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The Ancient Regime The Origins of Contemporary France, Volume 1 by Hippolyte A. Taine

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age to twenty-three years. But to compensate favoritism and absolutism
he assigned to the pure grace of the king, or rather to that of his
ministers, the appointment to the grades of lieutenant-colonel and
major which, until that time, belonged of right to priority of
services in the government; also the commands of provinces and of
towns. You are aware that these places have been largely multiplied,
and that they are bestowed through favor and credit, like the
regiments. The cordon bleu and the cordon rouge are in the like
position, and abbeys are still more constantly subject to the régime
of influence. As to positions in the finances, I dare not allude to
them. Appointments in the judiciary are the most conditioned by
services rendered; and yet how much do not influence and
recommendation affect the nomination of intendants, first presidents"
and the others?

Necker, entering on his duties, finds twenty-eight millions in
pensions paid from the royal treasury, and, at his fall, there is an
outflow of money showered by millions on the people of the court. Even
during his term of office the king allows himself to make the fortunes
of his wife's friends of both sexes; the Countess de Polignac obtains
400,000 francs to pay her debts, 100,000 francs dowry for her
daughter, and, besides, for herself, the promise of an estate of
35,000 livres income, and, for her lover, the Count de Vaudreil, a
pension of 30,000 livres; the Princess de Lamballe obtains 100,000
crowns per annum, as much for the post of superintendent of the
queen's household, which is revived on her behalf, as for a position
for her brother.[43] The king is reproached for his parsimony; why
should he be sparing of his purse? Started on a course not his own, he
gives, buys, builds, and exchanges; he assists those belonging to his
own society, doing everything in a style becoming to a grand seignior,
that is to say, throwing money away by handfuls.One instance enables
us to judge of this: in order to assist the bankrupt Guéménée family,
he purchases of them three estates for about 12,500,000 livres, which
they had just purchased for 4,000,000; moreover, in exchange for two
domains in Brittany, which produce 33,758 livres income, he makes over
to them the principality of Dombes which produces nearly 70,000 livres
income.[44] - When we come to read the Red Book further on we shall
find 700,000 livres of pensions for the Polignac family, most of them
revertible from one member to another, and nearly 2,000,000 of annual
benefits to the Noailles family. - The king has forgotten that his
favors are mortal blows, "the courtier who obtains 6,000 livres
pension, receiving the taille of six villages."[45] Each largess of
the monarch, considering the state of the taxes, is based on the
privation of the peasants, the sovereign, through his clerks, taking
bread from the poor to give coaches to the rich. - The center of the
government, in short, is the center of the evil; all the wrongs and
all the miseries start from it as from the center of pain and
inflammation; here it is that the public abscess comes to the head,
and here will it break.[46]

VI. Latent Disorganization in France.

Such is the just and fatal effect of privileges turned to selfish
purposes instead of being exercised for the advantage of others. To
him who utters the word, "Sire or Seignior" stands for the protector
who feeds, the ancient who leads."[47] With such a title and for this
purpose too much cannot be granted to him, for there is no more
difficult or more exalted post. But he must fulfill its duties;
otherwise in the day of peril he will be left to himself. Already, and
long before the day arrives, his flock is no longer his own; if it
marches onward it is through routine; it is simply a multitude of
persons, but no longer an organized body. Whilst in Germany and in
England the feudal régime, retained or transformed, still composes a
living society, in France[48] its mechanical framework encloses only
so many human particles. We still find the material order, but we no
longer find the moral order of things. A lingering, deep-seated
revolution has destroyed the close hierarchical union of recognized
supremacies and of voluntary deference. It is like an army in which
the attitudes of chiefs and subordinates have disappeared; grades are
indicated by uniforms only, but they have no hold on consciences. All
that constitutes a well-founded army, the legitimate ascendancy of
officers, the justified trust of soldiers, the daily interchange of
mutual obligations, the conviction of each being useful to all, and
that the chiefs are the most useful all, is missing. How could it be
otherwise in an army whose staff-officers have no other occupation but
to dine out, to display their epaulettes and to receive double pay?
Long before the final crash France is in a state of dissolution, and
she is in a state of dissolution because the privileged classes had
forgotten their characters as public men.


[1]. "Rapport de l'agence du clergé," from 1775 to 1780, pp. 31-
34. - Ibid. from 1780 to 1785, p. 237.

[2]. Lanfrey, "L'Eglise et les philosophes," passim.

[3]. Boiteau, "Etat de la France en 1789," pp. 205, 207. -
D'Argenson "Mémoires," May 5, 1752, September 3, 22, 25, 1753;
October 17, 1753, and October 26, 1775. - Prudhomme, "Résumé général
des cahiers des Etats-Généraux," 1789, (Registers of the Clergy).--
"Histoire des églises du désert," par Charles Coquerel, I. 151 and
those following.

[4]. De Ségur, "Mémoires," vol. I. pp. 16, 41. - De Bouillé,
"Mémoires," p. 54. - Mme. Campan, "Mémoires," V. I. p. 237, proofs in

[5]. Somewhat like the socialist societies including the welfare
states where a caste of public pensionaries, functionaries, civil
servants and politicians weigh like a heavy burden on those who
actually do the work.. (SR.)

[6]. An antechamber in the palace of Versailles in which there was
a round or bull's-eye window, where courtiers assembled to await the
opening of the door into the king's apartment. - TR.

[7]. "La France ecclésiastique," 1788.

[8]. Grannier de Cassagnac, "Des causes de la Rèvolution
Française," III. 58.

[9]. Marmontel, "Mémoires," . II. book XIII. p. 221.

[10]. Boiteau, "Etat de la France en 1789," pp. 55, 248. -
D'Argenson, "Considérations sur le gouvermement de la France," p. 177.
De Luynes, "Journal," XIII. 226, XIV. 287, XIII. 33, 158, 162, 118,
233, 237, XV. 268, XVI. 304. - The government of Ham is worth 11,250
livres, that of Auxerre 12,000, that of Briançon 12,000, that of the
islands of Ste. Marguerite 16,000 , that of Schelestadt 15,000, that
of Brisach from 15 to 16,000 , that of Gravelines 18,000. - The
ordinance of 1776 had reduced these various places as follows:
(Warroquier, II, 467). 18 general governments to 60,000 livres, 21 to
30,000; 114 special governments; 25 to 12,000 livres, 25 to 10,000 and
64 to 8,000; 176 lieutenants and commandants of towns, places, etc.,
of which 35 were reduced to 16,600 and 141 from 2,000 to 6,000. - The
ordinance of 1788 established, besides these, 17 commands in chief
with from 20,000 to 30,000 livres fixed salary and from 4,000 to 6,000
a month for residence, and commands of a secondary grade.

[11]. Somewhat like a minister of culture in one of our western
Welfare Social democracies, and which secures the support for the
ruling class of a horde of "artists" of all sorts. (SR.)

[12]. Archives nationales, H, 944, April 25, and September 20,
1780. Letters and Memoirs of Furgole, advocate at Toulouse.

[13]. Archives nationales, O1, 738 (Reports made to the bureau-
general of the king's household, March, 1780, by M. Mesnard de
Chousy). Augeard, "Mémoires," 97. - Mme. Campan, "Mémoires," I. 291. -
D'Argenson, "Mémoires," February 10, December 9, 1751, - "Essai sur
les capitaineries royales et autres" (1789), p. 80. - Warroquier,
"Etat de la France en 1789," I. 266.

[14]. "Marie Antoinette," by D'Arneth and Geffroy, II. 377.

[15]. 1 crown (écu) equals 6 livres under Louis XV. (SR.)

[16]. Mme. Campan, "Mémoires," I. 296, 298, 300, 301; III. 78. -
Hippeau, "Le Gouvernement de Normandie," IV. 171 (Letter from Paris,
December 13, 1780). - D'Argenson, "Mémoires," September 5, 1755. -
Bachaumont, January 19, 1758. - "Mémoire sur l'imposition
territoriale," by M. de Calonne (1787), p. 54.

[17]. D'Argenson, "Mémoires," December 9, 1751. "The expense to
courtiers of two new and magnificent coats, each for two fête days,
ordered by the king, completely ruins them."

[18]. De Luynes, "Journal," XIV. pp. 147-295, XV. 36, 119. -
D'Argenson, "Mémoires," April 8, 1752, March 30 and July 28, 1753,
July 2, 1735, June 23, 1756. - Hippeau, ibid.. IV. p. 153 (Letter of
May 15, 1780). - Necker, "De l'Administration des Finances," II. pp.
265, 269, 270, 271, 228. - Augeard, "Mémoires," p 249.

[19]. Nicolardot, "Journal de Louis XVI.," p. 228. Appropriations
in the Red Book of 1774 to 1789: 227,985,716 livres, of which
80,000,000 are in acquisitions and gifts to the royal family. - Among
others there are 14,600,000 to the Comte d'Artois and 14,450,000 to
Monsieur. - 7,726,253 are given to the Queen for Saint-Cloud. -
8,70,000 for the acquisition of Ile-Adam.

[20]. Cf . "Compte général des revenus et dépenses fixes au 1er
Mai, 1789" (Imprimerie royale, 1789, in 4to). Estate of Ile-Dieu,
acquired in 1783 of the Duc de Mortemart, 1,000,000; estate of
Viviers, acquired of the Prince de Soubise in 1784, 1,500,000. -
Estates of St. Priest and of St. Etienne, acquired in 1787 of M.
Gilbert des Voisins, 1,335,935. - The forests of Camors and of
Floranges, acquired of the Duc de Liancourt in 1785, 1,200,000. - The
county of Montgommery, acquired of M. Clement de Basville in 1785,

[21]. "Le President des Brosses," by Foisset. (Remonstrances to the
king by the Parliament of Dijon, Jan. 19, 1764).

[22]. Lucas de Montigny, "Mémoires de Mirabeau." Letter of the
bailiff, May 26, 1781. - D'Argenson, "Mémoires," VI. 156, 157, 160,
76; VI. p. 320. - Marshal Marmont, "Mémoires," I. 9. - De Ferrières,
"Mémoires," preface. See, on the difficulty in succeeding, the Memoirs
of Dumourier. Châteaubriand's father is likewise one of the
discontented, "a political frondeur, and very inimical to the court."
(I. 206). - Records of the States-General of 1789, a general summary
by Prud'homme, II. passim.

[23]. "Ephémérides du citoyen," II. 202, 203. - Voltaire,
"Dictionnaire philosophique," article "Curé de Campagne." - Abbé
Guettée, "Histoire de l'Eglise de France," XII. 130.

[24]. Those entitled to tithes in cereals.- TR.

[25]. A curate's salary at the present day (1875) is, at the
minimum, 900 francs with a house and perquisites.

[26]. Théron de Montaugé, "L'Agriculture les classes rurale, dans
le pays Toulousain," p. 86.

[27]. Périn, "la Jeunesse de Robespierre," grievances of the rural
parishes of Artois, p. 320.-- Boivin-Champeaux, ibid.. pp. 65, 68. -
Hippeau, ibid.. VI. p. 79, et VII. 177. - Letter of M. Sergent, curate
of Vallers, January 27, 1790. (Archives nationales, DXIX. portfolio
24.) Letter of M. Briscard, curate of Beaumont-la-Roger, diocese of
Evreux, December 19, 1789. (ibid.. DXIX. portfolio 6.) "Tableau moral
du clergé de France" (1789), p. 2.

[28]. He who has the right of receiving the first year's income of
a parish church after a vacancy caused by death.- TR.

[29]. One who performs masses for the dead at fixed epochs.- TR.

[30]. Grievances on the additional burdens which the Third-Estate
have to support, by Gautier de Bianzat (1788), p 237.

[31]. Hippeau, ibid. VI. 164. (Letter of the Curate of Marolles and
of thirteen others,. Letter of the bishop of Evreux, March 20, 1789.
Letter of the abbé d'Osmond, April 2, 1789). - Archives nationales,
manuscript documents (proces-verbeaux) of the States-General, V. 148.
pp. 245-47. Registers of the curates of Toulouse, t. 150, p. 282, in
the representations of the Dijon chapter.

[32]. De Toqueville, book II. This capital truth as been
established by M. de Tocqueville with superior discernment.

[33]. A term indicating a certain division of the kingdom of France
to facilitate the collection of taxes. Each generalship was subdivided
into elections, in which there was a tribunal called the bureau of
finances. (TR.)

[34]. Remonstrances of Malesherbes; Registers by Turgot and Necker
to the king, (Laboulaye, "De l'administration française sous Louis
XVI, Revue des cours littéraires, IV. 423, 759, 814.)

[35]. Financiers have been known to tell citizens: "The ferme (
revenue-agency) ought to be able to grant you favors, you ought to be
forced to come and ask for them. - He who pays never knows what he
owes. The fermier is sovereign legislator in matters relating to his
personal interest. Every petition, in which the interests of a
province, or those of the whole nation are concerned, is regarded as
penal foolhardiness if it is signed by a person in his private
capacity, and as illicit association if it be signed by several."
Malesherbes, ibid..

[36]. Mme. Campan, "Mémoires," I. p. 13. - Mme. du Hausset,
"Mémoires," p. 114.

[37]. "Gustave III. et la cour de France," by Geffroy. II. 474.
("Archives de Dresde," French Correspondence, November 20, 1788.)

[38]. Augeard, "Mémoires," p. 135.

[39]. Mme. de Pompadour, writing to Marshal d'Estrées, in the army,
about the campaign operations, and tracing for him a sort of plan, had
marked on the paper with mouches (face-patches), the different places
which she advised him to attack or defend." Mme. de Genlis, "Souvenirs
de Félicie," p. 329. Narrative by Mme. de Puisieux, the mother-in-law
of Marshal d'Estrées.

[40]. According to the manuscript register of Mme. de Pompadour's
expenses, in the archives of the préfecture of Versailles, she had
expended 36,327,268 livres. (Granier de Cassagnac, I. 91.)

[41]. D'Argenson, "Mémoires," VI. 398 (April 24, 1751). - "M. du
Barry declared openly that he had consumed 18,000,000 belonging to the
State." (Correspondence by Métra, I. 27).

[42]. "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, vol. II. p. 168
(June 5, 1774).

[43]. "Marie Antoinette," ibid.. vol. II. p. 377; vol. III. p. 391.

[44]. Archives nationales, H, 1456, Memoir for M. Bouret de
Vezelay, syndic for the creditors.

[45]. Marquis de Mirabeau, "Traité de la population," p. 81.

[46] Today, our so-called popular democracies have become completely irresponsible since the elected, who have full access to the coffers of the nation, present and future, and who, through alternation and short duration of tenure, are encouraged to become irresponsible, will use large amounts to be favorably exposed in the media and to avoid any kind of mudslinging. They seem to govern their countries according to the devise: "After me the deluge." (SR.)

[47]. Lord, in Old Saxon, signifies "he who provides food;"
seignior, in the Latin of the middle ages, signifies "the ancient,"
the head or chief of the flock.

[48]. Around 1780. (SR.)



The Court and a life of pomp and parade.

A military staff on furlough for a century and more, around a
commander-in-chief who gives fashionable entertainment, is the
principle and summary of the habits of society under the ancient
régime. Hence, if we seek to comprehend them we must first study them
at their center and their source, that is to say, in the court itself.
Like the whole ancient régime the court is the empty form, the
surviving adornment of a military institution, the causes of which
have disappeared while the effects remain, custom surviving utility.
Formerly, in the early times of feudalism, in the companionship and
simplicity of the camp and the castle, the nobles served the king with
their own hands. One providing for his house, another bringing a dish
to his table, another disrobing him at night, and another looking
after his falcons and horses. Still later, under Richelieu and during
the Fronde,[1] amid the sudden attacks and the rude exigencies of
constant danger they constitute the garrison of his lodgings, forming
an armed escort for him, and a retinue of ever-ready swordsmen. Now as
formerly they are equally assiduous around his person, wearing their
swords, awaiting a word, and eager to his bidding, while those of
highest rank seemingly perform domestic service in his household.
Pompous parade, however, has been substituted for efficient service;
they are elegant adornments only and no longer useful tools; they act
along with the king who is himself an actor, their persons serving as
royal decoration.

I. Versailles.

The Physical aspect and the moral character of Versailles.

It must be admitted that the decoration is successful, and, that
since the fêtes of the Italian Renaissance, more magnificent displays
have not been seen. Let us follow the file of carriages which, from
Paris to Versailles, rolls steadily along like a river. Certain horses
called "des enragés," fed in a particular way, go and come in three
hours.[2] One feels, at the first glance, as if he were in a city of a
particular stamp, suddenly erected and at one stroke, like a prize-
medal for a special purpose, of which only one is made, its form being
a thing apart, as well as its origin and use. In vain is it one of the
largest cities of the kingdom, with its population of 80,000 souls;[3]
it is filled, peopled, and occupied by the life of a single man; it is
simply a royal residence, arranged entirely to provide for the wants,
the pleasures, the service, the guardianship, the society, the display
of a king. Here and there, in corners and around it, are inns, stalls,
taverns, hovels for laborers and for drudges, for dilapidated soldiers
and accessory menials. These tenements necessarily exist, since
technicians are essential to the most magnificent apotheosis. The
rest, however, consists of sumptuous hotels and edifices, sculptured
façades, cornices and balustrades, monumental stairways, seigniorial
architecture, regularly spaced and disposed, as in a procession,
around the vast and grandiose palace where all this terminates. Here
are the fixed abodes of the noblest families; to the right of the
palace are the hôtels de Bourbon, d'Ecquervilly, de la Trémoille, de
Condé, de Maurepas, de Bouillon, d'Eu, de Noailles, de Penthièvre, de
Livry, du Comte de la Marche, de Broglie, du Prince de Tingry,
d'Orléans, de Chatillon, de Villerry, d'Harcourt, de Monaco; on the
left are the pavilions d'Orléans, d'Harcourt, the hôtels de Chevreuse,
de Babelle, de l'Hôpital, d'Antin, de Dangeau, de Pontchartrain - no
end to their enumeration. Add to these those of Paris, all those
which, ten leagues around. At Sceaux, at Génevilliers, at Brunoy, at
Ile-Adam, at Rancy, at Saint-Ouen, at Colombes, at Saint-Germain, at
Marly, at Bellevue, in countless places, they form a crown of
architectural flowers, from which daily issue as many gilded wasps to
shine and buzz about Versailles, the center of all luster and
affluence. About a hundred of these are "presented each year, men and
women, which makes about 2 or 3,000 in all;[4] this forms the king's
society, the ladies who courtesy before him, and the seigniors who
accompany him in his carriage; their hotels are near by, or within
reach, ready to fill his drawing room or his antechamber at all hours.

A drawing room like this calls for proportionate dependencies; the
hotels and buildings at Versailles devoted to the private service of
the king and his attendants count by hundreds. No human existence
since that of the Caesars has so spread itself out in the sunshine. In
the Rue des Reservoirs we have the old hotel and the new one of the
governor of Versailles, the hotel of the tutor to the children of the
Comte d'Artois, the ward-robe of the crown, the building for the
dressing-rooms and green-rooms of the actors who perform at the
palace, with the stables belonging to Monsieur. - In the Rue des
Bon-Enfants are the hotel of the keeper of the wardrobe, the lodgings
for the fountain-men, the hotel of the officers of the Comtesse de
Provence. In the Rue de la Pompe, the hotel of the grand-provost, the
Duke of Orleans's stables, the hotel of the Comte d'Artois's
guardsmen, the queen's stables, the pavilion des Sources. - In the
Rue Satory the Comtesse d'Artois's stables, Monsieur's English garden,
the king's ice-houses, the riding-hall of the king's light-horse-
guards, the garden belonging to the hotel of the treasurers of the
buildings. - Judge of other streets by these four. One cannot take a
hundred steps without encountering some accessory of the palace: the
hotel of the staff of the body-guard, the hotel of the staff of light-
horse-guards, the immense hotel of the body-guard itself, the hotel of
the gendarmes of the guard, the hotel of the grand wolf-huntsman, of
the grand falconer, of the grand huntsman, of the grand-master, of the
commandant of the canal, of the comptroller-general, of the
superintendent of the buildings, and of the chancellor; buildings
devoted to falconry, and the vol de cabinet, to boar-hunting, to the
grand kennel, to the dauphin kennel, to the kennel for untrained dogs,
to the court carriages, to shops and storehouses connected with
amusements, to the great stable and the little stables, to other
stables in the Rue de Limoges, in the Rue Royale, and in the Avenue
Saint-Cloud; to the king's vegetable garden, comprising twenty-nine
gardens and four terraces; to the great dwelling occupied by 2,000
persons, with other tenements called "Louises" in which the king
assigned temporary or permanent lodgings, - words on paper render no
physical impression of the physical enormity. - At the present day
nothing remains of this old Versailles, mutilated and appropriated to
other uses, but fragments, which, nevertheless, one should go and see.
Observe those three avenues meeting in the great square. Two hundred
and forty feet broad and twenty-four hundred long, and not too large
for the gathering crowds, the display, the blinding velocity of the
escorts in full speed and of the carriages running "at death's
door."[5] Observe the two stables facing the chateau with their
railings one hundred and ninety-two feet long. In 1682 they cost three
millions, that is to say, fifteen millions to day. They are so ample
and beautiful that, even under Louis XIV himself, they sometimes
served as a cavalcade circus for the princes, sometimes as a theater,
and sometimes as a ball-room. Then let the eye follow the development
of the gigantic semi-circular square which, from railing to railing
and from court to court, ascends and slowly decreases, at first
between the hotels of the ministers and then between the two colossal
wings, terminating in the ostentatious frame of the marble court where
pilasters, statues, pediments, and multiplied and accumulated
ornaments, story above story, carry the majestic regularity of their
lines and the overcharged mass of their decoration up to the sky.
According to a bound manuscript bearing the arms of Mansart, the
palace cost 153 million, that is to say, about 750 million francs of
to day;[6] when a king aims at imposing display this is the cost of
his lodging. Now turn the eye to the other side, towards the gardens,
and this self-display becomes the more impressive. The parterres and
the park are, again, a drawing room in the open air. There is nothing
natural of nature here; she is put in order and rectified wholly with
a view to society; this is no place to be alone and to relax oneself,
but a place for promenades and the exchange of polite salutations.
Those formal groves are walls and hangings; those shaven yews are
vases and lyres. The parterres are flowering carpets. In those
straight, rectilinear avenues the king, with his cane in his hand,
groups around him his entire retinue. Sixty ladies in brocade dresses,
expanding into skirts measuring twenty-four feet in circumference,
easily find room on the steps of the staircases.[7] Those verdant
cabinets afford shade for a princely collation. Under that circular
portico, all the seigniors enjoying the privilege of entering it
witness together the play of a new jet d'eau. Their counterparts greet
them even in the marble and bronze figures which people the paths and
basins, in the dignified face of an Apollo, in the theatrical air of a
Jupiter, in the worldly ease or studied nonchalance of a Diana or a
Venus. The stamp of the court, deepened through the joint efforts of
society for a century, is so strong that it is graven on each detail
as on the whole, and on material objects as on matters of the

II. The King's Household.

Its officials and expenses. - His military family, his stable,
kennel, chapel, attendants, table, chamber, wardrobe, outhouses,
furniture, journeys.

The foregoing is but the framework; before 1789 it was completely
filled up. "You have seen nothing," says Châteaubriand, "if you have
not seen the pomp of Versailles, even after the disbanding of the
king's household; Louis XIV was always there."[8] It is a swarm of
liveries, uniforms, costumes and equipages as brilliant and as varied
as in a picture. I should be glad to have lived eight days in this
society. It was made expressly to be painted, being specially designed
for the pleasure of the eye, like an operatic scene. But how can we of
to day imagine people for whom life was wholly operatic? At that time
a grandee was obliged to live in great state; his retinue and his
trappings formed a part of his personality; he fails in doing himself
justice if these are not as ample and as splendid as he can make them;
he would be as much mortified at any blank in his household as we with
a hole in our coats. Should he make any curtailment he would decline
in reputation; on Louis XVI undertaking reforms the court says that he
acts like a bourgeois. When a prince or princess becomes of age a
household is formed for them; when a prince marries, a household is
formed for his wife; and by a household it must be understood that it
is a pompous display of fifteen or twenty distinct services: stables,
a hunting-train, a chapel, a surgery, the bedchamber and the wardrobe,
a chamber for accounts, a table, pantry, kitchen, and wine-cellars, a
fruitery, a fourrière, a common kitchen, a cabinet, a council;[9] she
would feel that she was not a princess without all this. There are 274
appointments in the household of the Duc d'Orléans, 210 in that of
Mesdames, 68 in that of Madame Elisabeth, 239 in that of the Comtesse
d'Artois, 256 in that of the Comtesse de Provence, and 496 in that of
the Queen. When the formation of a household for Madame Royale, one
month old, is necessary, "the queen," writes the Austrian ambassador,
"desires to suppress a baneful indolence, a useless affluence of
attendants, and every practice tending to give birth to sentiments of
pride. In spite of the said retrenchment the household of the young
princess is to consist of nearly eighty persons destined to the sole
service of her Royal Highness."[10] The civil household of Monsieur
comprises 420 appointments, his military household, 179; that of the
Comte d'Artois 237 and his civil household 456. - Three-fourths of
them are for display; with their embroideries and laces, their
unembarrassed and polite expression, their attentive and discreet air,
their easy way of saluting, walking and smiling, they appear well in
an antechamber, placed in lines, or scattered in groups in a gallery;
I should have liked to contemplate even the stable and kitchen array,
the figures filling up the background of the picture. By these stars
of inferior magnitude we may judge of the splendor of the royal sun.

The king must have guards, infantry, cavalry, body-guards, French
guardsmen, Swiss guardsmen, Cent Suisses, light-horse guards,
gendarmes of the guard, gate-guardsmen, in all, 9,050 men,[11] costing
annually 7,681,000 livres. Four companies of the French guard, and two
of the Swiss guard, parade every day in the court of the ministers
between the two railings, and when the king issues in his carriage to
go to Paris or Fontainebleau the spectacle is magnificent. Four
trumpeters in front and four behind, the Swiss guards on one side and
the French guards on the other, form a line as far as it can
reach.[12] The Cent Suisses march ahead of the horsemen in the costume
of the sixteenth century, wearing the halberd, ruff, plumed hat, and
the ample parti-colored striped doublet; alongside of these are the
provost-guard with scarlet facings and gold frogs, and companies of
yeomanry bristling with gold and silver. The officers of the various
corps, the trumpeters and the musicians, covered with gold and silver
lace, are dazzling to look at; the kettledrum suspended at the saddle-
bow, overcharged with painted and gilded ornaments, is a curiosity for
a glass case; the Negro cymbal-player of the French guards resembles
the sultan of a fairy-tale. Behind the carriage and alongside of it
trot the body-guards, with sword and carbine, wearing red breeches,
high black boots, and a blue coat sewn with white embroidery, all of
them unquestionable gentlemen; there were twelve hundred of these
selected among the nobles and according to size; among them are the
guards de la manche, still more intimate, who at church and on
ceremonial occasions, in white doublets starred with silver and gold
spangles, holding their damascene partisans in their hands, always
remain standing and turned towards the king "so as to see his person
from all sides." Thus is his protection ensured. Being a gentleman the
king is a cavalier, and he must have a suitable stable,[13] 1,857
horses, 217 vehicles, 1,458 men whom he clothes, the liveries costing
540,000 francs a year; besides these there were 20 tutors and sub-
tutors, almoners, professors, cooks, and valets to govern, educate and
serve the pages; and again about thirty physicians, apothecaries,
nurses for the sick, intendants, treasurers, workmen, and licensed and
paid merchants for the accessories of the service; in all more than
1,500 men. Horses to the amount of 250,000 francs are purchased
yearly, and there are stock-stables in Limousin and in Normandy to
draw on for supplies. 287 horses are exercised daily in the two
riding-halls; there are 443 saddle-horses in the small stable, 437 in
the large one, and these are not sufficient for the "vivacity of the
service." The whole cost 4,600,000 livres in 1775, which sum reaches
6,200,000 livres in 1787.[14] Still another spectacle should be seen
with one's own eyes, - the pages,[15] the grooms, the laced pupils,
the silver-button pupils, the boys of the little livery in silk, the
instrumentalists and the mounted messengers of the stable. The use of
the horse is a feudal art; no luxury is more natural to a man of
quality. Think of the stables at Chantilly, which are palaces. To
convey an idea of a well-educated and genteel man he was then called
an accomplished cavalier;" in fact his importance was fully manifest
only when he was in the saddle, on a blood-horse like himself. -
Another genteel taste, an effect of the preceding, is the chase. It
costs the king from 1,100,000 to 1,200,000 livres a year, and requires
280 horses besides those of the two stables. A more varied or more
complete equipment could not be imagined: a pack of hounds for the
boar, another for the wolf another for the roe-buck, a cast (of hawks)
for the crow, a cast for the magpie, a cast for merlins, a cast for
hares, a cast for the fields. In 1783, 179,194 livres are expended for
feeding horses, and 53,412 livres for feeding dogs.[16] The entire
territory, ten leagues around Paris, is a game-preserve; "not a gun
could be fired there;[17] accordingly the plains are seen covered with
partridges accustomed to man, quietly picking up the grain and never
stirring as he passes." Add to this the princes' captaincies,
extending as far as Villers-Cotterets and Orleans; these form an
almost continuous circle around Paris, thirty leagues in
circumference, where game, protected, replaced and multiplied, swarms
for the pleasure of the king. The park of Versailles alone forms an
enclosure of more than ten leagues. The forest of Rambouillet embraces
25,000 arpents (30,000 acres). Herds of seventy-five and eighty stags
are encountered around Fontainebleau. No true hunter could read the
minute-book of the chase without feeling an impulse of envy. The wolf-
hounds run twice a week, and they take forty wolves a year. Between
1743 and 1744 Louis XV runs down 6,400 stags. Louis XVI writes, August
30th, 1781: "Killed 460 head to day." In 1780 he brings down 20,534
head; in 1781, 20,291; in fourteen years, 189,251 head, besides 1,254
stags, while boars and bucks are proportionate; and it must be noted
that this is all done by his own hand, since his parks approach his
houses. - Such, in fine, is the character of a " well-appointed
household," that is to say, provided with its dependencies and
services. Everything is within reach; it is a complete world in itself
and self-sufficient. One exalted being attaches to and gathers around
it, with universal foresight and minuteness of detail, every
appurtenance it employs or can possibly employ. - Thus, each prince,
each princess has a professional surgery and a chapel;[18] it would
not answer for the almoner who says mass or the doctor who looks after
their health to be obtained outside. So much stronger is the reason
that the king should have ministrants of this stamp; his chapel
embraces seventy-five almoners, chaplains, confessors, masters of the
oratory, clerks, announcers, carpet-bearers, choristers, copyists, and
composers of sacred music; his faculty is composed of forty-eight
physicians, surgeons, apothecaries, oculists, operators, bone-setters,
distillers, chiropodists and spagyrists (a species of alchemists). We
must still note his department of profane music, consisting of one
hundred and twenty-eight vocalists, dancers, instrumentalists,
directors and superintendents; his library corps of forty-three
keepers, readers, interpreters, engravers, medallists, geographers,
binders and printers; the staff of ceremonial display, sixty-two
heralds, sword-bearers, ushers and musicians; the staff of
housekeepers, consisting of sixty-eight marshals, guides and
commissaries. I omit other services in haste to reach the most
important,- that of the table; a fine house and good housekeeping
being known by the table.

There are three sections of the table service;[19] the first for
the king and his younger children; the second, called the little
ordinary, for the table of the grand-master, the grand-chamberlain and
the princes and princesses living with the king; the third, called the
great ordinary, for the grand-master's second table, that of the
butlers of the king's household, the almoners, the gentlemen in
waiting, and that of the valets-de-chambre, in all three hundred and
eighty-three officers of the table and one hundred and three waiters,
at an expense of 2,177,771 livres; besides this there are 389,173
livres appropriated to the table of Madame Elisabeth, and 1,093,547
livres for that of Mesdames, the total being 3,660,491 livres for the
table. The wine-merchant furnished wine to the amount of 300,000
francs per annum, and the purveyor game, meat and fish at a cost of
1,000,000 livres. Only to fetch water from Ville-d'Avray, and to
convey servants, waiters and provisions, required fifty horses hired
at the rate of 70,591 francs per annum. The privilege of the royal
princes and princesses "to send to the bureau for fish on fast days
when not residing regularly at the court," amounts in 1778 to 175,116
livres. On reading in the Almanach the titles of these officials we
see a Gargantua's feast spread out before us. The formal hierarchy of
the kitchens, so many grand officials of the table, - the butlers,
comptrollers and comptroller-pupils, the clerks and gentlemen of the
pantry, the cup-bearers and carvers, the officers and equerries of the
kitchen, the chiefs, assistants and head-cooks, the ordinary
scullions, turnspits and cellarers, the common gardeners and salad
gardeners, laundry servants, pastry-cooks, plate-changers, table-
setters, crockery-keepers, and broach-bearers, the butler of the table
of the head-butler, - an entire procession of broad-braided backs
and imposing round bellies, with grave countenances, which, with order
and conviction, exercise their functions before the saucepans and
around the buffets.

One step more and we enter the sanctuary, the king's apartment. Two
principal dignitaries preside over this, and each has under him about
a hundred subordinates. On one side is the grand chamberlain with his
first gentlemen of the bedchamber, the pages of the bedchamber, their
governors and instructors, the ushers of the antechamber, with the
four first valets-de-chambre in ordinary, sixteen special valets
serving in turn, his regular and special cloak-bearers, his barbers,
upholsterers, watch-menders, waiters and porters; on the other hand is
the grand-master of the wardrobe, with the masters of the wardrobe and
the valets of the wardrobe regular and special, the ordinary trunk-
carriers, mail-bearers, tailors, laundry servants, starchers, and
common waiters, with the gentlemen, officers and secretaries in
ordinary of the cabinet, in all 198 persons for domestic service, like
50 many domestic utensils for every personal want, or as sumptuous
pieces of furniture for the decoration of the apartment. Some of them
fetch the mall and the balls, others hold the mantle and cane, others
comb the king's hair and dry him off after a bath, others drive the
mules which transport his bed, others watch his pet greyhounds in his
room, others fold, put on and tie his cravat, and others fetch and
carry off his easy chair.[20] Some there are whose sole business it is
to fill a corner which must not be left empty. Certainly, with respect
to ease of deportment and appearance these are the most conspicuous of
all; being so close to the master they are under obligation to appear
well; in such proximity their bearing must not create a discord. -
Such is the king's household, and I have only described one of his
residences; he has a dozen of them besides Versailles, great and
small, Marly, the two Trianons, la Muette, Meudon, Choisy, Saint-
Hubert, Saint-Germain, Fontainebleau, Compiègne, Saint-Cloud,
Rambouillet,[21] without counting the Louvre, the Tuileries and
Chambord, with their parks and hunting-grounds, their governors,
inspectors, comptrollers, concierges, fountain tenders, gardeners,
sweepers, scrubbers, mole-catchers, wood-rangers, mounted and foot-
guards, in all more than a thousand persons. Naturally he entertains,
plans and builds, and, in this way expends 3 or 4 millions per
annum.[22] Naturally, also, he repairs and renews his furniture; in
1778, which is an average year, this costs him 1,936,853 livres.
Naturally, also, he takes his guests along with him and defrays their
expenses, they and their attendants; at Choisy, in 1780, there are
sixteen tables with 345 seats besides the distributions; at Saint-
Cloud, in 1785, there are twenty-six tables; "an excursion to Marly of
twenty-one days is a matter of 120,000 livres extra expense;" the
excursion to Fontainebleau has cost as much as 400,000 and 500,000
livres. His removals, on the average, cost half a million and more per
annum.[23] - To complete our idea of this immense paraphernalia it
must be borne in mind that the artisans and merchants belonging to
these various official bodies are obliged; through the privileges they
enjoy, to follow the court "on its journeys that it may be provided on
the spot with apothecaries, armorers, gunsmiths, sellers of silken and
woollen hosiery, butchers, bakers, embroiderers, publicans, cobblers,
belt-makers, candle-makers, hatters, pork-dealers, surgeons,
shoemakers, curriers, cooks, pinkers, gilders and engravers, spur-
makers, sweetmeat-dealers, furbishers, old-clothes brokers, glove-
perfumers, watchmakers, booksellers, linen-drapers, wholesale and
retail wine-dealers, carpenters, coarse-jewelry haberdashers,
jewellers, parchment-makers, dealers in trimmings, chicken-roasters,
fish-dealers, purveyors of hay, straw and oats, hardware-sellers,
saddlers, tailors, gingerbread and starch-dealers, fruiterers, dealers
in glass and in violins."[24] One might call it an oriental court
which, to be set in motion, moves an entire world: "when it is to move
one must, if one wants to travel anywhere, take the post in well in
advance." The total is near 4,000 persons for the king's civil
household, 9,000 to 10,000 for his military household, at least 2,000
for those of his relatives, in all 15,000 individuals, at a cost of
between forty and fifty million livres, which would be equal to double
the amount to day, and which, at that time, constituted one-tenth of
the public revenue.[25] We have here the central figure of the
monarchical show. However grand and costly it may be, it is only
proportionate to its purpose, since the court is a public institution,
and the aristocracy, with nothing to do, devotes itself to filling up
the king's drawing-room.


The society of the king. - Officers of the household. - Invited

Two causes maintain this affluence, one the feudal form still
preserved, and the other the new centralization just introduced; one
placing the royal service in the hands of the nobles, and the other
converting the nobles into place-hunters. - Through the duties of
the palace the highest nobility live with the king, residing under his
roof; the grand-almoner is M. de Montmorency-Laval, bishop of Metz;
the first almoner is M. de Bussuéjouls, bishop of Senlis; the grand-
master of France is the Prince de Condé; the first royal butier is the
Comte d'Escars; the second is the Marquis de Montdragon; the master of
the pantry is the Duke de Brissac; the chief cup-bearer is the Marquis
de Vemeuil; the chief carver is the Marquis de la Chesnaye; the first
gentlemen of the bedchamber are the Ducs de Richelieu, de Durfort, de
Villequier, and de Fleury; the grand-master of the wardrobe is the Duc
de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt; the masters of the wardrobe are the
Comte de Boisgelin and the Marquis de Chauvelin. The captain of the
falconry is the Chevalier du Forget; the captain of the boar-hunt is
the Marquis d'Ecquevilly; the superintendent of edifices is the Comte
d'Angevillier; the grand-equerry is the Prince de Lambesc; the master
of the hounds is the Duc de Penthièvre; the grand-master of ceremonies
is the Marquis de Brèze; the grand-master of the household is the
Marquis de la Suze; the captains of the guards are the Ducs d'Agen, de
Villery, de Brissac, d'Aguillon, and de Biron, the Princes de Poix, de
Luxembourg and de Soubise. The provost of the hotel is the Marquis de
Tourzel; the governors of the residences and captains of the chase are
the Duc de Noailles, Marquis de Champcenetz, Baron de Champlost, Duc
de Coigny, Comte de Modena, Comte de Montmorin, Duc de Laval, Comte de
Brienne, Duc d'Orléans, and the Duc de Gèsvres.[26] All these
seigniors are the king's necessary intimates, his permanent and
generally hereditary guests, dwelling under his roof; in close and
daily intercourse with him, for they are "his folks" (gens)[27] and
perform domestic service about his person. Add to these their equals,
as noble and nearly as numerous, dwelling with the queen, with
Mesdames, with Mme. Elisabeth, with the Comte and Comtesse de Provence
and the Comte and Comtesse d'Artois. - And these are only the heads
of the service; if; below them in rank and office, I count the titular
nobles, I find, among others, 68 almoners or chaplains, 170 gentlemen
of the bedchamber or in waiting, 117 gentlemen of the stable or of the
hunting-train, 148 pages, 114 titled ladies in waiting, besides all
the officers, even to the lowest of the military household, without
counting 1,400 ordinary guards who, verified by the genealogist, are
admitted by virtue of their title to pay their court.[28] Such is the
fixed body of recruits for the royal receptions; the distinctive trait
of this régime is the conversion of its servants into guests, the
drawing room being filled from the anteroom.

Not that the drawing room needs all that to be filled. Being the
source of all preferment and of every favor, it is natural that it
should overflow[29]. It is the same in our leveling society (in 1875),
where the drawing room of an insignificant deputy, a mediocre
journalist, or a fashionable woman, is full of courtiers under the
name of friends and visitors. Moreover, here, to be present is an
obligation; it might be called a continuation of ancient feudal
homage; the staff of nobles is maintained as the retinue of its born
general. In the language of the day, it is called "paying one's duty
to the king." Absence, in the sovereign's eyes, would be a sign of
independence as well as of indifference, while submission as well as
regular attention is his due. In this respect we must study the
institution from the beginning. The eyes of Louis XIV go their rounds
at every moment, "on arising or retiring, on passing into his
apartments, in his gardens, . . . nobody escapes, even those who hoped
they were not seen; it was a demerit with some, and the most
distinguished, not to make the court their ordinary sojourn, to others
to come to it but seldom, and certain disgrace to those who never, or
nearly never, came."[30] Henceforth, the main thing, for the first
personages in the kingdom, men and women, ecclesiastics and laymen,
the grand affair, the first duty in life, the true occupation, is to
be at all hours and in every place under the king's eye, within reach
of his voice and of his glance. "Whoever," says La Bruyère, "considers
that the king's countenance is the courtier's supreme felicity, that
he passes his life looking on it and within sight of it, will
comprehend to some extent how to see God constitutes the glory and
happiness of the saints." There were at this time prodigies of
voluntary assiduity and subjection. The Duc de Fronsac, every morning
at seven o'clock, in winter and in summer, stationed himself, at his
father's command, at the foot of the small stairway leading to the
chapel, solely to shake hands with Mme. de Maintenon on her leaving
for St. Cyr.[31] "Pardon me, Madame," writes the Duc de Richelieu to
her, "the great liberty I take in presuming to send you the letter
which I have written to the king, begging him on my knees that he will
occasionally allow me to pay my court to him at Ruel, for I would
rather die than pass two months without seeing him." The true courtier
follows the prince as a shadow follows its body; such, under Louis
XIV, was the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, the master of the hounds. "He
never missed the king's rising or retiring, both changes of dress
every day, the hunts and the promenades, likewise every day, for ten
years in succession, never sleeping away from the place where the king
rested, and yet on a footing to demand leave, but not to stay away all
night, for he had not slept out of Paris once in forty years, but to
go and dine away from the court, and not be present on the promenade."
- If; later, and under less exacting masters, and in the general
laxity of the eighteenth century, this discipline is relaxed, the
institution nevertheless subsists;[32] in default of obedience,
tradition, interest and amour-propre suffice for the people of the
court. To approach the king, to be a domestic in his household, an
usher, a cloak-bearer, a valet, is a privilege that is purchased, even
in 1789, for thirty, forty, and a hundred thousand livres; so much
greater the reason why it is a privilege to form a part of his
society, the most honorable, the most useful, and the most coveted of
all. - In the first place, it is a proof of noble birth. A man, to
follow the king in the chase, and a woman, to be presented to the
queen, must previously satisfy the genealogist, and by authentic
documents, that his or her nobility goes back to the year 1400. - In
the next place, it ensures good fortune. This drawing room is the only
place within reach of royal favors; accordingly, up to 1789, the great
families never stir away from Versailles, and day and night they lie
in ambush. The valet of the Marshal de Noaillles says to him one night
on closing his curtains,

"At what hour will Monseigneur be awakened?" "At ten o'clock, if
no one dies during the night."[33]

Old courtiers are still found who, "at the age of eighty, have
passed forty-five on their feet in the antechambers of the king, of
the princes, and of the ministers. . .

You have only three things to do," says one of them to a debutant,
"speak well of everybody, ask for every vacancy, and sit down when you

Hence, the king always has a crowd around him. The Comtesse du
Barry says, on presenting her niece at court, the first of August,
1773, "the crowd is so great at a presentation, one can scarcely get
through the antechambers."[34] In December, 1774, at Fontainebleau,
when the queen plays at her own table every evening, "the apartment,
though vast, is never empty. . . . The crowd is so great that one can
talk only to the two or three persons with whom one is playing." The
fourteen apartments, at the receptions of ambassadors are full to
overflowing with seigniors and richly dressed women. On the first of
January, 1775, the queen "counted over two hundred ladies presented to
her to pay their court. " In 1780, at Choisy, a table for thirty
persons is spread every day for the king, another with thirty places
for the seigniors, another with forty places for the officers of the
guard and the equerries, and one with fifty for the officers of the
bedchamber. According to my estimate, the king, on getting up and on
retiring, on his walks, on his hunts, at play, has always around him
at least forty or fifty seigniors and generally a hundred, with as
many ladies, besides his attendants on duty. At Fontainebleau, in
1756, although "there were neither fêtes nor ballets this year, one
hundred and six ladies were counted." When the king holds a "grand
apartement," when play or dancing takes place in the gallery of
mirrors, four or five hundred guests, the elect of the nobles and of
the fashion, range themselves on the benches or gather around the card
and cavanole tables.[35] This is a spectacle to be seen, not by the
imagination, or through imperfect records, but with our own eyes and
on the spot, to comprehend the spirit, the effect and the triumph of
monarchical culture. In an elegantly furnished house, the drawing room
is the principal room; and never was one more dazzling than this.
Suspended from the sculptured ceiling peopled with sporting cupids,
descend, by garlands of flowers and foliage, blazing chandeliers,
whose splendor is enhanced by the tail mirrors; the light streams down
in floods on gilding, diamonds, and beaming, arch physiognomies, on
fine busts, and on the capacious, sparkling and garlanded dresses. The
skirts of the ladies ranged in a circle, or in tiers on the benches,
"form a rich espalier covered with pearls, gold, silver, jewels,
spangles, flowers and fruits, with their artificial blossoms,
gooseberries, cherries, and strawberries," a gigantic animated bouquet
of which the eye can scarcely support the brilliancy. There are no
black coats, as nowadays, to disturb the harmony. With the hair
powdered and dressed, with buckles and knots, with cravats and ruffles
of lace, in silk coats and vests of the hues of fallen leaves, or of a
delicate rose tint, or of celestial blue, embellished with gold braid
and embroidery, the men are as elegant as the women. Men and women,
each is a selection; they all are of the accomplished class, gifted
with every grace which good blood, education, fortune, leisure and
custom can bestow; they are perfect of their kind. There is no toilet,
no carriage of the head, no tone of the voice, no expression in
language which is not a masterpiece of worldly culture, the distilled
quintessence of all that is exquisitely elaborated by social art.
Polished as the high society of Paris may be, it does not approach
this;[36] compared with the court, it seems provincial. It is said
that a hundred thousand roses are required to make an ounce of the
unique perfume used by Persian kings; such is this drawing-room, the
frail vial of crystal and gold containing the substance of a human
vegetation. To fill it, a great aristocracy had to be transplanted to
a hot-house and become sterile in fruit and flowers, and then, in the
royal alembic, its pure sap is concentrated into a few drops of aroma.
The price is excessive, but only at this price can the most delicate
perfumes be manufactured.


The king's occupations. - Rising in the morning, mass, dinner,
walks, hunting, supper, play, evening receptions. - He is always on
parade and in company.

An operation of this kind absorbs him who undertakes it as well as
those who undergo it. A nobility for useful purposes is not
transformed with impunity into a nobility for ornament;[37] one falls
himself into the ostentation which is substituted for action. The king
has a court which he is compelled to maintain. So much the worse if it
absorbs all his time, his intellect, his soul, the most valuable
portion of his active forces and the forces of the State. To be the
master of a house is not an easy task, especially when five hundred
persons are to be entertained; one must necessarily pass one's life in
public and all the time being on exhibition. Strictly speaking it is
the life of an actor who is on the stage the entire day. To support
this load, and work besides, required the temperament of Louis XIV,
the vigor of his body, the extraordinary firmness of his nerves, the
strength of his digestion, and the regularity of his habits; his
successors who come after him grow weary or stagger under the same
load. But they cannot throw it off; an incessant, daily performance is
inseparable from their position and it is imposed on them like a
heavy, gilded, ceremonial coat. The king is expected to keep the
entire aristocracy busy, consequently to make a display of himself, to
pay back with his own person, at all hours, even the most private,
even on getting out of bed, and even in his bed. In the morning, at
the hour named by himself beforehand,[38] the head valet awakens him;
five series of persons enter in turn to perform their duty, and,
"although very large, there are days when the waiting-rooms can hardly
contain the crowd of courtiers." - The first admittance is "l'entrée
familière," consisting of the children of France, the princes and
princesses of the blood, and, besides these, the chief physician, the
chief surgeon and other serviceable persons.[39] Next, comes the
"grande entrée;' which comprises the grand-chamberlain, the grand-
master and master of the wardrobe, the first gentlemen of the
bedchamber, the Ducs d'Orleans and de Penthièvre, some other highly
favored seigniors, the ladies of honor and in waiting of the queen,
Mesdames and other princesses, without enumerating barbers tailors and
various descriptions of valets. Meanwhile spirits of wine are poured
on the king's hands from a service of plate, and he is then handed the
basin of holy water; he crosses himself and repeats a prayer. Then he
gets out of bed before all these people and puts on his slippers. The
grand-chamberlain and the first gentleman hand him his dressing-gown;
he puts this on and seats himself in the chair in which he is to put
on his clothes. At this moment the door opens and a third group
enters, which is the "entrée des brevets;" the seigniors who compose
this enjoy, in addition, the precious privilege of assisting at the
"petite coucher," while, at the same moment there enters a detachment
of attendants, consisting of the physicians and surgeons in ordinary,
the intendants of the amusements, readers and others, and among the
latter those who preside over physical requirements; the publicity of
a royal life is so great that none of its functions can be exercised
without witnesses. At the moment of the approach of the officers of
the wardrobe to dress him the first gentleman, notified by an usher,
advances to read to the king the names of the grandees who are waiting
at the door: this is the fourth entry called "la chambre," and larger
than those preceding it; for, not to mention the cloak-bearers, gun-
bearers, rug-bearers and other valets it comprises most of the
superior officials, the grand-almoner, the almoners on duty, the
chaplain, the master of the oratory, the captain and major of the
body-guard, the colonel-general and major of the French guards, the
colonel of the king's regiment, the captain of the Cent Suisses, the
grand-huntsman, the grand wolf-huntsman, the grand-provost, the grand-
master and master of ceremonies, the first butler, the grand-master of
the pantry, the foreign ambassadors, the ministers and secretaries of
state, the marshals of France and most of the seigniors and prelates
of distinction. Ushers place the ranks in order and, if necessary,
impose silence. Meanwhile the king washes his hands and begins his
toilet. Two pages remove his slippers; the grand-master of the
wardrobe draws off his night-shirt by the right arm, and the first
valet of the wardrobe by the left arm, and both of them hand it to an
officer of the wardrobe, whilst a valet of the wardrobe fetches the
shirt wrapped up in white taffeta. Things have now reached the solemn
point, the culmination of the ceremony; the fifth entry has been
introduced, and, in a few moments, after the king has put his shirt
on, all that is left of those who are known, with other house hold
officers waiting in the gallery, complete the influx. There is quite a
formality in regard to this shirt. The honor of handing it is reserved
to the sons and grandsons of France; in default of these to the
princes of the blood or those legitimized; in their default to the
grand-chamberlain or to the first gentleman of the bedchamber ; - the
latter case, it must be observed, being very rare, the princes being
obliged to be present at the king's lever, as were the princesses at
that of the queen.[40] At last the shirt is presented and a valet
carries off the old one; the first valet of the wardrobe and the first
valet-de-chambre hold the fresh one, each by a right and left arm
respectively,[41] while two other valets, during this operation,
extend his dressing-gown in front of him to serve as a screen. The
shirt is now on his back and the toilet commences. A valet-de-chambre
supports a mirror before the king while two others on the two sides
light it up, if occasion requires, with flambeaux. Valets of the
wardrobe fetch the rest of the attire; the grand-master of the
wardrobe puts the vest on and the doublet, attaches the blue ribbon,
and clasps his sword around him; then a valet assigned to the cravats
brings several of these in a basket, while the master of the wardrobe
arranges around the king's neck that which the king selects. After
this a valet assigned to the handkerchiefs brings three of these on a
silver salver, while the grand-master of the wardrobe offers the
salver to the king, who chooses one. Finally the master of the
wardrobe hands to the king his hat, his gloves and his cane. The king
then steps to the side of the bed, kneels on a cushion and says his
prayers, whilst an almoner in a low voice recites the orison
Quoesumus, deus omnipotens. This done, the king announces the order of
the day, and passes with the leading persons of his court into his
cabinet, where he sometimes gives audience. Meanwhile the rest of the
company await him in the gallery in order to accompany him to mass
when he comes out.

Such is the lever, a piece in five acts. - Nothing could be
contrived better calculated to fill up the void of an aristocratic
life ; a hundred or thereabouts of notable seigniors dispose of a
couple of hours in coming, in waiting, in entering, in defiling, in
taking positions, in standing on their feet, in maintaining an air of
respect and of ease suitable to a superior class of walking gentlemen,
while those best qualified are about to do the same thing over in the
queen's apartment.
[42] - The king, however, as an indirect
consequence, suffers the same torture and the same inaction as he
imposes. He also is playing a part; all his steps and all his gestures
have been determined beforehand; he has been obliged to arrange his
physiognomy and his voice, never to depart from an affable and
dignified air, to award judiciously his glances and his nods, to keep
silent or to speak only of the chase, and to suppress his own
thoughts, if he has any. One cannot indulge in reverie, meditate or be
absent-minded when one is before the footlights; the part must have
due attention. Besides, in a drawing room there is only drawing room
conversation, and the master's thoughts, instead of being directed in
a profitable channel, must be scattered about like the holy water of
the court. All hours of his day are passed in a similar manner, except
three or four during the morning, during which he is at the council or
in his private room; it must be noted, too, that on the days after his
hunts, on returning home from Rambouillet at three o'clock in the
morning, he must sleep the few hours he has left to him. The
ambassador Mercy,[43] nevertheless, a man of close application, seems
to think it sufficient; he, at least, thinks that "Louis XVI is a man
of order, losing no time in useless things;" his predecessor, indeed,
worked much less, scarcely an hour a day. Three-quarters of his time
is thus given up to show. The same retinue surrounds him when he puts
on his boots, when he takes them off; when he changes his clothes to
mount his horse, when he returns home to dress for the evening, and
when he goes to his room at night to retire. "Every evening for six
years, says a page,[44] either myself or one of my comrades has seen
Louis XVI get into bed in public," with the ceremonial just described.
"It was not omitted ten times to my knowledge, and then accidentally
or through indisposition." The attendance is yet more numerous when he
dines and takes supper; for, besides men there are women present,
duchesses seated on the folding-chairs, also others standing around
the table. It is needless to state that in the evening when he plays,
or gives a ball, or a concert, the crowd rushes in and overflows. When
he hunts, besides the ladies on horses and in vehicles, besides
officers of the hunt, of the guards, the equerry, the cloak-bearer,
gun-bearer, surgeon, bone-setter, lunch-bearer and I know not how many
others, all the gentlemen who accompany him are his permanent guests.
And do not imagine that this suite is a small one;[45] the day M. de
Châteaubriand is presented there are four fresh additions, and "with
the utmost punctuality" all the young men of high rank join the king's
retinue two or three times a week. Not only the eight or ten scenes
which compose each of these days, but again the short intervals
between the scenes are besieged and carried. People watch for him,
walk by his side and speak with him on his way from his cabinet to the
chapel, between his apartment and his carriage, between his carriage
and his apartment, between his cabinet and his dining room. And still
more, his life behind the scenes belongs to the public. If he is
indisposed and broth is brought to him, if he is ill and medicine is
handed to him, "a servant immediately summons the 'grande entrée.' "
Verily, the king resembles an oak stifled by the innumerable creepers
which, from top to bottom, cling to its trunk. Under a régime of this
stamp there is a want of air; some opening has to be found; Louis XV
availed himself of the chase and of suppers; Louis XVI of the chase
and of lock-making. And I have not mentioned the infinite detail of
etiquette, the extraordinary ceremonial of the state dinner, the
fifteen, twenty and thirty beings busy around the king's plates and
glasses, the sacramental utterances of the occasion, the procession of
the retinue, the arrival of "la nef" "l'essai des plats," all as if in
a Byzantine or Chinese court.[46] On Sundays the entire public, the
public in general, is admitted, and this is called the "grand
couvert," as complex and as solemn as a high mass. Accordingly to eat,
to drink, to get up, to go to bed, is to a descendant of Louis XIV, to
officiate.[47] Frederick II, on hearing an explanation of this
etiquette, declared that if he were king of France his first edict
would be to appoint another king to hold court in his place. In
effect, if there are idlers to salute there must be an idler to be
saluted. Only one way was possible by which the monarch could have
been set free, and that was to have recast and transformed the French
nobles, according to the Prussian system, into a hard-working regiment
of serviceable functionaries. But, so long as the court remains what
it is, that is to say, a pompous parade and a drawing room decoration,
the king himself must likewise remain a showy decoration, of little or
no use.


Diversions of the royal family and of the court.- Louis XV. - Louis

In short, what is the occupation of a well-qualified master of a
house? He amuses himself and he amuses his guests; under his roof a
new pleasure-party comes off daily. Let us enumerate those of a week.
"Yesterday, Sunday," says the Duc de Luynes, "I met the king going to
hunt on the plain of St. Denis, having slept at la Muette, where he
intends to remain shooting to day and to-morrow, and to return here on
Tuesday or Wednesday morning, to run down a stag the same day,
Wednesday."[48] Two months after this, "the king," again says M. de
Luynes, "has been hunting every day of the past and of the present
week, except to day and on Sundays, killing, since the beginning,
3,500 partridges." He is always on the road, or hunting, or passing
from one residence to another, from Versailles to Fontainebleau, to
Choisy, to Marly, to la Muette, to Compiègne, to Trianon, to Saint-
Hubert, to Bellevue, to Rambouillet, and, generally, with his entire
court.[49] At Choisy, especially, and at Fontainebleau this company
all lead a merry life. At Fontainebleau "Sunday and Friday, play;
Monday and Wednesday, a concert in the queen's apartments; Tuesday and
Thursday, the French comedians; and Saturday it is the Italians;"
there is something for every day in the week. At Choisy, writes the
Dauphine,[50] "from one o'clock (in the afternoon) when we dine, to
one o'clock at night we remain out. . . After dining we play until six
o'clock, after which we go to the theater, which lasts until half-past
nine o'clock, and next, to supper; after this, play again, until one,
and sometimes half-past one, o'clock." At Versailles things are more
moderate; there are but two theatrical entertainments and one ball a
week; but every evening there is play and a reception in the king's
apartment, in his daughters', in his mistress's, in his daughter-in-
law's, besides hunts and three petty excursions a week. Records show
that, in a certain year, Louis XV slept only fifty-two nights at
Versailles, while the Austrian Ambassador well says that "his mode of
living leaves him not an hour in the day for attention to important
matters." - As to Louis XVI, we have seen that he reserves a few
hours of the morning; but the machine is wound up, and go it must. How
can he withdraw himself from his guests and not do the honors of his
house? Here propriety and custom are tyrants and a third despotism
must be added, still more absolute: the imperious vivacity of a lively
young queen who cannot endure an hour's reading. - At Versailles,
three theatrical entertainments and two balls a week, two grand
suppers Tuesday and Thursday, and from time to time, the opera in
Paris.[51] At Fontainebleau, the theater three times a week, and on
other days, play and suppers. During the following winter the queen
gives a masked ball each week, in which "the contrivance of the
costumes, the quadrilles arranged in ballets, and the daily
rehearsals, take so much time as to consume the entire week." During
the carnival of 1777 the queen, besides her own fêtes, attends the
balls of the Palais-Royal and the masked balls of the opera; a little
later, I find another ball at the abode of the Comtesse Diana de
Polignac, which she attends with the whole royal family, except
Mesdames, and which lasts from half-past eleven o'clock at night until
eleven o'clock the next morning. Meanwhile, on ordinary days, there is
the rage of faro; in her drawing room "there is no limit to the play;
in one evening the Duc de Chartres loses 8,000 louis. It really
resembles an Italian carnival; there is nothing lacking, neither masks
nor the comedy of private life; they play, they laugh, they dance,
they dine, they listen to music, they don costumes, they get up
picnics (fêtes-champêtres), they indulge in gossip and gallantries."
"The newest song,"[52] says a cultivated, earnest lady of the
bedchamber, "the current witticism and little scandalous stories,
formed the sole subjects of conversation in the queen's circle of
intimates." - As to the king, who is rather dull and who requires
physical exercise, the chase is his most important occupation. Between
1755 and 1789,[53] he himself, on recapitulating what he had
accomplished, finds "104 boar-hunts, 134 stag-hunts, 266 of bucks, 33
with hounds, and 1,025 shootings," in all 1,562 hunting-days,
averaging at least one hunt every three days; besides this there are a
149 excursions without hunts, and 223 promenades on horseback or in
carriages. "During four months of the year he goes to Rambouillet
twice a week and returns after having supped, that is to say, at three
o'clock in the morning."[54] This inveterate habit ends in becoming a
mania, and even in something worse. "The nonchalance," writes Arthur
Young, June 26, 1789, "and even stupidity of the court, is
unparalleled; the moment demands the greatest decision, and yesterday,
while it was actually a question whether he should be a doge of Venice
or a king of France, the king went a hunting!" His journal reads like
that of a gamekeeper's. On reading it at the most important dates one
is amazed at its entries. He writes nothing on the days not devoted to
hunting, which means that to him these days are of no account:

July 11, 1789, nothing; M. Necker leaves.

July 12th vespers and benediction; Messieurs de Montmorin, de
Saint-Priest and de la Luzerne leave.

July 13th , nothing.

July 14th , nothing.

July 29th, nothing; M. Necker returns.....

August 4th, stag-hunt in the forest at Marly; took one; go and come
on horseback.

August 13th, audience of the States in the gallery; Te Deum during
the mass below; one stag taken in the hunt at Marly. . .

August 25th, complimentary audience of the States; high mass with
the cordons bleus; M. Bailly sworn in; vespers and benediction; state

October 5th, shooting near Chatillon; killed 81 head; interrupted
by events; go and come on horseback.

October 6th, leave for Paris at half-past twelve; visit the Hôtel-
de-Ville; sup and rest at the Tuileries.

October 7th nothing; my aunts come and dine.

October 8th, nothing . . .

October 12th, nothing; the stag hunted at Port Royal.

Shut up in Paris, held by the crowds, his heart is always with the
hounds. Twenty times in 1790 we read in his journal of a stag-hunt
occurring in this or that place; he regrets not being on hand. No
privation is more intolerable to him; we encounter traces of his
chagrin even in the formal protest he draws up before leaving for
Varennes; transported to Paris, shut up in the Tuileries, "where, far
from finding conveniences to which he is accustomed, he has not even
enjoyed the advantages common to persons in easy circumstances," his
crown to him having apparently lost its brightest jewel.


Other similar lives. - Princes and princesses. - Seigniors of the
court. - Financiers and parvenus. - Ambassadors, ministers, governors,
general officers.

As is the general so is his staff; the grandees imitate their
monarch. Like some costly colossal effigy in marble, erected in the
center of France, and of which reduced copies are scattered by
thousands throughout the provinces, thus does royal life repeat
itself, in minor proportions, even among the remotest gentry. The
object is to make a parade and to receive; to make a figure and to
pass away time in good society. - I find, first, around the court,
about a dozen princely courts. Each prince or princess of the blood
royal, like the king, has his house fitted up, paid for, in whole or
in part, out of the treasury, its service divided into special
departments, with gentlemen, pages, and ladies in waiting, in brief,
fifty, one hundred, two hundred, and even five hundred appointments.
There is a household of this kind for the queen, one for Madame
Victoire, one for Madame Elisabeth, one for Monsieur, one for Madame,
one for the Comte d'Artois, and one for the Comtesse d'Artois. There
will be one for Madame Royale, one for the little Dauphin, one for the
Duc de Normandie, all three children of the king, one for the Duc
d'Angoulême, one for the Duc de Berry, both sons of the Comte
d'Artois: children six or seven years of age receive and make a parade
of themselves. On referring to a particular date, in 1771,[55] I find
still another for the Duc d'Orléans, one for the Duc de Bourbon, one
for the Duchesse, one for the Prince de Condé, one for the Comte de
Clermont, one for the Princess dowager de Conti, one for the Prince de
Conti, one for the Comte de la Marche, one for the Duc de Penthièvre.
- Each personage, besides his or her apartment under the king's roof
has his or her chateau and palace with his or her own circle, the
queen at Trianon and at Saint-Cloud, Mesdames at Bellevue, Monsieur at
the Luxembourg and at Brunoy, the Comte d'Artois at Meudon and at
Bagatelle, the Duc d'Orléans at the Palais Royal, at Monceaux, at Rancy
and at Villers-Cotterets, the Prince de Conti at the Temple and at
Ile-Adam, the Condés at the Palais-Bourbon and at Chantilly, the Duc
de Penthièvre at Sceaux, Anet and Chateauvilain. I omit one-half of
these residences. At the Palais-Royal those who are presented may come
to the supper on opera days. At Chateauvilain all those who come to
pay court are invited to dinner, the nobles at the duke's table and
the rest at the table of his first gentleman. At the Temple one
hundred and fifty guests attend the Monday suppers. Forty or fifty
persons, said the Duchesse de Maine, constitute "a prince's private
company."[56] The princes' train is so inseparable from their persons
that it follows them even into camp. "The Prince de Condé," says M. de
Luynes, "sets out for the army to-morrow with a large suite: he has
two hundred and twenty-five horses, and the Comte de la Marche one
hundred. M. le duc d'Orléans leaves on Monday; he has three hundred
and fifty horses for himself and suite."[57] Below the rank of the
king's relatives all the grandees who figure at the court figure as
well in their own residences, at their hotels at Paris or at
Versailles, also in their chateaux a few leagues away from Paris. On
all sides, in the memoirs, we obtain a foreshortened view of some one
of these seignorial existences. Such is that of the Duc de Gèvres,
first gentleman of the bedchamber, governor of Paris, and of the Ile-
de-France, possessing besides this the special governorships of Laon,
Soissons, Noyon, Crespy and Valois, the captainry of Mousseaux, also a
pension of 20,000 livres, a veritable man of the court, a sort of
sample in high relief of the people of his class, and who, through his
appointments, his airs, his luxury, his debts, the consideration he
enjoys, his tastes, his occupations and his turn of mind presents to
us an abridgment of the fashionable world.[58] His memory for
relationships and genealogies is surprising; he is an adept in the
precious science of etiquette, and on these two grounds he is an
oracle and much consulted. "He greatly increased the beauty of his
house and gardens at Saint-Ouen. At the moment of his death," says the
Duc de Luynes, "he had just added twenty-five arpents to it which he
had begun to enclose with a covered terrace. . . . He had quite a
large household of gentlemen, pages, and domestic of various kinds,
and his expenditure was enormous. . . . He gave a grand dinner every
day. . . . He gave special audiences almost daily. There was no one at
the court, nor in the city, who did not pay his respects to him. The
ministers, the royal princes themselves did so. He received company
whilst still in bed. He wrote and dictated amidst a large assemblage.
. . . His house at Paris and his apartment at Versailles were never
empty from the time be arose till the time he retired." 2 or 300
households at Paris, at Versailles and in their environs, offer a
similar spectacle. Never is there solitude. It is the custom in
France, says Horace Walpole, to burn your candle down to its snuff in
public. The mansion of the Duchesse de Gramont is besieged at day-
break by the noblest seigniors and the noblest ladies. Five times a
week, under the Duc de Choiseul's roof, the butler enters the drawing
room at ten o'clock in the evening to bestow a glance on the immense
crowded gallery and decide if he shall lay the cloth for fifty, sixty
or eighty persons;[59] with this example before them all the rich
establishments soon glory in providing an open table for all comers.
Naturally the parvenus, the financiers who have purchased or taken the
name of an estate, all those traffickers and sons of traffickers who,
since Law, associate with the nobility, imitate their ways. And I do
not allude to the Bourets, the Beaujons, the St. Jameses and other
financial wretches whose paraphernalia effaces that of the princes;
but take a plain associé des fermes, M. d'Epinay, whose modest and
refined wife refuses such excessive display.[60] He had just completed
his domestic arrangements, and was anxious that his wife should take a
second maid; but she resisted; nevertheless, in this curtailed

"the officers, women and valets, amounted to sixteen. . . . When M.
d'Epinay gets up his valet enters on his duties. Two lackeys stand by
awaiting his orders. The first secretary enters for the purpose of
giving an account of the letters received by him and which he has to
open; but he is interrupted two hundred times in this business by all
sorts of people imaginable. Now it is a horse-jockey with the finest
horses to sell. . . . Again some saucy girl who calls to bawl out a
piece of music, and on whose behalf some influence has been exerted to
get her into the opera, after giving her a few lessons in good taste
and teaching her what is proper in French music. This young lady has
been made to wait to ascertain if I am still at home. . . . I get up
and go out. Two lackeys open the folding doors to let me make it
through this eye of a needle, while two servants bawl out in the ante-
chamber, 'Madame, gentlemen, Madame!' All form a line, the gentlemen
consisting of dealers in fabrics, in instruments, jewellers, hawkers,
lackeys, shoeblacks, creditors, in short everything imaginable that is
most ridiculous and annoying. The clock strikes twelve or one before
this toilet matter is over, and the secretary, who, doubtless, knows
by experience the impossibility of rendering a detailed statement of
his business, hands to his master a small memorandum informing him
what he must say in the assembly of fermiers."

Indolence, disorder, debts, ceremony, the tone and ways of the
patron, all seems a parody of the real thing. We are beholding the
last stages of aristocracy. And yet the court of M. d'Epinay is a
miniature resemblance of that of the king.

So much more essential is it that the ambassadors, ministers and
general officers who represent the king should display themselves in a
grandiose manner. No circumstance rendered the ancient régime so
brilliant and more oppressive; in this, as in all the rest, Louis XIV
is the principal originator of evil as of good. The policy which
fashioned the court prescribed ostentation.

"A display of dress, table, equipages, buildings and play was made
purposely to please; these afforded opportunities for entering into
conversation with him. The contagion had spread from the court into
the provinces and to the armies, where people of any position were
esteemed only in proportion to their table and magnificence."[61]

During the year passed by the Marshal de Belle-Isle at Frankfort,
on account of the election of Charles VI, he expended 750,000 livres
in journeys, transportations, festivals and dinners, in constructing a
kitchen and dining-hall, and besides all this, 150,000 livres in
snuff-boxes, watches and other presents; by order of Cardinal Fleury,
so economical, he had in his kitchens one hundred and one
officials.[62] At Vienna, in 1772, the ambassador, the Prince de
Rohan, had two carriages costing together 40,000 livres, forty horses,
seven noble pages, six gentlemen, five secretaries, ten musicians,
twelve footmen, and four grooms whose gorgeous liveries each cost
4,000 livres, and the rest in proportion.[63] We are familiar with the
profusion, the good taste, the exquisite dinners, and the admirable
ceremonial display of the Cardinal de Bernis in Rome. "He was called
the king of Rome, and indeed he was such through his magnificence and
in the consideration he enjoyed. . . . His table afforded an idea of
what is possible. . . In festivities, ceremonies and illuminations he
was always beyond comparison." He himself remarked, smiling, "I keep a
French inn on the cross-roads of Europe."[64] Accordingly their
salaries and indemnities are two or three times more ample than at the
present day. "The king gives 50,000 crowns to the great embassies. The
Duc de Duras received even 200,000 livres per annum for that of
Madrid, also, besides this, 100,000 crowns gratuity, 50,000 livres for
secret service; and he had the loan of furniture and effects valued at
400,000 and 500,000 livres, of which he kept one-half."[65] The
outlays and salaries of the ministers are similar. In 1789, the
Chancellor gets 120,080 livres salary and the Keeper of the Seals
135,000. " M. de Villedeuil, as Secretary of State, was to have had
180,670 livres, but as he represented that this sum would not cover
his expenses, his salary was raised to 226,000 livres, everything
included."[66] Moreover, the rule is, that on retiring from office the
king awards them a pension of 20,000 livres and gives a dowry of
200,000 livres to their daughters. This is not excessive considering
the way they live. "They are obliged to maintain such state in their
households, for they cannot enrich themselves by their places. All
keep open table at Paris three days in the week, and at Fontainebleau
every day."[67] M. de Lamoignon being appointed Chancellor with a
salary of 100,000 livres, people at once declare that he will be
ruined;[68] "for he has taken all the officials of M. d'Aguesseau's
kitchen, whose table alone cost 80,000 livres. The banquet he gave at
Versailles to the first council held by him cost 6,000 livres, and he
must always have seats at table, at Versailles and at Paris, for
twenty persons." At Chambord,[69] Marshal de Saxe always has two
tables, one for sixty, and the other for eighty persons; also four
hundred horses in his stables, a civil list of more than 100,000
crowns, a regiment of Uhlans for his guard, and a theater costing over
600,000 livres, while the life he leads, or which is maintained around
him, resembles one of Rubens's bacchanalian scenes. As to the special
and general provincial governors we have seen that, when they reside
on the spot, they fulfill no other duty than to entertain; alongside
of them the intendant, who alone attends to business, likewise
receives, and magnificently, especially for the country of a States-
General. Commandants, lieutenants-general, the envoys of the central
government throughout, are equally induced by habit and propriety, as
well as by their own lack of occupation, to maintain a drawing-room;
they bring along with them the elegance and hospitality of Versailles.
If the wife follows them she becomes weary and "vegetates in the midst
of about fifty companions, talking nothing but commonplace, knitting
or playing lotto, and sitting three hours at the dinner table." But
"all the military men, all the neighboring gentry and all the ladies
in the town," eagerly crowd to her balls and delight in commending
"her grace, her politeness, her equality."[70] These sumptuous habits
prevail even among people of secondary position. By virtue of
established usage colonels and captains entertain their subordinates
and thus expend "much beyond their salaries."[71] This is one of the
reasons why regiments are reserved for the sons of the best families,
and companies in them for wealthy gentlemen. The vast royal tree,
expanding so luxuriantly at Versailles, sends forth its offshoots to
overrun France by thousands, and to bloom everywhere, as at
Versailles, in bouquets of finery and of drawing room sociability.


Prelates, seigniors and minor provincial nobles. - The feudal
aristocracy transformed into a drawing room group.

Following this pattern, and as well through the effect of
temperature, we see, even in remote provinces, all aristocratic
branches having a flourishing social life. Lacking other employment,
the nobles exchange visits, and the chief function of a prominent
seignior is to do the honors of his house creditably. This applies as
well to ecclesiastics as to laymen. The one hundred and thirty-one
bishops and archbishops, the seven hundred abbés-commendatory, are all
men of the world; they behave well, are rich, and are not austere,
while their episcopal palace or abbey is for them a country-house,
which they repair or embellish with a view to the time they pass in
it, and to the company they welcome to it.[72] At Clairvaux, Dom
Rocourt, very affable with men and still more gallant with the ladies,
never drives out except with four horses, and with a mounted groom
ahead; his monks do him the honors of a Monseigneur, and he maintains
a veritable court. The chartreuse of Val Saint-Pierre is a sumptuous
palace in the center of an immense domain, and the father-procurator,
Dom Effinger, passes his days in entertaining his guests.[73] At the
convent of Origny, near Saint-Quentin,[74] "the abbess has her
domestics and her carriage and horses, and receives men on visits, who
dine in her apartments." The princess Christine, abbess of Remiremont,
with her lady canonesses, are almost always traveling; and yet "they
enjoy themselves in the abbey," entertaining there a good many people
"in the private apartments of the princess, and in the strangers'
rooms."[75] The twenty-five noble chapters of women, and the nineteen
noble chapters of men, are as many permanent drawing-rooms and
gathering places incessantly resorted to by the fine society which a
slight ecclesiastical barrier scarcely divides from the great world
from which it is recruited. At the chapter of Alix, near Lyons, the
canonesses wear hoopskirts into the choir, "dressed as in the world
outside," except that their black silk robes and their mantles are
lined with ermine.[76] At the chapter of Ottmarsheim in Alsace, "our
week was passed in promenading, in visiting the traces of Roman roads,
in laughing a good deal, and even in dancing, for there were many
people visiting the abbey, and especially talking over dresses." Near
Sarrebuis, the canonesses of Loutre dine with the officers and are
anything but prudish.[77] Numbers of convents serve as agreeable and
respectable asylums for widowed ladies, for young women whose husbands
are in the army, and for young ladies of rank, while the superior,
generally some noble damsel, wields, with ease and dexterity, the
scepter of this pretty feminine world. But nowhere is the pomp of
hospitality or the concourse greater, than in the episcopal palaces. I
have described the situation of the bishops; with their opulence,
possessors of the like feudal rights, heirs and successors to the
ancient sovereigns of the territory, and besides all this, men of the
world and frequenters of Versailles, why should they not keep a court?
A Cicé, archbishop of Bordeaux, a Dillon, archbishop of Narbonne, a
Brienne, archbishop of Toulouse, a Castellane, bishop of Mende and
seignior-suzerain of the whole of Gévaudan, an archbishop of Cambrai,
duke of Cambray, seignior-suzerain of the whole of Cambrésis, and
president by birth of the provincial States-General, are nearly all
princes ; why not parade themselves like princes? Hence, they build,
hunt and have their clients and guests, a lever, an antechamber,
ushers, officers, a free table, a complete household, equipages, and,
oftener still, debts, the finishing touch of a grand seignior. In the
almost regal palace which the Rohans, hereditary bishops of Strasbourg
and cardinals from uncle to nephew, erected for themselves at
Saverne,[78] there are 700 beds, 180 horses, 14 butlers, and 25
valets. "The whole province assembles there;" the cardinal lodges as
many as two hundred guests at a time, without counting the valets; at
all times there are found under his roof "from twenty to thirty ladies
the most agreeable of the province, and this number is often increased
by those of the court and from Paris. . . . The entire company sup
together at nine o'clock in the evening, which always looks like a
fête," and the cardinal himself is its chief ornament. Splendidly
dressed, fine-looking, gallant, exquisitely polite, the slightest
smile is a grace. "His face, always beaming, inspired confidence; he
had the true physiognomy of a man expressly designed for pompous

Such likewise is the attitude and occupation of the principal lay
seigniors, at home, in summer, when a love of the charms of fine
weather brings them back to their estates. For example, Harcourt in
Normandy and Brienne in Champagne are two chateaux the best
frequented. "Persons of distinction resort to it from Paris, eminent
men of letters, while the nobility of the canton pay there an
assiduous court."[79] There is no residence where flocks of
fashionable people do not light down permanently to dine, to dance, to
hunt, to gossip, to unravel,[80] (parfiler) to play comedy. We can
trace these birds from cage to cage; they remain a week, a month,
three months, displaying their plumage and their prattle. From Paris
to Ile-Adam, to Villers-Cotterets, to Frétoy, to Planchette, to
Soissons, to Rheims, to Grisolles, to Sillery, to Braine, to
Balincourt, to Vaudreuil, the Comte and Comtesse de Genlis thus bear
about their leisure, their wit, their gaiety, at the domiciles of
friends whom, in their turn, they entertain at Genlis. A glance at the
exteriors of these mansions suffices to show that it was the chief
duty in these days to be hospitable, as it was a prime necessity to be
in society.[81] Their luxury, indeed, differs from ours. With the
exception of a few princely establishments it is not great in the
matter of country furniture; a display of this description is left to
the financiers. "But it is prodigious in all things which can minister
to the enjoyment of others, in horses, carriages, and in an open
table, in accommodations given even to people not belonging to the
house, in boxes at the play which are lent to friends, and lastly, in
servants, much more numerous than nowadays." Through this mutual and
constant attention the most rustic nobles lose the rust still
encrusting their brethren in Germany or in England. We find in France
few Squire Western and Barons de Thunder-ten-Troenck; an Alsatian
lady, on seeing at Frankfort the grotesque country squires of
Westphalia, is struck with the contrast.[82] Those of France, even in
distant provinces, have frequented the drawing-rooms of the commandant
and intendant, and have encountered on their visits some of the ladies
from Versailles; hence they always show some familiarity with superior
manners and some knowledge of the changes of fashion and dress." The
most barbarous will descend, with his hat in his hand, to the foot of
his steps to escort his guests, thanking them for the honor they have
done him. The greatest rustic, when in a woman's presence, dives down
into the depths of his memory for some fragment of chivalric
gallantry. The poorest and most secluded furbishes up his coat of
royal blue and his cross of St. Louis that he may, when the occasion
offers, tender his respects to his neighbor, the grand seignior, or to
the prince who is passing by.

Thus is the feudal staff wholly transformed, from the lowest to the
highest grades. Taking in at one glance its 30 or 40,000 palaces,
mansions, manors and abbeys, what a brilliant and engaging scene
France presents! She is one vast drawing-room, and I detect only
drawing room company. Everywhere the rude chieftains once possessing
authority have become the masters of households administering favors.
Their society is that in which, before fully admiring a great general,
the question is asked, "is he amiable?" Undoubtedly they still wear
swords, and are brave through pride and tradition, and they know how
to die, especially in duels and according to form. But worldly traits
have hidden the ancient military groundwork; at the end of the
eighteenth century their genius is to be wellbred and their employment
consists in entertaining or in being entertained.



[1]. "Mémoires de Laporte" (1632). "M. d'Epernon came to Bordeaux,
where he found His Eminence very ill. He visited him regularly every
morning, having two hundred guards to accompany him to the door of his
chamber." - "Mémoires de Retz." "We came to the audience, M. de
Beaufort and myself; with a corps of nobles which might number three
hundred gentlemen; MM. the princes had with them nearly a thousand
gentlemen." - All the memoirs of the time show on every page that
these escorts were necessary to make or repel sudden attacks.

[2]. Mercier, "Tableau de Paris." IX. 3.

[3]. Leroi, "Histoire de Versailles," Il. 21. (70,000 fixed
population and 10,000 floating population according to the registers
of the mayoralty.)

[4]. Warroquier, "Etat de la France" (1789). The list of persons
presented at court between 1779 and 1789, contains 463 men and 414
women. Vol. II. p. 515.

[5]. People were run over almost every day in Paris by the
fashionable vehicles, it being the habit of the great to ride very

[6]. 153,222,827 livres, 10 sous, 3 deniers. ( "Souvenirs d'un page
de la cour de Louis XVI.," by the Count d'Hézecques, p. 142.) - In
1690, before the chapel and the theater were constructed, it had
already cost 100,000,000, (St. Simon, XII. 514. Memoirs of Marinier,
clerk of the king's buildings.)

[7]. Museum of Engravings, National Library. "Histoire de France
par estampes," passim, and particularly the plans and views of
Versailles, by Aveline; also, "the drawing of a collation given by M.
le Prince in the Labyrinth of Chantilly," Aug. 29, 1687.

[8]. Memoirs, I. 221. He was presented at court February 19, 1787.

[9]. For these details cf. Warroquier, vol. I. passim. - Archives
imperiales, O1, 710 bis, the king's household, expenditure of 1771. -
D'Argenson, February 25, 1752. - In 1772 three millions are expended
on the installation of the Count d'Artois. A suite of rooms for Mme.
Adelaide cost 800,000 livres.

[10]. Marie Antoinette, "Correspondance secréte," by d'Arneth and
Geffroy, III.192. Letter of Mercy, January 25, 1779. - Warroquier,
in 1789, mentions only fifteen places in the house-hold of Madame
Royale. This, along with other indications, shows the inadequacy of
official statements.

[11]. The number ascertainable after the reductions of 1775 and
1776, and before those of 1787. See Warroquier, vol. I. - Necker,
"Administration des Finances," II. 119.

[12]. "La Maison du Roi en 1786," colored engravings in the Museum
of Engravings.

[13]. Arcchives nationales, O1, 738. Report by M. Tessier (1780),
on the large and small stables. The queen's stables comprise 75
vehicles and 330 horses. These are the veritable figures taken from
secret manuscript reports, showing the inadequacy of official
statements. The Versailles Almanach of 1775, for instance, states that
there were only 335 men in the stables while we see that in reality
the number was four or five times as many. - "Previous to all the
reforms, says a witness, I believe that the number of the king's
horses amounted to 3,000." (D'Hézecques, "Souvenirs d'un page de Louis
XVI.," p. 121.

[14]. La Maison du Roi justifiée par un soldat citoyen," (1786)
according to Statements published by the government. - "La future
maison du roi" (1790). "The two stables cost in 1786, the larger one
4,207,606 livres, and the smaller 3,509,402 livres, a total of
7,717,058 livres, of which 486,546 were for the purchase of horses.

[15]. On my arrival at Versailles (1786), there were 150 pages, not
including those of the princes of the blood who lived at Paris. A
page's coat cost 1,500 livres, (crimson velvet embroidered with gold
on all the seams, and a hat with feather and Spanish point lace.)"
D'Hézecques, ibid., 112.

[16]. Archives nationales, O1, 778. Memorandum on the hunting-train
between 1760 and 1792 and especially the report of 1786.

[17]. Mercier, "Tableau de Paris," vol. I. p. 11; vol. V. p. 62. -
D'Hézecques, ibid. 253. - "Journal de Louis XVI," published by
Nicolardot, passim.

[18]. Warroquier, vol. I. passim. Household of the Queen: for the
chapel 22 persons, the faculty 6. That of Monsieur, the chapel 22,
the faculty 21. That of Madame, the chapel 20, the faculty 9. That of
the Comte d'Artois, the chapel 20, the faculty 28. That of the
Comtesse d'Artois, the chapel 19, the faculty 17. That of the Duc
d'Orléans, the chapel 6, the faculty 19.

[19]. Archives national, O1, Report by M. Mesnard de Choisy,
(March, 1780). - They cause a reform (August 17, 1780). - "La Maison
du roi justifiée" (1789), p. 24. In 1788 the expenses of the table are
reduced to 2,870,999 livres, of which 600,000 livres are appropriated
to Mesdames for their table.

[20]. D'Hézecques, ibid.. 212. Under Louis XVI. there were two
chair-carriers to the king, who came every morning, in velvet coats
and with swords by their sides, to inspect and empty the object of
their functions; this post was worth to each one 20,000 livres per

[21]. In 1787, Louis XVI. either demolishes or orders to be sold,
Madrid, la Muette and Choisy; his acquisitions, however, Saint-Cloud,
Ile-Adam and Rambouillet, greatly surpassing his reforms.

[22]. Necker; "Compte-rendu," II. 452. - Archives nationales, 01,
738. p.62 and 64, O1 2805, O1 736. - "La Maison du roi Justifiée"
(1789). Constructions in 1775, 3,924,400, in 1786, 4,000,000, in 1788,
3,077,000 livres. - Furniture in 1788, 1,700,000 livres.

[23]. Here are some of the casual expenses. (Archives nationales,
O1, 2805). On the birth of the Duc de Bourgogne in 1751, 604,477
livres. For the Dauphin's marriage in 1770, 1,267,770 livres. For the
marriage of the Comte d'Artois in 1773, 2,016,221 livres. For the
coronation in 1775, 835,862 livre,. For plays, concerts and balls in
1778, 481,744 livres, and in 1779, 382,986 livres.

[24]. Warroquier, vol. I. ibid., - "Marie Antoinette," by
d'Arneth and Geffroy. Letter of Mercy, Sept. 16, 1773. "The multitude
of people of various occupations following the king on his travels
resembles the progress of an army."

[25]. The civil households of the king, queen, and Mme. Elisabeth,
of Mesdames, and Mme. Royale, 25,700,000. - To the king's brothers and
sisters-in-law, 8,040,000. - The king's military household, 7,681,000,
(Necker, "Compte-rendu," II. 119). From 1774 to 1788 the expenditure
on the households of the king and his family varies from 32 to 36
millions, not including the military household, ("La Maison du roi
justiftiée"). In 1789 the households of the king, queen, Dauphin,
royal children and of Mesdames, cost 25 millions. - Those of Monsieur
and Madame, 3,656,000; those of the Count and Countess d'Artois,
3,656,000; those of the Dukes de Berri and d'Angoulême, 700,000;
salaries continued to persons formerly in the princes' service,
228,000. The total is 33,240,000. - To this must be added the king's
military household and two millions in the princes' appanages. (A
general account of fixed incomes and expenditure on the first of May,
1789, rendered by the minister of finances to the committee on
finances of the National Assembly.)

[26]. Warroquier, ibid,(1789) vol. I., passim.

[27]. An expression of the Comte d'Artois on introducing the
officers of his household to his wife.

[28]. The number of light-horsemen and of gendarmes was reduced in
1775 and in 1776; both bodies were suppressed in 1787.

[29]. The President of the 5th French Republic founded by General
de Gaulle is even today the source of numerous appointments of great
importance. (SR.)

[30]. Saint-Simon, "Mémoires," XVI. 456. This need of being always
surrounded continues up to the last moment; in 1791, the queen
exclaimed bitterly, speaking of the nobility, "when any proceeding of
ours displeases them they are sulky; no one comes to my table; the
king retires alone; we have to suffer for our misfortunes." (Mme.
Campan, II. 177.)

[31]. Duc de Lévis, "Souvenirs et Portraits," 29. - Mme. de
Maintenon, "Correspondance."

[32]. M. de V - who was promised a king's lieutenancy or command,
yields it to one of Mme. de Pompadour's protégés, obtaining in lieu of
it the part of the exempt in "Tartuffe," played by the seigniors
before the king in the small cabinet. (Mme. de Hausset, 168). "M.
de V,- thanked Madame as if she had made him a duke."

[33]. "Paris, Versailles et les provinces au dix-huitième siècle,"
II. 160, 168. - Mercier, "Tableau de Paris," IV. 150. - De Ségur,
"Mémoires," I. 16.

[34]. "Marie Antoinette," by D'Arneth and Geffroy, II. 27, 255,
281. "-- Gustave III." by Geffroy, November, 1786, bulletin of Mme. de
Staël. - D'Hézecques, ibid.. 231. - Archives nationales, 01, 736, a
letter by M. Amelot, September 23, 1780. - De Luynes, XV. 260, 367;
XVI. 163 ladies, of which 42 are in service, appear and courtesy to
the king. 160 men and more than 100 ladies pay their respects to the
Dauphin and Dauphine.

[35]. Cochin. Engravings of a masked ball, of a dress ball, of the
king and queen at play, of the interior of the theater (1745).
Customes of Moreau (1777). Mme. de Genlis, "Dictionaire des
etiquettes," the article parure.

[36]. "The difference between the tone and language of the court
and the town was about as perceptible as that between Paris and the
provinces. " (De Tilly, "Mémoires," I. 153.)

[37]. The following is an example of the compulsory inactivity of
the nobles - a dinner of Queen Marie Leczinska at Fontainebleau: "I
was introduced into a superb hall where I found about a dozen
courtiers promenading about and a table set for as many persons, which
was nevertheless prepared for but one person. . . . The queen sat
own while the twelve courtiers took their positions in a semi-circle
ten steps from the table; I stood alongside of them imitating their
deferential silence. Her Majesty began to eat very fast, keeping her
eyes fixed on the plate. Finding one of the dishes to her taste she
returned to it, and then, running her eye around the circle, she said
"Monsieur de Lowenthal?" - On hearing this name a fine-looking man
advanced, bowing, and replied, "Madame?" - "I find that this ragout is
fricassé chicken."-- "I believe it is' Madame." - On making this
answer, in the gravest manner, the marshal, retiring backwards,
resumed his position, while the queen finished her dinner, never
uttering another word and going back to her room the same way as she
came." (Memoirs of Casanova.)

[38]. "Under Louis XVI, who arose at seven or eight o'clock, the
lever took place at half-past eleven unless hunting or ceremonies
required it earlier." There is the same ceremonial at eleven, again in
the evening on retiring, and also during the day, when he changes his
boots. (D'Hézecque, 161.)

[39]. Warroquier, I. 94. Compare corresponding detail under Louis
XVI in Saint-Simon XIII. 88.

[40]. "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, II. 217.

[41]. In all changes of the coat the left arm of the king is
appropriated by the wardrobe and the right arm to the "chambre."

[42]. The queen breakfasts in bed, and "there are ten or twelve
persons present at this first reception or entrée. . . " The grand
receptions taking place at the dressing hour. "This reception
comprises the princes of the blood, the captains of the guards and
most of the grand-officers." The same ceremony occurs with the chemise
as with the king's shirt. One winter day Mme. Campan offers the
chemise to the queen, when a lady of honor enters, removes her gloves
and takes the chemise in her hands. A movement at the door and the
Duchess of Orleans comes in, takes off her gloves, and receives the
chemise. Another movement and it is the Comtesse d'Artois whose
privilege it is to hand the chemise. Meanwhile the queen sits there
shivering with her arms crossed on her breast and muttering, "It is
dreadful, what importunity! " (Mme. Campan, II. 217; III. 309-316).

[43]. "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, II. 223 (August
15, 1774).

[44]. Count D'Hézecques, ibid., p. 7.

[45]. Duc de Lauzun, "Mémoires," 51. - Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires,"
ch. XII.: "Our husbands, regularly on that day (Saturday) slept at
Versailles, to hunt the next day with the king."

[46]. The State dinner takes place every Sunday. - La nef is a
piece of plate at the center of the table containing between scented
cushions, the napkins used by the king. - The essai is the tasting of
each dish by the gentlemen servants and officers of the table before
the king partakes of it. And the same with the beverages. - It
requires four persons to serve the king with a glass of wine and

[47]. When the ladies of the king's court, and especially the
princesses, pass before the king's bed they have to make an obeisance;
the palace officials salute the nef on passing that. - A priest or
sacristan does the same thing on passing before the altar.

[48]. De Luynes, IX, 75,79, 105. (August, 1748, October 1748).

[49]. The king is at Marly, and here is a list of the excursions he
is to make before going to Compiègne. (De Luynes, XIV, 163, May, 1755)
"Sunday, June 1st, to Choisy until Monday evening. - Tuesday, the
3rd to Trianon, until Wednesday. - Thursday, the 5th, return to
Trianon where he will remain until after supper on Saturday. -
Monday, the 9th, to Crécy, until Friday, 13th. - Return to Crécy the
16th, until the 21st. - St. July 1st to la Muette, the 2nd, to

[50]. "Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, I. 19 (July 12,
1770). I. 265 (January 23, 1771). I. III. (October 18, 1770).

[51]. Marie Antoinette," by d'Arneth and Geffroy, II, 270 (October
18, 1774). II, 395 (November 15, 1775). II, 295 (February 20, 1775).
III, 25 (February 11, 1777). III, 119 (October 17, 1777). III, 409
(March 18, 1780).

[52]. Mme. Campan, I. 147.

[53]. Nicolardot, "Journal de Louis XVI," 129.

[54]. D'Hézecques ibid. 253. - Arthur Young, I. 215.

[55]. List of pensions paid to members of the royal family in 1771.
Duc d'Orléans, 150,000. Prince de Condé, 100,000. Comte de Clermont,
70,000. Duc de Bourbon, 60,000. Prince de Conti, 60,000. Comte de la
Marche, 60,000. Dowager-Countess de Conti, 50,000. Duc de Penthièvre,
50,000. Princess de Lamballe, 50,000. Duchess de Bourbon, 50,000.
(Archives Nationales. O1. 710, bis).

[56]. Beugnot, I. 77. Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," ch. XVII. De
Goncourt, "La Femme au dix-huitième siècle," 52. - Champfort,
"Caractères et Anecdotes."

[57]. De Luynes, XVI. 57 (May, 1757). In the army of Westphalia the
Count d'Estrées, commander-in-chief; had twenty-seven secretaries, and
Grimm was the twenty-eighth. - When the Duc de Richelieu set out for
his government of Guyenne he was obliged to have relays of a hundred
horses along the entire road.

[58]. De Luynes, XVI. 186 (October, 1757).

[59]. De Goncourt, ibid., 73, 75.

[60]. Mme. d'Epinay, "Mémoires." Ed. Boiteau, I. 306 (1751).

[61]. St. Simon, XII. 457, and Dangeau, VI. 408. The Marshal de
Boufflers at the camp of Compiègne (September, 1698) had every night
and morning two tables for twenty and twenty-five persons, besides
extra tables; 72 cooks, 340 domestics, 400 dozens of napkins, 80
dozens of silver plates, 6 dozens of porcelain plates. Fourteen relays
of horses brought fruits and liquors daily from Paris; every day an
express brought fish, poultry and game from Ghent, Brussels, Dunkirk,
Dieppe and Calais. Fifty dozens bottles of wine were drunk on ordinary
days and eighty dozens during the visits of the king and the princes.

[62]. De Luynes, XIV. 149.

[63]. Abbé Georgel, "Mémoires," 216.

[64]. Sainte-Beuve, "Causeries du lundi," VIII. 63, the texts of
two witnesses, MM. de Genlis and Roland.

[65]. De Luynes, XV. 455, and XVI. 219 (1757). "The Marshal de
Belle-Isle contracted an indebtedness amounting to 1,200,000 livres,
one-quarter of it for building great piles of houses for his own
pleasure and the rest in the king's service. The king, to indemnify
him, gives him 400,000 livres on the salt revenue, and 80,000 livres
income on the company privileged to refine the precious metals."

[66]. Report of fixed incomes and expenditures, May 1st, 1789, p.
633. - These figures, it must be noted, must be doubled to have their
actual equivalent.

[67]. Mme. de Genlis, "Dict. des Etiquettes," I. 349.

[68]. Barbier, "Journal," III, 211 (December, 1750).

[69]. Aubertin, "L'Esprit public au dix-huitième siècle," 255.

[70]. Mme. de Genlis, "Adèle et Théodore." III. 54.

[71]. Duc de Lévis, 68. The same thing is found, previous to the
late reform, in the English army. - Cf. Voltaire, "Entretiens entre A,
B, C," 15th entretien. "A regiment is not the reward for services but
rather for the sum which the parents of a young man advance in order
that he may go to the provinces for three months in the year and keep
open house."

[72]. Beugnot, I. 79.

[73]. Merlin de Thionville, "Vie et correspondances." Account of
his visit to the chartreuse of Val St. Pierre in Thierarche.

[74]. Mme. de Genlis, "Mémoires," ch. 7.

[75]. Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 15.

[76]. Mme. de Genlis, 26, ch. I. Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 62.

[77]. De Lauzun, "Mémoires," 257.

[78]. Marquis de Valfons, "Mémoires," 60. - De Lévis, 156. - Mme.
d'Oberkirk, I, 127, II, 360.

[79]. Beugnot, I, 71. - Hippeau, "Le Gouvernement de Normandie,"

[80]. An occupation explained farther on, page 145. - TR.

[81]. Mme. de Genlis, " Mémoires," passim. "Dict. des Etiquettes,"
I. 348.

[82]. Mme. d'Oberkirk, I. 395. - The Baron and Baroness de
Sotenville in Molière are people well brought up although provincial
and pedantic.



Perfect only in France. - Reasons for this derived from the French
character. - Reasons derived from the tone of the court. - This life
becomes more and more agreeable and absorbing.

Similar circumstances have led other aristocracies in Europe to
nearly similar ways and habits. There also the monarchy has given
birth to the court and the court to a refined society. But the
development of this rare plant has been only partial. The soil was
unfavorable and the seed was not of the right sort. In Spain, the king
stands shrouded in etiquette like a mummy in its wrappings, while a
too rigid pride, incapable of yielding to the amenities of the worldly
order of things, ends in a sentiment of morbidity and in insane
display.[2] In Italy, under petty despotic sovereigns, and most of
them strangers, the constant state of danger and of hereditary
distrust, after having tied all tongues, turns all hearts towards the
secret delights of love and towards the mute gratification of the fine
arts. In Germany and in England, a cold temperament, dull and
rebellious to culture, keeps man, up to the close of the last century,
within the Germanic habits of solitude, inebriety and brutality. In
France, on the contrary, all things combine to make the social
sentiment flourish; in this the national genius harmonizes with the
political regime, the plant appearing to be selected for the soil

The Frenchman loves company through instinct, and the reason is
that he does well and easily whatever society calls upon him to do. He
has not the false shame which renders his northern neighbors awkward,
nor the powerful passions which absorb his neighbors of the south.
Talking is no effort to him, having none of the natural timidity which
begets constraint, and with no constant preoccupation to overcome. He
accordingly converses at his ease, ever on the alert, and conversation
affords him extreme pleasure. For the happiness which he requires is
of a peculiar kind: delicate, light, rapid, incessantly renewed and
varied, in which his intellect, his vanity, all his emotional and
sympathetic faculties find nourishment; and this quality of happiness
is provided for him only in society and in conversation. Sensitive as
he is, personal attention, consideration, cordiality, delicate
flattery, constitute his natal atmosphere, outside which he breathes
with difficulty. He would suffer almost as much in being impolite as
in encountering impoliteness in others. For his instincts of
kindliness and vanity there is an exquisite charm in the habit of
being amiable, and this is all the greater because it proves
contagious. When we afford pleasure to others there is a desire to
please us, and what we bestow in deference is returned in attentions.
In company of this kind one can talk, for to talk is to amuse another
in being oneself amused, a Frenchman finding no pleasure equal to
it.[3] Lively and sinuous, conversation to him is like the flying of a
bird; he wings his way from idea to idea, alert, excited by the
inspiration of others, darting forward, wheeling round and
unexpectedly returning, now up, now down, now skimming the ground, now
aloft on the peaks, without sinking into quagmires, or getting
entangled in the briers, and claiming nothing of the thousands of
objects he slightly grazes but the diversity and the gaiety of their

Thus endowed, and thus disposed, he is made for a régime which, for
ten hours a day, brings men together; natural feeling in accord with
the social order of things renders the drawing room perfect. The king,
at the head of all, sets the example. Louis XIV had every
qualification for the master of a household: a taste for pomp and
hospitality, condescension accompanied with dignity, the art of
playing on the self-esteem of others and of maintaining his own
position, chivalrous gallantry, tact, and even charms of intellectual
expression. "His address was perfect;[4] whether it was necessary to

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