The Comte de St. Germain, by Isabel Cooper-Oakley, , at sacred-texts.com
THE earliest definite hint of any political work on the part of the Comte de St. Germain is from the pen of Madame d’Adhémar. 1
When sketching the portraits of those who were received into intimacy by Louis XV. at Versailles, she says: "The King was also much attached to the Duchesse de Choiseul, née Crozat; her simplicity, her frankness, more virtues than were necessary to make a success at Versailles, had triumphed over the drawback of her birth, and she was frequently present at the suppers in the smaller apartments. One man also had long enjoyed this favour, the celebrated and mysterious Comte de St. Germain, my friend who has not been rightly known, and to whom I shall devote some pages when I have to speak of Cagliostro. From 1749, the King employed him on diplomatic missions and he acquitted himself honourably in them."
This passage would remain incomprehensible, unless we glance briefly at the history of the
period. Dark and stormy is the scene on which we enter; difficult indeed is it to disentangle the knotted web of European politics which enmeshed the various nations. Austria and France had signed in 1756 an offensive and defensive alliance, especially directed against England and Prussia; Russia was with them; during the Seven Years' War the throne of Prussia tottered more than once, until the Austrians were defeated at Torgau in 1760. Poland, that "Niobe of Nations," was watching the clouds gather slowly on her horizon; racked within by strife stirred up by Russia, she struggled vainly against the stronger Powers; her day was slowly ending. England, at war in America and with France, striving also to conquer India, was also a centre of discord. All Europe was in dissension.
Into this arena of combat the Comte de St. Germain was asked to step by the King of France, in order to make that peace which his Ministers--involved in their own plans--could not, or would not, make.
Louis XV. was practically the originator of the whole system of secret diplomacy, which in the eighteenth century seems to stand out as a new departure in the diplomatic political world. The Gordian knot which could not be disentangled, Louis XV. tried to cut; hence we find the King of France employing secret agents, men
who could be trusted with delicate missions, men foredoomed to bear the blame of failure, fated never to be crowned with the palm of success.
Outside the various Foreign Offices, or beyond the pale of their secret archives, it is very little known that the Comte de St. Germain had any diplomatic mission whatsoever. In many histories and memoirs there is no mention of this phase of his life; therefore it is necessary to cite such writers as are available to bear their testimony on this point.
Not least amongst these stands Voltaire, the sceptic, who in his voluminous correspondence with Frederick of Prussia says, April 15th, 1758: "Your ministers are doubtless likely to have a better outlook at Breda than I; M. le Duc de Choiseul, M. de Kaunitz, and M. Pitt do not tell me their secret. It is said to be only known by a M. de St. Germain, who supped formerly at Trent with the Council Fathers, and who will probably have the honour of seeing your Majesty in the course of fifty years. He is a man who never dies, and who knows everything." 1
The allusion "supped at Trent" is a reference to the gossip which originated from Lord Gower's impersonation and misrepresentation of M. de St. Germain, of which mention has already been
made. The important point in this letter is that Voltaire refers to a political connection of M. de St. Germain with the Prime Ministers of England, France and Austria, as if he were in the intimate council of these leaders. The Baron de Gleichen gives some details in his memoirs, and as he became later deeply interested in the mystical work of the Comte de St. Germain, his version is of much value, giving as it does an insight into some of the complications in France. He writes: "The Marshal [de Belle-Isle] was incessantly intriguing to get a special treaty of peace made with Prussia, and to break up the alliance between France and Austria, on which rested the credit of the Duc de Choiseul. Louis XV. and Madame de Pompadour wished for this special treaty of peace. . . . The Marshal drew up the instructions; the King delivered them himself with a cipher to M. de St. Germain." 1
Thus, then, is the mission duly signed and sealed by the King himself, but, as we shall see, even the royal protection could not avert the suspicion and distrust which so unpleasant a position naturally incurred, and when M. de St. Germain arrived at the Hague he came into collision with M. d’Affry, 2 the accredited Ambassador from France.
Before entering on the ambassadorial despatches there are a few words from Herr Barthold to be noticed, giving an interesting account of this diplomatic mission; he--after criticising somewhat severely, and with good reason, the unreliable statements about our philosopher made by the Marquise de Créqui and the Markgräfin von Anspach--goes on: "But of this mysterious mission of the Adept, as financier to the crown and diplomatic Agent, to which he was initiated, not at the ministerial desk, but in the laboratory of Chambord, she makes no mention. Nor has this point--so essential to the understanding of the way business was conducted in France, both in Cabinet and State, at this period--ever been much commented on. About this time we find St. Germain at the Hague, evidently on a private mission, where the Comte d’Affry was French Ambassador, but the two had no relations with each other. Voltaire, who is generally a good reporter, ascribes the Comte's appearance to the Secret Treaty of Peace." 1 The date mentioned by this author is not quite accurate, as we shall see.
That the Duc de Choiseul was profoundly
annoyed when this information reached him, is to be understood; his pet schemes were in jeopardy, his intrigues against England were on the eve of failure; it appears that M. d’Affry "bitterly reproached M. de Choiseul for having sacrificed an old friend of his father, and the dignity of an Ambassador, to the ambition of making a Treaty of Peace under his very eyes without informing him of it, through an obscure foreigner. M. de Choiseul immediately sent back the courier, ordering M. d’Affry to make a peremptory demand to the States-General to deliver up M. de St. Germain and, that being done, to send him bound hand and foot to the Bastille. The next day M. de Choiseul produced in Council the despatch of M. d’Affry; he then read his own reply; then, casting his eyes haughtily on his colleagues, and fixing them alternatively round on King and on M. de Belle-Isle, he added: 'If I did not give myself time to take the orders of the King, it is because I am convinced that no one here would be bold enough to desire to negotiate a Treaty of Peace without the knowledge of Your Majesty's Minister for Foreign Affairs!' He knew that this Prince had established, and always maintained, the principle, that the Minister of one department should not meddle with the affairs of another. It turned out as he had foreseen. The King cast down his eyes like
a guilty person, the Marshal dared not say a word, and M. de Choiseul’s action was approved; but M. de St. Germain escaped him. Their Highnesses, having made good their assent, despatched a large body of guards to arrest M. de St. Germain, who, having been privately warned, fled to England. I have some grounds for believing that he soon left it again to go to St. Petersburg." 1
No better account could be given than this, by one present at the French Cabinet Council, of the way in which Louis XV., weak and irresolute, allowed his arrangements to be cancelled without a word. Passing, however, rapidly on to follow the events at the Hague, we next have some interesting despatches from M. de Kauderbach, Minister from the Saxon Court at the Hague, wherein he recounts much that has already been given in these pages in praise of the Comte de St. Germain, of his powers and knowledge and then goes on to say: "I had a long conversation with him on the causes of the troubles of France, and on the changes in the choice of Minister in this kingdom. This, Monseigneur, is what he said to me on the subject: 'The radical evil is the monarch's want of firmness. Those who surround him, knowing his extreme good nature, abuse it, and he is surrounded only by
creatures placed by the Brothers Pâris, 1 who alone cause all the trouble of France. It is they who corrupt everything, and thwarted the plans of the best citizen in France, the Marshal de Belle-Isle. Hence the disunion and jealousy amongst the Ministers, who seem all to serve a different monarch. All is corrupted by the Brothers Paris; perish France, provided they may attain their object of gaining eight hundred millions! Unhappily the King has not so much sagacity as good nature; he is not, therefore, aware of the malice of the people around him who, knowing his lack of firmness, are solely occupied in flattering his foible, and through it are ever preferably listened to. The same defect as to firmness is found in the mistress. She knows the evil and has not courage to remedy it.' It is he then, M. de St. Germain, who will undertake to cure it radically; he takes upon himself to put down by his influence and operations in Holland the two names so prejudicial to the State, which have hitherto been regarded as indispensably necessary. Hearing him speak with so much freedom, one must look upon him either as a man sure of his ground, or else as the greatest fool in the world. I could entertain your Excellency much longer with this singular man and with his knowledge of physics,
did I not fear to weary you with tales which must seem rather romantic than real." 1
The Saxon diplomatist, from whose despatches these extracts are gathered, very shortly changed his friendly tone, on finding that the Duc de Choiseul did not favour the plans of Louis XV.; the self-respecting diplomat then began to disparage the man whom so lately he had lauded as a prodigy, hence the next despatch is amusingly different in tone, and runs as follows:
"April 24th, 1760. I have this moment heard that the courier whom the Comte d’Affry received last Monday brought him an order to demand from the State the arrest and extradition of the famous St. Germain as a dangerous character, and one with whom his most Christian Majesty has reason to be dissatisfied. M. d’Affry, having communicated this order to the Pensionnaire, this Minister of State reported it to the Council of Deputy Commissioners for the province of Holland, an assembly of which the Comte de Bentinck is President. The latter gave the man warning, and made him start for England. The day before his departure, St. Germain was four hours with the English Minister. He boasted of being authorised to make peace."
Later on, in another despatch, this wary diplomatist
returns once more to the attack. "The adventurer gave himself here the airs of a secret negotiator, selected by the Marshal de Belle-Isle, from whom he showed letters in which there were in fact some traces of confidence. He wished it to be understood that the principles of the Marshal, differing from those of M. de Choiseul, and more in accordance with the inclination of Mme. de Pompadour, were warmly in favour of peace; he darkened the picture, painting in the strongest colours the cabals, the difficulties and the dissension that he declared reigned in France, and by these flatteries he thought to gain the confidence of the English party. On the other hand he had written to the Marshal de Belle-Isle, that M. d’Affry knew not how to appreciate or carry out the plans of the Comte de Bentinck-Rhoon, who was a man of the best intentions in the world, and desired only to make himself useful to France in order to promote the success of her negotiations with England. These letters were sent back to M. d’Affry, with a command to forbid St. Germain to meddle with any transactions, on pain of expiating his rashness for the rest of his days in a dungeon on his return to France." 1
Truly ludicrous is the difference in the tone of these documents; M. de St. Germain was endeavouring
to carry out the wishes of the King, and trying to help an exhausted country; these efforts for peace were frustrated by de Choiseul, who had his own schemes to forward with Austria. Nothing more natural could have occurred than that the new helper should be attacked by the opposite party.
It is evident, from the paper cited, that M. de St. Germain was in the confidence of the Marshal de Belle-Isle--who also wanted peace--for the Saxon Ambassador uses the phrase "some traces of confidence," when speaking of the correspondence he had seen and the evidence of confidence he was forced to admit. From this distance of time we can see that the picture of France sketched by M. de St. Germain was by no means too dark: France impoverished, rushing wildly on to greater ruin, the end of which was to be a scene of blood and butchery. He who had the power of seeing the evil days that were drawing so steadily nigh, could he paint that picture too darkly, when endeavouring to stay the ruin of fair France?
But we must take up some other threads of this tangled skein. The King of Prussia was, at this period, in Freyberg, and his own agent, M. d’Edelsheim, had just arrived in London to confer with the English Ministers; the following account is given later by Frederick II. of the
condition of affairs: "On his arrival in that city [London], another political phenomenon appeared there, a man whom no one has been able to understand. He was known under the name of the Comte de St. Germain. He had been employed by France, and was even so high in favour with Louis XV., that this Prince had thought of giving him the Palace of Chambord" (De l’hiver de 1759 à 1760). 1
The mission of M. d’Edelsheim is not clearly stated, but we find that not only did M. de St. Germain have to leave London, failing to bring about the peace so sorely desired, but that the Prussian agent fared even worse; the details are given by Herr Barthold 2: "The Prussian negotiator . . . returning from London viâ Holland to fetch his luggage from Paris, was induced to remain a few days with the Bailly de Froulay, and then, receiving a Lettre de Cachet, he was put into the Bastille. Choiseul assured the prisoner that it was only by these means that he could silence the suspicions of the Imperial Minister, Stahremberg, but this 'scene indécente' was simply a trap to get hold of the Baron's papers. Choiseul, however, found nothing and told him to decamp, advising him on his leaving Turin
not to re-enter the kingdom. Frederick takes care not to find fault with his agent, who through over-zeal had drawn discredit on himself in Paris; on the other hand, one may conclude that it was he who, through an article in the London Chronicle, succeeded in frustrating St. Germain's project."
In this extraordinary maze of secret negotiations it is difficult to find the truth, for in the work just cited we hear that St. Germain was seen in the Bois de Boulogne in May, 1761. When the Marquise d’Urfé informed the Duc de Choiseul of his presence in Paris that Prime Minister replied: "Je n’en suis pas surpris, puisqu’il a passé la nuit dans mon cabinet." 1 This informant proceeds: "Casanova is therefore satisfied that de Choiseul had only pretended to be annoyed with M. de St. Germain, so as to make it easier for him to be sent to London as agent; Lord Halifax however saw through the plan."
This would indeed be one method of cutting the political entanglement of France!--an intrigue of a pronounced sort arranged by the King, apparently without the knowledge of his chief Minister, in order to arrive at a peace for which the whole country pined. In this difficult situation the Marshal de Belle-Isle selected the Comte de
[paragraph continues] St. Germain as the messenger of peace. Alas! missions of peace rarely result in anything but discomfort and slander for the bearer of the message, and the history of the world recorded one more failure, a failure caused by the ambitions of the political leaders.
Leaving now the condition of affairs in France and passing on to England, we find some very interesting correspondence between General Yorke, the English representative at the Hague, and Lord Holdernesse in London. By especial permission from the Foreign Office we have been kindly permitted to make use of these extracts. The full correspondence is too lengthy to print in the limited space permissible in these pages. The first despatch is from General Yorke to the Earl of Holdernesse; it is dated March 14th, 1760, and gives the full account of a long interview between the Comte de St. Germain and himself. The former claims, he says, to have been sent by France to negotiate concerning the Peace, but says that Mons. d’Affry is not in the secret. The answer to this document comes from "Whitehall, March 21st, 1760," and is from Lord Holdernesse to General Yorke; in this he directs the latter "to tell M. de St. Germain that by the King's orders he cannot discuss the subject with him unless he produces some authentic proof of his being employed with the consent and knowledge
of the French King." In the next despatch, dated Whitehall, March 28th, 1760, "the King directs that the same answer should be returned to Mons. d’Affry as has already been given to M de St. Germain. The King thinks it probable that M. de St. Germain was authorised to talk to General Yorke in the manner he did, and that his commission is unknown to the Duc de Choiseul."
The insight of George III. in this case is remarkable, unless in his private correspondence with Louis XV. some hint as to the real condition of things may have been given by one king to the other. In any case the fact remains that owing to M. de Choiseul the Treaty of Peace was not arranged; and, as we have seen, M. de St. Germain passed on from England to Russia. Turning now to some other witnesses, we find
M. Thiébault in his memoirs saying: "While this singular man was at Berlin, I ventured one day to speak of him to the French envoy, the Marquis de Pons Saint-Maurice; I privately expressed to him my great surprise that this man should have held private and intimate relations with persons of high rank, such as the Cardinal de Bernis, from whom he had, it was said, confidential letters, written at the time when the Cardinal held the portfolio for Foreign Affairs, etc.; on this last point the envoy made me no
reply." 1 This passage implies other diplomatic missions, of which no details are to be found.
Another writer, who has also been quoted, makes an important statement to the effect that when M. de St. Germain was in Leipzig the Graf Marcolini offered him a high public position at Dresden. Our philosopher was at Leipzig in 1776, under the name of Chevalier Weldon, and did not at all conceal the fact that he was a Prince Ragotzy. This informant says: "The Lord High Chamberlain, Graf Marcolini, came from Dresden to Leipzig and made to the Comte--in the name of the Court--certain promises; M. de St. Germain refused them, but he came in 1777 to Dresden, where he had much intercourse with the Prussian Ambassador, von Alvensleben." 2 This statement can be corroborated by the writer of the life of Graf Marcolini, which has been carefully compiled from the secret archives of the Saxon Court (with especial permission) by the Freiherr O'Byrn.
The Graf Marcolini was a man renowned for his integrity and upright character; his biographer says: "Considering the strong opposition shown by the Graf Marcolini to the swindling in the Schröpfer affair, the sympathy he extended
to the Comte de St. Germain on his arrival in Saxony is all the more wonderful. . . . Graf Marcolini repaired to Leipzig with the intention of interviewing St. Germain on hearing of his arrival under the name of Welldoun, October 1776 . . . the meeting resulted in the Graf offering St. Germain an important post in Dresden if he would render a great service to the State; the 'Wonder Man' however refused these offers." 1
Nowhere are to be found the details of any of these diplomatic missions; we can only gather the fragments and, piecing them together, the fact stands clearly proved, that from Court to Court, among kings, princes, and ambassadors, the Comte de St. Germain was received and known, was trusted as friend, and by none feared as enemy.
94:1 Souvenirs sur Marie-Antoinette, i., p. 8
96:1 VOLTAIRE, Œuvres. Lettre cxviii., ed. Beuchot, lviii., p. 360.
97:1 GLEICHEN (C. H. Baron de) Mémoires. Paris, 1868, xi., p. 130.
97:2 Ludwig Augustin d’Affry, a Swiss, born 1715 at Versailles, p. 98 Ambassador at the Hague in 1755, became in 1780 Colonel of the Swiss Guard, died in 1793 at his castle Barthelemy in Waadt.
98:1 BARTHOLD, Die Geschichtlichen Persönlichkeiten. Berlin, 1846, ii., p. 81.
100:1 GLEICHEN (C. H. Baron de) Mémoires, xi., pp. 131, 132.
101:1 The Brothers Pâris-Duverney were the great financiers, the bank monarchs, in the time of Louis XV.
102:1 TAILLANDIER, SAINT-RENÉ, Un Prince Allemand du XVIII. Siècle. Revue des deux Mondes, lxi., pp. 896, 897.
103:1 TAILLANDIER, op. cit., p. 897.
105:1 FREDERIC II., Roi de Prusse, Œuvres Posthumes. Berlin, 1788, iii., p. 73.
105:2 BARTHOLD, op. cit., pp. 93. 94.
106:1 BARTHOLD, Op. cit., p. 94.
109:1 THIÉBAULT, D., op. cit., iv., p. 84; 3rd ed.
109:2 HEZEKIEL, G., Abenteuerliche Gesellen, i., p. 46. Berlin, 1862.
110:1 O'BYRN, F. A., Camillo, Graf Marcolini: Eine Biographische Skizze. Dresden, 1877.