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

Part 14 out of 21

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Let me touch now upon some other incidents in his career, and upon some
points in his character.

He early showed a disinclination for Paris. The troubles that had taken
place there during his minority made him regard the place as dangerous;
he wished, too, to render himself venerable by hiding himself from the
eyes of the multitude; all these considerations fixed him at Saint-
Germain soon after the death of the Queen, his mother. It was to that
place he began to attract the world by fetes and gallantries, and by
making it felt that he wished to be often seen.

His love for Madame de la Valliere, which was at first kept secret,
occasioned frequent excursions to Versailles, then a little card castle,
which had been built by Louis XIII.--annoyed, and his suite still more
so, at being frequently obliged to sleep in a wretched inn there, after
he had been out hunting in the forest of Saint Leger. That monarch
rarely slept at Versailles more than one night, and then from necessity;
the King, his son, slept there, so that he might be more in private with
his mistress, pleasures unknown to the hero and just man, worthy son of
Saint-Louis, who built the little chateau.

These excursions of Louis XIV. by degrees gave birth to those immense
buildings he erected at Versailles; and their convenience for a numerous
court, so different from the apartments at Saint-Germain, led him to take
up his abode there entirely shortly after the death of the Queen. He
built an infinite number of apartments, which were asked for by those who
wished to pay their court to him; whereas at Saint-Germain nearly
everybody was obliged to lodge in the town, and the few who found
accommodation at the chateau were strangely inconvenienced.

The frequent fetes, the private promenades at Versailles, the journeys,
were means on which the King seized in order to distinguish or mortify
the courtiers, and thus render them more assiduous in pleasing him.

He felt that of real favours he had not enough to bestow; in order to
keep up the spirit of devotion, he therefore unceasingly invented all
sorts of ideal ones, little preferences and petty distinctions, which
answered his purpose as well.

He was exceedingly jealous of the attention paid him. Not only did he
notice the presence of the most distinguished courtiers, but those of
inferior degree also. He looked to the right and to the left, not only
upon rising but upon going to bed, at his meals, in passing through his
apartments, or his gardens of Versailles, where alone the courtiers were
allowed to follow him; he saw and noticed everybody; not one escaped him,
not even those who hoped to remain unnoticed. He marked well all
absentees from the Court, found out the reason of their absence, and
never lost an opportunity of acting towards them as the occasion might
seem to justify. With some of the courtiers (the most distinguished), it
was a demerit not to make the Court their ordinary abode; with others
'twas a fault to come but rarely; for those who never or scarcely ever
came it was certain disgrace. When their names were in any way
mentioned, "I do not know them," the King would reply haughtily. Those
who presented themselves but seldom were thus Characterise: "They are
people I never see;" these decrees were irrevocable. He could not bear
people who liked Paris.

Louis XIV. took great pains to be well informed of all that passed
everywhere; in the public places, in the private houses, in society and
familiar intercourse. His spies and tell-tales were infinite. He had
them of all species; many who were ignorant that their information
reached him; others who knew it; others who wrote to him direct, sending
their letters through channels he indicated; and all these letters were
seen by him alone, and always before everything else; others who
sometimes spoke to him secretly in his cabinet, entering by the back
stairs. These unknown means ruined an infinite number of people of all
classes, who never could discover the cause; often ruined them very
unjustly; for the King, once prejudiced, never altered his opinion, or so
rarely, that nothing was more rare. He had, too, another fault, very
dangerous for others and often for himself, since it deprived him of good
subjects. He had an excellent memory; in this way, that if he saw a man
who, twenty years before, perhaps, had in some manner offended him, he
did not forget the man, though he might forget the offence. This was
enough, however, to exclude the person from all favour. The
representations of a minister, of a general, of his confessor even,
could not move the King. He would not yield.

The most cruel means by which the King was informed of what was passing--
for many years before anybody knew it--was that of opening letters. The
promptitude and dexterity with which they were opened passes
understanding. He saw extracts from all the letters in which there were
passages that the chiefs of the post-office, and then the minister who
governed it, thought ought to go before him; entire letters, too, were
sent to him, when their contents seemed to justify the sending. Thus the
chiefs of the post, nay, the principal clerks were in a position to
suppose what they pleased and against whom they pleased. A word of
contempt against the King or the government, a joke, a detached phrase,
was enough. It is incredible how many people, justly or unjustly, were
more or less ruined, always without resource, without trial, and without
knowing why. The secret was impenetrable; for nothing ever cost the King
less than profound silence and dissimulation.

This last talent he pushed almost to falsehood, but never to deceit,
pluming himself upon keeping his word,--therefore he scarcely ever gave
it. The secrets of others he kept as religiously as his own. He was
even flattered by certain confessions and certain confidences; and there
was no mistress, minister, or favourite, who could have wormed them out,
even though the secret regarded themselves.

We know, amongst many others, the famous story of a woman of quality,
who, after having been separated a year from her husband, found herself
in the family way just as he was on the point of returning from the army,
and who, not knowing what else to do, in the most urgent manner begged a
private interview of the King. She obtained it, and confined to him her
position, as to the worthiest man in his realm, as she said. The King
counselled her to profit by her distress, and live more wisely for the
future, and immediately promised to retain her husband on the frontier as
long as was necessary, and to forbid his return under any pretext, and in
fact he gave orders the same day to Louvois, and prohibited the husband
not only all leave of absence, but forbade him to quit for a single day
the post he was to command all the winter. The officer, who was
distinguished, and who had neither wished nor asked to be employed all
the winter upon the frontier, and Louvois, who had in no way thought of
it, were equally surprised and vexed. They were obliged, however, to
obey to the letter, and without asking why; and the King never mentioned
the circumstance until many years afterwards, when he was quite sure
nobody could find out either husband or wife, as in fact they never
could, or even obtain the most vague or the most uncertain suspicion.


Never did man give with better grace than Louis XIV., or augmented so
much, in this way, the price of his benefits. Never did man sell to
better profit his words, even his smiles,--nay, his looks. Never did
disobliging words escape him; and if he had to blame, to reprimand, or
correct, which was very rare, it was nearly always with goodness, never,
except on one occasion (the admonition of Courtenvaux, related in its
place), with anger or severity. Never was man so naturally polite, or of
a politeness so measured, so graduated, so adapted to person, time, and
place. Towards women his politeness was without parallel. Never did he
pass the humblest petticoat without raising his hat; even to chamber-
maids, that he knew to be such, as often happened at Marly. For ladies
he took his hat off completely, but to a greater or less extent; for
titled people, half off, holding it in his hand or against his ear some
instants, more or less marked. For the nobility he contented himself by
putting his hand to his hat. He took it off for the Princes of the
blood, as for the ladies. If he accosted ladies he did not cover himself
until he had quitted them. All this was out of doors, for in the house
he was never covered. His reverences, more or less marked, but always
light, were incomparable for their grace and manner; even his mode of
half raising himself at supper for each lady who arrived at table.
Though at last this fatigued him, yet he never ceased it; the ladies who
were to sit down, however, took care not to enter after supper had

If he was made to wait for anything while dressing, it was always with
patience. He was exact to the hours that he gave for all his day, with a
precision clear and brief in his orders. If in the bad weather of
winter, when he could not go out, he went to Madame de Maintenon's a
quarter of an hour earlier than he had arranged (which seldom happened),
and the captain of the guards was not on duty, he did not fail afterwards
to say that it was his own fault for anticipating the hour, not that of
the captain of the guards for being absent. Thus, with this regularity
which he never deviated from, he was served with the utmost exactitude.

He treated his valets well, above all those of the household. It was
amongst them that he felt most at ease, and that he unbosomed himself the
most familiarly, especially to the chiefs. Their friendship and their
aversion have often had grand results. They were unceasingly in a
position to render good and bad offices: thus they recalled those
powerful enfranchised slaves of the Roman emperors, to whom the senate
and the great people paid court and basely truckled. These valets during
Louis XIV.'s reign were not less courted. The ministers, even the most
powerful, openly studied their caprices; and the Princes of the blood,
nay, the bastards,--not to mention people of lower grade, did the same.
The majority were accordingly insolent enough; and if you could not avoid
their insolence, you were forced to put up with it.

The King loved air and exercise very much, as long as he could make use
of them. He had excelled in dancing, and at tennis and mall. On
horseback he was admirable, even at a late age. He liked to see
everything done with grace and address. To acquit yourself well or ill
before him was a merit or a fault. He said that with things not
necessary it was best not to meddle, unless they were done well. He was
very fond of shooting, and there was not a better or more graceful shot
than he. He had always, in his cabinet seven or eight pointer bitches,
and was fond of feeding them, to make himself known to them. He was very
fond, too, of stag hunting; but in a caleche, since he broke his arm,
while hunting at Fontainebleau, immediately after the death of the Queen.
He rode alone in a species of "box," drawn by four little horses--with
five or six relays, and drove himself with an address and accuracy
unknown to the best coachmen. His postilions were children from ten to
fifteen years of age, and he directed them.

He liked splendour, magnificence, and profusion in everything: you
pleased him if you shone through the brilliancy of your houses, your
clothes, your table, your equipages. Thus a taste for extravagance and
luxury was disseminated through all classes of society; causing infinite
harm, and leading to general confusion of rank and to ruin.

As for the King himself, nobody ever approached his magnificence. His
buildings, who could number them? At the same time, who was there who
did not deplore the pride, the caprice, the bad taste seen in them? He
built nothing useful or ornamental in Paris, except the Pont Royal, and
that simply by necessity; so that despite its incomparable extent, Paris
is inferior to many cities of Europe. Saint-Germain, a lovely spot, with
a marvellous view, rich forest, terraces, gardens, and water he abandoned
for Versailles; the dullest and most ungrateful of all places, without
prospect, without wood, without water, without soil; for the ground is
all shifting sand or swamp, the air accordingly bad.

But he liked to subjugate nature by art and treasure.

He built at Versailles, on, on, without any general design, the beautiful
and the ugly, the vast and the mean, all jumbled together. His own
apartments and those of the Queen, are inconvenient to the last degree,
dull, close, stinking. The gardens astonish by their magnificence, but
cause regret by their bad taste. You are introduced to the freshness of
the shade only by a vast torrid zone, at the end of which there is
nothing for you but to mount or descend; and with the hill, which is very
short, terminate the gardens. The violence everywhere done to nature
repels and wearies us despite ourselves. The abundance of water, forced
up and gathered together from all parts, is rendered green, thick, muddy;
it disseminates humidity, unhealthy and evident; and an odour still more
so. I might never finish upon the monstrous defects of a palace so
immense and so immensely dear, with its accompaniments, which are still
more so.

But the supply of water for the fountains was all defective at all
moments, in spite of those seas of reservoirs which had cost so many
millions to establish and to form upon the shifting sand and marsh. Who
could have believed it? This defect became the ruin of the infantry
which was turned out to do the work. Madame de Maintenon reigned. M. de
Louvois was well with her, then. We were at peace. He conceived the
idea of turning the river Eure between Chartres and Maintenon, and of
making it come to Versailles. Who can say what gold and men this
obstinate attempt cost during several years, until it was prohibited by
the heaviest penalties, in the camp established there, and for a long
time kept up; not to speak of the sick,--above all, of the dead,--that
the hard labour and still more the much disturbed earth, caused? How
many men were years in recovering from the effects of the contagion! How
many never regained their health at all! And not only the sub-officers,
but the colonels, the brigadiers and general officers, were compelled to
be upon the spot, and were not at liberty to absent themselves a quarter
of an hour from the works. The war at last interrupted them in 1688, and
they have never since been undertaken; only unfinished portions of them
exist which will immortalise this cruel folly.

At last, the King, tired of the cost and bustle, persuaded himself that
he should like something little and solitary. He searched all around
Versailles for some place to satisfy this new taste. He examined several
neighbourhoods, he traversed the hills near Saint-Germain, and the vast
plain which is at the bottom, where the Seine winds and bathes the feet
of so many towns, and so many treasures in quitting Paris. He was
pressed to fix himself at Lucienne, where Cavoye afterwards had a house,
the view from which is enchanting; but he replied that, that fine
situation would ruin him, and that as he wished to go to no expense, so
he also wished a situation which would not urge him into any. He found
behind Lucienne a deep narrow valley, completely shut in, inaccessible
from its swamps, and with a wretched village called Marly upon the slope
of one of its hills. This closeness, without drain or the means of
having any, was the sole merit of the valley. The King was overjoyed at
his discovery. It was a great work, that of draining this sewer of all
the environs, which threw there their garbage, and of bringing soil
thither! The hermitage was made. At first, it was only for sleeping in
three nights, from Wednesday to Saturday, two or three times a-year, with
a dozen at the outside of courtiers, to fill the most indispensable

By degrees, the hermitage was augmented, the hills were pared and cut
down, to give at least the semblance of a prospect; in fine, what with
buildings, gardens, waters, aqueducts, the curious and well known
machine, statues, precious furniture, the park, the ornamental enclosed
forest,--Marly has become what it is to-day, though it has been stripped
since the death of the King. Great trees were unceasingly brought from
Compiegne or farther, three-fourths of which died and were immediately
after replaced; vast spaces covered with thick wood, or obscure alleys,
were suddenly changed into immense pieces of water, on which people were
rowed in gondolas; then they were changed again into forest (I speak of
what I have seen in six weeks); basins were changed a hundred times;
cascades the same; carp ponds adorned with the most exquisite painting,
scarcely finished, were changed and differently arranged by the same
hands; and this an infinite number of times; then there was that
prodigious machine just alluded to, with its immense aqueducts, the
conduit, its monstrous resources solely devoted to Marly, and no longer
to Versailles; so that I am under the mark in saying that Versailles,
even, did not cost so much as Marly.

Such was the fate of a place the abode of serpents, and of carrion, of
toads and frogs, solely chosen to avoid expense. Such was the bad taste
of the King in all things, and his proud haughty pleasure in forcing
nature; which neither the most mighty war, nor devotion could subdue!


Let me now speak of the amours of the King in which were even more fatal
to the state than his building mania. Their scandal filled all Europe;
stupefied France, shook the state, and without doubt drew upon the King
those maledictions under the weight of which he was pushed so near the
very edge of the precipice, and had the misfortune of seeing his
legitimate posterity within an ace of extinction in France. These are
evils which became veritable catastrophes and which will be long felt.

Louis XIV., in his youth more made for love than any of his subjects--
being tired of gathering passing sweets, fixed himself at last upon La
Valliere. The progress and the result of his love are well known.

Madame de Montespan was she whose rare beauty touched him next, even
during the reign of Madame de La Valliere. She soon perceived it, and
vainly pressed her husband to carry her away into Guienne. With foolish
confidence he refused to listen to her. She spoke to him more in
earnest. In vain. At last the King was listened to, and carried her off
from her husband, with that frightful hubbub which resounded with horror
among all nations, and which gave to the world the new spectacle of two
mistresses at once! The King took them to the frontiers, to the camps,
to the armies, both of them in the Queen's coach. The people ran from
all parts to look at the three queens; and asked one another in their
simplicity if they had seen them. In the end, Madame de Montespan
triumphed, and disposed of the master and his Court with an eclat that
knew no veil; and in order that nothing should be wanting to complete the
licence of this life, M. de Montespan was sent to the Bastille; then
banished to Guienne, and his wife was appointed superintendent of the
Queen's household.

The accouchements of Madame de Montespan were public. Her circle became
the centre of the Court, of the amusements, of the hopes and of the fears
of ministers and the generals, and the humiliation of all France. It was
also the centre of wit, and of a kind so peculiar, so delicate, and so
subtle, but always so natural and so agreeable, that it made itself
distinguished by its special character.

Madame de Montespan was cross, capricious, ill-tempered, and of a
haughtiness in everything which, readied to the clouds, and from the
effects of which nobody, not even the King, was exempt. The courtiers
avoided passing under her windows, above all when the King was with her.
They used to say it was equivalent to being put to the sword, and this
phrase became proverbial at the Court. It is true that she spared
nobody, often without other design than to divert the King; and as she
had infinite wit and sharp pleasantry, nothing was more dangerous than
the ridicule she, better than anybody, could cast on all. With that she
loved her family and her relatives, and did not fail to serve people for
whom she conceived friendship. The Queen endured with difficulty her
haughtiness--very different from the respect and measure with which she
had been treated by the Duchesse de la Valliere, whom she always loved;
whereas of Madame de Montespan she would say, "That strumpet will cause
my death." The retirement, the austere penitence, and the pious end of
Madame de Montespan have been already described.

During her reign she did not fail to have causes for jealousy. There was
Mademoiselle de Fontange, who pleased the King sufficiently to become his
mistress. But she had no intellect, and without that it was impossible
to maintain supremacy over the King. Her early death quickly put an end
to this amour. Then there was Madame de Soubise, who, by the infamous
connivance of her husband, prostituted herself to the King, and thus
secured all sorts of advantages for that husband, for herself, and for
her children. The love of the King for her continued until her death,
although for many years before that he had ceased to see her in private.
Then there was the beautiful Ludre, demoiselle of Lorraine, and maid of
honour to Madame, who was openly loved for a moment. But this amour was
a flash of lightning, and Madame de Montespan remained triumphant.

Let us now pass to another kind of amour which astonished all the world
as much as the other had scandalised it, and which the King carried with
him to the tomb. Who does not already recognise the celebrated Francoise
d'Aubigne, Marquise de Maintenon, whose permanent reign did not last less
than thirty-two years?

Born in the American islands, where her father, perhaps a gentleman, had
gone to seek his bread, and where he was stifled by obscurity, she
returned alone and at haphazard into France. She landed at La Rochelle,
and was received in pity by Madame de Neuillant, mother of the Marechale
Duchesse de Navailles, and was reduced by that avaricious old woman to
keep the keys of her granary, and to see the hay measured out to her
horses, as I have already related elsewhere. She came afterwards to
Paris, young, clever, witty, and beautiful, without friends and without
money; and by lucky chance made acquaintance with the famous Scarron. He
found her amiable; his friends perhaps still more so. Marriage with this
joyous and learned cripple appeared to her the greatest and most
unlooked-for good fortune; and folks who were, perhaps, more in want of a
wife than he, persuaded him to marry her, and thus raise this charming
unfortunate from her misery.

The marriage being brought about, the new spouse pleased the company
which went to Scarron's house. It was the fashion to go there: people of
the Court and of the city, the best and most distinguished went. Scarron
was not in a state to leave his house, but the charm of his genius, of
his knowledge, of his imagination, of that incomparable and ever fresh
gaiety which he showed in the midst of his afflictions, that rare
fecundity, and that humour, tempered by so much good taste that is still
admired in his writings, drew everybody there.

Madame Scarron made at home all sorts of acquaintances, which, however,
at the death of her husband, did not keep her from being reduced to the
charity of the parish of Saint-Eustace. She took a chamber for herself
and for a servant, where she lived in a very pinched manner. Her
personal charms by degrees improved her condition. Villars, father of
the Marechal; Beuvron, father of D'Harcourt; the three Villarceaux, and
many others kept her.

This set her afloat again, and, step by step, introduced her to the Hotel
d'Albret, and thence to the Hotel de Richelieu, and elsewhere; so she
passed from one house to the other. In these houses Madame Scarron was
far from being on the footing of the rest of the company. She was more
like a servant than a guest. She was completely at the beck and call of
her hosts; now to ask for firewood; now if a meal was nearly ready;
another time if the coach of so-and-so or such a one had returned; and so
on, with a thousand little commissions which the use of bells, introduced
a long time after, differently disposes of.

It was in these houses, principally in the Hotel de Richelieu, much more
still in the Hotel d'Albret, where the Marechal d'Albret lived in great
state, that Madame Scarron made the majority of her acquaintances. The
Marechal was cousin-german of M. de Montespan, very intimate with him,
and with Madame de Montespan. When she became the King's mistress he
became her counsellor, and abandoned her husband.

To the intimacy between the Marechal d'Albret and Madame de Montespan,
Madame de Maintenon owed the good fortune she met with fourteen or
fifteen years later. Madame de Montespan continually visited the Hotel
d'Albret, and was much impressed with Madame Scarron. She conceived a
friendship for the obliging widow, and when she had her first children by
the King--M. du Maine and Madame la Duchesse, whom the King wished to
conceal--she proposed that they should be confided to Madame Scarron. A
house in the Marais was accordingly given to her, to lodge in with them,
and the means to bring them up, but in the utmost secrecy. Afterwards,
these children were taken to Madame de Montespan, then shown to the King,
and then by degrees drawn from secrecy and avowed. Their governess,
being established with them at the Court, more and more pleased Madame de
Montespan, who several times made the King give presents to her. He, on
the other hand, could not endure her; what he gave to her, always little,
was by excess of complaisance and with a regret that he did not hide.

The estate of Maintenon being for sale, Madame de Montespan did not let
the King rest until she had drawn from him enough to buy it for Madame
Scarron, who thenceforth assumed its name. She obtained enough also for
the repair of the chateau, and then attacked the King for means to
arrange the garden, which the former owners had allowed to go to ruin.

It was at the toilette of Madame de Montespan that these demands were
made. The captain of the guards alone followed the King there. M. le
Marechal de Lorges, the truest man that ever lived, held that post then,
and he has often related to me the scene he witnessed. The King at first
turned a deaf ear to the request of Madame de Montespan, and then
refused. Annoyed that she still insisted, he said he had already done
more than enough for this creature; that he could not understand the
fancy of Madame de Montespan for her, and her obstinacy in keeping her
after he had begged her so many times to dismiss her; that he admitted
Madame Scarron was insupportable to him, and provided he never saw her
more and never heard speak of her, he would open his purse again; though,
to say truth, he had already given too much to a creature of this kind!
Never did M. le Marechel de Lorges forget these words; and he has always
repeated them to me and others precisely as they are given here, so
struck was he with them, and much more after all that he saw since, so
astonishing and so contradictory. Madame de Montespan stopped short,
very much troubled by having too far pressed the King.

M. du Maine was extremely lame; this was caused, it was said, by a fall
he had from his nurse's arms. Nothing done for him succeeded; the
resolution was then taken to send him to various practicians in Flanders,
and elsewhere in the realm, then to the waters, among others to Bareges.
The letters that the governess wrote to Madame de Montespan, giving an
account of these journeys, were shown to the King. He thought them well
written, relished them, and the last ones made his aversion for the
writer diminish.

The ill-humour of Madame de Montespan finished the work. She had a good
deal of that quality, and had become accustomed to give it full swing.
The King was the object of it more frequently than anybody; he was still
amorous; but her ill-humour pained him. Madame de Maintenon reproached
Madame de Montespan for this, and thus advanced herself in the King's
favour. The King, by degrees, grew accustomed to speak sometimes to
Madame de Maintenon; to unbosom to her what he wished her to say to
Madame de Montespan; at last to relate to her the chagrin this latter
caused him, and to consult her thereupon.

Admitted thus into the intimate confidence of the lover and the mistress,
and this by the King's own doing, the adroit waiting-woman knew how to
cultivate it, and profited so well by her industry that by degrees she
supplanted Madame de Montespan, who perceived, too late, that her friend
had become necessary to the King. Arrived at this point, Madame de
Maintenon made, in her turn, complaints to the King of all she had to
suffer, from a mistress who spared even him so little; and by dint of
these mutual complaints about Madame de Montespan, Madame de Maintenon at
last took her place, and knew well how to keep it.

Fortune, I dare not say Providence, which was preparing for the
haughtiest of kings, humiliation the most profound, the most-public, the
most durable, the most unheard-of, strengthened more and more his taste
for this woman, so adroit and expert at her trade; while the continued
ill-humour and jealousy of Madame de Montespan rendered the new union
still more solid. It was this that Madame de Sevigne so prettily paints,
enigmatically, in her letters to Madame de Grignan, in which she
sometimes talks of these Court movements; for Madame de Maintenon had
been in Paris in the society of Madame de Sevigne, of Madame de Coulange,
of Madame de La Fayette, and had begun to make them feel her importance.
Charming touches are to be seen in the same style upon the favour, veiled
but brilliant enjoyed by Madame de Soubise.

It was while the King was in the midst of his partiality for Madame de
Maintenon that the Queen died. It was at the same time, too, that the
ill-humour of Madame de Montespan became more and more insupportable.
This imperious beauty, accustomed to domineer and to be adored, could not
struggle against the despair, which the prospect of her fall caused her.
What carried her beyond all bounds, was that she could no longer disguise
from herself, that she had an abject rival whom she had supported, who
owed everything to her; whom she had so much liked that she had several
times refused to dismiss her when pressed to do so by the King; a rival,
too, so beneath her in beauty, and older by several years; to feel that
it was this lady's-maid, not to say this servant, that the King most
frequently went to see; that he sought only her; that he could not
dissimulate his uneasiness if he did not find her; that he quitted all
for her; in fine, that at all moments she (Madame de Montespan) needed
the intervention of Madame de Maintenon, in order to attract the King to
reconcile her with him, or to obtain the favours she asked for. It was
then, in times so propitious to the enchantress, that the King became
free by the death of the Queen.

He passed the first few days at Saint-Cloud, at Monsieur's, whence he
went to Fontainebleau, where he spent all the autumn. It was there that
his liking, stimulated by absence, made him find that absence
insupportable. Upon his return it is pretended--for we must distinguish
the certain from that which is not so--it is pretended, I say, that the
King spoke more freely to Madame de Maintenon, and that she; venturing to
put forth her strength, intrenched herself behind devotion and prudery;
that the King did not cease, that she preached to him and made him afraid
of the devil, and that she balanced his love against his conscience with
so much art, that she succeeded in becoming what our eyes have seen her,
but what posterity will never believe she was.

But what is very certain and very true, is, that some time after the
return of the King from Fontainebleau, and in the midst of the winter
that followed the death of the Queen (posterity will with difficulty
believe it, although perfectly true and proved), Pere de la Chaise,
confessor of the King, said mass at the dead of night in one of the
King's cabinets at Versailles. Bontems, governor of Versailles, chief
valet on duty, and the most confidential of the four, was present at this
mass, at which the monarch and La Maintenon were married in presence of
Harlay, Archbishop of Paris, as diocesan, of Louvois (both of whom drew
from the King a promise that he would never declare this marriage), and
of Montchevreuil. This last was a relative and friend of Villarceaux, to
whom during the summer he lent his house at Montchevreuil, remaining
there himself, however, with his wife; and in that house Villarceaux kept
Madame Scarron, paying all the expenses because his relative was poor,
and because he (Villarceaux) was ashamed to take her to his own home, to
live in concubinage with her in the presence of his wife whose patience
and virtue he respected.

The satiety of the honeymoon, usually so fatal, and especially the
honeymoon of such marriages, only consolidated the favour of Madame de
Maintenon. Soon after, she astonished everybody by the apartments given
to her at Versailles, at the top of the grand staircase facing those of
the King and on the same floor. From that moment the King always passed
some hours with her every day of his life; wherever she might be she was
always lodged near him, and on the same floor if possible.

What manner of person she was,--this incredible enchantress,--and how she
governed all-powerfully for more than thirty years, it behoves me now to


Madame de Maintenon was a woman of much wit, which the good company, in
which she had at first been merely suffered, but in which she soon shone,
had much polished; and ornamented with knowledge of the world, and which
gallantry had rendered of the most agreeable kind. The various positions
she had held had rendered her flattering, insinuating, complaisant,
always seeking to please. The need she had of intrigues, those she had
seen of all kinds, and been mixed up in for herself and for others, had
given her the taste, the ability, and the habit of them. Incomparable
grace, an easy manner, and yet measured and respectful, which, in
consequence of her long obscurity, had become natural to her,
marvellously aided her talents; with language gentle, exact, well
expressed, and naturally eloquent and brief. Her best time, for she was
three or four years older than the King, had been the dainty phrase
period;--the superfine gallantry days,--in a word, the time of the
"ruelles," as it was called; and it had so influenced her that she always
retained evidences of it. She put on afterwards an air of importance,
but this gradually gave place to one of devoutness that she wore
admirably. She was not absolutely false by disposition, but necessity
had made her so, and her natural flightiness made her appear twice as
false as she was.

The distress and poverty in which she had so long lived had narrowed her
mind, and abased her heart and her sentiments. Her feelings and her
thoughts were so circumscribed, that she was in truth always less even
than Madame Scarron, and in everything and everywhere she found herself
such. Nothing was more repelling than this meanness, joined to a
situation so radiant.

Her flightiness or inconstancy was of the most dangerous kind. With the
exception of some of her old friends, to whom she had good reasons for
remaining faithful, she favoured people one moment only to cast them off
the next. You were admitted to an audience with her for instance, you
pleased her in some manner, and forthwith she unbosomed herself to you as
though you had known her from childhood. At the second audience you
found her dry, laconic, cold. You racked your brains to discover the
cause of this change. Mere loss of time!--Flightiness was the sole
reason of it.

Devoutness was her strong point; by that she governed and held her place.
She found a King who believed himself an apostle, because he had all his
life persecuted Jansenism, or what was presented to him as such. This
indicated to her with what grain she could sow the field most profitably.

The profound ignorance in which the King had been educated and kept all
his life, rendered him from the first an easy prey to the Jesuits. He
became even more so with years, when he grew devout, for he was devout
with the grossest ignorance. Religion became his weak point. In this
state it was easy to persuade him that a decisive and tremendous blow
struck against the Protestants would give his name more grandeur than any
of his ancestors had acquired, besides strengthening his power and
increasing his authority. Madame de Maintenon was one of those who did
most to make him believe this.

The revocation of the edict of Nantes, without the slightest pretext or
necessity, and the various proscriptions that followed it, were the
fruits of a frightful plot, in which the new spouse was one of the chief
conspirators, and which depopulated a quarter of the realm, ruined its
commerce, weakened it in every direction, gave it up for a long time to
the public and avowed pillage of the dragoons, authorised torments and
punishments by which so many innocent people of both sexes were killed by
thousands; ruined a numerous class; tore in pieces a world of families;
armed relatives against relatives, so as to seize their property and
leave them to die of hunger; banished our manufactures to foreign lands,
made those lands flourish and overflow at the expense of France, and
enabled them to build new cities; gave to the world the spectacle of a
prodigious population proscribed, stripped, fugitive, wandering, without
crime, and seeking shelter far from its country; sent to the galleys,
nobles, rich old men, people much esteemed for their piety, learning, and
virtue, people well off, weak, delicate, and solely on account of
religion; in fact, to heap up the measure of horror, filled all the realm
with perjury and sacrilege, in the midst of the echoed cries of these
unfortunate victims of error, while so many others sacrificed their
conscience to their wealth and their repose, and purchased both by
simulated abjuration, from which without pause they were dragged to adore
what they did not believe in, and to receive the divine body of the Saint
of Saints whilst remaining persuaded that they were only eating bread
which they ought to abhor! Such was the general abomination born of
flattery and cruelty. From torture to abjuration, and from that to the
communion, there was often only twenty-four hours' distance; and
executioners were the conductors of the converts and their witnesses.
Those who in the end appeared to have been reconciled, more at leisure
did not fail by their flight, or their behaviour, to contradict their
pretended conversion.

The King received from all sides news and details of these persecutions
and of these conversions. It was by thousands that those who had abjured
and taken the communion were counted; ten thousand in one place; six
thousand in another--all at once and instantly. The King congratulated
himself on his power and his piety. He believed himself to have renewed
the days of the preaching of the Apostles, and attributed to himself all
the honour. The bishops wrote panegyrics of him, the Jesuits made the
pulpit resound with his praises. All France was filled with horror and
confusion; and yet there never was so much triumph and joy--never such
profusion of laudations! The monarch doubted not of the sincerity of
this crowd of conversions; the converters took good care to persuade him
of it and to beatify him beforehand. He swallowed their poison in long.
draughts. He had never yet believed himself so great in the eyes of man,
or so advanced in the eyes of God, in the reparation of his sins and of
the scandals of his life. He heard nothing but eulogies, while the good
and true Catholics and the true bishops, groaned in spirit to see the
orthodox act towards error and heretics as heretical tyrants and heathens
had acted against the truth, the confessors, and the martyrs. They could
not, above all, endure this immensity of perjury and sacrilege. They
bitterly lamented the durable and irremediable odium that detestable
measure cast upon the true religion, whilst our neighbours, exulting to
see us thus weaken and destroy ourselves, profited by our madness, and
built designs upon the hatred we should draw upon ourselves from all the
Protestant powers.

But to these spearing truths, the King was inaccessible. Even the
conduct of Rome in this matter, could not open his eyes. That Court
which formerly had not been ashamed to extol the Saint-Bartholomew, to
thank God for it by public processions, to employ the greatest masters to
paint this execrable action in the Vatican; Rome, I say, would not give
the slightest approbation to this onslaught on the Huguenots.

The magnificent establishment of Saint-Cyr, followed closely upon the
revocation of the edict of Nantes. Madame de Montespan had founded at
Paris an establishment for the instruction of young girls in all sorts of
fine and ornamental work. Emulation gave Madame de Maintenon higher and
vaster views which, whilst gratifying the poor nobility, would cause her
to be regarded as protectress in whom all the nobility would feel
interested. She hoped to smooth the way for a declaration of her
marriage, by rendering herself illustrious by a monument with which she
could amuse both the King and herself, and which might serve her as a
retreat if she had the misfortune to lose him, as in fact it happened.

This declaration of her marriage was always her most ardent desire. She
wished above all things to be proclaimed Queen; and never lost sight of
the idea. Once she was near indeed upon seeing it gratified. The King
had actually given her his word, that she should be declared; and the
ceremony was forthwith about to take place. But it was postponed, and
for ever, by the representations of Louvois to the King. To this
interference that minister owed his fall, and under circumstances so
surprising and so strange, that I cannot do better, I think, than
introduce an account of them here, by way of episode. They are all the
more interesting because they show what an unlimited power Madame de
Maintenon exercised by subterranean means, and with what patient
perseverance she undermined her enemies when once she had resolved to
destroy them.

Lauvois had gained the confidence of the King to such an extent, that he
was, as I have said, one of the two witnesses of the frightful marriage
of his Majesty with Madame de Maintenon. He had the courage to show he
was worthy of this confidence, by representing to the King the ignominy
of declaring that marriage, and drew from him his word, that never in his
life would he do so.

Several years afterwards, Louvois, who took care to be well informed of
all that passed in the palace, found out that Madame de Maintenon had
been again scheming in order to be declared Queen; that the King had had
the weakness to promise she should be, and that the declaration was about
to be made. He put some papers in his hand, and at once went straight to
the King, who was in a very private room. Seeing Louvois at an
unexpected hour, he asked him what brought him there. "Something
pressing and important," replied Louvois, with a sad manner that
astonished the King, and induced him to command the valets present to
quit the room. They went away in fact, but left the door open, so that
they could hear all, and see all, too, by the glass. This was the great
danger of the cabinets.

The valets being gone, Louvois did not dissimulate from the King his
mission. The monarch was often false, but incapable of rising above his
own falsehood. Surprised at being discovered, he tried to shuffle out of
the matter, and pressed by his minister, began to move so as to gain the
other cabinet where the valets were, and thus deliver himself from this
hobble. But Louvois, who perceived what he was about, threw himself on
his knees and stopped him, drew from his side a little sword he wore,
presented the handle to the King, and prayed him to kill him on the spot,
if he would persist in declaring his marriage, in breaking his word, and
covering himself in the eyes of Europe with infamy. The King stamped,
fumed, told Louvois to let him go. But Louvois squeezed him tighter by
the legs for fear he should escape; represented to him the shame of what
he had decided on doing; in a word, succeeded so well, that he drew for
the second time from the King, a promise that the marriage should never
be declared.

Madame de Maintenon meanwhile expected every moment to be proclaimed
Queen. At the end of some days disturbed by the silence of the King,
she ventured to touch upon the subject. The embarrassment she caused the
King much troubled her. He softened the affair as much as he could, but
finished by begging her to think no more of being declared, and never to
speak of it to him again! After the first shock that the loss of her
hopes caused her, she sought to find out to whom she was beholden for it.
She soon learned the truth; and it is not surprising that she swore to
obtain Louvois's disgrace, and never ceased to work at it until
successful. She waited her opportunity, and undermined her enemy at
leisure, availing herself of every occasion to make him odious to the

Time passed. At length it happened that Louvois, not content with the
terrible executions in the Palatinate, which he had counselled, wished to
burn Treves. He proposed it to the King. A dispute arose between them,
but the King would not or could not be persuaded. It may be imagined
that Madame de Maintenon did not do much to convince him.

Some days afterwards Louvois, who had the fault of obstinacy, came as
usual to work with the King in Madame de Maintenon's rooms. At the end
of the sitting he said, that he felt convinced that it was scrupulousness
alone which had hindered the King from consenting to so necessary an act
as the burning, of Treves, and that he had, therefore, taken the
responsibility on himself by sending a courier with orders to set fire to
the place at once.

The King was immediately, and contrary to his nature, so transported with
anger that he seized the tongs, and was about to make a run at Louvois,
when Madame de Maintenon placed herself between them, crying, "Oh, Sire,
what are you going to do?" and took the tongs from his hands.

Louvois, meanwhile, gained the door. The King cried after him to recall
him, and said, with flashing eyes: "Despatch a courier instantly with a
counter order, and let him arrive in time; for, know this: if a single
house is burned your head shall answer for it." Louvois, more dead than
alive, hastened away at once.

Of course, he had sent off no courier. He said he had, believing that by
this trick the King, though he might be angry, would be led to give way.
He had reckoned wrongly, however, as we have seen.

From this time forward Louvois became day by day more distasteful to the
King. In the winter of 1690, he proposed that, in order to save expense,
the ladies should not accompany the King to the siege of Mons. Madame de
Maintenon, we may be sure, did not grow more kindly disposed towards him
after this. But as it is always the last drop of water that makes the
glass overflow, so a trifle that happened at this siege, completed the
disgrace of Louvois.

The King, who plumed himself upon knowing better than anybody the
minutest military details, walking one day about the camp, found an
ordinary cavalry guard ill-posted, and placed it differently. Later the
same day he again visited by chance the spot, and found the guard
replaced as at first. He was surprised and shocked. He asked the
captain who had done this, and was told it was Louvois.

"But," replied the King, "did you not tell him 'twas I who had placed

"Yes, Sire," replied the captain. The King piqued, turned towards his
suite, and said: "That's Louvois's trade, is it not? He thinks himself a
great captain, and that he knows everything," and forthwith he replaced
the guard as he had put it in the morning. It was, indeed, foolishness
and insolence on the part of Louvois, and the King had spoken truly of
him. The King was so wounded that he could not pardon him. After
Louvois's death, he related this incident to Pomponne, still annoyed at
it, as I knew by means of the Abbe de Pomponne.

After the return from Mons the dislike of the King for Louvois augmented
to such an extent, that this minister, who was so presumptuous, and who
thought himself so necessary, began to tremble. The Marechale de
Rochefort having gone with her daughter, Madame de Blansac, to dine with
him at Meudon, he took them out for a ride in a little 'calache', which
he himself drove. They heard him repeatedly say to himself, musing
profoundly, "Will he? Will he be made to? No--and yet--no, he will not

During this monologue Louvois was so absorbed that he was within an ace
of driving them all into the water, and would have done so, had they not
seized the reins, and cried out that he was going to drown them. At
their cries and movement, Louvois awoke as from a deep sleep, drew up,
and turned, saying that, indeed, he was musing, and not thinking of the

I was at Versailles at that time, and happened to call upon Louvois about
some business of my father's.

The same day I met him after dinner as he was going to work with the
King. About four o'clock in the afternoon I learned that he had been
taken rather unwell at Madame de Maintenon's, that the King had forced
him to go home, that he had done so on foot, that some trifling remedy
was administered to him there, and that during the operation of it he

The surprise of all the Court may be imagined. Although I was little
more than fifteen years of age, I wished to see the countenance of the
King after the occurrence of an event of this kind. I went and waited
for him, and followed him during all his promenade. He appeared to me
with his accustomed majesty, but had a nimble manner, as though he felt
more free than usual. I remarked that, instead of going to see his
fountains, and diversifying his walk as usual, he did nothing but walk up
and down by the balustrade of the orangery, whence he could see, in
returning towards the chateau, the lodging in which Louvois had just
died, and towards which he unceasingly looked.

The name of Louvois was never afterwards pronounced; not a word was said
upon this death so surprising, and so sudden, until the arrival of an
officer, sent by the King of England from Saint-Germain, who came to the
King upon this terrace, and paid him a compliment of condolence upon the
loss he had received.

"Monsieur," replied the King, in a tone and with a manner more than easy,
"give my compliments and my thanks to the King and Queen of England, and
say to them in my name, that my affairs and theirs will go on none the
worse for what has happened."

The officer made a bow and retired, astonishment painted upon his face,
and expressed in all his bearing. I anxiously observed all this, and
also remarked, that all the principal people around the King looked at
each other, but said no word. The fact was, as I afterwards learned,
that Louvois, when he died, was so deeply in disgrace, that the very next
day he was to have been arrested and sent to the Bastille! The King told
Chamillart so, and Chamillart related it to me. This explains, I fancy,
the joy of the King at the death of his minister; for it saved him from
executing the plan he had resolved on.

The suddenness of the disease and death of Louvois caused much talk,
especially when, on the opening of the body, it was discovered that he
had been poisoned. A servant was arrested on the charge; but before the
trial took place he was liberated, at the express command of the King,
and the whole affair was hushed up. Five or six months afterwards Seron,
private physician of Louvois, barricaded himself in his apartment at
Versailles, and uttered dreadful cries. People came but he refused to
open; and as the door could not be forced, he went on shrieking all day,
without succour, spiritual or temporal, saying at last that he had got
what he deserved for what he had done to his master; that he was a wretch
unworthy of help; and so he died despairing, in eight or ten hours,
without having spoken of any ones or uttered a single name!


It must not be imagined that in order to maintain her position Madame de
Maintenon had need of no address. Her reign, on the contrary, was only
one continual intrigue; and that of the King a perpetual dupery.

Her mornings, which she commenced very early, were occupied with obscure
audiences for charitable or spiritual affairs. Pretty often, at eight
o'clock in the morning, or earlier, she went to some minister; the
ministers of war, above all those of finance, were those with whom she
had most business.

Ordinarily as soon as she rose, she went to Saint-Cyr, dined in her
apartment there alone, or with some favourite of the house, gave as few
audiences as possible, ruled over the arrangements of the establishment,
meddled with the affairs of convents, read and replied to letters,
directed the affairs of the house, received information and letters from
her spies, and returned to Versailles just as the King was ready to enter
her rooms. When older and more infirm, she would lie down in bed on
arriving between seven and eight o'clock in the morning at Saint-Cyr, or
take some remedy.

Towards nine o'clock in the evening two waiting-women came to undress
her. Immediately afterwards, her maitre d'hotel, or a valet de chambre
brought her her supper--soup, or something light. As soon as she had
finished her meal, her women put her to bed, and all this in the presence
of the King and his minister, who did not cease working or speak lower.
This done, ten o'clock had arrived; the curtains of Madame de Maintenon
were drawn, and the King went to supper, after saying good night to her.

When with the King in her own room, they each occupied an armchair, with
a table between them, at either side of the fireplace, hers towards the
bed, the King's with the back to the wall, where was the door of the
ante-chamber; two stools were before the table, one for the minister who
came to work, the other for his papers.

During the work Madame de Maintenon read or worked at tapestry. She
heard all that passed between the King and his minister, for they spoke
out loud. Rarely did she say anything, or, if so, it was of no moment.
The King often asked her opinion; then she replied with great discretion.
Never did she appear to lay stress on anything, still less to interest
herself for anybody, but she had an understanding with the minister, who
did not dare to oppose her in private, still less to trip in her
presence. When some favour or some post was to be granted, the matter
was arranged between them beforehand; and this it was that sometimes
delayed her, without the King or anybody knowing the cause.

She would send word to the minister that she wished to speak to him. He
did not dare to bring anything forward until he had received her orders;
until the revolving mechanism of each day had given them the leisure to
confer together. That done, the minister proposed and showed a list. If
by chance the King stopped at the name Madame de Maintenon wished, the
minister stopped too, and went no further. If the King stopped at some
other, the minister proposed that he should look at those which were also
fitting, allowed the King leisure to make his observations, and profited
by them, to exclude the people who were not wanted. Rarely did he
propose expressly the name to which he wished to come, but always
suggested several that he tried to balance against each other, so as to
embarrass the King in his choice. Then the King asked his opinion, and
the minister, after touching upon other names, fixed upon the one he had

The King nearly always hesitated, and asked Madame de Maintenon what she
thought. She smiled, shammed incapacity, said a word upon some other
name, then returned, if she had not fixed herself there at first, to that
which the minister had proposed; so that three-fourths of the favours and
opportunities which passed through the hands of the ministers in her
rooms--and three-fourths even of the remaining fourth-were disposed of by
her. Sometimes when she had nobody for whom she cared, it was the
minister, with her consent and her help, who decided, without the King
having the least suspicion. He thought he disposed of everything by
himself; whilst, in fact, he disposed only of the smallest part, and
always then by chance, except on the rare occasions when he specially
wished to favour some one.

As for state matters, if Madame de Maintenon wished to make them succeed,
fail, or turn in some particular fashion (which happened much less often
than where favours and appointments were in the wind), the same
intelligence and the same intrigue were carried on between herself and
the minister. By these particulars it will be seen that this clever
woman did nearly all she wished, but not when or how she wished.

There was another scheme if the King stood out; it was to avoid decision
by confusing and spinning out the matter in hand, or by substituting
another as though arising, opportunely out of it, and by which it was
turned aside, or by proposing that some explanations should be obtained.
The first ideas of the King were thus weakened, and the charge was
afterwards returned to, with the same address, oftentimes with success.

It is this which made the ministers so necessary to Madame de Maintenon,
and her so necessary to them: She rendered them, in fact, continual
services by means of the King, in return for the services they rendered
her. The mutual concerns, therefore, between her and them were infinite;
the King, all the while, not having the slightest suspicion of what was
going on!

The power of Madame de Maintenon was, as may be imagined, immense. She
had everybody in her hands, from the highest and most favoured minister
to the meanest subject of the realm. Many people have been ruined by
her, without having been able to discover the author of their ruin,
search as they might. All attempts to find a remedy were equally

Yet the King was constantly on his guard, not only against Madame de
Maintenon, but against his ministers also. Many a time it happened that
when sufficient care had not been taken, and he perceived that a minister
or a general wished to favour a relative or protege of Madame de
Maintenon, he firmly opposed the appointment on that account alone, and
the remarks he uttered thereupon made Madame de Maintenon very timid and
very measured when she wished openly to ask a favour.

Le Tellier, long before he was made Chancellor, well knew the mood of the
King. One of his friends asked him for some place that he much desired.
Le Tellier replied that he would do what he could. The friend did not
like this reply, and frankly said that it was not such as he expected
from a man with such authority. "You do not know the ground," replied Le
Tellier; "of twenty matters that we bring before the King, we are sure he
will pass nineteen according to our wishes; we are equally certain that
the twentieth will be decided against them. But which of the twenty will
be decided contrary to our desire we never know, although it may be the
one we have most at heart. The King reserves to himself this caprice, to
make us feel that he is the master, and that he governs; and if, by
chance, something is presented upon which he is obstinate, and which is
sufficiently important for us to be obstinate about also, either on
account of the thing itself, or for the desire we have that it should
succeed as we wish, we very often get a dressing; but, in truth, the
dressing over, and the affair fallen through, the King, content with
having showed that we can do nothing, and pained by having vexed us,
becomes afterwards supple and flexible, so that then is the time at which
we can do all we wish."

This is, in truth, how the King conducted himself with his ministers,
always completely governed by them, even by the youngest and most
mediocre, even by the least accredited and the least respected--yet
always on his guard against being governed, and always persuaded that he
succeeded fully in avoiding it.

He adopted the same conduct towards Madame de Maintenon, whom at times he
scolded terribly, and applauded himself for so doing. Sometimes she
threw herself on her knees before him, and for several days was really
upon thorns. When she had appointed Fagon physician of the King in place
of Daquin, whom she dismissed, she had a doctor upon whom she could
certainly rely, and she played the sick woman accordingly, after those
scenes with the King, and in this manner turned them to her own

It was not that this artifice had any power in constraining the King, or
that a real illness would have had any. He was a man solely personal,
and who counted others only as they stood in relation to himself. His
hard-heartedness, therefore, was extreme. At the time when he was most
inclined towards his mistresses, whatever indisposition they might labour
under, even the most opposed to travelling and to appearing in full court
dress, could not save them from either. When enceinte, or ill, or just
risen from child birth, they must needs be squeezed into full dress, go
to Flanders or further, dance; sit up, attend fetes, eat, be merry and
good company; go from place to place; appear neither to fear, nor to be
inconvenienced by heat, cold, wind, or dust; and all this precisely to
the hour and day, without a minute's grace.

His daughters he treated in the same manner. It has been seen, in its
place, that he had no more consideration for Madame la Duchesse de Berry,
nor even for Madame la Duchesse de Bourgogne--whatever Fagon, Madame de
Maintenon, and others might do or say. Yet he loved Madame la Duchesse
de Bourgogne as tenderly as he was capable of loving anybody: but both
she and Madame la Duchesse de Berry had miscarriages, which relieved him,
he said, though they then had no children.

When he travelled, his coach was always full of women; his mistresses,
afterwards his bastards, his daughters-in-law, sometimes Madame, and
other ladies when there was room. In the coach, during his journeys,
there were always all sorts of things to eat, as meat, pastry, fruit.
A quarter of a league was not passed over before the King asked if
somebody would not eat. He never ate anything between meals himself,
not even fruit; but he amused himself by seeing others do so, aye,
and to bursting. You were obliged to be hungry, merry, and to eat with
appetite, otherwise he was displeased, and even showed it. And yet after
this, if you supped with him at table the same day, you were compelled to
eat with as good a countenance as though you had tasted nothing since the
previous night. He was as inconsiderate in other and more delicate
matters; and ladies, in his long drives and stations, had often occasion
to curse him. The Duchesse de Chevreuse once rode all the, way from
Versailles to Fontainebleau in such extremity, that several times she was
well-nigh losing consciousness.

The King, who was fond of air, liked all the windows to be lowered;
he would have been much displeased had any lady drawn a curtain for
protection against sun, wind, or cold. No inconvenience or incommodity
was allowed to be even perceived; and the King always went very quickly,
most frequently with relays. To faint was a fault past hope of pardon.

Madame de Maintenon, who feared the air and many other inconveniences,
could gain no privilege over the others. All she obtained, under
pretence of modesty and other reasons, was permission to journey apart;
but whatever condition she might be in, she was obliged to follow the
King, and be ready to receive him in her rooms by the time he was ready
to enter them. She made many journeys to Marly in a state such as would
have saved a servant from movement. She made one to Fontainebleau when
it seemed not unlikely that she would die on the road! In whatever
condition she might be, the King went to her at his ordinary hour and did
what he had projected; though several times she was in bed, profusely
sweating away a fever. The King, who as I have said, was fond of air,
and feared warm rooms, was astonished upon arriving to find everything
close shut, and ordered the windows to be opened; would not spare them an
inch; and up to ten o'clock, when he went to supper, kept them open,
utterly regardless of the cool night air, although he knew well what a
state she was in. If there was to be music, fever or headache availed
not; a hundred wax candles flashed all the same in her eyes. The King,
in fact, always followed his own inclination, without ever asking whether
she was inconvenienced.

The tranquillity and pious resignation of the King during the last days
of his illness, was a matter of some surprise to many people, as, indeed,
it deserved to be. By way of explanation, the doctors said that the
malady he died of, while it deadens and destroys all bodily pain, calms
and annihilates all heart pangs and agitation of the mind.

They who were in the sick-chamber, during the last days of his illness,
gave another reason.

The Jesuits constantly admit the laity, even married, into their company.
This fact is certain. There is no doubt that Des Noyers, Secretary of
State under Louis XIII., was of this number, or that many others have
been so too. These licentiates make the same vow as the Jesuits, as far
as their condition admits: that is, unrestricted obedience to the
General, and to the superiors of the company. They are obliged to supply
the place of the vows of poverty and chastity, by promising to give all
the service and all the protection in their power to the Company, above
all, to be entirely submissive to the superiors and to their confessor.
They are obliged to perform, with exactitude, such light exercises of
piety as their confessor may think adapted to the circumstances of their
lives, and that he simplifies as much as he likes. It answers the
purpose of the Company to ensure to itself those hidden auxiliaries whom
it lets off cheaply. But nothing must pass through their minds, nothing
must come to their knowledge that they do not reveal to their confessor;
and that which is not a secret of the conscience, to the superiors, if
the confessor thinks fit. In everything, too, they must obey without
comment, the superior and the confessors.

It has been pretended that Pere Tellier had inspired the King, long
before his death, with the desire to be admitted, on this footing, into
the Company; that he had vaunted to him the privileges and plenary
indulgences attached to it; that he had persuaded him that whatever
crimes had been committed, and whatever difficulty there might be in
making amends for them, this secret profession washed out all, and
infallibly assured salvation, provided that the vows were faithfully
kept; that the General of the Company was admitted into the secret with
the consent of the King; that the King pronounced the vows before Pere
Tellier; that in the last days of his life they were heard, the one
fortifying, the other resposing upon these promises; that, at last,
the King received from Pere Tellier the final benediction of the Company,
as one of its members; that Pere Tellier made the King offer up prayers,
partly heard, of a kind to leave no doubt of the matter; and that he had
given him the robe, or the almost imperceptible sign, as it were, a sort
of scapulary, which was found upon him. To conclude, the majority of
those who approached the King in his last moments attributed his
penitence to the artifices and persuasions of the Jesuits, who, for
temporal interests, deceive sinners even up to the edge of the tomb, and
conduct them to it in profound peace by a path strewn with flowers.

However it is but fair to say, that Marechal, who was very trustful,
assured me he had never perceived anything which justified this idea, and
that he was persuaded there was not the least truth in it; and I think,
that although he was not always in the chamber or near the bed, and
although Pere Tellier might mistrust and try to deceive him, still if the
King had been made a Jesuit as stated, Marechal must have had sore
knowledge or some suspicion of the circumstance.


Depopulated a quarter of the realm
He liked nobody to be in any way superior to him
He was born bored; he was so accustomed to live out of himself
He was scarcely taught how to read or write
It is a sign that I have touched the sore point
Pope not been ashamed to extol the Saint-Bartholomew
Revocation of the edict of Nantes
Seeing him eat olives with a fork!
Touched, but like a man who does not wish to seem so
Unreasonable love of admiration, was his ruin
Who counted others only as they stood in relation to himself





External Life of Louis XIV.--At the Army.--Etiquette of the King's
Table.--Court Manners and Customs.--The Rising of the King.--Morning
Occupations.--Secret Amours.--Going to Mass.--Councils.--Thursdays.--
Fridays.--Ceremony of the King's Dinner.--The King's Brother.--After
Dinner.--The Drive.--Walks at Marly and Elsewhere.--Stag--hunting.--Play-
tables.--Lotteries.--Visits to Madame de Maintenon.--Supper.--The King
Retires to Rest.--Medicine Days.--Kings Religious Observances.--Fervency
in Lent.--At Mass.--Costume.--Politeness of the King for the Court of
Saint-Germain.--Feelings of the Court at His Death.--Relief of Madame de
Maintenon.--Of the Duchesse d'Orleans.--Of the Court Generally.--Joy of
Paris and the Whole of France.--Decency of Foreigners.--Burial of the


Surprise of M. d'Orleans at the King's Death.--My Interview with Him.--
Dispute about Hats.--M. du Maine at the Parliament.--His Reception.--
My Protest.--The King's Will.--Its Contents and Reception.--Speech of the
Duc d'Orleans.--Its Effect.--His Speech on the Codicil.--Violent
Discussion.--Curious Scene.--Interruption for Dinner.--Return to the
Parliament.--Abrogation of the Codicil.--New Scheme of Government.--
The Regent Visits Madame de Maintenon.--The Establishment of Saint-Cyr.--
The Regent's Liberality to Madame de Maintenon.


The Young King's Cold.--'Lettres des Cachet' Revived.--A Melancholy
Story.--A Loan from Crosat.--Retrenchments.--Unpaid Ambassadors.--Council
of the Regency.--Influence of Lord Stair.--The Pretender.--His Departure
from Bar.--Colonel Douglas.--The Pursuit.--Adventure at Nonancourt.--Its
Upshot.--Madame l'Hospital.--Ingratitude of the Pretender.


Behaviour of the Duchesse de Berry.--Her Arrogance Checked by Public
Opinion.--Walls up the Luxembourg Garden.--La Muette.--Her Strange Amour
with Rion.--Extraordinary Details.--The Duchess at the Carmelites.--
Weakness of the Regent.--His Daily Round of Life.--His Suppers.--
How He Squandered His Time.--His Impenetrability.--Scandal of His Life.--
Public Balls at the Opera.


First Appearance of Law.--His Banking Project Supported by the Regent.--
Discussed by the Regent with Me.--Approved by the Council and Registered.
--My Interviews with Law.--His Reasons for Seeking My Friendship.--
Arouet de Voltaire.


Rise of Alberoni.--Intimacy of France and England.--Gibraltar Proposed to
be Given Up.--Louville the Agent.--His Departure.--Arrives at Madrid.--
Alarm of Alberoni.--His Audacious Intrigues.--Louville in the Bath.--
His Attempts to See the King.--Defeated.--Driven out of Spain.--Impudence
of Alberoni.--Treaty between France and England.--Stipulation with
Reference to the Pretender.


The Lieutenant of Police.--Jealousy of Parliament.--Arrest of Pomereu
Resolved On.--His Imprisonment and Sudden Release.--Proposed Destruction
of Marly.--How I Prevented It.--Sale of the Furniture.--I Obtain the
'Grandes Entrees'.--Their Importance and Nature.--Afterwards Lavished
Indiscriminately.--Adventure of the Diamond called "The Regent."--Bought
for the Crown of France.


Death of the Duchesse de Lesdiguieres.--Cavoye and His Wife.--Peter the
Great.--His Visit to France.--Enmity to England.--Its Cause.--Kourakin,
the Russian Ambassador.--The Czar Studies Rome.--Makes Himself the Head
of Religion.--New Desires for Rome--Ultimately Suppressed.--Preparations
to Receive the Czar at Paris.--His Arrival at Dunkerque.--At Beaumont.--
Dislikes the Fine Quarters Provided for Him.--His Singular Manners, and
Those of His Suite.


Personal Appearance of the Czar.--His Meals.--Invited by the Regent.--
His Interview with the King--He Returns the Visit.--Excursion in Paris.--
Visits Madame.--Drinks Beer at the Opera.--At the Invalides.--Meudon.--
Issy.--The Tuileries.--Versailles.--Hunt at Fontainebleau.--Saint--Cyr.--
Extraordinary Interview with Madame de Maintenon.--My Meeting with the
Czar at D'Antin's.--The Ladies Crowd to See Him.--Interchange of
Presents.--A Review.--Party Visits.--Desire of the Czar to Be United to


Courson in Languedoc.--Complaints of Perigueux.--Deputies to Paris.--
Disunion at the Council.--Intrigues of the Duc de Noailles.--Scene.--
I Support the Perigueux People.--Triumph.--My Quarrel with Noailles.--
The Order of the Pavilion.


After having thus described with truth and the most exact fidelity all
that has come to my knowledge through my own experience, or others
qualified to speak of Louis XIV. during the last twenty-two years of his
life: and after having shown him such as he was, without prejudice
(although I have permitted myself to use the arguments naturally
resulting from things), nothing remains but to describe the outside life
of this monarch, during my residence at the Court.

However insipid and perhaps superfluous details so well known may appear
after what has been already given, lessons will be found therein for
kings who may wish to make themselves respected, and who may wish to
respect themselves. What determines me still more is, that details
wearying, nay annoying, to instructed readers, who had been witnesses of
what I relate, soon escape the knowledge of posterity; and that
experience shows us how much we regret that no one takes upon himself a
labour, in his own time so ungrateful, but in future years so
interesting, and by which princes, who have made quite as much stir as
the one in question, are characterise. Although it may be difficult to
steer clear of repetitions, I will do my best to avoid them.

I will not speak much of the King's manner of living when with the army.
His hours were determined by what was to be done, though he held his
councils regularly; I will simply say, that morning and evening he ate
with people privileged to have that honour. When any one wished to claim
it, the first gentleman of the chamber on duty was appealed to. He gave
the answer, and if favourable you presented yourself the next day to the
King, who said to you, "Monsieur, seat yourself at table." That being
done, all was done. Ever afterwards you were at liberty to take a place
at the King's table, but with discretion. The number of the persons from
whom a choice was made was, however, very limited. Even very high
military rank did not suffice. M. de Vauban, at the siege of Namur, was
overwhelmed by the distinction. The King did the same honour at Namur to
the Abbe de Grancey, who exposed himself everywhere to confess the
wounded and encourage the troops. No other Abbe was ever so
distinguished. All the clergy were excluded save the cardinals, and the
bishops, piers, or the ecclesiastics who held the rank of foreign

At these repasts everybody was covered; it would have been a want of
respect, of which you would have been immediately informed, if you had
not kept your hat on your head. The King alone was uncovered. When the
King wished to speak to you, or you had occasion to speak to him, you
uncovered. You uncovered, also, when Monseigneur or Monsieur spoke to
you, or you to them. For Princes of the blood you merely put your hand
to your hat. The King alone had an armchair. All the rest of the
company, Monseigneur included, had seats, with backs of black morocco
leather, which could be folded up to be carried, and which were called
"parrots." Except at the army, the King never ate with any man, under
whatever circumstances; not even with the Princes of the Blood, save
sometimes at their wedding feasts.

Let us return now to the Court.

At eight o'clock the chief valet de chambre on duty, who alone had slept
in the royal chamber, and who had dressed himself, awoke the King. The
chief physician, the chief surgeon, and the nurse (as long as she lived),
entered at the same time; the latter kissed the King; the others rubbed
and often changed his shirt, because he was in the habit of sweating a
great deal. At the quarter, the grand chamberlain was called (or, in his
absence, the first gentleman of the chamber), and those who had what was
called the 'grandes entrees'. The chamberlain (or chief gentleman) drew
back the curtains which had been closed again; and presented the holy-
water from the vase, at the head of the bed. These gentlemen stayed but
a moment, and that was the time to speak to the King, if any one had
anything to ask of him; in which case the rest stood aside. When,
contrary to custom, nobody had ought to say, they were there but for a
few moments. He who had opened the curtains and presented the holy-
water, presented also a prayer-book. Then all passed into the cabinet of
the council. A very short religious service being over, the King called,
they re-entered, The same officer gave him his dressing-gown; immediately
after, other privileged courtiers entered, and then everybody, in time to
find the King putting on his shoes and stockings, for he did almost
everything himself and with address and grace. Every other day we saw
him shave himself; and he had a little short wig in which he always
appeared, even in bed, and on medicine days. He often spoke of the
chase, and sometimes said a-word to somebody. No toilette table was near
him; he had simply a mirror held before him.

As soon as he was dressed, he prayed to God, at the side of his bed,
where all the clergy present knelt, the cardinals without cushions, all
the laity remaining standing; and the captain of the guards came to the
balustrade during the prayer, after which the King passed into his

He found there, or was followed by all who had the entree, a very
numerous company, for it included everybody in any office. He gave
orders to each for the day; thus within a half a quarter of an hour it
was known what he meant to do; and then all this crowd left directly.
The bastards, a few favourites; and the valets alone were left. It was
then a good opportunity for talking with the King; for example, about
plans of gardens and buildings; and conversation lasted more or less
according to the person engaged in it.

All the Court meantime waited for the King in the gallery, the captain of
the guard being alone in the chamber seated at the door of the cabinet.
At morning the Court awaited in the saloon; at Trianon in the front rooms
as at Meudon; at Fontainebleau in the chamber and ante-chamber. During
this pause the King gave audiences when he wished to accord any; spoke
with whoever he might wish to speak secretly to, and gave secret
interviews to foreign ministers in presence of Torcy. They were called
"secret" simply to distinguish them from the uncommon ones by the

The King went to mass, where his musicians always sang an anthem. He did
not go below--except on grand fetes or at ceremonies. Whilst he was
going to and returning from mass, everybody spoke to him who wished,
after apprising the captain of the guard, if they were not distinguished;
and he came and went by the door of the cabinet into the gallery. During
the mass the ministers assembled in the King's chamber, where
distinguished people could go and speak or chat with them. The King
amused himself a little upon returning from mass and asked almost
immediately for the council. Then the morning was finished.

On Sunday, and often on Monday, there was a council of state; on Tuesday
a finance council; on Wednesday council of state; on Saturday finance
council: rarely were two held in one day or any on Thursday or Friday.
Once or twice a month there was a council of despatches on Monday
morning; but the order that the Secretaries of State took every morning
between the King's rising and his mass, much abridged this kind of
business. All the ministers were seated accordingly to rank, except at
the council of despatches, where all stood except the sons of France, the
Chancellor, and the Duc de Beauvilliers.

Thursday morning was almost always blank. It was the day for audiences
that the King wished to give--often unknown to any--back-stair audiences.
It was also the grand day taken advantage of by the bastards, the valets,
etc., because the King had nothing to do. On Friday after the mass the
King was with his confessor, and the length of their audiences was
limited by nothing, and might last until dinner. At Fontainebleau on the
mornings when there was no council, the King usually passed from mass to
Madame de Maintenon's, and so at Trianon and Marly. It was the time for
their tete-a-tete without interruption. Often on the days when there was
no council the dinner hour was advanced, more or less for the chase or
the promenade. The ordinary hour was one o'clock; if the council still
lasted, then the dinner waited and nothing was said to the King.

The dinner was always 'au petit couvert', that is, the King ate by
himself in his chamber upon a square table in front of the middle window.
It was more or less abundant, for he ordered in the morning whether it
was to be "a little," or "very little" service. But even at this last,
there were always many dishes, and three courses without counting the
fruit. The dinner being ready, the principal courtiers entered; then all
who were known; and the gentleman of the chamber on duty informed the

I have seen, but very rarely, Monseigneur and his sons standing at their
dinners, the King not offering them a seat. I have continually seen
there the Princes of the blood and the cardinals. I have often seen
there also Monsieur, either on arriving from Saint-Cloud to see the King,
or arriving from the council of despatches (the only one he entered),
give the King his napkin and remain standing. A little while afterwards,
the King, seeing that he did not go away, asked him if he would not sit
down; he bowed, and the King ordered a seat to be brought for him. A
stool was put behind him. Some moments after the King said, "Nay then,
sit down, my brother." Monsieur bowed and seated himself until the end
of the dinner, when he presented the napkin.

At other times when he came from Saint-Cloud, the King, on arriving at
the table, asked for a plate for Monsieur, or asked him if he would dine.
If he refused, he went away a moment after, and there was no mention of a
seat; if he accepted, the King asked for a plate for him. The table was
square, he placed himself at one end, his back to the cabinet. Then the
Grand Chamberlain (or the first gentleman of the chamber) gave him drink
and plates, taking them from him as he finished with them, exactly as he
served the King; but Monsieur received all this attention with strongly
marked politeness. When he dined thus with the King he much enlivened
the conversation. The King ordinarily spoke little at table unless some
family favourite was near. It was the same at hid rising. Ladies
scarcely ever were seen at these little dinners.

I have, however, seen the Marechale de la Mothe, who came in because she
had been used to do so as governess to the children of France, and who
received a seat, because she was a Duchess. Grand dinners were very
rare, and only took place on grand occasions, and then ladies were

Upon leaving the table the King immediately entered his cabinet. That
was the time for distinguished people to speak to him. He stopped at the
door a moment to listen, then entered; very rarely did any one follow
him, never without asking him for permission to do so; and for this few
had the courage. If followed he placed himself in the embrasure of the
window nearest to the door of the cabinet, which immediately closed of
itself, and which you were obliged to open yourself on quitting the King.
This also was the time for the bastards and the valets.

The King amused himself by feeding his dogs, and remained with them more
or less time, then asked for his wardrobe, changed before the very few
distinguished people it pleased the first gentleman of the chamber to
admit there, and immediately went out by the back stairs into the court
of marble to get into his coach. From the bottom of that staircase to
the coach, any one spoke to him who wished.

The King was fond of air, and when deprived of it his health suffered; he
had headaches and vapours caused by the undue use he had formerly made of
perfumes, so that for many years he could not endure any, except the
odour of orange flowers; therefore if you had to approach anywhere near
him you did well not to carry them.

As he was but little sensitive to heat or cold, or even to rain, the
weather was seldom sufficiently bad to prevent his going abroad. He went
out for three objects: stag-hunting, once or more each week; shooting in
his parks (and no man handled a gun with more grace or skill), once or
twice each week; and walking in his gardens for exercise, and to see his
workmen. Sometimes he made picnics with ladies, in the forest at Marly
or at Fontainebleau, and in this last place, promenades with all the
Court around the canal, which was a magnificent spectacle. Nobody
followed him in his other promenades but those who held principal
offices, except at Versailles or in the gardens of Trianon. Marly had a
privilege unknown to the other places. On going out from the chateau,
the King said aloud, "Your hats, gentlemen," and immediately courtiers,
officers of the guard, everybody, in fact, covered their heads, as he
would have been much displeased had they not done so; and this lasted all
the promenade, that is four or five hours in summer, or in other seasons,
when he dined early at Versailles to go and walk at Marly, and not sleep

The stag-hunting parties were on an extensive scale. At Fontainebleau
every one went who wished; elsewhere only those were allowed to go who
had obtained the permission once for all, and those who had obtained
leave to wear the justau-corps, which was a blue uniform with silver and
gold lace, lined with red. The King did not like too many people at
these parties. He did not care for you to go if you were not fond of the
chase. He thought that ridiculous, and never bore ill-will to those who
stopped away altogether.

It was the same with the play-table, which he liked to see always well
frequented--with high stakes--in the saloon at Marly, for lansquenet and
other games. He amused himself at Fontainebleau during bad weather by
seeing good players at tennis, in which he had formerly excelled; and at
Marly by seeing mall played, in which he had also been skilful.
Sometimes when there was no council, he would make presents of stuff, or
of silverware, or jewels, to the ladies, by means of a lottery, for the
tickets of which they paid nothing. Madame de Maintenon drew lots with
the others, and almost always gave at once what she gained. The King
took no ticket.

Upon returning home from walks or drives, anybody, as I have said, might
speak to the King from the moment he left his coach till he reached the
foot of his staircase. He changed his dress again, and rested in his
cabinet an hour or more, then went to Madame de Maintenon's, and on the
way any one who wished might speak to him.

At ten o'clock his supper was served. The captain of the guard announced
this to him. A quarter of an hour after the King came to supper, and
from the antechamber of Madame de Maintenon to the table--again, any one
spoke to him who wished. This supper was always on a grand scale, the
royal household (that is, the sons and daughters of France) at table, and
a large number of courtiers and ladies present, sitting or standing, and
on the evening before the journey to Marly all those ladies who wished to
take part in it. That was called presenting yourself for Marly. Men
asked in the morning, simply saying to the King, "Sire, Marly." In later
years the King grew tired of this, and a valet wrote up in the gallery
the names of those who asked. The ladies continued to present

After supper the King stood some moments, his back to the balustrade of
the foot of his bed, encircled by all his Court; then, with bows to the
ladies, passed into his cabinet, where, on arriving, he gave his orders.

He passed a little less than an hour there, seated in an armchair, with
his legitimate children and bastards, his grandchildren, legitimate and
otherwise, and their husbands or wives. Monsieur in another armchair;
the Princesses upon stools, Monseigneur and all the other Princes

The King, wishing to retire, went and fed his dogs; then said good night,
passed into his chamber to the 'ruelle' of his bed, where he said his
prayers, as in the morning, then undressed. He said good night with an
inclination of the head, and whilst everybody was leaving the room stood
at the corner of the mantelpiece, where he gave the order to the colonel
of the guards alone. Then commenced what was called the 'petit coucher',
at which only the specially privileged remained. That was short. They
did not leave until be got into bed. It was a moment to speak to him.
Then all left if they saw any one buckle to the King. For ten or twelve
years before he died the 'petit coucher' ceased, in consequence of a long
attack of gout be had had; so that the Court was finished at the rising
from supper.

On medicine days, which occurred about once a month, the King remained in
bed, then heard mass. The royal household came to see him for a moment,
and Madame de Maintenon seated herself in the armchair at the head of his
bed. The King dined in bed about three o'clock, everybody being allowed
to enter the room, then rose, and the privileged alone remained. He
passed afterwards into his cabinet, where he held a council, and
afterwards went, as usual, to Madame de Maintenon's and supped at ten
o'clock, according to custom.

During all his life, the King failed only once in his attendance at mass,
It was with the army, during a forced march; he missed no fast day,
unless really indisposed. Some days before Lent, he publicly declared
that he should be very much displeased if any one ate meat or gave it to
others, under any pretext. He ordered the grand prevot to look to this,
and report all cases of disobedience. But no one dared to disobey his
commands, for they would soon have found out the cost. They extended
even to Paris, where the lieutenant of police kept watch and reported.
For twelve or fifteen years he had himself not observed Lent, however.
At church he was very respectful. During his mass everybody was obliged
to kneel at the Sanctus, and to remain so until after the communion of
the priest; and if he heard the least noise, or saw anybody talking
during the mass, he was much displeased. He took the communion five
times a year, in the collar of the Order, band, and cloak. On Holy
Thursday, he served the poor at dinner; at the mass he said his chaplet
(he knew no more), always kneeling, except at the Gospel.

He was always clad in dresses more or less brown, lightly embroidered,
but never at the edges, sometimes with nothing but a gold button,
sometimes black velvet. He wore always a vest of cloth, or of red, blue,
or green satin, much embroidered. He used no ring; and no jewels, except
in the buckles of his shoes, garters, and hat, the latter always trimmed
with Spanish point, with a white feather. He had always the cordon bleu
outside, except at fetes, when he wore it inside, with eight or ten
millions of precious stones attached.

Rarely a fortnight passed that the King did not go to Saint-Germain, even
after the death of King James the Second. The Court of Saint-Germain
came also to Versailles, but oftener to Marly, and frequently to sup
there; and no fete or ceremony took place to which they were not invited,
and at which they were not received with all honours. Nothing could
compare with the politeness of the King for this Court, or with the air
of gallantry and of majesty with which he received it at any time. Birth
days, or the fete days of the King and his family, so observed in the
courts of Europe, were always unknown in that of the King; so that there
never was the slightest mention of them, or any difference made on their

The King was but little regretted. His valets and a few other people
felt his loss, scarcely anybody else. His successor was not yet old
enough to feel anything. Madame entertained for him only fear and
considerate respect. Madame la Duchesse de Berry did not like him, and
counted now upon reigning undisturbed. M. le Duc d'Orleans could
scarcely be expected to feel much grief for him. And those who may have
been expected did not consider it necessary to do their duty. Madame de
Maintenon was wearied with him ever since the death of the Dauphine; she
knew not what to do, or with what to amuse him; her constraint was
tripled because he was much more with her than before. She had often,
too, experienced much ill-humour from him. She had attained all she
wished, so whatever she might lose in losing him, she felt herself
relieved, and was capable of no other sentiment at first. The ennui and
emptiness of her life afterwards made her feel regret. As for M. du
Maine, the barbarous indecency of his joy need not be dwelt upon. The
icy tranquillity of his brother, the Comte de Toulouse, neither increased
nor diminished. Madame la Duchesse d'Orleans surprised me. I had
expected some grief, I perceived only a few tears, which upon all
occasions flowed very readily from her eyes, and which were soon dried
up. Her bed, which she was very fond of, supplied what was wanting
during several days, amidst obscurity which she by no means disliked.

But the window curtains were soon withdrawn and grief disappeared.

As for the Court, it was divided into two grand parties, the men hoping
to figure, to obtain employ, to introduce themselves: and they were
ravished to see the end of a reign under which they had nothing to hope
for; the others; fatigued with a heavy yoke, always overwhelming, and of
the ministers much more than of the King, were charmed to find themselves
at liberty. Thus all, generally speaking, were glad to be delivered from
continual restraint, and were eager for change.

Paris, tired of a dependence which had enslaved everything, breathed
again in the hope of liberty, and with joy at seeing at an end the
authority of so many people who abused it. The provinces in despair at
their ruin and their annihilation breathed again and leaped for joy; and
the Parliament and the robe destroyed by edicts and by revolutions,
flattered themselves the first that they should figure, the other that
they should find themselves free. The people ruined, overwhelmed,
desperate, gave thanks to God, with a scandalous eclat, for a
deliverance, their most ardent desires had not anticipated.

Foreigners delighted to be at last, after so many years, quit of a
monarch who had so long imposed his law upon them, and who had escaped
from them by a species of miracle at the very moment in which they
counted upon having subjugated him, contained themselves with much more
decency than the French. The marvels of the first three quarters of this
reign of more than seventy years, and the personal magnanimity of this
King until then so successful, and so abandoned afterwards by fortune
during the last quarter of his reign--had justly dazzled them. They made
it a point of honour to render to him after his death what they had
constantly refused him during life. No foreign Court exulted: all plumed
themselves upon praising and honouring his memory. The Emperor wore
mourning as for a father, and although four or five months elapsed
between the death of the King and the Carnival, all kinds of amusements
were prohibited at Vienna during the Carnival, and the prohibition was
strictly observed. A monstrous fact was, that towards the end of this
period there was a single ball and a kind of fete that the Comte du Luc
our own ambassador, was not ashamed to give to the ladies, who seduced
him by the ennui of so dull a Carnival. This complaisance did not raise
him in estimation at Vienna or elsewhere. In France people were
contented with ignoring it.

As for our ministry and the intendants of the provinces, the financiers
and what may be called the canaille, they felt all the extent of their
loss. We shall see if the realm was right or wrong in the sentiments it
held, and whether it found soon after that it had gained or lost.

To finish at once all that regards the King, let me here say, that his
entrails were taken to Notre Dame, on the 4th of September, without any
ceremony, by two almoners of the King, without accompaniment. On Friday,
the 6th of September, the Cardinal de Rohan carried the heart to the
Grand Jesuits, with very little accompaniment or pomp. Except the
persons necessary for the ceremony, not half a dozen courtiers were
present. It is not for me to comment upon this prompt ingratitude, I,
who for fifty-two years have never once missed going to Saint-Denis on
the anniversary of the death of Louis XIII., and have never seen a single
person there on the same errand. On the 9th of September, the body of
the late King was buried at Saint-Denis. The Bishop of Aleth pronounced
the oration. Very little expense was gone to; and nobody was found who
cared sufficiently for the late King to murmur at the economy. On
Friday, the 25th of October, his solemn obsequies took place at Saint-
Denis in a confusion, as to rank and precedence, without example. On
Thursday, the 28th of November, the solemn obsequies were again
performed, this time at Notre Dame, and with the usual ceremonies.


The death of the King surprised M. le Duc d'Orleans in the midst of his
idleness as though it had not been foreseen. He had made no progress in
numberless arrangements, which I had suggested he should carry out;
accordingly he was overwhelmed with orders to give, with things to
settle, each more petty than the other, but all so provisional and so
urgent that it happened as I had predicted, he had no time to think of
anything important.

I learnt the death of the King upon awaking. Immediately after, I went
to pay my respects to the new monarch. The first blood had already
passed. I found myself almost alone. I went thence to M. le Duc
d'Orleans, whom I found shut in, but all his apartments so full that a
pin could not have fallen to the ground. I talked of the Convocation of
the States-General, and reminded him of a promise he had given me, that
he would allow the Dukes to keep their hats on when their votes were
asked for; and I also mentioned various other promises he had made. All
I could obtain from him was another promise, that when the public affairs
of pressing moment awaiting attention were disposed of, we should have
all we required. Several of the Dukes who had been witnesses of the
engagement M. le Duc d'Orleans had made, were much vexed at this; but
ultimately it was agreed that for the moment we would sacrifice our own
particular interests to those of the State.

Between five and six the next morning a number of us met at the house of
the Archbishop of Rheims at the end of the Pont Royal, behind the Hotel
de Mailly, and there, in accordance with a resolution previously agreed
upon, it was arranged that I should make a protest to the Parliament
before the opening of the King's will there, against certain other
usurpations, and state that it was solely because M. le Duc d'Orleans had
given us his word that our complaints should be attended to as soon as
the public affairs of the government were settled, that we postponed
further measures upon this subject. It was past seven before our debate
ended, and then we went straight to the Parliament.

We found it already assembled, and a few Dukes who had not attended our
meeting, but had promised to be guided by us, were also present; and then
a quarter of an hour after we were seated the bastards arrived. M. du
Maine was bursting with joy; the term is strange, but his bearing cannot
otherwise be described. The smiling and satisfied air prevailed over
that of audacity and of confidence, which shone, nevertheless, and over
politeness which seemed to struggle with them. He saluted right and
left, and pierced everybody with his looks. His salutation to the
Presidents had an air of rejoicing. To the peers he was serious, nay,
respectful; the slowness, the lowness of his inclination, was eloquent.
His head remained lowered even when he rose, so heavy is the weight of
crime, even at the moment when nothing but triumph is expected. I
rigidly followed him everywhere with my eyes, and I remarked that his
salute was returned by the peers in a very dry and cold manner.

Scarcely were we re-seated than M. le Duc arrived, and the instant after
M. le Duc d'Orleans. I allowed the stir that accompanied his appearance
to subside a little, and then, seeing that the, Chief-President was about
to speak, I forestalled him, uncovered my head, and then covered it, and
made my speech in the terms agreed upon. I concluded by appealing to M.
le Duc d'Orleans to verify the truth of what I had said, in so far as it
affected him.

The profound silence with which I was listened to showed the surprise of
all present. M. le Duc d'Orleans uncovered himself, and in a low tone,
and with an embarrassed manner, confirmed what I had said, then covered
himself again.

Immediately afterwards I looked at M. du Maine, who appeared, to be well
content at being let off so easily, and who, my neighbours said to me,
appeared much troubled at my commencement.

A very short silence followed my protest, after which I saw the Chief-
President say something in a low tone to M. le Duc d'Orleans, then
arrange a deputation of the Parliament to go in search of the King's
will, and its codicil, which had been put in the same place. Silence
continued during this great and short period of expectation; every one
looked at his neighbour without stirring. We were all upon the lower
seats, the doors were supposed to be closed, but the grand chamber was
filled with a large and inquisitive crowd. The regiment of guards had
secretly occupied all the avenues, commanded by the Duc de Guiche, who
got six hundred thousand francs out of the Duc d'Orleans for this
service, which was quite unnecessary.

The deputation was not long in returning. It placed the will and the
codicil in the hands of the Chief-President, who presented them, without
parting with them, to M. le Duc d'Orleans, then passed them from hand to
hand to Dreux, 'conseiller' of the Parliament, and father of the grand
master of the ceremonies, saying that he read well, and in a loud voice
that would he well heard by everybody. It may be imagined with what
silence he was listened to, and how all eyes? and ears were turned
towards him. Through all his; joy the Duc du Maine showed that his soul
was, troubled, as though about to undergo an operation that he must
submit to. M. le Duc d'Orleans showed only a tranquil attention.

I will not dwell upon these two documents, in which nothing is provided
but the grandeur and the power of the bastards, Madame de Maintenon and
Saint-Cyr, the choice of the King's education and of the council of the
regency, by which M. le Duc d'Orleans was to be shorn of all authority to
the advantage of M. le Duc du Maine.

I remarked a sadness and a kind of indignation which were painted upon
all cheeks, as the reading advanced, and which turned into a sort of
tranquil fermentation at the reading of the codicil, which was entrusted
to the Abbe Menguy, another conseiller. The Duc du Maine felt it and
grew pale, for he was solely occupied in looking at every face, and I in
following his looks, and in glancing occasionally at M. le Duc d'Orleans.

The reading being finished, that prince spoke, casting his eyes upon all
the assembly, uncovering himself, and then covering himself again, and
commencing by a word of praise and of regret for the late King;
afterwards raising his voice, he declared that he had only to approve
everything just read respecting the education of the King, and everything
respecting an establishment so fine and so useful as that of Saint-Cyr;
that with respect to the dispositions concerning the government of the
state, he would speak separately of those in the will and those in the
codicil; that he could with difficulty harmonise them with the assurances
the King, during the last days of his life, had given him; that the King
could not have understood the importance of what he had been made to do
for the Duc du Maine since the council of the regency was chosen, and M.
du Maine's authority so established by the will, that the Regent remained
almost without power; that this injury done to the rights of his birth,
to his attachment to the person of the King, to his love and fidelity for
the state, could not be endured if he was to preserve his honour; and
that he hoped sufficiently from the esteem of all present, to persuade
himself that his regency would be declared as it ought to be, that is to
say, complete, independent, and that he should be allowed to choose his
own council, with the members of which he would not discuss public
affairs, unless they were persons who, being approved by the public,
might also have his confidence. This short speech appeared to make a
great impression.

The Duc du Maine wished to speak. As he was about to do so, M. le Duc
d'Orleans put his head in front of M. le Duc and said, in a dry tone,
"Monsieur, you will speak in your turn." In one moment the affair turned
according to the desires of M. le Duc d'Orleans. The power of the
council of the regency and its composition fell. The choice of the
council was awarded to M. le Duc d'Orleans, with all the authority of the
regency, and to the plurality of the votes of the council, the decision
of affairs, the vote of the Regent to be counted as two in the event of
an equal division. Thus all favours and all punishments remained in the
hands of M. le Duc d'Orleans alone. The acclamation was such that the
Duc du Maine did not dare to say a word. He reserved himself for the
codicil, which, if adopted, would have annulled all that M. le Duc
d'Orleans had just obtained.

After some few moments of silence, M. le Duc d'Orleans spoke again. He
testified fresh surprise that the dispositions of the will had not been
sufficient for those who had suggested them, and that, not content with
having established themselves as masters of the state, they themselves
should have thought those dispositions so strange that in order to
reassure them, it had been thought necessary to make them masters of the
person of the King, of the Regent, of the Court, and of Paris. He added,
that if his honour and all law and rule had been wounded by the
dispositions of the will, still more violated were they by those of the
codicil, which left neither his life nor his liberty in safety, and
placed the person of the King in the absolute dependence of those who had
dared to profit by the feeble state of a dying monarch, to draw from him
conditions he did not understand. He concluded by declaring that the
regency was impossible under such conditions, and that he doubted not the
wisdom of the assembly would annul a codicil which could not be
sustained, and the regulations of which would plunge France into the
greatest and most troublesome misfortune. Whilst this prince spoke a
profound and sad silence applauded him without explaining itself.

The Duc du Maine became of all colours, and began to speak, this time
being allowed to do so. He said that the education of the King, and
consequently his person, being confided to him, as a natural result,
entire authority over his civil and military household followed, without
which he could not properly serve him or answer for his person. Then he
vaunted his well-known attachment to the deceased King, who had put all
confidence in him.

M. le Duc d'Orleans interrupted him at this word, and commented upon it.
M. du Maine wished to calm him by praising the Marechal de Villeroy, who
was to assist him in his charge. M. le Duc d'Orleans replied that it
would be strange if the chief and most complete confidence were not
placed in the Regent, and stranger still if he were obliged to live under
the protection and authority of those who had rendered themselves the
absolute masters within and without, and of Paris even, by the regiment
of guards.

The dispute grew warm, broken phrases were thrown from one to the other,
when, troubled about the end of an altercation which became indecent and
yielding to the proposal that the Duc de la Force had just made me in
front of the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, who sat between us, I made a sign
with my hand to M. le Duc d'Orleans to go out and finish this discussion
in another room leading out of the grand chamber and where there was
nobody. What led me to this action was that I perceived M. du Maine grew
stronger, that confused murmurs for a division were heard, and that M. le
Duc d'Orleans did not shine to the best advantage since he descended to
plead his cause, so to speak, against that of the Duc du Maine.

M. le Duc d'Orleans was short-sighted. He was entirely absorbed in
attacking and repelling; so that he did not see the sign I made. Some
moments after I increased it, and meeting with no more success, rose,
advanced some steps, and said to him, though rather distant, "Monsieur,
if you passed into the fourth chamber with M. du Maine you could speak
there more easily," and advancing nearer at the same time I pressed him
by a sign of the head and the eyes that he could distinguish. He replied
to me with another sign, and scarcely was I reseated than I saw him
advance in front of M. le Duc to the Duc du Maine, and immediately after
both rose and went into the chamber I had indicated. I could not see who
of the scattered group around followed them, for all present rose at
their departure, and seated themselves again directly in complete
silence. Some time after, M. le Comte de Toulouse left his place and
went into the Chamber. M. le Duc followed him in a little while soon
again the Duc de la Force did the same.

He did not stay long. Returning to the assembly; he passed the Duc de la
Rochefoucauld and me, put his head between that of the Duc de Sully and
mine, because he did not wish to be heard by La Rochefoucauld, and said
to me, "In the name of God go there; things are getting on badly. M. le
Duc d'Orleans gives way; stop the dispute; make M. le Duc d'Orleans come
back; and, as soon as he is in his place, let him say that it is too late
to finish, that the company had better go to dinner, and return to finish
afterwards, and during this interval," added La Force, "send the King's
people to the Palais Royal, and let doubtful peers be spoken to, and the
chiefs among other magistrates."

The advice appeared to me good and important. I left the assembly and
went to the chamber. I found a large circle of spectators. M. le Duc
d'Orleans and the Duc du Maine stood before the fireplace, looking both
very excited. I looked at this spectacle some moments; then approached
the mantelpiece like a man who wishes to speak. "What is this,
Monsieur?" said M. le Duc d'Orleans to me, with an impatient manner.
"A pressing word, Monsieur, that I have to say to you," said I. He
continued speaking to the Duc du Maine, I being close by. I redoubled my
instances; he lent me his ear. "No, no," said I, "not like that, come
here," and I took him into a, corner by the chimney. The Comte de
Toulouse, who was there, drew completely back, and all the circle on that
side. The Duc du Maine drew back also from where he was.

I said to M. le Duc d'Orleans, in his ear, that he could not hope to gain
anything from M. du Maine, who would not sacrifice the codicil to his
reasonings; that the length of their conference became indecent, useless,
dangerous; that he was making a sight of himself to all who entered; that
the only thing to be done was to return to the assembly, and, when there,
dissolve it. "You are right," said he, "I will do it."--"But," said I,
"do it immediately, and do not allow yourself to be amused. It is to M.
de la Force you owe this advice: he sent me to give it you." He quitted
me without another word, went to M. du Maine, told him in two words that
it was too late, and that the matter must be finished after dinner.

I had remained where he left me. I saw the Duc du Maine bow to him
immediately, and the two separated, and retired at the same moment into
the assembly.

The noise which always accompanies these entrances being appeased, M. le
Duc d'Orleans said it was too late to abuse the patience of the company
any longer; that dinner must be eaten, and the work finished afterwards.
He immediately added, he believed it fitting that M. le Duc should enter
the council of the regency as its chief; and that since the company had
rendered the justice due to his birth and his position as Regent, he
would explain what he thought upon the form to be given to the
government, and that meanwhile he profited by the power he had to avail
himself of the knowledge and the wisdom of the company, and restored to
them from that time their former liberty of remonstrance. These words
were followed by striking and general applause, and the assembly was
immediately adjourned.

I was invited this day to dine with the Cardinal de Noailles, but I felt
the importance of employing the time so precious and so short, of the
interval of dinner, and of not quitting M. le Duc d'Orleans, according to
a suggestion of M. le Duc de la Force. I approached M. le Duc d'Orleans,
and said in his ear, "The moments are precious: I will follow you to the
Palais Royal," and went back to my place among the peers. Jumping into
my coach, I sent a gentleman with my excuses to the Cardinal de Noailles,
saying, I would tell him the reason of my absence afterwards. Then I
went to the Palais Royal, where curiosity had gathered together all who
were not at the palace, and even some who had been there. All the
acquaintances I met asked me the news with eagerness. I contented myself
with replying that everything went well, and according to rule, but that
all was not yet finished.

M. le Duc d'Orleans had passed into a cabinet, where I found him alone
with Canillac, who had waited for him. We took our measures there, and
M. le Duc d'Orleans sent for the Attorney-General, D'Aguesseau,
afterwards Chancellor, and the chief Advocate-General, Joly de Fleury,
since Attorney-General. It was nearly two o'clock. A little dinner was
served, of which Canillac, Conflans, M. le Duc d'Orleans, and myself
partook; and I will say this, by the way, I never dined with him but once
since, namely, at Bagnolet.

We returned to the Parliament a little before four o'clock. I arrived
there alone in my carriage, a moment before M. le Duc d'Orleans, and
found everybody assembled. I was looked at with much curiosity, as it
seemed to me. I am not aware if it was known whence I came. I took care
that my bearing should say nothing. I simply said to the Duc de la Force
that his advice had been salutary, that I had reason to hope all success
from it, and that I had told M. le Duc d'Orleans whence it came. That
Prince arrived, and (the hubbub inseparable from such a numerous suite
being appeased) he said that matters must be recommenced from the point
where they had been broken off in the morning; that it was his duty to
say to the Court that in nothing had he agreed with M. du Maine and to
bring again before all eyes the monstrous clauses of a codicil, drawn
from a dying prince; clauses much more strange than the dispositions of

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