FROM THE SECRET MEMOIRS OF THE DUC DE SAINT-AIGNAN
"…His Majesty, King Charles X, has possessed a soul of noble intentions, a heart full of kindness towards his people, a dutifulness and diligence of extreme quality, but, I am afraid, more idealism than shrewd appoaches, often neccessary for the practical governance of the state. Sadly enough, he often preferred the realm of dreams and fantasies detached from the Realm that has been entrusted to him by God. In this Realm, among the magic castles, dragons and damsels in distress, he did feel himself more comfortable than in the mundane France he ruled.
Moreover, like his august brother, Louis XVIII, His Majesty had a tendency to fall in love with some of his Ministers – passionately and without doubt. As Louis XVIII loved the Duc de Valence, so did Charles X love the Duc de Sully.
It may be also added that His Majesty was a bit of a naïve appeaser – he considered himself a master of intrigue, while being but an apprentice.
This is perhaps what was one of the reasons that has led us to the events that took place in July 1830.
The affair of the Conde inheritance has made me ten years older. Through unwise politics, dictated, perhaps, by religious conscience and social prejudice, not pragmatism, His Majesty the King supported a will enrichening his liberal cousin. M. le Duc de Orleans, and making the extended family of his loyal supporter, M. le Prince de Conde, his bitter enemies. As result, Henri-Jules de Bourbon, Marquis de Armentieres, previously a loyal royalist and a moderate Doctrinaire (if now in Chartist armor), a Minister who drafted a petition to punish regicides with death and who prosecuted Abbe Gregoire for lese majeste and violations of press laws, became a radical. His grudges against what he has seen as an insult to the legacy of his father, defeated his sense of moderation and made him speak in a fashion that he, perhaps, would himself have found horrendous a decade, even a fortnight ago.
A number of members of the Chamber of Deputies with each day were becoming even more uncontrollable, rejecting the concessions offered by the King under the Headless Ministry and spouting most offensive speeches, each of which has been, for the heart of a Monarch, similar to a poisoned arrow. He has grown to believe that there is no more men of loyalty and decency among the Left, that their only aim is to dethrone him and recreate the corrupt Girondist "Kingdom" of the revolutionary times, if not the republic.
These who foolishly paraded in the Chamber, declaring their opposition to "Jesuits" and "absolutists" were constantly undermining the idea of the fragile peace, at that moment still possible within the bodies of the state.
It especially proved to be so during the discussion of the so-called Saint-Cloud Ordinances.
I still remember these long days when we have assembled in the royal cabinet in Thulleries to discuss these fateful decisions.
The Comte de Berstett, as sullen and grim as ever, immediately voiced opposition towards the Ordinances of Saint-Cloud. This statesman, constantly unhappy with his position and influence, always believing to have been slighted, now had more reasons to be disagreeable than ever. He said that we should either go for moderate concessions towards the Left or for the new elections, while the demonstrating to the electorate the hypocrisy the radicals demonstrated in the question on the compromise offered by the Headless Ministry.
He also mentioned that he suggested resigning, should His Majesty issue the new ordinances – but alas, he did not, but was later dismissed by the King due to his lack of vigour in enforcing the diplomatic agenda of His Majesty.
I must confess that I felt rather uncomfortable speaking of such delicate matters in front of the Comte de Berstett due to the fact that there were strong rumors of him submitting confidential information of the Council of State to the press. We did have a certain discussion with Comte de Berstett regarding the internal situation, though, and agreed we should oppose the Ordinances. However, I still remember one fateful phrase the Comte said during this conversation: "Ordinances or no Ordinances, I believe there is still may very well be an attempt of a coup or a rebellion."
Now I do believe that he indeed was right. Much of the Left within the Chamber of Deputies, during these years, due to a number of circumstances, has lost the decency and respect towards the Crown that their Doctrinaire brethren has been known for. Sadly enough, they too often saw the King not as the King, but as the Count of Artois of the previous years. And it widened the gap, even taking into account all good intentions of His Majesty.
Another person who spoke against the ordinances was Marshal de Moncey. A friend of my youth, whom I have, in the times of Louis XVIII, helped to drift from the wilderness of centrist Doctrinaries to the meadows of the Ultraroyalism, he looked like he only wanted to be left alone and enjoy his riches acquired during the years of service. By the time he already was very old and feeble – and lacked the energy necessary for vigorous command and legislation, speaking in our meetings very seldom. He has, like Berstett and myself, opposed the July Ordinances, mentioning a resignation. However, he did not give any more argumentation in this or that regard.
I was in agreement with my two ministerial colleagues in my opposition to the July Ordinances. I pointed that we should choose another path – try to reach accord with the moderate parts of the Chamber that are, per ideology, closest to us, that is the Saint-Germain Royalists and Chateaubriand Royalists. Should we present fairly moderate legislation (and perhaps, as suggested by the Comte de Berstett, negotiate regarding the budget with a few truly moderate liberals still existing in the Chamber), we can keep the Ministry as desired by His Majesty, If we cannot, we should go to elections. I also mentioned the possibility of my resignation, should the Ordinances be signed.
But what of the Vicomte de Saint-Fulgent, the President of the Council, one whom we nominated with the thought that he unites the moderate and traditional Right? This man was, by his essence, a Crusader, a loyal soldier of God and King, a selfless gentleman of Vendee, possesing honor beyond reproach, a soul as clean as the whitest of snows and extreme valor. It may have been quite comical, if it was not tragical, if I state that many of us did not know how far to the Right were the views of the good Vicomte . If we were, as often claimed by the Left, the men of the complex Ancien Regime, the Vicomte de Saint-Fulgent adhered, in essence, to the simple and saintly values of the times of Louis IX. After listening to our opinions, the President of the Council has stated that he would support the decisive actions of His Most Christian Majesty and asked us to demonstrate courage. His speech mentioned the consecration of France in the hands of the Holy Mother Church, Virgin Mary and One Godhead.
His Majesty listened to all of us, and when Berstett, Moncey and me spoke, I saw displeasure upon his face. While the President of the Council was, among the more influential ministers, the only one who spoke in favor of the Ordinances, I felt the shadow of the Duc de Sully looming in the chamber – and saw that the King was not of our views.
When the King responded, his voice was one of thunder, which was unusual for his most kind self. He accused us of wishing to abandon him at the times of peril, of submitting ourselves to the revolutionary sentiment. Then, however, he, suddenly for myself, agreed to let us try our legislation out in the Chamber.
Emboldened by that, I immediately set up a committee of lawyers under my presidency. We were to draft what has for a long time been my desire to pass – a Poor Relief Act. Such a bill, while it did have certain clerical reservations, that would have been agreeable to the King, the Right and Vicome de Saint-Fulgent, was mostly aimed at battling poverty and establishing a harmonious system of governance of almshouses. I hoped that the reasonable part of the Chamber of Deputies would see the many benefits such bill possessed and the good intentions of the government towards the people.
However, I did not now that there were othe plans within the Ministry. While I prepared this bill, the bills of other sort were drafted at the same time. First of all, His Majesty decided to submit the Anti-sacrilege Act, now rebranded as the Law on the Protection of the Church. It was quite clear that if the previous, much more rightist Chamber of Deputies, did not manage to pass that Law, neither would this, a far more radical one.
As for the Anti-Usury law, the Vicomte de Saint-Fulgent had the decency to share its idea with me and other Ministers. I immediately stated that I believe that all bourgouise deputies, especially these with the interests in banking, would oppose the bill and proposed a far more moderate version. I suggested that, should M. le Vicomte de Saint-Fulgent want to propose such a bill, he should set the limit of interest to 4% for private loans and 5% for commercial ones, Such a regulation would have lowered the caps created by the Anti-Usury Law of 1807 that were, at the moment, still in force, only by one percent. I also suggested to eliminate the "grandfathers clause" regarding the previous loans that existed in the passed bill.
It was not done and the Anti-Usury Law, together with the three other companions, was sent to the Chamber of Deputies without amendments – and result was expectable. One that probably was expected, I must say. Neither the Crown nor, probably, the Vicomte de Saint-Fulgent and Duc de Sully believed that this Chamber of Deputies could cooperate with the Council.
The behaviour of the many deputies, to a large extent, as if proved that fact.
The legislature did not simply reject the proposals – its radicalized members once again, in violation of the press laws and rules of common decency, started to spout insults and assail the Crown and the Government. One of them, M. Trecambien, clearly emboldened by his more respectable colleagues, such as the Marquis de Armentieres, declared a wish for the revolution against His Majesty and abolition of the whole regime. After that any talks became, for the King, impossible.
After many members of the Chamber of Deputies have demonstrated their continuous refusal to work with the government and ignorance of laws, the King returned to the idea he clearly continued to harbor – one of the Ordinances. He once again assembled us, clearly, after consultations with Sully.
He pointed at the many clear violations of the press laws and attacks upon his person by the deputies - and reconfirmed that he is intending to use his constitutional powers to put a stop to such chaos. He ensured us that he decided to make the Ordinances as corresponding to the Constitutional Charter of 1814 as possible. Only then the Monarch asked us for the opinion – however, demonstrating that the decision was already an accomplished fact
The Vicomte de Saint-Fulgent once again agreed with the King. The Duc de Conegliano voiced his acceptance as well, as the same time saying he is fearing rebellion. I have warned that, should His Majesty want to pursue this path, he should use a number of preventive measures as to minimize the disorders.
However, the Ordinances were signed without any of such – for His Majesty trusted the Prefect of Police. M. Mangin, who told him Paris would not stir.
Marschal de Moncey countersigned the Ordinances he accepted in the meeting of the Council, but soon after that, fearing the disorders, he lost spirit and handed his resignation to the Monarch. It has led to some sniggers in respect of his courage.
And what of me?
For some time I have kept silence regarding the whole affair, feeling more defeated than victorious. I did consider my resignation – however, when the Duc de Ragusa, as I expected, informed the King of the riots in Paris, I understood that I cannot now desert him. Charles X remained my King, he ruled by Divine Right – and I should defend law and order in His realm.
It is easy to serve when you agree, as the Doctrinaires gladly did with Louis XVIII. It is much harder to do so, when you do not, as I had to during parts of the reign of Louis XVIII and the latter years of the rule of his august brother…
To finish with the essence of the Ordinances, I would say the following. They were blunt and politically imprudent, but nor ill-intentioned nor illegal. Enforcing the press law of 1820, one passed by the Marquis de Valence? Pray, it was already in force and nobody needed a separate ordinance for that. The liberals have themselves, some time ago, refused a generous proposal of His Majesty abolishing and replacing the DeValence law, and, therefore, left in force the old regulations. Dissolving the Chamber of Deputies and calling for new elections? It was not only the constitutional right of His Majesty, but, possibly, necessary due to the fact that many members of the Chamber of Deputies have acted in violation to the existing laws and clear defiance of the Crown. Correcting the electoral system? One could say it was more tricky, but the Article 14 of the Constitutional Charter of 1814 did provide the King with the wide possibilities to issue ordinances "for the security of the state". And before such ordinances were used to regulate quite different issues – for example, none of the liberal Left protested when the King, by such ordinance, dismantled the system of the clerical education that was guaranteed by a law passed in the Chamber of Deputies. The only limitation that the Constitutional Charter of 1814 has, in fact, set was that the the imposition of taxes (and, by extension, all money bills) were to be considered laws and had to go through the Chamber of Deputies. And I do know that the King always refused to pass such bills by ordinances – when the Vicomte de Saint-Fulgent asked him to do that regarding my Poor Relief Act, he firmly pointed out that he considered it not corresponding the Charter.
However, here the King thought he was in the right – and, by laws Divine and human, as the establishing authority of the Charter and only one that can amend it, as well as the Sovereign possessing constitutional powers under the Article 14, he could indeed issue these ordinances.
However, one can only state that, in these circumstances and taking into account the existing practice, this measure was most imprudent.
Could it have prevented though, taking into accout the desires of many champions of the Left to make the King and his Ministry bow before them, and do that in most unceremonious manner? Charles the Tenth, ruling by the Grace of God, knew he represented the dignity of France - and would not bow before anybody but Almighty.
I would leave it here. Each should make his own conclusions.
The first two nights in Saint-Cloud I spent without sleep, thinking about the future of my King, my country - and the rightful dynasty…"