Italian Letters of a Diplomat’s Wife: January-May, 1880; February-April, 1904


E-text prepared by Juliet Sutherland
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team









“A most interesting book of gossip, which, considered from the point of view of the general public, contains not a dull line from the first to the last. The letters have all the freshness of the best class of feminine correspondence.”

London Athenæum.


Illustrated. 8vo. $2.50 Net

Elena, Queen of Italy. Elena, Queen of Italy.


January-May, 1880
February-April, 1904






NEW YORK :: :: :: :: :: :: 1905

Copyright, 1905, by

Published, March, 1905



In December, 1879, M. William Henry Waddington resigned the Premiership of France, and the following month, accompanied by his wife, left Paris for a winter of rest and recreation in Italy, chiefly in Rome. The letters from Madame Waddington to her mother and sister, which constitute “Part I” of this volume, describe this journey and residence. Those forming “Part II” relate the incidents of a similar Roman sojourn some twenty years later, M. Waddington having died in the meantime. The two series together compose a picture of life and society in the Italian capital with a wide range of contrast and comparison, corresponding with those of London and Moscow in the well-known “Letters of a Diplomat’s Wife” by the same writer.


Elena, Queen of ItalyFrontispiece
Mrs. Charles King12
President Charles King of Columbia College, New York City30
The Spanish Steps52
     In the Piazza di Spagna, Rome.
Pope Leo XIII.60
King Humbert of Italy66
Queen Margherita of Italy76
Queen Margherita and King Humbert84
Queen Margherita and the Prince of Naples (Present King of Italy) in 188094
Victoria, Crown Princess of Germany104
Gardens of the Villa Torlonis, Formerly Villa Conti, Frascati, Opposite the Villa Marconi, Where we Spent the Summer of 1867108
Tomb of Viniciano, Between Frascati and Tusculum112
Grounds of the Villa Doria-Pamphili, Rome116
     From an unpublished photograph taken about 1869.
Pope Pius IX.145
Last Benediction of Pope Pius IX. from the
Balcony of St. Peter’s158
St. Peter’s from the Pincio172
The Barberini Palace238
     The residence of the Storys
Victor Emanuel III., King of Italy244
Pope Pius X.250
Great New Bridge from Albano to Ariccia264
     Built by Pope Pius IX.
Roman Huntsmen on the Campagna266
     Ancient Roman aqueduct in the background
Waiting for the Hounds268
Cardinal Antonelli288
     From a portrait painted for the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar. From a photograph given to Madame Waddington by the Hereditary Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar at Rome.
The Dining-room in the Brancaccio Palace304




To G. K. S.[1]

31, rue Dumont d’Urville, Paris,
January 10, 1880.

Well, dear, here I am back again in my little hotel, and very small and uncomfortable it looks—like a doll’s house after the enormous rooms of the Quai d’Orsay—however I am very glad to be a private individual once more (no longer a “femme publique” as our friend used to say). Our departure was hurried, as once W.[2] had made up his mind and resigned he wanted to get away at once. We got off in two days, which I thought quite wonderful. Of course ever since the opening of the session in November it was evident that he couldn’t stay. He and his Ministers were hardly ever agreed on any point, and it wasn’t worth while for him to spend his energy and intelligence in trying to carry out a policy which neither the Chamber nor the country apparently desired. There were endless conferences all through December, but it was clear that it was time for him to go.

The weather was something awful—bitterly cold—the Seine frozen tight, booths and games established, and everybody sliding about and trying to skate—but that was under difficulties as the ice was rough and uneven. I walked over with Francis,[3] that he might say he had walked across the Seine. We had great difficulty in warming the house—many trains with wood and coal were blocked just outside Paris, and nothing could get in. I don’t know what we should have done, but happily the Ministre de la Guerre gave us an order to take some wood from some dépôt in Paris where they had a provision; so for the two days before we moved in great fires were going in the calorifère. I really think the only person who hated to leave the Quai d’Orsay was Francis. He was furious at seeing all his things packed up, and was carried out to the carriage kicking and screaming—”veux pas quitter ma maison—veux pas aller vilaine petite maison.” The huissiers (6, all standing solemnly in a row to say good-bye) were much impressed, and the old grey-headed Pierson who has been there for years and seen many Ministers depart, remarked—”au moins Monsieur Francis est désolé de partir.” It seemed funny to drive out of the big gates for the last time. I wonder if I shall ever go through them again. Things go so quickly in France now.

You can’t conceive anything more uncomfortable than this house to-day—no carpets down nor curtains up; all the furniture, books, rugs, dumped in the middle of the rooms, and the hall and corridors full of trunks and boxes. W. has had a steady stream of people ever since we arrived—some to condole—some (old friends) to congratulate him upon no longer serving such an infecte government—some a little embarrassed to explain that, though they regret him extremely, still … they must serve their country, and hope he won’t take it amiss if they make up to the rising sun (in the shape of Freycinet, who has taken W.’s place). I expect we shall have some curious experiences. When one is no longer in power it is surprising how things change their aspect. I had to settle the salons as soon as I could as I had invited a big party for Francis’s Christmas Tree, thinking it would be at the Quai d’Orsay. I didn’t want to put the people off—particularly the diplomatists who have all been most civil and proper—so after a consultation with Kruft—(chef du matériel at the Quai d’Orsay) who had already begun to make his preparations, I decided to have it here, and Kruft and one of his men came and helped dress it. Of course the tree had to be cut at the top—our rooms are fairly high, but nothing like the Quai d’Orsay naturally—but it looked rather prettier, quite covered with toys and shiny ornaments. Francis had beautiful presents—a hand-organ with a monkey on top from Madame Sibbern, the wife of the Swedish Minister, from which he can’t be extracted. He can’t turn it alone, but some of the bigger children helped him, and we had the “Cloches de Corneville” and “Niniche” almost all the afternoon. There were about 100 people, children and parents, and the rooms looked pretty. All the people and lights warmed them too—it wasn’t quite so Siberian. We couldn’t attempt cooking of any kind as the kitchen range was out of order, and besides we hadn’t fuel enough—l’Oncle Alphonse[4] who lives next door feeds us. W. and I go to him for breakfast and dinner, and his chef (a very distinguished artist and well dressed gentleman—quite a superior person—Monsieur Double) submits Francis’s menu every morning to Nounou, as he says he has no experience with children.

We have decided to go to Italy for two or three months, and shall make Rome our headquarters. W. has never been there, and says it wouldn’t be worth while going for less than three months. What fun it will be to be there together—I can hardly believe it is true. I am sure we are wise to get away. There must always be little jarring things when one has been in office some time—and it would be rather a bore to W. to take his place as senator and be in opposition to the present Ministry. If he stayed in Paris he would have to take part in all the discussions, and would certainly be interviewed by all sorts of people to whom he would say nothing (he never does—he hates newspaper people) but they would say he did all the same, and so many people believe implicitly whatever they see in a paper. The Minister has offered W. the London Embassy, but he won’t take it, doesn’t wish to have any function of any kind at present. He is looking forward to long, happy hours in Rome, deciphering all the old inscriptions, and going over the old city with Lanciani[5] and some of his literary friends.

January 12, 1880.

After all I have been back to the Quai d’Orsay. W. said I must go and make a formal visit to Madame de Freycinet (who is a very nice woman—a Protestant, and has one daughter—a charming intelligent girl). Henrietta and I went together, taking Francis with us, who was delighted as soon as he got to the Place de la Concorde and crossed the bridge—”C’est Paris—C’est Paris.” Poor little boy—the rue Dumont d’Urville is so quiet, nothing passing and nothing to see when he looks out of the window. He was always at the window at the Quai d’Orsay looking at the boats, the soldiers, and the general liveliness of a great thoroughfare. It was a funny sensation to go and pay a visit to Madame de Freycinet in the little blue salon where I had received her so often, and to be announced by my own pet huissier, Gérard, who spent his life all the time I was at the Quai d’Orsay sitting outside the door of any room I happened to be in. He knew all my visitors—those I wanted to see and those I didn’t—kept all the cards, and books, and remembered every quête I had given to—and the bills that had been paid. I don’t remember that he ever occupied himself with my garments, but I am sure that he could have found anything that I asked for.

The house is gradually getting warm and comfortable, and the furniture settling into its place; but I have a curious feeling of smallness—as if I hadn’t room to turn. We hope to get off in three or four days. We leave Francis of course, but Nounou and Hubert will look after him, and he will go to breakfast every day with Mother, where of course he will be well spoiled and have everything he asks for.

To G. K. S.

January 18, 1880.

I hope we shall get off now in a day or two—W. really needs the rest, which he never will get here as all day long people come to see him and suggest various plans. We have written to the Hôtel de Londres. You or Eugene might go there some day and see the rooms they propose. It will be nice to be back in our old quarters Piazza di Spagna. We had a pleasant small dinner last night at the British Embassy—Lord Lyons is always so nice and cordial. He was a little surprised and not quite pleased that W. hadn’t accepted the London Embassy, he would have been so entirely a “persona grata” with his English education, connections, etc. All the Diplomates seem to regret us (but I think they will like the Freycinets just as much) and really here, where Ministers are such passing figures in the political world, they would have a hard time if they set their affections on any particular man.

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