« IndietroContinua »
LOUIS XVII. AND ELEAZER WILLIAMS.
WERE THEY REALLY TIE SAME PERSON? *
By the request of the Long Island French Revolutionary History, containHistorical Society, I am induced to re- ing biographical sketches of notable cord the reasons of my belief that the persons, and illustrated by engravings late Rev. Eleazer Williams was the of their portraits, in fine wood-cuts. Lost Prince," " the Dauphin,” “tle These volumes were the gifts of Admiral Louis XVII.” of French history. I do Casey to Mrs. Perry, sent to her from not persuade myself that the following Paris, after his return to France, in acnarrative will prove to be convincing knowledgment of her courtesy to him to all readers; for, the problem, “ Have and to the officers of his squadron while we had a Bourbon among us?” is com- lying in Newport Harbor. Admiral plex and recondite, admitting of no Casey, it will be remembered, commandpositive demonstration short of authen- ed the sbips which brought over the tic records; which it may have been for Prince de Joinville and his suite to the interest of various parties in France America, about 1840, and remained at to suppress.
Nevertheless, the facts Newport while the Prince was engaged which have constrained my judgment in his Western tour; during which he are too singular to be rejected as evi- visited Williams with the surgeon of the dence, and may serve to confirm, in fleet and his private secretary. The some measure, what has been written account of this interview is detailed by by the late Rev. Mr. Hanson, in the old both parties, in Mr. Hanson's book on Putnam's Monthly and in his two books, “ The Lost Prince." and by other writers less familiar to us, Candles had just been brought into who have taken the same side of the the parlor of Mrs. Perry, when Wilquestion.
liams and I drew nigh to the table to
amuse ourselves for the hour. Not a I. In the month of August, 1844, the word had been said of these books, nor Rev. Eleazer Williams, on his way to of the conjecture (which was then a Boston, visited Newport, R. I., where
mere rumor) of the identity of Williams I was some time rector, to ask aid for with the Dauphin; neither did I, at that his missionary work among the Indians. time, entertain the slightest idea of any He was the guest of Mrs. Com. 0. H. relationship between them. Williams Perry. Amid the books that covered had not spoken on the question, nor in the centre-table in the parlor of this hos- any way alluded to it; neither did he pitable mansion, were some volumes of know that the books on the centre
table were of the character described. * This paper, received after our number for July But we drew near to the lights, by a was published, is a refutation-as unexpected as it
natural impulse, to vary our occupation is interesting-of the editorial note in that number, assuming that the theory of Mr. Williams' royal in a sort of “kill-time” way, and (I will origin was finally disposed of and disproved by the confess it) to relieve myself from the article from his literary executor. It is proper for
task of entertaining a visitor who was us to say here, plainly, that the present paper is written by the Rev. Francis Vinton, S. T. D.,
commonly reserved and silent, and assistant-minister of Trinity Church, N. Y.,-a whose conversation at no time was pargentleman whose high character as a clergyman ticularly interesting and never instrucand as a learned and logical investigator will command at once the most entire confidence in the
tive. impartial accuracy of his statements, and great Thus we were engaged for a half-hour respect for bis conclusions—which so strongly lean
I was reading some author, toward the belief that Eleazer Williams was really Louis XVII. of France.- Ed. Putnam's Mog. while Williams was turning over the
no name on
leaves of the volumes of the “French schools, and who had done service to Revolutionary Annals." All at once I his country in the War of 1812 ; and, was startled by a sudden movement, finally, had been called into the holy and on looking up, I saw Williams sit- ministry of the Protestant Episcopal ting upright and stiff in his chair, his Church, and was now devoting himself eyes fixed and wide open, his hands to the welfare of those sons of the forest clenched on the table, his whole frame with whom his lot had been cast in shaken and trembling, as if a paralysis early life, in the hope of promoting their had seized bin. I thought it had. I civilization and their spiritual salvation, exclaimed “What is the matter ?" and as their humble and contented misI rose quickly to rouse him ; for no an- sionary.
It was a minute or more Williams assumed no other character before he could speak. But with great than this, and rather seemed disturbed effort he raised his hand, and, pointing at the conjecture of his inheritance of to one of the wood-cut portraits, at the any other name. There was no air of bottom of the page, said, in a hollow pretension—no attempt at speculation voice and with great difficulty of utter- —no seeming personal interest in the ance,
matter suggested to him of his royal “That image has haunted me, day birth. and night, as long as I can remember. He could not account for his agitation 'Tis the horrid vision of my dreams. at the sight of the portrait of “Simon;" What is it? Who is it?"
and when I reopened the book at the I looked. There was
page, he gazed at the picture without the page. On turning the leaf, I read emotion, as if the spectre had been laid, that this number was the “ Portrait of and the associations with it had been Simon,” to whose care the Dauphin of buried and covered up in the myster ous France, son of Louis XVI. and Marie tomb of the soul. Those wonderful Antoinette, was committed in the pris- memories, which the sudden apparition on of the Temple.
of Simon's portrait had revived, seemed I slut the book; for while it was to be mercifully remanded to their sepopen Williams gazed at the picture as ulchre. Williams retired to his chamif fascinated, while overwhelmed with ber, and slept well. Meanwhile, we of unutterable horror.
the family, who had been conversing Some time elapsed before he recovered with him, puzzled ourselves with the his equanimity. And then, for the first explanation of the phenomenon of the time, I talked with him on the rumor evening, with as much satisfaction as of his birth and parentage. He told me puzzles generally afford. that the Prince de Joinville had visited But the conclusion to which my him at Green Bay (as Mr. Hanson after thoughts have arrived, after due conward related), and also that the surgeon sideration, is simply this, that it was the (to whom, at his request, he had shown Soul, through Memory, bearing witness to certain scars of scrofula upon the leg), Itself, affirming the identity of Williams said to him,
and the Dauphin. “ Mon Dieu ! you have rights which II. My next personal connection with you know not of," and then suddenly the question of THE DAUPHIN happened checked himself.
in this wise : Our conversation turned on the story The publication of Mr. Hanson's arof the Dauphin and on Williams' recol- ticle in Putnam's Monthly, in February, lections of his own life. There was no 1853, occasioned many inquiries “ when assuming, on his part, of any other posi- the Rev. Mr. Williams would again tion than that of a gentleman (which officiate in Grace Church, Brooklyn hé eminently was) who had been cast Heights." He had more than once done among Indians in early youth, and who so, without remark; but now he was a had been educated above them in good celebrity. It was contrary to my principles and my taste to encourage the points, viz., that Charles X, was very implied motive for attending divine like Louis XVI. ;—that Prince Talley. worship, and I determined to gratify rand knew all about the abduction of no prurient curiosity to see Mr. Wil- the Dauphin, which was connived at by. liams while engaged in bis ministerial the authorities of France; and when office. On the first Sunday in February, his Memoirs should be published (if 1853, I expected him to assist me in the there were no suppression of facts), the Holy Communion ; but I scrupulously world would know of it too ;-that the withheld, even from every member of Jesuits knew all about it; and if Wilmy family, any hint of my expectation. liams had been a Roman Catholic (supIndeed, Mr. Williams had failed me once posing him to be the Dauphin), he before, and his promise at this time was would have been in France long ago ;conditional; so that I myself was not that Robespierre and Count de Provence certain of his coming.
(afterward Louis XVIII.) were mutually The organ had commenced, and the interested in procuring the abduction time was fully up, when Mr. Williams of the Dauphin (inasmuch as he would appeared, just as I was about to proceed not die a natural death under extreme from the vestry-room. He robed him- cruelty): Robespierre, because he wished self hastily in his surplice, and was that the Revolution should maintain directed to one of the stalls on the op- the reputation of a political revolution, posite side, which required him to walk and not be damaged by the imputation across the choir, or chancel, of the of being a war against children; the church.
Count de Provence, because the DauOn the following Monday morning an phin, as Louis XVII., would stand in esteemed parishioner, a German gentle- the way of his succession to the crown; man of high standing, called on me in that Chateaubriand would not take my study to ask, “who he was that offi- the oath of allegiance to Louis XVIII., ciated with me on yesterday morning.” on the ground that Louis XVII. was
I replied that “it was the Rev. Ele yet alive and in America; and that azer Williams."
Chateaubriand's journey to America He then said that there happened to bad for its object, among others, to disbe in his pew, as his guest, His Royal cover the lost Dauphin ;—that Count Highness, Prince Paul William, Duke D'Artois (afterward Charles X.) would of Wurtemberg, cousin to the present not swear allegiance to his brother until King of Wurtemberg and to the Czar very late (when his own succession was Nicholas, travelling in this country un- in prospect), because of his scruples as der the title of Gen. Count Heidenheim; a Legitimist, and his allegiance to his who, when Mr. Williams walked across nephew. the chancel, asked my parishioner, Mr. These circumstances, and others quite
" Who is that? Who is that as remarkable, were the disclosures of man? It is so! If there is any thing my friend Mr. R-, as having been the in family likeness, he is a Bourbon ! " staple of the conversation of the Duke
Mr. R— replied that he did not on that Sunday afternoon, after he had know who it was. But the Duke could bad a vision of Eleazer Williams, not be quiet, but said, " It is so! He is The peculiar reason why this report a Bourbon ! He is a Bourbon, no doubt! was made to me, was this: A few days He is the image of Charles X.”
before this eventful Sunday, while I was Mr. R- went on to relate the ex- engaged in reading Mr. Hanson's first citement of the Duke during the whole article on the question of the Dauphin, of the divine service; and how, at din- Mr. R- happened to call on me in ner that day, he resumed the theme, my library. Our conversation turning with many particulars in the story of to the subject, he denounced the article, the Dauphin.
and the credulity of those who enterAmong these I recollect a few striking tained a belief in the “identity of Ele
azer Williams and the Dauphin of what he had said in the presence of Mr. France !” And his call on Monday Holbrook and myself; for which relucmorning was (as he states in a note now tance he gave the following very excelbefore me, dated March 3, 1853) “prin- lent reasons, in a letter to me, dated cipally as a reason for retracting my
- Street, New York, March 3, 1853. previous unbelief, which I considered
“Rererend and Dear Sir: With respect to too rashly and too strongly expressed."
the opivion of the Duke of Wurtemberg, in Mr. R— wrote, in pencil, the title reference to the Rev. E. Williams, his explicit of the Duke on a slip of paper, and I request to have his name kept out of any pubmade a note of some points of the con
lication on the subject forbids me from complyversation on the other side; where, also,
ing with your request for a written statement of
such opinion, further than simply to say, that I find it written, that “Mr. Edward H.
the Duke, when seeing the Rev. E. Williams Holbrook, of Boston, was present in assist you in the services of your church, on my study, and heard Mr. R
the first Sunday in February, was very much above."
struck with the marked Bourbon features and The following is an exact copy of this
the general appearance of the reverend gen
tleman. memorandum :
“ And for the above-mentioned reason, I shall Copy of memorandum made on a slip of paper
much prefer that, even to this simple fact, no immediately after Mr. R-'s communication.*
allusion should be made in any publication. “Monday, Feb. 7, 1853.
What I stated verbally to you, and to Mr. W“Mr. R- gave me the address opposite ”
(his particular friend), was meant for a confi. (side of the paper, in pencil,)“ and said : The
dential communication, and principally for the Duke testified yesterday to Mr. R— at his ta
reason for retracting my previous unbelief. ble at dinner, 'that the rumor was current'
which I considered too rasbly and too strongly (interlined) Chateaubriard has said to him (the
expressed. Duke) that the Dauphin was taken to America,
“I cannot omit, however, to rectify a misapand was now alive there.' When the Duke saw
prehension which seems to have been created E. Willians in Grace Church, Brooklyn, yes
by that confidential communication, viz., that
the Duke had heard from the late Mr. Chateauterday, he said to Mr. R— (sitting in his pew), that Williams was a Bourbon, no doubt, it
briand himself that the Dauphin had been sent family features are evidence. The Duke has
to this country, &c. This, as far as I know, seen Louis XVIII. and Charles X., &c.
was not the case. In short, the Duke spoke “Mr. Edward H. Holbrook, of Boston, was
more of reports and rumors, than of facts.
“With great respect and esteem, present in my study, and heard Mr. R— say the above, &c. F. V."
Yours, R-." · The address on the opposite side of
On further consultation I learned that the paper, given in pencil, is,
the contemporaneous publication of this
testimony (such as it is) “would very “ His Royal Ilighness Prince Paul William, much compromise the Duke on his reDuke of Wurtemberg, Gen. Count Heidenheim,
turn to Europe among the Legitimist cousin to Emperor Nicholas."
circles of royalty." I reported to Mr. At this time there was no pledge of
Hanson that the information with which secrecy, as to this important communi- I had thought to furnish him could not cation; nor the apprehension of any
properly be included in his new article. barm to result from its contemporaneous
But, forasmuch as I had revealed the publication. Accordingly, I took an
particulars of the Duke's impulsive tesearly opportunity to acquaint Mr. Han
timony, and my informant was reluctant son with the general scope of it, and
to stand by me (for very good present referred him to Mr. R
reasons), I thought it just that at least ticulars, to be printed in his forthcom
the substance of what he had said should ing second article in Putnam's Monthly.
be confirmed by my informant, in urit. To my surprise, Mr. Hanson informed
ing; both for my own satisfaction and me that Mr. R- declined to confirm
justification and for the truth of his.
tory, whenever the time should come to I have carefully compared this with the original publish it. memorandum, and it agrees exactly, except in one thing, the full name of Mr. R.-G. P. P.
My informant conceded the justice of
for the par
this dunand with characteristic cour- “R- declines to permit the statement tesy, only requiring that the document
above to be printed, while the parties concerned should not be used publicly, nor printed luctance of His Royal Highness, and on the con
are living, on the sufficient ground of the rewhile the parties concerned are living sideration that much of it was made in the but kept among my private documents, freedom and confidence of his domestic fireside. as among my curiosities of history. But as the statement is valuable and worth The following is an exact copy of the preserving, I have submitted it to Mr. R
for his confirmation, to be kept by me among memorandum :
my curiosities of history. (Copy.)
“ F. V. " Memorandum for Preservation.
“Brooklyn, March 5, 1853." “In Putnam's Vonthly Review for February, Mr. R-'s Confirmation is as follows. 1853, is an article by the Rev. J. H. Hanson,
Street, Brooklyn, entitled, “Is there a Bourbon amongst us?' in which the writer attempts to identify the
“ March 5, 1853.
"At the Rev. Dr. V-'s request, I here- ' Rev. Eleazer Williams, Deacon in the Prot.
with confirm the preceding statement, on the Epis. Church, with the phip, Louis XVII. “ This article is causing much speculation,
first two pages of this sheet (of which this is and has created no little interest among intel
the third), as substantially correct. The Duke
of Wurtemberg was in the pew, No. 100, when ligent people, both here and in Europe. Mr. Hanson is to continue the inquiry in Putnam
he saw the Rev. E. Williams in the chancel, of April.
at the distance of about sixty feet. “On the first Sunday in February (Feb. 6,
“I cannot forbear, however, to add, that the 1833), the Rev. E. Williams assisted me in the
Duke, being of rather an impulsive and sanguine Holy Communion. His Royal Highness, Prince
temper, may have used, in the conversation Paul William, Duke of Wurtemberg, cousin to
alluded to, much stronger language than he the present king of Wurtemberg and to this writing: for it is obvious that, under the cir
would have been willing to subscribe to in was ipterlined by Mr. R.] Czar Nicholas (now travelling in this country under the title of Gen.
cumstances, the conclusion of the Rev. E. WilCount Heidenheim), chanced to be in Grace
liams being no doubt the Dauphin, or even a Church, Brooklyn Heights, that morning, in
Bourbon, would have been extremely rash.
(Signed,) the pew of his friend R-, Esq. my parish
"R" ioner, who, on the following day, informed me
“P. S.--It is distinctly understood that no of the following particulars : On seeing Rev.
other use is to be made of this paper, than that Mr. Williams, His Royal Ilighvess said to bis
it is to be kept by Dr. V- among his private friend with emphasis, 'It is so-that's a Bour
documents; as only on that condition I was inbon, no doubt.' And afterwards, in conversa
duced to confirm, in writing, statements that tion, at the house of Mr. R--, the Duke
were made under the injunction, if not of strict added, that Mr. Williams' resemblance to and privacy, but certainly of avoiding a general general appearance with Charles X. is more publicity.
A-R-"* striking than his likeness to Louis XVIII., wbo was less like Louis XVI.
I have preserved this documentary “ His Royal Highness had been acquainted evidence for fifteen years, as a curiosiwith both Sovereigos. Furthermore, His Roy- ty of history.” But the time is come to al Highness on the same occasion stated that publish it. In that short period of time in the legitimist circles in France, be bad heard
Mr. Williams has died, the Duke of it currently reported, that the Dauphin, Louis XVII., had been taken to America, and might Wurtemberg is abolished, and public
Wurtemberg has died, the kingdom of be now alive there, and that Mr. Chateaubriand was conversant with the fact” (here follows a faith in legitimate kings is dead and clause interpolated by Mr. R-in his own hand- buried. And, even while I am writing writing] and taking all in all, he himself this article (intended, originally, for the had no doubt, that the Rev. E. Williams was the Dauphin.
Long Island Historical Society), the “Mr. Hanson, having heard the rumor of this July number of Putnam': (revived) Magcircumstantial evidence, has requested me by azine contains a paper of Mr. Williams' letter to communicate the above statement to literary executor, entitled, “ The Last him for publication in the April pumber of of the Bourbon Story;" while the editPutnam's Monthly, now in press. “But as Mr. R— had informed me that His
* I have carefully verified the above by the origiRoyal Highness earnestly deprecated being in
nal paper, in the handwriting of Dr. Vinton and of print on this subject, I could not gratify Mr. Mr. R-. The only difference is the omission, in Uarson without conferring with Mr. R-, the copy, of the full name of Mr. R-.-G. P.P.