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

Part 13 out of 20

frighten ordinary, intellects, and keep the people in subjection. He
filled him too with his favourite principle, that probity in man and
virtue in woman, are mere chimeras, without existence in anybody except a
few poor slaves of early training. This was the basis of the good
ecclesiatic's doctrines, whence arose the license of falsehood, deceit,
artifice, infidelity, perfidy; in a word, every villainy, every crime,
was turned into policy, capacity, greatness, liberty and depth of
intellect, enlightenment, good conduct, if it could be hidden, and if
suspicions and common prejudices could be avoided.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What for?" I asked.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Chief, then," replied he with vivacity.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

But he liked to subjugate nature by art and treasure.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: The Edict Of Nantes--Painted by Jules Girardet--front2]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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