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The Memoirs of Louis XIV., His Court and The Regency, entire by Duc de Saint-Simon

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the commencement. The double knowledge did not come to them until they
heard the frightful crash of the thunderbolt which fell upon France, and
astonished all Europe.

To give some idea of the opposition from the King, M. du Maine and Madame
de Maintenon had to overcome, and to show how reluctantly he consented to
their wishes, more than one incident may be brought forward. Some days
before the news transpired, the King, full of the enormity of what he had
just done for his bastards, looked at them in his cabinet, in presence of
the valets, and of D'Antin and D'O, and in a sharp manner, that told of
vexation, and with a severe glance, suddenly thus addressed himself to M.
du Maine:

"You have wished it; but know that however great I may make you, and you
may be in my lifetime, you are nothing after me; and it will be for you
then to avail yourself of what I have done for you, if you can."

Everybody present trembled at a thunder-clap so sudden, so little
expected, so entirely removed from the character and custom of the King,
and which showed so clearly the extreme ambition of the Duc du Maine, and
the violence he had done to the weakness of the King, who seemed to
reproach himself for it, and to reproach the bastard for his ambition and
tyranny. The consternation of M. du Maine seemed extreme at this rough
sally, which no previous remark had led to. The King had made a clean
breast of it. Everybody fixed his eyes upon the floor and held his
breath. The silence was profound for a considerable time: it finished
only when the King passed into his wardrobe. In his absence everybody
breathed again. The King's heart was full to bursting with what he had
just been made to do; but like a woman who gives birth to two children,
he had at present brought but one into the world, and bore a second of
which he must be delivered, and of which he felt all the pangs without
any relief from the suffering the first had caused him.

Again, on Sunday, the 27th August, the Chief-President and the Attorney-
General were sent for by the King. He was at Versailles. As soon as
they were alone with him, he took from a drawer, which he unlocked, a
large and thick packet, sealed with seven seals (I know not if by this M.
du Maine wished to imitate the mysterious book with Seven Seals, of the
Apocalypse, and so sanctify the packet). In handing it to them, the King
said: "Gentlemen, this is my will. No one but myself knows its contents.
I commit it to you to keep in the Parliament, to which I cannot give a
greater testimony of my esteem and confidence than by rendering it the
depository of it. The example of the Kings my predecessors, and that of
the will of the King, my father, do not allow me to be ignorant of what
may become of this; but they would have it; they have tormented me; they
have left me no repose, whatever I might say. Very well! I have bought
my repose. Here is the will; take it away: come what may of it, at
least, I shall have rest, and shall hear no more about it."

At this last word, that he finished with a dry nod, he turned his back
upon them, passed into another cabinet, and left them both nearly turned
into statues. They looked at each other frozen by what they had just
heard, and still more by what they had just seen in the eyes and the
countenance of the King; and as soon as they had collected their senses,
they retired, and went to Paris. It was not known until after dinner
that the King had made a will and given it to them. In proportion as the
news spread, consternation filled the Court, while the flatterers, at
bottom as much alarmed as the rest, and as Paris was afterwards,
exhausted themselves in praises and eulogies.

The next day, Monday, the 28th, the Queen of England came from Chaillot,
where she almost always was, to Madame de Maintenon's. As soon as the
King perceived her, "Madame," said he to her, like a man full of
something and angry, "I have made my will; I have been tormented to do
it;" then casting his eyes upon Madame de Maintenon, "I have bought
repose; I know the powerlessness and inutility of it. We can do all we
wish while we live; afterwards we are less than the meanest. You have
only to see what became of my father's will immediately after his death,
and the wills of so many other Kings. I know it well; but nevertheless
they have wished it; they gave me no rest nor repose, no calm until it
was done; ah, well! then, Madame, it is done; come what may of it, I
shall be no longer tormented."

Words such as these so expressive of the extreme violence suffered by the
King, of his long and obstinate battle before surrendering, of his
vexation, and uneasiness, demand the clearest proofs. I had them from
people who heard them, and would not advance them unless I were perfectly
persuaded of their exactness.

As soon as the Chief-President and the Attorney-General returned to
Paris, they sent for some workmen, whom they led into a tower of the
Palace of justice, behind the Buvette, or drinking-place of the grand
chamber and the cabinet of the Chief-President. They had a big hole made
in the wall of this tower, which is very thick, deposited the testament
there, closed up the opening with an iron door, put an iron grating by
way of second door, and then walled all up together. The door and the
grating each had three locks, the same for both; and a different key for
each of the three, which consequently opened each of the two locks, the
one in the door and the one in the grating. The Chief-President kept one
key, the Attorney-General another, and the Chief-Greffier of the
Parliament the third. The Parliament was assembled and the Chief-
President flattered the members as best he might upon the confidence
shown them in entrusting them with this deposit.

At the same time was presented to the Parliament an edict that the Chief-
President and the Attorney-General had received from the hand of the
Chancellor at Versailles the same morning the King had given them his
will, and the edict was registered. It was very short. It declared that
the packet committed to the Chief-President and to the Attorney-General
contained the will of the King, by which he had provided for the
protection and guardianship of the young King, and had chosen a Regency
council, the dispositions of which--for good reasons he had not wished to
publish; that he wished this deposit should be preserved during his life
in the registry of the Parliament, and that at the moment when it should
please God to call him from the world, all the chambers of the
Parliament, all the princes of the royal house, and all the peers who
might be there, should assemble and open the will; and that after it was
read, all its dispositions should be made public and executed, nobody to
be permitted to oppose them in any way.

Notwithstanding all this secrecy, the terms of the will were pretty
generally guessed, and as I have said, the consternation was general.
It was the fate of M. du Maine to obtain what he wished; but always with
the maledictions of the public. This fate did not abandon him now, and
as soon as he felt it, he was overwhelmed, and Madame de Maintenon
exasperated, and their attentions and their care redoubled, to shut up
the King, so that the murmurs of the world should not reach him. They
occupied themselves more than ever to amuse and to please him, and to
fill the air around him with praises, joy, and public adoring at an act
so generous and so grand, and at the same time so wise and so necessary
to the maintenance of good order and tranquillity, which would cause him
to reign so gloriously even after his reign.

This consternation was very natural, and is precisely why the Duc du
Maine found himself deceived and troubled by it. He believed he had
prepared everything, smoothed everything, in rendering M. d'Orleans so
suspected and so odious; he had succeeded, but not so much as he
imagined. His desires and his emissaries had exaggerated everything;
and he found himself overwhelmed with astonishment, when instead of the
public acclamations with which he had flattered himself the will would be
accompanied, it was precisely the opposite.

It was seen very clearly that the will assuredly could not have been made
in favour of M. d'Orleans, and although public feeling against him had in
no way changed, no one was so blind as not to see that he must be Regent
by the incontestable right of his birth; that the dispositions of the
testament could not weaken that right, except by establishing a power
that should balance his; and that thus two parties would be formed in the
state the chief of each of which would be interested in vanquishing the
other, everybody being necessitated to join one side or other, thereby
running a thousand risks without any advantage. The rights of the two
disputants were compared. In the one they were found sacred, in the
other they could not be found at all. The two persons were compared.
Both were found odious, but M. d'Orleans was deemed superior to M. du
Maine. I speak only of the mass of uninstructed people, and of what
presented itself naturally and of itself. The better informed had even
more cause to arrive at the same decision.

M. d'Orleans was stunned by the blow; he felt that it fell directly upon
him, but during the lifetime of the King he saw no remedy for it.
Silence respectful and profound appeared to him the sole course open;
any other would only have led to an increase of precautions. The King
avoided all discourse with him upon this matter; M. du Maine the same.
M. d'Orleans was contented with a simple approving monosyllable to both,
like a courtier who ought not to meddle with anything; and he avoided
conversation upon this subject, even with Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans,
and with anybody else. I was the sole person to whom he dared to unbosom
himself; with the rest of the world he had an open, an ordinary manner,
was on his guard against any discontented sign, and against the curiosity
of all eyes. The inexpressible abandonment in which he was, in the midst
of the Court, guaranteed him at least from all remarks upon the will. It
was not until the health of the King grew more menacing that he began to
speak and be spoken to thereon.

As for M. du Maine, despite his good fortune, he was not to be envied At
Sceaux, where he lived, the Duchesse du Maine, his wife, ruined him by
her extravagance. Sceaux was more than ever the theatre of her follies,
and of the shame and embarrassment of her husband, by the crowd from the
Court and the town, which abounded there and laughed at them. She
herself played there Athalie (assisted by actors and actresses) and other
pieces several times a week. Whole nights were passed in coteries,
games, fetes, illuminations, fireworks, in a word, fancies and fripperies
of every kind and every day. She revelled in the joy of her new
greatness--redoubled her follies; and the Duc du Maine, who always
trembled before her, and who, moreover, feared that the slightest
contradiction would entirely turn her brain, suffered all this, even
piteously doing the honours as often as he could without ceasing in his
conduct to the King.

However great might be his joy, whatever the unimaginable greatness to
which he had arrived, he was not tranquil. Like those tyrants who have
usurped by their crimes the sovereign power, and who fear as so many
conspiring enemies all their fallen citizens they have enslaved--he felt
as though seated under that sword that Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse,
suspended by a hair over his table, above the head of a man whom he
placed there because he believed him happy, and in this manner wished to
make him feel what passed unceasingly in himself. M. du Maine, who
willingly expressed in pleasantry the most serious things, frankly said
to his familiars, that he was "like a louse between two fingernails" (the
Princes of the blood and the peers), by which he could not fail to be
cracked if he did not take care! This reflection troubled the excess of
his pleasure, and that of the greatness and the power to which so many
artifices had elevated him. He feared the Princes of the blood as soon
as they should be of age to feel the infamy and the danger of the wound
he had given them; he feared the Parliament, which even under his eyes
had not been able to dissimulate its indignation at the violence he had
committed against the most holy and the most inviolable laws; he even
feared the Dukes so timid are injustice and tyranny!


Let me return to Maisons. Five days after the King's will had been
walled up, in the manner I have described, he came to me and made a
pathetic discourse upon the injustice done to M. le Duc d'Orleans by this
testament, and did all he could to excite me by railing in good set terms
against dispositions intended to add to the power and grandeur of the

When he had well harangued, I said he had told me nothing new; that I saw
the same truths as he with the same evidence; that the worst thing I
found was that there was no remedy.

"No remedy!" he exclaimed, interrupting me, with his sly and cunning
laugh; "courage and ability can always find one for everything, and I am
astonished that you, who have both, should have nothing to suggest while
everybody is going to confusion."

I asked him how it was possible to suppress a will registered by edict; a
document solemn and public deposited with ceremony in the very depths of
the palace, with precautions known to everybody--nature and art combining
to keep it in safety?

"You are at a loss to know!" replied Maisons to me. "Have ready at the
instant of the King's death sure troops and sensible officers, all ready
and well instructed; and with them, masons and lock-smiths--march to the
palace, break open the doors and the wall, carry off the will, and let it
never be seen."

In my extreme surprise I asked him, what he expected would be the fruit
of such violence? I pointed out that to seize by force of arms a public
and solemn document, in the midst of the capital, in despite of all--all
law and order, would be to put weapons into the hands of the enemies of
M. le Duc d'Orleans, who assuredly would be justified in crying out
against this outrage, and who would find the whole country disposed to
echo their cries. I said too, that if in the execution of such an odious
scheme a sedition occurred, and blood were shed, universal hatred and
opprobrium would fall upon the head of M, le Duc d'Orleans, and
deservedly so.

We carried on our discussion a long time, but Maisons would in no way
give up his scheme. After leaving me he went to M. le Duc d'Orleans and
communicated it to him. Happily it met with no success with the Duke,
indeed, he was extremely astonished at it; but what astonished us more
was, that Maisons persisted in it up to his death, which preceded by some
few days that of the King, and pressed it upon M. le Duc d'Orleans and
myself till his importunity became persecution.

It was certainly not his fault that I over and over again refused to go
to the Grand Chamber of the Parliament to examine the place, as Maisons
wished me to do; I who never went to the Parliament except for the
reception of the peers or when the King was there. Not being able to
vanquish what he called my obstinacy, Maisons begged me at the least to
go and fix myself upon the Quai de la Megisserie, where so much old iron
is sold, and examine from that spot the tower where the will was; he
pointed it out to me; it looked out upon the Quai des Morforidus, but was
behind the buildings on the quai. What information could be obtained
from such a point of view may be imagined. I promised to go there, not
to stop, and thus awake the attention of the passers-by, but to pass
along and see what was to be seen; adding, that it as simply out of
complaisance to him, and not because I meant to agree in any way to his
enterprise. What is incomprehensible is, that for a whole year Maisons
pressed his charming project upon us. The worst enemy of M. le Duc
d'Orleans could not have devised a more rash and ridiculous undertaking.
I doubt whether many people would have been found in all Paris
sufficiently deprived of sense to fall in with it. What are we to think
then of a Parliamentary President of such consideration as Maisons had
acquired at the Palace of justice, at the Court, in the town, where he
had always passed for a man of intellect, prudent, circumspect,
intelligent, capable, measured? Was he vile enough, in concert with M.
du Maine, to open this gulf beneath our feet, to push us to our ruin, and
by the fall of M. le Duc d'Orleans--the sole prince of the blood old
enough to be Regent--to put M. le Duc du Maine in his place, from which
to the crown there was only one step, as none are ignorant, left to be
taken? It seems by no means impossible: M. du Maine, that son of
darkness, was, judging him by what he had already done, quite capable of
adding this new crime to his long list.

The mystery was, however, never explained. Maisons died before its
darkness could be penetrated. His end was terrible. He had no religion;
his father had had none. He married a sister of the Marechal de Villars,
who was in the same case. Their only son they specially educated in
unbelief. Nevertheless, everything seemed to smile upon them. They had
wealth, consideration, distinguished friends. But mark the end.

Maisons is slightly unwell. He takes rhubarb twice or thrice,
unseasonably; more unseasonably comes Cardinal de Bissy to him, to talk
upon the constitution, and thus hinder the operation of the rhubarb; his
inside seems on fire, but he will not believe himself ill; the progress
of his disease is great in a few hours; the doctors, though soon at their
wits' ends, dare not say so; the malady visibly increases; his whole
household is in confusion; he dies, forty-eight years of age, midst of a
crowd of friends, of clients, without the power or leisure to think for a
moment what is going to happen to his soul!

His wife survives him ten or twelve years, opulent, and in consideration,
when suddenly she has an attack of apoplexy in her garden. Instead of
thinking of her state, and profiting by leisure, she makes light of her
illness, has another attack a few days after, and is carried off on the
5th of May, 1727, in her forty-sixth year, without having had a moment

Her son, for a long time much afflicted, seeks to distinguish himself and
acquire friends. Taking no warning from what has occurred, he thinks
only of running after the fortune of this world, and is surprised at
Paris by the small-pox. He believes himself dead, thinks of what he has
neglected all his life, but fear suddenly seizes him, and he dies in the
midst of it, on the 13th of September, 1731, leaving an only son, who
dies a year after him, eighteen months old, all the great wealth of the
family going to collateral relatives.

These Memoirs are not essays on morality, therefore I have contented
myself with the most simple and the most naked recital of facts; but I
may, perhaps, be permitted to apply here those two verses of the 37th
Psalm, which appear so expressly made for the purpose: "I have seen the
impious exalted like the cedars of Lebanon: Yea, he passed away, and, lo,
he was not; yea, I sought him, but he could not be found."

But let me leave this subject now, to treat of other matters. On Friday,
the last day of August, I lost one of the best and most revered of
friends, the Duc de Beavilliers. He died at Vaucresson after an illness
of about two months, his intellect clear to the last, aged sixty-six
years, having been born on the 24th of Oct 1648.

He was the son of M. de Saint-Aignan, who with honour and valour was
truly romantic in gallantry, in belles-lettres, and in arms. He was
Captain of the Guards of Gaston, and at the end of 1649 bought of the Duc
de Liancourt the post of first-gentleman of the King's chamber. He
commanded afterwards in Berry against the party of M. le Prince, and
served elsewhere subsequently. In 1661 he was made Chevalier of the
Order, and in 1661 Duke and Peer. His first wife he lost in 1679. At
the end of a year he married one of her chambermaids, who had been first
of all engaged to take care of her dogs. She was so modest, and he so
shamefaced, that in despite of repeated pressing on the part of the King,
she could not be induced to take her tabouret. She lived in much
retirement, and had so many virtues that she made herself respected all
her life, which was long. M. de Beauvilliers was one of the children of
the first marriage. I know not what care M. and Madame de Saint-Aignan
took of the others, but they left him, until he was six or seven years of
age, to the mercy of their lodge-keeper. Then he was confided to the
care of a canon of Notre Dame de Clery. The household of the canon
consisted of one maid-servant, with whom the little boy slept; and they
continued to sleep together until he was fourteen or fifteen years old,
without either of them thinking of evil, or the canon remarking that the
lad was growing into a man. The death of his eldest brother called
M. de Beauvilliers home. He entered the army, served with distinction at
the head of is regiment of cavalry, and was brigadier.

He was tall, thin, had a long and ruddy face, a large aquiline nose, a
sunken mouth, expressive, piercing eyes, an agreeable smile, a very
gentle manner but ordinarily retiring, serious, and concentrated. B
disposition he was hasty, hot, passionate, fond of pleasure. Ever since
God had touched him, which happened early in his life, he had become
gentle, mildest, humble, kind, enlightened, charitable, and always full
of real piety and goodness. In private, where he was free, he was gay,
joked, and bantered pleasantly, and laughed with good heart. He liked to
be made fun of there was only the story of his sleeping with the canon's
servant that wounded his modesty, and I have seen him embarrassed when
Madame de Beauvilliers has related it,--smiling, however, but praying her
sometimes not to tell it. His piety, which, as I have said, commenced
early in life, separated him from companions of his own age. At the army
one day, during a promenade of the King, he walked alone, a little in
front. Some one remarked it, and observed, sneeringly, that "he was
meditating." The King, who heard this, turned towards the speaker, and,
looking at him, said, "Yes, 'tis M. de Beauvilliers, one of the best men
of the Court, and of my realm." This sudden and short apology caused
silence, and food for reflection, so that the fault-finders remained in
respect before his merit.

The King must have entertained a high regard for him, to give him, in
1670, the very delicate commission he entrusted to him. Madame had just
been so openly poisoned, the conviction was so complete and so general
that it was very difficult to palliate it. Our King and the King of
England, between whom she had just become a stronger bond, by the journey
she had made into England, were penetrated by grief and indignation, and
the English could not contain themselves. The King chose the Duc de
Beauvilliers to carry his compliments of condolence to the King of
England, and under this pretext to try to prevent this misfortune
interfering with their friendship and their union, and to calm the fury
of London and the nation. The King was not deceived: the prudent
dexterity of the Duc de Beauvilliers brought round the King of England,
and even appeased London and the nation.

M. de Beauvilliers had expressed a wish to be buried at Montargis, in the
Benedictine monastery, where eight of his daughters had become nuns.
Madame de Beauvilliers went there, and by an act of religion, terrible to
think of, insisted upon being present at the interment. She retired to
her house at Paris, where during the rest of her life she lived in
complete solitude, without company or amusement of any kind. For nearly
twenty years she remained there, and died in 1733, seventy-five years of
age, infinitely rich in alms and all sorts of good works.

The King taxed the infantry regiments, which had risen to an excessive
price. This venality of the only path by which the superior grades can
be reached is a great blot upon the military system, and stops the career
of many a man who would become an excellent soldier. It is a gangrene
which for a long time has eaten into all the orders and all the parties
of the state, and under which it will be odd if all do not succumb.
Happily it is unknown, or little known, in all the other countries of

Towards the end of this year Cardinal d'Estrees died in Paris at his
abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, nearly eighty-seven years of age, having
always enjoyed perfect health of body and mind until this illness, which
was very short, and which left his intellect clear to the last. It is
proper and curious to pause for a moment upon a personage, all his life
of importance, and who at his death was Cardinal, Bishop of Albano, Abbe
of Longpont, of Mount Saint-Eloi, of Saint-Nichoas-aux-Bois, of La
Staffarde in Piedmont (where Catinat gained a celebrated battle before
being Marechal of France), of Saint-Claude in Franche-Comte, of Anchin in
Flanders, and of Saint-Germain-des-Pres in Paris. He was also Commander
of the Order of the promotion of 1688.

Merit, aided by the chances of fortune, made out of an obscure family of
the Boulonais country, a singularly illustrious race in the fourth
generation, of which Mademoiselle de Tourbes alone remains. The
Cardinal, brother of the last Marechal d'Estrees, their uncle, used to
say; that he knew his fathers as far as the one who had been page of
Queen Anne, Duchess of Brittany; but beyond that he knew nothing, and it
was not worth while searching. Gabrielle d'Estrees, mistress of Henry
IV., whose beauty made her father's fortune, and whose history is too
well known to be here alluded to, was sister of the Cardinal's father,
but died thirty years before he was born. It was through her that the
family became elevated. The father of Cardinal d'Estrees was
distinguished all his life by his merit, his capacity, and the authority
and elevated posts he held. He was made Marshal of France in 1626, and
it is a thing unique that he, his son, and his grandson were not only
Marshals of France, but all three were in succession seniors of that
corps for a long time.

The Cardinal d'Estrees was born in 1627, and for forty years lived with
his father, profiting by his lessons and his consideration. He was of
the most agreeable manners, handsome, well made, full of humour, wit, and
ability; in society the pleasantest person in the world, and yet well
instructed; indeed, of rare erudition, generous, obliging, dignified,
incapable of meanness, he was with so much talent and so many great and
amiable qualities generally loved and respected, and deserved to be. He
was made Cardinal in 1671, but was not declared until after many delays
had occurred. These delays much disturbed him. It was customary, then,
to pay more visits. One evening the Abbe de la Victoire, one of his
friends, and very witty, arrived very late at a supper, in a house where
he was expected. The company inopportunely asked him where he had been,
and what had delayed him.

"Alas!" replied the Abbe, in a tone of sadness, "where have I been? I
have been all day accompanying the body of poor M. de Laon." [The
Cardinal d'Estrees was then Bishop and Duke of Laon.]

"M. de Laon!" cried everybody, "M. de Laon dead! Why, he was quite well
yesterday. 'Tis dreadful. Tell us what has happened."

"What has happened?" replied the Abbe, still with the same tone. "Why,
he took me with him when he paid his visits, and though his body was with
me, his spirit was at Rome, so that I quitted him very wearied." At this
recital grief changed into merriment.

That grand dinner at Fontainebleau for the Prince of Tuscany, at which
the Prince was to be the only guest, and yet never received his
invitation from the Cardinal, I have already mentioned. He was
oftentimes thus absent, but never when business or serious matters were
concerned, so that his forgetfulness was amusing. He never could bear to
hear of his domestic affairs. Pressed and tormented by his steward and
his maitre d'hotel to overlook their accounts, that he had not seen for
many years, he appointed a day to be devoted to them. The two financiers
demanded that he should close his door so as not to be interrupted; he
consented with difficulty, then changed his mind, and said that if
Cardinal Bonzi came he must be admitted, but that it was not likely he
would come on that particular day. Directly afterwards he sent a trusty
servant to Cardinal Bonzi, entreating him to come on such and such a day,
between three and four o'clock, conjuring him not to fail, and begging
him above all to come as of his own accord, the reason to be explained
afterwards. On the appointed day Cardinal d'Estrees told his porter to
let no one enter in the afternoon except Cardinal Bonzi, who assuredly
was not likely to come, but who was not to be sent away if he did. His
people, delighted at having their master to themselves all day without
interruption, arrived about three o'clock; the Cardinal quitted his
family and the few friends who had that day dined with him, and passed
into a cabinet where his business people laid out their papers. He said
a thousand absurdities to them upon his expenditure, of which he
understood nothing, and unceasingly looked towards the window, without
appearing to do so, secretly sighing for a prompt deliverance. A little
before four o'clock, a coach arrived in the court-yard; his business
people, enraged with the porter, exclaimed that there will then be no
more opportunity for working. The Cardinal in delight referred to the
orders he had given. "You will see," he added, "that it is Cardinal
Bonzi, the only man I excepted, and who, of all days in the world, comes

Immediately afterwards, the Cardinal was announced, and the intendant and
maitre d'hotel were forced to make off with their papers and their table.
As soon as he was alone with Bonzi, he explained why he had requested
this visit, and both laughed heartily. Since then his business people
have never caught him again, never during the rest of his life would he
hear speak of them.

He must have had honest people about him; for every day his table was
magnificent, and filled at Paris and at the Court with the best company.
His equipages were so, also; he had numberless domestics, many gentlemen,
chaplains, and secretaries. He gave freely to the poor, and to his
brother the Marechal and his children (who were not well off), and yet
died without owing a crown to a living soul.

His death, for which he had been long prepared, was fine-edifying and
very Christian-like. He was universally regretted. A joke of his with
the King is still remembered. One day, at dinner, where he always paid
much attention to the Cardinal, the King complained of the inconvenience
he felt in no longer having teeth.

"Teeth, sire!" replied the Cardinal; "why, who has any teeth?"

The joke is that the Cardinal, though old, still had very white and very
beautiful teeth, and that his mouth, large, but agreeable, was so shaped
that it showed them plainly in speaking. Therefore the King burst out
laughing at this reply, and all present also, including the Cardinal, who
was not in the slightest degree embarrassed. I might go on forever
telling about him, but enough, perhaps, has been already said.

The commencement of the new year, 1715, was marked by the death of
Fenelon, at Cambrai, where he had lived in disgrace so many years. I
have already said something about him, so that I have now but little to
add. His life at Cambrai was remarkable for the assiduity with which he
attended to the spiritual and temporal wants of his flock. He was
indefatigable in the discharge of his functions, and in endeavouring to
gain all hearts. Cambrai is a place much frequented; through which many
people pass. During the war the number of wounded soldiers he had
received into his house or attended to in the hospitals passes all
belief. He spared nothing for them, neither physical comforts nor
spiritual consolations. Thus it is incredible to what an extent he
became the idol of the whole army. His manners, to high and low, were
most affable, yet everywhere he was the prelate, the gentleman, the
author of "Telemachus." He ruled his diocese with a gentle hand, in no
way meddled with the Jansenists; he left all untouched. Take him for all
in all, he had a bright genius and was a great man. His admiration true
or feigned for Madame Guyon remained to the last, yet always without
suspicion of impropriety. He had so exactly arranged his affairs that he
died without money, and yet without owing a sou to anybody.


Admit our ignorance, and not to give fictions and inventions
Arranged his affairs that he died without money
For penance: "we must make our servants fast"
The argument of interest is the best of all with monks





Character and Position of the Duc d'Orleans--His Manners, Talents, and
Virtues.--His Weakness.--Anecdote Illustrative Thereof.--
The "Debonnaire"--Adventure of the Grand Prieur in England.--Education
of the Duc d'Orleans.--Character of Dubois.--His Pernicious Influence.--
The Duke's Emptiness.--His Deceit.--His Love of Painting.--The Fairies at
His Birth.--The Duke's Timidity.--An Instance of His Mistrustfulness.


The Duke Tries to Raise the Devil.--Magical Experiments.--His Religious
Opinions.--Impiety.--Reads Rabelais at Church.--The Duchesse d'Orleans.--
Her Character.--Her Life with Her Husband.--My Discourses with the Duke
on the Future.--My Plans of Government.--A Place at Choice Offered Me.--
I Decline the Honour.--My Reason.--National Bankruptcy.--The Duke's Anger
at My Refusal.--A Final Decision.


The King's Health Declines.--Bets about His Death.--Lord Stair.--My New
Friend.--The King's Last Hunt.--And Last Domestic and Public Acts.--
Doctors.--Opium.--The King's Diet.--Failure of His Strength.--His Hopes
of Recovery.--Increased Danger.--Codicil to His Will.--Interview with the
Duc d'Orleans.--With the Cardinal de Noailles.--Address to His
Attendants.--The Dauphin Brought to Him.--His Last Words.--
An Extraordinary Physician.--The Courtiers and the Duc d'Orleans.--
Conduct of Madame de Maintenon.--The King's Death.


Early Life of Louis XIV.--His Education.--His Enormous Vanity.--His
Ignorance.--Cause of the War with Holland.--His Mistakes and Weakness in
War.--The Ruin of France.--Origin of Versailles.--The King's Love of
Adulation, and Jealousy of People Who Came Not to Court.--His Spies.--
His Vindictiveness.--Opening of Letters.--Confidence Sometimes Placed in
Him--A Lady in a Predicament.


Excessive Politeness.--Influence of the Valets.--How the King Drove
Out.--Love of magnificence.--His Buildings. --Versailles.--The Supply of
Water.--The King Seeks for Quiet.--Creation of Marly.--Tremendous


Amours of the King.--La Valliere.--Montespan.--Scandalous Publicity.--
Temper of Madame de Montespan.--Her Unbearable Haughtiness.--Other
Mistresses.--Madame de Maintenon.--Her Fortunes.--Her Marriage with
Scarron.--His Character and Society.--How She Lived After His Death.--
Gets into Better Company.--Acquaintance with Madame de Montespan.--
The King's Children.--His Dislike of Widow Scarron.--Purchase of the
Maintenon Estate.--Further Demands.--M. du Maine on His Travels.--
Montespan's Ill--humour.--Madame de Maintenon Supplants Her.--Her Bitter
Annoyance.--Progress of the New Intrigue.--Marriage of the King and
Madame de Maintenon.


Character of Madame de Maintenon.--Her Conversation.--Her Narrow-
mindedness.--Her Devotion.--Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.--Its Fatal
Consequences.--Saint Cyr.--Madame de Maintenon Desires Her Marriage to be
Declared.--Her Schemes.--Counterworked by Louvois.--His Vigorous Conduct
and Sudden Death.--Behaviour of the King.--Extraordinary Death of Seron.


Daily Occupations of Madame de Maintenon.--Her Policy--How She Governed
the King's Affairs.--Connivance with the Ministers.--Anecdote of
Le Tellier.--Behaviour of the King to Madame de Maintenon.--
His Hardness.--Selfishness.--Want of Thought for Others.--Anecdotes.--
Resignation of the King.--Its Causes.--The Jesuits and the Doctors.--The
King and Lay Jesuits.


The reign of Louis XIV. was approaching its conclusion, so that there is
now nothing more to relate but what passed during the last month of his
life, and scarcely so much. These events, indeed, so curious and so
important, are so mixed up with those that immediately followed the
King's death, that they cannot be separated from them. It will be
interesting and is necessary to describe the projects, the thoughts, the
difficulties, the different resolutions, which occupied the brain of the
Prince, who, despite the efforts of Madame de Maintenon and M. du Maine,
was of necessity about to be called to the head of affairs during the
minority of the young King. This is the place, therefore, to explain all
these things, after which we will resume the narrative of the last month
of the King's life, and go on to the events which followed his death.

But, as I have said, before entering upon this thorny path, it will be as
well to make known, if possible, the chief personage of the story, the
impediments interior and exterior in his path, and all that personally
belonged to him.

M. le Duc d'Orleans was, at the most, of mediocre stature, full-bodied
without being fat; his manner and his deportment were easy and very
noble; his face was broad and very agreeable, high in colour; his hair
black, and wig the same. Although he danced very badly, and had but ill
succeeded at the riding-school, he had in his face, in his gestures, in
all his movements, infinite grace, and so natural that it adorned even
his most ordinary commonplace actions. With much ease when nothing
constrained him, he was gentle, affable, open, of facile and charming
access; the tone of his voice was agreeable, and he had a surprisingly
easy flow of words upon all subjects which nothing ever disturbed, and
which never failed to surprise; his eloquence was natural and extended
even to his most familiar discourse, while it equally entered into his
observations upon the most abstract sciences, on which he talked most
perspicuously; the affairs of government, politics, finance, justice,
war, the court, ordinary conversation, the arts, and mechanics. He could
speak as well too upon history and memoirs, and was well acquainted with
pedigrees. The personages of former days were familiar to him; and the
intrigues of the ancient courts were to him as those of his own time.
To hear him, you would have thought him a great reader. Not so. He
skimmed; but his memory was so singular that he never forgot things,
names, or dates, cherishing remembrance of things with precision; and his
apprehension was so good, that in skimming thus it was, with him,
precisely as though he had read very laboriously. He excelled in
unpremeditated discourse, which, whether in the shape of repartee or
jest, was always appropriate and vivacious. He often reproached me, and
others more than he, with "not spoiling him;" but I often gave him praise
merited by few, and which belonged to nobody so justly as to him; it was,
that besides having infinite ability and of various kinds, the singular
perspicuity of his mind was joined to so much exactness, that he would
never have made a mistake in anything if he had allowed the first
suggestions of his judgment. He oftentimes took this my eulogy as a
reproach, and he was not always wrong, but it was not the less true.
With all this he had no presumption, no trace of superiority natural or
acquired; he reasoned with you as with his equal, and struck the most
able with surprise. Although he never forgot his own position, nor
allowed others to forget it, he carried no constraint with him, but put
everybody at his ease, and placed himself upon the level of all others.

He had the weakness to believe that he resembled Henry IV. in
everything, and strove to affect the manners, the gestures, the bearing,
of that monarch. Like Henry IV. he was naturally good, humane,
compassionate; and, indeed, this man, who has been so cruelly accused of
the blackest and most inhuman crimes, was more opposed to the destruction
of others than any one I have ever known, and had such a singular dislike
to causing anybody pain that it may be said, his gentleness, his
humanity, his easiness, had become faults; and I do not hesitate to
affirm that that supreme virtue which teaches us to pardon our enemies he
turned into vice, by the indiscriminate prodigality with which he applied
it; thereby causing himself many sad embarrassments and misfortunes,
examples and proofs of which will be seen in the sequel.

I remember that about a year, perhaps, before the death of the King,
having gone up early after dinner into the apartments of Madame la
Duchesse d'Orleans at Marly, I found her in bed with the megrims,
and M. d'Orleans alone in the room, seated in an armchair at her pillow.
Scarcely had I sat down than Madame la Duchesse began to talk of some of
those execrable imputations concerning M. d'Orleans unceasingly
circulated by Madame de Maintenon and M. du Maine; and of an incident
arising therefrom, in which the Prince and the Cardinal de Rohan had
played a part against M. d'Orleans. I sympathised with her all the more
because the Duke, I knew not why, had always distinguished and courted
those two brothers, and thought he could count upon them. "And what will
you say of M. d'Orleans," added the Duchesse, "when I tell you that since
he has known this, known it beyond doubt, he treats them exactly the same
as before?"

I looked at M. d'Orleans, who had uttered only a few words to confirm the
story, as it was being told, and who was negligently lolling in his
chair, and I said to him with warmth:

"Oh, as to that, Monsieur, the truth must be told; since Louis the
Debonnaire, never has there been such a Debonnaire as you."

At these words he rose in his chair, red with anger to the very whites of
his eyes, and blurted out his vexation against me for abusing him, as he
pretended, and against Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans for encouraging me
and laughing at him.

"Go on," said I, "treat your enemies well, and rail at your friends. I
am delighted to see you angry. It is a sign that I have touched the sore
point, when you press the finger on it the patient cries. I should like
to squeeze out all the matter, and after that you would be quite another
man, and differently esteemed."

He grumbled a little more, and then calmed down. This was one of two
occasions only, on which he was ever really angry with me.

Two or three years after the death of the King, I was chatting in one of
the grand rooms of the Tuileries, where the Council of the Regency was,
according to custom, soon to be held, and M. d'Orleans at the other end
was talking to some one in a window recess. I heard myself called from
mouth to mouth, and was told that M. d'Orleans wished to speak to me.
This often happened before the Council. I went therefore to the window
where he was standing. I found a serious bearing, a concentrated manner,
an angry face, and was much surprised.

"Monsieur," said he to me at once, "I have a serious complaint against
you; you, whom I have always regarded as my best of friends."

"Against me! Monsieur!" said I, still more surprised. "What is the
matter, then, may I ask?"

"The matter!" he replied with a mien still more angry; "something you
cannot deny; verses you have made against me."

"I--verses!" was my reply. "Why, who the devil has been telling you such
nonsense? You have been acquainted with me nearly forty years, and do
you not know, that never in my life have I been able to make a single
verse--much less verses?"

"No, no, by Heaven," replied he, "you cannot deny these;" and forthwith
he began to sing to me a street song in his praise, the chorus of which
was: 'Our Regent is debonnaire, la la, he is debonnaire,' with a burst of

"What!" said I, "you remember it still!" and smiling, I added also,
"since you are revenged for it, remember it in good earnest." He kept on
laughing a long time before going to the Council, and could not hinder
himself. I have not been afraid to write this trifle, because it seems
to me that it paints the man.

M. d'Orleans loved liberty, and as much for others as for himself. He
extolled England to me one day on this account, as a country where there
are no banishments, no lettres de cachet, and where the King may close
the door of his palace to anybody, but can keep no one in prison; and
thereupon related to me with enjoyment, that besides the Duchess of
Portsmouth, Charles the Second had many subordinate mistresses; that the
Grand Prieur, young and amiable in those days, driven out of France for
some folly, had gone to England to pass his exile and had been well
received by the King. By way of thanks, he seduced one of those
mistresses, by whom the King was then so smitten, that he sued for mercy,
offered money to the Grand Prieur, and undertook to obtain his
reconciliation in France. The Grand Prieur held firm. Charles
prohibited him the palace. He laughed at this, and went every day to the
theatre, with his conquest, and placed himself opposite the King. At
last, Charles, not knowing what to do to deliver himself from his
tormentor, begged our King to recall him, and this was done. But the
Grand Prieur said he was very comfortable in England and continued his
game. Charles, outraged, confided to the King (Louis XIV.) the state he
was thrown into by the Grand Prieur, and obtained a command so absolute
and so prompt, that his tormentor was afterwards obliged to go back into

M. d'Orleans admired this; and I know not if he would not have wished to
be the Grand Prieur. He always related this story with delight. Thus,
of ambition for reigning or governing, he had none. If he made a false
move in Spain it was because he had been misdirected. What he would have
liked best would have been to command armies while war lasted, and divert
himself the rest of the time without constraint to himself or to others.
He was, in fact, very fit for this. With much valour, he had also much
foresight, judgment, coolness, and vast capacity. It may be said that he
was captain, engineer, and army purveyor; that he knew the strength of
his troops, the names and the company of the officers, and the most
distinguished of each corps; that he knew how to make himself adored, at
the same time keeping up discipline, and could execute the most difficult
things, while unprovided with everything. Unfortunately there is another
side of this picture, which it will be as well now to describe.

M. d'Orleans, by disposition so adapted to become the honour and the
master-piece of an education, was not fortunate in his teachers. Saint-
Laurent, to whom he was first confided, was, it is true, the man in all
Europe best fitted to act as the instructor of kings, but he died before
his pupil was beyond the birch, and the young Prince, as I have related,
fell entirely into the hands of the Abbe Dubois. This person has played
such an important part in the state since the death of the King, that it
is fit that he should be made known. The Abbe Dubois was a little,
pitiful, wizened, herring-gutted man, in a flaxen wig, with a weazel's
face, brightened by some intellect. In familiar terms, he was a regular
scamp. All the vices unceasingly fought within him for supremacy, so
that a continual uproar filled his mind. Avarice, debauchery, ambition;
were his gods; perfidy, flattery, foot-licking his means of action;
complete impiety was his repose; and he held the opinion as a great
principle, that probity and honesty are chimeras, with which people deck
themselves, but which have no existence. In consequence, all means were
good to him. He excelled in low intrigues; he lived in them, and could
not do without them; but they always had an aim, and he followed them
with a patience terminated only by success, or by firm conviction that he
could not reach what he aimed at, or unless, as he wandered thus in deep
darkness, a glimmer of light came to him from some other cranny. He
passed thus his days in sapping and counter-sapping. The most impudent
deceit had become natural to him, and was concealed under an air that was
simple, upright, sincere, often bashful. He would have spoken with grace
and forcibly, if, fearful of saying more than he wished, he had not
accustomed himself to a fictitious hesitation, a stuttering--which
disfigured his speech, and which, redoubled when important things were in
question, became insupportable and sometimes unintelligible. He had wit,
learning, knowledge of the world; much desire to please and insinuate
himself, but all was spoiled by an odour of falsehood which escaped in
spite of him through every pore of his body--even in the midst of his
gaiety, which made whoever beheld it sad. Wicked besides, with
reflection, both by nature and by argument, treacherous and ungrateful,
expert in the blackest villainies, terribly brazen when detected; he
desired everything, envied everything, and wished to seize everything.
It was known afterwards, when he no longer could restrain himself, to
what an extent he was selfish, debauched, inconsistent, ignorant of
everything, passionate, headstrong, blasphemous and mad, and to what an
extent he publicly despised his master, the state, and all the world,
never hesitating to sacrifice everybody and everything to his credit, his
power, his absolute authority, his greatness, his avarice, his fears, and
his vengeance.

Such was the sage to whom M. le Duc d'Orleans was confided in early

Such a good master did not lose his pains with his new disciple, in whom
the excellent principles of Saint-Laurent had not had time to take deep
root, whatever esteem and affection he may have preserved through life
for that worthy man. I will admit here, with bitterness, for everything
should be sacrificed to the truth, that M. le Duc d'Orleans brought into
the world a failing--let us call things by their names--a weakness, which
unceasingly spoiled all his talents, and which were of marvellous use to
his preceptor all his life. Dubois led him into debauchery, made him
despise all duty and all decency, and persuaded him that he had too much
mind to be the dupe of religion, which he said was a politic invention to
frighten ordinary, intellects, and keep the people in subjection. He
filled him too with his favourite principle, that probity in man and
virtue in woman, are mere chimeras, without existence in anybody except a
few poor slaves of early training. This was the basis of the good
ecclesiatic's doctrines, whence arose the license of falsehood, deceit,
artifice, infidelity, perfidy; in a word, every villainy, every crime,
was turned into policy, capacity, greatness, liberty and depth of
intellect, enlightenment, good conduct, if it could be hidden, and if
suspicions and common prejudices could be avoided.

Unfortunately all conspired in M. d'Orleans to open his heart and his
mind to this execrable poison: a fresh and early youth, much strength and
health, joy at escaping from the yoke as well as vexation at his
marriage, the wearisomeness produced by idleness, the impulse of his
passions, the example of other young men, whose vanity and whose interest
it was to make him live like them. Thus he grew accustomed to
debauchery, above all to the uproar of it, so that he could not do
without it, and could only divert himself by dint of noise, tumult, and
excess. It is this which led him often into such strange and such
scandalous debauches, and as he wished to surpass all his companions, to
mix up with his parties of pleasure the most impious discourses, and as a
precious refinement, to hold the most outrageous orgies on the most holy
days, as he did several times during his Regency on Good Friday, by
choice, and on other similar days. The more debauched a man was, the
more he esteemed him; and I have unceasingly seen him in admiration, that
reached almost to veneration for the Grand Prieur,--because for forty
years he had always gone to bed drunk, and had never ceased to keep
mistresses in the most public manner, and to hold the most impious and
irreligious discourses. With these principles, and the conduct that
resulted from them, it is not surprising that M. le Duc d'Orleans was
false to such an extent, that he boasted of his falsehood, and plumed
himself upon being the most skilful deceiver in the world. He and Madame
la Duchesse de Berry sometimes disputed which was the cleverer of the
two; and this in public before M. le Duc de Berry, Madame de Saint-Simon,
and others!

M. le Duc d'Orleans, following out the traditions of the Palais Royal,
had acquired the detestable taste and habit of embroiling people one with
the other, so as to profit by their divisions. This was one of his
principal occupations during all the time he was at the head of affairs,
and one that he liked the best; but which, as soon as discovered,
rendered him odious, and caused him a thousand annoyances. He was not
wicked, far from it; but he could not quit the habits of impiety,
debauchery, and deceit into which Dubois had led him. A remarkable
feature in his character is, that he was suspicious and full of
confidence at the same time with reference to the very same people.

It is surprising that with all his talents he was totally without honest
resources for amusing himself. He was born bored; and he was so
accustomed to live out of himself, that it was insufferable to him to
return, incapable as he was of trying even to occupy himself. He could
only live in the midst of the movement and torrent of business; at the
head of an army for instance, or in the cares that arose out of the
execution of campaign projects, or in the excitement and uproar of
debauchery. He began to languish as soon as he was without noise,
excess, and tumult, the time painfully hanging upon his hands. He cast
himself upon painting, when his great fancy for chemistry had passed or
grown deadened, in consequence of what had been said upon it. He painted
nearly all the afternoon at Versailles and at Marly. He was a good judge
of pictures, liked them, and made a collection, which in number and
excellence was not surpassed by those of the Crown. He amused himself
afterwards in making composition stones and seals over charcoal, the
fumes of which often drove me away; and the strongest perfumes, which he
was fond of all his life, but from which I turned him because the King
was very much afraid of them, and soon sniffed them. In fact, never was
man born with so many talents of all kinds, so much readiness and
facility in making use of them, and yet never was man so idle, so given
up to vacuity and weariness. Thus Madame painted him very happily by an
illustration from fairy tales, of which she was full.

She said, that all the fairies had been invited to his birth; that all
came, and that each gave him some talent, so that he had them all. But,
unfortunately, an old fairy, who had disappeared so many years ago that
she was no longer remembered, had been omitted from the invitation lists.
Piqued at this neglect, she came supported upon her little wand, just at
the moment when all the rest had endowed the child with their gifts.
More and more vexed, she revenged herself by rendering useless all the
talents he had received from the other fairies, not one of which, though
possessing them all, in consequence of her malediction, was he able to
make use of. It must be admitted, that on the whole this is a speaking

One of the misfortunes of this Prince was being incapable of following up
anything, and an inability to comprehend, even, how any one else could do
so. Another, was a sort of insensibility which rendered him indifferent
to the most mortal and the most dangerous offences; and as the nerve and
principle of hatred and friendship, of gratitude and vengeance, are the
same, and as they were wanting in him, the consequences were infinite and
pernicious. He was timid to excess, knew it, and was so ashamed that he
affected to be exactly the reverse, and plumed himself upon his daring.
But the truth is, as was afterwards seen, nothing could be obtained from
him, neither grace, nor justice, except by working upon his fears, to
which he was very susceptible; or by extreme importunity. He tried to
put people off by words, then by promises, of which he was monstrously
prodigal, but which he only kept when made to people who had good firm
claws. In this manner he broke so many engagements that the most
positive became counted as nothing; and he promised moreover to so many
different people, what could only be given to one, that he thus opened
out a copious source of discredit to himself and caused much discontent.
Nothing deceived or injured him more than the opinion he had formed, that
he could deceive all the world. He was no longer believed, even when he
spoke with the best faith, and his facility much diminished the value of
everything he did. To conclude, the obscure, and for the most part
blackguard company, which he ordinarily frequented in his debauches, and
which he did not scruple publicly to call his roues, drove away all
decent people, and did him infinite harm.

His constant mistrust of everything and everybody was disgusting, above
all when he was at the head of affairs. The fault sprang from his
timidity, which made him fear his most certain enemies, and treat them
with more distinction than his friends; from his natural easiness, from a
false imitation of Henry IV., in whom this quality was by no means the
finest; and from the unfortunate opinion which he held, that probity was
a sham. He was, nevertheless, persuaded of my probity; and would often
reproach me with it as a fault and prejudice of education which had
cramped my mind and obscured my understanding, and he said as much of
Madame de Saint-Simon, because he believed her virtuous.

I had given him so many proofs of my attachment that he could not very
well suspect me; and yet, this is what happened two or three years after
the establishment of the Regency. I give it as one of the most striking
of the touches that paint his portrait.

It was autumn. M. d'Orleans had dismissed the councils for a fortnight.
I profited by this to go and spend the time at La Ferme. I had just
passed an hour alone with the Duke, and had taken my leave of him and
gone home, where in order to be in repose I had closed my door to
everybody. In about an hour at most, I was told that Biron, with a
message from M. le Duc d'Orleans, was at the door, with orders to see me,
and that he would not go away without. I allowed Biron to enter, all the
more surprised because I had just quitted M. le Duc d'Orleans, and
eagerly asked him the news. Biron was embarrassed, and in his turn asked
where was the Marquis de Ruffec (my son). At this my surprise increased,
and I demanded what he meant. Biron, more and more confused, admitted
that M. le Duc d'Orleans wanted information on this point, and had sent
him for it. I replied, that my son was with his regiment at Besancon,
lodging with M. de Levi, who commanded in Franche-Comte.

"Oh," said Biron, "I know that very well; but have you any letter from

"What for?" I asked.

"Because, frankly, since I must tell you all," said he, "M. le Duc
d'Orleans wishes to see his handwriting."

He added, that soon after I had quitted M. le Duc d'Orleans, whilst he
was walking at Montmartre ma garden with his 'roues' and his harlots,
some letters had been brought to him by a post-office clerk, to whom he
had spoken in private; that afterwards he, Biron, had been called by the
Duke, who showed him a letter from the Marquis de Ruffec to his master,
dated "Madrid," and charged him, thereupon, with this present commission.

At this recital I felt a mixture of anger and compassion, and I did not
constrain myself with Biron. I had no letters from my son, because I
used to burn them, as I did all useless papers. I charged Biron to say
to M. le Duc d'Orleans a part of what I felt; that I had not the
slightest acquaintance with anybody in Spain; that I begged him at once
to despatch a courier there in order to satisfy himself that my son was
at Besancon.

Biron, shrugging his shoulders, said all that was very good, but that if
I could find a letter from the Marquis de Ruffec it would be much better;
adding, that if one turned up and I sent it to him, he would take care
that it reached M. le Duc d'Orleans, at table, in spite of the privacy of
his suppers. I did not wish to return to the Palais Royal to make a
scene there, and dismissed Biron. Fortunately, Madame de Saint-Simon
came in some time after. I related to her this adventure. She found the
last letter of the Marquis de Ruffec, and we sent it to Biron. It
reached the table as he had promised. M. le Duc d'Orleans seized it with
eagerness. The joke is that he did not know the handwriting. Not only
did he look at the letter, but he read it; and as he found it diverting,
regaled his company with it; it became the topic of their discourse, and
entirely removed his suspicions. Upon my return from La Ferme, I found
him ashamed of himself, and I rendered him still more so by what I said
to him on the subject.

I learnt afterwards that this Madrid letter, and others that followed,
came from a sham Marquis de Ruffec, that is to say, from the son of one
of Madame's porters, who passed himself off as my son. He pretended that
he had quarrelled with me, and wrote to Madame de Saint-Simon, begging
her to intercede for him; and all this that his letters might be seen,
and that he might reap substantial benefits from his imposture in the
shape of money and consideration. He was a well-made fellow, had much
address and effrontery, knew the Court very well, and had taken care to
learn all about our family, so as to speak within limits. He was
arrested at Bayonne, at the table of Dadoncourt, who commanded there, and
who suddenly formed the resolution, suspecting him not to be a gentleman,
upon seeing him eat olives with a fork! When in gaol he confessed who he
was. He was not new at the trade and was confined some little time.


But to return to M. le Duc d'Orleans.

His curiosity, joined to a false idea of firmness and courage, had early
led him to try and raise the devil and make him speak. He left nothing
untried, even the wildest reading, to persuade himself there was no God;
and yet believed meanwhile in the devil, and hoped to see him and
converse with him! This inconsistency is hard to understand, and yet is
extremely common. He worked with all sorts of obscure people; and above
all with Mirepoix, sublieutenant of the Black Musketeers, to find out
Satan. They passed whole nights in the quarries of Vanvres and of
Vaugirard uttering invocations. M. le Duc d'Orleans, however, admitted
to me that he had never succeeded in hearing or seeing anything, and at
last had given up this folly.

At first it was only to please Madame d'Argenton, but afterwards from
curiosity, that he tried to see the present and the future in a glass of
water; so he said, and he was no liar. To be false and to be a liar are
not one and the same thing, though they closely resemble each other, and
if he told a lie it was only when hard pressed upon some promise or some
business, and in spite of himself, so as to escape from a dilemma.

Although we often spoke upon religion, to which I tried to lead him so
long as I had hope of success, I never could unravel the system he had
formed for himself, and I ended by becoming persuaded that he wavered
unceasingly without forming any religion at all.

His passionate desire, like that of his companions in morals, was this,
that it would turn out that there is no God; but he had too much
enlightenment to be an atheist; who is a particular kind of fool much
more rare than is thought. This enlightenment importuned him; he tried
to extinguish it and could not. A mortal soul would have been to him a
resource; but he could not convince himself of its existence. A God and
an immortal soul, threw him into sad straits, and yet he could not blind
himself to the truth of both the one and the other. I can say then this,
I know of what religion he was not; nothing more. I am sure, however,
that he was very ill at ease upon this point, and that if a dangerous
illness had overtaken him, and he had had the time, he would have thrown
himself into the hands of all the priests and all the Capuchins of the
town. His great foible was to pride himself upon his impiety and to wish
to surpass in that everybody else.

I recollect that one Christmas-time, at Versailles, when he accompanied
the King to morning prayers and to the three midnight masses, he
surprised the Court by his continued application in reading a volume he
had brought with him, and which appeared to be, a prayer book. The chief
femme de chambre of Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans, much attached to the
family, and very free as all good old domestics are, transfixed with joy
at M. le Duc d'Orleans's application to his book, complimented him upon
it the next day, in the presence of others. M. le Duc d'Orleans allowed
her to go on some time, and then said, "You are very silly, Madame
Imbert. Do you know what I was reading? It was 'Rabelais,' that I
brought with me for fear of being bored."

The effect of this reply may be imagined. The thing was too true, and
was pure braggadocio; for, without comparison of the places, or of the
things, the music of the chapel was much superior to that of the opera,
and to all the music of Europe; and at Christmas it surpassed itself.
There was nothing so magnificent as the decoration of the chapel, or the
manner in which it was lighted. It was full of people; the arches of the
tribune were crowded with the Court ladies, in undress, but ready for
conquest. There was nothing so surprising as the beauty of the
spectacle. The ears were charmed also. M. le Duc d'Orleans loved music
extremely; he could compose, and had amused himself by composing a kind
of little opera, La Fare writing the words, which was performed before
the King. This music of the chapel, therefore, might well have occupied
him in the most agreeable manner, to say nothing of the brilliant scene,
without his having recourse to Rabelais. But he must needs play the
impious, and the wag.

Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans was another kind of person. She was tall,
and in every way majestic; her complexion, her throat, her arms, were
admirable; she had a tolerable mouth, with beautiful teeth, somewhat
long; and cheeks too broad, and too hanging, which interfered with, but
did not spoil, her beauty. What disfigured her most was her eyebrows,
which were, as it were, peeled and red, with very little hair; she had,
however, fine eyelashes, and well-set chestnut-coloured hair. Without
being hump-backed or deformed, she had one side larger than the other,
and walked awry. This defect in her figure indicated another, which was
more troublesome in society, and which inconvenienced herself. She had a
good deal of intellect, and spoke with much ability. She said all she
wished, and often conveyed her meaning to you without directly expressing
it; saying, as it were, what she did not say. Her utterance was,
however, slow and embarrassed, so that unaccustomed ears with difficulty
followed her.

Every kind of decency and decorum centred themselves in her, and the most
exquisite pride was there upon its throne. Astonishment will be felt at
what I am going to say, and yet, however, nothing is more strictly true:
it is, that at the bottom of her soul she believed that she, bastard of
the King, had much honoured M. d'Orleans in marrying him! M. le Duc
d'Orleans often laughed at her pride, called her Madame Lucifer, in
speaking to her, and she admitted that the name did not displease her.
She always received his advances with coldness, and a sort of superiority
of greatness. She was a princess to the backbone, at all hours, and in
all places. Yet, at the same time, her timidity was extreme. The King
could have made her feel ill with a single severe look; and Madame de
Maintenon could have done likewise, perhaps. At all events, Madame la
Duchesse d'Orleans trembled before her; and upon the most commonplace
matters never replied to either him or her without hesitation, fear
printed on her face.

M. le Duc and Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans lived an idle, languishing,
shameful, indecent, and despised life, abandoned by all the Court. This,
I felt, was one of the first things that must be remedied. Accordingly,
I induced Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans to make an effort to attract
people to her table. She did so, persevering against the coldness and
aversion she met with, and in time succeeded in drawing a tolerably
numerous company to her dinners. They were of exquisite quality, and
people soon got over their first hesitation, when they found everything
orderly, free, and unobjectionable. At these dinners, M. d'Orleans kept
within bounds, not only in his discourse, but in his behaviour. But
oftentimes his ennui led him to Paris, to join in supper parties and
debauchery. Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans tried to draw him from these
pleasures by arranging small parties at her pretty little villa, l'Etoile
(in the park of Versailles), which the King had given to her, and which
she had furnished in the most delightful manner. She loved good cheer,
the guests loved it also, and at table she was altogether another person
--free, gay, exciting, charming. M. le Duc d'Orleans cared for nothing
but noise, and as he threw off all restraint at these parties, there was
much difficulty in selecting guests, for the ears of many people would
have been much confused at his loose talk, and their eyes much astonished
to see him get drunk at the very commencement of the repast, in the midst
of those who thought only of amusing and recreating themselves in a
decent manner, and who never approached intoxication.

As the King became weaker in health, and evidently drew near his end, I
had continued interviews with Madame d'Orleans upon the subject of the
Regency, the plan of government to be adopted, and the policy she should
follow. Hundreds of times before we had reasoned together upon the
faults of the Government, and the misfortunes that resulted from them.
What we had to do was to avoid those faults, educate the young King in
good and rational maxims, so that when he succeeded to power he might
continue what the Regency had not had time to finish. This, at least,
was my idea; and I laboured hard to make it the idea of M. le Duc
d'Orleans. As the health of the King diminished I entered more into
details; as I will explain.

What I considered the most important thing to be done, was to overthrow
entirely the system of government in which Cardinal Mazarin had
imprisoned the King and the realm. A foreigner, risen from the dregs
of the people, who thinks of nothing but his own power and his own
greatness, cares nothing for the state, except in its relation to
himself. He despises its laws, its genius, its advantages: he is
ignorant of its rules and its forms; he thinks only of subjugating all,
of confounding all, of bringing all down to one level. Richelieu and his
successor, Mazarin, succeeded so well in this policy that the nobility,
by degrees, became annihilated, as we now see them. The pen and the robe
people, on the other hand, were exalted; so that now things have reached
such a pretty pass that the greatest lord is without power, and in a
thousand different manners is dependent upon the meanest plebeian. It is
in this manner that things hasten from one extreme to the other.

My design was to commence by introducing the nobility into the ministry,
with the dignity and authority due to them, and by degrees to dismiss the
pen and robe people from all employ not purely judicial. In this manner
the administration of public affairs would be entirely in the hands of
the aristocracy. I proposed to abolish the two offices of secretary of
state for the war department, and for foreign affairs, and to supply
their place by councils; also, that the offices of the navy should be
managed by a council. I insisted upon the distinct and perfect
separation of these councils, so that their authority should never be
confounded, and the public should never have the slightest trouble in
finding out where to address itself for any kind of business.

M. le Duc d'Orleans exceedingly relished my project, which we much
discussed. This point arrived at, it became necessary to debate upon the
persons who were to form these councils. I suggested names, which were
accepted or set aside, according as they met his approval or
disapprobation. "But," said M. le Duc d'Orleans, after we had been a
long time at this work, "you propose everybody and never say a word of
yourself. What do you wish to be?"

I replied, that it was not for me to propose, still less to choose any
office, but for him to see if he wished to employ me, believing me
capable, and in that case to determine the place he wished me to occupy.
This was at Marly, in his chamber, and I shall never forget it.

After some little debate, that between equals would have been called
complimentary, he proposed to me the Presidency of the Council of
Finance. But I had good reasons for shrinking from this office. I saw
that disordered as the finances had become there was only one remedy by
which improvement could be effected; and this was National Bankruptcy.
Had I occupied the office, I should have been too strongly tempted to
urge this view, and carry it out, but it was a responsibility I did not
wish to take upon myself before God and man. Yet, I felt as I said, that
to declare the State bankrupt would be the wisest course, and I am bold
enough to think, that there is not a man, having no personal interest in
the continuance of imposts, who of two evils, viz., vastly increased
taxation, and national failure, would not prefer the latter. We were in
the condition of a man who unfortunately must choose between passing
twelve or fifteen years in his bed, in continual pain, or having his leg
cut off. Who can doubt this? he would prefer the loss of his leg by a
painful operation, in order to find himself two months after quite well,
free from suffering and in the enjoyment of all his faculties.

I shrunk accordingly from the finances for the reason I have above given,
and made M. le Duc d'Orleans so angry by my refusal to accept the office
he had proposed to me, that for three weeks he sulked and would not speak
to me, except upon unimportant matters.

At the end of that time, in the midst of a languishing conversation, he
exclaimed, "Very well, then. You stick to your text, you won't have the

I respectfully lowered my eyes and replied, in a gentle tone, that I
thought that question was settled. He could not restrain some
complaints, but they were not bitter, nor was he angry, and then rising
and taking a few turns in the room, without saying a word, and his head
bent, as was his custom when embarrassed, he suddenly spun round upon me,
and exclaimed, "But whom shall we put there?"

I suggested the Duc de Noailles, and although the suggestion at first met
with much warm opposition from M. le Duc d'Orleans, it was ultimately
accepted by him.

The moment after we had settled this point he said to me, "And you! what
will you be?" and he pressed me so much to explain myself that I said at
last if he would put me in the council of affairs of the interior, I
thought I should do better there than elsewhere.

"Chief, then," replied he with vivacity.

"No, no! not that," said I; "simply a place in the council."

We both insisted, he for, I against. "A place in that council," he said,
"would be ridiculous, and cannot be thought of. Since you will not be
chief, there is only one post which suits you, and which suits me also.
You must be in the council I shall be in the Supreme Council."

I accepted the post, and thanked him. From that moment this distinction
remained fixed.

I will not enter into all the suggestions I offered to M. le Duc
d'Orleans respecting the Regency, or give the details of all the projects
I submitted to him. Many of those projects and suggestions were either
acted upon only partially, or not acted upon at all, although nearly
every one met with his approval. But he was variable as the winds, and
as difficult to hold. In my dealings with him I had to do with a person
very different from that estimable Dauphin who was so rudely taken away
from us.

But let me, before going further, describe the last days of the King, his
illness, and death, adding to the narrative a review of his life and


LOUIS XIV. began, as I have before remarked, sensibly to decline, and
his appetite, which had always been good and uniform, very considerably
diminished. Even foreign countries became aware of this. Bets were laid
in London that his life would not last beyond the first of September,
that is to say, about three months, and although the King wished to know
everything, it may be imagined that nobody was very eager to make him
acquainted with the news. He used to have the Dutch papers read to him
in private by Torcy, often after the Council of State. One day as Torcy
was reading, coming unexpectedly--for he had not examined the paper--upon
the account of these bets, he stopped, stammered, and skipped it. The
King, who easily perceived this, asked him the cause of his
embarrassment; what he was passing over, and why? Torcy blushed to the
very whites of his eyes, and said it was a piece of impertinence unworthy
of being read. The King insisted; Torcy also: but at last thoroughly
confused, he could not resist the reiterated command he received, and
read the whole account of the bets. The King pretended not to be touched
by it, but he was, and profoundly, so that sitting down to table
immediately afterwards, he could not keep himself from speaking of it,
though without mentioning the gazette.

This was at Marly, and by chance I was there that day. The King looked
at me as at the others, but as though asking for a reply. I took good
care not to open my mouth, and lowered my eyes. Cheverny, (a discreet
man,) too, was not so prudent, but made a long and ill-timed rhapsody
upon similar reports that had come to Copenhagen from Vienna while he was
ambassador at the former place seventeen or eighteen years before. The
King allowed him to say on, but did not take the bait. He appeared
touched, but like a man who does not wish to seem so. It could be seen
that he did all he could to eat, and to show that he ate with appetite.
But it was also seen that the mouthfuls loitered on their way. This
trifle did not fail to augment the circumspection of the Court, above all
of those who by their position had reason to be more attentive than the
rest. It was reported that an aide-decamp of Lord Stair, who was then
English ambassador to our Court, and very much disliked for his insolent
bearing and his troublesome ways, had caused these bets by what he had
said in England respecting the health of the King. Stair, when told
this, was much grieved, and said 'twas a scoundrel he had dismissed.

As the King sensibly declined I noticed that although terror of him kept
people as much away from M. d'Orleans as ever, I was approached even by
the most considerable. I had often amused myself at the expense of these
prompt friends; I did so now, and diverted M. d'Orleans by warning him
beforehand what he had to expect.

On Friday, the 9th of August, 1715, the King hunted the stag after dinner
in his caleche, that he drove himself as usual. 'Twas for the last time.
Upon his return he appeared much knocked up. There was a grand concert
in the evening in Madame de Maintenon's apartment.

On Saturday, the 10th of August, he walked before dinner in his gardens
at Marly; he returned to Versailles about six o'clock in the evening, and
never again saw that strange work of his hands. In the evening he worked
with the Chancellor in Madame de Maintenon's rooms, and appeared to
everybody very ill. On Sunday, the eleventh of August, he held the
Council of State, walked, after dinner to Trianon, never more to go out
again during life.

On the morrow, the 12th of August, he took medicine as usual, and lived
as usual the following days. It was known that he complained of sciatica
in the leg and thigh. He had never before had sciatica, or rheumatism,
or a cold; and for a long time no touch of gout. In the evening there
was a little concert in Madame de Maintenon's rooms. This was the last
time in his life that he walked alone.

On Tuesday, the 13th of August, he made a violent effort, and gave a
farewell audience to a sham Persian ambassador, whom Pontchartrain had
imposed upon him; this was the last public action of his life. The
audience, which was long, fatigued the King. He resisted the desire for
sleep which came over him, held the Finance Council, dined, had himself
carried to Madame de Maintenon's, where a little concert was given, and
on leaving his cabinet stopped for the Duchesse de la Rochefoucauld, who
presented to him the Duchesse de la Rocheguyon, her daughter-in-law, who
was the last lady presented to him. She took her tabouret that evening
at the King's grand supper, which was the last he ever gave. On the
morrow he sent some precious stones to the Persian ambassador just
alluded to. It was on this day that the Princesse des Ursins set off for
Lyons, terrified at the state of the King as I have already related.

For more than a year the health of the King had diminished. His valets
noticed this first, and followed the progress of the malady, without one
of them daring to open his mouth. The bastards, or to speak exactly, M,
du Maine saw it; Madame de Maintenon also; but they did nothing. Fagon,
the chief physician, much fallen off in mind and body, was the only one
of the King's intimates who saw nothing. Marechal, also chief physician,
spoke to him (Fagon) several times, but was always harshly repulsed.
Pressed at last by his duty and his attachment, he made bold one morning
towards Whitsuntide to go to Madame de Maintenon. He told her what he
saw and how grossly Fagon was mistaken. He assured her that the, King,
whose pulse he had often felt, had had for some time a slow internal
fever; that his constitution was so good that with remedies and attention
all would go well, but that if the malady were allowed to grow there
would no longer be any resource. Madame de Maintenon grew angry, and all
he obtained for his zeal was her anger. She said that only the personal
enemies of Fagon could find fault with his opinion upon the King's
health, concerning which the capacity, the application, the experience of
the chief physician could not be deceived. The best of it is that
Marechal, who had formerly operated upon Fagon for stone, had been
appointed chief surgeon by him, and they had always lived on the best of
terms. Marechal, annoyed as he related to me, could do nothing more, and
began from that time to lament the death of his master. Fagon was in
fact the first physician in Europe, but for a long time his health had
not permitted him to maintain his experience; and the high point of
authority to which his capacity and his favour had carried him, had at
last spoiled him. He would not hear reason, or submit to reply, and
continued to treat the King as he had treated him in early years; and
killed him by his obstinacy.

The gout of which the King had had long attacks, induced Fagon to swaddle
him, so to say, every evening in a heap of feather pillows, which made
him sweat all night to such an extent that it was necessary in the
morning to rub him down and change his linen before the grand chamberlain
and the first gentleman of the chamber could enter. For many years he
had drunk nothing but Burgundy wine, half mixed with water, and so old
that it was used up instead of the best champagne which he had used all
his life. He would pleasantly say sometimes that foreign lords who were
anxious to taste the wine he used, were often mightily deceived. At no
time had he ever drunk pure wine, or made use in any way of spirits, or
even tea, coffee, or chocolate. Upon rising, instead of a little bread
and wine and water, he had taken for a long time two glasses of sage and
veronica; often between his meals, and always on going to bed, glasses of
water with a little orange-flower water in them, and always iced. Even
on the days when he had medicine he drank this, and always also at his
meals, between which he never ate anything except some cinnamon lozenges
that he put into his pocket at his dessert, with a good many cracknels
for the bitches he kept in his cabinet.

As during the last year of his life the King became more and more
costive, Fagon made him eat at the commencement of his repasts many iced
fruits, that is to say, mulberries, melons, and figs rotten from
ripeness; and at his dessert many other fruits, finishing with a
surprising quantity of sweetmeats. All the year round he ate at supper a
prodigious quantity of salad. His soups, several of which he partook of
morning and evening, were full of gravy, and were of exceeding strength,
and everything that was served to him was full of spice, to double the
usual extent, and very strong also. This regimen and the sweetmeats
together Fagon did not like, and sometimes while seeing the King eat, he
would make most amusing grimaces, without daring however to say anything
except now and then to Livry and Benoist, who replied that it was their
business to feed the King, and his to doctor him. The King never ate any
kind of venison or water-fowl, but otherwise partook of everything, fete
days and fast days alike, except that during the last twenty years of his
life he observed some few days of Lent.

This summer he redoubled his regime of fruits and drinks. At last the
former clogged his stomach, taken after soup, weakened the digestive
organs and took away his appetite, which until then had never failed him
all his life, though however late dinner might be delayed he never was
hungry or wanted to eat. But after the first spoonfuls of soup, his
appetite came, as I have several times heard him say, and he ate so
prodigiously and so solidly morning and evening that no one could get
accustomed to see it. So much water and so much fruit unconnected by
anything spirituous, turned his blood into gangrene; while those forced
night sweats diminished its strength and impoverished it; and thus his
death was caused, as was seen by the opening of his body. The organs
were found in such good and healthy condition that there is reason to
believe he would have lived beyond his hundredth year. His stomach above
all astonished, and also his bowels by their volume and extent, double
that of the ordinary, whence it came that he was such a great yet uniform
eater. Remedies were not thought of until it was no longer time, because
Fagon would never believe him ill, or Madame de Maintenon either; though
at the same time she had taken good care to provide for her own retreat
in the case of his death. Amidst all this, the King felt his state
before they felt it, and said so sometimes to his valets: Fagon always
reassured him, but did nothing. The King was contented with what was
said to him without being persuaded: but his friendship for Fagon
restrained him, and Madame de Maintenon still more.

On Wednesday, the 14th of August, the King was carried to hear mass for
the last time; held the Council of State, ate a meat dinner, and had
music in Madame de Maintenon's rooms. He supped in his chamber, where
the Court saw him as at his dinner; was with his family a short time in
his cabinet, and went to bed a little after ten.

On Thursday, the Festival of the Assumption, he heard mass in his bed.
The night had been disturbed and bad. He dined in his bed, the courtiers
being present, rose at five and was carried to Madame de Maintenon's,
where music was played. He supped and went to bed as on the previous
evening. As long as he could sit up he did the same.

On Friday, the 16th of August, the night had been no better; much thirst
and drink. The King ordered no one to enter until ten. Mass and dinner
in his bed as before; then he was carried to Madame de Maintenon's; he
played with the ladies there, and afterwards there was a grand concert.

On Saturday, the 17th of August, the night as the preceding. He held the
Finance Council, he being in bed; saw people at his dinner, rose
immediately after; gave audience in his cabinet to the General of the
order of Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie; passed to Madame de Maintenon's,
where he worked with the Chancellor. At night, Fagon slept for the first
time in his chamber.

Sunday, the 18th of August, passed like the preceding days, Fagon
pretended there had been no fever. The King held a Council of State
before and after his dinner; worked afterwards upon the fortifications
with Pelletier; then passed to Madame de Maintenon's, where there was

Monday, the 19th, and Tuesday, the 20th of August, passed much as the
previous days, excepting that on the latter the King supped in his
dressing-gown, seated in an armchair; and that after this evening he
never left his room or dressed himself again. That same day Madame de
Saint-Simon, whom I had pressed to return, came back from the waters of
Forges. The king, entering after supper into his cabinet, perceived her.
He ordered his chair to be stopped; spoke to her very kindly upon her
journey and her return; then had himself wheeled on by Bloin into the
other cabinet. She was the last Court lady to whom he spoke. I don't
count those who were always near him, and who came to him when he could
no longer leave his room. Madame de Saint-Simon said to me in the
evening that she should not have recognised the King if she had met him
anywhere else. Yet she had left Marly for Forges only on the 6th of

On Wednesday, the 21st of August, four physicians saw the King, but took
care to do nothing except praise Fagon, who gave him cassia. For some
days it had been perceived that he ate meat and even bread with
difficulty, (though all his life he had eaten but little of the latter,
and for some time only the crumb, because he had no teeth). Soup in
larger quantity, hash very light, and eggs compensated him; but he ate
very sparingly.

On Thursday, the 22nd of August, the King was still worse. He saw four
other physicians, who, like the first four, did nothing but admire the
learned and admirable treatment of Fagon, who made him take towards
evening some Jesuit bark and water and intended to give him at night,
ass's milk. This same day, the King ordered the Duc de la Rochefoucauld
to bring him his clothes on the morrow, in order that he might choose
which he would wear upon leaving off the mourning he wore for a son of
Madame la Duchesse de Lorraine. He had not been able to quit his chamber
for some days; he could scarcely eat anything solid; his physician slept
in his chamber, and yet he reckoned upon being cured, upon dressing
himself again, and wished to choose his dress! In like manner there was
the same round of councils, of work, of amusements. So true it is, that
men do not wish to die, and dissimulate from themselves the approach of
death as long as possible. Meanwhile, let me say, that the state of the
King, which nobody was ignorant of, had already changed M. d'Orleans'
desert into a crowded city.

Friday, the 23rd of August, the night was as usual, the morning also.
The King worked with Pere Tellier, who tried, but in vain, to make him
fill up several benefices that were vacant; that is to say, Pere Tellier
wished to dispose of them himself, instead of leaving them to M. le Duc
d'Orleans. Let me state at once, that the feebler the King grew the more
Pere Tellier worried him; so as not to lose such a rich prey, or miss the
opportunity of securing fresh creatures for his service. But he could
not succeed. The King declared to him that he had enough to render
account of to God, without charging himself with this nomination, and
forbade him to speak again upon the subject.

On Saturday evening, the 24th of August, he supped in his dressing-gown,
in presence of the courtiers, for the last time. I noticed that he could
only swallow liquids, and that he was troubled if looked at. He could
not finish his supper, and begged the courtiers to pass on, that is to
say, go away. He went to bed, where his leg, on which were several black
marks, was examined. It had grown worse lately and had given him much
pain. He sent for Pere Tellier and made confession. Confusion spread
among the doctors at this. Milk, and Jesuit bark and water had been
tried and abandoned in turns; now, nobody knew what to try. The doctors
admitted that they believed he had had a slow fever ever since
Whitsuntide; and excused themselves for doing nothing on the ground that
he did not wish for remedies.

On Sunday, the 25th of August, no more mystery was made of the King's
danger. Nevertheless, he expressly commanded that nothing should be
changed in the usual order of this day (the fete of St. Louis), that is
to say, that the drums and the hautboys, assembled beneath his windows,
should play their accustomed music as soon as he awoke, and that the
twenty-four violins should play in the ante-chamber during his dinner.
He worked afterwards with the Chancellor, who wrote, under his dictation,
a codicil to his will, Madame de Maintenon being present. She and M. du
Maine, who thought incessantly of themselves, did not consider the King
had done enough for them by his will; they wished to remedy this by a
codicil, which equally showed how enormously they abused the King's
weakness in this extremity, and to what an excess ambition may carry us.
By this codicil the King submitted all the civil and military household
of the young King to the Duc du Maine, and under his orders to Marechal
de Villeroy, who, by this disposition became the sole masters of the
person and the dwelling place of the King, and of Paris, by the troops
placed in their hands; so that the Regent had not the slightest shadow of
authority and was at their mercy; certainly liable to be arrested or
worse, any time it should please M. du Maine.

Soon after the Chancellor left the King, Madame de Maintenon, who
remained, sent for the ladies; and the musicians came at seven o'clock in
the evening. But the King fell asleep during the conversation of the
ladies. He awoke; his brain confused, which frightened them and made
them call the doctors. They found his pulse so bad that they did not
hesitate to propose to him, his senses having returned, to take the
sacrament without delay. Pere Tellier was sent for; the musicians who
had just prepared their books and their instruments, were dismissed, the
ladies also; and in a quarter of an hour from that time, the King made
confession to Pere Tellier, the Cardinal de Rohan, meanwhile, bringing
the Holy Sacrament from the chapel, and sending for the Cure and holy
oils. Two of the King's chaplains, summoned by the Cardinal, came, and
seven or eight candlesticks were carried by valets. The Cardinal said a
word or two to the King upon this great and last action, during which the
King appeared very firm, but very penetrated with what he was doing. As
soon as he had received Our Saviour and the holy oils, everybody left the
chamber except Madame de Maintenon and the Chancellor. Immediately
afterwards, and this was rather strange, a kind of book or little tablet
was placed upon the bed, the codicil was presented to the King, and at
the bottom of it he wrote four or five lines, and restored the document
to the Chancellor.

After this, the King sent for M. le Duc d'Orleans, showed him much
esteem, friendship, and confidence; but what is terrible with Jesus
Christ still upon his lips--the Sacrament he had just received--he
assured him, he would find nothing in his will with which he would not
feel pleased. Then he recommended to him the state and the person of the
future King.

On Monday, the 26th of August, the King called to him the Cardinals de
Rohan and de Bissy, protested that he died in the faith, and in
submission to the Church, then added, looking at them, that he was sorry
to leave the affairs of the Church as they were; that they knew he had
done nothing except what they wished; that it was therefore for them to
answer before God for what he had done; that his own conscience was
clear, and that he was as an ignorant man who had abandoned himself
entirely to them. What a frightful thunderbolt was this to the two
Cardinals; for this was an allusion to the terrible constitution they had
assisted Pere Tellier in forcing upon him. But their calm was superior
to all trial. They praised him and said he had done well, and that he
might be at ease as to the result.

This same Monday, 26th of August, after the two Cardinals had left the
room, the King dined in his bed in the presence of those who were
privileged to enter. As the things were being cleared away, he made them
approach and addressed to them these words, which were stored up in their
memory:--"Gentlemen, I ask your pardon for the bad example I have given
you. I have much to thank you for the manner in which you have served
me, and for the attachment and fidelity you have always shown for me. I
am very sorry I have not done for you all I should have wished to do; bad
times have been the cause. I ask for my grandson the same application
and the same fidelity you have had for me. He is a child who may
experience many reverses. Let your example be one for all my other
subjects. Follow the orders my nephew will give you; he is to govern the
realm; I hope he will govern it well; I hope also that you will all
contribute to keep up union, and that if any one falls away you will aid
in bringing him back. I feel that I am moved, and that I move you also.
I ask your pardon. Adieu, gentlemen, I hope you will sometimes remember

A short time after he called the Marechal de Villeroy to him, and said he
had made him governor of the Dauphin. He then called to him M. le Duc
and M. le Prince de Conti, and recommended to them the advantage of union
among princes. Then, hearing women in the cabinet, questioned who were
there, and immediately sent word they might enter. Madame la Duchesse de
Berry, Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans, and the Princesses of the blood
forthwith appeared, crying. The King told them they must not cry thus,
and said a few friendly words to them, and dismissed them. They retired
by the cabinet, weeping and crying very loudly, which caused people to
believe outside that the King was dead; and, indeed, the rumour spread to
Paris, and even to the provinces.

Some time after the King requested the Duchesse de Ventadour to bring the
little Dauphin to him. He made the child approach, and then said to him,
before Madame de Maintenon and the few privileged people present, "My
child, you are going to be a great king; do not imitate me in the taste
I have had for building, or in that I have had for war; try, on the
contrary, to be at peace with your neighbours. Render to God what you
owe Him; recognise the obligations you are under to Him; make Him
honoured by your subjects. Always follow good counsels; try to comfort
your people, which I unhappily have not done. Never forget the
obligation you owe to Madame de Ventadour. Madame (addressing her), let
me embrace him (and while embracing him), my dear child, I give you my
benediction with my whole heart."

As the little Prince was about to be taken off the bed, the King
redemanded him, embraced him again, and raising hands and eyes to Heaven,
blessed him once more. This spectacle was extremely touching.

On Tuesday, the 27th of August, the King said to Madame de Maintenon,
that he had always heard, it was hard to resolve to die; but that as for
him, seeing himself upon the point of death, he did not find this
resolution so difficult to form. She replied that it was very hard when
we had attachments to creatures, hatred in our hearts, or restitutions to
make. "Ah," rejoined the King, "as for restitutions, to nobody in
particular do I owe any; but as for those I owe to the realm, I hope in
the mercy of God."

The night which followed was very agitated. The King was seen at all
moments joining his hands, striking his breast, and was heard repeating
the prayers he ordinarily employed.

On Wednesday morning, the 28th of August, he paid a compliment to Madame
de Maintenon, which pleased her but little, and to which she replied not
one word. He said, that what consoled him in quitting her was that,
considering the age she had reached, they must soon meet again!

About seven o'clock in the morning, he saw in the mirror two of his
valets at the foot of the bed weeping, and said to them, "Why do you
weep? Is it because you thought me immortal? As for me, I have not
thought myself so, and you ought, considering my age, to have been
prepared to lose me."

A very clownish Provencal rustic heard of the extremity of the King,
while on his way from Marseilles to Paris, and came this morning to
Versailles with a remedy, which he said would cure the gangrene. The
King was so ill, and the doctors so at their wits' ends, that they
consented to receive him. Fagon tried to say something, but this rustic,
who was named Le Brun, abused him very coarsely, and Fagon, accustomed to
abuse others, was confounded. Ten drops of Le Brun's mixture in Alicante
wine were therefore given to the King about eleven o'clock in the
morning. Some time after he became stronger, but the pulse falling again
and becoming bad, another dose was given to him about four o'clock, to
recall him to life, they told him. He replied, taking the mixture, "To
life or to death as it shall please God."

Le Brun's remedy was continued. Some one proposed that the King should
take some broth. The King replied that it was not broth he wanted, but a
confessor, and sent for him. One day, recovering from loss of
consciousness, he asked Pere Tellier to give him absolution for all his
sins. Pere Tellier asked him if he suffered much. "No," replied the
King, "that's what troubles me: I should like to suffer more for the
expiation of my sins."

On Thursday, the 29th of August, he grew a little better; he even ate two
little biscuits steeped in wine, with a certain appetite. The news
immediately spread abroad that the King was recovering. I went that day
to the apartments of M. le Duc d'Orleans, where, during the previous
eight days, there had been such a crowd that, speaking exactly, a pin
would not have fallen to the ground. Not a soul was there! As soon as
the Duke saw me he burst out laughing, and said, I was the first person
who had been to see him all the day! And until the evening he was
entirely deserted. Such is the world!

In the evening it was known that the King had only recovered for the
moment. In giving orders during the day, he called the young Dauphin
"the young King." He saw a movement amongst those around him. "Why
not?" said he, "that does not trouble me." Towards eight o'clock he
took the elixir of the rustic. His brain appeared confused; he himself
said he felt very ill. Towards eleven o'clock his leg was examined. The
gangrene was found to be in the foot and the knee; the thigh much
inflamed. He swooned during this examination. He had perceived with
much pain that Madame de Maintenon was no longer near him. She had in
fact gone off on the previous day with very dry eyes to Saint-Cyr, not
intending to return. He asked for her several times during the day. Her
departure could not be hidden. He sent for her to Saint-Cyr, and she
came back in the evening.

Friday, August the 30th, was a bad day preceded by a bad night. The King
continually lost his reason. About five o'clock in the evening Madame de
Maintenon left him, gave away her furniture to the domestics, and went to
Saint-Cyr never to leave it.

On Saturday, the 31st of August, everything went from bad to worse. The
gangrene had reached the knee and all the thigh. Towards eleven o'clock
at night the King was found to be so ill that the prayers for the dying
were said. This restored him to himself. He repeated the prayers in a
voice so strong that it rose above all the other voices. At the end he
recognised Cardinal de Rohan, and said to him, "These are the last
favours of the Church." This was the last man to whom he spoke. He
repeated several times, "Nunc et in hora mortis", then said, "Oh, my God,
come to my aid: hasten to succour me."

These were his last words. All the night he was without consciousness
and in a long agony, which finished on Sunday, the 1st September, 1715,
at a quarter past eight in the morning, three days before he had
accomplished his seventy-seventh year, and in the seventy-second of his
reign. He had survived all his sons and grandsons, except the King of
Spain. Europe never saw so long a reign or France a King so old.


I shall pass over the stormy period of Louis XIV.'s minority. At twenty-
three years of age he entered the great world as King, under the most
favourable auspices. His ministers were the most skilful in all Europe;
his generals the best; his Court was filled with illustrious and clever
men, formed during the troubles which had followed the death of Louis

Louis XIV. was made for a brilliant Court. In the midst of other men,
his figure, his courage, his grace, his beauty, his grand mien, even the
tone of his voice and the majestic and natural charm of all his person,
distinguished him till his death as the King Bee, and showed that if he
had only been born a simple private gentlemen, he would equally have
excelled in fetes, pleasures, and gallantry, and would have had the
greatest success in love. The intrigues and adventures which early in
life he had been engaged in--when the Comtesse de Soissons lodged at the
Tuileries, as superintendent of the Queen's household, and was the centre
figure of the Court group--had exercised an unfortunate influence upon
him: he received those impressions with which he could never after
successfully struggle. From this time, intellect, education, nobility of
sentiment, and high principle, in others, became objects of suspicion to
him, and soon of hatred. The more he advanced in years the more this
sentiment was confirmed in him. He wished to reign by himself. His
jealousy on this point unceasingly became weakness. He reigned, indeed,
in little things; the great he could never reach: even in the former,
too, he was often governed. The superior ability of his early ministers
and his early generals soon wearied him. He liked nobody to be in any
way superior to him. Thus he chose his ministers, not for their
knowledge, but for their ignorance; not for their capacity, but for their
want of it. He liked to form them, as he said; liked to teach them even
the most trifling things. It was the same with his generals. He took
credit to himself for instructing them; wished it to be thought that from
his cabinet he commanded and directed all his armies. Naturally fond of
trifles, he unceasingly occupied himself with the most petty details of
his troops, his household, his mansions; would even instruct his cooks,
who received, like novices, lessons they had known by heart for years.
This vanity, this unmeasured and unreasonable love of admiration, was his
ruin. His ministers, his generals, his mistresses, his courtiers, soon
perceived his weakness. They praised him with emulation and spoiled him.
Praises, or to say truth, flattery, pleased him to such an extent, that
the coarsest was well received, the vilest even better relished. It was
the sole means by which you could approach him. Those whom he liked owed
his affection for them to their untiring flatteries. This is what gave
his ministers so much authority, and the opportunities they had for
adulating him, of attributing everything to him, and of pretending to
learn everything from him. Suppleness, meanness, an admiring, dependent,
cringing manner--above all, an air of nothingness--were the sole means of
pleasing him.

This poison spread. It spread, too, to an incredible extent, in a prince
who, although of intellect beneath mediocrity, was not utterly without
sense, and who had had some experience. Without voice or musical
knowledge, he used to sing, in private, the passages of the opera
prologues that were fullest of his praises.

He was drowned in vanity; and so deeply, that at his public suppers--all
the Court present, musicians also--he would hum these self-same praises
between his teeth, when the music they were set to was played!

And yet, it must be admitted, he might have done better. Though his
intellect, as I have said, was beneath mediocrity, it was capable of
being formed. He loved glory, was fond of order and regularity; was by
disposition prudent, moderate, discreet, master of his movements and his
tongue. Will it be believed? He was also by disposition good and just!
God had sufficiently gifted him to enable him to be a good King; perhaps
even a, tolerably great King! All the evil came to him from elsewhere.
His early education was so neglected that nobody dared approach his
apartment. He has often been heard to speak of those times with
bitterness, and even to relate that, one evening he was found in the
basin of the Palais Royal garden fountain, into which he had fallen! He
was scarcely taught how to read or write, and remained so ignorant, that
the most familiar historical and other facts were utterly unknown to him!
He fell, accordingly, and sometimes even in public, into the grossest

It was his vanity, his desire for glory, that led him, soon after the
death of the King of Spain, to make that event the pretext for war; in
spite of the renunciations so recently made, so carefully stipulated, in
the marriage contract. He marched into Flanders; his conquests there
were rapid; the passage of the Rhine was admirable; the triple alliance
of England, Sweden, and Holland only animated him. In the midst of
winter he took Franche-Comte, by restoring which at the peace of Aix-la-
Chapelle, he preserved his conquests in Flanders. All was flourishing
then in the state. Riches everywhere. Colbert had placed the finances,
the navy, commerce, manufactures, letters even, upon the highest point;
and this age, like that of Augustus, produced in abundance illustrious
men of all kinds,-even those illustrious only in pleasures.

Le Tellier and Louvois, his son, who had the war department, trembled at
the success and at the credit of Colbert, and had no difficulty in
putting into the head of the King a new war, the success of which caused
such fear to all Europe that France never recovered from it, and after
having been upon the point of succumbing to this war, for a long time
felt the weight and misfortune of it. Such was the real cause of that
famous Dutch war, to which the King allowed himself to be pushed, and
which his love for Madame de Montespan rendered so unfortunate for his
glory and for his kingdom. Everything being conquered, everything taken,
and Amsterdam ready to give up her keys, the King yields to his
impatience, quits the army, flies to Versailles, and destroys in an
instant all the success of his arms! He repaired this disgrace by a
second conquest, in person, of Franche-Comte, which this time was
preserved by France.

In 1676, the King having returned into Flanders, took Conde; whilst
Monsieur took Bouchain. The armies of the King and of the Prince of
Orange approached each other so suddenly and so closely, that they found
themselves front to front near Heurtebise. According even to the
admission of the enemy, our forces were so superior to those of the
Prince of Orange, that we must have gained the victory if we had
attacked. But the King, after listening to the opinions of his generals,
some for, and some against giving battle, decided for the latter, turned
tail, and the engagement was talked of no more. The army was much
discontented. Everybody wished for battle. The fault therefore of the
King made much impression upon the troops, and excited cruel railleries
against us at home and in the foreign courts. The King stopped but
little longer afterwards in the army, although we were only in the month
of May. He returned to his mistress.

The following year he returned to Flanders, and took Cambrai; and
Monsieur besieged Saint-Omer. Monsieur got the start of the Prince of
Orange, who was about to assist the place, gave him battle near Corsel,
obtained a complete victory, immediately took Saint-Omer, and then joined
the King. This contrast so affected the monarch that never afterwards
did he give Monsieur command of an army! External appearances were
perfectly kept up, but from that moment the resolution was taken and
always well sustained.

The year afterwards the King led in person the siege of Ghent. The peace
of Nimeguen ended this year the war with Holland, Spain, &c.; and on the
commencement of the following year, that with the Emperor and the Empire.
America, Africa, the Archipelago, Sicily, acutely felt the power of
France, and in 1684 Luxembourg was the price of the delay of the
Spaniards in fulfilling all the conditions of the peace. Genoa,
bombarded, was forced to come in the persons of its doge and four of its
senators, to sue for peace at the commencement of the following year.
From this date, until 1688, the time passed in the cabinet less in fetes
than in devotion and constraint. Here finishes the apogeum of this
reign, and the fulness of glory and prosperity. The great captains, the
great ministers, were no more, but their pupils remained. The second
epoch of the reign was very different from the first; but the third was
even more sadly dissimilar.

I have related the adventure which led to the wars of this period; how an
ill-made window-frame was noticed at the Trianon, then building; how
Louvois was blamed for it; his alarm lest his disgrace should follow; his
determination to engage the King in a war which should turn him from his
building fancies. He carried out his resolve: with what result I have
already shown. France was ruined at home; and abroad, despite the
success of her arms, gained nothing. On the contrary, the withdrawal of
the King from Gembloux, when he might have utterly defeated the Prince of
Orange, did us infinite harm, as I have shown in its place. The peace
which followed this war was disgraceful. The King was obliged to
acknowledge the Prince of Orange as King of England, after having so long
shown hatred and contempt for him. Our precipitation, too, cost us
Luxembourg; and the ignorance of our plenipotentiaries gave our enemies
great advantages in forming their frontier. Such was the peace of
Ryswick, concluded in September, 1697.

This peace seemed as though it would allow France some breathing time.
The King was sixty years of age, and had, in his own opinion, acquired
all sorts of glory. But scarcely were we at peace, without having had
time to taste it, than the pride of the King made him wish to astonish
all Europe by the display of a power that it believed prostrated. And
truly he did astonish Europe. But at what a cost! The famous camp of
Compiegne--for 'tis to that I allude--was one of the most magnificent
spectacles ever seen; but its immense and misplaced prodigality was soon
regretted. Twenty years afterwards, some of the regiments who took part
in it were still in difficulties from this cause.

Shortly afterwards,--by one of the most surprising and unheard-of pieces
of good fortune, the crown of Spain fell into the hands of the Duc
d'Anjou, grandson of the King. It seemed as though golden days had come
back again to France. Only for a little time, however, did it seem so.
Nearly all Europe, as it has been seen, banded against France, to dispute
the Spanish crown. The King had lost all his good ministers, all his
able generals, and had taken good pains they should leave no successors.
When war came, then, we were utterly unable to prosecute it with success
or honour. We were driven out of Germany, of Italy, of the Low
Countries. We could not sustain the war, or resolve to make peace.
Every day led us nearer and nearer the brink of the precipice, the
terrible depths of which were for ever staring us in the face. A
misunderstanding amongst our enemies, whereby England became detached
from the grand alliance; the undue contempt of Prince Eugene for our
generals, out of which arose the battle of Denain; saved us from the
gulf. Peace came, and a peace, too, infinitely better than that we
should have ardently embraced if our enemies had agreed amongst
themselves beforehand. Nevertheless, this peace cost dear to France, and
cost Spain half its territory--Spain, of which the King had said not even
a windmill would he yield! But this was another piece of folly he soon
repented of.

Thus, we see this monarch, grand, rich, conquering, the arbiter of
Europe; feared and admired as long as the ministers and captains existed
who really deserved the name. When they were no more, the machine kept
moving some time by impulsion, and from their influence. But soon
afterwards we saw beneath the surface; faults and errors were multiplied,
and decay came on with giant strides; without, however, opening the eyes
of that despotic master, so anxious to do everything and direct
everything himself, and who seemed to indemnify himself for disdain
abroad by increasing fear and trembling at home.

So much for the reign of this vain-glorious monarch.

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