris?

Not much is known of the private or personal life of mon amis, Prince Ferdinand. He and Charlotte were in fact remote cousins, having a common ancestor in James Sobieski, son of the great King John of Poland. Historians have found little to commend in his character. He was extremely proud of his family, and in his day arrogance and insolence  p11 were traits regarded as typical of any Rohan. The motto of the family was Roy ne suis, prince ne daigne, Rohan suis. As cadet in such a family Ferdinand long and eagerly sought for honours; yet in spite of his great pride of birth he at last, ironically, sold his name, as has been said, to a man of no birth — to Napoleon himself. One finds him, aged seventy‑two, writing servilely to the imperial upstart on February 13, 1810:

. . . my existence is dear to me only as possible sacrifice to the great Napoleon: he is my guardian deity . . . my probity is known; at my age one is not changeable . . . your favors are the bonds, the indissoluble bonds of attachment, and I await them with respect.

Two days later the awaited favor eventuated: Napoleon ordered that 12,000 francs be paid to Rohan "sur la caisse des théâtres."

As a Rohan, Prince Ferdinand got ecclesiastical preferment early and rapidly. At twenty‑one he was Grand Prior of the chapter of Strasbourg, and he presided over the rich Abbey of Mouzon. Among his greater places were the archiepiscopal sees of Bordeaux (1770) and of Cambrai (1781); he was regent of Liége for a brief turbulent moment in 1790, and in the last decade of his life was Grand Aumonier of the successive empresses of Napoleon. He was not content to be a cleric, a role probably imposed on him as the youngest son. In 1790 when the Revolution made religion look unrewarding, he wrote dolefully about his career:

It is now very possible and even probable that I shall resign my archbishopric and go to live where and how I can, eating crusts — if they pay me the stipulated pension. . . . Just Heaven! what a reward after twenty years as bishop, and many more devoted to a state or profession which has kept me from following any other in which I might have had real advantages to be enjoyed throughout the rest of my life. With my brother-in‑law much regarded by the King of Spain, I should probably have entered that service: I should have had real advantages and honors — not mentioning an advantageous marriage such as perhaps I might have made.​3

Courts rather than cathedrals were his natural milieu, and his frantic unscrupulous drive to become a ruling prince was a very brief success in Liége, a success in which there was neither honor nor satisfaction. For him Liége was no glowing achievement; it was rather a ridiculous failure that cost him reputation and friends.

 p12  By 1782, according to the Mémoires secrets of Bachaumont, Prince Ferdinand was "assez décrié pour ses moeurs." Very likely the trouble was his customary arrogance. The magnificent of his tastes would hardly be considered a blemish. He had built himself a new palace at Bordeaux; his gardens at Cambrai were extensive and gorgeous; a town house in Paris (Rue du Regard) and another house in Auteuil indicate something as to his scale of living. And there was also the petit jardin in the Rue St. Jacques. It was beneath him to pay debts promptly, but his income seems to have been generous. His young and wealthy relative the Count de Bethune-Charost gave financial support to some of Ferdinand's projects — notably that of Liége.

By 1794 Ferdinand and most of the Rohan clan had fled from France. What sort of magnificence he kept up during the years (1794‑1801) when he was a refugee, we hardly know. Henry Sage says that during these years Ferdinand lived for some time at Pyrmont in Waldeck, and places him in Warsaw as of May 11, 1799. First, however, he seems to have gone to Italy. From Venice on November 22, 1794, he petitioned to be allowed to proceed to Rome, and he gives a sketch of his establishment: "I have with me only two clerics and my maitre d'hotel who serves me as valet de chambre. I live as cheaply as possible; for this business may last long, if even all is not lost."​4 The petition was granted, and in July, 1795, he asks permission to live near Bologna. His household is now somewhat changed — he has one priest and two servants now, and in making his "petition to the Most Holy Father [he] does not claim financial aid: God be thanked, with economy he can still live a long time without importuning anyone" (Theiner, I, 435).

Sometime after his brother Louis, the admiral, had been guillotined (1794) Ferdinand wrote to Thomas Coutts, whom he had met earlier, suggesting that Louis had left an estate in the West Indies, near Port au Prince. The island of Haiti was then in the hands of the English, and Ferdinand wondered if Coutts might like to purchase the estate there. The Rohan family agents in London, he said, were Turnbull and Forbes. An émigré doubtless would feel poor, but an aura of opulence frequently graces Prince Ferdinand.

He might well have been décrié because of his obsession for women. Available evidence comes chiefly from the jealous letters written by  p13 Charlotte to her mother, where possibly a half-dozen mistresses are mentioned by name. While resident in Liége he received notice from an agent in Cambrai that a young woman at the château was enceinte, and insisted that she was going to remain in the Archbishop's house. The agent inquires, Is she to be allowed to do so? It is probable that he brought other offspring into the world besides the three kept in the petit jardin.

All told, his personal traits were those of the typical grand seigneur of the ancien régime. He was more ambitiously active than the type required, but he was the family cadet, and must struggle to achieve the desired magnificence. Blind faith in one's class (however derelict at the time) and contempt for unappreciative canaille and even more for unappreciative peers; rage at insult, even though trifling — all these traits were apparent in Prince Ferdinand. He was passionately fond of hunting, and could be seen hurrying from his choir dressed for the chase — knife at belt and gun in hand — and returning only in time to change quickly and conduct vespers. His impulsive violence on one occasion is alleged to have carried him to a murderous extreme. The chase having gone beyond the borders of his own lands, that fact was respectfully called to his attention by a keeper. "The effect," so Sage tells us, "was terrific. Maddened, purple with rage, Rohan fired his gun straight at the man. He missed, or merely wounded him, and drunk with rage, seized a second gun and finished the man." One can see why grands seigneurs were not universally beloved.

The Prince loved to live dangerously, but behind his hard and selfish personality — or possibly one should say in front of it — was another sort of person, convivial with men, charming with ladies, and, at Liége at least, acceptable to the canaille. He seemed to many a good sporting character. Physically he was attractive. Sage describes a pastel portrait of the Prince, preserved at Cambrai:

. . . a pink face, with a pale, refined look. His forehead high and bare, his small eyes, bold and quick, suggest the elegant effrontery of a grand seigneur à qui tout est permis. His fine features marred by a chin which good cheer has doubled, show easily a faint smile, that of the man of the world. The picture of this agreeable, smooth physiognomy is a delightful pastel, white, gray, and violet; clothed, yet recently, in archiepiscopal robes, it recalls the look of Rohan as he ascended the grand stairs of his palace at Cambrai.

The attractive portrait — reproduced as frontispiece by Sage​a — speaks of a charm that doubtless made friends, especially among the ladies, and  p14 a sort of amiable emptiness that might be a weakness in public affairs. Discarded mistresses readily came back to him at times, and the persistence of Charlotte Stuart's passion for him during her years of absence in Italy attests his undoubted charm.

Such in any case were the parents of Roehenstart.

The Author's Notes:

1 The MSS. of this "Memoria" is now in the Harvard Library.

2 Gentleman's Magazine, 1797, p1000.

3 Henry Sage, Une République de trois mois : Le Prince de Rohan Guémené (Verviers, 1909), p251.

4 Augustin Theiner, Documents inédits relatifs aux affaires religieuses de la France, 1790‑1800. (2 vols.; 1857‑58), II, 65.

Thayer's Note:

a Henry Sage, in his book-length article in Bulletin de la Société verviétoise d'archéologie, VIII:73‑305, reproduces the pastel in black-and‑white. Here is a color version, although I suspect not reproduced from the original, but colorized; the colors are therefore not authoritative (the blue rabat seems wrong to me):

[image ALT: A pastel head-and‑shoulders portrait sketch of a chubby old man wearing Roman Catholic ecclesiastical garb, with a surplice, rabat and cape. He is Archbishop Ferdinand de Rohan, an 18c nobleman.]

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 13 Dec 20