Read CHAPTER I - LOUIS XIV.  AND HIS COURT. of A Popular History of France From The Earliest Times Volume VI., free online book, by Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot, on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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