Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot

Part 1 out of 9

Adobe PDF icon
Download A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times pdf
File size: 1.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by David Widger


By M. Guizot




L. LOUIS XIV. AND DEATH. (1711-1715.)




CHOISEUL. (1748-1774.)



INDEPENDENCE. (17751783.)












The Grand Monarch in his State Robes 9

Madame de la Valliere 10

Madame de Montespan 12

The Iron Mask 14

Bed-chamber Etiquette 15

Madame de Maintenon and the Duchess of Burgundy. 27

Death of Madame de Maintenon. 34

The King leaving the Death-bed of Monseigneur 36

Louis XIV. in Old Age 47

The Death-bed of Louis XIV 50

Versailles at Night 52

The Regent Orleans 54

The Bed of Justice 57

John Law 62

La Rue Quincampoix 68

The Duke of Maine 71

The Duchess of Maine 72

Cardinal Dubois 78

Peter the Great and Little Louis XV 82

Belzunce amid the Plague-stricken 96

The Boy King and his People 104

Death of the Regent 107

Louis XV 110

Cardinal Fleury 110

Mary Leczinska 121

Death of Plelo 130

"Moriamur pro rege nostro." 142

Louis XV. and his Councillors 148

Louis XV. and the Ambassador of Holland 151

Marshal Saxe 154

Battle of Fontenoy 157

Arrest of Charles Edward 166

Dupleix 168

La Bourdonnais 170

Dupleix meeting the Soudhabar of the Deccan 174

Death of the Nabob of the Carnatic 174

Lally at Pondicherry 184

Champlain 190

Death of General Braddock 203

Death of Wolfe 209

Madame de Pompadour 215

Attack on Fort St. Philip. 218

Assassination of Louis XV. by Damiens 221

Death of Chevalier D'Assas 233

"France, thy Parliament will cut off thy Head too!" 249

Defeat of the Corsicans at Golo 256

Montesquieu 269

Fontenelle 274

Voltaire 277

The Rescue of "La Henriade." 283

Arrest of Voltaire 298

Diderot 314

Alembert 317

Diderot and Catherine II 321

Buffon 323

Rousseau and Madame D'Epinay 338

Turgot's Dismissal 367

Destruction of the Tea 378

Suffren 413

The Reading of "Paul and Virginia." 427

Necker Hospital 432

"There are my Sledges, Sirs." 458

Lavoisier 465

Cardinal Rohan's Discomfiture 470

Arrest of the Members 502



Louia XIV. reigned everywhere, over his people, over his age, often over
Europe; but nowhere did he reign so completely as over his court. Never
were the wishes, the defects, and the vices of a man so completely a law
to other men as at the court of Louis XIV. during the whole period of his
long life. When near to him, in the palace of Versailles, men lived, and
hoped, and trembled; everywhere else in France, even at Paris, men
vegetated. The existence of the great lords was concentrated in the
court, about the person of the king. Scarcely could the most important
duties bring them to absent themselves for any time. They returned
quickly, with alacrity, with ardor; only poverty or a certain rustic
pride kept gentlemen in their provinces. "The court does not make one
happy," says La Bruyere, "it prevents one from being so anywhere else."

At the outset of his reign, and when, on the death of Cardinal Mazarin,
he took the reins of power in hand, Louis XIV. had resolved to establish
about him, in his dominions and at his court, "that humble obedience on
the part of subjects to those who are set over them," which he regarded
as "one of the most fundamental maxims of Christianity." "As the
principal hope for the reforms I contemplated establishing in my kingdom
lay in my own will," says he in his Memoires, "the first step towards
their foundation was to render my will quite absolute by a line of
conduct which should induce submission and respect, rendering justice
scrupulously to any to whom I owed it, but, as for favors, granting them
freely and without constraint to any I pleased and when I pleased,
provided that the sequel of my acts showed that, for all my giving no
reason to anybody, I was none the less guided by reason."


The principle of absolute power, firmly fixed in the young king's mind,
began to pervade his court from the time that he disgraced Fouquet and
ceased to dissemble his affection for Mdlle. de La Valliere. She was
young, charming, and modest. Of all the king's favorites she alone loved
him sincerely. "What a pity he is a king!" she would say. Louis XIV.
made her a duchess; but all she cared about was to see him and please
him. When Madame de Montespan began to supplant her in the king's favor,
the grief of Madame de La Valliere was so great that she thought she
should die of it. Then she turned to God, in penitence and despair.
Twice she sought refuge in a convent at Chaillot. "I should have left
the court sooner," she sent word to the king on leaving, "after having
lost the honor of your good graces, if I could have prevailed upon myself
never to see you again; that weakness was so strong in me that hardly now
am I capable of making a sacrifice of it to God; after having given you
all my youth, the rest of my life is not too much for the care of my
salvation." The king still clung to her. "He sent M. Colbert to beg her
earnestly to come to Versailles, and that he might speak with her.
M. Colbert escorted her thither; the king conversed for an hour with her,
and wept bitterly. Madame de Montespan was there to meet her with open
arms and tears in her eyes." "It is all incomprehensible," adds Madame
de Sevigne; "some say that she will remain at Versailles, and at court,
others that she will return to Chaillot; we shall see." Madame de La
Valliere remained three years at court, "half penitent," she said humbly,
detained there by the king's express wish, in consequence of the tempers
and jealousies of Madame de Montespan, who felt herself judged and
condemned by her rival's repentance. Attempts were made to turn Madame
de La Valliere from her inclination for the Carmelites: "Madame," said
Madame Scarron to her one day, "here are you one blaze of gold: have you
really considered that at the Carmelites' before long, you will have to
wear serge?" She, however, persisted. She was already practising in
secret the austerities of the convent. "God has laid in this heart the
foundation of great things," said Bossuet, who supported her in her
conflict: "the world puts great hinderances in her way and God great
mercies; I have hopes that God will prevail; the uprightness of her heart
will carry everything."

[Illustration: Madame de la Valliere----10]

"When I am in trouble at the Carmelites'," said Madame de La Valliere, as
at last she quitted the court, "I will think of what those people have
made me suffer." "The world itself makes us sick of the world," said
Bossuet in the sermon he preached on the day of her taking the dress;
"its attractions have enough of illusion, its favors enough of
inconstancy, its rebuffs enough of bitterness, there is enough of
injustice and perfidy in the dealings of men, enough of unevenness and
capriciousness in their intractable and contradictory humors--there is
enough of it all, without doubt, to disgust us." "She was dead to me the
day she entered the Carmelites," said the king, thirty-five years later,
when the modest and fervent nun expired at last, in 1710, at her convent,
without having ever relaxed the severities of her penance. He had
married the daughter she had given him to the Prince of Conti.
"Everybody has been to pay compliments to this saintly Carmelite," says
Madame de Sevigne, without appearing to perceive the singularity of the
alliance between words and ideas; "I was there too with Mademoiselle.
The Prince of Conti detained her in the parlor. What an angel appeared
to me at last! She had to my eyes all the charms we had seen heretofore.
I did not find her either puffy or sallow; she is less thin, though, and
more happy-looking. She has those same eyes of hers, and the same
expression; austerity; bad living, and little sleep have not made them
hollow or dull; that singular dress takes away nothing of the easy grace
and easy bearing. As for modesty, she is no grander than when she
presented to the world a princess of Conti, but that is enough for a
Carmelite. In real truth, this dress and this retirement are a great
dignity for her." The king never saw her again, but it was at her side
that Madame de Montespan, in her turn forced to quit the court, went to
seek advice and pious consolation. "This soul will be a miracle of
grace," Bossuet had said.

[Illustration: Madame de Montespan 12]

It was no longer the time of "this tiny violet that hides itself in the
grass," as Madame de Sevigne used to remark. Madame de Montespan was
haughty, passionate, "with hair dressed in a thousand ringlets, a
majestic beauty to show off to the ambassadors: "she openly paraded the
favor she was in, accepting and angling for the graces the king was
pleased to do her and hers, having the superintendence of the household
of the queen whom she insulted without disguise, to the extent of
wounding the king himself. "Pray consider that she is your mistress," he
said one day to his favorite. The scandal was great; Bossuet attempted
the task of stopping it. It was the time of the Jubilee: neither the
king nor Madame de Montespan had lost all religious feeling; the wrath of
God and the refusal of the sacraments had terrors for them still. Madame
de Montespan left the court after some stormy scenes; the king set out
for Flanders. "Pluck this sin from your heart, Sir," Bossuet wrote to
him; "and not only this sin, but the cause of it; go even to the root.
In your triumphant march amongst the people whom you constrain to
recognize your might, would you consider yourself secure of a rebel
fortress if your enemy still had influence there? We hear of nothing but
the magnificence of your troops, of what they are capable under your
leadership! And as for me, Sir, I think in my secret heart of a war far
more important, of a far more difficult victory which God holds out
before you. What would it avail you to be dreaded and victorious
without, when you are vanquished and captive within?" "Pray God for me,"
wrote the bishop at the same time to Marshal Bellefonds, "pray Him to
deliver me from the greatest burden man can have to bear, or to quench
all that is man in me, that I may act for Him only. Thank God, I have
never yet thought, during the whole course of this business, of my
belonging to the world; but that is not all; what is wanted is to be a
St. Ambrose, a true man of God, a man of that other life, a man in whom
everything should speak, with whom all his words should be oracles of the
Holy Spirit, all his conduct celestial; pray, pray, I do beseech you."

At the bottom of his soul, and in the innermost sanctuary of his
conscience, Bossuet felt his weakness; he saw the apostolic severance
from the world, the apostolic zeal and fervor required for the holy
crusade he had undertaken. "Your Majesty has given your promise to God
and the world," he wrote to Louis XIV. in, ignorance of the secret
correspondence still kept up between the king and Madame de Montespan.
"I have been to see her," added the prelate. "I find her pretty calm;
she occupies herself a great deal in good works. I spoke to her as well
as to you the words in which God commands us to give Him our whole heart;
they caused her to shed many tears; may it please God to fix these truths
in the bottom of both your hearts, and accomplish His work, in order that
so many tears, so much violence, so many strains that you have put upon
yourselves, may not be fruitless."

The king was on the road back to Versailles; Madame de Montespan was to
return thither also, her duties required her to do so, it was said;
Bossuet heard of it; he did not for a single instant delude himself as to
the emptiness of the king's promises and of his own hopes. He
determined, however, to visit the king at Luzarches. Louis XIV. gave him
no time to speak.

"Do not say a word to me, sir," said he, not without blushing, do not say
a word; I have given my orders, they will have to be executed." Bossuet
held his tongue. "He had tried every thrust; had acted like a pontiff of
the earliest times, with a freedom worthy of the earliest ages and the
earliest bishops of the Church," says St. Simon. He saw the inutility of
his efforts; henceforth, prudence and courtly behavior put a seal upon
his lips. It was the time of the great king's omnipotence and highest
splendor, the time when nobody withstood his wishes. The great
Mademoiselle had just attempted to show her independence: tired of not
being married, with a curse on the greatness which kept her astrand, she
had made up her mind to a love-match. "Guess it in four, guess it in
ten, guess it in a hundred," wrote Madame de Sevigne to Madame de
Coulanges: "you are not near it; well, then, you must be told. M. de
Lauzun is to marry on Sunday at the Louvre, with the king's permission,
mademoiselle . . . mademoiselle de . .. mademoiselle, guess the name
. . . he is to marry Mademoiselle, my word! upon my word! my sacred
word! Mademoiselle, the great Mademoiselle, Mademoiselle daughter of the
late Monsieur, Mademoiselle grand-daughter of Henry IV., Mademoiselle
d'Eu, Mademoiselle de Dombes, Mademoiselle de Montpensier, Mademoiselle
d' Orleans, Mademoiselle, cousin-german to the king, Mademoiselle
destined to the throne, Mademoiselle, the only match in France who would
have been worthy of Monsieur!" The astonishment was somewhat premature;
Mademoiselle did not espouse Lauzun just then, the king broke off the
marriage. "I will make you so great," he said to Lauzun, "that you shall
have no cause to regret what I am taking from you; meanwhile, I make you
duke, and peer, and marshal of France." "Sir," broke in Lauzun,
insolently, "you have made so many dukes that it is no longer an honor to
be one, and as for the baton of marshal of France, your Majesty can give
it me when I have earned it by my services." He was before long sent to
Pignerol, where he passed ten years. There he met Fouquet, and that
mysterious personage called the Iron Mask, whose name has not yet been
discovered to a certainty by means of all the most ingenious conjectures.
It was only by settling all her property on the Duke of Maine after
herself that Mademoiselle purchased Lauzun's release. The king had given
his posts to the Prince of Marcillac, son of La Rochefoucauld. He at the
same time overwhelmed Marshal Bellefonds with kindnesses.

[Illustration: The Iron Mask----14]

"He sent for him into his study," says Madame de Sevigne,--and said to
him, 'Marshal, I want to know why you are anxious to leave me. Is it a
devout feeling? Is it a desire for retirement? Is it the pressure of
your debts? If the last, I shall be glad to set it right, and enter into
the details of your affairs.' The marshal was sensibly touched by this
kindness: 'Sir,' said he, 'it is my debts; I am over head and ears.
I cannot see the consequences borne by some of my friends who have
assisted me, and whom I cannot pay.' 'Well,' said the king, 'they must
have security for what is owing to them. I will give you a hundred
thousand francs on your house at Versailles, and a patent of retainder
(_brevet de retenue_--whereby the emoluments of a post were not lost to
the holder's estate by his death) for four hundred thousand francs, which
will serve as a policy of assurance if you should die; that being so, you
will stay in my service.' In truth, one must have a very hard heart not
to obey a master who enters with so much kindness into the interests of
one of his domestics; accordingly, the marshal made no objection, and
here he is in his place again, and loaded with benefits."

The king entered benevolently into the affairs of a marshal of France; he
paid his debts, and the marshal was his domestic; all the court had come
to that; the duties which brought servants in proximity to the king's
person were eagerly sought after by the greatest lords. Bontemps, his
chief valet, and Fagon, his physician, as well as his surgeon Marachal,
very excellent men, too, were all-powerful amongst the courtiers. Louis
XIV. had possessed the art of making his slightest favors prized; to hold
the candlestick at bedtime (_au petit coucher_), to make one in the trips
to Marly, to play in the king's own game, such was the ambition of the
most distinguished; the possessors of grand historic castles, of fine
houses at Paris, crowded together in attics at Versailles, too happy to
obtain a lodging in the palace. The whole mind of the greatest
personages, his favorites at the head, was set upon devising means of
pleasing the king; Madame de Montespan had pictures painted in miniature
of all the towns he had taken in Holland; they were made into a book
which was worth four thousand pistoles, and of which Racine and Boileau
wrote the text; people of tact, like M. de Langlee, paid court to the
master through those whom he loved. "M. de Langlee has given Madame de
Montespan a dress of the most divine material ever imagined; the fairies
did this work in secret, no living soul had any notion of it; and it
seemed good to present it as mysteriously as it had been fashioned.
Madame de Montespan's dressmaker brought her the dress she had ordered of
him; he had made the body a ridiculous fit; there was shrieking and
scolding as you may suppose. The dressmaker said, all in a tremble, 'As
time presses, madame, see if this other dress that I have here might not
suit you for lack of anything else.' 'Ah! what material! Does it come
from heaven? There is none such on earth.' The body is tried on; it is
a picture. The king comes in. The dressmaker says, 'Madame, it is made
for you.' Everybody sees that it is a piece of gallantry; but on whose
part? 'It is Langl4e,' says the king; 'it is Langlee.' 'Of course,'
says Madame de Montespan, 'none but he could have devised such a device;
it is Langlee, it is Langlee.' Everybody repeats, 'it is Langlee;' the
echoes are agreed and say, 'it is Langlee;' and as for me, my child, I
tell you, to be in the fashion, 'it is Langlle.' "

[Illustration: Bed-chamber Etiquette----15]

All the style of living at court was in accordance with the magnificence
of the king and his courtiers; Colbert was beside himself at the sums the
queen lavished on play. Madame de Montespan lost and won back four
millions, in one night at bassette; Mdlle. de Fontanges gave away twenty
thousand crowns' worth of New Year's gifts; the king had just
accomplished the dauphin's marriage. "He made immense presents on this
occasion; there is certainly no need to despair," said Madame de Sevigne,
"though one does not happen to be his valet; it may happen that, whilst
paying one's court, one will find one's self underneath what he showers
around. One thing is certain, and that is, that away from him all
services go for nothing; it used to be the contrary." All the court were
of the same opinion as Madame de Sevigne.

A new power was beginning to appear on the horizon, with such modesty and
backwardness that none could as yet discern it, least of all could the
king. Madame de Montespan had looked out for some one to take care of
and educate her children. She had thought of Madame Scarron; she
considered her clever; she was so herself, "in that unique style which
was peculiar to the Mortemarts," said the Duke of St. Simon; she was fond
of conversation; Madame Scarron had a reputation of being rather a
blue-stocking; this the king did not like; Madame de Montespan had her
way; Madame Scarron took charge of the children secretly and in an
isolated house. She was attentive, careful, sensible. The king was
struck with her devotion to the children intrusted to her. "She can
love," he said; "it would be a pleasure to be loved by her." The
confidence of Madame de Montespan went on increasing. "The person of
quality (Madame de Montespan) has no partnership with the person who has
a cold (Madame Scarron), for she regards her as the confidential person;
the lady who is at the head of all (the queen) does the same; she is,
therefore, the soul of this court," writes Madame de Sevigne in 1680.
There were, however, frequent storms; Madame de Montespan was jealous and
haughty, and she grew uneasy at the nascent liking she observed in the
king for the correct and shrewd judgment, the equable and firm temper, of
his children's governess. The favor of which she was the object did not
come from Madame de Montespan. The king had made the Parliament
legitimatize the Duke of Maine, Mdlle. de Nantes, and the Count of Vexin;
they were now formally installed at Versailles. Louis XIV. often chatted
with Madame Scarron. She had bought the estate of Maintenon out of the
king's bounty. He made her take the title. The recollection of Scarron
was displeasing to him. "It is supposed that I am indebted for this
present to Madame de Montespan," she wrote to Madame de St. Geran; "I owe
it to my little prince. The king was amusing himself with him one day,
and, being pleased with the manner with which he answered his questions,
told him that he was a very sensible little fellow. 'I can't help
being,' said the child, 'I have by me a lady who is sense itself.'
'Go and tell her,' replied the king, 'that you will give her this evening
a hundred thousand francs for your sugar-plums.' The mother gets me into
trouble with the king, the son makes my peace with him; I am never for
two days together in the same situation, and I do not get accustomed to
this sort of life, I who thought I could make myself used to anything."
She often spoke of leaving the court. "As I tell you everything
honestly," she wrote in 1675 to her confessor, Abbe Gobelin, "I will not
tell you that it is to serve God that I should like to leave the place
where I am; I believe that I might work out my salvation here and
elsewhere, but I see nothing to forbid us from thinking of our repose,
and withdrawing from a position that vexes us every moment. I explained
myself badly if you understood me to mean that I am thinking of being a
nun; I am too old for a change of condition, and, according to the
property I shall have, I shall look out for securing one full of
tranquillity. In the world, all reaction is towards God; in a convent,
all reaction is towards the world; there is one great reason; that of age
comes next." She did not, however, leave the court except to take to the
waters the little Duke of Maine, who had become a cripple after a series
of violent convulsions. "Never was anything more agreeable than the
surprise which Madame de Maintenon gave the king," writes Madame de
Sdvigne to her daughter. "He had not expected the Duke of Maine till the
next day, when he saw him come walking into his room, and only holding by
the hand of his governess; he was transported with joy. M. do Louvois on
her arrival went to call upon Madame de Maintenon; she supped at Madame
de Richelieu's, some kissing her hand, others her gown, and she making
fun of them all, if she is not much changed; but they say that she is."
The king's pleasure in conversing with the governess became more marked
every day; Madame de Montespan frequently burst out into bitter
complaints. "She reproaches me with her kindnesses, with her presents,
with those of the king, and has told me that she fed me, and that I am
strangling her; you know what the fact is; it is a strange thing that we
cannot live together and that we cannot separate. I love her, and I
cannot persuade myself that she hates me." They found themselves alone
together in one of the court carriages. "Let us not be duped by such a
thing as this," said Madame de Montespan, rudely; "let us talk as if we
had no entanglements between us to arrange; it being understood, of
course," added she, "that we resume our entanglements when we get back."
"Madame de Maintenon accepted the proposal," says Madame de Caylus, who
tells the story, "and they kept their word to the letter." Madame de
Maintenon had taken a turn for preaching virtue. "The king passed two
hours in my closet," she wrote to Madame de St. Geran; "he is the most
amiable man in his kingdom. I spoke to him of Father Bourdaloue. He
listened to me attentively. Perhaps he is not so far from thinking of
his salvation as the court suppose. He has good sentiments and frequent
reactions towards God." "The star of Quanto (Madame de Montespan) is
paling," writes Madame de Sevigne to her daughter; "there are tears,
natural pets, affected gayeties, poutings--in fact, my dear, all is
coming to an end. People look, observe, imagine, believe that there are
to be seen as it were rays of light upon faces which, a month ago, were
thought to be unworthy of comparison with others. If Quanto had hidden
her face with her cap at Easter in the year she returned to Paris, she
would not be in the agitated state in which she now is. The spirit,
indeed, was willing, but great is human weakness; one likes to make the
most of a remnant of beauty. This is an economy which ruins rather than
enriches." "Madame de Montespan asks advice of me," said Madame de
Maintenon; "I speak to her of God, and she thinks I have some
understanding with the king; I was present yesterday at a very animated
conversation between them. I wondered at the king's patience, and at the
rage of that vain creature. It all ended with these terrible words: 'I
have told you already, madame; I will not be interfered with.'"

Henceforth Madame de Montespan "interfered with" the king. He gave the
new dauphiness Madame de Maintenon as her mistress of the robes. "I am
told," writes Madame de Sevigne, "that the king's conversations do
nothing but increase and improve, that they last from six to ten o'clock,
that the daughter-in-law goes occasionally to pay them a shortish visit,
that they are found each in a big chair, and that, when the visit is
over, the talk is resumed. The lady is no longer accosted without awe
and respect, and the ministers pay her the court which the rest do. No
friend was ever so careful and attentive as the king is to her; she makes
him acquainted with a perfectly new line of country--I mean the
intercourse of friendship and conversation, without chicanery and without
constraint; he appears to be charmed with it."

Discreet and adroit as she was, and artificial without being false,
Madame de Maintenon gloried in bringing back the king and the court to
the ways of goodness. "There is nothing so able as irreproachable
conduct," she used to say. The king often went to see the queen; the
latter heaped attentions upon Madame de Maintenon. "The king never
treated me more affectionately than he has since she had his ear," the
poor princess would say. The dauphiness had just had a son. The joy at
court was excessive. "The king let anybody who pleased embrace him,"
says the Abbe de Croisy; "he gave everybody his hand to kiss. Spinola,
in the warmth of his zeal, bit his finger; the king began to exclaim.
'Sir,' interrupted the other, 'I ask your Majesty's pardon; but, if I
hadn't bitten you, you would not have noticed me.' The lower orders
seemed beside themselves, they made bonfires of everything. The porters
and the Swiss burned the poles of the chairs, and even the floorings and
wainscots intended for the great gallery. Bontemps, in wrath, ran and
told the king, who burst out laughing and said, 'Let them be; we will
have other floorings.'"

The least clear-sighted were beginning to discern the modest beams of a
rising sun. Madame de Montespan, who had a taste for intellectual
things, had not long since recommended Racine and Boileau to the king to
write a history of his reign. They had been appointed historiographers.
"When they had done some interesting piece," says Louis Racine in his
Memoires, "they used to go and read it to the king at Madame de
Montespan's. Madame de Maintenon was generally present at the reading.
She, according to Boileau's account, liked my father better than him, and
Madame de Montespan, on the contrary, liked Boileau better than my
father, but they always paid their court jointly, without any jealousy
between them. When Madame de Montespan would let fall some rather tart
expressions, my father and Boileau, though by no means sharp-sighted,
observed that the king, without answering her, looked with a smile at
Madame de Maintenon, who was seated opposite to him on a stool, and who
finally disappeared all at once from these meetings. They met her in the
gallery, and asked her why she did not come any more to hear their
readings. She answered very coldly, 'I am no longer admitted to those
mysteries.' As they found a great deal of cleverness in her, they were
mortified and astonished at this. Their astonishment was very much
greater, then, when the king, being obliged to keep his bed, sent for
them with orders to bring what they had newly written of history, and
they saw as they went in Madame de Maintenon sitting in an arm-chair near
the king's pillow, chatting familiarly with his Majesty. They were just
going to begin their reading, when Madame do Montespan, who had not been
expected, came in, and after a few compliments to the king, paid such
long ones to Madame de Maintenon, that the king, to stop them, told her
to sit down. 'As it would not be fair,' he added, 'to read without you a
work which you yourself ordered.' From this day, the two historians paid
their court to Madame de Maintenon as far as they knew how to do so."

The queen had died on the 30th of July, 1683, piously and gently, as she
had lived. "This is the first sorrow she ever caused me," said the king,
thus rendering homage in his superb and unconscious egotism, to the
patient virtue of the wife he had put to such cruel trials. Madame de
Maintenon was agitated but resolute. "Madame de Montespan has plunged
into the deepest devoutness," she wrote, two months after the queen's
death; "it is quite time she edified us; as for me, I no longer think of
retiring." Her strong common sense and her far-sighted ambition, far
more than her virtue, had secured her against rocks ahead; henceforth she
saw the goal, she was close upon it, she moved towards it with an even
step. The king still looked in upon Madame de Montespan of an evening
on his way to the gaming-table; he only staid an instant, to pass on to
Madame de Maintenon's; the latter had modestly refused to become lady in
attendance upon the dauphiness. She, however, accompanied the king on
all his expeditions, "sending him away always afflicted, but, never
disheartened." Madame de Montespan, piqued to see that the king no
longer thought of anybody but Madame de Maintenon, "said to him one day
at Marly," writes Dangeau, "that she has a favor to ask of him, which was
to let her have the duty of entertaining the second-carriage people and
of amusing the antechamber." It required more than seven years of wrath
and humiliation to make her resolve upon quitting the court, in 1691.

The date has never been ascertained exactly of the king's private
marriage with Madame de Maintenon. It took place, probably, eighteen
months or two years after the queen's death; the king was forty-seven,
Madame de Maintenon fifty.

"She had great remains of beauty, bright and sprightly eyes, an
imcomparable grace," says St. Simon, who detested her; "an air of ease,
and yet of restraint and respect; a great deal of cleverness, with a
speech that was sweet, correct, in good terms, and naturally eloquent and

Madame do La Valliere had held sway over the young and passionate heart
of the prince, Madame de Montespan over the court, Madame de Maintenon
alone established her empire over the man and the king. "Whilst giving
up our heart, we must remain absolute master of our mind," Louis XIV.
had written, "separate our affections from our resolves as a sovereign,
that she who enchants us may never have liberty to speak to us of our
business or of the people who serve us, and that they be two things
absolutely distinct." The king had scrupulously applied this maxim;
Mdlle. de La Valliere had never given a thought to business; Madame de
Montespan had sought only to shine, disputing the influence of Colbert
when he would have put a limit upon her ruinous fancies, leaning for
support at the last upon Louvois, in order to counterbalance the growing
power of Madame de Maintenon; the latter alone had any part in affairs,
a smaller part than has frequently been made out, but important,
nevertheless, and sometimes decisive. Ministers went occasionally to do
their work in her presence with the king, who would turn to her when the
questions were embarassing, and ask, "What does your Solidity think?"
The opinions she gave were generally moderate and discreet. "I did not
manage to please in my conversation about the buildings," she wrote to
Cardinal Noailles, "and what grieves me is to have caused vexation to no
purpose. Another block of chambers is being built here at a cost of a
hundred thousand francs; Marly will soon be a second Versailles. The
people, what will become of them?" And later on: "Would you think
proper, monsignor, to make out a list of good bishops? You could send it
me, so that, on the occasions which are constantly occurring, I might
support their interests, and they might have the business referred to
them in which they ought to have a hand, and for which they are the
proper persons. I am always spoken to when the question is of them; and
if I were better informed, I should be bolder." "It is said that you
meddle too little with business," Fenelon wrote to her in 1694; "your
mind is better calculated for it than you suppose. You ought to direct
your whole endeavors to giving the king views tending to peace, and
especially to the relief of the people, to moderation, to equity, to
mistrust of harsh and violent measures, to horror for acts of arbitrary
authority, and finally to love of the Church, and to assiduity in seeking
good pastors for it." Neither Fenelon nor Madame de Maintenon had seen
in the revocation of the edict of Nantes "an act of arbitrary authority,
or a harsh and violent measure." She was not inclined towards
persecution, but she feared lest her moderation should be imputed to a
remnant of prejudice in favor of her former religion, "and this it is,"
she would say, "which makes me approve of things quite opposed to my
sentiments." An egotistical and cowardly prudence, which caused people
to attribute to Madame de Maintenon, in the severities against the
Huguenots, a share which she had not voluntarily or entirely assumed.

Whatever the apparent reserve and modesty with which it was cloaked, the
real power of Madame de Maintenon over the king's mind peeped out more
and more into broad daylight. She promoted it dexterously by her extreme
anxiety to please him, as well as by her natural and sincere attachment
to the children whom she had brought up, and who had a place near the
heart of Louis XIV. Already the young Duke of Maine had been sent to the
army at the dauphin's side; the king was about to have him married
[August 29, 1692] to Mdlle. de Charolais; carefully seeking for his
natural children alliances amongst the princes of his blood, he had
recently given Mdlle. de Nantes, daughter of Madame de Montespan, to the
duke, grandson of the great Conde. "For a long time past," says St.
Simon, "Madame de Maintenon, even more than the king, had been thinking
of marrying Mdlle. de Blois, Madame de Montespan's second daughter, to
the Duke of Chartres; he was the king's own and only nephew, and the
first moves towards this marriage were the more difficult in that
Monsieur was immensely attached to all that appertained to his greatness,
and Madame was of a nation which abhorred misalliances, and of a
character which gave no promise of ever making this marriage agreeable to
her." The king considered himself sure of his brother; he had set his
favorites to work, and employed underhand intrigues. "He sent for the
young Duke of Chartres, paid him attention, told him he wanted to have
him settled in life, that the war which was kindled on all sides put out
of his reach the princesses who might have suited him, that there were no
princesses of the blood of his own age, that he could not better testify
his affection towards him than by offering him his daughter whose two
sisters had married princes of the blood; but that, however eager he
might be for this marriage, he did not want to put any constraint upon
him, and would leave him full liberty in the matter. This language,
addressed with the awful majesty so natural to the king to a prince who
was timid, and had not a word to say for himself, put him at his wits'
end." He fell back upon the wishes of his father and mother. "That is
very proper in you," replied the king; "but, as you consent, your father
and mother will make no objection;" and, turning to Monsieur, who was
present, "Is it not so, brother?" he asked. Monsieur had promised; a
messenger was sent for Madame, who cast two furious glances at her
husband and her son, saying that, as they were quite willing, she had
nothing to say, made a curt obeisance, and went her way home. Thither
the court thronged next day; the marriage was announced. "Madame was
walking in the gallery with her favorite, Mdlle. de Chateau-Thiers,
taking long steps, handkerchief in hand, weeping unrestrainedly, speaking
somewhat loud,, gesticulating and making a good picture of Ceres after
the rape of her daughter Proserpine, seeking her in a frenzy, and
demanding her back from Jupiter. Everybody saluted, and stood aside out
of respect. Monsieur had taken refuge in lansquenet; never was anything
so shamefaced as his look or so disconcerted as his whole appearance, and
this first condition lasted more than a month with him. The Duke of
Chartres came into the gallery, going up to his mother, as he did every
day, to kiss her hand. At that moment, Madame gave him a box of the ear
so loud that it was heard some paces off, and given as it was before the
whole court, covered the poor prince with confusion, and overwhelmed the
countless spectators with prodigious astonishment." That did not prevent
or hamper the marriage, which took place with great pomp at Versailles on
the 18th of February, 1692. The king was, and continued to the last, the
absolute and dread master of all his family, to its remotest branches.

He lost through this obedience a great deal that is charming and sweet
in daily intercourse. For him and for Madame de Maintenon the great and
inexhaustible attraction of the Duchess of Burgundy was her gayety and
unconstrained ease, tempered by the most delicate respect, which this
young princess, on coming as quite a child to France from the court of
Savoy, had tact enough to introduce, and always maintain, amidst the most
intimate familiarity. "In public, demure, respectful with the king, and
on terms of timid propriety with Madame de Maintenon, whom she never
called anything but aunt, thus prettily blending rank and affection.
In private, chattering, frisking, fluttering around them, at one time
perched on the arm of one or the other's chair, at another playfully
sitting on their knee, she would throw herself upon their necks, embrace
them, kiss them, fondle them, pull them to pieces, chuck them under the
chin, tease them, rummage their tables, their papers, their letters,
reading them sometimes against their will, according as she saw that they
were in the humor to laugh at it, and occasionally speaking thereon.
Admitted to everything, even at the reception of couriers bringing the
most important news, going into the king at any hour, even at the time
the council was sitting, useful and also fatal to ministers themselves,
but always inclined to help, to excuse, to benefit, unless she were
violently set against anybody. The king could not do without her; when,
rarely, she was absent from his supper in public, it was plainly shown by
a cloud of more than usual gravity and taciturnity over the king's whole
person; and so, when it happened that some ball in winter or some party
in summer made her break into the night, she arranged matters so well
that she was there to kiss the king the moment he was awake, and to amuse
him with an account of the affair." [Memoires de St. Simon, t. x.
p. 186.]

[Illustration: Madame de Maintenon and the Duchess of Burgundy.----27]

The dauphiness had died in 1690; the Duchess of Burgundy was, therefore,
almost from childhood queen of the court, and before long the idol of the
courtiers; it was around her that pleasures sprang up; it was for her
that the king gave the entertainments to which he had habituated
Versailles, not that for her sake or to take care of her health he would
ever consent to modify his habits or make the least change in his plans.
"Thank God, it is over!" he exclaimed one day, after an accident to the
princess; "I shall no longer be thwarted in my trips, and in all I desire
to do, by the representations of physicians. I shall come and go as I
fancy; and I shall be left in peace." Even in his court, and amongst his
most devoted servants, this monstrous egotism astounded and scandalized
everybody. "A silence in which you might have heard an ant move
succeeded this sally," says St. Simon, who relates the scene; "we looked
down; we hardly dared draw breath. Everybody stood aghast. To the very
builders-men and gardeners everybody was motionless. This silence lasted
more than a quarter of an hour. The king broke it, as he leaned against
a balustrade of the great basin, to speak about a carp. Nobody made any
answer. He afterwards addressed his remarks about these carp to some
builder's-men who did not keep up the conversation in the regular way; it
was but a question of carp with them. Everything was at a low ebb, and
the king went away some little time after. As soon as we dared look at
one another out of his sight, our eyes meeting told all." There was no
venturing beyond looks. Fenelon had said, with severe charity, "God will
have compassion upon a prince beset from his youth up by flatterers."

Flattery ran a risk of becoming hypocrisy. On returning to a regular
life, the king was for imposing the same upon his whole court; the
instinct of order and regularity, smothered for a while in the heyday of
passion, had resumed all its sway over the naturally proper and steady
mind of Louis XIV. His dignity and his authority were equally involved
in the cause of propriety and regularity at his court; he imposed this
yoke as well as all the others; there appeared to be entire obedience;
only some princes or princesses escaped it sometimes, getting about them
a few free-thinkers or boon-companions; good, honest folks showed
ingenuous joy; the virtuous and far-sighted were secretly uneasy at the
falsehood, and deplored the pressure put on so many consciences and so
many lives. The king was sincere in his repentance for the past, many
persons in his court were as sincere as he; others, who were not,
affected, in order to please him, the externals of austerity; absolute
power oppressed all spirits, extorting from them that hypocritical
complaisance which is liable to engender; corruption was already brooding
beneath appearances of piety; the reign of Louis XV. was to see its
deplorable fruits displayed with a haste and a scandal which are to be
explained only by the oppression exercised in the last years of King
Louis XIV.

Madame de Maintenon was like the genius of this reaction towards
regularity, propriety, order; all the responsibility for it had been
thrown upon her; the good she did has disappeared beneath the evil she
allowed or encouraged; the regard lavished upon her by the king has
caused illusions as to the discreet care she was continually taking to
please him. She was faithful to her friends, so long as they were in
favor with the king; if they had the misfortune to displease him, she,
at the very least, gave up seeing them; without courage or hardihood to
withstand the caprices and wishes of Louis XIV., she had gained and
preserved her empire by dint of dexterity and far-sighted suppleness
beneath the externals of dignity.

She never forgot her origin. "I am not a grandee," she would say;
"I am a mushroom." Her life, entirely devoted to the king, had become a
veritable slavery; she said as much to Mdlle. d'Aumale at St. Cyr. "I
have to take for my prayers and for mass the time when everybody else is
still sleeping. For, when once they begin coming into my room, at half
past seven, I haven't another moment to myself. They come filing in, and
nobody goes out without being relieved by somebody higher. At last comes
the king; then, of course, they all have to go out; he remains with me up
to mass. I am, still in my night-cap. The king comes back after mass;
then the Duchess of Burgundy with her ladies. They remain whilst I dine.
I have to keep up the conversation, which flags every moment, and to
manage so as to harmonize minds and reconcile hearts which are as far as
possible asunder. The circle is all round me, and I cannot ask for
anything to drink; I sometimes say to them (aside), 'It is a great honor,
but really I should prefer a footman.' At last they all go away to
dinner. I should be free during that time, if Monseigneur did not
generally choose it for coming to see me, for he often dines earlier in
order to go hunting. He is very difficult to entertain, having very
little to say, and finding himself a bore, and running away from himself
continually; so I have to talk for two. Immediately after the king has
dined, he comes into my room with all the royal family, princes and
princesses; then I must be prepared for the gayest of conversation, and
wear a smiling face amidst so much distressing news. When this company
disperses, some lady has always something particular to say to me; the
Duchess of Burgundy also wants to have a chat. The king returns from
hunting. He comes to me. The door is shut, and nobody else is admitted.
Then I have to share his secret troubles, which are no small number.
Arrives a minister; and the king sets himself to work. If I am not
wanted at this consultation, which seldom happens, I withdraw to some
farther distance and write or pray. I sup, whilst the king is still at
work. I am restless, whether he is alone or not. The king says to me,
'You are tired, Madame; go to bed.' My women come. But I feel that they
interfere with the king, who would chat with me, and does not like to
chat before them; or, perhaps, there are some ministers still there, whom
he is afraid they may overhear. Wherefore I make haste to undress, so
much so that I often feel quite ill from it. At last I am in bed. The
king comes up and remains by my pillow until he goes to supper. But a
quarter of an hour before supper, the dauphin and the Duke and Duchess of
Burgundy come in to me again. At ten, everybody goes out. At last I am
alone, but very often the fatigues of the day prevent me from sleeping."

She was at that time seventy. She was often ailing; but the Duchess of
Burgundy was still very young, and the burden of the most private matters
of court diplomacy fell entirely upon Madame de Maintenon. "The Princess
des Ursins is about to return to Spain," she said; "if I do not take her
in hand, if I do not repair by my attentions the coldness of the Duchess
of Burgundy, the indifference of the king and the curtness of the other
princes, she will go away displeased with our court, and it is expedient
that she should praise it, and speak well of it in Spain."

It was, in fact, through Madame de Maintenon and her correspondence with
the Princess des Ursins, that the private business between the two courts
of France and Spain was often carried on. At Madrid, far more than at
Versailles, the influence of women was all-powerful. The queen ruled her
husband, who was honest and courageous, but without wit or daring; and
the Princess des Ursins ruled the queen, as intelligent and as amiable as
her sister the Duchess of Burgundy, but more ambitious and more haughty.
Louis XIV. had several times conceived some misgiving of the _camarera
major's_ influence over his grandson; she had been disgraced, and then
recalled; she had finally established her sway by her fidelity, ability,
dexterity, and indomitable courage. She served France habitually, Spain
and her own influence in Spain always; she had been charming, with an air
of nobility, grace, elegance, and majesty all together, and accustomed to
the highest society and the most delicate intrigues, during her sojourn
at Rome and Madrid; she was full of foresight and calculation, but
impassioned, ambitious, implacable, pushing to extremes her amity as well
as her hatred, faithful to her master and mistress in their most cruel
trials, and then hampering and retarding peace for the sake of securing
for herself a principality in the Low Countries. Without having risen
from the ranks, like Madame de Maintenon, she had reached a less high and
less safe elevation; she had been more absolutely and more daringly
supreme during the time of her power, and at last she fell with the
rudest shock, without any support from Madame de Maintenon. The
pretensions of Madame des Ursins during the negotiations had offended
France; "this was the stone of stumbling between the two supreme
directresses," says St. Simon; after this attempt at sovereignty, there
was no longer the same accord between Madame de Maintenon and Madame des
Ursins, but this latter had reached in Spain a point at which she more
easily supposed that she could dispense with it. The Queen of Spain had
died at the age of twenty-six, in 1714; did the princess for a moment
conceive the hope of marrying Philip V. in spite of the disproportion in
rank and age? Nobody knows; she had already been reigning as sovereign
mistress for some months, when she received from the king this stunning
command: "Look me out a wife." She obeyed; she looked out. Alberoni, an
Italian priest, brought into Spain by the Duke of Vendome, drew her
attention to the Princess of Parma, Elizabeth Farnese. The principality
was small, the princess young; Alberoni laid stress upon her sweetness
and modesty. "Nothing will be more easy," he said, "than for you to
fashion her to Spanish gravity, by keeping her retired; in the capacity
of her _camarera major,_ intrusted with her education, you will easily be
able to acquire complete sway over her mind." The Princess des Ursins
believed him, and settled the marriage. "Cardonne has surrendered at
last, Madame," she wrote on the 20th of September, 1714, to Madame de
Maintenon; "there is nothing left in Catalonia that is not reduced. The
new queen, at her coming into this kingdom, is very fortunate to find no
more war there. She whom we have lost would have been beside herself
with delight at enjoying peace after having experienced such cruel
sufferings of all kinds. The longer I live, the more I see that we are
never so near a reverse of Fortune as when she is favorable, or so near
receiving favors as when she is maltreating us. For that reason, Madame,
if one were wise, one would take her inconstancy graciously."

The time had come for Madame des Ursins to make definitive trial of
Fortune's inconstancy. She had gone to meet the new queen, in full dress
and with her ornaments; Elizabeth received her coldly; they were left
alone; the queen reproached the princess with negligence in her costume
Madame des Ursins, strangely surprised, would have apologized, "but, all
at once there was the queen at offensive words, and screaming, summoning,
demanding officers, guards, and imperiously ordering Madame des Ursins
out of her presence. She would have spoken; but the queen, with
redoubled rage and threats, began to scream out for the removal of this
mad woman from her presence and her apartments; she had her put out by
the shoulders, and on the instant into a carriage with one of her women,
to be taken at once to St. Jean-de-Luz. It was seven o'clock at night,
the day but one before Christmas, the ground all covered with ice and
snow; Madame des Ursins had no time to change gown or head-dress, to take
any measures against the cold, to get any money, or any anything else at
all." Thus she was conducted almost without a mouthful of food to the
frontier of France. She hoped for aid from the king of Spain; but none
came; it got known that the queen had been abetted in everything and
beforehand by Philip V. On arriving at St. Jean-de-Luz, she wrote to the
king and to Madame de Maintenon: "Can you possibly conceive, Madame, the
situation in which I find myself? Treated in the face of all Europe,
with more contempt by the Queen of Spain than if I were the lowest of
wretches? They want to persuade me that the king acted in concert with a
princess who had me treated with such cruelty. I shall await his orders
at St. Jean-de-Luz, where I am in a small house close by the sea. I see
it often stormy and sometimes calm; a picture of courts. I shall have no
difficulty in agreeing with you that it is of no use looking for
stability but in God. Certainly it cannot be found in the human heart,
for who was ever more sure than I was of the heart of the King of Spain?"

The king did not reply at all, and Madame de Maintenon but coldly,
begging the princess, however, to go to Versailles. There she passed but
a short time, and received notice to leave the kingdom. With great
difficulty she obtained an asylum at Rome, where she lived seven years
longer, preserving all her health, strength, mind, and easy grace until
she died, in 1722, at more than eighty-four years of age, in obscurity
and sadness, notwithstanding her opulence, but avenged of her Spanish
foes, Cardinals della Giudice and Alberoni, whom she met again at Rome,
disgraced and fugitive like herself. "I do not know where I may die,"
she wrote to Madame de Maintenon, at that time in retirement at St. Cyr.
Both had survived their power; the Princess des Ursins had not long since
wanted to secure for herself a dominion; Madame de Maintenon, more
far-sighted and more modest, had aspired to no more than repose in the
convent which she had founded and endowed. Discreet in her retirement as
well as in her life, she had not left to chance the selection of a place
where she might die.

[Illustration: Death of Madame de Maintenon.----34]


"One has no more luck at our age," Louis XIV. had said to his old friend
Marshal Villars, returning from his most disastrous campaign. It was a
bitter reflection upon himself which had put these words into the king's
mouth. After the most brilliant, the most continually and invariably
triumphant of reigns, he began to see Fortune slipping away from him,
and the grievous consequences of his errors successively overwhelming the
state. "God is punishing me; I have richly deserved it," he said to
Marshal Villars, who was on the point of setting out for the battle of
Denain. The aged king, dispirited and beaten, could not set down to men
his misfortunes and his reverses; the hand of God Himself was raised
against his house. Death was knocking double knocks all round him. The
grand-dauphin had for some days past been ill of small-pox. The king had
gone to be with him at Meudon, forbidding the court to come near the
castle. The small court of Monseigneur were huddled together in the
lofts. The king was amused with delusive hopes; his chief physician,
Fagon, would answer for the invalid. The king continued to hold his
councils as usual, and the deputation of market-women (_dames de la
Halle_), come from Paris to have news of Monseigneur, went away,
declaring that they would go and sing a Te Deum, as he was nearly well.
"It is not time yet, my good women," said Monseigneur, who had given them
a reception. That very evening he was dead, without there having been
time to send for his confessor in ordinary. "The parish priest of
Meudon, who used to look in every evening before he went home, had found
all the doors open, the valets distracted, Fagon heaping remedy upon
remedy without waiting for them to take effect. He entered the room, and
hurrying to Monseigneur's bedside, took his hand and spoke to him of God.
The poor prince was fully conscious, but almost speechless. He repeated
distinctly a few words, others inarticulately, smote his breast, pressed
the priest's hand, appeared to have the most excellent sentiments, and
received absolution with an air of contrition and wistfulness."
[Memoires de St. Simon, ix.] Meanwhile word had been sent to the king,
who arrived quite distracted. The Princess of Conti, his daughter, who
was deeply attached to Monseigneur, repulsed him gently: "You must think
only of yourself now, Sir," she said. The king let himself sink down
upon a sofa, asking news of all that came out of the room, without any
one's daring to give him an answer. Madame de Maintenon, who had hurried
to the king, and was agitated without being affected, tried to get him
away; she did not succeed, however, until Monseigneur had breathed his
last. He passed along to his carriage between two rows of officers and
valets, all kneeling, and conjuring him to have pity upon them who had
lost all and were like to starve.

[Illustration: The King leaving the Death-bed of Monseigneur----36]

The excitement and confusion at Versailles were tremendous. From the
moment that small-pox was declared, the princes had not been admitted to
Meudon. The Duchess of Burgundy alone had occasionally seen the king.
All were living in confident expectation of a speedy convalescence; the
news of the death came upon them like a thunderclap. All the courtiers
thronged together at once, the women half dressed, the men anxious and
concerned, some to conceal their extreme sorrow, others their joy,
according as they were mixed up in the different cabals of the court.
"It was all, however, nothing but a transparent veil," says St. Simon,
"which did not prevent good eyes from observing and discerning all the
features. The two princes and the two princesses, seated beside them,
taking care of them, were most exposed to view. The Duke of Burgundy
wept, from feeling and in good faith, with an air of gentleness, tears of
nature, of piety, and of patience. The Duke of Berry, in quite as good
faith, shed abundance, but tears, so to speak, of blood, so great
appeared to be their bitterness; he gave forth not sobs, but shrieks,
howls. The Duchess of Berry (daughter of the Duke of Orleans) was beside
herself. The bitterest despair was depicted on her face. She saw her
sister-in-law, who was so hateful to her, all at once raised to that
title, that rank of dauphiness, which were about to place so great a
distance between them. Her frenzy of grief was not from affection, but
from interest; she would wrench herself from it to sustain her husband,
to embrace him, to console him, then she would become absorbed in herself
again with a torrent of tears, which helped her to stifle her shrieks.
The Duke of Orleans wept in his own corner, actually sobbing, a thing
which, had I not seen it, I should never have believed," adds St. Simon,
who detested Monseigneur, and had as great a dread of his reigning as the
Duke of Orleans had. "Madame, re-dressed in full dress, in the middle of
the night, arrived regularly howling, not quite knowing why either one or
the other; inundating them all with her tears as she embraced them, and
making the castle resound with a renewal of shrieks, when the king's
carriages were announced, on his return to Marly." The Duchess of
Burgundy was awaiting him on the road. She stepped down and went to the
carriage window. "What are you about, Madame?" exclaimed Madame de
Maintenon; "do not come near us, we are infectious." The king did not
embrace her, and she went back to the palace, but only to be at Marly
next morning before the king was awake.

The king's tears were as short as they had been abundant. He lost a son
who was fifty years old, the most submissive and most respectful creature
in the world, ever in awe of him and obedient to him, gentle and
good-natured, a proper man amid all his indolence and stupidity, brave
and even brilliant at head of an army. In 1688, in front of Philipsburg,
the soldiers had given him the name of "Louis the Bold." He was full of
spirits and always ready, "revelling in the trenches," says Vauban. The
Duke of Montausier, his boyhood's strict governor, had written to him,
"Monseigneur, I do not make you my compliments on the capture of
Philipsburg; you had a fine army, shells, cannon, and Vauban. I do not
make them to you either on your bravery; it is an hereditary virtue in
your house; but I congratulate you on being open-handed, humane,
generous, and appreciative of the services of those who do well; that is
what I make you my compliments upon." "Did not I tell you so?" proudly
exclaimed the Chevalier de Grignan, formerly attached (as menin) to the
person of Monseigneur, on hearing his master's exploits lauded; "for my
part, I am not surprised." Racine had exaggerated the virtues of
Monseigneur in the charming verses of the prologue of Esther:

"Thou givest him a son, an ever ready aid,
Apt or to woo or fight, obey or be obeyed;
A son who, like his sire, drags victory in his train,
Yet boasts but one desire, that father's heart to gain;
A son, who to his will submits with loving air,
Who brings upon his foes perpetual despair.
As the swift spirit flies, stern Equity's envoy,
So, when the king says, 'Go,' down rusheth he in joy,
With vengeful thunderbolt red ruin doth complete,
Then tranquilly returns to lay it at his feet."

In 1690 and in 1691 he had gained distinction as well as in 1688. "The
dauphin has begun as others would think it an honor to leave off," the
Prince of Orange had said, "and, for my part, I should consider that I
had worthily capped anything great I may have done in war if, under
similar circumstances, I had made so fine a march." Whether it were
owing to indolence or court cabal, Monseigneur had no more commands;
he had no taste for politics, and always sat in silence at the council,
to which the king had formally admitted him at thirty years of age,
"instructing him," says the Marquis of Sourches, "with so much vigor and
affection, that Monseigneur could not help falling at his feet to testify
his respect and gratitude." Twice, at grave conjunctures, the
grand-dauphin allowed his voice to be heard; in 1685, to offer a timid
opposition to the Edict of Nantes, and, in 1700, to urge very vigorously
the acceptance of the King of Spain's will. "I should be enchanted," he
cried, as if with a prophetic instinct of his own destiny, "to be able to
say all my life, 'The king my father, and the king my SON.'" Heavy in
body as well as mind, living on terms of familiarity with a petty court,
probably married to Mdlle. Choin, who had been for a long time installed
in his establishment at Meudon, Monseigneur, often embarrassed and made
uncomfortable by the austere virtue of the Duke of Burgundy, and finding
more attraction in the Duke of Berry's frank geniality, had surrendered
himself, without intending it, to the plots which were woven about him.
"His eldest son behaved to him rather as a courtier than as a son,
gliding over the coldness shown him with a respect and a gentleness
which, together, would have won over any father less a victim to
intrigue. The Duchess of Burgundy, in spite of her address and her
winning grace, shared her husband's disfavor." The Duchess of Berry had
counted upon this to establish her sway in a reign which the king's great
age seemed to render imminent; already, it was said, the chief amusement
at Monseigneur's was to examine engravings of the coronation ceremony,
when death carried him off suddenly on the 14th of April, 1711, to the
consternation of the lower orders, who loved him because of his
reputation for geniality. The severity of the new dauphin caused some
little dread.

"Here is a prince who will succeed me before long," said the king on
presenting his grandson to the assembly of the clergy; "by his virtue and
piety he will render the church still more flourishing, and the kingdom
more happy." That was the hope of all good men. Fenelon, in his exile
in Cambrai, and the Dukes of Beauvilliers and Chevreuse, at court, began
to feel themselves all at once transported to the heights with the prince
whom they had educated, and who had constantly remained faithful to them.
The delicate foresight and prudent sagacity of Fenelon had a long while
ago sought to prepare his pupil for the part which he was about to play.
It was piety alone that had been able to triumph over the dangerous
tendencies of a violent and impassioned temperament. Fenelon, who had
felt this, saw also the danger of devoutness carried too far. "Religion
does not consist in a scrupulous observance of petty formalities," he
wrote to the Duke of Burgundy; "it consists, for everybody, in the
virtues proper to one's condition. A great prince ought not to serve
God in the same way as a hermit or a simple individual."

"The prince thinks too much and acts too little," he said to the Duke of
Chevreuse; "his most solid occupations are confined to vague applications
of his mind and barren resolutions; he must see society, study it, mix in
it, without becoming a slave to it, learn to express himself forcibly,
and acquire a gentle authority. If he do not feel the need of possessing
firmness and nerve, he will not make any real progress; it is time for
him to be a man. The life of the region in which he lives is a life of
effeminacy, indolence, timidity, and amusement. He will never be so true
a servant to the king and to Monseigneur as when he makes them see that
they have in him a man matured, full of application, firm, impressed with
their true interests, and fitted to aid them by the wisdom of his
counsels and the vigor of his conduct. Let him be more and more little
in the hands of God, but let him become great in the eyes of men; it is
his duty to make virtue, combined with authority, loved, feared, and

Court-perfidy dogged the Duke of Burgundy to the very head of the army
over which the king had set him; Fenelon, always correctly informed, had
often warned him of it. The duke wrote to him, in 1708, on the occasion
of his dissensions with VendOme: "It is true that I have experienced a
trial within the last fortnight, and I am far from having taken it as I
ought, allowing myself to give way to an oppression of the heart caused
by the blackenings, the contradictions, and the pains of irresolution,
and the fear of doing something untoward in a matter of extreme
importance to the State. As for what you say to me about my indecision,
it is true that I myself reproach myself for it, and I pray God every day
to give me, together with wisdom and prudence, strength and courage to
carry out what I believe to be my duty." He had no more commands, in
spite of his entreaties to obtain, in 1709, permission to march against
the enemy. "If money is short, I will go without any train," he said;
"I will live like a simple officer; I will eat, if need be, the bread of
a common soldier, and none will complain of lacking superfluities when I
have scarcely necessaries." It was at the very time when the Archbishop
of Cambrai was urgent for peace to be made at any price. "The people no
longer live like human beings," he said, in a memorial sent to the Duke
of Beauvilliers; "there is no counting any longer on their patience, they
are reduced to such outrageous trials. As they have nothing more to
hope, they have nothing more to fear. The king has no right to risk
France in order to save Spain; he received his kingdom from God, not that
he should expose it to invasion by the enemy, as if it were a thing with
which he can do anything he pleases, but that he should rule it as a
father, and transmit it as a precious heirloom to his posterity." He
demanded at the same time the convocation of the assembly of notables.

It was this kingdom, harassed on all sides by its enemies, bleeding,
exhausted, but stronger, nevertheless, and more bravely faithful than was
made out by Fenelon, that the new dauphin found himself suddenly called
upon to govern by the death of Monseigneur, and by the unexpected
confidence testified in him before long by the king. "The prince should
try more than ever to appear open, winning, accessible, and sociable,"
wrote Fenelon; "he must undeceive the public about the scruples imputed
to him; keep his strictness to himself, and not set the court
apprehending a severe reform of which society is not capable, and which
would have to be introduced imperceptibly, even if it were possible. He
cannot be too careful to please the king, avoid giving him the slightest
umbrage, make him feel a dependence founded on confidence and affection,
relieve him in his work, and speak to him with a gentle and respectful
force which will grow by little and little. He should say no more than
can be borne; it requires to have the heart prepared for the utterance
of painful truths which are not wont to be heard. For the rest, no
puerilities or pettinesses in the practice of devotion; government is
learned better from studying men than from studying books."

The young dauphin was wise enough to profit by these sage and able
counsels. "Seconded to his heart's content by his adroit young wife,
herself in complete possession of the king's private ear and of the heart
of Madame de Maintenon, he redoubled his attentions to the latter, who,
in her transport at finding a dauphin on whom she might rely securely
instead of one who did not like her, put herself in his hands, and, by
that very act, put the king in his hands. The first fortnight made
perceptible to all at Marly this extraordinary change in the king, who
was so reserved towards his legitimate children, so very much the king
with them. Breathing more freely after so great a step had been made,
the dauphin showed a bold front to society, which he dreaded during the
lifetime of Monseigneur, because, great as he was, he was often the
victim of its best received jests. The king having come round to him;
the insolent cabal having been dispersed by the death of a father, almost
an enemy, whose place he took; society in a state of respect, attention,
alacrity; the most prominent personages with an air of slavishness; the
gay and frivolous, no insignificant portion of a large court, at his feet
through his wife,--it was observed that this timid, shy,
self-concentrated prince, this precise (piece of) virtue, this (bit of)
misplaced learning, this gawky man, a stranger in his own house,
constrained in everything,--it was observed, I say, that he was showing
himself by degrees, unfolding himself little by little, presenting
himself to society in moderation, and that he was unembarrassed,
majestic, gay, and agreeable in it. A style of conversation, easy but
instructive, and happily and aptly directed, charmed the sensible
courtier and made the rest wonder. There was all at once an opening of
eyes, and ears, and hearts. There was a taste of the consolation, which
was so necessary and so longed for, of seeing one's future master so well
fitted to be from his capacity and from the use that he showed he could
make of it."

The king had ordered ministers to go and do their work at the prince's.
The latter conversed modestly and discreetly with the men he thought
capable of enlightening him; the Duke of St. Simon had this honor, which
he owed to the friendship of the Duke of Beauvilliers, and of which he
showed himself sensible in his Memoires. Fenelon was still at Cambrai,
"which all at once turned out to be the only road from all the different
parts of Flanders. The archbishop had such and so eager a court there,
that for all his delight he was pained by it, from apprehension of the
noise it would make, and the bad effect he feared it might have on the
king's mind." He, however, kept writing to the dauphin, sending him
plans of government prepared long before; some wise, bold, liberal,
worthy of a mind that was broad and without prejudices; others chimerical
and impossible of application. The prince examined them with care.
"He had comprehended what it is to leave God for God's sake, and had set
about applying himself almost entirely to things which might make him
acquainted with government, having a sort of foretaste already of
reigning, and being more and more the hope of the nation, which was at
last beginning to appreciate him."

God had in former times given France a St. Louis. He did not deem her
worthy of possessing such an ornament a second time. The comfort and
hope which were just appearing in the midst of so many troubles vanished
suddenly like lightning; the dauphiness fell ill on the 5th of February;
she had a burning fever, and suffered from violent pains in the head; it
was believed to be scarlet-fever (rougeole), with whispers, at the same
time, of ugly symptoms; the malady went on increasing; the dauphin was
attacked in his turn; sacraments were mentioned; the princess, taken by
surprise, hesitated without daring to speak. Her Jesuit confessor,
Father La Rue, himself proposed to go and fetch another priest. A
_Recollet_ (Raptionist) was brought; when he arrived she was dying. A
few hours later she expired, at the age of twenty-six, on the 12th of
February, 1712. "With her there was a total eclipse of joys, pleasures,
amusements even, and every sort of grace; darkness covered the whole face
of the court; she was the soul of it all, she filled it all, she pervaded
all the interior of it." The king loved her as much as he was capable of
loving; she amused him and charmed him in the sombre moments of his life;
he, like the dauphin, had always been ignorant of the giddiness of which
she had been guilty; Madame de Maintenon, who knew of them, and who held
them as a rod over her, was only concerned to keep them secret; all the
court, with the exception of a few perfidious intriguers, made common
cause to serve her and please her. "Regularly ugly, pendent cheeks,
forehead too prominent, a nose that said nothing; of eyes the most
speaking and most beautiful in the world; a carriage of the head gallant,
majestic, graceful, and a look the same; smile the most expressive, waist
long, rounded, slight, supple; the gait of a goddess on the clouds; her
youthful, vivacious, energetic gayety, carried all before it, and her
nymph-like agility wafted her everywhere, like a whirlwind that fills
many places at once, and gives to them movement and life. If the court
existed after her it was but to languish away." [Memoires de St. Simon,
xi.] There was only one blow more fatal for death to deal; and there was
not long to wait for it.

"I have prayed, and I will pray," writes F6nelon. "God knows whether the
prince is for one instant forgotten. I fancy I see him in the state in
which St. Augustin depicts himself: 'My heart is obscured by grief. All
that I see reflects for me but the image of death. All that was sweet to
me, when I could share it with her whom I loved, becomes a torment to me
since I lost her. My eyes seek for her everywhere and find her nowhere.
When she was alive, wherever I might be without her, everything said to
me, You are going to see her. Nothing says so now. I find no solace but
in my tears. I cannot bear the weight of my wounded and bleeding heart,
and yet I know not where to rest it. I am wretched; for so it is when
the heart is set on the love of things that pass away.'" "The days of
this affliction were soon shortened," says St. Simon; "from the first
moment I saw him, I was scared at his fixed, haggard look, with a
something of ferocity, at the change in his countenance and the livid
marks I noticed upon it. He was waiting at Marly for the king to awake;
they came to tell him he could go in; he turned without speaking a word,
without replying to his gentlemen (_menins_) who pressed him to go; I
went up to him, taking the liberty of giving him a gentle push; he gave
me a look, that pierced right to the heart, and went away. I never
looked on him again. Please God in His mercy I may look on him forever
there where his goodness, no doubt, has placed him!"

It was a desperate but a short struggle. Disease and grief were
victorious over the most sublime courage. "It was the spectacle of a man
beside himself, who was forcing himself to keep the surface smooth, and
who succumbed in the attempt." The dauphin took to his bed on the 14th
of February; he believed himself to be poisoned, and said, from the
first, that he should never recover. His piety alone, through the most
prodigious efforts, still kept up; he spoke no more, save to God,
continually lifting up his soul to him in fervent aspirations. "What
tender, but tranquil views! What lively motions towards thanksgiving for
being preserved from the sceptre and the account that must be rendered
thereof! What submission, and how complete! What ardent love of God!
What a magnificent idea of infinite mercy! What pious and humble awe!
What invincible patience! What sweetness! What constant kindness
towards all that approached him! What pure charity which urged him
forward to God! France at length succumbed beneath this last
chastisement; God gave her a glimpse of a prince whom she did not
deserve. Earth was not worthy of him; he was already ripe for a blessed

"For some time past I have feared that a fatality hung over the dauphin,"
Fenelon had written at the first news of his illness; "I have at the
bottom of my heart a lurking apprehension that God is not yet appeased
towards France. For a long while He has been striking, as the prophet
says, and His anger is not yet worn out. God has taken from us all our
hope for the Church and for the State."

Fenelon and his friends had expected too much and hoped for too much;
they relied upon the dauphin to accomplish a work above human strength;
he might have checked the evil, retarded for a while the march of events,
but France carried simultaneously in her womb germs of decay and hopes of
progress, both as yet concealed and confused, but too potent and too
intimately connected with the very sources of her history and her
existence for the hand of the most virtuous and most capable of princes
to have the power of plucking them out or keeping them down.

There was universal and sincere mourning in France and in Europe. The
death of the little Duke of Brittany, which took place a few days after
that of his parents, completed the consternation into which the court was
thrown. The most sinister rumors circulated darkly; a base intrigue
caused the Duke of Orleans to be accused; people called to mind his taste
for chemistry and even magic, his flagrant impiety, his scandalous
debauchery; beside himself with grief and anger, he demanded of the king
to be sent to the Bastille; the king refused curtly, coldly, not unmoved
in his secret heart by the perfidious insinuations which made their way
even to him, but too just and too sensible to entertain a hateful lie,
which, nevertheless, lay heavy on the Duke of Orleans to the end of his

[Illustration: Louis XIV. in Old Age----47]

Darkly, but to more effect, the same rumors were renewed before long.
The Duke of Berry died at the age of twenty-seven on the 4th of May,
1714, of a disease which presented the same features as the scarlet fever
(_rougeole vourpree_) to which his brother and sister-in-law had
succumbed. The king was old and sad; the state of his kingdom preyed
upon his mind; he was surrounded by influences hostile to his nephew,
whom he himself called "a vaunter of crimes." A child who was not five
years old remained sole heir to the throne. Madame de Maintenon, as sad
as the king, "naturally mistrustful, addicted to jealousies,
susceptibilities, suspicions, aversions, spites, and woman's wiles "
[_Lettres de Fenelon au duc de Chevreuse_], being, moreover, sincerely
attached to the king's natural children, was constantly active on their
behalf. On the 19th of July, 1714, the king announced to the premier
president and the attorney-general of the Parliament of Paris that it was
his pleasure to grant to the Duke of Maine and to the Count of Toulouse,
for themselves and their descendants, the rank of princes of the blood,
in its full extent, and that he desired that the deeds should be
enregistered in the Parliament. Soon after, still under the same
influence, he made a will which was kept a profound secret, and which
he sent to be deposited in the strong-room (_greffe_) of the Parliament,
committing the guardianship of the future king to the Duke of Maine, and
placing him, as well his brother, on the council of regency, with close
restrictions as to the Duke of Orleans, who would he naturally called to
the government of the kingdom during the minority. The will was darkly
talked about; the effect of the elevation of bastards to the rank of
princes of the blood had been terrible. "There was no longer any son of
France; the Spanish branch had renounced; the Duke of Orleans had been
carefully placed in such a position as not to dare say a word or show the
least dissatisfaction; his only son was a child; neither the Duke (of
Berry), his brothers, nor the Prince of Conti, were of an age or of
standing, in the king's eyes, to make the least trouble in the world
about it. The bombshell dropped all at once when nobody could have
expected it, and everybody fell on his stomach as is done when a shell
drops; everybody was gloomy and almost wild; the king himself appeared as
if exhausted by so great an effort of will and power. He had only just
signed his will, when he met, at Madame de Maintenon's, the Ex-Queen of
England. "I have made my will, Madame," said he. "I have purchased
repose; I know the impotence and uselessness of it; we can do all we
please as long as we are here; after we are gone, we can do less than
private persons; we have only to look at what became of my father's, and
immediately after his death too, and of those of so many other kings.
I am quite aware of that; but, in spite of all that, it was desired; and
so, Madame, you see it has been done; come of it what may, at any rate I
shall not be worried about it any more." It was the old man yielding to
the entreaties and intrigues of his domestic circle; the judgment of the
king remained steady and true, without illusions and without prejudices.

Death was coming, however, after a reign which had been so long and had
occupied so much room in the world that it caused mistakes as to the very
age of the king. He was seventy-seven; he continued to work with his
ministers; the order so long and so firmly established was, not disturbed
by illness any more than it had been by the reverses and sorrows of late;
meanwhile the appetite was diminishing, the thinness went on increasing,
a sore on the leg appeared, the king suffered a great deal. On the 24th
of August he dined in bed, surrounded as usual by his courtiers; he had a
difficulty in swallowing; for the first time, publicity was burdensome to
him; he could not get on, and said to those who were there that he begged
them to withdraw. Meanwhile the drums and hautboys still went on playing
beneath his window, and the twenty-four violins at his dinner. In the
evening, he was so ill that he asked for the sacraments. There had been
wrung from him a codicil which made the will still worse. He,
nevertheless, received the Duke of Orleans, to whom he commended the
young king. On the 26th he called to his bedside all those of the court
who had the entry. "Gentlemen," he said to them, "I ask your pardon for
the bad example I have set you. I have to thank you much for the way in
which you have served me, and for the attachment and fidelity you have
always shown me. I am very sorry not to have done for you what I should
have liked to do. The bad times are the cause of that. I request of
you, on my great-grandson's behalf, the same attention and fidelity that
you have shown me. It is a child who will possibly have many crosses to
bear. Follow the instructions my nephew gives you; he is about to govern
the kingdom, and I hope that he will do it well; I hope also that you
will all contribute to preserve unity. I feel that I am becoming
unmanned, and that I am unmanning you also; I ask your pardon. Farewell,
gentlemen; I feel sure that you will think of me sometimes."

The princesses had entered the king's closet; they were weeping and
making a noise. "You must not cry so," said the king, who asked for them
to bid them farewell. He sent for the little dauphin. His governess,
the Duchess of Ventadour, brought him on to the bed. "My child," said
the king to him, "you are going to be a great king. Render to God that
which you owe to Him; recognize the obligations you have towards Him;
cause Him to be honored by your subjects. Try to preserve peace with
your neighbors. I have been too fond of war; do not imitate me in that,
any more than in the too great expenses I have incurred. Take counsel in
all matters, and seek to discern which is the best in order to follow it.
Try to relieve your people, which I have been so unfortunate as not to
have been able to do." He kissed the child, and said, "Darling, I give
you my blessing with all my heart." He was taken away; the king asked
for him once more and kissed him again, lifting hands and eyes to Heaven
in blessings upon him. Everybody wept. The king caught sight in a glass
of two grooms of the chamber who were sobbing. "What are you crying
for?" he said to them; "did you think that I was immortal?" He was left
alone with Madame de Maintenon. "I have always heard say that it was
difficult to make up one's mind to die," said he; "I do not find it so
hard." "Ah, Sir," she replied, "it may be very much so, when there are
earthly attachments, hatred in the heart, or restitutions to make!"
"Ah!" replied the king, "as for restitutions to make, I owe nobody any
individually; as for those that I owe the kingdom, I have hope in the
mercy of God."

[Illustration: The Death-bed of Louis XIV.----50]

The Duke of Orleans came back again; the king had sent for him. "When I
am dead," he said, "you will have the young king taken to Vincennes; the
air there is good; he will remain there until all the ceremonies are over
at Versailles, and the castle well cleaned afterwards; you will then
bring him back again." He at the same time gave orders for going and
furnishing Vincennes, and directed a casket to be opened in which the
plan of the castle was kept, because, as the court had not been there for
fifty years, Cavoye, grand chamberlain of his household, had never
prepared apartments there. "When I was king . . . ," he said several

A quack had brought a remedy which would cure gangrene, he said. The
sore on the leg was hopeless, but they gave the king a dose of the elixir
in a glass of Alicante. "To life and to death," said he as he took the
glass; "just as it shall please God." The remedy appeared to act; the
king recovered a little strength. The throng of courtiers, which, the
day before, had been crowding to suffocation in the rooms of the Duke of
Orleans, withdrew at once. Louis XIV. did not delude himself about this
apparent rally. "Prayers are offered in all the churches for your
Majesty's life," said the parish priest of Versailles. "That is not the
question," said the king "it is my salvation that much needs praying

Madame de Maintenon had hitherto remained in the back rooms, though
constantly in the king's chamber when he was alone. He said to her once,
"What consoles me for leaving you, is that it will not be long before we
meet again." She made no reply. "What will become of you?" he added;
"you have nothing." "Do not think of me," said she; "I am nobody; think
only of God." He said farewell to her; she still remained a little while
in his room, and went out when he was no longer conscious. She had given
away here and there the few movables that belonged to her, and now took
the road to St. Cyr. On the steps she met Marshal Villeroy. "Good by,
marshal," she said curtly, and covered up her face in her coifs. He! it
was who sent her news of the king to the last moment. The Duke of
Orleans, on becoming regent, went to see her, and took her the patent
(_brevet_) for a pension of sixty thousand livres, "which her
disinterestedness had made necessary for her," said the preamble. It was
paid her up to the last day of her life. History makes no further
mention of her name; she never left St. Cyr. Thither the czar Peter the
Great, when he visited Paris and France, went to see her; she was
confined to her bed; he sat a little while beside her. "What is your
malady?" he asked her through his interpreter. "A great age," answered
Madame de Maintenon, smiling. He looked at her a moment longer in
silence; then, closing the curtains, he went out abruptly. The memory he
would have called up had vanished. The woman on whom the great king had,
for thirty years, heaped confidence and affection, was old, forgotten,
dying; she expired at St. Cyr on the 15th of April, 1719, at the age of

She had left the king to die alone. He was in the agonies; the prayers
in extremity were being repeated around him; the ceremonial recalled him
to consciousness. He joined his voice with the voices of those present,
repeating the prayers with them. Already the court was hurrying to the
Duke of Orleans; some of the more confident had repaired to the Duke of
Maine's; the king's servants were left almost alone around his bed; the
tones of the dying man were distinctly heard above the great number of
priests. He several times repeated, _Nunc et in hora mortis_. Then he
said, quite loud, "O, my God, come Thou to help me, haste Thee to succor
me." Those were his last words. He expired on Sunday, the 1st of
September, 1715, at eight A. M. Next day, he would have been seventy-
seven years of age, and he had reigned seventy-two of them.

In spite of his faults and his numerous and culpable errors, Louis XIV.
had lived and died like a king. The slow and grievous agony of olden
France was about to begin.

[Illustration: Versailles at Night----52]


At the very moment when the master's hand is missed from his work,
the narrative makes a sudden bound out of the simple times of history.
Under Henry IV., under Richelieu, under Louis XIV., events found quite
naturally their guiding hand and their centre; men as well as
circumstances formed a group around the head of the nation, whether king
or minister, to thence unfold themselves quite clearly before the eyes of
posterity. Starting from the reign of Louis XV. the nation has no longer
a head, history no longer a centre; at the same time with a master of the
higher order, great servants also fail the French monarchy; it all at
once collapses, betraying thus the exhaustion of Louis XIV.'s latter
years; decadence is no longer veiled by the remnants of the splendor
which was still reflected from the great king and his great reign; the
glory of olden France descends slowly to its grave. At the same time,
and in a future as yet obscured, intellectual progress begins to dawn;
new ideas of justice, of humanity, of generous equity towards the masses
germinate sparsely in certain minds; it is no longer Christianity alone
that inspires them, though the honor is reflected upon it in a general
way and as regards the principles with which it has silently permeated
modern society, but they who contribute to spread them, refuse with
indignation to acknowledge the source whence they have drawn them.
Intellectual movement no longer appertains exclusively to the higher
classes, to the ecclesiastics, or to the members of the Parliaments;
vaguely as yet, and retarded by apathy in the government as well as by
disorder in affairs, it propagates and extends itself imperceptibly
pending that signal and terrible explosion of good and evil which is to
characterize the close of the eighteenth century. Decadence and progress
are going on confusedly in the minds as well as in the material condition
of the nation. They must be distinguished and traced without any
pretence of separating them.

There we have the reign of Louis XV. in its entirety.

[Illustration: The Regent Orleans----54]

The regency of the Duke of Orleans and the ministry of Cardinal Dubois
showed certain traits of the general tendencies and to a certain extent
felt their influence; they formed, however, a distinct epoch, abounding
in original efforts and bold attempts, which remained without result, but
which testified to the lively reaction in men's minds against the courses
and fundamental principles of the reign which had just ended.

Louis XIV. had made no mistake about the respect which his last wishes
were destined to meet with after his death. In spite of the most extreme
precautions, the secret of the will had transpired, giving occasion for
some days past to secret intrigues. Scarcely had the king breathed his
last, when the Duke of Orleans was urged to get the regency conferred
upon him by the dukes and peers, simply making to Parliament an
announcement of what had been done. The Duke of Orleans was a better
judge of the moral authority belonging to that important body; and it was
to the Palace of Justice that he repaired on the morning of September 2,
1715. The crowd there was immense; the young king alone was not there,
in spite of his great-grandfather's express instructions. The day was a
decisive one; the legitimatized princes were present, "the Duke of Maine
bursting with joy," says St. Simon; "a smiling, satisfied air overrippled
that of audacity, of confidence, which nevertheless peeped through, and
the politeness which seemed to struggle against it. He bowed right and
left, piercing every one with his looks. Towards the peers, the
earnestness, it is not too much to say the respectfulness, the slowness,
the profoundness of his bow was eloquent. His head remained lowered even
on recovering himself." The Duke of Orleans had just begun to speak; his
voice was not steady; he repeated the terms of which the king had made
use, he said, for the purpose of confiding the dauphin to his care. "To
you I commend him; serve him faithfully as you have served me, and labor
to preserve to him his kingdom. I have made such dispositions as I
thought wisest; but one cannot foresee everything; if there is anything
that does not seem good, it will of course be altered."

The favor of the assembly was plainly with him, and the prince's accents
became more firm. "I shall never," said he, "have any other purpose but
to relieve the people, to reestablish good order in the finances, to
maintain peace at home and abroad, and to restore unity and tranquillity
to the church; therein I shall be aided by the wise representations of
this august assembly, and I hereby ask for them in anticipation." The
Parliament was completely won; the right of representation (or
remonstrance) was promised them; the will of Louis XIV. was as good as
annulled; it was opened, it was read, and so were the two codicils. All
the authority was intrusted to a council of regency of which the Duke of
Orleans was to be the head, but without preponderating voice and without
power to supersede any of the members, all designated in advance by Louis
XIV. The person and the education of the young king, as well as the
command of the household troops, were intrusted to the Duke of Maine.

"It was listened to in dead silence, and with a sort of indignation,
which expressed itself in all countenances," says St. Simon. "The king,
no doubt, did not comprehend the force of what he had been made to do,"
said the Duke of Orleans; "he assured me in the last days of his life
that I should find in his dispositions nothing that I was not sure to be
pleased with, and he himself referred the ministers to me on business,
with all the orders to be given." He asked, therefore, to have his
regency declared such as it ought to be, "full and independent, with free
formation of the council of regency." The Duke of Maine wished to say a
word. "You shall speak in your turn, Sir," said the Duke of Orleans in a
dry tone. The court immediately decided in his favor by acclamation, and
even without proceeding in the regular way to vote. There remained the
codicils, which annulled in fact the Regent's authority. A discussion
began between the Duke of Orleans and the Duke of Maine; it was causing
Philip of Orleans to lose the advantage he had just won; his friends
succeeded in making him perceive this, and he put off the session until
after dinner. When they returned to the Palace of Justice the codicils
were puffed away like the will by the breath of popular favor. The Duke
of Maine, despoiled of the command of the king's household, declared
that, under such conditions, it was impossible for him to be answerable
for the king's person, and that he "demanded to be relieved of that
duty." "Most willingly, Sir," replied the Regent; "your services are no
longer required;" and he forthwith explained to the Parliament his
intention of governing affairs according to the plan which had been found
among the papers of the Duke of Burgundy. "Those gentry know little or
nothing of the French, and of the way to govern them," had been the
remark of Louis XIV. on reading the schemes of Fenelon, the Duke of
Beauvilliers, and St. Simon. The Parliament applauded the formation of
the six councils of foreign affairs, of finance, of war, of the marine,
of home or the interior, of conscience or ecclesiastical affairs; the
Regent was intrusted with the free disposal of graces. "I want to be
free for good," said he, adroitly repeating a phrase from Telemaque, "I
consent to have my hands tied for evil."

The victory was complete. Not a shred remained of Louis XIV.'s will.
The Duke of Maine, confounded and humiliated, retired to his Castle of
Sceaux, there to endure the reproaches of his wife. The king's affection
and Madame de Maintenon's clever tactics had not sufficed to found his
power; the remaining vestiges of his greatness were themselves about to
vanish before long in their turn.

[Illustration: The Bed of Justice----57]

On the 12th of September, the little king held a bed of justice; his
governess, Madame de Ventadour, sat alone at the feet of the poor orphan,
abandoned on the pinnacle of power. All the decisions of September 2
were ratified in the child's name. Louis XIV. had just descended to the
tomb without pomp and without regret. The joy of the people broke out
indecently as the funeral train passed by; the nation had forgotten the
glory of the great king; it remembered only the evils which had for so
long oppressed it during his reign.

The new councils had already been constituted, when it was discovered
that commerce had been forgotten; and to it was assigned a seventh body.
"Three sorts of men, the choice of whom was dictated by propriety,
weakness, and necessity, filled the lists: in the first place, great
lords, veterans in intrigue but novices in affairs, and less useful from
their influence than embarrassing from their pride and their pettinesses;
next, the Regent's friends, the cream of the rows, possessed with the
spirit of opposition and corruption, ignorant and clever, bold and lazy,
and far better calculated to harass than to conduct a government; lastly,
below them, were pitch-forked in, pell-mell, councillors of State,
masters of requests, members of Parliament, well-informed and industrious
gentlemen, fated henceforth to crawl about at the bottom of the
committees, and, without the spur of glory or emulation, to repair the
blunders which must be expected from the incapacity of the first and the
recklessness of the second class amongst their colleagues." [Lemontey,
_Histoire de la Regence,_ t. i. p. 67.] "It is necessary," the young
king was made to say in the preamble to the ordinance which established
the councils, "that affairs should be regulated rather by unanimous
consent than by way of authority."

How singular are the monstrosities of experience! At the head of the
council of finance, a place was found for the Duke of Noailles, active in
mind and restless in character, without any fixed principles, an adroit
and a shameless courtier, strict in all religious observances under Louis
XIV., and a notorious debauchee under the Regency, but intelligent,
insolent, ambitious, hungering and thirsting to do good if he could, but
evil if need were, and in order to arrive at his ends. His uncle,
Cardinal Noailles, who had been but lately threatened by the court of
Rome with the loss of his hat, and who had seen himself forbidden to
approach the dying king, was now president of the council of conscience.
Marshal d'Huxelles, one of the negotiators who had managed the treaty of
Utrecht, was at the head of foreign affairs. The Regent had reserved to
himself one single department, the Academy of Sciences. "I quite
intend," said he, gayly, "to ask the king, on his majority, to let me
still be Secretary of State of the Academy."

The Regent's predilection, consolidating the work of Colbert, contributed
to the development of scientific researches, for which the neatness and
clearness of French thought rendered it thenceforth so singularly well

The gates of the prison were meanwhile being thrown open to many a poor
creature; the Jansenists left the Bastille; others, who had been for a
long time past in confinement, were still ignorant of the grounds for
their captivity, which was by this time forgotten by everybody. A
wretched Italian, who had been arrested the very day of his arrival in
Paris, thirty-five years before, begged to remain in prison; he had no
longer any family, or relatives, or resources. For a while the
Protestants thought they saw their advantage in the clemency with which
the new reign appeared to be inaugurated, and began to meet again in
their assemblies; the Regent had some idea of doing them justice,
re-establishing the Edict of Nantes, and re-opening to the exiles the
doors of their country, but his councillors dissuaded him; the more
virtuous, like St. Simon, from Catholic piety, the more depraved from
policy and indifference. However, the lot of the Protestants remained
under the Regency less hard than it had been under Louis XIV., and than
it became under the Duke of Bourbon.

The chancellor, Voysin, had just died. To this post the Regent summoned
the attorney-general, D'Aguesseau, beloved and esteemed of all, learned,
eloquent, virtuous, but too exclusively a man of Parliament for the
functions which had been confided to him. "He would have made a sublime
premier president," said St. Simon, who did not like him. The magistrate
was attending mass at St. Andre-des-Arts; he was not ignorant of the
chancellor's death, when a valet came in great haste to inform him that
the Regent wanted him at the Palais-Royal. D'Aguesseau piously heard out
the remainder of the mass before obeying the prince's orders. The casket
containing the seals was already upon the table. The Duke of Orleans
took the attorney-general by the arm and, going out with him into the
gallery thronged with courtiers, said, "Gentlemen, here is your new and
most worthy chancellor!" and he took him away with him to the Tuileries,
to pay his respects to the little king.

On returning home, still all in a whirl, D'Aguesseau went up to the room
of his brother, "M. de Valjouan, a sort of Epicurean (_voluptueux_)
philosopher, with plenty of wit and learning, but altogether one of the
oddest creatures." He found him in his dressing-gown, smoking in front
of the fire. "Brother," said he, as he entered, "I have come to tell you
that I am chancellor." "Chancellor!" said the other, turning round; "and
what have you done with the other one?" "He died suddenly to-night."
"O, very well, brother, I am very glad; I would rather it were you than
I;" and he resumed his pipe. Madame D'Aguesseau was better pleased. Her
husband has eulogized her handsomely. "A wife like mine," he said, "is a
good man's highest reward."

The new system of government, as yet untried, and confided to men for
the most part little accustomed to affairs, had to put up with the most
formidable difficulties, and to struggle against the most painful
position. The treasury was empty, and the country exhausted; the army
was not paid, and the most honorable men, such as the Duke of St. Simon,
saw no other remedy for the evils of the state but a total bankruptcy,
and the convocation of the States-general. Both expedients were equally
repugnant to the Duke of Orleans. The Duke of Noailles had entered upon
a course of severe economy; the king's household was diminished, twenty-
five thousand men were struck off the strength of the army, exemption
from talliage for six years was promised to all such discharged soldiers
as should restore a deserted house, and should put into cultivation the
fields lying waste. At the same time something was being taken off the
crushing weight of the taxes, and the state was assuming the charge of
recovering them directly, without any regard for the real or supposed
advances of the receivers-general; their accounts were submitted to the
revision of the brothers Paris, sons of an innkeeper in the Dauphinese
Alps, who had made fortunes by military contracts, and were all four
reputed to be very able in matters of finance. They were likewise
commissioned to revise the bills circulating in the name of the state, in
other words, to suppress a great number without re-imbursement to the
holder, a sort of bankruptcy in disguise, which did not help to raise the
public credit. At the same time also a chamber of justice, instituted
for that purpose, was prosecuting the tax-farmers (_traitants_), as Louis
XIV. had done at the commencement of his reign, during the suit against
Fouquet. All were obliged to account for their acquisitions and the
state of their fortunes; the notaries were compelled to bring their books
before the court. Several tax-farmers (_traitants_) killed themselves to
escape the violence and severity of the procedure. The Parliament,
anything but favorable to the speculators, but still less disposed to
suffer its judicial privileges to be encroached upon, found fault with
the degrees of the Chamber. The Regent's friends were eager to profit by
the reaction which was manifesting itself in the public mind; partly from
compassion, partly from shameful cupidity, all the courtiers set
themselves to work to obtain grace for the prosecuted financiers. The
finest ladies sold their protection with brazen faces; the Regent, who
had sworn to show no favor to anybody, yielded to the solicitations of
his friends, to the great disgust of M. Rouille-Ducoudray, member of the
council of finance, who directed the operations of the Chamber of Justice
with the same stern frankness which had made him not long before say to a
body of tax-farmers (_traitants_) who wanted to put at his disposal a
certain number of shares in their enterprise, "And suppose I were to go
shares with you, how could I have you hanged, in case you were rogues?"
Nobody was really hanged, although torture and the penalty of death had
been set down in the list of punishments to which the guilty were liable;
out of four thousand five hundred amenable cases, nearly three thousand
had been exempted from the tax. "The corruption is so wide-spread," says
the preamble to the edict of March, 1727, which suppressed the Chamber of
Justice, "that nearly all conditions have been infected by it in such
sort that the most righteous severities could not be employed to punish
so great a number of culprits without causing a dangerous interruption to
commerce, and a kind of general shock in the system of the state." The
resources derived from the punishment of the tax-farmers (_traitants_),
as well as from the revision of the state's debts, thus remaining very
much below expectation, the deficit went on continually increasing. In
order to re-establish the finances, the Duke of Noailles demanded fifteen
years' impracticable economy, as chimerical as the increment of the
revenues on which he calculated; and the Duke of Orleans finally suffered
himself to bo led away by the brilliant prospect which was flashed before
his eyes by the Scotsman, Law, who had now for more than two years been
settled in France.

[Illustration: John Law----62]

Law, born at Edinburgh, in 1611, son of a goldsmith, had for a long time
been scouring Europe, seeking in a clever and systematic course of
gambling a source of fortune for himself, and the first foundation of the
great enterprises he was revolving in his singularly inventive and daring
mind. Passionately devoted to the financial theories he had conceived,
Law had expounded them to all the princes of Europe in succession. "He
says that of all the persons to whom he has spoken about his system, he
has found but two who apprehended it, to wit, the King of Sicily and my
son," wrote Madame, the Regent's mother. Victor Amadeo, however, had
rejected Law's proposals. "I am not powerful enough to ruin myself," he
had said. Law had not been more successful with Louis XIV. The Regent
had not the same repugnance for novelties of foreign origin; so soon as
he was in power, he authorized the Scot to found a circulating and
discount bank (_banque de circulation et d'escompte_), which at once had
very great success, and did real service. Encouraged by this first step,
Law reiterated to the Regent that the credit of bankers and merchants
decupled their capital; if the state became the universal banker, and
centralized all the values in circulation, the public fortune would
naturally be decupled. A radically false system, fated to plunge the
state, and consequently the whole nation, into the risks of speculation
and trading, without the guarantee of that activity, zeal, and prompt
resolution which able men of business can import into their private
enterprises. The system was not as yet applied; the discreet routine of
the French financiers was scared at such risky chances, the pride of the
great lords sitting in the council was shocked at the idea of seeing the
state turning banker, perhaps even trader. St. Simon maintained that
what was well enough for a free state, could not take place under an
absolute government. Law went on, however; to his bank he had just added
a great company. The king ceded to him Louisiana, which was said to be
rich in gold and silver mines, superior to those of Mexico and Peru.
People vaunted the fertility of the soil, the facility offered for trade
by the extensive and rapid stream of the Mississippi; it was by the name
of that river that the new company was called at first, though it soon
took the title of _Compagnie d' Occident,_ when it had obtained the
privilege of trading in Senegal and in Guinea; it became the _Compagnie
des Indes,_ on forming a fusion with the old enterprises which worked the
trade of the East. For the generality, and in the current phraseology,
it remained the Mississippi; and that is the name it has left in history.
New Orleans was beginning to arise at the mouth of that river. Law had
bought Belle-Isle-en-Mer and was constructing the port of Lorient.

The Regent's councillors were scared and disquieted; the chancellor
proclaimed himself loudly against the deception or illusion which made of
Louisiana a land of promise; he called to mind that Crozat had been
ruined in searching for mines of the precious metals there. "The worst
of him was his virtue," said Duclos. The Regent made a last effort to
convert him, as well as the Duke of Noailles, to the projects of Law.
It was at a small house in the faubourg St. Antoine, called La Roquette,
belonging to the last named, that the four interlocutors discussed the
new system thoroughly. "With the use of very sensible language Law had
the gift of explaining himself so clearly and intelligibly that he left
nothing to desire as concerned making himself comprehended. The Duke of
Orleans liked him and relished him. He regarded him and all he did as
work of his own creation. He liked, moreover, extraordinary and
out-of-the-way methods, and he embraced them the more readily in that he
saw the resources which had become so necessary for the state and all the
ordinary operations of finance vanishing away. This liking of the
Regent's wounded Noailles, as being adopted at his expense. He wanted to
be sole master in the matter of finance, and all the eloquence of Law
could not succeed in convincing him." The chancellor stood firm; the
Parliament, which ever remained identified in his mind with his country,
was in the same way opposed to Law. The latter declared that the
obstacles which arrested him at every step through the ill will of the
Council and of the magistrates, were ruining all the fruits of his
system. The representations addressed by the Parliament to the king, on
the 20th of January, touching a re-coinage of all moneys, which had been
suggested by Law, dealt the last blow at the chancellor's already
tottering favor. On the morning of the 23d M. de La Vrilliere went to
him on behalf of the Regent and demanded the return of the seals.
D'Aguesseau was a little affected and surprised. "Monseigneur," he wrote
to the Duke of Orleans, "you gave me the seals without any merit on my
part, you take them away without any demerit." He had received orders to
withdraw to his estate at Fresnes; the Regent found his mere presence
irksome. D'Aguesseau set out at once. "He had taken his elevation like
a sage," says St. Simon, "and it was as a sage too that he fell." "The
important point," wrote the disgraced magistrate to his son, "is to be
well with one's self."

The Duke of Noailles had resigned his presidency of the council of
finance; but, ever adroit, even in disgrace, he had managed to secure
himself a place in the council of regency. The seals were intrusted to
M. d'Argenson, for some years past chief of police at Paris. "With a
forbidding face, which reminded one of the three judges of Hades, he made
fun out of everything with excellence of wit, and he had established such
order amongst that innumerable multitude of Paris, that there was no
single inhabitant of whose conduct and habits he was not cognizant from
day to day, with exquisite discernment in bringing a heavy or light hand
to bear on every matter that presented itself, ever leaning towards the
gentler side, with the art of making the most innocent tremble before
him." [St. Simon, t. xv. p. 387.] Courageous, bold, audacious in
facing riots, and thereby master of the people, he was at the same time
endowed with prodigious activity. "He was seen commencing his audiences
at three in the morning, dictating to four secretaries at once on various
subjects, and making his rounds at night whilst working in his carriage
at a desk lighted with wax candles. For the rest, without any dread of
Parliament, which had often attacked him, he was in his nature royal and
fiscal; he cut knots, he was a foe to lengthiness, to useless forms or
such as might be skipped, to neutral or wavering conditions." [Lemontey,
_Histoire de la Regence,_ t. i. p. 77.] The Regent considered that he
had secured to himself an effective instrument of his views; acceptance
of the system had been the condition _sine qua non_ of M. d'Argenson's

He, however, like his predecessors, attempted before long to hamper the
march of the audacious foreigner; but the die had been cast, and the Duke
of Orleans outstripped Law himself in the application of his theories.
A company, formed secretly, and protected by the new keeper of the seals,
had bought up the general farmings (_fermes generales_), that is to say,
all the indirect taxes, for the sum of forty-eight million fifty-two
thousand livres; the _Compagnie des Indes_ re-purchased them for fifty-
two millions; the general receipts were likewise conceded to it, and
Law's bank was proclaimed a Royal Bank; the company's shares already
amounted to the supposed value of all the coin circulating in the
kingdom, estimated at seven or eight millions. Law thought he might risk
everything in the intoxication which had seized all France, capital and
province. He created some fifteen hundred millions of new shares,
promising his shareholders a dividend of twelve per cent. From all parts
silver and gold flowed into his hands; everywhere the paper of the Bank
was substituted for coin. The delirium had mastered all minds. The
street called Quincampoix, for a long time past devoted to the operations
of bankers, had become the usual meeting-place of the greatest lords as
well as of discreet burgesses. It had been found necessary to close the
two ends of the street with gates, open from six A. M. to nine P. M.;
every house harbored business agents by the hundred; the smallest room
was let for its weight in gold. The workmen who made the paper for the
bank-notes could not keep up with the consumption. The most modest
fortunes suddenly became colossal, lacqueys of yesterday were
millionaires to-morrow; extravagance followed the progress of this
outburst of riches, and the price of provisions followed the progress of
extravagance. Enthusiasm was at its height in favor of the able author
of so many benefits. Law became a convert to Catholicism, and was made
comptroller-general; all the court was at his feet. "My son was looking
for a duchess to escort my granddaughter to Genoa," writes Madame, the
Regent's mother. "'Send and choose one at Madame Law's,' said I; 'you
will find them all sitting in her drawing-room.'" Law's triumph was
complete; the hour of his fall was about to strike.

At the pinnacle of his power and success the new comptroller-general fell
into no illusion as to the danger of the position. "He had been forced
to raise seven stories on foundations which he had laid for only three,"
said a contemporary, as clear-sighted as impartial. Some large
shareholders were already beginning to quietly realize their profits.
The warrants of the _Compagnie des Indes_ had been assimilated to the
bank-notes; and the enormous quantity of paper tended to lower its value.
First, there was a prohibition against making payments in silver above
ten francs, and in gold above three hundred. Soon afterwards money was
dislegalized as a tender, and orders were issued to take every kind to
the Bank on pain of confiscation, half to go to the informer. Informing
became a horrible trade; a son denounced his father. The Regent openly
violated law, and had this miscreant punished. The prince one day saw
President Lambert de Vernon coming to visit him. "I am come," said the
latter, "to denounce to your Royal Highness a man who has five hundred
thousand livres in gold." The Duke of Orleans drew back a step. "Ah,
Mr. President," he cried, "what low vocation have you taken to?"
"Monseigneur," rejoined the president, "I am obeying the law; but your
Royal Highness may be quite easy; it is myself whom I have come to
denounce, in hopes of retaining at least a part of this sum, which I
prefer to all the bank-notes." "My money is at the king's service," was
the proud remark of Nicolai, premier president of the Exchequer-Chamber,
"but it belongs to nobody." The great mass of the nation was of the same
opinion as the two presidents; forty-five millions only found their way

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest