- 3 août 1833
« [p. 182] After passing Mont Calvary, you drive on through several villages, and near Malmaison, and the heights and water-works of Marly, to this town, so long the favourite residence of the sovereigns of France, and afterwards of the last of the Stuart kings.
Its imposing chateau presents no interior attraction : wanting furniture, it looks like what it has occasionally been used for [p. 183] a barrack : and now its only tenants are the porter, and his family. His daughter, a lively brunette, showed us over it, and, on coming to Madame La Valière’s apartment, she pointed to the ceiling, in which there is ingeniously concealed by the moulding, a trap-door, by which to avoid the vigilance of his mother, Anne of Austria, Louis XIV descended to his mistress. I need not give you further description of this deserted caravansery, or its very richly decorated chapel.
In the Place d’Armes, opposite the château stands the new church, with a large Doric portico.
Its altar is splendid. On the left is a very small free-stone monument, within a slight railing : the inscription tells us that, beneath it repose the remains (les dépouilles) of James II King of England.
I recollect reading somewhere, that a superb monument, to be erected over it, was executing, during the reign, and at the expense [p. 183] of, George IV. I know nothing of the circumstance, but I suspect that the design (I wish you would ask Mr. Hume) has ended in a mere job ; for, within the railing there are three or four pieces of marble, evidently intended for a monument, laying among some straw, which apparently surrounded the case in which they were packed. If put up, they would form such a monument as the widow of a Parisian shoemaker would blush to see over the grave of her husband, at Père la Chaise.
Of the ancien forest called Sylvia Lida, which in the time of Charlemagne was the most extensive in France, that of St Germain is a remaining portion, which still occupies about 8,000 acres, surrounded by walls. It produces the most stately trees, and the finest timber that I have seen in France : roads and paths traverse it, and the walks, which we have found exceedingly pleasant, are frequented [p. 185] chiefly by genteel-looking persons. Guide posts to direct passengers, are placed where roads traverse each other ; and we frequently meet with crosses, erected at various periods, to commemorate known or forgotten events. Roebucks, deer, stags, and wild boars, are preserved her for the Royal Hunt ; and the Château de la Muette, in the centre of the forest, is the rendezvous à la chasse. The pheasantry is surrounded with walls, and annually sown with buck-wheat. The fairs of St. Germain are held twice a year in the forest.
The magnificent terrace, probably the most spacious in Europe, extending in front of the wood, along the elevated bank of the Seine, is a mile and a half long, and one hundred feet in breadth. The trees of the forest shade and shelter this once regal promenade, and a fine parapet and railing, rise along the whole edge of the abrupt height, which forms its outward boundary.
[p. 186] The view from the terrace, if not what tourists would consider enchantingly sublime, is certainly magnificent, in regard to prospect, and its landscape is truly rich in picturesque beauty.
Here often did the most amorous of Princes and the fair La Valière, promenade in the hey-day of youth and passion ; here did the bigoted James, and his gloomy confessor saunter, accompanied, perhaps, by the devoted Duchess of Perth ; and here now may some retired English families, and a few of the old, quiet inhabitants of St. Germain, be seen walking in pensive mood, when the evenings are calmly closing days spent, in lazy monotony : but the splendour of Royalty, the joyous revelry, the courtly amours, and political intrigues, from it are fled – in all probability, for ever.
As a mere town, I dislike St. Germain, it has scarcely a house worthy of notice.
The Hotel de Noailles, once a sumptuous [p. 187] residence, has been converted into barracks, which now form the imposing lodgment of the King’s body guard. »