In the winter of 1711, neither France nor Louis XIV was faring very well. Frost was destroying the crops, it was so cold that people were dying in the streets, the Spanish War of Succession had been dragging on for over ten years, there was no more money, no more troupes, no more resources, no more hope. France’s enemies had been unrelenting and Louis XIV, in the frigid splendour of Versailles where wine froze in the carafes, wondered which saint would heed his prayers.
Unbeknownst to him, strange things were transpiring in London. The chief of the coalition against France, the most ruthless enemy of Louis XIV was none other than John Churchill, duke of Marlborough. He wanted nothing less than the annihilation of France. He had wed Sarah Jennings, a truculent beauty and an extraordinary shrew.
The sovereign, Queen Anne, had in some ways fallen for her. She had both Sapphic and masochist tendencies. Sarah Jennings, who had quite understood the queen, treated her consequently, that is to say rather badly.
These ladies exchanged heavy correspondences in which they signed under masculine assumed names. However, Sarah would go overboard at times, and despite her masochism, Queen Anne was beginning to suffer and to somewhat contest Sarah’s treatments.
Sarah, to be even more certain of her power, had placed one of her nieces, Abigail, at the service of the Queen, giving her the position of glorified chamber maid and, more importantly, instructing her to spy Queen Anne’s every action so that the later would not escape her hold.
Little by little, without Sarah noticing, Abigail had earned the trust, the affection and maybe a little bit of the love of Queen Anne. The Queen would cry on Abigail’s bosom and recount all the woes Sarah caused her. Abigail understood, comforted, supported, and warmed the queen’s heart. For Sarah did not know that Abigail belonged to the peace fraction, relentless against Marlborough and Sarah.
Sarah came to overstep all bounds. She had ordered the Queen to wear a dress of her liking to some ceremony. Queen Anne had chosen another dress and, in the carriage, Sarah had slapped the Queen. It was too much. This time Anne did not go cry on Abigail’s shoulder, but, supported by her loyal woman of the bedchamber, she disgraced Sarah and forbade her to appear in her presence, stripping her of all her functions. Abigail instantly took her aunt’s place as the favourite. With her, the Peace fraction came into power and immediately deposed Marlborough.
All this transpired in the palace’s hallway but someone, outside of the palace, learned of it. It was a French Abbey, defector of the embassy–long since gone–and who had remained in London as a sleeper agent. He heard about what was happening, saddled his horse, ran to Douvres, rented a boat, made it to Calais and galloped to Versailles. He arrived at two in the morning, knocking urgently on the door of the war minister, Monsieur de Pontchartrain, had him awoken and announced “Take me to the King”.
“You must be dreaming my friend, the King sleeps at this hour.” “He will be forever grateful for what I bring him.” Pontchartrain got dressed and lead the spy-abbey to the king’s apartments. The minister and the spy entered the bedchamber and, at once announced: “Sir, I bring you peace.” Louis XIV jolted up from his pillows; he could not believe his ears. And so the abbey-spy recounted all the events that had come to pass in London. Louis XIV could have kissed him. For indeed, once the Peace fraction had come to power by the good grace of Queen Anne, they immediately began negotiations which would put an end to the Succession War.
France and Louis XIV were saved thanks to a dispute between two Sapphic ladies.