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CHAPTER XII

Tragical History of Princess of X——

More than twenty years after the events described in the past chapters, I was walking with my Lady Lyndon in the Rotunda at Ranelagh.

It was in the year 1790; the emigration from France had already commenced, the old counts and marquises were thronging to our shores: not starving and miserable, as one saw them a few years afterwards, but unmolested as yet, and bringing with them some token of their national splendour.

I was walking with Lady Lyndon, who, proverbially jealous and always anxious to annoy me, spied out a foreign lady who was evidently remarking me, and of course asked who was the hideous fat Dutchwoman who was leering at me so?

I knew her not in the least.

I felt I had seen the lady’s face somewhere (it was now, as my wife said, enormously fat and bloated); but I did not recognise in the bearer of that face one who had been among the most beautiful women in Germany in her day.

It was no other than Madame de Liliengarten, the mistress, or as some said the morganatic wife, of the old Duke of X— — Duke Victor’s father. She had left X——a few months after the elder Duke’s demise, had gone to Paris, as I heard, where some unprincipled adventurer had married her for her money; but, however, had always retained her quasi-royal title, and pretended, amidst the great laughter of the Parisians who frequented her house, to the honours and ceremonial of a sovereign’s widow. She had a throne erected in her state-room, and was styled by her servants and those who wished to pay court to her, or borrow money from her, ‘Altesse.’ Report said she drank rather copiously — certainly her face bore every mark of that habit, and had lost the rosy, frank, good-humoured beauty which had charmed the sovereign who had ennobled her.

Although she did not address me in the circle at Ranelagh, I was at this period as well known as the Prince of Wales, and she had no difficulty in finding my house in Berkeley Square; whither a note was next morning despatched to me. ‘An old friend of Monsieur de Balibari,’ it stated (in extremely bad French), ‘is anxious to see the Chevalier again and to talk over old happy times. Rosina de Liliengarten (can it be that Redmond Balibari has forgotten her?) will be at her house in Leicester Fields all the morning, looking for one who would never have passed her by TWENTY YEARS ago.’

Rosina of Liliengarten it was indeed — such a full-blown Rosina I have seldom seen.

I found her in a decent first-floor in Leicester Fields (the poor soul fell much lower afterwards) drinking tea, which had somehow a very strong smell of brandy in it; and after salutations, which would be more tedious to recount than they were to perform, and after further straggling conversation, she gave me briefly the following narrative of the events in X— — which I may well entitle the ‘Princess’s Tragedy.’

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