Louis XVI didn’t like gossip, especially the kind of gossip Baron Besenval was ready to relate to Marie-Antoinette. Baron was already in his fifties, that is twice the age of everyone else at Little Trianon, but he was a fantastic narrator and the evidence to this we find in his memoirs.
My personal favorite is a story that he puts together on the occasion of Damien’s attempt on the life of Louis XV. We know already all the facts: the king is attacked by a madman excited by some Parlement debate. Louis XV quickly recovers from the trifling wound, for the knife is trapped inside his clothes and slides along the ribs. There is a long investigation: everyone fears a conspiracy. And it all ends by the way of some spectacular execution.
Besenval ignores all of this. His story is about something invisible to a historian, an emotional world of the actors, the intrigue. Madame Pompadour, Louis XV and the two of the king’s ministers are the protagonists of Besenval’s play. The two ministers represent, although very roughly, two Versailles Court factions, one for Madame Pompadour, the other against her. At the end of the story both gentlemen are sent into exile, Madame Pompadour writes a dismissal letter to her protegé, while the king does the same to his.
Besenval ends his narrative with a moral: Monsieur d’Argenso wanted to sacrifice the king to Dauphin to continue to stay in power. The king wanted to sacrifice his mistress to the public opinion and his personal fears. Monsieur Machault wanted to sacrifice his friend, Madame Pompadour, to the anxieties of the monarch. And in the end “everything was sacrificed to love which happens and will happen always.”